Movie Review: UP


***** UP (2009)

In a way I wonder how this movie has any right to be as good as it is.  Shouldn’t Pixar be burnt out and sticking to formula by now?  Everyone has probably seen this movie long ago so I won’t go into a summary of the story.  But to use a cliche, this movie has everything -adventure, stunning visuals, surrealism, humor, scary parts, really sad parts, inventiveness, clever dialogue, great characters, and honestly touching parts.  Watching it with Peter it was interesting as he actually picked up on the death of Carl’s wife (although he didn’t realize that they got married as he kept asking “what happened to his friend?”) .  Peter also was a bit frightened by some of the more intense action sequences but overall enjoyed the movie.  It certainly gave us a lot to talk about.

I was hiding under your porch because I love you. – Dug

Photopost: Martha’s Vineyard


This past weekend we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.  The Vineyard was one of my family’s favorite vacation spots when I was growing up and if I count correctly we visited 7 times between 1977 & 1992.  I’ve only managed to make it back there once since moving to Massachusetts (in 2001) and this was Susan and Peter’s first visit.

While there’s much to explore on the island we confined this trip almost entirely to Oak Bluffs.  We stayed at the Pequot Hotel which had very friendly, hospitable staff and plenty of charm (with the  exception of the thin walls and the very loud reject from the cast of Jersey Shore in the next room).

Highlights include:

  • sailing on the ferry to and from Woods Hole
  • digging in the sand on the beach
  • biking along the many bike paths
  • riding the Flying Horses carousel many times
  • a parade with pennyfarthing bicycles on Tivoli Day
  • feeding the fish at the Waters of the World aquarium
  • swinging and climbing and sliding at the playground
  • visiting the gingerbread cottages in the Campground
First glimpse of the island from the car deck of the ferry
House with decorative Beetle planter
Pennyfarthing riders in the Tivoli Day parade
Gingerbread cottages in the Campground
Horses on the Flying Horses carousel

See my web photo album for more Martha’s Vineyard pictures.

Previously:

12 Books in 12 Months Challenge


I discovered a book reading challenge via Gypsy Librarian about reading 12 books from one’s own collection within the next twelve months.  Since I almost always read books from the library and procrastinate reading the books I own (no deadline, I suppose), I figured this would be worth trying.

Here are the rules:

  • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
  • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
  • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
  • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
  • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
  • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.

I missed the deadline, but I think I can still swing it.

Here is my list:

  • Mapping Boston by Alex Krieger
  • The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
  • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
  • Freddy the Pilot by Walter R. Brooks
  • Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam
  • Catwatching by Desmond Morris
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Light in August by William Faulkner
  • It Happened in Boston by Russell H. Greenan
  • The Name Above the Title by Frank Capra
  • Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs by Kathleen M. Brown

Fútbol & Voetbal


FC Barcelona 5:1 Panathinaikos (14 Sep 2010) – Barça opened the Champions League season against their obviously mismatched Greek opponents.  Panathinaikos looked like they could only touch the ball long enough to clear in the first 20 minutes, but then Gouvou surprisingly opened the scoring on a fast break.  That would be it for Panathinaikos as Lionel Messi quickly equalized, David Villa put Barça ahead, and then Messi added another goal for a 3-1 halftime lead.  Messi had a chance for a hat trick in the second half from the penalty spot but a very weak kick was easily blocked.  Daniel Alves and Pedro Rodriguez added goals to run up the score in this laugher wher Barça had possession for 76% of the match.  Match report.

Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:2 AFC Ajax (19 Sep 2010) – The Klassieker is the Dutch derby between the top Dutch football clubs and the major cities of the Netherlands.  This match-up is sadly marred by fighting in the stands and rioting in the streets.  And it’s not just the supporters as the on-field fisticuffs in the second half of this game can attest.   Ajax scored late in the first half and early in the second half, and despite the contentious of the match and a late Feyenoord goal the game was pretty much in Ajax’s hands all the way through. Match report.

Atlético Madrid 1:2 FC Barcelona (19 Sep 2010) – Apparently Barcelona has had bad luck on away games against Atlético Madrid in recent years and with Atlético off to a strong start, Barça were at risk of losing back-to-back league games.  In the end Barça won the game but lost Lionel Messi.  Leo scored the first goal for Barcelona and Pique put them ahead for good, their goals sandwiching a goal by Atlético’s Raul Garcia, all within the first 32 minutes of play.  Barcelona dominated play for most of the game and things turned physical toward the end of the match leading to the hard foul in stoppage time that injured Messi’s ankle.  Still, I liked Atlético’s fighting underdog spirit, and it was good to see one of my favorite players from the World Cup – Diego Forlan – even though he was not a key player in the game .  Match report.

I’ve noted before that Barcelona includes 8 players from the World Cup champions and Lionel Messi (not to mention a couple of Brazilians).  The concentration of talent on one roster has made it fashionable to hate Barcelona as discussed in this interesting Run of Play article by Eric Freeman.

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Book Review: The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel


Around The World For a Good Book selection for: Mexico

Author: Laura Esquivel
Title: The Law of Love
Publication Info: New York : Crown Publishers, c1996.
ISBN: 0517706814

By the same author: Like Water for Chocolate

Summary/Review:

This may be the first Around the World For a Good Book selection that is science fiction.  Esquivel’s novel is set in a future where reincarnations and karma are very real and central to society, and interplanetary travel and body-swapping are quite possible.  Then there are guardian angels and demons guiding the primary characters’ actions.  All of it comes off very strange and poorly written (or is it the translator’s fault?).  The book just never worked as fiction, it was more of a collection of fantastical ideas.  The first multimedia novel also comes with a CD with prompts to listen to at the appropriate part of the narrative as well as portions of the book in graphic novel to represent the characters’ visions.  It’s gimmicky and doesn’t really add much to the story.  Overall this was mildly entertaining, but not really all that great, especially compared with Like Water for Chocolate.

Rating: ** 1/2

Soccer Weekend


I’ve decided to update my weekly soccer-watching reports on Mondays instead of Fridays so that the posts will be up more immediately after most games are played.  I watched a lot this weekend (albeit some in highlight reels) so this is a pretty full post all the same.

Chivas USA 2:0 New England Revolution (10 Sep 2010) – The Revs took their playoff hopes to Los Angeles to face one of the worst teams in the leagues.  And played flat out embarrassingly falling behind in the first 6 minutes and hardly possessing the ball in the first half.   Hard to believe this is the same team that played so well against Seattle or for that matter even the team that suffered those disheartening losses against Chicago and Philadelphia. At least the team showed some life in those games. This side is all but mathematically eliminated. Match report.

AFC Ajax 2:0 Willem II (11 Sep 2010) – I missed the game but was able to watch a 9-minute highlight film on YouTube of my Amsterdam side’s home win.  Their opponent Willem II are from the Dutch city of Tilburg and are charmingly named for a Dutch king who reigned from 1840-49.  They just barely avoided relegation from the Eredivisie last season and were suitably outmatched by Ajax.  All the scoring took place on penalty shots though as Willem II players blatantly tripped up Ajax attackers in the penalty area in a nearly identical manner.  Uruguayan captain Luis Suarez handily fired both penaltieshttps://othemts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5116&action=edit&message=10 into the net.  I’m pleased with the results but I’m always a little disappointed in a game when there’s no scoring from the field.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 0:2 Hércules CF (11 Sep 2010) – I also watched the highlight reel for this one.  Barça hosted at Camp Nou the Hércules club from Alicante who were just promoted from the Segunda Division.  In shades of the Kaiserlautern-Bayern match, Hércules totally outplayed their higher-ranked hosts with two exciting goals and some great defending and goal-keeping all while wearing bumble bee outfits.  Barcelona will just have to shake off this shocking loss as they head into their Champions League match opener versus Panathinaikos.  Match report.

Everton FC 3:3 Manchester United (11 Sep 2010) – The most exciting game of the day was in Liverpool.  Everton took an early lead on a Steven Pienaar goal and along with some fine stops by goalkeeper Tim Howard things were looking good.  But then Man Utd scored 3 unanswered goals and it looked like a romp.  The dramatic conclusion came in stoppage time at the end of the game where Everton scored not one but two goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta to steal a point away from the match.  Everton even had yet another chance as the final whistle blew. Wow! Very reminiscent of Man Utd’s draw with Fulham.   Match report.

Fulham FC 2:1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (11 Sep 2010) – Speaking of Fulham, here’s another good game with an exciting finish.  Fulham went down a goal in the first half and then lost forward Bobby Zamora to a broken leg.  Mousa Dembele turned things around with an equalized near the start of the second half and the winner in stoppage time for Fulham’s first win of the season to go with three draws.  Match report.

Mainz 05 2:1 1. FC Kaiserlautern (12 Sep 2010) – 1FCK won me over with their scrappy upset of Bayern.  In this game they attempted to continue their success on the road in a regional derby (although a fairly recent one) with Mainz 05.  The Mainz spectators creeped me out with their pregame tableau of a skull-covered ziggurat and a priest ripping out the heart of 1FCK.  The Red Devils tried to rip out the heart of Mainz with the first goal of the match at 21 minutes which they held for some time despite being outplayed (and being “bad boys” – as the commentator noted – accruing numerous yellow cards).  Sadly, the home side equalized at 71 minutes and went ahead 3 minutes later, and that was that. Match report.

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Boston By Boat


Boston By Foot is known for leading excellent walking tours of Boston’s architecture and history.  Now you learn about Boston’s architecture and built environments on a 90-minute cruise!  Teaming with the Boston Society of Architects and the Charles Riverboat Company, the Charles River Architecture Cruise offers a unique perspective on Boston and Cambridge.

I took the debut cruise yesterday morning on a beautiful late summer day and got enjoy a relaxing cruise and learn a lot about buildings and history along the river.  The cruise will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am through October 17th (yours truly will be narrating on Columbus Day Weekend).  Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for members of Boston By Foot. Come on out and sail with Boston By Foot!

The slideshow below offers some highlights of what you can see from the boat.  No captions, you’ll have to come on the cruise to learn about what you see in these photographs.

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Slow Soccer Week


I didn’t have many games to watch this week as the European clubs took time off to allow their players to play in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.  I wonder what USA players on European teams do when all their teammates are off playing on their national teams?  I also tried to watch a Boston Breakers’ game but alas there was no one broadcasting it online.

New England Revolution 3:1 Seattle Sounders (4 Sep 2010) – It didn’t look promising for the Revolution on a four-game losing streak to face one of the MLS’ top teams in the midst of a win streak.  Something had to give and it was pleasantly surprising.  The Revolution scored three goals and hung on to a slim chance at the playoffs.  Even if nothing comes of it this season it was a fun game to watch and offers some promise of the Revolution’s future.  Interestingly enough, for all the times you see a scorching shot go just wide or straight at the goalkeeper, the Revolution’s first two goals by Tierney and Perovic just dribbled slowly over the goal line.  It goes to show that sometimes good passing and positioning succeeds where firepower fails.  Match report.

Ireland 3:1 Andorra (6 Sep 2010) – Ireland’s second Euro 2012 match was at home versus Andorra (they are apparently working their way through Europe alphabetically).  Ireland clearly outmatched Andorra and probably could have score more goals as well as not letting their guard down near the end of the first half when Andorra scored their lone goal.  Still it was nice to see Ireland get a win and take a lead in Group B.  Hopefully this will be akin to “batting practice” allowing the Irish side to build their confidence before facing tougher group opponents.  Match report.

I’ve got a full weekend of matches coming up. Woo-hoo!

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Book Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel


Author: Yann Martel
Title: Beatrice and Virgil : a novel
Publication Info: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2010.
ISBN: 9781400069262

Also Read By Same Author: The Life of Pi

Summary/Review:

This novel is about an author named who having written a successful novel about animals sets out to write an experimental book about the Holocaust but meets resistance from his publisher.  This may be Martel writing autobiographically or he may just be trying to make us think that because many things in this novel are not as they seem.  Henry goes into semi-retirement, moves to another city, and through his fan mail is drawn to a strange taxidermist who needs help with writing a play.  The taxidermist, also named Henry, writes about two of the animals he preserved – a donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil – who live on a shirt and engage in Beckett-style dialogues.  Henry the author soon comes to realize that the taxidermist’s drama is the representational fable of the Holocaust he had been trying to create.  The dialogues of Beatrice and Virgil are balanced by the equally intriguing dialogues of the author and the taxidermist

That’s all I’m going to give away of the plot, although in a sense that is all it is “about” plot-wise.  The novel is built on its dialogues, the unsettling nature of evil that permeates everything, and the sense that nothing is as it seems.  Even the rather abrupt ending seems to be an author’s trick to make the reader wonder what really happened, whether even a third-person narrator can be reliable.  I’ve read a lot of reviews about this book and it seems to be a polarizing work.  A lot of the reviews state that Martel trivializes the Holocaust and a lot seem to take the action of the novel at face value.  I don’t want to say that they don’t get it because that would imply that I do get it which I don’t.  Still there’s a lot going on in this short, experimental work that makes it an interesting read, albeit not a masterpiece like Life of Pi.

Favorite Passages:

“Words are cold, muddy toads trying to understand sprites dancing in a field – but they’re all we have.”

Recommended books: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket,  Maus by Art Spiegelman and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.
Rating: ***1/2