Thursday, April 30, 2009

End of line for Lofty?

Our car, a '98 Chevy Cavalier that I affectionately named 'Lofty' when I purchased it in October 2001, has not been nice to us this year. I guess that's fair since we've been making this poor little student car do the work required of a full minivan for the past 7.5 years. It's my first car and we've said more than a couple prayers of gratitude that Lofty's lasted this long.

In January, on the coldest day of the year, the battery quit. $100 for a battery, $200 for the tow truck. That's the 3rd or 4th battery to quit on us in this car. The struts and shocks completely failed on us during the winter - haven't replaced them as it's not totally 'necessary'. In March, the EGR valve quit days before the emissions inspection letter came in the mail. $400 for a new valve and labor. I pushed off the emissions test and, lo and behold, the check engine light went back on a week later. The less-than-a-month-old EGR valve was replaced today. And while it was at the auto shop, we were told that the wheel bearings were totally shot. The estimate is $400 and if we don't do it soon, I'm told the wheels will just fall off the car. Great.

I honestly thought when I bought Lofty that I'd be able to buy another car five years later. Now, 7.5 years later, I'm still completely uncapable financially to buy a car for our family. Yet, I wonder how much longer Lofty is really going to last? Is it worth doing all of these expensive repairs by depleting our puny savings, should I buy a car that I don't have money for, or should I practice provident living and safe financial practices and walk the 6 miles to church every week?

Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Big Fish

The last stop of last week's staycation was Menomonee Park so we could go fishing; the first time this season. We renewed the fishing license and got a new fishing pole for Carter at Farm & Fleet. I'm SO glad he decided to get the Batman fishing pole instead of the Disney Princesses pole he said he wanted last year. We also picked up the obligatory freakin' huge bag of Farm & Fleet candy - gummy worms this time around.

As we went in the afternoon, we were pretty sure we wouldn't catch any fish. We were wrong; we caught two huge fish...





It must have been memorable for the boys because for a few days afterwards, they were asking me to 'catch a Carterfish' or a 'Jordanfish'. They even called Cyn a 'Honeyfish'. Those boys consumed way more gummy fish than anyone should eat in a year. Good times, good times.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Carter's Directorial Debut

Jordan and Carter both love to use our cameras. While we were at Organ Piper Pizza (see previous post), Carter decided to pick up the camera while it was recording and take a few still pictures. This was the first time he'd ever made a video! It turned out pretty well - for a three-year old. So, without further ado, I present Carter's directorial debut.

video

Monday, April 20, 2009

Organ Piper

Out of the many recommendations I've received for restaurants in Milwaukee, I can't think of a single one that was based on the food. It's always about the entertainment. If any of you Milwaukeans have any recommendations for amazing food (just food), please let me know.

That said, there are some pretty amazing places here when judging by the entertainment value. Safe House is the quintessential example. My other personal favorite is Organ Piper Pizza. It's a musician's dream restaurant - and that works for me.

So, here's the basic setup. On three of the four walls, it looks like a typical pizza joint. Pictures, arcade, bar, loads of seats, ok-ish pizza, the like. But the fourth wall (and focal point of the restaurant) is completely covered from the baseboards to the rafters by a Wurlitzer pipe organ.


The organ has been extended over a looooong period of time so it now has crazy stops like all manner of percussion instruments and pipes that sound like ducks.

REALLY bad photography, I know. But you get what you get!

Those ducks are ridiculously popular. Go figure.

They have four organists, but I like seeing the featured organist, Ron Reseigh. This guy is way too talented for his own good.

You write down on a sheet of paper any song that you darn well want to hear, put it in a bowl, and voila...this guy plays it a few minutes later. When we first went four years ago, I requested Clair de Lune. Ron said "I haven't played this in a long, long, long, long time. So I'm going to try to pick it out of my brain as I go along." He then proceeded to play Clair de Lune flawlessly. I requested the same song last week - it is my favorite song, after all. He said "I'm excited to play this one because it's not requested very often". He played it even better this time with a fuller orchestration and a few personal touches. I'd like to think that I made him practice Clair de Lune back in 2005 and he's been waiting to play it since. I didn't get a chance to chat with him during his break, so I'll never know. So sad.

video
Here's a minute worth of Clair de Lune

It was a very unusual night music wise. Normally people put in a lot of requests for polkas or other raucous songs that feature all the weird pipes, but we were treated to several unique and more mellow requests that Ron commented on. A very fun night at Organ Piper. Even the boys got really into it, as seen in the video below.

video

Sickation

I haven't yet posted about the rest of our vacation because I felt too crummy. I've been sick since the day before our vacation started. First a nasty cold (which I thought was strep) which then developed into a sinus infection. I'm still not over it, but definitely over the pinnacle.

I'm not sure which was worse: being sick the entire vacation, or trying to pretend to everyone we met that I wasn't sick. We had scheduled evenings for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with three different families. Two were scheduled over a month ago. I didn't feel like I could back out.

If any of you three read this post, I hope I didn't get anyone in your families sick. I was being very, very careful.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I think I'll resume my regularly scheduled post.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The arts

After taking more than my fair share of pictures of the Quadracci, we looked around at the rest of the Milwaukee Art Museum. As I said in the previous post, this was my first time going to the MAM. Cynthia and the boys had gone before, and like almost everyone I know, they didn't care for it a great deal. But I still wanted to go and the trip became the chief goal of our staycation. Still, after hearing several less-than-stellar reviews, I wasn't expecting much.

This is a large blown glass piece near the front entrance of the museum. Carter was quite smitten by it and requested that I take the following picture:



Normally the art museum has family days every Sunday. Part of the family day is a craft project for the kiddies. As this was spring break, the museum decided to do the crafts throughout the week. Yesterday's project? A 'replica' of the blow glass sculpture that Carter enjoyed so much. That sure worked out well, didn't it?

I've always been fascinated by Roman history and art. The MAM's collection wasn't extensive in this area, but I did like what they had for the classics.



All three of these were very enjoyable paintings.

This was probably my favorite piece in the galleries. And not because I'm a Beatles fan. This painting is so simplistic that it would make an excellent silkscreen for a $5 t-shirt. Only the color black in bold pools without any shadings. Yet the second I saw it from across the room, music was playing through my head; I started tapping my foot a little to it. Anyone with a pulse can tell you what this is and who is missing from the scene. It's difficult to name a simpler painting. And yet, it was so evocative of our culture and of my memories. I could imagine in my mind's eye 'the photograph' that this painting came from...but I'm not even sure if it's from a photo or if my imagination just invented the photo. Very stirring how splotches of a single color can do all of this to me.


Getting creative with the boys. I should have played with the f-stops a bit more an the pic with Carter (blurred the extreme right more), but I'm still pleased with the results.

Some paintings made for beautiful backgrounds. I often felt that the sense of art in the museum was more on how I viewed the images than what was actually presented.

video

These two 'walk-in' exhibits were fabulous. The top one is Matrix XV and the bottom one is the Infinity Chamber. Just beautiful. Jordan was especially struck by the Infinity Chamber.



The infamous Red, Yellow, Blue II...with our own personal twist. Honestly, I think it's lovely. The triptych looks so sharp against that white wall. It gets my imagination started.

If you couldn't tell already, I loved our trip to the MAM. This has to be my favorite museum in the Milwaukee area. I guess art is just in the eye and mind of the beholder. Either that, or I'm just a nutjob. Could be either one, really.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the new header for this blog (the colorful chicken) is a Picasso painting from the museum. UPDATE: The chicken has been taken down...for now. Go see it in the museum - it's a beauty.


Next up in the staycation...Organ Piper Pizza.

Quadracci

I'm a fan of Santiago Calatrava's architectural work. Stark, instantly recognizable, smooth, and he definitely stretches the limits...uhh...sometimes he stretches them too far. A few of his works are structurally unsound. Anyway... His greatest flaw, art over function, is also his greatest strength. And though I may be slightly biased, I think his best work is the Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

It looks better when the brise soleil is up...but you get what you get.
I've been around Milwaukee for 4 years now...why did it take me that long to go inside for the first time? I could have taken pictures of the angles and lighting all day long when we went yesterday. One of those cases when the box that holds the pearl is more attractive than the pearl itself. Good thing the curator hasn't placed much art in this area of the museum.



Next up in the staycation-a-thon...the art museum review!

Staycation

I'm on staycation!

A few weeks ago, Cynthia decided that I needed to take some time off from work. I agreed whole-heartedly. Work has been very stressful lately, I haven't had any vacation time for 21 months, and Jordan is currently on spring break. So, I scheduled time off and we started thinking about vacation ideas.

That didn't quite work out. We accidentally filled our calendar so full of social events, that our vacation has become a staycation. Not to say that that's bad. It's cheap, it's still time off work, the family will be together, we'll be spending time with good friends, and we get a chance to see all the fun things in Milwaukee that we rarely have time to get to.

Many, many posts to follow. Next up: Santiago Calatrava!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eggstatic

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend. Here was ours.

We were invited to a community Easter egg hunt with Faith/Tyce. The wind made things a little chilly, but it was fun all around. I love that picture of Jordan - he looks like an action hero. "Jordan stars this April in - The Egg Ultimatum"

"No one is to smile when taking a picture with the Easter Bunny, got that kids? No one!"

Here is Carter going down the slide after the egg hunt. The Easter Bunny went down right after that. Unfortunately, the windy slide was a little difficult for an adult (or large rabbit) to maneuver...the Easter Bunny lost his tail in the process!


Do you remember when we were kids and Paas dye kits had a whopping 6 colors of which only 4 worked? When did they decide that we need 9 colors and 3 bonus neon colors? We only had 18 eggs - I don't think we even used all the colors.
My favorite egg - Humpty Dumpty, post fall.
Cynthia's traditional rainbow egg at the top of the basket.

Jordan and Carter proudly display some eggs they personally made.
The boys on Sunday morning with their Easter baskets.

Aside from the candy in the baskets, we also got the Sorry Sliders game for the boys. It's pretty fun - kind of like a poor man's Crokinole.

Sunday afternoon we had a wonderful dinner with Faith/Tyce. Considering Tyce was ill, Faith is near delivery, and Faith's Mom was there, we were highly appreciative that they were willing to let us join in their Easter celebrations.

On a more personal level, I felt like this was a great Easter season for our family. We tried endlessly to help the boys focus on the atonement of Christ and they were a little more receptive than usual; even Carter was able to answer some our our 'find out' questions by the end of the week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Five Films

We like movies. A lot. It's something Cynthia and I both brought into our marriage. We don't go to the theaters as often as we used to, and we don't buy many movies, but we still probably rent 4-5 per month (man, I should really switch to Netflix again).

It's great when the two of us talk about films around others; Cynthia will mention (in reserved tones) the human nature and emotional aspects of the film, the morals and lessons, etc. and I will talk (usually with strong opinions) about the art direction and cinematography, the story and how it's played out. We're two very different people, but we both love cinema.

Presented here are five movies we saw this past month for the first time. All five have a different rating (1-5 stars) and strangely enough, Cynthia and I actually agree on how to rate them.

Seven Pounds - star


Ugh. Regrettably, I cannot give a review on the full movie because I didn't care to prolong the agony. After getting only 15 minutes in, I checked out the full synopsis on MoviePooper.com. After reading how the ending of the movie went, I decided it wasn't worth my time. I watched about an hour total before heading to bed.

Dear Will Smith, I know you're trying to get awarded a golden man, but your strength does not lie in dramas. Please, please, go back to action films...or rapping. Sincerely, Everyone.

Alright, maybe Will Smith was decent enough. But the story? Stunk. As Cyn said, "for someone trying to be a noble hero, he sure was a selfish quitter".


Australia - starstar


These guys tried WAY too hard to get some awards. Australia could have been a great film...it wasn't. Acting was standable but improperly directed. Nothing original was put into the film. The score was downright distracting. And a Wilhelm scream during WWII??? Where's the tact?

It seems like a comedy at first, then an epic, but altogether an unpolished train-wreck. Plus, the movie has at least three different endings. I thought the show was over half-way through the run time.

Moonstruck - starstarstar


The 80's classic Rom-edy that we somehow failed to see before now. Probably because of my great dislike for Nicholas Cage. Four main actors/actresses in this film - three were nominated for an Oscar (two won). Which one wasn't nominated? You guessed it.

This was a fun film. Lots of good moments. The whole ending of the movie (around the breakfast table) was perfection. If not for Nicholas Cage, this probably would have been an outstanding show. Still, the script was a little bare bones, but it was an enjoyable watch.

Fun with Dick and Jane - starstarstarstar


I rarely disagree with the aggregate opinion of Rotten Tomatoes. This is one of those times. They called it a '(a) muddled comedy...(that) never sustains a consistent tone.' It did have a consistent tone - a satisfying parodic view of suburban life. Hilarious show. So funny, we watched it two nights in a row. Thanks to Sheila for the recommendation.

I'm not much of a Jim Carrey fan, so it's a welcome surprise that TeĆ” Leoni is the one that really drags you into the flick. "Not my SpongeRoberto SquarePantalones!"

Doubt - starstarstarstarstar


What a refreshing movie. A flick with a simple yet effective story, short run-time, stellar acting, thought-provoking subject matter, and no scenes that I felt uncomfortable watching. It's rated PG-13 on the basis of subject matter, but it's a very mild film for adults.

There are four main actors/actresses. I'd say 95% of the film's dialogue came from those four characters. All four were nominated for Oscars this year...supremely well-acted.

The dialogue and action were sharp, effective, and symbolic.

I highly recommend this one. One of the 2008's bests.

The movie's not perfect though. It felt like the director and director of photography (well-respected Roger Deakins) were either asleep at the wheel or completely in disagreement. And though I give kudos to John Patrick Shanley for adapting his own play to the screen (getting an Oscar nod in the process) AND directing (he should stick to writing), it has too much the feeling of a stage play.



Disagree/agree with the reviews? Sound off in the comments section.