Monday, July 26, 2010

Movie Monday - Brick

Brick - I only had a chance to watch one movie this week because of sick kids and a busy weekend. The movie I was able to watch off the Netflix Instant Queue was Brick. I don't know how to explain it simply other then to say that it was a high school murder mystery set in the noir style. Of all of the movies off the 151 list I have seen thus far, this was my least favorite. Don't get me wrong, I did think it was a decent movie, it was just very difficult to get into, and stay with for that matter. I have a difficult time walking away from a movie after I have seen about 5 minutes, regardless of whether I have seen it before or not, but Brick is definitely a movie that you need to watch from the very beginning, and if you started watching it in the middle you would flip the channel within that 5 minute window and never get hooked.

On a similar note I am assuming this movie was shot in California, and the location or maybe the content kept reminding me of the Showtime show Weeds (which Mrs B and I both love). Brick and Weeds both do a wonderful job of making California communities seem extraordinarily ordinary, as if there isn't thoughtful planning put forth to make each community different from the one just over the hill, maybe that is actually the point.

Getting back to the movie, if you like noir style movies, seeing it done in a high school setting is interesting, but I don't know that it achieved the full effect for me personally. If somebody else has actually seen this movie, I would be interested in your thoughts on the movie.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Biking....and sitting on your ass.

I am not sure if this little news blurb slipped past you this week, but if it did, I have actually had conversations with a number of people regarding the findings. The study followed people for 13 years and discovered that sitting for long periods of time actually has a negative effect on your long-term health. Your saying to yourself right shit Sherlock, you mean if I sit on my ever expanding fat American butt I might die early, I am shocked. That was pretty much my thoughts as well.........then came the shocking part of this study. If you spent more time sitting, EVEN if you had a normal workout schedule, you were still more likely to have major health problems then those individuals who didn't spend as much time on their butts. This got me thinking about all of those people with a job spent sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen. Thankfully my job involves lots of moving around and I rarely spend more then 15 minutes sitting before having to rush out to solve the latest mystery of who has been writing swear words on the bathroom walls or who has decided to poop in the urinal instead of the toilet (anybody who also works in a school knows this happens more then you would think - ever time this happens I just laugh to myself at what that would actually look like if somebody walked in on the phantom pooper).

As many of you know, I harbor an unhealthy (or after this study, a healthy) obsession with all things European, if I was being more specific, Northern European and Scandinavian life, from the Dutch and German obsession for football, to the design aesthetic and simplified living style of Scandinavia, and especially the robust bike cultures in all of these areas. I saw this video by Streetfilm and then proceeded to spend the next 3 hours wishing I lived in a place like Copenhagen. Then this morning, I was reading about the price of gas around the world, and realized why people in Copenhagen are always on their bikes (or public transportation), if I wanted to put 16 gallons in the 'ol Pilot (or minivan - to whom that may apply) it would cost me about $110. That would make me pick up a bike pretty darn quick, it would also force me to look at where I live in relation to my work. I have considered riding my bike to work at least once per week, but there literally isn't a path I could take that wouldn't require at least 3 miles of unprotected (translation - no shoulder) highway riding. At this point in my life, I am not willing to place my life at risk just to ride my bike to work.

Therein lies the dilemma, do I die young because I sit on my butt during the day, or do I die because I get run over by a truck carrying 3 tons of fill gravel. From all appearances, the people of Copenhagen, don't have to worry about getting run over by a gravel truck.

Just this week, London began a project to create "Bike SuperHighways" from all parts of the metro area, which lead downtown. I also like this idea, but if you don't work downtown this particular plan would not be as beneficial.

All of this bike talk has me lusting after a couple of bikes, and here are a couple of my favorites.
The Public D3 with its orange paint job would fit be a perfect fit in Amsterdam or Austin as the description from the website points out - The PUBLIC D3 is an easy-shifting three-speed bike adequate for most cities or topographies where steep hills or strong headwinds are not a part of the daily riding, i.e. suitable for New York or Austin.
This is the description from the website for the BF18 cargo bike - The BF18 is car free family transport at the height of its evolution. Take your kids to Tee-Ball practice and stop to pick-up their little teammates on your way. Drop them off and head to the park for some Frisbee with the family pup or go shopping, and don’t be shy about loading up! Rain or shine, the BF18’s comfort, stability and safety will open up your world to the joys of a truly car free family lifestyle.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Movie Monday - Shadowboxer

As I am reviewing my experiences with the movies, I think I need to create a rating system for those movies I have reviewed. If you have any suggestions, I would be open to hearing what you think.

Shadowboxer - Another movie of the 151 list. I thought this was a very intriguing movie in parts, but it was also very disturbing a number of times and for a number of reasons. The movie's two main characters are Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren, who are hitmen and lovers (but also share a mother/son bond) who get caught up in a chance at redemption. The director lets the camera and actors help tell the story through acting rather then word, the dialogue is more limited, but the story is told regardless. Although the ending of Criminal was surprising it didn't leave you much to talk about, Shadowboxer kept rolling around in my brain well after the movie was over.

Zombieland - Definitely a movie that I was was going to watch without Mrs. B around.....she isn't the biggest fan of zombie movies - scary or otherwise. Zombieland is definitely not scary, but it is highly entertaining. It is a burger movie, one where you enjoy it while watching it, but 10 seconds after finishing, you have already forgotten nearly everything about it. Zombieland is very, very entertaining, there aren't many dull parts, and Woody Harrelson is perfect in his role. Bill Murray also makes a hilarious cameo appearance that is reason enough to watch the movie.

Hors de prix (Priceless) - Following another wonderful Friday dinner with the Huddleston's, Mrs. B and I returned home, put the kids to bed, and settled in for a stay at home date night. Priceless is a French language film that stars Audrey Tautou (Amelie) as a gold digger searching for somebody who can pamper her for the rest of her life. She meets Jean, played by Gad Elmaleh, who she mistakes as a possible target, but doesn't realize that he is actually the barman from the hotel, until it is to late. Unlike Amelie, Tautou spends nearly 3/4 of the movie making you not like her. In fact you just feel bad for Jean for most of the movie, partly because of her, but also because he plays the "lost puppy" so well. Regardless of how spoiled Tautou's character acts, she spend the entire movie looking smoking hot, even Mrs. B pointed this out at the end of the movie. The rest of the movie is a romantic comedy, but isn't as predictable as most of them end up being. If you are looking for a date night movie that doesn't include Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock, or Matthew McConaughey this may be right up your alley. In the end, we both very much enjoyed the movie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Long PTSD road may have gotten shorter.

Last week there was a very significant change in how the government is going to respond to soldiers who claim to be suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Regardless of your political leanings, this is an action that has needed to happen for a long-time and should be applauded. Previously, soldiers had to provide details of a specific event(s) which lead to PTSD, and without this documentation, were not able to receive the full benefit of treatment. Under the rule change, soldiers now just have to be diagnosed with PTSD, without providing documentation of an actual event on the battlefield that caused the condition. One of the concerns raised was the increased cost of treating additional patients along with the increased chance of fraud. Surprisingly, there are still members of Congress who have found a way to oppose this:
At a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colorado Spring) said “he was concerned that changing the combat veteran definition could result in a reduction of benefits overall, and that ‘too loose’ a definition could diminish the sacrifices of those ‘who actually did engage in battle with the enemy,’”
Rep. Lamborn's position is a sad example of putting politics before people. For him to say that "the sacrifices of those ‘who actually did engage in battle with the enemy"" would be diminished, is a slap in the face to all the service men and women who have fought for his freedom to say stupid stuff. Our soldiers serve our country with honor and dignity, and considering many are risking their lives daily, don't we owe them the respect to assume they will conduct the rest of their lives with honor and dignity.

I am not so naive as to believe every future claim of PTSD is going to be legitimate, but I am going to suppose nearly all of them will be warranted. If 99 people are able to get the help they need, and 1 person is out to "game the system" isn't that still worth the cost in the end, even if that ratio goes down to 90% or 80% people helped, that benefit is still worth the cost.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Monday - Criminal, Predators

While at my parents house, I picked up 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen by Leonard Maltin. I have seen lots of movies, and was pretty confident I would have seen a number of the movies on the list. I had........four, to be exact. I was figuring the over/under would be somewhere closer to 15 or 20, but in reality, I had only heard of about 20 of the movies.

If you haven't noticed, I have started to broaden the focus of the blog to more then just a family report blog. Sure you are going to still get lots of stuff on what life is like for the Baker's, including pictures, but I would like to let my brain loose to do a little more rambling. The Maltin book has given me a perfect opportunity to write numerous times on a chosen theme, in this case movies. Starting today, I am going to chronicle my movie viewing from the previous week each Monday. Movies will come from the 151 movies listed in the Maltin book, but also other movies we/I see in the theater.

After spending about two hours putting nearly all of the movies from the 151 list into my Netflix
queue, I am now ready to sit down and start watching. Of the 151, a couple weren't available through Netflix (problem for another day), 31 were available Instantly (this is why we don't need cable) and the remainder were available for normal delivery.

Week of July 4th movies:
Criminal: I figured I would start with the movies in the instant queue first, since they would be the easiest to access. Mrs. B wasn't into watching a movie, so I picked one I didn't figure she would be interested in watching. Criminal starring John C. Reilly, Diego Luna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is a swirling caper where you never quite know who is in control and who is being played. At 87 minutes it is very neat and tidy and doesn't waste your time.

Predators: Went to this movie because I just needed a little mindless, explosion-filled fun after spending 12 hours in the car with two crabby babies, a whiny two year old, and my lovely wife. I had absolutely no expectations for this movie.......and in the end was thoroughly satisfied.

Explosions - check
needless violence - check
more bullets fired then words spoken - check
surprising (yet slightly predictable....can't believe I didn't see that before now.....twist) - check, check, check

This isn't a movie your WAG is going to fully appreciate so don't waste your $10, go see it as a man-date, by yourself, or wait until it comes out on DVD (for those nights she heads to bed early).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bubbles with Papa

As we wrapped up "Road Trip '10" we have really started to slow down when it comes to doing vacation things. Instead of rushing out to go and do something, we have taken to sitting around and reading, taking longer naps, and enjoying good conversation over the dinner table.

With only a day to go before we pack everything up and return to the steamy heat of the ATX, we took an extra long time to enjoy dinner at my parents. Thankfully, Springfield was experiencing some unseasonably cool weather, and we were able to sit outside for a number of evenings. Considering that "the boy" and his cousins are not into sitting for more then 4 minutes, eating outside means that everybody can relax and not worry about crabby kids.

On this night, bubbles were a big hit (who doesn't love bubbles), as Papa or Mrs. B took time away from eating or conversing to blow massive bubbles for the kids to run and pop. A year from now, Papa is going to have his hands full, because he will then have 6 grandkids running around trying to pop bubbles. He had better start resting up now, because that may require an olympic level of energy just to keep everyone happy and entertained.

One bubble, three cousins, endless joy.
Got one!
The anticipation is killer!!!
Bubbles are a joyous thing
All Gone!!!!

Pooltime with Papa

One of the fondest memories my sister and I have of my grandparents house was their pool. We could spend hours upon hours running and jumping in the pool, making waves, and trying to see how many laps we could swim underwater without coming up for a breath (4 links was my record - but I think Uncle Norm may have done more as a kid). Grandpa’s pool was also located directly next to the barnyard fence, which meant we figured out early on how to use that fence as a sort of diving board.

The Boy is also a big fan of the water. On the return trip to MO, the Boy kept saying "play with Papa, go throw rocks and hold hands." He was referring to the fact that he and his Papa hold hands when they walk down to the creek to throw rocks in the water. Papa also has a pool, specifically, a pool that Papa fills up each day with icy cold tap water. This pool isn’t nearly as big as the pool we enjoyed at our grandparents, but the Boy doesn’t care one bit. The Boy is interested in all aspects of pool maintenance, from the filling of the pool all the way to draining the pool into the vegetable garden. It doesn’t matter one bit to the Boy or his cousins that the pool is only a foot deep or freezing cold, because once it is full, they all get in and splash each other for about 10 seconds, until they remember that an adult is close by and splashing Nana or Papa is way more fun.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Date Day #2 - 12 hours w/out kids.

Today we had the second of our prearranged dates while Nana and Papa took care of the bambino's. The additional challenged that we had at my parent's house was the addition of three additional kids. My parent's figured they were up to the task of taking care of 6 kids under the age of 4. We didn't argue even for a second, for fear they would realize the craziness of what they were offering, so at 9:00 am we put the Twin-kies down for bed and rushed out of the house for 12 hours of adult fun. This is the last photo we took before we left. Notice how happy Mrs. B and mom look....wonder if the after shot would have looked like this?

We started with a little golf (for the guys) and shopping (for the girls) and agreed to meet for lunch. I did find it a little funny that for our "date" both couples decided the best way to start was to split up and do more gender specific activities. Welcome to married life. Upon meeting up, we tried to find a dining establishment that was actually open. The town looked like a horde of zombies had descended and wiped humanity off the planet. Springfield is a very weird town, and I do realize that it was following a holiday weekend, but we were all surprised at the very limited selection of dining establishments on a Monday.

After lunch, we went to Goodwill in a hunt for a t-shirt or two with some local flair. As a couple of you know, I am a self proclaimed t-shirt snob, and I prefer to only wear American Apparel t-shirts because they are so comfortable. I am a little afraid to let this secret out, but my favorite place to get "new" shirt is at the Goodwill. The shirts are way cheaper then you could otherwise buy them, and they often come with a unique design already printed on them. For this reason only, I have visited Goodwills and Savers at all of our vacation stops in the hopes of finding a t-shirt with a little local appeal. I had success in MSP and Springfield, but not St. Louis......maybe next time.

After finishing up at Goodwill we had a little over an hour to kill before the movie. It was quickly decided that we were going to go to the local bookstore and just read magazines. You would have thought we were a group of 13 year old boys when the Victoria Secret's catalog arrived by the way we acted. We were all so excited to just sit down and read magazines and drink tea/coffee without interruption, how quickly you forget what life was like before kids.

Winters Bone was the movie of choice. It was my suggestion, and basically because nothing else of interest was playing around that time, I won out. I have wanted to see this movie from the moment I heard about it. It is a thriller/drama that takes place in the hills of the Ozarks, which is pretty much where my grandparent and now my parents live. The whole movie shot in and around Springfield, does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty and hardship of the Ozark Mountains and its people, although seeing the movie in Springfield is a little like watching Deliverance in Appalachia or Fargo in Brainerd. I highly recommend you see this movie if you have the chance, you will be talking about it for days, which, in my opinion, means that it was a great movie.

We finished up with a dinner of sushi and drinks. By the end of our 12 hours, we were all exhausted and ready to get home and see the kids, who should have been sleeping by that point. We had a great day and couldn't have wished for anything more. My parents were champs for taking all 6 kids for the day, and they survived with very little drama. Next year at this time, we will know their hardship, because we plan on working a kid swap with my sister, which will allow each adult couple a week of vacation without kids. I am pretty sure there are going to be lots of story's from those two weeks together, but we will have to wait another year before we find out what those may be.

These are the faces of stress-free parents on a wonderful day away.

July 4th - Missouri Style

Growing up in Illinois as a kid meant that I really didn't think the 4th of July was all that special. Sure we went to see the firework show down by the Dairy Ripple or maybe did a couple of sparklers and some smoke bombs, but per state law, you weren't allowed to shoot off "dangerous" fireworks (i.e. anything that exploded). That all changed with around the age of 5 or 6 we experienced July 4th at my grandparents house in Missouri. I am sure we had been there on previous Independence Days, but that year the older cousins were also there. The Pattison clan has never, to my knowledge, half-assed a 4th of July. That fateful summer, I was exposed to the wonders of blowing lots of crap up. When I say crap, I mean it. Fresh cow pies are made for fireworks....fresh ones or dry ones it doesn't matter, a boy can never get sick of watching them blow up. We also tried to blow up pretty much anything else we could in the stocktank, wasp nest, bottles, more cow pies, you name it we put a firecracker on it or in it, in an attempt to blow it up.

The Boy got his first taste of real fireworks..............and unlike his girl cousins, who were scared out of their minds..........he couldn't get enough of it, and has repeatedly asked about every 5 minutes since then, when are we going to light off some more fireworks. Doing smoke bombs with MN papa only started the obsession, but following the all out shelling of Springfield, he is officially hooked on the hard stuff. By the end of the night, he was insisting that he hold the Roman Candle without my help. The higher and/or louder the firework the better.

As I have previously noted, Springfield is an interesting city, never more so then on the 4th of July. On that night, there are so many fireworks being shot off, it sounds like the entire city is under siege, literally. My descriptions don't nearly do it justice, but the amount of fireworks being shot off is epic. The entire Lebanese population of Springfield (both of them), must think they are back in Beirut in the early 80's.

When in Rome............we decided to go out and get some fireworks just to have a couple to shoot off during the party, but when you combined that, with what my brother-in-law and his guest brought, we had quite a collection. The Boy was in hog heaven. We did a great job of making our little sampling of fireworks look pretty impressive, or at least that is what we thought, then my parents neighbor informed us that he had won a raffle and had over $600 of fireworks. We couldn't compete with that, but because they lived next door we did get to enjoy it. Anybody want to guess how long it takes to shoot off $600 of fireworks..........a long time......I don't actually know because I went to bed before they were finished, but at least 3 continuous hours.

It is quite common in Missouri for people to buy fireworks at one of the millions of stands, and then walk the 100 feet away that is required by law, and shoot off the freshly purchased fireworks in the parking lot. This has never seemed like the brightest idea, because fireworks aren't exactly 100% predictable in terms of where they will end up, coupled with the fact you have a tent full of people and highly flammable/explosive material - just seems like a recipe for disaster.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

German Breakfast = Germany Win

Before we finished packing up the car and headed out to my parent's house for the final leg of our trip, we went out to breakfast at this German restaurant in St. Louis. The Schneithorst had a very German feel, including a bar area that looking like an old beer cellar (dark and cool).

Saturday also happened to be the day that German was playing Argentina in the quarterfinal's of the World Cup. Being unable to watch the game with fellow German fans, I figured this was the next best thing. For a little German luck, I decided to sample the traditional German breakfast (including bratwurst and spicy mustard) in hopes that it would bring a little German luck to the day. Not only was the breakfast wonderful, Germany's performance was nothing short of dominating. It was such an enjoyable game, I watched it again when I got to my parents house.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lunch - Grant's Farm Again - Little League

Wednesday was a very busy day for everybody. After our typically relaxed start, we got out the door for lunch at a local deli. Our waitress was very nice, and since she was a mother of twins we did the typical twin story swapping, including her going to the back to get pictures of her twins who were now in high school. I can’t speak to everybody’s experience with twins, but this kind of thing happens all the time, and it is really one of the perks of having twins----you get to meet such interesting new people all the time.

Following lunch, the girls, and kids headed off to Grant’s Farm, this time before 3:30, to ride the tram and see the animals. By all accounts they had a wonderful, if not exhausting time.

By the time they got home, we had just enough time to repack the stroller and change clothes before heading out for a Little League game.

I have never been great at baseball, and I expect that has more to do with my ADD then anything else. Unless you are the pitcher or catcher, there really isn’t much going on most of the time. It is 90% standing around, mixed with 5% action and another 5% chasing overthrown balls around the field. It may just be me, but I am amazed that so many kids enjoy playing baseball, but maybe a sport that involves mostly standing around is America’s game for this reason.

While Mrs. B fed the Twin-kies dinner in the stroller, I tried to keep the Boy entertained. After walking all the way around the field, we stumbled upon giant piles of dirt to climb around on and get dirty. Mission accomplished, although we ended up leaving about 30 minutes later, thanks to those dirt piles we could have stayed another hour without a problem.