So before the end of the year came around, I had Arbitration for my accident. I knew that after that, I was going to need a break. Good or bad outcome, it was going to be a stressful day and I would need something to take my mind off everything.

So the day after we arbitrated, I hopped a plane to Burbank to see Turtle.

When I landed, I went outside and greeted the sun. Oh yeah, California is WARM! I waited and waited and Turtle took forever (just kidding). Once we were on the road, we put on the GLEE: Christmas album, even though to her it didn't feel like Christmas. It was 67 degrees outside after all.

As we were driving, we decided to get brunch. I said, "I want to eat at a hole-in-the-wall dive." So we looked for a bit, and then found "Tom's #7," which from the outside appeared to be an old school burger joint. Inside it was a mexican restaurant completely staffed and patronized by non-whites. Fantastic. I got a pastrami quesadilla, because why not? Pastrami. In a quesadilla.

We went back to her place and ate, then busted out what would keep us occupied for most of the trip: Kingdom Hearts. Turtle LOVES LOVES LOVES Disney, so this seemed an apt game to share with her after her Zelda exploits.

That night Rinska came over for pizza and scattergories. It was an intense game, with each of us trying to psych one another out while coming up with the best double-point word. There were some pretty good ones, and creative answers to boot. Turtle totes held her own too. The game broke down somewhere in the sharing of round 2, because Turtle's love interest came up and then updates needed shared, which quickly evolved into speculation and debate regarding the man's intentions. This discussion lasted a good 30 or 40 minutes. We got going again and decided to cap the game because Rinska had to go. I completely fell apart the last round and she solidly whomped me. My entire second half of the sheet was empty. Most disconcerting was the fact that NONE OF US could think of a "Book Title" starting with the EASY letter R. I mean, seriously?!? These are all the titles I've come up with subsequently:

-Redwall
-Rakkety Tam
-Return of the King
-Rainbow Six
-River God
-(A) Raisin in the Sun (don't know if that one would count)

Should have been a cakewalk. Then they took pity since that round I scored like 4 points, leaving Rinska 2 ahead, when I'd be solidly leading the whole time; and we decided to play just one more. I vaulted forward to reclaim my spot on top of the carnage pile by scoring a commanding 14 points in one round, to Rinska's 11. Go letter G. :)

As night fell, Turtle and I cracked open the first in the next series we intend to conquer (and my #1 favorite series of all time), Dragonwing, of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle. SOOOO excited for her to read these with me.

Thursday we got up early and drove to get my friends Jules, who is interning at Disneyland, for some park hopping. We started our day with some eats at River Belle Terrace, then got in line to ride Pirates of the Caribbean. It reminded me so much of the Pirate ride at Cedar Point that's closed now. :(

After that we jumped on the Big Thunder Railroad. Then it was time for a jaunt on the Carousel, because, why not?

Then we decided to be revisit our childhoods and road the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, followed by the Peter Pan ride and the infamous Tea Cups where we spun really, really, really fast. Next we hit up Space Mountain for a classic ride. It was funny to me, having been to Disney World many times before (but never Disney Land) how my memories jostled one another and got mixed up with my present. Because I distinctly remembered being "here" before as we were going places/riding rides, though I had never been in Disney Land in my life. It was kinda trippy.

We did the Astro Blasters ride and I racked up a good 60,000+ points, before we were beat enough for lunch. We tried to get into the cafe in the Pirates ride, but they were full, so we opted for Cafe Orleans instead and had yummy cheese-filled croissant things with powdered sugar. Delish.

To work off our calories, we got in line for the Matterhorn, before deciding maybe we wanted to go to another park. So we did. We waited in line for one of Turtle's favorite rides, Soarin', first. It was pretty cool. We got fast-passes for Tower of Terror, then we visited the Animation Academy to find out things like which disney character we were. I was given Flik, the ant from It's a Bug's Life, though I don't remember why they said so.

Tower of Terror was next. I didn't remember it dropping and going back up that many times, so I was pleasantly surprised. And since it was dark, I could scream my little heart out and not care :) Next, we opted for California Screamin', where I screamed (again) because I could and for fun. Next I wanted to ride the swings, telling them about how my brothers and I would try and kick the trees at Cedar Point.

Then we went to Ariel's Undersea Adventure, which was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theatre. I had a whole package of Milk Duds and got sick afterward. That was a fun little ride. When we got out, we were pretty much done there so we went back to the other park. We fast-passed Indiana Jones (but didn't end up using it, because we got tired), and then there wasn't really a line for the Matterhorn so we jumped on that. I screamed as long and loud as I could just to see how long I could go. Pretty fun.

Then we did the Haunted Mansion, another of Turtle's favorites. It was so awesome to watch her geeking over rides we were getting on, because all I could think about was how those worlds were coming up in Kingdom Hearts. (So I'm a nerd,... I admit it).

Then we rounded out the evening with the Christmas version of It's A Small World, where upon our exit we got to watch some of the fireworks going off elsewhere. We decided we didn't really want to ride anything else, so we had dinner in Downtown Disney at the Naples Cafe, then shopped our hearts out at the World of Disney Store before heading home. We didn't stay all the way til closing, but we were beat.

The next day we slept in (though Turtle says we got up at 7:48am, which is not sleeping in, but I don't know), and resumed our playing of Kingdom Hearts. We did that until we went and got sushi at a little joint named the Bonsai Bar. Then we read for a bit, until Stephkins told us she was singing at a bar, and I decided I wanted to go. So we went and saw her and some of her friends singing and performing and it was SO AWESOME TO SEE HER.

Saturday morning we met up with Stephers for lunch at a thai place. I ordered the chicken stuffed into a chicken, because, why not? Then more playing. We spent hours, Turtle wanted to finish so badly!

We finally crashed and slept for like 4 hours, before resuming our finish attempt Sunday morning. We met up with Stephkins again for brunch, followed by Frisbee with the gays.

Yes. Frisbee with the gays. I told Turtle when I was planning the trip that I was missing like 4 workouts, and so I wanted to play Ultimate while I was there. So she found us "gay frisbee." I said, "They have gay frisbee?!" Turtle: "It's L.A. We have gay everything." Touche.

So we went to this park and found these two guys to throw with, because we thought they were there for that (they weren't, they were just tossing). Then we found the right group. When I went to put on my cleats, I realized I'd lost a sock. So Turtle went to look for it... and found it in the car. Oops.

Gay Frisbee was true to every stereotype you can think of for gay people. It was the HOTTEST MESS I have ever seen. I mean, just wow. On the flip-side, it may have been the best frisbee of my life. I owned them all. I told my team: "Throw it, I will catch it. Like if you're in trouble, just put it in the air and I will get it." And I did. There were some blocks I got where I basically put my hand up and that was all I had to do to stop the throw. Ridiculous. We lost our second game because my team wouldn't play defense. Nothing I can do about that. :/ So I wanted to play a third. We stayed way later than we probably should have, so then it was a scramble to get me to the airport. I checked in in my sweaty frisbee clothes before changing in the restroom into more "plane appropriate" attire. After all, I was heading back to the cold.

We did finish Kingdom Hearts and got about 15 chapters into Dragon Wing. And saw Jules and Stephkins 3x. And played Ultimate and scattergories with Rinska. It was a very successful vacation.

See you again soon L.A.!

Ever since 2009 when I claimed to not read articles, and then 2010 when I acknowledged that I started reading, I've been thinking about articles.

Because I read A TON of them.

So for this year's best of, I wanted it to be harder to choose (and it will be). I started tracking the articles I perused. Granted, I wasn't super diligent about it, so this list isn't wholly representative... but I think I did a pretty good job.

So disclaimers: No guarantee any links will work. Not a comprehensive list. Don't read if there's going to be something that offends you.

Articles of 2011 included:
Movement to restore children's play

Zodiac sign hasn't changed

ONE PERIOD DAMMIT

Women obsessed with LDS blogs

Mormonism: room for everyone?

Serenity/Firefly after

Mormons and Iomega

Disney ditching princesses

11 Things to Know at 25(ish)

NEI Responds to AP Article

Utah braces for floodings as hot temps melt snowpack

Scientists create first memory expansion for brain

Toddler who fell in Virgin River last week dies

Cancer Surges In Body Scanner Operators; TSA Launches Cover-Up

Cherish the Book Publishers-You'll miss them when they're gone

Gay BYU filmmaker ready to tell his story

Truck and Train cohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifllide in North Salt Lake

Why Gay Marriage Is Good for Straight America

Get Used to Weather Extremes

More than 100 homes evacuated after big train derailment

Study looks at experiences of Gay Mormons

Students to feel pinch in debt deal

Earthquake shuts North Anna reactors automatically

Man attacked outside of Salt Lake City gay club

Salt Lake City is No. 3 in U.S. for same-sex couples

Bullied Teenager in Buffalo, NY takes his own life/

5 Ways you know it's time to get married

With No Future Visible, Young Activists Have Few Options but to "Occupy Wall Street"

Play video games all day for charity

Lessons from Sharing the Story of My (Possibly) Gay 6-Year-Old Son

Giant Whale falls out of sky in UK?

Spock actor Zachary Quinto comes out as a gay man

Opinion: Utah legislature commits crime against humanity

Wear Purple on October 20 for Spirit Day #SpiritDay

Dr. Drew: Gay people should be furious about Kim Kardashian's marriage debacle

My Gay Lifestyle

Stadium evacuated after marching band members get sick in stands

Democrats win big in Utah Non-partisan races

I'm Christian, unless you're gay

Shop on Thanksgiving? No thanks

Putting Compassion Before Judgment

American Fork to consider sexual orientation ordinance for housing, employment

Thousands of birds crash-land in Walmart parking lot

7 Awful Plot Twists We're Tired Of Reading

Two women's first kiss at homecoming a first for Navy, too

Male Rookie of the Year: Jared Hulet

One teacher’s approach to preventing gender bullying in a classroom

So there you have it. Reviewing the list was really interesting for me, as it showed alot of what's important/interests me (x-files irl FTW!). I'll try to keep at it for 2012. Looking forward to the best of when I'll have to make the difficult decision which of these is the best one. Stay tuned!

Immortals (Nov 19) - Grade: B+. This one wasn't really on my radar, and I'm pretty sure I even got invited to see it once or twice and declined, but everyone was talking about it, and then I must've been in the right mood because a friend invited me and I agreed. I'd never seen 300 so I was worried I would be lost, but I found out it was just the same director, not the same story. The story was pretty intense, but cool, though I must say that WOW, I was unprepared for all the blood and gore in this! There were some scenes where the slow-motion cinematography was cool, but GROSS! It was also interesting to me to "go behind the scenes" and read about how much the stars all worked out and how far in advance they trained so that they could have ripped, awesomely hot bodies for the movie. The preparation and dedication to a movie part can be pretty ridiculous if you ask me!

Let Me In (Dec 3) - Grade: B-. This movie had always caught my eye from the time trailers were out, but I was pretty sure it was a scary movie, so I wasn't sure I could handle it. I finally broke down and watched with a friend, and it wasn't scary at all! It was more cute than scary, and kind of creepy too. The movie does a great job normalizing vampirism and making it not foreign at all. Poor Kodi Smit-Mcphee though. I mean The Road and then this movie. That kid is gonna be messed up.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Dec 17) - Grade: A. I liked this one alot better than the first one! The plot was more Holmes style, and Downey did a bang-up job this time, really losing himself in his character. What's not to love about Jude Law? The story was much more interesting this go-round, I like the humor "spice" that was peppered about. A well-done flick.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dec 30) - Grade: B-. I'll confess... I haven't read the book. But I get invited to the movies... I usually go. What can I say? So I saw this. And I was SOOOO unprepared. I mean, whoa. There was WAY too much sex in this movie for me. There were so many scenes that were difficult to stomach, I felt ill-at-ease for most of the movie. And the ending was just twisted. I mean, creepy, twisted, twisted. Maybe some people like that. I was bothered by the content in this film. Though I will hand it to the actors, they were phenomenal. Rooney Mara should win some awards for her performance for sure. It was unbelievable.

And that's all the movies for 2011! I've already got a good start for 2012 though, so bring on the reviews!

C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle - Grade: B. Probably my least favorite Narnia book. SPOILER: I like the fact that Lewis brings everyone back, but not that the majority of them die. It just seems unnecessary and unhelpful. Also, the spirituality/christianity aspect gets overly-heavyhanded here. It's tolerable in the other books, but here it becomes a bit much, in my opinion. Turtle was happy to be done with the Narnias so we could get to the last book in the Chronicles Series, Dragons of Summer Flame.

Sarah Southerland's Not Another Sarah: Avoiding and Escaping Abuse - Grade: ? I don't really know how to grade this book. It's written by a personal friend of mine about her true story account of being in and escaping from a very dangerous, abusive relationship. The account is harrowing, almost unbelievable in places, and gripping. I read the book almost in one sitting. Something intriguing Sarah has done is pair her account with a guide - "Everything You Need To Know About Abuse" for identifying and, subsequently, escaping abuse. It outlines abuse cycles, gives tips how to recognize it in yourself and others, and even addresses topics like divorce and child custody. This book reminded me alot of A Child Called It, though that account seemed almost more sensational (hard to imagine/believe). Both are raw, desperate, and captivating. My tears flowed unchecked for probably the last half of the book. Accounts of people suffering at the hands of others greatly upsets me.

Lev Grossman's Codex - Grade: A-. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. Preceding the majesty and wonder of The Magicians but following the horrid Warp, I wasn't setting my expectations too high for this one, his first critically-acclaimed novel. But it was good. Not quite Magicians, mind-blowingly good, but good nonetheless. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline, and watching how the search for this elusive tome played out in the narrative. I was very satisfied with this book as a read and do recommend it (though The Magicians is WAY better).

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of Summer Flame - Grade: A. Weis and Hickman will always be household names at my place. I love them so much; their work will be always be part of the foundation of my inspiration and imagination. I have so much to thank them for, and this novel is no different. Bringing to an end the Chronicles Trilogy, Twins Trilogy, as well as building upon The Second Generation, this 8th book in the series ties up all the loose ends, as well as building the stories and lives of Usha, Steel, and Palin. I didn't remember the ending and when we finally got there, Turtle was crying so hard she couldn't listen hardly. Even worse, I, as stalwart narrator broke down myself and couldn't read. We eventually got through it, but there was alot of tears and heartache. The ending is everything it should be, wrapping my second-favorite series of all-time. Thanks Weis and Hickman for being so imaginative and brilliant creators. If I can create a world with fleshed out characters half-as-wonderful as yours, I will consider myself a resounding success.

Brian Jacques' The Rogue Crew - Grade: B+. Finished just before his death, this marks the final novel in the Redwall series, which has been a part of me since probably the 5th grade (maybe earlier? I don't remember for sure when I started reading him). As previously stated in my tribute to him, Jacques is the author I have read more than any other, so naturally this read was endearing, difficult, and nostalgic for me all at once. This was on the end of his better-written books, it didn't seem like a cookie-cutter regurgitation like some of his other books. It was bitter-sweet for me to read, knowing this was the end of Redwall. I think these books will always be household names as well.

Jeanne DuPrau's Prophet of Yonwood - Grade: C-. Bleh. This book was pretty bad. After City of Ember's brilliance and splendor, and then People of Sparks flatlined, I was apprehensive about this one. But then I figured out it was supposed to be a "prequel" and I was very excited and intrigued how the current plot was going to devolve into them having to go underground and start the City of Ember. And then it didn't. Like, at all. There was one piece in the last three pages that tied into something Lina and Doon found at the end of City of Ember. I was like, REALLY?! *THAT'S* your prequel?! So I kept waiting and waiting, eager to see how this would build to that Epic of books. I was always like, surely in the next chapter... and kept reading and never got any of what I wanted or was looking for. Just a story about a girl faced with stupid rules who loves her dog too much and freaks out when he is taken away. It was such a bad book. I guess there's a fourth, which I'm not looking forward to, but I ought to read. Bring on the torture I guess.

And that wraps up my book reading for 2011! Just a few more movies, one more trip, and then we will send 2011 packing on its way with the Best Of... and Music Review posts.

Somehow, someway this post got missed being published. I swear I wrote the thing months and months ago, the original draft was from Jan 31, 2011, but when I opened the draft there was no content! So I guess I failed on that one...

James Rollins' Altar of Eden - Grade: B-. A co-worker recommended this book to me. I don't think the storyline was necessarily bad, just weird. Some parts of the book came across as too contrived for my liking. It took me a long time to get through this novel. Parts of it were slow, and then others held my attention raptly. I was up and down on this book quite a bit.

Perry Moore's HERO - Grade: A. I didn't think the plot in this book was super-tight, nor were all the characters well-written and developed, but I'm going to give it an A anyway for breaking boundaries and daring to be different. This book is basically a re-invention of the superhero. The main character is gay, his teammate's ability makes everyone sick, and the girl who becomes his best friend has a dialysis bag (if I remember correctly? She had something wrong with her that necessitated having a bag attached to her at all times...) Anyway, what I'm getting at is that this is not your X-men, Avengers, or Justice League. It's a retake on the whole superhero thing, making them more human, more fallible, and more real, especially with the inclusion of a lead gay character. There are places where the book is shallow, moments that are contrived and don't work, but for the most part, good on Moore for writing this book. It's about time kids had some positive gay role models. At least I think so.

Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero (first book in The Heroes of Olympus series) - Grade: A-. Well, Riordan is at it again. Just like his Percy Jackson series, he's back at it with new characters, new plot twists, and new prophecies. This first installment was pretty long, but I didn't find alot of places where it dragged. But Riordan has new heroes: Jason, Piper, and Leo who embark on an epic quest, bound by a prophecy that speaks of 7 children. Who are the other 4? I went into this thinking that it was a spin-off series from the Percy Jackson books and wasn't related, but, oh it IS. Percy's name surfaces in the book and Jason and Co. definitely team up with Annabeth. Can't wait for the next one.

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas - Grade: A+. This book is a product of GENIUS. I spent more than a month reading this book because early on I realized how awesome it was and I wanted to savor its brilliance. The story is formatted in a way that I have never come across before, with story as nested dolls. So the first section starts out in the 1500s or somewhere around there and goes about 39 pages and then just ENDS. Like middle of the sentence ends and just goes to the next section. When I got there I was super weirded out. I was like, wait, I'm missing pages, or there's a misprint, or something got formatted wrong! Nope. Totally intentional. The next section is about a chateau where a boy is learning to be a composer, and he's stealing books from the library and he finds this book that only has 39 pages and then just ends! Genius. The second section is written in the form of 9 letters, then the third section is about a guy who is trying to not get assassinated and in his pocket he has these 9 letters. I mean, it was mind-blowing. So the story progresses and you go deeper and deeper into the nested stories until you're at a post-apocalyptic one and then the story turns around and heads back the way it came, tying up all the loose ends. The very last section of the book picks up mid-sentence where the first left off and resolves itself completely. I freaking loved reading this book.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's The Second Generation - Grade: A. Weis and Hickman are solid writers if you ask me (but I'm biased). This addition to the Chronicles and Twins Trilogies introduces readers for the first time to the children of the heroes. Raistlin's daughter, Tika and Caramon's three sons, and the elusive son of Kitiara, Steel. A great next chapter for DragonLance lovers everywhere.

C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - Grade: A. Just like had never seen The Lord of the Rings, played Zelda, or seen any X-Files, she had never read The Chronicles of Narnia either. To make sure it happened, I stopped between books 7 and 8 of the DragonLance series and told her I would not read the last one until we had read all of Narnia. They are short, quick books to get down. Also, I made sure we went in the order Lewis intended. There has been debate to put them in chronological order, but that was never Lewis' intention. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe introduces the world of Narnia gradually and with dizzying effect, while books like The Magician's Nephew has Narnia listed in the first paragraph, with no expectation, dictating that the reader should already be familiar with such a place and so no explanation is required. I enjoy this series, but the first book is one of my favorites. I love the Pevensies and the way the story unfolds around them as the reader is immersed in a whole new world, all inside the wardrobe.

C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian - Grade: B. I'll say that I like the book much better than the movie. Not my favorite of the books, but not a bad one. Then again, I don't think there's really any book that Lewis did poorly. I will say, comparing to the movie again, I strongly disliked the way they altered the plot of the movie just so Tilda Swinton could have a part. Lamesauce.

C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader - This book is a good one, but the movie sorely messed with the plot, even moreso than I had realized. Nothing happens in the right order in the movie. It makes me sad when movies are untrue to their book predecessors, but I guess that seems to be the nature of film. I'd say this is probably my third favorite of the series.

C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair - Grade: A+. I don't know why, but this is by far, my favorite of the Narnia series. I just love this one, especially with the kidnapped prince and how he rides past the heroes as the black knight on the horse. And Puddleglum is just a great character. I've always remembered this book with the most fondness.

C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy - Grade: B+. This is probably ones of the books I remember least from the series, but again, one Turtle thoroughly enjoyed. The storyline is so exotic and middle-eastern-ish that sometimes it's easy to forget this is, indeed, still Narnia. What a wonderful world Lewis created.

C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew - Grade: A-. Not my favorite of the Narnias, but Turtle loved it. I like the characterization in this one, and enjoy it for its prequelness. Reading this after The Magicians, I couldn't believe all the hat-tips Grossman gives Lewis. Very encouraging to know that literature and genius are not dead in our day and age. Grossman should be a must read for everyone.

More book reviews coming tomorrow!

I did something crazy.

I started a new blog! (I know, I know, I can't even keep up with this one... what makes me think I can do another one?!)

But this one is for my writing. My reading. My re-"taking" of a college course I had 6 years ago. I'm pretty stoked about it. You should follow along. There will be new posts everyday ("homework" does that!)

Come on over and see me read, write, evoke, ponder, and be.

Fast Five (May 30th) - Grade: D. We were going to see Bridesmaids but then the times were all messed up, so we ended up watching this one instead. It was a fast cars doing amazing things movie like all the others. I'll admit I haven't kept with this series (I didn't even really know it was a series... I don't even know if I've seen any of the other movies?). Reminded me alot of Gone in 60 Seconds, but I thought that one was better. Lots of glam, violence, and cars, cars, cars. Just another alright movie.

SUPER 8 (June 10) - Grade: A. I was SO excited to see this movie! The trailers looked AMAZESAUCE. And it proved to be true. Went to the midnight showing and so glad I did. This movie was everything it promised in the names of Spielberg and J.J.Abrams. Definitely one to see if you haven't.

X-Men: First Class (June 10) - Grade: C-. I'm sorry to be picky about X-men, but as previously mentioned I really take issue with having my childhood ruined and redone. If you separate the name and what I expect and how its supposed to be from the movie, then yes, it was a smash bang-up of a phenomenal movie. If you are a truist die-hard like myself, then you probably hated it like I did. I tried REALLY REALLY hard to be detached and not care and just be like, yes, X-men reboot, for the new generation... but then there were just SO many things wrong, I eventually gave up. I probably hated X-men 3 more though.

Tree of Life (June 19) - Grade: B. This one had had my eye for a while as well, and one that I really, really wanted to see. I will agree that the movie's visuals were completely breath-stealing and downright drool-worthy, and I feel like the movie documented well that time of life. Not having lived back that far, I can't comment for certain, but of what I know of that time period it did a good job. There was a lot of important, weighty dialogue that was whispered or all-too-brief that slipped past me, so there were a few times I was rather confused. The non-linear plot didn't help that either. I think this is a movie where seeing it a second time would greatly benefit my opinion (and understanding), but I haven't made the effort to do so as yet. Overall, I enjoyed it, though I tried to map a bit too much of my own self onto the characters than I should have which didn't play out the way I thought it would. Mistake on my part. Still one I would recommend seeing.

Megamind (June 25) - Grade: A. Somehow I missed this one last year. Anyway, I'm caught up now :) The plot was definitely refreshingly interesting, especially watching the bad guy become the good guy, something I toy with with a number of the characters I most love to pen. That sense of redemption is almost pervasive to me and my writing; it's something I find very intriguing. Overall, not my favorite (that has to be Monsters vs. Aliens or How To Train Your Dragon), but not the worst animated feature I've seen.

Green Lantern (July 3) - Grade: B. I will confess to extreme apprehension going to see this movie, a la X-Men. Fine, you can ruin one piece of my childhood comic/cartoon base, but please don't ruin my DC one too. Speaking of DC, the real reason I wanted to see this movie was because it makes me crave Justice League. I mean, what's better than Justice League? Answer: NOTHING. I mean, they are totally making The Avengers, so where's my Justice League? Hmmm?!?! Pretty good movie, I didn't have an problem with Ryan Reynolds as Lantern, though apparently that's what made alot of people hate this movie.

Shadowlands (1993) (August 5) - Grade: B. Watched this with a good friend. Hadn't ever seen it before, but being a C.S. Lewis fan, it intrigued me. The love story was touching, though being less familiar than I ought with authors' personal histories, I was not led to hate or love based on truism or adherence to fact. I thought the love story was touching and the way Lewis interacted with Joy was humorous and reminiscent at the same time of some of my friendships. It was sort of weird to watch Anthony Hopkins showing affection and love when I associate him mainly with Hannibal.

AVA: LOVE (August 10) - Grade: B-. EEEEEEEEEEE!!! The AVA movie! Most of you probably know nothing about this. It was, after all, only in theatres for one night, and not for widespread release. This movie come from one of my favorite bands, Angels and Airwaves. They've been regulars every year at the Top of My Charts. This movie has been buzzing around for months and months, and I've been watching the trailer even longer. So on August 10th, people in something like 96 theatres worldwide saw the movie and AVA did a Q&A and played some songs. The movie started out everything I'd ever dreamed of, everything I'd wanted it to be. It went the direction it should for 3/4ths of the movie, then the ending tumbled away into (in my opinion) disaster. They had so much good stuff, so many breathtaking scenes. Knowing how intensely, extremely low-budget the film was made me very nervous, but the scenes flowed seamlessly - until the very end. And then the obvious CG was just so gratuitous and glaringly unseamless, I was sad. For the movie and for AVA. Because it had been so good for so much time. The Q&A revealed even more how staunchly thin the budget was for this film. The live performance was the worst I have ever seen in my whole life. I don't know if the mics were off, or the audio efhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giffects were messed up, but they sounded absolutely abysmal. I felt so bad for all first-time AVA viewers, including my friend next to me, whom I whole-heartedly reassured that they were not *really* that bad. Overall though, it was a cool experience. Many people probably loved the movie, but it went in a direction that I didn't agree with, so I just have to throw my arms up and take it for what it is.

Another Earth (August 20) - Grade: B+. Another movie that super caught my eye. I'll give you the trailer: here. I saw this and said, yes, seeing that. Must go. Saw this when Turtle came to visit me in August (post upcoming). Very thought-provoking piece, very candidly done. I love movies like this when they are done right. I felt like there was really only one place where the director took the piece too far - during the lovemaking/rape? scene. I didn't feel that was necessary one bit. I thought the story and characters were flawed, yet complete on their own, without needing to add that piece on the tail end. It was one of a few instances where my disbelief was shattered regarding these two characters. I mean, I can totally say, yeah there's another earth, but the connection between these two is at points forced and/or contrived, and the love/rape part went overboard for me. I was very dissatisfied with that bit, but otherwise I enjoyed the movie, especially for the ways it made me think, think, think. Look. I'm Pooh Bear! I was still thinking about everything it swirled up in my mind for days afterwards.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) (Sept 2) - Grade: A. I saw this movie at the Tower Theatre as a live production cult flick reenactment akin to Rocky or Repo. The movie I loved, the live actors not so much. I felt the film was much too serious to be backdropped with live actors like that. For Rocky and Repo, (both of which I've seen live at the Tower also), I felt like it worked. This, to me, was too serious a piece. Many of you probably don't know about it, so check it out on IMDB. I really loved the imagery and thought that we used to be whole and now are split into two halves, searching constantly for our other halves. That was a refreshing take on love for me. The songs were original, thoughtful, and incredibly moving. Some parts are kind of edgy and crass, but the overarching message outshines this things for me.

Sarah's Key (Sept?) - Grade: A. Another independent flick. Seen alot of those this year. I thought the actors in this movie were abso-perfect-lutely spot on. I felt about the acting in this the same way I felt about the actors in Prayers for Bobby. Granted, I haven't read the book for this one, so I wasn't biased/prejudiced, so I may simply have not known what and where I should have been hating, but I found it very moving. It was much more gripping and real to me than The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas (which I know I watched, but got left off my movie review lists. Oops). Would recommend for sure.

Cowboys and Aliens (Sept 10) - Grade: B. I sort of want to put this at a higher grade, but I just can't justify it. My biggest issue with this movie is that I went in thinking it was a spoof movie, or at least poking fun at cowboy and alien movies. But no, the whole time, this was a serious flick. They were for real. Cowboys shooting guns at an alien spaceship. I just kept waiting and waiting for it to be a joke, but the joke was on me, because we never got there.

Capt. America (Sept 11) - Grade: A-. I feel much the same about this movie as I did about Green Lantern (above). Maybe I'm at fault though, because I saw this without seeing Thor? Not that I'm not excited/wanting to see that one, just that I haven't gotten around to it. I'm a movie procrastinator, unless someone invites me :) So people, invite me to more movies! And with this movie out, it means that The Avengers is just around the corner! GIVE ME MY JUSTICE LEAGUE!

Bridesmaids (Sept 24) - Grade: C. This movie was on during an evening at Bear Lake with friends. I settled in to watch, just because I hadn't seen it since our original try on May 30th (above) and everyone who saw it said that it was hysterically funny. Well, I must not have a sense of humor then because I just thought it was okay. Not really *that* hilarious. I wouldn't put it in the same category of hilarious as Mean Girls or Whatever It Takes. Maybe the people around me distracted me, but I don't think I'd put this one my "To Watch Again" list. :/

Rocky Horror Picture Show (Oct 31) - Grade: Classic. You can't really grade Rocky Horror. That'd just be insensitive. It is what it is, and you either love it, love it, or you hate it. I happen to have quite fond memories of it, old an new. I won't go in to all the intricacies surrounding this one; just know that if you haven't seen it, you need to. Call me around Halloween. We'll totally go.

J.Edgar (November 13) - Grade: B-. I had private screening tickets to this and went not really knowing that much about the movie beforehand. Just that it had Leo, who hasn't been a good actor since he was Gilbert Grape. >.> My pronouncement for this movie: there were things that worked, and things that didn't. It's unfortunate about the things that didn't. Like Clyde's "aged" makeup. Horrific. Leo's sorta worked and Naomi's was flawless. But Clyde's looked like melting play-dough slapped onto his face. More than once I remarked, "Did anyone preview this movie? How was that okay? How did it make it here, let alone past the first cut?!" I am also concerned about the speculation that went into this movie, though DLB assured us in a Q&A after that the majority of what he wrote was based on fact, not theory. There was alot he *didn't* put in because he was unable to substantiate it. He also painted Edgar as a complete monster at the end of his life, and how it was hard to delve into that. But some, myself included, didn't really see it the way DLB did. I saw him as inherently flawed because of his childhood, because of the time period, and because of the death of his mother. I found the story plausible and believable, though there were parts that severely dragged, which made for a rather long viewing experience. If history and the shrouded past of J.Edgar intrigue you, I don't see any real reason to steer you away from this movie other than Clyde's debacle of makeup making him convincingly old.

Star Trek: Nemesis (November 15) - Grade: B. Somehow I missed a Next Generation movie! I was a little aghast when I found this out, I have to admit. How/when did I miss this movie? Where were my dad and brothers letting me know about it? Troi and Riker get married? And Janeway is totes in it? I'm so confused! lol S wanted to watch this movie because I'm writing in a group with him that's based about the same time period and he wanted me to see all the equipment, etc., we'd have access to on our ship. Not a bad Trek movie, not my favorite. Noticed very clear plot elements that were re-hashes or re-dos from previous movies, just covered up enough to make them look different/new.

2011 Movie-wrap-up still to come, plus book reviews, and the Best of: 2011 Edition!

Summer 2011: Chapter 6 - Turtle Visit.

A month and a few days after I kicked her out, Turtle came back to Utah. She came for longer than the time she spent with me, but I made her give me three and a half days. Thursday night I surprised her with tickets to the Goo Goo Dolls concert, and she was ecstatic. The opening band was the reason *I* was going: Parachute. I started listening to them (and loving them) from the first time they showed up on my Pandora station. Now they are getting all huge and popular. :/ Michelle Branch was there too, and we didn't completely hate her. Then Goo Goo came on, whom I have loved since my older brother introduced me and they played Rockin' New Year's Eve with Dick Clark in 1996. It was a great concert, and had a ton of fun.

Friday I worked, so she went elsewhere, then she met me there. We went and got some Buca, then headed for the theatre (to which she did not know we were going). Surprise! We had tickets to Saturday's Voyeur. We loved it so much the year before, we had to see it again. She was so excited. Her roommate and BF joined us and we had a great time snacking on bruschetta and eating salad, all the while watching the play making fun of Utah politics. Then it was home to continue whittling pages toward the end of DragonLance.

Saturday morning we got up and went to Frisbee and Turtle even played. Then it was time to hurriedly pick up the tux and get ready for the evening that would arrive all too soon. But we got stuck on the train because there were people on the tracks and then the driver had to hit the emergency brakes and then didn't know how to get the thing started again once he'd done that. *le sigh*

When we finally got to the city, I rushed over to get fitted, then sent Turtle to meet up I had already been fitted for it, but when I got it the pieces were all wrong, and the guy had to re-hem and fix things; he did so while assisting other people. I was incredibly annoyed and going to be late. He had to sew some buttons onto a vest for me as well, which he had no clue how to do (it was obvious to me). Thank God for cell phones. I sent Turtle off to meet my friends at the theatre and get tickets and tell them I was coming, only to find out that we had the movie time wrong!

Some things are blessings in disguise I guess... the extra time allowed me to get a haircut, then I showed up at the theatre, tux in hand, to see the afternoon showing of Another Earth (post forthcoming). After that we scurried to my house to get dressed. I left Turtle at my house and walked to the Salt Palace myself for the Capitol Club private reception preceding the main event, for which Turtle had come to Utah, the 2011 Equality Utah Allies Dinner.



We had a blast at the event, even one of my old professors came to support me and mine. And I got a spot in a video clip! I'm famous!



Sunday morning Turtle joined me for QUAC and swam like four lanes up from me, which was absurd. She has alot of swimming experience, I guess, because she was good enough to swim with people I only dream of. Then we spent the rest of the day just reading before going to Faustina for dinner. It was hard to come to the end of the series, especially considering HOW it ends. She saw it coming and said "no" repeatedly, but that can't change what's written on the page, no matter how much you want it to. So she cried and I tried super hard NOT to cry (because I'm supposed to be the impartial, unaffected narrator), but with no success. I ended up bawling too, to the point I almost couldn't finish reading. But we had made it through: 7 books, 3362 pages; so many wonderful characters and stories who will always have a special place in my heart, and now hers too. Then I had to say goodbye to her as she headed down to Provo to continue her visit elsewhere. :/ I guess I should share, huh? <.< But I like monopolizing...

It was grand to see her and we know there will be many more visits in the future. That pretty much wraps up my Summer, which led to Fall, which quickly became Winter. More posts coming soon finishing up the loose ends of 2011.

Summer 2011 - Chapter 5: Family Reunion!

3 Weeks after saying Goodbye to Turtle, I flew to Ohio for my Family's First Ever Reunion! AWESOME!

(AUTHOR NOTE: Pictures *may* be forthcoming for this trip, but right now they are lost on my sister's camera somewhere :/)

When I landed, I was met by the fabulous and uber-missed Mrs. Potts. She was kind enough to let me stay at her house, thought somehow the dates I was coming had gotten mixed up and so she wasn't ready. I guess I'm a bad communicator. Still. It was a place to sleep, for which I was grateful, even if it was the floor. My West Valley Studio days with Turtle had prepped me for just such sleeping and I insisted to her that it would be just fine. She was so sweet and felt way more remorseful than was necessary. Her kids are getting so big! It was so great to see her and she even made me a little breakfast the next morning before returning me to the airport where I met up with my parents, R, A, & K. Soon after G & J showed up. FAMILY!!!

After We rented vehicles, we headed into the Burg for a good ol' family breakfast at the Waffle House. On our way there, something pretty funny happened. My car with my dad arrived at the Waffle House, but the rest of the crew was nowhere to be found for some time. When they arrived some time later, the hilarious story unfolded that J (or whoever was driving) had been SURE that he was following us, and then the car pulled off into a parking lot, so naturally they followed. But when they pulled up alongside "us" to their surprise, it was some guy talking on his cell phone. Haha. Classic case of mistaken rental vehicle.

Shopping was next on the list, to prepare for our trip. While that was going on, my bros and I tossed a Disc in the Meijer parking lot. Fun times, especially making wild grabs to keep the Frisbee from striking parked vehicles. We also had this super bounce ball that we tried to bounce over numerous parked truck trailers. I think the most we ever made was 4, maybe 4 and a half.

Then some of the family wanted to tour the Burg since they hadn't been there in forevs. I didn't take this trip to putz around the Burg, so I opted to leave early. I came to ride Roller Coasters! Yeah, you heard me. Roller Coasters.

Just like last summer, we were hitting up the #1 Amusement Park in the World. Hands down.



Yeah, *that* Cedar Point. K, A, and R all came with. The drive was uneventful. Since we were there for a few days, the cheapest option was the Season Pass. We had to get our photos taken and such nonsense, but then we were in. Time for ROLLER COASTER ACTION!

Official Ride Count - Day 1: Magnum 3, Swings 1, Monster 1, Dodgem 1, Raptor 1, Mean Streak 1, Wicked Twister 1, Maverick 1

R hadn't been to CP since he was like 5, and K and A hadn't ever been, so they were all newbies! We opted to start with Raptor! RAWR! Everything was fine until we were strapping in and waiting to be launched in the front seat. Poor K had a freakout breakdown and screamed to be let off. She didn't want to ride :/

Don't remember many other details of the day. Just had fun riding.

That night at the hotel we tried to go swimming, but the locale wasn't nearly as cool as the Maples Motel, where Turtle and I stayed the previous summer. We thought about jumping the fence and swimming in secret, but the risk to the rest of my family getting the boot wasn't worth it. We ended up playing Race for the Galaxy instead.

Next day we headed in early, though some people opted to sleep in.

Official Ride Count - Day 2: Millennium 2, Magnum 2, Gemini 1, Cedar Downs 1, Matterhorn 1, Super Himalaya 1, Maverick 1

Again, some of the details are lost. But I definitely remember that the middle of the day consisted going around with my mom and sis to ride things. She loves crazy spinny rides like Matterhorn and Super Himalaya. This was the day my mom agreed to ride coasters! MY MOM ON A ROLLER COASTER!!! She claims that she loves coasters, just not getting beat up by then. So we rode coasters with her. FUN FUN

Official Ride Count - Day 3: Millennium 2, Power Tower 1, Maxair 2, Paddlewheel 1, Thunder Canyon 1, Snake River Falls 1, Shoot the Rapids 1, Maverick 1, Raptor 1

Again at the park when it opened. We wanted to get on Millennium first, so we dashed there as the gates opened. But it ended up being a false start to the day. We got all the way to the platform and it broke! The cars got stuck halfway up the first hill! SCARY!!! Turned out though that 1/3 of the park was out of power! Oops. J had never ridden coasters and wasn't sure he liked them, and he had been such a sport riding; even Stas had gone on stuff she didn't want to.

So I decided to step up and go along with my siblings good spirit. I broke down and agreed to ride the Power tower. O.M.H! SO SCARY!! Put me on a roller coaster that goes 410 feet in the air and drops me down just as much and I will have the time of my life. Strap me in a little chair, raise me up like 200 ft and then drop me or bounce me up and down? I will SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT. I screamed so loud I'm pretty sure people in the parking lot could hear me. Then, as if that weren't enough, they wanted to ride the Maxair. This was just as scary as Power Tower, if not a little more so because the ride spins while it twirls you so sometimes you are facing backward as you kick the sky, then others you are facing straight down at the ground.



More screaming ensued, to which I know many people were looking at the ride like someone was dying. And I mean SCREAMING. lol After that we had to go to the front and get lunch. While we were eating, two of my mom's friends arrived, whom she hadn't seen since High School, Chris and Curt (hereafter "C&C") Fun! They decided to hang out with us and ride rides.

So next we stopped by the Paddlewheel where the little brother of my one of my best friends from High School was working. As people were filing onto the boat, he would ask, "Where are you from?" "Boston." "Oh, hey, me too!" "And you?" "Texas. "Me too!" He was unprepared for our response. "Reynoldsburg." "Yeah, me-- wait!" Because he really *is* from there. Ha, ha, ruined your joke! The paddlewheel was sort of anti-climactic and not something I would do on my own. But we did it to see him and that made it worth it.

Next we opted for water rides. First we tackled Thunder Canyon where we completely filled out our own raft with the addition of C&C. I taught everyone how to turn the boat and we managed to soak almost everyone with me only getting half wet. We totally soaked C&C though. Ooops. Next we conquered Snake River Falls, followed by the adventure of the new ride from 2010, Shoot the Rapids. It was alright. Prolly not one I'd ride again considering the wait time. To dry off we got in line for Maverick again along with C&C. Mom and Dad opted not to ride, but hung out in line to chat while we waited. Then it was dinnertime.

After, Mom headed off to ride Disaster Transport with C&C, I opted to ride Maxair again. Okay, so scaring the piss out of myself can be exhilarating a little, alright? To round out the evening we got in line for Millennium with C&C, who had never ridden it before, neither had J, who came with us. My parents waited in line with us, but didn't ride. As we were going to the platform, R got rid of his shoes and gave them to my parents. When we were loading, he got kicked out for no footwear. This crushed him, and he would not ride anything else, nor go back on and ride even though they said he could. While G tried to deal with that mess, I ran (literally) with J over to the Raptor. We made it just before they closed the lines for the night. He'd never ridden it, and I thought it would be fitting to ride last what I rode first.

Back at the hotel we packed up and tried to go right to sleep, knowing we had to be on the road super, super early. We got up at like 5am to head back to the Burg; I had an early flight to catch. G & J came too, since they had to fly out of Columbus the next day and no one else was going back that direction. We stopped at a McD's and I waited while J went to get a key from someone, then I drove myself back to the airport, returned the car, and headed back to Salt Lake. It was a super fun trip and hopefully the first of many family reunions (now we just need to get my older bro to come from Seattle). I mean, we're totally old enough for that sort of thing now.

Let's have the next one in Key West or the Bahamas, yeah? I like the sound of that. Though I'd be just as excited if it was at Cedar Point. There's no place better!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I still have at least 8 minutes before the first day of 2012 is lost to me.

I'm not really into the whole resolution thing, but for the sake of kicks and giggles, I'll make one anyway. So here goes:

I hereby resolve that in 2012 I will do a better job at blogging!

So many 2011 posts to wrap up before I'm ready to move on. :/

Expect much reading soon.

Cheers.


 

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