Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rebecca Reviews: The Owl Movie

This movie is actually called "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole"  but I didn't want to say all of that to the guy at the ticket counter. "Two for the owl movie, please," got me in just fine.

If "Chicken Run" is "The Great Escape" done with chickens, then the owl movie is "Prince Caspian" done with owls. Beautiful owls. Incredibly animated owls. They look like owls. They move like owls. I have never seen such visual realism in digital animation. Watch the credits--they had a whole team of programmers just to design the feathers. Wow!

Kidnapped by evil owls, the owlet Soren discovers their plan to dominate the forest using their secret super-powerful weapon that Does Something Very Bad (never quite clear on that point). With the help of a disgruntled guard he escapes and goes on a dubious quest to find the forest's only hope, the Owls of Ga'hoole, a legendary band of warriors that lives across the sea and defends freedom and goodness everywhere.

Although some of the story elements were chosen based on "this will look really cool" rather than "this will make sense," and some of the minor characters teeter off the fine line between providing comic relief and annoying the audience, this is still a movie worth seeing. Emphasis on the seeing. Go see it on the big screen. The visual impact won't be the same on video. I also loved the character who becomes Soren's mentor in Ga'hoole, the old soldier owl, and his insights on what it really means to be a warrior.

This is not a film for the little ones. Not only are there scary scenes, the story is complex and there's some definite pacing problems that small children will not sit through.  But the older ones should love it. We're taking everyone over age ten to the 4:00 showing this afternoon.

Happy flying!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Harp Surgery

I saw it coming.

Since the first day I tuned up my harp here in Hawaii, I knew it wouldn't last. My harp, born in the desert of Henderson, Nevada, did not take well to the humidity of being two blocks from the ocean on the rainy side of a tropical island. The only question was, how long did I have? Each day the soundboard bent more and more until finally... POP!

The right side of the board ripped out of the box.

So I took all the tension off the strings and went to the hardware store for some epoxy. After I glued everything back together I waited a week to let the epoxy set. And then I began to tune up. Very slowly.

I couldn't bring myself to take it up to true pitch. If the soundboard comes out of the box, that's one thing, but with the way the wood was warping, I worried that a crack right up the middle would come next. That can't be repaired.

So I left it a third interval low. And just to see what would happen, I tried playing it.

Not bad!

It's different, but it still sounds good. Instead of crisp and bell-like, the sound is mellow, older, more soothing. I like it. And I know that, tuned to a lower pitch, there's less tension on the soundboard and my harp will last longer.

So I got to thinking about my life. Back on the mainland my life was tuned to a high pitch. I ran around, involved in this hobby and that volunteer effort. But here, I don't have so many things I'm involved in. I have time to go sit by the sea and watch the waves.

It's different, but still good. In fact, I think I'll last a little longer this way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wild Chickens

I've never seen so many wild chickens. They're everywhere.

Where did all the chickens come from?

I don't know if this story is true, but here's how I heard it:

On the edge of town we have the Polynesian Cultural Center, the world's only living exhibit of Pacific Island history and culture. Not long ago, someone thought that for the PCC to look like an authentic Polynesian village, they ought to have chickens. So they brought in some chickens and let them loose in the PCC.

But chickens, they smart. They know how to tell a real Polynesian village from one that opens at noon and closes before midnight. So they all hop the fence and come live with us in La'ie.

NOTE: I took all these pictures of chickens on one short walk from BYUH campus, down the street and around the corner to my house.

Full Circle

I adored my college years. So much to learn! So many people to meet! So many things to see! I studied physics and math and Japanese and religion and history and took creative writing and documentary filmmaking and thought thoughts I never would have thought I could think. And all the while I was striding around campus in my trench coat and Aussie hat, organizing late-night sing-alongs in abandoned staircases of the arts building, starting up my own science humor magazine, calling every last department at Los Alamos National Laboratory to see if they might like to hire me as a summer research assistant (got two offers, by the way), combing through the discontinued book sale at the campus library, watching foreign films at the campus international cinema, and enjoying every moment of freedom and independence.

So, naturally, I wanted to teach college myself someday. Why would I ever want to leave such a place?

Fifteen years and five childbirths later, I know there will be no going back. Delighted as I was to get a job teaching at my husband's new school, I knew I wouldn't get the same kick out of it that I got from being a student. Just like once you grow up you can never go back to that special Christmas morning when you're six years old.

But sitting this morning in faculty meetings, I realized something. I may not get to be a student again, but now I can see behind the scenes. I know better what goes into giving young people the college student experience. I had no idea how much my professors put into making my wonderful college years possible, how much my parents put into it, how much all the people who donated or contributed to my school in any way put into it.

And now, I get to be a part of creating that experience for a new generation of students. I get to be the one to put the presents under the tree.

Lesson plans, here I come!

Monday, September 6, 2010

That's No Cake! It's a Space Station!

When I was a little girl I loved my mom's Wilton Cake Decorating books. I spent hours looking at the photographs, marveling at what could be done with cake and frosting. It filled my head with possibilities.

Each time a birthday rolls around at our house, I go back to that place in my mind and dream up an amazing confection that will delight the children and impress their parents. Unfortunately, unlike my mom, I never took any cake decorating classes.

So I'm going to tell you how not to make a Death Star cake. Honest, that's supposed to be the Death Star. See the aluminum foil tie-fighters being chased by the Millennium Falcon up there?

It started out pretty good. I mixed up a batch of cake batter and divided it evenly between two Pyrex bowls that had been lined with greased foil. I built the batter up a little on the edges so the tops would be more flat.
Then I baked the cakes in the oven. It took longer than I expected, probably because the bowls were deeper than your typical cake pan.
After the cake had cooled, I peeled off the foil and put one piece, flat side up on a plate. I stuck a big glob of frosting on top, then squished the second half in place. Rather than making a nice round shape, it ended up more like a half-deflated beach ball.

If I do this again, I'll make three layers. The two bowls, and then one regular round layer of cake in the middle.

I tinted the icing gray (five drops blue, two drops red, one drop yellow), frosted the cake, and then made the rest of the frosting a darker gray and piped on those technical-looking dark gray panels that distinguish the Death Star from a small moon with a big crater on one side. When my work of art was nearly complete, my birthday boy helped me make some foil space ships to go flying over the surface.

My fully operational battle-station was ready to blow up a test-planet or two. When I brought it to the table at the birthday party, one of the guests remarked, "That's something that lives in the ocean, yeah?"


"No, it's the Death Star. See?" My son came to my defense.

Sea urchin or Death Star, it tasted great with ice cream.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I Could Get Used to This

Two weeks ago my youngest child started Kindergarten. It has been an adjustment. Several times a day I'll twitch, "WHERE'S THE KID?" because I haven't heard from him recently. Such silence used to mean scribbles on the wall or all the towels pulled out of the linen closet. Now it means he's safe at school, learning songs about the days of the week and the months of the year.

Today I walked down to the farmer's market, ALL BY MYSELF. I bought two tomatoes and a ripe papaya. Then, on my way home, I saw a book shop. And I went in.

You don't know how crazy this is unless you're used to having a small child, or multiple small children, as constant companion. I would never go in a shop unless I absolutely had to. Too much stress.

But today I sat on a bench and looked at books. That's all. No glancing over my shoulder every ten seconds to verify the location of a child.

After I browsed the book shop for as long as I felt like it, I went home and ate my papaya for lunch.

I could get used to this.