Well, we watched the Empire Strikes Back. I wanted her to be fairly familiar with Star Wars before advancing the story. After all, the Big Revelation about Luke’s parentage requires proper context. She was suitably shocked:
“Daddy, is that true? I can’t believe it!” Shock.
She did ask a question that few asked, almost immediately afterward: “Who was his mother?” I mean, it’s a valid question. Given what we knew of Vader in 1980, who would really have married him (of course they were married).
The big deal was the Love Story, though. Every time a kiss was exchanged, she’d turn and look at me with this big cheesy grin: “They’re in looove!” The “I know” line got a good chuckle.
I knew she was ready for the second movie when she asked while watching the first: “Daddy, what does stormtrooper armor do? I mean, does it get used up or something?”
I’ve written here before about the Harry Potter-styled curriculum/program I have devised for our Religious Education class here at the local UU church.
This weekend, as an extracurricular activity, we hosted an overnight stay at the church. What a rousing success! The most popular event was a real-life quidditch tournament. The kids got to “fly” around on brooms, handling bludgers and the quaffle, while the seekers captured the golden snitch.
Pictured here are the various pieces of sporting equipment I devised. The pool noodles are the broomsticks, the orange nerfball is the quaffle, and the two small red ones are bludgers. The badminton racket and the shuttlecock are the secret behind the golden snitch. The seekers had to try to use the nets shown here to catch the snitch while in flight. If it got past them to the ground, it was returned to any of the spectators holding a racket, in order to be returned to play. We played over a dozen games all told, refining the rules into something more fun and playable. (Quidditch is a terribly designed game).
After the service on Sunday (and after they had attended a regular R.E. lesson), the kids put on a demonstration game for the congregation. Several adults were coaxed onto the filed at times. My wife Susan made the most impressive score of the game. She leapt into the air and released the quaffle at the goal hoop. At the same moment she was struck by a bludger. She landed on the (soft, new-mown) grass with a total face plant. But she made the goal! Oliver Wood would have been proud.
Here are some pictures of the Quidditch pitch. For understandable reasons, I will not be posting any pictures of the game in play, since the participants are minors.
One truly cool thing that happened during the practice games was a visit from five bald eagles. I only managed to capture two in frame and reasonably in focus, but it was a moment of good omen.
Other activities included a mystery hunt for the evenings movie (A musical based on Midsummer Nights Dream ) Peeves the Poltergeist had stolen the movie, and the kids had to decipher codes, solve riddles and seek out clues to find it (Peeves had hidden it in the “dragon’s mouth“ — The Chinese New Year Dragon we use) This was very similar to the various puzzle-solving difficulties Potter and his friends face, and the kids each took part of the encoded riddles, and figured them out together. There was less role-playing than I had originally imagined, but the kids were way too wound up to portray roles. I think it felt less “pretend” that way too. They did keep returning with reports of having seen Peeves, though…
The kids had a fantastic time, and made me a wonderful batch of thank-you cards, and gave me an impromptu testimonial during service. I’m a very happy Headmaster.
And very tired. Young witches and wizards tire you out!
And another. This is Star of the County Down, a traditional Irish tune. This is one of the first pieces I learned to play on the guitar. I played around with Garage Band on this one, and added one of the vocal filters. This one adds a slight echo. I think it's “Male Rock Vocals”. Not something I'd do, normally, but I thought it gave the piece a nice sound. Sue me; it's free.
This song is by the vastly under-appreciated Leslie Fish. Leslie is One of Us, a gamer, and SF/Fantasy fan from way back in the 70's. This particular song is called Fellowship Going South, which is enough to give you the context.
Edit: The first line is “What is Courage [now]” and that's what I mistakenly entered into the tile field on the mp3 uploader. The song is indeed “Fellowship Going South”.
Found a dead mouse in the hot tub. It's going to be an expensive mouse. I have to drain the tub, and then heat up hundreds of gallons of water to 102°F. That's a lot of BTUs. Maintaining it is cheap, heating it up in the first place is expensive. I also have to clean the tub and put in all the start-up chemicals. It's something that needs to be done every three months or so anyway, but this is over a month ahead of schedule. Stupid mouse.
I broke down and decided to introduce my daughter to Star Wars today. I had her avert her eyes when they show the bodies of Owen and Beru (It's a little gruesome), but the rest of it we sat and watched together.
What a blast. I knew it had the proper effect when her comment during the opening scene was “That's a big spaceship. Wow, that's a BIG spaceship!” I remember having exactly the same reaction seeing it for the first time at age 13. She was entranced. She asked a million questions, and I patiently explained (and re-explained) what was going on and who everyone was. No less than twenty minutes after the movie was over, she had already constructed her own cardboard lightsaber. It has crayon-illustrated On and Off buttons, and the word “Litsaver” written on it. She asked me to give it to her, like Obi Wan does to Luke in the movie. Then she stood in the middle of the living room and asked me to toss things at her, while she used the lightsaber to deflect them with her eyes closed.
Then she asked to see the movie again.
She wants to be a “Jedi girl” for Halloween.
I'm pretty pleased.
I don't think I'll let her see Empire Strikes Back for a few weeks. I want the details of Star Wars to be firmly cemented in her memory, and for her to understand who is who and what the action is before springing the Big Reveal on Luke's parentage. It will have more impact that way.
Just like it did for me, sitting in a dark theater at age 16.
A few people (most notably Dan from Fear the Boot) have asked to hear my singing voice. I have held back since I am extremely careful around the copyright issues of my Barbershop group. Chapters have had their licenses pulled due to careless treatment of purchased music. However, while I wait for the wheels to grind in the chorus, here is an example of some non barbershop singing. This is entirely me, though the song is of course not mine. I don't have a license to pull.
The guitar is a Carvin.
We took a three-day trip across the Sound. We visited the Pacific Science Center, where I nearly fell into a pool, held some butterflies and watched my little girl run around doing cool and educational stuff. I love places like this, though I think the Exploratorium in San Francisco is cooler. Or even OMSI.
The next day we met up with my Sister in Law and her family and took the whole kit and kaboodle (7 kids!) to the Everett Children's Museum. This is an amazing place, where they can pretend to be bankers, vets, restaurateurs, airline pilots, etc. There's a great rooftop park where they burned off 10,000 calories.
The highlight of the week-end was the final museum, the one we actually planned the trip for. We went to the Seattle Art Museum, to see a collection of Roman art, on loan from the Louvre. It was a huge exhibit, actually more than I could comfortably take in in one trip. The pieces were well-displayed and well-supported by explanatory text and audio commentary. If you've never used an audio wand (or PDA, or mp3 player) at a museum, try it. It magnifies the experience many-fold. So many things that would wind up getting a glazed look once-over take on context and significance when patiently explained to the ignorant. I learned so much. The coolest thing about the way that SAM does it, is that they make the entire audio tour available on-line. You can download the series of mp3's to your favorite player. This alos allows you to get a preview, so you will better know what to look for, or a review, so you can remember what you have seen.
By far the highlight of the museum was a pure accident, though. Unbeknownst to me when I bought the tickets over a month ago, the museum had very temporary exhibit on loan. Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise are being restored. They have been removed from the Florence Baptistry and are being cleaned and repaired. Since the work is being done in the United states, the panels are making a tour of several major U/S/ cities. Seattle wasn't even in the running, but it turns out that the Florence Director of Art had a very favorable trip here many years ago and graciously allowed for them to be displayed for a short time. It was sheerest chance that the date we picked for the Roman show was the last day for the Gates of Paradise to be on display.
For those who have not been exposed to this body of work, Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise are a series of door panels for the Florence Baptistry. The Florence Cathedral and Baptistry are generally heavily examined in any decent art history class when the section on the Italian Renaissance begins. The trifecta of Ghiberti's Doors, Brunneleschi's Dome and Giotto's Tower makes this one of the art world's most beloved and revered places.
The funny thing is, this is the third or fourth time Susan and I have seen them, but the first time we've seen the actual thing. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has one of the world's few copies. We made a pilgrimage to SF for the express purpose of seeing them, only to discover that they were on the back, behind a locked gate, and some worker had parked a cherry picker in front of them.(!)
The second copy we saw was in the Victoria and Albert Museum in their Cast Court. This is an awesome, amazing, incredible place that deserves it's own journal entry. I'll say no more now other than if you are ever in London, see these rooms.
There were only three panels actually on display, but they were so close you could touch them, were they not sealed in nitrogen-filled cases. Here's an example of before the cleaning and after:
Most of the cleaning was done with simple saline and a laser. The laser burns off the grime of centuries, but the gilt below is reflective and thus is unharmed. It's a magical process to watch.
Finally, the doors in all their glory:
I'm on my own for the next few days. The wife and daughter are across the water in Edmonds, visiting relatives. I stayed behind to get some work done and watch the dog.
I go a little crazy with no one in the house. Not in the sense that I start drawing a face on the pillow to talk to, but I start to lose discipline. I stayed up past 2:00 am last night. Not because I particularly wanted to, it's just that there's a little voice in the back of my mind that says, “No one's home. You don't need to go to bed.” Weird.
At any rate, some things are nice. The solitude is relaxing. I spent a half hour last night in the hot tub, looking up into the infinite sky full of stars, listening to Carmina Burana. Awesome.
Today, it's work work work. I'm putting together the program for our annual show. I also have to go down to the church and hit all the playground equipment with a pressure washer. I discovered a paper wasp nest larger than a softball under one of the slides. Not good. I also need to rehearse for a reunion of the fabulous band Three Dots and a Dash (because there are five of us), and hit the Tuesday night rehearsal for the barbershop chorus. I also have three trees threatened by hated English Ivy, that need to be rescued. It's busy in Keithland.
I'm doing a unit on Religion and Art in my RE class in a couple of weeks. One of the members in the congregation offered to collaborate with me on it. It turns out not only is he incredibly knowledgeable on this subject, he was actually the guy hired by George Stevens to do the research for The Greatest Story Ever Told. He spent months touring the Holy Land for the project.
I go to look him up on IMDB, and he's done all kinds of camera work, including such projects as Wild, Wild West and Gilligan's Island. I can't hold that against him though. This is a guy who wrote the book When Santa Was A Shaman, The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree, and was the technical adviser for the Diary of Anne Frank, both movie and TV special.
I'm so stoked. This will be a fantastic opportunity.