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April 25, 2007

Full Weeks

LambdrinkingLamblookingSwanwindsorgreatpark3or4swaneggs

Life has been very busy here...houseguests, exploring London, planning summer trips, spring cleaning, baking, beginning new activities (Ephesians Bible study, volunteering at a local hospital...), admiring the British blossoming season. Only time to post a few pictures. Hello out there. Don't know when I'll be back to more regular posting. Happy Spring!

The sheep are from fields near a friend's house about an hour from our place. The swan is from a park 3 minutes from our house. Look at her counting her 3-4 eggs!

April 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 16, 2007

What Time Is It When...

You know those jokes:

What time is is when an elephant sits on your fence?
Time to get a new fence.

Well, try this one:

What time is it when you find a real live spider sitting between the bristles of your toothbrush?

(true story at my house this evening)

April 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 14, 2007

Lord of the Rings: My Quotes, Characters, Locations, Etc.

My kids and I did something very naughty. We'd had plenty of social interaction with their grandmother for nine days, plus playdates with friends all afternoon on Thursday, and done plenty of hikes and bike rides and sight-seeing in the two weeks just elapsed... then on our last weekday of spring vacation, we did a Lord of the Rings (LOTR) All Day Marathon. Thankfully, not the extended version. That would probably have killed us. Just the regular version (in English but with French titles & credits (no subtitles), since we bought it in France when living there last year).

Scroll down for my lists of Scenes I'd Just As Soon Skip, Favorite Scenes, Favorite Lines, Why I Like the Characters I Like, Why I Dislike the Characters I Dislike, Three Saddest Events in The Lord of the Rings, Five Favorite Places in The Lord of the Rings, People Erroneously Presumed Dead in Lord of the Rings, and A Major Goof.

We began watching the Fellowship of the Ring (FOTR) about 7:15am in our pajamas, moved on to The Two Towers (TTT) about 10:30am, and finished the Return of the King (ROTK) just shy of 6pm, after ten hours and 45 minutes (we didn't watch the credits). Yikes. We took 9 breaks ranging from two to forty-five minutes, for a total of almost 2 hours off mid-stream:

8am - 10 mins - take D to train (he had been taking his mom to the airport for her flight home)
9am - 2 mins - a phone call
10am - 7 mins - pit stop
10:30am - 4 mins - change DVDs, start 2nd movie
11am - 10 mins - stretch, put clothes in dryer
12:15pm - 21 mins - prepare lunch & bring up to DVD room
2pm - 4 mins - change DVDs, start 3rd movie
3pm - 45 mins - shower, dress, dishes, laundry, tidy house, water new plants in garden
4:15pm - 10 mins - got estimate for window-washing of our two-story house for first time in 8 months (very dirty)

Here's the count of times we've seen the trilogy, as near as I can count:
D: 2
E: 3
J: 5
K: 6

I can't believe it. That's a lot of time. My reasons for watching so many times over the past five years:

1st - curiosity and appreciation of the books, with my husband
2nd - to introduce my son to the movies; he'd also loved the books
3rd - as a requested birthday gift to my son the following year
4th - to introduce my parents to it
5th - in French for the first time, for fun with kids
6th - vacation treat with kids; our first all-day marathon (and last, I should think)

After my third viewing (in 2005), I was inspired to write a post about Good Themes in LOTR. This time I took three pages of notes about likeable and nasty characters, favorite scenes and those I'd rather miss, and favorite lines.

Five Scenes I'd Just As Soon Skip:
One can hardly look away during the whole trilogy, for fear of missing something wonderful, but there were a few moments I didn't care for, though of course they were integral to the plot:
- FOTR: Weathertop Attack; Orc-Making in Isengard
- TTT: The Dead Marshes icky stuff
- ROTK: Transformation of Smeagol into Gollum; Shelob's Cave

My 19 Favorite Scenes
FOTR:
- Gandalf arrives in the Shire; the party
- Sam is found under Frodo's window
- Arwen races the Black Riders
- Running from the Balrog (disintegrating bridge; Gandalf's defiance)
- Boromir's valiant last fight

TTT
- Opening snowy mountain scenery
- Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli in pursuit of the orc hobbit-nappers
- Riders of Rohan meet Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli
- Shadowfax arrives; three horses gallop past snowy peaks
- Arrival at Edoras
- Aragorn & Gimli fight at front gate of Helms Deep
- Ents take Isengard, loosing the river

ROTK
- Lighting of the beacons (beautiful mountains)
- Pippin's song (haunting, beautiful and sad contrasts in imagery and sounds)
- Legolas and the Oliphaunt (yee haw!)
- FOTR reunites (minus Boromir)
- Coronation & Reunion with Arwen
- Back in the Shire (4 hobbits; Sam & Rosie)
- Farewells & ending (still chokes me up the 6th time)

My 60 Favorite Lines - how many are thanks to Tolkien and how many to the screenwriters, I'm not sure; I also may not have them exactly right as we didn't pause the movies for my transcription
FOTR (16)
- Gandalf: A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to. (reminds me of God)
- Bilbo: I feel thin...stretched...like butter spread over too much bread.
- Gandalf to Saruman: Tell me, friend - when did Saruman abandon reason for madness?
- Watchman at Bree, to Frodo: It's my job to ask questions after nightfall. (shortly before being squashed by the Black Riders)
- Merry to Pippin: This, my friend, is a pint.
- Aragorn to Frodo: Not nearly frightened enough; I know what hunts you.
- Elrond: Our list of allies grows thin.
- Pippin: Right. Where are we going? (after cheerily and blindly joining the FOTR for their terrible mission)
- Gandalf: All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.
- Boromir: They have a cave troll. (his tone of voice is funny)
- Gandalf: Fly, you fools! (I believe we see this clip three times in the trilogy, due to recaps)
- Saruman to Urukhai: Bring them to me alive...and unspoiled. (Helpful, since some of the orcs later want to eat their legs off)
- Frodo to Boromir: You are not yourself.
- Frodo to Aragorn: Can you protect me from yourself?
- Frodo: I'm going alone. / Sam: Of course you are. And I'm going with you. [...] I made a promise, Mr. Frodo...
- Aragorn: Let us hunt some orc.

TTT (20)
- Gimli: We dwarves are natural sprinters - very dangerous over short distances.
- Merry: I think we might have made a mistake leaving the Shire, Pippin.
- Legolas to Eomer: You would die before your stroke fell. (fiercely defending Gimli's life & honor)
- Pippin: Don't talk to it, Merry. Don't encourage it. (About Treebeard)
- Gollum: Nice Hobbit.
- Gandalf: I come back to you now...at the turn of the tide.
- Eowyn to Wormtongue: Your words are poison.
- Gandalf to Wormtongue: I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.
- Gandalf to Theoden: Breathe the free air again, my friend.
- Gandalf: 300 lives of men I have walked this earth, and now I have no time.
- Eowyn: So few...so few men have returned...
- Faramir to Frodo (about Sam): Your bodyguard? / Sam: His gardener.
- Faramir (about Gollum): He had an ill-favored look. (Talk about an understatement)
- Gollum to Smeagol: I told you he was tricksy.
- Faramir: A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality.
- Upon Aragorn's return from supposed death, Gimli: Where is he? I'm going to kill him. / Legolas: You're late. You look terrible.
- Theoden: Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread.
- Legolas to Gimli: Shall I describe it to you, or would you like me to find you a box? (Gimli is too short to see the battle field outside the castle walls at Helm's Deep)
- Treebeard: A wizard should know better. (about Saruman felling the trees) / The Last March of the Ents.
- Sam: Folks in those stories had lots of chances to turn back, only they didn't.

ROTK (24)
- Gandalf to Shadowfax: Show us the meaning of haste.
- Gandalf: In fact, it's better if you don't speak at all, Peregrin Took.
- Gandalf: It's the deep breath before the plunge.
- Theoden: Muster the Rohirrim...Make haste across the Riddermark...summon every able-bodied man...
- Gandalf: Courage is the best defense you have left now.
- Faramir: If I should return, think better of me, father. (such a sad plea)
- Gollum: Fat hobbit is always so polite. (sarcastic)
- Faramir: Where does my allegiance lie if not here?
- Gandalf: Your father loves you. He will remember it before the end.
- Elrond: Put aside the ranger; become the man you were born to be.
- King of the Dead: The dead do not suffer the living to pass. / Aragorn: You will suffer me!
- Gollum to Frodo at Shelob's cave: Go in! / Frodo: Now that I'm here, I don't think I want to.
- Denethor: Peregrin, son of Paladin, I release you from my service. Go now and die in what way seems best to you.
- Gandalf: So passes Denethor, son of Ecthelion. (yay)
- Gandalf: The journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.
- Gimli: May the best dwarf win. (speaking to an elf)
- Theoden: I go to my fathers, in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.
- Sam: Let's just make it down the hill for starters.
- Gimli: Certainty of death; small chance of success; what are we waiting for?
- Aragorn: A day may come when the courage of men fails [...] but it is NOT THIS DAY! [...] This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand, Men of the West!
- Sam: I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!
- Aragorn: This day does not belong to one man... (at his own coronation)
- Aragorn: My friends, you bow to no one. (then everyone kneels to the hobbits)
- Gandalf: I will not say, "Do not weep," for not all tears are an evil. (to Sam, Merry and Pippin at the departure of Gandalf, Bilbo and Frodo on the elf ship)

Why I Like the Characters I Like
FOTR onwards:
- Gandalf: Makes me feel safe. Wise, self-controlled, sacrificial.
- Sam: Innocent, loyal, perseverant, tender, loving, brave, doesn't give up.
- Aragorn: Makes me feel safe. Knowledgeable, savvy, experienced, brave, humble.
- Arwen: Brave, skillful, honest, kind, encouraging, supportive, generous. Gives of her own strength to help others succeed.
- Legolas: Pure, unafraid, untainted, skillful.

TTT onwards:
- Eomer: honorable, valiant.
- Eowyn: brave, pure, steadfast.
- Treebeard: safe, steady, thoughtful, powerful.
- Faramir: I feel sorry for him. So badly and undeservedly dissed by his father. Tries so hard to please him. Tough. Willingly faces the consequences for doing the right thing (letting the ringbearer go).
- Aragorn: faithful to Arwen while far from her and tempted by another appealing candidate (who would be suitable in character, skill, beauty, and position, not to mention race and location), even in his uncertainty as to Arwen's choice and destination.

ROTK:
- Theoden: Finally does something really good, by responding to Gondor's plea for aid with, "And Rohan will answer."
- Eomer: Loyal, dedicated, tough, focussed, serious.
- Gandalf: Takes appropriate and swift action, unafraid of what people think.
- Sam: Super brave and loyal despite rejection.
- Pippin: Saves Faramir's life. Good singer.

Why I Dislike the Characters I Dislike
FOTR onwards:
- Gollum: Yucky voice, yucky body, evil motives, selfish.
- Black Riders: Pure evil, scary, dark, cruel destructors
- Saruman: Corrupt, standing with evil, traitor, gave up
- Orcs: Gross, crass, mean
- Cave troll in Moria: Yuck!
- Urukhai: Ugly, evil

TTT onwards:
- Wormtongue: Ewwwww! Treacherous, deceitful, slimy, two-tongued usurper (what a great name for him)

ROTK
- Smeagol & Gollum: So easily obsessed and led to murdering best friend. Deceiver, sowed division.
- Denethor: Horrible, selfish, assuming the worst, navel-gazer, power-hungry, greedy, no sense of propriety, no mercy
- Pig-orc at Os Giliath: Ugh!
- Shelob: Icky!

Three Saddest Events in The Lord of the Rings
1. Frodo to Sam: Go home.
2. Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged, that I had died and Boromir had lived?
    Denethor: Yes, I wish that.
3. Aragorn to Eowyn: I cannot give you what you seek.
(I see the pattern now; these are all deep rejections from people of high esteem to the hearers)

Five Favorite Places in The Lord of the Rings
- The Shire: green and friendly, peaceful and busy, playful and hard-working
- Rivendell: an oasis of safety, pretty waterfalls
- Loth Lorien: safe but eerie (but safe!)
- Snowy mountaintops in all the atmospheric shots
- Edoras: pretty surroundings, very romantic hilltop

People Erroneously Presumed Dead in Lord of the Rings
1. Frodo: briefly, due to cave troll's spear to the chest (yay Mithrail chainmail)
2. Gandalf: for a long time (especially for Frodo), due to Balrog in the Mines of Moria
3/4. Merry and Pippin: orc bonfire
5. Aragorn: fall with Warg off of cliff
(this pattern of mistaken grief stood out a lot at this viewing)

The most major goof I can see in the trilogy, non-extended version
In the fight at the Black Gate near the very end, the good guys all arrive on horses, ride up to the gate to issue the challenge on horses, and then all of a sudden they are all on foot, with no horses to be seen, for the whole fight, without explanation. What happened to their horses? Some people discuss this in a forum. It is listed in IMDB as a goof. Someone suggested it is resolved in the extended version with Shadowfax leading the horses to safety before the battle begins? If so, that's sweet. Emily was noticing how much horseback riding there is in LOTR.

I am amazed to say I would watch these three movies again, even after these six times. Probably not all in one day again, though! These are high-quality movies based on a time-tested book with worthy themes by a high-quality author. Good stuff. I'd like to read the books again, but it would take a LOT longer than a day!

Finally: watch The Lord of the Rings in 5 seconds. Ha!

April 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 07, 2007

Overnight in London

David's mom arrived safely from California the day before yesterday for her first visit to our new home here in England.

We let no moss grow under her and promptly took her into London on the train yesterday. We ate lunch with David at his office downtown and got a tour. That afternoon we went to see Dancing in the Streets at the Playhouse Theatre. It was more of a concert than a play, which we hadn't understood. It was well-done for a series of Motown songs, like Baby Love, My Girl, Shop Around, Please Mr Postman, Stop In the Name of Love, You Can’t Hurry Love, etc. Songs by the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, etc. The singers all dressed up in various wigs and outfits just like the original performers. However, we left at the intermission because it was too loud and not interesting enough for the kids, despite the talented voices and band and the funny choreographed dancing in place in front of the microphones just like it was back then in the 60s and 70s.

The 2nd show, in the evening, was fabulous to the last encore: Jump, at the Peacock Theatre. We all loved it. Incredible acrobatics, gymnastics, leaps, jumps, flips and some Tae Kwon Do, along with very funny gags and story. I laughed out loud quite a number of times, as well as clapping my hands sore. The ads describe it as

"a high-octane display of the ancient Korean fighting art of Tae-kwon-do, including jaw-dropping flips, dazzling acrobatics, sword fights… crossed with a sitcom.

The show centres on a typical, but spectacularly agile, Korean family - from the draconian grandfather and drunken uncle to karate-chopping mother. Each is a martial arts hotshot, all possessing championship level Tae-kwon-do and gymnastic skills, who enjoy nothing more than challenging each other to martial arts showdowns."

That's about right. I couldn't get over the amazing mesh of skills these performers had to have: serious discipline in martial arts, deep focus in running up walls and flipping over backwards, comedic ham attitudes, mind-blowing flexibility and split-second acting timing. Highly recommended (although a few off-color wordless jokes sprinkled here and there and some flirty posturing; I was impressed with the modest clothing on the women, though, compared to many shows).

Today before riding the train home again we managed to stop by:

- the Tate Modern, where Jason and David and Reine got to go down some multi-story artsy slides (Emily didn't want to and I was resting my upset stomach, which went away while we waited and watched the various expressions of elation and perplexity on the faces of the sliders arriving at the bottom, having executed five floors worth of corkscrew turns on their backs)

- the Milennium Footbridge, which took us across to St. Paul's Cathedral (designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1600s), where they were holding a service, so we just quietly listened for a few minutes looking at the beautiful ceiling

- St. Martin's in the Fields, which is currently under construction; we stood just outside the entrance near the columns and joined a red-robed choir in singing "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" - beautiful, and so appropriate for Good Friday

- The National Portrait Gallery (including statues and paintings of Victoria and Albert, and various meetings for abolishing slavery in England)

- Lunch at the Spaghetti House

- Trafalgar Square (with Lord Nelson's Column finally released from its green scaffolding) and the National Gallery (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, and the like). The kids nearly died from overexposure to all the culture and art they were forced to walk through all day.

Lunch was the only thing we had to pay for - all these places have no charge for admission! I think that's cool.

Good Friday is most excellent for several reasons of greatly varying significance:

* David had the day off work this year

* David proposed to me on Good Friday in 1992

* It's the day commemorating the achievement of the eternal freedom of our souls through Jesus' sacrifice in our stead

April 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

Spitting Image

EmilyjuliphotoMy friend-since-kindergarten, Katherine of Boston, has been devotedly sending my kids birthday presents for twelve years, even though we unfortunately rarely see each other. She has a knack for wonderful ideas. She also has a beautiful dog named Juli (YOO-lee). This year for Emily's 9th birthday she sent a photo of Juli...and an identical stuffed animal. Emily adores cuddly animals. This was really cool, Katherine. We miss you! Come visit!

April 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Memorable Moments

We have two weeks of holiday from school. We've been enjoying doing unusual things in the first 4 days so far.

Friday night: Arrived at Sandybrook Country Park just after midnight, having driven three hours north from home to the Peak District of England, on a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway trip.

FamilytoptowerenglishflagSteeptowerstepsSaturday morning: Climbed a perilously narrow tower on a cliff with seriously narrow spiral steps, and ran into a Italian lady with three little girls trying to come down...I had to stop and lean towards the center of the tower, carefully balancing myself to avoid falling and breaking my neck whilst letting them pass. They need one of those traffic control light systems in this tower. That's David, Jason and Emily waving from the top of the tower.

Saturday afternoon: Was reminded again that the kids would rather swim in a hotel pool than visit anything new that they don't know about; had fun doing so.

Sunday morning: Slept in and let the kids play in the woods making a "base" and turning sticks into long-range weapons with cool names.

ThorpecloudstartWindyhilltopSunday afternoon: Scrambled up a "peak" (such as they come in England) named Thorpe Cloud, and nearly got blown off the top of it in the high winds. "So this is why they say the wind howls," said Emily. Beautiful views over sheep pastures and crow-hunting grounds (with red flags to warn people away). Also visited an 18th century manor house and a 13th century church on the way home. Saw tons of the cutest newborn lambs in the fields trotting after their mamas.

Monday morning: Nibbled on a chocolate croissant inside the carwash as the bubbles covered the windshield.

BikingtobirdpoopMonday afternoon: Read Dealing with Dragons under a pine tree with butterflies fluttering by...until a bird decided to decorate page 120. Moved. Biked home when kids were done playing in the woods with walkie-talkies. Saw Ice Princess on DVD. Which led to...


Tuesday morning: Went ice skating for the first time in England. Jason said of the hue of his most impressive bruise, "This must be a step above yellow and black."

April 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Primroses in a Wheelbarrow

Primrosesinwheelbarrow
Seen at the bottom of the cable car to the Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath, the Peak District, England, March 31st, 2007.

April 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Transformational Penmanship

HappyeasterDavid has an uncle who loves sending and receiving frequent holiday greeting cards. Since he doesn't do email and we rarely see him, it's his way of keeping in touch and showing he remembers us and cares. It's fun to correspond with him. This year, I have been making more of an effort to send him stuff. I did Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and now I've sent him his Easter greetings. However, I lost my concentration as I was trying to write Happy Easter, and wished him a Happy BIRTHDAY instead. Oops. But it was such a pretty card, I didn't want to waste it. So I transformed the offending word into a flower garden flanked by butterflies. What do you think?

Happy Easter Week to you, too.

April 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack