Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chevy Chase has nothing on us

Put together 3 adults, 3 children, 3 dogs (of the large breeds) and one cat in a 30 foot RV and let them drive from the Twin Cities in Minnesota out to camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota and what do you get? You get plot for a reality TV series for which Mark Burnett would pay good money. The story line includes fires, poop, golf cart accidents, lost personal items, no cell phone reception, a total melt down and my personal favorite, projectile vomiting.

As I start this I should say that all parties involved are still great friends and we all know each other A LOT better than we used to. Let's begin.

After work on Thursday, July 2nd I get the call that my friends have secured the RV a day early and would we like to leave that evening. Why not? I have most of my packing done. The kids are anxious to get going and we'll get out to S. Dak. in time for the July 3rd fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Let the good times roll.
We have going for us: Mike, our professional driver who is a veteran of driving semi trucks cross-country. He vows to do all of the driving. Sweet!
What we have against us: Three adults who have never camped in a big RV before...and everything else.

Sleeping arrangements: Mike and Lisa in the back room, Alex and Kevin in the loft, Nick I on the fold outs in the main area and dogs and cat wherever they damn well please. This should work.

The RV toilet: I never understood the word "throne" being used to describe a toilet until I had to use the potty in the RV. With very little room to maneuver one is expected to climb up on this toilet which must be mounted about 3 feet off the floor. Add another 2 feet for the actual bowl height and consider that I am only 5'3" tall. I felt like a contestant on one of those Japanese game shows every time nature called. Not to mention there was virtually no place to put your feet down once you were up there. Okay, I can live with it.
The dogs: I love all three of these dogs but I am currently not returning any of their phone calls. Here are some things to remember when vacationing with dogs.
1. Water bowls spill a lot when you are driving.
2. Nervous dogs shed a lot when you are driving.
3. Some nervous dogs drool a lot when they are resting on your leg for comfort.
4. Dogs who have just been walked have very dirty feet when they re-enter the RV.
5. Dogs with dirty feet love to jump up on your bed.
6. Calm dogs shed a lot.
7. Dogs like to escape after being cooped up in a RV for a long time.
I guess that's enough for our first lesson on the RV vacation. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Horcruxes versus hormones

NOTE: Spoilers in here for those who have not read the book or have yet to see the movie.

What is going on with David Yates? My 13 year old son and I went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on the second evening of its opening. Our hopes were high from the exciting previews we saw, and then… eh!

The only word I can use to describe my feelings for the new Harry Potter film is ambivalence. For what was one of the most emotional and revealing books of the series I was left wanting much more from the film. Yes it was fun to see the old gang at Hogwarts yucking it up again. Most of the scenic elements we have grown to admire were there, but some were altered for no reason like the pensive that now looks like a modern day bathroom sink and the Quiddich pitch witch looks like a strong wind hit it and knocked off all the siding.

These minor alterations don’t really affect the story, however, what was David Yates thinking when he left out the biography of Tom Riddle? Almost every piece of exposition from the book that explained his ascent into evil and the birth of the Horcruxes was left out of the film. Instead we got to see an overabundance of Hermione pining for Ron, Lavender pining for Ron, Ron infatuated with Slughorn, Harry and Ginny infatuated with each other and most of the girls in Hogwarts along with Professor Slughorn desperate for Harry. Funny yes, essential to the plotline, not so much.

The movie did get one scene spot on and that was Dumbledore and Harry in the immensely creepy cave with the underground lake searching for one of the horcruxes. That type of imagery and attention to the plotline of the book should have been in more of the film. Mr. Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves didn’t even let us see the Tom Riddle’s family home or the bloody betrayals of the Gaunt family.

I was also sad to see no hint of Dumbledore’s funeral which was a poignant ending to the book and left anyone with a heart a bit misty-eyed. I kept waiting for the merpeople, Hagrid's brother and the centaurs. I can only assume production costs removed them from the storyboard only to be replaced by lit wands held in the air reminiscent of the ending to any kick-ass rock concert.

The last scene in the movie shows a bird flying off and unless you read the book it is very hard to tell that this is Fawkes, Dumbledore’s faithful, mystical phoenix. I needed binoculars to get the full effect. I can only hope there is some back-tracking in the next two films to get the plotline back on track. Those of you who follow the wands will know what I’m talking about.