Archive for May, 2008

MOTORcycles

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized on May 30th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Typing in CAPS is considered yelling, as far as computers and text messages go.  And I’m yelling MOTORCYCLES because that’s what you have to do in order to be able to hear yourself talk or even think while one is nearby.  With the horrible reality of gas prices these days (holding “steady” at $3.99 in my area currently), it seems that people are turning in their minivans and SUVs for more fuel efficient vehicles, especially motorcycles.

This is unfortunate for me because I can’t stand the things.  Normally I’m all for people doing their own thing; if someone wants to ride a motorcycle, why should it bother me?  Because simply put, it DOES affect me.  I can’t stand when I’m walking down the street, talking to my husband or my girls, only to have one of us drowned out by the awful noise of a motorcycle.  Some moron on a motorcycle revving his engine even startled one of my kids so badly that she cried!  It affects us even when we’re in our own car, and the noise of a motorcycle drowns out our conversations, the kids’ movie, or even wakes the kids up.  Sure, you can roll up the window, but oftentimes it’s too late, unless you want to drive around with the window closed.  And why should I have to do that?  It’s MY car; I shouldn’t have to be so negatively affected by other people’s actions in my own car!  And the fact is, these effects come from just one motorcycle.  The situation can be especially compounded when there are a whole pack of motorcycles, and they do often travel in packs, which means even louder interference.  I don’t understand why it is that cars can be ticketed for having loud mufflers, yet motorcycles can drive down the road, revving their noisy engines and being as deafening as they please.

The main reason why I hate motorcycles doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that their racket makes their owner seem very discourteous and not aware of others at all…  I also have a major beef with the safety issue motorcycles present.  It would be one thing for a rider to drive down the road on a motorcycle, not wearing a helmet – as they often do – if it only affected him…  But unfortunately, that is not the case.  If any type of car accident were to happen involving a motorcycle, no matter who was at fault, any driver involved would have to live with the guilt for the rest of their lives that someone got hurt.  And if a motorcycle is involved in an accident, it is relatively easy for the cyclist to get injured – it’s a proven fact, plus I’ve witnessed 2 such crashes – neither were pretty, and one ended with the motorcycle’s helmeted occupant being airlifted by helicopter to the trauma center.  His helmet was smashed almost flat, and If he hadn’t been wearing it, my kids and I and whoever else happened upon that scene would have witnessed a fatality, no doubt.

So now that I’ve sounded off, I feel better.  It’s not like I think motorcycles should be banned or anything like that…  though if my kids or I get interrupted by the clamor of a motorcycle and I’m having a bad day I might feel differently.  And in this age of $4/gallon gas with no end in sight to the price increase, I can’t say I blame people for wanting to lower their transportation bill.  I just wish it didn’t affect other people so extremely!  So if you’re a motorcyclist, please be considerate, don’t rev your engine unessessarily, it makes kids cry!  Please always have safety as your #1 priority, and ALWAYS wear a helmet – not just for you, but for the rest of us!  Helmets and other safety gear a motorcyclist might wear look much cooler to me than the idiots who wear do-rags or shorts while riding…  What’s a do-rag gonna to do for you anyway in case of an accident, soak up the blood from your head wound?

Walking With Dinosaurs

Posted in Current Events, Kids, Theater on May 29th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In case you haven’t heard of it, Walking With Dinosaurs is a traveling show that is based on the BBC documentary of the same name.  It is in Fort Wayne, Indiana this week, which isn’t too far from us.  They’ve been advertising it heavily, and I’ve been meaning to check out ticket info, but I kept forgetting.  Thanks to our local paper who ran a story about it the other day, I was reminded about it just in time!  Seems the tickets are QUITE costly!  However, my computer-savvy husband went online and found a discount that saved us SO much money on tickets, but only if we went opening night…  So, we dragged all the kids to Fort Wayne to see some dinosaurs on a school night.  Let me say, it was SOOO worth it!

It’s been a really long time since I was really excited about something that actually ended up measuring up to my expectations.  I was really excited about this show; I thought it would be a good show, but I will say that it EXCEEDED my expectations!  Not only was it visually stunning, It was a perfect show for the whole family.  There were lifelike dinosaurs engaging in battles, flying, and scavenging…  what’s not to like?!?  We have kids of all ages and bravery levels, and they were all entertained.  Our 8-year-old and our 4-year-old did get a little nervous in the beginning, but their fear quickly turned to excitement and awe once the dinosaurs started appearing.  Our 19-month-old LOVED everything about the show.  She is getting to the age where it’s hard for her to sit still, especially now that she can walk, but she watched every moment of this show, and clapped and laughed so hard that I was even distracted from the dinosaurs at times by my daughter’s cuteness.  I wasn’t distracted too much though, cuz the dinosaurs were totally AWESOME!  They were life-size and SO realistic looking, it was amazing.  Our seats were great too – best in the house, front row center.  These dinosaurs were even better looking than the ones in the movie Jurassic Park!  Walking With Dinosaurs operates on a $20 million dollar budget, and it shows!

I would venture to say that this is probably the best professional live show I have ever seen, and that includes musicals from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Phantom of the Opera, Camelot, and Les Miserables to other shows like Monsters Inc. on Ice, Dragon Tales Live, and dinner shows like Medieval Times, Arabian Nights, and Pirates Dinner Adventure in Orlando, Florida.  This was fun for the whole family; probably even most fun for my husband and I!  If the tickets weren’t so pricey, I would definitely go back and see the show again – even with the $20-30 it cost in gas money alone.  My 4-year-old suffered from what I call “fundown” after the show – a feeling of disappointment when an event is over that is so intense for kids, they usually cry or throw tantrums.  But I can’t say I blame her.  When I realized the show was ending, I had my own “fundown” when I realized there weren’t going to be any more dinosaurs!

Totally awesome show – wait, that’s not even the right word.  It was more of an experience than a show.  Even better than the dinosaur-themed rides at Disney World and Universal Studios.  As we were leaving the coliseum, the rest of the audience seemed very pleased as well.  Everyone was smiling and jabbering about the dinosaurs a mile a minute.  They also had one actor – who was upstaged by the dinosaurs, of course! – and some other props and effects in the show that made it totally awesome.  Also pretty impressive were the rows upon rows of trailers parked outside that carry the dinosaurs from venue to venue.  I knew it would take a few semis to cart around all those dinosaurs, but there were probably at least 25 semis parked out there!  It is understandable that all these lifesize dinosaurs would create such an entourage, since the Brachiosaurus alone was 36 feet tall and 56 feet from nose to tail.

If this live show experience is going to be anywhere near your hometown, I highly recommend that you do your best to get tickets.  It is a perfect show for the young and old, dinosaur fans, skeptics, or even those who are indifferent to the world’s history; I don’t see how anyone could NOT enjoy Walking With Dinosaurs!

OOPSIE – UPDATE

Posted in Current Events on May 28th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Here is an update on a story I posted last week about a man who was pulled over and subsequently backed his car up onto the police car.  Seems the officers did manage to find something to charge him with besides the original speeding ticket:

Police Charge Niles Man They Say Backed Onto Squad Car

A Niles man who reversed his car so that it ran on top of a Buffalo Grove police car Friday has been charged with reckless driving.

Henry Raskin, 70, had been pulled over by a police officer around 11:30 a.m. Friday for speeding. He had been driving 58 mph in a 35 mph zone on Dundee Road, police said.

After the officer wrote Raskin a ticket, he hit the gas while he was in reverse and ended up with his vehicle on top of the squad car, police said.

Sgt. Scott Kristiansen said Tuesday that police determined the incident wasn’t purely an accident after watching the squad car video and talking to Raskin.

“It appears to be a little bit more than a mistake,” he said. “We think it meets the criteria for reckless driving.”

Kristiansen said that most drivers if they found they had accidentally reversed in this situation, would have hit the brakes before driving over a police car.

Raskin posted 10 percent of his $2,000 bond Friday and was released. He has a June court date in Rolling Meadows.

Did I Miss Something?

Posted in Movies on May 27th, 2008 and tagged , , , , ,

We watched an interesting movie tonight, for lack of a better word.  It is called Funny Games.  It wasn’t funny, and let me apologize ahead of time for the vague review – you’ll have to see the movie to understand why I couldn’t write too much about it.  I had never heard of it before, but it was a thriller, so my husband suggested it.  If you like thrillers, see it and then tell me what you think.  I don’t really know what to say about this movie.  It was captivating and VERY tense, so I was never bored, but I was disappointed with the way it ended.  For one thing, I did not understand the movie.

Let me back up and give a quick synopsis.  Naomi Watts stars as a mother who, along with her husband and son are held captive by 2 very well-spoken young men in their remotely secluded (of course it’s secluded – this IS a thriller movie!) vacation home.  As I said, the movie is very intense but only after what is a somewhat slow start.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will just say that are no words for what happened in the last 40 minutes of the movie.  Near the conclusion, it took a turn for the confusing, and what happened made me not really understand the entire movie.  It’s based on an Austrian film, and imdb.com said that the American guy who remade it didn’t change much from the Austrian version, so maybe it didn’t translate well?  I liked the movie, for the time being anyway while I was watching it, but I would really like some insight about a certain event that took place…  it might actually be a thriller I would watch again, which is rare, but I might want to see if I can get what I must have missed.  Like I said, if you’re a big fan of suspense movies, I would try this one, it’s definitely different from all the others!  And if you have seen it or do see it, make sure you try to fill me in on what I missed, cuz I just didn’t get it!

Bring Him Home

Posted in Theater on May 27th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

We organized a concert in January with our local theater group where we had a collection of totally awesome singers perform selections from popular musicals.  My husband has an excellent singing voice – I’m not biased or anything, I swear!  Plenty of other people have said so…  If you were to ask him about it though, he would say much differently – he has a bit of an ego problem, but it goes in the opposite direction than that of most singers and actors – he does not have nearly enough confidence.  So even though there were other songs in the concert, this one might be the only one we actually get to see because I don’t know how to post on youtube – that’s his job and he doesn’t deem the other songs worthy of posting!  And if you are a stage veteran or know someone who is, you have had to suffer thru awful recordings of stage performances.  It seems that no matter how beautiful a play or song sounded on the stage, it will never translate correctly when recorded and played again – SO GET OVER IT AND JUST POST THE REST OF THE CONCERT ALREADY!!!  🙂   My favorite song from this concert was actually Bui Doi from Miss Saigon, and I was PROMISED that I would get the link to that one soon, so stay tuned!  Don’t hold your breath though…  I was also promised a new altered picture from a show we directed last fall because someone ducked out of it at the last second, and a picture in the director’s hall of the basement of the theater should have the show’s director in it, right?  But that hasn’t happened yet, so hopefully this will be more of a priority, even though I’ve stated how much that picture means to me…

I feel sorry for all those friends and family members who couldn’t make it to this great event – you really missed a great showcase of talent, especially if you’re a fan of showtunes!  Maybe you’ll be able to make it next year if we do it again.  This is a clip of Chris singing the Les Mis classic, “Bring Him Home”:

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Pet Day

Posted in Pets on May 27th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

What a frenzied way to start off the shortened week after a 3 day weekend – it was Pet Day at my oldest daughter’s school today.  So this morning saw us trying to unload a parrot, a 19-month-old little girl and a dog from the car, all while trying to get the other dog to stay in the car – it must’ve made for a funny scene.  We had to bring our “veteran” dog with in the car since the other pets got to go out, but she was not invited into the classroom because of her nervousness around kids.  So while she stayed in the car, Squawky the parrot and Beesley the dog visited a classroom full of 2nd graders.

It went surprisingly well!  And we were very impressed with our normally shy daughter, who got up in front of her whole class to tell about her pets.  She shared information about them, and patiently called on individuals from her class and answered their questions.  Neither pet had any accidents in the classroom, and the kids seemed to really enjoy seeing and learning about the animals.  Squawky got shy and wouldn’t talk for the kids of course, he never does, though he did yell out “HI!” when we entered the school – wonder if anyone heard that or what they thought it was?  He enjoyed himself, didn’t bite any of my husband’s fingers off, and returned home in time for a relaxing perch in front of The Price is Right.  Beesley loved being around all those kids, I think her only problem was being on a leash so she couldn’t be let loose to turn onto her back and let them all pet her at once.

Now, should we try Pet Day at the preschool with my younger daughter?  I wonder how a roomful of 3-5 year olds would handle the parrot and vice-versa…  I will let you know if I get brave enough to attempt that one!

OOPSIE!

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized on May 24th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

 

What NOT to do after getting pulled over:

Cops: Niles Man Backs Over Squad Car After Getting Ticketed

Illinois: Police puzzled over driver who drove up and over a squad car.

A man who had been pulled over and ticketed by police ran backward up and onto a Buffalo Grove squad car Friday morning, apparently in his haste to drive off.

Henry Raskin, 70, of Niles had been pulled over by a Buffalo Grove officer on the 400 block of Dundee Road around 11:30 a.m. Friday for driving 58 mph in a 35 mph zone, Sgt. Scott Kristiansen said.

The officer wrote the ticket and returned to the car, and Raskin got ready to drive away. Except he went flying backward.

“(He) apparently was going to pull away at a high rate of speed, but the only problem was that he was in reverse,” Kristiansen said.

He said Raskin was not happy about getting a ticket. He said police are reviewing the squad car videotape to see what Raskin might also be charged with.

Raskin was taken to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights as a precaution.

Kristiansen said police don’t believe Raskin has any medical conditions that could have led to the crash. Raskin’s age also didn’t seem to play a factor, he said.

The officer, a 20-year veteran of the Buffalo Grove department, was not injured, but his car will be out of service for a while.

“He ended up with the left rear wheel of the car coming through his windshield, about 6 inches from his face,” Kristiansen said. “Luckily, he was not injured.”

The squad car suffered significant damage to the front end, including the windshield and the hood.

Kristiansen said the police investigation so far shows the officer initiated the traffic stop properly. He said officers are trained to treat every stop as if it isn’t a routine procedure so that they are aware when unexpected circumstances like this one take place.

“The officer stopped the car properly and positioned himself properly,” he said.

From the dailyherald.com

Watching the Indiana Jones Series – Backwards

Posted in Uncategorized on May 23rd, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Before last night, I had never seen an Indiana Jones movie.  So when the opportunity presented itself to view Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on its opening day rather inexpensively via email coupons from Fandango.com, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see what all the fuss was about.
I walked away entertained, but still a little bewildered about why the character is SO popular.  The people I saw the movie with (both have seen all of the movies in the series) said this was not the best of the Indiana Jones movies.  Not that it was a bad movie, but I would have chopped off about an hour of it.  A few of the chase scenes ran a little long, and there was a little too much hokeyness in my opinion.  Before I went, I was hearing critics talk about the Indiana Jones movies and how they are a throwback to the adventure movies of the 1930’s and 40’s.  I thought this might be a good explanation for some of the cheesy action; for example, characters swinging through the air and falling exactly where they need to in order to avoid certain death or to land the perfect punch, etc.  I can deal with hokey action sequences.  What was a little hard to swallow however, was the origin of the movie’s namesake, the crystal skull.  Since I’m at risk of spilling some major spoilers here – and don’t read any further if you’re worried about learning anything about the movie you don’t want to –  it will suffice to say that I did not appreciate the supernatural element they gave the fourth Indiana Jones movie.

The acting wasn’t anything Oscar worthy, but that is to be expected in this type of movie.  I didn’t see Shia LeBeouf as the kid from Disturbia, so he must have some diversity in his acting.  Cate Blanchett was really good as the villianess, and I found it funny when I read that when people heard she was in the movie, they just assumed she was Harrison Ford‘s love interest.  People were so critical that an older man’s love interest was going to be a much younger woman, then they had to eat their words when it was leaked that she was playing the part of the evil enemy.  Indiana Jones’ actual love interest in the movie was a character played by Karen Allen that had been in some of the previous movies, which I liked.  What I didn’t like is that there were 2 characters in the movie who were supposed to be former friends of Indiana Jones, however, my Indy experts tell me that neither of them were in the previous movies.

I was entertained throughout the entire movie, and there were funny jokes and interesting characters.  Also a few plot twists anyone with half a brain could see coming from a mile away.  During most of the action sequences, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a video game.  I was really appreciating the components of the quest to obtain the crystal skull, at least until the supernatural element came into play.  Parts of the movie also made me envision a Universal Studios ride – it would probably be really cool, maybe a splashdown ending…  I didn’t fall asleep during this movie, but as you just read, my mind did wander a bit, probably because of the lengthy action sequences.    Overall, I’d say the movie was exactly what I was expecting, perhaps even a wee bit better.  And hearing from 2 experienced Indiana Jones viewers that this was not the best movie makes me willing to give the others a try – providing they are not over 2 hours each, of course – that’s just too long to sit through an action movie in my opinion!

Trading Parrots

Posted in Pets on May 22nd, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , ,

I’ve always wanted an African Grey parrot; it all started when I was a kid and I read the wonderful book “Harry’s Mad” by Dick King-Smith, the guy who wrote the book-turned-movie, The Water Horse.  African Greys are not nearly as “beautiful” (colorful) as other parrots, but they sure can talk and even use logic to demonstrate an intelligence level equivalent to that of a 4-year-old human child.  We did end up with a parrot, but we got the eye-candy version instead, a Scarlet Macaw.  Here is a picture of Squawky – he was molting at the time, which is why his chest is gray:

Molting Squawky

At the time we got him, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up: he was a previously owned bird who was still very young and inexpensive, and gorgeous, of course.  We’ve had him for 6 years now, and he is part of the family.  He has quite a personality, and I get a kick out of most of the things he does.  He’s in my laundry room, so it’s an especially nice break in my daily routine when I open the door and he bursts forth with a very enthusiastic “HI!”.  But there are days when I still long for my African Grey, mostly because Squawky is my husband’s bird, which means that no one else is allowed to touch him since birds tend to bond to one person.  I think Squawky loves me and the kids, but we are not allowed to touch him under any circumstances.  We can talk to him, and he’ll even talk back.  He can be quite entertaining with his vocabulary of about 20 words, more if you count the human and animal sounds he likes to imitate.  He especially likes to laugh.  He likes to pick up toys and drop them, then he’ll laugh.  But sometimes, and it’s especially horrible when he’s molting, sometimes he screams so horribly loud, you cannot hear yourself talk or even think.  I’ve had to threaten numerous times that my laundry duties will be forfeited to the owner of the parrot if I keep getting screamed at in the laundry room, but somehow, he always stops before it comes to that.  So anyway, there was a recent article in the news about an amazing African Grey parrot named Yosuke Nakamura – he lives in Japan – who got lost and then found.  He aided in his own rescue, even though he wouldn’t talk to the police!  Read the article here:

TOKYO, Japan (AP) — When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught — recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

art.lost.parrot.ap.jpg

Lost in Tokyo, Yosuke the parrot was able to give his name and address to get taken home.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor’s roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.

He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

“I’m Mr. Yosuke Nakamura,” the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

“We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we’ve found Yosuke,” Uemura said.

The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

But Yosuke apparently wasn’t keen on opening up to police officials.

“I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me,” Uemura said.

If it weren’t for the expense and especially the screaming, I would definitely have my African Grey by now!

Japanese “Inventions”

Posted in TV Shows, Uncategorized on May 21st, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I was talking about the best reality show ever, The Mole, the other day, it made me think of my second favorite: American Inventor.  It was a show where people brought their inventions in front of a panel of judges, and the “good” ones advanced until a winner was chosen.  This show was fun to watch because some of the inventions were horrible ideas, and when the inventor pitched them, it was hilarious to see their inventions and the judges’ reactions to them.  It was also heartbreaking at times because there were people who put up everything they had to pursue the development of their invention – and some were so bad, they never had a chance.  Take Bulletball, for instance.  It was a game invented one night while the inventor and his wife sipped wine and batted a cat’s toy ball back and forth across a table.  So the inventor proceeded to invest everything he had, even living in his car, to develop the “high caliber” tabletop game of bulletball.  One of the judges asks, “So if you invested everything, what do you have?”  His reply?  “I have Bulletball.”  Oh my.  His segment on the show was very memorable (and sad – you had to feel sorry for someone who was so determned, yet his idea was SO bad, all 4 judges said no and broke his heart) that we were talking about it the other day and decided to look it up on youtube.  So, I will share his clip with you.  I admire his determination, but even I wouldn’t get Bulletball if I spotted it at the thrift store…  see below.

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I wonder if American Inventor is going to return?  It was a good show, but the problem with it was that the inventions that end up winning aren’t realistic.  Both of the winning inventions were born out of tragedy, one was a special protective car seat thought up by a guy who lost his daughter in a car accident.  The other was a Christmas tree that extinguished itself if it caught on fire.  Both good ideas, but not really practical when you take cost and other factors into consideration.  But anyway, I’d like to see the show again, even if they keep choosing winners based on emotional reasons.

While we were looking up American Inventor on youtube, we came across this wacky video from Japan.  They call these “inventions”, and they are contraptions that make a series – random objects falling, hitting other objects, etc. in order to cause the next reaction until there’s a whole chain of them.  Think of the game Mousetrap (found that one a few weeks ago, by the way, but it’s missing the big ball!) or dominoes without the dominoes.  Check it out below.  You’ll notice that after each series of reactions, there’s a cute little Japanese song that plays – it’s actually quite catchy.  There are a bunch of these on the video, it’s over 9 minutes long in case you’re wondering while you watch if it’ll ever end.  I wonder if these “inventions” are shorts that aired on Japanese tv, maybe before or after some weekly show or something?  Who knows, but it’s fun to see the different things they came up with:

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