Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Costumes 2012

Jacob has been obsessed with Iron Man for quite some time now. He received a bunch of presents for his birthday around that theme, including a mask and a repulsor ray. Add a red shirt and pants and a Pringles lid, and you've got one of the hottest heroes around.

We forgot the boots!

Lucy's outfit from last year still fits and she still wants to wear it. So she is back as Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie is playing Eeyore, I think

Teaming up to fight crime! Or find a pot of honey...

They went to a party where Iron Man met up with a ghost he knows. They got along well.

You don't want to trick these two!

Hopefully we will have a positive report on trick or treating by tomorrow.

Halloween Trail at Harlow Carr Garden

Since the children are off school this week (it's half term), we have been having adventures in the mornings. On the eve of Halloween, we went to RHS Harlow Carr Garden for their monster trail and spooky story time.

We arrived just after opening, so not many people were wandering around the gardens yet. We found the display of activities and picked up a map so we could find all the scary monsters in their various hiding spots. The map had a spot for stamping as we discovered each monster.

Lucy poses in front of the display

Initially, Jacob wanted to wander all over the gardens and not go hunting monsters. So we wandered on paths and grass, admiring the plants and the waterfalls.

The gardens with fall foliage

Gooseberry plants (hopefully the berries will be here soon!)

A small waterfall

A satisfyingly larger waterfall

Finally I got him back on task and we went after the monsters. The first monster was hiding in the Alpine Zone, which is named after the sort of plants there, not for the fabulous mountains. Jacob was the first to spot this three-eyed critter. The stamp for the map was on the little red post on the right of the picture.

Monster #1 and Jacob looking down the slopes of the Alpine Zone

The next clue on our sheet took us to the Scented Garden, where a thirsty bug who, according to the clue, is "Drinking nectar, or is it blood..glug glug?" Lucy said she thought he was drinking blood. He does have those hypnotic Dracula eyes.

Jacob, Bug, and Lucy who is perilously close to the blood-sucker

The scented gardens

We continued on the trail to the Kitchen Garden, where we not only discovered Monster #3 but also a little yard for hens. All the birds were hiding under a tree, maybe because it is warmer there.

Monster #3

Hen in good camouflage

The next set of monsters was across the gardens by the tree house and the log maze. Unfortunately, the log maze area still had a lot of the rain water from the past seven or eight days, which made it very muddy and very slippery.

We're all happy right now to find Monster #5 (who came before #4 through a geographical goof)

Jacob did slip here and got a little upset at being a mess, especially since his trousers were dirty and a bit wet. We had to go find the toilet to clean up. Fortune favors the prepared and I had the backpack with the spare outfits in it. We were able to change him to clean trousers. We went back to get our stamp from the one-eyed purple monster. Fortune changed her mind pretty quickly because Jacob slipped again and had to soldier on with dirty, damp pants. He wasn't as upset. He wanted to find the last monsters so we went faster but also more cautiously.

We found Monster #4 by the tree house. The ground was especially muddy and yucky here. We had to choose our path carefully. Unfortunately the picture did not come out. We then searched out Monster #5 who was just beyond the log maze. Jacob didn't want to go that way. We made a bit of a detour around the side and made it to the last monster.

Monster #6 poses with Lucy

Jacob asked to go home at this point and I agreed. We skipped the spooky story time in favor of our warm home and dry jeans. We had fun anyway, though I promised Jacob that future trips to the gardens would be after some dry weather.

And, of course, I had to do laundry when we got home:

Pantspocalypse, or mudpocalypse

Zombies Improving Our Culture

There's a nice article on how awesome zombies are even if you are a parent (like me) or a Christian (like me). The author starts off her essay like this:
Zombies seem to be de rigueur these days, which is fine by me.  I love just about anything zombie-related, plus I am convinced that the surge in zombie popularity the past few years spells very good things for our culture at large.
Read more goodness on her blog (she even loves good beer!).

h/t to B-Movie Catechism

On a related topic, I saw a good video on the legitimacy of scary Halloween costumes on Jimmy Akin's blog:

h/t to Simcha Fisher who has an excellent article on the various legitimate ways to celebrate Halloween which included the link to Akin's video.

Oh and check out this hilarious because it's true cartoon at Captain Dad about evil ingredients for a witch's brew.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Walking Dead, Ep. 303, Walk with Me

The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 3: Walk with Me

If you need a horror fix this Halloween, what could be better than The Walking Dead?

TV rating


ZPAA rating

Teens and up

Gore level

7.5 out of 10--Some zombie kills and decapitations; some discrete kills of recently dead humans (who will turn into zombies); an arm stump (not bloody); one guy who was cut in half by a helicopter blade (we don't see it happen but his top half comes back as a zombie); some zombie heads still moving; some close ups of zombie wounds, including face wounds.

Other offensive content

Minimal bad language; broken promises; one-sided gun battle of humans killing humans; shameless ripoff of The Evil Dead II/Army of Darkness.

How much zombie mythology/content

The new group in this episode has figured that the dead will come back whether bitten or not. They are trying to figure out some solutions and are interested in what Michonne has done. They have a secret lab where one person is doing research on the zombies.

How much fun

Not as tense as last week's episode nor as humorous, this was an exciting episode for what it brings from the comics.

Synopsis & Review

For this episode, the action switches from the prison to Michonne and Andrea's story. They see smoke from a helicopter crash and go to investigate. When they get there, some others drive up to check out the situation. The others pull the still-living pilot and inflict brain damage on the other dead soldiers. Michonne and Andrea are shocked since they don't know that everyone will come back as a zombie whether they are bitten or not. They decide not to reveal themselves. That doesn't work out since one of the group has circled around and come up on them from behind. That sneak is none other than Daryl's brother, Merle! He has a stump for one of his hands to which he has attached a bayonet, a la Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead movies. They are taken off with the pilot by the others.

They are brought to the town of Woodbury, where 70 or so people are trying to reestablish some civilization under the leadership of a man known as "The Governor." Anyone who has read the comics immediately recognizes him and also probably shudders at the thought of what is to come. The ladies are given medical care and are invited to look around town to see if they want to stay. If not, the Governor promises to let them take their weapons and go, and will even give them food and water and a vehicle if they like. Andrea wants to stay to recover from her illness a bit but Michonne is much more cautious (and much less talkative). The town has some substantial walls and is guarded by men with heavy weaponry and post-zombie training. The town has a strict curfew and keeps a low-profile at night. The few townsfolk we see seem to be content with the way things are.

The Governor talks to the pilot and finds out about his National Guard unit that was stranded on the highway. He promises to go get them and bring them back to safety the next day. But things are not as rosy as they might seem by the end of the episode.

Old Market Square, Prague

The Old Market Square in Prague is the other major hub of tourist activity in the city (beside the Castle, of course). The area is ringed by several churches, many shops and restaurants, and the Old Town Hall with the Astronomical Clock. Many other entertainers, like musicians and other performers, come to the square to provide a good show and get good tips. We had a delightful time there.
The square is dominated by the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, which has a bunch of four-story buildings in front of it. Why they were built there is a mystery but the church is still quite beautiful and easily seen.

Tyn Church and Hus Statue in the Old Market Square

Better view of the Tyn Church

St. Nicholas Church is in the northwest corner of the plaza. Begun in 1732, the church has seen various uses through the years, including as a warehouse. It was restored around World War I and is currently a Czech Reformed Church. It is used for concerts, like many of the churches in the city. There's a larger and more famous St. Nicholas church across the river (which we would have visited if we'd stayed longer).

St. Nicholas Church

As we walked up to the Old Town Hall, we saw the crowds gathered. We realized the clock was about to chime, so we found good positions to watch. The clock is the famous Astronomical Clock. It tells the time of day, day of the week, month of the year, position of the sun and moon and constellations, and holidays of the Christian calendar. On the hour a skeletal figure of Death rings a bell and the twelve Apostles appear, looking out windows of the clock. The clock was begun by Mikulas of Kadane in 1410. Additions were made by Master Hanus in 1490, and legend has it that he was blinded after he finished the job so he wouldn't build another one.

Old Town Hall

Waiting for the hour to ring

The Astronomical Clock

Detail of the clock face

Random trumpeter at the top--there are buskers everywhere!

The Old Town Hall was begun in 1338 and slowly built up as neighboring buildings were added on. Some exhibits on architecture are inside, but we only went in for a much needed potty break. Posing in front of famous clocks can wear on anyone!

Other ornate parts of the tower

Jacob under the clock

Lucy by the entrance door

Lucy worried about being bitten

The other picturesque part of the square is the Jan Hus Statue. Unveiled on July 6, 1915, for the 500th anniversary of his death at the stake, the statue was fairly well received the the Czech people (who paid for it with donations).

Jan Hus, father of Czech Protestantism

Many other fancy buildings surround the square, making it quite beautiful to wander around during the day.

More of the market square

Ornate building

Statue on Our Lady Before Tyn

Wannabe Statues on Our Lady before Tyn

The square looks quite nice at night too!

Our Lady Before Tyn

Old Town Hall

Astronomical Clock

St. Nicholas

Okay, so the castle is not on the square, but I had to stick this night picture in somewhere

Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (2012) directed by Sam Mendes

For the fiftieth anniversary of James Bond (on film, he's a bit older in print) the third installment with Daniel Craig as Mr. Bond has been released, two weeks earlier in the UK than in the United States. The movie starts with Bond hunting down a hard drive containing a list of all the deep cover operatives working for NATO countries (at least, I think that's what they said). The chase sequence is very exciting and leads to both an unexpected ending and the usual visually amazing credits sequence.

The story unfolds rather nicely with some good plot twists and a fine balance of action, acting, and explanations. I hate to give away too much detail, because the movie does not follow the generic Moore/Brosnan-era 007 plots where some megalomaniac tries to take over the world, or destroy the world, or become rich, etc., and Bond foils the villain by infiltrating his base and blowing everything up. I'm not saying those movies are not entertaining but they are pretty light-weight compared with the new direction the movie makers are taking with Daniel Craig's Bond. There's still plenty of action and excitement but different stakes are raised, allowing for some surprises and some fine storytelling. I would definitely recommend this even if you aren't a Bond fan.

The cryptic title of the movie has a much better explanation than I guessed many months ago.

Charles Bridge, Prague

One of the must see sights in Prague is the Charles Bridge, built in 1357 by Peter Parler at the request of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. In 1657 a bronze statue of the crucifixion was added in the middle of the bridge. It was so popular that 30 other statues were added. The views up and down the Vltava River are quite impressive. We enjoyed our early morning walk to and on the bridge.

At first we saw the bridge and the castle above from afar.

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral on the other bank of the river

Charles IV Bridge

Happy walkers

As we approached, we tried to take a short cut which was really a dead end. It worked out for Jacob since we saw a waterfall and a handsome statue of Bedrich Smetana, famed Czech composer. A museum dedicated to Smetana is nearby.

Awesome waterfall

Awesome composer Bedrich Smetana

Awesome view

Coming back around the dead end, we found the entrance to the bridge. Nearby were several churches, one part of the Klementinium, a Jesuit university founded in 1653. The other is dedicated to St. Francis Seraphinus, also from the 1600s.

One of many churches in the Klementinium

St. Francis Seraphinus Church

The bridge begins with the bridge tower. Statues of Czech kings and saints look down on the pedestrians.

Bridge tower

Detail of tower

Nearby is the ubiquitous "lovers' locks" left by couples who declare their love by putting a padlock with their initials on the fence. Keys are traditionally thrown in the river to show that they'll never break up. We've run into this before in other cities like Heidelberg.

Lucy, Froggy, and the locks!

Nearby flowers

Passing through the gate, we found the great variety of statues on the bridge. Here is a sampling.

Charles IV, Emperor for whom the bridge is named

Madonna and St. Bernard, founder of the Cistercians, c. 1709

St. Ivo, 11th c. Bishop of Chartres, c. 1711

Sts. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas with the Madonna and child, c. 1709

Hebrew Cross, inscription is "Holy, holy, holy Lord" c. 1657

The views from the bridge are quite spectacular as well. We noticed these buildings that were built on the water with the river running underneath them!

A river runs under it

Manesuv Bridge down river

We didn't go all the way across the bridge since the children's energy was flagging. We headed back into our side of the river and looked for a snack. We spotted some more interesting buildings along the way.

Which way do we go?

Pretty building

Interesting decoration on a building, not sure what it means

Rail trams and cars share tunnels

Our next destination was the Old Market Square, which is coming next!