A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Best Studio Ever

Ok, back in this post I mentioned writing about all of the things I list, so this one is counting towards spending time with my family.

I believe that Pixar Animation is the best studio ever.

Take a look at their films: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and Ratatouille.

Crikey! The worst one in the bunch is probably A Bug's Life and that was a very good film. Lightyears ahead of Ants, which came out at the same time, and superior to almost all the other animated movies since-- with the exception of the other Pixar films. Toy Story is a classic that redefined the genre. All of them have a depth of script and character that is quite remarkable, yet all of them capture a simple truth of life-- or, perhaps more appropriately, recapture a simple and cherished truth of childhood.

Has there ever been any child, anywhere, at any time, that hasn't imagined their toys talking? Coming to life when all the people are gone? Or tried to picture themselves as a bug-- imagined what all those little critters were so busily doing all the time? Monster in the closet? Check. Okay, so maybe it was under the bed or outside the window, but we have all been terrified by something in our bedroom... and we've all wondered how it got there in the first place.

Finding Nemo-- see A Bug's Life, only with fish and with a story so well done that we don't just suspend our disbelief, we lose it altogether. The Incredibles? No brainer. We've all wanted to be superheroes at some time or other-- yet it isn't just another superhero cartoon. It digs much deeper, without losing its whimsy. Cars? People have been wondering about cars having their own personalities since the first days of the combustion engine. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Herbie, My Mother the Car, Christine and on and on. Cars just takes it that one step further-- what if it was just cars?-- and wraps it up with a sincere reminiscence of the days of Route 66 as the mother road. And a tip of the hat to NASCAR, to boot.

And now, Ratatouille. I had my doubts about this one. It didn't seem to fit-- nobody really imagines life as a rat, and most movies or books about rats aren't terribly flattering to the rodents. But they pulled it off. With grace and charm and wit and some truly fantastic and bizarre ideas that somehow are still believable, they pulled it off. It is a marvelous film. Not their best, but then their best is THE best.

Two other thing that Pixar does very well: they manage to make things that are generally only of interest to small groups-- cooking, fish, NASCAR, comic books-- and make them fun and interesting and engaging for everyone. And they manage to remember the past fondly without descending into the maudlin or morose.

So, what does all this have to do with my family? Well, I've seen every single Pixar film with my kids, and most of them with my wife and kids. Which is perhaps Pixar's greatest achievement of all-- their films are great (not okay, not pretty good-- great) for both children and adults.

Which totally rocks, because even as my kids get older, they'll still want to see Pixar movies with me. Well, maybe not when they are between 12 and 18, but pretty much all the rest of the time. The movies are that good and the memories they leave are that special.

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Cat Herding 101

One of the hardest parts of coaching 5-7 year-olds is finding a frame of reference they can understand. Whilst trying to teach them to throw I have discovered that the phrase "snap your wrist at the end" means absolutely nothing to them. "Snap your wrist? I can't even snap my fingers yet and he wants me to snap my wrist?"

"Throw off your left leg."

"Which leg is my left one, coach? Oh, okay. How do I throw off of it, coach?"

There's a lot of demonstrating, less verbiage.

It's actually a really useful lesson in rethinking how I express myself to others. I'm a very linguistic/verbal person-- I trust in my rhetoric and my wit to get me through things. But that doesn't always work-- not everyone is a linguistic/verbal learner.

It's also been quite an experience in grabbing, and maintaining, attention. 7 year-olds aren't too bad, they've been in school for a year or two, so they are a bit used to listening to an authoritative adult voice, but the 5 year-olds. Whoof.

Flip side, they remind me not to take things too seriously. Last week I was trying to explain the proper way to field a ball and one of the kids kept staring up into the sky. I couldn't figure out why.

So, I looked up. And right there above my head were these pure white contrails against this brilliant blue sky. It was lovely. So, the whole team took ten or fifteen seconds to look up and absorb the wonder of it all, and then we got back to learning how to get our gloves down to block the ball, rather than trying to trap the ball like a bug.

And the thrill that I get when they GET it, whether it is throwing, catching, hitting or something else altogether is one of the most rewarding things I've experienced in my life. Just watching them put it all together and come out the other side with a big smile on their face is absolutely fabulous.

It is also excellent practice in not losing your patience.

I recommend it most highly.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Caledonia: Journey to a Village

That is the title of my forthcoming book on the history of the area in which I currently live. Not great, but not awful. Not my first choice, but not my last either-- it'll do, pig, it'll do. MOVIE REFERENCE!

Seems I might be a bit loopy tonight. Lucky you guys (guy? gal? Bueller? Bueller? MOVIE REFERENCE!)

Focus. Focus. Clearly a bit rusty here. Okay, so, a book about Caledonia, from 1835 to the present. Should be around 375 pages, altogether, with roughly a third of that being pictures, maps and other non-written bits. Fun? Yes, but also very time consuming and right now, at the moment of final crunching, rather tedious. I love the broad strokes-- it's the finishing touches that drive me nuts. Takes just as long, but it d/n feel like you're getting much accomplished relative to the time invested.

But the finishing touches are important. Otherwise the project/item/creation looks... unfinished. Not so good. So, a wrasslin' with the syntax, grammar and punctuation I will go. Do go. Have gone. Errr... yeah.

I think it turned out really, really well. I have to say I am proud of the work I did on it. And having an actual, bound book with my name on it will be most awesomely excellent.

Hopefully by this July or August.





Whoa, This Thing Is Still Here?

Figured it would be gone by now, so little regard have I shown it.

Sorry for the long no posting-- so much time, so little to do. Or something like that.

Not that you care (You? Probably just me at this point of inactivity-- yikes, I'm posting to myself! The voices, the voices!), but I have been buried under, in no particular order: Getting the book finished, spending time with my wife and kids, coaching soccer and baseball with 5-7 year-olds, remodeling the house, applying for new jobs, learning how to be a better manager, playing online poker and old-school Nintendo games, watching a few TV shows, wondering what it would take to get Hillary to just go away, gardening/landscaping/spring cleaning and all the miscellaneous detritus of life in the 21st century.

Quite a list that-- I do believe I will do a post on each and every one of those topics.

Well, at least most of them.

No really. Just you watch.


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