10.29.2009

The Great Pumpkin

It's that time of year again. Monday night we braved the Family Home Evening crowds at the local pumpkin patch, then headed over to my sister's house for some carving action.

After Eddie "carved" Jack Skellington last year, Zero seemed like the next logical step. He recently watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time and was on top of his game, pointing out the ghost pup in every scene.

I chose to do the Yankee logo and facade in honor of the team's trip to the World Series in the inaugural season of the new stadium. Kristen sorted through a large collection of Disney villains before settling on Maleficent, the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty.

10.27.2009

The Pumpkin Walk

The North Logan Pumpkin Walk has become a fall tradition for my family. Every October, Cache Valley residents create themed displays out of pumpkins. It's really kind of lame, but the kids enjoy it, so I guess it's not a bad event to plan a family get-together around. Plus, it's a good excuse to visit Logan in the fall to see the changing leaves. Man, I miss living in a place with lots of big trees.

Eddie started out wearing his pup leash, but it only took him approximately 9 seconds to trip and fall in a pile of muddy leaves. Luckily my sister had a spare stroller since we forgot to bring ours. Not that he was content to just sit and ride, mind you.

Before walking through the pumpkin displays, there are a bunch of character cut-outs for kids to pose in. You gotta capture these moments of future embarrassment when the opportunity presents itself, right?

This one's a little more like it, I suppose.

A pair of wild things roll their terrible eyes and gnash their terrible teeth.

Things got a little R-rated along the way.

Eddie's hands down favorite was the animated Rice Krispies display. A vintage "snap crackle pop" jingle from the '50s was playing on a loop, so Eddie stood next to it bopping his head and thrusting his pelvis for a good 10 minutes. He eventually left, but soon returned to continue boogying.

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It was December of 1989. The Berlin Wall was coming down. The first full-length episode of The Simpsons, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," premiered on Fox. Bono was still wearing pirate pants. And the Barton family, adorned in their finest sweaters and turtlenecks, headed down to the local Sears Portrait Studio to show off their pasty complexions and glazed smiles. I give you... The Monstrosity.

10.23.2009

Here Comes the Sun

As I have mentioned before, I manage the Park City Sundancers as part of the WFBL, a not-so-ordinary fantasy basketball league. Next week I will start my fourth season.

League founder Ben Barnes, also a graphic designer, originally started the league more or less as a creative outlet to design a bunch of sports logos. But when he invited me to join the league in 2006, I told him I would design my own logo. Since I am a born procrastinator, I dilly-dallied for several months before finally throwing something together just a few short weeks before the season started. And I was never totally happy with the end result.

Each subsequent season since then I have considered revising my identity, or even changing my team name (the Sleepy Hollow Horsemen has a nice ring), but haven't got around to it. A graphic designer cannot live by candles alone, so this offseason I finally got crackin'.

Since my team name was originally inspired by the Sundance Film Festival, I wanted my new identity to be sufficiently cinematic. As I researched, I found my graphic solution in the movie theater marquees of yesteryear. The sun, doubling as a basketball, emerged as a centerpiece of the new identity along the way (particularly in the secondary mark).

Primary Mark

Secondary Mark

Ligature

So, after having contemplated a new and improved Sundancers identity for the better part of three years, the end result is everything I hoped it would be. Now, about that first league championship...

10.21.2009

Family Photos '09

A few weeks ago the Barton family had photos done at Wheeler Farm. My sister-in-law's sister, Mary Anne Miner, was the photographer. Be sure to check out her photo blog. She did a great job.

You're lookin' at the next James Dean.

Would you believe Eddie was shrieking in dissent just prior to this shot? Kids can turn it on and off so easily.

Another classic Ed face.

I tried to convince Kristen that we should do a Sears Portrait Studio spoof for our family photo this year, but she wasn't biting. You know, something like this? Or maybe this?

A very nice portrait of my family. It certainly beats our infamous Sears Portrait Studio shot we had done in the late '80s that was affectionately dubbed "The Monstrosity."

10.18.2009

My Life In Film, Pt. 3

Previously: 1995-2001

2002 // Signs
Unbreakable was one of the first movies I saw when I got home from my mssion, and I eventually caught up with The Sixth Sense as well (though its famous twist had long since been spoiled for me). By the time Signs came out, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was garnering Hitchcock comparisons. A crisis of faith story masquerading as an alien invasion, this film conjures genuine suspense and unease. Its resolution may be a bit simplistic, but the resulting emotional resonance more than makes up for it. Shyamalan also deserves credit for the well-timed humor that occasionally helps eases the tension. His next several films, starting with The Village, have also been funny, but for completely different reasons.

"Swing away, Merrill."

2003 // X2: X-Men United
This film is the benchmark of the X-Men franchise, and one of the best superhero movies ever made as far as I'm concerned. The first film laid a good foundation, and like a good sequel should, X2 raises the stakes across the board. It features a more complex storyline, strong new characters, and even improved special effects. It still pains me that the series fell so far with the trilogy capper, X-Men: The Last Stand. I blame Halle Berry.

"There's something different about you... too much iron in your blood!"

2004 // The Incredibles
When I first heard Pixar was bringing their golden touch to the superhero genre, I knew the result would be special. The Incredibles is a great deal smarter than your average superhero film, glorifying and satirizing the genre at the same time. From costume designer Edna Mode's famous diatribe against capes to Mr. Incredible's attempts to get Syndrome "monologuing," the film is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. And for those with an appreciation for the classic James Bond films of the '60s, the score and production design are a great homage to that era.
Runner Up // The Bourne Supremacy

Who agrees that Jim Thome was the basis for Mr. Incredible?

2005 // Batman Begins

2006 // Casino Royale
The first 20 minutes of Casino Royale are about as perfect as a movie can get—for me anyway. There's an artsy black & white pre-credit sequence where Bond achieves 007 status, then a clever introduction of the famous gun barrel, which leads into the very cool animated titles and theme song, capped by a jaw-dropping parkour chase through a Madagascar construction site and the Nambutu Embassy. And the rest of the movie ain't too bad either. This film successfully reinvigorated a tired franchise because it wasn't afraid to discard many of the Bond conventions that had handcuffed the series for years. It trims the excess and keeps only what serves the story, plus what keeps our wives interested, such as Daniel Craig emerging from the ocean in a tiny bathing suit.



2007 // The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne Identity left me sort of lukewarm when I first saw it, but then The Bourne Supremacy came along two years later and transformed the series into the most influential action franchise of the decade. This momentum only grew with the relentless Bourne Ultimatum, which is pretty much the only final installment of any trilogy in the history of cinema to match or top its predecessors (it sure beats the aforementioned X-Men: The Last Stand). Ending as the first film began—with the silhouette of the former CIA assassin floating in the water—the series is bookended perfectly... or is it? A reliable source (the internet) tells me a fourth Bourne film is currently being developed.

Cue Moby's Extreme Ways: "bwah-reeeeee, bwah-reeeeee..."

2008 // The Dark Knight

10.14.2009

Cosby Sweaters and Fresh Snow

After going to Lagoon on Friday, we stayed over at Marc and Hali's house in Syracuse that night. Since one evening with the Bartons just isn't enough, they joined us the next morning as we headed up to our family cabin for the remainder of the weekend.

On the way we stopped for lunch at the Gateway Grille (that extra "e" on the end really makes all the difference, don't you think?), a little family-style restaurant on Main Street in Kamas. As we looked over the menu, our waitress informed us that the special of the day was prime rib for $6.95. Did I dare order prime rib that was less than $7? No, I couldn't bring myself to do it. But after finishing my thoroughly average barbecue chicken sandwich, I wished I would have taken the chance. Kristen, meanwhile, gave her mushroom swiss burger high marks.

Once we got settled in at the cabin, we started a Cosby Show marathon on the projector. We watched half of season two over the course of the weekend. I was surprised how many of the episodes were so fresh in my mind from when I watched them as a kid. The down-to-earth storylines and humor of the show have held up surprisingly well. And boy howdy, what about those fashions? I have been inspired to start a sweater collection.

As we got up Sunday morning we were greeted with a few inches of freshly fallen snow. After breakfast we bundled up the kids and went outside to play in it.

We gave Eddie some handfuls of snow which he enjoyed licking and eating (don't worry, we made sure it wasn't yellow).

He wasn't quite as fond of the snow after Calvin put a big handful down the collar of his coat. Luckily it didn't take them long to patch things up once we got back inside.

10.12.2009

Frightmares

Thanks to some discount tickets, we went to Lagoon with our friends Marc and Hali and their boy Calvin on Friday night. Here's another example of how having a kid changes your life. Theme parks used to be about covering a lot of ground and getting on as many rides as possible. But on this night we found ourselves just trying to find something Eddie could ride that wouldn't totally terrify him.

The carousel wasn't the answer. As it went around and around, Eddie clung to the bar for dear life. The kiddie coaster, Puff the Little Fire Dragon, inspired shrieks of terror. And he flat out refused to let go of Kristen when she tried to put him in the baby boats.

It had been several years since I had ridden the Wild Kingdom Train. Let's just say it gave me new appreciation for Hogle Zoo. All the animals looked pretty sad in their little concrete cages. I made it a point to apologize to a llama for getting stuck with such a miserable existence.

Eddie survived Dracula's Castle, and Calvin was there to give him moral support on the Junior Speedway. I take his blank stare to mean he is having the time of his life.

I suspect that by next year, the Lagoon/theme park experience will once again be transformed for all of us.

10.07.2009

The State Fair Circuit

As I alluded to in a recent post, a few weeks ago we were considering attending the Utah State Fair. I was perusing the grandstand performers, but none of the names stood out—until I came to those early '90s purveyors of soul pop, Boyz II Men. I mentioned this to Kristen and we both agreed it could be a night to remember, at least for unintentional comedy's sake.

As we toyed with the idea of attending, Kristen mused, "What if they play a bunch of new stuff we have never heard of, and not all the hits we know?" To which I responded, "That is why they are playing state fairs. They don't have any new stuff."

Further research confirmed this. The last few albums the Boyz have released exclusively feature cover versions of Motown classics. So not only do they not have any new stuff to speak of, they have resorted to recording other people's old stuff.


The State Fair Circuit is really the final step as a performer before you are hauled off the Compound. I am reminded of The Simpsons episode "Saddlesore Galactica," which sharply hammers home this point when Homer heckles Bachman Turner Overdrive during their state fair performance.

video
Unfortunately, we didn't end up making it out to see Boyz II Men at/near the end of their road. Arriving only a few days later was my Spin Magazine (which has been mysteriously coming every month for the last year and a half without a subscription). The cover story was on one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam, and their new album, Backspacer. I was surprised to read Eddie Vedder and his interviewer touching upon this very topic:
Eddie Vedder: There were a few years when I'd meet people and they'd say, "So, what are you guys up to?" And we had just done, like Riot Act—we'd done a couple good records. It was like they thought we were some band that only existed for a few years.

Spin: Like, "I remember you guys—1992, right?"

Eddie Vedder: Exactly. And I feel like if we were a niche band, then we'd have our little thing now and that would be fine. But we're bigger than that. I think these songs are worth hearing. And it's not like the airwaves are cluttered with the greatest music. What—if we don't do it, American Idol will? A lot of what we're doing now is about getting new ranks of kids coming in, and not just playing for old people all the time.

Spin: Because then you're Foghat at the state fair.

Eddie Vedder: Right. Which is great, too, 'cause it's Foghat, and we're at the state fair, and we're waiting for "Slow Ride," and then it's, "Baby, put down your chili cheese dog, it's 'Slow Ride'!" I just don't ever want it to be, "Baby, put down your chili cheese dog, it's 'Jeremy'."
Well Eddie, after immersing myself in the excellent Backspacer over the last few days, I don't think Pearl Jam has anything to worry about just yet. But when the inevitable day comes that you can avoid the State Fair Circuit no longer, I'll be right there in the front row with a chili cheese dog, hoping to recapture 1992.

The '90s might be long gone, but flannel is forever.

10.04.2009

Buttermilk Spice Muffins

We first discovered Mimi's Cafe while vacationing in Southern California a few years ago. It was right next to our hotel, so we ate there a couple of times during the trip. At first we thought it was a local place since we had never heard of it before, but when we returned home we were surprised and excited to discover they also had locations in Utah.

One of the things that has made Mimi's a favorite are the muffins. They are huge, and taste so fluffy and fresh. I recently found the official recipe for their buttermilk spice muffins, so I made them for a family get-together this past weekend. This may seem fairly obvious, but the sooner you eat them after they come out of the oven, the better.

Batter

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup butter

• 3 eggs

• 2 1/2 cups flour

• 2 tsp baking soda

• 1 tsp nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk

Nut Topping
• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon

• 1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer. When they are thoroughly mixed, add eggs and beat one more minute.


2. Sift the flour into a separate bowl, together with the baking soda, nutmeg and the cinnamon.


3. Add the flour and the buttermilk to the first mixture, mix at low speed until smooth. To avoid lumps in the batter, add the wet and dry ingredients alternately, in small amounts.


4. Make the nut topping: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. 


5. Grease muffin tins with butter or margarine. You can also use paper baking cups. Fill each cup 3/4 full of batter. Add a full, rounded tablespoon of nut topping on top of each muffin cup of batter. Bake immediately or the topping will sink to the bottom of the muffin.

6. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin should come out dry.

7. Recipe yields 12 standard-size muffins, or six jumbo muffins. If using jumbo muffin pans, reduce the oven temperature by 25° and increase the baking time 5-10 minutes.

10.01.2009

My Life In Film, Pt. 2

Previously: 1980-1994

My offer still stands if anyone out there wants to try this idea on their blog. Anyone? Anyone? (crickets chirping) Very well then...

1995 // GoldenEye
Runner Up // Batman Forever

1996 // Mission: Impossible
See Tom Cruise run in slow motion. See Tom Cruise get crazy ("They're dead, they're aaaaall dead!"). See Tom Cruise dramatically rip off a myriad of rubber faces. See Tom Cruise blow up aquariums and helicopters with chewing gum ("Red light! Green light!") I think this movie might be even more entertaining than it used to be, thanks to the signature unintentional comedy of Mr. Cruise.
Runner Up // Mars Attacks!

"You've never seen me very upset."

1997 // Men in Black
Men in Black was my cinematic salvation in the summer of '97 after the crushing disappointment of Batman & Robin. I saw it three times in the theater thanks to its perfect mix of sci-fi, comedy, and giant cockroaches in Edgar suits. This is Ghostbusters for the next generation (even spawning an animated series and a mediocre sequel). Plus, who can forget Will Smith's heralded return to his hippety hop roots?



1998 // The Truman Show

1999 // Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Runner Up // The Matrix

2000 // Remember the Titans
This feel good football movie gets the nod because it was the only movie I saw in the year 2000, due to being on my mission in Iowa at the time. I unsuspectingly called in to report my weekly numbers one Sunday night, and was taken aback when we were given permission to go see this movie the following P-Day. Apparently the mission president had seen Remember the Titans with his family and loved it so much that he wanted the whole mission to see it too. Of course, some dumb elders were spotted coming out of an R-rated horror movie a few weeks later, so all future moviegoing opportunities were promptly ruled out.
Runner Up // O Brother, Where Art Thou?

"You understand me?"

2001 // The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
A grand beginning to a classic story, this film remains my personal favorite of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since it served as my introduction to Middle-earth, The Fellowship of the Ring had the newness factor going for it. The iconic characters, the sweeping cinematography, the epic score by Howard Shore—everything was so fresh and unfamiliar. Plus, I tend to prefer its more intimate, self contained story, which concludes on just the right note of hope and dread for the future.



Next: 2002-2008