Girls' Getaway

Over the weekend, I had the rare opportunity to get together with some of the friends I grew up with. Thanks to the kindness of our husbands (and others), we were able to leave our older kids and enjoy an overnight getaway at the Barton cabin. I've known all these girls for 20 years or more, so it was great to be able to spend some time catching up. Five of us went, along with four babies, so it was a fairly full house. We got very little sleep (except maybe Erika, who was baby-free for the night) and enjoyed a night of eating junk food and chatting. On Saturday morning, we attempted to walk off some of the cookies from the previous night, then packed up and headed to Kamas for lunch at Hi-Mountain Drug for some delicious burgers and fries. It was a short trip, but very refreshing, and I hope we'll repeat it every year.

Caitlin & Benny, Alicia & Curtis, Me & Violet, Mindy & Lydia, and Erika


Long Live the Original Trilogy, Pt. 2

In part one, I tried to maintain a calm (if dorky) voice of reason. Now that we're getting down to the nitty gritty, expect a little more vitriol.

First off, let me say that a lot of the changes made to Star Wars over the years make complete sense. Correcting continuity goofs, cleaning up matte lines, etc.—fixing minor stuff like this serves the saga well in my opinion. But where does this slippery slope end? A tweak here, a polish there, and pretty soon you're saddled with the major revisions below that detract from the overall viewing experience. (Hold on, I still sound a little too calm and collected. Allow me to channel that geek rage.) You wanna know where it ends? When I torch a pack of Ewoks on the front porch of Skywalker Ranch, then ring the doorbell and walk away from the flames in slow motion.

Mos Eisley Spaceport Expanded // A New Hope

Problem: Due to budgetary constraints, the original setting didn't match George Lucas' vision of a bustling spaceport.
Solution: Clutter the screen with as much crap as possible. Like, say, pointless robot slapstick and floating widgets buzzing around stormtroopers. Plus, a giant CG lizard should saunter right in front of the camera and block the entire frame for several seconds.

Jabba the Hutt Deleted Scene // A New Hope

Problem: A scene was shot with a human stand-in for Jabba the Hutt. Special effects limitations didn't allow for Jabba to be properly realized, so the scene was cut.
Solution: Superimpose a CG Jabba over the human actor. Throw Boba Fett in there to cover up the fact that all the pertinent information of the scene was moved to Han Solo's confrontation with Greedo. Then have Boba turn to glare into the effing camera as the scene ends. You know, for the fans.

Greedo Shoots First // A New Hope

Problem: Han Solo is too much of a badass.
Solution: Wait, who thinks this is a problem?

Darth Vader Shuttle Ride // The Empire Strikes Back

Problem: Even though Darth Vader tells his men on Cloud City to "bring my shuttle" after his duel with Luke, it isn't totally clear how he ends up on his Star Destroyer a few scenes later.
Solution: Splice Darth's leisurely shuttle ride smack dab into the middle of the film's climax, intensity and rhythm of the sequence be damned.

Jabba's Palace Musical Number // Return of the Jedi

Problem: The rubber puppet for Sy Snootles, lead singer of the Max Rebo Band, isn't lifelike enough during the big musical number.
Solution: Wait, why is there a big musical number in a Star Wars movie?

Mouth of the Sarlacc // Return of the Jedi

Problem: The Sarlacc Pit (or Snarkak Pit as Kristen calls it) leaves too much to the imagination.
Solution: Add a nondescript CG beak within the Sarlacc's already tooth-lined mouth. Who knows, maybe the Sarlacc swallowed the space slug from The Empire Strikes Back. It takes a thousand years to digest after all.

Young Anakin Ghost // Return of the Jedi

Problem: The elderly ghost of Anakin Skywalker (Sebastian Shaw) isn't creepy enough.
Solution: Replace Shaw with Hayden Christensen, young Anakin of the prequels. I'm going to let Obi-Wan field this one: "You mean he killed younglings and set the galaxy back generations, but his ghost still gets to keep that ominous gaze and fabulous head of hair? I had a pretty groovy Jedi mullet once upon a time too, you know. I am so pissed at the force right now."

Final Thoughts

Jurassic Park is widely regarded as having heralded in the CG era, thus paving the way for George Lucas to make his Special Editions (and the long-promised prequel trilogy). But Lucas was apparently so smitten with the realistic dinosaurs on the screen that he neglected to listen to Dr. Ian Malcolm: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."


Long Live the Original Trilogy, Pt. 1

If obsessing over fanboy minutia isn't your thing, these aren't the posts you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.

You could say that I'm "invested" in Star Wars. By my count I have purchased (or had purchased for me) seven different releases of these movies in the last 15 years. Well, somebody hide my wallet because a new mega Blu-ray set is coming out next month. Of course the one thing I really wanted to be included—the original trilogy in its unaltered theatrical form—won't be there. Not that I really expected it to be.

George Lucas has tinkered with Star Wars ad nauseum. I get it. They are his movies. He can modify them as he pleases. But I see absolutely no reason to not give the theatrical versions the same care and preservation as his updated versions and let them stand side-by-side.

Look, back in 1997, I fully embraced the Special Editions. At the dawn of the CG era, the prospect of enhancing Star Wars with cutting edge effects was exciting. But here's what we didn't know back then: CG tends to have a short shelf life. Digital effects are constantly getting better, and even movies that came out just a few years ago (including the Star Wars prequels) have already started to look dated.

Compounding the matter is that these now dated CG effects were used as the main selling point of the Special Editions. I come from the school of thought that the best special effects are seamless, but these effects desperately want you to notice them: "Hey, I'm new! Stop what you're doing and look at me!" It's a little like trying to watch a movie while an attention-starved toddler periodically jumps in front of the screen (trust me, I know what that's like). But it seems that we're stuck with these revisions forever, or at least until George Lucas becomes one with the force.

The farther we get from 1997, the more I long for the unchanged films. Yes, many of the original effects are of course dated as well, but by leaving them intact, you honor the ILM artists who pioneered them, and you show the proper respect for film history. Not to mention it's what I grew up with, and that can be a powerful thing. Am I right, George?

Next: My picks for the worst Star Wars changes


Don't Call Me Daughter

April 16, 1994. Airing on this day was a landmark episode of Saturday Night Live that featured Emilio Estevez promoting D2: The Mighty Ducks Pearl Jam in support of their second album, Vs. To illustrate just how big the band was at the time, SNL musical guests customarily perform twice, but Pearl Jam played three times. I recorded these performances on a trusty VHS tape and watched them frequently.

Meanwhile, I was attending Centerville Junior High, and the annual Battle of the Bands assembly was coming up. Junior high being what it is, the event was essentially a popularity contest that also involved some lip-syncing. But the prize was the unreal sum of $50, so I convinced my friend Evan that we should enter.

Armed with an impressive flannel shirt collection that my mom added upon every Christmas (Thanks, annual Eddie Bauer outlet sale!), we would lip sync to Pearl Jam's "Daughter," and Battle of the Bands glory would be ours. I don't recall giving our band an official name, but for the purposes of this post I'm going to call us "Pearl Sham."

In the name of rehearsing, I spent several nights in Evan's basement hanging out and watching the SNL tape. Evan took on the role of Eddie Vedder. Even though he was the frontman, his job was really pretty easy. Stand in one spot. Never smile. Look down during the vocal breaks and head bang intensely. Meanwhile, I borrowed my brother's guitar and based my performance on the jumpy bass player, Jeff Ament. (There were two other members of Pearl Sham, but I have since forgotten names and roles.)

When we showed up at the after-school rehearsal a few days before the assembly, we were shocked to discover some bands on the bill who were actually playing their own instruments. Suddenly we were reminded that our real instrument was the trombone, and that we weren't actually popular. So when our turn on stage came we all felt a little self conscious. It didn't help matters when I thought I heard other participants snickering backstage as I played air guitar with reckless abandon.

The day of the event soon arrived. We had our costumes and props. My mom even bought some dry ice for added showmanship. However, in the pressure of the moment, Evan refused to go on stage. I briefly tried to talk him into it, reminding him of the prize money, but he was adamant. When the time came to lay down our cards, Pearl Sham folded. As it turns out, ideas that sound good when you're goofing around in your buddy's basement don't always translate when you have to execute them in front of the entire school.

That night I drowned my sorrows in some homemade root beer, made with the unused dry ice. But who ultimately ended up winning Battle of the Bands, you ask? The group that lip-synced Boyz II Men.


Barton Family Reunion '11

Last weekend was the annual Barton summer reunion. This is my 4th annual blog report of an event that is largely the same every year, so forgive me if this all feels a little familiar.

En route to Logan on Friday we stopped at Hill Air Force Base for a tour.

On Saturday morning we went to Bear Lake. We arrived bright and early to enjoy a delicious egg and bacon breakfast on the beach, courtesy of my dad.

Violet spent her day in the shade being absurdly flexible.

This picture kinda cracks me up.

My sister Christie and the newest Barton cousin, Jane. The family keeps getting bigger and bigger.

We enjoyed the cool water and warm sunshine throughout the morning and early afternoon until a pack of teenage hoodlums parked their caravan next to ours (you've never seen a group get the heck outta dodge so fast). Back in Logan, the weekend came to a successful close with my brother Rob and I putting on a pizza clinic for the fam.


Proposed Lagoon Taglines

Lagoon has been using the same tagline ("It's what fun is!") for far too long. I humbly submit a collection of attraction-specific slogans that will have the crowds running. Notice I didn't say which way.

The Terroride: Newly refurbished! In 1976.

Lagoon-A-Beach: Offering a different kind of bounceback.

Bulgy the Whale: It's not just a ride, it's a way of life. Especially for our creepy, middle-aged ride operators.

The Pond (by the Tidal Wave and Turn of the Century): Featuring the original pond scum from when we first opened in 1886.

Lagoon-A-Beach: Where wedgies happen.

Pioneer Village: This is the place… to get a groan-inducing old timey portrait.

The Wild Kingdom Train: Offering the least life-like live animals around!

The Bat: We raised your park rates to build this!

Lagoon-A-Beach: The only thing more raging than our waters are the teenage hormones.

The Wild Mouse: The most painful 90 seconds you will ever endure outside of giving birth or passing a kidney stone.

The White Rollercoaster: Yes, it's still standing!


Healthy Living

This morning when I stepped on the scale I weighed in at 199.5. This is the first time I have been under 200 pounds in probably 8 years (when I was traipsing around Switzerland all summer long). I think this can partially be attributed to not following through with my Drive-Thru Diet plans, due to my inability to eat at Taco Bell (take that, Christine!). Another factor may have been eliminating Subway from my diet (in your face, Jared!).

Really, the ball started rolling in the spring when we took the Honda in to get some issues checked out, and we were handed a list of repairs totaling over $1000. Kristen and I were hesitant to pump all that money into a car that was barely worth that much. Instead we sold ye olde Honda and spent $20 on new tubes for my bike. My office is only a little over 3 miles away, so I started regularly riding to work. It has been helpful having such a practical reason to exercise every day, and we have been getting by quite comfortably as a one car family (at least until the winter hits).

In addition to the exercise, I have made some dietary changes. I have always predominantly been a carnivore. But after I turned 30, I noticed almost immediately that my metabolism wasn't what it once was. I could no longer pound down large quantities of meat with suffering some consequences (I'll spare you the details). Suffice it to say I have cut way back on my meat consumption, and have been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. And as it turns out, it ain't that bad. For example, when we went out to eat a few weeks ago, I ordered a dish that was probably 75% grilled vegetables. I was kind of shocked how much I enjoyed it.

My old idea of a balanced meal.

I have also made a conscious effort to control my portions. At first it was a little tough to not eat until I was stuffed silly, but my body has quickly adjusted to consuming a little bit less. Participating in an ongoing wellness program at work has also provided some extra motivation. Now that I have attained one goal, my next one is to get down into a healthy BMI range, which means dropping another 10 pounds.

Even when I was at my peak weight, I never really looked in the mirror and thought I was fat. But now when I look back at photos from 3-4 years ago, I'm surprised by how big I was. Since everyone loves a good before and after photo, here is mine: