Review of Muppets Most Wanted movie

On the weekend, my grandparents took my family and me to the movie, Muppets Most Wanted. We were really looking forward to it because we love the Muppets, and we had enjoyed the 2011 movie called The Muppets. Also, we had watched the trailer for the new movie many times and we thought it looked good. But I thought this movie was terrible and I was disappointed.

The first thing I didn’t like about Muppets Most Wanted is that it wasn’t true to my idea the Muppets. When I think of the Muppets, I think of comedy that’s a little bit ridiculous   and slightly bizarre, loveable little characters, storylines where everything goes wrong but in the end everything’s fine. This movie was not like that; it wasn’t very funny to me, even though it was a bit bizarre and ridiculous at times. Also it was too dark for kids; the bad guys were real master criminals, the movie was set in a nasty Siberian prison and there were too many guns and things blowing up.

Another thing I didn’t like about this movie was that it was not believable. For example, I thought that the Muppets took too long to pick up on the fact that Kermit had been replaced by the evil, master-criminal frog, Constantine. The true Muppets would never take that long because they know Kermit so well and Constantine was so different from him.

The last thing I didn’t like about this movie was that the bad guys were too mean and nasty. In other Muppet movies all the bad guys have a change of heart, but in this movie they don’t, and for that matter they don’t change at all. There wasn’t even anything funny about them.

As you can see, I did not like this movie, and I strongly suggest not going.

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Why the Lord of the Rings is my Favorite Book

In the summer of 2012, I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My dad had read me the Hobbit before and had tried to get me into the Lord of the Rings because he liked the trilogy. I wasn’t interested at the time, but now they’re my favourite books.

I have always liked mythical adventure stories with dragons, wizards and other mythical beings. For example, I like the Harry Potter books and Greek mythology stories. The Lord of the Rings is the best mythical adventure series I’ve read.  Even though I know this story is fictional, it’s so well written that I think of it as real. Tolkien created the Lord of the Rings as a mythology for England, but the stories seem like a real history.

Wooden Narsil
I like medieval Europe and have a fascination for swords, bows, arrows, spears, etc.  Though the Lord of the Rings is not medieval, it includes the medieval things listed above. After watching The Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, I developed a fascination with Aragorn’s sword called Narsil.  Narsil is the coolest medieval-looking sword I’ve ever seen because it’s the only one with a hollow pommel.  This Lord of the Rings sword fascinated me so much that my dad and I built a wooden replica.

Another reason why the Lord of the Rings is my favourite book is that I find Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth amazing.  I love the detail and realism of the different races, languages, places, characters, histories and every thing else. Tolkien was so creative and imaginative and I like that. I will always love his wonderful world of Middle Earth.

The Lord of the Rings is great and I have enjoyed it, am enjoying it, and will enjoy it for a long while more. Many authors borrow from Tolkien’s books and write new adventure stories, but there is something in the Lord of the Rings that will make me love it forever.

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Nora’s Poems

The Caterpillar on the Grass
The caterpillar lived on a tree
One day he went out on the nice green grass
And found some food.
The End

Wizards do Magic
When wizards do magic
They turn somebody into someone else.
The End

Rain
When rain falls it helps your plants
When rain falls it lands on you.
The End

Puddles
When rain falls there are puddles
I jump in them
They splash all over me.
The End

I’m a Butterfly
I’m a butterfly
I fly all over town
I’m a butterfly.
The End

Merry Christmas
For Jews it is Hanukkah
But for Christians it is Christmas
Santa is jolly
Santa is jolly
I love Christmas.
The End

Halloween is Just Plastic
Halloween things are only plastic
Don’t be scared because it’s only plastic.
The End

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My First Pia Bouman Nutcracker Show

I wanted to be in a show because my older siblings have all been in shows.  Being in a show seemed like fun because there were lots of people and lots of fun backstage.  Also it looked like fun to be on stage and to have a whole audience in front of you.

photo of Nora
Nora's first Pia Bouman Nutcracker

You have to be in grade two ballet to be in The Nutcracker, but I got to be in the show when I was in grade one because I wrote a letter to my teacher, Mrs. Bouman. My letter said, “Seeing as I can’t be in the Nutcracker, do you know of any other big show that I could be in?”  Then Mrs. Bouman wrote me back a note.  She said that she did need a small party guest and she asked if I could please tell her if I could be that girl. I was very happy.

I only had three rehearsals because it was my first show.  I also went to a costume try-on.  I tried on three dresses and the last one was the best for me.  My mum had to take up the waist because even that dress was too big.  My dress was pink with little roses and bows.  Before me, dancers Savannah, Brynn and my sister Hannah had worn that dress.

My first rehearsal was in costume.  It was fun.  I got to learn lots of things and the other kids that I was dancing with were very nice and I loved to play with them.  In the show, I was the youngest child in a family of four children.  My stage father was called Gord and my stage mother was called Alison.  They were very nice to me.

After the rehearsals, the show took place at Humberside CI.  I skipped and ran and watched the other dancers.  At the end of the party scene, my stage father carried me off stage and I had to pretend that I was asleep.  Before each show, one of the bigger girls did my make-up and hair.  They put up my hair in braids across the back of my head.  Then I waited in a line with my partners Sarah and Assantuah until all the audience was in their seats.  We snuck up the stairs leading to the hall where the audience was sitting and then we waited until the main maid came running toward the front of the stage.  Then we all ran down the aisle to the stage.  After each show, I took off my costume and my granddad drove me home.

After the last show, we all went to the dance school for the cast party.  There were lots of things to eat and drink.  I danced and played with the other kids.

I had lots of fun in The Nutcracker and I am looking forward to being in it next year.

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Lowe Family Nutcracker

In our household we have various annual traditions; one of them is putting on our own production of the Tchaikovsky ballet The  Nutcracker.

Hamish as The Nutcracker in 2011

Every year at Christmas time this little 30 minute show takes place in the living room of our house. The cast is made up of four people, me and my three younger siblings Hamish, Clare and Nora. Our Mom is our stage manager and our Dad is our set designer and maker.

Casting the production is always a fun challenge because of course people don’t want to be the same roles over and over again. Even if they were perfect in a certain part they don’t want to play it again. The exception to this is my brother who is always happy to perform the part of  the Nutcracker.

Every year casting is always done in early September and we always try to start rehearsals around that time too. One challenge for us is that  our dance school  starts casting and rehearsing for their Nutcracker at the same time–and we are also in that production. The ballet school’s Nutcracker takes priority from October to December and then we pick ours back up again in the middle of December. At that point in time we have to start rushing to get our show choreographed and polished. On top of that we also make programs, costumes, hair pieces, backdrops, shortened versions of the music, props and treats for the intermission.

However, when it is finally ready to go it is definitely worth all the hard work that is put into it. But I must say that it would definitely not be the wonderful show that it is without the help of Mummy and Daddy. They do so much for us and our show every Christmas.

Clara from the 2011 production
Me as the Snow Queen in 2011
Nora as the Sugar Plum Fairy in 2011
The Mouse King from the 2011 Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first show is always given to our grandparents and our uncle on Boxing Day. Despite our intention of it being a show it always turns out more as a dress rehearsal. Then we fix it up and perform it to various other people such as our dance teachers our next door neighbours and our music teacher. Every year the Artistic Director of our dance school, Mrs. Bouman, comes to watch the show. Our audience can be at the maximum five people so we wind up doing a lot of shows.    This is because the audience sits in our playroom where we store the living room furniture during the show. This makes the space quite small.

One good thing about doing our own Nutcracker is the immediate feedback that we get from the audience afterwards. It’s always nice to get comments (both positive and negative).

As we wrapped up our fourth annual production I decided that I wanted to make the fifth year perfect, but it already is such a charming production that I don’t think it needs anything more.

After our very first Nutcracker in 2008
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How to Make a Wooden Wand

My sister,  my friends and I are all big Harry Potter fans.  When I turned nine, my dad taught me how to make wooden wands that we could use for playing Harry Potter. With some help from my dad, I made wands for my sister and friends. We also made wands for my two little sisters even though they had not read the books or watched the movies. They just liked shooting spells at each other. I have five wands and I really like them. I hope you enjoy your wands.

my second and favourite wand
my second and favourite wand

You will need:

  1. A square ended bar of wood longer than you want your wand to be. I recommend allowing  5 extra inches for clamping the wood to your work bench.
  2. A clamp.
  3. A saw.
  4. A  chisel.
  5. A spokeshave.
  6. A sanding block or sand paper.
  7. A hot glue gun.
  8. Paint.  I usually use an acrylic brown paint.

Method:

a wand with a raised handle
a wand with a defined handle
  1. Start with your stick of wood and mark how long your wand should be on the piece of wood.  I suggest a wand of 10-15 inches.
  2. Clamp your wood to your work bench and use the spokeshave to shave each corner and sides into a wand shape.  Make it as thin as you want.  If you want your wand to have a defined handle (see photo at right) don’t shave as much at the bottom.
  3. Use your saw to cut off the end that will not be part of the wand.
  4. Sand the wand until smooth.
  5. Now you’re ready to decorate your wand.  If you want grooves, use your chisel.  If you want vines and lines, make these with a bead of hot glue.  You can also glue on wood shavings to make designs.
  6. Now you’re ready to paint.
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Two’s a Charm

Okay, in the spirit of equal treatment, I have to use this space to announce that my five-year-old daughter Clare is now performing as Gretl in the Sound of Music in Toronto.

My daughter Clare's Bio for The Sound of Music
My daughter Clare's Bio for The Sound of Music

Clare had originally auditioned with her older sister in June of 2008, but at only four years of age, decided that she wasn’t ready to be in a show, and dropped out. Always certain that one day she would be ready, when a spot opened up, she auditioned again and now in the show as one of the 3 girls who play Gretl.

This is the point where our family life gets truly nutty. Our calendar for taking kids to shows, dance lessons, etc. is quite an entertaining read. No kidding.

Clare’s doing really well. She had her first show Labour Day weekend and has been doing an average of 3 shows a week. They recently announced that The Sound of Music will be closing January 3rd, which is too bad because it would be nice for her to have a longer run.

Clare splits her time between the two ‘families’ of kids in the cast, so she’s on stage with her sister Hannah sometimes, and others she’s with the other cast. She seems to have fun with both.

Watching your kids perform in a giant theatre is weird. One of the most striking things for me this time out was hearing Clare call Burke Moses “Daddy” on stage.  I can honestly say I’ve never heard any of my four children address anyone else that way…it’s odd.

Another interesting thing about all this is that Clare’s only five (almost six). I don’t really remember much about when I was 5 going on 6, but I wonder how much of this she’ll remember when she’s older. Since the internet never forgets anything, I guess she’ll be able to tell me in twenty years or so.

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Axure State Toggle Widget

I’m an AxureRP user from waaay back.

Some time ago I created a prototype for a website that consisted of a multi-stage contest. The contest would run in 3 stages:

  1. Promotion/Entry (people upload content for judging)
  2. Voting/Judging
  3. Post-contest (display winners, etc)

The content for each of these stages would also be customized for signed-in and signed-out users.

It’s easy to do this kind of thing in Axure (of course it is) but I find that presenting such a prototype is always a challenge because there’s no trigger to display the different content over time.

Previously, I’d create prototype pages that acted as starting points for reviewing the prototype from a specific use case perspective, and these starter pages would set the appropriate variable values for the example workflow. This works fine when you’re in linear presentation mode, but causes problems when clients ask questions that would require you to start the experience over with different starting values: “Can I see this page in stage 2 of the contest?”.

In addition, at my workplace, we are using the HTML prototype as a guideline for developers, designers, and QA to do their magic. It’s a hassle for them to work through the linear steps to set variables when all they want is to get a sense of the changes on each individual page based on the contest stage (or whatever criteria accounts for the content change).

So anyhoo… I built a little widget that toggles any given page based on variables that specify the user logged in state and the contest stage.

After doing this, I find that I’ve been using it in a lot of projects because it’s so convenient to be able to tour all of the customized content variations on each page.

View the sample prototype.

Download the Axure RP (version 5.5) file

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Manifest Marta

It’s been four weeks of rehearsals now, wherein there have been many learnings and much excitement.

Hannah's Bio in the Sound of Music Programme
Hannah's Bio in the Sound of Music Programme

Hannah has amazing stamina that is perhaps only available in 8-year-olds, but she has been doing a rigourous schedule of 8-hours a day from Thursday to Sunday since early February, and she still has lots of energy left over for school, dance classes, and endless hours of practising her lines and songs.

As Marta, she doesn’t have a lot of lines to remember (Marta is the 2nd youngest of the Von Trapp children), but there’s a lot of singing to learn and get right. And I’m amazed that she isn’t sick of it yet.

Our whole family has been adjusting to the back-and-forth to rehearsal schedule. It’s about a 45-minute walk from our house to the Mirvish Productions building next to the Princess of Whales Theatre here in Toronto. As part of our attempt to teach Hannah about money, we got her to log all of the money she didn’t spend on transit tickets or taxis to get to rehearsal. This money is designated in a separate category for her discretionary spending. We’re all hoping it means we all get to go out for breakfast on her occasionally.

First performances

We now have the first month’s schedule of performances, and so have booked a whackload of tickets for March 17th at 1:30pm.

The rest of the schedule for March is:

Wednesday March 18 — matinée
Thursday March 19 — matinée
Saturday March 21 — matinée
Wednesday March 25 — matinée & evening
Saturday March 28 — matinée
Sunday March 29 — matinée

Only one evening performance means that at least we’ll ease into the late nights.

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First day of rehearsal

So we’ve been negotiating this new world of showbiz on behalf of our daughter, and it’s been surprisingly uncomplicated. Now that she’s officially going to be Marta in the Mirvish Production of The Sound of Music in Toronto, we’re slowly adjusting to the idea that this is really real.

First came a contract, in a couriered package with contract pages plus rider. There was a form to fill out for her pay (!) which necessitated a bank account for an 8-year-old. Said bank account was procured from RBC, the “Leo” account or some such thing…the only bank account they offer kids.

We wondered about the necessity of a GST number. She will not have enough income from this “self employment” to warrant it…this year at least.

Income tax? Does an 8-year old have to file income tax in Canada? Will have to find that one out.

Then there’s the bio & photo. Parent supplied…who knew? The bio was written collaboratively by my wife, my daughter, and myself, and copy edited and proofed by my work colleague Laura and my mother-in-law. We tried to make it cute but not too cute. It’s interesting when many of the other kids’ bios include television credits and the like. We had to focus on the living room shows and ballet school performances instead.

I write this from Vancouver, where I am attending the IxDA’s annual conference, Interaction ’09. I have had a misadventure (another post) but I did manage to get myself up early enough to call and wish my young performer a happy first rehearsal.

It’s going to be a long haul for a little while: 4 8-hour rehearsals a week for 5 weeks. Good thing she has boundless energy.

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