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The game we finished this week: Back to the Future - The Videogame (Steam, $24.99)

Huz and I have always been fans of point-and-click adventure games.  We've played all the modern entries in the Monkey Island series, all the Myst games, and the more recent two Sam and Max games with varying degrees of enjoyment.  With an adventure game, the two aspects that really count for us are the story and the puzzles.  It's rare to find a game that executes both aspects flawlessly; most of them are strong in one aspect or the other.  Back to the Future is no exception to the rule, but its storytelling aspects are so good that I'm more than willing to forgive its gameplay/puzzle flaws.

Take me away, I don't mind... )

Overall recommendation: Come for the fan service, stay for the story, and have a walkthrough handy for the occasionally overly dense or poorly designed puzzle.
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The book I finished today: Singularity, by William Sleator.

If you discovered an event horizon in your playhouse, would you:
  (a) Run like crazy
  (b) Die of extreme gravitation long before you even knew what was going on
  ( c) Have an adventure centered around the time dilation effect that would "obviously" arise from the proximity of the event horizon due to relativistic effects

The right answer, and Sleator's set of wrong ones )
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As pretty much everyone with an ounce of history knowledge knows, the Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, just shy of 2000 years ago.  There's currently a temporary exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science that features a sizable number of well-documented artifacts, and which is well worth your time should you be able to go.  (I can't find anything online about where else this exhibit will travel, if it does.)

Wall of text talking about how cool it was )
The rest of the Museum of Science has been updated quite a bit from when I was a kid.  The 'old' T. Rex, who was built back in the 60's and was pretty much the mascot of the museum at the time, has been relegated to the great outdoors, with his dragging-on-the-ground tail mostly embedded in the outer wall.  There's now a new dinosaur exhibit which includes a 'new' T. Rex in running position with his tail properly up.  It also has one of only five complete Triceratops fossils ever found, which is kind of neat.  We didn't have time to really look at most of the rest of the museum as we had a commitment late in the afternoon.
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I rented the movie 9 (not Nine) and watched it on my phone this weekend while flying to Michigan. In it, Elijah Wood plays a cross between a Gatherer and a Sackboy who stumbles across the One Ring in the first five minutes of the film and, having no concept of its importance, brings it to Barad-Dur and uses it to activate Sauron in Big Evil Badass Robot form. Most of the rest of the film is spent running away from Big Evil Badass Robot and its hordes of slightly less badass robots. Near the end, Elijah Wood discovers that he and his Sackboy buddies are all effectively Horcruxes, in that each of them is animated by a piece of one human's soul. Once Sauron is defeated and the One Ring is removed from him, the soul-bits of the Sackboys it ate are free to go up to Heaven and make it rain. The remaining Sackboys are left to inherit a postapocalyptic and blasted world, to make of it what they can.

Conclusion:
Pretty animation, lousy dialog and story. There are plenty of other movies you can rent for $2.99 off the Android marketplace that will kill 80 minutes of airplane time much more engagingly.
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At the ice skating rink that Huz and I frequent, it's not an uncommon sight to see a concerned parent, usually someone's mother, encouraging their daughter to work harder, to focus on this or that move or technical aspect. I always cringe inwardly when I see some of the more involved parents pushing their children to a point of what appears to me (a non-parent, I admit) as excess. Fortunately, none of them come close to Mama Rose's behavior in Gypsy.

The only thing that disappointed me about today's production of the musical Gypsy (by Broadway by the Bay at Redwood City's Fox Theater) is that today's performance was the show's last, so my reviewing it is almost without point. However, I could not let the opportunity pass to offer heartfelt kudos to the production as a whole and Heather Orth as Mama Rose in particular. From the first time she steps onto the stage, Orth is wholly and completely convincing as the stage mother who is by turns fascinating, delusional, and finally pathetic. Even in the scenes where the viewer can tell that Mama is losing her track (and any marbles she may once have had), Orth is never less than masterful.

The rest of the cast was very strong and a pleasure to watch - Samantha Bruce's Louise and Walter M. Mays' Herbie were beautifully and convincingly done. The newly reopened Fox Theater is a lovely historical venue with fully modern lights and amplification, and suits the time period of Gypsy very well. Make no mistake, this is local, nonprofessional musical theater at its very best.
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Friday night we went to go see the movie Hairspray.  In concordance with the paper reviews, I can say that yes, it is a fun movie.  John Travolta does a remarkable job of never letting the viewer forget that, well, that's John Travolta!, while at the same time doing a good portrayal of Edith.  Never having seen the musical, I'm just kind of assuming that it's a good movie adaptation.  That said, Hairspray wasn't as interesting a musical or movie as Dreamgirls was.  Here's hoping that the next movie musical on tap, Sweeney Todd, is good and that the actors can sing well enough to hold up the parts.

Sunday night we had a nice time at [personal profile] shoutingboy's birthday party.  Nice apt complex and pool, good food, good company!

We've been enjoying the Final Fantasy Retrospective video series over at gametrailers.com.  (Thanks, GWJ!) They have five parts posted of a planned thirteen, releasing one every week.  The ratio is generally more than one game per video, so they've gotten through Seven (and the various spinoffs of #7) at this point.  I'm impressed by how informative the series is.  There's commentary on the storylines (which so far is not tremendously spoiler-y), the graphics, and of course the gameplay in each iteration of the famous series.  Great watching if you're a fan.  Maybe we'll check out their Zelda Retrospective while waiting for their remaining episodes of the FF series.

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We saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this past weekend.  Unsurprisingly, it was a significantly better movie than the book.  Rowling was starting to suffer from Writer's Fame (a disorder in which an author is so famous and sells so many copies that editors become less and less willing to edit their new books) at the time she wrote Book 4, which is presumably why it was so much longer than the previous three had been.  The director of Movie 4 very sensibly cut out quite a bit of the book's material, and in my opinion the movie didn't particularly suffer for it.  Book 5 is the longest book in the series thus far, and needed editing even more badly than Book 4 did; it's my least favorite of the series thus far, and (except for 6, which I haven't reread only due to a plethora of other things to read) the only book that I haven't bothered to reread, due primarily to the fact that I just didn't enjoy it very much.

Happily, the director for Movie 5 cut out lots of stuff.  He also put in a few nice little modifications, most of which are not major, but do add nicely to the movie.  It's not the best film of the series, but it's pretty good. 


After the film, several of us went for dinner at a local chi-chi mall.  Tasty food court food.  We then went to CocoaBella for dessert, and are thinking that a visit there may be a requirement whenever we're in that part of the city.  They sell a variety of very high-quality chocolates, generally with absolutely amazing fillings.  The huz and I both chose a kind that had a strawberry, lemon, and thyme filling (called Kerry).  The thyme was actually the strongest flavor of the bunch, followed by the fruit notes, and there was an interesting spice burn at the end of the mouthful.  Our friends got ones with (1) tea, (2) violet, and (3) caramel with fleur-de-sel (3 individual chocolates).  I tasted #1 and #3.  The tea flavor is subtle, you have to kind of wait for it.  And the caramel with fleur-de-sel starts off with a perfectly balanced salt-sweet mix, followed by a gentle caramel flavor.  (Yes, I'm deliberately mimicking the BPAL-style reviews I've seen in several people's LJ entries!)  All delightful, and all more than worth the $1.50 or less per piece.  Yay, tasty chocolate!

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