Friday, April 13, 2012

Tower Heist

I saw that this movie Tower Heist was on DVD and I started to look at the cast (Ben Sitller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Judd Hirsch, Téa Leoni, and so on) and I was pretty excited.  I was also a little hesitant, since even though there is a ton of movies where Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller give an awesome clean performance, there is also a ton of movies where Eddie and Ben are non stop vulgar.  They don't appear to know how to give a performance outside of a kids movie without dropping to limited profane vocabulary.

In spite of the solid cast and what appeared to be a potentially decent premise they blew it.  Sentence after sentence if peppered with profanity.  Even if it is not morally wrong to be vulgar, it is weak script writing to spread profanity so thickly.  It got in the way of the story.

After 15 or 20 minutes into the movie I finally shut it off.  It was very disappointing, since I really had high hopes for this movie.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heaven Is Waiting/Midway to Heaven

My wife read the book Midway to Heaven.  I started to read it with her after she was finished.  We liked the book.  She saw that there was a movie based on it called Heaven Is Waiting.  We rented it from Redbox.

First of all I'm confused.  Why the change of name?  Even is confused.  I went to look up the movie by the title of Heaven is Waiting and it did not find the movie based on Midway to Heaven.  When I typed in the name Midway to Heaven it showed me a box cover of the movie we watched that was titled Heaven is Waiting, but the box cover they showed on IMDB's site was Midway to Heaven.

All of the IMDB confusion aside.  The movie is still about the town Midway that is supposed to be beautiful and peaceful.  At the beginning of the movie they even introduce the town and say that the name of the town is rumored to be Midway because it is midway to Heaven.  The name change makes no sense, but this is just the tip of the ice burg.

The movie stripped out all the LDS references, even though it is still based in Utah.  The book is filled with LDS references and that is some of what makes the book unique and interesting.  Of course being LDS myself, I may enjoy and understand those references more than someone who is not LDS.

It not only removed the LDS references, but replaced them with protestant references.  It appears that they wanted to broaden the audience, but apparently they didn't want to broaden it too far.  They seem to be assuming that most people won't find the LDS scenes entertaining or won't understand them, but making the character protestant makes it to where everyone understands them better?

The one that stands out is the scene where he is speaking to a protestant preacher at the gas station and the protestant preacher is quizzing him about why he impersonated him to a college to ask about the guy his daughter is dating.  In the book he was called into his bishop's office and asked about his calling the boyfriend's bishop in another town to ask about him.  Not only is the scene more intense because someone called him in to talk about it, but this he could potentially lose his church membership over doing something like that on top of the fact that the person he was impersonating could press charges.  The preacher getting on him about it did have the option for legal matters, but there was no extra potential penalty for him.  Yes, I see there is awkwardness is anyone finding that out and maybe more so if it is your preacher, but it still seems a much lighter scene that with a bishop.

Additionally, after covering the issue of the impersonation the bishop talks with him about how he is doing.  How he is handling his wife's death and how he is handling his daughter growing up.  The preacher pretty much just laid out that he knew what he had done and Ned quickly disengaged the conversation.

Another LDS thing they removed that really had nothing to do with the church, other than location was the scene at temple square where he stalks a couple that looks like his daughter and then she catches him stalking.

I say they removed the scene only because they changed it so badly that it was not the same scene.  They changed from a beautiful scene at Christmas time with the lights on temple Square and the peacefulness of it to a bar.

They changed from him suspenseful stalking this young couple and having his daughter walk up behind him to barging into the bar like a raving lunatic shouting for his daughter and offending everyone around him.  This ties into my point earlier of the movie making Ned look crazy, rather than just in mourning.

The movie was too short.  Part of the issue with the movie being too short falls back to them cutting the movie apart to conceivably make it more palatable for non LDS people.  But even with chopping out the LDS stuff this movie could have been a lot better by just taking some more time to develop the plot.  Even though the book was a somewhat short novel, it still takes time.

Several of the scenes seemed really rushed.  To the point that if one hadn't read the book it would be hard to understand.  I think the scene in the kitchen was like that, but that scene had many of the problems I have previously discusses.  It made Ned look mean and the boyfriend look easily agitated and not infinitely patient like the boyfriend in the book.

They cut out several other things that were substantive points of the book.

They took out the golfing scenes with the boyfriend and the father.  They took out the running scenes with the boyfriend and the father.  As previously stated, the character of boyfriend was not near as "perfect" as in the book.  The father was much less passive aggressive in the movie and more directly confrontational.  The boyfriend was less forgiving and less giving the father the benefit of the doubt and more confrontational.  They kept putting the dad in situations where he would get caught talking to the dead wife.  I didn't get the feeling in the book that he was having a psychological break, but that he was just having a lot of trouble letting go.

I didn't get the impression from the book that Carol, the girl that was pursuing him, presented herself as if she knew she was pretty and could manipulate Ned with it.  I may be remembering wrong, but I seem to recall that the primary  weapon the women used on him was casseroles and the prospect that he would have to make contact with them again to return their dishes.

There were also less women presented as chasing.  They mentioned briefly that they had been, but part of taking a book and making it a movie is to visualize things that were just in words in the book.

The movie had potential just by being based on a good book, but it also had potential by what I could see of what was presented.  It appeared that there were talented people involved in the movie, but the length of the movie and the slashing parts of the book left it flat.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


I have never been to Disneyland or Disney World.  I have never found myself lacking anything by not having gone.  My wife went as a child and had a great desire to return and to give our children that experience.  So we went.

I found the trip to be enjoyable, but an extravagance in relation to our income level and unnecessary.

One thing that perplexed me was the typical check point that places have to search bags and fanny packs.  We would walk in and open our fanny packs and they would look at the stuff on top and move you along.  What if I had a weapon or whatever the check point is design to check for underneath the snacks on top?  What if i had those items in my pockets?  They never checked those and if one had no bags they could walk right through without being checked.

I hadn't anticipated, but was very pleased and interested in the attention to detail in everything in Disneyland.  Even the trash cans were decorated and clean.  The attention to detail wasn't just in what you could see, but also in what you heard.  The rides had sounds in sync and enhancing the experience.  The sounds were also designed so you didn't hear them until you were meant to hear them as part of the experience, even though they were right in front of you.

It has now been almost a year since I started writing this post and even though my above feelings are still true, I do at times find myself longing to go back.  I suppose I somewhat understand some of my wife's drive that the kids had to go experience it.

Below I will detail several parts of the park that I noticed, but not every ride and attraction.

One thing that should be noted was that at one point my kids commented to me, "Can we go back to the hotel and swim?  You don't have to stand in line for that."

Main Street USA
Shortly after walking through the ticket turnstile we were dropped onto main street.  It was nice to see the classic home town stylings that I heard later were designed after Walt Disney's home town.  It is interesting that it has been retained that way after all these years.

Up and down main street there were what appeared to be security personnel.  They all had big white cartoon looking gloves and were waving to everyone.  That gave a good welcoming feel to the park and a more comfortable feeling about the security gards that can be forboding.

Mr. Lincoln
Everything in the theater building where Mr. Lincoln was in was cool.  It had a replica of the capital building.  There was also a display on the history of Disneyland that was interesting.  They also had a section of some of the early drawings for some of the movies.

The Disneyland video said that Walt Disney had an apartment put on main street where he and his family stayed a lot.  That would be cool to sit up there and look out on everything and everyone.

The Mr. Lincoln program was very interesting.  I was surprised that still it existed since it had been around for so long.  I was also surprised it was still around since it talked so much about faith and God.  I have heard serveral things every now and again of liberal practices that have been creaping into the Disney company.  So to have something flat out speaking of God made me wonder about the things I heard and if they were true.

My one son was very curious on how they did the animatronic Mr. Lincoln.

New Orleans Square
Haunted Mansion
The ride was a little confusing at first.  There were no line to get in.  We walked in the mansion with a handful of people.  We were immediately in a circular room.  I had my kids with me and wasn't sure how to keep track of them, since I didn't know what was going to happen.  The door closed behind us and the room went dark.  There was a little presentation with a voice telling a story and the room doing weird things.

After the presentation the other side of the room opened up and we were led to the ride.  It was basically a simple ride on a track ride through parts of the story of the haunted mansion.  It was interesting to watch.

It was not scary from the standpoint of ghosts and such or from a thrill ride point of view.  The beginning might have freaked out little kids, since it was very much about not knowing what to expect.

Pirates of the Caribbean.
This was a basic boat ride on a track.  You went down quite a bit under the building and then back up at the end, but I don't think there were any big drops.  There were interesting animatronics to see.  I have heard that it is very different since they updated it to match the Johnny Depp movies.  It was interesting to ride once.

My son said it was exhilarating.

Critter Country
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
This was a basic storybook ride in a cart on a track.  It was interesting once and nice for younger kids.  Our seven year old went on it several times.

Davey Crockett's Explorer Canoes
We wanted to go on this one, but it was closed for some reason.

Mark Twain Riverboat
It was a three level functioning riverboat.  The lines were not bad for this ride, probably because you could fit tons of people on the boat.  The boat traveled around this circular "river".  It was nice to see the workings of the boat and also look out at the goings on in the park.

The Petting Zoo
It was a nice quiet place for the kids to pet goats.

There were several storybook ride much like the Winnie the Pooh ride I mentioned above.  They basically just take you through a story and twist and turn you on this little cart, showing you various sights and sounds from whatever story you were in.  In reality, eat ride like that was about the same.

Peter Pan
I think the Peter Pan ride/story was in this area.  It was about the same as the other storybook rides, except that it lifted you in the air to go through the story.  Instead of having tracks or the ground to run on, the cart was hooked tracks in the ceiling.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle
The castle is great for pictures and interesting to go through once, but it is what I would describe as flat.  You just walk and navigate through this narrow hallway looking at images from the movie.  The good part is that there wasn't a long line to wait in.

We did get to see a mother outside the castle berating, her child who was barely older than a toddle, for ruining the trip to Disneyland for her.  I think she misses the point of Disneyland and perhaps even the point of being a parent.

It's a Small World
You often here about how the song on the It's a Small World ride can drive you crazy, which it can, but there were a lot of positives.

I think I recall that you couldn't hear the music unless you were in the ride, so at least it only took its toll on those that chose to get on it.

The ride moved through large numbers of people quickly and the lines were fairly quick.

The ride was somewhat interesting to see all the dolls and floating down the water was really nice, in contract to all the walking and standing in line.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

This was a cool ride, but the seating was cramped for a tall guy.  My kids liked it, except for the long wait in line.

Pixie Hollow 
This was where you could meet Tinker Bell.  On the way you got to meet a couple of other fairies as well.  The line to even get to the fairies was pretty much the same as to get to see Minnie Mouse, but not near as long to see the princesses.  We waited for about an hour and a half.

My wife tried getting my daughter in early one day to see the princesses, but the sign had lied about what the hours were.  Then she went back at the time and the line was horrendous.  I think it was over two hours to wait and in the middle of it the princesses took lunch.  I would have thought that they could rotate the princesses out for breaks and lunches and keep things moving.

The Tea Cups
The tea cups were pretty nice.  It was a fun mild ride to watch the kids.  The line moved fairly quickly on this one.

My one son said it was cool and kind of boring.

There was a big fireworks display on Friday night around Sleeping Beauty's castle.  It was a little disappointing that they crammed everyone into these little roped off areas on the path near the castle.  It made it hard to see the fireworks and it was uncomfortable to navigate the crowd. In spite of all that the show was impressive.

There was more of that attention to detail in the fireworks show.  I have seen shows where the music and fireworks were synced up, but I have never seen it so precise.  It was so in sync that music would end and the light from the rocket would go out at the exact same time.

They had fireworks happening all around us and sounds too.  It was very much surround sound.

After the fireworks were over and the crowd dispersed there was trash everywhere.  I was very disappointed with mankind and their lack of consideration and appreciation.  But even in that, Disneyland was ready.  Within a minute it was all cleaned up.  There was an army of workers with brooms and scoops cleaning it all up.

World of Color
We saw signs for something called World of Color as we entered the park each day, but we had no idea what it was and just kind of ignored it.  We made some friends at our hotel and they mentioned that it was great and we had to go see it.  They said it happened almost every night after it got dark.  You had to get special "Fast Passes" to get into it.  We went and got them, since the fast pass system wasn't really working for us for anything else.  It took some planning to get the Fast Passes, but it seemed to make the event more enjoyable, since the crowds were less because of having to have tickets.

They had a big platform filled most of the lagoon with many many water sprayers of various kinds with lights attached to them and around them.  They had sound and light and water and it was amazing.  They would often create a mist of water or even a wall and project images and colors onto them.  Many of the images were scenes from Disney movies.

World of Color was better than the firework due to their uniqueness, but also because the crowd was more thinned due to the fast pass thing.

Standing In Line
As I have said in several places in this post, standing in line was a big issue for us.  I have a friend that told me you have to know how to work the park, but I don't understand it.

Standing in line they usually give you something to look at and they wind the lines enough to keep you moving, most times.  Moving is better than standing.  It makes you feel like you are getting somewhere and your feet and legs don't get as sore.  Not every line was as good as that.  Minnie, Tinker Bell, and the Princesses were not as good as keeping you feeling like you were moving, but some of that could have been because lines were the longest and there is only so much you can do with that.

Malan's Peak Hiking Trail Ogden, Utah

August 2008
Last weekend my wife and I started to head out on a trail and see as high as we could get to the top of Mount Ogden before we wore out. We started out around 8. I would recommend getting an hour or two sooner start to get through most of the hard stuff before the cool of the night starts to wear off if you are hiking on a hot summer day. I also think that 27th street trail head might have been a more direct route after looking at the map while venturing up the 29th street trail head. We ended up getting a little turned around and ended up walking past the 27th street trail head anyway. We ended up in the bouldering field past 27th street. The bouldering field was interesting.

What is a bouldering field? I'm not sure. I've been searching on line and it looks like bouldering is some sort of rock climbing. I didn't see anything in this area that looked like you could rock climb. All we saw was an area of chucks of rock on the ground. It was a interesting space to explore, but not a place where you could rock climb and not the place where we wanted to be headed to.

We got over there because we somehow ended up on Bonneville Shoreline Trail. We needed to be on Taylor Canyon Trail. I think we got off on the wrong trail right from the start. They both seem to bunch up around the 29th street trail head.

Once we got to the Malan trail the views were great. We were able to look over the city, down the canyon, and at the rocky parts of the mountain around.

Leaving Taylor Canyon and entering Malan's Basin Trail we crossed a little wooden bridge. This is the first switch back. It is a little bit of work, but at the next switch back there is a great overlook for the city. Before getting there we stopped and sat and had a snack at a wide part of the trail, which there aren't many.

The trail from there had a lot of views of the canyon. There were a couple of places where you are in the sun for a stretch and it feels a little desolate, but with big payoffs of Douglas Fir trees and Malan's Peak.

The hike is very steep at times and very narrow at times. At one point you have to cross what feels like a boulder. It is a beautiful rock formation, but you have to traverse a washed away area of the rock all very close to the edge. At the same time, below we could see a waterfall, which one hiker we met at that point on the trail described as looking very man made. Like the water had been diverted.

I remember commenting at one point that it was a fresh smelling trail from the ever greens and such I suppose.

In spite of the ruggedness of the trail we saw several people over 50 on the trail.

This is a link to a brief description of the trail

Spring 2011
The last time we went we stopped at Malan's Peak and did not continue on to Malan's Basin where the old Hotel was.  After going up and up the last time I did not want want to go down and then have to go back up.  When you leave Malan's Peak you go down at first and I had no idea what was going to happen from there. You do go down a bit and then back up some.

We hiked down onto a path that went through some thick growth.  After a while of some more strenuous hiking we got to the basin.

Once we got to the basin there was a great stream there that eventually leads to the top of the waterfall in Waterfall Canyon.  It was very full with the wet winter and spring we have had.

We looked up at Mount Ogden.  It was an angle we had never seen it from.  We could see the snow on the face that is usually hidden from view and the sun by the basin.  It was pretty cool.

We went to see if we could follow the stream to the top of the waterfall.  We went down a little trail, but the growth got thicker and thicker as we got in and it made me nervous with all of the rattle snakes we have seen  in the fall and this spring.  We backed out and headed back.  I had been taking the lead, but when we reverse my wife was in the lead.  She had startled a rattlesnake on her way by.  The snake darted in my direction, apparently not seeing me, but trying to get away from her.  Scared me and I think the snake too.  Fortunately it changed its direction and headed out into the bush.

We saw the plaque for the hotel that use to be up there, where apparently Teddy Roosevelt stayed.

I have been spending a bit of time this year with a World War II vet in our congregation at church.  I found out that his middle name is Malan and one of his relatives owned the property.  He said that his mother had spent a lot of time up there at the hotel with the family.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Adams Canyon Hiking Trail Near Layton, Utah

We hiked up Adams Canyon on the Saturday before Memorial Day 2009.

The turn off from 89 was a little tricky to find. Google maps just said turn toward Eastside drive or whatever the name of that little side road is that takes you to the trail head. The good part is that if you miss it you can see the pile up of cars in the trail head parking lot from 89 and it is not far to turn around and go back.

The parking lot at the trail head was very crowded. The trail wasn't too crowded except at certain bottle necks.

Comparing to Waterfall Canyon in Ogden, UT.  Adams Canyon is harder and a bit longer than Waterfall Canyon.  The waterfall in Adams Canyon is a lot shorter than the one that flows down the cliffs in Waterfall Canyon, but has huge amounts of water flowing from it.

The trail is steep, sandy, and in open sun for a long way starting out. The trail goes long enough in the sun and is exposed enough to start a sunburn.

The official trail apparently no longer exists. At the beginning there are these constructed zig zags that were not on the two trail maps I had.

It was very rugged at parts. Lots of people with small children, but not sure they went all the way up. We took our kids. It was very hard to watch the kids and keep our focus on keeping our footing too.

There was no way to see the waterfall except by crossing ankle deep water and slippery rocks at the top. I might have brought water shoes had I known, but the rocks would probably been hard on your feet, even with water shoes.  When we went, the water was only ankle deep and there were rocks to climb, but the water was fast and cold.  If you cross in your hiking shoes, your feet will be miserable on the hike back down, due to the length and difficulty of the trail.

There were lots of good places to stop to enjoy the rushing water. So if you don't want to hike as long or don't want to deal with the hard climbing and dangerous spots further up, you could still have a nice time lower down.

We went in May. Not sure the volume of water at other times of year. If you went later in the summer there might be less treacherous water, but the first bit of the hike in the open might be very uncomfortable.

Broken bridge. The first time you cross the stream there is a "bridge". It is some fallen branches that someone has nailed planks to, but the planks are leaning sideways, probably due to being beat upon by the rushing water, and it is a bit wobbly.

Taylor Canyon Hike, Ogden Utah

April 23, 2011
We took the kids hiking up Taylor Canyon starting at the 27th Street trail head in Ogden, Utah.  The canyon follows a stream.  I have searched around for the name of that stream and I can not find it.  The stream was flowing fast and full, but while we were on what we knew to be the trail it did not come onto the trail.

We saw several small waterfalls on the sides of the trail.

There were a few bikers on the trail.  I think they were just connecting up to the Bonneville Shoreline trail.

We turned around a little ways onto the upper trail, since my 15 year old daughter just wore light jogging shoes and three quarter length pants and was hurting.

Leaving the beaten trail at the sign for Malan's and the spring or for Taylor Canyon upper trail.  Once we got onto the upper trail there were no more bikers or even hikers for that matter.

As soon as we got onto the upper trail the "trail" went into the edge of the stream for about 20 yards.  For the most part we were able to keep our feet on the rocks with minimal wetness, but it was not a trickle we were hiking in.

When we got to the bridge and sign again on the way down to rest, two guys with snow board and skis came down from the upper trail.  They said they had come from Snow Basin and were bushwhacking their way down.  I would be interested to know how they found their way through the bush without getting lost, how they didn't tear up their snow pants in the bush, and if with a little bit of trail blazing would our family have been able to get up much higher.

April 4, 2012
We went up to Taylor Canyon again.  We just wanted to go part way up and sit by the water and read and talk and watch the kids play.  We trudged through the dusty parts of the lower trail and got to the bridge of the stream.  It was bone dry.

I have talked to two difference people after the dryer winter we had.  One is a guy in his thirties He spent a lot of time in the mountain as a kid hunting, fishing, four wheeling, and so forth.  He is entirely unconcerned about having less snow in the mountain this year to melt down to us.  His opinion is that it was above average wet by far last year and there is plenty of water in that mountain.

I talked to another friend of mine this winter about it and he is very concerned.  He is a World War II veteran who has lived in Ogden his entire life, other than the brief period when he was bouncing around the country for the military.  He says that dryer than normal winters cause a lot of problems come summer time.

We have lived here only a few years and we usually see deep deep snow in the mountain and traces of snow well into July.  My guess is that this year most will be gone by the end of May.

Notice the difference between the ankle deep water in April of 2011 to the bone dry stream in April of 2012.


When I moved to Utah I saw this book and the others in the series around everywhere. I don't remember seeing it when we lived in Indiana. I didn't know anything about it, but since it was everywhere in large quantities including in Wal-Mart I assumed it was some romance novel that was not worth my time.

Months later my sister-in-law, who still lives in Indiana, asked if I knew anything about it. She said it had been written by someone that went to BYU. I looked into it and it indeed appeared to be a romance novel, but with a teenaged girl and a vampire. Sounded gross, but I figured I would give it a look. She and I have listened to it and discussing it and even though it is not as gross as I anticipated it is still gross.

Age Difference
There is a hundred years difference in age between the main characters.  My wife an I have three and even that sometimes seems like there is a generation gap.  I can't imagine the differences at 100 years.  Also, even if he looks like a teenager, the dude hasn't matured past his pouty and hissy fit phase in a hundred years?

Cold Skin/Sweet Breath
Nothing like cuddling up to an ice cube.  Mmmm, comfy.

Sweet breath?  What does that mean?  I don't get it but it made me nauseous.

Teenage Lust
The book is filled with an under tone of teenage lust.  I saw one married lady comment on her blog the emotions it geared up inside of her and she has no idea how a teenage girl who is trying to save herself for marriage deals with a book that sends her mind to those places.

Struggle to Overcome Natural Impulses
One positive side of the books I saw was even though there was the constant push for physical intimacy from Bella, I thought the parallel between controlling drives that we have and denying them or redirecting them to a more appropriate place compared with the vampires desire for blood had potential for a good story.  Unfortunately the development of the plot and the lines given to the characters were thin.