April 28, 2003

The Game in Boston details

The Game is another treasure-hunt style puzzle hunt where teams competitively solve puzzles and the first team to complete the full puzzle set generally wins (sometimes there are some other factors affecting scoring). The two things that make The Game unusual are that it is generally entirely linear (each team must solve the first puzzle in order to get the second and so on...) and it takes strong advantage of the location it is set in, visting local landmarks and often doing interesting activities at them.

I had never done The Game before and was interested in giving it a try, especially when it was a shorter version than the usual 26hr marathon and local to boot. I thus put together a team of friends from Matt's gaming. I didn't think our team was that strong but that didn't bother me as I just wanted to have a good time. I thought we would have no chance to win and thus no chance to have to put on The Game next year and these pretty well balanced out for me ;).

This one got off to a bit of a rocky start when Game Control (GC) didn't contact us for more than a week after I sent in our registration money. I finally emailed Matt Enlow and he got back to me quickly and it was soon clear The Game (TG) was still on.

The pre-puzzle (a standard TG feature which gives the location where TG will start) started when Nate and I were each called at 3AM on a weekday morning. Not surprisingly, I hung up on them without hearing much they had to say, convinced it was an insane telemarketer ;). Nate got a bit more info but still didn't realize it pertained to the game. We also thus did not understand their reference in their email when they did contact us to an "earlier conversation". We did learn in this email that we were to be Team Orange (all teams in TG are named after colors). Fortunately, they left clearer messages on Joe and Doug's machines although Joe misheard his and so we couldn't find the right web site and he had to get help from GC on the correct spelling. Once there, we found the puzzle based on the info on Doug's machine and worked on solving it Friday. We had the right idea from the very beginning but there was a lot of trial and error to it and Doug finally found the answer at around 7:30 PM. We were then set to meet at my place at 7:45 AM the next morning and be at Dapy's store at the Prudential shops by 8:30.

Doug and Chau got lost on their way to my place (not a great sign as Doug would be our driver all day) but Chau called me and I was able to redirect them to my place in time. We all hopped in his SUV with our stuff (we had lots of tools including 3 laptops but used almost none of it) and made it to the Pru in time and even found on-street parking. We saw the other teams and chatted briefly with the NPL/MysteryHunt team as Joe and I both knew some of them. The GC person then showed up and checked that all the teams (7) were there and then led us off to the Pru's food court where we were given a folder with general instructions, GC's phone number and our first puzzle. We were also given a bag of bottled waters and snacks and some Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. This was a very nice way to start and we immediately had table space to sit and work on the puzzle in the food court.

The puzzle was in the form of a greeting card like thing in the shape of Charlie Brown's head. On the inside was a long 1440 degree spiral with dots at every 30 degrees (48 total), some of which had numbers ranging from 1-8 (but no 6s and 7s) on them. There was also a quote: "Good Grief...Where do we Start?". We got nowhere with this puzzle other than noting some interesting properties of the numbers and called in for a hint the first time we could, after 30 minutes. This hint indicated this puzzle was musically based which meant I would be useless except in brainstorming and the others on the team weren't that musically expert either. We thus needed a second hint (not a good start and each hint costs us 15 minutes of time at the end) which indicated the numbers were note pitches and the other dots were rests. Doug and Nate then tried to sing the tune but their tempo was way off and nobody recognized it. Doug then called a friend who was more musically inclined than any of us and she was able to realize the tune was "Row, Row, Row your Boat". I then came back and quickly realized this, combined with the card in the shape of Charlie Brown's head, probably referred to the Head of the Charles regatta. The quote on the card suggested we were to head to the race starting line so we headed out in the car. Still not sure exactly where to go, Nate called a friend and I spoke to her and she pulled up the website and we were able to figure out that the new BU boat house two blocks from my house was the place to go - thanks Sue.

We reached the boathouse and had an enjoyable walk though the interior where a bunch of women crew were hanging out before finding the puzzle attached to the railing outside. We were in 2nd to last place and this didn't count the 30 minutes of hint time we had spent. The second puzzle was a page showing 17 pictures of celebrities with four boxes below each one's picture with one or two of the four filled in and there was a quote saying "Around here, they all start with nothing". We started filling in the people but even with pulling up pictures of people who we thought they might be on the web (Google Image search), we still weren't sure if we had the right person for 3 of them (all turned out to be wrong) and another one or two we had no idea who they were. We eventually called GC to get a hint that what we were looking for is a commonality in the celebrities, probably in their names. We eventually realized that many of them had a first or last name that was a town in MA and MapQuest led us to be sure this was the right track even though it didn't work for a couple (which we turned out to have the names wrong for). We plotted them on a map but this seemed to lead nowhere. I then went to the bathroom and just as I was walking in I had the AhHa that the numbers were zip codes, all of which start with 0 in MA. We pulled up the ZipCodes on the USPS site and found that then pulling the appropriate digits always led to numbers from 1-26 so we used the trusty A=1, B=2, ... code to turn the numbers into letters. We had only 12 correct and 2 wrong and 3 missing but were able to figure out 'Hatch Shell Fiedler' and confirm there is a Fiedler statue at the Hatch shell and we were off.

As we walked across the pedestrian bridge to the hatch shell area, we ran into the NPL team - now only about 10 mins ahead of us but we had now used 3 hints. There turned out to be 5 statues near the Hatch Shell and we found the Fiedler one (which was farther off) last. Once we got there, a GC person came up to us and semi-proposed, presenting us with a wedding ring box and saying 'Will you accept this ring?'. We did and headed back for the car and then again to my place. The box contained the puzzle foled up nicely into a ring shape. There were a bunch of lines of forms like "B:B:C:G:K:AIHC". I noted that the single letters were monotonically increasing (although there could be duplicates). Joe did a histogram of the singles and groups and realized a bunch of things: that the singles using the A=1 code were all Primes and that only the singles went above 10 using this code. We thus converted the singles into numbers and the groups into digits of larger numbers and realized this was probably a prime factoring so multipled all the numbers on a line. When all these came out to be 7 digits, we knew we were on the right track and that they were phone numbers. Nate tried calling one without any luck so I started looking them up in Google (and then at Chau's suggestion in Switchboard which was more complete). All of them were business in the 617 area code and all had names like Lace, Wood, Steel, etc... in the business name. Joe realized these were all traditional wedding anniversary gifts and I pulled up a list of these and we then used the year numbers as indexes to letters and got HOODMILKBOTTLE which we looked up and found was right by the Children's Museum. We solved this puzzle, which had a bunch of steps, in probably like 35 minutes when it would have taken like 20 minutes if one knew exactly what to do from start to finish. This is an amazing speed and required no hints and is probably what jumped us into the lead. Most of the credit on this one goes to Joe. This was also my vote for most elegant puzzle with every element from the phone numbers to the anniversary gifts tying in to the wedding ring theme.

We drove over to the Hood milk bottle (our first drive of like 5 across the Longfellow bridge) and Nate got us slightly lost as he was confused where we were going but I got us back on track and went to get the puzzle from the GC person waiting there. This one turned out to be a piece of tile from which pieces of the covering were kind of routed out. Nate realized these looked like pieces of letters and we made several rubbings of the tile using crayons. Nate tried cutting the pieces out and assembling letters but Doug had the major AhHa here when he realized that if we had multiple copies of the tile, a second would tile over the first. Joe was the first to achieve the necessary tiling which read 'Pi Alley' when read in a mirror (apparently the intent was to ink the tile and then stamp connected copies) and we looked it up on the web and I printed directions and we were off after another pretty quick solution with no hints (albeit to a much simpler puzzle).

We quickly found the GC Logo in PI Alley pointing up (which other teams had real trouble finding) but this may have hurt us as we then went up the elevator quickly trying every floor unsuccessfully and even me going out on the roof through the metal trap door. We then descended via the stairs with no luck. I then had the thought to try to go to the location as close to just above the GC Logo as possible. This turned out to be the right idea and I got our enveloped. However, Doug was lost in the garage structure and then Joe got lost when he went to find him and this cost us like 10 a bit annoying minutes.

This puzzle was 4 lines of Arabic (with the first line being in heavier type) presented as a speech balloon from a Taxi. We thus thought we had to find an Arabic speaker or a translation reference so walked around and quickly found a Border's bookstore and cafe. Doug went and got xeroxes made of the puzzle and found an Arabic speaker who told him that while, yes, the letters were arabic, the words didn't make any sense. We then found Arabic to English references in Borders and went to their cafe with them and started doing the conversions which was very tricky but we managed it, mostly done by Joe. We still weren't sure what to do although thout it might be a substitution cipher cryptogram. We called for a hint and GC basically confirmed this and said 'None of us know Arabic'. Joe got started on the cipher and Nate noticed the first line contained 22 non-duplicate letters. We thus realized the first line might be a translation key for the cipher and when, reading right-to-left as one does in Arabic, the spaces came out to be on 4 very unusual English letters, we knew we were right and did the translation. It came out to ".... so sue us. d c and h". The 'sue us' part suggested lawyers and Joe quickly realized that, given this, the 'd c and h' stood for Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe, the fictional lawyers for the Car Talk guys on NPR. We headed off to Harvard Square where anyone who listens to the show knows their offices are at.

We asked at the Information Booth by Out-of-Town News (after the clerk there didn't know their exact location) and he pointed across the street to the window on the second floor above the Curious George store. We headed up and I found them on the 2nd floor but their door was closed so I tried the next door place which was open. This turned out to be right and a nice guy who ran that shop and had been recruited by GC after TG started gave us our pick of the baskets (we were now in the lead so the first team to see him) which contained a big box of 64 Crayola Crayons and our puzzle. I chatted with the guy for a minute, discovering he had accidentally given away a few crayons to kids before GC explained things to him, and then we headed back to my place.

The puzzle was a set of 22 large boxes, each of which contained 4 small boxes, each colored in a different color (there were some repeats over the 88 boxes). There was also a quote basically indicating that what we needed was the names of the colors and that they would have something in common. As we had again returned to my place, I dealt with a few phone messages while the others figured out,
without yet identifiying any colors, that we would likely find that the names of all 4 colors in each large box shared a single letter in common. This would turn out to be right and we got to work on the color id'ing. This turned out to be very tricky as many colors were VERY similar. We ended up making 'paint chip' type sets of each group of similar colors (reds, blues, greens, yellows, greys, browns). Using these made things much easier and I probably had the best sense of which colors matched so I looked most of them up while others wrote them in and developed the 'paint chips'. We got 'Ryan Amusement' as the start and looked it up
(although I had been by Ryans many times, I hadn't been in and didn't remember the name) and called it in without needing to figure out the 'Lansdown' part and we were off.

As it would turn out, I think at this point we had won The Game. We will go on to do one more puzzle before the final puzzle but all the other teams are (I think significantly) behind and will be redirected to the final puzzle without doing the Scrabble one we will do in between.

Anyway, we arrived at Ryan's and found Matt Enlow of GC (although we didn't know his name then) dressed as a cowboy and playing a video game. He seemed more intent on the video game than on us but basically just redirected us to The Compleat Strategist store on Mass Ave. Apparently, GC had intended us to have to play the game Dance Dance Revolution for this information but this had been dropped due to time which was too bad.

At The Compleat Strategist, I ran into a colleague of mine and chatted for a moment but then got the puzzle which turned out to be a Scrabble board with all the tiles and racks glued on. I borrowed a sheet of paper and copied down enough information to reconstruct the board and we headed back to my place. On the way, Joe transferred my notes onto a graph paper version of the board. When we got to my place, we started to try all sorts of things but weren't getting great results until we found that one player could play the word 'Coke' on a Triple Word score (and the K on a Triple Letter) for 50 points. I was sure this was on the way to the solution but turned out to be wrong. This puzzle turned out to be by far the worst puzzle of the day and I think other teams should be glad to have not needed to do it. I honestly believe this puzzle is impossible without at least one hint. We ended up needing 3. The first was that the puzzle used Scrabble's version of Chess notation as a major element. The second was that we shouldn't think like we were playing Scrabble and that the tiles left on players racks were a key used to unlock a message encoded on the board. This information would have been enough to solve the puzzle except that they had done the bizarre thing of having each player treat the Scrabble notation as being from his own board perspective which honestly just doesn't make any sense. I understand why they did this (to give them access to more of the board, given their notation scheme) but it just doesn't make sense. This caused us, when we tried the right thing, to only get 25% of the right answer (that for the player who the board was oriented towards). GC's third hint indicated this rotation and we then quickly figured out the answer of 'Improv Asylum' in the North End.

By this time we had been solving for like 12 hours with no real food and just come off a long and frustrating puzzle and were hungry. However, GC made it clear our next puzzle would be our last and, when we called to ask, let us know that would have food for us at the final location so we should not stop to eat. This puzzle turned out to be two interlocking circles of letters. Most of these letters, but not quite all, spelled words but I nevertheless instantly guessed when I saw the puzzle that the words were irrelevant and only the letter strings mattered. However, others on our team weren't so sure so we did our best with the words after I tried a few Perl scripts I had on the strings of letters with no success. Anyway, after the requisite 30 minutes, we called GC and they clearly wanted us to finish and basically told us the trick to the puzzle. Joe did the work to apply their information and we were off to an apartment in Somerville.

We got a bit lost on the way but eventually found the place. All of the other teams were already there, having been redirected prior to the Scrabble (and in some cases other puzzles as well I believe) puzzle (which took us like 2 hours plus 45 minutes of hint time) and congratulated us as the winners (due to completing more puzzles and the mutual set all teams did faster) which was quite nice. There was also lots of food and drink (pizza, Indian, Chinese, beer, sodas, etc...) and a nice chance to chat with other teams and the organizers. I also got the extra 4 puzzles which no team had gotten to. We also agreed to accept the mantle of running The Game in Boston next year.

Highlights: My favorite three puzzles were the Wedding Ring puzzle, Crayons puzzle, Tile, all of which were excellent. The Arabic, Charlie Brown and Zip Codes puzzles were also good.

Lowlights: The Scrabble puzzle which I really thought was terrible. Also, for our team, our poor start on the musical Charlie Brown puzzle. which was probably a fine puzzle but we just didn't have the right skills.

I overall had a great time, as I think did the rest of Team Orange, and thanks so much to everyone at Game Control for an excellent hunt and I hope we are able to equal it next year. The one main thing I would like to add at this point is to not just go to really interesting locations around town as we did this year but also to do interesting things at those locations. They had apparently intended on a few of these (like the Dance Dance Revolution mentioned above) but ended up not doing any, unfortunately.

Posted by aarondf at 06:07 PM | Events | Comments (0)

The Game in Boston

I put together a team for The Game in Boston on Saturday and, to make a long story short, we amazingly ended up winning. This also means we will be running The Game in Boston next year which I was initially nervous about but am now looking forward to.

There were seven teams, each named after a color (we were Team Orange), competing. I didn't know most of the people but one team was a subset of an NPL/MIT Mystery Hunt team and I thought they would definitely beat us.

Anyway, I'll write a second entry with some details of the hunt. Thanks to Doug for keeping sane driving all around town with multiple people giving him directions and having to park illegally a bunch, Joe for excellent general solving, Nate for excellent phone work in keeping Game Control updated and in getting excellent hint information from them and then giving it to us in an complete, accurate and unbiased way, and Chau for all her support and making sure Doug didn't get into any accidents.

Posted by aarondf at 04:39 PM | Events | Comments (0)

April 22, 2003

Movies: Maid in Manhattan and D&D

Not that these two have anything in common beyond that I watched both this weekend. Dungeons and Dragons was as bad as I expected but for some reason I still wanted to have seen it. *1/2

Maid in Manhattan was also just what I expected, 100% predictable but light and fun and JLo's performance was quite good. There were a couple of lines in the movie which I didn't find believable from her character but in general, another romantic comedy done well. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 05:50 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 16, 2003

TV: 24

From the first 5 minutes of the premiere episode last year, I was hooked on 24. They have a talent for action scenes and suspense that is more immediately and powerfully gripping than any other show I have never seen, and despite all the plot holes, this talent has never been lost and as long as it isn't I will keep watching.

Last year, the plot really got kind of lost and unbelievable partway through the season but the acting (particularly Kiefer Sutherland of course) and action were still amazing. Still, the idea that the two people who Bauer most trusts in CTU at the start of the show BOTH turn out to be traitors is simply beyond all credulity.

This year, the plot has been more reliable and doesn't have the feeling of being rewritten partway through nearly as much. However, the unbelievable betrayals continue, although now they have switched to the President's staff. The first ones I could live with but the one last nigh of Mike, Palmer's Chief of Staff, doesn't make any sense. The idea that he thinks that the President wanting to be 100% certain that the US is attacking the right countries is crazy enough that he should be removed is a bizarre idea! Were the US to go ahead with this attack and then it to come out that they were led by the nose by planted and false information into making this attack, it would probably be the worst diplomatic fiasco in US history! In addition, Mike is currently probably the 2nd most powerful person in the US and there is no way that will hold if the VP takes over - who is going to want to keep around someone so willing to betray his friend and boss. In addition, Mike is engaging in blatantly illegal (and possibly treasonous) behavior in locking up Lynn. I just don't buy it.

Despite all this, the show remains incredibly exciting so 24 stays near the top of my TiVo Season Passes.

Posted by aarondf at 11:34 AM | Television | Comments (1)

Movies: Rules of Engagement

I probably won't usually write about average movies but am making an exception for this one. This movie stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones and they and others do an excellent job. Unfortuantely, though, I just didn't buy the premise and so the movie didn't work for me. One has to believe that the National Security Advisor would massively risk his job and mastermind a cover-up just in order to make the US look better in a case where if we were more honest, we wouldn't have looked that bad anyway so this decision just doesn't make any sense. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:23 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003

Image of London from space

Very cool image of London at night from space selected for last Friday's Astronomy Picture of the Day which regularly has very cool images. Via Neil Gaiman via
Electrolite via ...

Posted by aarondf at 04:22 PM | Links | Comments (0)

Movies: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Watched this over the weekend on DVD for the second time. Still a great movie with interesting characters, amazing fight scenes which should be totally unbelievable but aren't (even the flying stuff works) and gorgeous scenes and cinematography (I guaranteed correctly to a bunch of people this would win the Oscar for Best Cinematography). If you haven't seen it, rush out to rent it. By the way, my DVD had as its default setting dubbings in English which I dislike so I switched it to the original Mandarin with English subtitles. *****

Posted by aarondf at 12:59 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

UConn Wins

Congratulations to the UConn women on their back-to-back championship. Taurasi played an amazing game and in general their shooting was just incredible. To be destroyed on the boards and still win comfortably is just amazing. Apparently Tennessee was noticeably favored but I am really not clear why. UConn had only lost one game all season while Tennessee lost four. Also, UConn has Diana and Tennessee, while certainly an excellent team with an excellent coach, just doesn't have anybody that is nearly as good and in big games superstars usually stand out.

I have to admit I thought that UConn was going to lose in the semis and that they were in many ways outplayed in that game but this team just has always had an incredible ability to find a way to win whatever the circumstances. Credit for this certainly has to go to Geno Auriemma.

I am sorry Doug missed these Repeat titles :(

Posted by aarondf at 11:25 AM | Sports | Comments (0)

April 08, 2003

Basketballs are Orange Today

Congratulations fo Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orangemen on winning the NCAA tournament last night. They played a nearly perfect game for most of the first half, putting on an incredible display of 3 point shooting, and then managed to hang on in the second half as Kansas went 12 for 30 at the free throw line - an astoundingly horrible percentage and including missing several front ends of 1 and 1s. Still, despite this and some poor Syracuse shooting in the second half, this was a game where both teams put everything they had on the floor. Carmello Anthony won the MVP and was certainly the best player on the floor but was obviously seriously hampered by his back injury or Kansas would surely have never been able to come as close as they did to getting all the way back. Even though all he hit was the 6 3's in the first half, I would have given McNamarra the MVP as this was really where the game was won.

Boeheim and Roy Williams, the Kansas coach, were apparently the two NCAA Men's Division I coaches with the most tournament wins but without a championship. It was thus clearly going to be a great night for one of them and a painful one for the other. I was glad to see Boeheim get it as he is older and seems less sure to have other chances in the future.

My hopes are with the UConn Women tonight.

Posted by aarondf at 04:29 PM | Sports | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

Games: Acquire

Played Acquire on Friday in a very unhappy game. I think this was the first time I have played with 3 and wonder if what happened is a common experience with this number. I was pretty well positioned in a lot of the
mergable chains after the initial buying period (before the first merger). However, the first chains merged were the only ones I had nothing in and after that no mergers happened for a good while, during which time the other two players spent their bonus money to make it so my position was much worse. In addition, I only drew one at all useful merger tile really the whole game and could only get 2nd place out of it. I was thus way behind and had no way to catch up but had to sit around for the rest of the game. In addition, my turns, even when buying stock, always took seconds (as I had planned my purchases in advance) while one player was extremely slow, taking probably 3-5 minutes per turn. All in all, this was excruciating and I took to going over to watch another game between turns which isn't that appropriate but I had nothing to do and time between turns was way long. The one chain which I had a full majority in and which started the game as the most central of all the chains ended up being the 3rd to last merger. For a large portion of the game, this two tile chain (with 6 neighboring spots) had 5 merge points.

Very unenjoyable game and I wonder if Acquire regularly has this problem with 3? If players were playing quickly, it wouldn't have been that big a deal but at the pace of the slow player, sitting around was excruciating.

Posted by aarondf at 02:11 PM | Games | Comments (0)

Movies: Bend it Like Beckham

Best 'feel-good' movie I have seen in a long time. Went to see it on Saturday and, although extremely predictable, this was a huge amount of fun and the characters were all extremely appealing, particularly the very
pretty Jules.

I think 'Ebert & Roeper' compared this movie to 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' which is a pretty reasonable comparison, this one trying to do for Indian culture what 'Greek' did for Greek culture. However, all the characters and plot are much more believable in this one, not purely stereotypes but interesting characters in their own right.

As it hasn't had a huge release, here's a quick summary of the plot. Jesminder (Jess) is an Indian girl in London just about to graduate from high school with a love for soccer. Her parents want her to give up the game and find someone to marry but she loves soccer and is an extremely skilled player (she plays a forward but works particularly well in serving balls to her partner in front, Jules). She ends up joining a new womens team and is forced to lie to her parents, who demand she stop playing. ****1/2

Oh, cute spotting note. Noticed several of the characters drinking from glasses like some I ordered from France at a craft store in February (which still haven't arrived but are supposedly now on their way). I probably paid way too much for them but did really like them and didn't realize they were more widely available.

Posted by aarondf at 01:59 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 04, 2003

New Tichu players

Played Tichu last night with two new players. J, who was my partner, had read the rules and stuff on my site and is a bridge player so grasped things more easily and enjoyed it and played another game or two right afterwards which is nice. It is quite nice for me to have someone who read my stuff before play although I think the Strategy Guide is much more useful to players who have already played a few games, or at least that is certainly how it was intended. My hope is that it can take a player who has played 3-5 times or so and then, if she carefully reads it and tries to apply it in practice, bootstrap her over a large part of the learning curve. I am not sure how many people really do this, however.

Oh, also, I feel confirmed in my belief that Trumpet is an almost entirely random game and hope that my second play of it was also my last.

Posted by aarondf at 11:28 AM | Games | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003

Movies: Life as a House

I rented this a few weeks ago but enjoyed it enough to write it up here
now, particularly as I don't remember seeing any trailers for it in 2001, when it was made.

'Life as a House' stars Kevin Kline as an architectural modeler (he builds models for architects to use to show off what a building would look like) who is already divorced, estranged from his son, and living in a house that he hates and now he has what should be the worst day of his life. He loses his job, goes on a rampage there as he leaves, and discovers he has terminal cancer with only a short while to live. However, what should be his worst day turns out to be his best as he determines to do what he can to use his last few months as well as he can.

He decides to build a house which he designed many years ago but has never managed to build and to try to fix his relationship with his son and try to help him (who is a psychologicial mess due to his estrangement from pretty much everyone) in the process. The movie is extremely well-done and three outstanding performances stand out in it: Kevin Kline as the main character, Kristen Scott Thomas as his ex-wife who has now married a wealthy man but whose new family is cold as ice and dysfunctional, and Jena Malone in a wonderful performance as a teenage girl (which she was) who is amazingly precocious and outspoken. Malone's character is the daughter of a single woman who was Kline's ex-lover and is interested (but in an interesting way) in Kline's son.

This movie is for the most part very predictable after the initial introductory scenes but the writing and acting are so good that one doesn't care. The house they build on a bluff overlooking the Pacific is also beautiful and serves as a wonderful setting. Again, the characters are real and believable. The transformation of Kline's son, played by Hayden Christiansen, is extreme but the crucible he is put through is quite poweful. Highly recommended. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:46 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

Movies: A Walk on the Moon vs Unfaithful

I just watched Unfaithful for which Diane Lane was nominated for the Oscar and found it interesting how similar it was to a movie I watched a few weeks ago, 'A Walk on the Moon'.

In both movies, Diane Lane plays (and does so wonderfully) a housewife who is unfaithful to her (good looking and loving) husband. However, the two movies handle this very differently and I found 'Walk' to be the much better movie.

Quick descriptions of the two movies, focusing on the connections and
differences between them.

Unfaithful: modern-day, absolutely gorgeous lover, the relationship appears to be entirely about the sex and escapism of the affair. Also, the movie jumps the tracks midway through. It should have focused on the effects on the relationship (as Walk does) and instead becomes something very different and not very interesting. The affair is presented well and Lane and her lover are both gorgeous but the movie just isn't that good. **

A Walk on the Moon: set in 1969 at the time of Woodstock and the Apollo 11 mission (both of which play a major and relevant role in the movie). Here the issue is about the times and the restrictions placed on women and how Lane is looking for something different from her life. Her husband is kind and loving but an extreme square and her mild efforts to expand her life and their relationship haven't worked. Meeting a gorgeous and interesting man (played by Viggo Mortensen who also plays Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films - in both he is excellent), she ends up in an affair where she can explore her sensual side and the changing times (as they go to Woodstock for a day). When her husband discovers the affair, the movie only gets better with real explorations of reasonable reactions from all three characters. Lane's character still loves her husband but doesn't want to return to the same old life and must make a hard choice. Her husband is of course extremely angry but comes to realize why she did what she did and eventually forgive her enough to try again. He also realizes his own weaknesses and determines to make what effort he can to try to make things better (very well shown in the last seen). Mortensen's character is well handled as well. He really loves Lane and does not disappear as a used and now thrown away character when the affair is discovered. Instead, he actually meets the husband in a very believable scene for both men. Lane's daughter has a side-story that is also very well done. The Summer of Love music (Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, Hendrix, etc...) also is wonderful and blends perfectly. Every character in this movie is believalbe, a rare thing. Highly recommended. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:46 PM | Movies | Comments (1)

Playing with MT/CSS

Although I write a lot of web pages, I for the most part try to keep them quite simple, supporting ancient browsers. This is going to be my first site where I don't worry at all about old browsers.

Freed from this restriction, I get to play with CSS and am learning by doing MT's way of doing things. So far so good.

Oh, one other general comment. I expect this blog to have less links in the entries than most. I have a LOT of links on my main pages and lots of stuff is easy to look up (for example; games and movies via the 'Resources' links in the sidebar) so I will only make things be links if I am referring to a specific site or piece of content. If you want to look them up, you'll have to find games and movies and such yourselves.

Posted by aarondf at 11:46 AM | Meta , Tech | Comments (0)

April 01, 2003

Welcome to Musings of the Hearth

Welcome to Musings of the Hearth.

Well, I've been on the web for a long time but am certainly late on the blog scene but figured I'd give it a shot. Some introductory stuff here on what you might expect (although who knows what will really happen).

I expect my main focus will be on Games, Movies, Television, the Web, activities I'm involved in and whatever I feel like ranting about at a given moment.

The name: Well, every blog seems to have to have its own strange name. This one is a play on other 'of the heart' names but the main element is that my web site is called The Last Homely House, modeled after the house of Elrond in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Well, one of the rooms in that House is the Hall of Fire and that is where most writing and thinking goes on. The hearth is of course the centerpiece of that room.

Anyway, enjoy and Happy April Fools Day!


Posted by aarondf at 02:15 PM | Meta | Comments (0)