The Christmas Events Keep on Rolling In.

As I stated in the last post (And So Starts the Christmas Season), Christmas is usually TABOO for me until after Thanksgiving.  I blogged about making an exception for Disney's A Christmas Carol in that last post.  What I forgot to factor in was our concert plans the very next week... (Last Night). 

So I stand corrected... AGAIN.

Last night, I attended my first "Arena" style concert since 1992.  In 1992 I saw "The Cure" during their "Disintegration" Tour.  It was held at the Target Center in Minneapolis.  Last night, I made my triumphant return to "Arena Concerts" at (of all places) the Target Center in Minneapolis! 

The Mother of Five and I saw this year's "Trans-Siberian Orchestra"  Christmas show! 

Who is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra you ask?  Let me show you!

TSO takes classical music (including some classic Christmas music) and uses "artistic license" to create a Rock and Roll sound to the original.  You can usually pick up on the original in the background, but what TSO does to that original piece is nothing short of AMAZING!

First of all, I want to thank my Cousin Bob, who helped me find tickets to this show.  By the time I heard about it, it was almost all but sold out, and I was having a hard time finding tickets.  Bob (being as connected as he is in the music industry) lead me in the right direction for some AWESOME seats!! 

Bob, you ROCK!

We started our day off by a trip to the Mall of AmericaWe The Mother of Five had some returns to take care of (I HATE returning items... but that is a story for another time) so we took care of our returns, then burned up the better part of three hours shopping.  We wrapped up our Mall excursion with a a delightful dinner at Tony Roma's.  I had a delightful Grilled Asian Chicken Salad, while the Mother of Five enjoyed a Grilled Chicken Sonoma Salad.  After dinner we took the Light Rail from the Mall to the Target Center in Downtown Minneapolis.

Once we arrived we found our seats.  We were surprised to see that our seats were front row, and dead center of the second section back on the main floor.  We were 20 rows back from the center of the main stage, and we had an isle in front of us to stretch our legs out.  At least for a "tall and fat" guy like me, that is nothing less than PERFECT

All we could say when we saw the seats was WOW!

I do not remember the Target center being so small.  I had main floor seating for "The Cure" as well, but it seemed (as my memory serves me) that we were so much further back...

The concert itself was AMAZING!  It certainly was not as loud as I remember concerts being (which means I am loosing my hearing, or they were not as loud)...  That was until they played an encore that was a sample from their upcoming "Night Castle" tour set list.  They turned the volume up.... WAY UP... for these songs... and it was AMAZING

What TSO does with classical music, and traditional Christmas songs is something to be seen!  The CD's are great, but seeing it preformed live, with fire - and laser displays, and smoke, and sparks, and falling snow, and....  Well - it is (for me) a forgotten way to enjoy music.  Live, loud, and preformed!

Please forgive the quality of these photos.  They were taken with my 1.3mp camera phone, and in the dark - so the quality is less than stellar...

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And So Starts the Christmas Season

And let me tell you... Nothing makes me sicker than even THINKING about Christmas before Thanksgiving...  but this year I made an exception.  One single and special exception.  

As previously noted in...

A Christmas Treasure

A Christmas Treasure Part 2

I have a certain affinity for a couple of very specific versions of  Charles Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol".  Couple that with a low tolerance for different versions, and you end up with a recipe for an "A Christmas Carol" snob.  Let me spell it out for you.  As far as I am concerned, there are four acceptable versions of the story. 

  • First and foremost - there is the original and unabridged Charles Dickens manuscript.  The book, if you will. 

  • Then, there is my "all-time-never-to-be-replaced favorite version", the Lionel Barrymore version recorded on MGM records in 1955 (which IS NOT the "Campbell's Playhouse" version - although they are very similar.

  • My third favorite version, is the 1951 film "Scrooge" staring Alastair Sim - (the black and white version). 

  • The fourth version that is "acceptable" (in my humble opinion) is another audio only recording.  It is the 1941 version recorded by Decca records that stars Ronald Coleman as Ebenezer Scrooge.  It's sort of my "back up" audio version.

AChristmasCarol So, when I first noticed the television commercial for Disney's A Christmas Carol (available in digital 3D) I was apprehensively curious about it.  I viewed it as another potential version bound for nether-regions of my mind as "forgettable", yet on the other hand, the previews sure seemed good.

My dad and I share similar opinions on the different versions of "A Christmas Carol".  The above listed versions have been a big part of our family rituals growing up, and (I am fairly certain) they are as meaningful to him as they are to me.  So, for his birthday, we took my Mom and Dad out - and saw "Disney's A Christmas Carol - in digital 3D" to give it a try.

We saw it last week (which is way ahead of my "No Christmas before Thanksgiving" rule) - but given the prospect of my schedule, the Mother of Five's schedule, and my parent's schedules - it was "speak now, or forever hold your peace" (i.e.  violate my own rule).

First off, it was so much fun seeing A Christmas Carol with my parents!  As kids they used to take us to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts screening of the Aliastair Sim film "Scrooge".  It was a holiday tradition of ours for MANY years.  Somewhere along the line (for us boys it's called the three W's...  Work, Women, and Wheels), or was it that the Art Institute stopped playing it (I do not remember) - but somewhere along the line, the tradition ceased... 

Secondly... My thoughts on the movie. 

(Spoiler warning... in as much as you can be "spoiled" on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge... I think most people know how it ends...)

a_christmas_carol First off, I have never seen a 3D movie before.  It was quite the experience.  Given our four choices - 2D regular theater, 3D regular theater, "Muller Monster Screen" (2D)**, or Imax 3D (at almost twice the price) - we chose the 3D regular sized screen.

** The Muller Monster Screen is a screen that is 80 feet wide (twice as wide as my house) and 35 feet tall (3 stories tall).  It is the largest theatre screen in Minnesota, and the auditorium seats nearly 600 people in high back rocker chair seats.

Watching this movie in 3D (and my first experience in 3D) did have some affect on my opinion (both good and bad).

The imagery was nothing less than STUNNING.  The flyovers of late nineteenth century London was quite amazing.  In the days of natural gas and LP heating, we forget what a densely populated city in a cold climate would look like with all the houses burning wood and coal.  Tufts of black soot spewing from rooftops as far as the eye could see! 

The Character of Ebenezer Scrooge was done very well.  Despite his exaggerated features (hook nose and extended "witch like" chin) - it fit well within the movie. 

Picture-217Again, the 3D was quite amazing, but I did feel that (at times) the story itself was modified to take advantage of the 3D.  There has always been flying over the city in the story, but sliding over rooftops, with icicles flying at him, or shrinking and sliding down downspouts and gutters??

Jim Carey as Ebenezer Scrooge (not to mention several other characters)?  Wonderful performance.  I do enjoy Jim Carey, and his portrayal of Ebenezer was truly enjoyable.  I can not confirm this fact, but you can almost hear his enthusiasm for this roll coming through his voice. 

And the story... The story itself stayed pretty close to true.  I counted three of the scenes I have always felt important (even though not all of them were part of the ORIGINAL book) to the story that were missing...

#1 - Ebenezer's Sister Bell's deathbed request that Ebenezer take care of her son Fred.  She died just after giving birth, and whispers her request with all that she has left - only to NOT be heard by Ebenezer.  Scrooge's realization that he did not fulfill his sisters deathbed wish, and understanding that he blamed Fred for the loss of his sister is a crucial turning point in Ebenezer's "turn".

#2 - Jacob Marley's Deathbed scene.  Although the movie starts with Ebenezer and Jacob's undertaker with Jacob laying in a wooden casket shows Ebenezer's lack of caring for his fellow man - it does so only after his best friend has died.  I think an important part of the story is hearing (seeing) that Ebenezer has lackluster feelings towards his best friends death - even while siting with him in his last moments.  Then, to immediately turn back to the cold and calculating "scrooge" only seconds after he passes - is yet another example of showing the cold and cruel "Ebenezer" before his realization and subsequent "turn" to good.

#3 - The Cratchet's on Christmas Morning.  After Ebenezer's "turn" he orders the "Prize Turkey" hanging in the butcher's window... To be delivered to Bob Cratchet and family on Christmas Morning... He does so anonymously, and the shock and surprise of receiving the turkey on Christmas Morning is one of the scenes that shows that Ebenezer's makeover is complete.  He does so selflessly.  He has no intent of showing up to partake, nor does he choose to let the Cratchets know it was he who did it. 

With the addition of these three scenes, Disney would have (in my opinion) hit the ball out of the park..  I do not know if this is the case, but I felt these scenes were sacrificed so they could add additional 3D scenes that are visual ONLY.  (Sliding down rooftops, gutters, and downspouts). 

They did add one scene (3D in nature) that I felt DID enhance the movie.


After the movie ended, #4 of 5 and The Mother of Five said they did not get the part of the movie where he shrunk down, and was being chased by a horse and carriage..  I shared with them my thoughts on this... The shrinking down part was added (I felt) as a 3D enhancement, so Ebeneezer could slide down pipes sewers and gutters in 3D, but the fact that he was being chased by horses (evil horses with red eyes) and a phantom (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come) driver of the carriage was significant.  The carriage was a shadowy image of a horse drawn hearse of days gone by...  Ebenezer running from the hearse (death) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (his unchanged evil ways of the past) would eventual catch up him, and be his undoing.

- - - -

Dispite the movie's few and minor shortcomings, it's true to story, visual impact, and even a little bit of artistic license (see above), I truly did enjoy this version of the movie.  Since we still have a few "little ones" at home, I am certain that this movie will become part of our collection, and something we enjoy (at least for the foreseeable future).

Thanks Disney... Maybe not "out of the park", but I'd definitely say a home run on this one!

School Marathon - 2009

I grew up attending parochial schools.

For anyone (about my age) who attended any of the private / parochial schools in Minnesota's Twin Cities - you will have memories of participating in the "The Marathon".  

Back when we participated in The Marathon, it was an all day event where all the local schools got together on the same day, each setting up their own picnic area within the boundaries of Minneahaha Park (home of Minnehaha Falls).  Most would set up picnic shelters, tents, and canopies with colorful signs and banners identifying which school's gathering area this was.

There would be coolers filled with pop and water,  burgers and hotdogs on grills (manned by the dads), tables of pot-luck style side dishes (manned by the moms) that were brought by each of the participating families as a dish to share.

Once you arrived and checked in with your school, you were free to head out (walking, biking, or running) along a pre-determined route (closed off to local traffic) along West River Parkway up to the University Avenue Bridge, and then head back down the East River Parkway back to Minnehaha Park, where you would check back in with your school.  Once you completed the route, you would gather with other families and celebrate with fellow students, families, and Alumni.  It became quite the "social event" for us "parochial schoolers"....

(I'll see if my parents have any photos from the old Marathon days....)

The annual Minnesota Marathon for Non-Public Education is still around, but has evolved into a slightly different incarnation of its former self. (Excerpt taken from their website)

The Minnesota Marathon for Nonpublic Education is a fun and effective way to raise funds, and public awareness for your school.

Since 1974, Marathon events have given students, school families, faculty members and others an opportunity to show their school pride while generating important financial support for school programs. With fun events and service projects, the Marathon has served communities while supporting nonpublic education.

In 1975, the State Council of the Knights of Columbus joined the effort. Since then, the Knights have provided financial support for Marathon events across the state.

Typically, students solicit donations for walk-a-thons, bike marathons, community clean-up events and service projects matching students with community needs.

Our kids' WONDERFUL little school, St. John the Baptist (being a private school) participates annually in “The Marathon”.   St. John's has put together a Marathon program they call "Hands to Serve, Hearts to God"

Through “Hands to Serve, Hearts to God” the school participates in service project(s) geared to enrich our local community.  Specifically…

  • The preschoolers clean and dust the sanctuary of our church. 
  • The Kindergartners (#5 of 5's class) and first graders hold a musical production for the residents of Shule Haus (our local nursing home).   (Photo below)
  • The rest of the school (#4 of 5's class) participate in a fall lawn clean up for the
  • elderly, or for those who are unable to clean their yard before winter by raking and bagging leaves....


The participants are broken up into small groups that consist of one school representative, several parental volunteers, and between 6-10 students and spread around the community to complete our service. Each group is given a list of homes to serve (this year each group had four).


Once a group has completed their list, a call is made to the school (to see if any other group is in need of help) – and either provide help to another group, or head back for hot dogs and caramel apples (at least that was this year’s fare)

I have participated in years past, but for the past few years, I have been working a “day-watch” (7am-3pm) schedule – and therefore unable to attend.

This year, the scheduled day of The Marathon (Friday) was rained out, and delayed until the next school day (Monday). Since the Mother of Five took Friday off, and I was on my days off on Monday – this year’s parental volunteer from our house fell back on me.

The day was PERFECT! The weather cooperated. The sun was out, and it was cool but not cold outside. I was assigned to the same group my daughter (#4 of 5) was assigned to. Our group was given a list of four houses that are closest to the school. Because we received the houses closest to the school, we walked to our target address (as opposed to a couple of the groups who were bussed) and once there, we started in the task at hand.


Note to self…

Raking up a yard full of leaves would be SO MUCH EASIER if it did not involve groups of elementary school aged kids jumping into MONSTER piles of leaves (re-distributing them around the yard) you are trying to clean them up.

Oh, don’t get me wrong here… I understand the whole premise of teaching the kids the importance and value of volunteering – and to be completely honest, I think the senior citizens that we were helping (and were watching us from their windows) enjoyed watching the kids involved in their “shenanigans” – I’m just sayin’ it would be SO MUCH EASIER!!

Once we finished our four houses, we checked in with the school, and were asked to help another group with their last house – bringing our total number of yards cleaned to five before we headed back to partake in the hot dogs and caramel apples.


At the end of the day, between all the groups, our little school / church had a clean sanctuary, the residence of the Shule Haus had a wonderful afternoon of being sung to, and a total of 34 homeowners of our little community (who would normally be unable to clean their own yards) got their yards raked and readied for winter – not to mention the opportunity to demonstrate the value of volunteering and community service to our children, and raise a little bit of money for our school too!

Reaching out...

Temporary post...

I am looking for Greg from "It's Not about the Badge".  Greg, use the "contact me" link on the right sidebar to send me an email... Just wondering how things have been going for you!

Halloween 2009

Between being very busy, not feeling well, insomnia, chromic fatigue, and a car that is starting to act up, fall clean up, and now Halloween (and subsequent celebrations) - the FOF blog has gotten pretty neglected as of late.

So in place of a REAL post, I am going to throw some photos at you of our Halloween festivities. 

#5 of 5 in the yellow ciricle

This is a photo of the Halloween program #5 of 5's class held.. 

#5 of 5 is circled in yellow...

As a "Service Project" the kindergarten class road tripped it to our local nursing home, and put on a sing-song-show for the residents of the Schule Haus Retirement Center.


Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!Copious amounts of cupcakes!Just a few of the snacks set up for the kids "Night Before Halloween Party" with their friends.

A "Sam's Club" sized box of Halloween decorated cupcakes.

Believe it or not, we even had leftovers the next day (that we sent home with #1 of 5)


Rat-a-tat-cat - nice and quiet!Wii-fest - LOUD! 

#4 of 5
and her friend playing a game of "Rat-a-tat-cat", and the "Wii Station"
Upstairs, the girls were calm and quiet... like little ladies - while the boys downstairs, were loud and obnoxious!


#4 of 5 helped FOF set up the pumpkins!Rabbit Ears! 

Time to set up the pumpkins!

If you look closely in the second photo, you can see some "rabbit ears" that our pumpkins seemed to sprout.


Kitten Close upKitten #1Color Camaflauge Clown#1 and #2 stayed at home, tending the fire while #3 dressed up as a ghoul (no photos) and went out wit a friend. 

#4 was a colorfully camouflaged clown and #5 of 5 was dressed as a kitty!


#5 of 5 on the right!#4 of 5 with the rainbow cat in the hat hat 

#5 of 5 with a group of her friends (they were two kitty's and a leopard)

#4 of 5 with a group of her friends.... (#4 is the one with the colorful hat)


Before and after shots of the gathering area in our driveway.

This year, we were one of the only families with a fire bowl set up...  And we had several sets of parents stop by to "warm up".

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