Wednesday

My First Escape Room

 

  

While I was in Utah a few weeks ago, I went to my first escape room with my sister Heather and her family. I had no idea what to expect really. We went to Alcatraz Escape Rooms and picked a Harry Potter themed room. 

They put us and another group of 4 or 5 (total strangers to us--my first thought was that I would have to work and talk with people I didn't know) into a dark room the size of a small dining room. I'm looking around completely clueless about how to start while they went over the rules. Then we were off. 

Everyone starts scrambling and I have no idea what to scramble for. I noticed that there were colored pennants on the wall. Most people were working on figuring out what the two foot columns were for when I called out that there were pennants on the wall. Someone who knew what they were doing decided to match the colors with the columns to get a combination. Okay then, I see how this works now.

There was a chest set with a clue to find the white queen's winning play with several examples of the game board. This is where I become both brilliant and a complete moron at the same time. Brilliant, because I know enought about chess that I immediately knew the correct sequence and loaded them on the board. A moron because as soon as I placed the final piece a trap door opened in the wall behind me and a wand popped out. I give the wand to my sister's daughter, but I did not get the connection that it came from the chess piece. I don't know how much more time I wasted trying to figure out that chess game that I had already solved. 

It so it went. I had moments of brilliance and moments of being utterly clueless. It was really fun though, with lots of laughter and even working with strangers who were okay. It seems like we were smarter than we gave ourselves credit for because we kept second-guessing ourselves. We ended up escaping with five minutes to spare so Huzzah to us! 

I highly recommend these as good family fun! 

Sunday

White Smoke: Review

 

White SmokeWhite Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book more than I thought I would. It's the kind of story where you want to skip ahead to see how it ends, but don't dare because you don't want to miss one darn word.
Mari, the main character, has personality and attitude, but can she trust what she is seeing? She's coming off a situation where her family can't take her word for anything, leaving us readers wondering if she is a reliable narrator. What is going on? Is the house/neighborhood haunted? Is there a conspiracy? Every citizen is suscipious and creepy. This is NOT a town you want to move to.
I cannot wait to introduce this story to my freshmen students. They are going to be as caught up as I was.

View all my reviews

Saturday

Top Gun: Maverick

Pat and I went to see the new Top Gun today and I am so glad to have experienced it in the theatre. I loved it. For those who haven't seen the original ~~ wait, why haven't you seen the orginal? Nevermind that. For those who haven't seen the original, the movie stands on its own so it will still be awesome. However, for those who have seen the first, this one pays beautiful homage. 

What I loved: That the scenes we loved from the first TG were duplicated, giving us fans big nostalgia, yet each scene played out in a completely different manner with the new characters and the new storyline with Maverick learning new life lessons. 

The original scenes had a beginning ramped up action with Maverick pulling an unbelieveable stunt against a Russian Mig. 

TG: Maverick starts with a harrowing action scene with Maverick pulling an unbelieveable stunt as a test pilot. Both stunts land him in trouble. And he is sent to Top Gun. This time as an instructor. 

 Yes, he once again races his motorcycle with the jet. 


The bar scene is replicated, which moves into the the scene where the new pilots are in the hanger and are introduced to their instuctor (this time Maverick) who they embarrassed themselves with at the bar. 

 They begin amazing training exercises and they soon learn Maverick's skill. The pilots take their shirts off and play sports. There is a training accident and then a funeral. Maverick again moves into his dark moment or all is lost scene and has to do something balls-to-the-wall to pull himself through it. They go on their mission, have a dog fight. I won't go into too much more detail about that except that it is so much fun to watch, espescially in the movie theatre with the rumbling vibrating through your bones. 

They even manage to get Maverick back into an F-15 with a plausible reason. So much more I could gush about and so many more little Easter eggs dropped in but I don't want to spoil too much. 

 Other things I loved: 
 The similar rivalry between the two top pilots. 

 Characterization. From a writer's perspective the way they introduced each of the new pilot's character was true genius. During training, the way the pilots flew, whether playing it safe, leaving their wingman, sacrificing themselves, or being gutsy showed who they were in a really quick and unique way. Honestly, I learned from that and want to figure out how to do that in my writing. Not with pilots obviously, because that's not what I write, but it's got my brain percolating. 

 Themes: After their crash, Maverick is holding Goose in the ocean. One of the rescue team says, "You got to let him go, sir." Then shortly after Goose dies, Viper tells Maverick "You gotta let them go." He repeats it for emphasis. In the new movie Iceman gives Maverick that same advice. He also repeats it for emphasis. 

 And speaking of Iceman: The scene he is in with Maverick is amazing. That's all I'm going to say, but dang. Just dang. Maybe it was more impactful because I had recently watched the documentary "Val". I highly recommend it. 

 Another line brought back from the origianl: When Charlie analyizes Maverick's move with the Russian Mig, he says, "You don't have time to think up there. If you think, you're dead." This line is brought back in the new movie when Maverick tells Rooster, Goose's son, that he is thinking too much while flying. "Don't think, just do." Then Rooster tells Maverick the same thing when Maverick is being too cautious to engage the enemy. The twist is that they are in the F-15 and Rooster is in the same seat as his father. Maverick is only thinking about not losing Goose's son the same way he lost Goose and not doing what needs to be done to save them both. 

Maverick's goals: 
In the original, Maverick wanted to be the best and prove that he wasn't his father.
In the new one, his goal is much more selfless. He wants to train his pilots well enough that they will come home from a mission that the navy deems is important enough to have "acceptable losses". 

 There is just so much I loved about this. Top Gun was amazing. Top Gun: Maverick is spectacular. It was made with a lot of thought for the fans and what we loved about the original but it also paid attention to making a new and better plot, keeping in mind the growth that has already transformed Maverick. His character still has things to learn but he didn't back-step and have to relearn the lessons from before. That would have been lame. The action sequences and even the mission objective were better. It's great. It's really really great. Well worth seeing.