Friday, November 30, 2018

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) directed by Peyton Reed

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has only a few days left on his plea-bargained house arrest after he got in trouble helping out Captain America during the events of Civil War (i.e. the big fight at the German airport). He's kept himself busy starting up a new company with some ex-con friends (including the delightful Michael Pena), playing with his daughter, and taking lots of baths. His latest bath includes a weird dream where he was Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Janet was partners with the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). She was lost in the Quantum Realm twenty-some years ago. She's also the mother of Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who has been working with her father Hank to save Janet from the Quantum Realm. Turns out his dream wasn't just a dream, because father and daughter opened a portal to the Quantum Realm just when Scott had the dream. The dream had details about Janet that Scott didn't know. Hope and Hank kidnap Scott from his house arrest so that they can finally get their loved one back.

The only problem is the FBI, who want to bust Scott for breaking the agreement. And the black-market tech dealer, who wants to steal Hank's equipment to make a huge profit. And the mysterious quantum-phasing person, who is also after Hank's equipment for unexplained reasons. Make that three problems.

If you think I used the word "quantum" too many times in this plot summary, this movie is not for you. They throw the term around like a magician saying "presto" or "abracadabra." This unexplained science is basically no different from magic, which is fine if you are just going along for the ride. The movie is very fun and imaginative. The fights and chases use the shrinking/growing power of Ant-Man and the Wasp to great effect. The on-going truth serum gag also works surprisingly well. The fake science is well-handled to advance the plot and infuse lots of fun jokes.

This movie also has to be the huggiest superhero movie I've ever seen. A lot of comforting and happy reunions happen (which I guess is a spoiler, but not really). Every character with the exception of the tech dealer is at least two-dimensional. The movie shows sympathetic sides of the bad guys and unattractive sides of the good guys. The movie is not morally complicated but does introduce enough gray shades to give it the right amount of depth. Viewers actually care about the characters, which is important when there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo and CGI going on.

Marvel delivers another fun action/comedy movie--Recommended.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ravens Hospitality Tent Volunteering 2018

Our church's youth group usually volunteers for handing out programs at Baltimore Ravens home games.

Ravens Stadium
Occasionally the group is called upon to staff the hospitality tents outside the stadium. Corporations or individuals can rent a tent for two and a half hours before game time. The stadium provides food and drinks and thirty tickets to the game per tent. We volunteers had to show up earlier for our shift but the shift ended just before the game, so we had more time to enjoy afterwards. Orientation was pretty easy--check that each person had an ID for their tent. The game was right after Thanksgiving, played against the Oakland Raiders. So only ten tents sold.

Our work area before anyone got there

We had more than enough volunteers to cover the tents, so we were able to take breaks and wander around. The most popular wandering spot is Ravens Walk, a wide sidewalk path between the Ravens Stadium and Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play. Lots of vendors and other attractions line the streets for pre-game festivities and giveaways.

Some of Ravens Walk

Dunkin' Donuts was giving away free coffee (since it was in the high 40s temperature-wise) and Safeway had free snacks. Some companies offered activities. Under Armour had a bucking raven, much like the bucking broncos popular in southwestern (and southwestern-themed) bars. I did not try it.

The bucking raven

A hapless rider

Further down the walk was a stage with a band playing, a fun sight at 10 in the morning!

Yes, people were drinking too

The Maryland Zoo sponsors two mascots for the team. Rise and Conquer were on display and ready for their photo to be taken with fans. No autographs.

On display

A closer look

One spot showed the handprint of quarterback Joe Flacco, the team's main quarterback. He was out with an injury and Lamar Jackson played in this particular game.

My hand, smaller than his

A few members of the marching band played for the crowd around the stadium. As part of the tent party package, the small band came and played a few songs.

A sampling of the Marching Ravens

One of our tents was rented by a couple. It was the husband's birthday and thirty of their friends came. The band played Happy Birthday along with a few other tunes.

Serenading the birthday boy

While we were manning the tent, someone brought their massive mastiff by. Only service animals are allowed in the stadium, so they were just out for a walk among all the excitement.

Not looking too excited

As the game drew closer, the full band came marching into the stadium.

Marching Ravens marching in

The tents closed at 12:30, so we were able to clean up and return our stuff before the 1 p.m. kickoff. One benefit of working the tents is getting to eat leftover food. The vendors can't take the food back into the stadium and they would throw it away otherwise, so we went in and had a taste of the good life. I ate beef tips and crab cakes, with mac and cheese and fruit sides. They also had popcorn and cookies. We had a nice meal before we had to turn in our badges and get complimentary tickets. We didn't get to our seats until the game had already started. We had some really good seats.

View from my seat

If you're Santa Claus, you can afford front row seats

The game was exciting, with the Ravens up by three points at the half. For the halftime show, two local high school teams faced off on matching obstacle courses in hopes of winning free jerseys from a sponsor.

Football-style obstacle course

The other half of the halftime show was a short concert by LoCash, a country music duo. The concert stage was the same area as the marching band--across the stadium from our seats. Our best view was on the big screens.

Watching the concert

The guys are over in there somewhere

At the end of the third quarter, the cheer leading squad had a big performance on our end of the stadium. We watched the full team put on an impressive performance.

All the cheerleaders

The Ravens put on an impressive performance too, winning the game 34 to 17. I had fun volunteering and watching the game and am looking forward to the last game on December 30. Hopefully it won't be too cold!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim

Prime Baby written and drawn by Gene Luen Yang and colors by Derek Kirk Kim

Thaddeus has a big problem--he's been upstaged by a new-born sister. She's cute and gets lots of attention. Thaddeus can't compete until he comes up with a theory that she communicates through primary numbers. All she says is "ga" but she says it only in multiples that are prime numbers. He declares her not only an alien, but the first part of a massive alien invasion. His parents and his school chums are not convinced.

The story is very imaginative and surprisingly humane. Thaddeus is a bit of a brat but suffers for his world view. He slowly learns to appreciate others in his life in a way that doesn't seem hamfisted or over the top. It's a sweet story told in a standard newspaper three-panel comic format. The series originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine from 2008 to 2009.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Permanent Exhibit Items from the Walters Art Museum

On our recent visit to the Walters Art Museum, we enjoyed a random selection of the items on permanent display as well as the special exhibits in yesterpost.

The Walters Art Museum

We saw a large wine cooler perfect for drinking with panache. It dates from the early 1800s and was made in England. It's a fun combination of fine and functional art.

A wine cooler!

This 18th-century pitcher and basin was produced at Vincennes, a posh Paris suburb. The turquoise color is blue celeste, a popular and innovative color at the time.

Pitcher and Basin, circa 1755

Another 18th-century French work is L'amour et L'amitie, or Love and Friendship. This particular statue is a 1783 copy by Claude Dijoux, who was authorized by the original sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. The original is in the Louvre and was carved out of marble. This plaster remake was made for Marie Catherine de Brignole, mistress of the prince of Conde, for her estate. The Walters family acquired it in 1914.

L'amour et L'amitie

We saw a fantastic chest that really wanted us to open its drawers, but I am sure the security guards would not understand.

An amazing chest

The museum has plenty of paintings that weren't very interesting to my children. Maybe in later years they will appreciate them. I might even get a closer look at them!

A bright corner

Another room seemed like a treasure trove of exotic specimens, both biological and artificial. Again, we moved through rather quickly.

A good variety of things

Can't open the drawers on this chest

Triptych of the Three Wise Men visiting Baby Jesus

The armor room was more interesting to the boys.

On guard

A good selection of helmets

That same guard from two pictures ago

Yeah, that's a gun shield

The gun shield date from the 1540s and was an experimental weapon developed in Ravenna by Giovanni Battista for King Henry VIII of England. The idea is to combine technologies. The practical problem is that the gun is too heavy to aim without some support, rendering it almost complete ineffective (especially since King Henry wanted his bodyguards to carry them). The royal armory kept some as curiosities.

Adam and Eve make their appearance in this glazed terracotta panel from Florence. It was made to celebrate Pope Leo X's visit in 1515. He was from a local family, the Medicis, and his coat of arms in in the middle on the bottom.

Adam and Eve, 1515

In the medieval section, I found a highly-detailed altarpiece depicting the crucifixion.


The kids discovered a recreation of a great hall from the medieval period, where nobility would entertain guests. Board games were even part of the entertainment.

A quick game of checkers

On our way out, we saw Armor Fish (a.k.a. Sir Galashad) created in 2001 by Karl Saar. He was inspired by the Walters' armor display and constructed it for the 2001 Fish Out of Water exhibit at the museum. It was whimsical enough to earn a place on regular display near the gift shop.

Armor Fish (a.k.a. Sir Galashad), 2001

The last item we saw on our way out was this Mayan chocolate pot circa 250-550 AD. Back in the day, the Mayans drank their chocolate with honey and chili peppers. The invention of chocolate bars came much later by different people.

Mayan Chocolate Pot

We are sure to visit the museum again to see more of the permanent items and hopefully some new, fun temporary exhibits.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Walters Art Museum Temporary Exhibits

On a school day off, we went into Baltimore and visited The Walters Art Museum (near the Basilica). The kids enjoyed it as much as they could. For some things and at some times they have more stamina. We can do a whole art museum if it is a small art museum. The Walters is fairly large. We saw some temporary exhibits that were a lot of fun, even for the kids.

The Walters Art Museum

The first exhibit was Japanese Woodblock Prints (on display till January 6, 2019).  Over 40 prints from the museum's collection are on display.

Entrance sign for the exhibit

The art is very stylized and distinctive. These prints are from Japan's Edo period (1615 to 1868) and represent the cultural exuberance of the capital city of Edo, now Tokyo.

Below is a print called "The Actors Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Kono Moronao and Nakamura Fukusuke I as Momoi Wakansanosuke" published by Uoya Eikichi in 1855. The artist was Utagawa Kunisada and the carver was Yokogawa Takejiro. Some of this information is on the print, which includes logos or inscriptions of the creators and publishers, partially to advertise the skills and partially as a form of copyright. Interestingly enough, there is no description of the roles they are playing. I guess viewers would just know from then-current pop culture what character they were playing and in what play.

The Actors... (1855)

From 1858 is "The Actor Iwai Kumesaburo III performing as the Girl Yae, later Seyama" published by Uoya Eikichi. Utagawa Kunisada was the artist and Yokogawa Takejiro was the carver.

The Actor Iwai Kumesaburo III... (1858)

Western artists in the late 1800s admired the woodblock works. Japan opened its ports to foreigners in 1859 so there was a natural outflow of products and art. French glass designer Eugene Rousseau adapted a woodblock image of a carp for the vase below.

Carp Vase (1878)

A popular way to collect prints was to make albums, such as "Lady Murasaki's Genji Cards" seen below. The illustrations are from the Tale of Genji written in the 1000s by Murasaki Shikibu. The story was rewritten and serialized during the 1830s by Ryutei Tanehiko. The Genji Cards were published by Tstaya Kichizo. The artist was Utagawa Kunisada II.

Lady Murasaki's Genji Cards (1857)

Closer look at one of the cards

Below is a triptych depicting 16th-century warriors putting their armor on. The pictures go from right to left. "A Group of Brave Warriors of the Takeda Clan" was published by Yamamotoya Heikichi in 1853 with art by Utagawa Sadahide.

A Group of Brave Warriors of the Takeda Clan (1853)

Nearby was a table for visitors to try their hand at creating art in the Japanese style. Small water brushes made strokes on special paper that would quickly dry out. It was hard to paint more than a few lines before the work vanished.

Showing how to do it

Working hard

The exhibit includes some "tools of the trade" used by artists to make the designs and the wood blocks. The first step was to draw the image on paper. The carver would use that image as a model when sculpting the block.

Artist's paper, brushes, and ink

More colorful inks

Carving tools

Another special exhibit until January 6, 2019, is The Return of the Buddha, which is not some action-packed sequel. It commemorates a statue that came back to the museum recently.

He's back!

The statue is a life-sized 6th-century lacquer Buddha. The statue was on loan to the Freer/Sackler gallery (the Asian art part of the Smithsonian) in Washington, D.C., where it was on display with other Buddhas.

The Walters's Buddha

Other Buddhas were available at the Freer/Sackler exhibit

The final temporary exhibit we saw was Chinese Snuff Bottles, on display through December 9, 2018 (so rush out quick if you want to see it!). The bottles are from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and are quite charming. Almost 250 bottles are on display but by this point the kids were ready to move on. I saw one or two of the displays.

Snuff bottles were used for powdered tobacco by the Chinese and Mongolians. Smoking tobacco was illegal back then. Powdered tobacco was allowed because it supposedly had medicinal value. The bottles were popular and served the same purpose as snuff boxes in Europe.

Chinese Snuff Bottles

Another set

One close up

Two of a kind!

More from the permanent exhibits in a future post!