Friday, May 31, 2019

Movie Review: The Accountant (2016)

The Accountant (2016) directed by Gavin O'Connor

Ben Affleck is Christian Wolff, a small-town accountant who finds all sorts of loopholes for his local clients. He's also an expert forensic accountant. He can go through a company's records to find accounting errors (deliberate or accidental). He's hired by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), the founder of a biotech company. An accountant in the company (Anna Kendrick) has found some discrepancies and Wolff is brought in to see if there's someone ripping off the company from inside. Blackburn doesn't know a bunch of things. First, Wolff has done similar accounting jobs for a lot of really bad people internationally. Also, he's being investigated by the Department of Treasury (headed by J. K. Simmons). Further, Wolff's great skills are credited (by the film) to his autism, which also makes him very bad at interpersonal skills. What's more, he's ex-army with crazy mad awesome shooting and fighting skills. With the high paying clients, he can afford unbelievably high-tech weaponry.

The movie has an interesting set up and lots of acting talent. The plot moves slowly, which is a problem because the plot holes and general improbability of the situation are obvious and there's too much time to think about them. The only twist that's surprising is the one that's completely unbelievable and therefore completely unpredictable. Affleck gives an okay performance that is outshined by the rest of the cast. The big let-down for this movie is the writing. I wanted a more convincing story or some faster pacing to make me notice the flaws less.

Not recommended.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

TV Review: Black Mirror Season 4

Black Mirror Season 4 created by Charlie Brooker

I remember a story in Plato's Republic about a guy traveling along a road who noticed a group of people gathering on the side up ahead. He asked what they were looking at. Someone told him it was a dead carcass that looked horrible. At first, the guy's attitude was, "I don't want to look at that." But he had that nagging feeling that it would be interesting in a macabre way. He debated with himself--it was far too late to help out; he had places to be; he'd be giving in to baser instincts to take delight in the suffering of others. He still felt the nagging, which only became stronger. By the time he got to the spot he was very worked up and shouted, "Feast yourselves, you damn eyes of mine!" I feel that way about Black Mirror--it's often about the misery that technology inflicts on us, though we are the ones who came up with the tech, so the blame isn't in our gadgets but in ourselves. Bleak pessimism can be cathartic or just annoying, depending on how you feel about it. Here's an episode-by-episode rundown of Season 4...

Episode 1, USS Callister--A brilliant coder is co-founder of a company that provides a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in a Star Trek-like universe. He's a creative genius but also awkward and too nerdy for his own good. He has his own version of the game with his own rules and own modifications. One disturbing modification is how he has characters that are copies of his co-workers. These characters are totally subservient to him (unlike their real-life counterparts). A new female coder joins the company, setting a new twist to what's going on in the co-founder's private MMORPG. The episode is a little predictable. The final plan and the ending don't make a lot of sense, undercutting a reasonably intelligent setup. The show presents an interesting but totally artificial problem which makes for ultimately uncompelling viewing.

Episode 2, Arkangel--A slightly paranoid mom volunteers for a trial of a new technology that's about to hit the market. The tech is Arkangel, a chip inserted in her daughter's skull that let's the mom track where the daughter is, her vital statistics, and what she sees. The system comes with a filter that will pixelate anything traumatic that the daughter sees, like a neighbor's barking dog. After a couple of years of use (and after the system was banned partly because the process is irreversible), the mom turns off the tablet linking her too closely to her growing daughter. Of course, the mom doesn't throw the thing away, just stores it in the attic. By the time the daughter is a teen, the temptation is too much not to leave the tablet in the attic. She sees more of her daughter's life than she should. The daughter finds out and goes ballistic. The story was highly predictable for me, which could be okay if there were other compensating qualities. The acting was just so-so and the idea is recycled from earlier seasons. There's no deep insight or understanding of the mother/daughter relationship. The episode is not particularly enjoyable or interesting.

Episode 3, Crocodile--A young couple, Mia and Rob, drive home on an isolated road after a night of clubbing and drinking. Their fun buzz is ruined when they hit and kill a bicyclist. Rob decides to cover up the accident, throwing the body and the bike into a nearby lake. Mia is unhappy about that but promises never to tell. The story then jumps ahead fifteen years. She's now married to someone else and has a nine-year old son. She goes to a conference where Rob drops in on her. He's gone sober and wants to confess anonymously to the wife of the bicyclist. Mia doesn't, realizing anonymity won't work. She winds up killing Rob in her hotel room. She tries to cover up that crime, leading down a spiral of death and hopelessness. The episode is exceptionally bleak (she winds up killing a lot of people in hands-on grisly ways) and the way she is finally caught is so unbelievable it comes off as desperate writing.

Episode 4, Hang the DJ--A seemingly idyllic resort matches people up to test their compatibility with the hope of making a perfect match. Individuals go through several relationships until the system can match two people with 99.8% compatibility. Frank and Amy have their first pair-up which lasts only 12 hours (a number generated by the system based on the data they have collected). They hit it off really well and are bummed that they have to separate. They start going through other relationships which are more or less unsatisfying. Eventually, they start to question the validity of the system. The surprise twist seems obvious and like the other relationships, is more or less unsatisfying. The episode borrows too much from earlier episodes in Black Mirror.

Episode 5, Metalhead--Three desperate people make it to a warehouse in a clearly post-apocalyptic environment. They hunt carefully through for just the right package, but not carefully enough. A four-legged robotic tracker attacks them, killing two of them on the spot. The final person flees in terror, with the episode chronicling that flight. The premise is very lean, a characteristic enhanced by the black and white cinematography. The episode looks stylish without having the emphasis solely on the style. As the woman tries to outsmart the robot, she has many challenges. The story is harrowing and exciting in the right blend. True to the show, the ending is not so upbeat but at least it fits with the story and the humanity of the characters it portrays.

Episode 6, Black Museum--A young woman traveling to visit her father stops to power up her car (it's run on solar panels) and goes into Rolo Haynes's Black Museum, a place collecting all sorts of technological devices used experimentally to help others. All of the devices wound up being parts of crimes. Rolo is the curator of the museum, which only has the young woman as a guest. After explaining a few exhibits, he takes her to the star attraction behind the velvet curtain. The episode starts out as an anthology of shorter stories but they all tie together building to the finale. The gore content gets too high early on and the story gets too predictable at the end.

Overall, the season is a disappointment for me. The only episode I liked was Metalhead. Series creator and writer Charlie Brooker is too focused on the idea of uploading human consciousness with little new to say in episode after episode. The show is very pessimistic about both human nature and technological advances. It really is the sort of roadside carnage that we all should look away from but sadly too often don't.

Available on Netflix, though I don't recommend it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: The Fall of Gondolin by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Fall of Gondolin by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

The evil reign of Morgoth is almost universal. After the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, men and elves were defeated and enslaved. The elf Turgon survived the battle and fled to the hidden city of Gondolin. The city is surrounded by high mountains that are protected by magic, vigilance, and the great eagles of old. Tuor is a man of noble birth who spent much of his youth enslaved to one of Morgoth's minions. He escapes and is drawn on a quest to find Gondolin. He is inspired and guided by Ulmo, the Lord of Waters. As Tuor wanders over vast stretches of Middle Earth, he finds the elf Voronwe who accompanies him on the journey. They eventually discover Gondolin. There Tuor weds the princess and becomes part of the great battle that finally happens when Morgoth discovers the location of the city (through the treachery of a bitter rival of Tuor). As readers might guess from the book's title, the battle ends tragically.

This book is a compilation of various versions of the story written by Tolkien over some thirty-five years. The first text was written in the midst of World War I; the final text written in the early 1950s. Each version is presented with some introductory remarks. The story has a lot of the earmarks of an ancient epic--the wandering hero, the sweeping landscapes, the interventions of the gods, the great battles, etc. A final chapter provides a comparison of the various texts, showing how they fit together (the consistency is fairly amazing) and where they differ (often focusing on different details).

I enjoy heroic epics so this book has a lot of appeal to me. The style is very old-fashioned, like this description when they first see Gondolin:
Then they looked up and could see, and lo! they were at the foot of steep hills, and these hills made a great circle wherein lay a wide plain, and set therein, not rightly at the midmost but rather nearer to that place where the stood, was a great hill with a level top, and upon that summit rose a city in the new light of the morning. [p. 50]
I delight in that style of writing but can see how it would be off-putting for others. The characters are not the deepest. They do evoke respect and sympathy through their actions and live fascinating lives. The Fall of Gondolin is a great triumph for Morgoth but is not the end of the story for the First Age of Middle Earth. Christopher Tolkien writes that it will be his last work editing his father's stories together, so this is probably the last "new" material to be published.

Recommended, highly for Tolkien fans.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Review: The Shadow Hero by G. L. Yang et al.

The Shadow Hero story by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew, and lettering by Janice Chiang

Golden-age comics are not exactly known for their political correctness, especially when they involved World War II. One long-forgotten comic was The Green Turtle, a superhero who fought against the Japanese on mainland China. Chu Hing was the creator of the comic and, rumor has it, he wanted The Green Turtle to be Chinese. Rumor also has it that the publisher refused. The actual comics don't show the Turtle's face and every time his sidekick asks about the Turtle's origin story some emergency happens and readers never find out. The series only lasted five issues and faded quickly into obscurity.

Gene Luen Yang has created the missing origin story, as a tribute to the Golden Age comics and to this first Asian-American comic-book hero. The story is fairly well-detailed, with a pulpy plot set in a fictional California port city. Hank is the son of immigrant parents who run a grocery store. His mom is kidnapped during a robbery getaway but the superhero Anchor of Justice saves the day. She now wants Hank to be a superhero, especially since her husband is a meek and mild grocery clerk. Hank starts training with one of his "uncles," a neighboring shop owner who knows some martial arts. Hank's first adventure goes poorly, forcing the family to miss their usual payment to the Tongs, the local organized crime syndicate. One thing leads to another and eventually Hank becomes The Green Turtle fighting the Tongs.

The book is really well written as a pulp adventure and as a stereotypical slice-of-life from 1940s America as experienced by immigrants. The two elements work well together, building on each other to get enjoyable twists and pay-offs. The art evokes the early comics style while having its own distinctness. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.

Highly recommended.

Awesome quote from the book: "Sometimes, a fight you cannot win is still worth fighting."

Monday, May 27, 2019

We Remember 2019

Now that my son is in Boy Scouts, he still does the annual We Remember flag placement at the Baltimore National Cemetery. We were in a different section than in previous years. The troop was assigned an area in the back of the cemetery. We drove in and parked by the meet-up spot.

Walking from the car

The cemetery without flags

We didn't have long to wait before the organizers handed out flags and gave the standard instructions--place the flags about a foot in front of the side of the headstone with the name. Be respectful and be sure to get every headstone.

Placing the flag one foot away from the headstone

A solo act

We brought the prescholar along with us and he helped out quite a bit.

Planting a flag

Other people working in another section

I am always amazed how fast the whole cemetery is filled with flags. In less than twenty minutes, the job was done.

Full of flags

Checking on the way out

A job well done

Thanks this Memorial Day to everyone who has served our country in the armed forces. I appreciate the sacrifice.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Movie Review: The Dish (2000)

The Dish (2000) co-written and directed by Rob Sitch

On July 20, 1969, the whole world watched as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.  It took a huge team of scientists and technicians to get them there. Another huge team got the video signal from the Moon's surface into everyone's homes. This movie is the story of the satellite dish that received that signal. The dish is (yes, it's still running) in Parkes, Australia, a small sheep-farming town. A local crew of three men have been running the dish but recently a fourth has been added to the crew, an American from NASA. The small tension between the men gets a little bigger as the Australian prime minister and the U.S. Ambassador come to visit Parkes during the Apollo XI mission. The mayor is excited and the town celebrates its role in the greatest scientific accomplishment of the twentieth century. They celebrate a bit too much, causing a power outage that puts the dish off-line. Can the team work together to get the lunar signal back in time for the historic event?

The movie doesn't focus so much on the scientific problems as on the quirky characters involved around those problems. Their solutions don't involve so much scientific deduction and mathematical calculation (though those are indeed part) as they do trust and teamwork. The men learn to respect each other and contribute their best. The townsfolk at first seem to be in the movie only to provide comic locals, but they do show how everyone from all walks of life were drawn in by the lunar landing. They are a microcosm of the whole planet's expectations and reactions to the mission. The movie has a lot of humor and heart and clearly depicts the optimism and excitement of the time.

Highly recommended.

This movie is discussed on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast 207--check out their discussion!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Daleks (1963)

Doctor Who: The Daleks (1963) written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin

The First Doctor (William Hartnell) lands the TARDIS on an unidentified planet. The local plants have all been petrified and radiation is high. As the Doctor and his companions investigate, they spot a seemingly abandoned city. Earthlings Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) are eager to return to Earth (this being their second adventure with the Doctor, and indeed the second series of the show) and aren't interested in exploring the city. The Doctor is interested and contrives a reason to go to the city (the TARDIS is out of mercury!). Once they get there, the group is separated and Barbara is the first to be captured by the citizens of the city--the Daleks! They were at war with the Thals, a war that went nuclear, turning the planet into a wasteland five hundred years ago. The Thals are back in the area looking for food and to make peace with the Daleks, so everyone can live happily on the planet.

This is the very first appearance of the Daleks. The story includes a lot of background for the Daleks that has remained canon. They are cunning and xenophobic and do say they will "exterminate" enemies in their monotone, robotic voices (the shoutiness comes later). They have an aversion to stairs and are yucky little monsters inside that big metal casing. No wonder they became the iconic villains of the show.

The plot moves along slowly (it's seven half-hour episodes!) but intelligently. A lot of character development happens, something you don't quite expect from a show that was aimed at children. The Doctor's selfishness is depicted negatively, which surprised and satisfied me. Everyone has their flaws and their strengths. Overall, it's a great series.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 12 by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 12 by Hiromu Arakawa

Ed and Al continue their battle with Scar. They find out Winry's parents were killed by Scar after they had cured him during the last war. Winry shows up in time to hear the news. Sh picks up a loaded gun and then has to decide to take revenge or not. Meanwhile, the homunculus Gluttony is captured by the good guys and taken to a secret location. They want to get information out of Gluttony, and possibly the Philosopher's Stone imbedded in him. That will help Ed and Al get their full bodies back. Or it could help the visiting prince from Xing who wants to gain immortality. So the good guys come into conflict but happily they try to talk it out.

The story is becoming more exciting with lots of new revelations about major characters and perils aplenty for everyone. The conspiracy is growing larger and more complicated and more mysterious. This is a fascinating series and I am looking forward to the next volume.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Random Bits of Baltimore

Photos from recent wanderings around Baltimore...

Baltimore has a lot of houses with roof decks that remind me of backyard decks. They look awesome and I'd like to hang out on one someday. I imagine they are great for stargazing or for viewing Fourth of July fireworks. Or just hanging out in nice weather.

Cool decks

The neighborhood above is just behind the Domino Sugar plant.

Proof we were behind the plant

Often, we park in this neighborhood and take a ferry across to the downtown/Inner Harbor area. The ferry's wharf is very unassuming. The ride was quick (like five minutes) and free.

The ferry

On another trip, we spotted the front of the Domino Sugar plant. I wonder if they give tours?

The other side of the plant

On yet another visit we saw the factory from yet another angle.

Factory side view

We saw a cool church during one of our visits to The Walters Art Museum. This is the New Unity Baptist Church. We only saw the outside but liked it very much.

New Unity Baptist Church

A traffic circle surrounded by buildings has the National Katyn Memorial in the middle.

The National Katyn Memorial

The Katyn Massacre was the slaughter of Polish officers and intelligentsia by the Soviet Union in April and May 1940. Though the executions happened in many places throughout Poland, the atrocity is named after the Katyn Forest, where the first mass graves were discovered.

Another side of the memorial

A close-up

Near Little Italy is Columbus Park, named after the famous Italian Christopher Columbus. A statue of the man is in the center of the park.

Columbus statue

Columbus greets the natives and he sights land

The Santa Maria and the Pinta

More of the pedestal

Also nearby is the Star Spangled Banner Flag House. It's where Mary Pickersgill sewed the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key saw the flag flying proudly over the fort as it was being bombarded. He was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America.

Star Spangled Banner Flag House

The house wasn't open for visitors but the yard next to it has some fun stuff.

An informational display

The courtyard

A large mosaic shows the continental United States with each state contributing stone for their state. The mosaic was begun in 1939 and dedicated on Flag Day (June 14) in 1961.

A map of the states

Baltimore's harbor has plenty of little waterways sticking into the neighborhood.

A bit of water

A strange tower

A strange boat

The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park is a museum dedicated to the African-American contribution to Baltimore's maritime industry. We haven't taken the kids there yet, but it is only a matter of time, I am sure.

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park

Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

The final book of C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy oddly enough never gets off the Earth. A struggling married couple, Mark and Jane, start down opposite paths. He's an academic at a small English college. Mark wants to climb the social ladder at the school, which turns more and more into a bureaucratic nightmare. The progressives at the school want to welcome N.I.C.E., the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments. They are a scientific initiative trying to improve humanity, which sounds good on paper but in reality is far from helping actual people besides themselves. N.I.C.E. wants some land that belongs to the college and a few of the progressives are more than happy to sell, anticipating the social influence that will come with a close connection to the institute. Mark is offered an opportunity at N.I.C.E. and goes to find out more, only to get sucked into an even great and more sinister hierarchy than that at the school. He's not really sure what he is supposed to do and is not even certain that he has a job or salary.

Jane has plenty of progressive leanings and has started having nightmares that turn out to be prophetic dreams. She has an ability to see the future and hidden events, an ability that the N.I.C.E. people would like to exploit. She falls in with a different group with no acronym and no substantive hierarchy. But they genuinely want to help her and have more respect for her as a person than she would ever experience at the Institute. The actually nice group is led by Ransom, the main character in the previous two novels.

He's not the main character here. Mark and Jane are the focus as they struggle to understand the situation around them. Mark's ambition for gain overrides his better judgment, though he struggles quite a few times to do the right thing. Jane is disturbed by her ability and also by the Ransom group's laid back and old-fashioned ways. She can't quite commit in part due to many misinterpretations and misunderstandings. The tension is brilliantly conceived and portrayed by Lewis. Mark and Jane are real people caught up in fantastic circumstances.

The situation does become more epic and more fantastic after the long set-up. Ransom has been in touch with eldils, who are spiritual beings virtually the same as angels. The eldils have let him known that a big conflict is about to break out with the governing eldil of Earth, who is clearly Satan. N.I.C.E. is under the influence of the evil eldils, though they give the eldils the scientific-sounding name of "Macrobes." The N.I.C.E. contingent recognizes the superiority of the macrobes and are perfectly willing to go along with the macrobes' destructively anti-human program in the name of science.

The story is packed with a lot of philosophical and theological discussion. The range of topics is fairly wide, though the central problem of Mark and Jane's estrangement and attempts to get back together keeps the narrative moving forward. Even though they are a bit distant from each other at the beginning, the worsening situation gradually makes them more receptive to new ideas, especially after rejecting clearly bad ideas. Lewis keeps the story from turning into a lecture, which isn't the easiest thing to do. It's engaging as well as being informative.

Highly recommended. One caveat as a parent: the first two books are fine for middle-school and high-school aged kids to read but this one is much more challenging and much darker. As they say, there's a lot of Shawshank before you get to the redemption.

The book is discussed on Episode 206 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Movie Review: First Man (2018)

First Man (2018) directed by Damien Chazelle

First Man tells the story of the first lunar landing in 1969 from Neil Armstrong's perspective. It starts with Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as a test pilot for a private company. He is distracted by his three or four year old daughter's illness. She dies. Armstrong (according to the film) is detached and distant from the family. He's also accepted by the Gemini Program, the precursor to the Apollo missions that will land on the moon. He has difficulties with the training (but not too many) and difficulties with his family (but not too many). After the harrowing deaths of the Apollo I astronauts, a lot of people, including Armstrong's wife (Claire Foy) doubt the value of putting a man on the moon. Are the costs financially and in human life too high? The program goes on nonetheless.

The movie is clearly in awe of the accomplishment of landing a man on the moon in 1969 (as well it should be). The depiction of space travel and the lunar landing is impressive and visceral. Using Armstrong's perspective often becomes literal as the audience watches from inside his space suit. We also see things from inside his head, which is both good and bad.

The movie presents Armstrong as a flawed man who is more dedicated to the task than to his family. He is detached and not very talkative. Even with his fellow astronauts or with the press, he doesn't have a lot to say. His wife forces him to talk to his two sons about the risks before he leaves on Apollo XI. Gosling tries to make up for his lack of dialogue with his visual performance, but doesn't have quite enough presence or emotion to make Armstrong as relatable as I wanted him to be. His obsession with his daughter's death is both low-key and omnipresent. And yet it isn't subtle or the whole of Armstrong's life. The movie winds up following two tracks--Armstrong (mostly not) dealing with his daughter's death and Armstrong dealing with his career. Using her death as a central theme creates a narrative shortcut to connect the two but also makes the movie ultimately unsatisfying. We only see a tiny bit of Armstrong as a person and he isn't so likable or relatable. Turning the moon landing from a euphoric triumphant accomplishment for mankind into a personal cathartic event for Armstrong is disappointing. Even a short bit of online research shows that the movie's interpretation of Armstrong's character is wrong, making the movie even more disappointing.

Not recommended.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review: Black Hammer Vol. 3 by J. Lemire et al.

Black Hammer Volume 3: Age of Doom Part 1 written by Jeff Lemire, art by Dean Ormston, colors by Dave Stewart, and lettering by Todd Klein

Now that Lucy, the daughter of the original Black Hammer, has taken up her father's weapon, she remembers where the heroes of Spiral City really are--not on a farm just outside a small town called Rockwood. Just as she's about to spill the beans, she's transported to (another) alternate reality, from which she will have to find her way back to the farm. The other heroes go looking for her. Abe and Mark get distract from their search when their love lives unexpectedly get back on track. The others have limited success, especially the robot Talky Walky who is put out of commission by someone who doesn't want the truth of where they are revealed.

Lucy's bizarre adventures through imaginary alternate realities are fun and weird. She eventually gets back to where everyone else is with the shocking revelation of where they really are. It makes a fun twist and I can't wait to read more of their adventures, now that their mundane lives are suddenly made much more interesting.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

School Spring Concerts 2019

My eldest children had their school spring concerts recently, featuring many fine pieces of music. The  school bands performed at a local high school which has a theater with a stage and audience seating. The location was much better than the elementary school's cafetorium (yes, that is what they call it--cafeteria and auditorium in one).

The orchestra in a proper venue

My daughter's group, the fourth grade Advanced Orchestra, played three individual pieces, followed by a full orchestra (including the third graders, who are new to orchestra) rendition of Queen's We Will Rock You. Here's the highlights:

Later, my son performed with the school's band. I managed to spot him as he was coming in.

Taking a seat on stage

They played three pieces quite well, including Circle of Life from The Lion King.

We had fun and look forward to more concerts in the future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

FRES Carnival 2019

Forest Ridge Elementary School had its annual spring carnival, which is irresistible to our children. Well, mostly irresistible. As we walked in, we saw some food trucks. We had just come from our godson's First Communion lunch and were full up on food. We were not hungry at all.

The food trucks getting business from other people

The star attractions of the carnival were the inflatable obstacle courses and race track. We spent a long time enjoying those.

Inflatable attractions!

First, they tried the race track. Blown up horses have to bounce along a plastic sheet from the starting gate to the finish line. Whoever can bounce the best (which includes going straight forward) wins.

And they're off!

Winning by a hand

A lone rider

A lone winner

I thought the obstacle course would be too challenging for the pre-scholar but he wanted to go anyway. He ran against his big brother. Big brother naturally won, but my youngest was able to finish the course without any help, so it was definitely a victory for him.

Brothers almost neck and neck

Big brother in the lead

Little brother facing a big challenge

About to slide down

He made it to the end!

The older children went back inside for the carnival games. The youngest tried out the last bouncy castle, which was another short obstacle course. Unfortunately, he could not get up the ladder/staircase inside. I cheered him on. Each attempt resulted in sliding down the side. When the time was up, he was supposed to get out. I argued with him about going backward through the course. That's when it happened. The gas powering the generator that powered the air pump ran out. So the air pump stopped. And the inflatable started to deflate. The operator went in to get him. The moment was scary. We all managed to stay calm and everything turned out alright in the end. My son was a little upset but physically fine.

The collapsed inflatable (after my son got out)

We went inside to see what the other kids were up to and try out some carnival games.



Using extra strokes


Hitting the spot

Each game cost one checkmark on the kid's play card. Once the card was all checked off, the card was turned in at the prize table. Picking something out was like a bonus carnival game.

Having a ball choosing a ball

The carnival was exciting and fun. The kids tried the cake walk but didn't win. That's fine because we wound up with leftover First Communion cake which has lasted us for quite a while.

The gym slowly emptying out

We are enjoying the signs of summer coming. This carnival is one of the first.