Sunday, February 27, 2005

Nice Saturday

It was a beautiful day, yesterday, and I don't just mean the weather. Shawn and I had a lovely time together. We began with a rather mundane trip to Costco for some grocery items. We made it in early (10:00 AM) and got out quickly for under $100. In fact, we would have been way under that if I hadn't grabbed a copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Shawn hadn't have snagged a copy of America: The Book (which is hysterical). We'd have been closer to $50 without those items.

Pleased with ourselves, we took the time to seek out a Trader Joe's location a friend had told us about in Kirkland, not far from the Costco. I usually stop at the T-Joe's on Capitol Hill, but this offers another alternative for on the way home. We grabbed a few items from there, mostly frozen lunches for Shawn, and then came back home. As we pulled into the driveway, Shawn mentioned washing her car and offered to do mine as well. We had planned earlier to see a film, so I discouraged the car wash notion as we wouldn't have the time. Instead, Shawn set about doing some dishes and I putzed with other minor chores in the house.

We did go out to see a movie. After discussing it on Friday, we had settled on finally seeing Finding Neverland. The other choices we had on our lists were Bad Education (Almovodar's latest film - we love his work), Million Dollar Baby (we're both Eastwood fans, though I probably enjoy his later work more than Shawn does...this one got nixed because of the downer ending story line), and A Very Long Engagement (which was my preference and which won several Cesar awards yesterday). We decided on Finding Neverland because it was a film we both wanted to see, Johnny Depp is easy on the eyes (as is Kate Winslet, but she hadn't crossed either of our minds, so she apparently ranks lower than Depp on our lust meters), and it probably wouldn't be on the big screen much longer. Plus, it seemed like an enchanting tale that would provide a more upbeat mood for the day than Eastwood's film.

Having not seen Eastwood's film yet, I'm not sure that Neverland has a more upbeat ending, but it certainly is enchanting. Depp gives a terrific, understated performance. I mean, outstanding. Winslet is his equal in the film. The children are spot on as well. The story revolves around the creation of the play, "Peter Pan". We follow writer J.M. Barrie (played by Depp) as he becomes involved with a widow (Winslet) and her family and finds the inspiration for his tale. There are a lot of moments in this film where a writer or a director could have gone over the top dipping into overly sentimental scenes, but none of that happens. All such scenes are treated sensitively, but delicately. There is no heavy hand felt throughout. Editing was crucial in this film, particularly as we see moments where Barrie is playing with the children and the scene flashes back and forth between a make believe world where, for instance, a pirate ship exits, and the "real world" where the kids are really playing tied to a tree in their backyard. This, too, could have distracted terribly if done in the current MTV styles, but instead the editing enhances the production, allowing the viewer to peer into the imaginations of the characters while realizing that it is the imagination.

Without giving away the ending, it is magical and well done, but it is bittersweet. The director and writer did a fine job with it. By the time the film was over, Shawn and I were both weeping. We didn't feel drained however, or down. We felt...full; satisfied. This, too, is because rather than go over the top with the dramatic, the filmmakers decided to go for a more subtle approach that allows the viewer to feel the sadness, but it doesn't overwhelm the completely lovely and enchanting tale one viewed in the previous hour and a half. The ending made sense and the way it was done made for a well-rounded picture.

We left the theater and were immediately blinded by the bright sun. I suggested that we dash next door to a games shop. Wow! The place was packed with people of all ages, mostly male, but quite a few females, playing games, designing game pieces and sets. It was amazing. I had no idea that so many people would gather on a sunny Saturday afternoon to share their enthusiasm for all things gaming. This shop catered to that. There were board games, role playing games, adult games, fantasy games, casino style games, ancient games, traditional games, puzzles galore, and more. After Neverland, it was good to dive in and experience games. This was not really my intention. Rather, I was after a specific pair of games to purchase and I thought that I'd take advantage of being nearby an independent dealer in order to buy them.

I had heard about the 2 games I was after back in December. KUOW broadcast an interview with a Seattle board game enthusiast, Matthew Baldwin, about his recommendations for the best board games of 2004. Two of the games had caught my attention and I vaguely remembered details of them. Since we have disconnected from television in our house, I thought it would be a good time to add to our games collection. We both love backgammon, Yahtzee, and Scrabble, but adding to this group seemed like a good idea.

As I stood in the store, I struggled to remember the names of the games I was interested in. This was a good thing as it allowed Shawn and I to wander the store, soak in the atmosphere - fun, strategy, fantasy, enthusiasm were in the air - and marvel at all of the items that this place carried. Eventually, the name of the game on my list that I always found easier to remember came to my mind: Ticket to Ride. How could I forget The Beatles' tune, huh? LOL. We started combing the store for it and, of course, it was right up front and we had walked past it a couple of times at least. Shortly after that, the other game's name came to mind and I found it as well: BuyWord.

Ticket to Ride is a strategy board game where the idea is to score points by connecting train routes on the board. The game is part luck, as you don't know what routes your opponents have that could earn them bonus points, part strategy, and a whole lot of fun. It's for 2 to 5 players. It's easy to learn and there is no animosity between players as you're not really out to stop anyone else, but rather just trying to gain points for yourself.

BuyWord is a different sort of game altogether. It combines elements of Scrabble with elements of Monopoly. Each player starts with $200. Each round, players are offered the opportunity to buy letters (not of their choosing and the player has to buy all of the letters in front of her or none of them). After they buy their letters (or not) each player then attempts to form a word and sell the word for more money. All words are sold to the bank and no money exchanges hands between players (although, in a variation, this is possible). The one with the most money in the end wins. BuyWord can be played with 1 - 4 players. This game is a little more complicated to learn than Ticket to Ride and it can require a bit of addition and multiplication skills (thought they do provide a cheat sheet) for the scoring, but it isn't that hard to learn at all. Both are quite fun!

After leaving the games store, we came home, discussed the movie, chatted about other things, giggled at America: The Book, listened to Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds, Habib Koite Foly: Live Around the World, and 2 Many DJs. It was a lovely way to end a lovely day.

Today, Shawn's got to study for school. I'm hoping to trim our rose and clematis plants for the year, then fertilize our yard for spring. It should be another lovely, relaxing day. Hopefully, we'll see some more sunshine as it's supposed to rain next week.

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