Read about our adventures! Because someday we might be famous, and you'll wish you could bank off our life story!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tree of Life Movie Review

I'm not sure I completely grasped the entirety of The Tree of Life on my first viewing, because The Tree of Life is so encompassing. It's a meditation on life, death, God, and ultimately our place in a hostile universe, all wrapped into a feast of stunningly beautiful imagery. I really could write a much longer post delving into this film further, but for the sake of brevity, here are my main thoughts on the film. It's certainly not for everybody, but for many it will be a very rewarding movie-going experience. Your average summer blockbuster may boast the tagline; "this is why you go the movies"...but The Tree of Life, is why you watch/study film.

Director Terrance Malick has only made 5 films since 1973...the man takes his time. You get an idea of the patience and passion that goes into his film-making while viewing The Tree of Life. Each image of the film seems carefully crafted, yet so completely spontaneous. I can't imagine how many hours of unused film went into each scene. Tree of Life is certainly Malick's most personal film. I don't know much about his background, but one can assume from his age, and the shear precision of the life snap-shots that dot the film, that they had to have come from his own past.

Malick has always been able to maximize the malleability of film as a medium to hit you with an emotional sledgehammer. He did this by focusing on the emotional side of World War II in The Thin Red Line, as well as the awe and mysticism of exploration/conquest in the vastly underrated The New World. His films seem to teeter on the verge of experimentation, and are more for lack of a better word, poetic than your standard Hollywood outing. Terrance Malick is able to exploit the best things about movies, mainly the temporal and time dilations that can only exist in our own minds, dreams and imaginations. Watching his movies is hypnotizing.

The Tree of life's plot focuses on a family in a small Texas town during what is presumably the 1950's. We watch the family grow through a series of montage covering the birth and childhood of three boys. Brad Pitt plays the hard-lined patriarch who's parenting style of tough love starkly clashes with the boys more soft-hearted, nurturing mother. There is very little of a traditional plot structure throughout the movie, more a series of vignettes that run the gamut of the emotions/confusions of both child and parenthood.

The film primarily focuses on the eldest son of the family, who we view periodically in the 'present day' played by Sean Penn, on what is assumed to be an anniversary of his brother's death. His brother was presumably killed in action during Vietnam, but we never known for sure. The film is essentially a rumination on the thoughts, and emotions that rise to the surface on a painful anniversary.

About 20 minutes into the movie, the story goes back to the beginning...the beginning of time. The audience watches the formation of the universe in a beautifully rendered sequence that serves as orientation for the remainder of the film. Carl Sagan put it simply by stating we are all made of stars, in other words the violent forces that created the universe, so too created us. The scene acts as slap in the face to your sense of self, a literal 'you are here' for our wandering, distracted lives. Our very existence out of nothingness is beyond comprehension, and the pairing of these images with the growing family as it's microcosm is haunting, yet somehow perfect.

We are all children, born of 2 distinctly different persons, yet we are a blend of both genetics/science/nature, and life experiences/moments/nurture. The film examines how we find our own identities from those of our parents, and further how we deal with the dualities that surround our lives.

The ending scenes, without describing them, are so unflinchingly emotional, that the imagery will no doubt move you in some form or another, regardless of any religious beliefs.

Malick's tried and true style is here in all of it's brilliance. He is short on the dialogue, and large on sweeping imagery. His style can only be described as potently sublime. That being said, I understand people's 'annoyance' with his style. If in the hands of a lesser director the 'whispering' of dialogue, and wandering focus could easily come across as amateur and pretentious. It's also telling, when his style is used by commercials to sell jeans; (Levi's 'go fourth' campaign) that it's perhaps getting a bit worn out. However, like I said I would be more critical in the hands of a lesser director, but Malick is able to hit all the right notes with his technique.

He's able to blend the components of neorealism with the control and grace tantamount to a director like Scorsese. Malick's poetic style wanders through the lives of the film's inhabitants, through the devastation of death, the pondering of God, the day to day moments that make up our lives. He seeks to show the holy in the mundane. The aesthetic of Malick is something that will be written and talked about for years and years to come, by people much more apt than myself, but for what it's worth The Tree of Life is to be included in discussions of Malick's best work, and certainly one of the best films in recent years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jack's Workout Plan

Jack recently found out that he was going to be featured in some of our engagement pictures this Fall.  So he's decided to up the ante on his normal walks- which he hasn't actually gone on in a while due to the intense humidity we've had lately. So today Jack did 3 miles! 3 MILES! He normally caps out at 1-1.5 miles, so this was a big accomplishment for him. Corgi's are short and a bit stocky so they can gain weight pretty easily. Jack has done well this year at keeping off the extra pounds and watching that Corgi figure. And he was quite the trooper going on this new walk route today. Give it up for Jack Stanley!

You should always drink lots of water after working out!

Action panting shot.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Steak Night

We're in the process of adding more blog posts, but until then this should tide you over....

This is what we made tonight for dinner Seared Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola brought to you by Hy-vee and Curtis Stone. We don't have a grill so we seared our steaks on the stove and cooked them to perfection on the oven. You should probably follow the link and try this meal out yourself, its like a food-gasm in your mouth!
Steak, salad, fresh Italian bread, and Summer Shandy. All for probably the price you would pay to buy dinner at Wendy's ($7-$8 a person) and way better for you.

Delicious Meal for two!

A close up of the steak, sorry it's a bit blurry, its the delicious aroma that throws off the camera.

Honestly, people who say its hard to cook healthy are just silly! It's actually pretty easy. A bit expensive at times but this meal was pretty budget worthy. You'd pay WAY more for this good of a steak at any sit-down restaurant.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ron Paul in the hiz-ous!

So today Ron Paul made his way to Des Moines...a presidential candidate in Iowa during campaign season? weird right? Christy and I went down at noon to the Embassy Suites to meet the man who should be the next president.

In the past few years, I think both of us have come to the realization that you may or may not think you're into politics...but that doesn't change the fact that politics, for better or worse, are all around you. Especially after going to work full time, and taking over all the life expenses and bills that go along with the 'real world' you get a much different perspective.

Myself in particular have felt a strong pull towards Libertarianism. Now I know that the catch-phrase of "limited government" etc has become little more than a talking point and quite blasé for the most part. It's just too bad that these ideas have to be paraded around as something new and exciting, when in reality they are what this country was founded upon. It's also too bad that these ideals get caught up in association with incoherent Sarah Palin gaffes, and dudes in eagle T-shirts and 'don't tread on me posters'.

Sadly many view this as the extent of conservative opposition

I've always been a huge history buff, and between the reading and movies, etc I've read/watched is beyond amazing that the history of the world is so entrenched in human coercion and violence. The founding of this country was something beyond amazing in the course of history. The rejection of the crown and subservience to a monarchy was a giant leap for civilization. I understand that the founding fathers were not demi-gods, but the ideals that went into this country, the simplicity and genius is amazing. Most of the problems that have happened in the country's history come from straying from this model.

I, and many others believe the current political state is an entangled mess of bullshit. No matter what side of the aisle you're on, I think we can all agree on that. There are too many special interests prying for too many stupid ambitions. For example does anybody who is a die-hard liberal, REALLY believe that someone like Nancy Pelosi has your interest at heart?! REALLY?!  People fool-heartidly believed Obama's campaign promises of 'openess' and 'reform' (I could write an entire other blog about how that's been bullshit) He was going to "go to Washington and clean up the mess!" He was going to bring the sides together on every issue...he was going to lower the ocean levels! (seriously)...he was 'post-racial'. Now I understand the current state of political discourse is not entirely on Obama's shoulders, but his complete lack of follow through with these cornerstone political aspirations is quite telling. (also the fact that he's from Chicago and supports the White Sox over the Cubs...WTF?!?)

You should not want any way, shape or form ::Shudder::

Our country is a divided mess, with each side saying the other is the problem. In all reality the difference between Republicans and Democrats, in the heart of the beast, is minuscule at best. Both sides have a vested interest in keeping the system as it is. It's a mess of restrictions, redundant departments, and bureaucracy that wastes our time and money...why would anybody want that you might say?'s because it keeps them nestled in power, and that is the aspiration of career politicians.

I think the misconception that people have about Libertarians are that they believe in essentially anarchy, and want to cut the government altogether. This is not the case. They believe in a 're-imagining' a 're-boot'  of government if you will...Remember when James Bond movies were good?...and then we got that cinematic piece of dog shit Die Another Day? Remember when Star Trek was only identifiable with 'nerds' and then it got re-done and became number one at the box office?...Remember when the Batman franchise fizzle into the hopeless pit of embarrassment that was Batman and Ro- I won't even finish the title of that one.

The current political system...

Remember now how we all thought Heath Ledger would suck-ass as the Joker? How the more or less unknown Daniel Craig wouldn't be able to fill the shoe's of 007...and that JJ Abrams would potentially make a mess of the fully formed Star Trek universe? last time... how those elements were exactly what these franchises needed?!

Libertarians are the Christopher Nolan's of the political world. We can see what is hiding beneath the current pile of garbage, and identify the elements that made it great. Gazing upon the current political a fanboy watching Batman and Robin may have made many a weaker man give up altogether,  but even in that current disgrace some were able to identify that not all hope was lost.

This is where Ron Paul steps in....I couldn't resist.

I was struck while listening to him speak today that A) He did the whole speech without so much as an index card for reference, let alone a teleprompter! and B) He actually CARES about what he's talking about. He jumped into politics because he was pissed off at the current state, not because he was looking for some avenue to impose his beliefs upon people, or make up for some insecurity by feeling special. This it the ONLY reason people should actually get into politics!

I've spent my whole life being told I'm cynical. However, I'm a firm believer that cynicism is an unpleasant way of stating the truth. There are a lot of different ways as people, we can use our anger. Using it for something constructive is the most rewarding and fundamentally best thing we can do.

Ron Paul simply represents a return to a basic ideal...simply put: do what it takes to pursue your happiness, so long as it doesn't impede on somebody else's right to do the same.

Years ago the idea of 'politics' and 'government' represented only a few cornerstone areas of those words can represent just about anything under the sun...including the sun. We need to take a step back and realize this is ridiculous. Government is there for extremely simplistic and basic functions. Not a cradle to the grave system that pretends to know what's better for you, than you yourself know.

We had a joke in my family about how 'stretch-pant ladies' for all intensive purposes ruled the world. Meaning the people that sit behind counters at government agencies/schools/public institutions (often overweight hence the 'stretch pants' know it's true...) that make you fill out form 45-Z only after you've initialed form 32-B, rule what you can and can't do. I for one don't want or need any more 'stretch-pant ladies' in my life...yet this is what we look forward to with bloated government. Now we're letting the stretch pant ladies take off adult diapers on 95 year old cancer patients...WTF?!

However, someone like Ron Paul understands that for good or bad, this country has regressed to children being ruled over by a nanny state. However it's too difficult to just 'cut the ties' to the 'social safety net'. It takes time to scale back these 'progressive' aspects, something that can be done by cutting areas bloated by the military industrial complex.

In all fairness this was one of the hardest areas for me to accept about someone like Ron Paul. I'd grown accustomed to thinking it was part of being conservative to believe the military/foreign policy is one thing that should remain more or less un-checked. However, like I said I'm a history buff, and have recently become fascinated with the Cold War era. I have ideas for a screenplay set during the Cold War, and have been doing a lot of reading on the topic. Throughout the reading I've become more enlightened about some crazy foreign policy 'adventures' America has taken in it's history...and whether right or wrong, maybe we shouldn't repeat without some serious consideration...

Ron Paul has a rock-solid foundation for his beliefs. Admittedly with many conservative politicians, there is a disconnect between these ideals, and things they just simply don't like. A consistency of ideals is so important in a world of hypocrites and double standards. His beliefs are much more in line with a real conservative then any hack like Mitt Romney.

Cringe Worthy

Something you don't like or agree with should still be protected under basic principles of this country so long as it doesn't hurt anybody. It's very hard to embrace this...because we don't like people doing things we disagree with, but it's one of the most important aspects of a free society. Please tell me how 2 dudes getting married, or a stoner at a Phish concert smoking a joint, REALLY hurts your life? doesn't, you just may not like it...but nobody is coming to tell you, you can't put on civil war re-enactments because some people find it offensive.

You may have seen stickers that say "Ron Paul was right" referring to things like the mortgage bubble burst. He is right about economic matters because of an adherence to the principles of the Austrian school of economics...again that's something for a whole other blog, but watch these guys.
"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem
Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

It's amazing how I had no idea who F.A. Hayek was before I stumbled across these videos, yet I knew quite a bit about Keynes. It's also amazing how much more right Hayek is about economics....and nobody knows anything about him.

For what it's worth I throw my support behind Ron Paul. He's real, he's honest, and he's what we need at this time.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and although this is a longer post in comparison, I've only briefly skimmed the surface. I'd be happy to expand upon anything, and I welcome and thoughts/responses.

-Robert Dopf

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Des Moines Art Festival 2011

DSM Art Festival 2011
Friday night Bob and I ventured downtown to attend The Des Moines Art Festival. If you've never been, or have NO idea what I'm talking about, check out the website. Apparently the 2010 Festival won the International Festivals and Events Association Gold Grand Pinnacle Award! Trying saying that 5 times fast. Basically Des Moines knows how to rock it!

Bob and I have missed the last couple years of the Art Festival, so we wanted to make sure we got to go this year. As we perused around the displays, we quickly realized that EVERYTHING was out of our price range! Things were so expensive we were afraid to take pictures! But we did snap a few.

Coolest pinwheels ever!

Made with everything from metal to glass!

A garden on Grand Avenue? Sure, why not.

This year's interactive art was a giant ice cream cone.
One of the coolest things I saw, that I could actually capture on film without feeling like I had to pay first. Old Des Moines Register headlines.... It was pretty amazing to see some of these historic headlines and wonder how people in Des Moines felt when they saw the paper that day.

Man Walks on the Moon. I'm a complete Space nerd so I was just in awe over this one.
Not all Space headlines are happy ones- The Challenger crash.

One year after 9/11- Can you believe its going to be 10 years this September?

The Flood of 1993, Bob's family packed up and left for the Ozarks when Des Moines lost water.

The Trans-Atlantic Flight.

The Kennedy Assassination

This headline was probably the most eerie, this paper was from June 2001, just months before 9/11 happened.

A closer look at the headline- if we only knew was was just a few months on the horizon.

On a happier note, 2002-2003 season bowl preview. Brad Banks!

Pearl Harbor- in the age of the internet its hard to remember a time when we didn't find out news THAT same day.

The end of WWII.

Does anyone else remember the Septuplets?

I had no idea the Pope has been to DSM! I wonder if he had his Pope-mobile then?

The sinking of the Titanic, almost 100 years ago now. Check out the paper name  "The Register and Leader"

Nixon Resigns
WWII ends in the Pacific.

The Gulf War.

The weather was perfect Friday night to walk around downtown and see all the amazing art, even though we couldn't afford any of it. We ended up eating at Django for the first time as well. Their hamburgers have been voted 'best hamburger' in the city, so Bob was very eager to try one. I fell in love with the tomato artichoke bisque! I highly recommend trying it out sometime if you live in the DSM area. Downtown is a wonderful place to be at night when events are going on and especially when the weather is perfect (shocker I know it wasn't raining here for once, but don't worry it poured on Saturday).

The outdoor seating next to the Starbucks on Locust, where my friends at Wells Fargo and I would eat lunch quite often.
Downtown Library.

Homemade Beer!

It was 4 or 5 years ago that my sister bought me a "Mr. Beer Home Brewery Kit". I was in college...and she understood that guys in college enjoy beer, so it was a good gift. The problem was that I was probably too busy drinking 'already made beer' to spend the time to make my own. I thought it would be a labor intensive process to get it going, and living in a dirty apartment with multiple guys, I figured I'd screw it the Mr. Beer kit made it's way to my parents garage, where it sat for years.

When visiting my parents I saw it, and decided it would be entertaining and fun to actually try it out. The box was dirty and covered with cobwebs. I pulled out the contents inside. 4 or 5 years in a garage, exposed to the elements, as well as the expiration date of the beer materials of 2009...made me realize that I needed to get a new 'refill' to start fresh. I figured the beer would turn out pretty awful if I tried to brew it.

Since nobody around here sells the Mr. Beer refills I turned to amazon, and ordered the "Whispering Wheat Weizenbier" I love wheat beer, and have heard it's one of the easiest to make and have it turn out good. It showed up in a couple business days, and I got right to work.

Beer requires absolute sanitary conditions. Any rogue 'microbes/germs' or any off/foreign substances can ruin a batch of beer, making it taste awful. This must be what happens at the "Lacrosse Light" brewery every time.

Worst beer in existence

Since everything must be clean. You start the process by sanitizing the keg and all the utensils you'll be needing. The kit and refills come with a great cleanser that you slosh around inside the keg, let it sit for a few minutes, and then slosh again. It's important to run a little through the spigot to make sure that's clean too.

Once you have everything cleaned you're ready to start brewing. The first step is to have the keg ready, filled with cold water, because shortly you'll be pouring in near boiling water/mixture. Before you boil anything you start by mixing in the 'booster' to a pot of water. This will help boost the overall flavor and alcohol of the beer. Once it's all dissolved, the mixture is brought to a boil, and then removed from heat.

While the mix is still warm the can of beer flavoring is poured in and mixed. This is thoroughly mixed, and then poured into the keg.

Once it's in the keg, you fill it up to the line with cool water. Add the brewing yeast. Wait 5 minutes and stir aggressively...Then put that aggression away for 2 weeks along with the keg, let it do it's thing. I stored my keg on a rack in my closet. It's important that it's away from any direct sunlight, and at a fairly steady temperature. During the brewing/fermenting stage you can add things like orange for example to enhance the flavors. Since this is my first time, I didn't want to screw anything up. If this turns out alright, will have to try experimenting a little more.
Just have to wait...watching paint dry is fun!
The next step is bottling the beer, which will come once it's brewed for around 2 weeks. I've been saving brown bottles from beer, and am going to sanitize them all in boiling water to prepare for re-use. I'll be back to follow up with the next step of the process. If this is something that turns out good, and something I enjoy I hope to make up my own recipes and make some 'hand-crafted' brews of my own...Christy and I have already started making up beer names.