july 2015

Over the weekend we took Will to see Inside Out, the first non-sequel Pixar film since Up except for Brave (which most Pixar fans would agree was a bit of a miss for the company) since 2009, which just happens to be directed by Up's director. And, not surprisingly, it's easily the company's best film since Up.

The premise seems complicated—part of the movie takes place in the world we know, with a preteen girl and her family's move from a small town in Minnesota to San Francisco, and all of the emotional trauma she encounters when she loses her friends and the way of life she's known since she was born, and the other part takes place inside her head, with five primary emotions taking turns at her brain's control panel depending on her mood and her stress levels. The filmmakers quickly educate you as to the rules of this inner world, and the way they describe it makes it very easy to map to your own experiences (or, if you are a parent, to the experiences of your child).

It's wonderfully emotional and funny for adults, but it's also simple enough for kids to grasp and has enough story that they won't get bored, even if they're not quite capable of grasping all the nuances of what's happening in this girl's life. What really makes it work is the voice acting—with Phyllis Smith (from The Office) as Sadness, Amy Poehler as Joy, and Lewis Black as Anger, the casting is nearly perfect especially because, even once you recognize who the voice belongs to, these actors really inhabit the characters and make you forget that you're listening to them—you just hear the characters.

I'm happy to see this rebound from a company whose works I have loved since the first Toy Story, but I'm still a little concerned about their future plans. Three of their four movies preceding Inside Out were sequels, and only Toy Story 3 could be credibly put in the same category as the film that it was born from—and this isn't even counting the two Planes movies, which are officially labeled as Disney films even though they are also officially described as spin-offs from the Cars universe (which would make five of the previous six films spin-offs or sequels if you included them).

And while the next Pixar movie, The Good Dinosaur, is also an original property that is scheduled for release later this year, the known slate of Pixar films returns mostly to sequels after that—aside from an untitled film about the Mexican Day of the Dead the not much is known about, we have a sequel to Finding Nemo, a sequel to The Incredibles, another Toy Story (!), and yet another Cars film (!!!), despite the fact that Cars 2 is universally considered to be the worst film Pixar has ever made.

Pixar said a few years ago that it's intention was to release one original film a year and rely less on sequels, but looking at their films since that time and at what they have on the drawing board, that statement is ringing increasingly hollow. And I'm sure it's hard to resist making the sequels, because I'm guessing they're a lot less work and they have a guaranteed audience, so it's almost like printing money, and given their ownership by Disney, they're not going to be able to let artistic principles get in the way of profit.

Which is really too bad, because almost every original Pixar film has been an instant classic that pushed the medium forward in ways that even their best competition have never come close to with Pixar's consistency. Adding to the problem is that only a few of their existing properties have any possiblity of a sequel—you're never (I hope) going to make another Wall-E, Up, Ratatouille or (god willing) Inside Out, meaning you have to keep going back to the Cars/Toy Story/Monsters well until they have been sucked dry. And when one of these sequels falls short, it somehow diminishes the entire franchise, and it's a shame to see them risk the legacies of some truly great films just for the near-guarantee of making another huge pile of money.

But I digress. Inside Out is a terrific film, and you should go see it, especially if you tend to like Pixar's movies.

Heading into the office for the last day before the long weekend. I'm going to guess that I will easily make up more than 10% of the people who show up for work today...

July 4 was pretty low key for us this year—no one had yet arrived for Will's birthday, and my sister who lives nearby was spending the weekend in the mountains with friends, so we didn't have to coordinate with anyone. We did have a couple of friends over—they have a son who is a few years older than Will but who doesn't mind hanging out with Will, and Will LOVES him, so we had a simple dinner of make-it-yourself deli sandwiches with potato salad, cole slaw, chips, pickles, etc., and our friends brought some dessert.

We set off some sparklers and gave the boys some glow necklaces, and then around 7:45 we walked to downtown Decatur, hoping to sit on top of the same parking deck that we found last year to watch the fireworks from (it's right across from the parking deck where they actually set off the fireworks, so it has a great view and for some reason it wasn't that crowded last year). But the police were shooing everyone away and directing us to a closed-off street nearby. It was kind of disappointing not to be able to sit on the deck, but we found a spot on a sidewalk that had just as good a view, so it wasn't that big a deal.

The rest of the weekend was pretty lazy—we went to church for the first time in what feels like a couple of months, and we ran some errands and took a walk around the neighborhood, but otherwise had an unremarkable long weekend.

I've been trying to make plans to go see a movie with the father of one of Will's classmates (his name is Steve, and although we've had some good conversations at various kid-oriented gatherings, we've never hung out without our families in tow before) for a few weeks now, and our schedules finally synced up this week. Our plan was to see the new Avengers film, which neither of us had been able to catch yet, but unfortunately there were only afternoon showings in Atlanta, so that was a no-go.

We were debating between the new Terminator, Jurassic World, or Ex Machina, which I didn't know much about other than that it featured intelligent robots who started to strain under the yokes of their human masters. I knew Steve was into sci fi (one of our first conversations was about Neal Stephenson after I saw several of that author's volumes on his bookshelf when they hosted a party at their house), so I wasn't surprised when he voted for Ex Machina.

I came into this film with very little knowledge of the plot—I only knew that it had gotten great reviews and that it was already developing a cult following, but the intelligent robot premise was enough for me to be interested without knowing further details (I wonder how much better I would think many films are if I didn't feel like I already knew the whole premise and sometimes even the whole story before I watched a single frame because of trailers that give away far too much—that sense of mystery about the cinematic universe that you're being immersed in really adds to the experience of seeing a movie for the first time, and it's far too rare these days).

There may be more spoilers than you'd like if you are planning to see this but also don't know anything about it, so I'll give my quick review here: this film is incredibly written, shot, and acted, and if you like the idea of a psychologically intense, intellectual, sci fi thriller, you'll probably like this movie.

For the rest of you, I'll try to keep the specifics of the plot to a minimum, but I will go into more detail about the movie. It's an updated take on the Turing Test, the basics of which state that A.I. has been acheived when a human tester can't tell the difference between a computer program's responses and those from a genuine human respondant when having a conversation. This is explored in this film with a trio of characters: the super weird super genius who is the founder of a Google-like company (Nathan), a programmer from his company who he has selected to conduct the Turing Test on one of his creations (Caleb), and the intelligent robot who is being tested (Ava).

In addition to some simply beautiful set design and cinematography and some incredible acting by each of the main characters, this film succeeds because it really keeps you guessing. You are nominally supposed to sympathize with Caleb and see him as the protagonist, but there are moments of insanity from each of the three characters, and you really don't know who to believe or who to root for (I would argue that this is actually one of the most brilliant things about the movie: even after all is revealed, you still don't know who is good, who is evil, and who you're supposed to identify and empathize with, because all three of them deserve a little of each label).

All three performances are noteworthy, but Oscar Isaacson, who portrays Nathan, is a real standout—it's his portrayal of the mad genius that gives the film its edge and its intensity. You really have no idea what's going to come out of his mouth next, what his intentions are, and how his unpredictability and seeming madness are going to affect the other two characters. Before I looked at his IMDB page, I would have stated confidently that he's going to parlay this performance into a major Hollywood career, but then I checked and saw that he's already been cast as one of the leads in the three Star Wars sequels that are being overseen by J.J. Abrams and that he also has a big role in the next X-Men film, so I was right, but my prediction had already happened when I made it. But here's your chance to see just why he's going to be such a big star before The Force Awakens arrives this December.

Ex Machina's writer and director is Alex Garland, and while this is his directorial debut, he was responsible for writing two of my favorite sci fi films of the past decade, 28 Days Later and Sunshine (both of which were directed by Danny Boyle and starred Cillian Murphy). This might be better than either of those films, and it makes me eager to see what he'll do next now that he's proven he can not only write great movies but also helm the process of bringing them to the screen.

I imagine that he, like his actors, will be sucked into the world of big-budget moviemaking based on this film (in addition to Isaacson's Star Wars and X-Men roles, Caleb's Dohmnall Gleeson is also in the new Star Wars movies, and Ava's Alicia Vikander will be in the next Bourne sequel), but I'm hoping he'll find a way to make movies like this in between heading up franchise movies for Disney or Marvel. Movies like Ex Machina make me excited about taking the extra time and effort to actually go out and see movies in the theater, and while I'm fine with him getting a big payday out of this, we also need him to keep making more films that push the medium further.

Also: Steve really liked the movie, we had some good conversations, and we're going to hang out again soon. So the evening was doubly satisfying.

It's going to be a complicated week guest-wise. My dad and stepmother arrive today for Will's birthday weekend (he turns 5 on Friday) and will stay with us until Friday, and then my mom, who also arrives today but who will stay with my sister initially, will switch with my dad and stepmother and she will stay with us and they will stay with my sister. We're supposed to do a full family dinner on Friday night, and then we're also planning to go out to my sister's (she lives about an hour away) on Saturday for a pool party and cookout.

My dad and stepmother will depart on Sunday, followed by my mom on Monday. I'm very happy that there are so many people in Will's life who want to come spend time with him on his birthday, especially because he also loves all of them so much, but with all the travel, etc., we've already had this summer, I'm also looking forward to a weekend or two of relative calm after this weekend.

And then it will almost be time for him to start kindergarten...

I'm taking the day off tomorrow, and it's like the calendar gods know and have decided to punish me with a full day of meetings before my long weekend. My first one is at 9, and I have one every hour after that (including a working lunch) through 3. And at 3 I have a two hour conference call.

But once I get through it, I have a few fun days off with family. I'm going to start to lose steam around 1, but maybe the conference call (which shouldn't require a ton of my active participation this week) will end a little early.

It's my son Will's fifth birthday today, and I can't believe it's already been five years. He's been the most incredible thing in my life since the first second I saw him in the birthing room, and he gets a little more amazing every day. Like any kid, he has his bad moments—tantrums, disobedience, acting out, etc.—but he's kind, generous, and very empathetic to others, traits that will make this a harder life for him in some ways, but ones that also give him the possibility of becoming a truly extraordinary individual.

I'm so happy and proud to be part of his life. He makes being a good dad look easy, because he (generally) makes it very easy. I can't imagine experiencing this world without him, and I'm so glad that I get to spend all these years with him while he's becoming whoever it is that he's going to be as an adult.

For Will's birthday on Friday, we took him to an opening day screening of the Minions movie with all the grandparents. It was in a theater with leather recliners for seats in an upscale mall that we've taken him to a couple of times before, and I got a section of six seats in a row so all the grandparents who were in town could join us. The movie was okay for a minor character spinoff from a bigger franchise—way better than the Penguins movie that was a spinoff from the Madagascar movies (which I guess makes sense, because the Despicable Me movies are way better than the Madagascar movies), but Will had a ball, and got his traditional Snow Caps, a candy he got the first time he ever went to the movies and which he continues to request whenever we go (although this time he supplemented it with strawberry Twizzlers, which apparently someone shared with him at school sometime recently).

For dinner we took him to a local pizza place that could accomodate our crowd (which had been increased by then with the addition of my sister and her husband) before heading back home for cake and presents. This year we got him a cookie cake from his favorite cookie store, and it was pretty awesome—we asked them if they could put a couple of jellyfish on it (his favorite animal for about the past year), and they covered it with many, many jellyfish made out of white chocolate that had blended with many different colors.

His stack of presents was a little ridiculous—it might have even been bigger than his Christmas pile—but I guess that's what happens when he's the only grandchild so far. But he got some really great stuff—a set of child's golf clubs (but real clubs) from my dad and stepmother, a jellyfish lamp and some Legos from my sister, a small indoor trampoline from my mom (one of the neighbor kids has one and he has always loved jumping on it), and a kid-friendly digital camera from us.

It was a good day, but it was just the start of a big birthday weekend...

On Friday night, my parents switched up where they were staying, with my mom taking over our guest bedroom and my dad and stepmother heading over to my sister's place. We joined them there midday on Saturday, and then spent the afternoon swimming in their pool before having a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers outside in their backyard.

I love how much he loves to swim—like me, he tends to stay in the pool (or the ocean, or whatever) until he's bascially compelled to come out—but I wish he was making more progress at his swim lessons. We're on the third round of them now, and he still needs some kind floaties or he sinks like a stone. I think we need to address this in the next set of lessons—make sure that the goal of that set is for him to be able to keep himself afloat. We can work on strokes and technique once he's gotten the basics of keeping himself from drowning.

On Sunday my dad and stepmother headed back home, but not before we had breakfast at Golden Corral with the full group of everyone. We got there at a very interesting time—everything was breakfast-oriented when we first arrived, but they switched over to all of the lunch food by the time we went back for seconds, and I got the feeling that a lot of the other customers there were purposely there for the transition so they could eat their full allotment of calories (or more—sometimes much, much more) in a single extended sitting.

That afternoon we used a Groupon we got a while back to go with my mom down to Skyview Atlanta, a giant ferris wheel next to Centennial Park (and also, interestingly, right next to the Tabernacle, something I never realized before this even though I've been to the Tabernacle several times). There wasn't much of a line, so it only took us about 15 minutes to get on, and then we had a decently long 20 minute ride. Will loved being able to see Atlanta from up high and asked if we could go back again sometime.

After the Skyview, we walked across the street to the splash pad in Centennial Park, and luckily they turned it off after about 25 minutes—otherwise I'm not sure if we would have been able to get him out, since none of us was wearing clothes that we could get soaked and he was pretty firmly ensconced in the center of the water jets.

Will brought his new camera with him and insisted on taking pictures throughout the day, which was adorable. Photography is a hobby of mine, so it would be cool if this little obsession would endure as he gets older—it would be nice if we had something like that we could share.

I went to see the latest Avengers movie with relatively low expectations—I liked the first one pretty well, but a lot of the Marvel movies are too overweight with mythologies and tie-ins to other movies, and the general critical buzz was that it was too long and too heavily burdened with telling stories not central to the main plot and setting up the next few movies in the larger Marvel universe.

But it was really good, especially given that it definitely had those non-story related tasks to perform. I may even like it better than the first Avengers, because it was freed from having to 1) explain all these characters to an audience that hadn't seen all the earlier Marvel films and 2) figure out a plausible way to get them to team up.

I made the comment about the first Avengers that it was almost like Iron Man 2.5 because it was so heavily dependent on Tony Stark, and that's also true here—calling this one Iron Man 3.5 would not be unwarranted. But that's okay—he's a very compelling character as played by Robert Downey Jr., and his smart-ass wit is a perfect match for Whedon's sensibilties, so it's only natural that he would become the focus of a script penned by Whedon

I still question the inclusion of really minor characters from the comic book universe like Black Widow and Hawkeye, especially when there are still so many great characters who have been part of the Avengers at one point or another in the comic books who have yet to make an appearance in the Marvel cinematic universe, but I did like them better in this film, and especially liked Black Widow's unique relationship with Bruce Banner/Hulk.

It will be interesting to see how the planned third one pans out without Joss Whedon at the helm. Yes, he's still helping out with the overall strategy of the cinematic universe and he will undoubtedly still be involved in some way, but he has set the bar pretty high, and without his day to day involvement it's hard to see how another set of directors is going to be able to achieve the perfect balance of so many elements that he did in the first two films.

We're going to let Will watch the first Star Wars (A New Hope, of course) tonight. I have been waiting for this day since before he was born.

Lots of shows that I want to catch up on—I haven't watched any of the Amazon Daredevil series (one of my favorite characters from the Marvel comic universe, but I haven't liked the film versions at all thanks largely to Ben Affleck), or the new Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell series from BBC America that's based on Susanna Clarke's amazing novel, or the third series of Hannibal, and I still have five episodes of the first season of Gotham left on the DVR.

But every time I sit down and want to watch a little tv, I end up watching reality shows or cooking shows instead of these scripted dramas, even though I love Hannibal and Gotham and I want to see how Daredevil and Jonathan Strange play out in the context of a television series. I'm not sure why this is, but I wonder if part of it has to do with the lack of true free-standing episodes in today's high-concept dramas—stories are told across the course of a whole season, and the weight of the larger narrative and the mythology of these shows that can make it seem like you have to binge watch them or you'll start to forget important details that will transform into major plot points later on.

I liked the way that the first few seasons of the X-Files handled this problem—there was certainly a mythology to that show that built and unfolded over several seasons, but each season was liberally sprinkled with one-off episodes that had not direct relationship to the central conspiracy. That gave the viewer some relief from feeling like they had to pay attention to every scene and utterance for some clue about the mythology (it also didn't hurt that the X-Files also regularly had episodes that were just flat-out goofy and fun to watch, another element that is sorely missing from many of today's serial dramas).

Because when you feel like you have to study an episode instead of just being able to watch and enjoy it, it makes it a lot harder to sit down and choose to watch it, especially when it's 9:30 at night after a long day of work and family and you just want to let your brain relax a little bit.

Tuesdays, days consistently blocked out for meetings. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And featuring plenty of idiots telling their tales.

Will seemed to enjoy watching Star Wars, but I don't know if some of it was still a little too far above his head. He didn't immediately want to watch it again the next day, which is his typical behavior for a movie he's really taken with, but he did get really excited about getting an R2-D2 thermos for kindergarten, so I know he hasn't soured on it.

We'll see if he asks to see it again anytime soon. Ideally he would get really into it so we could watch Empire and Jedi together before The Force Awakens comes out later this year—it would be a cool experience to go see a new Star Wars movie with him when he's about the same age that I was when I saw my first Star Wars movie—but I'm not going to force it if he's not that into it yet.

I think it's the right decision to have him watch the movies in the order they were chronologically released, but I hate that the only copies avaiable are the special edition ones. There are two things that stand out as especially grevious with those versions of the film. One of them, of course, is Greedo shooting first, a well known fan outrage, but the other is no less important to me: there's a line in Empire when Luke and RD are on Dagobah and a swamp monster tries to eat R2.

After a moment, R2 is spectacularly ejected from the water, and Luke's comment is "You're lucky you don't taste very good." For no reason whatsoever, this gem of a line is changed to "You were lucky to get out of there." That second line is exactly the kind of clunker that Lucas would have written and have something better improvised by his actors, and it's another sign of his megalomania that he felt the need to change it back to what was presumably in his original script despite the obvious better-ness of the line that was in the original theatrical release.

But such is the world he will have to grow up in. One day, when he hopefully becomes an obsessive about such things, we can seek out YouTube clips that haven't yet been discovered and taken down by Disney that will let him see the original scenes, even though he may never be able to watch them in their original context. Let's just hope J.J. Abrams doesn't tremendously fuck up this cinematic universe and make the whole exercise of getting Will into Star Wars a mostly pointless exercise.

I went to see the new Terminator Genisys last night, and similar to many of my sequel experiences, I had relatively low expectations, especially since the last good film in the Terminator franchise was 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation both had their moments, but the first didn't seem to really have a compelling reason to exist and the second set goals for itself that were far too lofty).

But I like this one, probably more than I should have (or at least more than I should feel comfortable declaring publicly). Critics have had a field day tearing apart the admittedly ridiculous time-skipping plot, but I didn't really mind it—you just had to commit yourself to the ride and not worry too much about the silliness of it (which the filmmakers themselves sort of acknowledge—at one point, they outright give up on explaining how all these different timelines and alternate realities intersect and interact with each other and just get on with the fun).

I didn't care so much for the casting of Kyle Reese—Jai Courtney's earnest musclehead had none of the weary, everyman nuance that Michael Biehn originally brought to the character, and nowhere was this more evident than in the scenes which recreated some of the early scenes from the first Terminator (the beginning of the time traveling shenanigans that it's just better not to think to much about if you want to have any chance of enjoying this film). I also wasn't too fond of the choice for the adult John Connor—I don't know who I might have picked for that role instead, but the actor they chose either seemed both too young and too old for the character, and there was nothing really memorable about his performance.

But Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) was a really solid choice for Sarah Connor—she managed to echo enough of Linda Hamilton's performance that she felt like a viable alternate timeline version of the orginal character. And this really helped sell the first part of the movie, which takes place in another version of the 1984 where the original Terminator was set and where they explicitly recreate some of the scense from the first movie.

Overall this was a fun summer movie that bore the heavy weight of its franchise pretty well. I was going to give it an additional compliment for not obviously setting up another sequel, but there was a short post-credit scene (in the Marvel style) that did exactly that. But it really didn't matter—we all know that with a longstanding property like this, especially one that uses time travel and alternate timelines for the basis of new sequels, there's going to be another Terminator story to tell regardless of how they ended this one.

We unexpectedly had to get a new TiVo a few weeks ago. Even though our old one, which we got in 2009, was still cranking along without any problems, our cable provider was switching to a new encoding format for HD channels that our previous TiVo couldn't handle, so we got a notice from Comcast that we'd either have to upgrade to a newer TiVo box or use one of their DVRs.

I was on the verge of just getting the Comcast DVR, because a new TiVo with lifetime service would have been around $900, which would have translated into 5 years worth of monthly fees for renting the Comcast DVR, and even though we've had good luck with our DVR hard drives, I really don't count on hard drives of any sort lasting for longer than five years, and, all things being equal, having a Comcast DVR would have meant we didn't have to worry about changes in format, etc., in the future.

But then TiVo sent us a letter saying that because of Comcast's switch to a new format, if we got a new TiVo, we would only pay $100 for lifetime service, which changed the equation drastically—now the TiVo would only have to last for a little over two years to make it a better deal than renting a DVR from Comcast—so we decided to go that route.

It's a nice little upgrade—more storage, capable of recording six shows at once (which seems crazy to me, but the way the networks like to schedule good shows against each other, I won't be surprised if there are occasional times when we're recording 3-4 shows at once), built in WiFi (our old model had an external WiFi receiver that was connected to the box via USB), and a better, faster user interface. There are also some cool new features like being able to stream shows from our TiVo to our mobile devices, and even being able to transfer shows to our mobile devices using the TiVo app so we can watch them offline. And, because both TiVos were connected to our WiFi network, we were able to move most of the shows we wanted to save (like Julie's appearances on local news shows) from the old TiVo box to the new one.

We would have normally waited until our old TiVo stopped functioning before buying a new one, and although I'm not happy about Comcast forcing the issue, I also think the deal we got as a result of Comcast's format change is one that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise, which means that, one way or the other, we would have ended up paying a lot more for whatever DVR we were using if we had waited until our old one gave out.

Even though Will's birthday was two weeks ago, due to various scheduling conflicts, we ended up not having his party for his friends until last Saturday. He waffled for a while about what kind of party he wanted—Glow Galaxy (where he had his party last year), the pirate mini-golf place, and bowling were all in the running, but in the end he settled on bowling (he had a friend who had a bowling party back in March, the first time he'd ever been bowling, and it really seemed to make an impression).

The only food we were allowed to bring was his cake, which we ordered from Publix (a pull-apart cake made of cupcakes with a Minions design), and since we did a book exchange instead of asking people to bring gifts, it was pretty easy to do the set up. Our main task once we got there was to seek out all the 8 pound or less balls in the bowling alley and concentrate them on the ball returns for the four lanes we were given for the party.

The kids had a blast—for a while I tried to show them how to gently roll the ball underhanded instead of them lurching up to the line and tossing the ball, but I eventually gave up on that, even though I winced every time one got seriously airborn and came down on the lane with a loud boom.

Jurassic World was going to be my late weeknight showing movie outing this week, but it seems to have disappeared suddenly from theaters around here. The same thing happened with the Avengers for a couple of weeks and then it reappeared, so maybe I just have to give it a week or two. It's not like I don't have plenty of stuff (including movies from HBO) DVR'd that I can watch instead, but it's more about the experience of watching something on the big screen in a mostly empty theater that I've really come to enjoy.

The more details that Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck reveal about the upcoming major expansion to the DC cinematic universe (like how Suicide Squad ties into Batman vs. Superman, and how Affleck is planning to direct himself in the first standalone Batman movie—currently titlted "The Batman"—since Christopher Nolan's final installment of the Dark Knight trilogy), the more I'm convinced that there's no way that they're going to build anything nearly as compelling as what Joss Whedon has done with the Marvel cinematic universe.

It doesn't help that I'm not really a DC guy, either now or when I was reading comic books in my teens—Marvel, especially the X-Men and all of the spin-offs from that series, were always my thing—but I have found Batman a movie character worth revisiting over the years. Tim Burton saved that character from camp with the first two films starring Michael Keaton before it became even more campy than the 60s television series was once he left the franchise, but Nolan brought it into the 21st century and set up a good platform from which to launch future stories.

But Affleck portraying Batman is a bad decision, especially in the wake of him ruining one of my favorite Marvel characters, Daredevil, over a decade ago, and I can't imagine how awful the standalone film will be when he's also in the director's chair. I don't know—maybe my expectations will be so low that it won't be hard for him to exceed them and trick me into thinking that The Batman isn't awful. But it's highly unlikely that he's going to come anywhere close to being an appropriate custodian of the world that Nolan created and producing a film that's a worthy successor to the Dark Knight trilogy.

Will has a new cute little habit: we've programmed several people's FaceTime contacts into an iPhone we let him use sometimes to play games on (people like all of his grandparents, my sister, and my friend Sarah's kids), and two or three times a week we'll get home from school and he'll randomly pick someone to call (and he'll keep going through his contact list if the first person doesn't pick up).

As soon as he gets someone on the line, he immediately retreats to his bedroom ("for privacy", he says) and jabbers to them about his day for 15 or 20 minutes. If Julie or I go into his room while he's still on the phone, he immediately shoos us away and closes the door again.

Hopefully this behavior isn't a passing fad and will endure for a few years, especially with the grandparents—I know they all love to chat with him, and there will be some day (as there was for all of us) when it becomes more of a chore than something that he looks forward to and initiates.

Today is Will's last day at his preschool, where he's been going for nearly three years, and it's only one more week until he starts kindergarten.

This summer has seemed really short to me, and I'm wondering if this school schedule has something to do with it—instead of taking our vacation the last week of August like we've done the past couple of years, we took it this year at the beginning of June, and now with a new routine starting around his elementary school schedule, it feels like we've definitely come to the end of something even though it's still five weeks until Labor Day.

I was really hoping we'd be able to take another small family vacation this summer, maybe up to my dad's house so Will could ride in the boat, but not only is that not going to happen, I don't know if we'll be able to even do a short weekend trip anywhere since the school only gives you 10 unexcused absences a year, and we need to save those in case we want to do something like a ski trip this winter.

So the weather will still be brutally hot (which I've actually come to enjoy), and in most other ways it will still feel like summer, except that Will will already be in his school year and our day-to-day lives will be dictated by that schedule. Summer is over, and it hardly feels like we've gotten to enjoy the season at all.

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