Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Balboa Museum of Nature

The Last Museum

IMG_3854 (600x800)The youngest said, as we drove to the airport, that museums were not that interesting because, you know, he kinda knew about everything that was in it.

I dunno if that was really true, but for the two boys, the museum of Nature was a completely different experience.

IMG_2292 (598x800)Both loved that when they walked in there was a dinosaur looming inside, looking like it was running from them. That drew them in. The wanted a closer look. Then they saw a big globe they could play with. That pulled them into the museum further. Then, out of no where, as they rounded a corner, a huge shark looked like it was leaping out of the water towards them.

And the museum had them hooked.

The youngest, after staring up in awe at the shark, ran off to play with things that could be played with. He moved continents. He made mountains rise out of the sea. He tore the Baja Peninsula from California. He plunged the globe in and out of darkness. Like a cruel and somewhat bored god.

The oldest inspected the displays, stopping at ones he knew a little about, talking to us about them, asking questions that we couldn’t possibly hope to answer. “So, if I could ride a shark and I could breathe underwater and I could control the shark with my mind, could I defeat Godzilla?”

Ok, he didn’t ask if he could defeat Godzilla, but he did want to ride that shark and control minds and had some tough questions to answer (unless you were a dinologist or whatever they’re called.)

For him, the museum fired up his imagination.

And isn’t that great?

I dunno if he actually learned any hard facts. But it got him thinking.

We moved from the dinosaurs upwards, checking out bones and peaking into the pirate exhibit that cost way too much to actually go into. It’s funny sometimes that I’ll spend thousands of dollars on a flight and hotel and balk at $30 a person to see pirates, but there it is.

IMG_3882 (800x450)The boys lost interest in paintings hung on the upper floors, but the youngest found a huge chalkboard where kids had written their profound thoughts and drawn smiley faces and stickmen. He grabbed an eraser and erased them all. To be fair, he likes to clean.

IMG_3881 (600x800)While he scrubbed chalk from the chalkboard, his brother examined tiny skulls. I could see his mind working. I could almost hear his imagination catching fire. Nothing like a skull the size of my pinkie fingernail to keep the attention of an 11 year old.

We saw more dinosaur exhibits, the youngest sifting through dirt to find bones,IMG_3897 the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world joking that it was nice for the dinosaurs to have colored bones so we knew what went where. The oldest gave her that look that I usually get.

But with time running out, we still had one last thing to do – See an IMAX film on dinosaurs. In hindsight, we chose poorly. We should have seen the show on sharks but both boys said they knew everything about sharks, and said it in that “duh, hello, bored,” tone. So, yeah, dinosaurs it was.

The graphics were good, the story kinda neat, but I think the boys were done for the day. A week of touring had finally caught up with them. They looked like they would fall asleep.

IMG_3875The museum wasn’t a complete disaster,IMG_3889 (600x800) don’t get me wrong. The oldest’s mind was expanded just a little bit that day, and the youngest got to touch, poke, rattle a ton of displays. They both got to climb on an elephant and the oldest found the red-eyed bird that had been following him the whole trip.

But hey, by the late afternoon, they were tired, they wanted to get home, they wanted to sleep in their own beds, play a little terraria and have enough face cloths to wash their faces.

IMG_3856 (800x600)So, we left the museum, Balboa Park, the city of San Diego and headed off to the airport.

Two tired boys?

In an airport?

What could go wrong?

Pacific Rim

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5guMumPFBag]How can a movie with giant fighting mechs and Godzilla-like monsters be bad? Well, it isn’t but it isn’t good either. It misses the marks in a few places. Had Guillermo del Toro called me, I could have helped him out.

The conversation may have gone something like this.

Me: Hi, Mo

GDT: What? Who is this. And don’t call me ‘Mo’.

Me: Right. Sure. I remember the restraining order. But listen I just saw your latest movie, Pacific Rim. Great special effect, amazing special effects, actually, but I didn’t leave satisfied. I thought you could have done a few things better.

GDT: Who are you again?

Me: So, I like that you chose Jax from Sons of Anarchy, he’s a good looking tough guy, and the smoking hot Rinko Kikuchi who had that awesome blue streak in her hair.. inspired, but the best acting choice was Idris Elba as the Marshal or commander or whatever he was. He was great. The two goofy scientists, though, kinda hmmm, a little warmed over don’t you think?

GDT: What are you talking about?

imagesCAWC9UAXMe: Ok, I’ll get to the point. First. Lemme ask you a question. If you have a huge giant robotie thingee and it has a sword, and a plasma cannon and some sort of rocket powered elbow punch, why in the name of George Lucas did they not use those abilities right away? I mean, seriously. If I have a sword, I’m a gonna use it. But that’s me. It’s not like I’m going to wait until I’m a billion feet above the ground and hack some flying monster to pieces, no, I’m a gonna use it right away. First I’d shoot the damn cannon, then whip out my sword and slice monstrous bits off, and if that wasn’t enough, my last resort thing would be beating it about its boney head with my big fists. Just saying.

GDT: How did you get this number?

imagesCA6XG3DRMe: Second. I think you needed more heart in this movie. I loved the little girl scene, though it was a tiny bit over the top, but with the robots, you hit on something really magical and then left it for dead. I’m talking about the whole bonding experience. 2 people to drive the robots, Mo, 2 people in each giant metal robot whose minds are locked in a neural ‘handshake’. Make me love those people and this movie rocks.

So what if they were always bond by love, brotherly love, father-son love, true, magical romantic love? Yeah? How powerful would that be? We’d spend a few more moments with the Russians, with the Asian perfectionists, and then, with our hero and the uber lovely Mako.

But no, instead the people are largely ignored. The bond between them largely ignored. It’s a big miss, my friend, a big miss. We will go to see the fights, but what we’ll talk about will be those characters inside the robots. How could you forget that?

GDT: Ok, I’m going to call the cops.

Me: Right, right, so lastly, maybe I’m getting old but what’s with all the splashing me in the face with water and blinding me with bright lights and shooting the monster/robot fights so that sometimes I can’t tell what the hell is going on? I mean, I get it, you can do amazing effects with light and 3D water spraying me, but keep the fights clean.

Look at the scene you did with the little girl. Debris falls like snow, cars line the streets, broken and dusted in greyish-chalk, and filling the screen in the distance, a pretty big monster. In front of it, a little girl. Kinda scary actually. Old school special effects. Perfect AND affective.

GDT: I’m going to hang up.

Me: Sure, sure, just a sec. It’s a pretty entertaining movie and you did a pretty good job for about 2/3rds of the movie. But that other 1/3 makes or breaks a movie. Avoid the clichés. Avoid stupid characters with metal shoe tips that get eaten because, well, they were stupid. Avoid an ending that I’ve seen a million times before.

And, avoid worrying about making the effects so ground-breaking that you forget about story. It’s a lesson Lucas never learned, but great movies are less about stunning visuals and more about characters we come to love (or hate.)

GDT: *click*

Me: Hello? Hello? I didn’t get to mention the title sucks.

Ah well. I think I’d still recommend seeing this movie. It’s not the best to come out this summer. But it is a world of giant robots, epic battles, massive destruction, and an homage to the old Godzilla movies. Hey, I wouldn’t bring young kids, though, it could scare the heck out of them, but for the rest of us, but it’s worth ‘seeing.  It’s worth the price of admission.