Friday, July 13, 2007

Only Because I am Grateful

I will break my 2-week working vow of blogging silence one time and one time only to announce that the newest installment of the Harry Potter movies kicks some seriously large and robust rump. It is an important review for me because it gives me hope that there is a director out there who is more in love with the story he tells than how he is telling it. Director- David Yates. He put me in a good, thankful blogging mood tonight. So here goes.

There are many, many layers of it’s kickbuttedness, but I will only name a few- just because I thought I was going to be out of luck on summer movies and instead I SCORED- (Plus I’m tired of looking at that picture of my can and too stubborn to remove it.)

First, the “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” looked real. I don’t mean in a- “oh my gosh, did you see how real that gigantic lion-squid-pelican-truck-cow-pig thing looked?” -way. I mean they looked real because it was shot in an almost documentary way (except not with at crappy camcorder and all jittery.) Yes there were special affects; it’s a movie about magic for crying out loud, but the effects where always artistically and tastefully rendered and where NEVER gratuitous or “just because I’ve got unlimited cash and can.”

Honestly, I am getting a tad weary of saturated colors in big budget sci-fi and action movies. It was the trend of the late 90’s until now- to jack with the colors of a film until not a single frame looked honest or relatable. I guess it works in the Graphic Novels adaptations and a few people can pull it off without the viewer noticing or caring (Tarentino, Rodriguez) but most just look like a 2 hour MTV music video, which work for three minutes but make me crave rainbow popsicles after ten.

That wasn’t the case here with The Order Of The Phoenix. It reminded me of the 1st superman movie in tone and color and pacing, except with a better payoff at the climax. And I LOVE the 1st Superman movie.

Order of the Phoenix had me hooked from scene one, out by the rusty and lonely merry-go-round with its understated but brooding tone. (Later, I felt it got a little to dark to see in the woods, but again, it’s the woods.)

Second, Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) acting was pretty stinking good. I was floored. Before Order of the Phoenix, I had grown accustomed to accepting Radcliffe’s adolescent, coming of acting-age flaws and making up for them by ignoring him and engaging my own imagination. Not so in this film. I guess dropping his knickers and exposing his twig and berries on Broadway did the trick for Daniel Radcliffe finding his inner angst, thereby utilizing that angst to wield some serious drama to go along with his “Expecto Patronum!” And by golly, in one great dialogue scene with Oldman and Radcliffe, I actually felt Radcliffe deserved to be sharing the screen with Oldman. (I really think Gary Oldman is one of the best and most underrated actors in the movie biz.)

The rest of the acting from all parties in the film was excellent as well. The entire cast is just stunning if you step back and just take a casual gander at the big hitters.

Another performance I have to mention, only because I haven’t liked him in any of the installments yet, is Dumbledore’s. (Michael Gambon, who has been great in everything besides the previous Potter flicks.) It was the first time that I have liked Gambon as Dumbledore in these films or felt that he diplayed the great inner power conveyed in the books. (He’s always seemed a bit worried and frail to be the most powerful Wizard EVER in the others.) And of course, Amelda Stauton as “Dolorus Umbridge” nearly sizzled in every scene she giggled and stabbed through. She was darn near stole the WHOLE show- even Scarier than Voldemort in some ways. Good lord have I met a few Church Ladies like that in my time. She flat-out gave me the shivers.

Third, I have to say that I was surprised to find that on the whole, a little… scary. None of the Harry Potter films had me on the edge of my seat as this one did. I couldn’t believe that the director was actually being “artistic” in ways that you might expect in a- Hitchcock, early Spielberg, or good M. Night Shamalamadingdong- film. A few frames even reminded me of The Close Encounters of the Third Kind, how Spielberg used subtle, everyday toys and objects to spook the crud out of you.

The director of Pheonix decided to go that route as well and good for him, dangit. He directed it as if the film had to be made on a "budget" (like Jaws) and used creative ways to say things instead of just wigging out with all the special effects at his fingertips. However, it never seemed like a “cheap indie” film because when the real fireworks went off at the end, they spared no expense and clocked you with good old fashioned Hollywood-Wizard-dueling fun. Which brings me to my last little burst of glee over this here film.

The final dueling scene really knocked my socks off. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it, or maybe because my internal CGI suspended disbelief tanks weren’t already brimming over, or maybe because I didn’t believe Dumbledore had previously conveyed the great inner power portrayed in the books… Whatever the case, that duel at the end between Dumbledore and Voldemort kicked ass. In the book, I imagine that scene was tricky to write and pace, and honestly it was even a smidge corny, (I still loved it) but the director here pulled it off with inspired aplomb and curl-my-toes-chew-my-movie-ticket scary fun. I mean, I was actually a little scared of Voldemort for the first time, and his Death Eaters. (Ralph Fiennes = good evil villain!!!)

Everything about this film was just all around better than the last films. Some people will argue that 3 & 4 were better but for me, this one did the trick. It was still magical, but not in the “oh it’s Christmas time and I’m craving hot cocoa while watching the Snow at Hogwarts” way. Along with the characters, the films have grown up. But I think this one grew up and took the magic with it. (Kiss my butt Ebert.)


The only thing that might not work, or leave you confused, would be if you weren’t up to speed on the books or films. The director pretty much figures you know by now that Harry lost his parents, and how much he is like his father, and how they died, and how much he misses them, and how Voldemort wants to kill Harry, and so forth.

But hopefully the viewer will recognize the uniqueness of this series as something they wouldn’t want to jump in for the first time this late in the game anyhow. But if you do, you’ll still have the best time at the movies so far this summer.

The new original music by Nicholas Hooper was really cool sometimes, but for some reason the closing credits sounded like a Western. ??? Oh well, still friggin good. Not John Williams i.e. “Film Composer God” good, but added some needed underlying dimension to the grown-up Harry.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Peace Out Bloggers.

I am going on bloggin Hiatus for a few weeks to finish a few other projects. I will be back in app. 2 weeks or so. In the mean time " Fancypants" will be facilitating an awfully good discussion on Catholicism at the " Fancypants Factory," among other things.

I might drop by and I encourage you to do likewise, if you are interested in that sort of thing. If not, bugger off.

Until then, may your carpals never tunnel and your eye's stay balls.

That made no sense. How about...

Until then, here is a picture of my butt.


Cheers my good people.

Magic Paper

Call me a spoiled American but I am happy about this one. Toilet paper in public places usually takes waaaaay too much of a concentrated effort to utilize. Sometimes square by friggin square. Then sometimes you have to be a " MacGyver" to figure out how to get the other roll to engage when you run out. All the while knowing everything you touch has been touched by a hundred other poop hands. And what about those 40 pound giganto-rolls? I feel like I'm on the Price is Right when I see those.

So call me spoiled but I'll take this one. It just better work better than those stupid motion activated faucets.

Nothing Feels GOOOD Sometimes.

Time to type. Something not so heavy. But I just cant think of anything. I know I know. Everybody always talks about how much they hate it when people blog when they don't have anything to say blah blah blah.





I have nothing to say and I'm proud of it. Sometimes we think we ought to have something to say. It makes us feel good. We feel important. Well I don't right now. (have anything to say that is, I actually feel really stinking good and quite important!) SuuUUUUuuure there's lots to talk about. Paris, Iraq, Poverty, The Pope, 24, Star Wars, The new Harry Potter movie, the new Harry Potter book...

All that is good an well. But, I am at a loss for words. Really. I am.

In fact, I'm going to do a little test to see if there is really anything in my head that needs to come out. I am going to close my eyes and in five seconds I am going to type whatever comes into my head.

But first, Maybe its because I am feeling really good lately that I don't have anything to say. Does all creativity have to come out of some sort of wretched angst? Why does life have to be so crappy and hard before you can create something other people will want to read, hear or see?

Personally, I think that's all a bunch of bologna. That whole "I gotta be in pain to be creative" myth.

But where does that leave me? Still with a whole lot of nothing to say. Okay, I've said enough nothing to make you want to punch me so... First thing that comes to my mind after 5 seconds and a goodnight to you all...

"Peanuts are shiny."

That's it folks. Five seconds and that is the best my brain can come up with to say. A bold face lie about Peanuts.

Good Night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Brave New World

Associated Press:
"Anti-smoking pill may help curb drinking
July 9, 2007 07:46:09 PM PST

A single pill appears to hold promise in curbing the urges to both smoke and drink, according to researchers trying to help people overcome addiction by targeting a pleasure center in the brain.

The drug, called varenicline, already is sold to help smokers kick the habit. New but preliminary research suggests it could gain a second use in helping heavy drinkers quit, too.

Much further down the line, the tablets might be considered as a treatment for addictions to everything from gambling to painkillers, researchers said."

Recently I have read pills that can vaccinate you from brain cancer to making you smarter. And yes, I mean REALLY making you smarter. Have you heard about that sevant guy that can look at a series of random numbers once and repeat them back to you front and backwards? That could be you with on of the new pills coming out of Britain.

So my question to you is... In a few years, when all theses "smart drugs" start surfacing and people and kids taking the "smart drugs" start getting the good jobs and scoring higher on S.A.T.'s, will you be one of the takers? How different is Claritin to a drug that makes you more intelligent or that helps you to quit smoking, gambling... sinning????

"Christianity without tears— that’s what soma is." -Brave New World

Monday, July 09, 2007

I Want This

So now I only want this car, Dracula's castle and the iPhone. I think that REALLY makes me big-time evil. Or just part-white trash.

Normally, it is a sin for a Ford Mustang fan to admit to liking anything with the name Pontiac on it but in this case, it can't be helped.

It should be noted that the worst car that I ever owned was a 1992 Pontiac Grand am. I believe it holds the standard for being the suckiest car that a college boy can own. It was like a Venus flytrap for my wallet. Suuuuure, it was halfway decent and drove fine for a solid week until it decided to begin down the long and painful path of overheating.

The 92 Grand Am overheated because of the poor design of its thermostat. For all of you non-car folk, or for all of you that never had to drive a colossal, maroon, peanutty log of dudu on wheels that forced you to become an expert on the inner-workings of the "thermostat," a thermostat is a nifty little gadget that tells the engine that it needs a drink of water to cool it off. It is a 15-dollar part that if malfunctioning, will cost you every penny of your Old Country Buffet bus boy paychecks.

I said so many prayers for that car whilst driving in traffic jams that it should have had a Shekinah glow about it before it finally croaked. Of course the Shekinah glow probably never happened because the prayers where often followed by flagrant cussing sprees and violent fist pounding on the dashboard.

On second thought, never mind.

Pontiacs suck.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

In Honor of The Discussion On Catholicism at FancyPants'

I give you Homer and the Catholic Church (pt 1) Btw, some of this is a little irreverent to both Catholic and Protestant, but sometimes there are some truths in things we think are irreverent. That being said, the only thing I don't care for is the last 15 seconds of clip 2. Rest is dang funny.

(Part 2.) Gems of gold in here people. Gems of gold.

Saturday Musing: P.B. Shelley, On the Future of America


I MET a Traveler from an antique land,
Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings."
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

This poem always makes me think of the future. Someday will America, civilization, everything that we know as "ours" could be a Colossal Wreck surrounded by level sands, only remembered by some shattered image of our cold sneer? No? I bet the Egyptians didn't think so either. Nor the Romans, nor did the dinosaurs... If they could wonder, and according to Descartes, they couldn't.

But the point being, we think we are some serious hot stuff but it is always good to remember that the kingdoms of this world are like Ozymandias. Once thought invincible and eternal but now a wreck of decay in the desert sand.

The end times might be 2000 years in the future. Someday America may only be remembered by a work of art from an artist who looked at what we are now, and created something that will someday mock our vanity.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Mystery of the Night Caller...

I've often wondered why forlorn lovers go outside at night and yell at the top of their flipping lungs, on the phone to their girlfriend when they live in a very populated apartment complex. I wonder how the logic is working there.

Maybe they are thinking....

"I really hate this crazy gal I am talking too. I think I'll go outside and let my neighbors know how much I hate my ^%$& gal at the top of my lungs instead of staying inside where no one will hear about how much I hate my @#$%%# gal. I mean, there's no way they would want to stay sleeping while she is treating me this way. Ha! She'll be sorry to know that my neighbors found out how stupid she is... Maybe I'll shoot off a firecracker for fun while I'm at it and fart and belch really loud too!"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Shinola List.

Who I like: Nice people.

Who I don't like: Teenage drivers in Sugarland Texas.

ESPECIALLY when I am going to see a movie. And then I don't like them at the movies either. I pretty much just think Sugarland Teens are turdballs. Except for my students.

Angels. Every. Single. One.

Except for John Cates Jr. He needs a haircut the little hippie.

The Rapture Theory, by John Nelson Darby

A short history of the Rapture in simple terms.

In case you were scared that you might be one of those paranoid Christians who don’t “know that you know that you know that you know.”

Part 1: The Reformation.

It all started way back,(cue swivelly flashback screen) when a few men by the name of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingly got ticked off at the Catholic Church for its corruption and decided that the Catholic Church was the anti-Christ predicted in Daniel and Revelation.

The Catholic Church got together in a big meeting called the Council of Trent in the mid 1500’s to explore and counter the claims being made against the Church that pretty much equated the Catholic Church with the Devil. From this “counter-reformation” at the Council of Trent came the teachings of a Jesuit priest named Fransisco Ribera. He came up with a method of interpretation called “futurism.” Cool name huh?

According to his interpretation, the prophesies in Daniel and Revelation did not apply to the whole of Church history but applied only to the final 7 years. Therefore, the properties of the anti-Christ didn’t apply to the Catholic Church, but rather to a single powerful, evil person who would appear and rule in those final years. The Catholic Church did not fully embrace this interpretation but didn’t say it wasn’t so either because it was a quick way to get them off the hook.

The Reformers thought this was pretty cool as it was scarier to preach from the pulpit so they dropped the Anti-Christ charges on the Catholic Church and picked up where Ribera left off developing “futurism” filling the pews with fresh, antichrist-fearing folks.

Enter John Nelson Darby, a 19th century Irish lawyer turned Anglican preacher. He came up with, IN THE 19th CENTURY(!!!!) an interpretation called “dispensationalism” where he incorporated Ribera’s futuristism views.

Thus Darby became “the father of the rapture doctrine.” (You could say old Tim LaHeyell owes Darby’s fam some Royalties.) Darby authored the theory that Jesus would return secretly (second coming) to rapture his true followers, leaving everyone else behind at the mercy of the antichrist for the next 7 years and on his “third” coming on the clouds, he would destroy the antichrist and save those that had seen the light during the seven-year tribulation and establish his kingdom here on earth.

Enter Cyrus Scofield. He later published a Bible with explanatory notes in which he incorporated Darby’s views on the rapture. It is by far still the most popular Bible sold today.

Where does that leave the soul who is fearful of being left behind?

I feel that you should know three things and feel better.

1. The way that the rapture is taught today is a theory invented by a man. It does not mean that it will happen that way. It might not.
2. No man knows the day or the hour. Period.
3. John 3:16, believe it.

Sleep better. The End.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dracula's Castle Up for Sale.

I just want this and the iPhone for Christmas.

I think that officially makes me an evil, evil man.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Take A Walk

I think the thing that I'll look back and remember the most about Houston someday will be the long walks with my wife. I am very thankful that we have a little park in the center our apartment complex and she and I walk everyday. During those walks we have come to some pretty amazing realizations about life, God and the people that he wants us to be.

In fact, I think those walks are something akin to what Eden might have been like if we hadn't screwed things up. (Accept I we don't walk around naked. (Well I do, sometimes, when she triple dog dares me at 2 a.m.)

Nothing feels better than a good walk with my wife, thinking, laughing, praying, feeling excited, or just a peaceful contemplative silence.

Couples don't get out anymore and go for walks and it is a shame. We are too scared to go for a walk or sometimes we think we are too tired and we can't. Hogwash. Get up and get going! Shoot, get a babysitter or take the kids with ya!

Because it is different than sitting and chatting. And be honest, when you were dating I bet you took a bunch of walks. Right? When I see old couples walking I always wonder if one of the reasons that they made to "old couple" status is because they kept taking walks together.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another Great Thing About the iPhone

I am often puzzled by the quality of pictures one finds of an author on the sleeve of their book. In most cases it looks as though the authors cropped a snapshot of themselves taken at some potluck dinner at a church picnic. The photos are usually right up there in artistic quality to the good ole mug shot.

I mean, many of these folks make a zillion dollars because bunches of people take the time to read their books. And if on the off chance the reader actually enjoyed the book, they flip it over in a grateful gesture to see what the person looks like so they can mentally thank them. This is usually followed by the word "yeesh" and book gets flipped back over and the reader tries to forget what they just saw. Especially if it is a Horror or Romance novel. (Not that I've read any romance novels or anything. Well that's not true, I used to read the saucy parts at my aunt's house when I was a kid. Usually came after chapter 4.)

These are my only three logical conclusions for the poor photography.

1. The publisher had to chase around the author and take the shot with a hidden camera because most writers are afraid of cameras.

2. Writers think that if you look good in a picture, you can't be a good writer.

3. Writers are slobs and that is the best picture of their life.

Oh yeah, the iPhone takes GREAT pictures.