Nov 24, 2009

Star Wars in Concert--Original or Rip Off?

Pictured Above:  My wife Debbie

I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I mean HUGE!!!  I have a corner of my bedroom dedicated to vintage Star Wars memorabilia (yes, I'm married), my children are named Luke and Leia, and we have occasional light saber battles as a family (lights out and all).  When my youth workers decided to send me to Star Wars in Concert, I was thrilled.  It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.  There was a three story LCD screen playing images specifically chosen for this event, to a live orchestra complete with synchronized lazar lights and pyrotechnics.  It even had live narration by Anthony Daniels (C3PO).  The only problem I found, was that they did not sell a video of the event.

Today, I was given the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and it was still sealed.  This CD came with a bonus DVD entitled Star Wars: A Musical Journey.  Every clip from the concert is on it with the same order, music, titles, and even narration between clips.  The only difference is in the narrator.  Instead of Anthony Daniels, they have Ian McDiarmed (Emperor Palpatine).  Even so, he is saying the same thing word for word.

This DVD is from 2005, and the "totally original" concert tour is going on now.  Wow!  Am I mad?  No.  I enjoyed the show and am glad that I have the video now.  Do I think that it is funny that fans are paying top dollar (my tickets were $55 each) to see something that came out 4 years ago?  Yes, I do.  Here is a quote from  "Creating the music for the Star Wars films has been an exciting and wonderful experience for me, and I therefore have derived particular pleasure in assembling a compendium of themes from all of the films to be presented in Star Wars: In Concert," said Williams. "The editors at Lucasfilm have created original film montages to accompany each of the musical selections, and in the process, I believe that a singular and unique Star Wars experience has been born."  I find all of this disturbing and yet funny.  I thought I would pass this on.

Nov 22, 2009

The Thanksgiving/Black Friday Connection

I find it strange that Thanksgiving is right next to Black Friday in the order of holiday events.  Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy both occasions.  Thanksgiving for the food, fun, and family, while I like Black Friday for the excitement and buzz that it generates as we usher in another Christmas season.  On Thanksgiving we are supposed to give thanks for the things that we have been blessed with.  It is a lesson in contentment.  Then comes Black Friday.  A day that can be exhilarating and fun (if you have had your coffee), but also a day traditionally filled with fights, selfishness, and an overall disregard for other people.  Fortunately, everyone is not in a foul mood on Black Friday unless someone tries to jump in line.  Last year the mobs even resulted in the death of a Walmart employee.  This year Walmart and other stores are offering sales on Thanksgiving Day as well as earlier in the week.  Thanksgiving is becoming enveloped by the madness that is Black Friday.

The irony of these two days being next to each other can border on hypocrisy.  Have we lost the true meaning of Thanksgiving?  Should we instead put a fire on, switch off the power, and eat by candle light?  Would having a modest meal or going without a meal help us to see the gifts we have been given for the blessings that they truly are?  This Thanksgiving let us thank God for what we have, and ask him for opportunities to bless others.  Then we can begin on Black Friday by meeting people in line, being friendly and patient with cashiers, and even handing the last item on a shelf to someone else.  Black Friday is a replacement of the appreciation for ones blessings, with the materialistic rat race of modern society.  Wouldn't it be great if these two days were a continuation of each other.  Mahatma Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."  What kind of world do you want?

Nov 21, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, A Film Review

Well, I have just returned from seeing New Moon at the Marquee Cinema in Statesville, NC (I see movies in digital whenever possible).  I must say that I was pleasantly pleased with the overall film (if I can still call a digital picture a "film").  New Moon has already broken two box office records.  The first was for the highest grossing midnight showing at $26.3 million.  The second was for the highest opening day with $62.2 million.  The film has already grossed $72.7 million, and that is not even including the money they took from me.

The movie is slow overall, but so was Twilight, and it really works well for both of them.  New Moon has pretty convincing special effects, including a scene of a bird in suspended animation as Victoria flees from the wolves beneath. I found myself drawn to the visual nature of the film.  The use of several bright colors such as the red in Bella's truck was very appealing in contrast to the overcast setting of Forks (except for a scene with artificial looking flowers).  Overall, New Moon is far less sensual than Twilight, which I consider good given the age of the core audience.  I enjoyed the experience, and am looking forward to the next installment (I am still not going to read the series at this point).  I give the movie two thumbs up, only because I do not have three.

This is the part where I will be giving away details (SPOILER ALERT!).  The movie begins with Bella's 18th birthday.  She does not want to age, and fears growing too old (and ugly) for Edward.  She has a dream where she is in a meadow with her grandma.  Every move she makes is mimicked by her grandma (keying in on Bella's fear of aging).  Then the camera pans to Bella who now looks exactly like her grandma (obviously she is seeing a reflection of herself).  At this point the movie insults our intelligence by panning back to the grandma, who is now encased in a mirror (in the middle of a field).  I hate when movies lead me by the hand.  I mean come on--we get it!

Then Bella bleeds, Jasper attacks, and the Cullens must move.  The only problem is that Edward is really callous about it.  It is not like she could follow him anyway (he is way too fast).  He treats her like the boy in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, when he shoos his new pet ant away (because it is for the ant's own good).  I'm not complaining about this scene, it is merely an observation.  After that, she goes through depression. This is before realizing that she can see and hear Edward's over protective image every time she does anything risky.  Motorcycles help with the rush, so she gets two from a junkyard, and goes to Jacob for help with repairs.  She begins to fall for Jacob, as do the 12 year old girls swooning in front of me at the theater.  He is very likable in this movie, and I find myself rooting for him as the underdog (no pun intended) of Bella's crazy monster movie love triangle.

Jacob changes into a werewolf, and he skips out on Bella too.  He returns when danger strikes in the form of Laurent and Victoria.  When I saw Twilight, I was led to believe that these two had parted company, yet now they are working together.  I am told that the book bridges this incompatibility, but movie sequels should not be written with any prerequisite, except for the prior movie.

Bella jumps off a cliff for another Edward sighting, and is seen by Alice Cullen (who sees the future).  Edward thinks she is dead, and goes before the Valtori (ruling vampires) with a death wish.  Bella shows up, and there is a fight.  They decide to kill Edward and Bella.  Alice assures the Valtori of a vision--that Bella too will become a vampire--and they are set free.  They head back to Forks where Edward says that he must come in the window because her dad will not let him in the door (again we are given information from the books that is not explained in the movie).  Bella turns Jacob down, and is asked by Edward to marry her.  She never responds, and the credits roll.

I am looking forward to hearing your responses to New Moon.  Please watch the movie first.  Otherwise you will be like my son, who likes to complain about dinner every night before tasting his meal.

Nov 19, 2009

$300 Million Dollars Awarded to a Florida Smoker!

Cindy Naugle (61 years old) is going to receive $300 million from Philip Morris.  A South Florida jury said that the company's negligence caused her emphysema.  This is the largest sum ever awarded in a U.S. court to a smoker from a tobacco company.  This is the dumbest lawsuit since the "Help I spilled my coffee, let me blame McDonalds" charade.  I mean, come on!  It is common knowledge that smoking causes emphysema and cancer so there is only one person to blame, the smoker.  

Every pack has a warning from the Surgeon General on it, coupled with the fact that they are barely allowed to advertise, and taxes on them are through the roof.  One would have to have a death wish or no backbone to take up this habit.   If we really believe that tobacco is so "evil" then it should be illegal like other addictive substances (except alcohol, because our government makes money off of it--i.e. ABC stores).  The truth is they will not make smoking illegal because of the taxes.  If someone should be sued it should be the government.  If we had proof that the FDA knew a food product could kill and did not remove it there would be an uproar.  A warning label would not suffice.  

Do I believe smoking should be illegal?  No, I do not.   Especially not while it is legal to make moronic decisions (and I am glad we are free to do so because most of us do).  I for one drink far too much Mountain Dew.  If I become diabetic could I sue Pepsi?  I probably could, but I won't.  I know it is bad for me and I should not receive a reward for my lack of self control.  I am trying to cut back on my habit as smokers can choose to do as well.  It is hard since it is an addiction, but they were not born with it and we all know it is addictive before we light up for the first time.  I do NOT hate smokers.  I hate frivolous lawsuits!

Nov 16, 2009

2012 - The End of the World?

I just returned from watching 2012 at the only all digital theater in my area.  I must say I was extremely impressed. I had read many reviews on the film (some good and some bad) and decided to give it a go myself.  I generally like apocalyptic thrillers so I went in expecting the same End of Days meets Armageddon disaster  type of flick.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie was 2 hours and 38 minutes long.  The first half hour or so was attention grabbing but the final 2 hours was an edge of the seat thrill ride.  The CG work was actually good for the most part and has come along way since The Day After Tomorrow (which left much to be desired).

There is some language in the film but far less than one would hear if these events really took place I assure you.  There is no sex or nudity at all.  It is in the heart department that I would caution you.  If you are an overly emotional person it may do a number on you.  I am pretty emotional (for a guy) and there were several parts that brought tears to my eyes (thankfully it is a Monday and the theater was pretty empty).  It did not help matters that the main character (John Cusack) had a boy and girl (as I do), which he experienced every tragic disaster with.  They do show the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil toppling and a rift between God and Adam from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting.  This may perhaps play into the writers view of Christianity but when these are coupled with the destruction of the Washington Monument and the White House one may conclude that they are merely showing us landmarks that are universally recognizable. After all the 23rd Psalm is said to be a comfort to anyone regardless of faith (which I found interesting).  They also constructed "arks" (borrowing the biblical term) for the continuation of life after the disasters.

I thought that the tie in to the Mayan calendar would be stronger.  Very little was made of this connection.  They seemed to make it as though all of the planets will be aligning.  This does not happen in 2012.  There will be a galactic alignment that won't happen again for 26,000 years but that is dealing with our sun in relation to the center equator of our galaxy.  December 21, of 2012 is the winter solstice (like every year) and the date at which the galactic alignment would start over according to the Mayan people.  They did not mention anything cataclysmic and probably believed that their descendants could add to the calendar as the years drew closer to the completion of the galactic cycles.  Our sun crossing over the equatorial line of the Milky Way actually began between 1998 and 1999 and will be complete in 2018 but hey they were pretty darn close.

The world will not end in 2012, but that doesn't mean you will not enjoy the movie, in fact it will be quite a relief to you as you watch.  Please let me know your thoughts on 2012 if and when you see it.  It is well worth the admission provided that you don't take a family of five and spring for popcorn and drinks.

Nov 15, 2009

Political Correctness Impairs Reporting on Terrorism

Like many Americans, I watched the memorial service for those killed at Fort Hood with tears in my eyes.  I have read many reports and articles on what happened and I'm frankly a little perturbed by the politically correct garbage we are being told.  I have seen the shooter referred to as an army psychiatrist in everything from CNN to the Wall Street Journal.  This was not an army psychiatrist or an over-stressed gunman, this was a TERRORIST!  

The KORAN commands Terrorism, War, and Jihad:

Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. - Surah 2:216
(different translation: ) Prescribed for you is fighting, though it is hateful to you.

But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. - 4:89
O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people. - 5:54

When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. - 9:5

Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled. - 9:29 

Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth and your persons. - 9:41

Lets call it for what it is--the shooting at Ft Hood was a terrorist attack on this country.   Political correctness is making our nation ripe for this type of terrorist activity.  Don't get me wrong--I do not believe that Arabic people or those of the Muslim faith are prone to terror, rather it is those who would seek to follow the Koran literally and in its entirety that are an eminent danger to civilized people worldwide.  We should NOT silence them or their views (or anyone's for that matter), but we should be wary and not ignore danger under the guise of being politically correct.

I do want to talk about one person in particular who lost her life in the shootings.  Her name is Sgt. Amy Krueger.  She graduated from high school in 1998 (the same year I did).  She joined the military after the terror attacks of September 11, vowing to her mom that she would kill Bin Laden.  Her mom told her she could not do it alone but she said, "Watch me." (Quote from The Associated Press Nov. 6, 2009)  She captured the essense of every American heart after the fall of the Twin Towers, but she chose to do something about it.    It is tragic that she joined the military to fight terrorism and was killed in the worst attack on our soil since September 11.   She and 13 others (I am counting an unborn child) deserved better than to be shot by a coward.

Nov 13, 2009

The NEW LAW: We are no longer equal!

The Civil War marked an important time in history for us as Americans.  The 14th amendment had passed guaranteeing Americans equal protection under the law no matter what color, creed or ethnicity to which they belong.  For the first time every person in this great country was finally equal in the eyes of our government.  This new amendment added something precious without infringing on any of the rights already guaranteed to us by the original Bill of Rights.  Now in 2009 one hundred and forty one years later, under a new bill the 14th amendment is as good as scrapped.  

With the passing of the "Hate Crimes Prevention Act" (actually is was tacked on to the 
"2010 National Defense Authorization Act") our right to be equal is gone.  This bill threatens to make it a federal crime to hate someone in your mind, which essentially punishes us for the way we think.  Our President and Senators are telling us that we still have the freedom to hate if we do not act on it physically.  This is a half truth, because the act of assault for example is already illegal and punishable on a local level.  What the bill says is that the federal crime tacked onto the assault charge will be a crime of motivation (which DOES punish one for his or her thoughts).   I would argue that if you act on it physically than the physical act of the crime should be prosecuted not the hate behind the action.  Please don't take my word for it, read a section from the bill itself on page 1059 section 3 lines 16-21 (that's right I've read the whole thing).   

(3) State and local authorities are now and will 16
continue to be responsible for prosecuting the over-17
whelming majority of violent crimes in the United 18
States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. 19
These authorities can carry out their responsibilities 20
more effectively with greater Federal assistance. 21

Just who is equal in the eyes of the NEW LAW?  Well let me tell you they are minorities, women, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and the disabled.  If you attack one of these protected groups there can and will be essentially two crimes (assault and hate), but if you assault a white heterosexual male there will only be one crime and if you are in one of the aforementioned protected groups then you can probably get off by saying that you acted in fear of your own life because the straight white male hates you.  I happen to be a straight white male and believe that I am no better than any other human being, but I am certainly no worse either.  We deserve and should demand the equal treatment that the constitution promises us.  

I am also a Christian and believe in obeying the powers that be, but fortunately we live in a constitutionally limited republic and not a democracy.  This means that our constitution is one of the powers that we obey and right now it is contradicting itself.  

I believe that at this rate it may soon be illegal for people to speak their minds or practice their religion freely.  A pastor, rabbi, priest, or cleric who says for instance that homosexuality is wrong will become a "hater".  It happened when Nero burned Rome and blamed it on Christians.  The so called "haters" were rounded up and killed.  You may not be religious or a straight white male, but don't you want to live in a country were we are all truly equal with equal protection for every citizen regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual lifestyle?  I do and for many years I did.