Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Little Bit of This and That

My life has been uneventful, but sense no one is reading this it doesn't really matter does it?

I spent some time at a local shopping center last night with friends. Well, one friend who I knew and two of his friends who I didn't. Probably the highlight of the evening was visiting the Apple store. I tried on the top-o-the line Bose noise canceling headphones. Man those things are wonderful!

In the store (and really around the whole area) we saw other teens, mostly scene and hipster kids. There was one guy who looked particularly ridiculous. I'm not trying to condemn him so much as I pity teens like that.

I pity the kids who are trying so hard to look cool and it just comes off as absurd. Granted I have my share of flaws. However when I look at people like that I see someone who is going nowhere with their life.

Who is more likely to get hired for a job; teen A who can speak articulately and dresses well or teen B who refuses to make eye contact and dresses like a punk.

Now I don't have any problem with the different "social groups" at a general level. I'm also not saying teen B is a bad person, but teen B has never been taught some basic life skills. If they have been taught, they seem to blatantly ignore it.
It's sad.

I want to look back at my teen years and see more than mistakes, fun and fashion choices.

On a completely different note, tonight I picked up Jon Foreman's solo album "Limbs and Branchs" tonight. What can I say, I'm a hopeless fan.

On the 26th I'll be leaving for Texas to see some old and very dear friends of the family. I haven't seen them sense the spring of '08 and I'm excited for the chance to visit them.

The saying goes, "absense makes the heart grow fonder." I've found that it holds true in my life. I don't think I'd have become nearly so close to this family had they remaind in the area.

If anyone should read this,(doubtful) remember not to take your friends and family forgranted. No one really knows how much they love someone until that person is gone.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Slow and Steady

I've been searching for a topic to write about and I think I've found it, but I don't think I'll do it proper justice.

Habit building

What sort of person am I becoming with my small everyday actions?

Things like exercise and Bible study don't get as much time as they should yet somehow Facebook becomes a top priority.

Gee, I wonder how that happens? I mean, its not like people waist valuable time on Facebook.
The point is I want my time to be filled with things which reflect my values and interests. Interests doesn't equal video games. By interests I mean things like writing this blog or practicing the guitar (something I'm still getting around to).

Do I always succeed? No obviously.

What if I tried? What if I worked out on a daily basis for the next six months? Or what if I read the entire Bible this coming semester? Would my small changes add up?
Exercise would have tangible results relatively quickly. I guess what I'm really asking is, what am I truly capably of with a bit of hard work and divine guidance?

If you attend church (and even if you don't) the Christmas story gets repeated ad nausum this time of year. I don't mean to sound disrespectful but if I'm honest it does get old.
Anyway, if you didn't already know this, Mary was teenager, and I don't mean 18 or 19 I mean 14 or 15. Before you say "dude that is messed up" let me explain. Getting married at 15 was very common 2000 years ago, in fact its been common for most of history.
I digress. My point in all of this, Mary was a teen who did amazing things, why can't I? Why can't you?

Now I can't have a baby, but I can write. I can't write very well, but I can practise in my spare time, and that is where free time becomes a productive habit building oppurtunity

So what talent has God placed in your life? How can we all find better ways to spend our time?

Time is our most precious resource and we'll never get it back. You don't spend it. No, time is poured into things as water is poured into a vase. It goes into people, movies, reading, sports Facebook and all the other things we do.

It boils down to this: What do you (and I) want to pour time into?

Friday, December 18, 2009

And So Christmas Aproaches....

Christmas day is coming! This week has been a great one overall. So please indulge me for a moment while I indulge in a personal antidote or two.

Thursday I spent the afternoon with my friends making ginger bread houses and hanging out. There was a time when I thought myself to old for ginger bread houses, and then I actually grew up. Somehow the older I get the less I desire to grow up.

One of the friend's we hung out with sent us all home with gifts. She said we didn't have to wait til Christmas to open them and so I promptly opened mine. Her thoughtful gift (and accompanying card) meant a great deal to me. I'm learning that a heartfelt gift is more valuable than an extravagant one.

Now for the slightly more important part of my post, A review of the film Avatar.

OK, lets start with the director and actors. James Cameron who is responsible for Titanic and Terminator 2, directed the film. Don't quote me on this one, but I don't think he's directed a film since Titanic. After Titania's success (it remains on of the highest grossing films in cinema history) there is a lot of hype around Avatar.

The Acting line up is A-Lister free, which isn't really a bad thing. Perhaps the biggest star is Sigourney Weaver, from the A V. P franchise. However she is only a secondary character, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana head up the cast. Worthington's biggest accolade is "Terminator Salvation" from earlier this year. Saldana was also an unknown before staring in the latest "Star Treck" movie.

The Plot:

Humans have found a planet (they call it Pandora) filled a precious ore. The World is covered in forests and stunning natural vistas. The humanoid life forms inhabiting the planet have a village smack dab on top of a huge ore deposit. So the military gets called in to "negotiate" a relocation, if force by necessary.

To communicate with the natives they use "Avatars". They are like alien clones which remain in a vegetative state until a human operator takes control of its mind.

The movie follows the journey of a marine who has lost the use of his legs in battle. He's supposed to connect with the natives and winds up becoming more involved than he ever imagined.

That's a mediocre synopsis; now for my thought on on the film....

First off let me say this movie looks absolutely amazing (and it should for 300 million). I could go on about it forever. I've heard that the CGI used wasn't even invented when they started making it.

The Navi (alien race) are absolutely stunning. I've never seen anything like it. The physical movement is spot on, and the facial expressions convey every thought and feeling with stunning realism. In fact I'd go so far as to say that the acting was better from the computer generated aliens than the actual humans.

Please keep in mind that a first time view in the theater is so emotionally charged it becomes very difficult to remain objective.

The entire movie was visually captivating in fact. Everything from plants to animals (of which there were quite a few) just pops with vivacity.

With all that said, the movie wasn't all that great. The plot was predictable, and the acting average. I'm not saying it was bad by any means, still it's not the best movie I've ever seen (at least not in the those regards).

Objectionable Content:

The profanity was excessive in my opinion. The Navi are virtually (pun intended) nude. They may be nothing more than CGI but it's very realistic CGI. There is a brief sex scene. Of course it was wrong but I appreciated that after they 'mated' the Navi were life long mates (no sleeping around). Additionally there are two scenes with nude humans, (a woman and then a man) of course there is always a leaf or something just where it needs to be.

This film could very well raise questions about how computer generated nudity should be classified.

So the question remains, would I buy it? No, probably not. Would I at least see it again? Perhaps under the right circumstance.

Finally, would I recommend it to others, yes, just be aware of the content. If you can get past the objectionable bits, the movie is definitely worth seeing on the silver screen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Man Who Doesn't Need Saving

I was watching The latest Bond film on Monday night and something struck me.

Nobody ever saves Bond. Well that's not 100% accurate but close enough. The same thing goes for many of the superheros our culture adores. At the moment it happens to vampires and werewolves who are in vogue but many things never change.

Someone (or something) use their great abilities protect what they love, weather that's Mary-Jane Watson (spider-man) or the British Isles(James Bond).
We like our heroes edgy and full of emotional problems. not surprisingly this sort thing has been going on forever, just look at the Greek Gods. I'll grant you that Batman has a higher moral standard than Zeus but there are basic elements common to both.
However I want to focus on the Modern American (super)hero for now.

Let me say first of all that I know many heroes do need help at some point, it's what makes them human. Indiana Jones when the witch-doctor has him in a trance, Superman when krypton is present. Such human weaknesses help the viewer (or reader) to connect with the hero.

However the heroes are often emotionally isolated. They have problems (murdered parents etc.) which motivate or impede them as the case may be. Somehow they are always the shoulder which everyone else cries on.

Often times there will be heart-to-heart between the hero and a (girl)friend. Somehow thought, it seems that everyone always depends on one person. Invariably the Hero is a man.

Stories where a woman is the hero (no I'm not talking about someone like Jane Eyre) are never very popular.

Call me crazy but I think this all relates back to Jesus (doesn't everything). Everyone (even guys) is looking for a savior (hero, what ever you want to call it). It's an intrinsic need, Hyman's have felt sense Adam and Eve's sin in the garden.

We see this need in The Greek myths about Hercules, the English stories of King Arthur and the current obsession of teenage girls with the twilight series.

Of course Jesus is the only one who can satisfy our need. If only more people would realize what they're actually looking for.


Onstar Scare

You might have seen the new Onstar advertisement on TV.

It goes something like this.

A woman's voice alerts the police that a black Chevy Suburban has been stolen. We then see a cop, lights flashing, pull over a new Chevy. We are told by the woman's voice that Onstar was used to peacefully shut down the vehicle; the driver had no control what so ever.

My first thought upon seeing this went something like, Wow that's an awesome tool that will keep everyone safer.

Then however, I began to ponder its darker implications. The powers that be, (namely the government) have the ability to shut down cars with Onstar. Now at the moment this is probably a wonderful thing, but what happens when this becomes a mandated feature (because it probably will)?

Imagine a world where hackers could access your car's onboard computer and then turn your car off without ever leaving their house.

Granted it sounds far fetched but it's not all that preposterous. Many(if not all)new cars are equipped with features like GPS nav and mp3 player connectivity. These systems function through devices that are built by the same people who make the computer you're reading this on now.

Granted the ability to shut down a car from the outside presents numerous advantages, particularly for law enforcement. However I just find the whole idea a bit frightening.
The thought of someone else being able to control MY vehicle at their discretion is unnerving.

What if it were to become standard practice to shut down a vehicle on which payments where overdue? How would such technology effect the repo industry?
Would irate dealerships begin to shut off you car in much the same way your lights can be cut?

A more theatrical example would be shutting a car down in heavy traffic.
It sounds like from a Jason Bourne film.

In theory it sounds wonderful, yet the power it grants other people over my property is just creepy.

Maybe I'm just overeacting.

Watching the Skies

It seems like the weather has remained very dismal around here. Everything is gray, its rainy and cold outside. Heck I might as well live in the UK. The sun came out for a little while this morning but quickly retreated behind the clouds.

Please understand that where I'm located such weather in the winter is common, but not to the extent which we've seen this year.

However it's not deppresing to me, somehow I find all the gray very comforting. Don't get me wrong I like sunshine as much as the next guy but I truly enjoy winter.

Perhaps it has something to do with being born in December during the middle of an ice storm or maybe I'm just strange.

In any case....

The wind and rain contribute to a feeling of warmth and security. To know that you're inside with a cup of coffee and a good book is a wonderful sensation.

I'm sure that within a few months (or perhaps weeks) I'll be ready to forgo the extra layers and bath in the sunshine. But for now I'm savoring the hot coffee and short sunless days.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hello Hurricane

I still remember the first time I listened to Switchfoot around age ten. Having grown up on the likes of Michael W. Smith, I loved how cool I felt listening to them.
Yet, They'd already released three albums before I had the pleasure of discovering their music.

Seven albums since there debut and the band has become a mainstay of alt rock music. While the band members are Christian, the music isn't praise and worship. This doesn't mean they ignore faith, but it's not the only subject choose to write about.

"Hello Hurricane" is new and refreshing, while still retaining everything that makes the band unique.

Needle and Haystack Life: The opening track is an upbeat love song which reminds one of "Dare you to Move." It can almost be described as happy, which is saying something when you consider the often dark overtones in their music.

Mess Of Me: The band follows the opening track with a rather heavy song about humanity's inability to cure itself. Characteristically heavy, the song is laden with riffs that complement Jon Foreman's lyrics with perfect accuracy. "There ain't no drug" sings Jon in a voice dripping with pain "The sickness is myself."

Your Love is a Song: A much quieter track, "Your Love is a Song" is a beautiful testament to the love of God. It describes God's affection as an enthralling piece of music, one which cures all pain.

The Sound: The track is more of a fun rock number than anything else yet the theme of Love's supremacy is still strong.

Enough to Let Me Go: Jon quietly asks if the woman he loves could ever let him go. This song is like a tearful conversation on a gray and rainy day. Still, a glimmer of light shines through the clouds of sorrow.

Free: Perhaps one of the album's best songs, "Free" is a desperate plea for God to rescue us from our own short comings. "Inside this shell's a prison cell" laments Jon. Just a few verses later he sings, "I had a dream that my chains were broken, broken open."

Hello Hurricane: This is my personal favorite and an excellent title track. It was inspired by a woman who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. The song reminds us that material things are temporary but true love cannot be shaken by the storms of life.

Always: This song sounds as though it were written to one of the band member's children. "I'm always yours" promises Jon repeatedly. About halfway through the song takes an abrupt turn towards introspection, describing the singer's heart.

Bullet Soul: A playful but rebellious anthem, it challenging the listener to express love without regard for the ridicule of others.

The last three tracks (Yet, Sing it out, and Red eyes) bring the album to a strong (if somewhat subdued) conclusion. Even as three separate songs they still feel as if they are one continues lullaby.

For my part I think it's Switchfoot's best album to date. Perhaps when the hype dies down I'll change my mind, but I doubt it.

Between their last release (Oh Gravity!) and Hello Hurricane, Swithfoot wrote over 80songs together. They chose the best for the new album. Another album called "Vice Verses" is expected out in the spring of this year. You can be sure that I'll be waiting in line for that one!

Thanks For Reading!


Friday, December 11, 2009

For Starters...

Well, if you're reading this then welcome to my very first blog post! I hope you find it interesting(doubtful).

For me this blog is an outlet for ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc. Additionally I hope to use it as motivation to write more frequently. Writing is something I want to do but often don't enjoy(maybe because it's always connected to school). Hopefully this blog will be the ember which sets the forest ablaze.

Assuming anyone actually reads this, feel free to correct me on spelling and grammar.

While preparing to start this blog, I found that following a constant theme is crucial to keeping a blog on track. My utter lack of expertise about anything beyond my own life, was very limiting (no kidding).
History? No, I simply don't know enough. Music? Potentially. Politics? If I had any authority on the subject.

To make a short story even shorter, I decided to encompass my whole life in this blog (or at least those parts I feel comfortable posting on the Internet).

So expect all sorts of things: Book reviews, unsolicited political commentary, the whole gamut.

In the near future I'll be posting the following:

A book review: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by the wonderful Dale Carnegie.

An Album review: "Hello Hurricane" by Switchfoot.

OK, well that about raps things up.

Thank for reading(assuming anyone did).