(Temporarily) Releasing My Inner Geek
I may not be into the heavy duty games, like World of Warcraft or Call of Duty, but I still enjoy video games. Especially ones involving puzzles or non-violent storytelling. I can sit for hours -- and have done so as both my parents and Caesar can attest -- in front of the computer, taking notes in a small notebook to figure out how to work a special lever or decode a series of glyphs on the screen.
Scary, I know.
And now, I have two more games for my Nintendo DS to keep me enthralled for hours.
The first is Professor Heinz Wolff's Gravity. A very simple game, actually: maneuver a ball at point A through a maze to press a switch at point B. The fun comes when the ball winds up in a small divot or falls through an opening in the maze, and you have to find a way to overcome that obstacle, using a set of objects presented at the beginning of the level. Sometimes it's a collection of different sized rods, or three marbles, or a block and two triangles, or any combination of those. And everything falls spins moves according to real physics. I spent a good half hour on one level, finally managing to get the ball to tap a short rod which in turn tapped a skateboard, sending it over an arc to fall onto a moving conveyor belt and then toppled the remaining three rods which I'd stood up like dominoes just before the button.
The other is geared more toward kids, but the puzzles are more challenging than you would think. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box picks up where the first game left off, this time, with the Professor and his assistant Luke on the trail of a mysterious box that is rumored to kill anyone who opens it. Traveling by train, they discover clues by solving puzzles scattered about the train or presented to them by other characters. The puzzles range from simple logic to sliding puzzles to math to word games to whatever else the designers could imagine. And I love the really challenging ones. The illustrations and animation make it quite a bit of fun to play, as well.
And then, of course, there's the Rhem series, but that's a whole other can of worms.
Monday, August 31, 2009
(Temporarily) Releasing My Inner Geek
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Where There's Smoke....
We drove to Los Angeles this morning to purchase tickets for two shows at the Music Center: Parade and Mary Poppins. Heading East then North along the freeways, all we could see before us was the thick cloud of grayish smoke like dirty gauze from the fire in the Angeles National Forest. By the time we left the Music Center, not more than twenty minutes later, the cloud had expanded and thickened, much more dense than what can be seen in this picture.
A Step at a Time
So far the diet changes and increased walking habits are paying off. I've dropped two pounds and am holding steady for the moment at 213 lbs. This morning, I changed up my walking routine, this time turning right at the bottom of the cliffs rather than left. The path in this directions headed away from the pier and toward Shoreline Village and the Queen Mary. And was definitely more crowded with walkers, runners and bicyclists. It felt longer walking toward the harbor, but turning around and heading back seemed much a much quicker walk.
Now, if only my pedometer would stop re-setting itself....
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Her Name Is Lola
Just returned from a special birthday for our friend Clark at Lola's. Great food -- the potato taquitos were crunchy and delicious -- and good friends helped to make up for the slow service. More than once, the Birthday Boy rose from the table to find us pitchers of iced tea or baskets of chips from the server's station near the back because our waitress would pass by our table often without noticing one of us trying to catch her attention.
And it was loud in that tiny little room. I could barely hear the person sitting across from me, but the woman behind me -- I think everyone in the restaurant listened to her speak whether they wanted to or not.
But, we had a great time and helped to raise some money for the C.A.R.E. Program. Tonight, a portion of our bill went toward help their HIV/AIDS Programs, thanks to their Dine Out fundraiser taking place in Long Beach.
I just hope I didn't eat too much and spoil my girlish figure.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Book Review: The Cadence of Grass
Sunny Jim Whitelaw has passed away, leaving his bottling empire in the hands of his estranged son-in-law Paul with not a red cent going to his family -- unless his eldest daughter Evelyn decides to reconcile with Paul. A reconciliation is the last thing Evelyn wants to do. She would rather stick with the more comfortable rancher's life to which she's more accustomed. Paul would like nothing better so that he can sell off the bottling plant and he'll do whatever can to make sure that happens.
The Cadence of Grass reads like any soap opera: lots of snarky, back-and-forth dialogue between characters, deeply buried family secrets coming to light, backstabbing, unfaithfulness, the staling of body organs and a cross-dressing rancher. Even with all that, it seemed to lack any real bite, almost as if the characters verbally attacked each other half-heartedly. I didn't enjoy the brief verbal "sparring" matches and couldn't find myself liking any character, preferring instead the scenes of action.
That's where McGuane's story shined. His descriptions of such things as Evelyn and Bill the family's rancher heading into the wilderness to round up some missing heads of cattle before dark settled in, or Evelyn's terrified trek through a snow storm first via car then on foot through the woods, or even Paul and Sunny Jim's trip to Las Vegas resulting in someone losing a kidney, were richly detailed and held my interest. I found those scenes far more interesting than rest of the story.
And, just because it's been bugging me since I finished the book, I didn't see the point of having a cross-dressing rancher, Donald Aadfield. When he appeared as part of the family that rescued Evelyn during the snowstorm, I thought his openness ab out being gay and his interest in ranching -- just as strong as Evelyn's -- would have sparked more interaction between them. But his character disappeared until near the end of the book, for perhaps a page or two with what seemed very little effect on the story, then he disappeared again.
The ending left me confused. I didn't understand why Bill would have gone along with Paul's scheme -- something very out of character for Bill -- traveling up to the cold, icy part of Canada for what I think was a drug run. And I couldn't connect the last five or so pages with the rest of the story. I skimmed those pages because they seemed inconsistent.
Did I enjoy reading the book? Well, I guess that would be a "not really". I did enjoy the descriptive action scenes, but the dialogue and characters never captured my interest enough to recommend it.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
We're Walking, We're Walking
I spent a good portion of this morning and afternoon testing the limits of my pedometer by walking around both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. With the throng of people either pushing strollers or scooting along in electric wheelchairs and the surprising heat, I briefly strolled all over the place but managed only one attraction -- the Haunted Mansion -- before succumbing to my need for air conditioning. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my time outdoors -- my face and neck burned a crisp apple red, and my cell phone captured a decent photo of the Grizzly River Run -- but I could only take so much before the siren's song of an air-conditioned movie theater beckoned.
I cut through the lobby of the Grand Californian to savor some cool air before wading through the heat in Downtown Disney. I stuck to the shaded spots while en route to the AMC and stepped into the direct sunlight only a few times before reaching the box office. Thankfully, they still offered matinee prices at a decent time so I purchased a ticket for Hayao Miyazaki's latest hand-drawn animated feature, Ponyo.
Ponyo tells the tale of a little goldfish with a human face, the daughter of Fujimoto, her human father tasked with keeping the balance between the humans and the oceanic world, and Gran Mamare, Goddess of the Sea. While Fujimoto works at his task, she slips away to the surface of the ocean but becomes trapped inside a glass bottle. 5-year-old Sosuke finds her while playing in the water near his home and frees her from the bottle, cutting his finger in the process. Ponyo thanks him by licking the cut which magically heals. But, she also begins to have a taste for being human, much to Fujimoto's dismay. He drags her back to their home beneath the ocean, but Ponyo escapes and returns to Sosuke, sprouting arms and legs in the process and somehow unsettling the balance between the human world and the oceanic world. It's up to Sosuke to make the right decision for himself and for Ponyo which will not only restore the balance between worlds but will also forever impact Ponyo's life.
As with Miyazaki's other films, Ponyo is visually stunning. In a world where computers are now the norm for animated films, Miyazaki still manages to create a vivid and enchanting world with hand-drawn animation. The scenes of life under the waters e -- myriad clouds of jellyfish and plankton stars swimming among the fish and sea creatures. Those same creatures seen from above as they travel the flooded streets of Sosuke's town. Everything is so rich and detailed, something that I feel would have been lost in computer-generated work.
The story itself mixes the fairytale of a girl longing to be something more with a very environmental message, something that seems a constant in Miyazaki's films. The beginning of the film shows how man's pollution has affected the oceanic world, and I cringed at the rubber tires, broken bottles, bits of paper and cans, but it never comes across as heavy handed or too much. My only problem with the story was that at times, it revealed too much, such as when Fujimoto approaches a door in his home, saying that it doesn't fit right, that if something should get into that room the consequences could be disastrous. So you know that Ponyo or Sosuke is somehow going to get mixed up with that room.
The list of actors providing their voices to the dubbing was impressive: Liam Neeson as Fujimoto; Cate Blanchett as Gran Mamere; Tina Fey as Sosuke's mother Lisa; Matt Damon as Sosuke's father Koichi; Cloris Leachman, Betty White and Lily Tomlin as three seniors living at a Senior's home -- wonderful casting. Noah Cyrus as Ponyo and Frankie Jonas as Sosuke added a playfulness to both the stars of the film.
Great animation, a fun story and a good message. Ponyo is a wonderful film that I think both adults and children will enjoy.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
This afternoon we decided to see a movie down in Huntington Beach because we thought the 2:35PM showing would be a matinee. But, like I've learned a few times in the past, you can't rely on the theaters' websites to offer accurate information anymore so we wound up paying regular price. We didn't mind today because the movie turned out so much better than we had hoped.
In (500) Days of Summer, the story of Tom's boy-meets-girl unfolds, beginning with his meeting Summer who works as the assistant to his boss at a greeting card company in Los Angeles but almost immediately jumping to the break-up almost a year later. After that, we jump back and forth in time, watching the relationship unfold and fall apart and the havoc it wreaks on Tom's life.
Unlike other movies where we are forced to watch flashbacks, each step in time is reflected by a day counter, and the events run their course in present time. A very non-linear way to tell a story, but it never feels that way, thanks to both the screenplay from writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and from the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom and Zooey Deschanel as Summer. Equally funny and sad, the relationship they bring to the screen seems more real-life than most movies are able to create. The way they talk, the things they say, how they act -- I've seen couples like that before in restaurants and just out and about. And the fact that this time, the guy is at the receiving end of all the dumping -- what a refreshing change!
Like I said, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel were perfect in their roles, but three supporting characters also made this an enjoyable experience: Geoffrey Arend as McKenzie -- Tom's friend who's last relationship was while he was still in school; Matthew Gray Gubler as Paul -- Tom's other friend who's current relationship has lasted since 1997 with the same woman; and Chloe Grace Moretz as Tom's much younger sister Rachel, who offers advice on how a modern day relationship works. Those three try to help Tom through his the ups and downs of his time with Summer, aiding with many of the genuine laughs of the film.
And how can you not love a movie that offers a musical dance number to Hall and Oates?
We enjoyed this film, definitely one of the better ones this year. Highly recommended.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Weight Loss As A Game
I found a new line of attack against the mass that is my belly: Nintendo DS. I've actually seen this game many times at GameStop and Best Buy, picked the box up, read the spiel on the back, set it back on the shelf. Until Saturday this past weekend. I finally broke down and purchased My Weight Loss Coach.
What finally pushed me over the edge (other than the doctor-ordered need to lose weight)? The pedometer played a small role. It has a large, awkward lip near the bottom, but after a day's worth of walking, this pedometer slides into the DS and downloads the step information. Then, the disk takes those numbers and works them into a set of daily challenges to keep me motivated, simple goals like "walk 1000 more than last time". This neat little game also has tips on food and health, quick games that add variety to the daily challenges, a section to keep track of what I eat each day, and positive coaching.
I realize it sounds a bit silly, but this DS game has actually injected my weight loss routine with new life. I've been wearing the pedometer daily since Sunday and walked over 41,000 steps so far. Combined with changes in what I eat, I've lost a pound since Sunday. And I'm obsessed with the pedometer now, as Caesar can attest.
But I'm losing weight!!!!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Transformers, A Movie in Disguise
After weeks and weeks of waiting, we finally made it to a screening of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We wanted to wait until the fervor died down, but perhaps we overdid it a bit. But now I know why the film's made as much money as it has -- I forked over $23 for the two of us to see it. No popcorn, no candies. Just two movie tickets. (So in a bad economy, raise the movie prices so that people become pickier about what they see especially because of all the crap films the studios force upon the public and then wonder why ticket sales aren't at the level they expect to be.)
Rant over...sorry about that, but I feel the über high price may have contributed to my movie experience.
Or maybe it was just because the movie was bad. Sure the special effects were as good as with the first film, but that wasn't enough to save the film in my eyes. Caesar and I both groaned at the cheesy, overdramatic dialogue and even laughed quite a few times when we were probably not supposed to. Michael Bay went crazy with his fast-moving, encircling of the Transformers at every available moment so much so that I almost felt nauseous from motion sickness. (Or the bad dialogue.) Caesar thought the movie would have worked much better without the humans. Let the robots battle it out amongst each other -- like the TV show.
The film overflowed with inconsistencies -- such as just how did Mikaela make it past airport security with a robot locked in her suitcase, fly thousands (?) of miles to Sam's college in time to find him in bed with another woman? Or why did the Decpeticons kidnap Sam's parents and not use them as a bargaining chip, instead spitting them out in the middle of desert combat? And I couldn't wrap my head around Rainn Wilson as a college professor for whom every female co-ed had the hots. And what was the point of the character Leo? He should have been killed off as quickly as possible instead of dragging him through most of the film.
That's not to say the film didn't have its moments. When the Witwicky's kitchen appliances transform into robots and attack the family, that was well done. Or when Alice's face pixels away to reveal the Decepticon within -- cool effect. But it wasn't enough to make me enjoy the film.
And I really want that $23 and 2h30m of my life back.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Caesar's office decided to hold a picnic this coming Thursday as their office retreat so we spent some time this afternoon checking out Pt. Fermin Park in San Pedro. I thought we'd travel North on the 405 then have to circle back on the 110, but my unfamiliarity with Long Beach and its environs laughed at that thought. Instead we sped across the Terminal Island Bridge which cuts through the Port of Long Beach, with cruise ships and cargo ships and those massive cranes which hoist truck-sized containers from ship to shore lining either side, the across the Vincent Thomas Bridge into the heart of San Pedro. A mere 15 minutes had passed since leaving the apartment and already we were surveying the park and the craggy cliffs leading into the Pacific. A fantastic view, and I told Caesar that I may sneak back one weekend when he's at his folks to take pictures with a proper camera rather than my cell.
The other potential picnic area -- also in San Pedro -- was to be Angels Gate. Turning up the drive, we found ourselves in the parking lot of a Korean-sponsored youth hostel atop a cliff with yet another stunning view of the cliffs and the ocean. And right in the middle of the cliff stood a beautiful bell tower in which hung a Korean Friendship Bell. A granite marker near the path to the temple stated that the bell had been presented as a gift of friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea, dated in 1976. The underside of the roof was decorated with light blues, reds, greens, cinnabar reds, and on the bell itself, four versions of the Statue of Liberty holding a raised hand with a Korean woman. I don't think either us of were expecting to see that in San Pedro.
I can't wait to return for some better pictures. All I need to do is find some lithium batteries for the camera, and I'm on my way!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Walking in the LBC
As proof of my valiant effort to lose weight, I'm going to snap a picture each time I walk to the Belmont Shore Pier. From the apartment, the round trip on foot lasts about an hour. And for the first pic, this retaining wall is part of the support for the restaurants on the land side of the pier. Not too sure how old the painting on it is, but I like it.
Friday, August 14, 2009
A Weighty Issue
Trying to lose weight like my cardiologist suggested hasn't been very easy. I cut out the French fries, poured sodas down the drain, eat more salads and chicken and less fatty meat. I visit the gym three times a week, use the precor and use the weight machines. I walk on Saturdays and/or Sundays in lieu of more time at the gym.
And yet I can't seem to break the 215-lb. barrier. Neither going up or down, the weight remains at a static plateau, and I'm getting tired of it. So I figure in order to make a dent in the plateau, I need to change or to add something. Just what that is, I'm not sure, but I'm gong to start with going to the gym more often, maybe 5 times a week. Just to use the treadmill or the precor. Maybe it's the idle days between workouts that's keeping me in limbo.
Keep your fingers crossed!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I seem to be allowing things to fall behind.
Like my cousin's birthday last month. Which is strange because I made a point of buying his gift a month early. I marked the date on my calendar, placed the book in an easy to locate spot (on the counter beneath my cell phone). Bought a padded envelope, even, and psyched myself into wrapping and packing the book. Then, the date arrived and passed by. I eventually mailed it, but a week or two late.
Or my brother's second wedding anniversary just this past Tuesday. I told Caesar that I needed to get them something. My Mother called at work Monday to remind me about the anniversary. The day arrived and passed by. Only today did I stop by their house after work to deliver their gift and spend an hour talking and admiring the renovations they made to the 100-year-old house.
My Facebook page has been feeling the laziness, too. I rarely logon to update my status. Mostly because I can do that from Tweetdeck while updating my Twitter status. And when I do grace the Book of Face with my presence, I'm on for no more than a few minutes, updating my office's page, responding to statuses, poke back friends.
And then there's this here blog. My posting has become less frequent though I made a promise (many times this year, it would seem) to update on a regular basis, even if just a sentence or two. But I am posting....
I could rationalize it with work becoming increasingly busy thanks to my new duties. Or maybe it's due to the cyst on my shoulder not allowing for full function of my arm until a few days ago. (It's healed but will have a half-inch scar.) Or my trying to read five books at once is taking up too much of my time.
Face it: I'm just plain lazy of late. This will change!!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Book Review: Jazz
This book is one of the few that I put down after reading the first few sentences. The rhythm and pacing threw me as I tried and retried that opening paragraph, and I reluctantly gave up, returning the book to the library the next day. Of course, that was about 10 years ago. Since then, I've read two of Morrison's books and enjoyed them immensely so I decided to give Jazz another go.
Jazz tells the story of Violet and Joe Trace, a couple struggling with a strained relationship in different ways: Violet starts to slowly lose herself, sitting down in the street for no reason, releases all the birds in the apartment; Joe shoots his teenaged lover, Dorcas, to death. Weaving back and forth in time, allowing each character -- even Dorcas -- an opportunity to tell his or her part in the events, the reader learns not just about the story of Violet and Joe, but also their family histories, what lead them to such a drastic point in their lives.
I managed to make it past those first lines this time, finally understanding that Morrison used the language as her own interpretation of jazz music from the 1920s: flowing, rhythmic and repetitive, riffing off to tangents that hold you equally as strong as the original thread, but ultimately finding its way back. In that respect, the writing brilliantly created the feel of a big city just getting into the swing of jazz, affecting how people acted and spoke, how they walked, how they related to one another. While that held my interest, sometimes it detracted form the story, such as the tangent describing the City near the beginning going on for pages and pages though it didn't seem to have anything to do with the actual tale.
Many of the sections felt that way to me -- I enjoyed how they were written, but what they were saying didn't seem to have an impact on the story as far as I could tell. Golden Gray, True Belle, the Wild Woman -- all finely drawn characters, but I scratched my head trying to understand what their stories had to do with Violet and Joe. I grudgingly forged ahead with those areas because when Morrison stuck to the tale of Joe and Violet, the story picked up steam and a definite direction.
But I won't call this book one of my favorites. Jazz wound up feeling like more of an experiment in writing which sometimes worked.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
My little hazmat-clad vinyl Mickey now has some friends! The farthest left shows Flounder on the front with a full image of Ariel on the backside. Next to Hazmat Mickey is what appears to be Japanese or Chinese writing on Mickey's torso (front and back). The farthest right resembles a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar that can be found at any frozen dessert cart in the parks.
It would appear that my willpower is non-existent. I may return with more of these vinyl addictions, er, additions as the months progress.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
No Bursting into Flames!
Caesar and I crossed the threshhold, and I held my breath, waiting for the righteous flames to engulf my gayness and turn me into a smoldeirng pile at the head of the church aisle.
That didn't happen, thank goodness.
A deacon was speaking to the congregation so we quietly found an empty pew near the back and listened. Caesar sat up as straight as he could to look for his niece and thought he spotted her very close to the front. I stared toward the front of the church, focusing on the deacon and feeling as though everyone knew that two gay men were seated at the back of the church. He spent much of the time talking about the 6 parts of a baptism, what they mean, how we can -- and should -- be following those rules everyday, but he spoke with a bit of hesitation. His sentences ended with "okay?" as if he wasn't sure that what he was saying were correct. Maybe it was nerves: he had to compete for the congregation's attention over crying babies, whispered conversations, and people constantly coming in and out the doors.
Caesar's sister found our pew and joined us, brining her parents, one of her daughters and the grandkids, one of whom promptly feel asleep in Caesar's arms and remained so throughout the event. In all, our little group took up almost two entire pews. It felt nice having so much family around to share in this; my own family is rather small: Mother, Father, Brother and his Wife, Grandmother, Autn, Uncle, and Cousin with his Husband. Most of us live withing 20 miles of one another, but trying to get us all together at the same time takes a Herculean effort.
When the Deacon's speaking ended, the Pastor approached the dais wearing a very heavy white robe with a greenish gold trim. I only mentioned it because the greenish gold matched the seemingly sequined walls that flanked him left and right. (Okay, they probably weren't sequined, but the light shimmered and waved from the tiles, giving that impression.) The Pastor spoke breifly about the baptism, then walked along the center aisle, rubbing drops of oil onto the heads of those to be baptised. Some children fussed rather loudly as he approached, but he continued with his task and returned to the front. He read a few words from The Bible then slowly proceeded to the font, explaining how the children and their Godparents would be called up by rows.
As the first child approached, many family members armed with digital cameras flashed pictures of the Pastor, of the child's head being tilted and lowered toward the font, of the water drizzled onto the head, of the Godparents and family members posing around the font. And repeated for each child. Until finally, toward the end, Caesar's great-niece approached and went through the motions. Neither of us is too sure what happened, but she did not look happy when leaving the font.
Once all the baptisms concluded, the Pastor again slowly walked along the center aisle, this time explaining that he was placing a fragrant oil on each child's head. Candles were lit be the Godparents, and that was it.
We met the rest of the family in the church courtyard then headed for a celebrational feast at Bahooka's in Rosemeade. The newly-baptised great-niece seemed pleasantly surprised when a huge bowl of punch with umbrellas, fruit, two long straws so she wouldn't need to lean forward to drink, and a flaming candle was presented to her. She ate most of the fruit, sipped frequently at the punch, and enjoyed being shown the dozens of fish tanks populting the restaurant. We all had a fine time, and my finger stopped hurting a while ago from the great-niece's baby sister using it as a teething ring.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Sebaceous Is As Sebaceous Does
When I heard the doctor say, "Oh my," when he took a look at the lump on my shoulder blade, I knew something was up.
I'd been feeling sharp, burning pain for more than a week near the bottom of my left shoulder blade. When I strained to reach back there, almost like hugging myself, I felt the thick stiff lump. I tried checking it in the mirror but could only make out a sometimes reddish sometimes purplish raised patch on my skin. Sleeping on it proved easier than I thought, mostly because I was out cold and didn't feel anything when I rolled onto that side during the night. But driving....and sitting in a straight-backed chair...those irritated the lump to know end so I was more than glad when the receptionist was able to pencil me in for Tuesday afternoon.
Sitting on the examination table, I slowly removed my t-shirt, and heard the doctor say the dreadful, "Oh my". He lightly pinched and pressed the lump, asking if it hurt. I mentioned that it felt a bit tender at times, mostly when I raise my arm or have to sit in the car for long periods of time. "Well, this looks like a pretty nasty cyst so I'm going to excise it and try to get as much stuff out of it as I can." I laid stomach down on the table, gripping the paper-covered pillow tightly, watching the doctor remove a fresh needle from a sealed pouch, stick the tip into a tiny bottle, then stick that tip three times into the area around the cyst. Those little pricks hurt the most; I didn't even feel when he broke open the skin to start the drainage. A few moments of pinching pressure every once in a while followed by quick swipes of gauze. I asked how bad it was. "Well, most of it was just under the skin so it was easy to get to, but the affected area goes about an inch down. Not too wide which is good, but it's not all going to come out today."
After about 30 minutes, he set a gauze wick inside to assist with the drainage then laid a few gauze pads with thick medical tape crisscrossing them over the spot. "It's going to bleed quite a bit tonight. Change the gauze in the morning, and you should be fine until I can see you on Friday." He scribbled a prescription for Keflex, warned me to keep the area dry (which made for an interesting shower this morning), and sent me on my way.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
We finally got around to seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Sunday, waiting for two weeks after the release just so we could use a few discount ticket coupons. Good thing, too, as the non-matinée tickets were $11.50 each; the coupon discounted the tickets by $4.00 each so we managed to save $8. (Sheesh, I can still remember going to a double feature, paying only $4.50 for a few hours away from the folks!)
This sixth installment of the movie/book series finds Harry, Hermione and Ron working their way through romantic relationships while Harry also tries to find a way into the confidence of Professor Horace Slughorn. Professor Slughorn happened to be teaching at the school while Tom Riddle was a student and purposely sabotaged one of his own memories of their meetings, much to the chagrin of Albus Dumbledore. He needs the corrected memory in order to figure out what Lord Voldemort is up to.
For what it's worth, those two intertwining stories were good. Jim Broadbent was excellent as Professor Slughorn and his scenes with Harry were some of the best in the film. And Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown, the lovelorn girl trying to win the affections of Ron Weasley was comic genius. And, the usual cast was wonderful as always.
But something was lacking for me. The movie didn't feel as though it could stand on its own. The viewer either needs to have seen the preceding movies or at least have a good understanding of what the story is up to that point. It takes for granted that everyone already knows the story. But my biggest concern is the Half-Blood Prince himself, who appears as a name only in the potions book Harry grudgingly accepts for Professor Slughorn's class. No one seems all that concerned when Harry bests Hermione in the potions class, thanks to the Half-Blood Prince's scribbles in the margins of the book. No one tries very hard to uncover just who the Half-Blood Prince is or was, and it's discarded for most of the film. I mean, "Half-Blood Prince" is part of the title so shouldn't a bit more time have been spent in trying to track him down instead of relegating him to an afterthought?
I left the theater only somewhat satisfied.
And, after seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my cousin informed me via FaceBook that in Spain, the sixth installment of the Harry Potter series was titled Harry Potter and the Mestizo Prince. We both found it a bit odd since a mestizo is generally someone of mixed European and Native American ancestry. As far as I remember from reading the book, the character who was eventually revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince definitely lacked the Native American aspect.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Book Review: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
After his large Greek friend is taken away to a hospital, John Singer moves into a boarding house during the Great Depression. A quiet man, also a deaf-mute, the small southern town thinks of him as something special, someone they can pin their fantasies to or talk to and for some reason feel that he's listening without any prejudices. This comes as a great comfort to those who are trying to find answers to what their hearts are telling them: Mick Kelly, the young daughter of the boarding house owners who has an affinity for music and attempts to understand her new feelings for boys; Biff Brannon the local café owner whose wife just passed away; Jake Blount, a man who feels he has some mission to communicate the ideals of a free government to the folks in town; and Dr. Copeland, the only black doctor in town, well-educated and struggling to make his black brothers and sisters peaceably fight against their hardships in the South.
In Singer each has found a confidant, someone to discuss issues and questions, someone who doesn't judge them.
And yet, throughout their discussions and the increasing political and racial tensions in the small town, no one tries to understand what Singer's going through. He's separated from his most intimate friend by hundreds of miles, and the toll it's taking on him grows more and more until he learns the fate of his friend which ends up affecting more than just Singer.
A sad and rich book that it sometimes surprises me that Carson McCullers was only twenty-three when the novel was published. She tackles the politics and race relations of the day with a careful and thoughtful eye. When Dr. Copeland speaks of the struggles of blacks in the South, it comes across as someone speaking who has experienced those struggles, who truly cares for all peoples, wanting them to succeed even when they feel wronged and blocked at every step. Such insight from McCullers strikes me as remarkable. Her attention to detail also helps to bring the story to life, from the traveling carnival at which Blount finds work to the depictions of how Mick feels the music which she loves.
Her description of the intimacy between SInger and his Greek friend to me almost borders on homosexual. They never do anything more than talk -- Singer singing with his hands while the Greek nods and sometimes signs back -- but their closeness is apparent in Singer's feelings of loss when separated from the Greek or his complete happiness at their brief reunions. It's interesting that everyone turns to Singer as the most understanding and non-judgmental when, if they scrutinized his association with the Greek, they would have most likely turned on him.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is an incredible book that I recommend to anyone who enjoys the written word.