Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Inputs and Output

Well, just to quiet the voices in my head for a bit, here's a list of movies I've seen recently, followed by my thoughts on them. I don't know why I feel compelled to address such things, but here I go.

Syriana -- Deep, fractured, chaotic, intense, jarring. I greatly appreciate and revel in how much was going on with this movie amidst the 3 "main" characters (Clooney, Damon, & Wright), players who really nevr saw each other or interacted the entire movie. What made this movie most enjoyable (and worthy of several repeat viewings) was that the chaos of the storylines did a rather good job of representing and illuminating the vast spectrum of perspectives and interplay that surrounds and threatens to engulf the actual grab for oil in the Gulf Region. No matter what you think of the politics of oil, please go see this movie. I will be seeing it again as well, if only to better absorb what's going on so that I might be able to discuss the movie's concepts and themes more ably.

Pride and Prejudice -- OK. So, this is a blatant admission of my love for 2 things: Kiera Knightly and Focus Features. When I first saw the preview for this movie, I thought, "Well, she's a beautiful woman, but do we really need another version of this movie? If I want to see this book appropriately retold, I'd go see the Colin Firth-led A&E/BBC version of Pride & Prejudice." But then, the words "Focus Features" floated across my eyes and into my ears and I knew that I would be viewing this movie and most likely be buying it. In 2 hours, KK & FF do a great job of catching the main themes, main storylines, and main drama from the book. To do a more complete job, go watch the Colin Firth version. The actors they chose all did a rather exemplary job in their roles. I was especially impressed with Jena Malone's work and British accent, being an American actress whose most recent big role was playing the main character in "Saved". All in all, I was struck by often I resemble Mr. Darcy in my inability to speak upon what I'm really feeling in my heart and in my head. If they come into conflict, my head wins, since it can more capably censor what comes out of my mouth, thus, keeping my out of trouble (and also out of love). In conclusion though, I cried. I really did and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Walk the Line (3 times) -- Go read my post a couple weeks or so ago on Johnny Cash.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (2 times) -- I love these books. I love these movies. I came late to reading the books, mostly because I initially dismissed them as cheesy, children's fantasy novels that were beneath my imagination and intellect. Well, after watching the first 3 movies and discovering that there were many people whose opinions and literary preferences I respected reading these novels, I picked up the first one and was hooked immediately. And the beauty of Rowlings' writing is that she just gets better and better. All that to say this -- while I really enjoyed the fourth movie, it wasn't as good as Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. What I feel that the screenwriters are running into is that, as the books are becoming dramatically lengthier, they are having severe issues with cutting out & adapting the book for movie viewing. These are the same issues that Peter Jackson had with LOTR and he created three 3-1/2 hour movies, while the HP movies are between 2 & 2-1/2 hours. There just isn't enough time within the timeframe the director is given to capture the magic of the books. Now, I do feel that the actors portraying Harry, Ron, & Hermoine are simply coming into their own, embodying the complexities of adolescence with aplomb and tense conflict. I just can't wait to see how Daniel Radcliffe will present the thoroughly and perpetually pissed-off (& pissed-on) Harry Potter in Book 5 (Order of the Phoenix).

Oh well, enough with this. I'll be discussing Rent & Bee Season at a later date, if I feel like it. I really enjoyed both movies, but there are some issues I had with them (Rent being a musical and Bee Season being bizarre for bizarre's sake). Thoughts?? Considerations?? Mutual affirmation??

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Well, I thought long and hard about posting my thoughts, ideas, and comments concerning the recent cinematic release of C. S. Lewis' classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Depending upon which number system you prefer, TLTWATW is either first (publishing chronilogical order) or second (story's chronilogical order) in the beautiful children's series The Chronicles of Narnia. But when I read my friend's musings upon her viewing of the movie, I decided to post a link to her blog, since she has put into words my general and VERY specific thoughts on the movie, especially in terms of taking direct note of the two largest discrepancies between the literary and cinematic versions. Feel free to read and comment upon what she has written about the movie as well as about the rest of her life. She's a wonderful woman who's been a great friend for the past 18 months. Keep her in your prayers as she moves on to a great, yet nerve-wracking new phase/stage of her life.

Environmental Recollections

Propped upon a thinning collection
of blue cotton and abused filler,
Supported by four teetering, wobbling,
chunks of compressed faux wood particles,
Standing on a sea of concrete chocolate,
not-yet-scraped by tugged weights,

Surrounded by waves so percussive, melodic,
deep, airy, tuned, and flowing,
Enfolded by panels of creamy chalk and
stone-grey rows connected by white lines,
Gazed down upon by lines, images,
paints, & pens, creations of creations,

I reconvene with my loved ones and with
the pieces of me that I don't much love.
I seek to reconnect those pieces and parts,
though I try to hold them apart and so separate.
I hold them all in tension, just as I hold
You -- so beyond me, yet so within.

Copyright 12/11/2005

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

They are There

We live lives filled
with others --
other people,
other thoughts,
other emotions,

things that don't quite belong and
things that are supposed to be.

Whether we want them there or not,
they are there.

We listen to them too often.
We listen to them not enough.
We run from them so quickly.
We embrace them wholeheartedly.

We have these lives and
we are not alone,
both to our detriment,
but to our ultimate benefit.

Copyright 12/05/2005

Poem for Advent 2

This is a poem written by an elder at the church of which I am a member for our service on the Second Week of Advent. He read this during our AM service, and, due to his not feeling that well, I was asked to read it for our PM service. I was taken aback at the breadth of themes presented and the way in which they were all tied together to make a beautiful & coherent whole. After the service, several people came up to me to let me know how much they loved the poem and asked me if I had written it myself. I told them that I had not written it, but that an elder, Paul Randall, had. Such a response to his poem compelled me to inquire of Paul as to whether or not I could include this poem as a part of my series of Advent posts. He granted me permission and you get to reap the benefits of his craftsmanship. Please enjoy, reflect, and comment as you see fit. Again, I give thanks to Paul for his permission.

Poem for Advent 2

Mountain peaks tremble, quake and give way
in a day, or a thousand years
into open-mouthed valleys
swallowing sin and shame.

Grass, so zealously green in the spring,
browns with age, withers, cracks,
tumbles before the breath of God
gathers along fence lines,
lodges with leaves on the sidewalk.

Over newly leveled plains
Righteousness and Peace
outstretch lips to kiss.
A seed falls, roots, sprouts
Faithfulness flowers and bears fruit.
The harvest is the glory of our God.

Winter wheat to be milled, baked, broken.
Succulent grapes ripen on the vine
bursting under bare feet of one unworthy, unkempt
fresh from the wilderness
preparing the wine, preparing the way.

A measure of flour
lumpy, uneven
is shaken, tapped, leveled
heights made low
holes filled in
sifted, for the second time
(the first for the chaff)
the recipe, the way, is prepared.

Copyright © 2005 by Paul Fredrick Randall

Monday, December 05, 2005

Be Lifted

Reflections on Isaiah 40:1-11, culled from the lectio divina section of Ecclesia's PM service on December 4, 2005

A voice says, "Cry out!"
And I said, "What shall I cry?"

Like grass
Breath of the Lord
The Word of our God endures forever
Good news
Here is your God
Gently Lead


Face to face
Confronting myself
Embracing myself
Walking along the way

Step by step
Journeying together
Following a path
Seeking the light

Faith to faith
Looking to the future
Living in the present
Listening to the past

All in all
Directing my pace
Providing for my needs
Loving me, no matter what

Copyright 12/04/2005

Saturday, December 03, 2005

This really isn't an advert. I promise....

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” – C. S. Lewis

I’ve been reading since I was not quite 3 years old. I don’t say that to brag upon myself, but upon my mother, since she was the one reading the works of Dr. Seuss and the Golden Books people to me. And then, that same mother used to remove books from my hands on school mornings. I would be so engrossed in reading a book that I would sit down on the edge of my bed and forget to get dressed, thus causing everyone to be late to school.

All throughout high school, I was a public library regular, whether riding my bike across town or driving my little pick-up truck there. I attended a small private school that didn’t have a great library and I had to employ any means necessary to sate my appetite. However, it wasn’t until I worked in a bookstore during & after college (albeit it turned out to a rather stifling experience) did my literary passions begin to truly bloom.

Simply put, I have found that, within the pages of a work of great fiction, I can find a great many ways and means by which my life can be enriched, challenged, strengthened, broken-down, and rebuilt. Yes, I said fiction. Yes, I do believe that fiction can be more powerful than nonfiction. Works of fiction can expound upon the human condition better than any social scientist could ever hope to tabulate within a report or scholarly work. I say that because I am a social scientist by education (BA in Political Science, minors in Economics & History) – I find it easy to write about people in formal language. But I am learning, all over again, how to write and read about people in ways that a logical, trained observer of humanity really cannot do.

Read along with me at Taft Street Books as you patron the fine establishment that is Taft Street Coffee. Feel free to contact me with any questions, opinions, or stock requests that you might have. I look forward to making the bookstore as democratically run as possible, as I seek to make Taft Street Books your favorite place to purchase literature. (And yes, nonfiction as well – I do read considerable amounts of that as well.) Seriously. Come visit me.