Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Current Book and Movie Updates

Greetings to all who read this!

The time has finally come for a new blog entry!  My sincerest apologies to all my dear readers who have checked back here time after time looking for a new entry.  Here it is!  I hope it was worth the wait.

I went to visit my family over Thanksgiving and what fun it was!  The perfect holiday!  I told my mother about my blog, so if you read this, mom, please leave me a comment and let me know!!

The first thing I want to do is follow up on my reading list.  Since last time, I have finished Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  As you might recall, I said last time that I thought many in the Christian community would shun this book on the basis of who wrote it.  I take it back.  This book is not only one of the best Christian books I’ve read in a long time, it really and truly belongs on the shelves of Christian bookstores everywhere, and I have no doubt that it will arrive there soon.  

I liked Interview with the Vampire.  I liked the movie, and I liked the book better.  Yes, they were “guilty pleasures”, as you might say, but I liked them.  This new book is the opposite of that though.  I like this the way I liked The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings.  I want to proclaim that I liked it from the hilltops.  It’s that good people.  I’m telling you, I cried not once but twice while reading it!  I prayed while reading this book!  I thanked and praised God for it!  That’s what we’re talking about here!  Don’t walk, run to the bookstore and pick this up.  

And now a prediction, for anyone who’s interested.  I predict that Ms. Rice will write at least three novels in this Christ the Lord series (“Out of Egypt” being the first), and I predict that a series of movies will be made of them which will be Harry Potter-level blockbusters.  I’m telling you, the film studio that does this will rake in the dough, and I can’t wait!

Oh my gosh… a thought just hit me…!  Will there be an Xbox tie-in game like with the Narnia movies?  I tremble at the thought.  Could we be entering a world where there will be a video game based on the life of Christ?  I’m not sure I’m ready for that.  On the other hand, if it’s done right (and I’m not even sure that it could be) it might actually work.

In other reading-material-related news, I’m currently reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg.  Why am I reading this, you ask?  Well, I saw the trailer for the movie, and it looked interesting, so I said; “It this is gonna be a good movie, how good must the book be?!”  And I went and got the book.

Ok, I got the book on tape, but it’s unabridged, so it counts as reading it!

I’m not very far into it.  The best I can say is that I haven’t put it down yet.

I saw Harry Potter 3.  Was it good?  Yes it was.  Was it the best Harry Potter yet?  I don’t think so.  There was just too much material to cover in one film, and personally, I always thought the “Tri-Wizard Tournament” seemed … well, contrived.  The only thing of importance that occurs in the film is the resurrection of Voldemort, and once again the way Harry escapes from this is extremely deus ex machina.  To me, this has always been a weakness to the Harry Potter stories.  Since magic rules the universe, there are basically no rules, and therefore there can be no real tension.  Since anything can happen, there’s no real reason to care about what happens.

Lest you think I’m just slamming Harry Potter, I’m not.  I’ve read every book in the series, and I’ve seen every one of the films in the theater.  I even own all the DVDs (but I don’t think I’ll be buying this one).  I guess I’m starting to get a glimpse at the man behind the curtain, so to speak.  It’s been the same way with Lemony Snicket.  I absolutely loved the first few Baudelaire adventures, but they all start to seem the same after a while.  It’s just the same stuff over and over and over again.  I didn’t even finish the last one I started.

Well, the hour is late, and I’ve got to start getting some sleep.

Until next time (which hopefully won’t be as long as last time)!


Friday, November 18, 2005

What I'm Reading Right Now and Other Thoughts

Greetings once again to all who read this!

It’s been 10 long days since my last post.  I hope my readers will forgive my delay.  I’ve been busy, and when I’m not busy I’m tired.  When I’m not busy or tired, I’m reading one of the several books I’m into right now.

I am about a third of the way through Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.  If you are a rabid fan of the TV show LOST, as I am, than you will undoubtedly recognize this book, as it was shown briefly during an episode of that show, sitting among some other stuff in the notorious “hatch”.  Since then, some of the shows producers have been quoted saying that this book can help viewers “dissect Lost plotlines”.

Well, all I can say so far is that, like the TV show, the book is strange and enigmatic.  It ranges from disturbingly scary in a kind of Sixth Sense way, to just plain bizarre in a kind of Buckaroo Banzai way.  It mainly concerns a sad farmer who doesn’t like farming at all, and ends up killing a man for his money-box.  The farmer lets his inherited farmland go to waste, while he spends most of his time studying and talking about a little known Irish philosopher named de Selby.  This de Selby is thought to have been a genius by the protagonist, but judging from everything he ever said or thought (at least what’s described in the book), he seems to have been a lunatic.  

For example, de Selby didn’t believe at all in cosmology as we know it.  He didn’t even believe that the sequence of night and day was caused by the rotation of the earth, but by the “accumulations of ‘black air’ produced by certain volcanic activities”.  He was asked to view a film once, and reported that it was exceedingly repetitive and dull – but then it was discovered that he viewed the film by examining each frame as if it were a still photo, without knowing how a film projector was supposed to work.  De Selby thought that all construction was evil and we should all live outside.  He also thought that all motion was an illusion and the world was really static.

Anyway, the protagonist of the film murders a man for his money, but things don’t go as he expected and he ends up in some kind of bizarro-world looking for the black money-box.  It’s weird, but quite interesting.  He meets three policemen at a police station – or rather there are two policemen there, and there’s a third who’s out at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll come into the story as he’s the titular character.  

Another book I’m currently reading is Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  It’s basically a fictionalized account of Jesus’ childhood.  At least that’s what it is so far.  The book begins with Jesus at age 7 living with his family in Egypt, where they had fled from Herod.  I’m no scholar of ancient times, but it definitely has the feel of something carefully researched (supposedly it’s “based on the gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship”), and yet at the same time it is quite fanciful.  In a way (and I know this will sound awful to many of my readers, but I don’t mean it that way) it’s kind of like Harry Potter set in ancient Egypt and Palestine.  Except that Jesus’ “powers” come from God and not from magic.  It’s kind of odd that the creator of The Vampire Chronicles would write such a book, but the woman certainly can write. Interview with the Vampire is the only other book of hers that I’ve read, and it was fantastic, but one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.  I picked this one up out of sheer curiosity, expecting something weird and possibly blasphemous, but I have so far been pleasantly surprised.  However, I’m pretty sure that many of the more orthodox Christians I know would disagree with me, possibly just because of who wrote it.  Like Harry Potter, many Christians are going to condemn this without reading page one.

Of course, I myself cannot confidently recommend it yet, as I’m not yet a quarter through it.

In addition to the above two books, I’m also still reading Polaris, by Jack McDevitt.  

Whew!  No wonder I seldom have time to blog!  

Hey, here’s something cool:  I played the drums at church last weekend!  Yes, I’m still occasionally playing the drums.  I played every Sunday for years in Texas, and then for a few years in Woodinville at our last church.  But Woodinville Alliance is a much bigger church, and I’m not the young guy anymore, so now I’m relegated to “backup drummer”.  I play whenever the main drummer is out of town.  Which is fine with me as I’d really rather go to Sunday school.

Well, lunch is almost over, and I’ve still got to eat, so I guess I’m gonna have to sign off for now.  

Until next time, keep lookin’ up!  Leave a comment if you feel so inclined!


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Religious Experiences

Greetings once again to all who read this!

Well, it’s Saturday night, and I aint got no money, so I’m bloggin’.

I’d really like to go out with Molly and see Jarhead, or maybe (to a lesser degree) take the kids to see Chicken Little, but instead I’m here at the keyboard bearing my soul in cyberspace.

I was thinking today about the first time I heard the old Imperials album “Sail on”.  Can ANY of you out there even remember that album, or do you even know who the Imperials were?  Yes, they sang backup for Elvis a few times in their early years, but when I first heard the album “Sail On”, it was a revelation.  I’d never heard anything like it.  The song “Water Grave” was my favorite.  I listened to that song over and over and over.  There was a particular drum solo toward the end of the song that I loved.  I would hit rewind for a second and listen to that little segment repeatedly, relishing the moment of ecstatic silence as Russ Taff’s voice faded, anticipating the first drum beat, then listening to every minute detail of the sounds that followed.  The way each beat echoed, the way it thumped in my chest (with the volume as high as it could go without distorting).  

The Imperials (along with most good music) were against the rules at my Christian school back then, and at my church, and anything church-sponsored that I went to (such as camp, and so forth), so I had to hide my cassette and listen to it with the player up against my ear at the lowest possible setting.  I remember one day I really wanted a friend of mine to hear some of the songs, so we hid behind a soda machine and listened with our ears together against the little cassette player I had.  Ahh, those were the days!

That kind of experience is such a wonderful thing.  What is it called?  It’s not just the momentary thrill I’m thinking of, but the life-changing aspects of it.  That moment when I heard “Sail On” for the first time was a big turning point in my life.  It altered every day thereafter.  It was like the opening of a door that led to all kinds of wonderful things.  It was like that when I read The Chronicles of Narnia the first time several years earlier.  Another one was one Saturday in college when I sat and watched Franco Zepherelli’s 6 ½ hour Jesus of Nazareth epic.  More recently, when Molly and I saw U2 in concert (my very first rock concert!).  Sometimes I call that kind of experience “a religious experience”, but it has very little to do with the experience of attending most so-called “religious” activities, such as a church service.  I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been to maybe one or two church services in my life that have been “religious experiences” in the way I’m talking about.  

When I look back on my life, those are the moments that I really love to remember.  They reach out of the past and become metaphors that guide me in present life.  It’s really amazing.  I think that a lot of what I do is driven by a deep desire to have experiences like that again and again.  

Until next time—


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Update on My Current Doings

Greetings once again to all who read this.

Well, a great deal has happened in the reading material department since my last post.  I’ve finished Demon of the Waters.  It was really good, but actually seemed to run out of steam early, so that the last quarter or so was kind of… well, boring I guess.  But hey, it was a history book essentially, not a novel, and on that score it was impeccable.  You could really sense that a lot of research had gone into it.  A big part of the fascination for me was in the knowledge that I was reading about events that really happened.

After finishing Demon of the Waters, I finished Margaret Haddix’s Among the Hidden, which I enjoyed.  I was listening to that on tape a few weeks ago when the last cassette broke on me, so I had to wait for the library to send me another copy.  It’s a good story, if a little far-fetched, about a future oppressive America where families are only allowed two children, and “thirds” are systematically hunted down and killed by the “population police”.  

After finishing Among the Hidden, I started Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on a whim, but gave up on it fairly early.  I’m sure it’s a very fountain of enlightenment and all, but it just didn’t interest me for some reason.  

Right now I’m reading Jack McDevitt’s Polaris, which is his newest, just released in paperback.  Yes, I’m back in my comfort zone, reading hard sci-fi.  And no one writing today is better at that than Mr. McDevitt.  Chindi is still my favorite of his so far, but Polaris has made a good start. It appears to be set in a different universe than all the others of his I’ve read so far.  Engines of God, Chindi and Omega (as well as most of his other novels, I think) are all set in the same universe, and really form a kind of series, with recurring characters and a continuous story arc (even though they all really stand alone).  Polaris is kind of a “cold case” mystery story.  Every person aboard a luxury spaceship on a sightseeing cruise abruptly disappears, and sixty years later the case is still a mystery when a Malcolm Reynolds-like bounty hunter discovers some new clues and gets tangled up with some powerful enemies who want to keep something hidden.

In music, I need to thank Josh Bizeau for turning me on to Michael Bublé in one of his recent blogs.  Actually, I first need to thank conservative talk-show host Dennis Prager for turning me on to Frank Sinatra.  Several months ago I remember listening to some samples from a Michael Bublé CD just to see what all the fuss was about.  I was thinking at the time that maybe he would be something like Josh Groban, who I love, but who only has two studio CDs out, and I was hungering for more.  At that time, I really blew Mr. Bublé off and forgot about him.  Then for some strange reason Dennis Prager played Sinatra’s “That’s Life” (click for a clip!) in its entirety on his talk show, and spent some time talking about why he liked to listen to Sinatra.  It was like a mini-music-appreciation course for that style of music, and it was very effective, at least for me.  From there it was just a short leap to Michael Bublé, whom I now hear in a completely different light (if it’s possible to hear something in a light).  Thanks Josh!

Well, I need to close this here.  It’s time to get back to work.  More later!

Until next time, keep those comments comin’!