Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Yes, I admit it, I was that guy this weekend, the guy who walks around in public with a fever and a cough. In my defense though, I was only out looking for Motrin and a thermometer (successfully and repeatedly unsuccessfully, respectively), and I spent the rest of the three and a half day weekend on the couch wrapped in a blanket.

However, as you may be surprised to discover, my diseased excursions were not the highlight of my weekend. What was, you ask? Well, as soon as I failed to roll out of bed on Saturday, I decided that Sunday would be the perfect day for my long-awaited Bourne triple-header: by then I would likely be well enough to stay awake for the whole thing, and yet still sick enough to justify not doing anything else.

My worry going into this undertaking was that watching all three of the Bourne movies together would reveal them to be a mishmash of varying creative styles and disjointed plots, but in fact the opposite turned out to be true. For three movies filmed separately at three year intervals (with two different directors, even), they make a surprisingly coherent and consistent whole, a true trilogy. Each leads smoothly into the next, and each adds further color and depth to the story without feeling contrived (even in the case of the end credits, where the extra dimensions are literal). The common musical themes help to tie the movies together as well — again, even in the end credits, where the same song is used for all three movies.

The third movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, did an especially good job of finishing off the trilogy. It tied in well to The Bourne Supremacy, touching on two of its major plot points and reframing one of them in a different context that was a genuine (and much enjoyed) surprise to me when I first saw it in the theaters. It also bookended Supremacy well, having several scenes that were the reflection (and the opposite) of earlier scenes in The Bourne Identity. It says a lot that the action highlight of Ultimatum is a masterfully paced and imaginatively staged eighteen minute long search-chase-boom-chase-pause-chase-pause-chase-pause-chase-fight sequence.

So am I an action movie fan? Only when they're done like this...

[The more detail-oriented among you are now thinking, "That only accounts for about 6 hours of the weekend, what did you do on that couch the rest of the time?" Well, I also watched Lost, Season Two. Turns out Michael was always a psycho, I just couldn't see it at the time.]

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Monday, December 17, 2007


I'll try not to make a habit of this, but Pixar already has me looking forward to their next movie, which comes out at the end of June, 2008. The character work alone in the trailer I saw today is amazing.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Take the advice of a faithful friend.

Yes, another title right out of a fortune cookie (literally), but hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I came across an article a while back entitled "How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise." It's a fairly lengthy article, but a very interesting one. (If you don't read it, then the rest of what I say here will probably make even less sense than usual.) I started reading the article simply out of curiosity about the title, but as it went on I was struck by how closely it mirrored many of my own experiences and actions.

Throughout my education I was labeled one of these "gifted" children. It was a label I hated, and in each new situation I tried (and to some extent, still try) to avoid it for as long as possible because the way I was treated always changed the instant it was applied, but still I grew up with words like "smart," "gifted" and "genius" (hardly accurate) being bandied about. It wasn't a description I subscribed to myself (still don't), but even so, the idea that success was expected of me stuck, and my response to the possibility of failure or embarrassment was more often, "How do I get out of doing this?" than "How am I going to accomplish this?" The things that were easy for me, I did, and the things that were hard for me, I simply "wasn't capable of." (For the record, my mom never let me get away with it when she caught me — the absolute right thing to do.) That the result of many of these wrong choices has landed me in a situation I fully believe is where God intends me to be is evidence of His grace, not my success.

The fact I couldn't ignore is that all of the things I am most thankful for right now are things that I had specifically intended to avoid, had God given me the chance. It took me sixteen years to realize that my way wasn't working. It took me another eight long months of refusals before I finally submitted to God and committed to doing something about it. I resolved that "I don't want to" and "I'm afraid to" and "It's hard" could no longer be reasons for not doing something. It was a resolution I instantly broke and continue to break, though, by the help of God, not every time.

It's a terrifying thing, to no longer say "no" based on those reasons. Because of it, I have had to commit to doing some things (even tonight) that have caused me no end of apprehension. Even though I now, with hindsight, do not regret these things at all, and though every time I have trusted God to enable me the result has been success, saying "yes" still hasn't gotten any easier, and it may never.

Going back to the article, I think the spiritually "gifted" encounter this struggle as well. Those who are continually praised for their "faith," "joy," etc. without a realistic emphasis on the process of failure and forgiveness that is universal in the Christian life find it hard to confide those failures to their Christian brothers and sisters for fear of losing face. When victories are lauded at the expense of encouraging perseverance, the result is an inclination to hide pain, doubts and struggles rather than share them as a community is supposed to do. The solution lies in not focusing only on the desired results, but instead encouraging each other toward effort, diligence, dedication and openness (as well as in being open ourselves).

In the end, the responsibility is mine: do I crave the good opinion of fellow men, or do I crave the good opinion of God? The answer is usually "yes" and which one wins out in the end depends on where my focus is at the time. That is where the community comes in (a fact I have not yet mastered), and so perhaps a good way to end this post is to say "Seek the advice of a faithful friend."

Some Googling led me to the article "Is There Anything Good About Men?" by Roy Baumeister (the researcher mentioned in the previous article), which presents some interesting speculations, not all of which I agree with. It is very much a speculative article though, with very little hard evidence being offered. I don't really have much to say about it, I just wanted to share this quote. It is both amusing and hard to argue with:
"All those retarded boys are not the handiwork of patriarchy. Men are not conspiring together to make each other’s sons mentally retarded."

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hitting the big-time

For the moment, if you Google "autostitching photos," this blog is listed as the very first result. Apparently Google considers me quite the reliable authority...how should I use my new-found power?

Other fun search terms that have led visitors to this blog from as far away as Norway, Korea, New Zealand, and Bahrain:
  • cat head butting
  • "señor rossi"
  • oddest looking animals [another number one!]
  • adc55558a30b8aafe65f47994bc4c3c394ed614d7273d01b18 ad86dbd05f7d0e73f1f30d303c988a
  • tomcat treestands
  • relationships 4 life
  • xmen fact or fiction
  • illusionistic ceiling
  • animated movies versus cgi
  • everything there is to know about forests
  • sweet superman [and yet another number one]

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Need vs. Want

It is a distinction that causes me a lot of trouble, and I think part of the problem lies in the definitions I have come to hold for these ideas over time. These aren't definitions I just sat down one day and thought up, nor am I even claiming that they are morally or technically right, they are simply the ones that best describe the way I tend to behave. The things in my life that I consider "needs" are those things which can be neither done without nor done myself; everything else falls into the category of "want". Those definitions may not seem all that strange to you, until you consider just how narrow that definition of "need" is. If I can do it myself, or if I can survive without it...it's not a need. Because of this, I have little difficulty asking for help with "needs," while I almost never ask for help with my "wants." To contrast, if I were to hazard a guess at a more traditional definition, then the difference between a need and a want might be more a matter of importance, like the difference between a "car that drives" and a bright red Ferrari, or the difference between "food" and a medium-well New York strip steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a Diet Pepsi.

I bring this up because of the struggle I have had over certain recent events. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that while I had no trouble at all asking a friend to feed my cats every day while I was in Colorado, I went through a huge internal debate before I could finally bring myself to ask some friends for help with a landscaping task, something I technically "could do myself."

I didn't grow up in a community. My needs were met by my parents, or not at all. There simply was never anyone else (human, not God) to turn to, and over time, perhaps I stopped looking. Lately it seems that everywhere I go people are talking about community and their claims, combined with recent events, lead me to wonder whether there are some ideas I hold (consciously or not) that are not entirely Christian. The ideas these people are proclaiming I would in the past have dismissed as laughable idealism, and yet I now find myself in the midst of a community, an actual community that is so much closer to that ideal than anything I have encountered before that that ideal no longer seems so idealistic. That's not to say I am finding it at all easy to believe, or accept, or adjust to. I find no difficulty in giving to this community, because I love them, but I find incredible difficulty in allowing the community to give back. Allowing that would require me to humble myself past insisting on doing everything myself, and I find that, perhaps, that is the whole point.

On a side note, here is a good article written by the wife of a long-time friend of mine: One Love.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Random Non-events, and the Words that Inspire Them

Strange things happen in my brain sometimes, especially when I have been without food for going-on 9 hours. For instance, tonight the following occurred somewhere in the region of my left frontal cortex:

What does chalantly mean?
Don't ask me why that word popped into my head; I couldn't even begin to explain. In any case, it became my mission to find out when I got home, which is right now. It's not as exciting as I was hoping; apparently it comes from the French word chaloir, meaning "to be concerned." Stay tuned for future uses of the word "chalant" right here on this very blog.

And for those who know who they are, Answers.com says the phrase "pass muster," "originally meant 'to undergo a military review without censure,' muster referring to an assembling of troops for inspection or a similar purpose." That agrees with what I thought, so obviously no further research is necessary.

For those who are still in denial, the correct use of that phrase with the word "mustard" is as follows: "That mustard won't pass muster. I think I'll pass on the mustard."