Saturday, August 18, 2007

Small Victory

I finished watching Lord of the Rings with my daughters today. We watched Fellowship last week, Two Towers last night, and Return of the King today. They loved it. Erica was a bawling mess at the end of it. Shaena was asking me questions to get more details about all sorts of things. I was very happy.

It was only a month ago, or so, that I mentioned watching LotR with them and they quickly vetoed the idea. They have mentioned before that it is evil and invites demonic influence into one's life. I knew that they would like it and I have made a lot of progress with them in the last year about this matter and have been able to get them to read books and watch movies that they never would have before. I knew LotR would be no different and that I would probably have to "trick" them into watching it.

I didn't trick them exactly. Last week I told them that we could watch a movie after they did their chores. We sat down on the couch and they were telling me some movies they wanted to watch. I had all ready put Fellowship in the DVD player and told them that I had picked one out. I hit play and waited nervously for their reaction. When "Lord of the Rings" appeared on screen, I was looking back and forth at them waiting for some sort of reaction, a comment, a look, anything. Nothing, actually, as they sat there rapt. When it was over, they were very excited and started bugging me to watch the next one. Unfortunately, it was late and they had to go home, so I told them they would have to wait. One of the first things they said to me when I picked them up yesterday was, "When can we watch the next part of Lord of the Rings?" I was very proud of them.

For me it is another small victory in my attempt to broaden their horizons and question the things they hear from their mother and their church. I still worry about it all the time, but moments like these make me feel better.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Coming Soon - Captain and Katie Joy Date #2: Meet the Parents

Katie Joy called me back yesterday. I admit I was feeling the all too human "Is she going to call me back? Maybe she had a horrible time. Maybe I made a really bad impression." Aren't irrational emotions great. I wasn't panicked, but I was starting to wonder. Women do that on purpose, I'm sure.

We talked about mundane things for a few minutes and then I asked her when I could take her out again. She laughed and then paused. I get a little nervous wondering what's coming. Then she tells me she isn't "really dating" right now and hasn't for awhile. She feels that you date someone to see if you want to marry the person and she's not ready to get married right now because she wants to finish school right first and that will take at least three more years, and yadda, yadda, yadda. I made a crack about now having to cancel my plans to propose to her this weekend. She laughed but said again that she doesn't want to date anyone right now, just hang out with her friends. I said I didn't want to get married right now, either, and asked her when we could hang out again then. After thinking for a second, she said, "I'm having dinner with my parents and family on Monday. Do you want to come over?"

What! A million thoughts ran through my mind, like "How did we go from 'hanging out' to 'dinner with parents.'" Somehow, foolishly or gallantly, with almost no hesitation, I said, "Okay." She also told me that if we are going to "hang out" (yes, I heard the quotes in her voice) she wants me to seriously consider going to church. I just said, "We'll see."

So, now I am wondering about dinner on Monday. It will be interesting, I'm sure, if nothing else. I'm imagining all sorts of questions like, "So, Shane, why do you hate church? Are you down with Satan?" or "Do you always watch porn on your first dates?" or "What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?" Well, the last question would be cool, anyway. And, yes, I'm being snarky, not serious or judgmental. It will still be an, uh, interesting evening to be sure.

As to the church comment, I'm not sure. I know it's very important to her, but rather than just getting blanket demands, I would like to talk to her about church. I'm not sure she understands that even though I am not a regular attendee of a church, I am very serious about my Christian beliefs and do try to live them rather than just believe them. I don't remember Jesus intoning anything along the lines of "And, lo, ye will attend yon church weekly lest ye feel the flames of the fiery pits licking thy feet and the prick of the great Satan's sharp fork of pitch in thy belly." If our relationship does become serious, our religious differences will be something we will have to really talk about.

But, I guess we're not dating right now. We're just "hanging out" which apparently means dinner with her parents and attending church. You learn something new everyday if you pay attention.

Great Movies

Another cross-post from my family blog:

I have a harder time narrowing down favorite movies than favorite songs. I'm not going to try to number these or rank them.

Dead Poet's Society - I don't like this movie because I want to be a teacher, but it helps. I have always preferred Robin Williams in his more dramatic roles than in his comedies and he really shines here. I love the journey the boys go on and you know that the events in the movie will have an impact on the rest of their lives. Favorite Character - Todd Anderson, the shy, insecure guy always resonated with me. Favorite Moment - The end of course when Todd stands on his desk, saying, "Oh Captain! My Captain!" as Mr. Keating is leaving the classroom. Most of the students then follow suit. A very powerful moment. Memorable Quote - Everybody knows "Carpe diem," so I'll go with "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

Braveheart - I saw this three times in the theater. This flick really made me think about heroism and revenge and fighting for what you believe in. On top of the great story was the incredible music which is one of the scores that got me into film music. James Horner is the man. Favorite Character - As cool as William Wallace was, Stephen is my favorite character. He taught me that every story can be even better with an insane Irishman. Favorite Moment - At the very end, after Robert the Bruce asks the army to fight with him, Hamish steps forward and with a cry flings Wallace's sword toward the English. It spins through the air as the music rises into a heroic, but mournful crescendo. The English captain shakes his head. The Scots cheer and charge for battle. Memorable Quote - The last line of the movie: "In the Year of Our Lord, 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets; they fought like Scotsmen, and won their freedom."

The Mission - As much as I love this movie and even with the hopeful note at the end, this is one of those movies that almost makes me hate my fellow humans. The scenes at the end as the church and village burn and the helpless villagers are being slaughters, all for political gain, just rips my heart out. I like that this movie does not give easy answers. Mendoza chooses to fight; Gabriel does not and neither one lives. Who was right? Which path was the right one? Which one would I choose? I love a movie that forces me to think and does not draw conclusions for me. It is haunting. This movie is also helped by an incredibl score. Morricone outdid himself here. Favorite Character - Gabriel. His passion and dedication to his beliefs and to helping others are inspirational. Favorite Moment - The child at the end picking up the remnants of a musical instrument before climbing into a boat with other children and heading away from the carnage. It is hopeful, but so depressing. Memorable Quote - Gabriel arguing with Mendoza about how to deal with the coming conflict: "If might is right, then love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so. But I don't have the strength to live in a world like that, Rodrigo."

Moulin Rouge! - I saw this six times in the theater. Yeah, yeah, come collect my man-card if you must. I still love this movie. I don't like most romantic comedies or love stories, not because I'm not down with love, but because I don't feel genuine emotion. I don't feel the love that the characters are supposed to be experiencing. I felt in Moulin Rouge, though, in a big way. Maybe it's because love is such a crazy emotion that the over-the-top spectacle of Baz Luhrmann's images combined with perfect use of contemporary songs made this a very moving movie. I felt the connection between Christian and Satine in a way that I almost never do with film romance. Yes, it is a simple, almost childish love, but it is love. Favorite Character - Christian, of course, the "oh-so-talented, charmingly bohemian, tragically impoverished protégé" of the Children of the Revolution. And he had a "huge...talent." Favorite Moment - Christian has met Satine for the first time and is trying to recite his poetry to her while she writhes on the ground pretending to be aroused. Suddenly, he bursts into song and gives her an incredible rendition of Elton John's "Your Song." The two of them dance on cloudy rooftops beneath a smiling, singing moon. Memorable Quote - "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

Fight Club - I saw this one twice at the cinema. I like strange movies with strange characters and this one fit the bill. Palahniuk's book was good, but this was a rare case of the film eclipsing its source. Fincher was the perfect director to capture the dark, morbid, humorous tone of this story. I think Pitt, Norton, and Fincher should have received Oscar nominations. This movie was a powerful exploration of the modern emasculation of men and what could happen if it swung the other way and was completely unchecked. Favorite Character - Tyler Durden is the man. Favorite Moment - The narrator beats himself up, badly, in front of his boss. Memorable Quote - "You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else."

This is getting long, so I'll just toss out the names of a few others that I don't like any less than the few I've mentioned. Another time, I'll explore what I like about these.

Star Trek II, The Empire Strikes Back, Lord of the Rings, Magnolia, Heat, Dr. Strangelove, Blade Runner, American Beauty, Casablanca. I'm sure I am forgetting a few, but as I said, this is getting rather long-winded.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Headline in today's local paper, the Billings Gazette: Senators suspect link between fires, warming.

I, for one, remain skeptical of this. I have never seen or heard of any fire involved in "warming" of any kind. Whatever it is, though, I'm sure our respectable Senators will get to the bottom of it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gays in the Military

Armstrong: "General, how many soldier's lives is the life of one gay man worth?"
General McBrayer: "Seven."

'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General

Favorite Songs

Cross-posted from the family blog:

There is no contention for my favorite song. It has been the same for awhile now, and it will take a mighty song indeed to knock it from its perch. After that it gets hazy, but I've picked two others that I often cite as numbers two and three. So, counting down...

3. Hero of the Day - Metallica. They have two versions of this song. One is the studio recording from the Load album. I enjoy this version, but if this is the only one I had ever heard, this song would only rank as "very good" instead of one of my favorites. It is the live version from the S&M album which launches this song into the stratosphere. The orchestral backing is a perfectly somber accompaniment and James' voice has become better with age as it captures the emotion of the lyrics perfectly. I have always been fascinated by heroes from fiction to real life and this song is about them. The exact meaning of the song is hard to pin down but it does deal with themes of looking for heroes in the wrong places, not seeing the real heroes that are around us, those same heroes getting beat down by life and society. Best part: Right after "So can't you hear your babies crying now?" before the last chorus as the orchestra is playing slow and somber James hollers out to the crowd, "I can't hear you!" and launches into the last verses with equal parts sadness and anger.

2. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley. I nearly cry every time I hear this song. Jeff really did have the voice of an angel. It's unfortunate he died so young. Leonard Cohen originally wrote and performed this song, and, though there have been many covers, nothing has come close to Jeff's version on his Grace album. The song is about love and relationships and emotion and ultimately sadness. Cohen made extensive use of religious imagery for this song and it just makes it all the more poignant. Best part: The final time Jeff sings, "It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah," and you feel his heart breaking.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen. You knew this one was coming. Without a doubt BoRhap is my favorite song; there is no competition. Queen is my favorite band and this is the pinnacle of their career. Freddie Mercury has the one voice I like better than Jeff Buckley's. Both have great range (although, Buckley's is greater), but more than that, both inject such emotion into their singing. They are not just singing the songs, they are living them, feeling them. The over-the-top operatic bombast of this song is perfect for Freddie's voice. I love the fact that it has multiple styles and seems to be all over the place musically. It has a cappela singing, a head-banging guitar solo, the sound of a choir (even it if was just Queen overdubbed many times), heartbreaking piano playing, grandiose lyrics, and Freddie's magical vocals over all else. Whatever this song is about, and there are many interpretations, it seems that something is ending for the singer. Whether it is his life or a great romance, who knows? He is in a lot of pain and doesn't care about anything anymore. So sad. Like "Hallelujah," you don't just hear the emotion in the words, you feel it in the performance. Ah, Freddie, you will be missed. Best part: the piano softly playing at the end as Freddie sings, "Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me."

I suppose it says something about me that the three songs I listed are not happy, upbeat songs. I am a happy person and there are some great, feel good songs out there (The Cars, Flogging Molly), but I connect more to somber songs.