Movie Reviews Jan11

1/30/11 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

With Netflix, we get to watch a few movies, especially when I remember to mail the old ones back. That’s what I like best about Netflix. There’s no big pressure to return a movie, having to get in the car at night to return a movie you forgot about, or worse having to pay late fees. Even with the library, we (ahem, my lovely wife) end up paying a bunch of money with “forgotten” movies. It seems movies from the library will have bad skips on the DVD’s, so you can occasionally miss the final ten minutes of a tense movie, so with Netflix we don’t have to bother with crappy library copies. Only one Netflix DVD has given us a problem in the half year we’ve been members.

We enjoy the streaming too, especially for the kids. What I don’t like about Netflix is the wait you have for new releases. I’ve also noticed that the studios have provided Netflix with special “rental” versions that make you sit through previews and commercials before you can get to the main menu. Aggravating. Anyhow, here’s some quick reviews of movies this month, starting from the most recently viewed:

Letters to God: (streamed) A seven-tissue weeper about a 10 y.o. boy with brain cancer and his special way of communicating with God. Excellent movie, particularly for those who have a heart for God.

Despicable Me: Cute movie about a wanna-be super-villian. It took a much different track than what I expected. Let’s just say he finds what is most important in life. Kids seemed to enjoy it, and it was OK for me.

The A-Team: Silly movie, but if you enjoy some action, guy-bonding and improbable scenes, then this one is for you. I have trouble seeing Aslan as a tough-guy action hero, and the Mr. T character was not in enough scenes.

The Illusionist: Set in turn of the 20th century Austria (but they all speak English thankfully), this turned out to be the surprise of the month, in a good way. Well paced-written-acted, you follow the story of a boy who happens on an old magician that changes his life, his magic skills help him to find and “romance” a girl from a rich family, then loses her. He comes back grown-up to find her again. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s one of those movies you can watch again and get more from it.

Shrek Forever After: #4 in the series and supposedly the last, unless their kids get into more ogre hijinx. Kids seemed to enjoy it but it seemed to be written more for adults, as the message was somewhat “A Wonderful Life”-ish. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Kids with their short-attention span don’t appreciate the message all that much, but the movie had some cute entertaining parts in between the peril

Nanny McPhee Returns: I’m at a loss to describe how bad this movie was. It seemed to try hard and was professionally made, but it was one of those experiences when you wonder how you let those two hours of your life get by. I don’t think we’ll be seeing anymore Nanny movies.

Local Hero: A movie from the 80’s about a big oil company looking for a refinery location off the coast of Scotland. I enjoyed it but my wife only somewhat. She had a problem with the ending and wanted to know who the “local hero” was, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

Inception: Interesting movie about the power of the mind and where it could take you. I ordinarily detest time travel themes in movies, and this one came close but I suppose they didn’t really “time-travel”. Or did they? I was amazed at the mind of someone who originally wrote the thing. Supposed to be Oscar-worthy … maybe.


EotY Rumblins

12/31/10 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s the end of the month, end of the year, and according to some the end of the decade (depends on how you count). Fortunately we do not have to hoard supplies and live in fear of the sky falling in like Y2K. No, we just have to worry about Uncle Obama and his cohorts prying open our wallets to finance their “recovery”. It will probably be the state governments we have to worry about more, though some are in such bad shape that the feds may have to come in and take over. God help us if they try that power grab. Well, enough political rumblin …

– Took the family to see “The Dawn Treader” Narnia movie, and about $50 later we were fairly entertained. Out of the three Narnia films it was probably my favorite: good pacing, interesting story, pretty good effects (though seeing it in 2D would have been fine by me) and a beautiful ending. The film itself had less Christian imagery/linkage than the other two, except for the ending. I won’t spoil it, but the ending was sufficiently beautiful for a few tears to squeeze past my old soft eyes.

– Had the talk with the oldest (12 y.o.) boy yesterday, taking him out to lunch at Chili’s. You know, THE talk. I was not so much nervous but mad… mad that my dad did not have the talk with me, mad that I spent my teen years in a shell. It seemed to go OK, though I was not comfortable going into much details during lunch as they kept seating families with kids next to our booth, so the meat of the talk was on the drive home. There will be more talks, and hopefully the lines of communication will be kept open.

– We got snow on Christmas, but unfortunately for the kids it started after dark, so we missed out on a “white Christmas”. They had fun playing the next morning and made a fairly substantial snowman. Unfortunately, when I went out to photograph the kids I dropped and broke the camera. Our camcorder is out of tapes (yeah, it’s digital). I (Santa) got a cheapo Kodak video recorder for Kristal, but it had not been charged. By the time it was charged the kids were about ready to come in. Oh well.

– Our desktop PC died about a week ago. I figured it needed another PSU, so in the process of ordering it I also got a few other toys: a replacement camera, some new headphones (mine died about two weeks ago) for $15 that have OK sound, and a refurb Zune player for a certain birthday girl, so don’t tell her! I did a little research and like the Zune Pass setup, where for $15/month you get unlimited transfers and 10 songs a month to keep as download MP3’s. I should be able to set up different playlists, so the boy and I can listen to music off of the PC as well. As long as it is NOT iTunes I’m happy, though the birthday girl thinks she wants an iPad thingy (need to get her thinking straight). I’d rather give money to the Microsoft monolith than the Apple snobs. And I mean snob in the nicest way, really I do. 🙂

Will this blog continue into next year? Will there be more than a post a month? Why bother when nobody, well almost nobody, comes to visit? Stay tuned for exciting, or maybe not so exciting, notices to come.

Movie Club

11/29/10 at 11:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My 12 y.o. son is doing the typical teenager stuff, and after a month of public school indoctrination he seems to be no worse for the wear. Kristal is still grieving over the loss (not homeschooling him). I got the “privilege” of dropping him off at the local mall/cinema two Saturdays ago to meet up with a group of friends for a 7 pm show. He wanted me to just drop him off at the mall entrance, but I needed to know he was in the theater and not goofing off in the mall (too young for that!).

On the way there he expressed his concern about me staying in the background and not listening in on his conversations there. I told him it was my intent to hold his hand up to the ticket booth. After his display of shock I told him I was just kidding, though I was hurt that he didn’t seem to love his dad. After an “Aw dad” he still wanted me out of sight, as if I could embarrass him or something.

He got into the movies with his new friends (a guy and a couple of girls) and I picked him up after the movie was over. I felt a little “creepy” sitting in a parked car at 9 pm in a mall parking lot waiting for him, and have a better appreciation for not letting my daughter out unescorted as long as I can. He did not give many details besides the movie being OK. He was excited about forming a “Movie Club” where he and his friends could go see a movie once a week. After informing him about the expense he changed it to once a month.

Later on I found out he had “de-friended” Kristal from his Facebok acct., but according to him it was an accident. After being told of the rule of access (parents will monitor all computer activity or you will lose it), Kristal was able to get back on. After looking over the comments on his page she thinks that he may have been “smooching” with one of the girls during the movie. His social status on Facebok changes from single to “taken”(?) often, as he has supposedly had three girlfriends in the 5 weeks of middle school. No wonder he wanted to go there rather than homeschool!

Kristal does not want him to go to a movie now unless one of us goes with him into the theater as a chaperone. I don’t recall my parents ever having to chaperone me or my sister, though I don’t think we went out much before we were 16. I know I didn’t – when I was 15 I was already working in a restaurant as a busboy (lied about my age). His being extroverted and oppositional is a challenge for Kristal and me, as we were both introverted and compliant growing up.

I don’t expect to be his buddy, nor do I want to, yet we need to keep the line of communication open and keep him in line. It’s a tough balancing act but nothing new for the parents of teenagers. I hope with going to middle school and his ability to make friends that we have found an incentive to help keep him in line: behave or lose access to friends after school. We’ll see …

Forced Our Hand

10/26/10 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve been avoiding this post, as it has some painful elements to it, but I may as well preserve it for posterity. Eight days ago Josh decided he didn’t like something and he blew up in front of his mom and brother/sister during a homeschool day. He had been struggling to get the work done during the week, as we have him enrolled in a Challenge Classic Curriculum and since school started he’s been either opposing his mom or whining through the day about how hard everything is. I knew it would be difficult for him but Kristal thought he could do it.

Anyhow, he snapped over something that seemed trivial, banged the walls and screamed at everyone, followed by his taking a “walkabout” in the neighborhood. I got home later and tried to talk through the situation. Kristal wanted to enroll him in public school the next day, but I asked her to take a day to think things through. We had talked to Josh in the last few weeks about public school and what would be involved with that decision. I had hoped to have a little cleaner transition than the middle of the semester, like the end of 8th grade, but Josh forced our hand.

The following day we got the information we needed to enroll him, and last Wednesday he became a pupil of the local middle school (6-7-8th grade, he’s 7th). The school was out on a field trip (attend a basketball game in Charlotte), so his first official day was Thursday. He seems to have fit in and has not had any problems, besides doing homework after school. I suppose that’s a problem for quite a few families.

At first Kristal cried a good deal, and she rarely cries. I know her heart was broken and she felt like a failure. She had poured her life into teaching him from day 1, and now she had to deal with the rejection. I can tell her relationship with him and the way she treats him now has changed. I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity for her to strengthen her relationship with Joey and Sandy since she’ll have more time for them. We are worried about possible psychological problems with Josh, and Sandy as well. They both show bipolar tendencies. It breaks my heart to even type that, as we want our children to be perfect and beautiful and good and loving. God gives us this hand to play, and we can only do our best with the hand we’ve been dealt.

We tried to convince him that he would get a far better education at home, even without the Classical Conversations, but his mind was set for public school and seeing his friends. I didn’t want to force him to stay in homeschool, so we let him go. He will occasionally say things that make it sound like he wants to keep the door open for homeschooling next year but I doubt we could trust him, unless he makes a big change in his attitude. For now he’s the typical wanna-be teenager, thinking he knows everything and that he’s smart enough to bluff through things he does not know but won’t admit. It’s the usual parent-child evolution: teenagers can’t believe how dumb their parents are, then when they get in their 20’s-30’s they realize how smart the parents actually are. The process is accelerated when they get kids of their own and find out “things” for themselves.

Well, by God’s grace we will get through all of this and I pray we will nurture these children to end up as Jesus-lovers and contributing members of society. Not much to ask, eh?

Quick Listens

9/30/10 at 10:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time to feed the beast before the month is up, and only a few minutes left.

I wanted to pass along a link for Tehilla Radio. It’s billed Carribean (yes, I know bad spelling) gospel. You’ll get some hymns and some praise songs tuned with a rub-a-dub style. Yah mon! It’s a good change of pace from the CCM “ghetto”.

One more, but this is a little more suspect. I found a “Christian” comedy radio station. In the past I’ve bemoaned the loss of to the Apple/iTunes monolith, but I will admit that the radio listing in iTunes is impressive. Even though this comedy station is not listed in iTunes (I think) I found it through another radio station. Anyhow, Serious Comedy Radio will have some Clower, Lowery, Chondra Pierce and others. They’ll also play some Jeff Foxworthy and Ray Romano that can sometimes go over the edge of “tastefulness”, for lack of a better word, for some Christian listeners. It’s a shame they include some junk with the other good stuff, one of those things in life where you have to decide how much junk to put up with before turning the dial.

One of those being in the world and not of the world things.

Old Haunts

8/26/10 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I still get occasional dreams about being back in school, over 25 years ago, and it’s usually something about not knowing where my classes are, not attending classes but having to be ready for a big test, or just being late to a class. Let’s not forget the classic going to school in underwear or naked. Curiously, I don’t dream about old jobs, even though I’ve had a few for a longer period of time. This summer I had a chance to drive past two old job sites, both for the first time since leaving the jobs. For both jobs I was asked to leave and it took me quite a while to find another job. With engineering jobs you are considered very indirect labor, and if things aren’t going well or they’re looking to cut, engineers are shown the door. I still got unemployment checks, but they don’t support the lifestyle you develop with OK (not that big) pay.

I do not maintain ties with old jobs, so I have no idea how things go after I leave. For the first job I worked for a company that had changed ownership a few times, and I had left there in ’88 (did meet and wed the lovely Kristal during my stay there!). A dozen years later the plant looked like it was abandoned: paint peeling, office furniture strewn about, grass growing through the cracks in the cement but someone still cutting the grass. The small parking lot by the main entrance had signs for some of the manager’s parking spots, and I recognized a few of the names.

The second job was for a company that manufactured something similar to the first company/job. That plant was still up and running, but under a different owner. Since they were still in business I did not linger but just did a quick drive-by. There’s that curiousity to see if some of the same people are still working there and if the doofus boss that cut you got his just desserts. While we (Kristal and I) tried to stay in that area because of the farm we lived on, we ended up moving to Ohio, adopted our miracle son and still were able to move back to NC.

Though I’m haunted by these old jobs and how things happened to me, I can see God’s hand guiding me and opening new doors when others were shut. I get bored with a job after a year or two, as I’ll have tried the things that I think can help the company. You’d think I would have learned this and forced myself to find new challenges or a different position, but as long as I’m getting paid I’m complacent. I’ve been at my current job for about nine years. I know what I want to do to start my own business, but I’m not ready yet.

That last sentence haunts me the most. Is this it for me? I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision and not having to scramble for work in these difficult times, but I would like more. God helps those who help themselves.

Back from mtns

7/21/10 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We spent a short week (Mon-Wed) up in the mountains, staying at a cabin midway between Brevard and Hendersonville. It was a nice place, with a pretty good location for doing mountain-y things. We wanted to see a few waterfalls, and the area is chock-full of them. We even took an afternoon to head all the way to Highlands. It may not look like a long drive, but the twisty mountain roads can wear you down. I’m not a big fan of Highlands/Cashiers, as there are too many rich folk with their way of controlling things.

I found myself hoping for the best as far as the kids behaving and enjoying the time, and for the most part they had fun. The things they do to aggravate you at home still get tucked into the vacation pack. Josh (12 y.o.) likes to play both sides: old teen who can take care of himself and the kid who goofs around. He’s big enough to bully the younger two around, and unfortunately he enjoys it a little too much so it keeps me on my toes. Like many kids he gets temporarily bored and looks to create mayhem. Sandy (6 y.o.) has been improving but can still get stuck in the 3 y.o. wanting her way and will scream until she gets it. She had to “get it” after one episode the other night.

About a week ago I used a “Shrek” glass (from McD’s) at dinner. We usually keep them up but I wanted to use it, since I like to live dangerously 😉 every once in awhile. When she saw it she stared at it intensely, and then finally said something about them having poison. I suppose we had told her about the paint having some bad ingredients, but I don’t recall saying anything dire. The whole recall was a sham, as it would take very peculiar circumstances to build up enough Cd or whatever it was in the paint to even register in somebody’s blood. Seems like folks have been using painted/decorated glasses for years and not falling by the wayside due to heavy metals in the paint.

Well, enough on the tangent. Today we had planned on stopping in Hiddenite (on the way home) to pan for another heavy metal, gold, and some gemstones, but we were struck down by a bad tire. Fortunately it did not blow, just lost a hunk of tread, so I was able to limp it off the interstate to a parking lot and had the “pleasure” of putting on the spare in near 100 degree weather. It was a “temporary” tire, so Kristal insisted on not driving on the interstate (keep it at 50 mph or below) and finding a tire store to replace the tire. God blessed us with finding a place that took all of ten minutes to put on a used tire for $15 just before 5 pm. We ended up killing two hours over the tire incident so it was no panning, just head home. The kids took the news fairly well, as most kids love to hunt for treasure.

June misc stuff

6/30/10 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gotta keep the once a monther going … so:

– We’ve finally got a break after about a fortnight of mid-90’s. Summer came a little early in Mayberry. I dug out a garden bed, with half in cukes and the other half with two tomato plants and a watermelon vine. I’m planning to make cukes the old-fashioned way, letting them ferment in a crock … well, make that a plastic bucket. I’m hoping for some tasty crispy ones, and not the “Clara” kerosene variety.

– We took the Netflix plunge a few weeks ago, and it’s nice to watch DVD’s without having to worry about bringing them back to the video store. I’m also enjoying the streaming portion of the plan. I’ve worked through two seasons of “Heroes” and a few episodes of “Firefly”. The DVD turnaround is quicker than I expected. Since we don’t have cable I’m OK with spending the money on entertainment we can control.

– The 12 y.o. is showing some signs of not being in control … or should I say he doesn’t do the things we’d like him to do. He’s definitely in the teenage mode, and I can understand the rebellion. What makes it difficult for Kristal and me is that we were both low maintenance teenagers. At least that’s how I remember it! Anyhow, it will be a challenge, as it is for many parents, to steer a headstrong teenager in the path they need to go. God help us.

– The TaterBed has had a heck of a time with rats. With chickens in the backyard, the vermin found a steady food supply from the chickenfeed. I tried traps but did not have much success. I was a little leery of using poison, as we have a dog outside, but Kristal got some and it has done the trick. We’ve disposed of over ten rats this month at the open woods across the street. I pick them up with a shovel, walk across the road and fling them. I can’t tell you if dead rats bounce, but it’s convenient to have empty property nearby for just such a situation.

– My TV remote is just about wore out, and it’s aggravating having to mess with it. I don’t know if I can find a replacement with all of the buttons I need for cheap, but push is coming to shove.

Bye Bye Lala

5/11/10 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m bummed – was sold to Apple(iTunes) a few months ago and they announced last week that they’re closing the site at the end of May. I took advantage of late last year and I liked their business model. You could listen to a song or album all the way through once for free, and then decide if you wanted to rent or buy the MP3. The “rent” was paying a little bit of money for listening to the music over the internet. For about a dollar I could buy an album’s worth of music, while the MP3’s would run up to $10. An individual song was about a dime to rent. That beats a buck for an MP3!

I usually listen to the radio in the car and have enough CD’s to listen to at work if the mood hits me (not often). I’m not a big fan of MP3’s as the audio quality is poor. By getting a full preview I could listen to old albums I had not heard in a long time (if ever) as well as new music. The last few months have been a reacquaintance with Jethro Tull and Steely Dan. I also heard about an African artist, Dobet Gnahore, on a PBS world music show. I can’t understand a word but she sings right purty, and the rhythyms are downright intoxicating.

The twenty bucks I spent at will be transferred over to iTunes, where I’ll get the privilege of using that money to purchase MP3’s. Oh boy. I have avoided all things Apple in my computer world, to the point where I avoid dowloading Quicktime. I’ve dinked around with a few Apple computers, but they don’t do much for me. I’m no Micro$oft fan boy, but I know it well enough to get around, and I enjoy working with computer hardware. I suppose the music world is changing where individual songs are downloaded, but I’m old enough to appreciate albums and the diversity of music some artists could pack into an album. Some could tell a story as well, and it’s a shame that seems to be lost now.

Everyone wants to burn their own CD’s and choose various songs for an “album”, as if they’re some DJ with a special mix touch. I can’t afford to buy a whole download of an (MP3) album, so I’ll end up choosing a few songs and lamenting those that are missing. Time moves on without me, and I’ll have to take a bite of Apple too. Uggh.

Disney Drain

5/11/10 at 8:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yes, we took the plunge and went to the funnest place on the earth, DisneyWorld. We stayed on-site at Port Orleans-Riverside for 5 nights, took the “plus” dining plan (1 snack, 1 counter service, 1 full meal) and went to the parks for six days. I’ve wondered how some people will go for ten (or more!) days with just four parks (and two water parks), but now I know better. Having a day to recover after three or four days of walking/standing on concrete can be very helpful.

It didn’t help that on the first day I got painful blisters on the inside half of my pinkie toes (don’t laugh). I had purchased some what-I-thought-were-quality shoes a few months ago and used them occasionally for a morning walk or going to the mall. Fortunately I had two other shoe options, but the damage had been done and it made walking more difficult. Kristal ended up getting a bad sun rash on her legs, to the point where she went to an urgent care facility after the third day. They told her to stay out of the sun and off of her feet for the next two days. I took the kids in the morning for the following two days and we met for lunch. The final day was a half-day at Hollywood Studios, probably my favorite park out of the four.

There was some good that came out of her rash. On the first morning without her the kids and I took the bus to Animal Kingdom. At first Joey was off to the side on his own, then a couple of adults sat next to him, so he moved over to me and sat close by me. That time was worth all of the “drainage” (money/fatigue) as it reassured me that he looked to me as a dad. Ordinarily, if Kristal had been there he would have went straight for her. As time goes by I feel our relationship improving, but it’s still frustrating when he puts the wall up. Part of that is his personality, yet I wonder how much is the adoption thing. Ah well, there’s no guarantees with children, but I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than be a dad.

After the half-day at Hollywood Studios we ended up driving straight through back to home (11 hours), and it felt good to sleep in my own bed even if my head did not hit the pillow until 2 am. Since there was no food in the house, and we were too tired to do legitimate grocery shopping, we went to Zaxby’s for lunch. After lunch I told Kristal it was the first time all week that I got up from lunch and was able to walk normally without pain. I kept telling myself the two months before the vacation that I needed to train for the extra walking, but I got lazy in the mornings and busy after work. I should listen to myself more.

I can tell I’m getting older as I enjoy the shows more and the rides less. I would do one roller coaster ride a day, first thing in the morning, where I needed the next few hours to recover before lunch. I envy some of the grandparents who got to go along with their children/grandchildren. They would hunt out shady spots to sit, just like me. I’m not sure if I’ll have the energy/strength to accompany any grandchildren to Disney, as I’ll be over 70 by the time I have grandkids old enough for Disney (if I’m lucky).

Next year will probably be Yellowstone, God willing. Don’t know if we’ll fly or take the train or a combo of the two, but I doubt I could survive that much driving!

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