Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chicken Scratches

I survived the weekend. therefore I declare a small victory for doing so. It was not a particularly challenging weekend as far as demands go, but I can’t make any claims to having much energy. Today was a high pain index day with my back sounding like Rice Crispies – which is actually a good thing. When it pops like that, it relieves  the pain.

Last night’s gaming session got very silly indeed with my paladin surviving a crocodile attack while he was sleeping. A crocodile named “Crikey.” That would have been a bad way to go. Especially since I’m the tank of the party.

Church was interesting today. A new High Priest Group Leader and new Elders Quorum President were the surprises for the day. So in the past two months most of the auxiliary heads and the Bishopric changed. More to come we were told.

A debt ceiling deal was reached and now we’ll see if it can be passed. I suspect it will. It is all reshuffling the deck chairs anyway.

Time to submit my finances to the county again for review. It is a good excuse to go to town for a print out of my Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, the weather will be miserable again. I’ll take the camera along just in case an interesting picture presents itself. It would be nice to get going on photography again.

My personal goal of writing 300 words per day on the blog has been easily passed, so stage one of getting in the habit of writing has worked out well. I’ve begun rounding up the various tablets, electronic files, and loose notes with ideas for stories that I’ve strewn about over the years. Time to put them into one physical location and transcribe them to bits and bytes.

The Thirteen Days review is going to take a lot longer than expected. Instead of viewing it twice it is going to take at least three to four viewings. Normally I watch once to take notes and a second time to make screen captures. For some reason, the fact the DVD has commentary and a special pop up feature eluded my notice all the years I’ve owned it. Those need reviewing too on this overlooked film.

More soundtrack reviews will probably be posted in the future. One of the more interesting trends in music is that of high quality scores for video games. So those will get some attention since they are off the beaten path.

Friday, July 29, 2011

TRON: Legacy Soundtrack (2010) Digital Format

An exceptional auditory experience blending synthesized and orchestral music, the soundtrack is even more dazzling than the movie. While I’m not a Daft Punk fan, the duo has created something very special here.

TRON Legacy Soundtrack

Thanks to the Internet, it is easier to acquire music than ever before in all its myriad variations. In turn, that has allowed me to broaden my musical horizons and sample things I would never have otherwise. There are only a few genres I don’t like and techno verges on being one of them. Daft Punk is so big in techno that even I had heard of them. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the samples from the forthcoming movie last winter.

To my surprise, the snippets I listened to were very intriguing and I really liked what I heard. With bonus tracks being offered with the digital version from iTunes, I purchased the album.  After that, I purchased the Amazon exclusive MP3 to complete what was available in the USA. Europe got a deluxe edition which I can’t find or afford so my review is limited to the USA tracks.

So without further adieu, the review of TRON: Legacy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack!

A note on my starring system: It is what I have them marked as in MediaMonkey, the media player and music database program I use. I tend to be harsher with evaluations, so 1 star = can be tolerated, 2 stars = good, 3 = above average, 4 = excellent, and 5 = a true favorite.

The Tracks

Overture is the first track and its slow rising horns and strings set a mournful tone before blending with synth for the fanfare. It is a somber and serious piece, not your typical heroic fare. 3 Stars.

The Grid follows with pulsating percussion and tense strings accompanying Jeff Bridges narration setting up the movie. It builds into heavy synth with a feeling of anticipation to it. 4 Stars.

The Son of Flynn is a moody track dominated by synthesizers that pays some tribute to Wendy Carlos’ score for TRON. It is an odd mix of playful synth that wouldn’t sound out of place on a harpsichord overlaid upon a pensive orchestral base. 5 Stars.

Recognizer builds to ominous tones very quickly. There is a feeling of something big and menacing coming that gives way to a variation of the main motif. It ends with a much darker version of the preceding track. 3 Stars.

Armory brings a change of pace to the soundtrack. Reminiscent of early 80’s electronica of the Tangerine Dream type, it conveys a sense of mystery through its softer tones.

Arena starts with quiet buzzing which leads to an ever escalating and repeating synth keyboard eventually joined by taiko drums. One can easily imagine the entry of a gladiator into an excited coliseum and the crowd erupting. 4 Stars.

Rinzler is a very sinister track that starts ominously. There is a feeling of being hunted, starting with the sensation that somebody is watching you followed by the realization it really is happening. Then comes the horrifying attack and silence.  3 Stars.

The Game Has Changed fuses elements from Arena and Rinzler then brings in the horns from Recognizer. Tension steadily rises and fades like the ebb and flow of an extended battle before ending in a crescendo of noise. 4 Stars.

Outlands begins with the now familiar use of repetitive and tension building strings. Along the way it turns into a Wagnarian journey when the horns kick in for an exciting finish before trailing off suggestively. 3 stars.

Adagio for Tron is mainly orchestral at first before its mournful strings meet mellow keyboards. Here Carlos’ influence is very clear. Halfway, the tone shifts dramatically in a bolder reprise accompanied by dark synths and louder horns. A solo cello assumes center stage to end the piece on a sad note. 3 Star.

Nocturne continues the brooding atmosphere with a mix of slow strings and synths. Introspection and sadness are invoked by the track. 3 Star.

End of Line kicks things into gear after the previous melancholy tracks. Featuring a turn toward techno, it has a strong dance beat that would fit in any club scene. But it also manages to sound incredibly sinister, with a feeling that very bad things are lurking under the surface. Distorted electronic noises contribute greatly to that feeling of unease. It is a stand out track. 5 Stars.

Derezzed was the track that got previewed on the Web and from what I’ve seen is classic Daft Punk. An example of pure techno it is frenetic and has a heavy beat, but with an 8 bit feel to it. Distortion that was present in the previous track is increased dramatically. 3 Stars.

Fall sounds like falling, strangely enough. Fuzzed tones rise like a tea kettle, pause, then start over again. The effect is that of something going very, very wrong. 3 Stars.

Solar Sailor brings another break from the tension while remaining somewhat pensive. Keyboard synth work reminds me of a babbling brook and also the original movie. Something serene and lovely is implied in this relatively peaceful track. 3 Stars.

Rectifier ends the mellow mood decisively when sinister strings build into something martial and strident. An impression of an army appearing over the horizon is conveyed by the horn section. The piece slows and fades out gradually like the army has marched past you. 3 Stars.

Disc Wars is percussive and immediate. It is the first heroic sounding track; strangely full of hope. The 8 bit keyboard returns and adds further urgency until it builds into something grand. Possibly my favorite on the soundtrack. 5 Stars.

C.L.U. features urgent strings again with dark undertones provided by synthesizer. They give way to calculated keyboards before resuming with horns accompanying. The overall effect is the feeling of someone slowly losing their temper until they hit the snapping point. Danger fills the soundstage and it stays that way until the end. 3 Stars.

Arrival conveys a sense of weariness after a long journey. This slower synth piece has a pervasive melancholy about it. 3 Stars.

Flynn Lives reprises the theme from Overture with the addition of whirling beauty to accompany the sadness. This is what the entire score has been building to. 4 Stars.

TRON Legacy (End Titles) is a heavy electronica version of what was first presented in The Grid. This restatement of the main theme simply sounds like an end title. Which it is supposed to, right? 4 Stars.

Finale is the final track of the score. Featuring mournful and elegiac horns that give way to strings, it moves to a more optimistic sound when woodwinds introduce the final crescendo. Seeing light at the end of a dark tunnels is how I would describe this track. 3 Stars.

iTunes Bonus Tracks:

Father and Son is a slow piano reprise of the main theme, with the addition of subdued strings and horns. It is another melancholy piece. 3 Stars.

Outlands, Pt. II is a variation on Outlands, but more urgent and layered in sound. Mysterious and dark by comparison, it begets a sense of dread before an organ makes it funereal. 3 Stars.

Amazon Exclusive Track

Sea of Simulation continues the burbling brook electronica of Solar Sailor. It is slightly more contemplative than that track. 3 Stars.


Daft Punk did an outstanding job in composing Tron: Legacy.  It is a wonderful and masterful blend of synth and orchestral elements that always flows with nary a misstep. I ended up loving it long before I finally saw the movie. The impressions are hopefully the ones from before viewing the film.

Like the movie, this is not a cheerful work. You’ll notice I used the word melancholy to describe multiple tracks and that is the over all mood of the album. But there is a purposeful sound to it that makes it very easy to keep in your music rotation. Make no mistake about it, it is beautiful music.

Not all soundtracks can stand on their own from their associated film, but this one easily does. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes music.


iTunes included what they call a Digital Booklet (it’s a Acrobat file) with the downloaded album. Scans of the entire CD insert make up the booklet and contain some small interviews.

Daft Punk was inspired by the original TRON as can be seen by their helmets they wear in concert (and movie cameo). Influences on them include Wendy Carlos, Bernard Hermann, and Hans Zimmer. Aspect of all three composers can be heard in the structures of the tracks.

Sound is clean, near CD level and will sound great on any system. iTunes files have come a long way over the years.

I’d like to eventually get the CD because my sound setup does show a difference between lossless and lossy sound files. Most people won’t notice the difference, but the soundstage is much wider on my Boston Acoustics speakers and Sennheiser headphones when playing complex music.

Health 7-29-2011

Not quite into true bronchitis, but the right bronchial is making life difficult. The high humidity is aggravating things and I’m living on cough drops.

Went out to get said cough drops and dropped in on a household I home teach Wednesday. By the time I headed home, I was short of breath. Last night my father and I met with friends at the Caledonia DQ and by the end of that the same thing was happening, but not as bad.

Oh well. At least the crossword puzzles have been going well. Audiosurf is another matter entirely. Mind is working but the body not so much. Too bad the warranty is expired on it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bleach Season 1: The Substitute, Ep. 3-4

The famous anime continues to introduce the main characters and shows a sentimental side during the attack on Orihime. Later, Rukia finds a foe she cannot vanquish while adapting to the world of mortals.

Bleach1 Main TitleBleach3 Orihime and Tatsuki

Episode 3: The Older Brother’s Wish, the Younger Sister’s Wish

Things pick up with Rukia explaining to Ichigo that there appears to be a mastermind hollow manipulating events from behind the scenes. As she plays detective, a sudden realization sends them on a frantic mission to protect Orihime. Being ghosts, hollows are drawn to those they loved in life and the redhead’s brother proves this correct as he arrives at the girl’s apartment.

The Debt Ceiling Mess

This it going to be a purely my point of view entry under the personal category. This way I have something written to look back on in the future. I’m getting the feeling events are history in the making with a capital H. So time to organize my thoughts for posterity.

The debt ceiling expansion is a political no win scenario for the Republican Party and possibly extremely damaging to President Obama. No matter what is passed it will not address the massive debt the government has accrued.

The Left can jack up taxes all they want and it won’t work. There is a phrase called “capital flight” and we’ll see the wealthy move what is left of their money overseas if this happens. That will not generate revenue or jobs here. No employers equal no jobs and the socialist model of all working for the government is unsustainable. The Twentieth Century proved that repeatedly.

Only harsh spending cuts will do any good at stimulating the economy, but that is impossible given two thirds of the government is under Democratic Party control. The House GOP freshmen have badly miscalculated what their real power is. So even if the Boehner plan is passed it will die in the Senate or be vetoed.

I’ve felt for some time we passed the point of no return vis a vis the national debt and that it is impossible to pay it off. Eventually it won’t be possible to borrow any more money, since Europe and Asia are in trouble too. The only thing allowing this charade of solvency to continue is that there is nowhere else for investors to move to than the dollar and US bonds.

Meanwhile, there is zero leadership being exhibited by Obama. His main concern is with kicking the ceiling issue down the road past November of 2012. Even raising taxes is secondary to getting reelected. Harry Reid is not much better. The Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 800 days. That’s years!

Many of my fellow Tea Party types want a default. Like the House GOP Caucus, they’ve badly overestimated their power in a split government. I don’t always agree with Charles Krauthammer, but his advice to focus on 2012 and taking the Senate is sage. But most in the Tea Party movement are political neophytes and believe taking a principled stand will win the day. Sorry, our government is far too corrupt for that to work.

The fiscal irresponsibility of decades by the Democrats and Republicans has gotten us here. So has the same irresponsibility of the citizens who have run up the same kind of debt. Right now many citizens are paying the price for their screwing up and it won’t be long until everyone will pay for the federal level screw ups.

I’ve often thought Wall Street and stock markets in general live in a fantasy world with little attachment to reality. The fact traders are just now tumbling to the idea there will be a default is a fascinating case of denial. It is much like both sides of the political aisle thinking the other is bluffing.

Default is coming in the future due to the way politics works. It is a matter of when, not if. It is also a matter of who will take the political blame. It doesn’t matter who is in the right or who was really responsible when the blame game begins for real. With a detached political class out of touch with the common man, frictions are going to grow until combustion happens. Why do I keep thinking about the aftermath of the French Revolution?  It isn’t a comforting reflection.

We are in a genuinely hopeless situation barring something utterly improbable and unpredictable happening. Instead of doing necessary things, we have political theater which is pretty much the norm when collapses happen. Neither the political class or the masses are willing to do what needs to be done.

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” In this case, I think the Great Depression may not be the proper model. It may be more like the fall of an empire with a massive earthquake followed by many severe aftershocks rippling across the globe.

We haven’t hit the really bad parts yet. But it is so very galling seeing what is coming and knowing nobody will stop it. Procrastination goes hand in hand with corruption and this may be the most telegraphed disaster in recorded history. Why do we have to be so Epimethean rather than Promethean? Bet that’s been thought many times since the age of the ancient Greeks.

The sole comforting thought is that humanity has gone through all this many times and survived. The wheel of history keeps turning and people find a way to make it through the darkness. Eventually, light returns.

Newer Is Not Always Better

Over the past two nights, I watched both versions of True Grit starting with the 1969 movie and finishing with the 2010 interpretation. It may be hard to believe, but I’d never seen the original. How that happened, I do not know. There are vague memories of watching Rooster Cogburn as a child, but that’s as close as it gets.

Being a Coen brothers fan and not a John Wayne fan, I fully expected to prefer the newer film. Surprise! The original completely outclasses the new one in almost every area and is only inferior in the cinematography.

Now I understand why John Wayne got an Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn. Cast completely against type, he’s an utterly believable reprobate. In The Quiet Man, I’d seen that the famous star could actually act but I was unprepared for this performance. While Jeff Bridges was good in the part, Wayne’s version feels like a real person. If somebody had told me that I’d find Bridges’ performance inferior before this, I would have laughed in their face.

Glen Campbell gets the better of Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger, La Boeuf. Not quite as surprising as I always thought he was an underrated actor. This is no knock on Damon’s performance, by the way.

Kim Darby narrowly edges Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Both actresses were very good, but Darby more successfully channeled the very Protestant girl. Pretty impressive given she was so much older than the character. Both carried their respective movies, but Steinfeld was too pretty for the part. The young actress looks like she will be someone to watch in the future. Time will tell.

Robert Duvall as Lucky Ned Pepper is light years better than Barry Pepper (a Pepper playing a Pepper?  I want to be a Pepper too!). There is something so authentic about his portrayal that I have trouble describing it.

Jeff Corey is simply more memorable than Josh Brolin as Tom Cheney. He just was the better whiner, which is an odd thing to view as a plus. Brolin was enjoyable in the part.

Two major differences in the movies stood out to me other than changes in events.

The first is the pacing.  The older movie moves at a more leisurely pace, especially early on. That gave the feeling of a true journey while the pacing of the modern version rushed things.

Second, the script for the 1969 True Grit was better. The extended verbal clashes between Mattie and well, everyone else, were an absolute delight. Coen brothers weirdness didn’t work as well as it usually does, though I’ll give them credit for being much more restrained than normal.

While the 2010 film is good, the 1969 movie is truly great. I may have to add it to my DVD library.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cat’s in the Cradle

Cats have often been associated with being muses for writers or at least their regular companions. There is a drawback to this and that is trying to type around a cat who insists on being held. It simply does not work.

Cat extortion usually follows their being put down. Oh, it would be bad if the computer power cables were messed with, wouldn’t it?  You know, those speakers could have an accident, you don’t want that do ya?

Then there is the thing I dread the most: cat surprise.  Cat surprise involves running full tilt into the room and jumping on me without warning or looking to see if there is even a remote chance of a safe landing. Often it results in keyboard abuse as well.

At least I don’t use a mouse. In my early days of home computing, I found out that a moving cord invites temptation, not to mention carpal tunnel syndrome. Trackballs are a wonderful solution as long as you clean the cat hair out of them.

For some inexplicable reason, I fail to find my cats inspirational or anything close to being like muses. Obviously I’m doing something wrong.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bleach Season 1: The Substitute, Episodes 1-2

What do you get when you mix every trope from action anime with swords, sorcery,  horror, comedy, drama, the afterlife, and interesting unique characters?  You get a surprisingly fun and occasionally touching TV series for teens and older.

Bleach1 Main Title

In the fall of 2004, the animated adaptation of Tito Kube’s hugely popular manga Bleach hit the airwaves in Japan. Two years later the English dubbed version hit North America on cable television. Highly successful, the series has over 330 episodes, multiple stage musicals, and four theatrical movies released.

Episode 1: The Day I Became a Shinigami

Bleach1 Opening RukiaBleach1 Opening Ichigo Rukia

Bleach opens its first season episodes episodes with an edgy and still stylish main title sequence.  It starts with a serious and mysterious mood on one hand then veers into almost psychedelic colored sequences. One thing is sure, and that is it shows attitude from the start. There are a bewildering number of characters shown. I remember first watching this and thinking, “This is going to be bad, isn’t it?”

Bleach1 OtherworldBleach1 Rukia on the Pole

That mix of disparate elements quickly proves to be an accurate reflection of the content of the show. There are beautiful moments of moodiness and sudden transitions into comedy, which is often of the Looney Tunes violent kind. But just as suddenly, a genuinely emotional scene will appear to tug at the heart strings.

Bleach1 Meet IchigoBleach1 Girl Ghost

The hero of the show, Ichigo Kurosaki, is introduced in a comically violent scene that ends with a poignant surprise. It also serves to let us know that we are dealing with a world filled with spirits of the dead, which the fifteen year old can see. It is an ability he finds annoying. Actually, it seems like the orange haired boy finds everything annoying.

Bleach1 Yuzo and KarinBleach1 Ichigo vs Isshin

His family owns a small pediatric hospital in a small city. Upon coming home, he’s immediately assaulted by his buffoonish and cheerfully abusive father. No wonder Ichigo is cranky. Also introduced are his younger sisters, Yuzo and Karin. The latter has some wonderful lines and seems to be the voice of reason. Well as much as someone officially in denial can be.

Bleach1 Rukia Attacks the HollowBleach1 Rukia Meets Ichigo

On his way to school, our protagonist sees something he hasn’t seen before – a monster. Before he can do anything, the mysterious black robed figure seen in the beginning comes to the rescue and then vanishes just as quickly.

Later that night, guess who walks into his room through his open window? Oddly, she ignores him – until he kicks her in the back and sends her sprawling. No wonder Ichigo doesn’t have a girlfriend. It is antagonism at first sight with results that don’t go well for the teenager.

It is an amusing spoof of all the magical girls appearing in the main character’s bedroom and demonstrates a sly subversive undercurrent of mocking the genre. Eventually, she identifies herself as a 150 year old Soul Reaper who fights monsters and escorts ghosts to the afterlife. We have arrived at exposition time.

Bleach1 Rukia DrawingBleach1 Rukia Illustrates

Exposition accompanied by some of the worst visual aids you’ll ever see. Her artwork is rather… unique. She does not handle art critiques well, but you have to admire her viciousness.

At this point I gave in to the weirdness and allowed myself to go with the flow. Bad things ensue and Ichigo finds the lives of his sisters in jeopardy. Demonstrating unusual strength he finds himself in a mortal fight with a monster called a “hollow.” One big mistake by him leads to the Soul Reaper being badly wounded and a desperate sacrifice is made by her…

Bleach1 Rukia Gives Her PowersBleach1 Ichigo Soul Reaper

Which changes Ichigo’s life forever. With Rukia Kuchiki at his side, the orange haired boy will find challenges and adventure in an epic journey through the supernatural.

Episode 2: The Shinigami’s Work

Bleach2 Damaged HouseBleach2 Orihime Flustered

The next day greets Ichigo with two feet to the face. Oh wait, that was his father, Isshin, doing the greeting. Only Ichigo remembers the attack from the night before and his family thinks a truck ran into the house. This perturbs him and he wonders if Rukia went back to Soul Society, the place spirits go to.

At school, he shows once again what a gentleman he is by bumping into a classmate, Orihime, and knocking the pretty girl down. Rude only begins to cover his behavior and their mutual friend Tatsuki dresses him down for it. But the buxom redhead is completely flustered by the boy’s presence and retreats. She is a stereotype of moe, which can be loosely translated to being a childish cute girl. This is a very common type in anime.

Bleach2 Death ThreatBleach2 Ichigo Freaks Out

In the classroom, a mysterious transfer student shows up. You guessed it, Rukia has returned. I love the way she threatened him when she pretended to not know him. Ichigo’s reaction was priceless as well. It makes me want to use the method some day. She yanks him out of class and explains she is currently inhabiting an artificial body, called a gigai, because she’s lost almost all of her powers.

Being a fan of the original Japanese with English subtitles, I must mention that the original voice actress is far better than the American one. This scene really hammers that home as Rukia affects a demeanor totally unlike her real personality.

Bleach2 Unwilling PartnerBleach2 Konso Completed

All business, Rukia forces his Soul Reaper form out of his body and takes him to where another hollow is loose. What follows is a war of wills as Ichigo wants nothing to do with any of this and Rukia is determined to mold him into a proper Soul Reaper. Stubborn doesn’t begin to describe the boy. There are a few words that do, but this is a family friendly blog.

Bleach2 Orihime in StreetBleach2 Orihime Leek Spin

The focus shifts over to the pretty girl from before and it appears strange doings are afoot. A near collision by a car with Orihime leads to a scene that goes from serious to silly to mysterious in quick order.  It also is the origin for the leek spinning meme that was all over the Web for awhile. She is an odd girl.


One thing that struck me originally watching these episodes was how the show could go from serious to silly on the drop of a dime – and pull it off. That’s a real tightrope walk for a genre that normally favors mindless action.

Bleach2 Hollow MastermindBleach2 Orihime Being Weird

Things get progressively darker as the episode goes on. Evil hasn’t just reared its ugly head, it also has a plan and it revolves around the innocent girl. We get her back story to a limited degree and it turns out the character isn’t as one dimensional as expected. Tragedy haunts her difficult life and there are reasons for her to have some screws loose.

Bleach2 Rukia in the ClosetBleach2 Ichigo Attacked Again

A new threat and a new revelation about hollows lead to the first of many cliffhangers in the series.


The first two episodes of Bleach do a very good job of establishing the setting and introducing three of the main five characters. There is a feeling of a wide open universe about to be unveiled and mysteries abound. A surprising amount of time is given to fleshing out the characters, which gives them more personality than expected.

Bleach is very entertaining, with a rare mix of comedy, horror, and drama that actually works. It is bloody and violent, so it is suitable for the 12 and up crowd. There are plenty of fights to keep the kiddies happy and enough character development to ensnare adults.

Bleach1 Opening 1Bleach1 Opening Sword Fight

I first heard about it from a teenager at church who was determined I should watch it. While I’m not anti-animation by any means, I did have the memory of having to watch Dragonball Z when I was assigned to moderate a movie message board. That did poison me against the shounen (boys action) genre pretty thoroughly and most anime in general.  But a sick spell in the winter months several years ago meant I had a lot of downtime to kill, preferably with something along the lines of having brain dead content.

So I saw Bleach was on Hulu and decided I’d give it a few episodes. To my surprise I kept watching and got hooked. The bigger surprise was that I didn’t find myself mocking it ala Mystery Science Theater 3000. Unlike the younger types, the draw for me wasn’t the fights, but the interesting characters and mysteries unfolding around them. I’ve been watching it ever since.


Bleach2 Ichigo CluelessBleach1 Masaki Kurosaki Memorial

This review and subsequent ones will be from the DVD box sets for the first three seasons put out by viz Media. In an effort to streamline things, I’ll be reviewing two episodes at a go. Yes, I actually think highly enough of the series to own the best of it as it went downhill in subsequent stories.

The presentation is 4:3 aspect and I was surprised how heavy the interlacing was. I had to tweak VLC to get rid of the very apparent lines.  Fortunately for me, my PC has the horsepower to handle the most advanced deinterlacing. Those lines won’t be apparent on an old TV set but might on an HD set.

Audio is nice and clean, with both the original Japanese and the English dub present. English subtitles are optional.

I recommend watching it in Japanese with subtitles. Viz took some liberties in translation that lost some of the nuances, though it is nothing major. The original voice cast is superior by far with the American cast sounding like they are reading to children.

Disc 1 extras include production art, previews of the manga and Shonen Jump magazine, and a clean version of the end title. The latter is particularly nice as is the song, Life is a Boat.

Bleach4 End Song

The DVD case itself is fairly good quality with separate plastic leaves for each disc. The pages are held together by tape and I can see that breaking over time. But since it is tape, that is easily fixed! Inside the slip cover, you will find easter eggs of Kon and Ichigo’s hollow mask printed.

Additional Screen Captures

Bleach1 Butterfly MoonBleach1 ApologizeBleach1 Ichigo Breaks the SpellBleach1 Ichigo Fights the HollowBleach1 Rukia Sends a Spirit OnBleach1 Yuzo InjuredBleach2 Angry HollowBleach2 Haunted OrihimeBleach2 Rukia Learning JapaneseBleach2 Secret of the Hollows RevealedBleach2 Uneasy GirlsBleach2 Sunset

Fear of Change

Walter Russel Mead has a must read on the Oslo attacks up at The American Interest. Go read it.

Health 7-26-2012

Not a good night, was awakened in the wee hours by coughing. It’s the right bronchial again. Feeling dopey and have the beginnings of a sore throat from drainage. It is going to be a slow day.

I’d thought I was having a relatively good day for a Monday too. I walked up the driveway to get the mail and didn’t notice any chest congestion then. Gah.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Drive

That was a tired Sunday.  I was supposed to substitute teach the Gospel Principles class during second hour of church and wondered if I felt well enough to go.  One short prayer over that and I tried to wake myself up. It was a borderline situation.

Then a phone call around around 8 AM from a friend at church made it clear I’d better go in.  Somehow, I’d just agreed to teach Elders Quorum third hour too, since the friend was too sick to make it in. While I didn’t have as much prep time for the lesson as I’d normally like, last minute substitutions are nothing new to me. So prayer answered; message received.

There were no nonmembers investigating the faith, so second hour duties evaporated and I had a chance to do some real preparation of the lesson. The topic was the General Conference talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook titled LDS Women Are Incredible! which is about, you guessed it, the women of the Church.  With the Relief Society Presidency being changed today, I had a chance to catch some sisters in the hallway and ask them what they would like the brethren to understand about them. That was educational, being terminally single.

Feeling prepared, I went into the lesson a bit more confident than I’d felt before. But I could feel my energy levels dropping by the minute and I’m just grateful I didn’t put too many to sleep. Interesting how the Holy Ghost prompted me to go with a completely different approach to the lesson than I’d planned.

The important thing is the class and I survived to see another day.

The drive home was somewhat blurry around the edges, so I took a minor scenic detour to keep me awake. No, not a ditch. An alternate route.

That turned out to be more stimulating than expected thanks to a blond woman in a full size van who wanted to do 70 MPH on a windy and hilly rural road. Tailgating me during what is supposed to be a relaxed Sunday drive is not what the doctor ordered. Though I’ll admit it kept me awake.

I was able to outrun her in the curves but she always came up on me in the straight sections. At first I thought I was imagining her being lead footed, but it happened mile after mile. Just when I thought I’d shook her off, there would be the Ford logo in my rearview mirror.

And they say men are the aggressive drivers.

Eventually I made it home and didn’t even have to dodge any deer while coming down the driveway. Food, then bed followed. Sometime around 6 PM I awakened and did something, but I don’t remember what. Hey, that was almost four hours ago and the memory goes once you get older.

Somewhere along the line I started this post.  Currently feeling very blurry around the edges again and it will be an early night for me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Health 7-23-2011

Yesterday was a tough day. It was day two of sneezing, but far worse. For awhile there, I didn’t think I’d make it out to a movie with a friend. Somehow, I got through it and I think getting out of the house was helpful. Only went through half the tissues I took with me.

Learning to play a game endorsed by Mensa while having chills is not recommended. The game is called Ket and involves a board, mirrored pieces, and lasers. Interesting game.

Breathing it a little tight again; chest congestion seems to always follow the sinuses cutting loose this year.

Back pain is better and I’ve hiked up the driveway to get the mail the last two days. Not close to the 2.5 mile walks I prefer, but better than nothing. Oh to be able to do 5 mile walks again.

Another Tim McVeigh but in Norway

With the body count soaring in Oslo to 92 at the latest count, it appears that nationalism has finally reared its ugly head in Europe. Not that it has been hiding, but the neo Nazi types haven’t been blowing things up or shooting people in this manner. Unfortunately, nationalism is always just under the surface in xenophobic Europe – especially in the North.

The media is wanting to make it out to be a Christian fundamentalist motivation for Anders Behring Breivik, but I think they’ll find it more to be a reaction to Muslim immigrants. I’ve known Norwegian Americans who are extremely racist and view the Northern European stock to be superior to all other races. So I might be a bit biased there.

Ever since I became aware of the lack of assimilation by foreign immigrants of Muslim descent in Europe, I’ve been concerned. Europeans, despite their vaunted championing of human rights, have not been socially welcoming to the hired help. Instead of using the “melting pot” concept of integration, the newcomers where essentially confined to ghettos. That’s never worked out well anywhere for increasing tolerance, understanding, or more importantly -- upward mobility in a society.

Culture clashes are always fraught with friction, but in Europe it has always involved violence on a large scale at some point. Pogroms against Jews, the Nazi extermination of minority groups, and the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia are recent examples of an old story there. My fear is that one day we will see ethnic clashes in the old countries that end up bringing back fascist governments.

Right now I’m hoping this butcher was a sole actor and that it wasn’t an organized conspiracy. Governments in the West have their hands full enough with Islamist extremists.

Once again, I find myself only being able to pray for people that have gone through something horrible.


It looks like Breivek hated a lot of people, not just Muslims. He also hated Nazis and Marxists, lumping them all together while having neo-Nazi connections. It is starting to look more like Jarod Loughner rather than McVeigh, but not as obviously crazy. Definitely some serious cognitive dissonance though.

There is also a question of whether his Facebook account was changed after his name was released to include Christian and Conservative on his profile. Lulzsec or Anonymous involved? Hard to tell the way “ends justify the means” has gotten to be a standard in our world.

Interpol will be setting up a task force on non-Islamic terror and some are getting paranoid over it. If they haven’t been tracking the white supremacists and nationalists already, what in the world is wrong with them? While it may be used as a political weapon (what isn’t these days?), there has been a clear need for this for years if not decades. At least we keep an eye on ours over here, despite them being a fading threat since the Oklahoma City bombing.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Finally a live action Captain America movie that is a good movie has arrived. Filled with action, a sweet romance, and a great deal of heart, it has everything a summer blockbuster should have. But will it be a hit with the public?

I just got back from seeing Marvel’s latest movie blockbuster attempt and can say it ranks up there with Iron Man 2 and Thor in quality, but below Iron Man. But I like it better than the two films I grouped it with and that is what sets it apart. Like Thor, it is part of the 3D fad of the moment.

Captain America begins with a discovery of a strange object in the Artic ice and for a second I thought I’d stumbled into a preview screening of The Thing prequel/remake. The object is very large and mysterious, with the government types using a fancy laser to cut their way into it. Inside they find conventional beams and struts, along with a frosted over cockpit. A glint draws the attention of one explorer and he scrapes away the frost to reveal that famous shield.

The film goes back to 1942 and a skinny young man desperately trying to get passed on a physical to join the armed forces. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has a laundry list of ailments that render him 4F (unsuitable for service) and can’t talk his way in. Later on, his since of right earns him a beating outside a theater only to be rescued by his best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) who is about to be shipped out. As is typical of the movie, there are a lot of nice character moments between the two and you can buy the friendship.

A series of events bring Steve to the attention of a scientist, Erskine (Stanely Tucci) in charge of a project to create a “super soldier” for the US government. Dr. Erskine is a warm and humane presence in each scene Tucci steals. Yep, even Tommy Lee Jones is unable to stop Tucci from stealing his scenes, though it is a close run race.

Rogers also meets quite a dame… err, woman…. err, lady in Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell). Not just easy on the eyes, she is a nicely three dimensional character. You can interpret that anyway you want, it still applies. I’m going to have to see some other movies Atwell is in if this one is any indication of her acting skills. Carter can hold her own with the boys and is a crack shot. She also sees the real man in the frail frame of Rogers.

Of course Steve Rogers makes it through the experiment and becomes a perfect specimen of humanity with enhanced speed, reflexes, strength, and agility. But things go awry very quickly and he ends up being one of a kind.

Over in Norway and Germany, a vicious and brilliant scientist Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) has been experimenting with powers mortals shouldn’t tamper with. Shockingly, he’s succeeding and his branch of the SS, Hydra, is becoming a force to be reckoned with. There is a connection between him and Rogers that destines them to be foes.

A journey towards becoming a hero and leader follows for Steve Rogers, with lots of action that doesn’t overwhelm the development of the characters. It is an unapologetic tribute to the bravery of the Allied soldiers who fought in WWII as well as old movie serials.

Chris Evans really surprised me and it is hard to believe he is the same actor who played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. His Rogers is a very believable and likeable hero, evincing bravery without arrogance and with an ever present sense of decency. The final scene set in the 1940’s was unexpectedly touching due to his and Atwell’s performances.

Hugo Weaving did a note perfect performance as the prideful and somewhat insane Red Skull. This is a character driven by a belief in his own mental perfection and a vicious temper.  The makeup effects were excellent and this incarnation of the character owes much to the unreleased 1990’s movie. But it is a much better portrayal.

Having Tony Stark’s dad, Howard (Dominic Cooper), be the genius behind Captain America’s shield and other gadgets was a stroke of genius. He also gets some excellent lines and you can see Tony didn’t fall far from the family tree.

Little things I noticed:

The way they worked an authentic version of the original comic book costume into the movie is very inventive and deliberately cringe worthy. The whole USO thing was an interesting addition to the mythos.

Fans of Luftwaffe ‘46 projects and fan fiction will love this movie to death. The aircraft are all derived or inspired by radical designs from WWII that never saw the light of day.

Keep an eye out for a dummy clad in an all red jumpsuit at the World’s Fair. It is a nod to the original Human Torch from the 1940’s.

There is a Band of Brothers connection in the film. Neal McDonough plays Dum Dum Dugan complete with walrus mustache. You may remember him as Buck in the fantastic WWII miniseries.

Stay after the credits. What happens after is much bigger than in any of the previous Marvel films. Much bigger.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a very enjoyable and old fashioned film. But most of all, it has a lot of heart and characters you’ll like. I recommend it to anyone over the age of 10 and especially to anyone who liked Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Rocketeer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Massive Explosion in Oslo, Norway

One dead and several injured according to early reports. My suspicions is that it will be found to be Islamist terrorists behind the blast which appears at first glance to have been a car bomb.

Such is the fate of those who appease. Norway and Sweden have ceded control of large urban areas to Muslim militants for years now with no entry orders to their police forces. For all the politically correct teachings out there, the simple reality is that only strength is respected. That is a sad truth about human beings that can’t be ignored for long. So showing weakness will always be taken advantage of.

I expect more of these attacks to ramp up by the end of the year across the world. Why? The debacle in Libya has exposed just how weak the West really is. Meanwhile, President Obama has a lower approval rating in the Middle East than President Bush did. Only the “strong horse” is given respect and the current administration is viewed as being very weak.

Interesting times, interesting times…


The body count is rising as an apparently related shooting at a socialist youth group camp associated with Norway's Labor Party happened several hours after the bombing. Initial reports are confused (the usual with this kind of event) and the shooter may be blond and blue eyed. If true, that could indicate a home grown jihadi, or worse yet, the beginnings of reactionary violence by white supremacist types.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Science Fiction Matters

Over at Salon, Robert J. Sawyer has a nice little piece up on science fiction and how it helps us prepare for the future. I agree with what he has written and it makes me flash back to some arguments I’ve had with friends. Those arguments were over which had greater value, science fiction or fantasy works.

Fantasy works simply don’t address potential problems that humanity will face and tend to regurgitate old stories in minor variations. While greatly entertaining, that’s all they really are. Occasionally moral lessons will be taught but most are pure entertainment. Essentially, fantasy is backwards looking.

Science fiction is all about possibilities, good and bad. The past is neither ignored or neglected, but referenced often as the authors seek reoccurring patterns in how humanity deals with change. Change is at the heart of all real science fiction.

Given how many people fear change, maybe they should be reading science fiction classics at schools. All I know is that I don’t fear change the way most I know do. It never occurred to me that it was due to my love of that literary genre!

Thank you to Instapundit for putting up the link to the article.


P.S. Space opera such as Star Wars is not true science fiction, by the way. It is fantasy with unexplainable technology replacing magic. Sorry, Star Wars fans. Please go read Foundation or Dune!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

State Shutdown Ends

Governor Dayton signed the new budget so the shutdown is officially over.

So ends one bad political miscalculation, much to the relief of state employees and bar flies. It would be darkly amusing if the beer cutoff was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Major Tom

Forty two years ago the Apollo 11 Moon landing took place. It was the first of six manned landings with the last one in 1972.  That makes it nearly thirty nine years since a human last set foot on the Moon. There are no concrete plans to ever return.

This induces a feeling of melancholy in me, since I’ve been reading classic science fiction the last few years. Those wonderful books of adventure, especially those aimed at teens, predicted a vast new frontier to be conquered.  Most authors expected us to have large functional space stations and a lunar colony before the year 2000 rolled around.

But somewhere along the line we lost the spirit of adventure and exploration. Most likely it is the extreme wealth that has been generated in the West and developing parts of the globe that has ironically hampered this impulse. If we had really wanted to, those predicted things would have been made into reality.

I’ll concede that relying on governments to implement space programs is a huge culprit. Wasteful and always subject to the political whims of the moment, these bloated bureaucracies are rife with incompetence and  corruption. Perhaps if private corporations had been allowed to pioneer in the starry skies things would have been different.

Instead, man has to be content looking at the Moon through a telescope with no hope of touching its dusty surface. Our dreams have fled, drowned out in a cacophony of cellphones, Twitter, video games, and all the myriads of distractions of our day. We are too content and lazy to dare anymore.

This actually bothers me more than the financial doom that looms overhead.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Purple Haze

Okay, it isn’t purple out, but it is hazy.

Blogging for me is primarily about knocking the rust out of my writing skills and developing a routine where I pound out words on the keyboard every day or something close to it. With that much typing, a good keyboard is a must to have. While it took me to the middle of this year to get going again, preparation was done starting in November when I purchased a mechanical keyboard. Multiple Microsoft ergonomic and Logitech keyboards had died on me with replacements becoming an annual event.

There is no substitute for a good mechanical key switch in my opinion. Since I learned to type (not “keyboard”) on a manual typewriter a good amount of travel and tactile feedback is something I appreciated greatly. Then there is the delightful clicky sound they make which really helps in touch typing. Back in the 1990’s all my keyboards were mechanical and I lost a rare ergonomic one that served me for ten years due to a water spill . After much research, I decided I needed something based on Cherry blue switches and fortunately for me an affordable keyboard came along.

The Rosewill RK-9000 came out in two limited batches and was based on a Filco design, if I remember correctly. I missed the first batch at Newegg but got in on the second. The construction is nice and heavy, but it manages to not take up excessive real estate. The fingers fly on it and while I won’t set any speed typing records, it has been wonderful to type on.

One bad thing about having a mechanical keyboard is it spoils you. I find that I really don’t like modern membrane switch based keyboards now and that they tire my hands.

My Rosewill was worth every penny and even has the added benefit of full anti-ghosting while using the PS2 port. That is something in gaming that can be an issue especially in first person shooters. It seems like I do better at running and gunning.

I’ll never go back to non-mechanical keyboards and regret the money I spent on the comfortable but fragile ergonomic ones.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The World and Thorinn (Book Review)

Damon Knight’s tale of a teenager forced on a journey downward through a well into underground worlds that are both dangerous and exotic makes for an entertaining read. Blending science fiction and fantasy with boy scout level survivalism, it gradually unfolds a story much bigger than Thorinn’s personal adventures.

UPDATE: The World and Thorinn is available again in ebook or paperback on demand from ReAnimus Press!

The Story

The central star of The World and Thorinn is named Thorinn. Or is the world itself the main character? An argument could be made for either so I will settle on them being costars like the title implies.

Thorinn, which means “flea,” is young human living on the surface of his world in a giant basin with a huge cylindrical formation that reaches to the top of the sky. Having been raised by an adoptive father, the lame orphan hops around on his one good leg – hence his name. Life is quiet and pastoral until one day when the well runs dry.

Even sacrificing the best horse in the herd fails to appease the angry god they worship named Snorri. So like Joseph, his brothers want to sacrifice something him and a reluctant father agrees despite being under oath to protect him. So the boy is lowered into the well under false pretenses and sealed there. But not before his father puts a geas, or magical compulsion, to “go down” on a suspicious Thorinn.

Come and Get It

A rather large scandal has hit Rupert Murdoch over in the United Kingdom. While there might be those like The Wall Street Journal who think this can be downplayed, it is bad. Very bad. In a nutshell, employees of one of News Corporations tabloids, News of the World, was found to have hacked cellphones of various people including politicians. Check out the Daily Telegraph’s live page for all the latest details.

I despise tabloids for they are utter trash and the embodiment of the worst aspects of yellow journalism. Sleaze merchants publish them and I’ve always disliked Rupert Murdoch for making his money from them. Far too many conservatives defend him simply because he owns Fox News with the rather uncomplicated view that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But the truth is the man doesn’t appear to have any values other than the desire for money and took advantage of the need for a “conservative” alternative to the monolithic news media in the States. Those quotation marks are there for a reason. Most employees at Fox News are Democrats, no joke – the donation records make that clear.

The scandal has been a classic example of how they happen in England, with things rapidly spiraling out of control when fed by a tabloid based news system. That means people who don’t deserve blame will get it too. But the heads of those responsible are guaranteed to fall, unlike here where you can tough it out much more easily. Already arrested and out on bail is Murdoch’s number two in the corporation, Rebekah Brooks. One of his sons has been implicated as well.

Sadly, this sordid tale of breaking into cellphones for information has also led to the discovery of police officials being bribed for information by News Corporation’s rags. Sometimes I think the thing bringing the world down today isn’t massive debt, but pervasive corruption through all walks of life. Not a cheery thought, is it?

As scandals go, it isn’t impressive in the damage done in reality. The gun walking scandal here in North America has resulted in multiple deaths, for contrast. But it is already having a bigger political effect, proving that perception is reality for far too many people.

I’m trying not to enjoy seeing Murdoch’s tabloid empire coming apart. It helps that there is concern over whether Fox News will end up in trouble of some kind due to a ripple effect. While I’m not a huge fan of the channel, it is needed as a counter to an extremely leftist media. There must always be countering views available to the populace for them to be able to make decisions on serious issues. Though with television, I have to wonder just how much depth can be given on anything.

At least News of the World is no more.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Can’t Think of a Title

After a barely functioning Saturday, today turned out better. Even the daily crossword puzzle was solved in just over 12 minutes. Still feeling puny but got out to church and to a birthday part for a child of friends. Scored leftovers, so it was a good day.

It probably helped I went to bed at 9:20 PM last night.

Today I learned something new. A person can hit the snooze button every ten minutes and still fall into a deep enough sleep to dream during each interval.

It is so humid my eyeballs fogged over. This is going to be a rough week with mid to high 90’s predicted and heat indexes well above 100 F. But the media it playing it up like it is some amazing heat wave when I remember stretches of true 100+ weather in previous decades.

I’ve figured out what movies I’ll review next and it will be nice getting back to a more traditionally vague format.  The Battle of Britain will be followed by Thirteen Days.

Speaking of movies, Netflix has changed their fees and I was looking at a 60% increase for the package I had subscribed to. With low bandwidth, I went to the two DVDs for $12 option instead. Not happy with this, but the streaming revolution isn’t really happening thanks to the movie studios. I’m beginning to wonder if it ever will.

At least I’m slowly catching up on popular movies I had no interest in seeing at the theater. So far, most have not impressed me.

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was bad. It came off as a parody of the previous films and Harrison Ford is way too old for this kind of thing.

Quantum of Solace destroyed all the momentum from the reboot, Casino Royale. Not content to fumble things, it turned into a poorly written and edited left wing conspiracy fantasy. Ian Fleming must be rolling in his grave. It is just a very bad film on many levels, despite having a good cast. A true waste of talent.

Inception has cemented my being a fan of Chris Nolan. He is what we hoped M. Night Shyamalan would become as a director. I knew it would be heavy on special effects and that didn’t interest me. The idea of manipulating dreams did, however. What surprised me was how sentimental the film was. Well worth watching.

I’m bemused by how my evaluations of films and TV series confuse my friends. There is no question that I dance to a different drummer and employ criteria that aren’t the norm. But if I manage to annoy everyone at some point, I’ve done my job. Or just had fun annoying them. It’s a tossup.

Oh before I forget, I have an animated film out of Ireland to recommend. It is called The Secret of Kells and is a lovely piece of work. The animation style is unique and fits the minimalist story very well. In places it was absolutely haunting and I really liked the ending. Good for older children and up, younger children could be frightened by the violence.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dueling Banjos

Sometimes it seems like politics is all about who shouts the loudest, but the reality is that the winner is often the one allowed to shout the longest. There is a limit to how effective such tactics can be and woe be onto the ones who try to base strategy on it. Here in Minnesota, Governor Dayton found out that lesson the hard way with a state shutdown calculated to catapult the DFL into retaking the state houses in 2012.

Instead of getting widespread support from the public, he got an earful from the proles in a tour the last week. It is no surprise even union members wanted a deal done and the budget passed now. Why?  Most union members are public employees these days, that’s why. They were the ones suffering the most. While a cutoff of beer to Minnesota may have been a factor, this is what most likely caused Dayton to blink.

Now there will be a passing of the last negotiated budget, which is still the largest increase in state history. A victory, but how much of one?

Meanwhile, President Obama continues to demagogue the debt ceiling and threaten the disabled, seniors, and military veterans with cutting off their August checks. Will he blink or is he bluffing? If he isn’t bluffing, the country will begin tearing apart very quickly. Take advantage of every crisis is the motto of this administration, but there is that pesky 2012 presidential election coming up. So who knows what will happen?

But I’d like somebody to ask the President if he’ll keep paying federal employees while he’s starving the elderly and disabled. Not very likely to be asked, is it?

I don’t think the disconnect between the ruling political class and the masses has ever been bigger. With the political class isolated from the day to day reality that the average citizen experience, they have no way of understanding what is at stake. A complicit and equally distant media aren’t helping when they should be bridging the gap. That’s a disaster.

Then there are Europe’s economic analysts, mad at the GOP because they want the debt limit raised in order for countries to buy more U.S. debt. They insist the issue of default be kicked down the road while acknowledging it is a problem. Why is that so important to them?  They want a safe haven for money to move to and apparently have no real faith in the European Union despite what they say publicly. In other words, the political class there wants someplace to stash money before the Euro collapses. Talk about a twisted mess!

It is little wonder that the people are losing faith in government and trust no one. That’s the biggest danger to maintaining order there is. The political class appears to be oblivious to this, especially on the Left. People compare Obama to Carter or Hoover, but perhaps we should be thinking about Nero.

Health 7-16-2011

Back problems have been affecting my sleep and now I’m dealing with a “tickle” in my chest that first showed up Thursday night. Had to suppress the need to cough and had problems breathing at times in the movie theater. Was coughing part of yesterday and the chest is tight. Not in the mood for another bout of bronchitis.

Crossword puzzle took an hour yesterday and a half hour today, well off my 15 minute average. Beginnings of a dull headache and high fatigue are keeping me away from Audiosurf for the moment.

Had to cancel going on the ward youth Temple Trip and am not happy about that since we were short handed to begin with. Not sure if I’ll be able to go into La Crosse for the weekly gaming session tonight too. Tomorrow is going to be a maximum effort day and I have to prioritize.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 (2011)

The Harry Potter films come to an end with a movie filled with action, death, and 3D effects but curiously devoid of genuine emotion. Those disappointed with the previous film will find much to like and it stays fairly faithful to the book.

The movie starts out with the ending of Part 1, but this time processed into 3D. This means an even murkier and darker experience in the theater, but those who view it in 2D won’t  have much of a brighter experience. Most of it is set at night or indoors with reduced lighting with a bleached out palette.

Following the death of Dobby at the end of the last movie, Harry and company gather some more intel on what Bellatrix Lestrange was up to. Critical information comes into their hands thanks to a kidnapped goblin and so they decide to stage another infiltration of a highly guarded institution. I have to say Helena Bonham Carter did a great job of mimicking Emma Watson’s mannerisms while playing the polyjuiced Hermione masquerading as Bellatrix. Oddly enough, that was one of the highlights of the film for me.

The raid goes disastrously like all their plans do, which is actually mentioned by the characters later in the movie. But it does give us, the audience, some fun with a very well rendered dragon and I always give extra credit for well done dragons. From there things move to infiltrating Hogwarts, which has become something run like a concentration camp or gulag. This is where all the real action takes place and things morph into a war movie, but with magic instead of guns.

The preparations for combat and Voldemort’s assault on Hogwarts are quite well executed. Chaotic battles, heroic sacrifices, and deaths of characters we’ve gotten to know fill the second half. But the deaths failed to have emotional impact for me, unlike the book. I suspect that is due to them being rushed, despite splitting the book into two movies. Some key dramatic moments suffer from it, especially near the end.

With little character development in this half of the book, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 suffers the same problem. Aside from Snape (Alan Richter) and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), only Helena Ravenclaw (Kelly Macdonald) seemed to get anything meaty and she is a new character only briefly seen. Most of the supporting characters get what amounts to cameos despite their importance in the past. Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione get their expected moments, with Ron delivering comic relief.

While I was pleased with how Neville (Matthew Lewis) got his moments to shine, the last one was not handled well. It was played more for laughs than drama and it rang the wrong note. Likewise, Mrs. Weasely’s (Julie Walters) big moment was laughed at in the theater due to a lack of setup and once again being played for laughs. That was just criminal as it should have been something of great intensity. Those who have read the book will understand why I’m complaining.

The big duel was also disappointing and things kind of trail off after that. But the epilogue was nice and the CGI aging looked good. It seemed like a lot of the film was so geared at the 3D effects that they lost sight of effective pacing.

On the topic of the 3D experience, I thought it was a mixed bag. Anything involving spells and magic looked really good, especially the barrier put up around Hogwarts. But crowd scenes appeared jumpy, for a lack of a better word. Something wasn’t working effectively there and it was distracting. From that, I assume the 3D was done in post production rather than filmed with 3D cameras. Another film out this year that was done in post was Thor and it had a better feeling of depth, for comparison.

I didn’t go into seeing The Deathly Hallows Part 2 with any particular expectations or reservations. Though I could have used a reservation to get a better seat. Please forgive me, it is after 3 AM here as I’m writing this and things are getting stupidly amusing. Back on topic, the local small town theater got the movie for a midnight showing with little warning, so of course I had to take advantage of the opportunity to see the end of the Harry Potter film era.

So what is my final take on the flick? It was okay, but something of a disappointment. Most fans will like it better than the last, but I preferred the previous one. It had more heart and this one was strangely flat to me. The crowd at the theater applauded at the end, so that’s good enough. A big box office haul awaits it no matter what.

Speaking of the crowd, they skewed younger with teens predominating. All age groups were represented and I actually had to stand in line for tickets. Amazing for a midnight showing in a small town with a population of 1200 or so. Everyone was in a good mood and generally well behaved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter Midnight Showing in Spring Grove

Just a heads up in case anyone from my neck of the woods lands on the blog: the final Harry Potter film will have a midnight showing in 3D at the Spring Grove Cinema in Spring Grove, MN.

I was at the last one and plan to go to this one as well.

Health 7-13-2011

The temperatures are in the 70’s, the sun is shining, the humidity is down, and my daily test of playing Audiosurf went well so I went off for my first walk since the last one I posted about. It went better than the previous one, but still was disappointing in how hard it was. Ah well. Hopefully there will be more progress instead of bronchitis as the year continues.

Had a bad night, back pain was pretty impressive and a dull constant headache has been present since getting up. Sinuses aren’t great, but they’ve been much worse.

The weekend is going to be an extreme endurance run with a youth trip to the Temple on top of the usual. I will definitely stay low key on Friday.

Bad Moon Rising

There are those who actually believe we emerged out of the recession and are worried we are going into another. Well, we aren’t. We never got out of the first one and it isn’t a recession, but the early stages of another Great Depression. While we have more social safety nets in place, they aren’t going to last very long at this rate.

One myth on the Left is that Social Security is a “lockbox” and all the funds are safe there to pay it out. If that were true, how could President Obama threaten to not send checks out next month? Note that this is a threat in political speak and his verbal tones suggest he was eager to issue it.  While it is a despicable thing to do, it does unmask the fallacy of the lockbox.  Another Democrat President ended that isolation of Social Security funds from the general fund back in the 1960’s – Lyndon Baines Johnson. They are now controlled at the whim of our government and are not guaranteed.

But the most interesting thing about this is that there will be money to spend on Social Security and other needed things even if we can’t borrow money. It means drastic cuts elsewhere, but that is at the discretion of the Treasury. Which means it is at the discretion of the President. In other words, Obama is threatening to cut off benefits for political gain in the 2012 elections. Some servant of the people he is.

Being on Social Security Disability, this hits me directly. Loss of Social Security means no food, no shelter, no Internet, and the loss of everything I have.  I can’t say I’m surprised how cavalier the President is about the people who will be affected as he is part of the Chicago Machine which is all about thuggery. The willingness to hurt the elderly and disabled just to damage the Republicans shows the quality of Obama’s character.

Sadly, that is only the beginning of our problems. The debt ceiling will mean nothing in the near future because an economic catastrophe has already begun across the globe. Large things tend to be slow moving and people don’t notice the changes until they hit critical mass. And much like an avalanche, they can’t be avoided.

The jobs report for June in the United States is an unmitigated disaster. 18,000 jobs were purportedly created when we need 150,000 new jobs created each month just to match population growth. Notice I used the word “purportedly.” At The NY Post it is revealed that 131,000 jobs were estimated out of thin air to pad the number upwards. In the United Kingdom, their latest report on employment isn’t quite as grim, but it isn’t good.

Meanwhile, the PIIGS crisis in the European Union continues unabated. Ireland just got relegated to junk bond status and Greece continues to be a bottomless sink hole despite hundreds of billions of Euros dumped into it. I don’t even want to discuss the problems China is having with inflation and bad loans. Two ballyhooed stimulus packages have failed to do anything positive at all and now they are talking about another one, QE3. Throwing money that doesn’t exist at something caused by spending money that doesn’t exist is not a sign of intelligent or even sapient behavior.

What will the second Great Depression look like? That’s hard to tell, since there has been so much wealth generated worldwide since the end of World War II. As mentioned before, there are safety nets in place that weren’t previously in developed countries. But there has never been so much debt in place as we have today. It will hit slower than in the 1920’s and 30’s and it has already begun.

We have much more to lose, so the possibility of it being more dramatic and catastrophic increases due to the simple fact the masses aren’t acquainted with real hardship anymore. What happens when food supplies become permanently disrupted? What happens when fuel is too expensive to allow easy migration to better places? What happens when electricity becomes unreliable with rolling blackouts the norm? What happens when groups begin hoarding resources? Those are all questions the world is going to have to face very soon.

Here in the U.S., we have a cultural divide that is now unbridgeable. The Left have gone so far away from common ground with the middle and right that the political frictions we see now are going to look quaint by comparison when the real crisis hits fully.  Though the truth is the middle will do whatever the group in charge tells them to do, so really they don’t matter. It is a sad thing, but the result of apathy/fence sitting is the loss of any real say in things.

My prediction is greater division and rising violence, both of which have already begun. Frustrations will continue to grow and the political class will continue to play games as long as they are comfortable. By the time anything will be attempted seriously, it will be too late.

So where does that leave the little guy? Up a creek without a paddle in most cases.

All we can do is prepare ourselves for the worst outcome and pray for the best. Storing food for more than threes days of supplies is a beginning. Having the ability to protect yourself wherever you are means exercising your 2nd Amendment rights here in the States, no matter how you feel about firearms. Most of all, you need to be spiritually prepared.

In God you can trust, but not man. I wish people would remember that whenever the latest demagogue of any political persuasion shows up.