‘The Wolverine’: +2 Cannarfs

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So. Here we are. Clearly it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, much less a movie review. So before I review the movie, let’s review how and why I review…

For starters, it’s not so much about the movie. I’m not a professional critic, so my thoughts usually aren’t as nuanced and cultured as someone who is. I’m just a guy who likes stories, and likes to think about them a little bit. I’m also a guy who, from time to time, gets into filming and editing videos of one sort or another. So I’ve started to pay attention to stuff like pacing, storytelling, editing, cinematography, etc.

So, to sum it up – these cannarf reviews are representative of how I see a movie.

The Good:

  • Logan is more human in this movie. Which is strange, I guess, since he’s a mutant. He’s more vulnerable both physically (due to another character’s juju) and emotionally (he has nightmares every night and wants to end his over-long, troubled life). For some, that really diminishes who Wolverine is supposed to be. But for me, it makes him even better. This Logan feels pain in a way that previous iterations haven’t. Heroes are only as interesting as their weaknesses, I guess…
  • The cinematography is pretty cool. The action sequences felt more like a very well-made martial arts movie, and less like a big budget action franchise. Less polished, but in a good way.
  • Speaking of which – awesome genre blending! Mutants, martial arts, organized crime, mystery… Good stuff.
  • I’ve been pretty fascinated with Japanese culture since reading Michael Crichton’s Disclosure. I’m not saying I want to move to Japan or anything, but it’s a fairly fascinating culture. A little scary, but only because it’s so different in so many ways from our own culture.
  • “I’ve never needed any of this before.” “What, help?” Great line.
  • Famke Janssen.

The Bad:

  • The movie starts with almost no context. Nagasaki in 1945, then ??? I had to check imdb.com in order to know that the events of this movie take place after the X-Men trilogy.
  • I like movies that make you think and try to figure stuff out. But for a lot of The Wolverine, I felt like I was always missing one small piece of information that would have made everything make so much more sense. For instance, who is the blonde woman? Who is the Hawkeye wannabe helping Logan? Why is that guy helping the blonde lady now? Why did it seem like the Mariko was shady and wanted to get away from Logan, but then in the next scene they’re travelling buddies?
  • Wait, that guy can somehow survive the blonde lady’s poison (not to mention getting stabbed in the neck with a fountain pen), and come back stronger and faster than before?
  • Logan is a born fighter, and also a smart cookie when it comes to staying alive and free. It’s ridiculous that he would just run down the middle of the street letting himself get shot in the back repeatedly with arrows.
  • Wow, a well thought-out superhero movie with heart and depth and humanity and an at least moderately believable storyli… Oh wait, there’s a giant robot samurai monster with a flaming sword, and that lady survived an arrow to the heart and is now pulling her skin off. Nevermind…

The Bottom Line:

The Wolverine is not your usual superhero movie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, elements like the way the action sequences are filmed, as well as the vulnerable nature of the protagonist, make The Wolverine really stand out in comparison to other superhero flicks.

Until the end.Then it just kinda goes off the rails. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie. It just felt a little like a bait-and-switch, you know?

I didn’t come into The Wolverine with any real expectations other than for it to be a pretty entertaining superhero movie. It turned out to be not quite that, but in a (mostly) good way. All this adds up to…

+2 cannarfs.

Edit: My good friend Jason correctly pointed out that there were a couple of “off the rails” elements earlier in the film, in particular the fight on top of the bullet train in the middle of the film. That fight was ridiculous.

(2 + 0 – 1) x 3 Resolutions for 2013

1) “Check-in” less. Post more interesting photos. – If you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you’re probably annoyed by my frequent Foursquare/Facebook check-ins. At least I know I was annoyed the last time I looked at my own Facebook wall. So I’m going to post those Foursquare check-ins to Facebook and Twitter less. I’m still going to check in on Foursquare, because you sometimes get sweet deals for doing so. But I won’t post them to Facebook anymore unless it’s something new and/or interesting. Instead I’m going to try to do more interesting things in real life, and then post pictures of those things instead.

2) Take wall anchors seriously. – I’m the king of saying, “Oh, we can mount that on the wall, no problem. Just throw a couple of wall anchors in and screw it in.” Then when it comes time to actually hang the object, the process of finding and securing the proper size and type of wall anchor confounds me. It usually leaves me looking unorganized and kind of foolish. This year, I’m not just going to talk about wall anchors willy nilly…

3) Be creative more. – Thankfully, mercifully, I’m in a job that gives me avenues to explore and utilize my creativity. I think this coming year will only provide more opportunities to do that, and I want to take advantage of them.

What are you doing this year?

Mystery, Whimsy, and Soap

Have you seen these decorative soap dispensers that people are putting in their houses? I have. And for a long time I thought they were just kind of silly and redundant. I mean, they sell the soap in appropriately sized containers that already have a dispenser built into them…

But at some point, I started to see the mystery in the whole thing. The intrigue… So now when I go to someone’s house and they have a decorative soap dispenser, I sometimes stand there looking at it for a minute, trying to sense what awaits me. Does the soap smell like flowers? Or fruit? Or vanilla? Or is it unscented? Is it blue? White? Purplish? Clear?

Then I just wash my hands and rejoin the dinner party or whatever it is I’m there for.

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Bowdlerize

I learned a new word this morning – bowdlerize (pronounced bohd-luh-rize).

It’s a transitive verb that means to remove material from a work (such as a book or a play) that is considered improper or offensive, with the result that the work becomes weaker in some way. It started being used as a word a few years after the death of a guy named Thomas Bowdler. Surprise, surprise – the word is based on his name. Here’s why:

The Family Shakspeare

In 1807 Thomas Bowdler published The Family Shakespeare, in which he (or possibly his sister) edited out all the parts “which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.” On one hand, it made Shakespeare accessible to a huge number of 19th century women and children who otherwise might not have been allowed to read his works due to some of their racier content. On the other hand, though, the resulting work was much less… Shakespeare… than the bard’s originals.

When I learned the word bowdlerize, it made me think of something that happened to me a couple of months ago. On a Sunday morning I got called into our 3-4 year old room because there was a poop emergency in the 2-3 year old room. It was near the end of service, so I figured I’d spend a few minutes just hanging with the kids and shooting the breeze.

One of the little girls brought me her tiny little pocket New Testament and asked me to read her a story. I thought that was a great idea, so I grabbed a stool and flipped to the Gospel of John. I happened to flip straight to John 8 and the story of the woman who is caught in adultery and brought before Jesus to be stoned. I really didn’t want to explain to a group of 4 year old girls (several more had gathered by this point) what adultery was. Or why people wanted to kill this woman by throwing rocks at her.

So I flipped again… to Mark 5, where Jesus encounters a man who is demon-possessed and runs around a graveyard naked, cutting himself with stones. I didn’t want to try to explain even a bit of that to these 4 year olds.

So I flipped again… Matthew 14 – John the Baptist is beheaded. I didn’t want the girls to be scarred by a story of a man being beheaded because a wicked king wanted to sleep with his sister-in-law’s (who he had also been sleeping with) daughter.

So I flipped again… Luke 22 – Jesus is arrested and Peter cuts off a guy’s ear. Geez…

By this point the girls were getting restless, since they’d been sitting patiently and I hadn’t actually read them anything. In desperation, I flipped to the book of Acts, where I knew there were a lot of good stories about the early Church.

I happened to flip to Acts 5, where a guy named Ananias and his wife Sapphira are struck dead because they were greedy liars.

I flipped again… to Acts 16, where Paul and Silas are in jail because they cast a demon out of a girl, and while they’re there an earthquake hits, and the jailer is about to kill himself because he thinks all the prisoners will escape…

Mercifully for me, the service ended and parents started showing up at that point.

That episode really reminded me that the Bible is not a children’s book. There is some heavy stuff in there, everything from theft and murder to rape and incest to suicide and demons. It is definitely a book written for adults.

So, back to bowdlerizing stuff… I think when people talk about something being bowdlerized, they usually mean that it’s been censored to the point of being weak, watered-down, having less meaning. I wonder how much we do that with the Bible. I wonder how much we should do that with the Bible. Is it better to share the whole Bible, even the difficult to explain parts, with everybody (including younger kids)? Or is it better to give young kids and people who aren’t believers yet a more sanitized, easy to digest, version?

Thoughts?

Why I’m Leaving WordPress

Just so we’re clear, this picture is sarcastic.

So, I’m leaving WordPress…

I started almost two full years ago here at joerob577.wordpress.com with no real intent. I didn’t have a purpose or a vision or a theme or a niche or anything else that tends to drive a good blog. Sometimes I tried to be funny, sometimes I tried to be inspiring, sometimes I commented on culture…

Then I got a little bit serious about blogging. I got connected with some great bloggers, started working on the look and feel of the blog, bought a domain name and had this blog redirected there. I sort of found a little bit of a niche writing about pop culture, faith, social commentary, and humor. Things were going well.

Then I got a little bit more serious about blogging. I purchased a premium theme and some server space, and switched my free WordPress.com blog over to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. I set up FeedBurner feeds, Google Analytics stat tracking, and spent hours poring over third party plug-ins, add-ons, etc. I started pouring more into developing relationships with other bloggers, writing guest posts, building my platform, posting 4-6 times each week consistently, and basically doing all the other things you’re supposed to do in order to build a successful blog.

And somewhere along the line I think I just sort of lost interest in it. Somehow I lost track of what was fun and exciting about blogging, and it became more of a chore to try to churn out posts all the time. When that happened, I sort of just stopped altogether. Literally weeks and months have gone between posts for the last 6-8 months, probably. Honestly, I haven’t even kept up with how poorly I’ve been keeping up with things.

The reality is that my initial flurry of blog activity and interactions led me down a path that I’m not sure was ever sustainable for me long-term. I ended up spending more time writing about life and culture than experiencing it for myself. I pushed myself to post frequently enough that I often ended up putting out weak stuff. Then I felt bad for putting out bad material and ended up even more discouraged.

Now, I know you’re an intelligent reader, so you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so why not just push reset and get back to a healthy place as a blogger?” Good question.

The answer is that it’s totally a me thing. I log into WordPress, and I see the oh-so-familiar dashboard design, and my brain immediately goes to a place of stress. Honestly, I can’t look at my WordPress blog today without feeling like I have to make it what it was a year and a half ago. And the truth is, that doesn’t feel right either right now.

Those of you who know me will say, “Well, you definitely aren’t going to stop outputting creative stuff. What are you going to do instead of WordPress?”

For now at least, I’ll be on Tumblr.

Yes, I know that WordPress and Tumblr offer pretty much exactly the same functionality. The big difference is that Tumblr looks fresh and different to me, and that’s what I need right now.

So that’s that. This might not be the end for joerob.com and my WordPress experience, but it might be. I guess my vanity would love for some of you to be sad that I’m shutting this blog down for now, but I know that most people probably won’t care. That’s okay. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next, and recapturing the creative spirit I used to blog with. Hopefully it won’t be too elusive…

Peace.

The Last Two Weeks of My Life…

More About GME…

I said a week or so ago that I would write more about GME, the autoimmune disease that our dog Penny was hospitalized for a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I really don’t feel like doing this right now because there’s a ton going on and I’m stressed, but self-discipline… blah, blah… following through… yada, yada… whatever.

The Wikipedia page for granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) is pretty good and thorough so if you’re into a lot of the medical lingo, check it out. I’ll try to explain in with smaller, less Latin-y words.

GME is a nasty little thing that somehow or another causes a dog’s immune system to think that it’s own brain is the enemy. The immune system starts attacking the brain/brain stem/spinal cord, and eventually the dog develops lesions on these areas. The lesions can cause a variety of symptoms, most commonly loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, and paralysis.

GME doesn’t have a known cause. There doesn’t seem to be anything in common from case to case that would suggest why GME happens to some dogs and not to others. It is not infectious, either. It is, however, more common in small breed female dogs of young and middle age (i.e., Penny had just turned 4 when this happened to her), but no one knows why.

GME has an extremely rapid onset. In Penny’s case, she went from completely normal on a Friday, to vomiting on Saturday, to total loss of appetite and lethargy on Monday, to right-side paralysis on Thursday. So, less than a week from completely normal to completely unable to function.

GME also has a pretty dim prognosis most of the time. With normal treatment, dogs with GME typically live anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. There are cases with much longer survival rates, but they’re definitely outliers.

What all this adds up to is a really ugly, sad little disease that vets and pet owners alike hate with all their might.

We’re soldiering on, and Penny continues to improve with her little dose of steroids every day. We’re praying for a much time as we can get with a healthy, happy Penny.

Peace.

This Makes Me Sad…

This is from an article in the Christian Post I found on Zite this morning:

Of 370 members of First Presbyterian Church of Longview, 282 voted in favor of leaving the PC(USA) while 84 voted against leaving and six voted to be with whatever side kept the church property.

The emphasis in that quote is mine, not the Christian Post’s. So sad on so many levels, though…

Baseball Quotes – Poetry

Last spring I started a series that I never really finished titled “Why Baseball is Better Than…” Although I do still plan on adding to that, this year I thought it might make for a better and more consistent series if I shared a quote or two about baseball periodically, along with my thoughts about it.

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Let us go forth awhile and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms. The game of Ball is glorious. – Walt Whitman

America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere – belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life. – Walt Whitman

 As best I can find, Walt Whitman – one of the greatest American poets ever – never wrote anything about football, or basketball, or hockey, or auto racing. And to me, that says something.

What about you?

Question: Favorite Lesser-Known Song

Yesterday Robin Gibb died. Maybe it’s just a generation thing, but I feel like most people my age remember the Bee Gees as “that band that was really popular in the 70s with the whole Saturday Night Fever thing.” They’re sort of a retro-throw-back-nostalgia-hipster-icon-thing for most of us.

Which is why I was really surprised to learn that one of the Bee Gees’ first huge hits way back in 1968 was the ballad I Started a Joke. I only knew the song from the movie Zoolander, where it was covered by the Wallflowers. I literally went an entire decade thinking it was a Wallflowers original, until I found this video. It was kind of a watershed moment for me, as it really opened my eyes to the length and depth of the Bee Gees’ career, and it very quickly became a favorite for me.

So here’s to Robin Gibb. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite lesser-known song from an artist?

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