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Sunday, July 31st, 2005 - 3:11 AM

"Learn Something New Every Day"

Cascading Style Sheets are both a godsend and a pain in the membrane. I have used CSS since I began my "web design skills attainment quest" because this endeavor started not long ago. When designing in CSS, I virtually always put all style declarations in a linked file. Externally linked CSS files are in my opinion the greatest strength of the entire method. Being able to update thousands of pages template-style without doing a site-wide text replacement is astoundingly simple. Such simplicity not only sends chills down your spine, but I actually find formatting in CSS far easier than trying to screw around with various font tags and other ridiculous archaic methodologies.

I do not, however, find that CSS for positioning is always the best way to achieve perfect, unbreakable page layouts. I used to try to design everything using CSS and avoid putting a single table in my code. Sure, that is a nice ideal to attain and makes you sound smart, but some layouts prove nearly impossible to achieve using CSS alone.

W3C, World Wide Web Consortium

W3C's recommendations for how CSS is supposed to be implemented don't line up with how every single browser renders CSS. It is nice to sound smart and produce future-minded code, and I feel that I am fully capable of this. On the other hand, trying to uphold an ideal that simply does not work is no fun at all. I know nearly every CSS attribute out there and how they are supposed to function, but I still don't see any way to create certain column-based or "stretchy" layouts. For example, the layout you see on this blog as of today is using tables. That is because tables always work how I want them to! Creating absolutely positioned pages of a fixed width is extremely simple, but creating a layout with several stretching columns doesn't always work. Virtually every 2 or 3 column layout that doesn't use tables does some pretty weird stuff when you start resizing the browser window to a small width, or if you override the font size in your browser. Things jump all over the place, over and under each other, etc. I find this behavior totally unacceptable, and therefore I choose to continue to use tables whenever I want an unbreakable interface that is always 100% the width of the browser window. When all the major browsers successfully render CSS-P with perfect results, I'll go back to using CSS exclusively for all my layouts. Right now I use tables and CSS with synergy to produce pages that do exactly as I intend, and I'm not ashamed of it.

As the title of this blog entry suggests, I learned something about CSS today. I am hardly foolish enough to think I know everything there is to know. I am pretty confident that I know virtually every current CSS property and attribute, when to effectively use each, and when not to. But like I said, there are certain layouts I simply cannot create without losing a tiny bit of what I consider a perfect layout that cannot be ripped apart by standard use (mainly, resizing the window or changing font sizes). Because of this nonexclusive use of CSS I have started wondering if I really know enough about modern CSS (though all my knowledge is modern, since I started my web design quest less than a year ago).

Whenever I have these doubts about my CSS knowledge or ability, I usually do a Google search to see if others have found a solution to the problem or question I am encountering. Almost invariably, I see everyone expressing the same complaints that I have. In almost every case it is a browser rendering flaw, and there is no currently known solution without severe, dumb workaround.

Well, anyway, I decided to read the official CSS1 recommendation today and found a couple minor points I had either known before and since neglected or I simply didn't know.

  1. You can follow any CSS property declaration with ! important to increase the weight of the preceding declaration. I was not aware of this, but I don't think I have encountered an instance where it was necessary because I rarely need to have duplicate declarations where their weights would come into effect. I like to be very specific and structured in my declarations.
  2. P:first-line and p:first-letter properties: These pseudo-elements effect the first line of a wrapping block element and the first letter. I have known of these properties for a long time but had intentionally forgotten them. Someone told me they were one of those things that not all browsers support properly, so they are not worth trying. While such might be the case, I tested them in IE6 and Firefox with success. So you will notice their use in my blog entries. You might be thinking I used them "because I could". Nope, I try to never implement something unless it is value-adding. I like the new look.
  3. Line-height as padding: One of my frustrations with CSS has been the task of creating a perfect horizontal menu. Here's the problems: If you use the float:left approach, you need a container for them to fit in, otherwise they break apart when you resize the browser window (and you can't center something that is floating left). If you are trying to work with elements that have display:inline specified, you have a hard time forcing a specific height for the menu because vertical padding does not effect inline elements. Ah, but with with line-height, you can specify an exact height, and by definition (leading and half-leading), the text is centered in this newly created box. Woo hoo! The menus on the top of this site use this technique, and I am rid of one less table.

I actually felt pretty good after reading the CSS1 recommendation because these were the only three things I wasn't taking advantage of. Next I'll read the full W3C CSS2 recommendation and see if I learn anything new. That should be a little bit more exciting, and I expect to learn a thing or two.

Visit W3C, authors and maintainers of all those fun recommendations

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Saturday, July 30th, 2005 - 5:16 PM

"Software Review: Google Earth"

downtown Portland, Oregon

Um, can you say, "Without a doubt, the most awesome program I've ever seen to date"? Try it, but be creative in doing so. Maybe speak in a german or russian accent. If you succeed in replicating my quote, you will be referring to none other than Google Earth. This is an absolutely incredible map program, making even NASA's equivalent program seem almost like a joke (yeah, I downloaded that one also some time ago, but it doesn't serve me much purpose, so I uninstalled it). As far as I am concerned, this is the ultimate, and all other map sites are totally obsolete. Even for road maps and driving directions, this program is far superior. Of course if you just want a quick map of directions and don't have Google Earth installed, Google Maps will suffice. Just as long as you don't use MapQuest, Yahoo, Expedia, or others that don't even compare to Google Maps, let alone Google Earth. Perhaps the program's only "fault" is that you must have a high speed internet connection because the map data is pulled from a server. I hardly consider this a fault because I don't want (nor can I) terabytes of information on my harddrive. Besides, I was pleased with the relatively fast redraw times and smooth movement on my computer (granted, I have a pretty good computer).

Some of the amazing features Google Earth offers:

  • Extremely high resolution satellite mapping of entire earth with super-detailed images of major metropolitan areas - you can quite easily find your house or apartment! (if you live in a major U.S. city, or several international hotspots)
  • Topographical 3D land: find your favorite mountain or valley and see it precisely as it appears in real life.
  • Select 3D buildings in major cities: This is absolutely incredible! See each and every building in three dimensions and view form any conceivable angle.
  • Outstanding camera angle control: If you have a decent computer with a high speed internet connection you can zoom from a view of the entire planet until just your house fills the screen in just seconds. The selective rendering system has amazing intelligence and prioritizes redrawing the elements you are focused on. The camera can be tilted and rotated so you can literally fly inside a canyon or between buildings downtown.
  • The best road maps anyone has ever seen: As you zoom in closer, street shapes and names are automatically smoothly faded into view with increasing detail. Labels are placed perfectly and easy to read.
  • Driving directions: See every twist and turn from point A to point B. With the perfect satellite imagery and 3D landscape, you can literally trace your path through every familiar landmark, making it fabulously easy to see where you are going.
  • Virtually innumerable useful layers to turn on and off at will, including a vast database of the following:
  1. roads, public transit and railroads: with every detail and visibility than most or all other mapping software out there
  2. dining, coffee houses: restaurants - I was impressed to find an incredible number of restaurants in my local area, not just the ones that pay to advertise, like on some map sites
  3. lodging
  4. banks/ATMs
  5. malls/shopping centers, major retail stores and bars/clubs
  6. grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and movie rentals
  7. golf, parks, stadiums
  8. schools, churches, cemeteries
  9. borders of various kinds
  10. plus a ridiculous number of other layers, enough to make this blog entry WAY too long!
  • The ability to mark places anywhere in the world using unique icons and plot paths between them; when you double click on a place, the program beautifully animates the movement from wherever you started until you are zoomed nicely on your destination
  • Save, print and email screenshots
  • Measure the distance between two points
Manhattan Island, New YorkGrand Canyon in 3D

Google Earth allows paid users to join a network where they can upload places and other information in order to vastly increase the available information. It is a pretty incredible idea, and I suppose is the first step towards having a fully viewable 3D model of the entire planet. It is really trippy to zoom from planet level all the way to walking between skyscrapers!

Note: the screenshots I provided are cool, but they do no justice to scaling, zooming and rotating very smoothly inside a 3D world! Check it out for yourself. For the functionality, the program is a modest 10MB download.

Visit the Google Earth site: http://earth.google.com/

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Thursday, July 28th, 2005 - 9:56 PM

"Movie Review: The Pacifier"

Vin Diesel as the Pacifier

Even though The Pacifier offered very little originality and had "Disney Family Yuckimatronics" written all over it, I found the movie mildly entertaining. Vin Diesel plays yet another tough guy who is forced to baby sit a bunch'o'brats, and in the end grows attached to the kids. Other examples of this very specific genre of film are Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger; Daddy Daycare with Eddie Murphy; Mr. Nanny with Hulk Hogan; and Dickie Roberts with David Spade.

Let's watch it again!

Vin Diesel plays the part of Shane Wolfe, a navy seals lieutenant, the best of the best. After a backstabbing rescue assignment where he loses the hostage and himself gets shot, his superior gives him the most unlikely assignment with importance of the highest order. Yes, Shane needs to baby sit the kids of a genius scientist who created a chip that can disallow an entire country from using its nuclear weapons, or something like that. The five kids under his care give him little respect until some ninjas appear on the scene, and he saves their lives. A bunch of other stuff happens and Schmickulty-Borgen Stoigert.

Though I can definitely see why people would dislike Vin Diesel as an actor, I frankly enjoy his work. I guess I like gruff action heroes, especially when they display a lot of agility or martial arts ability. Corse, anyone can look like a kung fu master with the right action choreographer... Keanu Reaves, case in point. Anyway, the movie has little redeeming value, but is equally harmless and has a chuckle or two to be found throughout. I think Fred the Monkey enjoyed it, so it can't be all bad.

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Monday, July 25th, 2005 - 11:45 PM

"Recantation For Uninhibited Recalcitration"

I'm sorry, so sorry

I just wanted to let all my faithful visitors know that I am sorry for my apathy. This site has gone through many changes in a short time, yet the site has never really reached full functionality. By the time I get close to completing a full revision, I learn something new and start completely over, leaving several levels of scrappiness in my wake.

Well, fortunately I'm not trying to please anyone with this site as of yet. It is my personal site, and I'm just having fun with it. Of course I would like people to come and experience some sort of comforting effervescent-like remedy, and that is exactly why I am constantly revising everything. Hopefully all the changes I make are appreciated by my audience of 7+ (an optimistic number).

I realize that I might be focusing on the "wrong" things right now. My site is supposed to be all about my art and such. And here I am writing goofy blog entries. Ah well. I guess I'm just doing what's fun, while trying to express myself in written word. I'll update the art side of things when I get time. In reality, revising the galleries is the most difficult step in this new conversion because I will be starting from scratch. There won't be a shred of my previous work evident in the new layout. I am going to strip down a lot of features and shoot for a simple interface with less distractions. I am hoping to keep the same consistent layout I am already using for the home page and blog: a top menu, side menu and main content window. We'll see how it goes when translating all the other pages. Maybe by the time I'm close to finishing, I'll dream up a completely new layout! :)

I guess I could do all this work in the background and release an entire site-wide update all at once like the big guys do. But then you wouldn't see the process and appreciate the work. This is an important element not to be forgotten in life, and I believe by showing this process, I am showing you another part of myself. I hope you can appreciate this without too much frustration or impatience. I know my galleries are a bear and long on the download time. In fact, that was my main motivation for learning PHP. My work on the site was approaching an inevitable roadblock. As I continued to add new art, the thumbnails added up, and the pages slowed down drastically. With PHP, I'll be able to dynamically build the pages and limit what is loaded on each. Lucky me and you and Belgium Gripe Dancers!

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Sunday, July 24th, 2005 - 8:16 PM

"Movie Review: Mrs. Brown"

Mrs. Brown

Actress Judi Dench did a fine job in this BBC movie, as did Billy Connolly. Judi Dench played Queen Victoria in 19th century England. After her husband's premature death of typhoid fever, she was tossed into an incorrigible mourning demise. She never left her home in Windsor and became utterly disinterested in political and public life. One of her chief servants, in a desperate hope, called on John Brown (Billy Connolly), a Scottish highlander who might have a chance at reviving the lady's spirits.

After John uses his gruff charm to gain the trust of his queen and lures her "out into the light" and away from sorrowful thoughts, scandalous gossip and slanderous tabloids defame the Queen for her closeness to John, creating more problems for John than for the Queen. In a struggle between revealing a plot of the Queen's enemies to ruin him or keeping it to himself and continuing in loyal service, John breaks down. It is a great tale of true friendship and service of one human being to another.

The movie, though essentially a tragedy in the end, was a fine spot of acting by most involved. The ending certainly lacked something, but half the time I enjoy a more contemplative or real ending anyway. Hollywood movies with "ever after" conclusions are pass?.

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Sunday, July 24th, 2005 - 4:32 PM

"New Logo: V-Rose Triceratopia"

Esotropiart is constantly evolving and changing, pretty much on a whim as I see fit. Sometimes I'll get in a creative mood and fool around with one of the key graphical elements, coming up with several different possible variations (other times I'll regurgitate petunias when looking at my old work and not rest until I have improved it). Today I started fooling around with the logo. Sometimes when you are fooling around with random graphical elements, you get lucky and find something you like. Such was the case with the "V-Rose Triceratopia Logo", as I suddenly call it.

Fireworks is a great program for fooling around and achieving awesome accidental (or purposeful) effects. I had the idea to make some light beams coming out of the moon behind the "art" and ended up with this cool little design. Just for the record, here's how I came up with the logo, step-by-step.

  1. Created a large circle path and filled it with a conical gradient fill that had three beam-like branches.
  2. Put a black triangle with curved, concave sides on each of the beams to give them interesting cut-offs (bell-bottoms). Note: to position each triangle in the correct position, I copied the first one and moved its rotation center to the center of the moon circle and rotated it until it matched up with the next beam.
  3. Added small glow to each of the concave triangles and erased the glow from the outside edge, so the glow affected only the two sides that formed a point up the beams.
  4. Flattened group of three beams with triangular cut-offs an applied a medium strength zoom blur to take out the hard edges
  5. Duplicated the triple beam twice, scaled, rotated and faded out transparency on larger ones.
  6. Ta Da!

The new logo appears as a new bottom left corner element on all the newly designed pages (home and blog).

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Saturday, July 23rd, 2005 - 11:06 PM

"Movie Review: The Day After Tomorrow"

a huge wave covers the Statue of Liberty and invades New York City

Has anyone noticed that there has been a long string of disaster movies (natural or unnatural) in the last several years? I find it strange to see Hollywood pump out so many movies with virtually the same plot. I mean there's "Twister", "Independence Day", "The Perfect Storm", "Armageddon", "Volcano", "Deep Impact", "The Core", "Dante's Peak", "Towering Inferno", and this "The Day After Tomorrow". It seems that once movie makers realized there was money to be made from such movies, they just started pumping them out, with little concern for being repetitious.

The plot of these movies is almost always very similar and will have several or all of the following features:

  • The entire world is being threatened, or at least a million lives
  • There is a random actor playing the president of the United States
  • Either the president or one of his aides is a dork and doesn't pay any attention to warnings from the scientific community
  • There is one primary scientist who knows everything and can create relatively accurate computer models/simulations that should be used by local weather stations
  • There are tiny, cheesy cameos of what's happening in other parts of the world, but the entire movie is set in the United States, and that's all that matters
  • Someone from the United States is almost always the hero
  • All the characters that are set up to be annoying people with faults or minor characters die (often by sacrificing their life for a main character), while most of the important main characters miraculously live
  • Even if the United States is utterly destroyed, somehow it remains the world's only super power, and everyone looks to it for guidance and direction
  • A band of super smart, super tough, or completely random people goes on a quest to save the world
  • At least one guy and one girl in the band of heroes (if not 2 or three pairs) end up being romantically involved
  • There is inevitably some super gadget machine that will save the entire planet from destruction
  • The warning signals of impending doom are always ignored until the very last second, when everyone pulls together to come up with a genius plan that always works
  • At least one part of the plan has to go completely wrong, leaving no possible hope for the earth once more... but then the heroes complete their task anyway, often by leaving one of their members behind to die a hero

multiple tornadoes ravage Los Angeleslooking down on our emerging libery heroes from the statue with the same name (yes, "The Hero of Liberty")

Well, there's my attempt to form a list of elements common to most of these natural disaster movies. I'm sure the list could have been twice as long. Though "The Day After Tomorrow" was more-or-less just another one of these same plot movies, I enjoyed it. Being the visual guy I am, I generally enjoy a movie with cool special effects. I always wish I could have gone to school to learn more of the whole 3D animation industry. I know a tad bit just from my own experiments. To see how far they have come and to watch the stunning results in movies(or in video games), I feel hopeless to jump into learning such things, so I move on with my life.

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Tuesday, July 19th, 2005 - 6:44 PM

"Movie Review: House of Flying Daggers"

Mei, as played by Ziyi Zhang

Well, I was utterly surprised by this movie. I was expecting to sit down and watch a considerably enjoyable film, but was astonished to find myself mostly turned off by House of Flying Daggers. Sure, the film had its share of beautiful choreography, imagination and special effects. Nevertheless, the plot was too entwined with the romance side of things for my taste. I don't mean to say I don't like romance movies. I am not so macho that I can't admit to enjoying a good love story. But this movie had too many questionable scenes in it for me to ignore.

Leo, as played by Andy Lau

There was more than one time when the main female character was nearly forcibly raped. The men in the film showed little respect or discretion in their "love" for women. Though the movie did not condone such actions, and there was usually some sort of retribution or punishment, I didn't appreciate having to shield my eyes or fast-forward over sizeable segments.

To the absolute detriment to the genre, modern chinese filmmakers are finally realizing the power of sex in movies. There are only a couple very recent movies that I have seen where sexuality is overly exploited in martial arts films. Mei, as played by Ziyi ZhangPrior to this, for the most part, the warriors and masters (the characters in the movies) remained true to their disciplines, and modesty and respect were highly sought after. Most of the sexual inferences were rather harmless. I can see the industry changing, however, and I probably won't be able to bear the martial arts films of the future. Too bad... to destroy such a "pure" art form by introducing the same dirty material that all other movie genres take advantage of. To most Americans (especially the men), this move is probably a positive thing, but I see it as a waste. The point of martial arts movies for me is the art, the stories, the photography and amazing skill displayed. The whole adult material thing doesn't keep me interested. I'll just watch and re-watch my old Jet Li and Jackie Chan DVDs until they melt!

For the martial arts material and special effects, the movie was otherwise relatively enjoyable. I admit that I really like watching such films where the perfected skill of a martial arts master is seemingly supernatural. I generally like the main actress, Ziyi Zhang. She did a great job in both Hero (2004 with Jet Li - yay!) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The photography was probably the movie's greatest strength. But I probably would not watch this movie again for the prior stated reasons. Bummer.

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Tuesday, July 19th, 2005 - 12:33 PM

"Floating CSS Element Fixation"

Floating Image Example

A couple days ago I found a trick to overcome an annoying CSS behavior that had been irking me. With CSS it is possible to float an object inside a container. I generally don't like floating objects because it is hard to concretely control how the object is placed. An object can be assigned an attribute of float:right or float:left. A float:left attribute will cause an object to snap to the top left of the container element in which it is placed. If you float an image inside a block of text, the text will automatically wrap around the image. This paragraph contains an example of a right floating image.

If multiple elements are assigned a float attribute, and they are within the same container, they will generally float to the right or left of each other until they reach the width limit of the container they are in. When the combined width of the floating elements overflows the width of their container, the right-most or left-most elements will start wrapping below the others. The concept is exactly the same as how left or right justified text wraps inside a box. These bunch-o images are an example of this wrapping behavior. Shrink (resize) your browser window horizontally until the small images below start wrapping underneath each other (unless you have supreme-o resolution, they will already be wrapping).

There is a whole lot more to floating and wrapping than I have described here. I just defined the most basic concepts so I can go on to talk about the specific problem I was having.

There is an apparent oversight in how floating elements interact with the bottom of a container as they approach it. I think most people would expect and desire the floating images to actually be contained within the container they specify. That would be nice but it's not the way things work, at least not in all browsers. Generally, if you have some floating elements near the bottom of a container, like in a table cell or div, some of the floating elements will go outside the lines (boundaries of the container).

A good example of this can be seen in this blog situation. The blog entry you are reading here is currently composed of text and floating images contained in a table cell. Generally, I put any floating images inside a paragraph of text, so the images will appear floating to the left or right of that paragraph. Unfortunately, however, floating elements do not expand their containers. It's more like the floats don't really exist; they just create holes that other elements wrap around. So if you put a floating image too close to the bottom of a blog entry here, it will actually overlap the title bar of the blog entry beneath. Now this can be avoided if the images are put high enough in the text that the bottom of the image does not sink below the bottom of the text (or make your images really, really small) - but what a pain that is! What if someone has their screen resolution set to 1600x1200, and all your nice paragraphs become really long one-liners? Well, then your image will most likely sink below the text and overlap something underneath.

I don't really understand why floating behavior was designed or implemented in this way. In most situations I encounter, I would love if the floating image just stretched its container so the container actually contained the image. Seems like common sense to me.

Hooray for non-invasive floating images

Well, anyway, I did find a pretty simple fix on the internet. You just have to put an empty element inside, on the bottom of your container (in this case, at the bottom of my table cell, after all the floating images) with a clear:both; CSS attribute set. The clear attribute makes sure that no other floating elements will occupy the same line as the cleared element. It's basically like making the empty element a paragraph or block that fills 100% of the width of the container, allowing no neighbors to the right or left. This, therefore, forces a space below the floating images, which is occupied by the empty element. It's not ideal or intuitive (and shouldn't be necessary in my opinion), but it works. Bingo (Shazam) - now I don't have to put all the images near the top of my blog entries!

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Monday, July 18th, 2005 - 8:18 PM

"Flawed W3C Box Model"

Doesn't it irritate all you web designers that the whole HTML/CSS approach to web design is still full of little holes? It seems like CSS2 has very little consistent browser support, while 3 is practically ready to be released. Well, maybe you all have fun trying to cover up for the mistakes in the W3C model, or its imperfect implementation. I sometimes have fun trying to imagine a way to fix something by using an off-the-wall trick, but most of the time I wish it would just work!

The funny thing is that most CSS elements and attributes were designed for a specific purpose by an item called a recommendation by a committee of standard creating nerds. But in the real world, these "perfect" concepts don't always play out as they are supposed to. Or maybe they are being displayed as the W3C intended, but the results are not at all useful or sensible, and often downright blast annoying!

Current W3C Box Model

My biggest frustration or challenge is with the whole CSS box model and container concepts. Personally, I think the box model as it is currently defined is lacking and perhaps flawed. A complete "box" is defined as the sum of content, padding, border and margin. Therefore, if you define a container as being 500 pixels wide, but have 20 pixels of padding and a 3 pixel border on all sides, the complete box will be 546 pixels wide. So it will thus occupy a space of 546 pixels. This is so hard to account for, and it creates erroneous situations more often than not.

The ultimate example of the flawed box model is when you want to do proportional sizes. Let's say you want a container to fill the width of the browser window, so you define its width as 100%. Sure, that makes sense. Ah, but then let's say you want more than an ordinary box. You want the text inside it not to butt up against the sides, so you add some padding. In addition, you don't want your box to lie flat against the browser border, so you add some margin to both sides. Well, pajama berries you now have because padding, border and margin all add to the already set value of 100%. So now you have to scroll horizontally just to see your commonplace padding and margins in effect.

The solution, of course, is to reinvent the box model so that padding, border and margin negate from, rather than adding to the total size of the element. Man, why aren't I on the W3C committee. Oh well, I guess it is much more convenient to be forced to use Javascript to actively check for the variable element width and adjust its values accordingly so it always add up to exactly 100% of the window. Much more simple and intuitive, wouldn't you say? Sorry, can't help myself. Obviously there is no perfect box model, perhaps it should be allowed to change the additive property of the box model manually to suit certain needs.

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Monday, July 18th, 2005 - 12:01 AM

"Movie Review: Million Dollar Baby"

Frankie Duff (Clint Eastwood)

A Million Dollar Baby is a passionate and gritty account of a woman's strong desire to succeed at her dream. Maggie Fitzgerald's dream was to become the best fighter she could be, and nothing would break her determination, not even harsh and discouraging words from both strangers and those closest to her.

The movie presents many real emotions and bleak life situations, making the story believable and gripping. Amid Frankie Duff's gruff outer shell of guarded emotion, for example, lies so much love and concern for other human beings, including his first female protege, Maggie. In a way, this compassion loses him money and status, for he is not willing to put his prize boxers in risky situations, an unavoidable consequence such a profession demands.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank)

After much persistence, Frankie agrees to train Maggie, and her dream of becoming a fine boxer finally comes to fruition. Under Frankie's close care and through Maggie's constant obsessive practice and devotion, she quickly rises to the top of her field. Eventually Frankie is faced with the dilemma of facing his now precious student off with the champion, a woman known for breaking the rules with cruel and potentially lethal strikes. One must wonder if this "champion" ever would have reached the top if she fought fair.

Frankie finally decides that he cannot squash the dream of this woman he cares for like a daughter, and lets her challenge the boxing champion. When it appears Maggie is close to overcoming her savage foe, the monster turns on her after the bell rang, and the worst possible outcome becomes reality. As the result of this heinous act, Maggie is... well, I'll let you watch the movie to hear the rest! I hate to spoil the ending.

Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris (Morgan Freeman)

The last scenes of the movie deal sharply with deep and desperate human emotion. Though neither the ending nor outcome is ideal or glorious, there is beauty in the arrangement. Through the pain and the newly discovered brokenness and dispelled fatherly love for Maggie, Frankie comes to terms with his own reality. It is not for certain what his end will be; the audience is left to decide.

All three of the primary actors, Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman, did an amazing job of portraying their characters and various dilemmas. The movie went on to win 4 Academy Awards, a much deserved honor in my opinion. A great movie.

Visit the Official Million Dollar Baby Site

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Friday, July 15th, 2005 - 9:44 PM

"Supreme Wandering Fist"

Supreme Wandering Fist Wu Li Jones

Does anyone besides me just get bored, lazy and not want to pursue anything? That's how I feel today. I'm just going to write a big sentence. One day the man that always found his way through the dark waters of mirk, who once tested himself within the great white temple, confounded himself in simple confusion and disarray while loosing his bearing and will to continue on in the journey set before him while never having attained anything of sheer greatness, yet his tutor was one even greater, who followed in a long line of heroic icons from the twelfth dynasty of Kyroneaus the Great, who was an eagle talon in rank, one who had never seen defeat or cried a tear, yet in his own way defeated himself, convinced that there was nothing in the world stronger than the way he had been taught and practiced all his life, yet even his seventh student once admitted that he had never seen battle, for his way was to avoid it by capitalizing the generic ideas of the craft in which he was master of, an ancient way developed over centuries of thought and balanced social planning where the highest good could be achieved only through concentrated effort and cooperation between two or more rivals who knew similar conceptual techniques and disciplines of incomparable destitution, also known as success.

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Wednesday, July 13th, 2005 - 3:23 PM

"Gold Beach Trip II"

Paul Bunyan lives at the Trees of Mystery

This trip to Gold Beach was the grande finale of my vacation for the year, and I took Monday and Tuesday off for the occasion. Monday morning, my aunt, Mom and I decided to head towards California, stopping at many of the scenic viewpoints and parks along the way. The original idea was to drive down into California, mainly so we could say we had been there. We would then drive back up to the Oregon Caves, and make that our final activity for the day.

We decided against visiting the caves and instead drove down to the Trees of Mystery. As far as I can remember, I had never been to see this fascinating attraction. Besides a huge gift shop, the park features a long walk on a nice path through a forest full of botanical phenomena. It was a fairly incredible array of large trees in weird positions. I was most impressed with the "brotherhood tree", a huge 297 foot tall redwood. Looking up at the enormous tree was amazing.

Perhaps the main attraction of the Trees of Mystery is a long and tall cable tram ride. The tram cars start near the brotherhood tree, and you are carted up a very steep climb to an observation deck. This ride alone made the entrance worthwhile in my opinion, and there is no limit to how many rides you can take while inside the park. We just went up once and back down.

Somewhere on the Oregon coast between some place and elsewhere

After getting "home" from the roadtrip, I went out to dinner. Let me tell you, it is not easy to find a restaurant open after 9:00 in a small town like Gold Beach. I did find probably the only restaurant open past 10:00, to its credit. It was a charming Mexican restaurant on the north side of the highway, adjacent to a bar. The restaurant services the bar, and all the other customers were in there, so I had the restaurant to myself. It was nice: the prices were very reasonable, and the food was good and more than enough.

Tuesday we set out on our return trip to Portland. I already mentioned our decision to postpone our drive down highway 101, which parallels the coast. Well, Tuesday was our makeup day. Normally when going to and from Gold Beach, we go through Reedsport, Elkton and Drain. Instead we made a quick stop at Bandon for a picnic and ice cream (Bandon Cheese Factory - yum!) and headed north along the coast. Good grief! There are so many points of interest along the highway, you could spend a whole week discovering them all. Each little town and stretch of beach has its own flavor, beauty or unique shops. That would be a fun vacation... some day.

We started out slow and made so many quick stops that we had to part with the coast in Lincoln City, instead of going north all the way to Seaside. Even so, it was a fun day, and we arrived home quite late. We made a quick stop at the Chinook Winds Casino before leaving Lincoln City. We were under the impression that casino meals were cheap. After walking around to the various restaurants inside, we concluded otherwise and left. I had never stepped inside a casino before that, and I was quite impressed with the number of machines available for gambling. There must have been hundreds, maybe more than a thousand machines! Wow. I can't imagine what Los Vegas is like. It's too bad they weren't all video games instead... it would be the ultimate arcade - and something worth stopping for. Well, not really, unless it was a nickel arcade. Boo-hooey on those fifty cent arcades - they are just like casinos... gambling your life(s) away.

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Tuesday, July 12th, 2005 - 11:00 AM

"Gold Beach Trip I"

Phew! Just got back from our Gold Beach trip some minutes ago. Now that was a long trip! Lot's of driving, though my mom did most of it. Even though it means work the next day and the normal return to routine, it is always nice to get home from a long trip.

Mom and I left Saturday morning on our way to Cannon Beach. Our plan was to travel down the Oregon coast on highway 101, stopping at all the interesting spots on the way to Gold Beach, our final destination for the day. We stopped in Cannon Beach, visited some shops and quickly walked down to the beach to view Haystack Rock from a distance.

Rogue River from Lobster Creek Bridge

We made our way back to Beaverton to retrieve the medicine and almost immediately turned around and headed south. We arrived in Gold Beach late Saturday evening. Grandma was still up to greet us, as is her custom.

Sunday morning we all went to church. A guest speaker talked about the importance of having a heart for the lost. This definitely coincides with what we are talking about at my home church, Evangel. It is so true that we get so caught up in our lives that we generally live for ourselves. The simple yet absolutely important thought that others' lives are at stake hardly enters our minds. Now, obviously each person has a different heart, and many are better at caring for those around them, especially the lost. I think that in general, nevertheless, we are all guilty of getting wrapped up in our own lives a bit more than we should. Perhaps I am speaking just for myself, but I believe it is an epidemic in the American Christian's life. I feel like I am in a spiritual lull lately, so I hope such messages as the one I hear don't fall on a heart of stone. Ideally, I will either wake up, or remember such thoughts until it is time for me to wake up. Developing a heart for showing Jesus' love to those who don't know Him is so essential!

After church and lunch we decided to drive up the Rogue River to see what we would find. We stopped along the way to take some pictures. We found a place where we could access the river and walked down to the water. My mom and I skipped rocks while my wife and her parents walked along, soaking in the sights. There are many deer in this area, and we encountered a small group that were almost without concern as we approached to within 10 feet of them. It is very common to find these beautiful tamed creatures walking through town or up to your lawn or driveway.

Time to go to bed. To be continued...

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Friday, July 8th, 2005 - 8:38 PM

"Snow White and the Seven Kung Fu Monks"

Rumors of a remake of Disney's Snow White surfaced over a year ago. The word is that Disney's president, Robert Iger, has a fixation with China and wishes to expand movie sales there by partnering with domestic Chinese filmmakers. The new movie will be a live action rendition of the familiar animated film, set in China around 1880.

The film's action director, Yuen Woo-ping, is an amazing artist by any measure of the word. The simple fact that the movie bears his name intrigues me. I am certainly interested to see how this story unfolds. I hope it is more than a rumor, and that we see something come of it. I don't really care about criticizing the idea to death like some might. I am so enthralled with martial arts movies, I would watch them all, even the horrible old ones. Even if their plots are similar and overlapping, each movie has elements that make it unique. When watching martial arts films, I absorb every motion and consider them a thing of beauty. I am not myself a martial artist, but a great admirer of those who have attained such high skill and fluid motion. If I thought I was able, I would pursue martial arts skill to the highest degree possible.

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Friday, July 8th, 2005 - 12:25 AM

"Movie Review: Hotel Rwanda"

Hotel Rwanda

I had heard nothing but good comments about Hotel Rwanda, so I decided to watch it this evening upon seeing it at the movie store. I'm very much glad I chose this movie, for it seemed to tell a very important story, one that perhaps more people should be aware of. Hotel Rwanda tells the story of the genocide that took place in the country of Rwanda in the 1990s and of one man's efforts to do all he could to save the lives who came to him for shelter.

It is horrible to hear the reasons for the genocide and the hate that backed it. There were two groups involved: the Hutus and the Tutsis. Almost one million lives were lost in this time when the Hutus attempted to wipe out the Tutsis, and virtually no one stood in their way. To the shame of rich and powerful countries around the world, such loss of life was practically winked upon. Nothing was done to stop it. Apparently there are not enough natural resources or political interests in this poor country to warrant intervention.

The story behind the massacres in Rwanda is perhaps one of the most horrible single events in modern times, yet it was hardly noticed by the highest levels of global society. It is a sad, cold, cruel world we live in. Yet a light of hope springs forth from this story of a man who stood against all odds, and clearly had God's divine strength backing him whether he asked for it or not. It makes you wonder, though, how many tragedies are happening under our noses, ones that aren't reported or stopped because the countries involved don't serve a political service or provide beneficial products to our country.

Visit Official Hotel Rwanda Site

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Thursday, July 7th, 2005 - 8:12 PM

"Movie Review: Hitch"

Hitch

I would generally consider myself a Will Smith fan. I don't go out of my way to watch every single one of his movies, but I like his work, nonetheless. His way of expressing himself comes out so real and rarely appears to be scripted at all. It doesn't seem like he is acting at all, but rather being himself. There is a spontaneous and raw quality to his speech and mannerisms that gives him great appeal.

Hitch was a decent movie in my estimation. I am rarely flabbergasted or overly impressed with a movie, so don't expect me to give sterling reviews for anything. Besides Will Smith's fine acting skills, Hitch had an interesting story, and the supporting actors and actresses did pretty well. The basic idea of the story is that Will Smith (Hitch) is a private matchmaker. He uses his skills to aide otherwise hopeless men to get the women of their dreams. Hitch ends up falling for a lady himself while helping a common clumsy man win the heart of a beautiful heiress.

The main thing I did not like about this film was the ending. The story was going fine, and then it had one of those conclusions that is just overdone and too "all-American". All the guys get the girls (except the creeps) at the last minute. They even had to throw in one last "hitch" where Hitch's girlfriend's friend finds a guy. Oh boy. Corny. The movie had a theme that dealt with relationships between men and women, and there were several times when questionable sexual content was included, so I wouldn't recommend the movie for children of course. Hitch was for the most part a very enjoyable movie.

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Thursday, July 7th, 2005 - 7:08 PM

"Movie Review: Baptists at Our Barbecue"

Baptists at Our Barbecue

I recently watched Baptists at Our Barbecue, a mormon film by Christian Vuissa. I don't have a whole lot to say about the film. I can't say it was one of my favorite movies ever, for sure. It started out somewhat okay, but it quickly became a very cheesy, stereotypical movie.

The movie tells the journey of a mormon police officer who has reached the age where he feels he should no longer be single. His eccentric mother is constantly trying to play matchmaker, and it drives him crazy. He decides to take the first transfer out of town to escape his annoying life and ends up in a poe-dunk town called Longfellow. This town is full of stereotypical small town folk. Gossip and zany behavior abound. Longfellow is evenly divided between two religions: the baptists and the mormons. Each tries to claim more members and status to outdo each other. There is some animosity between the two churches, and the often blame each other for mishaps in the town.

The main character, Tartan Jones, feels quite out of place and considers himself the only sensible one in town and just hopes to find someone who sees things his way. The story unfolds when an attractive blonde lady, Charity, escapes to Longfellow in plain sight of Tartan. Call it "love at first" sight, for he is enthralled at first glance. And coincidentally, this is where the cheese-ball movie falls apart.

Simply put, while Tartan is falling in love with Charity he miraculously helps the town break down its religious barriers between the two churches. The mormons get the idea of inviting the whole town, including the standoffish baptists, to a community barbecue. A few baptists show up, and the animosity breaks down from then on (through a series of weird, superstitious events). Tartan and Charity end up getting married, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Basically, the movie is a mild ruse, an attempt to portray mainstream Christians as hateful and divided. The Baptist minister for example is shown preaching messages of disdain, outside for every passing Mormon to hear. As a Christian myself who attends a conservative baptist church, I don't really agree with the stereotype. Nonetheless, I'm sure there are baptist and other Christian pastors out there who preach hate and look down on others as less than themselves.

Though I attend a baptist church, I don't call or consider myself "a baptist". In fact, I have attended churches of several denominations and found myself surrounded by brothers and sisters. Most denominations exist because of slight variations in doctrinal statements or practices. Of course no one has perfect theology, for we are fallen and base our judgments off our own "knowledge of good and evil", rather than adopting God's own perfect view and truth.

My own personal view of the mormon faith is that is quite off track in many of its beliefs. A simple reading of Scripture (the Bible) would show anyone that. Their key document, the Book of Mormon, itself is full of logical and practical holes. Interestingly enough, the Book of Mormon has had many editions through the years, many such editions attempts to cover up some of the errors.

One might make the assumption that in saying such things of mormonism, I am just like the fictitious baptist minister portrayed in the movie. Truth is, I don't have any hate or animosity against mormons as people. I simply take issue with many of their views of God that totally contradict what is written in the Bible. There are surely thousands of books and web sites dedicated to showing some of these strange beliefs and contradictions. I will not even try to practice in-depth apologetics, for it is neither my gift nor talent. I found one you can link to for further reading: http://www.contenderministries.org/mormonism.php. The site has several sections of discussion. Here are some that were of particular interest to me as I skimmed the material:

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Tuesday, July 5th, 2005 - 5:55 PM

"4th of July Barbecue and Fireworks"

Fireworks

The Fort Vancouver fireworks show holds the acclaim, "The best show west of the Mississippi". While I tend to doubt that is true, it is indeed a great display. My friend Big Dave invited us to meet him yesterday at the park to see the fireworks. Keeping this invite in mind, I went to my parents house in Portland for a barbecue and relaxation.

Fireworks

The barbecued chicken was quite delicious, and there were plenty of sides to pack in as well. I was stuffed at the end. It was borderline too hot yesterday, but one can't complain. There is a fine line between perfect weather and excessive heat. My idea of a perfect day is clear skies, very slight breeze and 70 to 75 degrees. Others would prefer a more extreme temperature.

After a debate whether or not it was worth battling traffic and parking, we all decided to head up to Fort Vancouver to see the fireworks. My friend, his sister, niece and friends were already at the park. We used the advanced cell phone technology to meet up amid the streams and globs of people. Big Dave and I peppered a volleyball for a while, as it was still light when we arrived at 8:00 pm. It's interesting to note that I am not really interested in most sports but very much enjoy a specific genre of activities that resembles sports. I really enjoy juggling a soccer ball and peppering with a volleyball. For those who don't know what either is: juggling a soccer ball involves using your body (mostly legs) to hit the ball, keeping it in the air as long as possible. Peppering is similar except it involves 2 or more people who pass a volleyball back and forth using legal volleyball hits such as bumps, sets and spikes. After quickly realizing how horribly out of shape I am, Dave and I joined the others in our wait for the big show.

American flag

Unfortunately the park wherein the majority of spectators position themselves is riddled with trees. It is difficult to find a spot where the fireworks are not partially hidden behind an obstacle. Our place was not the best, and half of the show was obscured. Nonetheless, it was worth the trip in my estimation, and our Brazilian guests enjoyed it. I can't imagine having guests from another country on the 4th of July without showing them this interesting American tradition. We got all the important elements in: barbecue, relaxation and fireworks.

By the way, I'm not really into a bunch of moving, flashing stuff on web pages. But since this is a BLOG, I have to make it fun and friendly. I'm not too worried about perfect design and images in such an instance as this, so don't complain!

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