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Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 - 12:40 PM

"Kick a Tire, For Katrina Hammered"

A very fortunate unfortunate thing happened to me yesterday. Someone at work informed me that my front passenger side tire was almost completely flat, and indeed it was. Obviously this was very unfortunate. After realizing how low it was, however, I realized I was fortunate not to have a blowout or other dangerous mishap while driving. I had lunch with my mom at Baja Fresh. She brought a foot pump, so I was able to get some air in the tire and get to Les Schwab after work.

A flooded city

It ended up that the tire had a piece ripped out of it on the side, so I needed to buy a new one. No problem. I was just thankful to get it fixed cuz this tire had been losing air for a while prior to this more obvious flat. I didn't have anything to do at the tire store, so I just sat and watched TV.

The wrath of Katrina

I had heard a little about hurricane Katrina, but I did not realize that it was so destructive until I saw the images on TV. I was astonished to see the devastation and the continuing crisis of water flooding the city of New Orleans. I heard that the entire city of 1.3 million will be forcibly evacuated due to the fact that 80% of the below sea level city is flooded. Absolutely amazing and horrible. I guess we hear about these types of disasters all the time around the world, but it doesn't really hit home until it hits home. Living in Portland, I have been fortunate to be spared from natural disasters. I suppose we are due for another volcano eruption or enormous earthquake. Oops, jinx... I hope not.

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Wednesday, August 31st, 2005 - 10:17 AM

"Jeet Kun Shoey So"

Jeet Kun Shoey SoJodie Foster in Panic Room

Last night Dave and I broke our Shoey-so record once again. We juggled at my personal favorite place, a cement pad at the park, overrun with gravel and weeds. Our old record of 43 was absolutely shattered. Now it's 51 ;) After jugglisk, Dave came over, and we watched a movie and ate tacos. We watched Panic Room with Jodie Foster. It was a fairly interesting movie, but the language was pretty severe and the action quite brutal.

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Monday, August 29th, 2005 - 12:57 PM

"The True Story of Bilbo Baggins"

Wow! Last night I discovered something really swell. Everyone knows about the new 3-part movie series, The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps not everyone knows that the movies were not original material but based on previous works. I just watched a cartoon version of The Hobbit, the story that builds a background to the three legendary movies.

The Hobbit - the Real Story

I am amazed at the authenticity of the cartoon version. My theory is that it is the ultimate standard. I believe that it is was actually filmed live using highly sophisticated cameras from the future. A modern scientist and photographer from the 23rd century built a time machine and traveled back to the time when J.R. Tolkien was alive and in his creative prime. The two of them traveled to the year 1975 where they found a world of bright colors and dark lines, much like a cartoon. Little did they know that the time machine had also transported them to another dimension called "middle-earth". They had discovered the world where the Lord of the Rings characters played out their existence and epic stories. They simply filmed it as it was happening, and the two spies went back to their own times (and dimension).

J.R. Tolkien, with his astounding memory capacity, remembered most of what he saw with his scientist friend. He decided that, since film technology didn't exist in a workable form in his time, he would write numerous books full of maps, character sketches, linguistic studies and other details to retell the story of the cartoon world he co-discovered. This is where the famous books about Middle Earth came from.

Consequently, the scientist/photographer met a beautiful woman in the cartoon world and tried numerous times to return in order to marry her. He settled for a somewhat interesting girl in our dimension whom he met in the early 1970s time period. He settled in and became an independent filmmaker. He released his footage of the cartoon world in 1977, and that is what my friend and I watched yesterday. It is so authentic and cool that I can't believe it. It's like you have stepped into the lives of these creatures that we always assumed were fictitious.

It is unfortunate that the scientist/filmmaker was not also a linguist. The English voiceovers (to make the footage understandable in modern times) were far worse than the martial arts film dubbing I'm used to, and there was an astonishing number of uninformative 3 line songs throughout. I guess I shouldn't be so judgmental because the elves, hobbits and dwarves themselves were singing the songs, and they all sounded like John Denver gone Irish. The American voiceover actors spoke so slowly that nearly all the dialogue from the original footage was lost, and we are left with a pretty simple, childlike story. When it takes ten minutes to speak ten words, it severely limits the content you can stuff in. There was this really cool part where the camera panned in a circle, showing a bunch of rocky cave structures while yet another weird song was played. That was a really useful inclusion. I guess it proves it was filmed live, cuz no one would actually waste the time to draw all that stuff. Even if directed to do so, any animator with half a brain would utterly refuse such a task. The movie must have been one of the cheapest in history to make because it was essentially recorded live. It just needed to be edited. It's utterly disgrace that there are animators listed in the final credits. Surely they must have seared conscience after taking credit for drawing something that was recorded with a high-tech camcorder.

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Sunday, August 28th, 2005 - 11:30 PM

"A Late Summer Afternoon's Scheme"

Last night I called my good friend, Jubba Disk, and arranged to spend the afternoon with him today. So after church I drove to his house and sat on his couch. He was not feeling well due to a nauseous headache, so we talked for a while and I left. I decided to call Big Dave, and we met at my parents' house to jugglisk. We went to the classic old place, an elementary school near my parents' house where I used to juggle. Some of my first personal records were set here.

Fortunately Dave and I were able to break our previously set passing record of 42. Well, interestingly enough, we got 43 passes. I guess we'll be counting in single integers for a while. Though I pulled a muscle, it was a nice, long exercise session. Fudo.

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Friday, August 26th, 2005 - 1:58 AM

"Jugglisk II"

Didn't do a whole lot out the ordinary today. I decided to go to the park to juggle again. The best I did was 1346 consecutive hits. Not bad. I was satisfied because my old requirement was to get 1000 every outing, and I accomplished that. I also worked a little on high catches. This little exercise helps me improve my ability to focus and regain control of the ball. High catches involve interrupting the normal juggling flow with very high kicks, propelling the ball as high and vertically straight as I can. The challenge is to position myself under the ball and try to "catch" it (take the shock of the fall with my foot or knee) and continue juggling. The difficulty of the catch varies with the height of the kick and how much positioning I have to do. Juggling higher is considerably harder, and I typically only catch three or five of these high kicks before losing control. It is especially difficult if I don't kick the ball straight up, and I have to go running to catch it.

Backtrack to Jugglisk I or skip forward to Jugglisk III

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Monday, August 22nd, 2005 - 10:15 PM

"Jugglisk"

I just mentioned that I like soccer. I enjoy watching it, yes. Playing it? No, not really. I am super timid when it comes to sports and not very competitive. I prefer to watch those who actually know what they are doing. On the other hand, I like to juggle a soccer ball. Juggle, in this case means to kick or hit the ball with any body part except the arms and hands. The objective is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. My personal objective is twofold: see how many hits I can get, and exercise. Currently, my personal record for keeping the ball from touching the ground, using primarily my feet, is 3085 hits.

I'm generally out of shape, and I haven't been practicing for quite a while. I was only able to get 585 hits this evening. I used to force myself to get at least 1000 consecutive hits before retiring for the evening, but I'm simply too weak to do that consistently right now. I'm generally trying to get back in decent shape, and so I have chosen this fun hobby my athletic outlet. I'll try to get out to the park each day, as long as I remain motivated and the weather is agreeable.

Yesterday, my friend and I set our record for passing back and forth. The principle is the same: don't let the ball hit the ground. The only difference when juggling with more than one person is that we count the passes (transfers back and forth), rather than each individual hit. This tends to be much more difficult since you have to depend on good passes from the another. Our new record is 42 passes without letting the ball drop.

Skip forward to Jugglisk II

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Monday, August 22nd, 2005 - 6:56 PM

"The Best Movie Ever"

Stephen Chow as Sing

Stephen Chow is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors/directors. I was enthralled with the imagination of Kung Fu Hustle and decided to pursue other Stephen Chow films. I was surprised to find out that he has been involved in an immense number of films, and he is recognized as essentially the greatest comedian in China. Shaolin Soccer was mentioned on the back of the Kung Fu Hustle DVD case, so I figured I could start my Stephen Chow appreciation there. Interestingly enough, I had some difficulty finding the movie, going to three different movie rental stores before finding a copy that wasn't out.

Hilarious Bruce Lee lookalike plays goalie

I can now see why it was hard to find. No one has more than two or three copies, and it is an extremely amazing movie. Bad combination. It seems like half the time Hollywood and Blockbuster get six zillion copies of random movies and just a couple copies of the ones I actually want to see (namely martial arts movies). I was totally impressed at the number of Kung Fu Hustle copies they had, furthermore. I don't remember ever seeing a kung fu movie fill up an entire shelf with copies. It's cool to see Chinese kung fu movies get their due acknowledgment.

Team huddle

Shaolin Soccer is a combination of three of my favorite subjects, making it virtually the perfect movie. Stephen Chow somehow manages to combine extremely imaginative martial arts with soccer and nonsensical comedy to form an unstoppable trio. I am actually surprised not to see more of this style of movie out there, especially with the growing popularity of Manga, an exaggerated Japanese comic drawing style. Perhaps the only American equivalent would be The Matrix with Keanu Reeves. Basically, Chow brings to live action the extreme hyperbole found in Japanese animation, except even Manga is left in the dust with these incredible visuals. Stunning! Jaw dropping! I think I like Shaolin Soccer better than Chow's latest Kung Fu Hustle simply because I enjoy the more innocent and comical subject matter.

Shaolin Soccer is basically a story about a guy who is totally bonkers about kung fu. He believes that everyone should learn it, and he is constantly searching for a way to prove that kung fu can be used in any daily profession or situation. Sing, played by Stephen Chow, and his Shaolin "brothers" go through a series of failures before nearly losing hope after finding no one to appreciate their skills. A former soccer star happens upon Sing and later sees his incredible leg strength ("Steel Leg" Technique) and gets the idea to start a soccer team to regain his old glory. Sing likes the idea as another attempt at universalizing kung fu and goes about rounding up his Shaolin friends to complete the team.

Virtually every minute of the film contains a host of visual and CG effects that create a sensational distortion of reality. Chow is genius in his ability to represent extreme martial arts skill in such a believable and funny way. Hats off to all the crew and artists who made it happen as well. I'll have to watch this movie several more times to appreciate it fully. It certainly deserves equal or more hype than Kung Fu Hustle. Soon I'll try to write a little article about Stephen Chow, my new favorite actor/director. In reading up to write this review, I realize how accomplished and interesting he is as a person - worth further investigation.

Oh, and here is my deep and trivial thought: Which character in the movie was the most invincible and impervious to damage? No, it was not Sing or any of his teammates, nor was it Team Evil. No, it was the soccer ball itself. It underwent all sorts of abuse and never once exploded, got burnt, scratched or incinerated. A pretty impressive feat if you watch the movie.

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Sunday, August 21st, 2005 - 2:32 PM

"My God Don't Get Alzheimer's"

Well, since everyone else is doing it (and I am SO into following the crowd [not]), and the sheer genius of it beckons me, I better incorporate the infamous play on words. Except I will add a new lemon twist of sapidity to the mix: I'm going to throw in a little Shakespeare for sophistication. Here goes... This movie: "To be or not to be Forgotten?" And the stands roar in flat blasting stomping and applause! My answer would be "not to be", for I rather enjoyed The Forgotten for the most part.

You have a daughter!

Perhaps I shouldn't be a movie critic (duh), cuz I don't like to criticize the balderdash out of movies. I tend to go off my first impression: Did I like it, or not? I think I generally liked The Forgotten, starring Julianne Moore. I guess I am somewhat partial towards psychological thrillers, so just about all of them strike my fancy (oof, that hurts!). In the most raw and revealing terms possible, The Forgotten is about a race of aliens that are running experiments on humans, trying to see if they can make them forget. After all, if they could thoroughly erase the memory of a human, they could do anything they want (like the little flashes carried by Men in Black agents). In fact, that's the whole crux that makes this story somewhat believable. If aliens were experimenting or visibly interacting with earth, they would have 3 options: 1) come in peace and establish fellowship, 2) conquer and place earth in servitude or destruction, or 3) cover up all contact with absolute certitude. Since we humans are a pesky, cognitive sort, there are no other options. I mean, think about it: An alien steals our friend or family member, and we get pretty upset, so we either 1) declare war, 2) use our limited investigative resources to find justice and a complete answer, or 3) keep our eyes out for similar disappearances. All three of these responses would make it pretty hard for aliens to continue their research. Obviously this whole line of thought is based in a fictitious world, and I don't personally believe any of this happens, but it's fun to imagine, nonetheless.

Our conclusion is then that humans - especially our worried mothers - won't simply forget about a mysterious disappearance. Take for example the recent disappearances in the news, like Natalee Holloway or Brooke Wilberger. We don't soon forget. So the primary and first experiment aliens must attempt is to successfully and selectively erase human memory without severely harming or killing the specimen, and what better test subject than a protective mother or father? Obviously the whole movie pivots on this dilemma, and that gives it logical credibility, and therefore interest for me in the case of a psychological thriller.

In a way, I guess it makes you wonder, "How hard would it be for the aliens to erase me?" How many people have I affected, and how many care about me enough to come looking after me? I think it is a fear of all humans that they will some day be forgotten. I find some comfort in the love of family and friends, knowing that they won't forget me. And ultimately, there is a God who loves each and every one of us exactly as we are.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15, NIV)

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Friday, August 19th, 2005 - 10:54 AM

"Saved By Diversity"

Flight of the Phoenix

It seems to me that The Flight of the Phoenix may have been made in the pattern and wake of all the reality TV show success of recent years. There are elements of "Survivor" and "Lost" all over the place. How would I know? I've never watched a full episode of either, but word gets around through the crazy fanatics everywhere. "Did you see what happened on Survivor yesterday?" It feels like I've watched them all. Don't get me started talking about reality shows; that is an entirely different blog entry! Or perhaps this movie is in response to the deserved success of Tom Hank's Cast Away from back in 2000.

Doing a quick Google search will reveal that this movie is a remake of a 1965 film with the same name and plot, starring Jimmy Stewart. Most people will tell you that the original version though antiquated was better conceived, with deeper characters. I don't really care either way, and I am not overly critical of such minor details. I thought Dennis Quaid did a decent job with this recent movie, and most of the characters "worked for me".

I cannot help but notice how the cast was selected. It seems a very diverse set of individuals with different backgrounds and nationalities. You have an American pilot, a Mexican cook, an Arabian, African American, British businessman, Scottish, not to mention the Chinese "nomads". While I am sometimes turned off by intentional racial inclusions just for the sake of being politically correct (like making Harvey Dent African American in Tim Burton's Batman, even though the character is traditionally white - and thereafter, he magically changes his skin color as Two-Face in a later movie!), I appreciate the diversity of this film. Diversity is beautiful in its natural occurrence (God made us that way) and doesn't always need to be forced or enhanced. The diversity of the characters in this film absolutely work for it. I can't imagine how boring a movie it would have been with a bunch of white, gun-slinging Americans. Each of the characters' unique perspectives makes up for the perhaps lacking depth of the film. Nevertheless, there simply isn't enough emotion in the film, and there is little concern built up, and it's no big deal to us as the audience if a character or two die off. And I personally couldn't really care less if the plane ever lifts off because nothing grabs my attention to make me distressed about their lack of well-being. Some examples of personality and introspection that could have been developed further: The Scottish guy remembering his wife and child, and the Mexican man (perhaps my favorite character) complaining that he is expected to be a mechanic when he is just a cook - yet he presses on just the same.

Though I have little specifics to criticize in Flight of the Phoenix, nothing really stands out as memorable. It is certainly not a movie that I will remember for years to come, and I will probably forget I ever watched it quite soon. Perhaps more time and money should have been spent making it of epic proportion, with depth of character and exciting plot design. It just seems too predictable and full of action movie stereotypes and mainstays. Even so, in such repetition there is enjoyment - especially today when we have the technology to create whole worlds and convincing, detailed models on the computer.

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Thursday, August 18th, 2005 - 12:24 AM

"In Memory of Jacques Cousteau"

Believe it or not, The Life Aquatic is a movie dedicated to Jacques Cousteau, famous oceanographer. What a strange mode of movie to devote to such a seemingly serious and focused life as Cousteau's. Interestingly enough, though most of Cousteau's work dates to before I came into this world, I am very aware of his contribution to the expos? of the ocean depths and undersea life. In fact, you could say I was raised on PBS (public television), where he regularly appeared. To this day I still enjoy sitting down and soaking in a good nature, history, home improvement, or painting TV program. As a child I was fascinated by cultures, geography and animals. Naturally, my parents' subscription to National Geographic and their (my dad's) accumulative behavior was very conducive to these interests. I thrived on the beautiful color photographs found in these magazines and on the TV specials. When most kids would be bored out of their minds, my imagination soared with such astounding inspiration as found in God's beautiful creation and a talented photographer's ability to capture it.

Bill Murray as Steve Zissou

It is always fun to see a healthy list of familiar faces thrown together in a movie, and The Life Aquatic is no disappointment in this department. Along the lines of other movies by the same director (Wes Anderson), numerous cast spots are filled with actors and actresses of recognizable name and face. Bill Murray plays the lead role and easily the most compelling character, Steve Zissou, gun slinging oceanographer extraordinaire. It's always at least a small thrill to see how a group of top-notch actors interact in the same world. Most movies have a primary face to remember, with several "up and coming" or second rate supporting stars to fill space (and save money). It's like martial arts movies: There is always a primary hero who is someone like Jackie Chan or Jet Li. The rest of the actors are comparatively dull (unless you watch enough movies and get familiar with even the secondary artists). I'm waiting for a movie that stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. You will see just about every other combination of famous Chinese martial artists on screen besides these two. What's the deal? Are they enemies? Surely they must realize they could rake in the dough if they joined and made a movie together, and it would be a dream come true for all of us fans!

The Life Aquatic starts out as perhaps the dullest and slowest movie I have ever seen in my entire life. In fact, I tried to watch it late last night and simply couldn't finish it because it seemed to be going nowhere. I gave it a second chance this evening, and it turned out to be slightly better than I thought.

The Zissou crew, about to view the "Jaguar Shark"

The movie presents a very strange scenario from the beginning. Steve Zissou is half scientist/biologist and half film-maker. You can see him doctoring up his "documentaries" and making them more into an adventure series. At first you aren't sure if his mentor and partner is killed by a shark near the beginning of the film, or if his death was staged as part of the film. It soon becomes apparent that this event did indeed happen, and in the end the killer "Jaguar Shark" is finally found by the team. Of course it ends up being as big as a blue whale and has glowing orbs all over its body. The revelation of this absurd beast is the perfect ending to this quirky movie.

Fake fish backgrounds!

I'm having a hard time trying to think of a category for this movie. It's not really a comedy in my estimation because it has very few genuinely hilarious moments. It is perhaps best described as artsy, full of subtle and sophisticated humor that gets lost in clouds of confusion and monotony. I don't think I'm too shallow to catch the humorous suggestions; I just thought they were too weak. Perhaps the funniest attribute of the movie for me was the fact that all the sea creatures represented in the film were clearly fake (computer-generated). Even the animals that could have been filmed were fake. This phenomemon added a bit of oddity and interest to the plot. Here you are, following conversations between straight-faced characters when all-of-a-sudden a boy hands Steve Zissou a rainbow-colored seahorse. It's amusing because Bill Murray never shows the least bit of surprise at these fabricated creatures. He immediately knows their names and seems to have seen them a million times over. Perhaps this is a reference to Jacques Cousteau's behavior; my memories don't serve me that well.

I am between either accepting The Life Aquatic as an artistic and profoundly groundbreaking movie or declaring it a complete waste of time. I think there were enough entertaining elements, mostly unbelievable, to keep my interest through to the end. The primary fault is perhaps the weak, lackluster humor and extremely slow excitement buildup. I tend to enjoy hyperbole (extreme exaggeration), especially when it is accepted and not reacted to as something out of the ordinary. A good example of this scenario in the film is when the Zissou crew takes off after a group of pirates who have kidnapped two of the Zissou team. In the heat of the moment, Bill Murray's character breaks face and suddenly becomes Rambo: invincible and with infinite bullets. He kills off virtually the entire group of bandits single-handedly, without himself sustaining a single wound. No one seems to be surprised that this mostly mild-mannered, elderly man is able to pull it off.

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Tuesday, August 16th, 2005 - 10:26 PM

"Misplaced Security: God vs. Guns"

Triple X, State of the Union

If all you're looking for is a bunch of special effects, muscle cars and mindless hollywood stunts and explosions, then this is absolutely your movie. I don't have much to say about this one because it isn't my type. I'm not a typical macho guy, into cars and all that. I don't particularly like hollywood stunts because they are totally unrealistic and overplayed.

Pretty much all the acting was extremely ridiculous and exaggerated, and the characters weren't worth worrying about. All the main characters could have died, and not a tear would have been shed. Well, I'm bored just writing about this movie, so I guess I'll put y'all out of your miseries. Maybe I would have liked the first movie better. I think Vin Diesel would fill the role slightly better than Ice Cube. I've seen Ice Cube in decent roles where his acting wasn't actually half bad. This just wasn't one of them.

I guess the only "redeemable" feature of the movie for me, if you want to call it that, is to show that no one is completely safe. Even the United States and its president cannot escape "fate". It reminds me of the feelings I experienced around the days of September 11th. Interestingly enough, just some days or weeks before that happened I had been thinking about American pride. I am certainly not anti-American in any way, but I had been noticing how prideful America was, and the pride was totally misplaced. It seems that prior to this event, the average American believed no one could threaten them. Even now, I don't really see much real fear in the hearts of the average American.

This lack of fear is fine, and no one should live in fear of things they cannot see. Such emotions would lead to paranoia and obsessive behavior. On the other hand, American confidence is placed in a faulty stronghold. Ask any American why they feel safe, and their answers might differ slightly, but most will likely answer, "Because we have superior technology and firepower. We have enough nukes to blow up the world several times over."

As misplaced as this hope is, it's unfortunate to realize that there once was reason to expect security in this country, but the reason is quickly fading.

"Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you."

"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth."

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD."

I believe that once upon a time this nation had very good reason to have confidence. This sense of security did not need stem from the size of our armies or the organization of government, but rather from the strength of our God, who is bigger than all. God was once declared the King of this nation, and we were His loyal subjects. These days are becoming ancient history, and soon to be the majority of our people are dead against God and reject Him to His face.

Under such consequences, I'm sad to say I believe this country is in for many a rude awakening. When we place our hope in a "horse", missiles, tanks and armies - even freedom and democracy - our great country will fall. Study history and you will see many stories of a small band of people or an army from nowhere who suddenly topples a great society. Empires that were far greater than the United States, ones that survived and thrived for a thousand years, were changed virtually overnight. There is no way to escape the mighty hand of God, or His righteous ways. If we reject God we are on our own, and certainly nothing in our arsenal will be able to save us.

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Tuesday, August 16th, 2005 - 6:00 PM

"Tell Me What You Think"

Guess what, folk? You now have one way to interact with Esotropiart! Hurray! Whoopie Yahoo!...oops, that's a trademarked word now. Blog commenting is now fully functional. Yes that's right, now you have a chance to tell me exactly what you think about my thoughts, opinions and techniques. If you have been reading my blog, just waiting for the opportunity to add to the subject matter, now is your chance.

You will find two buttons directly under the title of each EsoBlog entry, "Read Comments" and "Post Comment". If there are any comments currently approved for a EsoBlog entry, the number following "Read Comments" will be something other than zero. Help me out here, folk; I'm seeing a lot of zeros! To post a comment, click on either button; both will give you the same form where you can type your comments.

Here are some basic guidelines for posting a comment, for those inexperienced among us:

  • Your Name: You can choose any name you want to provide in the name field. If you want me to know who you are, you might want to just put your name here. But if you are feeling really adventurous, you might put something like "Pappa Eloquent" or "Drifting Dogweed". The choice is up to you; there are endless variations. Just make sure you enter between 4 and 35 characters, including spaces (and nothing lewd or demeaning please, or I'll change your name to "anonymous").
  • Email Address: You don't have to provide an email address if you don't want. Leave it blank, and the form will still accept your comments. I don't use this address for anything on my site, and you won't start receiving a bunch of junk mail thanks to me. If you want me to be able to reach you to respond to what you have written, furthermore, enter your email address here.
  • Comment Length: Your comments must remain under 2048 characters long, including spaces. I believe this is a fair limit, and most of you are probably not ramblers. If you feel the urge to write more than 2048 characters, feel free to append your post by writing another to finish your train of thought.
  • Content: Regarding your comments' content, please be gentle and kind in your words. All comments are immediately given a "pending approval" status, so you will not see your comments right away. I trust all of you will be sensitive to the mission of Esotropiart, and I probably won't have any problems. I just implemented this safety feature so just anyone doesn't come along and pollute the site with a bunch of lewd, violent comments. I am notified immediately when you post a comment, so normally I will approve your comment within the same day. I apologize if I am away on vacation or something, and your comment sits in limbo.
  • Private Comments: I also provide you with the capability of flagging your message as "for my eyes only" which means your comment will be read by me only and will never appear on the site. The default action is to post your comment to the site, so if you want to send me a private message, you must select the option on the form.
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Wednesday, August 10th, 2005 - 9:32 PM

"Yet Another Layout Scheme"

Yeah, y'alls getting tired of site updates that don't go site-wide, eh? Well, I don't blame you. I'm not doing this for professional reasons at this point, however, so if you are watching this process, consider yourself "lucky". You are probably one of about ten people (max) who get to see these ephemeral stages. Woo hoo! How exciting.

There is a reason I have delayed redesigning the entire site. Without some sort of template system, it is a massive chore to update the many pages of a typical web site. It is crucial for the sake of future productivity and sanity to develop a template or set of shared elements. Otherwise, each time a small change is made to a layout, image or menu, every page must be updated separately.

A new 100% CSS variable column layout

Before this newest revision of the site where I have been implementing the use of PHP, I relied on Dreamweaver's templates to provide updating ease. As many know, however, there is a stark disadvantage to using templates. Each time a template is altered, Dreamweaver must check the entire site and make changes to each file that is linked to the template. Then each file that was changed must be uploaded to the site so the changes can be seen by the end user.

Mostly likely a better technique for easy mass updates is to use SSIs (Server Side Includes). This approach involves analyzing each page layout in order to determine which blocks of code are common between groups of pages. These common code blocks are then copied to a separate file and saved on the server. Each time the code is required in a page, a PHP (or other server-side scripting language) include statement is employed. When the user visits a page where one of these common elements are used, the code contained in the include file automatically replaces the include statement, and the user is none the wiser. The advantage of course of this system is efficient updates. To update all instances of similar code throughout the site, a change need only be made to the include file.

While you few devoted fans have been waiting with much anticipation and ardor, I have been working on two very important tasks. I already mentioned the first, which is to develop an efficient template (or SSI) system. The second relates to CSS. Until just a few days ago, I was using tables to separate the large block elements of my pages (simply because they work, no fail). I decided that, if browsers aren't going to support simple CSS-P functionality, I'd put off using 100% CSS for visual layout. Well, I changed my mind and started experimenting with 2 and 3 column layouts. I came up with my own take on the whole fluid, multiple column scenario and was fairly pleased with the results - enough to put it all into action. Both the home page and this blog page employ this new CSS layout. Mind you, this layout took some serious thought because I didn't want one of the typical cheesy CSS layouts that break apart when the browser is shrunk. I was not satisfied until I created a layout whose blocks and windows remained exactly where I intended. Not that it's all that impressive, but if enough people ask how I was able to achieve this unbreakable fluid layout, I'll work on an explanation for ya's. Otherwise, there are a million and a half other solutions out there for you (I didn't like most of them).

So, theoretically, I am close to being able to redesign the entire site in this new fashion. Well, don't get your hopes up! I don't have infinite time to devote to this site as of yet. Let me know what you like or dislike about this new layout by posting a comment. Keep in mind it is not 100% finished yet.

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Wednesday, August 10th, 2005 - 8:53 PM

"Firefox Burns Internet Exploder"

I have finally come to a very important stage in my web design skills. I'm to that point where every web designer must reach, where a very important realization occurs: Firefox is far superior to Microsoft Internet Explorer when it comes to rendering CSS accurately. I used to think the two browsers were pretty equal in their pros and cons, and I considered IE the better of the two. Now that I am working with fluid CSS layouts and I am learning more advanced CSS techniques, I have come to accept that Firefox is far better.

Quite frankly, the box model interpretation in IE6 is an absolute joke. It is so difficult to get a fluid layout to work strictly using CSS. Everything breaks apart, and objects erroneously shrink and expand when resizing the browser window. I guess IE's motto should be "Think outside the box", and let me tell you, that's NOT a good thing! It's actually quite pathetic and surprising to see the bizarre behavior in this browser that most of the world uses. I would think that Microsoft would make it a higher priority to make their browser interpret code as it is supposed to.

Another fun flaw in IE6 is that, beyond reason, certain CSS configurations can crash the browser. Yes, the browser will just shut down with an error before the page is fully drawn. You will see this in action on this page here. Try to highlight some text with your mouse cursor by clicking an dragging. Presto, you can't even finish reading this sentence! Brilliant! Mind you, this same page renders perfectly in Mozilla Firefox, and the browser doesn't crash. Why would it? It's ridiculous to think that writing a simple CSS web page can crash the world's leading internet browser.

Therefore, effective immediately, I rescind my favor towards Microsoft Internet Explorer. Though I will always test my pages in IE, I will consider Mozilla Firefox the superior browser until further notice. Let's just hope that, starting with IE7, Microsoft will set a new precedent by cleaning up their web browser so it actually displays simple, perfectly written CSS pages. Unfortunately it will still be necessary to write hacks and workarounds until IE6 is ancient history, for it is supremely buggie.

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Monday, August 8th, 2005 - 12:25 AM

"Every Move You Make..."

Final Cut

Have you ever feared that, in your worst moments, someone may be watching you? Better yet, how would it effect your attitude or actions knowing for sure that someone is watching to your every move and listening to your every word? I believe what the book of Romans says when it tells us that "for all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God": we all have those moments we wish could be erased. When asked if we have any regrets or things we would have done differently, if honest, most of us will answer most assuredly, "yes". In a very imaginative way, Final Cut deals with these very real concerns.

This movie is set several decades in the future when bio-technological implants are available which are capable of recording everything that comes into the human brain via the eyes and ears. This device is very small, yet it records an enormous movie: hundreds of thousands of hours of a human life, from birth to death. Anyone who is interested and has the money can have one of these devices implanted into their child's brain in order to later have a full first-person record of their life.

Final Cut

The plot of Final Cut focuses on the story and profession of one particular individual, Alan Hakman, played by the talented Robin Williams. Alan is what is known as a "cutter", a person whose job entails taking the vast length of film collected by the implants after the host dies and to form a movie-length "Rememory" based on the contents. The complexity and conflict of the film revolves around the fact that these cutters' goal is to present each person in these life summaries as perfect; only the ideal memories aren't cut. No one is perfect, and all have those dark secrets they wish no one else to know, so the cutters purposefully leave these details out.

There is a gang who forms in opposition to the Zoe implants, holding the understandable view that no one should be subjected to such an invasion of privacy at birth. I found this "big brother eye" concept to be the most compelling aspect of the movie. Robin William's character, Alan, deals with his own secret memory from his childhood. This memory of his formed the person he became as an adult, and he cannot let it go. Guilt is his captor, and all his actions draw from a feeling of dread that he carries.

In answer to my own question, yes I fear the idea that all my moves are being recorded, or that perhaps someone was watching my darkest moments. Perhaps as a shock to some, there is someone who watches all we do. This movie paints a clear image of a God who knows all of our inner workings. In Psalms, David writes:

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord."

"Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?... The Lord knows the thoughts of man"

Now most of us have heard as children that God knows everything including everything we do, say and think. But in reality, even the most devote follower of Christ stumbles, and it is easy to forget that His eyes are watching us. To some, it is discomforting to think that there is a holy God watching them, and they choose to be afraid or reject Him, pretend no one is watching, or even hide (Genesis 3:8). Shame is a part of our lives since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, for we can no longer live up to the absolute perfection God demands.

Sounds hopeless, eh? Well, here is where the much under-publicized love of God comes in. God does not leave us dead in our sin. Though His perfect righteousness demands punishment through death for all who sin, He is not satisfied in destroying us all.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life"

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit."

So because of God's great love, we are not consumed. In fact, we have the chance to become like God and to live with Him forever, starting today. What a gift! To think that the one who knows everything about us - even our hidden faults - wants to save us from death to be with Him. Even better, He gave his own life in our place to guarantee us this chance. Therefore we can see that, unlike every single other world religion, Christianity is not about being a good person or following an enormous and discouraging list of rules. Christianity is the chance to be free from guilt, free from those horrible memories and even future pain that we will most certainly experience (Psalm 103:12). God does not promise to deliver us from all the pain of this life, even after we trust in Him. He simply promises to be with us and to never give up on us (Hebrews 13:5). Once we give Him our lives, there is nothing that can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38,39).

Knowing all these things to be true, I sometimes still struggle with guilt and accepting God's forgiveness. If anyone else has trouble forgetting their past and needs a listening ear for comfort, I'm here. I am happy to explain in more detail the light of hope God has to offer us and how it has helped me in my life.

"In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

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Thursday, August 4th, 2005 - 12:35 AM

"My Take On Cereology"

On the topic of crop circles: I don't know. I guess anything I write will be total speculation, being that I have not seen anything but images on TV and heard nothing but others' best guesses about these mysterious formations. So I'll add to the hunchery, presenting nothing new or exciting.

crop circle

There are several theories out there about the formation of crop circles, none of them overwhelmingly proven or accepted so far. Some believe the detailed geometric shapes are resultant of plasma vortices. I'll pause a moment here for effect so this wise and brilliant scientific theory can really sink in... "plasma vortices, plasma vortices, plasma vortices..." If I could represent uncontrollable laughter here in this blog, surely now would be the time to let loose! There's no need to explain this theory, for its name is suggestive enough of the foolery. To believe that some sort of naturally occurring energy field can produce geometric shapes connected by bars and arches of various size, none ragged or interrupted by imperfection, is totally ridiculous. Perhaps the simple circles could be explained by some natural phenomenon, but the arrays of complex geometric shapes are far beyond any natural means of production. Nothing more needs to be said. These are probably the same scientists who believe the entire ordered universe snapped, expanded and whirled into existence by the will of zippo the nonexistent man (by no one's will). The sheer art and organization of the universe and crop circles alike scream of a creator or designer. In the case of the universe, God. Crop circles? Who knows.

crop circle

Another commonly held belief is that crop circles are the mark of hovering or landed UFOs. Though I have the general belief that no intelligent life exists outside planet earth (besides the divine or devious), this alien theory holds some water, simply because it involves the thought that intelligent beings created the designs. I see no other option than to bet on intelligence and purpose due to the designs' complexity. There are no other cognitive life forms on this earth besides man, so this intelligence must be either extraterrestrial, divine or none other than human.

The last and most popular explanation for crop circles involves what is termed a hoax. Some very clever jokesters get up late in the night and form the designs using crude tools. While this conclusion satisfies my critical mind, I don't immediately assume it to be true. The reports and widespread discovery of crop circles in various places around the world seems odd for a few late night humorists. It is especially baffling that there are few if any concrete sightings of people doing this in the middle of the night. In other words, no one has been caught. This seems unlikely after the discovery of some 2000 crop circles worldwide over at least several decades. At the same time, there are many crop circles that are indeed fabricated by humans because I found some in my search. Because of the mystery of the forms, many have tried to recreate them with some success. So it is very feasible that they are all of human origin.

In the end crop circles remain an interesting mystery in my mind, and I don't have a firm conclusion about their origin. While lights in the sky don't fascinate me, I would be interested to see any solid news about crop circles so my mind doesn't get full of pointless conjecture. If anyone knows of a credible and reliable source or unveiling of this mystery, feel free to email me.

Oh, and speaking of crop circles, I was out walking around in the wilderness the other day and came across a very bizarre and coincidental sign. It's not a crop circle, but rather a large metallic object. I took a picture so you wouldn't think I was just making it up. Click here to see. If you like it, feel free to use it as a wallpaper or something, just as long as you point people my way when asked where you got it or what it means!

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Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005 - 9:33 PM

"Howard Hughes Goes Down, Down, Down in History"

The Aviator

Now I know how eccentric Howard Hughes was. I looked online out of curiosity to see if this recent movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio actually told an accurate story of this bizarre man. It seems that the movie was fairly faithful to his life and accomplishments. It is actually quite amazing from the standpoint of all that he was able to do in his lifetime. He was involved in business dealings too numerous and various to mention. He also had a significant effect on aeronautical research and development in modern times, and the companies he spawned continue to have an effect even today in their various forms. Besides his personal accomplishments, Howard Hughes suffered from severe hypochondria. The last 20 years of his life were spent in seclusion, and he died in a decrepit state.

I was not wild about The Aviator, but it was an interesting scope into the life of this famous man that I had not seen before. I suppose DiCaprio did a fine job emulating Hughes' mannerisms, at least I imagine so, for he was way before my time. There was some fine acting, but lots of adult subject matter. I guess such was necessary to truly show the life of this man, for he was known for being quite the carouser. I guess I'll stick to liking martial arts movies, furthermore, and I wouldn't award this movie 5 academy awards. I'm sure most would beg to differ, but hey, they can't post here - so there! That's pretty much all I have to say about The Aviator.

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