Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Problem with "What If"

(After a snow storm a couple weeks ago)

The end of the year has me in quite the reflective mood.  I think we all get that way this time of year.  All the things we have done vs. all the things we haven't.  And sometimes that line of thought has us visualizing our life as a whole.  At least that's where I've been.

Paths.  All the paths we could have traveled down.  All the paths that have been avoided either because we were not ready or afraid.

We all have those huge regrets in life.  If you don't, congrats!  That's awesome.  But for the rest of us mere mortals there are those things that hang on us, wrapped around us with whispers of "What If."

What if I knew at an earlier age that I would have loved playing the drums in the marching band?  Silly, right?  But I'm a tap dancer.  I love rhythm.  Hearing rhythms actually calm me when I'm stressed out.  During the four years I was at Monache High School, they marched in both the Macy's Parade and the Rose Parade.  The two biggies!!  I didn't realize back then how rare that was, and during the years I was attending.  Our band had a fantastic drum line.  What if, right?  What if . . .

What if I was more brave towards the opposite sex and not so shy?  Of course the times I were a little more forward led to some embarrassing moments, but still, "what if?"  Would I still be single in Utah Valley?  Being single at 30 in Utah Valley is like being single at 30 during Regency England.  Not easy.  But still, "What if?"  Where would I be?  Who would I be?  Would I have kids?  What if . . .

What if I had the courage to try out for the Young Ambassadors while I was at BYU?  I had the courage to try out for the Classical Voice division of the School of Music, which is one of the hardest programs to get into, and I was blessed enough to make it, but I really wanted to be a Young Ambassador.  I saw them perform while in High School, and that led to endless nights of dreaming and imagining how amazing it would be to perform with them.  But when the time came, when the opportunity arrived, I chickened out.  I didn't even sign up for an addition!  And now I'm left with nothing but a "What if?"

The more I reflect, the more I realize how dangerous the "What if" can be.  There's no changing it.  It sits there mocking and blocking, preventing us from traveling whatever road we now should venture down.  And there's not just one good road, but many, crisscrossing and interlaced.

And what if those "What if's" lead me down the wrong road?  What seemed good could have led me away from something even better.

Who knows?  But it's possible.  There's a couple lines from the David Wilcox song "Hold it Up to the Light" that reads:

"The search for my future has brought me here
This is more than I'd hoped for, but sometimes I fear
That the choice I was made for will someday appear
And I'll be too late for that flight
So hold it up - hold it up to the light"  
 "I said God, will you bless this decision?
I'm scared, Is my life at stake?
But I see if you gave me a vision
Would I never have reason to use my faith?"   

The past can't be taken back, but what we do have is the present.  Sure, I've been wanting to learn Japanese for 12 years, piles, literally piles of books in my possession proving this, and yet I still only know a couple phrases.  I could be fluent.  Could, but what would I be think 12 years from now not knowing anymore then at present?  "What ifs" travel in both directions, and our choices now prevent future wonder, powered by wanting to prevent further regret.

I don't know, maybe my life would be better.  But then maybe I'm just where I'm supposed to be.  Regardless, this is where I am now.  I'm working with my brothers instead of having a solo career.  My brother, who got his degree in Gaming and Animation, his focus being 3D modeling, would have never discovered an amazing talent in arranging electronic music.  And it is a God given talent, because he's not trained, relying purely on instinct.  I have the music degree, and yet he's so much better at it then I.   

Regardless of all the "What Ifs" that flood my mind, one thing is sure, those "What ifs" led me here, and here is where I want to be.   


Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Miserables, Movie Review

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"

 Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars (would be more if it wasn't for the camera work.)

Les Miserables, aka The Miserable, based on the 1980 Paris/1985 West End musical, which was based on the 1865 Victor Hugo novel, takes place in France between 1815-1832, after the French Revolution.  A new King sits on the throne.

With that said, I'm a huge fan of the musical, having first seen it in 1996 with my 8th grade class, and it was an instant love affair, being the first professional play I've ever seen.  It was glorious, and this review will be taken from that perspective: a fan of the musical finally seeing it on the silver screen.


No one can argue how brilliant Anne Hathaway is in the role of Fantine; we've been hearing about it for months.  The crime would have been if she didn't meet expectations after all that hype.  She did meet them, and her performance was full of raw emotion.  Hugh Jackman was also brilliant, and I don't think Russell Crowe deserves the bad rap he's been getting.  Sure, his falsetto could use some work along with a couple rhythmic passages, but during the deeper melodic lines his tone was really quite nice.

The ensemble was fantastic, and I don't think they're getting the credit they deserve.  We've been hearing about Anne, but what about Eddie Redmayne as Marius?  His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was beautiful, and I love his duet with Eponine (Samantha Barks) "A Little Fall of Rain." (I was nervous the song didn't make the movie when I didn't see it as a track listing on the album.)  One of the downfalls of the 1998 Les Mis. movie was the absence of my favorite character Eponine, and to not have her here would have been a travisty.  Samantha didn't disappoint, and I loved her "On My Own." (The best song, bar none.  I'm biased towards it.)  The two children, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as the young Cossette, both turned in very solid performances.

Surprisingly I was most impressed with Aaron Tvelt as Enjolras, who is one of Marius' friends.  His vocals were pure and strong.  He took a part that I usually don't pay attention to and made me notice and care for the character, albeit small.  All the singers during "Red and Black" were all quite good.

Conversion from Stage to Screen

Many aspects worked well on the big screen.  Where, on the stage, an actors performance is played big so that the whole audience can feel the emotion, the camera allows for subtle nuances to come through.  The singers voice can pull back a little to convey a line instead of project; this allowed for many wonderful moments on the screen.

What I had a hard time with was the camera work.  I was reading in Vogue how director Tom Hopper didn't know how he was going to transition a stage musical to the screen til Anne Hathaway's audition, thus the "close-up" was realized.  It works for her solo, as well as a couple of Jackman's pieces, but there were moments when I was craving sweeping wide-shots.  Some good cinematography!  Since all the singing was done live, with close-up hand-held cameras, those broader shots would have been more difficult.  And since Hopper would take the most solid performance over the most solid filmed scene, some really sloppy camera work made the final cut.  I swear I noticed the camera get bumped a couple times, especially by Jackman towards the beginning of the film.  And I believe the camera men stumbled a couple times as well.  
Overall I was quite pleased with Les Miserables.  Was it perfect?  No, but the message of the play came through.  That of redemption.  And it was nice seeing some of my most favorite musical theater pieces performed in such a grand way.

MPAA: Rated PG-13 For suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements.  Not for the young.  There are moments brought to the screen that aren't so well emphasized in the play, depicting how horrible it was to live back then, etc.  How horrible it is to live in the slums.  We take things for granted.        

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When I was a Kid I Thought Star Tours was Real

I know, I know, I promised last week that I wasn't going to talk about Disneyland for a long time, but as I was thinking about Star Tours I remembered something really embarrassing . . . so of course I have to share . . .

I've already stated that Star Tours was my first introduction to Star Wars, finally seeing the films in the 5th grade, but I grew up on Star Trek.  My parents are huge Trekkies, loving the original, so when "Encounter at Farpoint," the first Star Trek: The Next Generation episode aired on September 28, 1987, when I was in kindergarten, my family watched, and we continued to watch every single week until the show ended during my 6th grade year.  That set me up as a Sci-Fi geek for life.  You know what else came out in 1987?  Star Tours.  Living so close to the park (a 3 1/2 hour drive) the ride was an instant hit for my Parents.  Not so for me.

I don't know if they let me ride so young, chances are they did, and I know I did not like it.  Every time I rode I cried, and that lasted for a few years.  And they weren't small tears.  They were "I'm freaking out!" tears.  I think my Dad found it funny, at least I remember him laughing at me a few times, but I was terrified!!  We were going into space!!  We were being attacked!!

I thought it was real.

At home I would lay in bed trying to fathom how such a thing was possible.  How were we really flying to space?  And were there really all those crazy spaceships in the sky?  I never understood how, standing in front of the Star Tours building, I could never see shuttles flying up.  Then I quickly assumed the ships must be cloaked.  Remember, I grew up on Star Trek, and that made sense.

At some point someone finally sat down and explained how the ride worked, and it was probably my Dad taking mercy on me.  A box within a box.  Motors and machines moving the inner box, creating the sensation of flight, and the film aiding the illusion.

Is it any wonder I made it to the first grade still believing in Santa Clause?


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Maze Globe = Better then Any Cell Phone Game

 My Mom got this for me yesterday knowing how much I love balls, mazes, and obstacles.  I never knew such a game existed.  This particular maze globe is by The Sharper Image and simply called the Space Challenge Maze Globe.  There's a 100 steps you navigate a little ball through, and so far I can get up to step 19.  While researching this product I found another company that makes ball mazes called Perplexus, and they have a maze globe called Perplexus Epic that is, simply, epic looking.  

 Don't get me wrong, I love video games of all sizes, but in the last few years I've gotten on this board, card game kick.  Games in the physical world, so to speak.  This game is fantastic because it doesn't just develop problem solving/hand and eye coordination, but it seems to help spatial-visual skills as well.  And even though it's challenging, I've also found it quite relaxing.  Ha!  After I can consistently solve this I'm definitely getting more maze globes!

 Edit: 12-29-2012.  I can now make it from steps 1-50, straight.  Not consistent. 5, 22, and 28 give me problems.  It's still quite fun.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Linus van Pelt Shares a Christmas Message

Luke 2: 8-14 KJV

 Lights Please!

 "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. 

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great Christmas Videos I've Found on YouTube

For God So Loved the World
 Good Tidings and Great Joy:
The Birth of Jesus Christ
Both of the above videos are from BibleVideos.orgAll the videos from this site are worth watching.

O Come, Emmanuel by The Piano Guys

The next one is a little more silly, in that it's another take on the 12 days of Christmas, only each day represents a different musical style starting in the 6th Century Rome and ending 20th Centuray United States.  This tickles my musicology fancy.  Thanks to my sister-in-law for finding this!  We're both music geeks.  By The Orlando Philharmonic.
 A Musicology Journey through the 12 Days of Christmas
And finally:

The First Presidency Christmas Devotional 2012
Hope you're having a great Christmas Eve.  It's snowing out, which means tomorrow will be a White Chrismtas:0)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blessings at Christmas

(At Disneyland)

"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'."  
~ Bing Crosby

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Show

"I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown" isn't your traditional Christmas fare; it's not just for the Holidays, but all-year long.

Honestly, this is my favorite of all The Peanut gang shows, which says a lot, because there's some really great ones.  "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," which is based off of the musical, and "What Have We Learned Charlie Brown" are forever etched within.

The Peanuts is a comic strip by the amazing Charles M. Schulz, and comics are supposed to be funny.  That's what's so great about The Peanuts strip; Schulz is able masterfully blend the funny and poignant at the same time.  

"I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown" is the funniest of the lot.  Every time I see it I start giggling like crazy.  See, the show features Rerun, the third Van Pelt, and having a bossy/crabby big sis along with a genius older brother, Rerun feels the weight of being the youngest, and that's made him quite precocious.  He says the funniest things that have me gaping at times.  My Dad, who I showed it to last year, declared, "This isn't a kids show.  Kids wont get these jokes!" I laughed at that and responded, "I know, right?"  A lot of the earlier jokes will go over the kids heads, but they will still love the show just the same.

What kid doesn't want a dog?  And what kid, who wants a dog, understands the responsibilities of owning one?  Rerun does get a taste of what it's like to take care of a pet, and it's not Snoopy, but Snoopy's brother Spike from Needles.  The independent dog who lives in a cactus.  He, too, gets to learn what it's like living in a family, which may or may not be to his liking.

This special, which sometimes runs on ABC and can also be purchased on DVD, came out in 2003, so it's one of the newer shows.  But don't fret, even though this special came out after Schulz passed away, this show is based entirely on the comic, so it's all Schulz, and is very true to the strip.

As much as I love Charlie Brown, I'm the most like him, Rerun is my favorite Peanut character.  He says the darndest things!


Oh, and one last thing.  Charlie Brown brakes the "Fourth Wall" at the end of the show.  My brothers and I talk all the time about the fourth wall and how it needs to be broken more often.  When Charlie Brown says what he says, let's just say I was stunned.  It's short, but funny.  So, so, so awesome.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World Mayans = Y2Kx2

(Page 68 from Gate's "An Outline Dictionary of Maya Glyphs")

In an earlier blog post I wrote: "So, for the last several years we've heard that the world is coming to an end December 21, 2012, thanks to the Mayans and their Calender ending on this date.  Because they lived 1000+ years ago, and stopping their calender now must mean something.  (And has nothing to do with them getting tired and wondering why they were keeping track of dates so far in the future.  It's like starting at one and hand writing numbers to a trillion.  Really?  You got to stop sometime).  Anyway, I'm sure this is nothing more then another Y2K.  (Remember that?  It was exciting.  Nothing happened)."

So I woke up this morning, and again, nothing happened!  No impending doom.  No asteroid hurtling itself towards the Earth.  Yellowstone didn't erupt.  All's good!

In truth I think, as time went on, this whole Mayan calender thing became more and more of a joke, and I wonder how long it will be before people start wearing "I survived the End of the World!" shirts.  Maybe some people are wearing them today. 

(Print type supposedly used in an early printing of Gates book.  I found them at a geology store.)

James Watt wrote a blog post entitled "Mayan Calender and the Gregorian Leap Year."  It's an interesting read, and worth checking out.  One thing he mentions is that December 21, 2012 is nothing more then a Mayan era ending, leading into the new baktun  The last baktun was September 18, 1618 which was

So really December 21, today, is like celebrating the "Mayan's Millennium," Y2K.  (Though I now know, thanks to Watt, that a baktun is 1,872,000 days, which seems to be quite a big deal.)

So instead of End of the World frantics, I bet the ancient Mayans would have had a huge celebration, probably on par to the global celebration of the year 2000, the best New Years ever.  Personally I thought it was amazing, and loved counting down each hour and watching on T.V. how each culture celebrated the event.  Nothing like that will ever happen again in our lifetime.

Life will continue on, as normal.

Happy Baktun Everyone!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Many Firsts at Disneyland

 This is my last Disneyland post chronicling my recent trip to the Magic Kingdom.  I've somehow managed to create about seven blog posts out of just that one day visit.  Can you imagine how many posts I'd create if I stayed several days, or a week at Disney World?  The possibilities!  (I've never been to Disney World; someday I'll make it).  I've been to Disneyland so many times over the years I'm well into 30-40+ visits.  I've lost track.  So doing anything new at the park is a wonder, which made this visit all the more special as I got to experience many firsts.  

Starting out my family was Mickey's "Guest of the Park," getting a special badge, free parking, and a special parking spot.  Below are some more, new aspects to Disneyland/California Adventures.

 Star Tours: The Adventure Continues opened Summer 2011 with sparkly 3-D and many ride combinations.  Taken from Wikipedia: "There are eleven random segments of the film (two opening segments, three primary destination segments, three hologram message segments, and three ending destination segments; when combined, they allow 54 different possible ride experiences.) which are presented in the ride."

The Original Star Tours, which opened in 1987 and was my first exposure to Star Wars, was getting a little boring, though I will always remember it was great fondness.  As fun as the new ride is, I miss those robots!  The father and son robot team you hear talking in the line and the ships pilot.  Well, whenever I feel nostalgic I can listen to the original via "Star Wars: An Audio Retrospect" which came with this book I got . . . "I know this is probably your first flight and it's . . . mine too."  That never got old.  Poor Rex got his memory erased after each flight! You can read the original script here.

 California Adventure, at Disneyland, opened World of Color in June 2010.  I had heard so much about this show, seeing videos and watching behind the scenes, that I couldn't wait to finally see the show 2 years after it's opening.  Long time waiting, but it really is amazing.  Tip: make sure the first thing you do when you get to the park is get a World of Color Fast Past.  Fast Past's are typically used for rides, but here they use it for seating sections.  The sooner you get your fast past, the better the section.  You can find it by heading through Condor Flats to the Grizzly area.  Unfortunately my family learned the hard way and got our ticket early afternoon.  The standing area wasn't terrible, but it wasn't fantastic.  The show itself?  Wonderful!  And worth the wait.  Now they need to do this Fast Past section thing with Fanstasmic.

 I wrote two separate blog posts on this, which shows how excited I was with visiting Radiator Springs and riding the ride.  So amazing!  The Radiator Speed Racers is currently my favorite ride, gasp, even over Star Tours . . . until they open Indiana Jones again after refurbishing and small updating.

 I love the Little Mermaid and always wished she had her own ride, and now she has one!  The movie is one of my favorites.  Disney's Golden Age of animation started in 1928, but this film launched the Disney Renaissance in 1989 which lasted till 2000.  I'll never forget going to the theater to see The Little Mermaid.  My family was visiting my grandparents and we went to a nice theater in Riverside CA.  The place was covered in Little Mermaid decorations, and they gave out prizes before our showing.  It was a big deal!!  And the movie changed my life.

 Talking about 1928, California Adventure got a face lift to reflect this golden age of Hollywood.  It was in 1928 when Disney came to Hollywood, and the front of the park was made to reflect that.  I love old California architecture, and I love art deco, so the change is nice.

 Grizzly River Run opened when California Adventure did, but somehow I've never managed to ride it.  That might have something to do with Magic Mountain.  Back in middle-school I went on their rafting ride, first thing, and spent the entire day soaked.  Not fun, but the Grizzly ride was fun, and I didn't get too wet, which is really quite lucky.

 Soarin' Over California is one of my favorites, but my brother Steven hadn't been, so this was his first time.  I would buy potpourri of that pine and orange scent they mist during the ride.  It smells like California. Growing up in Central California . . . it's lucky they didn't do cow smell . . . (Talure County CA reference, which is the County I lived in . . . I heard once there were more cows then people.)

 First time I tried this cake!  There's this amazing, crunchy hazelnut thing going on at the bottom.  Plaza Inn, 'nuff said.

 I was waiting in line for It's a Small World when everything got really dark, all lights going out dark, and suddenly Nutcracker music started playing as colored projections shined on the ride's facade, giving us a little show. So unexpected and cool.

 And it's the first time I've seen Sleeping Beauty's castle look like this.  Enchanting.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kingdom Hearts Mickey Pin

Disneyland, New Orleans Square, afternoonish, 11-16-2012:  I was at the Pin Trading store in New Orleans looking through the latest collection.  If anyone's been to Disneyland in the last several years, it's a pretty well known fact that pin trading/collecting is quite popular in the Magic Kingdom.  It's my souvenir of choice.  They're not too cheap, but cheaper then most things, and the pins are small, so you don't have to lug something around all day, considering you choose not to rent a locker, which comes highly recommended.

Anyhoo, so I was looking through the pins when I found a cloaked hooded Mickey, all by himself and clearly out of place, staring at me.  A little giggle started to grow within as excitement bubbled forth.  "Mom!" I quickly shouted, and showed her the little treasure.  She looked it over, not impressed.  "We have to get it for Steven," I said, and she simply asked why.  "Because," I continued, "It's Kingdom Hearts Mickey!" She still looked a little puzzled as she shifted through Cinderella pins.  "It's his favorite game," a said simply.  "If there is one thing, One thing he would want in this park, this is it.  Trust me, he would want it." She debated a little with me, but I continued to insist that Steven would love it, and so it was bought.

I tried to find one for myself, because, honestly, it's a cool pin.  I haven't played the game myself, as it seems to be the way with me these days.  He plays the games (Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Uncharted, etc) and I waltz downstairs to inquire after the plot and watch recently unlocked scenes.  Then I geek over the music.  I love game music. Utada Hikaru has written two great songs for Kingdom Hearts: Hikari and Passion.  Oh, and the Piano Collection to Final Fantasy X and X-2 are simply gorgous.  Steven bought me the CD's and Sheet music while in Japan (well, X-2 is mine, he claims X, but I get shared joy in borrowing.)

I'm off topic!!  

About an hour later my Mom and I joined up with my bros Steven and Robbie.  They were off riding rides (namely Star Tours an extra time) while my Mom and I did "girly stuff."  

Steven was super excited and declared, "You'll never guess what I found!" He pulled out a small white bag, and I knew immediately what was inside.

"It's a Kingdom Heart Mickey pin, isn't it?" I asked, and his face fell a little.

"How did you know?"

"Mom and I got you one," I laughed, and I showed it to him.  Ha!  So now I have a Kingdom Hearts Mickey pin of my own, and my little Disney pin collection continues to grow a little more epic.

 (Copyright Square-Enix.  Found Here)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Rides at Disneyland

 In the past I've seen the front of It's a Small World decked out with lights, but this is the first time I've seen the ride inside decked out as well.  It was a complete surprise, and a delightful one at that.  They mixed the "It's a Small World" song with Jingle Bells, which was nice.  Arial was singing "Jingle Shells."

 This was the first time I've seen the Haunted House decorated "Nightmare Before Christmas" style.  It was awesome!  I've heard so much about it, but was amazed how much they switch up the inside to fit the new theme.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cerulean Jade Update 12-17-2012

(Robbie story-boarding the latest Cerulean Jade Music Video, 
and showing off some mad art skills.)

So the music video has just blown up . . . as in, it just got super complex.

We were sitting at our planning table, Robbie, Steven and I, talking about the video and what needs to be done.  They were discussing shots and effects, and I was sitting there wide-eyed.  "I don't think we should do the jet-pack, it will be too complex.  Let's stick with the spaceship." "No, I think the jet-pack will work." "I think the spaceship is better." "But I really like the jet-pack." Meanwhile I was sitting there, trying to figure out how either effect would work, and coming up with nothing.  A little later, "You know that shot where the buildings are chasing her, I think that has to go." Wait, did I hear that right?

Robbie has been working on the storyboards, listening to the song on loop, and drawing pictures of what he imagines.  He scanned the pictures, digitally cut them up, and in after-effects he created a story-board music video, so I was able to visually watch what my brothers are planning.  Let's just say if they can pull it off, it's going to be Awesome!!  Of course I have my doubts, and I expressed that to Robbie.  All he said was, "Trust me, we can do this."  His optimism is great.  This morning I saw Steven working on the 3D model for the spaceship, and it's looking nice.

On another note, completely unrelated to C-Jade, I discovered something new about blogger.  I've been uploading pictures from my phone to Google+, which is where blogger stores the pictures even if you upload from the computer.  The folder my phone pics were going into got full, so I deleted some images.  Well, turns out if you delete a photo off Google+ that's tied to the blog, that photo on the blog gets deleted as well.  So now I have 11 blog posts with photos to dig up and fix.  Ahhh!!!  And I've used one gig out of five free gigs, which means it would be wise if I lower the image resolution of my pictures, so they don't take up so much space.  Learning the hard way!!  At least I didn't erase large albums.  That would have really messed me up!

I hope I'm still getting that jet-pack . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shifting Cycles, an Original Poem

(On the way to California)

Shifting Cycles

Maybe it's this feeling
That gentle ache of not knowing
Wishing time could rewind
But knowing it can't
Wishing things could change
Wanting to Change
But trapped
Even that's an illusion
Nature's in constant motion
If the Earth can revolve
So can I

~Sarah Stufflebeam

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Movie Review

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." ~ The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Review: 2.75 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, came out in 1937, the idea springing from the simple phrase, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," which he wrote on the back of an exam he was grading.  Tolkien was a philologist, an expert of languages;  he began inventing languages in his youth, but these languages expanded and grew, and there came a point when he realized that the only way these languages could continue to grow was if they belonged somewhere, someplace.  Where these languages eventually belonged was Middle-Earth.  Tolkien spun tales and poems, epic stories that filled out a broad Universe beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings . . . and because of that, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, begins to lose itself, getting swallowed up by Peter Jackson and the grand scope that is Middle-Earth.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is no longer a retailing of a children's classic, but a bridging of The Lord of the Rings movies and The Silmarillion, with additional tidbits added by Jackson himself: A melting pot, a smorgasbord, a movie greatly in need of editing.

The Hobbit should simply be that, "The Hobbit," as told to his children the way Tolkien first imagined.  

It was nice seeing different aspects of Middle-Earth fleshed out.  The design of the Dwarf kingdom was brilliant with interesting details, showing art deco influences.  All the design given to the dwarfs and their world would make a great concept art book.  Finally seeing Gollums cave, and the events therein, is a childhood dream come true.

But if each book in The Lord of the Rings series could brilliantly get their own movie, why then must The Hobbit get three?  Honestly the entire book could have gotten its own, singular movie, with sharp editing and more concise storytelling.  There's an art to adapting a book to the screen, but even then we're not getting a literal retailing of The Hobbit.  For instance, there is a Wizard known as Radagast the Brown who is only mentioned in The Hobbit, but plays a role in The Lord of the Rings and The Unfinished Tales.  Jackson completely removed Radagast from The Lord of the Rings, and made him a main character in The Hobbit trilogy, though he was never meant to be.  Oh, and the bunny sled, that's a Jackson creation.  Radagast's character brings plot points and events into The Hobbit that was meant for a later time, thus helping to inflate The Hobbit into three movies instead of the necessary, though less money-grossing, single film.  

A huge bright spot to this retailing of The Hobbit is the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.  He's fantastic in the role, and a joy to watch.

In the end The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey left me lamenting, wishing Jackson could simply tell the story without filling it out.  How is there going to be two more movies?  If he wished to create a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, he should have done a singular movie instead of dragging The Hobbit into it.  With all the extensive material Tolkien created to better flesh out his world, an interesting movie could have simply been spun, and Tolkien's works could have remained intact.   

MPAA: PG-13 for extended sequences for intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.  Though The Hobbit is written for kids, the movie isn't created for children in mind.  If you have young children, you may wish to view the movie first and decide if the material is suitable.

(As a note, I know there is a lot of buzz about the 48 frames per second, aka high frame rate.  I choose to view the movie in 2D at 24 frames per second.  At some point I do want to view the film at 48 fps to form my own opinion, but I'm already a little biased.  I hate walking into Costco, seeing all the flat screens set to high frame rates.  It always annoys me!  So I'm pretty sure I won't like the higher frame rate.  I'll reserve judgement.)     

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Disneyland Helped Inspire My Love of Music

  When I was young, pre-kindagarden young, my family lived only 8 miles from Disneyland.  My parents had friends who worked inside the park, so we visited many times during those short years.  At an early age I was introduced to Ragtime music next to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream parlor on Main-street USA, Jazz in New Orleans, and barbershop quartets.  Not to mention all the countless parades (the electrical parade was in its prime back then.)  Then there was the Plaza Inn stage located close to the mouth of the castle leading into Fantasyland.  Schools and groups performed there, and there was a space between the stage and seats where kids would get up and dance.  Next to that stage I did a fair share of dancing as a little tyke.

 One of the joys for me when visiting Disneyland are the surprise performances, especially in New Orleans.  On busy days you can hear Jazz music about every 15-30 minutes, and once they even had tap dancers (which is a soft spot for me, because tap will always by my favorite genre of dance.)  Disneyland helped influence my love of music beyond the popular, and for that I am thankful :0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Radiator Spring Racers: California Adventure

 Besides walking through Radiator Springs, I was really looking forward to riding the new Radiator Springs Racers ride.  Like every other new ride, the lines were really long, about 1 1/2 hours.  Apparently on opening day the lines wait was 6 hours.  Crazy.  It brought me back to when the Indiana Jones ride first opened in 1995, when we waited about 3 hours and got the really cool card pictured below.

(Image link, given out to help aid in reading what was written on the lines walls)

If you don't mind who you sit by, there is something called single-rider.  Verses the 1 1/2 hours I waited, the single-rider line was about 30 minutes.  It's fantastic, and helps fill in empty seats.  Though I had to wait in the long line the first time, it was fun taking pictures to help pass the time.

 Overall I loved the ride.  The scenery made me feel as if I was back in Utah, though according to the Pixar Wiki page, Radiator Springs is located in Eastern Arizona.  (Thunderbolt Mountain is based on Bryce Canyon, which is in Utah, and the location was inspired thanks to a National Geographic article.)

Towards the beginning of the ride you visit Radiator Springs, and I was impressed with the technology used for the cars.  The audio-animatronics keeps getting better and better.  Like Indiana Jones where, in the beginning of the ride, you visit one of three rooms, on the racer ride there are one of two rooms you enter to prepare for the race portion of the ride: to the left is Luigi's Casa Della Tires where you get your tires changed, and to the right is Ramone's House of Body Art for a paint job via water spray.  It's a lot of fun.  And then the race starts where your car is pitted against another, and speeds reach up to 40 mph.  Overall a fantastic ride, 
and now one of my favorites.