Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Wolverine: Movie Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The year is 1945 and Logan (The Wolverine), played by the originator of the role Hugh Jackman, is a POW in Japan.  It's there that sets up the events of the movie and brings Logan back to Japan, setting the stage for amazing action and fighting!  And some really cool shots of Nippon.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this film was the way it showed aspects of the Japanese culture.  Little things like not sticking your chopsticks directly into the rice were in the film.  And most of the Japanese characters were played by Japanese actors.  I hate when movies assume we can't tell the difference between Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, which was my biggest complaint with "Memoirs of a Geisha."  There are distinct differences between the Asian cultures.

For the most part the CGI was spot on, but there was a scene in the beginning of the movie where there was a CGI bear.  Personally I think the scene was unneeded.  I guess it was there to prove Logan has honor, though the whole arrow poison bit was a little confusing.  But the bear was just off and obviously fake, and was a huge distraction.

The acting was pretty solid.  At first I had a hard time with Yukio, , but as the movie progressed she really grew on me and I loved her character.  The character I really loved was the that of Mariko, , who showed the gentleness and true honor of the Japanese culture.

Apparently this movie follows a story arch in the Comics which I'm not familiar, but curios.  I had some issues with the plot and the development of the Yashida men.  And some of the conclusion left me filling a little cold, which I can't say without giving something away!  Though I would recommend everyone stay to watch the credits because there is a treat there that sets up X-Man: Days of Futures Past, which I'm quite excited about!

Overall I did enjoy this film and would recommend for any X-Man/Marvel/Comic lover.  And this movie was far stronger then the first.

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.  (I hate the token F word!!!)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Little More Posituvité

 "A Little More Posituvité" is actually the name of a private journal I've been writing.  I've only got a couple entrees, but it's my thoughts and feelings, the path I'm walking to become more optimistic.

I've been struggling with negativity and depression, to the point where it's been affecting my health.  The patterns recycled.  The carousel must stop.  And I realized something, the base of my thoughts were affecting my mood.

"Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance."  James Allen As a Man Thinketh, linked to a free ebook. 

I've been trying to change my thoughts from negativity to posituvité (I changed the spelling, but it's so much fun to say!)  But it's been difficult.

Then at the store I found the above clicker, packaged to promote positive clicking.  Click with every positive thought!  Track what you're thinking!  Change your thoughts in the process!!

So yesterday I did it backwards, I clicked with every negative thought.  141!  That's the final days tally.  Of course there were several moments of "Mrararararararara" . . . which I didn't want to figure out click wise.  And when you're "Mrarararararara" you're not in the mode to click anyway.

Then this morning I woke up miserable!  Depressed! In an Optimal Grumbly mood.

My nieces found my new rubber stamps, which weren't cheap, and lost them!  "Mrarararararararara . . . grumbly, grumbly, grumbly."  They we're eating popcorn that ants are now devouring on the family room floor. "Mrarararararararara . . . grumbly, grumbly, grumbly."

I meant to start counting positive thoughts this morning, but I was sooooo grumbly that I wasn't in the mood.  Then Steven found the stamps under the couch . . .  And the ants?  Steven said I should say in my mind "Thank you ants for being apart of this Earth's ecology." 

That didn't happen.

I was halfway through that sentence when "Kill the ants!" chorused through my mind!  And so I did.

But it is true, the way we think does affect our mood, attitude, being, and even circumstance.  There are things we can't change, but we can change and control our thoughts.  And now that I'm counting positive thoughts, emphases on the optimistic, I'm feeling better.  103 at this moment, and more to come before nightfall.

Life really is great!


Friday, July 26, 2013

. . . I Don't Mean To Brag.

(I was Omega!!!)

Last night I went to the Seven Peaks Fun Center in Lehi to play mini bowling and Laser Tag.  We were only able to play one round of Laser Tag, the last game, because we got there too late to reserve an earlier time (AKA We got there at 7:15 and had to wait till 8:45 pm). 

To fill in the time we first raced with the go-karts, a dismal small track, but I still lost miserably, putting my foot on the brake without realizing and getting lapped twice . . . ehhhhh.

Then we played mini bowling!  Now, I suck at bowling, big time, both the small and the large version.  Usually I crack self depreciating jokes and hope I manage to get more then 60 points.  That's winning.  But with 7 people playing I got the highest score with 96 points!  Okay, I've yet to crack 100, none of us managed, but that was awesome!

Then I totally rocked it in laser tag, and I was going against some fierce competition.  I've gotten first place before, but with an acuracy around 36%.  This time I got first with 12,750 points and an accuracy of 59%!  The best I've ever done.  Honestly I've found that going into enemy territory and being willing to stand in the open, hiding when needs be, is the best strategy.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heber Valley Camping with Family and Friends

This last weekend I went on a YSA (Young Single Adult) Tri-Ward camp out.  We went to the Heber Valley Camp, an LDS Young Women's campground, which is also available for regular wards and family reunions.

Okay, so now for a confession.  When I moved to Utah from California at age 19, I have to admit I was a Sierra Nevada snob!  Those were the mountains I grew up next to, literately by the foot hills, a short drive to the grand Sequoia trees.  Mountains aren't mountains unless the trees tower the sky!  So when I first went camping in Utah, I was disappointed by how short all the trees were, and never felt I was "really" camping.

 That's surely changed over the years.

I've truly grown to love Aspen trees, which have a beauty all their own.  And on this particular camp out there were all these little black and white butterflies flittering about.  There were two hikes I went on, and on the second hike, surrounded by Aspens, flowers, and green brush, there must have been a hundred plus butterflies.  It really was absolutely beautiful.

 I did not sleep that night!  And it wasn't because I didn't make an effort, because I did.  A wonderful case of insomnia haunted me, but that didn't stop me from going on the Sunrise hike.  After 30 minutes of sleep (finally being able to drift off at 4:30) I woke up at 5:05 a.m. and quickly got ready to meet the group at 5:15.

I didn't even tell my brothers I wanted to go on the hike, so I was very proud of them when they showed up!!!  That Early!  The whole way there and back I felt like I was about to black out due to exhaustion, but the cool air, nature, and company kept me awake.  It was a lot of fun. 

 Rachel showing off her latest butterfly captor.  She has a wicked collection!  When you study history, you hear of all these people who collected amazing insects and bugs, but I didn't think anyone still did that.  Her collection is simply impressive.

 The short ropes course!!!!!!  AHHH!!!!!!!  So, I went to course 2, which is the easier course (mostly everyone went to course 1).  And not knowing before hand the obstacle, plus the fact that I'm still nursing a Stupid ice-skating injury from January, I erred on the side of safety, and boy was I glad I did!

The base of the poll was fairly simple to climb, until the rings showed up, and getting a good grip and foot placement was tricky.  My footing got out of place at the top!  I had the harness on, and I could feel the rope tighten safely with each step, knowing that if I fell I'd be safe and secure, but that didn't stop the nerves.  Before stepping onto the horizontal log I felt my breath quicken, the World beginning to spin.  I yelled to the volunteer for help, and she guided me from a distance.  When I finally found my footing I paused a moment, trying to still the Earth.  I don't know what was more scary: Climbing up and walking across that poll, or riding the teeter-totter ride on top the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

I think I need to officially acknowledge my fear of heights.

And then I found out from Robbie what the first course entailed!  The layout was the same, but the climbing poll wasn't secure to the ground, possibly swinging as you climbed, and instead of a horizontal log, it was a rope of sorts.  Scary! Yeah, I don't even think I would have made the attempt!

We didn't sleep in these tents, but it probably would have been nice!  Cool air and a soft foam mattress.  We stayed in the cabins.

Ha!  Okay, finale thought.  The camp is ran by LDS elderly couple Service Missionaries.  Throughout the grounds you can see their parked RV's, and they travel around via 4-wheelers.  From early morning to late at night you can hear them 4-wheeling about.  When I think Service Missionaries I think of the Cannery or helping guide tours at the conference center.  Not this!  So cute!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Favorite Hymn "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul"

(One of the many pictures I took yesterday while in the mountains)

This is one of my most favorite hymns.  It's always been in the hymn book, but it wasn't until singing the Rob Gardner version (same words, different melody) during my time with the Latter-Day Celebration choir that I truly grew to love "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul."  Whenever I'm having a hard time, this is one of the hymns I sing in my mind, sitting still and feeling the words.  They are such a comfort, and have become my personal mission statement. 

"Savior, Redeemer of My Soul"

Lyric by Orson F. Whitney, 1855-1931

Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow'r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O'errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It Can Happen in a Porta-Potty or, In Other Words, How to Feel a Sonic Blast

 A few years ago my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary, and as a gift I put together two scrapbooks filled with stories, kind messages, and pictures.  Below is one of the stories I shared; it's one of those stories that routinely gets brought up, constantly getting a huge chuckle and a lot of embarrassment.

 It was October 14, 1997, and Edward Air Force base in the California Mojave Dessert was celebrating both the 50th anniversary of the Air Force and Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier.  Two huge occasions, and the air show was rumored to be epic.  It was!  And thousands came from all over to see the grand show and feel/hear Chuck Yeager officially break the sound barrier for the last time with the U.S. Air Force.

I've seen a lot of programs about the breaking of the sound barrier.  My Dad is a lover of planes, space, NASA, etc.  I couldn't wait to finally be in the presence of one, let alone a sonic blast created by Yeager himself!

The crowds were insane, and it was hard finding a place to sit before the start of the show.  My Mom and I didn't want to miss a thing, so we went off to find the porta-potties. Dad told us the show started at 10:00 a.m., so we had some time.  There were two long rows of porta-potties, front and back, and still there was a wait.  At 10:00 a.m. sharp we were both in neighboring porta-potties.  Well, right at that moment there was an explosion of sound and this great shaking.  Suddenly there was, around us, a chorus of voices saying "Did we miss it?" "Was that it?" "What Happened?"  Mom and I couldn't believe it!

When we made it back to the boys we found out what had happened.  Chuck Yeager was scheduled to break the sound barrier at 10:00 a.m., signaling the start of the show.  Dad insisted he told us that, but he didn't!  

That little bit of information went amiss!

     When later talking with my brothers they told me they could hear the breaking of the sound barrier and see a little dot in the sky, but they couldn't feel it.  I got to hear, and feel, the sonic blast!

(What I originally wrote in the scrapbook)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Battle of the School Parade Floats!

I wonder how many places in the Country have three Universities within 45 miles of each other?  It seems kinda unique.  The close proximity also causes a lot of stereotyping, envy, ridicule, competition, inferiority complexes, superior outlooks, etc, and I've felt them all.  At the Freedom Festival Parade on the 4th all schools made a showing.

 Brigham Young University is my alma mater, so of course I'm naturally biased.  And I love how patriotic the float was.  Though, I must comment, Athletics got two mentions on the float.  BYU is kinda obsessed with sports, and being the academic I am, I kinda rebelled against it.  (The only football game I attended was one in which I volunteered concessions for charity, and I didn't see the game but for a sneak second.)  The School of Music did get a highlight!  Made me proud.

 I love Utah Valley University.  Before BYU I attended this school in their UVSC (Utah Valley State College) days.  The campus has a wonderful feeling, and I love how everything is connected.  UV is relaxed (unlike BYU where it's stress central with abundant over achievers), but that doesn't mean the school is easy.  Au Contraire.  Some of my best academic experiences came from the school, and I went through serious UV withdrawals while at the Y.

I hate the bad rap the school gets in the valley.  There's so many academic snobs here!  (Comes with the competition, I guess.)  On one of the worst blind dates I've been on (well, that's not saying much), this guy stated UV was just an extension of High School.  He went on and on as I watched, and when he breathed for air I gleefully went in for the kill and sang UV's praises. 

 Now the biggest competition is between BYU and the U of U (University of Utah).  They both look down on UVU as if the school doesn't exist, while UVU insists that it's relevant, which it is.  The Football team at U of U is now a member of the PAC 12, after all, and they shower the fact.  (BYU doesn't play on the Sabbath, which limit sports opportunities.)

 U of U is where my brother Michael and Krista met while going to school.  All three of my brothers have degrees at UVU.  And I graduated from BYU.

I really love all three schools.

The pursuit of knowledge is important regardless of where you go: University, State College, Junior College, or self-learning through books.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Morning in Salt Lake City

This morning I was in downtown Salt Lake for a Utah Odyssey of the Mind meeting.  Odyssey is going to be amazing this year!  I''m so excited!  (It's an excellent program about creativity for kids that's worth checking out.)  The meeting was supposed to be on the south side of Salt Lake, but due to circumstances it was moved to the SLC Library, which I've been to once before.  Awesome place!  Expensive parking (as in $1.50 every half hour, which is why I took TRAX.)

 At the meeting they talked about the Worlds competition and had a pile of pins from the pin trading, which is apparently super popular.  I never made it to Worlds, getting as high as 3rd at the California State Competition.  But the above pins from Iowa are so beautiful.  I'm going to have to see if I can find them on Ebay.

 Such a cool design.

 The inside of the Library.

 I remember from a couple years back this amazing comic book store.  I was actually hoping to buy a comic, but it's gone out of business.  Really sad.

 I've never been to The Leonardo, but when I saw it was next to the Library I had to at least step inside for a look.  Didn't see the above exhibit, but it's going through Sept. 15, and I want to come back with family or friends.  It's more fun then doing this sort of thing alone!

After talking to the people at the ticket desk I found out that in November they're getting a dead sea scroll exhibit with the actual scrolls!!!!!  I've going to that!!!!

 In the Lobby.

 Saw this in the gift store and wanted it!  But not for $12.  I wanted it because I can actually read it!  "Oishii" = delicious.

 Backside of the Library.

 Not sure what that building is, but it sure is pretty.  I believe it's on one of the postcards I bought to send people through postcrossing.com, but I'm not as observant as I should be.

(My Sister-in-law just looked it up and it's the Salt Lake City Hall)

 Waiting for TRAX.

 Back to where my car was waiting for me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim: Movie Review

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

In the not so distant future a portal will open up under the ocean at the Pacific Rim, and through the portal will come giant monsters "Kaiju" whose intent is to threaten humanity.  The speed and size in which these monsters are coming is increasing, and it's only a matter of time before we become extinct.  In order to battle them we've created giant mecha, human style robotics, named Jaeger's.  Only thing is they're so big that one human cannot control one without suffering damaging mental overload, so it is necessary for two humans to control one, one person controlling the right hemisphere while the other controls the left.  But in the process they must move in synch with each other, and in order to do that their minds must meld, becoming susceptible to the others memories, open to allowing their own memories to be searched and discovered.  Nothing is sacred.

That is the general theme and back story of the movie.  The world that has been created by director for his science-fiction Japanese influenced Pacific Rim is rich and interesting. Instead of coming from the sky, the alien monsters came from the ocean, which is really a nice twist, and the monsters are Godzilla like in size and destruction.  The giant robotic mecha's is the closest I'll get to a live action, grand scale Gundam movie, which is why I couldn't wait to see this film.

The visuals are spectacular, everything a giant popcorn loving blockbuster would want.  And the action scenes are fun and intense.

Where the movie suffers is in the characterization.  The characters are two-dimensional, playing types instead of fleshed out individuals.  There is an emotional core missing.  A lack of humanity that I would have liked to see.  There were family/relationship connections between some characters that were left unknown until critical points in the movie in order to create some sort of suspense; instead the sudden revelations left me not caring.  If some of that knowledge would have been built in as character development, seeing how the characters truly care about each other, I would have cared a little more about them.

The best actor in the entire movie was  who played young Mako.  She was phenomenal!  I would watch the movie again just to see the couple scenes she was in.  Just amazing.  She was in the moment and terrified, and I felt terrified with her.  I felt her pain.  Why couldn't the adults act with that intensity!?

The movie is an absolute blast and I'm glad to have seen it at least once, and on IMAX 3D to boot.  I still haven't decided if I'd buy it.

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lone Ranger: Movie Review

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

 . . . Where do I start . . . -_-;;  How do I prevent this review from turning into a wild rant without spoiling everything . . . ?  This is going to be hard.

The Lone Ranger starts unnecessarily with a boy in the 1930's dressed as the Lone Ranger going into a Wild West circus exhibit.  There the boy meets an Indian who, wait for it!! . . . isn't a wax figure but the real life Tonto, friend of the real Lone Ranger.  And thus begins several wasted scenes where Tonto (Johnny Depp) plays the narrator, moving the story in haphazard, fragmented ways.  That's the first error of the movie; if the flick is going to have a narrator, choose a character that can adequately get the job done without leading us in circles.

This movie is another origin story, the original in which this is loosely based started in 1933 as a radio drama.  John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a lawyer who returns home to Texas, and is promptly deputized by his brother.  Oh, and John is in love with his brothers wife.  Every good hero needs a heroine on the side to save (preferably not of the sister-in-law variety . . . which doesn't bare well for his brother's future.)  Before arriving in Texas John meets Tonto, an Indian with an affinity for a dead bird and a troubled past.  There they have the first of many disagreements and form a common enemy in Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner).

The trailers for The Lone Ranger hint at a full on action flick, and while there is a fair amount of violence and action, in the end this movie plays as a comedy.  The Lone Ranger is a buffoon!  We are told he hasn't shot a gun in nine years, though this past story was never revealed, so instead of being a great shot, shooting guns out of the hands of enemies, his fumbles, trips, and gets lucky.  There's no real seriousness there, and there should be.  John Reid watched Butch cut the heart out of someone he cares for, only to then watch Butch eat it (off camera, but disturbing just the same).  This would have a profound affect on anyone, but John wants justice, and though that's honorable, there is a character depth lacking.  Even the most honorable man would be marred by a certain level of disgust and horror.

The humor style is reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean, but where the humor worked there is doesn't work here.  We don't need another enemy idiot who is seen dressing like a women and carrying a parasol.  Why the parasol?  It was funny in Pirates, but feels borrowed here.

On the topic of borrowing, Hans Zimmer's score is uninspired.  Through the whole of it I kept hearing motives from his previous works, notably Sherlock Homes.

The plot and sequence of scenes were jarred and inharmonious.  What was the point of having that 1930's kid?  The movie was long. 149 minutes long.  Careless scenes are worth nothing more then editing floor dust.               

And a note about the films rating.  It seems the MPAA is either getting soft, or the standards weak.  This is no kids movie.  Personally I think this is a super strong PG-13/mild R due to violence and cannibalism.         

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.

. . . and as a final note Texas isn't Utah.  As much as I loved seeing shots of beautiful central Utah, and even a peak at awesome Mesa Verde in Colorado, anyone who knows western geography will feel the mismatch.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zedd's Acoustic Version of "Clarity"

My brother was sending me some music he was listening to via Facebook today, and this was one of the videos he sent me.  I love it, and find it so inspiring.  The piano is so beautiful, and the choir of voices at the end is a nice touch.  This just makes me want to work harder on my piano skills and work towards this excellence.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In Which a Hot Air Balloon Lands Close to Home

(Image Info)

There's this wonderful tradition here in Utah Valley.  It surrounds the 4th of July as part of the Freedom Festival, and unfortunately I've only seen it a few times: The Balloon Fest.  Hot Air Balloons floating above Provo, dazzling the sky with various colors.

I don't even remember the year I first found out about it, by accident.  Orem is at a higher elevation then Provo, so when traveling on University Parkway next to the boarder where the two cities meet, there's a point where Provo suddenly comes into view, the Valley majestic.  Out of no where there seemed to be hundreds of hot air balloons floating in the sky.  Never had I seen anything like it.

Then a few years ago I woke up early to watch the balloons fill up and lift off.  It was then that I learned that the weather has to be perfect, no upper wind, for the balloons to launch.  The drive seemed to be for naught, as they all decided the risk wasn't worth it, until one lonely balloon decided to make a try for it and rose.  My Mom, brother, and I were on the south side of the Valley when we noticed this, and decided to chase it.

As the balloon drifted we noticed it getting closer and closer to where we lived, so much so that by the time we pulled into our driveway, the balloon grazed the top of the trees in it's quick decent, landing in a nearby park.  We ran and saw the relieved piloteers get out of the basket.  For them regret came no sooner then taking off, feeling the tug of the wind, quickly scouting for a safe place to land.  Surrounded by power lines our park was a risk, but the wind danger proved more dangerous.

Neighbors quickly gathered as we all watched the balloon deflate and packed away.  It was incredible!  I took pictures, but unfortunately that was on an older phone, lost to time.

This last weekend I really wanted to see the balloons, and being up early to help with the parade should have been a sure bet, but it rained early that morning, much to the dismay of the overnight parade campers.  So I was quite determined to wake up early the next day, but with a lightening storm coming through, waking me up at three in the morning, visions of balloons fleeted from my mind.  I didn't want to make the effort if they were going to be grounded again, so I gleefully slept in.

. . . maybe next year.