Current Entertainment Friday, Jan 22 2010 

Currently reading: Yikes, nothing at the moment. I guess I should fix that. Most recently read the absolute worst popular fiction book I’ve ever read. (Not my usual reading fare, but it’s good airplane and travel reading.) There didn’t seem to be any plot development at all until the last couple of chapters. The characters did out-of-the-blue unmotivated things. The guys got together and hung out and talked about their feelings for the girls (what guys really talk about at diners, or what girls like to think they talk about at diners, hm?). Huge cast of characters drawn over from a previous book; more time was spent going over the plot from the first book than having a plot in THIS book. Took place in a small town…small enough that anything anyone did outside of their house was seen by at least one — usually more — other main character; I’m from a small town and it ain’t quite like that. Reading this book was kind of like work, but once you start you feel obligated to finish. I find it remarkable that anyone published this book.

Currently watching on TV: Chuck, loved-loved-loved the episode I just watched online, “Operation Awesome.” This is good fun stuff that leaves you with that “feel-good” thing. The Closer remains at the top of my list, though it isn’t currently showing. Can I marry Fritz? 24 has just started, so far so good. Could be interesting. Gosh, did you see what Renee did to get the security bracelet off that guy’s wrist?! Woah, was that unexpected! (Oh, yeah, “that makes her craaaazy.”) Yeah…I turned away from that one, as one sometimes has to do on 24. I just watched the first episode of Human TargetMostly because of the lead actor, who I like and have vaguely followed over the years. It’ll probably be like for most things these days though, if I’m home and happen to want to watch something on TV, I’d watch it. I still like the Law and Orders, but don’t catch them often. Have gotten into Criminal Minds recently after being turned off earlier by some uber-violent sicko stuff in some episodes, but again I don’t catch it often. I think that’s about it! I can always dig people house-shopping on HGTV.

Most recently watched movie: Airplane! Oh yeah, baby. “And that’s when I developed my drinking problem.” “And don’t call me Shirley.” “–A hospital? What is it? –It’s a big building with sick people in it, but that’s not important right now.” “And they’re perfect for keeping hot dog buns fresh.” “Would you like that smoking or non?” “Jim never has two cups of coffee at home.” “El noa you smoko.” “Everything is perfectly fine. And, by the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?”

Most recently watched movie in the theater: Uhhhh…the latest Harry Potter movie, months ago!

Currently listening to: The Moody Blues and New Order, both hits albums. The Moody Blues are mostly a band from before my time, though I loved “Your Wildest Dreams” in the 80’s. It’s so weird that I’ve come to love them so much. I love the harmony, the richness and energy of the music with all the different instruments, oh, the flute in “Nights in White Satin”! I could listen to that CD over and over and over again…and have! I got New Order just recently, man is that a fun album. New wave I’d call them, not sure exactly what it is, synth pop or something. Somehow I never heard of them in the 80’s, though I vaguely knew 3 songs. “Blue Monday” is the best, and the long version of it on Disc 1 is awesome. It was a good buy, I like the songs I didn’t know before too. Good fun stuff, good to clean your house to and dance around a bit.

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Current Entertainment Monday, Feb 23 2009 

I happened to wind up over at my old blog, and realized I’d forgotten all about the various random things I’d posted there. I came across one that was interesting to look back at, “Current Entertainment.” Since it was interesting to look back at the old one, I decided to write a new one. Friends and family, feel free to share what you’re watching/reading etc. in a comment.

Currently reading: Well, I just finished reading Perspectives on Election. It was OK. Sometimes I can only take so much of the polemical kind of stuff. It’s in the “5 views” series, with 5 contributions plus responses from two Calvinists (one supra- and one I guess infra-, I’ve already forgotten precisely), one Arminian, one open theist, and one Christian universalist. I think I found the Christian universalist chapter most interesting because it was a view I was unfamiliar with (though I can’t say I was convinced by the author’s argument). At least the book was mostly in good spirit — 4 of the 5 authors were considerate and respectful in their responses. The fifth, a fellow named Reymond (the supra-), ended several chapters saying he was praying for the authors to see the error of their ways and basically came off as quite smug, arrogant, and condescending. On the whole, not a bad book if you’re interested in what the various views are out there among the broader Christian community.

I hate starting books (love reading them but hate starting them…if that makes any sense), so I haven’t started it yet but I have from the library Peace Like a River, which my friend Amy told me about. That’s next on the list.

Currently watching on TV: Monday nights are a killer! I would need to take a day off work to watch all this in one day. At 8 I watch Chuck and House. House is beginning to annoy me a bit, but I still watch it so far. Chuck I used to think (from the first episode and maybe part of another) was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. But recently I’ve seen a few more episdoes and found it hilarious. One of my favorite recent TV lines comes from here, “I was having a great time until the terrorists stole my pants and tried to kill me.” It really captures the spirit of the show, too. It’s kind of silly, but fun and with a really good heart. Kind of like Chuck.

At 9 I watch The Closer and 24. The Closer (along with Battlestar Galactica) has really become my only must-see TV. I had gotten to where even though I watched every 24 episode, it was mostly because you had to to get what was going on. But this season is different. The new FBI agent partner brings a human face to what had become almost a joke of “who’s going to get tortured in this episode?”. Seeing it through her eyes, in my view, makes it fresh again.

At 10 I watch one of the two shows I had to miss on my DVD recorder, if I managed to record them. Otherwise I watch them online later.

Normally I actually don’t watch too much TV anymore.

Most recently watched movie: Ummmmm…oh my gosh, I actually can’t think of one. I saw The Village a month ago or so at a friend’s house. That was pretty good. Oh, my most recent in-house movie was Consenting Adults. Rated R but not nearly as sketchy as it might sound from the title. I’d wanted to see it for some time because a young Kimberly McCullough, who grew up on General Hospital in the 80’s-90’s and is still on today, was in it. Not worth it for that, BTW. I don’t think she even had lines. The movie was pretty disappointing on the whole. The plot had promise, I guess, but somehow I never really bought into those characters, except maybe for Kevin Spacey’s character, the bad guy.

Most recent movie watched in the theater? Oh, my, couldn’t say. I’d’ve liked to’ve seen the new James Bond movie, and also the new Liam Neeson movie Taken, but it never worked out. Maybe Mamma Mia was it? Found that one extremely disappointing. It is wrapped up in happy bouncy songs and happy bouncy people, but it is at it’s heart a celebration of hedonism and lack of responsibility. I think a lot of people missed all that amidst the happy bounciness. I did really like the dance scene to “Lay All Your Love on Me” (I song I LOVE from Information Society, didn’t know ABBA did it first) where the guys are out on the dock and they all jump off.

Around the same time I saw the new X-Files movie…extremely disappointing is putting it mildly.

Currently listening to: In the morning when I wake up, the radio. My CD player alarm broke. It’s not even a good wake-up station. There is a good wake-up station, but for some reason I can’t pick it up well in the master bedroom. In the car, I’m seriously missing my free SIRIUS subscription and my favorite channel, 22. I’m listening to the radio or to one of three CDs — Burek by Dino Merlin, Big Thing by Duran Duran, or Who We Are by Lifehouse. That is more or less random, the CDs that happened to be there.

Time to go set up those other Monday night shows to record!

Die Welle — Realistic? Friday, Sep 5 2008 

Airplane movies are great. I get to watch things I would never pay money for, and usually wouldn’t even sit through commercials for. But in the less-and-less-friendly skies, I can watch these third-string movies with the swearing edited out and no commercials. And sometimes this brings great surprises!

I saw Spidey III (not high on my list, never was a comicbook fan & never watched Spidey I or II), the first Jason Bourne movie (thought it would be dumb…still thought it was kind of dumb…but I rented part II a few months later and part III a week or so later, so obviously it grew on me!), and the French film adapted from an American novel I believe, Ne les dis a personnes (my French ain’t so swift so I may have spelled it wrong, but this was a darn good movie that my plane had to go and land during, about 3/4 the way through — help! I still want to see the end!), and most recently Indiana Jones 4 (OK, not third string, I just hadn’t seen it somehow, probably because I was like, yeah, saw that on Stargate), and Die Welle.

Die Welle is a German film. You can read the technical details here, watch a trailer here (though your German will have to be better than mine, I couldn’t find a sub-titled version), and read a Wikipedia article about it here. The movie (The Wave in English) is based on a book, which is in turn based on a (supposedly) true story that took place in the US.

Here’s the plot in brief (of the movie). A German high school teacher is assigned to teach a one-week class on Autocracy; he’s disappointed because he’d wanted to teach anarchy, which is apparently closer to his own political leanings, at least from his younger days. On Monday he asks the students questions like “What is autocracy?” and “Can you give me an example of an autocratic government?” The kids are kind of rolling their eyes, saying, “The Third Reich, yeah, yeah, not more of that crap, the Nazis were bad, we get it.” They’re clearly sick of hearing about the Nazis and don’t think it terribly relevant to the present and to their lives. One girl says, “That couldn’t happen in Germany again.”

The teacher decides to implement a “mini-autocracy,” though I don’t think it ever explicitly is called an autocracy. The students must call him “Mr. Wenger” instead of by his first name, they must stand up to ask a question, they must sit up in their seats to ask a question, and they must wear white shirts and jeans to school. Actually, they all agree to this, except for one kind of obnoxious girl who is the lone real dissident, and a drug dealer. (The horrors! They all have to wear jeans! They can’t call the teacher by his first name! I can hear the “Heil Hitler” coming now.)

The kids get really into it. One makes a MySpace page, one a webpage, one a logo, one a “salute” (kind of a wave motion). By like Thursday they’re bullying kids who aren’t in The Wave, which has morphed into some kind of social club, and they’re getting all aggressive in general. One guy hits his sort-of girlfriend. (But, hey, don’t we all feel like hitting people when wearing white shirts and jeans?)

Meanwhile, one kid is REALLY into it. He’s clearly got at least one screw loose. Seriously, he would need psychological care. On Tuesday already, I believe, he designs the webpage and puts guns in the logo, and by like Wednesday he’s showing up at the teacher’s house saying the teacher needs a bodyguard. QUIT READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT THE PLOT SPOILED. When the teacher realizes things have gotten out of hand he calls a meeting…Friday? I think. Maybe Saturday. He tells them The Wave is over. The troubled kid whips out a gun, shoots a fellow student, threatens to kill the teacher, then kills himself. The teacher is taken away by the police, though it isn’t clear if it’s for questioning as a knowledgeable witness or if he’s under arrest. The end.

Thought-provoking, huh? As you can tell from my parentheticals, I think this all happened way too fast to be realistic. Two days of wearing white shirts has made them start hitting their girlfriends? Willing to beat up a fellow student if the teacher commands it? We are all more easily manipulated than we like to think, this I understand. (Don’t believe it? Recall the famous Milgram experiment.) But unlike in the Milgram experiment, where the subject responds to commands the experimenter is giving sitting right next to him or her, these kids are expanding The Wave and changing their behavior outside of class. It’s not an issue of obedience to authority. But it’s based on a true story, right?

Hmmm, maybe, maybe not. If you poke around on the internet (and unfortunately I can’t find the site I was looking at the other night), you find that there are serious questions about whether the real class actually went anything like this. And I have to say I can’t imagine this actually happening in an American high school. I also had a problem with the teacher being portrayed kind of as the bad guy. The teacher didn’t know what these guys were doing outside of class. Other students knew the unhinged kid had a gun; the teacher had no idea. He just asked them to wear white shirts, for Pete’s sake! He probably should have been more clear that they were participating in a class exercise, not starting a new youth movement.

Did it happen or did it not? Who knows.

Could it happen?

How do Nazis and Nazi sympathizers “happen”?

What would it take for people to willing (enthusiastically!) submit to an autocratic regime in the developed Western world today?

Realistic or not, the film does make you think.

Interview with Narnia Director Wednesday, May 7 2008 

Check out this interview from the director of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and now also the second film, Prince Caspian. Apparently it’s coming out in May, wow! I really don’t remember at all the other Narnia books (though I read them all some 25 years ago or so), so this one will be watched by fresh eyes. The only thing I remember is being disappointed that the other books weren’t about the kids…but apparently they’re all over this one. Looking forward to seeing it!