Archive for July, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe – A Review

Posted on July 25, 2008. Filed under: Reviews |

 

 

 

 

The X-Files:  I Want to Believe – A Review

Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz join forces again in the newest iteration of the X-Files universe (The X-Files:  I Want to Believe) as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprise their roles as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.  My greatest fear walking into this movie was that it was merely going to be a two hour episode where Mulder can say “shit” and get away with it.  Also, I went in to the movie knowing absolutely nothing about the storyline and wondering how much this film would delve into the X-Files mythos.  What I ended up walking out with was a mixed bag.

I’m not sure exactly how much time is supposed to have elapsed from the end of the last season to the start of this movie but I got the distinct impression that it was years.  As we begin to get reintegrated into the world of the X-Files we find Dana Scully living a normal life, working as a doctor in a hospital.  One day she is approached by an FBI agent (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner) asking for the whereabouts of Fox Mulder.  The FBI puts a deal on the table forgiving all of Mulder’s past transgressions and dropping the charges against him if he would only assist in investigating a case of a missing special agent.  Scully takes the offer to Fox and convinces him to trust the feds in an attempt to get him out of his seclusion.

“I’m done chasing monsters in the dark”

The reason the FBI is interested in bringing back the team of Mulder and Scully is due to the fact that an ex-priest named Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly) is claiming that he is receiving visions from God in regards to the case.  Upon meeting Crissman we discover that he is also a convicted pedophile setting the stage for the inevitable doubts to be cast in his direction.  After all, how could a disgraced priest who had sex with “37 altar boys” possibly receive forgiveness, let alone visions, from God?  From the word “go” we have to wrestle with the fact that there are times that we may not like the people that God forgives.

As the crimes continue to spread and more people get hurt, the legitimacy of Crissman’s visions increasingly become questioned and scrutinized.  Fox Mulder wants to believe that the disgraced priest is truly having visions, that the suspicions of his complicity in these crimes are false and in the end his belief will be rewarded.  As the case progresses, belief and faith are stretched to the breaking point and Sully and Mulder’s relationship begins to fall apart (yes, the legendary chemistry is still there and played out well). 

Crissman:  “So you believe in these sorts of things?”

Mulder:  “Let’s just say I want to believe.”

 

Each of them is caught in a situation where they must wrestle with their doubts as their faith or belief in something is called into question.   For example, Scully is confronted with a decision which her hospital would find unethical and the religious authorities in the administration are dogging her every step.  She also has a serious problem with a pedophile receiving help from “God”.  As the movie unfolds we are shown the evil of faith and science and good of faith and science. 

This makes for an interesting contrast.  What seems like polar opposites actually have a lot in common.  Faith and religious belief have been used arrogantly and even violently, but it has also been used to create love and peace.  Similarly science has brought horrors and unleashed disasters, but without science much that improves our quality of life wouldn’t exist.  The problem that Dana Scully seems to have is the same thing that most people have.  It’s not that she dislikes God or doesn’t want to believe in a higher being, she has a problem with God’s representatives and what they do.  But that begs the question, does the lack of tact or compassion in some people who call themselves followers of God necessarily imply that God must not exist, or at the very least, share the worst attributes of the worst of his so-called disciples?

Crissman to Scully:  “You’re a woman of faith.  Not the same faith as your husband.”

We come to find out that if anything, these things that we are confronted with can be used as a tool to strengthen rather than destroy our faith.  These obstacles aren’t insurmountable, they can be overcome.  It’s not easy; we have thousands of years of people trying to live spiritual lives that can attest to that.  But the pay off in the end is being more grounded in what you believe in, you are more solid for having weathered the storm.  It doesn’t mean that doubts won’t rear their heads again, they will.  It doesn’t mean that you’ll live a life filled with certainty about everything, you won’t.  What it does mean is that you have grown.  You have become more fully human. 

To wrap this up, for as average as I thought this movie was, I’m a little confounded by how much it has actually caused me to think.  This has actually raised the bar for the movie a bit for me.  Now that I have had time to sit and process it all I have come to conclude that while I may not have adored the execution of the film, it was better than I anticipated.  Was it a two hour long episode?  Yes.  Did it delve into the long-winded X-Files mythos?  Not really.  But it did cause me to think and that is what art is supposed to do. 

 

*As a post script, I really enjoyed the Where’s Waldo-like game of “Find the Mis En Place”.  As Scully and Mulder were discussing something, Dana was standing off to the side a bit while the hospital’s name (Our Lady of Sorrows) took center frame.  Also before something major happened to Mulder there is a man in the hospital sitting in the foreground holding an urn.  I think I may have even seen the word “Champ” scribbled on a basketball sitting on Mulder’s desk after he made a major breakthrough.  Let me know if you’re able to see anything else.

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Rock Me Sexy Jesus

Posted on July 23, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This was too cool not to post.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  I might even change my ringtone to this.

 

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The Dark Knight – A Review

Posted on July 20, 2008. Filed under: Reviews, Spiritual Musings |

 

 

 

The Dark Knight – A Review

The Good, the Bad and the Fallen

My anticipation for this new Batman movie, directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) was akin to a child on Christmas Eve. I knew that if I waited long enough I’d be presented with something that made neat noises and had cool blinking lights. When I got to the theater to open my gift what did I find? Something really cool that made neat noises and had cool blinking lights! To begin with, the trailers had me riveted (must see trailers of the summer for “Watchmen”, the new James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace” and “Terminator: Salvation”). By the time the actual movie began to play, I already had goose bumps covering my arms.

The basic premise of the movie is that the mob is being run out of town by Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), at times with the help of Batman (Christian Bale). In their moment of desperation, the Joker (Heath Ledger in his final performance) offers his services to bring an end to Batman. The Joker then goes on a rampage of wanton death and destruction bringing forth a new enemy for Batman and even causes the caped crusader to doubt his own worth and place in Gotham society. The better Batman does his job, the worse it becomes for the citizens of Gotham as the criminal element (in this case the Joker) has to become more and more brazen and violent to do what they do, becoming a never ending cycle.

 Ledger’s eagerly anticipated performance was well worth the wait. I found myself genuinely creeped out and disturbed by not only what he said but by how he said it. His movements, expressions, intonations, quirks, hell everything he did was over the top. It was like watching an even more psychotic version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, a man who merely wants to revel in chaos, destruction and fear. Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, Ledger’s acting nearly overshadows the stellar performances given by everyone else (as a matter of fact, Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon blew my socks off again and Eckhart as Dent was mesmerizing.) By far, this is the darkest Batman movie I’ve ever seen.

The parallels that the world of The Dark Knight and our post 9/11 world are as well concealed as a bull in a china shop. An iconic shot of Batman standing amidst the still-burning rubble of a recently bombed building while firefighters scurry around searching the debris brings to mind images of the ruins of the Trade Center after they fell. One line that ends up being said twice in the film is, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” which seems to be the film’s way of questioning whether or not in our own reality we’ve become the bad guys. Though prevalent, these obvious allusions did not detract from the experience of the movie or from the reality of the Gotham’s world.

There was one thought that kept popping into my head as the movie unfolded: people need a savior. They need someone who they know will protect them and they know will be there for them when they are needed. Batman couldn’t always be there and I believe Bruce Wayne stated it best when he said, “People need a hero with a face.” People need a hero that they can identify with, someone they know is like them and has the same hopes and fears which will motivate them to do what is best.

 When God became man, he identified with humanity. He presented us with a savior with the same desires, same temptations, same fears and dreams as we have. We were given a hero with a face. When we needed it most humanity’s hero appeared and saved a dying world while showing us a different way of doing things. He showed us that we don’t have to fear the night, that we are cared about. And much like the Dark Knight, our hero was despised and an outcast but he still did what needed to be done simply because it was the right thing to do.

In conclusion, this movie stirred my mind and sated my imagination. With the emotions, visuals and overall “feel” of the movie, it was a film that was more or less “experienced” as much as watched. It took you to some pretty dark places but it truly stirred your thoughts beyond the celluloid. Great movie, a must see at the theater and most definitely a must buy when it comes out on DVD.

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Watchmen Trailer

Posted on July 18, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Check it out! If the movie is half as good as it looks in this trailer I may wet myself in the theater. Looking great so far and it’s still got another year to 9 months before it comes out! Check out the Watchmen Trailer:

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The Bible as Horror pt. 1: Disturbing Decisions and Immoral Behavior

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: Theological Crap |

The Bible as a Horror Novel

Recently I’ve been reading some horror novels and short stories and I’ve noticed a common thread. Most of these stories involve something biblically related. It’s not the religions of Christianity or Judaism that are being used as the inspiration for horror but the book that they use. It got me to thinking about why that is, why does the bible seem to be inspiration for some really imaginative yet disturbing fiction? Then it dawned on me that the bible may just be the greatest horror story ever written.

I believe that a good part of it comes from things like immorality and disturbing decisions made by those whom we’ve been taught are worth admiring and emulating. Consider some of the appalling things that the bible covers. There are fathers willingly giving their daughters to men who they know will ravage them for the sake of protecting themselves and strangers they’d just met. David is a man after God’s own heart but that doesn’t stop him from ordering the death of one of his closest comrades, Uriah, after cheating with the man’s wife. Not to mention that little thing called the Canaanite genocide, an event which took years to unfold and involved two of the greatest religious icons, Moses and Joshua.

We may forget what a terrible thing the march through the Holy Land was. Imagine an army walking through Houston and simply laying waste to it, killing absolutely everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! Your gold fish and gerbils aren’t even safe. Then the buildings are all burnt to the ground. The entire city is destroyed. Now I know that the population of Houston is a lot larger than any of the towns or cities that were attacked by the Israelites, I’m using it as an equivalent to Ai or Jericho, large cities for their day. Romulus and Remus were still nursing from mother wolf at the time.

I can go on and on but for the sake of time I’ll limit it to some bullet points:

• Incest early on in the bible
• Child sacrifice
• Purposely marrying a woman who gets around
• Selling a brother into slavery
• The entire book of Judges
• Killing a surrendering unarmed enemy
• Advocating smashing babies against rocks
• Making someone tell a lie then destroying them because they told it
• Circumcising unsuspecting suitors only to kill them while they recover

I’d love to elaborate but I must move on.

As a matter of fact, I think that I will have to break this up into different subjects and different blogs. There is so much to cover and I don’t want this to become one massive blog where you get overwhelmed within the first couple of paragraphs. I think the next thing I’ll cover is the gruesome images we’re given. Then I’ll cover the Lord of the Rings/Fantastical realm of the bible as horror and then the actual horror movie kind of horror stuff. More to follow in the coming days.

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Our Newest Member of Our Family

Posted on July 8, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Most of you know that Marcia was a week overdue to have our baby. Little Guerin Aquinas Rolfingsmeyer (named after St. Theodore Guerin and St. Thomas Aquinas) was originally due on June 26th but he didn’t seem like he ever wanted to come. Poor Marcia was sooooo big that the nurses at the hospital asked as we walked in, “So you’re having twins, huh?” and we’d look at them and smile as we said no.

Finally at about 8:30 in the morning on July 3rd, Marcia woke me up gently and politely rubbing my leg. I would stir but I just couldn’t get up. Finally she said, “Hon’, my water just broke.” Boy, I shot up like a rocket. Since my wife was a high risk pregnancy we were supposed to get her to the hospital as quickly as possible. But as some of you may know, when a woman first goes in to labor, they don’t just double over in pain and immediately deliver a kid. They get giddy and kind of piddle around doing things and talking a lot, so we didnt even leave the house until just about 10:30….2 hours after her water broke.

We arrived at the hospital and we were introduced to one of the nicest nurses I’d ever met: Erin. She watched over us and actually came in every half hour to make sure we were okay.  Unfortunately around 5 o’clock Marcia’s contractions had not progressed and remained random and weak.  After talking it over with our doctor, we’d decided that a progressive dose of petocin was the way to go.  Poor Marcia was having major contractions that were increasing in intensity and thusly increased in pain.  Right about 8:30, Marcia was in tears and was begging for an epidural.  I asked that she be checked to see how dilated she was before we even were going to consider using pain meds.  This is something that Marcia wanted, not just me.  I’m not some sadistic male pig who thinks that women should have pain in labor because they were the ones who partook of the fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Using no meds was something that was very dear to Marcia.   

I kicked everyone out of the delivery room and waited until the next contraction passed to look Marcia right in the eyes to say, “Are you sure this is what you want?  I just wanted to remind you that you wanted to do it with no meds for your sake and for the baby’s.” She began to cry and apologize to me telling me that the petocin was making it so bad that she couldn’t stand it.  I told her, “Don’t apologize to me, I have no idea what you are going through.  The only one who can gauge how bad it is is you.  This is all your decision and I will support you.”  I then had an idea that we would check how dilated she was before we made a final decision.

The nurses came back in and checked her; only 6cm. dilated!  So she made the call:  epidural.  I can’t blame her.  She didn’t have a clear end in sight and the contractions were killing her.  The contractions were one minute long and were coming every 2 minutes.  She was getting no rest in between them. 

Now, let me tell you, watching the epidural was like watching a train wreck or staring at a car accident.  No matter how creepy, no matter how disturbing it got, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  I was even watching the anesthesiologist (sp?) in the reflection in the windows.  I felt myself starting to fade a little bit and the only reason I knew I was falling out was the sound of my shoes slowly creeking.  I caught myself, shook it off and concentrated on supporting my wife. 

After the whole epidural thing, I needed to get a breath of fresh air to clear my head and I figured it was a good time to also update people on the phone.  I called some close friends to let them know what was going on and then made my way back upstairs. 

As I stepped in the room, there was a buzz of activity.  Tara, our new nurse, and Marcia were really excited and chatty.  As Tara walked by me she said, “I’m going to find Dr. Pauloski.  She’s 9.5 cm. now!”  I was only gone for about 10 minutes.  The epidural had relaxed her to the point that everything was able to fall into place and get moving along at a quicker pace.  Literally the only thing we were waiting on was for the doctor to show up. 

What seemed like hours later, the doctor finally walked in the room.  He wheeled in his table as the nurse set up everything else.  By now, Marcia was so relaxed that she was chatty and laughing it up with everyone in the room.  And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.  My mom was there as well as my wife’s sister Amber, my mother-in-law Sue, my mom Louise and my 3 1/2 year old Titus. 

As Tara got on one side, I got on the other as the doctor prepared to deliver baby Guerin.  Titus got amazingly quiet and watched intently as this amazing thing.  He was full of questions as all of the comotion settled around his mom. 

The doctor gave us the okay to start pushing and Tara and I counted as Marcia bore down and started to heave.  We did the normal ten count allowing Marcia about a minute between contractions to catch her breath.  Finally the head started to show and the doctor did his best to kind of ease the big old melon of a head out.  The cord was wrapped around his neck so there was a tense couple of seconds as the doctor did his best to move it over his head.  Finally he was able to get it to budge and there was a collective sigh of relief.  As soon as Guerin’s head was out the rest of him just slid free. 

But there was a hush that fell over the room.  This baby was HUGE!  Even the doctor and nurse were kind of taken aback at what lay before them.  Doctor Pauloski finally broke the silence by saying, “You didn’t have a baby, you had a toddler!”  There was a little difficulty with Guerin’s breathing at first so he was moved over to the warming table where the nurse could stimulate him into crying.  He perked up rather quickly and he was weighed and measured.  Once again a hush passed over the room as the nurse called out, “23 1/2 inches, 11 pounds 8 ounces.”  She had to repeat it a couple of times before all the people in the room were convinced that the baby was as big as she was saying. 

About an hour later we were able to move upstairs to the room we would be staying in for the next 48 hours, kicked everyone out and ordered some food.  After we ate we decided to try our best to settle in and rest up.  It was now midnight and unfortunately I couldn’t sleep.  I roamed around outside, I played with the baby, I flipped through the channels and read through a book.  But no matter how exhausted I was, I couldn’t sleep. 

Finally around four in the morning, I pulled out the sleeper bed and tried to bed down for the night, which just happened to be the most uncomfortable sleep I’ve ever had.  I tossed and turned all night long and woke up so sore, you would have thought that I’d gone to the gym. 

Aside from all of the freaky things that happened, all the worries and concerns, everything turned out all right.  We’re at home now and we have an all new set of concerns (jaundice, possible infections, prepping the baby’s room, getting baby furniture to the house, etc.) but we’ll manage through them.  I’ll try to keep you posted on anything that happens but I’d like to thank everyone for their congratulations and visits.  We look forward to more visitors and (hint, hint) more meals to help us out, (thank you Ro, since Marcia was the meal planner at church for people who needed meals, no one is doing it for her, something we overlooked and hope somebody will pick up.)

Anyway peace to you all and thank you very much for everything.

Rob

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Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – A Review

Posted on July 7, 2008. Filed under: Reviews |

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

Chef and best selling author Anthony Bourdain prepares to take us on another tasty romp around the world in the Travel Channel’s newest season of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations beginning July 7th at 10 p.m . If any of the previous seasons are any indication, this season will once again please the culinary curiosity in us all. Unlike some travel food shows Chef Bourdain takes great pains to roam off of the beaten path to discover a country’s or a region’s native dishes and along the way does what he can to take part in the indigenous culture’s traditions.

Bourdain narrates his journeys with wit and reverence. In each episode he takes the time to explain an abbreviated version of the area’s history casting light on how the local food developed into its current cuisine. Avoiding the tourist traps, Bourdain lives up to the Travel Channel motto “Be a traveler, not a tourist” and dines in such diverse places as the African Savannah, local pubs and the occasional fine dining restaurant. Along the way he has a “fixer” in tow to guide him to the right spots which more often than not includes little mom and pop joints and the ubiquitous hole in the wall. Every so often he is even invited to take part in a normal family dinner which can be as small as the average nuclear family to as large as an entire village/community.

As we are shown the world through the eyes of this adventurous chef, it’s hard not to notice how deeply ingrained food is in a culture. With a McDonald’s or a Burger King only a couple of miles in either direction from most people, we have a tendency to sacrifice the importance of the meaning of a meal for convenience. No Reservations reintroduces us to the importance of food in society. For much of the world a meal serves not just to nourish us, the meal ministers to people as they draw together as a family or community to sit and talk about the day or about important past/current events.

As I watch I can’t help but draw a correlation between how the world celebrates its diverse cuisines and the communion table. As a church, we draw together as a family to celebrate and remember an important event in our collective history. In communion we are joined by all of our church family around the world; past, present and future. In No Reservations, we see how love is put into each dish and that same love is dispersed to all who partake in it, much the same way as the love God has for each one of us is commemorated and diffused into each one of us as we participate in our various communion rites.

In summation, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations presents us with a world that we may have forgotten; a world where food is more than a meal but is the heart and soul of a culture. As Bourdain continues his travels to exotic locals and the dive right around the corner perhaps we can get in touch with the importance of the shared meal again and maybe it will help us to approach the communion table with a renewed body, mind and spirit.

*As a side note, I would like to say that if you can find it on TV or maybe pick up the second season on DVD, please watch the Beirut episode. While the No Reservations crew was in Lebanon a couple of Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah sparking a wave of Israeli attacks and Lebanese counterattacks. The crew was able to catch on film the celebration of children in the streets upon hearing the news of the captured soldiers, the nervousness and trepidation of guides who’s family whereabouts were unknown, the partying of Lebanese young folks as they try to ignore the small war happening around them, even the dramatic bombing of the Beirut airport. It’s a fascinating look into people’s reactions to fear and strife and also peers into the hearts of a people who are surrounded by violence.

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