Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Gets My Blood Boiling

I don't get easily offended or even pissed off about anything very often.  I try to take most ideas and comments with an open mind, even if the opinion is different from my own.  This is especially true when debating or discussing something as sensitive as religion; I have many close friends and even some family who have vastly opposing views on religion compared to mine, but we disagree and leave it at that.  I'm hardly a missionary, so getting to a really in-depth conversation over religion would quickly put me in over my head.

With that in mind, I came across this brief story today during my lunch break at work.  Like I said, I try not to get too flustered when I read something about a non-religious person getting into a tizzy over a religious person - Christian or otherwise - making a public display of his or her views.  The last time I can recall ever getting really offended over something anti-Christian was a theater performance I saw in college where a character had intentionally created a performance designed to offend Christians everywhere.

My view on anything in the media designed to be anti-religion or anti-Christian has always been the same: The predominant amount of anti-religion rants have been against Christianity, mainly because it's the "mainstream" religion in this country and around the world.  I can't remember the last time I ever read anything from the likes of American Atheists targeting Muslims or Jews.  Getting back to the aforementioned performance I had seen, I didn't exactly give the character in the play props for being "edgy" for simply mocking Christian theology.

Anyway, the story I came across today was probably the first time I had been so deeply offended and pissed off at an atheist getting riled up about a public display of Christian faith.  I never knew the story of Buzz Aldrin bringing communion with him when he had landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.  When I read that particular side to the moon landing, my first thought was, "Wow, that's pretty awesome."

Then I read about the fit that Madalyn Murray O'Hair threw.

As the link mentioned, the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 had wanted to read a passage from Genesis 8 during their mission into space.  They had wanted to broadcast their reading across the airwaves, but O'Hair threatened to sue the U.S. government if they went ahead with their plans on the grounds that they were government employees on duty, and should not be associated with a religious expression thanks to the separation of church and state.  Because of that headache, NASA didn't allow Aldrin to publicly air his communion on Apollo 11.

O'Hair passed away back in 1996 so it's quite literally a dead issue, but my reaction upon reading this story was, "To hell with you, lady."

Pun intended on that one.

Why do atheists look for excuses to get pissed off about any religious individual making an expression of their faith?  What bothers them so much about our faiths that we have to keep them bottled up at all times?  And why oh why do they have this elitist attitude for feeling "enlightened" that they've "figured out" that there is no God?

Atheists can disagree with me all they like, and I really don't care. What pisses me off is that they're so concerned with people of all religious backgrounds and faiths being open about their faiths, they in fact become the very thing they supposedly are trying to stop: they force feed their own beliefs on others and essentially spread the idea that their civil liberties are more important than those of the people they disagree with. If that's not irony, I don't know what is.

I can at least respect people like Joss Whedon (writer/director of The Avengers and creator of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer) because even though he is an atheist, he at least will write characters in his films who have religious beliefs, like Captain America in The Avengers for one.  He doesn't place his own ego or beliefs ahead of other people who may disagree.  I'm okay with that.

There is one great irony that gets a little payback towards any of these angry atheists like Madalyn Murray O'Hair who are still out there today, and that is "In God We Trust" has been the official national motto since 1956, and the phrase appears on all American coins and $20 bills.  Add to that the line "One nation, under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and "God Bless America" being sung at baseball games across the country.  Things like that give me a little satisfaction knowing bitter atheists still have to acknowledge the vast majority of Americans and people worldwide believe in a God of some kind.  I'd call that vindication.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

There's Nothing Wrong With Needing a Little Help

Back around the beginning of this year, I started thinking about seeing a therapist.  There were a number of reasons why the idea popped in my head, and I did a little reading on the subject.  I even talked to a couple close friends to get their insight, mostly ones who I knew had already been to a therapist in the past.  They all encouraged me to go ahead with it, considering the benefits they had gotten from therapy.

Then came the procrastinating.  I kept thinking, "Oh, I'll go find one.  Next week."  A week turned into two weeks, then four weeks, and then next thing I knew six months had gone by and I still didn't do anything about it.  Denial had crept its way into my head too, fooling me into thinking maybe I didn't really need one after all.  I told myself I'm fine on plenty of occasions, and that I didn't think I needed a therapist like I had first thought I did.

The past few days taught me otherwise.

I'm not going to go into the deep details because they're too private, but I realized earlier this week that I need to find a therapist.  I don't care if she tells me I'm overreacting in needing to talk to someone; hell, if she does tell me that I'll probably be relieved.  Still, I'm pretty confident that I could use some professional insight instead of just some family members or friends telling me what I want to hear.

Last night I think was the confirmation more than anything else that I need some mental help.  I went to bed after a night out with my friends, and I had a dream about my family.  I've talked on here a few times about how my family has become very disjointed since my parents' divorce, but the effect it's had on me has been greater than I've estimated.  I dreamed that somehow my parents chose to reconcile and got back together, eventually remarrying.  It was one of those dreams that almost felt like reality to me, and when I had woken up I didn't realize at first that it was merely a dream.  When the truth did settle in on me, I felt something like disappointment, though that word is far too soft to describe my reaction.  I regretted that I had woken up, wishing that I could go back to that mental fantasy.

I had already called a local therapist and set up an appointment for Monday evening after work a couple days ago, so this dream wasn't the catalyst for my choice.  It was, however, more evidence to confirm the necessity for working through a lot of emotional baggage that I've been carrying around.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if I found out there was plenty more issues that I'm not already aware of that I need to work on as well.  Time will tell just what kinds of issues I have buried deep inside me, and how long it will take for me to work on them.

I haven't yet decided on just what kinds of details I will share on here regarding my sessions.  It'll likely depend on the kinds of things we discuss, and the things I learn about myself.  The good thing is that I've gotten over my initial procrastination and denial, and it "only" took me six months to figure that part out.

I don't know how long the road is ahead of me, but there may be some hope.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The World War Z You Didn't See

I'm pretty late to the party on World War Z, but since I finally saw it over the weekend I felt compelled to talk about it on here.  This won't be a traditional review as other films I've seen were, though; this is going to be something a bit different.

Every now and then a major film production hits a snag, and the film's script has to be rewritten either while the film is still being shot or even in post-production.  Many films have gone through this process, including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Devil's Own, The Exorcist prequel, and Superman II.  If that sounds like the recipe for disaster, that's because it is; most films find themselves crippled if the scripts are heavily rewritten so deeply into production.  The sheer cost of keeping the production staff and cast together long enough to complete the film as originally conceived is crazy.  Many times the film in question is doomed if something so drastic happens, with Superman II being one of the few exceptions.

Chalk World War Z up as another exception to the rule.  The film by itself is one of the most intense movie experiences I've had in a long time, and I'm still pressed to come up with the last time I was gripping my seat from the first five minutes of a movie.  That the film is even halfway decent is extremely impressive, given its  troubled (to say the least) production history.

For starters, the film was originally supposed to be released around Christmas last year.  The film was delayed by six months for a number of reasons, primarily because at that point, the studio hated the third act of the film.  A new writer was hired to rewrite the script and come up with a new ending to the film entirely, while still leaving the door open for a sequel.

Before I get too much into that, it's also worth noting that Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster reportedly hated each other during filming.  It supposedly got so bad that they only communicated back and forth via handwritten notes.  Part of the source of their mutual dislike was their disagreement over how to adapt the book in the first place; Pitt loved the book's style and how it retold events of the zombie apocalypse after it had already happened, while Forster wanted to tell a linear story and show the origins of the apocalypse itself.  (I should mention that I can't confirm how much of these details are accurate.  I read all sorts of articles about these issues with varying degrees of detail over how well or little Pitt and Forster got along)

If you've seen the film, then you'll be able to follow what I'm about to discuss.  If you haven't, be warned because SPOILERS abound here.

The point where the original ending and the rewritten third act started with Pitt's character Gerry and another soldier escaping Jerusalem after it was overrun by zombies.  They board an airliner with the intent of getting to a World Health Organization facility in India in order to find something that will help them develop a cure for whatever disease has turned so much of the planet's population into zombies.

Trouble is, there's a problem on the plane, and by "problem," I mean zombies.  The plane crashes, and Gerry and his soldier companion are the only survivors.  They make their way to a W.H.O. facility nearby, and have to work with the few doctors on site to come up with a way to protect the remaining healthy humans.  It's a very intense game of hide and seek within the hospital, and actually served as a great contrast to the previous crazy action sequence in Jerusalem.

Compare that to this breakdown of the original third act.

Where to start?

I didn't even notice Matthew Fox as the paratrooper who had saved Gerry's family at the beginning of the film.  I didn't recall his name listed in the opening credits either.  Fox is actually one of my favorite actors right now, and it wasn't until I had read that breakdown that I even knew he was supposed to be in the film at all, much less play a crucial role by the third act.

The more I've read about this original climactic action sequence, the more curious I am to see it.  I've seen other alternate endings and deleted scenes from movies on DVDs and Blu Rays I own, but the only two notable films I can think of that were so vastly rewritten and reshot that were made available to own were The Exorcist prequel and Superman II.  Ideally, I'd like to see everything that was originally shot edited with the rest of the movie, along with details over stuff that was conceived but not shot.  I don't expect much of any that to be included though.

Here's the kicker: The ending used in the final film was, in my opinion, a better choice than the original ending.  I thought the climactic sequence in the W.H.O. facility was dark, suspenseful, and the perfect contrast to the loud, crazy action sequences in Jerusalem and on the airplane.  Making another huge battle sequence in Russia to follow everything else would have been both exhausting and anti-climactic, not to mention the tagged on plot element of Gerry's family being de facto hostages.  There was plenty of set up for a sequel in the finished film, while still providing closure to everything that had happened already.  The original ending would have provided closure to nothing, and merely act entirely as set up for a sequel.  

On second thought, I think what I'd like to see more than the footage shot for the original ending is a documentary on the entire process.  I'm sure that will never happen though, given how it would likely paint the overall production of the film in a negative light.  Such a piece would probably highlight the animosity and frustration of the staff, along with showing them butting heads with the studio suits.  No film producers would so openly show themselves as combative or confrontational as they would have to be in a behind the scenes documentary like the one I'm imagining.  I can picture the producers approaching the director and writing staff on their desire to radically change the tone and pace of the film.  That might be painful and awkward to watch.

Regardless, I'm extremely impressed with how World War Z turned out, despite all the headaches that went on behind the scenes.  It's definitely one of the few exceptions where such headaches were worth it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Challenging My Manhood

I came across a blog post that listed the four things modern adult men should be able to do on their own.  I've mentioned before how I get a kick out of posts on Cracked, especially their lists involving movies and TV shows.  I don't read their social posts very often, but this post's headline caught my attention.

The natural question now becomes, can I do the four things listed in the post?

4. Build a Fire.

Yes, I can build a fire, but this should come with an asterisk.  I don't think I'd be able to build a fire using only kindling and rocks in the woods, so if I was somehow lost on my own in the middle of nowhere you might as well plan my funeral.  A bear would likely eat me before I'd survive long enough to last on my own prior to being rescued.

However, I can build a fire like most anyone else builds a fire today - through the use of starter logs.  Give me a fireplace, some wood, a few pieces of kindling, a starter log, and a few matches and we'll be good to go.  It probably wouldn't be safe to use to roast marshmallows or melt chocolate due to the chemicals in the starter log, but we'll still be safe and warm in the winter.

3. Run a Mile.

Mildly funny story: When I was in high school, my gym class had a conditioning training of sorts for all the students every spring.  The teachers wanted to make sure the students were healthy enough to handle basic conditioning training, which included running a 7-minute mile.  The course was one large oval-shaped path, and a mile would be four laps around the course.  Our teacher told us anyone who couldn't complete a 7-minute mile had to run an extra lap.

I had to run an extra lap.

A couple days later I was talking about the run with a classmate in a separate computer programming class.  She asked me what my running time was, and I said it was 9 1/2 minutes.  Our computer teacher happened to be the track and field coach at our school, and when she overheard my running time she turned around and had a look of shock on her face.  I had to shrug and admit the truth, and then said I wouldn't stand a chance in making the track team with a time like that.  She laughed and got the joke.

I was eventually able to condition myself into running a 7-minute mile, but that was a very long time ago.  I haven't timed myself in a very, very long time, but I can say at least I can run a mile using the bikes at the gym.  I'm not sure how good that makes me look though.

2. Change a Flat Tire.

This I have done.  I only did it once, so I had to learn as I went along, but a few years ago I had to come to the rescue after a friend of mine called me up in panic because she had a flat tire on the side of the highway.  We had to work together in order to figure out how to swap the flat tire for the donut spare in her trunk, but we managed to do it properly.  The toughest part by far was loosening the nuts on the tire in order to remove it.  Either way, I can certainly do it again if there was a need for it in the future.

1. Dividing Up a Bill.

I'm not sure I understand why this is even on the list.  What guy can't divide up a bill properly, especially if his cell phone has a calculator built into it?  Maybe I'm just a numbers guy so dividing up a bill and calculating the tip properly comes naturally to me, but I rarely ever need a calculator to tally anything up.

I was actually surprised at some omissions on this list.  There were a few things that I would think most adult men should be able to do that weren't on here.  Things like....

Paint a room
Cook a full meal from scratch
Set up a TV entertainment center (TV, cable box, Blu Ray player, etc)
Know roughly how much cologne to wear at a given time
Fix basic plumbing problems, e.g. clogged or overflowing toilet*
Know how to dance*

*I need to learn how to do this.

What other basic skills have I missed?