Sunday, November 20, 2005

HP and the Goblet of Fire

Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
Well, I must say they did it well. Not that I was worried, mind you- even with my worst complaints of any of the previous three, I never disliked any of them. AND in fact, the one with which I had the biggest problem was actually also my favorite thus far (Prisoner of Azkaban, if you are wondering). But this one, I am afraid, bumps #3 from its spot, because honestly, the cast itself continually gets better, and thus the movies get better.

Not that this one is without its flaws. I will keep the details to a minimum for the sake of anyone who has yet to see the movie, but here are a few comments: There are a few loopholes. There are some simplifications to the complex plot which place certain characters in situations in which they were not present in the book. This works fine to move the plot along and quickly introduce some important characters, but due to these changes, there are some plot holes and a few scenes that exist without any proper context or explanation. That being said, all the plot holes stem from one major change, and luckily these loopholes do not detract from the overall story. For such a complex book, they adapted it remarkably well.

What I really want to mention- though again without much detail- is surely one of the most anticipated and debatable points of the movie: the film’s portrayal of Voldemort. I have heard several opinions from people who were a bit disappointed with his appearance, but I will say without hesitation that he is EXACTLY what I hoped he would be. My fear was that he was going to look TOO “snakey” and lose his “humanity” completely, but the make-up strikes just the right balance. Scary, wicked, and monstrous, but without being TOO much of a “monster” as to make him unbelievable. (And yes, I know it’s a movie about wizards, so it can’t be all that believable to start with.)

What is scary about Voldemort throughout the whole series is not that he looks scary – it’s that he is evil through and through, and whatever transformation he has undergone is more internal than external. He might look a little freaky, but its what’s on the inside that you should fear. That’s what is scary about Voldemort. So yes- he looks creepy as hell, but not so freaky that you lose the focus on the evil soul inside the man. Make-up aside, Ralph Fiennes gives Voldemort the perfect aura of aristocratic malevolence. It wouldn’t have worked without an actor who couldn’t exude such an understated but overwhelming evil.

That’s all I’ll say. Go see it. It’s great fun.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Well, here it is...

...starting on the same day as the Liberian election results were announced.

Liberian Protesters Face Tear Gas
Friday, November 11, 2005; Posted: 12:41 p.m. EST (17:41 GMT)

Liberia (Reuters) -- U.N. forces fired tear gas at angry supporters of Liberian soccer star George Weah on Friday after they stoned police and marched to the U.S. embassy to back a demand to halt counting in an election Weah says was rigged.

For the full story, click here.

A First For Africa

From the BBC:
Liberia's 'Iron Lady' claims win

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, known as the "Iron Lady", has claimed victory as the first woman to be elected president of Liberia - or anywhere in Africa. With 91% of ballots counted, she had won 59% of the vote to leave her main rival, George Weah, trailing on 41%.

Click here for the whole article.

This is a pretty big landmark event in African history. The optimist in me hopes this is a step towards peace for the ravaged West African country. The cynic in me sadly expects rioting and more war, and predeicts within a year someone will attempt a coup.

Nonetheless, a historic day.

Doesn't God Have Lightning Bolts for Guys Like This?!

Pat Robinson
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
I mean, really! Regardless of your opinion of the evolution vs. creationism debate, I think we can all agree that this man is an idiot.

Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath

Thursday, November 10, 2005; Posted: 5:27 p.m. EST (22:27 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

For the whole article, click here.

And for another of this man's recent uber-Christian "Living the Gospels" Example, click here.

(and I acknowledge that wanting God to zap this guy isn't particularly Christian either. But I don't have my own TV show and claim that God tells me the future. I'm sure he's done some wonderful things, but he's just destroying any credibility he may have had. Perhaps he should retire, like he wants God to make all the non-conservative Supreme Court Justices to do.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

None of Life's Strings Can Last

George Harrison
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
With a lot of sadness happening in the news, I felt compelled to pull out All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, an album I have recently grown quite fond of, some 30 years since its release. Below are a few samplings of lyrics from this album (and one song that is not). Good lyrics and thoughtful words to roll around in your heads, dear readers.

Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we're all the same
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn't it a pity
From Isn’t It a Pity

Forgive me lord
Please, those years when I ignored you, hmm
Forgive them lord
Those that feel they can't afford you, hmm

Help me lord, please
To rise above this dealing, hmm
Help me lord, please
To love you with more feeling, hmm

At both ends of the road
To the left and the right
Above and below us
Out and in, there's no place that you're not in
Oh, won't you hear me lord
From Forgive Me, Lord

That’s the Way it Goes
There's a man talking on the radio
What he's saying I don't really know
Seems he's lost some stocks and shares
Stops and stares
He's afraid I know
That's the way it goes

There's a man talking of the promised land
He'll aquire it with some Krugerrand
Subdivide and deal it out
Feel his clout
He can stoop so low
And that's the way it goes

There's an actor who hopes to fit the bill
Sees a shining city on a hill
Step up close and see he's blind
Wined and dined
All he has is pose
And that's the way it goes

There's a fire that burns away the lies
Manifesting in the spiritual eye
Though you won't understand the way I feel
You conceal, all there is to know
That's the way it goes

Beware of Darkness
Watch out now, take care
Beware of falling swingers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips
Beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for

Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly
Beware of Maya

Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness (beware of darkness)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gimme Shelter(s), Part II

Kibera Slum, Nairobi
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been doing research for a paper on the availability of adequate and affordable housing around the globe (and specifically focusing on Nairobi). In a nutshell, we need more of it. Below are few statistics from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), one of the world’s leading forces behind gathering info and enacting policy to provide shelter for all. A couple of mind-blowers, from the 2005 report “Financing Urban Shelter”:

• Almost half of the world's six billion people already live in cities. Of these, it is estimated that about a third live in slums. (That “one third” is right at 1 billion people, folks!)
• By recent estimates, more than two billion people will be added to the number of city dwellers in developing countries by 2030. To meet the needs of that additional population, some 35 million new housing units would have to be built every year for the next 25 years.
• That translates into building some 96,150 housing units per day.
• While conventional mortgage financing has been expanding for the past decade and is increasingly available in many countries, only middle- and higher-income households have access to it, while the poor are generally excluded.
• The cost of a typical house is between 2.5 and six times the average annual salary, a ratio that rose to about 10 times in developing countries. From 1997 to 2004, housing prices had grown by 112 percent in Australia, for example, 139 percent in the United Kingdom, and 227 percent in South Africa.

So we should all be thankful we have a home, even if we’re renting. And if your home has two rooms or more, you are luckier than you can even imagine.

March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
The Kate-ster and I went to see March of the Penguins last night at the dollar theater. While in line, we happened upon (or more accurately stated, were spotted by) Paula R. and Michael Myer, sans Michelle, who is evidently out of town for the weekend. So our merry twosome became a merrier foursome, and a good time was had by all.

Now, for a little review of the movie…The first interesting point of note is about the theater itself: this was the movies second week playing at this theater, and for a documentary about birds at a dollar theater, there was a pretty good crowd for a Friday night, as many as for most other films I seen there. Lots of families. It was surprising and nice to see. Though evidently not all the kids enjoyed the movie. As the credits ended, one young boy very audibly let out an exasperated “FINALLY.”

The movie itself was great. The visuals were amazing, the story simple and elegantly told. It is the simple tale of the cycle of birth, life, and death and the extraordinary efforts creatures will go to in order to insure the welfare of their young and the propagation of their species overall. The harsh assault of nature and the fortitude that these little birds have is phenomenal. The whole time I was watching, I was thinking “…and we think our lives are tough?!” And it is also interesting in light of all the recent research I have been doing on adequate and safe housing for people all across the globe. The struggle to survive the elements is a universal goal for animal, plant, or human being. So everyone should see this movie to marvel at the strength of these penguins and at the pinpoint perfect timing that these animals must maintain in order to survive.

And there’s nothing cuter than a bunch of baby penguins slipping on ice. And Emperor penguins have cute little feet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Kingdom for a Happy Medium!

...and I don't mean a cheerful psychic, either. Well, it seems the Ectomorph's Lament may be over for now. As one of my astute readers pointed out, normally we don't have a problem with the cold. The boiler room below us generally steams our apartment up to sweltering temperatures. Which is exactly what I walked into this afternoon. So as I write this, rather than being bundled up (which I was even last night, which wasn't really cold out at all), all the windows are open wide and our fan is at full speed. At least we're getting some fresh air circulating in here...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Themes of Tim Burton

Tim Burton
Originally uploaded by Waldie's World.
As I was watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the other day, I began pondering the themes that occur through many of Tim Burton’s films. Burton is without a doubt one of my favorite directors. I have seen most of his movies numerous times, and two of his films are mainstays on my “All-Time Favorites” list. So below is a brief list of the themes that I have picked out of his works. Some of these will be obvious, some of these may not be so obvious. Some are deeper, and some are trivial, all can be expounded upon much more than I will do here, but I invite any additional comments on this topic form other fans.

A sidenote- Some of these films are based on ideas (or reality in some cases) that were not his own original concepts, but Burton nonetheless chose those projects, I assume, because the stories appealed to his personal interests. Also, I have omitted Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes, because I don’t much remember or have never seen them, repectively. Also, those being his two Sci-Fi flicks, they don’t seem to fit in with the larger pattern of his work. OK, without further delay, here is a brief list of the Themes of Tim Burton’s movies.

1. Death and Morbid Worldviews
This is obvious. He seems to like surreal, almost Victorian era imagery involving all things dead and spooky. He also has a fondness for the alternate realm inhabitated by the dead. For instance:
a. Frankenwenie- dead dog back to life
b. Beetlejuice- ghosts and a spirit world
c. Nightmare Before Christmas- alternate land of dead/monsters; pretty obvious
d. Corpse Bride- duh. Also has land of the dead
e. Sleepy Hollow- headless horseman. Victorian era. ‘nuff said

Other images of note:
Witches: appear in Sleepy Hollow, Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish
Sweet but nonetheless DEAD dogs: appear in Frankenweenie, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride

2. Men who don “masks” and alternate personas (literal and figurative)
a. Batman
b. Nightmare Before Christmas- Jack becomes Santa
c. Ed Wood- women’s clothing
d. Big Fish- Albert Finney’s tall tales in a way mask the ordinary details of his life

3. Characters who don’t “Fit In” / feel isolated/ social outcasts
a. Pee Wee Herman (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)
b. Edward Scissorhands
c. Jack in Nightmare… has identity crisis, feels trapped in social role, alone
d. Victor in Corpse Bride- shy, introverted
e. Willy Wonka- genius, recluse, dislikes people
f. Ed Wood- the man was just so damn weird- really
g. Beetlejuice- the title character is kind of a otherworldly outcast no one likes

4. Issues with Parents
4a. Parents in general
a. Victor and Victoria in Corpse Bride
b. Willy Wonka- can’t even say the word “parents” because of his dislike of them
c. Batman- Son haunted by parents death, becomes vigilante
d. Ichabod Crane haunted by dreams of his mother and her death at the hands of his father

4b. Issues With Fathers specifically, or even more to the point: Issues with Fathers as the Creators of their Sons, and in turn, the Son dealing with the legacy left by the Father
a. Bela Lugosi as flawed father figure for Ed Wood
b. Willy Wonka becoming Chocolatier to spite dentist Father and his domineereing control
c. Edward Scissorhands is literally the flawed, incomplete creation of his “father,” the inventor played by Vincent Price
d. Perhaps most obviously here, father as “Creator” in Big Fish, which explores the distant relationship between Billy Crudup’s character and his father, Albert Finney. Father is the fabricator/embellisher of his own life’s story, and by default also creator of part of his son’s life’s story. Son has serious issues with father and his legacy, but ultimately learns that his father is just a flawed man trying to create a life worth remembering from the mundane details of the world.