Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Started a new Christmas tradition this morning. Went hiking up and down the bluffs on the east side of town. Started before the sun came up while there were still a few stars in the sky. Listened to the sound of water and birds chirping as I hiked along my merry way. Left my IPOD at home because I didn't want alot of noise this morning. Just wanted to hear the small still voice inside that is often drowned out by the hustle and bustle of day to day living. The highlight of the hike was when I reached the top of the bluff at the end of the hike. The crisp winter breeze was brushing against my face and beard. It felt good. As the wind blew and rustled the tops of the nearby palm trees I watched the sun that had just risen disappear in a shroud of fog. It was was peaceful....and I felt touched by the deep magic of Christmas.....Blast from the past....I don't really have very many fond memories of Christmas growing up as a child. Not sure all the reasons why. Suspect it had a lot to do with the fact that our family was very poor, particularly after my father died and left my mom with no financial security. It's difficult maintaining hope when you are living on the edge of life financially year after year. Don't remember getting into Christmas until after my two sons were born. Loved playing the role of Santa in the family. For years I bought almost all the Christmas gifts for the family and was the primary inititator of most of the other Christmas related activities. Some of my fondest memories of Christmas include taking my two sons and wife to see Christmas lights. Still remember the joy on the faces of my two sons as we saw Barney the Dinosaur wearing a Santa hat as he waved and passed out candy canes. My two sons were very reticent as we approached Santa's newest helper to get our candy canes but their fear melted away when Barney spoke those magic words... Merry Christmas.... I also remember how excited my two sons were the year they got their first bikes for Christmas. The bikes were covered with Gargoyle toys I had purchased from Burger King. My children loved the Disney cartoon so I helped to feed their developing imaginations by purchasing the entire gargoyle collection and placing them strategically on the bikes....As a Christian I also greatly appreciated the religious aspect of the holiday which included attending candle light services and hearing the Christmas story year after year but it was the role of Santa to my children that I think enjoyed the most about this special time of year.

Finding meaning in Christmas...People look and find meaning in Christmas in many places. Many people turn to the commercial aspects of Christmas and find joy and excitement in buying and receiving Christmas gifts. While I personally don't like going to shopping malls during this time of the year I do understand the adrenaline rush one may get from finding just the right gift for someone they love and I always appreciate getting thoughtful gifts from others. Many people find meaning in their religion and the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus. It is recorded in the Gospels that an angel told Joseph that the son that Mary was going to bear would "save his people from their sins". Alot of folks associate Christmas with God's forgiveness and the hope of eternal life. Jesus is the "reason for the season" and their display of nativity scenes in their houses point to this hope and faith....Some folks find their joy in what I call Christmas nostalgia.... Watching Rudolph the Reindeer for the umpteeth time......listening to oldie but goody Christmas music....decorating the tree with ornaments from their childhood....keeping family rituals, year after year....these are all signs of Christmas nostalgia.....No matter how or where we find our peace and joy at Christmas time we almost all enjoy the family aspect of Christmas. We all generally come together or at least call our loved ones on Christmas day and Christmas helps to remind us that family is important and potentially meaningful even though we may struggle at times in our relationships with those we love during the rest of the year.....I confess it has been difficult to find meaning and hope at times during the Christmas holiday season over the last couple of years. Since my divorce I have not been in the same place at Christmas time any two years in a row and I generally don't see my two sons until late in the afternoon on Christmas day....I also no longer associate with Christmas with the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It's not that I no longer believe in eternal life or the love and forgiveness of God...because I do....It's just that I don't think it has anything to do with Jesus being born of a virgin or being crucified. These stories "point" to the hope of eternal life and the reality of God's love...and....for that they can be appreciated but from where I stand God has always been forgiving and loving long before the Christmas story became a popular belief and tradition of much of the Western world.....Although my life has become turned upside down in many respects over the past three or four years I am still touched by the "deep magic" of Christmas. I still enjoy playing Santa to my two sons even though they no longer live with me or believe in the pot belly, jolly fellow. I still greatly enjoy having my two sons help me decorate the Christmas tree during Thanksgiving week-end. I still go out and look at Christmas lights even though my two sons no longer are interested in going. I still love the Christmas story even though I no longer believe in it's historical literacy. It's the meaning behind the myth that counts....Yesterday my mom and I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas special. It was beautiful...I was touched. Later we watched various musicians perform a variety of different Christmas favorites from a 15th century church in Scotland. Again I was touched. This morning I was moved by the peace and quiet of watching the sun rise before the fogged rolled in and closed the door to sunshine until later this afternoon..... Right now my mom is listening to country music. Why?....I don't know, but it makes her feel happy and joyful and if there is anything I can do to make my soon to be 91 year old mom feel joyful on Christmas day than I am going to do it....even if it means listening to country music on Christmas morning...yikes....the Lord does work in mysterious ways and what touches us and moves us during this special time of the year varies from one person to can only be explained as the "deep magic" of Christmas which gives hope, faith, and peace to all who have ears to hear and a heart open to the mysterious workings of the Spirit of God who moves to and fro amongst us all.....Merry Christmas to all......

Friday, December 23, 2005

First Impressions of Kong

Image hosted by
Went to see King Kong on my birthday the other day. These are my first impressions but probably not a conclusive review because, like the LOTR, this film is a visual feast that deserves a repeat viewing. This film had a little bit of everything for everyone, humor, action, love story, and even a touch of the bizarre. Found the beginning of the movie a bit too long and not particularly strong but understand Jackson was trying to develop the characters and be faithful to the 1933 version of Kong. Didn't much care for the portrayal of the natives on Skull Island. They were bizarre, to say the least, and since the film gives no background of their weirdness the viewer is left to his or her imagination. Maybe that's the point but just didn't find them particularly appealing but maybe if I had to share an island with a great ape and dinosaurs I would turn out more than a bit weird myself...anyway...the rest of the movie was fantastic. Kong is incredible and Jackson and his legion of artisans have again raised the bar on the relationship between imagination and modern technology. The action sequences between Kong and the various inhabitants of the Lost World are just amazing. Especially got off on the action sequences featuring the various insects. Gross is an appropiate description of what happens to the crew who find their way to the bottom of the jungle where the insects rule and I personally appreciate Jackson's indulging the audience with a bit of "bad taste". I found it fun but suspect some members of the audience were simply too grossed out to appreciate Jacksons wicked humor..... The relationship that develops between Kong and Naomi Watts is the centerpiece of the movie and here is where the Jackson star shines brightest. Kong and Watts are simply poetry in motion and I think it is an incredible feat by the Jackson and crew to get the audience to actually care about what happens to a creature who we all know is nothing more than a computer image. Jackson went to great lengths to humanize the Great Ape and the techicians who created Kong flexed their herculean muscles in creating the best CGI character to date...Kong Rules!!!....and.... the proof in the pudding is that the audience actually cares about what happens to Kong at the end... and... nobody wants to see Kong die because he has captured a bit of our hearts and a part of us dies as Kong free falls from the top of the Empire State building.....Don't know how this film will be remembered in the annuals of film history but Jackson deserves alot of credit for bringing Kong back to life for a new generation of young folks who grew up with little or no knowlege of the "true King" of the jungle....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

King Kong

Image hosted by
Well, the anticipation of seeing King Kong is growing and confess I am tempted to go see the film before my birthday. Maybe I'll slip out late tonight and check it out and not tell anyone....Hmmm?....Very tempting....very tempting indeed....I don't have too much to say about the film that I didn't already say over at Pomoxian, my discussion group stomping grounds of the last few years. If you want to read what I have to say follow the link....

If you want a more extensive peek from someone who has actually seen the film check out what Harry Knowles of Aint it Cool website has said
I love reading Harry Knowles reviews. He speaks with such great passion and is a true lover of movies and doesn't pull any punches....check it out.....

Kong may not be the epic of the Lord of the Rings but it is modern classic in it's own right. The 1933 version is not something I confess I am particularly interested in watching again. I have this aversion about very old black and white films. Nothing personal or related to modern superiority complex. Just chalk it up to being a product of a modern man stuck in a worm hole....nothing more, nothing less....Do anticipate the film for another reason as I implied in my Pomoxian musings. I greatly admire the work, imagination, and passion of filmaker Peter Jackson. I have now watched countless hours of interviews of him over the years and he is in a different category of filmakers, IMHO. He appears to be an "average Joe" who is sincerely grateful and humble for what he does which is refreshing when you consider so many directors appear to be operating in their own little worlds they have created. Might have something to do with growing up in New Zealand which is far, far removed from the influence of Hollywood. Whatever the case, I immensely appreciate the heart, soul, and labor of love Jackson puts into his work and look forward to his films in the future. God bless the only director who looks, walks, and sounds like a hobbit.....

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Kicking off the Season

Image hosted by
Well, I finally made it to this day. Today marks the beginning of a twenty three day holiday and I don't have to report back to work until January the ninth. I hope to get some rest and relaxation during this time but things will be a bit hectic around here because I have to juggle much of my time with my two sons, my mom, and my girlfriend. My sons are going to be spending about ten days with me this year so it will be somewhat of a challenge to keep them busy. Not sure exactly what we will be doing but I will think of something. Creativity is one of my strong points. I will be picking my mom up next week and she will be spending about a week with me. I look forward to seeing her but because of her age, she is over 90, she will require alot of attention and assistance. After my mom leaves I will be taking my sons down to my girlfriends parents for about four days before I bring them back to start the new school year. At that point I will have about a week to myself at which time I intend to travel a bit and get some serious exercise hiking and mountain biking riding. Generally I take off for a week and head to the hills, desert, or beach but this year I am going to have to hang around for three days because I want to see if my beloved USC football team will make history and win their third national championship.

One of the things I enjoy about the holidays and time off is the change of rythum and the freedom to establish the pace of life on my terms. I love my job but I do not always enjoy the hectic pace of work. During the school year I often feel like a rat in a cage who is on one of those wheels that is spinning faster and faster with each passing day of the semester. Many people thrive on the adrenaline rush one gets from frantically bustling about meeting this deadline or that but I do not. I do not like the stress or the loss of self awareness that is often associated with trying to live life at light speed and keep up with the modern pace of life. Stress is a killer, literally, and I am convinced that loss of self awareness leads to all kinds of potential problems on numerous fronts. One of my goals this upcoming holiday season is to concentrate on living in the moment and slow down. The holidays can be challenging because of all the activities associated with Christmas but I have already finished all my Christmas shopping so I am ready to make a serious go of slowing down and pacing my self on my terms and not the terms of the holiday season or the workplace. We'll see what happens in the days and weeks to come. I am pretty determined this year to explore where this may lead and hopefully I will gain some new perspective and lifestyle changes that will carry over into the work place when I go start back to work.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Good news all the way around for the USC faithful and rag tag fanatic fans like yours truly. Reggie won the Heisman in a landside vote and Pete Carroll announced he was not going to interview or entertain any offers by the NFL. No surprise on the landside results. Reggie Bush is one of the most eletrifying college football players to come along in a long, long time. Its not just the numbers, as impressive as they are, almost nine yards a carry, but it's the way he goes about doing his business. I've watched the Fresno State and UCLA games twice now, thanks to Tivo, and I am here to report from the mountain top that there is an entire college careers worth of highlights in just those two games...and... Here's a scary thought. If Pete Carroll hadn't basically pulled the plug on Bush in the second half I honestly think he could have rushed for almost five hundred yards in that game. Remember, he had almost 250 by the first half alone. I'm talking rushing yards, not "all purpose" yards. It will be interesting to see what he does in the Rose Bowl game against Texas. Texas has a good defense and it will be almost impossible to live up to the legendary status he now enjoys but if Reggie "Superman" Bush does have a great game than I think he will given immediate demi-god status and be rushed to Mount Olympus to join Heracules and the rest of the gods....

I think Pete Carroll has made a wise decision to stay at USC. Just hope he can keep his promise. Many others have not. Suspect some organization out there, maybe Houston, will offer him the moon and we will see. Carroll is a great college coach and he would be nuts, IMHO, opinion to leave. Carrol has not just rejuvenated a once proud college football program but he has created a juggernaut that, if they win the Rose Bowl, will be remembered as the greatest college football team of the modern era. If you think I am blowing smoke here are the facts..."The Trojans haven't lost a game since Sept. 27, 2003, and it took three overtime periods at Cal to do it. Since Oct. 6, 2002, USC is 45-1. Freaks. In those 45 victories, only five were decided by less than a touchdown...and... USC has beaten the last 16 ranked opponents it has faced. Since the 34-game streak began, the Trojans have beaten Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA three times apiece, Cal twice, and Michigan, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Oregon once. They've done it despite injuries, early defections to the NFL, graduation, and coaching departures"....I haven't had this much fun watching sports since Magic Johnson arrived in L.A. back in the 80's and introduced the world to showtime. Showtime is back in L.A. and we USC fan"actics" are loving the new version starring Reggie Bush and the rest of the "men of Troy"....

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Greatest Ever?

Image hosted by
It doesn't get any better than this if you are a USC football fan. USC routs UCLA, goes undefeated, and is now heading to the National Championship game which will be played in USC's own back yard the Rose Bowl. Iv'e been following USC football for a long time now and I go way back to the 60's when O.J. was weaving and juking his way past helpless defenders to college football legendary fame and a Heisman Trophy...While yesterday's game lacked the emotional satisfaction and intensity of the Notre Dame game earlier in the year it was a great joy to watch the game nontheless. My satisfaction came not from watching SC beat up on their crosstown arch rival cousin UCLA, (I actually root for UCLA when they aren't playing USC,) but from watching one of the greatest college football teams of all time. I've said this before but it bears repeating, Reggie Bush is the greatest college football player I have ever seen. It's like watching Michael Jordan in a football uniform. He is such a joy to watch because each time he touches the ball you can't help but anticipate that he is going to rip off one of those classic Reggie Bush eletrifying touchdown runs that have become a regular feature of ESPN Sportscenter...and.... the rest of the USC offense ain't too bad either... Not only is Reggie Bush the greatest player I have seen in my years of watching college football but the USC offense is the greatest offense I have ever seen. Every player on the USC offense is a potential NFL recruit. The wide recievers, the tight end, the "other" running back Lindale White, last years Heisman Trophy winner quarterback, and, last but not least, the best offensive line in the country. They haven't been stopped nor slowed down for over three years now and I don't anticipate it is going to happen in the championship game either.....speaking of the championship game with Texas....Haven't seen Texas play much this year but can't imagine them beating USC, especially when one considers Pete Carroll has a month to prepare and the beleaguered, often criticized defense, has a month to get healthy. I'm not predicting a rout like last years debacle but I honestly suspect Texas won't know what hit em when USC's offense unleases it's numerous weapons of mass destruction. Texas appears to have a fine and maybe even a great team but they have never encountered the kind of pro style offense of USC nor the assembly of pro prospects at every position, including Superman at tailback and last years Heisman Trophy winner who actually has better statistics this year. The conference Texas plays in just doesn't have any teams like USC....On defense....I think USC matches up well with Texas. They are going to blitz often and Vince Young is not going to have time to throw up those long down the field lollypops to wide open recievers that one often sees on a regular basis in the Big Twelve conference because the Pac Ten conference knows how to play pass defense. While Young appears to be a legitimate Heisman candidate I anticipate he is going to struggle in this big game. Carroll will mix up his blitze packages and Young isn't going to get the time to run around like he does against most teams... I predict it will be a competive game until the second half before USC pulls away with their third national championship. Texas will come prepared and their balance allow them to be competitive but at the end of the day the only team that can beat USC is USC....or.....maybe the New England Patriots.....