Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't think we have to fear our government? Read this.

I believe Obama is a socialist. I believe he meant it when he said during the campaign that he wanted to revolutionize our nation. I truly believe the change he and his ilk want to bring to our nation will be the destruction of our republic. Think that's hyperbolic language? How about a desire to control the Internet. Wrapped in the terms of emergency security needs, this would give the president the power to disconnect private networks from the Internet. From the recent Iranian dissent to Chinese dissidents to others fighting for freedom behind totalitarian regimes, the Internet is essential for communication. This is one time conservatives and the ACLU are on the same side. Read about it here.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

At the Movies: Last Chance Harvey, Bottle Shock, Transsiberian

Mars Candy Company used to have a great jingle to promote two of their candy bars, Mounds and Almond Joy: "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!" I thought about that jingle recently after watching a few small, independent films. Sometimes I want the blockbusters like Ironman, National Treasure, Transformers - pure mindless fun! On the other hand, there are times where I want a character study, a small, story-driven movie with interesting people. Here are three such movies for your consideration:

For those who love a good glass of wine and a David vs. Goliath story, try Bottle Shock. Based on the true story of Napa Valley's rise to respectability in the wine industry by besting French wines in a taste test by French judges held in France! This event became known as the Judgment of Paris. The movie, while taking a great deal of liberties in its portrayal of the actual people involved, is an entertaining look at Napa Valley when it was inhabited by romantics and hippies (before it became a billion dollar a year industry).

Told through the eyes of Parisian wine shop owner and very British Steve Spurrier and American winery owner and son Jim and Bo Barrett, Bottle Shock serves up family strive, comedic culture clashes, romantic triangles and lots of fun. The cinematography is gorgeous. The wine region is lovingly filmed. It stars the always wonderful Alan Rickman (Prof. Snape to the younger generation), Bill Pullman and Chris Pine (before he was James T. Kirk). Character actor Dennis Farina is a hoot as an American in Paris confidant to Rickman's Steve Spurrier.

Old enough to remember President Reagan's administration and Michael Jackson before he was weird? Then you are old enough to enjoy Last Chance Harvey. This is a grown-up romance starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Although hastily drawn, this character sketch gives us a surprisingly rounded look at Harvey and Kate. There are real cringe-inducing scenes in the film which you will relate to if you have ever felt like the guy wearing brown shoes with a black suit. A chance meeting of the pair results in an unlikely friendship and some self-revelations, including a hesitancy to hope as Kate says, "I'm more comfortable with being disappointed. I'm angry with you for trying to take that away". The movie's plot is predictable, but the accomplished actors make it a very enjoyable journey.

[Bonus: For another grown-up romantic comedy, try Shall We Dance.]

For a more serious movie, there's Transsiberian. This movie will leave you pondering long after the credits role. Remarkable in its positive portrayal of Christians and thought-provoking for the symbolism woven throughout, this movie explores themes which will intrigue the Christian audience. Things to consider: The monologue of the pastor at the beginning of the film, the setting on a mode of transportation, the snow, the lumber falling from a church, the faith of the husband and his rescuing of his bride. The film has a Hitchcock feel to it with great suspense and surprising twists. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer are wonderful as the main leads.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

City by the Bay

I've been singing a particular Journey song a lot lately:

When the lights go down on the City
And the sun shines on the Bay
Oh I wanna be there in my City. . .

I didn't expect to, but the truth of the matter is - I love San Francisco! The city is so eclectic. It's pretty. It's busy. It's quirky. It's modern. It's old. It's impossible to be bored in. Unfortunately, our visit to Fog City wasn't as long as I would have liked, but we still managed to see a lot:
Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 with it's resident seals.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without venturing into Chinatown:

You also have to make the eight turns in a city block down the world's Crookest Street, Lombard Street.

San Francisco has the west's version of Central Park in their Golden Gate Park. One of Mom's favorite areas in the part is their famous Rose Garden. Past All-American Roses are on display in a sensory bit of ground covered in glorious roses and wonderful fragrances:

There's so much more - trolley cars, Alcatraz (as seen from Pier 39) and elaborately decorated houses referred to as Painted Ladies:

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge at twilight time and watched the lights come on in the city. We even did a little walking on the iconic bridge: