ODE to 2012

So here we are, the end of another crazy year and also, the end of my 30’s. As I look to the age of 40, I am still just as lost in the madness of trying to find and discover the American dream. This decade of life was very good to me– finding the education that I had wanted to achieve for so many years (Go Cougs!!) and having the ability to go to another country, one so foreign to me as China, but still making the change. As you all know, it was a life changing experience. It was there that I met my beautiful wife Lilifer, a german woman with much of the same passions for traveling and experiencing life as I have. We knew right away that we had something special and even though it took a long time to finally live together as man and wife in America, it was well worth the struggle.
Then Elliott came along in October of 2011. What a joy this little man has brought to our lives. It makes it that much harder to get up each day and head off to the working world. Everyday you see some new form of development with him and it makes you happy to be there experience him– but it is true, they grow up way to fast. Just the other day I was astonished as his ability to learn and do new things– he is always hungry for more things to do and experience.
2012 was really just a great continuation of the things that have happened in my life over the last several years and although the concept of turning 40 isn’t quite what I thought it would be– I remember when my parents turned 40 and I thought, man they are so OLD (I was 17!!)– when I turn 50, I am going to be old and my son will be turning 12– but that is just the way things are now.
For me, 2013 is going to be a game changer. I am going to finally put an end to the nasty smoking habit I have had since I was 19– I fear that if I don’t fully quit now it will be the death of me someday– and I am going to also work to slimdown and get more time walking and being more active. These feel like the constant new year resolutions, but this year, with the changing of the 30’s into the 40’s, I think it is more obvious that changes need to be made.
2012 brought a lot of things with it. The over spending of campaigns in both the local, state and federal elections should cause people in this country to seriously ask what is behind this machine that can generate so much revenue for a small group of people and we still have people struggling every day to make ends meet.
The choatic weather also had a direct effect on the election with Hurricane Isaac ripping through the middle of campaign season and causing the DNC party to start a few days late. But the big weather system was Hurricane Sandy, leaving people on Long Island out of Power for weeks. One would hope that these weather events will eventually cause people to consider global warming as a real threat, but, much like the way that we approach Guns and assult rifles in this country, rhetoric wins.
Which brings me my final moment of pause: Sandy Hook elementary. 20 children under the age 8 shot and killed. Most of these children has 4-5 bullets in each of them as a “crazed” young man rips through the school. Gun advocates were quick to point out that the discussion shouldn’t be about the guns, but moreso mental illness. Soon the Mental Illness professsionals seized the opportunity to point out that this is a national epidemic that has gone without a voice for too long– further clouding the issue that I have yet to hear any good use for any American citizen to own a weapon that can shoot at that rate and be operated so easily by a young adult. This discussion also led to the statistic that between 20 and 30 people are killed in the United States by a gun (but not a heavy duty assult rifle like the one used in Sandy Hook) which should cause most people to pause and question how is benefiting most from the flexibility of gun ownership– it certainly doesn’t feel like society as a whole is benefitting from guns being so available.
The link for further reading on the article is here:
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html
I think Slate did a very good job of discussing this.
I feel like there are a lot of elephants in the room when it comes to our current political climate– and these are things that I am in constant deliberation about.
That being said, I do appreciate living in a country where we can speak our minds about these things and that we have the technological advancements to be able to have these discussions as a group of people. I think that this will be one of the things that really will help to advance our society because the freer privledged information is available, the more people can begin to make informed decisions in regards to the people that they are voting for– and I think the hope is that when Elliott is my age, he will look back at these blog discussions by his dad and hopefully wonder what the hell I was going on about– that there havent been dozens of people killed by guns in years– that people weren’t living in cardboard boxes while others have multiple homes…

In the words of Fight Club: It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

How the Hobbit hits the screen


Somewhere within the nearly 3 hour first installment of J.R.R. Tolkiens “The Hobbit”, everyone will find a moment of inspiration. For me, it was a small something uttered by Gandalf that rings the most true: “‚ÄúSaruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” This is the heart of the story for and it always has been since I was a little boy, born nearly 40 years ago.
The hope that makes these stories ring to be so true is that the littliest glimpse of hope in the seemingly darkest of times is what makes these little Hobbit and Dwarves so lovely– it is their small spirit against a tyranny of evil that is always on the back burner, but still burning that makes this story so compelling.
And for this film, it really is the story that keeps the evil away– the evil this time being none other than Peter Jackson.

What is so remarkably different in this film is, unfortunately, also what is a serious distraction from the story itself– and that is the film. This film is a much more difficult film to pull off, where as the Lord Of The Rings films had never really been attempted in film before, the Hobbit has. This means that a number of the fans of the series already have an image of what Bilbo and the rest of the characters looked like from the films and illustrated books of the mid-seventies (I still have mine).
Creating Bilbo as a real character is a challenge because he is a certain way, as all Hobbit’s in the book are and I don’t believe that the film version of the Hobbit, played by Martin Freeman, is hardly the portly hobbit we have come to know and love.

This is the image on the Wikipedia page of the original illustration of Baggins– note the slightly portly tummy of this depiction.

This is a snapshot of the Animated version of the Hobbit, as well as the version of the illustrated book which I own. Again, a very different looking character than Peter Jacksons rendition, as seen below.

That doesn’t mean that Jackson’s interpretation isn’t correct– but I do think that the Freeman version of Baggins is much better put together than I would imagine Baggins to be in my mind. For most, the Freeman Baggins will now be forever Bilbo Baggins because of the Jackson version of the Hobbit– and for me, I can already tell that it wont feel as triumphant when Baggins finally does finish the quest because even early on, he appears to have it in him– when some of the dwarves question his stamina and perseverance, they appear aloof and Bilbo seems to be the cool headed one, which is not how the book reads at all, IMO. Bilbo manages to wander into different scenarios and stumbles upon things (like the one ring to rule them all) more from his aloofness than anything else.
Jackson also makes the mistake of trying to make this tale into a different cinematic experience with a faster frame rate for 3-D which gives the film a more visual experience, but I found the clarity to be very distracting from the story. The battle scenes look more like what you tend to see in a video game sequence than in a film– it doesn’t make the film unwatchable, but there are several moments where you wonder why he choose to do it this way.
The film is also much longer than it needed to be– 2:52 minutes for 301 pages of text seems to be a huge overkill and that is apparent with the opening scenes and several others where the dialogue is set long and out of pace with the overall story. It is unlikely that Jackson cut The Hobbit into three films for sheer profit, but with the first installment, it hard to see the logic of why the film was as long as it is with very little movement in the story. That isnt to say that the other films will be slow and dialogue intense– there is, afterall, the business of the dragon and the gold to come.

So, overall, lots of different pieces of the puzzle to consider with this one. It’s too long to keep an adult from taking a couple of power naps and I saw most teens yawning throughout, but the story is as rich as always– but you can skip the 3D and opt for 2D.