I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and it Gave Me Herpes

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broken-heartFor those of you too young to remember, back in 1997, there was something call a “courting movement” in the Evangelical Christian world. This was kicked off, more or less, by the release of a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by one Joshua Harris. The gist of the book was that dating is bad because it can lead to premarital shenanigans, so as Christians we need to practice something called “courting”, which is totally not dating, but promotes wholesome relationships that will maybe one day lead to marriage. But, it’s not dating. Never could figure out the big difference, there. But, this lead to oodles and oodles of youth group kids suddenly jumping on the courting bandwagon, swearing that doing this would keep them from ultimately getting their hearts broken in the process.

I’m not writing this to give my thoughts on the whole Courting Vs. Dating debate. What I am going to attempt to explain is that, no matter how noble and pure your relationship is with whoever you’re dating/courting/giving your heart out to, you run the risk of having your heart broken.

You don’t have to have sex with someone to form a very strong bond. You don’t have to engage in physical pleasures to connect so closely to another person that, when the relationship ends, it can shatter the heart so badly that it feels like a significant part of yourself has been torn away, and you feel like Anakin Skywalker lying by the lava, his limbs sliced off and most of his skin burned away from the spontaneous combustion for being so close to molten lava.

I know this all too personally. I was engaged to the woman I was certain was to be my wife. During the time we were first dating, then engaged, we never engaged in anything more than a couple of smooches and hugging each other hello, goodbye, and just to say “I love you”. We were always fully clothed around each other, and I even went so far as putting a 9pm cut-off time of our nights together, just so there wasn’t any temptation presented. Mind you, I had a bit of an hour’s drive, otherwise I would have settled with 10pm, but that’s besides the point. There was no misbehavin’. We held hands, we put our arms around each other while watching movies or at church. That was the extent of our physical engagement. But, because we both prayed together, worshiped together, talked openly and honestly with each other, there was a bond that formed there on both the spiritual and mental levels that was solid and strong; and when it ended, my heart was shattered into a million pieces because of this. My motives were pure, we did everything right–you might say, “by the Book”–and yet I was still not spared the pain that I’m still recovering from a year after the fact.

Look, I’m not trying to say that you should give up trying to have integrity and have sex before it’s time; neither am I telling you that you should give up on any relationships that lead to something more than friendship. What I’m trying to put forth here, is that whether you’ve kissed dating goodbye, or have given dating a chance, understand that there is no perfect formula to emerge out of any outcome unscathed. The idea of the chance of your heart being broken is a scary one to face, I know. At this moment, I can’t really see myself in any kind of relationship beyond coffee time. But, rather than trying to find a way to keep your heart from being broken, sometimes I wonder if getting your heart broken isn’t a good thing. Sometimes you have to burn the forest to make it grow stronger.

Mind you, again I’m not advocating premarital sex; I’m all about the abstinence, and waiting for the wedding night to pretend to know what you’re doing. But, you don’t have to be sexually active to be vulnerable with someone.

All it takes, really, is to choose to love someone. No matter the outcome.

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25 Signs You Listened To Christian Music Growing Up

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From the Blimey Cow You Tube channel (if you haven’t checked them out, you really should):

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Movie Review: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 movie posterParamount
2014
PG-13

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with their fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.

This was a movie I was looking forward to never watching, ever. It was the principle of the whole thing: Executive Producer Michael Bay–effectively this generation’s Ronald Emerich–when talking about this particular reboot of the beloved 80s pop culture icons, essentially boasted that “you may hate it, but you’ll go see it anyway.” That was the general gist of it. So, I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to watch this latest kick in the childhood, even for free. Ever. Screw you, Bay, this is $10 you’ll never see added to the several millions of dollars this movie has made you thus far! Feel the fluoride sting of my protest! GOONGALA!

Aaaaaaaand that lasted about a week before my 16-year-old nephew wanted to participate in some end-of-summer-break “bonding time”. Of course, this was the movie he wanted to see. Under protest, I agreed. I still didn’t have to pay for the movie (and no, I didn’t make the nephew pay for it all), and it was one of those posh movie theaters that had recliner seats. And retractable snack trays. And where the ushers come over to take your snack item orders. Listen, I went in not wanting to like this movie whatsoever, but the environment we were going to watch this in was not making this easy. It’s hard to brood in a Laz-E-Boy while college-aged employees bring you Milk Duds and popcorn, knowing you didn’t have to spend a dime for any of this. I still was daring the movie to entertain me, though.

First of all, I want to point out that I realize that Michael Bay was the Executive Producer on this movie, and not the director. I still hold him responsible, though. Now, with that aside, what did I think of the movie?

Well…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And considering the original idea for this movie–where they were space aliens and not turtles (nerd rage rising, RISING)–that’s saying a lot. Still, this is very much Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; which means it’s a big, dub and serviceable action flick that’s just interesting enough where you can almost look past the glaringly obvious fact that the script was written by a room full of dude-bros. Beyond the obvious utilization of on-screen eye candy non-actor Megan Fox as April O’Neal, just the designs of the Turtles themselves makes me morbidly curious as to the thought process behind the writers of this thing: “Hey, Donatello is a smart inventor genius type? Let’s give him a pair of thick-lensed nerd glasses and an awkward Poindexter type mannerisms! Raphael is a hothead, so…gruff, brooding and always talking like Batman! Michelangelo is so totally a stoner dude! Conch shell neclace, hoverboard and creepy surfer persona! Shredder needs a big honkin’ Mecha battlesuit! And can we try and shoehorn Will Arnett in there, somewhere? I totes loved him in Arrested Development, brah.”

Sorry. I’m afraid my sarcasm ran away with me, there. What I’m trying to say is they decided it was easier to go for exaggerated stereotypes rather than actual character development.

Mind you, I understand that this is a movie about human-sized mutated turtles that learned martial arts from an equally human-sized mutated rat and fight crime as ninjas on the streets of New York. And that it’s based on a comic book. That still doesn’t mean that you can half-arse it. One of the first things you hear the turtles say when April first runs into them on a rooftop was “I feel my shell tightening.” Yeah. Classy, there. And speaking of April…gads. She had to be the actress? We couldn’t find anyone competent? Someone less vapid eye candy, someone more…I don’t know, better?

Look, I’m going to try and wrap this up before it becomes yet another in a long line of whiny rants from a 40-something pseudo-journalist critic. The bottom line is, this reboot of a long running franchise that started life as a satire of violent comic books of the time to begin with…isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s a really slick, effects-laden action wank-fest big on ‘splosions and whatnot, with some canon tweaks that made me go “wha?” a few times, and a rather thin script as far as character development is concerned. But then, let’s realize what it’s supposed to be, here: a summer blockbuster popcorn movie that’s big on effects and ‘splosions while thin on plot and character development. Not the best Turtles movie, but then again, it’s not Turtles In Time either. It hovers somewhere between TMNT and that third live-action atrocity, methinks.

And hey, at least Bay managed to take enough Ritalin to realize that the whole “Turtles are Space Aliens” idea was probably not a good one.

Sex and Purity (Some Thoughts On A Sticky Subject)

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purity-ringThis week, the notion lighted upon me to talk about sex and relationships, as I see it from my twisted viewpoint of a Christian freak. I mean, that is the name I gave the blog, right? Sex and relationships are such complex subjects in and of themselves, even more so when we’re homing in from a Christian world view, that I felt there was no one better to talk about it than a 40-something pseudo-journalist with two failed engagements under his belt. Lesser qualified people have thrown in their two cents on the matter, so why not?

The first topic in this line of thinking, which I was (for some strange reason) mentally chewing on the way back from work, was the so-called “Purity Movement” that was (probably still is) big in the Evangelical community. Keep yourself pure for marriage, it says. Sign right here to make a promise to not lose your purity until your wedding night, when you can then engage in whatever it is that married couples do on their wedding night, I really wouldn’t know. Backgammon, I think?

The notion to remain pure until marriage is a fallacy, not because I somehow believe that it’s impossible to save yourself until marriage. Far from it. No, the reason why I think that phrase is a bit misleading is due to the fact that purity as we know it doesn’t exist. It goes back to everyone having fallen short of the glory of God, meaning that we begin life with a very shoddy notion of “purity” to begin with. Our idea of purity and maintaining it differs greatly than what God’s idea of purity is.

What we all tend to forget is that purity is not something that we have and can lose at the drop of the pants (see what I did there?). Instead, to those of us who have placed our trust and faith in Christ Jesus, purity is something that we never really had to begin with, but was then given to us freely because of Christ’s righteousness. Our own purity is referred to in the Bible as “filthy rags”, something that God finds unacceptable due to His Holiness. But the moment that you put your trust and faith in what His Son Jesus did in our place on the cross, Jesus’ holiness, His righteousness and purity are given to us in place of our filthy rags. We now are acceptable to God, because we have Jesus’ purity covering us, and not our self-righteousness.

This means that purity–this righteousness–that was given to us freely, cannot be taken away by us. It is the Giver that has given it, and the Giver that can take away. But, He has made a promise that nothing–not what other humans, angels or otherwise will do to you–will take away that gift He has given to you.

Bottom line: Having sex before marriage is not what makes you impure. Having sex, period, is not what makes you impure, if you really want to get to the point. Sex itself is a beautiful gift that God has created for us, and it should be respected and revered within the bonds of marriage. But, remember this: whether you’ve waited for your wedding night to have sex, or have a bit more, shall we say, lenient viewpoint on sex, none of that matters in the long run, so long as you’re not trusting in Jesus as your source of purity.

That’s it for this time. If you have any questions, comments and rebukes, fill ’em in on the comments down below, there. Until next time, cheers, my wonderful freaks…

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Movie Review: SURVIVING THE GAME

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Surviving The Game movie posterNew Line Cinema
1994
R

You are missing the best part, Mister Mason. When you’re eating the flesh of the pig…look into his beady eyes. That way you will be devouring his soul.”

Ice-T is Mason, a homeless man recruited by a band of wealthy hunters to lead an expedition into the Pacific Northwest. But on the first day of the hunt, he discovers a lethal surprise…he’s the prey. It’s gut-wrenching action from start to finish as the game begins and the hunters learn a deadly lesson: Never underestimate a man who’s got nothing to lose.

I remember, somewhat vaguely, watching this particular take on the classic tale “The Most Dangerous Game” in its initial theatrical run back in 1994. I can’t really recall why I decided to watch this particular one. I’m not really that big of a fan of Ice-T, who was still early on flexing his acting skizzels, and the only other actor that I recognized by name on the roster was Gary Busey. It wasn’t until much later when I came to notice the existence of Rutger Hauer as an actor, so at this point I only recognized the Rapper and the Guy Who Was In Point Break. Doesn’t matter much, as my biggest impression I got as I was taking in this afternoon flick was, “oooooh, another Most Dangerous Game adaptation.” Yeah, there are plenty of those floating around. I wonder sometimes if Richard Connell knew what kind of a trope he was unleashing back in 1924. But, I digress.

In Surviving The Game, Ice-T plays Ice-T playing a homeless man who is having a particularly bad day, losing both his human and canine best friends in the course of the morning. He’s about to end it all himself, until someone points him in the direction of a businessman, who then offers him a gig to lead a hunting party in the Pacific Northwest the next day. Did I mention this takes place in Seattle? I should have pointed that out first. Or at least taken the time to edit this out. But I didn’t. Eh, whatever. He flies out, meets the party of hunters–mostly wealthy types who payed a big price to be on this hunting expedition–and then finds out the morning of the hunt that it is he, the homeless man, who is being hunted! Shock, surprise, I didn’t see that one coming in a million years. Turns out, these guys have been doing this kind of thing for a while. Only, this time they didn’t realize they were dealing with the Original Gangsta himself. And thus, Ice-T takes them out methodically, leaving only him and the Replicant of the group standing at the end…until the very last frame, when the Replicant blows up. And if you’re scratching your head at that last part, go watch Blade Runner. You’ll be watching a better movie, trust me.

Yeah, I’m not really all that impressed with Surviving The Game. It’s your generic mid-1990s action flick that takes a familiar premise, injects a then still-relevant rapper into the mix, and bakes it to its logical conclusion. It’s neither bad nor great, just kinda “meh”. It’s watchable, yes, and I understand there’s a bit of a cult following since this one made it to VHS and later DVD rentals. For me, I probably won’t go out of my way to rent and watch Surviving The Game another time, but if it’s a slow weekend afternoon and it’s the only thing on the telly, then I’m not complaining either.

Movie Review: SPECIAL DEAD

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Special Dead DVD CoverLazy Ghost Films
2006
NR

“Ya ever ride a zombie horse, boy? I have, and it ain’t no fun.”

When a zombie plague infects Camp Special Dude, a dude ranch for the mentally handicapped, a ragtag band of campers and counselors struggles to survive the night. Led by the indifferent, nunchuck-wielding head counselor, Mae Stone, and his wheelchair-bound sister Dale, the unlikely heroes fight their way off the mountain as, one by one, they’re picked off and join the ranks of the walking dead. It’s a campy stampede of blood, boobs and gore as some “very special” people show that they can kick some serious undead ass.

You know, I may not be going to Hell when I die, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be receiving some pretty stern looks when this thing comes up in my Afterlife Performance Review. Special Dead is just…wrong. On so many levels. Never mind the fact this this is another in a glut of shoddily made no-budget horror movies. I’ve seen plenty of those, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing plenty more in the future, on account of I hate myself. No, this one not only hits all of the halmarks–the bad makeup jobs, the horrible acting, the cheesecloth-thin story, the gratuitous exploitation–but the biggest thing that I’m pretty sure gets massive frowny points is the mentally handicapped angle. It’s more of an uncomfortable because bad actors are pretending to be mentally handicapped than anything else. So, basically, you have your standard pain from watching a bad no-budget zombie flick, but then as an added bonus you throw in an angle that even Lloyd Kaufman would think was crossing the line.

So basically, I just took a bullet of shame for everyone by watching this, so you don’t have to. Pass this one up. Just by the title alone, you should know this, but just in case you need some reinforcement of the notion, here it is. Pass.

Top 10 Signs Your Amish Teenager Is In Trouble

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10. Sometimes stays in bed until after 5 a.m.

9. In his sock drawer, you find pictures of women without bonnets

8. Shows up at barn raisings in full KISS makeup

7. When you criticize him, he yells “Thou sucketh!”

6. His name is Jebediah, but he goes by “Jeb Daddy”

5. Defiantly says, “If I had a radio, I’d listen to rap.”

4. You come upon his secret stash of colored socks

3. He uses the expression “Talk to the hand, ’cause the beard ain’t listening.”

2. Was recently pulled over for driving under the influence of cottage cheese

1. He’s wearing his big black hat backwards

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Book Review: NIGHT SHIFT

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stephen king - night shiftStephen King
Doubleday / Signet
1978

Night Shift was Stephen King’s first collection of short stories that was released in 1978, right after a little novel of his called The Shining was published in 1977. Compared to his later short fiction collections, Night Shift seems downright anemic in size, but still it stands as a good look at some early work from the author who would eventually become the icon in the horror/dark fantasy genre. At this point in his career, he maybe was getting there, but he was still getting warmed up a bit, maybe. And if it sounds like I’m gushing a bit much, keep in mind that I’ve been reading his stuff since I was but a tender 13 years-of-age, when I utilized Cujo as my 8th Grade Lit book report. I got an A-, because I went about 10 minutes over time talking about it. Anyway…

My history with this collection goes back to when I stumbled upon my mom’s stash of three books by King in the basement of my grandparents’ farm home, which consisted of the afore-mentioned Cujo, the Different Seasons collection, and this one here, all in their musty mass market paperback glory. Of the three, it was the cover of this one that really popped out for me: the image of multiple eyes staring at me from a hand that was either being bandaged up, or having the bandages taken off. Mind you, this was a reference to the story “I Am The Doorway” that was collected within these pages, but even if it had nothing whatsoever to do with any of the stories themselves, the atheistic awesomeness of that cover art alone was just the coolest I’ve seen, appealing to my budding appreciation of weird, surreal dark things. But, alas, at that young of an age, I didn’t develop the focus to read any of the stories straight through before getting distracted by something shiny (which translates in this instance to “females in my school”); thus, it wasn’t until years and years later, long after I lost that paperback copy with its unnervingly cool cover image, that I stumbled upon an original hardcover first print edition of Night Shift at a garage sale in Fremont, Nebraska of all places, being offered for a buck. A buck. The dust cover was a bit worn and slightly torn on the back bottom area, but…yeah, couldn’t pass that one up. And so, with my focus on reading a bit more tempered than it was as a teenager, I got around to reading these short stories that date back between 1968 and 1978:

“Jerusalem’s Lot”

A series of letters and journal entries tell the tale of an aristocrat and his manservant inheriting an old house outside of the town of Preacher’s Corners, and nearby the abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot, where some black arts-based weirdness doth ensue…

“Graveyard Shift”

A bunch of grunt laborers cleaning up the basements of an old textile mill, where they discover a nest of mutated rats in a sub-cellar…it doesn’t end well…

“Night Surf”

A bunch of teenage survivors of a manufactured virus plague that wipes out most of Earth’s human populous do what most teenagers do: Hang out on the beach and contemplate death…

“I Am The Doorway”

A retired astronaut realizes that he may have brought back a stowaway of sorts from his mission to Venus…

“The Mangler”

An industrial laundry press becomes possessed by a demon and has a serious blood lust. That’s really all you need to know, there…

“The Boogeyman”

A man explains to a psychiatrist how the deaths of his children was not from natural causes, but from the Boogeyman…

“Gray Matter”

An out-of-work single father drinks some rather cheep beer, and…well, let’s just say the moral of this story is “you are what you eat”…er, drink…

“Battleground”

A paid assassin is attacked by a bunch of G. I. Joe figures…this is how the movie Small Soldiers should have gone…

“Trucks”

The short story Stephen King based his movie Maximum Overdrive on, motorized vehicles have gained sentience somehow, and is enslaving humanity through terror and fossil fuel supplies…

“Sometimes They Come Back”

A grown English teacher finds himself tormented by the ghosts of a group of greaser thugs from his childhood, as they have some kind of beyond-the-grave vendetta against him, or something. This was made into a mediocre television movie back in 1991. And yes, I did watch it when it first aired…

“Strawberry Spring”

A man reminisces about a serial murderer coined “Springheel Jack” by the local media and a sereis of murders committed for a few days in March of 1968 on a college campus during a “false” spring known as a Strawberry Spring (get it?), as a new victim is found at the college eight years later tonight…

“The Ledge”

A tennis instructor is given an offer he cannot refuse by the mob boss husband of the woman he’s having an affair with…

“The Lawnmower Man”

Forget about the movie, as that has only the title of this short story in common; no, this one is a bit about a guy who gets a rather eccentric lawn mowing company to cut his yard…

“Quitters, Inc.”

A chronic smoker joins a self-help group that’s very, very serious about their success rate…

“I Know What You Need”

There’s “creepy stalker” level of infatuation, and then there’s this guy in this story…

“Children Of The Corn”

A couple on a road trip as a last-resort to fix their fracturing marriage finds themselves in a small Nebraska town filled with filled with uber-creepy small Nebraska town children with a creepy fanatical bent. Yep, this is the story all of those Children Of The Corn movies are based on…

“The Last Rung on the Ladder”

A man remembers back to his childhood, when he saved his sister from a bad fate, in the aftermath of something else…

“The Man Who Loved Flowers”

Love is in the air! And so is murderous insanity…

“One for the Road”

A couple of old locals try and help an out-of-towner try and save his family that was stuck in a car during a bad blizzard near the town of ‘Salem’s Lot before the inevitable happens…and it’s not frostbite…

“The Woman in the Room”

The mental struggles of a young man who watches his mother waste away in a hospital room day by day…

Overall, I found this collection rather interesting, little bite-sized bits of Stephen King that showcased a talent for short story writing early on in his storied career (pun unintentional). Anyone can write a long, detailed novel (which King has demonstrated almost ad nausium over the decades), but to be able to pack the same kind of literary punch within the confines of a limited amount of words is a different kind of talent for the genre. Love him or hate him, hail him as a genius or blow him off as a hack, you have to admit that Stephen King has a gift for storytelling. And Night Shift would be a good place to start checking out his shorter works of fiction, from the perspective of his salad days as a writer.

Movie Review: INTERSTELLAR

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interstellarParamount Picture
2014
PG-13

“Everybody good? Plenty of slaves for my robot colony?”

In Earth’s future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand, a brilliant NASA physicist, is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth’s population to a new home via a wormhole. But first, Brand must send former NASA pilot Cooper and a team of researchers through the wormhole and across the galaxy to find out which of three planets could be mankind’s new home.

After emerging from the recent directorial offering from Christopher Nolan, I had an early theory: Interstellar was a spiritual remake of the Disney movie The Black Hole. Then, after chewing it over further with the friends who accompanied this early Saturday afternoon viewing over a late lunch, I have since amended my initial theory to–Interstellar is the result of no one being able to decide to remake either 2001: A Space Odyssey or the afore-mentioned Black Hole. And while I realize that The Black Hole lifted plot points directly from 2001 (among other popular sci-fi movies of the era), I would so not like to incur that kind of headache right now, thankyouverymuch. At least, not on top of the one Interstellar gave me.

Let me clarify–this headache would be one of the good kind; the kind being what results from giving something good to mentally masticate on. Interstellar is a very well-written, well-directed, and overall well put-together science fiction movie that manages to fire on all cylinders throughout the entire run time of the film. There is the ending that makes me a bit twitchy even now, just remembering it, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

In the near future, a kind of worldwide famine caused by a blight wipes out the majority of crops that we can produce for food, resulting in a severe drop in the human population, universal dust storms, and a move back to farming as a way of life. Technology is modified to help focus on farming, but the crops keep succumbing to the blight, leaving only corn as a substantial crop, and even that is beginning to show signs of blight. Matthew McConaughey is a former astronaut-turned-farmer has to deal with his childrens’ school not teaching them proper science, but also with his younger daughter’s idea that there is a poltergeist trying to send messages in the dirt that builds up during the dust storms inside her room. Of course, he figures out there really were messages being sent from an intelligent being, which leads him to the secret operational base of NASA, which has been reduced to Radio Shack status due to the global anti-space travel mindset everyone else has. Apparently, a wormhole has opened up near Saturn, which leads to several other planets that could sustain life, and thus they send McConaughey along with a handful of other science-y people and a couple of robots to check things out. When they get to the other side of the universe, however, the planet they were sent to investigate first seems to be caught in the outer pull of a black hole, which really messes with the relative time dilation. And if you think jet lag was annoying, try having 20+some-odd-years pass in the span of only less than an hour. By this time, McConaughey’s son has taken over the farm and has gone somewhat insane, while his daughter is all grown up and working for NASA to figure out how to get the human race off of Earth and settled in better space digs before their complete extinction, all the while still being butt-hurt about him choosing to go off into space to try and help in the effort himself, to make a better future for his children. That selfish bastard. Meanwhile, they run across a crazy Matt Damon stranded on Hoth, McConaughey gets sucked into the black hole trying to save the remaining astronaut on the mission, and does his best to tell the laws of physics to piss off while pretending to be the ghost that communicates with his younger daughter by way of gravitational fluxes. Believe me, what I just wrote there doesn’t even come close to being as confusing as the actual part of the movie. Anyway, rather than transforming into a Star Child (which wouldn’t have surprised me if they went that route), McConaughey winds up in the future, where his daughter managed to figure out the science behind saving the humans (it involves space station colonies or something), and he even gets to visit her on her deathbed, where he totally squanders the chance to quip, “You know the best thing about Special Relativity is? You all get older, I stay the same age.” I don’t care how heartless that would have been, it was a wasted opportunity, people. Anyway, he then goes off to find the last remaining member of his ill-fated expedition, rather than stay on the replica of his old farm house from Earth days. The End.

It’s rare that I would venture out into the theaters to watch a science fiction movie nowadays; even more so when it’s in its initial first run. But, it was my birthday, and I was attending with friends, and it looked rather intrigueing, so I went. I was rather glad I did, as I found Interstellar to be a good, complex, compelling and utterly engaging science fiction picture that may have stumbled a couple of times, but for the most part made the nearly three hour run time seem like a paltry not-even-two-hours. The entire cast works well together; I’ve never really had much of an opinion on Matthew McConaughey, mainly due to not really having watched many of his films outside of his run in Dazed & Confused and the gloriously bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, and you can’t really count those two movies when you’re making an assessment of someone’s ability. Here, he’s perfect as the everyman trying to make the best out of some pretty crappy situations, along with a couple of child actors that I didn’t really find all that endearing. Whiny, maybe, but not endearing. Especially the daughter. “Ooooo, daddy is abandoning me to save us all from imminent extinction! I’m gonna hate him until well into my young adulthood!” Annoying brat. Anyway, all the regulars shine here: John Lithgow as McConaughey’s father-in-law, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and David Gyasi as the other parts of the crew, Michael Caine as the head of NASA…and I think there was a Topher Grace in there as well. But the greatest part of the cast goes to the two androids, TARS and CASE. Especially CASE, for obvious reasons. Their designs were simple yet slick, and they have some of the best lines in the movie. The fact that they weren’t CGI’ed at all–they were puppets, all practical effects–made them even more awesome. Speaking of obvious segue…

The overall visual effects were gorgeous. The movie relied mainly on practical effects mainly, from the dust storm to the robots to even the all-ocean planet itself to that ending inside the black hole sequence, you could tell that some work went into making this come alive without spiraling into unintentional Uncanny Valley territory. The story, though, is what makes me think of Interstellar as one of the better movies I’ve seen in a while: it strikes that good balance between hard science fiction and slice-of-life drama that is the blend of most of my favorite sci-fi fiction in any media. Mind you, I was more than a bit dubious with the conflict resolution, especially what McConaughey experienced within the black hole, there–and no, I’m not going to delve into that one, as this review is already going much longer than I had intended…sufficed to say, they just tried to out-weird the ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey and, well, fell kinda short–but overall, I found Interstellar a much satisfying science fiction movie that I was glad I managed to watch on the big screen, rather than discovering it as a rental. Highly recommended.

The 101 Rules of Progressive Metal

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download1. Insist that your definition of prog metal is sacred and that the only progressive bands are the one you deem to be so.

2. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 1 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.

3. Have contempt for mainstream music.

4. Insist that most people listen not to the music, not to the lyrics but only the chorus and that is why prog metal is not mainstream.

5. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 4 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.

6. When showcasing a new prog metal band to a non-musician friend, put on the most technically difficult song, and skip directly to the solo part.

7. If your friend says that it is cool, tell him that he has grasped the grandeur of prog and shown that his intelligence is superior to that of the mainstream sheep.

8. If he doesn´t, accuse him of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.

9. Renounce all contact with friend in rule 8. Racial purity isn´t all bad.

10. Make sure your drummer has a double bass pedal.

11. If he hasn´t, kick him out and get another one who has. Single pedal is NOT prog.

12. Own every side-project a member of Dream Theater has been involved in. Listen to approximately none of them regularly.

13. When a mainstream fool asks you what prog metal is, tell him something along the lines of “prog is the evolution of musical expression and experimentalism in rock.” In any case, make sure that the person in question is left with no idea of what prog metal is. He wouldn´t have understood anyway.

14. Insist that music should always progress, although as long as you write an album in the prog vein, you don’t necessarily have to.

15. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 14 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.

16. Refer to progressive metal as intelligent music for intelligent people, preferably at every occasion where a mainstream group or genre is mentioned.

17. Note that the above does not qualify as arrogance any more than pointing out that wine is drink for the more sophisticated.

18. A song under four minutes is NOT prog. If you are stuck with a song under four minutes, insert a phrygian solo trade-off between the guitarist and keyboardist as long as needed.

19. If a mainstream fool tells you that shredders are mindless wankers, tell him that “at least they can tune their guitars, har har”, and walk away defiantly.

20. Spocks Beard is NOT prog. If anyone disagrees, kill them.

21. Humming along with the melody to a prog metal song is forbidden. Burn all albums you own with hum-along melodies.

22. Loathe all music you used to like before you got into prog. This is not optional. When asked why, tell people that “I am into GOOD music now, why would I go back?”.

23. Accuse any prog metal musician that cuts his hair of selling out.

24. Often state that you don´t only listen to prog. Jazz is a good choice.

25. Yeah…like you have more than 3 jazz CDs in your collection…

26. Never accept ANY Berklee graduates. The drop-outs are so much better.

27. Riffs in 4/4 are not progressive. If you happen to come up with a cool riff in 4/4, alternate between 4/4 and progressive time signatures like 7/8 every other measure to ensure the musical complexity synonymous with prog metal.

28. Be able to mention 20 bands noone has heard of, not even true prog fans. Own no releases of these bands.

29. Get an Ibanez. This is not negotiable.

30. Spend 5 hours every day critiquing other musicians on forums.

31. Spend 5 minutes every other day actually practicing your instrument.

32. Yell at people who headbang at concerts: They`re not prog enough to get the music, what do they expect?

33. Sus4 is your friend. To ensure that your album is a true progressive release, include at least one part where the keyboard plays ascending sus4 chords over a single-note broken rhythm in 7/8.

34. Make sure your bandname is either a
a) Oxymoron
-Silent Noise
-Tender Harshness
-Healing Gun
Some geeky sounding name ripped from some obscure book.
-Deitronus
-Tarakoch
-Fentaran
or
c) Random combination of at least 2 three-syllable words.
-Eternal Twilight Tranquility (Can`t get much progger than that)
-Redolent Arithmetic
-Evolution of Vernacular Domesticated

35. Don`t worry about if your band name makes any sense or not. Since 90% of your fanbase is from Brazil and Japan, you can safely ignore conventional English grammar and instead focus on what´s really important: The lyrics (see rule 36).

36. Write deep and ambiguous lyrics.

37. If unable to write deep and ambigous lyrics, include at least one of the following phrases to ensure recognition as lyrical genius in prog circles:
“I`m staring towards ascension divine, caught in my own revelation, a nightly mystery of soulburning apparition”
“Mornings` gentle caress, a ray of sunlight enveloping the spirit of the sleeper ventriloquist”
“A timid, palatable genocide, turn towards the decline of mankind, the festering wound of ages past changes into the soul-spirit of vestigial sentences.”

38. Use a non-standard instrument like violin, saxophone or kazoo, regardless of how idiosyncratic it turns out to be. This constitutes being prog.

39. Make sure your bass-player has as many strings as possible. Don`t worry if he uses approximately three of the 11 strings on his custom Carvin 30 kg bass regularly, just give him a bass solo in the middle of your mandatory instrumental tune(more on that later)where he can really show the extent of his instruments capabilities. Imagine the range of scales on an instrument like that!

40. Release a live-album called “Live in Tokyo”.

41. Change time signatures. Constantly.

42. Accuse anyone who does not do so of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true progressive musician.

43. Your amp MUST be a Mesa Boogie. If a friend of yours tries to convince you´re wrong and you should check out his Marshall tell him that his tone is thin and buzzy.

44. State that Metallica can´t properly tweak the boogies. They´re so… unprog!

45. Start a Dream Theater cover band with friends just starting out playing instruments. Spend half of the rehearsal talking shit about punk bands and how people don`t understand your music.

46. Play a shitty version of a humongously difficult DT song at a Battle of the Bands-type contest. Metropolis Part 1 or Dance of Eternity are both good choices, as is Erotomania.

47. When your band ends up last, shift all blame over to the judges; hey, they have no idea what good music is! Why else would they let that boring pop band win?

48. Talking about starting playing an instrument; always start with the most technically difficult song you know. Remember, this is a testament to your immense talent, so be sure to mention this on every internet community you happen to frequent.

49. When are you able to play something at half speed very sloppy, proudly state that you “nail” the song in question.

50. People are bound to ask for a recording of the feat mentioned in rule 49. However, you are not able to provide it to them, because a) your recording equipment got dissolved by digestive acid yesterday, you don`t need to prove anything to people. Your word should be good enough c) you don`t know anything about computers (even though you sit by one most of the day), as you spend most of your day practicing your instrument.

51. Tool is NOT prog. If anyone insists they are, kill them.

52. Hate Falling into Infinity. If the feeling that you actually enjoy FII(even the “proggier” songs like TOT)sneaks up on you during a glitch of concentration, remind yourself that DT sold out.

53. Actually, state that DT sold out on every good occasion. This means every time their name is mentioned.

54. Don´t be John Arch. Insist that any pre-Alder Fates is 100% not prog.

55. Do not move on stage. Don`t under any circumstances forget that nobody at prog concerts pays attention to the audience, including the band.

56. The best songs are those that are over 15 minutes, have multiple named sections, and have solos by everyone in the band INCLUDING the drummer.

57. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 56 of lacking musical inteli…Yeah, you`ve got it now, haven`t you?

58. Never ever under any circumstances say “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence ruled.”

59. Never let anyone tell you that Dave Weckl is better than any prog metal drummer. If they still insist, don`t kill them, but rather put on the Mike Portnoy drum solo from 1993`s “Live in Tokyo” vid, which still today is the benchmark for good drumming, REGARDLESS of genre.

60. It would still be a good idea to have that gun ready, though.

61. Drummers: Huge kits are MANDATORY!!!! If all you have is a 4-piece with 3 crappy cymbals, then you don´t belong on stage. A 5-piece single bass drum kit is the bare minimum and even that´s on the edges of bare bones. If you have a tiny kit BUY MORE DRUMS AND CYMBALS!!!!!!!

62. No, 6 toms are not enough, MORE DRUMS AND CYMBALS!!!!

63. Reform with old members and release an album intended to make up for years of bad reception from fans (see Yes) or claim your next album will be a return to past glory (see Queensryche). If it flops, be sure to blame a producer or record company.

64. When someone asks you why prog metal isn`t more popular if it is so darned good, tell them that it is because “it is over the mainstream peoples heads”.

65. Talent = Technical skill. Hail any band with lightning-speed solos for their immense talent.

66. Publicly state that your band is non-religious, then make many religious and/or spiritual allusions in the lyrics.

67. Stress your openmindedness. State that you like all forms of music, except lower forms of music like pop, rock `n roll, blues, techno, trance, rap.

68. Accuse fans of the aforementioned genres of not being openminded.

69. Get a Kurzweil. As the undisputed <<>>, Jordan Rudess plays it, you have no choice but to get one yourself, no matter what synthezisers you actually like. ALL BOW TO THE MIGHTY 88-KEY <<>> KURZWEIL!!!

70. ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNO-KURZWEIL!!!!(Futuruma fans will know what I`m talking about)

71. Show off with your equipment. Show off with your playing/singing. Show off with your *ahem* length. Show off with your girlfriend. Show off with anything you can think of. Show off with your DOG for god´s sake.

72. Get a dog.

73. Play air-drums or air-guitar at concerts. This will make sure that other prog fans recognize your immense talent.

74. Stuck in song-writing? Insert a part with a slow single-note gallop rhythm where the singer yells “ENTER THE SUUUNNNNNNNN” several times.

75. Note that you can substitute “ENTER THE SUUUNNNNNNNNN” for either of the following: “FATHER, MY ADOLESCENCY IS AGONNNNNYYYYYYY” or “THE APPARITION DIVIIIIIINNNNEEEE”. All three are suitable choices.

76. What do you mean, you haven`t trigged your bassdrum?

77. Remember, faster=more progressive. Slow songs cannot be progressive, best example would be Pink Floyd.

78. If anyone says PF are prog, kindly refer them to rule 1 while you prepare to do a “Varg”, so to say.

79. During recording, make sure that you accuse the producer, the recording engineer and half of your band of not playing the song properly at least once.

80. Make sure your album cover contains either a psychedelic computer-drawn image, a lavish painting with mythological figures, or is illustrated by Travis Smith.

81. Write epics.

82. In case you didn`t know, epics must be about adolescence, concerning a legend, or a deep dystopian tale where a cheesy fictional city/world/pizza shop serves as a metaphor for this world.

83. Have racks with loads of equipment.

84. Have racks without equipment. Who is going to see them if you don`t display them?

85. No intro for your song? Insert a single-note broken rhythm accented on the snare, with shifting keyboard chords underneath.

86. Refuse to lend prog CDs to mainstream friends. When asked why, tell him/her that (s)he “will understand when (s)he matures”

87. When playing ANY gig, from the lowliest bar to the most gargantuan arena, be sure that no member of the audience will leave without having heard every lick you are able to play.

88. Have at least 5 solo spots during a concert.

89. In case you have forgotten while reading this, prog metal is intelligent music for intelligent people.

90. No, Marillion is not prog. I kindly refer you to rule 20.

91. BOOOM!!!

92. Buy new albums from past prog-greats.

93. When they turn out to be crap and nothing like the old albums, hit yourself in the head with a hammer until you like them.

94. Hold that there is no bad prog, only DIFFERENT.

95. Of course, that only applies to bands you like. See Rule 1.

96. In case you wondered, Dream Theater is and will always be the benchmark for prog metal. The more something sounds like Images and Words, the more progressive it is.

97. Proclaim Rule 96 to people with a straight face in all seriousness. This is not optional.

98. Have side-projects. Make sure that all side-projects consist of pointless jamming over endless repetitions of clichéd riffs.

99. Make sure that at least one of your side-projects feature Mike Portnoy on drums.

100. If you cannot get Mike Portnoy, get someone who sounds like him.

101. You mean you have been reading this when you could have been practicing along to Metropolis Part II or composing a sidelong epic? For shame!!!!

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