Do you believe in monsters?

The charm of a movie does not always have to be based on hype but sometimes it is on how an audience relates to it. Sometimes it is both and when that happens it becomes one worthy movie to watch. This is the case for the movie Goosebumps  which we first learned from Marcus, thanks to YouTube.

Goosebumps is a movie based on a popular book and TV series back in the days when its present young fans like our son weren’t around yet and when TV were showing more entertaining and intelligent shows. Fortunately for us there is the trusty Hollywood that allows us to reminisce the good old days while seated beside our ever curious children and as we blindly dig our hands into same cheesy popcorn bucket.

What I personally like about Goosebumps is its appeal to people who like to read and write regardless of skill. As a so-called blogger, it never ceases to amaze me how an author’s imagination could be translated into words, into sentences, into paragraphs, into pages, and finally into a book with a plot that is entertaining, interesting and more importantly, one that millions of readers could very well relate to.

We believe in monsters.

For moviegoers as young as Marcus, the idea of monsters becoming real may be something new. Goosebumps, however, surely isn’t the first to show monsters coming out of books. Do not ask me to cite examples as I am bad in recalling movie titles but I just know that there have been others ahead of Goosebumps yet it does not mean that all is lost.

For one, it is worth noting the presence of the actor Jack Black as one of the main casts. Like his previous roles in movies like School of Rock and Nacho Libre, Jack Black continues to prove that he is among the top actors not just for comic relief but also when there is a need to inject the element of mystery. In the movie Jack Black plays the role of R.L. Stine who is the original author of the Goosebumps series that became popular in the 90s. The movie’s story goes that R.L. Stine was once outcast—could be true in real life—who isolated himself from the bullies of society and, eventually, in the confines of his room wrote stories that have monsters in it. He wrote so much stories of the same genre that he has lost count how many monsters he has created which later on became too much to handle when everything got out of his books and terrorized a sleepy village in Madison, Delaware.

Goosebumps should also remind us that there were times when authors spend endless nights on their typewriters—or others still do?—to create that one story that would soon make it into the bookshelves and bed sides around the world. Yes, the typewriter, the machine, that makes weird mechanical noise that could be very well mistaken as monsters by kids of the touchscreen age.

What fascinates me about people like R.L. Stine and even Stephen King is their influence. They create stories to escape reality, their readers read to escape the same reality—and others would even be so inspired that they become good writers in their own right. Let us not forget, however, whether we like it or not, that reality bites—literally and figuratively. That there aren’t really monsters, that fantasy has its end, and that the last page exists.

The good news, as R.L Stine said in the movie, “there are three elements in my stories, the start, the end, and the twist.” True enough just when everything seems to be cliché, good guys beat bad guys, Goosebumps makes its audience look forward to something until its next installment returns, until we see the invisible boy. We now crave for more.

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In hindsight, there are real monsters in our midst. Some in the form of bad politicians, bad traffic, bad boss, and even bad afternoon shows.  Each one of us are battling our own monsters and there is one that lives inside Marcus which he continues to fight head on. It is one that’s cannot be seen by the naked eye but is much scarier than those of R.L. Stein’s.

No tears shed on this second blood extraction for this year.

We got him a fitting cap for his bravery after the extraction. One that Super Mario wears and one that could very well mean Super Marcus.

For the second time this weekend, we were back in the mall, this time for his first visit to the dentist to check his shark tooth. No tears here as well.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I will get the blood extraction result today. Fingers crossed.)

Yin and Yang

There is always yin and yang, there is–or should be–always balance. This is the message that I realized from just two simple stickers.

On Sunday I got a break from the weather and was able to finally give the car a wash and wax session. And with glasses all cleaned of bugs and sap and dust and bird droppings I was able to place the sticker that will soon make our vehicle, hoping that considerate people still outnumber those who aren’t, to be a legit occupant of that PWD (People with Disabilities) parking slot. (It should be noted that this sticker is meant to complement the government-issued card we got recently.)

PWD sticker, wheelchair, disabled parking

His sticker.

Unexpectedly, after I was done with my workout this morning the attendant gave me their gym sticker. This surely will cause some raised eyebrows at the parking area but I’m sticking it anyway.

Gym sticker, gym membership

My sticker.

So yes, simple things could remind us that there is yin and yang. Life is balanced. Life has opposites. Sadness and happiness. Sickness and health. Father and son. Life and death. Oppss. My avid readers–all five of them–said that my recent posts have been dark and sad so I’m striking out the last juxtaposition. Cheers.

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Discovered today that I can run on the treadmill and read an ebook at the same time. Had an interesting 5K, thanks to Angela Marson’s Silent Scream. Yes, been a fan lately of discounted Kindle books.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (What do ‘ber’  months has in store for us?)

The Most Travelled Lonely Roads

Father and son with the only possessions they have. (Image from the web.)

I feel awkwardly free. That’s how I would describe the recently concluded weekend. It was unlike the last ones when wifey and I have been pretty occupied due to her online contract that needs extra hands to finish. Eventually, we were able to get it done—pat on the back to us—and the lull after two weeks of being in front of the computer majority of our time made me feel as if I am missing something big. Good thing the DVDs filled the gap in no time.

One of the DVDs we watched together is The Road. Released in 2009, the film is about a post-apocalyptic story featuring the dark adventure of a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smith-McPhee) as they try to make their way out of their place, so torn that even nature and wildlife have ceased to exist, to find safer haven assuming there is one somewhere.

Both father and son had to survive not just biting cold but several other threatening factors. The diminishing availability of fuel and of food—thus the rampant cannibalism—left them no choice but to stray away until they have found one. From time to time they had to face off with different people but who have the same thing in mind—survive at all cost.

The Road is a depressing movie that I regret watching it on a sunny Sunday morning. I wouldn’t call it entertaining at all. But if there is one good thing about it, it is the chance to reflect which is so apt for a Palm Sunday.

Though fiction by nature, the plot of the movie is definitely not. Anyone does not need to look farther into the future to see the struggles of millions of real fathers and sons—mothers and daughters included—who roam around the streets daily to find their next temporary shelter and scavenge for leftovers and up the extent of having to defend—kill if and when needed—whatever little possessions they have.

The Road is an eye opener. It delivers a strong message that should make everyone understand and empathize with our homeless brothers. What would you do if your child craves for warmth? What if he begs for food? How would you answer if he asks, “Are we still the good guys?” Yes, think about it real good because as of this very moment while you are reading this in the comforts of your own home many out there are making their way once more to the most travelled lonely roads.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (We are getting new tires, thanks to that online contract.)

What I Learned From American Sniper

The American Sniper

Image from the web.

My second attempt to watch the American Sniper was a success.  Last weekend it did not happen as we got stopped right at the ticket booth. By ‘we’ I mean that I was with my son who felt equally disappointed when he learned that he is not allowed yet to watch the R13 rated movie. He’s got seven more years before he gets past the cinema’s turnstile. Yesterday, I was with wifey, just the two of us.

The movie served more of a visual treat of what transpired in the American Sniper book that I finished reading just recently. Having read the additional entry on the ebook regarding the making of the movie, also prepared me to expect that some parts of the story where tweaked and that other events did not make it to its film version. I would have appreciate, however, if the movie included the part where the enemy made use of beach balloons to cross the marsh and how Chris Kyle ended the terrorists’ creative strategy. Several other accounts written by Chris Kyle himself would have made the movie a lot more entertaining.

Yet American Sniper isn’t just about entertainment. Given the gruesome nature of this Clint Eastwood movie as adapted from the true story of how one man was able to achieve 160 official kills in his four tours in Iraq, there are looming ethical questions that surround it. For one, does it justify to shoot anyone who appears to satisfy a sniper’s rules of engagement? It’s a tough question that only snipers themselves will be able to answer with a straight face. But believe it or not, anyone one could learn beyond just shooting the bad guys. One does not need to be enlisted in the Armed Forces to appreciate the lessons that the American Sniper imparts. (Cited below are excerpts from the ebook).

“Comms and navigation are a lot further down the list for most SEALs. The worst school you can send someone to has to do with intel. People hate that. They joined the SEALs to kick down doors, not to gather intelligence. But everyone has a role.” (p. 327)

  1. Everyone has a role and someone’s got to do the dirty job. Sometimes we begin to be de-motivated having to continue doing our present role. We also hate being re-assigned—changes that will get us out of our comfort zones. In any case, resentment usually sets in and we question our role in an organization. By looking at the bigger picture, we should be able to identify where we stand and realize our contribution.

“I SAID IT BEFORE AND I’LL KEEP SAYING IT: I’M NOT THE BEST shot in the world. There were plenty of guys better than me, even in that class. I only graduated about middle of the pack…You need skill to be a sniper, but you also need opportunity. And luck. (P. 108)

  1. It is a fact, the real world is a different story. There are so many factors that would change what we learned in school. To excel in academics is one thing, to find that opportunity and luck to be able excel in real life is another. Acquire the skills so that when opportunity presents itself, you are fit and ready.

“WE HAD A LONG BREAK FROM WAR, BUT WE WERE BUSY THE whole time, retraining and, in some cases, learning new skills.” (p. 206)

  1. Regular training is the key to avoid stagnancy. Employees who belong to an organization who keeps on training everyone to hone their skills are the lucky ones (cross-training is also a known method to motivate employees). Doing something over and over again until the correct routine becomes second nature will ensure that job expectations are effectively and efficiently delivered and as a result customer satisfaction is achieved.

“Getting through BUD/ S and being a SEAL is more about mental toughness than anything else. Being stubborn and refusing to give in is the key to success. Somehow I’d stumbled onto the winning formula.” (p. 29)

  1. Failures will happen and we will be tested based on our attitude towards. Anyone with the tenacity to face trials head on will always come out as the clear winner.

“I wanted to do my thing, which was being a sniper…I wanted to be the best at what I wanted to do. I think a lot of people had trouble with that attitude. They naturally thought that anyone who was good should have a very high rank.” (p. 354)

5. Love your job and rewards will eventually come along the way. Enjoying the job is very important. If it is fun, it is worth doing. This is where I would use “note to self.”

These are just a few of the lessons from American Sniper. Read the book and learn that heroes behind the crosshair are also humans. Plain humans just like us who at the end of the day continue to ask themselves, “Was it all worth it?”

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In memory of our own fallen heroes. The SAF 44.

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The pizzas are the bad guys, oatmeal grains are the SEALs. There’s now CQB somewhere inside me. (After the movie, wifey and I finally indulged ourselves with S&R’s pizza. I was stuffed.)

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (The goal is to eat more oatmeal this week.)

Interstellar: Our Wormhole

Interstellar, wormhole, interstellar review, interstellar blog

Image from the web.

A couple of months after, wifey and I were able to watch a movie again without Marcus. Our kid willingly stayed behind with his own Mr. and Mrs. Wilson–he is our good neighbor’s own Dennis the Menace. Our time out together was worth it, thanks to Interstellar.

Spoilers have been out since Interstellar premiered but my interest to see the latest Christopher Nolan film remained. I was among those who were curious to know how Hollywood can pull off another space adventure movie after Gravity. Just like the Sandra Bullock starrer, scientists–as they claim to be–expressed their expert opinion that some concepts in Interstellar are far-fetched. However, like how the adult Murphy Cooper sat in her room to figure out everything, we sat still in front of the giant cinema screen–hot Krispy Kreme coffee and donuts in hand.

There is a good thing about not having a good grasp of quantum physics, space dynamics, and all the jargons only NASA and space exploration geeks understand. Such lack of technical knowledge and prejudice allowed me to focus on the concept that man in the distant future will travel through space and time. And the concept that somewhere out there are other dimensions that go beyond what the past and current generation believe only belongs to pages of science fiction books.

Interstellar may indeed be flawed but what Hollywood movie isn’t? For all I care right now is that it was the perfect movie for me and wifey. Interstellar was a wormhole that transported us out of parenting–almost three hours of good entertainment that feels like a week of a well-deserved break. Oh by the way, we picked up Marcus and yes, he is still six years old.

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Things I learned from Interstellar:

1. Have a bookshelf and save the world. Yes, that shelf where you stack paper pages sandwiched between soft or hard covers. Need I say you read them as well?

2. Dust will eventually kill us all. Space may be a giant vacuum but it won’t clean the house. Time to find that thing that sucks dust.

3. Minecraft has become this much influential. Just look at TARS. I rest my case.

Interstellar, wormhole, interstellar review, interstellar blog, Minecraft, Enderman is TARS

This Enderman from Minecraft. (Image from the web.)

Interstellar, wormhole, interstellar review, interstellar blog, Minecraft, Enderman is TARS

Now this one walking behind is TARS. (Image from the web.)

4. The demand for cornflakes will stay until end of the world. And maybe farming in general. I now wonder if Marcus will learn how to plow.

5. “How did you know? Because dad promised me.” Interstellar’s cheesy moment but does anyone object that this is true?

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (I promised not to eat junk todat. That’s the plan.)

OTJ: Everyone’s Dark Thoughts in a Filipino Film

There have been times when I feel the urge to write something about the criminals in the news. While I neither condone nor even sympathize with fallen menaces of the society, I always have these thoughts that there is an interesting story behind each crime. However dark it may sound but that thought lingers as I sit on our comfy sofa while the TV shows activity inside the yellow ‘Police Do Not Cross’ line.

What sets the precedence behind a hit? What are the motives? Who are these people caught in a blur by CCTV cameras? How do they live their lives? Or do they have one?  Are they really as calloused as the media portrays them to be? I have so many questions, everything left unanswered, every bit an element of a good story waiting to be told. But as I strain myself to compose and gather the loose ends, someone has beaten me into it. And I willingly concede, it’s no contest.

Eric Matti had it on film. His latest movie On The Job or simply shortened as OTJ was spot on. It has the plot that I wish in a thousand years I would be able to form myself.  Its raw settings and the powerful cast—who played various roles from a lowly jail guard, struggling police officers, gun for hires and intel authorities under a system of deceit and corrupt politics—justified the release of an action film that finally gives everyone a break from the boring Filipino love stories and lousy comedy movies.

The film’s sound reproduction could have been better though. It would have been more striking if the gunshots were as loud and if the other effects sounded clearer. But other than this I have nothing more against it. Eric Matti got my respect. Wifey and I had a great movie date.

OTJ is said to be based on actual events and I bet that nobody who tunes in daily to the news will ever doubt it. The movie fills in the missing pieces of what we already know. OTJ has everyone’s dark thoughts (and paranoia) coming from watching the evening news combined into one great Filipino film. It shows us that in the midst of It’s More Fun In The Philippines campaign and the continuing economic development is an underground world that we all wish does not exist. We can all be in denial and dismiss everything as fiction but until such time corruption in the government prevails and crime rate stays steady, the fact remains that there are protégés out there learning on the job. And no one knows when, where, and who they will hit soon.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (I smell leftover kare-kare.)

The Guardians and the Bible

The Guardians. (Image from the web.)

The last page of the calendar is already out. It is already December but lately a lot of news on TV have been overwhelmingly sad. Crime rate is going up and this is not the Christmas season that most of us once knew as kids and definitely not the one that we would like our own kids to remember. It is therefore a relief that behind all the negativity around us are things that tell the young minds that Christmas is still around the corner.  Among these is the movie Rise of the Guardians.

Thanks to the creative geniuses at Dreamworks Animation as they have once again concocted and produced a movie that not only entertains but at the same time conveys a subject matter that kids do not easily find nowadays. Rise of the Guardians is an animated film about Jack Frost and other popular mythical characters but appearing in their not usual form:  there is the authoritative Santa Claus (known as North), the cranky Easter Bunny, the sexy tooth fairy, and the nonverbal Sandman.  And of course, there is the bad guy named Pitch, aka the boogeyman.

Originally, I got attracted to this movie just because it has a Santa Claus  but its appeal grew twofold. As the movie goes along I begin to notice that behind the spectacular animation and funny scenes (I became a fan of the golden Sandman) is a story which I think has a lot of biblical references thus making those lessons from the holy book easier to digest by the younger ones.

To cite an example, among the lines in the film “…for as long as they believe in us, we will guard them with our lives” actually has its own mature equivalent from Genesis 18:26: “…if you can find a man, if there is any that executes justice, that seeks the truth; and I will pardon it.

And the one told by Jack Frost said to Jamie (not verbatim): “you don’t stop believing in the sun just because it is hidden behind the dark clouds” made me recall the one from my other blog regarding an argument about faith between a  student and his atheist professor.

While it is highly likely that its young moviegoers, like Marcus who knows more Ninjago characters than Saints, won’t fully understand yet the deeper meaning of the messages that Rise of the Guardians relay, it is nice to know that there is another movie this yuletide season that conditions the minds of our kids, through good entertainment, what the values that they are supposed to know and do at least during Christmas time.

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There are things I realized while watching Rise of the Guardians:

  1. I never knew Sandman as someone associated with kids’ dreams. I blame Metallica and Spider-Man.
  2. Despite recently celebrating my birthday, making me closer to that age wherein they say is when life begins, I am among those who get excited at the sight of that fat man in red suit.

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Recommended read: Should you tell your kid the truth about Santa Claus?

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Going to a Christmas party for Marcus.)