Apr 8, 2002

I had two opportunities to go hiking this weekend but neither panned out. Bummer. So instead I did some reading after attending a different church. I find that I have an automatic cynicism towards great big "white" churches, with a band on stage, centered on a grand piano, from where the charismatic pianist leads the congregation in soulful bouts of Maranatha music. Perhaps it's from too much exposure to church services on TV. Perhaps it's some ingrained childhood revulsion against PCS. Somehow I just find it incredibly challenging to put aside the cynicism and worship when I walk in and see the ever-so-slick production. But I'm glad I went out of my way today, since it lead to my reading this:

But in order that the characteristics of the divine may shine more brightly by the development of the truth, I will give you light to apprehend it, the obscurity caused by sin being wiped away. I will draw away the veil from the darkness of this hidden world. For a brief space conceive yourself to be transported to one of the loftiest peaks of some inaccessible mountain, thence gaze on the appearances of things lying below you, and with eyes turned in various directions look upon the eddies of the billowy world, while you yourself are removed from earthly contacts,-you will at once begin to feel compassion for the world, and with self-recollection and increasing gratitude to God, you will rejoice with all the greater joy that you have escaped it. Consider the roads blocked up by robbers, the seas beset with pirates, wars scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not on the plea that they are guiltless, but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale.
   - Epistle from Cyprian to Donatus

I think we're often missing that compassion for the world.

I've been trying to get back to some regular fare after that gourmet binge back in February. It doesn't help that our company's replaced the free bad catered food with a cafeteria that's actually pretty damn good. Since the mass production style has been replaced with 'quality and freshness', it's actually faster to go for Jack in the Box (and cheaper with the $0.99 Jumbo Jack). I'm really hoping they'll improve the efficiency.

It was however, Xun's birthday, and for dinner we headed out to Le Papillon. Perhaps it was because I was tired, but it was less than memorable. I had to try to remember what I ordered - a bland lobster appetizer atop flat puff pastry and a tasteless duck entree. The dessert, a pear charlotte with caramel ice cream, was good but not outstanding (the ice cream was a nice touch). For $55 a person it was a lot less than other French restaurants around here, but then, I left those places impressed.

... and Flicks
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
I remember having seen bits of this way back when, but I don't recall having watched the whole thing. After watching Yi Yi, I hope Taiwanese directors are adding a lot of hyperbole to their everyday life, or else it seems like those Taiwanese are pretty screwed up. If episodes of Iron Chef were as succulent as this film, I'd probably be watching more TV. Coyly humorous, this film following the life of three sisters and their elderly father chef, illustrates a lot of the quirks Chinese culture that a lot of us westernized kids recognize and love/hate. Enjoyed this far more than anything else I've seen recently. Definitely watch this one.

Billy Elliot (2000)
I shirk away from most feel good, 'power of the human spirit', movies; I appreciate cheese on my toast, but I just don't have the taste for it on the screen. However, somehow I watched this one to the end without that gut-wrenching feeling. Looks very British (is it the film stock or the lighting that gives all these Brit films the same feel?), but it's got enough in it to be enchanting. Not raving mind you, but good to rent.

Run Lola Run (1998)
I've been meaning to watch this one for a while. You watch the same story - in which Lola attempts to raise enough money to save her bumbling boyfriend in twenty minutes - three times; in each run, minor differences in certain events lead to drastically different endings. Not too much in terms of characters, dialogue or even action, but the constant techno beat in the background makes watching the same movie thrice captivating enough.

The Hurricane (1999)
Denzel won an Oscar for this one, but I found it rather dull. One of those 'power of the human spirit biographies', that's supposed to make you feel good at the end without really learning anything.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Yet another one of those 'power of the human spirit biographies', yet this one was actually interesting... but perhaps I just have a personal predilection towards crazy mathematicians. I actually left with more of an idea of what life is for someone who is really crazy. Unfortunately, the movie does have it's major chunk of cheese (seriously, Jennifer Connelly's wife character was too perfect). With all the Oscar hype I guess my expectations were way too high, but I still left the theater happy for spending my $6.75.

Blade 2 (2002)
Yes, I usually avoid these ones, but I found myself watching it in a fit of boredome... and actually found myself entertained. There's more problems with plausibility in this one than your average Hollywood action movie, but the effects were good and the music thumped nicely. I have to say it was pretty good for a crappy action movie.

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