Monthly Archives: May 2014

Pink Ping Pong Balls and…Survival!

There are times that you tend to remember far better than you ever thought you could.  For me, this was one of those times and I would love to share it with you.

It was hot, blazing hot, and our packs weighed heavy on our backs.  We had been out in the wilderness for seven days, with nothing but what we had taken with in the backpacks.  No buildings, no toilets, no chicks…it had been a long time since any form of civilization.

But today was the final day!  After this we would be back, basking in the glory of fast, greasy food, luxuriously cushioned seats, and schoolwork!  (Okay, some things we weren’t looking forward to.)dsc_1105

But that was still five miles away.  We had been hiking since 5:00am, and had traversed eleven miles already.  The camp was barely in sight, but we still had five miles to go!  It was starting to drive some of us slightly berserk.

“Stop it!” Dale yelled at me.

“Stop what?”

“Breathing!  Cut it out, will ya!”

As confused as I was why he would turn on me when his own breathing was horrendous, (gasping in, then gasping out, heaving with each breath, not to mention the slobber drooling from his cracked lips) I cordially ceased inhaling.  Shortly after, I passed out.

I woke up with the hope that my buddies would have carried me the rest of the way, but did they?  No.  Instead they thought it would be a good idea to slap my face until I woke up.  Selfish imps.

“I can see that things are starting to deteriorate,” Bryon said, as he continue to slap my face giddily, despite my cries of “I’m awake!” and “You’re dead to me!”

“Let me tell you all a story,” he said as I leaped to my feet, helped by my friend Dale. “It’ll help pass the time.”

A sour feeling, almost a premonition, passed over me.  I knew I should have said something, but unfortunately all my doubts about Bryon’s stories had been lulled in the back of my mind by all his other bad decisions over the last several days.  (The following story is that tale, shortened, censored, and made comprehensible by yours truly.)

“Once there was a boy whose parents loved him very much.  Maybe.  Okay, at least a little.  Maybe more than a little…”

“Get on with it!”

“…and he didn’t say a word to his parents until his seventh birthday.  On that day, he asked for a pink ping pong ball.  His parents didn’t know why, but it seemed to make him happy, so they did.”

“After that he didn’t say another word for five years, until his twelfth birthday, when he asked for a case of pink ping pong balls.  His parents didn’t know why they shouldn’t, since he had been so good, so they got the balls for him.  As soon as he got them, he mailed them off to somewhere, but his parents couldn’t find out where.”

“This went on for years, and he’d always ask for more pink ping pong balls, then he’d ship them off.  His parents asked, pleaded and begged him to tell them where, but it was no use.”

“Finally, on his twenty-first birthday, he asked for a ping pong ball factory.  Because he hadn’t shown interest in anything else throughout his life, his parents took out a mortgage on their house and bought him one.  All day, every day, he would sit in the factory, making thousands and thousands of pink ping pong balls, and then he would send them off by the shipload to somewhere.”

“At last, when he had turned fifty, there was an explosion at the factory.  His parents heard it from their house and ran as fast as they could towards it.  When they arrived, pink plastic was everywhere.  Their son was lying on his back, his arm burned by the hot plastic, and his legs blown off by the explosion.”

“Weakly, he motioned for his parents to kneel down by him.  As they did so he gasped, ‘The ping pong balls…the pink ping pong balls.  I sent them to…Blah!’  And he died.”

Eagerly, we waited for the punchline.  Confused, Bryon looked at us saying, “That’s it.”

We could have strangled him. That story had no purpose, no reason for existing and had  wasted 30 min of our lives! It kind of reminds me of this post.

But Bryon’s story did pass the time, because we were almost back to civilization and bison burgers!  And that is the only reason he is still alive today. (See why it’s a story of survival? Sideways, winky face!)

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In the Hands of Yahweh: Dahveed

dahveed-yahwehs-chosen-terri-l-fivash-paperback-cover-artRaging giants!  Mentally handicapped monarchs!  Berserker shepherds!  Not to mention fiery vortexes of demonic darkness!  Sound familiar?

Probably not.  This is the story of David.  Oops, I should probably say “Dahveed”.

Dahveed is a series of six books (four published, two still to come) by Terri Fivash, which details and expands upon the Biblical account of David.  It starts out when Dahveed is still a boy, describing with gusto the atmosphere of ancient Bethlehem and Israel, and continues until presumably his death. (At least that’s my guess, because it’s not finished yet.)

As this is a series, I will only briefly touch upon aspects of it instead of doing a full out review.

The adherence to the source material (a.k.a. the Bible) is exemplary, as the author never changes and deviates from what happened. (Something the Hobbit films could learn from!) However, the books do differ from other widely held opinions such as Jonathan and Dahveed being the same age, and Goliath being actually nine fee tall.

The main theme of the first three books is all about how Yahweh is preparing His Mashiah, or anointed one, to become king over a currently disjointed and shattered people.  Dahveed must go from being an unclaimed son and lowest among his clan, ignorant and despairing of value in himself, to being a man who trusts wholly in his God.  Only then can he lead the people of Israel.

But the journey is difficult.  King Shaul is possessed by demons, Philistines are constantly raiding and the inner turmoil which has plagued him all his life does not stop instantly.  But Yahweh knows what he is doing.  Jonathan is a man willing to sacrifice his family, his throne and his life for Him, and Dahveed will need such a friend.

The turmoil of Jonathan presented through these books is one of the most interesting and gut wrenching parts.  You can feel his shame for his father’s actions burning inside him, alongside a fierce love and desire for approval.

But Jonathan will not hesitate to do what is right, even if it means betraying his father, an action that pains his soul like no other.

But this being the Old Testament, what is right is not always clear.  Is it right to kill a man for showing disrespect? Or sell a man and his family to pay off his debts? What about harvesting two hundred Philistine foreskins as a bride price? Multiple wives and concubines?!

Yes.  Back then in the covenant between God and the Israelites, it was, and the author does not shy away from such things.

Battle is an integral part of the story, and Dahveed transforms from a shepherd training  with Habiru, to general of Shaul’s armies.   Hundreds are kill in pitched battles, more in ambushes, duels, and raids.  Despite the violence, this book does not feel violent or gory, but merely shows events back then as closely as possible as to what would have actually happened.

Which brings me to a different type of darkness.  Demons.

As it is said in I Samuel, King Shaul is in fact possessed by an evil spirit.  This series does indexnot shy away from that fact, and more than once has the power of Yahweh stretched to battle that demon through Dahveed.  Obviously no real match, but still terrifying for Dahveed and Jonathan.  Additionally, the Moabite god Kemosh is shown to be another demon, one that a character worships and makes sacrifices to.

Nothing offensive is shown, although Jonathan does take a concubine and later a wife, while Dahveed, shy, humble, bashful Dahveed, marries several women.  Ugh.  As can be expected, no swear words of any kind make it into this story.

From a literary standpoint, Fivash has an enticing and easy reading style, making for an enjoyable book.  However, like many good and enjoyable authors, her books take too long to get where they need to be, and especially in the first two books, seem to repeat themselves to often.

Character, not plot, is her strongest asset, but occasionally the responses of characters (usually during happy times or events) seem forced, not earned.

Another problem is the names.  They’re all Biblical names, and sometimes one name is assigned to multiple characters.  (Not her fault, that’s how it is in the Bible.)  Once Dahveed starts assembling his outlaws, the names come flying too fast and thick to believe.  Remember, this is coming from a guy who can read The Silmarillion without batting an eyelid.

Enjoyable and overall enlightening was the conclusion that rose in my mind after completing book three, which, by the way, is my favorite of them.  At times different from what i had imagined, but so true to what it should be.  But the ultimate end of it is to show how ordinary people, lowly, hurt people when resting in the hands of the Lord can acheive marvelous, spectacular things.  Honor that comes from man may be stripped away, but honor from Yahweh is eternal.

As an aside, Terri Fivash has another book, Joseph, that I will be reviewing later this summer.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Review

Let me start out by clarifying my stance towards the Star Wars franchise.  It’s fun.  Diehard, I am not.  Avid enthusiast , I am not.  But I enjoy the movies, (the original trilogy more than the prequels) and some of the video games such as Knights of the old Republic.

That being said, I was reasonably clear-headed when I heard that a new Star Wars movie was coming out nearly six years ago.  And it was going to be a cartoon?!  The idiots.

Years passed, during which my family somehow acquired Netflix, allowing us to watch movies and TV shows online.  (Seriously though, if you don’t know what Netflix is, what are you doing reading online blogs?)  And just this last March, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, movie, TV show and all, became available for instant streaming via Netflix.

Once again, it may have passed unnoticed by myself if I hadn’t have had my wisdom teeth removed last week.  However, because of the surgery I had ample time to writhe in pain, gnash my remaining teeth and watch TV.  For some odd reason, I ended up watching The Clone Wars.

Clone_Troopers_kaminoAt first, I was kind of entertained, but unimpressed.  It was fun at times, with episodes such as “Rookies” or “Lair of Grievous” being very enjoyable, but it also had too many moments of “Ugh!”.  The animation was good looking, as long as it kept to droids and action sequences (these always being small, pitting an army of ten battle droids versus a “huge” battalion of five clones).  However, facial animation was rotten, the dialogue was worse, and the voice acting was noticeably less than par, albeit with a few exceptions.

Then I moved on to season two.  And it got better.  Then I moved on to season three.  And it started to get good.  Then in season four, it was good.  By season five, I pretty impressed by what the creators of this show were able to accomplish onscreen.

Sparkling animation that would look beautiful on any big screen, story lines that involved, surprised and delighted anyone with a hint of Star Wars geek in them, and direction that made 20 minute episodes fly by in a few seconds.  Battles became larger, lightsaber duels cooler, and small steps that added up to overwhelming detail abounded in most environments.  This season also includes the coolest looking explosion in Star Wars history, bar none.

Any of the major lightsaber battles of the last two seasons are much, much more entertaining than the ones in the original Star Wars movies.

Perhaps that is why I liked this show, even more than any other reason.  With each season, the creators attempted to do better in every respect, and they succeeded.   By the time I reached the end of the series, it was hard to believe that I was not watching animated cinema, but a TV show created for kids.

But then again, it never tried to be a kids TV show, except maybe some in the first season.  And while that decision brought about overwhelming excellence, it came at a price.

Clone Trooper Season 4

There is a dark side to everything Star Wars, (except maybe Jar Jar Binks) and it does not hesitate to show itself here.  Stomach clenching moments in the later seasons abound, not lessened by the fact it’s animated, but the opposite.  Face it, (pun) you don’t expect to see disembodied heads rolling around on a cartoon show.

Season 4 is especially noteworthy.  People are blown into blood clouds underwater, heads are ripped off, men are squashed, shot, decapitated, dismembered, electrocuted, blasted apart, eaten, incinerated, and killed in ways innumerable.  More than a few battle sequences would be easily rated PG-13 if in a live action movie, and at least one even if it was in an animated film.  Season 5 and 6 do attempt to down the darkness, but it is still present.

Overall, it is immensely enjoyable for any age that doesn’t dislike Star Wars or cartoons, or feel that the combination is faulty in and of itself.  And if you choose to watch it, do so in order.  Not only do most episodes run in story arcs, but I do not doubt at all that the later season seem so excellent largely because of how low it started.