Posts Tagged ‘Fun’

Journey to the West 2 (2017)

April 11, 2018

In 2015, I watched a little known (in this country) called Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. The movie is an adaptation of the book version originally published in the 16th century in China. The story follows a Buddhist monk who is journeying to retrieve Buddhist sutras (religious writings). On the way, he tussles with several demons. In the movie, it follows a Buddhist monk who also must contend with various monsters and demons. Many of China’s most enduring mythological characters are present in the story but especially the legendary Monkey King. The movie was absolutely wild and crazy but it was also touching in various ways. It had adventure, comedy, pathos, and so much weirdness. Although, I am not sure if the weirdness sprang from me being a westerner although I am not completely unfamiliar with Asian pop culture. The movie ended with the young monk with three new allies, walking off toward new adventures together. I had heard there was a sequel but I just have not gotten around to watching it.

As a point of order here, I should probably quickly explain what the word ‘demons’ means in Chinese culture as compared to how people in my culture talk about demons. In the West, we think of demons as related to Satan/Lucifer. Lucifer and his kin were fallen angels and dwell in Hell where they torture those who have sinned against God. While there is a whole Christian mythology that tells of the origins of demons, that is usually ignored in favor of fearmongering about Hell to keep people in line. So, this mythology is centered on Hell and the theme of punishing sins. In China, demons are known as Yaoguai and are kind of different from how we view demons. From what I understand, yaoguai are either ascended animal spirits or fallen celestial beings (which admittedly is similar to Lucifer). These creatures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but the main goal of most yaoguai is to achieve immortality and thus become a deity. They also seem to like consuming people for various reasons. For example, a pig demon who starts consuming people because humans consume pigs all the time. The fastest ticket to immortality for a demon is to consume the flesh of a holy man. So, holy men really must be on their guard when it comes to demons.

This movie picks up almost right where it left off, with Tang and his three demon assistants traveling towards India for the sutras that are Tang’s goal. (A quick note, they changed the character’s name to Tang to match the book instead of the actual historical figure). He is played here by Kris Wu and he does a great job approaching is the role similarly to the previous actor. Even though he has officially achieved monk status, he is still the same goof that he was but he also still has that huge heart that helped him win the day previously. As one would expect, he has trouble dealing with the demons he had previously defeated. The Monkey King is played by Kenny Ling and he is a hot-tempered demon who fears his master’s power but ultimately wants to do good. He is such a jerk but it is done in such an endearing and comic way that I could not help but like him. The Pig and the Fish are their companions and they are both loveably pathetic.

This one is a little bit more action/comedy instead of an action/comedy/romance like the first film. Also, the main characters are much more powerful this time around which is to be expected. All of this means that the action setpieces and fights are way more involved but not much crazier. Both films have crazy fun action. The CGI, practical effects and makeup do a great job at bringing this otherworldly adventure to life. The creature designs of the principles and the various enemies are really inventive. They lead to a lot of unexpected moments where I thought I knew how things worked and then things abruptly changed. Some of it is very natural-looking and some of it is reminiscent of live-action Looney Tunes. The latter is par for the course when Stephen Chow is involved in a production. The costumes and set design are all very pretty and feel very much like what mythical and ancient China should feel like. The stunts and fights are a lot of fun with plenty of fluid motion that reminds me of combat in anime.

Overall, I loved this sequel a lot more than I expected to. I was initially disappointed that Stephen Chow was not directing and was only producing but Tsui Hark did a great job in his place. Also, the movie is still written by Chow. The movie is very funny and exciting. I would best describe it as a combination of Mel Brooks, Jackie Chan, and FLCL. Things just happen in the fights because the filmmakers thought they would be cool and if they do not make sense then who cares? In between these awesome fights are comedy set pieces with ridiculous characters. The movie is basically a series of stories bound together by the ongoing arc of the journey and the conflict between Tang and Monkey. Amongst all of the ridiculous fun, there is real emotion and we get to know the characters even more. I definitely recommend this and the first film.

Random 41 Questions

November 7, 2016

A friend of mine posted this questionnaire on Facebook but why would I waste this on Facebook when it seems like a quality questionnaire.  Besides, it has been over a year since I have really posted anything on Facebook and I still do not feel like breaking that streak.  I was going to do another round of interview questions but instead, you get this because it was fun to do.

1. Are you named after someone?

Not that I know of.

2. When is the last time you cried?

My grandmother’s funeral. I talked about it here.

3. Do you like your handwriting ?

Yes, it is horrible and hard for other people to read but it is uniquely mine and I love that. I can slow down and concentrate and make it look presentable but also uniquely mine. I tend to type anything really important. My handwriting is really fast and that accounts for it being chicken scratch.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?

Rare roast beef. I like it so rare that blood is practically coming out of it. Over the last couple of years, I have learned to appreciate rare meat more when it is safe to do so. There are certain places that I would never order rare meat from and others that nail it completely.

5.Do you have kids?

Nope. I would never say never but it does not look like it is in the cards for me. Still, I am young and anything could happen in the next couple of years. Kids make me nervous but lately, there have been some kids that I am related to that have changed my mind a bit.

6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?

I think so but it would probably be hard. Like most of my friends, I would have to be alright with not seeing me for long periods of time. I am an introvert and I tend to go into my house and hang out instead of seeking people out to make plans with them. I also tend to think my friends are busy or unwilling to do anything so I do not want to bother them. I will almost always come when called, though.

7. Do you use sarcasm?

I use sarcasm but I try to do it only as a function of comedy. If you are trying to make the people around you laugh, then it is definitely appropriate. If you are being sarcastic to hurt somebody then it is toxic behavior and kind of a dirty move. I try not to be bitter and I definitely do not like confronting people coming from a negative headspace.

8. Do you still have your tonsils?

That is a good question. I do not remember them being removed but I am fairly sure I do not have them. I probably have them still, right? You don’t just forget getting your tonsils removed, right?

9. Would you bungee jump?

I might. I have been doing things lately that scare me. I have gotten better at interacting socially and I went through a haunted house even though I was scared. Being scared of something and doing it anyway is exhilarating. I would have to not be given too much time to think and I would need the right mix of friends or family to go with me. I had the chance when I was a teenager and I did not do it.

10. What is your favorite kind of cereal?

Lucky Charms. I know it is bad for me and it turns most people off but I love a bowl of Lucky Charms floating in whole milk. It is a great mix of sweet and grain and the milk tends to dull the edge of the sweetness. I do not eat them much these days. (Not sponsored by Lucky Charms)

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

I do not. I know you are supposed to but I just kind of slip them off. I have never had them fly off and not untying them every time has not been a problem. I do untie my dress shoes but I am paranoid about scuffing or damaging them in any way.

12. Do you think you’re strong?

I feel like I am only physically strong when I do not stop to think about it. I have lifted things and endured things that would have given me pause had I actually planned it out. I can lift a good amount of weight but I do not train with weights. I prefer to exercise by walking instead.

13. What is your favorite Ice Cream Flavor?

For a long time, my favorite has been Mint Chocolate Chip because I love the way those two flavors go together. My favorite brand of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream is Turkey Hill. I discovered the Turkey Hill brand while I was living in New Jersey near the Pennsylvania line. It is so creamy and soft and delicious. Lately, I have also renewed a love affair with Vanilla. If I had the option to add a little Hershey’s chocolate syrup then Vanilla is my favorite. (Not sponsored by Turkey Hill or Hershey’s)

14. What is the first thing you notice about people?

Their respect for other people. Specifically, I look at how people deal with people that they disagree with. Those that shut down people with opposite or different opinions are not people I really want to hang out with. There are too many people I have met who like to dominate the conversation by being a brick wall and maintaining that they cannot be wrong and nobody else can be right.

15. Red or pink?

Red. However, as I have explored gender studies a bit more, I have gained a new appreciation for pink. Growing up, I liked a lot of boy stuff and a lot of girl stuff and pink was persona non grata for boy stuff. Now, I realize how much bullcrap that aversion to pink is. I still have to go with red as a horror movie aficionado.

16. What is the least favorite thing you like about yourself?

My depression. Depression lies and it can cause all sorts of nonsensical and harmful thoughts to enter my brain and that leads to bad decisions. Every year I get a better grip on it but it still tries to worm its way into ruining everything. The darkness is never far off.

 

17. What color pants and shoes are you wearing now?

Tan shorts and no shoes. I do not wear shoes in my own home.

18. What was the last thing you ate?

I cooked up a little cheesy omelet to take the edge off my hunger and I will probably cook up something else to join it. Earlier today I had a crabcake sandwich for lunch at the Ravens game. It was so good.

19. What are you listening to right now?

I am watching Game Grumps on YouTube. It is basically like listening to a podcast of two guys talking while watching them play a video game. I have stuck with these guys for over a year and met a few of the staff members in person. It is just a good, down to Earth show that is only ten minutes long.

 

20. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

I would hope blue. Blue was always what I used to color the water in pictures and I really like water. I grew up in Baltimore and anywhere in Baltimore is not far from the water.

 

21. Favorite smell ?

Cooking in general. Baking bread is a more specific favorite especially if it is some sort of sweetened bread. Cooking meat, especially steak is also a favorite.

22. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?

My mother, arranging meeting up to go to today’s Ravens game.

23. Favorite sport to watch?

American Football. I like the tension being ratcheted up with each progressive down and I love the running, passing, kicking and tackling skills involved. I also like that watching it usually involves eating stuff like hot wings, potato skins and mozzarella sticks. I love the Ravens and have loved them since they rolled into town from Cleveland.

24.Hair color?

Black.

25. Eye color?

Black.

26. Do you wear contacts?

No. I always just shuddered when I thought about sticking my finger in my eye.

27. Favorite food to eat?

A good bacon cheeseburger. It is a meal that I have had at more restaurants than I care to try and count. It is a hard meal to really screw up but when it is good, it can be amazing. It is also something I can easily make myself.

28. Scary movies or happy endings?

Scary movies. We just came off October and anyone who reads my blog or talks to me during October knows that I am a Halloween devotee. Horror has so many cool yet dark visual motifs that set my imagination aflame and make me want to create. I like happy endings and the two things here are not mutually exclusive but if I had to choose, I would go with horror movies.

29. Last movie you watched?

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It was really fun and way better than it has any business being.

30. What color shirt are you wearing?

Purple. Go Ravens!

31. Summer or Winter?

Winter. I love the cold.

32. Hugs or kisses?

Hugs. I only kiss people and get kisses from people I am romantically involved in and right now that is nobody. I am also not really a hugger and more of a handshake kind of person but I will break that rule for the people I care for the most in this world.

33. What book are you currently reading?

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Manual. I want to be a Barbarian.

34. Who do you miss right now?

Friends who I have lost touched with and friends and family who are dead.

35. What is on your mouse pad?

I use a trackpad and not a mousepad. However, I do have a Doctor Who one.

36. What is the last TV program you watched?

Galavant. It is really good, you guys. I will probably be talking about it on Thursday.

37. What is the best sounding noise?

Genuine laughter when I am in on the joke. When I am having fun with people and joking around, laughter just cascades over me like a rain of pure happiness. I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh when I can.

38. Rolling Stones or The Beatles?

This is a difficult question. On the one hand, I was raised as a youth to respond to the question “Who is the greatest singer in the world?” with “Mick Jagger!”. On the other hand, the Beatles have a more varied and interesting catalog of songs. I think I will have to go with the Beatles.

39. What is the furthest you have ever traveled?

Paris, France. I went there when I was thirteen with my mother and we had an excellent time even if I was a little cranky and angsty from jetlag. I saw so many things that I had only seen on postcards and experienced a culture somewhat alien from my own.

40. Do you have a special talent?

I have a really good memory for story elements. I can remember a lot of trivia from pop culture concerning plot points, character names and such. This extends into my life as I am able to remember the narrative of my life and the stories people tell me pretty well.

41. Where were you born?

Baltimore, Maryland at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Interview Questions

February 1, 2016

There is a certain class of questions which I call interview questions although I suppose they could also be questions used in a show like The Dating Game.  They are designed to reveal something about your personality and thought processes while being really weird.  I thought I’d post some that I had to answer recently.  If I find some other fun questions I might do this again.  It’s good practice and it’s really fun to come up with the answers.

 

Do you prefer a good book or a good movie?

Although I love a good movie (and sometimes a bad one), I prefer a good book. A good book is a more intimate and personal experience. The images, sounds and memories the written word can evoke are unique to each person who reads a book. I carry with me memories of every good book I’ve ever read which adds to my life experience. We can learn from fictional characters and, in the case of autobiographies, real people through books in a more thorough way than a movie provides.

 

Would you rather be a tree or a flower. Why?

I would rather be a tree. A tree is strong and usually not as delicate as a flower. Trees live for centuries if they are undisturbed. They provide shade and oxygen for human beings although I suppose that wouldn’t be my concern anymore once I was a tree.

 

Which mode of transportation do you prefer between trains, planes or automobiles? Why?

I love a good train ride. There’s a lot of freedom on a train that you just don’t get on other modes of transportation. You are free to sit back and enjoy the ride and see the sites outside of your window. You are also free to get up and walk around or eat without stopping your trip’s progress. The ride is steady enough to read a book without getting carsick and sometimes there’s wifi to access the internet. You can easily divide your time between work and recreation as needed. In a car you have to do all the work and planes are now swamped with security and feel far too cramped.

 

If you were a piece of candy, what kind of candy would you be? Why?

I would be a peep. Peeps are such a polarizing candy because most people I talk to either love them or despise them. I happen to like the texture and taste of them though I only eat them maybe twice a year because of their extremely high sugar content. If I’m going to be eaten, I would want it to be by somebody who is really going to look forward to it and enjoy it.

More Halloween Memories

October 17, 2014

I have other memories of Halloween that involve Grace Methodist Church.  I don’t want it to come off like I hate Grace or any other church.  I decided during Senior year of High School that church and religion is not for me.  I will keep all of the opinions I have of the church to myself at the moment.  I don’t want to ruffle any feathers or get into any arguments.  I spent a lot of time in Youth Group as soon as I got old enough.  I attended almost every fundraiser and event during my tour of duty.  There were car washes, movie nights, Easter egg hunt preparations and way too much acolyte duty.  At least I got to set things on fire for a while.

Anyway, as soon as I was too old to trick or treat, I spent every Halloween with the Youth Group.  It sounds kind of weird now but we would all grab our sleeping bags and spend the night in the church.  We wouldn’t sleep in the sanctuary itself but we would sleep in one of the multitude of sitting rooms in the maze-like structure.  We watched horror movies, ate candy and pizza (not necessarily in that order) and probably drank too much soda.  It was at one of these sleep overs that I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for the first time and I remember cackling as the girls jumped and squealed.  It’s easy to be brave when somebody else is terrified.

All of that was very fun and to this day I always make sure I have a scary movie or two on hand when the night of the 31st rolls around.  The real attraction of a church sleepover was our game of tag.  Everywhere but the sanctuary was fair game which left what I could only call a labyrinth.  There were three floors at least three stairwells, two elevators and dozens of interconnected classrooms.  The goal was for one person to journey into the structure and find every single person.  The first one to be caught would be it the next round.  Oh and we turned off every single light leaving only emergency ghost lights.

These games of tag were the most terrifying events that I have ever experienced although that may be amplified through a nostalgic lens.  I remember crouching in the darkness and trying to listen out for the approach of footsteps while trying to silence the blood pumping hard through my temples and slow my breathing.  The goal was to avoid the person who was it and get back to “home base” without getting caught.  Eventually one of my best friends figured out that you could lie down on the floor next to the wall in the dark and remain silent to avoid detection.  The person who was it would pass right by you while your heart nearly pounded its way out of your chest.

I was lucky.  Our Youth Group was actually pretty secular and id a lot of things that would probably be frowned on these days.  We had a lot of very spooky Halloweens engaging in Hunger Games-esque escapades and scaring the living crap out of each other.  Exactly what teens should be doing on Halloween.


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