Friday, April 02, 2010

A Little Round-up

Sometimes I wish I had a digital camera set up for easy posting of pictures to the blog. It's been good weather recently and everything is in bloom, but it's not too hot to walk in the daytime yet, so we've had some nice walks recently where we could actually see things other than streetlight-illuminated pavement. There are still lots of azaleas, both in full flower and in bud (they seemed to bloom late this year due to the cold winter), but there are also spiderwort here and there, though it is earlier than I usually see them. There are all sorts of weedy things: the little four-leaved flowers some other children and I used to call "wishing violets", but which are probably a form of bluet; henbit; wood sorrel (pink); and all sorts of other things, mostly yellow flowers, some white, a lesser amount of pink and lavendar. Best of all are the wild violets. I've seen several little patches of them on our recent walks. In addition to their beauty, they are unexpected and so easily overlooked that they seem more of a treat than the equally beautiful spiderwort I see every year in south Mississippi.

Last Sunday (Palm Sunday) Uncle Pookie and I took sandwiches to a little park and, as I said, everything is in bloom. The weather was wonderful and it was great seeing everything in bloom. We also saw our first snake of the year. It was a big one, and an ugly bastard, rough-looking and mottled brown; I think I saw a triangular head as I moved quickly backwards, but it was ugly regardless. We were surprised to see it, because it didn't seem that warm yet. We'd stopped on a little place where the road went over a large drainage ditch (there's often fish in there and we like to look at them) and the snake was sunning itself on a kind of metal pipe or support that stretched across the ditch. As we started walking away the snake flopped itself into the presumably cold water and we couldn't see it anymore. Nearby was a larger patch of wild violets than I'd yet seen and for just a moment it seemed a shame that they grow closer to the snake's home than to mine. Also that that snake, so ugly compared to, say, a little green garter snake, could crawl all over the beautiful violets. This is fanciful thinking of course, to call one bit of nature touching another unfair, because it is ugly and the other is beautiful.

Holy Thursday I actually made it to mass. I'm ashamed to say I've never been to Holy Thursday mass before; although it's not a holy day of obligation, it is still a holy day and I have often meant to go and somehow never made it. In the past I've sometimes had to resist the urge to refer to it as "foot-washin' Thursday". When I was growing up I would, rarely, hear my elders refer to "foot-washing Baptists"--fellow Baptists, perceived as perhaps a bit "backwoods" or old-fashioned, who practiced foot-washing in church. (For the record, I also heard my mother say to another relative that we should not put it down because her father, who was a respected preacher, believed in it as a potentially good thing, albeit something they did not practice.) In the Roman Catholic rite, the Holy Thursday readings all relate to the Last Supper and early in the priest emulates Jesus by washing the feet of a token number of male parishioners. My understanding of this is that it is symbolic not just of emulating Jesus in a rote way but of the Christian understanding of leadership--the one who would lead must serve; the one who would lead all must serve all. The ritual is actually rather beautiful at its heart.

Leaders humbling themselves before the people they have the privilege to serve? Reminding themselves they are servants? Some United States Congressmen might benefit from that.

Uncle Pookie and I went to see How to Train Your Dragon with a friend earlier this week. I wasn't thrilled about going because, although the trailer looked okay and there were some seriously cool promotional children's playsets for the movie in Wal-mart, I have a long-standing problem with de-monsterfying monsters, especially dragons. I like my dragons Western and dangerous and in need of slayers, not Eastern and personifying neutral forces in nature, let alone friendly and misunderstood. The "Which is cooler, Western dragons or Eastern dragons" thing is merely a matter of inidividual taste, but the rest is not. We do our children and our culture a disservice when we try to get rid of every monster out there and paint them as merely misunderstood. The world is dangerous and populated by monsters who can do more damage than dragons, who after all are easy to see coming. Children, like adults, need stories that say, yes, there are monsters, but monsters can be slain and sometimes that slayer can be a very ordinary person who reached within and summoned up the necessary bravery and faith and cunning and stamina to do what needed doing.

However How to Train Your Dragon won me over. The whole "the monsters aren't really monsters, just misunderstood" thing is dangerous territory and now old and tired territory, yes, but in the case of this particular movie's story, think of it as a pet-taming story and you're there. It's actually a pretty good animal-taming story. And if the "big, burly father misunderstanding his son" bit is also rather tired, at least Dad wasn't malicious or hopeless and there was a a lot of good animation and humor along the way. I liked the designs of the houses and such, the "nature" visuals were good too, some of the Vikings (especially the one Craig Ferguson voiced) were funny, and I like that the hero was a builder/engineer sort and that we saw him not get his design right the first time, but have to test and modify it. The Night Fury dragon was sometimes like an overgrown domestic cat--most delightfully when he's hiding and watching, and he can't help but give that slight butt wiggle cats sometimes can't contain when they're contemplating the joy of pouncing. The movie also has a great line near the beginning, which I expect to see in sig lines before long: "We're Vikings. We have stubborness issues." Uncle Pookie and I, who both probably have some Viking ancestry, really liked that line.

Should you shell out extra to see it in 3D? I'm not sure. I've been impressed with the quality of the new 3D in the movies I've seen it in previously, but I really only noticed the 3D effect once or twice in this movie (once was when ash was falling at the end). I'm not sure if that's because it wasn't that amazing this time or if this movie had enough story to keep the viewers focused on the story or overall experience rather than singling out special effects. By contrast, the first 3D movie I saw (the one with the giant girl) I oohed and ahhed over the 3D for a while then fell asleep right there in the theater.

A note for people who suffer from motion sickness: This is a safe movie, despite all the flying. I didn't get queasy at all. I only glanced away preventively once, for the briefest of moments, and it turned out not to be necessary.

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