Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: The Book of Eli

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Book of Eli Friday night.

Wow, this was not what I was expecting! I went in expecting this to be a straight-forward post-apocalyptic action movie, but it was a whole lot more than that.
The basic plot is pretty simple, actually.  A wanderer by the name of Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is traveling West.  He’s carrying a book, along with his sword, a bow and arrow, a gun and, in a master stroke of product placement, an iPod.  He’s a righteous man in a savage world of radiation, destruction and desperate people.  And, those most desperate of people come after him, to try and take whatever they can from him, perhaps even to take him for their stew pot.  After all, in a world where everything is scarce, meat is meat.

Eli meets several groups of people, from the barely organized savages who try to lure him in with a woman in distress to the much more dangerous roving gangs of bikers.  The savages he slices and dices, but the bike gangs turn out to be a “road crew”, of sorts, for  a much more organized nasty by the name of Carnegie, played by Gary Oldham.  Turns out, he’s looking for a book, a very special book, that he thinks can unite all the locals into a city-state of sorts.  A city-state he can franchise over and over and over again.
Eli wanders into this little dictator’s town looking to get his iPod charged up, because, you know, a war ravaged and devistated landscape is no place for a day hike without some portable tunes.  The local engineer sets him up, for a pretty good trade in pre-war goods, obviously salvaged, and sends him to the only bar in town for a drink while the iPod charges up.  That’s where things get a little dangerous and Eli takes out the road crew who he’d seen on the road.  That draws the attention of Carnegie, who “invites” Eli to stay on.  When Eli declines, Carnegie insists he stay the night to think about the offer, he sends in Solara, played by Mila Kunis, to try and convince Eli to stay.  Of course, in the end, she ends up convincing him to take her with when he leaves.

I won’t give away more of the plot, so as not to ruin the film, but you’ll quickly learn that the mysterious book that Eli carries and Carnegie wants is a Bible.  Seems after the war, they were all destroyed.  All save this one.  And Eli is the last righteous man on Earth, following God’s calling to take the book to the West where he’ll mysteriously know what to do with it and who to give it to.
And, yes, that is where the spirituality of the whole thing ties in.  Eli is the most just and upright man in a very savage and essentially Godless world, trying to follow the teachings in the Bible he carries, even as he fights for his own survival.  Carnegie represent all that is wrong and venal in a world ruled by baser politics and power and controlling the masses.  The dichotomy of these two men make most of the product placement shots rather more ironic than I think may have been intended, but, regardless, it’s a great morality story.  And, a great story for modern Christians to consider.
We, too, are in a world that is often far from “God centered” and ruled by baser ideals.  Are we going to keep God’s ways?  Are we even going to try?  Or is our religion just something we do once a week?  How faithful are we to what we believe is God’s way?  When we hear God’s voice, do we listen?
No, I don’t have the answers, nor does this movie, necessarily, but it does ask the right questions.  Or, at least, it provoked them in me.  And, yes, it was great to see a spiritual hero who was far from perfect and far from a pushover do his best in a particularly difficult place.  There comes a time, when the world is so banal and corrupt that no one else has anything more than base survival on their mind that even the smallest attempt as spirituality is huge.

In short, I loved this movie.
Sure it was pretty violent for the younger folks, but I’d encourage everyone to go see this one, even if you don’t like violence.  The themes, especially for Christians, that are brought up and snuck into your thoughts under the cover of an action film are well worth the price of admission.  Incidentally, the movie is based on a graphic novel with which I’m only vaguely familiar, and there are some fight scenes that really show the influence of that in their beauty and artistry and coreography. It’s a really well done film with top-shelf actors in it.
It’s a rarity for me, but I would see this again.  Hell, I’d even pay full price to see this one again.  It was that good.
Really, it may not have the visual impact of Avatar in IMAX 3D, but, I assure you, this is a fantastic film.


Christmas Gifts

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:25 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, not the kind that come wrapped.

You didn’t really think I was going to go all commercial and mainstream and retail on you, did you?  C’mon, dear readers, you surely know me better than that!
No, this is the time of year that I babble about spirituality and gifts of the spirit and the magic of the season.

Okay, you know, I did get some cool gifts, too.
My older sister made me stuff, like she often does.  But, then, I think she forgot that when we saw each other earlier in the year at her son’s graduation from Basic Training she gave me some art that she’d found somewhere, too.  Either way, it’s always nice to be remembered and she always adds a personal touch.
The younger of my two older sisters and her husband sent me a book by one of my favorite authors, though I’m not entirely sure how they could have possibly known that.  Possibly, just a lucky guess, but it was dead on.  In fact, it was a book I’d almost gotten for myself, but had decided to wait on buying until it came out in paperback.
And, Mom and Dad got me art.  Well, they got me art by one of their favorite artists, which is nice, but what I really like was the portrait of themselves they sent to me.  It’s really well done and they look fantastic in it.  Now, I just have to figure out where to put that where I can see it all the time.

But, really, those gifts were incidental to the real gifts I got this year.
Some of them may seem small.  In fact, I hope they do seem small to you, because that means you’re far removed from the situations that make some of those small things important.  For instance, I didn’t change jobs this year.  I don’t have the perfect gig by any means, but it is a good job, that pays well, and gives me pretty decent flexibility, when I need it.  And it’s close to home, so I have a short commute.  And I genuinely like the people I work with and for, so that’s a pretty amazing gift.  Especially when you consider how many people are out of work right now.
And, I’m surrounded by friends.  Lots of friends.  Sure, I don’t have that “one, special relationship”, but, you know, I’ve all but given up on that anyway.  Sheesh, if my mockery of a marriage didn’t burn me out on romantic relationships, I don’t know what would.  Besides, as much as a part of me would like all that, frankly, I’ve just been too busy this year to be bothered to put in the effort.  No, really!  And, that’s a gift in an of itself!
Oh, sure, I haven’t always been busy with the things I would have liked, but, wow, it seems like every time I turn around  I have one friend or another who wants to go do something, whether it’s see a movie or go socialize and network with fellow geeks.  There’s always something shiny to distract me and keep me moving forward.  And, while I haven’t done as much volunteer work this past year as I would have liked, not everything that’s kept me busy has been self-serving.  There has been the odd mission of mercy to help a friend in need, so to speak.  And, no, you filthy minded gutter-thinkers, that is not a thinly veiled reference to a “booty call”!

And why that makes me think of all the ways I’ve seen my creativity unlocked this year, I’m not sure, but, well, there you are.
Between a bit more writing, here and elsewhere, and the photography, well, I have felt a certain amount of artistic growth, though, writing that seems a bit pretentious to me somehow.  I doubt I’ll ever be a great artist of any kind, either writer or photographer, but, really, that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that doing those things, and watching them, feeling them, improve brings me joy.  Getting the words right, or nailing the lighting on a candid shot at a party, or even just learning something new about either craft makes me light up inside.  Sometimes, I’m almost afraid to admit that out loud because I’m terrified that calling attention to it will somehow kill the magic that makes it happen.

And, perhaps, that’s the greatest gift of all; realizing that seeing the joy in my life won’t destroy it.  God, the God of my understanding, has given me so many gifts this year.  Some came in the form of ideas, some in the shape of learning opportunities, some even came in the arms of a new mother.  But, one by one, like a string of pearls, the small joys came to me, threaded through the year and my life.  Often, they came in the guise of friends, these gifts from God.  People, some of whom had been there for years, some of whom had just shown up, who came, each with their own light, to show me at least the next steps my Creator seemed to want me to take.
Maybe I’m getting even more sentimental in my middle-age, but I find myself thinking more about all that than I have been willing to since college.

I try to make myself care about the measuring sticks the world uses, but it seems to get harder and harder as the years go by.  Exponentionally harder since surviving cancer.  But, you know, I expect to die broke, possibly quite a ways into debt, actually.  Possibly, without ever knowing romantic intimacy again.  And, oddly enough to me, every year I get more and more okay with that.  Mostly, I have what I need, if not what I want.  I’ll die surrounded by friends, if I don’t outlive them all, and what pittance I’ve had pass through my hands will have hopefully done some good in the world.
I’m not sure I’m entirely at peace.  I think I may be a bit too young for that, but, I’m certainly more peaceful than I have been in many years.
And, that, I think, is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas, faithful readers.
And, yes, God bless us, every one.


Scans and more scans

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Yeah, more scans.

Well, by the time most of you read this, I’ll be getting scanned at M. D. Anderson. Another CT scan, with barium contrast. And x-rays. I’m getting one every four months now, and then it’ll be every six and then once a year. Theoretically, it’ll be once a year forever, but I’m not sure if I can afford to do that forever, but I’m trying to take things one scan at a time. I try not to worry, but it does seem like I’m paying an endless series of medical bills and it does get to be a drain on my income.

Naturally, I worry about what the results will be. I won’t know until Tuesday next week, so I’ll just have to hold on and hope for the best.
The picture I’ve posted here includes that first x-ray from just under two years ago when I thought I had pneumonia. When my General Practitioner saw the film, well, I don’t think he’d ever told anyone they were going to die before. Oh, that’s not what he said, but that’s what his face said. The words he used were “unidentified mass”, but what I heard was cancer and death. As I recall, I started to cry in the exam room.

But, obviously, that’s not what happened.
I didn’t die. I went through chemo and came out a different person six months later. I’m not quite the same guy I was when I came down with a slight case of cancer. I’m not entirely sure how I am different, really, but I know I am. I can feel the difference.
This weekend, I was talking with someone about a book. It was a book that had been recommended. It had been offered as a guide to finding God, or at least an aid. My response was that I didn’t know much about spirituality, really, but I spent a lot of time reading books about it and I never once found God in a book. Books are about knowing things in my head, understanding, an intellectual knowledge. But, God and spirituality is something I need to feel. Those are things that knowing in my head hasn’t been of any real benefit to me. They’re things that I have to experience, to feel.

A friend of mine tells me that I’ve gained some spiritual knowledge from my ordeal. Some new, deeper truth about life, my life, that I have yet to integrate into my world. He seems to think that’s why I get uneasy and restless more often than used to. He’s more spiritual than I am, so maybe he’s right. I don’t know.
I do know that while I spend a lot of time talking at God, I don’t spend a lot of time listening. For all I know, God’s been answering me quite directly for some time now, but my mind is too filled with chatter and mental junk that I can’t hear Him. So, what to do. Well, I don’t know, really, but old habits die hard, so I’m reading a book on meditation. Specifically, A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation by Paramananda. My thought is that it will help me still my mind and clear the way for something better to come into me. When I used to meditate, back in college, it used to really relax me and calm me down. But, it’s been so long, I thought I could use a refresher course in how to do it. Besides, it was on sale. I can’t hardly resist a book sale.

Who knows? Maybe next time, I won’t get so worked up about getting the radioactive enema from a stranger.
Wouldn’t count on it, though.


Someone Else’s Skin

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Just trying to love the skin I’m in.

I hate being transparent. I especially hate it when my little character flaws show through so easily.
I was talking with someone about dropping weight the other day and he made a comment about how I seemed to have a self-esteem problem. If I recall, he phrased it as a question, which made the observation a bit more palatable. But, the truth is, I’ve never been all that comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always rather wanted to be someone else or to be doing something else. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been drawn to writing and reading fiction, as it gives me the opportunity to be someone else, even for a short time.

Oh, I know, intellectually, that I’m not such a bad guy. A bit over-weight at the moment, but working on restoring a healthy lifestyle. Somewhat above average intelligence, but not so smart that I’m overly annoying. Far from movie-star handsome, but I don’t make small children cry in horror. Mostly, I’m an average guy, who’s pretty much a self-made man. Really, most of the things about myself that I’m truly proud of are things that I did or earned through plain, old hard work. Yeah, sure, I have a college degree, which actually makes me above average in many respects, but I taught myself most of what I know in my chosen career. Even my writing, when I was really good, was a mostly self-taught skill, honed through hard work and practice. So, I suppose that it’s not surprising that I’m proud of my ability to lose weight and re-sculpt my body into something less soft and weak. Really, this will be at least the third time I’ve done that.

But, it’s true that my efforts in the area of diet and exercise are driven by an essential distaste for my own physical self. I want someone else’s skin. At the very least, I want to carve my own skin into something, someone, else.
It may be that single fact is what holds me back from a deeper spiritual life. I think when I do truly learn to love the skin I’m in, only then, will I find peace and through that inner peace, God. And my struggle, is to not struggle with that, but to let the process unfold as it will, as it needs to unfold. To let go, and let God.
By the way, I lost another two and a fraction pounds as of my weekly weigh-in on Sunday.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity."


Bad Habits

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:18 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I have lots of them.

And, not just the annoying “always correcting everyone’s poor grammar” kind of habits, either. Frankly, my bad habits are quite disturbing. At least, they are to me. I try to keep public bad habits to a minimum.
But, here’s the thing, I’m trying to stop all my self-damaging, self-limiting, unhealthy bad habits. So, I asked God for help. I prayed to Him to take away all these defects of character that I can’t seem to shake on my own. All done, right? Not quite. So, what’s the problem? Well, some of these bad habits are rather ingrained and persistent. Pernicious, even. They’ve been my response to various difficulties in life for as long as I can remember. They’re habits for pity’s sake!
But, not too long ago, I was about to indulge in one and I asked myself, “So, what, do you want to prove God wrong or something?” It was like an internal test of my own belief in God’s redemption. If I gave into the habit, it would be like trying to prove God wrong. And, I’d rather prove God right, so I didn’t do it.

I wrote this, instead.

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