Monday, June 28, 2021

TV Show Review: The Chosen

I know people have VERY STRONG OPINIONS on this show, but I want to share my opinion. 

Summary: I LIKE IT. 

That's all. Just kidding, I can elucidate. 

First off, where can you watch it? Right here! Want a summary? Here's the wiki!

So I watched the first season right before Lucy was born (literally the week or two before) and I enjoyed it. After she was born, Mark and I watched the first season and then started on the second when we have time. Since it is still being released, let me be clear that I have watched the first season and the first five episodes of the second season. I think the season and series will progress along the same track, but you can never be sure. This review is with the first 13 episodes in mind. 

I think this show is not at all a replacement for reading the Bible but, armed with your Biblical knowledge, the show can help bring the stories to life. Do they take creative liberties? Oh yes they do - they take a lot of them to really fill out the characters! Do they keep the creative liberties historically and Biblically sound? I believe they do! I think they do an excellent job with the casting, the costumes, and the sets. I think they do an excellent job of tying the stories together, chaining the narratives to flow from one scene to the next. Do they spend a lot of time on small sections of scripture, putting Peter Jackson's The Hobbit to shame with how slowly they are progressing? An argument could be made to say yes, they indeed do. It would be a very simple argument. The show is not fast-paced by any means. But that is not a bad thing! You are really getting to know the characters and get a feel for the day-to-day ministry. It wasn't all mountain-top experiences and quickly made, life-changing decisions! They had a lot of small experiences - it was a three-year ministry after all, not a one-week revival service. 

I think it is really cool how many layers there are to the stories given. The more you know of the Bible, both Old Testament and the Gospels, the more you will get out of this show! Now, if you want a production that gives just the Biblical stories and very little extra, I suggest you go to Sight & Sound Theatres and watch any of their productions. They probably cover in their one show Jesus all the material that The Chosen plans to cover in 7 seasons. Since Sight & Sound is an approximately two hour experience and The Chosen is planning to be approximately 56 episodes ranging from 30-60 minutes each, you can see how they are vastly different experiences. Both are good, in my opinion, but very different from each other.

At the start of the first episode of the first season, they have the disclaimer below (I copied this from the wiki page because that was much easier than freeze-framing and transcribing). I think it is a great summary of their intent with the series:  

The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical context and any artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.

In summary, read the Bible! If you'd like, watch this show to help picture the characters and interactions from the Gospels. But don't base your Biblical facts on this show! For example, we do not know if Nicodemus did all the things mentioned in the first season of this show. It would be in-character and also could be likely that he did those things, but it is historical fiction rather than Biblical fact. We do not know the backstory of most of the Apostles - the trades of some are listed but many are just shown as being gathered by Jesus and following Him. Could Doubting Thomas have been at the Wedding at Cana? Sure he could have, but we do not know. Knowing what is in the Bible and what is conjecture is vital when watching a show or viewing a movie or even listening to a sermon! Don't confuse man's opinion with God's Word. 

My review is five out of five stars for this one. ✶✶✶✶✶ I like it and plan to keep watching it. 

Double Movie Review: Luca and Raya and the Last Dragon

Recently we have been seeing what there is to see on our streaming apps. For both of these movies being reviewed, we used Disney Plus (which we got for free when we signed up with our internet provider last year). Here are my thoughts on these two movies:

Summary: I liked Luca but wasn't blown away. I wanted to like Raya and the Last Dragon but did not. 

Reviews:

First up, let's tackle Luca and I'll keep it spoiler-free.
The animation was just what you'd expect from a Disney/Pixar, which is to say it looked excellent with the color palettes and the character designs. I liked the story, no overly scary parts but it was nothing ground-breaking. It was mostly predictable with a few minor twists. Didn't notice any crude humor or youth romance (there could be something between the male lead and female lead but it could easily be read as just friendship like Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter). I don't think there was anything overly scary (the species is called 'sea monsters' but they seem more akin to merpeople and also they call humans 'land monsters' which is kinda cute). There was one character (Uncle Ugo) that I thought looked creepy (he's played off as just odd but I could see getting nightmares from him if I was a small child). I liked the character of Giulia's father - I think he was very well done. All in all, I give it a solid 4 stars out of five - great for a family-friendly movie night, I recommend it and would watch it again. ★★★★☆

Now for Raya and the Last Dragon, again keeping it spoiler-free.
The animation was nice, and the over-all plot was compelling. There were some twists and it kept me engaged throughout the film. I really wanted to like it - there were dragons! Dragons are cool! On that note, why are dragons now fluffy like Elliot in the remake of Pete's Dragon? Is is just for merchandizing? I think it makes them look cute but they aren't very lizard-like. However, I felt the movie as a whole was very militaristic and there was just a lot of fighting for being a children's film. This is a minor point, but I really don't like the font they picked for the title - I keep reading it as Rava instead of Raya. As far as the plot, they has some unexpected parts and I think they came together nicely. I liked the character of Tong - they did a good job in creating an unexpectedly kind character - but he was arguably the only character that I liked. Most of them were annoying, unpleasant, and/or selfish. The reoccurring theme of trust is a good theme and there is a lack of romance (I see that as a good thing in most movies but especially children's ones - there is no need to be pairing off the lead female with whomever), but the film was saturated with violence and there was some crude humor (highlight here to see one example: a character wielding an battle axe is described with the term "bad-axery"). All in all, I give it maybe a two out of five stars - would not watch again, would not recommend. 
★★

"Now Lauren," you might say, "how can you be a fan of Mulan but not Raya?" Well, let me tell you - Mulan is an example of a warrior who, while becoming very skilled at war, has the greater skill of creative problem-solving. She uses her brains to figure out how to climb the impossible pole, to orchestrate the avalanche, and to disarm the villain in the final boss battle (using her fan rather than her sword). And that's just three examples off the top of my head - I'm sure there are more. "But Lauren," you say, "I don't remember any of those scenes from the 2020 Mulan movie!" You would be correct, I am not a fan of the remake for many reasons but one major one is the removal or deemphasis on her brains and the emphasis on whatever chi is (seems like a super-power that she barely has to hone). In stark contrast to 1998's Mulan, Raya's main skill is her fighting. She uses her sword skillfully but that seems to be her main characteristic - she knows how to fight and she sees fighting as the main option in any confrontation. Most of the other characters in RatLD are the same - fighting is the main response. 

I could give a more detailed review which would involve spoilers for the film, but I didn't like the film overall so I don't wish to delve further into it. If you like the film, then I'm glad it brought you some joy and you were able to get a positive experience in something that was not wholly positive for me. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Some movie theaters are finally open! Some movies that have languished for a year or so are finally seeing the light of day! Check your local listings to see if any near you are open, and consider doing a dinner and a movie (or breakfast and a movie) to get back a bit of normalcy not seen since 2019 or so.

My brother-in-law mentioned going to see Wonder Woman 1984 (sequel to Wonder Woman, released in 2017) and that clued me in that there's a local theater that is open. We went to see it on MLK Jr. Day and here's my review:

No spoilers: This is a sequel and as is common with those, I feel it did not live up to the full potential of the original (granted, I REALLY liked the first one, see my review here, so it was a high bar to measure against). It was a good movie, but I saw some flaws. Mainly I feel it lacked cohesiveness - I think it stayed in the editing phase for too long. Looking it up, I think the release was only delayed from November to December, but the last phase of production probably took longer due to CoVid delays. The movie had a good central theme (truth triumphing over lies) but there was a point in the movie where I leaned over to my husband and asked 'what is going on?' because I was not following. I feel there was too much of a delay between introducing a plot device and explaining said plot device which allowed for confusion to set in. There were a few points in the movie where I was confused and that, I did not like. Some of the scenes didn't really connect to each other, and it just didn't flow at points. 

Overall, my rating is: it was ok. Not amazing and not bad, just ok. I'm glad I saw it, and I would recommend seeing it. 

A main character in the movie is Pedro Pascal, and he also plays the main character in the Mandalorian. I am amazed that he played both of these characters because they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT and he did an excellent job with both. He has done other things too but I know him from these two places.

Note: this is a given for all movies but especially superhero ones, STAY FOR THE CREDITS! Those people worked hard and you should sit there and read their names. And there's a cool scene which was just awesome. But support all the workers and read the many names that go into making such a big movie!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Movie Review: Abominable

Last week we did a movie night and watched Abominable. I had kinda high expectations because the animation style looked great and clearly a violin played (haha) an important part. I was NOT disappointed! I give it like a 4 out of 5 stars, ☆, maybe even 4.5. It was super cute, didn't have super scary parts (yes it's a kids movie but sometimes they have random scary parts), had some funny stuff that was not in the trailers, and had a decent plot! Way more than one usually expects from a kids movie.
It is by Dreamworks, and surprisingly didn't have crude/adult humor! It was overall a sweet movie about family and being together. AND there was a female lead with a male counterpart and there was NO romance! They didn't end up together! You'd think there'd be more kids movies without major romance threads.
The female lead plays the violin and it's actually a plot point and I hope kids are impressed by the classical music and desire to play!

Some spoilers ahead.

There is a creature called the Whooping Snake and he is totally cute, harmless, and hilarious. He says "whooOOP" when he pops up, and he does it a few times kinda unexpectedly throughout the movie. ALSO wait for the credits. A story in pictures is told. It's cute, UNEXPECTED, then a happy ending.
The henchmen are great. One is named Dave. He gets darted, makes a joke that they probably paid really good money to make (it involves the Whooping Snake and Tag Team song). Another henchman, when handing a suitcase of money to a witness, says "It's-a-bribe" and that has been quoted several times in my household.

Spoilers ahead.

There is a big plot twist about halfway or more through the movie in which the true villain is revealed and for once it isn't the crotchety rich old man! Truly was a stunning twist.
There is a scary scene near the end (at the climax) where the bad guys have the kids surrounded and the yeti gets tranquilized and someone falls off a bridge (but there's a rope to hold on to) and that was probably the scariest part but it's the climax so you have to have unfortunate things happen. 

All in all, I could watch it again. The art style, the humor, the plot, all worked well together.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Crochet Pattern - Nintendo Switch dock cover

I was looking for a gift for my little brother, and I came across this pattern for a Nintendo Switch Dock Cover:
http://www.christineswilliams.com/2017/05/pokemon-pikachu-nintendo-switch-dock-cover-crochet-intarsia/
I liked the concept but not the design - I'm not really into eight-bit pokemon. I came up with my own design which is an NES controller. In the end it was a little too long, but that's better than too small.
I did a green background, but any color really would work for that.
In all I had 6 colors: the background (green), white, two grays (dark gray, silver), black, and red. You only need a tiny bit of red, for the two buttons (literally two stitches). The white I used for the border of the controller, the dark grey was for the main body of the controller, and the silver was for the center bars. Black was used for the X controller and the select/start buttons.
My stitch dimensions were 42 rows with 49 stitches per row.

I started with a chain 50. The last stitch is the turning chain, so each row will have 49 st then finish with a chain 1 and turn.
I did 21 rows with the background color. This is the back of the piece, it's boring.
Now it's time for the front.
I did three rows of the background color, for a nice border, and I start and end each row with three stitches of the background color. I then finish the front with three rows of the background color, to finish it out. After completing, fold in half and stitch up both sides to finish.

This pattern is all single crochet, I think a tight stitch is helpful since it's a screen protector. I should have written down what type of hook I used but I do not recall - I think I used what is recommended by Christine so a 2.75mm. Keeping the yarns from getting tangled was difficult - stay cognizant of your threads and untangle before they get hopelessly intertwined.



Color Key: 
A is green (background color), B is white, C is dark gray, D is silver, E is black, and F is red.


NOTE:
All rows are written left to right, but obviously when you crochet, you are taking turns starting on the left then right then left. I made this patter from a spreadsheet and failed to take that into account. So I believe it is on the even rows, read right to left with the stitches (the black X should be on the left of the pattern).

Pattern as a Spreadsheet
Row 1: 50A
Row 2-21: 49A (this finishes the back)
Row 22-24: 49A
Row 25-26: 3A, 43B, 3A
Row 27: 3A, 1B, 13C, 15D, 13C, 1B, 3A
Row 28: 3A, 1B, 41C, 1B, 3A
Row 29: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 5C, 15D, 13C, 1B, 3A
Row 30: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 33C, 1B, 3A
Row 31: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 5C, 15D, 13C, 1B, 3A
Row 32: 3A, 1B, 2C, 9E, 2C, 15D, 13C, 1B, 3A
Row 33: 3A, 1B, 2C, 9E, 33C, 1B, 3A
Row 34: 3A, 1B, 2C, 9E, 2C, 15B, 2C, 3B, 2C, 3B, 3C, 1B, 3A
Row 35: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 5C, 1B, 5E, 3B, 5E, 1B, (2C, 1B, 1F, 1B)x2, 3C, 1B, 3A
Row 36: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 5C, 15B, 2C, 3B, 2C, 3B, 3C, 1B, 3A
Row 37: 3A, 1B, 5C, 3E, 33C, 1B, 3A
Row 38: 3A, 1B, 13C, 15D, 13C, 1B, 3A
Row 39: 3A, 43B, 3A
Row 40-42: 49A
Fold in half, with the threads/backside on the outside, then stitch up the sides and tidy up the back. Flip right-side-out and you're good to go!


And here is my finished product, on my brother's Switch dock.

I hope you find this pattern enjoyable! You are welcome to make your own pattern like I did, just using the dimensions given here and in the source pattern. Have fun with it!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Migraine Relief - Daith Piercing

I get migraines. My friends know this. I've tried different medicines and was on a daily suppressant (beta blocker) but wanted to step down from that. I worked with my doctor and halved my dosage with no change, so we halved it again with still no change, so I stepped completely off it and started getting migraines every other weekend or so (just like I use to). I get them when I hit my triggers, like irregular meals, stress, dehydration, different weather patterns, and hormonal changes. I can avoid some of these triggers but not all, and even the avoidable ones happen sometimes because it's hard being so structured. 
My friend Cory got this ear piercing (daith) and it basically solved her migraine issues. She said I should try it and I figured why not, if I don't like it I can just take the earring out and keep going on my migraine journey. 
When I was up in CT for Christmas, I went with Cory and my mom to get the piercing (I was the only one getting pierced - Cory was there for guidance and my mom was with me for moral support). We went to Eminence Ink in Willimantic, CT, and had Lily helping us (she was the one who had done Cory's piercing).

Interesting fact from the Red Cross - if I had gotten my piercing in MD, I might have be banned from donating blood for a year. Since I got it done in CT, I'm good to donate. This screen capture actually says tattoo but I believe it applies to piercings as well since they are done in the same facilities (unless you use a mall kiosk). The more you know....

Let me be upfront about this: it was the most painful experience I have ever willing done. It was not as painful as my four-wheeling accident (where I got thrown from my quad, tumbled down a mountain, then got run over by my quad and tumbled further down the mountain) which involved a back injury and those are really the worst (also dislocated my knee and pretty sure got concussed).
I went at noon and had a granola bar before hand and another one in my pocket for afterwards. You don't want to do this on an empty stomach cause you could pass out - kinda like when donating blood.
I was seated in a chair in a private room. Lily cleaned the area and then started the piercing. The first pierce wasn't bad, felt kinda like a normal ear lobe piercing, but then it kept going because it's not a straight-through piercing, it's kind of a hook so you have to go in (not too bad), come out (bad), then I think slide the piercing tool out (getting even worse), then get the earring bar in (I was saying OUCH OUCH OUCH and getting really pale at this point), then twist on the balls on either end but we had to take a break before finishing that because I was not doing well. I nearly puked and nearly passed out. Lily had a standing fan next to the chair so she turned that on and gave me a lollipop for sugar and a cup of water and I was shaking SO BADLY and then I dry heaved. She said it was the adrenaline from the anticipation which was true but also it hurt really badly and for whatever reason, my body likes to puke when I'm in pain. It's annoying. So once I calmed down again (i.e. stopped uncontrollably shaking and had some color back in my face), she went back at it with twisting the balls on the ends of the earring. There wasn't much blood but there was much pain but at this point the worst was over. I then paid for it and some cleaning/numbing spray for it (about $70 for the piercing and $5 for the spray) and they said I really needed to get some lunch.
The piercing itself would have been quick if I had not nearly passed out and puked. It's a quick clean, stab, stab, twist, twist, done. But I think it took over an hour due to me not handling things well. In the end, here's the bar:

I can't see it when looking in a mirror, and you can only see it if you're looking at the correct angle at my ear (clearly per the picture, it is visible from at least one angle). 
The piercing was done on December 26. I used the cleaning spray three times a day with a cotton ball in CT and a cotton square in MD. It was super sore right away (normal) but then it started feeling infected, like warm and tender and I got worried. I was told by my sib-in-laws about ear syringes which sound scary but are actually similar to a water pick but, important distinction, with a soft tip. I got one from CVS (can't find it online but it's similar to this) to clear out the ridge where the top of the earring is (it's too tight for a q-tip) and then the inflammation went away and all is now well! In hind sight, Lily had told me to wash the area before putting the cleaner on it, but I couldn't figure out how to get in there (also it really hurt to touch it). Squirting water in there is the way to go!

Now the real question, will this piercing fix my migraine frustrations and lower their frequency? Well, truly only time will tell. I have only had it a week, but no migraines in that week! Of note, the last 5 years I have gotten a migraine over the Christmas to New Years time, and this year I did not get a migraine. So that's nice! I will aim to update in a month or two and say how things are going.

UPDATE:
It's been one day less that two months, but Tuesdays is when I do my blog so we're updating at this point.
Sad news first: I have had migraine since getting my daith pierced. I actually had the worst one in recent memory which kept me up at night and made me sleep deprived and I went to to Urgent Care which was a first for me and they gave me a shot for the pain.
Good news next: I think it is helping somewhat. I have noticed that my ear slightly hurts at times when I could be getting a migraine coming in but instead it's just some ear discomfort which is much preferred over a migraine.
Ending Thoughts: For some people, the daith piercing totally works and their migraines are gone. For other people, it does nothing and they still have migraines. For me, it is helping a little and maybe as it heals (it takes about a year to heal) it'll do more to fight the migraines? Who knows.

Double Movie Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and A Wrinkle in Time

Recently (i.e. yesterday which was a holiday) Mark and I watched two movies from Redbox and they were nice one-time in-your-home viewing experiences.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms:
This one looked nice and if you didn't pay attention too closely, that plot twist could probably surprise you. Sadly, this one hits that bad zone where it's plot and theme are aimed at children but then it throws in some scary stuff that makes it ineligible for most kids (creepy carnival with a mass of mice that swarm into a bear-shaped monster, for example). Reminds me of the Straight No Chaser song "Christmas Can-Can" which mentions "that mouse-king thing freaks me out *scream*". The visuals were nice, the acting was good, and the outfits were great. It wasn't a bad viewing experience, However, I was glad we didn't have any little nieces or nephews watching, and I am fine with never seeing it again.

A Wrinkle in Time:
This one has been out for a bit and I admit, I've never read the book. I rented the audio-book but then we didn't get around to listening to it so it went back to the library. So I came into this one not knowing what to expect other than it's a classic and many people like the book. Apparently the movie strays far from the book. It was a bright visual experience but again, it's aimed at kids but there is a rather scary part where the little brother basically gets possessed by evil (bright red eyes, red lines spreading across his face). It has some good points, about the importance of love and being kind to other people even when they're mean to you. I think it was fairly good acting. But I didn't understand a lot of why/how things were going on. I don't think I'll watch this again but I am interested in getting the audio-book again and actually listening to it this time. Might been good for your pre-teens or teens, to show the importance of kindness and not assuming you know someone's backstory.