Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback: The Twenty-First Time

Okay, way back in, I don't know, 2011, when I was still new to the world of social media and Tumblr, and when I was bored and extremely . . . wait, I think I was jobless when I wrote this. Anyway, way back then, I posted this on Tumblr. And I guess it really does still ring true today.

The Twenty-First Time by Monk and Neagle

Nowhere to live, nowhere to fall
He used to have money, but he’s wasted it all.
His face is a photograph burned in my mind,
but I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He sleeps under stars, that’s all he can afford
His blanket’s an old coat he’s had since the war
He stands on the corner of Carter and Vine
But I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

He may be a drifter, he’s grown old and gray
But what if he’s Jesus and I walk away?
I say I’m the body and drink of the wine
but I pretend not to see him for the twenty-first time

She’s twenty-nine but she feels forty-eight
She can’t raise three kids on minimum wage
She’s cryin’ in back of the welfare line
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

She may be a stranger tryin’ to get through the day
but what if it’s Jesus and I walk away?
I say I’m the body and drink of the wine
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

This is a call for a change in my heart
I realize that I’ve not been doin’ my part
when I needed a Savior, I found it in Him
He gave to me, now I’ll give back to them

Drifter or stranger, father or son
I’ll look for Jesus in every one
’cause I am the body and drink of the wine
and I’m thankful there’s more than the twenty-first time

Open your eyes . . . there’s so much that you can do to change the world. There’s so much you can give to those who are in need. There are so many ways for you to share the light to those who still haven’t found it. All they’re waiting for is your solid YES to God.

(Before I continue, I’d just like to say that this is the third time I’m typing all this down since the first two times, my browser crashed. Evil is working overtime.)

The problem with our society nowadays is that we have grown so accustomed to people sleeping on the streets, be it poor people with no homes to go to or people who have drunk themselves to sleep. We have grown so used to seeing them all sprawled on the sidewalk with only cardboard boxes as beds and clothes that haven’t been washed for who knows how long. We look at them, no, we don’t even really look at them. We only glance at them and think, That’s what they want and that’s what they get. Sure, there are those people who would prefer begging to working. But if you dig deeper, there are those hearts that someday want to be teachers, doctors, engineers, and even business people. There are hearts that are yearning for more from this life. Hearts that want to learn, if only they were given a chance. Think about it, what if the boy on the street you just passed was supposed to be the one to find a cure to some sickness but he never would because you didn’t even stop to take notice of him? What if the girl hugging her knees as she lies on the cold sidewalk at night was supposed to alleviate her family’s poverty but she never would because nobody even offered to teach her?

We are so blessed that it’s not hard to think of ways to bless others. We have so much that others have nothing of. We were made to be blessings to others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We were not made to hoard these blessings. God said that we should store up treasures in heaven, not here on earth. What use are these material treasures if we don’t use them for God’s glory? The Bible also says “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). We were given much; thus, we can give much. If you think you don’t have "much" then think about those people who are sleeping and eating off other people’s stuff. What do they have? And besides, what do you have that is not from Him? He gave us so much that He even gave His life for us. We were made to make a difference, and if we don’t realize that, then we might miss the chance of being used by our Creator.

Genesis 12

The Call of Abram
 1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
 2 “I will make you into a great nation, 
   and I will bless you
I will make your name great, 
   and you will be a blessing
3 I will bless those who bless you, 
   and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth 
   will be blessed through you.” (emphasis mine)

Abraham followed God and obeyed Him to the extent most of us still don’t understand. And God fulfilled His plans that Abraham will be a blessing to others and to "all peoples on earth." Obey and He will use you. We were made to bless others as what God has shown through the life of Abraham. God can use you too.

Think about it. You were given so much. We are blessed so much, and there are so many ways we can bless others. It may be financial or physical comfort or even just the blessing of remembrance. The mere fact that you care for a person can uplift a poor spirit and let that spirit experience the light and love of Christ. We can start small. Maybe we can pray for that man on the streets today. Or give a piece of bread to that old lady scavenging for food inside a trash can. We can maybe talk to the children who haven’t had a bath since who knows when. Or maybe give extra clothes. And even go the extra mile to share the gospel of Christ to them so that they will know that God loves them no matter what their situation is. God has a plan for them although they may not see it yet. Let’s help them see. Let’s help them realize that God’s love surpasses all understanding. God loves us so much that He even sent His beloved Son to be with the ragged, torn, abused, and oppressed people He loves so much. He sent Jesus to show us that love is possible for everybody, even the ones our society may call untouchables. God wants us to love them the way He loves us, ragged and broken as we are. There are so many ways to be used by God. All God is waiting for is our yes.
John 13:34-35  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
God bless us all! =)

After reading that again, I feel like I'm still challenging myself. We are works in progress. God's not finished with us yet.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The True Man Show

Way back in 1998, I remember watching the movie The Truman Show and wondering if it's real.

The horizon from here

(For those who are not familiar with the movie, you missed half of your life. Kidding. It stars Jim Carrey and Ed Harris and a bunch of other actors acting as actors in the first reality TV show that shows actual reality but is a movie so of course it's not really real. You can also Google it.)

Admittedly, until now I wonder if there are no hidden cameras around me or up in the sky or if everything that's happening in my life are all part of a script and the only variable would be me. And I see this type of wonder in other movies and cartoons and scripts. MIB, Dexter's Laboratory, even Horton Hears a Who question the possibility of someone much bigger than us looking through his microscope or telescope or magnifying lens and watching as puny humans like us try and make sense of the world we're living in. It is a question that so many have ventured to answer, even going to lengths that defy gravity (I am referring, of course, to missions into outer space).

Well, here's proof.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

Have you ever had that feeling that someone is watching you? Someone is.

Two Ways to Respond

"Oh, God, this is scary. Stop staring at me."

We can react in fear. 

"Why does He have to watch us? We're not doing anything wrong. Stop policing us. Stop waiting for us to make a mistake. Can't You just leave me alone?"

It feels like we're trapped, like we can't do anything right. Like whenever we want to do anything, we have to overthink it: Will it please God? Is it the right thing? Am I allowed to do this? We mull over things other people, who don't know that God is watching, would do in a split second. We are in fear because we don't want to be caught.

There's a psychology to that. One of the reasons people are so afraid of the law is because they don't want to get caught. Once people find a loophole, doing wrong doesn't seem so wrong anymore. Well, I'm sorry, but we will always get caught by Someone (refer to quoted verse above). There's nowhere to hide. He knows where we are even when we are lost. And we do have good reason to fear. He is, after all, God.

But we can also respond in gratitude.

A girl asked her father to teach her to ride a bike. They spent their afternoons out in the dirt road in front of their house. Her father held on to the seat while she pedaled and tried to maintain her balance. Her father always adjusted the bike when it was about to fall over and they start again. Soon enough, she could pedal faster and faster without tilting, and at some point, she could feel her father's hand releasing his hold on the bike. But every time she felt this, she would tilt and tip over. Her father just helps her up. They try again. Faster and faster she pedaled until she didn't even notice that she was riding away on her own. She didn't fall over this time. She rode in circles and went back to where her father was standing. "You let go," she told him.

"You have to learn to ride by yourself, but I never lost sight of you."

Somehow, we feel like we are alone and that if anything bad happens, no one is going to be there to help us. Like we are in this world to figure things out ourselves, get ourselves hurt, then pick ourselves up. Like everything we're doing is just . . . what we're supposed to do because that's what we can do and it's all just for ourselves.

Well, thank God He's watching you.

You are not alone. Don't read that in a scary, horror-movie type of voice. Read it in a compassionate, caring, and loving voice. You are not alone.

You don't have to be afraid. Someone is looking after you. You don't have to think that your life is worth nothing, that nobody cares what happens to you. Someone already saved you from a far worse death than you could have imagined for yourself. You don't have to feel depressed and lost. You're not lost. He knows where you are and will lead you if you want to.

Knowing that Someone is always watching over us, why do we still want to make wrong choices? Shouldn't it be that we live in gratitude to the knowledge of security in this life? We don't think about it enough: Will it please God? Is it the right thing? Am I allowed to do this? We don't remember well enough that wherever we are, God is with us.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

 Present tense. Adverb of time. Description of range.

In moments of uncertainty, we should not be afraid. God is with us. Always. Nothing happens in our lives that God doesn't know about. God is sovereign over all creation. Sometimes we don't understand what's going on, why we have to go through things that just hurt, but we can trust that we do not need to face it alone. We are not alone. God is with us.

This is the true man show. We are the cast. We play our roles. But we have a Director, and we have an Overseer. We have God to take charge of everything. We are not alone.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Knives under Healed Wounds

Knifed heart from here

"When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'" (John 5:6).

"Duh," she said. "Of course, I want to get well. What kind of question is that?"

She stared at her heart, conveniently placed in a glass case for everyone to see. The heart beat consistently, normally, because that's what hearts do. She spun the case on the lazy Susan of a table and watched it subtly jolt the heart back and forth, letting her know that it wasn't mounted in the most precisely balanced position.

Precarious, she thought. The word you are going for is precarious.

The heart stopped spinning and swinging on its mount. The lubb-dupp kept her entranced. Then she saw it, a tiny metallic glint reflected by the harsh fluorescent light of her room. It was only a slight protrusion. Like a lump in the heart's otherwise already lumpy structure. But it was noticeable. She would notice.

"That was that night," she said to no one in particular. She saw another lump an inch above the first. "And that was what he said."

There were other lumps in the heart, each with a metallic glint, each making her remember different times in her life, each making her wish even more to forget.

They were knives. Every single glint was from a knife. There were more knives than she could care to count. But there were knives of every size. They were knives she plunged in her heart herself.

"To stop it from beating," she told herself when she first stabbed her heart. But it obviously didn't work, and her heart kept on beating.

With time, she became convinced that one more knife would do the trick. One more knife would finally give her the feeling she has been wanting for so long. One more knife would finally set her free from this world.

But no. Every single knife hurt, for sure, but the heart grew around the knives. The wounds healed over them. Soon, whenever she decided to pierce another knife into her heart, she wouldn't feel it anymore. There was no pain. Anyone could stab her heart, but she would not notice. She grew accustomed to the weight of the knives. She couldn't notice it anymore. At least, at first she didn't notice.

She would go on with her life, doing whatever it was that she did, all the while having a heart bleeding but healing around knives.

Then they took out her heart and placed it in the glass case she was staring at now. She turned the lazy Susan once more.

"Do you want to get well?" she heard the question again.

She opened the glass case and tapped her finger on one of the knife points. Blood dripped from the prick. The knife was still sharp despite being enclosed in the heart. She wiggled it a little, but blood started pouring from where the blades would slice through the heart. And it hurt. It hurt like hell.

"Maybe I don't want to get well."

She thought of all those nights she spent squirming through the gash of blood from the most recent knife in her heart. She thought of all those days she couldn't move in fear of slicing her heart with the newest addition in her collection of knives. She thought of all the pain she would be experiencing if she decided to rip apart the knives from her heart. She knew that pain. She's tried it before.

"Do you want to get well?"

"No." She placed the glass case over her heart and secured the lock. Then she spun the lazy Susan again, wondering, waiting for when the next knife would pierce her and end it all.

Two Things

Well, this is a familiar scene. It doesn't have to be knives in a heart. It can be sleepless nights, empty cups, senseless shopping, or aimless living. It can be lying on your bed and deciding that you're happy with your messed up life. It can be going through the days, thinking that you will forever be that person and feeling like you can't ever change.

Well, here's the thing (the first thing, actually): You have a choice.

"Do you want to get well?"

It's not "Oh, you're sick. I'm going to heal you." It's not "Oh, you're healed." It's "Hey, I see you're hurt. Would like to do anything about it?"

I know, it does seem stupid to ask a hurting person if they want to be healed, but listen, the person still has the choice. During Red Cross training/CAT training, one of the first things they tell us to ask an injured person is "Hey, hey, are you okay?" (I can hear the injured person saying "Duh.") Why do we ask? So we can get a response. We can get a reading of how the person really is. And that's also why we're being asked, "Do you want to get well?"

A sick person who doesn't want to get well would do everything in his power to not follow the doctor's orders. He'd eat the restricted food, neglect medicine and exercise, and live a life he thinks would keep him sick. Why even try to heal him?

"Duh, no one wants to be sick. At least no one wants to get sick intentionally."

I disagree. When we get into destructive relationships (why does it always have to deal with relationships?), we're intentionally making ourselves sick. When we compromise with our work or our integrity, with our friends, when we backbite, we intentionally pick up viruses and germs and cultivate them in our hearts. Why intentionally? Because we're all grown-up here. We know what's right and wrong, yet we still make the wrong choice.

We have a choice to get well. We were not made like robots. We were given the freedom to decide what we want to do with this borrowed life.

Do you want to get well?

Whatever it is that is not making you well, you should realize that you have a choice. You can get well if you want to.

But here's the catch (which is the second thing): You can't do it on your own.

What? you might be thinking. Give us a choice then not let us actually do what we decide on?

Not saying you can't do it. Just saying you can't do it on your own.

If that sick person in the street whom Jesus actually asks "Do you want to get well?" could do it on his own, why was he still there? His friends haven't helped him. (There go his friends.) He has no family to speak of. He was just . . . there.

Tried stopping yourself from falling for someone you know is just wrong for you? (This heart again.) Tried stopping yourself from spending all your time and money on computer games or games in general or even shopping? Tried stopping yourself from a bad habit? Failed. Failed. Failed. Why?

There are some illnesses that cannot be healed by patients alone. That's why there are doctors. It is the patient's choice to want to be healed, but the doctor does the surgery. Sure, the patient also has a large part in this, cooperating with whatever the doctor decides to do.

Note the term surgery. Just the sound of it hurts. But we need it. We need to be operated upon. This life, this complacency to the things we know are wrong, the blisters and scabs of wounds we have opted to ignore, they all need to be operated upon. And we can't do it on our own.

He's called a Savior for a reason.

Why is it that when we say savior (lowercased), we think of firemen, superheroes, and knights in shining armor? But when we say Savior (capitalized), we think "Bleh, religious stuff"? Our Savior saves (duh).

Sure, we've heard it all before: Jesus came to save us from our sins. But do we believe it? Do you believe it?

Then why stay sick? Jesus offers to heal us. Give Him your consent. Tell Him you're ready for your operation. You don't need to keep living with those knives in your heart.

It's going to be painful. I can assure you, it's going to hurt like nothing you've ever felt ever before. It's going to burn you to the core. But I can also assure you, it's all worth it. After all the pain of the operation, after all the knives are out of your skin and your heart, it will all be worth it.

Knives are heavy, so once they're not in your heart anymore, your heart will get lighter.

Note, you might feel occasional pain from new wounds you might incur, but have faith. All wounds heal. And someday, though you may have scars, you can smile and say you survived it all and that it wasn't just you. Your scars are battle wounds. Show the world who holds the victory. Your Doctor, the King.

Do you want to get well?

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Trellis

I am a branch. Trellis me.

Photo from here

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1-2).

For the longest time, I have feared that I would be a branch cut off and thrown into the fire. For the longest time, I have wondered of the patience God must have to still be keeping me attached to the vine. There have been moments when I tried to count the hours or days or years until I find myself totally lost and alone. How wrong I have been.

*The following realization was made during the CCF Overflow Leadership Conference and the panic research conducted after.*

When we say "cut off," we immediately think of being cast aside and separated, being of no use and thrown away. We think of being left in the dark, of being forgotten. We struggle with the thought of being a failure, of disappointing the people who matter to us---of disappointing God. "Someday, God will find your uselessness a hindrance to His plans and will take you away," we tell ourselves. "Take away" may mean just getting killed or, the lesser evil but certainly more destructive, being left to our own devices. We tell ourselves that if we continue being the "branch in me that bears no fruit," sooner or later, we will find ourselves punished. Or maybe we would find ourselves living the same way we have been and not really care.

Hopelessness. That's what happens to us. We find ourselves too much in dire straits and buried deep under the many compromises we have made that getting out seems impossible. We find it impossible. We find that no one can ever get us out. We think that no one will even try. Even Jesus says God will cut us off. Where is the hope in that?

What I have learned, however, demands a very different explanation.

In viticulture---which, in a nutshell, is the science of grapes---vines and branches are very obviously important. A vinedresser does not simply cut off branches and throw them away. A vinedresser is in charge of ensuring that all branches produce fruit, so throwing branches away as if they were weeds is not an option. What do they do then?

In Greek, the term for "cut off" is airo. Most of the time, people translate it as to "take away" or to "remove," which is in part true. But since we have established that vinedressers do not simply throw things away, many lean into another meaning for airo, "to raise up, elevate, lift up." Why elevate?

Vinedressers pick up branches that don't bear fruit and they clean them up. The branches might just be too pressed down on the ground. Then they tie them to a trellis.

They place them in trellises to make sure they get enough light and they stay clean from the ground. They continue to care for the branches until they do produce fruit.

This. Is. A. Revelation. Here I found myself mindblown, like, "What in the world?"

You know when we're so hopeless that we think that God will eventually throw us away? Well, God will not throw us away. In the first place, when you are in God, no one can snatch you away from Him. Why in the world would He be the one to throw you away? Secondly, God knows what He's doing. He is the Vinedresser. He takes care of us. He knows what we're going through, and He knows what we need.

There is hope.

God continues to be faithful in our lives. We can't see it all the time especially when we're down in the dirt and trying to see the light, feel the warmth of the sun. We can't see when we focus on our problems, on ourselves. But God is in control. He picks us up and cleans us up. He doesn't give up on us. He will not give up on you.

God will not give up on you.

Sure it hurts. Sure it feels like "Why is this happening to me?" Sure it makes us wonder if we really need to go through all the pain. But maybe we need to get through all this to get the answers. We cannot discount the hardships, but we cannot make them excuses.

So no matter how dirty you feel, no matter how useless you feel, let God pick you up and "trellis" you. We can't do this on our own. And we don't have to do it on our own. God will take care of us.

I am an unfruitful branch, and it has taken me this long to acknowledge it outright. So finally realizing that there is still hope gives light to everything that has happened in my life. I have been in the dirt, and finally I am hanging on a trellis. I am holding on to that hope. There is hope because our faith is found in God, our God who is sovereign and faithful and mighty and just and loving. Our faith and hope is in the Lord who has already shown us in the most amazing way how much He cares for us---sending His Son to die for sinners, for people who are unworthy of anything, people like you and me. Jesus paid the price for our stupidity, for our recklessness. He took our punishment.

And now God still cares for us despite our "uselessness" and gives us another hope: we are trellised. He is not giving up on us, so why should we give up on this life?

There is hope. You are trellised.

"We see not what is seen, but what is unseen. We see with faith and not flesh, and since faith begets hope, we of all people are hope filled. For we know there is more to life than what meets the eye" (Every Day Deserves a Chance, Max Lucado).

"Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:5).

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Hold on. Hope on. God is not giving up on you.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


You don't even let the alarm wake you up. You're up before it hits the ringer, and you smile because you know you're wide awake now. You're glad you're awake now. It only means it's becoming real.

You get yourself ready. You fix yourself up, iron out your best clothes, and spray on your signature perfume. You check yourself in the mirror. Again. You smile. You can't believe how giddy you are. It's like high school all over again. Only this will be better. You believe this will be better.

You take a cab to the restaurant. You don't take your car with you. No use in looking for a convenient parking space at that time. And besides, you don't want to risk losing an opportunity to walk home, especially when it includes the possibility of walking with that special someone. The cab driver looks at you from the rear-view mirror. He smiles. He guesses that you're out on a date. You guess it's kind of hard to hide that fact when you've been smiling for the whole ride. He wishes you good luck and be careful. He drops you off right in front of the restaurant.

You're early. A guard opens the door for you, and a waiter approaches you with a smile. He asks if you have reservations. You try to hide your chuckle as you think that he's asking you if you have reservations regarding this date. You nod to him and give your name. He ticks off your name on the list and leads you to your table.

The table is at the corner of the floor, near the ceiling-to-floor glass windows. You have a beautiful view of the outside. There are cars passing by, their lights leaving a trail of brightness on the dark dusty streets. There are people walking around, some laughing, others just hurrying to get home. Beyond the bustle of the city, there are the lights, lights on the mountains beyond. Houses far from the sound of cars and the noise of daily living. Houses wrapped in the peacefulness of nature. Their lights flicker as you try to distinguish each house from where you are sitting.

Inside, the lights are warm white. Just a soft shade of yellow to keep the atmosphere relaxing. The people already at their tables seem excited. A couple sitting on the other side of the floor are whispering, smiling. They seem happy. You glimpse a shiny wedding band on each of their left-hand ring fingers. You smile because you know someday you'll get to wear something like that too. You get to whisper to your loved one like that too. On another table is a family; the mother is talking to the waiter while the father tries to calm his two kids down. They were fighting over which spoon to use for dessert. The young boy was insisting it was the normal spoon while the girl, probably the elder of the two, told him it was the smaller spoon. The parents look exhausted but they were happy. And you smile at them when they catch your eye.

You look around the restaurant. You can't believe this is really happening. Months ago, you thought you should just give up. Months ago, you thought that you would never love again. Now you're sitting there, waiting. You don't mind the wait. You know that person will be coming. You fix your hair, checking your reflection on the wine glass. You smile. You can't help it. This might be the night that would change all your perceptions about love.

You sit there. Time passes. You look at the waiters as they busily carry out instructions from guests and the kitchen crew. They smile at you, ready to take your order. You wave them off, saying you're still waiting for someone. They run around making sure everybody's happy.

You catch a glimpse of the kitchen as the doors swing close. The chefs are busy creating their culinary masterpieces. They shout orders to their assistants in unintelligible words. They all toss and mix and fry and decorate what the waiters serve to their guests. They make the night more special.

You fix your hair again.

The family finally get their meal, and the kids start scooping their food into their mouths. The girl chews slowly. The boy seems to just chew and swallow. You think he's only going through the proper meal to get to the dessert. The parents talk about work. You hear them discussing the future of their children. You don't think the children know their parents are talking about them.

You move the spoon on your table a little to the left to straighten it out.

The couple on the other side of the floor are giggling. The man is whispering something to the woman, and she's looking at you. She smiles as the man smiles also at you. You smile back. They continue whispering and moving the food on their plates around, obviously trying to draw out the time they are spending in the restaurant. You wish you could draw out time for tonight too.

You fix your hair.

The family gets their bill. A waiter passes you by and smiles. There's a different smile. He asks if he can get you anything. You decline, still smiling. He nods and leaves for the kitchen. The family leaves the restaurant, children in tow. The sound of their laughter and squealing fades as the doors close. They turn to their car and climb in. Soon their vehicle disappears into the traffic.

You straighten an imaginary wrinkle on the tablecloth.

You wait. You stare at the other tables, tables with couples, families, and even solo diners. They go about their night seemingly content. They smile. They laugh. You hear an argument from another table but is quickly hushed. You hear impatient tapping of fingers on the table, shoes on the floor. You listen to the steady clinking of silverware on china. You close your eyes and try to remember that this is real. Everything is now in your memory.

The night wears on.

The diners slowly leave. The waiters clean up their tables. Another waiter approaches but doesn't get to ask you if you need anything. You look at him and he knows.

You fix your hair.

The lights in the restaurant dim as the closing hours draw near.

You lean your head on the window. The traffic has thinned. The stars are out.

You close your eyes and wish to forget that this is real.

You fix your hair.

You look outside, and you find yourself outside. You walk away. You don't even look back as the waiters say good-bye, as the guard thanks you for coming. You don't look back to see their sad smiles, to hear their whispers. You keep walking.

You fix your hair. You don't look back at the restaurant. You don't look back at the empty table you just left. You don't look back at the empty place where you thought your dreams might just come true. You just keep walking.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (I can't even)

In keeping with my tradition to write endless reviews after really awesome Transformers movies (wait, I've only written one), I have decided to spoil anyone who reads this who haven't seen the movie yet (because I'm that kind of person).

This movie's cast includes

  • Max Payne
  • Really annoying teenage daughter
  • Ed Sheeran
  • and Caesar Flickerman 
Also starring the voices of
  • Eeyore
  • Scooby-Doo
  • Fred Flintstone
  • Ra's Al Ghul
  • and one of the Stabbington brothers (Tangled)
What I remember of the almost three-hour movie

Basically the humans are hunting the robots. And if in the first warning you didn't get it, I'm saying it again: SPOILER ALERT. But the humans aren't the only ones. Apparently, Lockdown, this really cool bot whose alternate is a Lamborghini (a really sleek and sexy and contoured and downright awesome car), was sent to earth to clean up the mess the Autobots and Decepticons caused. You know, like the mess in Chicago four years prior to this movie's supposed timeline. Lockdown's face turns into a very accurate firing weapon and he just shoots bots whether they are good or bad. This means most Autobots were in hiding and some of them dying. Well, most of them. As the movie progresses, we find that there are only five Autobots left, and it's really sad and heartbreaking to watch Lockdown thrust a sword into one of the bots' Spark. Why would he do that? So sad.

Then we see Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) and his friend Lucas Flannery (Miller). Yeager is obviously a descendant of one of the creators of the famous Gypsy Danger, Striker Eureka, Crimson Typhoon, etc. This seems to be a thread that movies want to stitch together, you know, Godzilla, Pacific Rim, How to Train Your Dragon. All jaegers and kaijus. Anyway, Lucas dies. I'm sorry. He's one of the characters who was given the greatest corniest lines and is also the traitor of the group, so he dies by hellfire. And turns into a metal skeleton statue in the form of a running man.

So on Optimus Prime, his voice seems to have changed slightly. His face has become very expressive. He also coughs and has a runny nose the first time we see him, which I never thought robots would do. I mean, really? Cough? Do they even, like, breathe? In the words of Shane (the boyfriend) when he was trying to calm Bumblebee down, "Just take a deep breath or whatever it is that you do." Optimus is still awesome, especially when we see him back to his old shiny blue and red self with flames. He is definitely a mover. And he has a soft heart for humans, which makes us wonder if he's really actually one of us or if he's just having an identity crisis.

Then we see the rest of the group.

Oh, oh, wait, at the very beginning of the movie, we see the reason dinosaurs died. The aliens killed them while planting seeds. And they found one of the metal dinosaur skeletons and decided to become creators using the thing called a Transformium. Anyway.

The rest of the group! I love Crosshair's flappy cape. How can something metallic be so swishy? It's awesome! And Drift's random haikus and his famous line in the movie, something about using violence as a last resort, then he kills some strange creature in an extremely violent way.

Also, Hound's ballet moves. "I'm covering you. If I'm not covering you, I must be dead." He's a bit trigger happy, and it makes him so adorable with his flowy beard. And when he gets stuck on the Hong Kong residential area because he's fat. "That's mean."

The best lines were given to Caesar Flickerman (I'm sorry I keep calling him that), some of which were "Get out of the way, out of the way. [After a while] Oh, just hit them" (when they were driving in a busy street with lots of people), "I may have caused the apocalypse, but you brought your family, and that's really bad parenting," and "We don't need you anymore" (which in my opinion hurts much and in Hound's words "That's mean").

Shane also gets awesome parts in the movie. He drives awesome. He screams like a girl. He also says "I'm not here to save your daughter. I'm here to help you save my girlfriend."

Speaking of which, I am so annoyed at the daughter. Tessa is annoying. She couldn't even run away from the fighting robots on the street. "I'm trying," she says while hitting the car's back window, trying to break it. Seriously? Pfft. Did she have to be so . . . I mean did there really need to be a girl? I think Caesar's assistant, the awesome Asian girl, would have been enough. But then, they needed a father-daughter tandem, so whatever.

Generally, I can't organize my thoughts on the movie because it was almost three hours long and the awesomeness of metal crushing metal and the sound of cars in gear are still in my head. This adrenaline-pumping movie is the type of movie that can make you clap at the very end and that is something worth watching. Yeah, sure, the story's a bit, well, okay. It's not the type that can make you think about the world differently but it is the type that can make you look at cars a whole lot differently. The aftereffects of the movie are still not wearing off and I believe that I may end up imagining random vehicles transforming. 

Also, Megatron who is now Galvatron comes back but doesn't earn enough screen time. He talks in, like, three instances: his first fight with Optimus, when he had his army of bots, and when he exited into Victoria Peak.

The destruction, of course, should not be ignored. Since they've grown tired of destroying New York or Chicago or somewhere else, they decided to bring the destruction to China. Finally, another city. Then again, they shot some parts of it in a really large set in Detroit and made us believe it was in Asia, so I don't think that counts.

What I love about this movie is that they've acknowledged the previous movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon). This seems to be the thing with movies. They're building their stories based on the previous ones and making viewers want to watch the previous ones too. It's a really cool development in the movie industry.

Anyway, I still have so many things to say about the movie but can't keep my head straight with all the shooting and dodging and running and riding and being just cool while watching the movie. It's really worthy of any tech geek's money, or anyone who enjoys watching movies like Pacific Rim, Real Steel, and the Fast and the Furious series. Obviously, it has robots and cars. What more can we ask for?

So there. A mediocre printout of what I'm actually feeling about the movie. Don't be fooled, Optimus doesn't die. I mean, I don't intend on making you think this is the only way I'm feeling about the movie because my words just aren't enough. You should see my smile. I feel like a kid watching all the toys and candy being placed in my Christmas sock. It's an awesome movie!

Go watch it or Optimus Prime will hit you in the forehead with a very heavy gun.

Autobots, roll out.

"Legendary warriors, stand with us. If you stand against us, you stand against me. I give you freedom!"
"You just want to die for him. Now that's leadership."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Divergent: A Rant, Not Really a Review

This is not a movie review, rather not the type I usually do. This is the sound of my brain screaming, then calming down, then screaming, then just zoning out.

I will be blunt. Divergent the movie was disappointing.

Before I judge, I first have to set the background of my watching the movie.

I guess it's hard to make a dystopian young adult novel come to life on the big screen. I guess it's hard to make a dystopian young adult novel come to life on the big screen when it's a best seller and has a large fan base. I guess it's especially hard to make a dystopian young adult novel come to life on the big screen when the Hunger Games has already established its throne on that genre.

I may be biased to the Hunger Games and I understand that Divergent is not the same as the Hunger Games, but I cannot help myself from seeing the similarities . . . similarities I need not discuss because I'm sure other fans have exhausted that topic.

My guess for the disappointment here is that when I watched the HG, it was already a couple of months after I finished reading the series. I had time to prepare myself for the movie. I had time to lower my expectations. I had time to accept that whatever they change, they're doing it for the good of humanity or some similar reason. And I was still disappointed at the movie, and you can read the very long post that's practically a commentary of the whole movie here. But the thing is, HG made a lot of good decisions when it comes to changes from book to screen.

And therein lies my great dismay at Divergent.


I'm flexible. I understand that there are some things that need to be changed for the book to become a movie. I understand that there are plots that need to die, characters that need not to be mentioned, events that can be ignored. But they didn't have to make so much drastic changes. Sure, it didn't ruin the story. It was still in line with what happened in the book. But for those who've read the book and are sticklers for detail, it's just not the same.

Those who haven't read the book will never know why Christina would be so angry at (I was about to type Katniss but I stopped myself) Tris during Insurgent.

  • The Choosing Ceremony bowls were supposed to be man-sized.
  • Tris didn't volunteer to be first jumper. Gah! She was just going to look, but then she couldn't back out so she jumped. She is not Katniss Everdeen (I volunteer!).
  • The bathrooms were in a separate room. (Why am I even concerned about this?)
  • The Dauntless training didn't seem like Dauntless training at all! It was like they were just playing around. For me, it didn't establish the urgency and desperation of the initiates to actually pass the initiation. Maybe it worked for the rest of the world, but it was just . . . too little. 
  • I mean, the first time Tris got beaten up in the movie, there weren't even enough bruises!
  • Eric did not cut Tris from training before they went playing capture the flag.
  • They were supposed to use paint balls! Why shoot someone with a simulation of a real gunshot hit? Why can't they just use paint balls?
  • *I appreciate how they were trying to establish Eric's jealousy over Four's superiority in skills and strength.
  • Christina was supposed to take the flag, not Tris. There was supposed to be professional jealousy there because, like every other YA novel with a girl as a star, Tris is insecure.
  • Uriah didn't invite Tris to the Hancock building to zip line across Chicago right after capture the flag. It happened after that, and because of the zip line escapade, Tris's friends (Christina, Will, and Al) started to become jealous.
  • *I love the zip line and would love to try that out someday.
  • They didn't need brakes to stop the zip line. Or I don't remember that part in the book.
  • Uriah and Tris got caught by Four after the zip line. That was the first time Tris held Four's hand.
  • Why is the chasm dry? WHY!
  • Goodness! Christina was just hanging there for, like, seconds. She could do better. 
  • The trickle of water from the bridge over the chasm is a poor excuse for water described in the book. (Yes, I wanted it to be more challenging for her even though she just got beat up by Molly.)
  • Molly seemed really okay . . . which is not who Molly really is. She is mean and vicious and, oh, just not like that Molly.
  • No Edward? Really? No butter knife stabbing an eye?
  • Erudite headquarters could have been cooler. Not box-type. I'm guessing there will be renovations soon.
  • No receptionist? Just Caleb? 
  • Caleb, no glasses? I thought you were trying to be Erudite-looking?
  • No visiting day? What's with the hiding behind sacks of whatever to talk to Mrs. Prior? Because there was not visiting day, there is no establishment of Cara's dislike for Tris (aside from Tris shooting Cara's brother, Will).
  • Four acknowledged that Tris was Divergent. He said it to her. There were no assumptions or "You know why." 
  • The tapping of the "aquarium" . . . not so cool as just pressing your palm onto the glass, like what the book described. Details. Details.
  • Eric, not much screen time? Tsktsk. You don't look so mean to me.
  • Four's fear landscape was, fine, okay. But it was Four's fear landscape. Four's fears. Tris was helping him overcome it, not doing the overcoming by herself for him. The Marcus scene, though, was cool.
  • Why is Tris sleeping in Four's room? Doesn't that arouse suspicion from Tris's friends and defeat the purpose of their hiding their relationship in hopes that the said friends won't think Tris is getting high scores because she's with their instructor like the book described? (I'm being sarcastic here. This is a sarcastic rhetorical question. Please don't attempt to answer and tell me I don't understand what's going on.)
  • Four did not watch Tris's final exam. Jeanine wasn't there. 
  • The serum injections happened right after the exam, not when they were going back.
  • The real movie started around this part . . . like thirty minutes left in the hour and a half movie.
  • Tris's mother saved her from the aquarium. Not in an execution.
  • Tris's mother died while she distracted the Dauntless zombies. Tris never got to hug her.
  • Tris killed Will after her mother died.
  • Peter didn't seem all that hurt by the gunshot to the arm. Dude, you're bleeding.
  • Tris's father died while he led the Dauntless zombies to a dead-end corridor. He was much better with guns than the movie version. Caleb didn't see his dad die. Nobody got to hug him.
  • Four was operating the simulation controls. There were no Erudites or Dauntless in the Pire's control room.
  • She's much too smart for that.
  • Four was alone. 
  • How in the world can only two Dauntless take on X number of Erudite and Dauntless traitors when Tris and Four already beat themselves up? 
  • Because they put Jeanine there, we can now ask, Why would they leave her there and not take her hostage or just kill her? (Because then there'd be no Insurgent movie.)
  • Why didn't they take the hard drive like the author said they would?
  • The Dauntless zombies didn't look as confused as they should be when they woke up as murderers. Tris and Four weren't to see them wake up like that. It was supposed to be chaos all over again.
  • Voice overs.
Watching the movie felt like watching Bella of Twilight (the movie, not Bella in the book) run around with Katniss-like strength in a Hunger Games arena. Although there are scenes wherein Four becomes Bella and Tris becomes Edward, which is weird and awkward. I mean, they focus the touching scenes just to establish that Four liked Tris. I am sad.

There are a number of things that make me sad about the movie. So I guess when I say that Four/Tobias Eaton/Theo James makes me happy, that should cover up everything. Yeah, I can be girly and have crushes I'll never get to meet too. And I love Tris/Beatrice Prior/Shailene Woodley when she talks. I love her voice. It sounds like Lindsay Lohan (and I mean it in a good way).

I also love that in this movie, Caleb and Tris are siblings. The Fault in Our Stars comes out in June and they become lovers. Then when Insurgent comes out, Tris finds out that Caleb betrayed her. All this happens after Tris and Peter fell in love in The Spectacular Now, which must be why Tris hates Peter so much. All this crossing over of actors is making me feel funny and happy.

Anyway, there. Frustration is out. I don't know how they'll make the next two movies, but I hope it works. 

If you haven't read the books but have already watched the movie, well, I'd like to know if it was okay for you. Much like Hunger Games? Not at all like it? Loved the movie? Yes, well, we all have our opinions.

We are all factionless, after all.