Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chameleons, Clouds & Clarity...

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
Today I felt a pull.  The marsh was calling, asking why I hadn't visited in awhile. After all, it's right there on the other side of the far buildings.

At that point in the day I wasn't feeling 100%.  What started as a spate of sleepless nights that began over a year ago, has turned into a continual stretch that disappears into the spent months that fall behind me.  I have started getting some sleep lately.  Welcome?  Yes, but my body has been expressing its demands during the day.  Not a conducive situation for accomplishing much during daylight hours.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
Forcing myself to stay awake until the night seemed the next logical course of action, but it was proving fruitless. When my system is ready to go into 'sleep mode' these days, there is no delaying it. I literally pass out.  Have I gone through similar spells before? Yes. However, these oases of rest don't last long, the longer stretches of sleeplessness holding dominant sway. *sigh*

I was sleepy and I could feel my need for sleep rapidly growing , but I became determined to get out into the air.  Take some photographs, breath some fresh air, even absorb some sun (and I don't get along with the all).

Camera in my hand.  Headphones on with "What Does Anything Mean? Basically" by The Chameleons ready in the CD player.  Leopard print kicks on my feet.  Sunglasses perched on my nose.  I was ready to meet the outside world.

To say it was hot here on the marsh would be a gross understatement.  I think it was somewhere in the 80's, but with the suffocating humidity the south is known for, it felt like it was at least 100 degrees out there.  Thankfully, I had a companion during my trek.  A breeze.  Without it tagging along, I don't think I would have stayed out as long as I did.

The dock remains continue to decay.  I have no idea at what stage the plans are at in replacing it with the new dock (it's supposed to stretch from our marsh bank to the edge of the river), but what is there of the old dock is crumbling, tilting, and sinking.  It kind of reminds me of the old decaying bones of a large animal,  sinking into the bog to meld with the earth.  I hope the plans for the replacement are moving along.  Having a walkway to navigate above the grass covered marsh would open me up to a wealth of new things to photograph.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
A large portion of the marsh grasses are forming a swirled dry mat against the mud.  Over by the dock remnants and back into the tidal creek behind our building, the mat continues.  A chaotic collection of swirl patterns cover the surface looking like the aftermath of a wild night of mini-crop circle making. Actually, I wonder if the wide field of dry grass is testament to our low rainfall this year?  We are well below where we should be.

It's interesting how negating the sounds of everyday life, and replacing them with music, can alter an experience.  The haunting music of the Chameleons UK, coupled with the natural setting spreading out in front of me...sublime. Truly.  Once I got around the corner of the end building by the dock and started up the marsh bank, I noticed an increase in the breezes.  Extremely welcome. I had been expecting an onslaught of buzzing mosquitoes when I made it over that far to the banks of the expanse, but I don't think I encountered a one. Maneuvering the ethereal quality of the wind currents was keeping them at bay. My advance up the partially shaded bank was slow.  I just observed. Absorbed.  

Closer to the banks of the river the green of the grass continued, the channel of water obviously keeping them well supplied with moisture.  The deep blue glassy surface of the Bull River cut a jagged band through the marsh, and past the yacht club by the bridge.  I could see a few motor boats and a Jet Ski or two cutting it's surface, the blooms of white crests kicking up behind them.  

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
"Brother can you hear my voice
Every second that you cling to life
You have to feel alive"

~ from "Intrigue In Tangiers" by The Chameleons UK
Lyrics:  Mark Burgess

I have been feeling a tad cerebral lately.  Spending some quality time with my inner thoughts.  A byproduct of my sleep deprivation?  Possible.  I think it's tied more to the fact that I have been a tad restless for awhile.  I have ambitions. Dreams.  I've been feeling my age creeping up on me.  I'm in my 40's and in the grand scheme I know that's not "old".  Not by today's standards anyway. People live longer.  But do they live 'fuller'?  In so many ways I need to start again.  I'm more than ready to.  I have been hanging in limbo, my hopes and dreams lazily floating on a stagnant pond that threatens to absorb them.  To make them hopes mislaid and dreams forgotten.

There have been certain factors over the last several years that have complicated things, making it difficult to embark on these new adventures as soon as I would have liked.  Sometimes things are not as cut and dried as we would like them to be.  My stagnant period coming to an end is going to start transitioning for the better.  Things I have waited on are coming to fruition.  A key to moving forward?  Yes, some locks are about to be opened.  Soon.  The bindings that I truly need to release are self sealed.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
I need to clear away all of the mental flotsam.  Those annoying bits of clutter that make me second guess my self, and confuse my thought processes by throwing a stream of 'what ifs' into the mix.  Over the long haul, it's kind of like snapping out of a somnambulists state where years have passed by.  Years that should have been spent doing things.  Creative things.  Fulfilling things.  

Standing on the sunlight and shade dappled marsh bank, the Chameleons music filling my ears, I looked out at the world.  It's so difficult to articulate the intangible, especially when it pertains to the inner workings of the human...self. After weeks of telling myself that it's time for a change in perspective.  Starting again.  The past is history, and it is in the past.  It is by no means over.  Not in the lesson sense.  The actual events may be over, historical, and unchangeable.  I may have let go of a lot, but what is still with me is what I learned in the process.  I hadn't felt the empowering strength that comes with life lessons.  In that moment on the bank...I began to.

I have always been a big believer in the inner power each individual on this planet possesses. In a spiritual sense everyone has their own belief of what's going to get them through the day. An image, a book, a building. For me that's just an exercise in the mundane. Putting one's hopes and dreams somewhere else, with someone or something else. For me things are more metaphysical, more abstract. In our individual selves, we are each housing the energy to shape and mold our individual lives. Yes, outside forces can have their effect, but it starts with us. 

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
Buddhists believe that all living things are connected. Collective energy. Today, looking out at the pale blue sky, and the white puffs of clouds...watching the distant boats cut through the water, and the band of shoreline cat tails bow in the that moment I did feel connected.  Connected to life.  More importantly connected within myself. Do I think it's that simple? It never seems to be, but I think most times it is.  As Laozi said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I took that step today.

It has been awhile since I have written one of my more 'personal' posts. Shared some of my photographs with accompanying prose about the depicted walk or beach outing.  That was my aim initially when I embarked on my picture taking stroll.  But something else happened out there. Something more. Surrounded by nature, by the world, I was imbued with a serenity of mind that allowed me to get out of my own way.  My mental chaos slowed, and I was able to achieve some focus. "Every second that you cling to life, you have to feel alive."

So true.

So very true.
(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Thor" & Co...

Since I started my blog awhile back, from time to time I will express thoughts on films that I have either discovered by chance, or ones that I have looked forward to seeing and…well, have seen.  Silent films have become an interest of mine (as is evident in my “Silent Film” section), and in the last several years film franchises have factored in.  I have been a self-professed Harry Potter fan for years, jumping onto the Hogwarts Express a tad later than my friends with only the first 3 volumes being out at that time, but I would go on to ingest the rest of the books along with the other fans.  The films were all a part of that.  They never quite measured up to the books, but film adaptations rarely do.  In my experience, anyway.  (Blog posts related to my views on the world of HP can be found in the ‘”Movies” section of my blog.) 

There is a film that I am currently jones-ing to see.  “The Avengers”.  You may be thinking, “It’s been out for a bit, so why hasn’t she seen it yet?”  The answer is simple.  My theater experience since moving to Savannah was less than…satisfactory.  While I lived in Los Angeles, I got a tad spoiled.  There was the occasional film I would want to see that I would catch on the big screen.  A theater with state of the art sound, high-backed ‘clean’ seats with double leg room and seat arms that you could fold back, and seating that was on a deeper grade so you wouldn’t have someone’s big head in your way.  Not the case here.  Things were a bit more ‘old school’ here.  Sticky floors, smaller uncomfortable seats…not an experience I felt like shelling out today’s going rate for theater tickets for.  No, I am waiting for “The Avengers” to hit DVD.  I am avoiding the written reviews, etc., so they don’t taint my expectations…which are quite high, I can tell you.

(Scarlett Johansson as
"Black Widow")
As someone who loves the world of comics (big Wolverine fan) I have done my part in priming myself for “The Avengers” by seeing the various movies that have basically acted as set-up.  I started with both of the “Iron Man” films.  Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark.  I have always thought him to be a talented actor, but it’s as if the character were modeled for him.  He looks so much like the comic book character.  He also does a superb job bringing Stark to life.  I had no doubts that he would.  One of my biggest pet peeves about some actors is their proclivity to “scene chewing”.  Downey does a bit of this from time to time, but he’s such a fine and intelligent actor that when he does gnaw a bit, it works.  I did find him nibbling some here and there in the “Iron Man” flicks, but it fit.  As far as other casting choices, Gwyneth Paltrow gives a fine turn as Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges is fiendishly good as the two-faced Obadiah Stane (Bridges has never been one to disappoint with any of his acting gigs, either).  We do see an appearance by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), in film 2.  An “Avengers” reference for the Iron Man flicks.  I recommend both “Iron Man” 1 (released 2008) & 2 (released 2010).

(Dominic Cooper as
"Howard Stark")
Then “Captain America: The First Avenger” (released 2011) came out.  Another great job of casting.  Chris Evans is a perfect Steve Rogers/Captain America, and the effects department definitely earned their pay when making him the scrawny Rogers for the first section of the film.  Hugo Weaving portrays the evil Red Skull, and as always puts in a great performance.  For those of you who have seen the film, you know that Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) is a featured character.  When dealing with the parent of a character in another already produced movie, some productions will bring in the actor from the ‘child’ role and make them older to portray the parent.  I am glad they didn’t here.  In my opinion it would have been too predictable, and would have definitely elicited an eye-roll from me. The actor portraying ‘Daddy’ Stark, Dominic Cooper, looks enough like Downey Jr. and has enough of the flavoring of Downey Jr.’s performance to make Cooper very believable in the role.  There are a couple of other notable appearances by Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, and Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Phillips. Jones’ appearances aren’t many, and Tucci appears even less, but as always they give good turns in their roles.  The last character crucial to the plot of the film who only appears at the very end, is the one integral connection between “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers”…the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson, as Nick Fury.

(The effects dept. did a great job turning Evans from a
scrawny guy, into "Captain America")
“But wait!  Something has been left out.  There was a film released a couple of months prior to the “Captain” hitting theaters.  If you were thinking I had missed something in my post, I am about to remedy that right now.  My favorite of the films leading up to “The Avengers”…”Thor”. 

Actually, this post was going to be specifically about “Thor”, but as it has been out for a bit and “The Avengers” (which the God of Thunder is a part of) is getting a lot of noise these days it seemed logical to flesh things out to include the bigger picture.  Moving right along…

For whatever reasons, I hadn’t been able to watch “Thor” in its entirety prior to the Captain’s release.  I had caught glimpses of it when it was being watched in the living room, but hadn’t planted myself to watch it from beginning to end.  A situation that I didn’t rectify until recently.  Shocking, really.  Without having seen the entire first film, anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of “Thor”.  Well…Chris Hemsworth as Thor.  Yes, I realize that I could be his mum (I will point out that it would have been a teen pregnancy…thank you very much), but I have a pulse.  ‘Smitten’ as I am about the physical embodiment of Hemsworth as Thor, I do have a decent knowledge of the Asgardian mythos.  I played quite a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in my youth, and I have been an avid reader of Fantasy for…well, forever.  I am not a walking encyclopedia of Thor comic book cannon like some, but I know enough.  It occurs to me that I may have painted myself as a bit of a geek…not a geek at all.  I would describe myself as…eclectic.

(Director, Kenneth Branagh, and "Thor", Chris Hemsworth)
Directed by the very talented Kenneth Branagh, “Thor” is a well-crafted movie.  I think that Branagh’s history with Shakespeare and chivalry made him a great choice to helm things here.  Equally, Chris Hemsworth gives an appropriately “mighty” performance as the God of Thunder.  He obviously was put through a massive fitness regimen to sculpt his body, which adds to the strength and the swagger of the character.  Hemsworth’s height of 6’4”, and his rich voice also factor in to how well suited he is for the part.  I could go on and on about the physical attributes of Hemsworth to the point of gushing, so I’ll move on a bit.

The movie begins…oh, guess I should put in a little warning here before I launch into specifics of the film.  If you haven’t seen “Thor”, but plan to, you might want to stop reading because there are some spoilers coming up.  I do get detailed here and there in my rundown. Okay…you’ve been warned…

I am happy to say that there isn’t a plodding build-up that starts things off.  Thor falls out of the sky…why?  The immediately recognizable voice of Sir Anthony Hopkins starts to narrate, taking us to the city in the cosmos known as Asgard.  It’s there that we learn he’s not only narrating, he is portraying the big kahuna, Odin the Allfather.  When we first encounter Thor and his “brother” Loki, they are children and Odin is explaining to them what it means to be king.  After all, one of them (Thor) will BE the next king.  Walking into the relic room, the three look on the casket containing the source of power of the Frost Giants.  The casket is housed in the relic hall because it was the Asgardian’s who saved man by defeating the Frost Giants, taking their source of power, sending them back to Jotunheim, and forming a truce that brought peace to the cosmos.  It may fall on one of the boys to retain that peace during their reign.  Boy Thor lashes at the air saying that he would go to war with them and slay them all, just like Odin had done.  Then Odin says some key words.  “A wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.”

We then skip into the future, and Thor is a young man.  It is the day he is to be made king of Asgard.  A smile emblazoned on his face, he swaggers through the crowded hall to his destiny, his good natured ego beaming from him like a rock star.  Silencing the crowd, Odin begins the proceedings.  Just as he is about to name Thor king, he senses something.  What the…Frost Giants have broken into Asgard!  They are there to steal back the casket of the Frost Giants.  It is then that a rather bad ass armored figure appears through a disappearing wall.  A figure known as ‘The Destroyer’.  A thick beam of light shoots from The Destroyer’s head, slaughtering the Giants.  (Think ‘Cyclops’ on steroids…X-Men reference.)  Thor is angered.  He can’t believe they were able to break their way in, and the only thing to do is to go to war!  Odin feels that war isn’t called for.  After all it was just a few rogue Frost Giants.  Why start a war over a few?  Thor is determined.  “I as King…”  “But you’re NOT king!  Not yet.”  Thor looks extremely wounded, and beyond frustrated.  Odin forbids him to do anything. 

(Chris Hemsworth as "Thor", and Sir Anthony Hopkins as "Odin Allfather")
I feel the need to give one more “Spoiler Alert” as I am about to get into some specifics that will definitely take the surprise element out of the equation for people who have a) not seen the movie, and b) don’t know the plotline already. Having warned you twice, I shall proceed.

Thor is extremely frustrated as he is itching to ‘Hammer’ some Giants.  Ah, yes…Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir (pronounced MYOL-n(ee)r).  Forged from the heart of a dying star, on an enchanted forge.  It summons the elements of storms (lightning, rain, wind).  Thor can not only summon it at will, when he throws it, it returns to him (think a boomerang effect).  He can also create incredible upheavals by stamping it on the ground.  It is capable of more, but you get the gist.  Thor is the God of Thunder. Thor is a major bad-ass!

("Frost Giants")
During all of this, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is watching.  For those who don’t know, Loki is a sly trickster.  Very manipulative.  He knows just what to say to Thor to get him to go to Jotunheim (home of the Frost Giants), without really looking like he’s trying to get Thor to go there.  Thor is convinced and good to go. He uses his immense charm to convince his battle pals to go with him. So, with Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Josh Dallas), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) in tow, Thor and Loki head to the gate.  Heimdall (Idris Elba) is rather pissed at the Frost Giants for finding a way to get by him, so he aids the forbidden mission and “beams” them to Jotunheim.  Needless to say, a battle ensues, Giants are killed, and Thor kicks some major butt.  We learn from the Frost Giant king, King Laufey (Colm Feore), that Asgard has a traitor, and that’s how the Giants were able to break in.  We also learn that Loki isn’t what he seems. He is actually a Frost Giant. Just as things look like they are going to start getting really bad for our band of heroes, Odin shows up and does his best to calm things down.  Things are obviously not going to be that easy, but the Giant king reluctantly lets them go.  Boy, is Thor going to get a talking to.

A fight is had between the two Gods.  Odin calls Thor “a vane, greedy, cruel boy”, and Thor calls Odin “an old man and a fool”.  Odin declares Thor unworthy, stripping him of his Hammer, his power, everything.  He then banishes him to Earth as a mortal man, telling him he needs to learn some humility.  Right after Thor goes hurtling off to Earth, Odin lifts Mjolnir saying over it, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”  He then throws it to Earth, as well.  Now we’re back to the beginning of the movie when Thor plummeted to Earth, and is found by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard).

(Tom Hiddleston as "Loki") 
Throwing this plot nugget from Asgard in here…Loki confronts Odin wanting to know why Odin didn’t tell him he is really a Frost Giant.  There is a rather poignant scene of Odin describing how he found Loki and made him a member of his family, raising and loving him as his own.  We also see that Odin is rather exhausted.  Falling to the ground, he is consumed by Odinsleep.  (I will tell you what that is in a bit…if you don’t know what Odinsleep means.)

('Mortal Thor':  "This mortal form grows weak.  I need sustenance!")
(Thor tries to lift Mjolnir)
Back to Earth (a.k.a. Midgard). Hemsworth does a superb job of acting like a walking anachronism. Initially he feels such superiority to the inhabitants of this little planet.  Throughout his performance there is something so endearing about him, even when his ego is showing.  Humor is an element, but they don’t hit you over the head with it.  From Darcy ‘Tazing’ him when they find him, to him expressing his approval of coffee and then smashing his cup on the diner floor.  He may act a bit of the warrior, but he is also quite intelligent.  Thoughtful even.  His initial belligerence subsides.  Especially when he learns that a certain item has been found out in the desert about 50 miles away.  A farmer has found Mjolnir.  Guys have lined up and no one can lift it.  No surprises there…the one who wields Mjolnir has to be worthy.  The feds get involved, surround the Hammer, and also seize all of Jane’s scientific equipment.  Thor is still in town (there is a funny bit where he goes into a pet store asking for a horse), so Jane finds him and drives him to Mjolnir. After fighting his way in, Thor reaches Mjolnir only to find that he can’t lift it.  The Hammer won’t budge. He has a few things to learn before he is worthy again.  The scene of Thor strolling into the wet environment, his muscles rippling under his drenched t-shirt, goes from a nice beefcake moment, to a moment of defeat and sympathy.  As someone who is familiar with the chain of events in the story, that moment where he finds that he is unable to lift his old friend is so sad.  Hemsworth projects the defeat and deflation of Thor’s ego with great effect.  His face shows his resignation.  I will throw in that it is during this scene that we get our “Avengers” nod.  High above Thor in a Cherry Picker cage of sorts, is Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

(Thor sits defeated)
Back to Asgard.  Odin has fallen into Odinsleep. It's a deep sleep that falls over him when he needs to replenish/recharge the Odinforce. The duration of the sleep varies, but while he is in that state he is extremely vulnerable. So, Odin is having his snooze, Thor has been made mortal and banished to Earth...guess who makes himself king? Loki's helping the Frost Giants is revealed to the audience, and his next order of business is to take Thor out of the equation.

Back to Earth. Thor’s adventuring pals show up. (They don’t like the new deal of Loki making himself king.) Thor learns that Loki lied.  The “brother” he thought he could trust sends ‘The Destroyer’ to Earth to kill the mortal Thor. What is Thor’s first thought?  To save the mortals.  Directing all the nearby mortals to go to safety, a huge fight breaks out between the Asgardians and the Destroyer.  Then Thor makes a move that would have been uncharacteristic for the old Thor. Putting others above himself, Thor walks forward accepting his fate. He knows that the Destroyer is just meant to kill him, and if that happens, it will leave and return to Asgard. Thor feels that if making his life forfeit saves everyone else, then so be it.  A heartfelt speech is made by Thor as he approaches his demise, BUT…from deep in his Odinsleep, Odin hears him and knows that he has learned the lessons Odin hoped he would.  We see a tear rolling out of the corner of one of Odin’s closed eyes, as the Destroyer knocks the stuffing out of Thor.  Jane Foster cries over the fallen Thor, all believing that he is dead.  Of course he’s not dead, people!  HE’S THOR!!!  I do have to admit that, even though I know that, I did get a little choked up seeing my hero lying there.

("The Destroyer")
In true hero movie form, the seemingly broken Thor lies still, but over in the place it first landed, Mjolnir senses that Thor is worthy. With a thunderous crack, Mjolnir bursts into the air heading to its master.  (I knew this was coming, and found myself talking to the gal on the screen.  “Jane, you better get out of the way, or you might lose something vital!”)  Mjolnir thrusting itself into his hand, Thor is back.  His power surges into him.  His Thor garb falls into place.  Wind and lightning fill the air around him as he turns to the Destroyer.  Needless to say, he makes pretty quick work of it.

Thor returns to Asgard to confront Loki.  He finds Loki about to kill the entire race of Frost Giants to prove to Odin that he is the more worthy king.  The Thor who at one time wanted to eradicate the Giants himself, is now defending them.  “Why destroy an entire race?”  Loki lashes out demanding that Thor fight him, but Thor won’t attack his “brother”.  It’s only after calling Thor “soft”, and threatening Jane, that Thor engages him.  The battle between the two rages until Thor has had enough, blowing Loki off his feet.  (I love that to keep Loki where he lands, Thor places Mjolnir on Loki’s chest…after all, Loki can’t move it.  He’s not worthy.  *grin*)

("Bifrost" a.k.a. "The Rainbow Bridge") 
Thor turns to the gate that Loki has opened to send destruction to Jotunheim.  Loki has used his Frost Giant abilities to get the ball rolling.  Even Thor’s strength can’t get him across Bifrost (a.k.a. the Rainbow Bridge) to stop things.  So…Thor does the only thing he can.  Summoning Mjolnir to his hand, he smashes the bridge breaking the gate away.  With each Hammer strike, Odin starts to come out of his deep sleep. The bridge shatters, exploding into bits, the gate falling away.  Then Odin is there hanging onto Thor who is dangling over the edge, Loki dangling from him. Feeling defeated, a teary-eyed Loki lets go falling into the closing rift and disappears. 

(Chris Hemsworth as "Thor",
Natalie Portman as "Jane Foster")
The movie ends with a moving father-son moment between Thor and Odin.  Also, Thor and Jane are pining for one another.  Oh yeah…there was a small love story between Thor and Jane.  I did kind of gloss over that.  It is an element of the plot, but interestingly it wasn’t a huge one.  Not as I saw it anyway.  Their meeting did help Thor learn a few things that led him back to his powers and Asgard.  They do have one kiss before Thor returns home to Asgard to square off with Loki, but other than that it’s free of any ‘gratuitous naughty bits’.  Kind of refreshing, actually.  Most films these days either have a heavy sex scene, or strategically placed boobs and/or butts.  I’m glad to say that someone out there still believes that a solid, entertaining, well-crafted movie can be made free of what sadly have become genre stereo-types.  Okay, yes, we did see Hemsworth without his shirt, but that was…integral to the plot.  (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

Bifrost is broken making it very difficult to get to Midgard (Earth), but in a side note there are other portals and other ways to get around the 9 realms and get to Earth. I’m sure we’ll see about that in “Thor 2”, which is scheduled for release some time in 2013. does have a listing up for it, and for the most part the original cast is back for part 2.  I have seen a little intel about the production, and apparently they had been having trouble nailing down a director for it.  The first couple bowed out due to "artistic differences”.  Branagh was approached about directing the second since he had directed the first, but it appears that he declined because of the short production schedule the studio is giving it. I’ll be curious to see who finally lands the gig.  One thing I am wary of is the reported “short production schedule”. I like the first one so much.  I hope that a fast shooting schedule doesn’t translate to a less than acceptable sequel. Unfortunately, that seems to have become the norm with sequels.  Knocking wood… 

You may still think that I left something out of my above critiques.  You would be right.  I didn’t really say much about “The Hulk”.  Not a thing about either film.  The first was terrible…couldn’t sit through it.  The second was a bit better, but…couldn’t sit through it.  I will eventually see the second one with Ed Norton playing Bruce Banner/Hulk.  Until that time I’ll refrain from comment on it. 

("The Avengers" director, Joss Whedon, and Chris Hemsworth as "Thor")
Next up is “The Avengers”.  I am waiting patiently for the DVD release, so I can watch it in the comfort of my own home.  No sticky floors, or too small seats.  No big heads in my way.  With that cast, and Joss Whedon directing (big fan since the “Buffy” days), I know it’s going to be great.  I mean, come on.  It has THOR in it!!!  *grin*    
Here are some links to IMDB pages related to the films in this post...past, present, and future...for those interested:  

THOR 2 (Pre-Production ~ 2013)

IRON MAN 3 (Filming ~ 2013)

CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 (Announced ~ 2014)

AVENGERS 2 (Announced ~ ????)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Solstice / Midsummer...2012...

("The Sun", Artist:  Stephanie Pui-Mun Law)
The Summer Solstice is officially here as of 7:09 PM/EST, on Wednesday, June 20th.  Since we are at a Solstice, that means the Sun is at it's farthest point north of the Equator.  As I am in the northern hemisphere, we are about to experience our "Northern Solstice".  We are experiencing summer while the southern hemisphere experiences winter.  The opposite will happen when the Earth repositions for the "Southern Solstice". What exactly does 'Solstice' mean?  There are two derivations from Latin:  A) 'Sol' (Sun) + 'Sistere' (to stand still);  B) 'Sol' (Sun) + 'Stitium' (to stop).  They both pretty much mean the same thing, so take your pick.

The seasons change as the Earth spins away on its axis at an angle of 23.5 degrees, following its slightly elliptical orbit around the burning Sun. (If Gaia didn't have that tilt, we wouldn't have the seasonal shifts.  I shudder to think what that would be like.)  The Sun's position during the Solstice will have it following directly along the Tropic of Cancer.   

Also, the Arctic Circle will experience 24 hours of sunlight, and on the flip-side, Antarctica will experience 24 hours of darkness.  If I had to pick between a full day of light and a full day of dark, I would pick the dark.  Hands down.  The end result of the Earth's position in relation to the position of the Sun is the year's longest day, with the shortest and brightest night of the year.

This yearly event also has world wide celebrations associated with it.  Many of them pagan in origin.  The Summer Solstice is the mid-point of summer, when the Sun reaches it's peak and then the days gradually start to shorten into the Autumn and Winter months.  Many refer to this day as Midsummer, for that reason.  The pagan 'Wheel of the Year' focuses on eight festivals or 'Sabbats', mainly comprised of the years' Solstices and Equinoxes as observed by Modern Paganism and Wicca. The yearly cycle follows a pattern that is mirrored by the changing seasons:  birth, life, decline, death.  There are four solar days on the ‘Wheel’, Midsummer/Litha being one of them.  As Midsummer is the mid-point,  Beltane is the beginning of summer, and Lammas/Lughnasadh is the end of summer. 

(Left:  Calendula; Right:  St. John's Wort)
The day means different things to different cultures, but the more universal of themes are fertility and first harvests. Yellow/golden flowering plants such as Calendula and St. John’s Wort are harvested on Midsummer night. Both are said to have healing powers and their effects are heightened when harvested on Litha night in the moonlight.  Fire Festivals are also common at Midsummer and Litha celebrations.  Evil spirits are said to roam free on this night, and the fires are burned for protection.  

(Midsummer Bonfire)
Different countries celebrate any time from June 21st, to about June 24th.  Whatever the nature of your celebration of Midsummer, whether it’s a traditional pagan celebration or just getting out to soak up some of the special Sun, Happy Midsummer Blessings!
Just a few great photos of Summer Solstice celebrations that I came across.  Thought I would share them.  I'm not sure who took the picture on top, but the other two are credited to National Geographic (the links for those had expired).

(Druids at Stonehenge)
(Summer Solstice Rave at the Zugarramurdi Witch's Cave, Spain)

(Summer Solstice Festival lantern lighting-Poznan, Poland)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Moon in Gemini...June 19, 2012...

("Gemini", Artist:  Soa Lee /

Tuesday, June 19th, is the next New Moon in the sign of Gemini.  It will peak at 11:03 AM/EST.  New Moons are times for new beginnings, but how you approach any new plans or projects is key.  For this next cycle, a logical approach is recommended.  You might encounter some difficulties, as well.  However, they don’t have the potential of being as hard to deal with as they have been. 

The Gemini Moon squares Mars in Virgo, and the connection spells ‘tension’.  Other aspects to the Moon will help slacken things a bit, but there could be some mental and emotional challenges on the horizon.  There is great potential for arguments.  Opposing views are a common source of tense energy, so it’s important to try to take the higher road and look at both sides of an issue.  Respect and flexibility are always advisable in situations, and they are doubly important through the next couple of weeks.  Gemini can fuel nervous energy, so be as direct as you can in expressing your side of things.  Kick confusion to the curb.  As Mars moves beyond retrograde, you’ll feel motivational energies gradually start to pick up again.

Saturn is getting ready to station direct on the 25th, so it’s at a virtual standstill.  It might be prudent to sit on things that are giving you difficulty, so you can take a fresh run at them in July.  Saturn in Libra Trines the New Moon, and Neptune in Pisces does, as well.  This is creating a sort of celestial energy crap shoot…while some will be able to show some fruits from their labors, others might be opening the proverbial can of worms.  Libran Saturn and Venus in Gemini, will both be direct, and Mercury will be moving into Leo.  If you can’t put something on hold, move forward with logic rather than emotion.  Stick to facts; act with respect; compromise if necessary.  (General rules we should always carry with us into any situation.)

Mercury in Cancer will be Sextile Mars in Virgo.  To help with communication issues, you might want to choose to exercise compassion.  Also, Mercury is making a rather tense connection to Saturn in Libra retrograde.  The mind can create unnecessary limitations for one’s self.  Past experiences can have a heavy hand in that.  Change things up, weed out those old nuggets of salient information, and move forward with the wisdom of past lessons to guide you.  View things from a fair and balanced perspective, and clarity of the situation will come.  Note that Mercury is blocked by a Square to Libran Saturn, another indication to steer clear of the emotional.  Even when bolstered by facts, an emotional approach will most likely meet with a cool reaction.

Jupiter in Gemini Squares Piscean Neptune.  This tells us it’s best not to do anything major.  Just as this cycle says to hold off on any new ventures that can wait, you might want to also hold off on making any major financial moves.  If feeling the need to make a purchase, really take a hard look at what is being offered.  Be sure that you’re getting what you’re paying for. 

("Gemini", Artist:  David Palladini)
Now that Jupiter is in Gemini, no planets will be in fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Aquarius, Scorpio) until Mercury moves into Leo, July 25th (the same day as Saturn goes direct).  Then the only planets in Earth signs will be Pluto in Capricorn, and Mars in Virgo.  During this transitional period, caution is suggested.  Don’t promise anything you can’t back up, and approach things with humor.  Don’t take things too seriously.

Venus is still retrograde in Gemini, and is closely aligned with a Square between Uranus in Aries, and Pluto in Capricorn.  This is not a good time for starting any new/serious relationships, and it’s not advisable to force current relationships to move quicker. 

Gemini is about mental stimulation.  With this New Moon’s energy, start what you must, but hold off on anything else until at least the 27th.  Take the initiative started by the continuing energies of the solar eclipse to help resolve any past issues.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Just In: 12/21/2012 Update...

(Mayan ruins in Guatemala)
It has been awhile since I did any looking around regarding our impending doom as is supposedly laid down in the Mayan calendar.  I have noticed an increase in the number of hits my previous posts about the dread day are getting, and the six month countdown is on the horizon.  Seemed like the time was ripe for an update.

  • "Four long numbers on the north wall of the ruined house relate to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun, and possibly Venus and Mars; the dates may stretch some 7,000 years into the future. These are the first calculations Maya archaeologists have found that seem to tabulate all of these cycles in this way. Although they involve common multiples of key calendar and astronomical cycles, the exact significance of these particular spans of time is not known."  ~ USA Today, 5/10/2012

This just in...well, as of May of this Mayan calendar information has been found in Guatemalan Mayan ruins.  An archaeology student from Boston University found the paintings in ruins of a home, and archaeology professor, William Saturno, found the wall entries during the excavation of the site.Certain people are saying that Doomsday is imminent in the next six months. That the Maya say so, and that makes it true.  No 'ifs', 'ands', or 'buts'.

Nothing is ever that cut and dry.  

This more recent news makes absolute sense to me. Maybe on it's face the Mayan calendar can be interpreted to say 'the end of times is coming', but I think what is laid down in the 'Eagle Bowl' is meant in more abstract terms.  If one looks hard enough, there is information out there that talks about the whole 12/21/2012 concept in abstract terms, too.  Think more 'end of an age', rather than 'end of the world'.

If the world were to end as the Dooms-dayists are saying, that would be letting the human race off too easy. The world is a mess right now.  Here in the US, things are in the proverbial "crapper".  To my mind, what happens in the next six months dictates how we enter the next 'age'.  That's on a collective level.  I think we can also dictate things on a more personal level, too.  We each have the personal power to use in laying the brick work of our own paths.  Life over all is many layered.  It is up to humans on an individual and a group level to create the steps we make in moving forward.  We can either move in a positive and enlightened way, or make the ride a lot rougher by allowing the negative to take deeper root.  

Will the new evidence change any of the panicky minds out there?  Maybe some.  At the very least, it offers some food for thought.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lightning In My Hand...

Also known as Midsummer and Litha, the Summer Solstice is less than two weeks away.  June 20th will mark the shortest and brightest night of the year. Many things signal the arrival of Summer.  Chiefly, the longer days, and accompanying warmth of the burning Sun.  When I was young, there were a number of things that I associated with the Summer months.  Having a three month break from the mental exercises of school was a big one, but it was the doorway to so much more.  Computers weren't a part of the average household then.  I used to spend a great deal of time outside.  Riding my bike; exploring forest trails; building tree forts with my friends.

My favorite time of the day was late afternoon, when the day was giving way to the evening.  The calm slowly dimming time of twilight, when the Sun disappears beyond the horizon.  The Moon would rise in it's place, and the sparkling pinpricks of the stars would pepper the blue black felt of the night sky.  It was as the Moon rose to start it's shift that one of my biggest memories of Summers in the South occurred.  Like a sprinkling of fairy light spinning in the air, the Lightning Bugs would come out to play.

I grew up calling them 'Lightning Bugs', but others may know them as 'Fireflies'.  They were so magical.  I have great memories of running barefoot across blankets of cool grass, reaching for the small slowly moving balls of light.  I would grab the air born insects easily, and place them in a clean pickle jar.  Air holes would always be punched in the lid, although I never kept them in the glass prison long.  Just for a little while, so I could study their brilliant glow. My mother told me that when she was young, she and her friends would catch them like I had.  When the bugs "tails" lit up again, they would pinch them off and make rings out of the lights.  That didn't appeal to me much.  I was more of a 'catch and release' Lightning Bug trapper.  I am sure that I may have caused the occasional bug casualty, but it was never intentional.

The west coast doesn't have Lightning Bugs.  I missed them while living out there.  Now that I have been living back in the South, I have kept my eyes peeled in the evenings hoping to catch a glimpse of the 'fairy lights'. Apparently, there are 56 different species of the bugs in Georgia alone, the most of any state in the US.  I have found a little evidence online of Lightning Bug sightings in the Savannah area, but of the few mentions, most said that they think the Firefly population has been killed off in the attempts of mosquito control. Mosquito's are definitely a problem here.  During the warmer times of the year, any time I visit marsh side for some photos, I get set upon by a cloud of the blood suckers.  Even the most potent of 'bug off' sprays hasn't kept them away.  I suppose if I have to choose mosquito control over the lives of the Lightning Bugs, I'll have to reluctantly choose the mosquito control.

I was being a bit nostalgic earlier today, thinking about my early summers here in Georgia.  That got me thinking about Lightning Bugs, which then got me to wondering.  Are Lightning Bugs and Fireflies the same thing?  The answer is "yes".  There are a number of species, over 150 in the US.  They go by a number of names.  As already mentioned, they are called Lightning Bugs, and Fireflies.  They also have the name Moon Bug (I like that one), and Golden Sparkler.  In Japanese, they are 'Hotaru'.  The French call them 'Luciole', and Jamaicans call them 'Blinkies'.

(This is the type I'm accustomed
to seeing)
'Fireflies' aren't actually flies, they are a type of Beetle.  The ones that take wing and fly are the males, and they outnumber the flightless females about 50 to 1.  An interesting thing about the various species is that they all have different 'flash patterns'. A kind of natural Morse code that allows the males and females of a species to find one another.  The males who are ready to mate fly around flashing their distinct signal, and the females acknowledge that they are ready to 'receive' by flashing back at them.

How are they able to light themselves up?  They produce a substance in their abdomen called Luciferin.  The bioluminescence is a reaction of its oxidation. First, the enzyme Luciferase acts as the trigger; second, Oxygen acts as fuel; third, a common compound found in both plant and animal cells, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) converts it to energy causing the mixture to light up. The light produced doesn't give off any heat.

(Firefly Larva)
These beautiful little night lights also have a "dark" side.  Of course, they wouldn't be any danger to me or any of the other people that enjoy catching them in their hand, but Lightning Bugs are carnivorous.  It isn't unheard of for a female bug to send a false signal out to an unsuspecting male of another species.  When a male falls for the charade and answers the call, the female attacks him making him her nights dinner. They also look on slugs and worms as a delicacy.  When a female lays her eggs, she places them on or under soil.  4 weeks later they hatch.  The larvae then look for food.  They are good at detecting the trails left by slugs, and sometimes crawl along the path until they find their prey.  A numbing fluid is injected to subdue their meal.  It's actually the larvae that are known as Glow Worms.  Interesting to know that the catchy old song by the great Johnny Mercer, "Glow Worm", is about a rather creepy creature.

Not to mention the Glow Worm doll that was popular years ago.  How many of the kids snuggling up to their cute little "Glo Worm" friend had any idea of what the real thing looks like?

("Glo Worm" doll,
c. 1986, HASBRO)
The season for Lightning Bugs in Georgia is July thru August.  The lifespan of the bugs is about 2 months, so in the grand scheme, their season is quite short.  Who knows?  When July arrives, maybe I'll make an evening pilgrimage inland from the coast, and away from mosquito land.  Maybe then I'll get to have a nostalgic 'fairy light' encounter.