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Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

As I mentioned in the last post, it was Jo’s birthday. I survived the caning I received for telling her age, but other than that I have come out of it relatively unscathed.

We did go see Hidden Figures. What a moving picture! I was born in 1952 and even though I grew up during the age of segregation, I was basically naive. My mother was not a segregationist by any stretch so I was taught all people were worth something. I was never allowed to use the “n” word in her presence, nor was I allowed to make fun of any handicapped person. (Kids can be cruel you know?) I grew up living in the projects, low income housing units built for the steel workers in the 20s, I believe. Improvements had been made but I was still a son-of-the-projects.  I look back now and remember the separate housing units for the black people (that’s one of the names they were called. That and colored people). But I can also look back and realize some of my friends were black kids. I played sports with them. I went to school with them. I was affected by, but in the dark when the riots of ’69-70 hit home to my little town of West Mifflin, PA. I grew up in a high school that was about 1/3 black so I was not out of sorts like so many whites and blacks were. In fact, while former friends were fighting and calling each other names outside before school, I stood inside with Jeff Goldblum (yes him…a Jew); John, a white Catholic; Bruce, a black with concert violinist aspirations; and me, a white Christian. So I knew of difficulty with the races but isolated myself against it.

The movie, Hidden Figures, showed the ugliness and inequality of the whole racial situation. It was, to me, a blight on our country…to think of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves as basically a non-event in our nation’s history. I was struck by the way people were treated.

If I were you, I would make plans to see the movie. Go prepared to get angry. Go also with Kleenex because there are both happy/laughing moments, and also weepy moments. Above all, go prepared to be struck by the reality of God’s love for every individual…no matter the race or color.


Monday, August 8th, 2016

Slavery is an ugly thing. The Civil War is an ugly thing (not glamorous at all). The KKK might be ugliest of it all.

This movie is not just about slavery. Friday night, Jo and I went to our local theater to watch Free State of Jones. I had seen a trailer of it and thought it looked interesting. She saw the trailer recently and thought she would also like to see it. So we had a “date.”

The movie is based on a true story-the story of Newton Knight, a deserter from the Confederate Army. Hunted by local law “enforcement” people, he is taken to the swamp where he finds a “home” and others like him, mostly black slaves running for their freedom. Eventually that small motley crew becomes a commune of like-minded people (fellow deserters, runaway slaves and women) who for one reason or another are disenchanted with the Confederate army. They declare Jones County (and several others) as a free state.

The movie was long (about 2hr, 19 min) but it moved quickly. While there was some violence & gore (mostly at the beginning due to a battle scene and hospital…think Dances with Wolves) and occasional rough language (but not as much as you might expect), we liked the movie. I had a little trouble at first understanding some of the dialogue but it got better. (I like to watch DVDs with closed captions). Be prepared for the ugly part of the KKK. That is a major blight on our country’s radar for sure.

This is not a feel-good movie. It finds its basis in historical fact. IMHO Matthew McConaughey does a superb job as do his supporting actors. Know the limitations (Rated R for gore, some violence, women shooting guns, ugliness of slavery, the “N” word is used profusely as it was back then) and if you can handle them, then go see it (or wait until it comes out on DVD). Many of the professional critics panned it, but then again, what do they know? 🙂


Monday, April 25th, 2016

It has been silent here in Cycleguy’s Spin Land lately. Sort of on purpose. But sort of not.

Ryan, our youth pastor, was gone for almost 17 days to Liberia on a mission trip. I found myself (for some strange reason) busier than normal. Maybe self-imposed…I don’t know. I went to a musical our high school choir did (Beauty and the Beast…a marvelous job). I attended a number of group functions where my presence was requested. I had a memorial service as a favor to a friend. I visited in the nursing home and hospital (part of what I do anyway). I rode my bike and went to the Y.

I also attended a couple movies. Our local theater, the Tivoli, has a throwback Thursday once a month. The movie this month was one of my favorites, Gladiator. I had never seen it on the big screen and Jo had never cared to watch it with me at home. She went with me and liked it! She was also bummed. Her first words to Tami when we got home were (spoiler alert: he died!).  I chuckled.

We also attended two faith-based movies. Two weekends ago we saw “Miracles from Heaven.” I honestly did not know what to expect. I thought it was well-acted. I’m glad “easy answers” weren’t given. Except for the annoying people in the church who said, “You don’t have enough faith” that is. Gr-r-r-r-r-r. I am also shaky on the whole “I went to heaven and met Someone idea” so that would be my only real rub. I thought the movie was excellent and would be a good conversation starter. Oh…bring tissues with you.

This past weekend we saw “God is Not Dead 2.” We both enjoyed this movie. I thought it was better than the first. Why? Because I understood it a whole lot more. The other was more “braniac-ish” (I fall short in that area) as he tried to prove there was a God. #2 was closer to home in that it was like reading the daily media frenzy of someone who speaks up/stands up for their faith. You know…the whole “we want tolerance unless you disagree with us then we will become intolerant” issue. It was well-acted and brought out some good discussion points.

There you have it. Ramblings from a mind that is always spinning. Slow mo sometimes but still spinning. 🙂


Sunday, February 28th, 2016

We often hear “no man is an island.” That is true. I know there are people who think “I need don’t need anyone else.” I believe that person is lying or highly delusional.

I also know life is a series of challenges. To do them alone is not what we were meant to do.

I say those two things because this past Thursday Jo & I saw a movie called 94 Feet, a faith-based movie filmed in Evansville, IN. Friday night we saw The Finest Hours. I’d recommend them both but it is the latter which I’d like to draw lessons from.

It is based on a true event which happened in 1952. You can read more about it here. My purpose here is not be a spoiler or to even really talk about the movie. It is the lessons I took away from it.

First, challenges may seem impossible, and may even mean almost certain death, but meet them head on. You and I face challenges every day. Some do appear insurmountable. Some of those are our own making. Some are put in front of us by God. Face it.

Second, when you have been “called” to do something, follow through. The characters were called to be members of the Coast Guard. This story is about following through.

Third, we will face people who doubt us; who challenge us; who demean us; and who will undercut us by words or actions. Do it anyway.

Fourth, challenges are best faced with people who will support and encourage. We need each other through good and bad times.

Finally, share the spoils. It wasn’t one man who did it. It shouldn’t be one man who gets to reap all the accolades. (Spoiler alert!) The last man off the boat was the hero of the story.

I’d recommend you going to see the movie. IMHO it is much better than it is given credit for. It is intense (action-wise). There is no sex. There are a few swear words but very minimal. Oh…go to the bathroom before the movie starts. There is a lot of water!! 🙂


Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Christmas movies to be exact.

We all have our favorites. Some I wouldn’t walk across the street to see if they offered free admission and popcorn. Perhaps if they offered money to turn around and go back maybe… One of them would be Elf.

But there are certain movies which are Christmas classics. Miracles on 34th Street. Christmas Story (which I am still not fond of except for a scene or two. “Far rar rar rar rah”).

I tend to favor The Santa Clause I & II. Polar Express. White Christmas.

My favorite? Hands down: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And that movie sure had a life of its own. Given up for dead in movie-land during its release, it found an audience years later. George sacrificed himself throughout his whole life-for family and friends- and found himself at the end of his rope. Through the help of a bumbling angel (Clarence), he realizes the greatest gift he had was his life. And what a life it was!

The movie was a dud at the box office in spite of some Academy Award talk. Jimmy Stewart’s performance was too over-the-top. Donna Reed’s portrayal of the wife was too perfect, and the ending of the story too ideal. As happens often the critics were wrong and the story of this “dud of a movie” making its way to the “Best Loved” list is testimony to the fact that time (and TV) changes things.

TV took over. I can remember when TBS must have showed it every day (and seemingly all day) during the month of December. It not only found a second wind but a new audience. Jimmy’s personal credibility helped, but so did the themes of sacrifice, faith, truth, loyalty, honor and “feel good.” People were trying to make sense of a lot of garbage and those themes struck a chord.

Two tidbits:

  • No matter how many times I see the movie, the end (how his friends and family rally to support him) always touches me. We never know the influence our lives have.
  • Our local theater showed it Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend. There were close to 150 people of all ages watching. They laughed. I heard some sniffles. And they clapped when the movie was over!! Only in Spencer…. 🙂

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

For more indepth discussion, check out this book.

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Right off the bat!!! THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS MOVIE about a man who came to Christ and forgave his captors. That literally did happen but don’t go to this movie looking for that scenario. You know…the happily ever after kind.

Second right off the bat. Angelina Jolie is the director and man, has she taken the hits from “Christians” because she did not include said conversion. She does not and did not deserve the criticism.

Okay…now the review.

Unbroken, if you don’t already know, is the story of Louie Zamperini’s experience in the prison camps of Japan. The movie open with a really brief snippet into his “criminal” bent as a child until his brother saw him run. He trained and became a track star, eventually finding himself competing in the 1936 Olympics. There is a far better introduction to his life here. Eventually Louie enlisted in the Army Air Corps and while flying a bombing mission his aircraft, Superman, was badly damaged. With Superman no longer flight-worthy, he was transferred to Hawaii to await further orders. It was while on a search mission that mechanical failures caused the plane to crash land in the ocean. Of the 11 crew members, 3 survived. After being adrift on the ocean-surviving starvation, shark attacks, and a storm-they were taken captive by the Japanese.

The bulk of the movie is spent with Louie enduring unmentionable prison conditions and torture. I will not spoil it for you by telling you about it. I will spoil it by telling you I shed some tears at the end. ‘Nuff said.

You should see this film. Ms. Jolie, IMHO, did an excellent job capturing what she wanted to capture-Louie Zamperini’s prison camp experience. The “Christian” critics have failed to mention the blurbs at the end of the movie which do mention his serious bout with PTSD, his conversion, and his subsequent visits to Japan to forgive his captors.  Make sure you see the blurbs. This is not a film for young children. Prison camp is not Hogan’s Heroes. There are a few swear words, but nothing you probably don’t hear on a daily basis.  (I heard more from the man behind me than in the movie). For the full and complete story you may want to read Laura Hillenbrand’s book, the one the movie was based on.