Monday, March 31, 2008

Seeing Double?

It is not very often that someone from my generation gets to see a film of my parent's generation on the big screen. Thankfully, there are some people out there in this great big world who see fit to restore and archive some of these movie masterpieces for the enjoyment of future generations. And then there are the beautiful old movie theatres that have it in their hearts to show them.

Such is the case with San Francisco's Castro Theatre, a magnificent old movie house from the 1920's, where the missus and I had the rare opportunity to see Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic, "Vertigo". The film, probably my favorite of Hitchcock's, stars Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Kim Novak in a tale of deceit, fear, treachery, murder, and of course, love. Sort of. I won't ruin any of the surprises Hitchcock is famous for, but it is easy to say that all is not as it seems, and Hitchcock leaves you biting your nails until the very last seconds of the film.

The Castro Theatre has developed a reputation for showing a great many restored classic films, and is the home of the annual Noir City Film Festival, a week showcasing some of the best old noir films, many of which have never been seen anywhere since their original theatrical release. The theatre keeps a steady schedule of programs, mostly single day releases, ranging from Opera to silent films, dramas from years past, and totally geeked out sci-fi double and triple features.

Highlights of the upcoming programs include: A "Blue Velvet" and "Something Wild" double feature, an "Explorers", "Aliens" and "Dark Star" sci-fi triple feature, a silent film triple feature of "Sherlock Jr.", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", and "Nosferatu" accompanied by the Club Foot Orchestra, and my personal Can't Miss, the double feature of "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven".

For all upcoming shows, show times, ticket information, and history of the grand Castro Theatre, visit The Castro Theatre Website.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jesus Christ: The Teenage Years

What was Jesus like as a kid? Or as teenager? Of course, we all know the story of how he was born, and many know the stories of him teaching at the temples. But what happened after that? What happened to basis of western theology between the ages of 13 and 30?

Well, these are questions we may never have answers to, but Christopher Moore has some interesting ideas. "Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" is a humorous, and of course fictitious account of the life of Christ as told by his best friend Levi who goes by the nickname Biff. The story follows Joshua, (Jesus is Greek for Joshua) and Biff as they search for direction on how Joshua is supposed to be the Messiah. Joshua knows, of course, that he is special, that his father is not Joseph but God, and that he is meant to be the savior of all man-kind. It seems to be kind of a tall order for a young Jewish kid.

Biff gives us this account after being resurrected himself and given the gift of tongues in order to tell his story in modern vernacular. He is forced to stay in a hotel room with an unpleasant angel while he writes his account, learning along the way how drastically the world has changed, and how far we have fallen. While he works on writing his story, Biff covertly reads the New Testament of the Bible, constantly questioning why the people who wrote it omitted so much of Christ's life, including omitting him.

Biff's story tells of his and Josh's journey from Nazareth into the east in search of the three wise men who paid him a visit as an infant. The two reasoned that if anyone would have the answers to how Joshua is meant to be the Messiah, it would be these men. These wise men, it turns out, are in turn a mystic, a Buddhist Monk, and a Hindu Yogi, each of whom have their own unique lessons to teach the son of God, and of course his best friend.

These lessons that take Joshua and Biff far into the east and keep them away from home for almost twenty years teach them, and us, one very important idea: That the true ideals of Christianity are not far removed from the philosophies of the Eastern world. From the mystic they learned the three jewels of the Tao: Compassion, Moderation, and Humility. From the Buddhist monk, they learned the value of losing the attachment to ego and the peace of silent meditation. From the Hindu Yogi, they learned spiritual and physical discipline, along with the search for the Divine Spark (later to be renamed the Holy Ghost by Joshua.)

Along the way, the pair find themselves in countless situations crafted by Moore to pepper the stories with humor, and they are all genuinely funny; although a childhood spent attending church and Sunday school each Sunday helps you get the irony of many situations. A couple in particular stand out: While with the Buddhist monks, Joshua and Biff are taught Kung-Fu, which Biff masters quickly and becomes a finely tuned killing machine. Joshua, however, forbids himself from learning how to hurt people, so the monks create a martial art just for him, a system of defense and counter attacks they call Jew-Do, or the "Way of the Jew".

Anyway, you get the picture. For those of you out there that might be gasping in horror and thinking this is blasphemy and how dare someone write a funny story about the life of Christ, don't start sharpening your axes just yet. This is fiction, a story, the creation of some one's vivid imagination. To be fair, when it counts, Christopher Moore gets it right. But the author does admit in his afterward, probably as a preventative measure, how much of a work of imaginative fiction this book really is.

Moore writes in his afterward, "The book you just read is a story. I made it up. It is not designed to change any one's beliefs or worldview, unless after reading it you've decided to be kinder to your fellow humans (which is okay)..." and "While I've made some attempt to paint an accurate picture of the world in which Christ lived, I changed things for my own convenience, and sometimes, obviously, there was no way of knowing what conditions really existed in the years 1 through 33."

The book is fun, it is funny, and a worthy read. Especially for someone who grew up learning the stories in the Bible and wondering quietly what happened to the stories of when Jesus was growing up? It paints a full and heartfelt picture of who Jesus was and how he grew up to become Jesus Christ.

By the way, if you can get your hands on it, find yourself the Special Gift Edition of this book. It is bound to look like the Bible, complete with gold leaf in the cover lettering and around the edges of the pages, and even the silk ribbon bookmark attached to the books spine. The only thing missing are the maps of the holy land inside the front and back covers.

His Final Journey

Ladies and gentlemen, the world has lost a great mind. Yesterday, March 19th, 2008 Arthur C. Clarke died at the age of 90 years young. Clarke, best known for his book "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the Stanley Kubrick movie adaptation, was a prolific science fiction writer whose career spanned over fifty years.

Clarke not only composed an astounding body of work, but his imagination helped create many of the things used in space exploration today. He was a great believer in the fantastic; he knew that no matter how far-fetched his stories may be, some day they would be surpassed. Arthur C. Clarke's imagination and drive for exploring the unknown have been an inspiration to generations of science fiction fans, explorers, and star gazers alike.

Mr. Clarke, your beautiful mind and amazing imagination will be missed. Good luck on your final and greatest journey.