Sunday, August 30, 2009

My last two weeks.

So, as some have you will no doubt know if you read Nicole's Blog, or talk to me at all, or have secretly been stalking me, I have been up in Ovoca for the last two weeks. The first week was working as a "Junior leader" (which admittedly sounds a little pants, like we'd have to wear badges or something, but it was actually quite the awesome) at a 10-12s camp ran by our very own Andrew Gill. The second week was RAW (Real Authentic Warriors), a 16-21's camp which would turn out to be also quite the awesome. But firstly!

In the weeks and days running up to the camp, we had some get-togethers and barbecues, which was a pretty good idea on Andrew's part, his camps always have a real personal, bonding kinda feel to them. We did some videos (video) in preparation for the camp's theme: "Road Trip!". We made some signs, and then we finished it all off with a barbecue with some severely undercooked chicken. Blood gurgled up through the skin once you took a bite. I'd much rather have overcooked than undercooked. Eve would be at this camp, and we once dated, but I wasn't really as anxious about this situation as I would have thought I would have been.

Mise:"Ooooh, hey, can I have some gum?"
Eve:"NO! NEVER! YoubrokemyheartandIllneverforgiveyouforwhatyoud- Yeah, ok, here's some gum! :)"

She's a strange sort of lass. Really.

It is on these notes of day-to-day doldrums that this camp began on. No crowning achievements or sorrows to be brought with me, only my stumbling, continuous steps towards Christ and all he's about.

I forgot to bring my Aperture Laboratories Mug, I'm sad to say. We opened up with some Xbox and lazing around, which was good times for all, it's a real honor to see Nicole grow in her shmaaad xbox skillz, and a joy as always to be "That guy" who plays the game too much and wins most rounds. Campers soon arrived, and nicknames were in need of creation. Most everybody had a name picked out at this stage, but I was still flailing about trying to think of one. And then I thought of one. "Faceplant". You need a facebook account to follow that link, but I would reccomend following it, because it involves me landing on my face, which is good times for everyone, really. The trick is to jump, and roll. I remembered to jump. And then I landed on my face. And then it went on the internet. The next logical progression is that someone makes a dance remix out of it, but that hasn't happened yet (thankfully).

I was assigned to be a leader under the supervision of Ruben Tita, a good friend of mine who is usually a complete messer! I'd have to say he was probably the most "interesting" leader at that camp, so I was looking forward to working with him with eager hesitance, if that makes sense. I was assigned 3 kids who I've led before, from my church youth group that I help out at, as well as some new ones I hadn't met before. For once, I was actually pretty good at names, which is a marked improvement from this time last year when I had a notepad and went around writing people's names and general hairstyle and colour down in a notepad. Marked improvement.

Camp went well, I do actually quite enjoy leading of the children people, although it was really very tiring. I agreed with my group (whose names I memorized after about two days, I'm pleased to say! I like to think Jesus is giving me the skillz I need.) to get in the plunge pool with them in the morning (which would earn our team double points). But only if they went to sleep without staying up until three in the morning being loud and noisy and all it is that 10-12 year old children naturally do. This agreement lasted about half the week, before I just could not get myself up in the morning to do it. I think it was for the best though. I have a tendency to overwork myself in certain situations, and it really wasn't good for me. I felt like a canvas washed clean of it's painting, ready to have whatever scribblings my tired and doubt-ridden mind wished to scrawl.

And it is on those notes that I hit the mid point of the week, tired, stressed, and tired. I have this habit of usually worrying about things. That sounded redundant. Here is an example of how my mind works at it's worst.

Are you sitting on a chair? Ok. How long will that chair keep you up for? Sure, it's holding you up now, but for all you know, it could collapse at any second. You don't know everything there is to know about that chair. Quick! Get out and check it, try to make it better, even if only for your own peace of mind.

Said line of thinking troubles me in multiple aspects of life, from relationships to the future to myself, to who I want to be, to decisions, just loads of stuff, I guess. I don't like not knowing things, because then I'm afraid I'll do something wrong, and I don't like doing stuff wrong. So I get it in my head that if I think (worry) about it enough, I'll find the answers I'm looking for, and then I won't have to do anything wrong. Not very clever, but that's where I was at emotionally as the camp sat around the bonfire that evening, with group singing and good times for all (most).

"The leaders all act so differently. How am I supposed to know how I'm supposed to lead? What Am I supposed to do? I don't want to lead them astray."
*Everywhere we go-oh!*
*Everywhere we go-oh!*
"Eugh, what a freaking messed up concept to begin with, not knowing how to act. It's paralyzing. There's so many different people I could be, and I don't know who I want to be. Are some of them wrong?"
*people wanna know-oh!*
*people wanna know-oh!*
"Should I even be leading if I'm uncertain about these things?"
*Who we aaa-re!*
*Who we aaa-re!*"
"That kid's messing. If I punish him, he'll stop. If I reprimand him, he might also stop. If I leave him be, he might keep going or stop. If I encourage him, he'll continue. Should he stop? He's not hurting anybody. Yet. That could change, the messing could spread and get worse. What should I do? Please, someone else, do something. (Someone stopped him messing :P)"
*And where do we come from*
*And where do we come from*
"Oooh, hot chocolate"
*So we tell them*
*So we tell them*
"Just stare at the fire. 'What? No, I'm fine, thanks.'"
*We're from Ovoca!*
*We're from Ovoca!*
"I think I'd rather be anywhere than here right now. I just want to run away and come back sorted so I don't have to feel this way."
*Happy happy Ovoca!*
*Happy happy Ovoca!*
"I think I might cry."
*And if they can't hear us?*
*And if they can't hear us?*
"Don't run away. Stay here. It's hard, but you're of use. Just stick it out, things will get better. *sigh*"

Yes, I was not a very happy bunny that evening. I actually did end up just curling up under the stairs and crying that evening, which probably isn't a very pretty mental picture for people, but that's life! In fairness, I think it's safe to say that my plight was 3 parts actual problem and 2 parts tiredness, but all the same, that's how I felt at the time.

The next night was better. The next day went well, I started skipping plunge pool and excercise in favor of sleeping, to alleviate aforementioned tiredness. The day went as usual, until the evening, when me and Ruben had to put the kids to bed. We were pacing back and forth as usual, dishing out the occasional "Shh!" Where needed, And I sat down on one of unused beds for silent prayer and thought, which is all there really is to do in a dark room. I thought back to my youth, when I was just a kid. I remembered my first babysitter, Steven. He was a good guy. I remembered being at that age when even knowing one of "The big kids" was a tremendous privilege of trembling honor. Let alone having one take interest in you and joke and play games with you! Even in his free time, he always kept an eye out for me and my brother. At barbecues and other neighborhood gatherings of that kind, he'd make a note of coming and seeing how we were doing. I remembered asking him for tips on how to get past a tough level in Legend of Zelda, I even remembered what he smelt like. Which might sound strange, but to a young boy, even the smell of a human in transience from boy to man was something of wonder and intrigue.

And now, I was 18. I was in Steven's shoes. They were me. The leaders I met at my first 13-15's, I was them. In their place. In their power and ability and rank and privilege. Just by being me. Even though the kids were kinda crazy from time to time, I realized that I was now given the opportunity, the tremendous opportunity to be that force in these kids lives. A force of positivity, each interaction having the possibility to leave a mark on that child, good or bad. The power to be memorable to them, maybe even one day for them to look back in my position and see that cycle of growth and life. I was overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness to God for this, all of it. Joy at seeing how each of us leaders had this ability, thankfulness for being given such a truly amazing opportunity, and to be honest, a certain ease at realizing Steven probably didn't have his life sorted when he babysat us either. I just continually bowed and thanked God in my head for how this moment had touched my heart, it was a real eye-opener and heart-softener for me. Kids the next day commented on how I had been so sneaky, hiding between the beds. I rallied my courage and explained to them the situation of my thankfulness. The words I said left them contemplative, and I felt a certain triumph.

Many other things happened that week, but this is the bulk of them. And I think if I dragged this post out any longer, it'd reach the sun. There's my first week.

Friday, August 7, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

So, I just got back from seeing the above, ticket paid courtesy of my dear old dad, who occaisionally pays for cinema tickets, from time to time, when we're going as a family. Spoilers to follow.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" has about all the subtlety and attraction of an explosion in tight-fitting spandex. That's not really much of a metaphor either, because about half of the movie is either an explosion or tight-fitting spandex. We sat down to watch it, due to my brother's interest. "If only to see how much they it up", as he said. I sat down, knowing this was going to just be an action flick, and well, that was pretty much what I got.

The characters are about as simple as it gets, character development is about as linear as railroad tracks, though you can see they did at least attempt an effort, insofar as to loosely leave a sticky note saying: "Yeah, yeah, we know. But at least there's explsions, right?". The only real non-exploding plot there is is the mysterious, yet frankly predictable relationship between the male protagonist and the female antagonist. There's a token twist here and there, but it's all fairly predictable. 

And the movie is stupid. Really, really, really stupid. Like, about as clever and rational as something by Jack Chick. Weapons wielded by the good guys and bad guys really only function as the plot needs them to. Example: In the beginning, the bad guys, who can only really be described as an army of mooks based on the "Army of Two". They are impervious, unstoppable, bullet-proof killing machines, armed with Some sort of sonic weapon that can overturn army humvees, and oddly, cause explosions for no real justifiable reason. Now, I turn to my main man Newton's third law: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Shots from these guns can flip transports weighing tons and tons, yet there is no kickback. I have fired a gun, before, ladies and gentlemen, and I can tell you, even the modest .22 calibre gives a little nudge when fired. About 15 minutes into the movie, I realised that there had been about 30 explosions in about 2 minutes, so I knew what I was getting myself into.

But then, the GI Joe team come in to save the day, with what one can only presume is some sort of superior bullets, because these previously impervious badasses now start getting gunned down left, right, and centre. But not before seriously threatening and nearly killing the only female member of the team, just to keep that masculine vibe going.

Later on, after some flashbacks, the bad guys invade the good guys' base, ninjas fight, turns out the ninjas are brothers or something, yadda yadda yadda, and once again, we see those sonic weapons. But now, our lovely protagonists can withstand a full-force shot from one of those to the chest and just shrug it off. Didn't those things cause explosions? Cripes!

Then, we go to Paris, and the bad guys have some nanoweapon thing. The good guys get some fancy exoskeleton suits, and start chase. They literally tear through the streets chasing this other car, crushing cars, buildings, and more cars as they go on their merry jog through the capital of France. Then, they take out miniguns and freaking open fire on the bad guys' car in the middle of the street. The main character feels massive regret over the death of one of his soldiers' deaths four years ago, but hey! Don't worry about that little 6-year old girl you clipped in the shoulder with a stray shot, no sir-ee! Little Franchesca will be just fine, and don't worry about all the car wrecks you caused, they're fine. And that building you just "Made a door" with? Don't worry about the collateral damage! Their insurance policy covers "FREEDOM"! 
I can't help but feel that someone on the team was slyly trying to make some political commentary on America's problems with foreign policy. Oh, and the Eiffel Tower gets destroyed by the nanoweapon. But who cares! It wasn't the statue of liberty. Then again, maybe they really did care, what with launching explosive missles and opening gattling guns in civilian areas, I mean, that nanoweapon could have destroyed a building or something! 

And then, right at the end, after all's said and done and we've gotten through all the flashbacks and character development and quickly-tied up romances, we find ourselves in the COBRA base, underneath the polar ice caps! But gasp! They're going to issue a self-destruct sequence! They're going to... 'Blow the icecap'? That must be code for setting off explosives in the base. Ah yes, it's showing a flashing screen of the base. Wait, but it's just lighting up a bunch of little red dots around the ice sheet above the base. Wait. Please, please no. No. No. Please don't. Yes, yes you are. But... Ugh. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they're going to blow up the ice above the underwater base, and the ice will then fall and crush the base. Yes. That's right. The icecaps above the water will sink to the bottom, crushing the base. I found myself involuntarily cringing at this flagrant upheaval of not only science, but basic common sense. Ice. Floats. What in the name of Cthulhu was holding it up before? Hope? Steel Girders? The Kyoto protocol? I could feel Al Gore's heart silently break as I saw the polar icecaps sink underwater, defying a lesson anyone has learned when the put ice in a glass of water. 


All that said, the movie had good action sequences. Yes, they did play up the fact they had two attractive-looking young ladies on the cast, but thankfully, they didn't sink to the frankly shameful depths of Transformers 2 with Megan Fox. Genuinely, most of the effects were fairly jaw-dropping, at least a few times, and the action sequences were quite intense, with a balanced blend of generic japanese swordplay, some cool gunfights, and yes, the aformentioned explosions every 5 minutes. Truth be told, I thought it was better than Transformers 2. Truth be told, I thought it was just beneath Harry Potter 6. It's got about no plot, cardboard cutout characters (for the most part, though there's the occaisional twist), but if your dad's paying for the ticket, then turn off your brain, sit down, turn off your brain, get ready for some explosions, turn off your brain, and enjoy the cheesy one-liners, entertaining action, and EXPLOSIONS.

They've got ninjas!

-Ka-BOOM! -The Demoman, Team fortress 2.