Friday, May 28, 2010

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (Movie Review)





















All I really know about the “Prince Of Persia” video games is that the first one was way too freakin’ hard for me, so I never bothered with the others. (Though I hear that’s changed.) So I didn’t come into the theater as a fan of the video games, just a fan of fantasy adventure.



Prince Of Persia’s story centers on a young street urchin turned prince who finds himself caught in the middle of treachery within his adopted royal family. He is accused of a murder and is on the run for most of the movie, trying to prove his innocence by unmasking the true culprit and his evil schemes.



There is plenty of adventure to be had as the title character, cleverly played by Jake Gyllenhaal, leaps from roof to wall like an ancient free runner, stopping now and then to engage in fast-paced swordplay. Some of the early action scenes especially are clever in their design and very engaging to watch. Fights are well choreographed, but with no innovation.



The story is straightforward and somewhat predictable. Performances are fine, though these actors were not given much to work with. This is an action-driven movie. Characterization moments are obviously planted in the script, rather than coming through the material naturally. But if you’re a fan of light-hearted adventure with a touch of darkness now and then, you may find this movie has some things in common with the first three Indiana Jones films. Not much meat to the characters, but they serve the plot well.



The special effects are standard quality and not as common in the film as the trailers would have you believe. But they shoot for some pretty big moments near the end that you may find fun to watch. Maybe I’m getting even more jaded toward Hollywood CGI, or maybe I’m just playing too many video games. But when big summer movie effects are no more interesting to my eye than an average video game session, I feel like Hollywood needs to raise the bar. (At least I can interact with those visuals in my video game.) And I’m not convinced 3D is the answer. (Video games are delving into that, too.)



The score is very enjoyable, blending the sounds you’d expect to hear in a fantasy adventure score with an appropriate middle-eastern quality.



I don’t think it’s very likely that many will come away from this movie and have a meaningful discussion about anything of real worth as a result. But I’d still like to draw attention to a couple of pop-spirituality clich├ęs that once again find their way into a Hollywood script.


The first comes near the beginning, when a Persian royal adviser is talking about the kingdom they are about to invade. With disgust in his tone, speaking of their religious beliefs, he says that this kingdom is open to no truth but their own. I understand what he means to convey, but using the word “truth” instead of “ideas” or “beliefs” suggests flexibility to the nature of truth. Yet, truth does not really change and never contradicts itself.


Truth, according to Webster, is that which conforms to fact, or reality. There is no such thing as your truth or my truth. There is only THE truth. One or both of us may conclude wrongly what the truth is. But there is still only one actual truth. A very small, almost unnoticeable bit in the script. But when a word is misused so many times, as “truth” is by Hollywood, we can forget what the word actually means.



Of greater notice are two key moments in the script, one during the resolution of the climax, where we hear the proverb, “a good king listens to counsel, but always follows his heart.” I think a better proverb would be, “a good king listens to counsel, but always uses his best judgment”. Why? Because no one that I know of has ever nailed down what it means to “follow your heart”.


Does that mean follow your instincts? Follow your feelings? Do what you think is right? How do you know what your heart is telling you? The truth is, “follow your heart” really just amounts to “do what you want to do.” And this advice only works when the heart in question is guaranteed to be good and noble.


After all, you never hear characters tell a bad guy to follow their heart. And I don’t mean bad like Darth Vader. I mean bad like Emperor Palpatine. Just bad through and through. We never tell those guys to “follow their hearts”. We might even say they don’t have hearts. As though the heart is some pure untainted compass for life that only the most evil people don’t possess. But Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”


I’ve got a non-Christian friend who laughed in agreement when I pointed her to that verse. She’d had a series of bad dating relationships and said, “That’s right! My heart LIES to me!”



Script writers have complete control and can guarantee that “follow your heart” will always be the best advice for their characters. But in real life, it’s not near that simple.



This movie is a fun ride that never gets emotionally intense. You probably won’t ever grip the edge of your seat, but you may very well enjoy what you’re watching. An exception to the norm for “video game movies”.



Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.


Quality: 8.0/10


Relevance: 7.0/10

"Fly" Almost Finished!

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With the school semester finally over, I am back into (mostly) uninterrupted work in my office. It's been great! I've been working on re-mixing "Fly" this week and have certainly hit my stride. The background track is largely finished and I am going through the vocal track right now to clean it up and decide what effects I want to use. 

As with the other remixes, I'm keeping the general feel of the song the same. Although it has a slightly harder edge to it, the remix of "Fly" maintains the energetic, positive sound of the original. It also has many more percussion layers and a few added fast arpeggios that propel the song forward even more.

I'm pretty sure I won't finish the song today, but it will likely be done by Wednesday of next week!

-Paeter Frandsen



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Untold: Alliances" Available Now For Free!

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(Stock
photo provided by- http://www.nelshael.com)

The Spirit Blade Underground Alliance (a volunteer group supported by spiritblade.net) has just released "Untold: Alliances" an original new audio drama!

In an alternate history earth, filled with magic and
futuristic technology, a disturbing evil has been discovered by the
Theocracy. A tainted military commander is sent to investigate. But will
he be transformed or destroyed in the process?

You can download "Untold: Alliances" and more free audio fiction right now at www.spiritblade.net/alliance !

And as always, you're also invited to join The Alliance and be a part of creating exciting new audio drama!

Enjoy!

-Paeter Frandsen



Monday, May 24, 2010

In Search Of Truth, 2 Corinthians 11:7-15

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In Greek culture at this time, teachers and philosophers were expected to receive payment from patrons. It was considered disgraceful by the upper-class Greeks for a teacher to teach for free and perform manual labor for a living. Although Paul received support from other churches, he did not ask for support from the Corinthian or surrounding Achaean churches. He also helped create income for himself by making tents. (Acts 18:3)

Because money has been abused by church leaders in some cases, we can tend to think that Pastors should not be paid, should be paid very little, or that they are somehow more holy if they do not accept payment. But you may remember that, by contrast, Paul taught that teachers should be paid.(1 Cor. 9:6-12) So why was Paul not taking payment from the church in Corinth?

Paul responds to the accusation that he was doing wrong by preaching for free.(v.7) He even recognized that it was not the normal expectation by saying that he was "robbing" the churches that were supporting him even though it was the Corinthians who were benefiting.(v.8) But he preached for free for just that reason: To benefit the Corinthian church. To avoid being a financial burden to them.(v.9) He also wanted to differentiate himself from the many false teachers in Corinth who were abusing their status for financial gain.(2 Cor. 2:17) And Paul emphatically stated that he would continue to be able to say he took no payment from Corinth or the surrounding Achaean region.(v.10)

So what about Pastors today? Should they be paid or should they volunteer? We've looked at this issue before, so there's no need to exhaustively treat the issue here. But based on the teachings of Paul we've looked at so far and his behavior here, we can say that paying Pastors is right and should be the norm. Some Pastors may choose not to take payment or may be paid very little, but this should only be true when it is of spiritual benefit to those being taught. Once a congregation has grown enough in number and maturity to provide financial support of any kind for their pastor, they should do so.

Verse 11 implies that the Corinthians doubted Paul's love for them, or that his love was being brought into question by some. There are a couple possible reasons for this. The first is that the upper-class Corinthian Greeks would have been embarrassed that their teacher was not "professional" enough to accept payment. To them, Paul may have seemed uncaring about their honor. Another possible reason is that Paul was being inconsistent with the expectation he himself established regarding the payment of preachers. We've already seen that Paul's consistency was being brought into question. (2 Cor. 10:10) To their minds, perceived hypocrisy in teaching might also indicate insincerity in Paul's love for them. In either case, Paul denies insincerity, saying that God (if no one else) knows that Paul genuinely loves them.(v.11)

Paul also commits to continue teaching without pay from them so that he can keep the false teachers from gaining equal footing with him in the eyes of the Corinthians.(v.12) And doing this was so important to Paul because these other teachers that were gaining a voice with the Corinthians were teaching them false ideas and were deceitful about themselves and their motives! (v.13)

Paul is a great example and inspiration to us in his behavior here. He was making financial sacrifices and looking bad to others so that he could serve those who were calling his character into question. If that isn't a sentence describing the lives of so many good Pastors, I don't know what is! Why not send a quick e-mail to your Pastor and thank them for all the ministry they do that we get to see, and for the private pains they endure that no one sees? I served as a Worship Pastor for only two years, but I can tell you from even that small amount of experience, it would mean a great deal to them and be a wonderful encouragement to help them through the week.

Paul observes that it makes perfect sense for these false teachers in Corinth to portray themselves as genuine teachers of truth. This is the very nature of Satan himself.(v.14) And those who follow him will often follow a similar pattern in their teaching.(v.15)

But were these false teachers really serving Satan, as Paul says?(v.15) One does not have to worship Satan or even believe in his existence in order to serve his agenda. Jesus told some religious leaders that they were following the desires of the devil and that he was their father! (John 8:39-44) Although they had convinced themselves that they were among the spiritually elite worshipers of God, they were actually servants of Satan without even realizing it.

I had a friend in high school who subscribed to a particular religious view based on a subjective spiritual experience that he'd had. When I asked him how he knew that experience was given to him by God, he said that he would have known if it was from an evil source. He would have "sensed" it. (Though he dodged being specific regarding how he could know that he would accurately sense something like that.) The truth is that false ideas can and do often come to us in ways that seem right and good and are spiritually moving. But this is the way Satan operates. So we need something other than our feelings or spiritual senses to determine what is true and what is false.

This is why Paul worked so hard to validate his teaching. The word of God has proved its reliability again and again. It not only fulfills the needs of the heart, but also stands up to the harshest intellectual criticism. It provides the most effective "screening technique" for evaluation of experiences and ideas.

Next Week- Paul's Suffering

Coffee House Question- Do you feel comfortable with the idea of Pastor's being paid for their work? Why or why not?





Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ready For The Summer!

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My three week stretch away from my office is finally over...I think. It's always possible I could have some subbing to do next week, but very unlikely.

I am more than ready to jump back into mixing, although at the moment I am exhausted and need the weekend to recuperate. Just two songs left though! Then I'll be nearly ready to release the song bundles! A release during the first half of June is a very strong possibility right now. And at that time I will also be announcing the title of the secret project! (I can't wait to tell you all! It's been eating at me for MONTHS!!)

So stay tuned! Some really cool stuff coming up at Spirit Blade Productions!

-Paeter Frandsen



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Found Some Time For T-Shirts!

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I finally had a day to work in my office today! (Although I'll be out again now for the rest of the week.) After spending the morning catching up on e-mails I got a chance to test out the listener submitted design I have chosen for our T-Shirts!

I've chosen an online printer and I just need to finish setting up my information with them. But I should be able to announce the winners of the T-Shirt Contest on the podcast this weekend!

Stay Tuned!

-Paeter Frandsen



Monday, May 17, 2010

Final Fantasy 13 (First Five Review)




















Since I don’t always buy new games as soon as they come out, and since I don’t often play them through quickly enough, I’ve never done a video game review before. But I thought since Final Fantasy 13 is still pretty new I could try out an idea I’ve been toying with for a little while: A “First Five” Review. The idea is that I play through the first five hours of a video game and offer a “first impression review” based on my experience.


I’ve been a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series and have played every game in the main series (excluding the game boy games, or games like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest or Final Fantasy X-2) starting with the original Final Fantasy on the 8-bit NES.


The chief elements that have brought me back to the series again and again are the strategic, fun battle systems and the blend of sci-fi and fantasy. FF games also tend to boast the best RPG graphics, involving stories and lengthy playtime. My favorite games in the series are (in order of preference) Final Fantasy 9, Final Fantasy 3(6 in Japan) and Final Fantasy 12. Final Fantasy 12 had to grow on me because of the new battle mechanics, but I eventually came to love them and they became the strongest part of the game for me.

There was a time when Japanese RPGs were the only choice for video game console players. American RPGs (or those targeted at an English speaking demographic) were almost exclusively on computers. But in recent years this has changed, with giants like Bethesda, Snowblind and of course Bioware, changing the landscape of console RPGs and catering much more effectively to an English speaking audience.

Likewise, as technology has advanced, video game creators are able to express their ideas and characters much more effectively. Full voice acting and motion capture actors are able to bring characters to life fulfilling their creator’s visions like never before. (For better or for worse.)


All of these factors have had an interesting effect on my fidelity to the Final Fantasy games in the last 5-10 years. Without voice actors hamming it up (with less subtlety than performances in a children’s musical), I could imagine the dialogue in old-school JRPGs sounding however I wanted. (Namely, with much less inflection and no strange grunting or gasping whenever someone so much as turns their head or raises an eyebrow.)


JRPG scripts (especially in the FF series) often deal with deep and serious subject matter. Overdone inflection with accompanying grunts, sighs oohs and aahs may be normal in the Japanese language and culture. But whoever is calling the shots during the translation process seems oblivious to the fact that this is not the case in most English speaking cultures. It just comes off weird at best and annoying at worst.


Now, add to this the fact that English designed RPGs are hitting consoles all the time with American players in mind. Bioware alone has done an excellent job of writing, casting and directing with Americans and English speaking players in mind. And since I’ve just come off of a streak of great “English produced” console RPGs, it was a shock to play Final Fantasy 13 and once again have to make allowances for all the strangeness that comes with translations of Japanese RPGs and Japanese Anime.

So although in years past I would have just accepted these elements as par for the course and not factored them into a review, the RPGs available to American consumers have raised the bar for that demographic. With no other information about how these games are made, I have to assume that those translating these games are aware of this on some level and have simply chosen not to adapt the games’ cultural sensibilities as much as they could, for whatever reason. So I’ve found I can no longer make allowances for JRPGs since as far as I can tell it could be addressed pretty easily(and would probably net them more American customers!).


Alright, I’ve spent a TON of time on all that because I think it takes a little more time to lay the foundation for that issue to be a valid criticism. But on to the game itself.


This game is gorgeous. The first HD game in the series and it jumps out of my TV with incredible detail and splendor. The battles are wonderfully choreographed and dazzling to watch. The world is vast and incredible to look at. Every once in awhile I find myself pausing just to move the camera around and take in the immense spectacle of this world. The camera doesn’t always move the way you’d like it to during exploration and so behaves strangely now and then, but not so much that it is frustrating.


Although the voice acting is standard for a JRPG, it’s not as “over the top” as it could be, with the exception of one female character that I actually wanted to lose a battle with in hopes that she would die and be removed from the game. (No luck…yet.) And the acting is still plagued with all the strange grunts and emotionally expressive “noises” that accompany already obvious expressions of emotion in body movement. After Dragon Age and Mass Effect, the ridiculousness of this kind of behavior is severely amplified and no fun. But if you’ve built up a bit of a tolerance to it as I have, it’s not horrific. Just lame.

The music in the game is well done, though not the best in the series. And the battle music sounds downright happy and strangely dated. Like the upbeat music of an 80’s TV adventure show. A little too bright for my tastes. I can think of much better sounding music to kick butt to, or to have my butt kicked to.


The story presented is interesting and it’s nice to see how the characters are thrown together against their wills. So far, character motivations all make sense and I’m interested to see where things will go. The down side of the story is the way exposition is presented. By that I mean that exposition is not presented. Or when it is, it is sparse and hard to understand, due partly to translation issues.


The game continues to update a file that recaps the story. You can look at this file any time and at the beginning especially it will be vital. Names, places and terminology are being thrown around in dialogue as though you already know all of this stuff. Only by reading every new page of exposition as it was unlocked was I able to understand what people were talking about. And these bits of exposition are only unlocked after the scene in which you needed to know them. So very often I find myself reading and then saying , “Oh THAT’S what they were talking about in the last scene.” It’s gotten better as the game progresses, but it’s still a big beef I have with the way the script is written and the story is presented. It’s hard to be involved with the emotion of a scene when you’re not quite sure why people are upset.


The game has already been criticized for being linear during exploration and in many ways this is literally true. In the opening level, you are largely traveling along a single straight line. But it wasn’t long before the maps provided enough detours to satisfy me and make me feel a little accomplishment for veering off the main path to find a hidden treasure. So this is a point of criticism that I don’t echo as a significant issue for me.


The combat system in this game took some getting used to. In fact, I suspect that more and more concepts have yet to be introduced to me. At first, it’s just a whole bunch of hitting “A”, since the auto-battle option is almost always the best strategic choice. So battles at the start are not exciting. Add to this the fact that there are a lot of cut-scenes in the game and the first hour or so feels a lot like “A,A,A,A,A,A,(watch a cut scene),A,A,A,A(walk forward some)A,A,A,A,A,A”. But grind your way through this and combat strategy does become more interesting.


Although you only directly control your party leader, you decide the overarching strategy of your party. If you were able to make the change from turn-based playing to the combat in Final Fantasy 12, you’ll probably make a similar transition into the combat on this game after a period of adjustment. However, unlike Final Fantasy 12, I find I’m virtually unable to watch and enjoy the battle as it plays out. Instead, I have to keep my eyes glued on the health of my party members and the action gauge so I can see when I’m able to input the next command (even if it is just “auto-battle” or a quick strategy switch for my party).


So why would I have to be watching so intently for every opportunity to input a vital command? Because you can’t pause!! Well, okay, technically you can. But it will do you almost no good in formulating your strategy, because you can’t access any menus or look at any stats and the screen is completely fuzzed out. And when battle is un-paused, the bad guys keep hammering at you. So you have no time to sift through and carefully consider your command options. For better or worse, this means that the actual strategy in battles is very simple. It is only made challenging by the fact that you have to be on the ball and make your choices quickly.


I’m getting used to this aspect of the game and I’m enjoying combat quite a bit. But it’s still a real shame that I’m only able to enjoy the dazzling and beautiful battle animations out of my peripheral vision. And no, slowing down the combat gauge (as the game allows) did not solve this issue for me. I just ended up waiting and watching my characters wait in between times of staring feverishly at my health bars and missing most of the eye candy. Slowing the gauge also reduces the rewards you are able to get for battles, since the speed with which you finish a battle effects the rewards you obtain.


In terms of philosophical relevance, this game says something very interesting that reminds me of the uniqueness of Christianity. In the world of FF13, if a human servant fulfills the purpose given to them by one of the powerful types of beings you encounter in the game, that human is granted eternal life as a frozen crystal. The implication is that everyone else simply dies and ceases to be.


Firstly, this type of spiritual economy is one thing that separates Christianity from possibly every other religion or philosophy that teaches on an afterlife. In nearly every religious system, you have to “earn” eternal life, or a good eternal life, through actions on earth. In Biblical Christianity, Christ earns all of this FOR those who simply trust that he did. While the Bible does teach on additional eternal rewards for serving God in this life, everyone will have the same incredibly close relationship with God and a wildly wonderful eternal existence. No one will be thinking, “boy, this isn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be…”

In addition, the eternal existence of the believer will not be some less than human ethereal existence. We won’t just live on in the memory of others. (What kind of sucky existence is that anyway when you think about it?) We won’t exist as vapor or crystal or some other inanimate material that simply sits motionless singing “aaaaaaah”. Believers will be given bodies and will be doing things. We will live an adventure that never ends!


Despite the fact that I’ve spent more time explaining my complaints of this game than my praises for it, I find it pretty addictive so far. The combat moves fast and may look intimidating, but it actually runs very smoothly and is very satisfying, Also, if you have trouble or even die, you always get the option to try again starting right before the last battle. And the elements I’ve enjoyed are easily strong enough to make the game stand out from many others and make it worth pushing through the game’s downsides.


Rated T.


Quality: 8.5/10


Relevance: 7.0/10


In Search Of Truth, 2 Corinthians 11:1-6

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Paul asks the Corinthians to bear with his foolishness
because it was considered foolish to boast about yourself, which Paul was having
to do to some degree in order to defend his reputation and contrast himself
with the false teachers influencing the church in Corinth. (v.1)



 



God is sometimes said to be “jealous” in the Bible and Paul
says that he is sharing in that jealousy. But isn’t jealousy wrong? What makes
God’s jealousy right and how is it right for Paul and Christians everywhere to
share in that jealousy?



 



The Hebrew word used to describe God’s jealousy is “Qana”.
It can mean either jealousy in the common sense, or “zeal” to advance God’s
cause over that of any rivals. For God to be “Qana” means that he is zealous
for the fulfillment of his purpose in us and all of creation. And since his
plan is of the greatest possible benefit for everyone, we should be thankful
that God is “Qana” and we should aim to be “Qana” right along with him!



 



Unfortunately, Paul recognized the tendency for the
Corinthians to absorb the broken philosophies of their surrounding culture. He
expressed concern that they would be unfaithful to God, using the metaphor of a
virgin bride who might potentially be unfaithful before her wedding day. (v.2)



 



His concern was that their minds might be led astray by
deception, causing their devotion to Christ to fail as well. (v.3) Paul
compares this potential deception to Eve and the serpent. Eve was deceived
because she followed her desires (Gen. 3:6) instead of holding on to
established truth. When we are presented with philosophical or religious ideas
that are appealing in some way, it’s vital that we compare them to what God has
said through the Bible before we accept them as truth.



 



Many of these broken philosophies can even come in a form
that looks like Christianity or that is based on Christianity. But Paul warns
the Corinthians (and us) not to be accommodating toward alternate versions of
Jesus or what his life and sacrifice were about. (v.4)



 



Paul considers knowledge to be more important than charisma.
He admits that he is not a trained speaker, but he has demonstrated a
tremendous amount of knowledge and because of this does not view himself as
inferior to those false teachers in Corinth who thought of themselves as
“extra-special” apostles. (v.5-6)



 



Next Week- Money and Ministry



 



Coffee House Question- When might emotions be a good part of
the Christian life? When might they be harmful to the Christian life?







Friday, May 14, 2010

The Men Who Stare At Goats (DVD Review)





















Although this movie almost doesn't qualify as science fiction or fantasy, it has enough geek appeal by nature that I knew I would eventually see it and probably review it. And after a quick stop to a Red Box and an hour and a half on my couch, I'm wishing I would have seen this movie sooner!

"The Men Who Stare At Goats" is based on a true story of how the U.S. government funded an operation to create soldiers with psychic abilities. Ewen McGregor plays a journalist who travels with one of the program's most successful soldiers(George Clooney) and learns about this strange and secret world first-hand.

Like many unique movies, this film suffered from "in the box" marketing, which presented it as a comedy. And though it has a few laugh out loud moments, it is largely a light-hearted drama, though it does turn a little darker toward the end.

The performances are great across the board with Jeff Bridges truly shining as the psychic military program leader. Clooney is strange, yet grounded in realism. And Kevin Spacey is lots of fun to both hate and pity.

Part of what makes these characters so charming is their almost childlike willingness to believe that the fantastical is possible and that the absurd is real. There is a documentary on the DVD well worth watching after the movie that features interviews with real former members of the psychic soldier program. One of them says something very revealing when he establishes that if you are willing to believe in anything, without any limitations, you can discover some amazing things. This is undeniably true and is demonstrated well in the film. The film also demonstrates that if you keep your mind too open, your brain may just fall out.

The characters in this movie do seem to discover some incredible human potential. But they also end up believing some things that are ridiculous. The movie reminded me of how important discernment is and what can happen when we stop discerning between truth and falsehood. It's indicated in the script that these characters all wanted to believe they were special and that they had a purpose. (And this is very true of all humans.) But they ultimately chose a path to fulfillment of their purpose that involved believing some things that were not true and their trust in those things nearly cost them their lives at times. (It could be argued that in some cases it DID cost the lives of others.)

Many Christians choose not to discern and instead create "rules" that the Bible does not specifically teach. (Like avoiding fantasy fiction and abstaining from all rated R movies.) As a result they enslave themselves, despite guarding their hearts and minds, and miss out on the freedom Christ offers us. Other Christians choose not to discern in the opposite extreme, like the characters in this movie. They do and believe all things and embrace all ideas. As a result, they become enslaved to false perceptions of reality, despite gaining some valid insight to truth.

This movie made me imagine and hope for the day when Christians everywhere choose to discern consistently. Imagine the insight and truth we could discover and the kind of lives we could live if we chose to discern in every moment of our lives.

This movie may seem a little strange to some and won't appeal to everyone. But if a nerdy kid still lives inside you, imagining what might be possible if we dream big enough, you'll likely find a charming, thought-provoking movie here that you'll be glad you watched.

Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.

Quality: 9.0/10

Relevance: 9.0/10

Vote On The Poll!

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Hey Folks!

Just another plea here to vote on the poll at spiritblade.net/blog if you haven't already! You have until the end of this month to give your input on a Spirit Blade Underground Forum. I really need to get an idea of how involved people would be. So whether you think you'd be involved a lot, a little or not at all, I need to hear from you!

Thanks,

-Paeter Frandsen



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So Busy Things Are Slow

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As you may know, I do some substitute teaching a few days every month to help fill in the holes of our family budget. I never know when I will be subbing until the day before (or often as late as the morning of) a job. As is often the case, teachers are anxious to be done with school near the end of the year, and so are more likely to use vacation time or sick days.

Naturally, that means that near the end of many spring semesters, I find myself yanked away from my desk and planted in various high schools for a day or two at a time. This week is shaping up to be a full week of subbing, as last week was. And I've already agreed to sub for another teacher for most of next week.

So if you were itching for the latest update on the song bundles, the t-shirt, The Alliance or the "secret project"... well, I won't have much to report for about another week and a half. You can count on the usual posting schedule, but don't cross your fingers to hear about any big strides in production around here.

On the other hand, after another week and a half I'll effectively be done with any subbing for the semester and will be giving my full attention to Spirit Blade Productions for three solid months in a row! Woohoo!

-Paeter Frandsen




Monday, May 10, 2010

In Search Of Truth, 2 Corinthians 10: 12-18

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Paul briefly uses sarcasm when he says he wouldn't dare put himself in the same class as the arrogant philosophers working against him in Corinth (as though they were so great). But he switches to plain language when he says they are unwise to make themselves their only standard. (v.12)

This is a mindset common to modern "pop-spirituality". When we compare ourselves only to the standards we ourselves have created, its easy to come out looking much better than we actually are.

By contrast, Paul did not boast of his gifting or authority in a way that made him look better than he was. Paul limited his boasting of his authority to the field/sphere/realm God had assigned to him, which included the Corinthian church. (v.13)

Although Paul wrote with the authority of God, God did not grant Paul a universal organizational authority over all believers. It was because Paul brought the message of the gospel to Corinth that God gave him authority over the Christians there. (v.14)

Paul was not interested in having universal authority or more power. He didn't grasp for it by taking credit for the efforts of other Christian teachers. His aim was to strengthen the churches he had already established so that he coul expand his teaching efforts into new places. Paul wasn't caught up in trying to gain respect or recognition. He was trying to do the work of spreading the truth. (v.15-16)

Often, even when we are aiming to serve God, we can become preoccupied with what people think of us. (This is especially true of me.) By contrast (and example), Paul was only concerned about his reputation as far as it affected the reception of what he was teaching.

Now here's an interesting phrase. What do you suppose it means to "boast in the Lord" as Paul says in verse 17? He is paraphrasing Jeremiah 9:24, which can help us understand this idea.

"but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD." (NASB)

Sometimes we can be skilled at talking a lot about our strengths and making it sound like we're praising God by throwing in some quick credits to God along the way. But Jeremiah 9:24 spends very little time describing the attributes of the one boasting and much more time describing the attributes of God. Someone "boasting in the Lord" will likely spend more time and passion talking about who God is and what he's doing and less time talking about the instrument God is using. (v.17)

In the end, God approves of the one he commends. Not the one who commends himself. (v.18)


Next Week- Truth Vs Religion/Spirituality

Coffee House Question- What can you "boast in the Lord" about?





Saturday, May 8, 2010

Iron Man 2 (Movie Review)





















To my memory, the original Iron Man movie is the only film I have given a 10 out of 10 for quality in a review. So I was very excited to see the next installment of this exciting film franchise. I am a huge comic book geek, though mostly for the DC universe, with a few Marvel Comics from the past and much of the "Ultimate" line. So although I'm very familiar with and love the Iron Man character, I am not a hardcore Iron Man fan.

Let's get right to the meat of things. This is a great movie and you should definitely check it out. The dialogue is just as smart, the acting is just as clever, the action is just as explosive and the effects are just as cool. And as with any sequel to a successful film, more money has been thrown at this one to amp things up a notch. Fans of superhero action should not be disappointed by the action in this flick. It's a great ride!

Robert Downey Junior continues to offer a unique but strangely fitting portrayal of Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow is wonderfully charming, especially when playing next to her co-star. Don Cheadle takes over the role of Rhodey and after a scene or two of adjustment, fits into the cast like he'd been there all along. Scarlett Johansson also joins the cast and fills her role nicely, though without bringing any unique or memorable characteristics to her role. Sam Rockwell is very "Sam Rockwell", but not in any way that hurts the film. Rather his quirky, insecure antics fit right in with the tone established by the leads in the first film. Samuel L. Jackson get considerably more screen time as Nick Fury. And though his portrayal of fury is slightly more urban than his "Ultimates" comic book counterpart (which was based on his physical likeness and got him the role in these movies!) he holds back enough that I can still buy the character as an official military operative of some kind. Lastly, Mickey Rourke is the center stage villain of this flick and brings both heart and grit to a role that required both.

The story picks up 6 months after the first movie and Tony Stark is fighting the U.S. Government to keep control of his armor. Meanwhile, Rourke's character is out for revenge because of the way Tony Stark's weapons have affected Russia over the years, or because his dad helped Tony's dad invent the arc reactor and didn't get credit or... I'll be honest. I'm not really sure why Ivan (Rourke) wanted revenge. Those were educated guesses, but the motivation of the antagonist in this case was pretty murky. Maybe that Russian accent Rourke was using was a little too thick, but I felt like I only ever had the most basic idea of why he had a beef with Stark.

This is connected to the weak point of the film. There is not a clear enough line drawn between the antagonists and the protagonists. Stark is especially flawed in this film and we are given very little reminder of why he is driven to be Iron Man to begin with. This is a weakness common to superhero movie franchises. They establish motivation for the hero in the first film, but forget to repeat it in the following films. (Batman, old or new franchise, is an example of this, while the Spider-man movies are an exception.) Justin Hammer is far more pathetic than he is evil and "Whiplash" (Rourke) is mainly disgruntled and even sympathetically so. Add to this a surprisingly short final confrontation and the movie ends on an anti-climactic note with very little sense of victory.

As with the first film, there is not much to talk about of any relevance after seeing this movie. Stark is as narcissistic as ever and they do touch a little on the "demon in the bottle" theme that is present in the comic book, but none of these elements are executed in a way that will likely lead to worthwhile discussion.

This movie is a case where "more of the same" is a really great thing, although the story and characterization was not given quite the attention it should have been on all counts. A great movie and fans of the genre should certainly not miss it!

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

Quality: 9.0/10

Relevance: 6.0/10

Long Week, Late Post

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Hey Folks,

Sorry for the late post this week! I've had an unusually busy week and much of it has taken me away from my desk.

I'm nearly finished re-mixing  "Golgatha's Tale" (wow that went fast!) and will likely be moving on to "Fly" early next week!

I'm currently testing the top submission in the T-Shirt contest to confirm that it will work out the way I think it will and I hope to have these cool shirts available for you guys very soon!

That's all for now. Don't forget to kiss your mom and tell her you love her! There are good moms, bad moms and every mom in between. But if you're alive and breathing, your mom went through some very unpleasant things to make that happen. So don't forget to show her some love!

-Paeter Frandsen



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Deadly Game" Finished!

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I'm finally back in the mixing groove and on a roll! As of Monday, the remix of "Deadly Game" is finished!

Of all the songs I've mixed so far, this one feels the least changed from the original, in terms of style. I was able to add significantly more orchestral and choral elements so that the finished product has much more of the expansive, epic feel that I was shooting for the first time. The mix is also greatly improved in its balance and much easier on the ears. (The original has lots of piercing treble, to my ear.)

As of now, I'm already more than halfway finished remixing "Golgatha's Tale", which is also changing very little conceptually. With both of these songs, I've been adding more of the same kind of material that was already working in the original versions, and then adjusting the balance of the mix so that you can hear those elements much better than before, while still keeping the vocals in the front of the mix. This was something I had a lot of trouble with the first time, and so the original mixes tend to sound very vocal heavy with a thin track behind them.

I'm so excited to be taking what I've learned since 2005-06 and applying it to the remixes of these songs! As I intended, the songs requiring the most reworking were completed first, so I'm in a stage now that is moving along much faster. If my current pace continues, I may be able to release the song bundle for "Spirit Blade" by the end of May or early June, with the song bundle for "Dark Ritual" releasing at the same time or very soon afterward!

Also, once these two song bundle projects are released, I will be ready to announce the name of the "secret project" I've been keeping under wraps this year!

Stay tuned!

-Paeter Frandsen



Monday, May 3, 2010

In Search Of Truth, 2 Corinthians 10:7-11

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Paul indicates that the Corinthians, or specifically those criticizing Paul, are evaluating him superficially. Less than a year before, Paul made note of some arrogance among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:18-19). These were likely the same people who were criticizing Paul while trying to gain a following for themselves.

Paul's reference to those who confidently claim to "belong to Christ" may be a reference to the "camps" that had developed in Corinth, where each person established their social status by associating themselves with a teacher. (Apollos, Paul, Christ, etc.) (1 Cor. 1:12) Paul spoke against this division previously (1 Cor. 1:13) and breaks the argument down again here.

A claim of allegiance or "belonging" to Christ does not elevate one's status above Paul's because Paul can say as much of himself. And then some. (v.7)

In fact, Paul says that if he were to boast even more than he already has about the authority God has given him, he wouldn't be ashamed of doing so. After all, his boasting would be the truth, not exaggeration.

We typically think of boasting as wrong, and many times this is true. But boasting is not by definition wrong. In its untainted form, boasting means to possess and often call attention to something that is a source of pride and can be done while sharing it freely for the benefit of others.

Paul's boasting was not sinful because that which he was boasting about (his authority) was for the benefit of the Corinthians. To build them up rather than to dominate or tear them down. Paul was thrilled because God had so obviously equipped and directed him to teach and encourage the Corinthians and they should have been excited about that, too! Paul's aim is to encourage, not to generate fear. (v.8-9)

During this time period, philosophers who wrote letters inconsistent with their normal personalities were verbally attacked. Those opposing Paul emphasized the boldness in his writing and contrasted it with his unimpressive physical personality.

Paul doesn't deny that he may have been a better writer than public speaker, but he makes it clear that his actions will be consistent with his writing when he is present with them. (v.10-11)

Next Week- Boasting "In The Lord"?

Coffee House Question- How do you think God has gifted you and how might you better use that gift for the benefit of someone else?