Thursday, March 11, 2010


Yes, I grew up in Canada, and in a change from my usual anti-stereotype mind-set, I'm willing to admit that this is probably why I have always liked hockey.

It started with my long-time best friend Danny Stoltzfus, who was obsessed with hockey. Visiting his family was where I was first introduced to "Hockey Night in Canada" around the age of 8. I never watched a whole lot of hockey, mostly because I didn't have a TV in my house until I was 24. But it was always cool to watch a game, as long as there wasn't too much fighting.

I don't remember when I started playing "boot hockey", but by the time I was in 7th grade, me and 10-20 other boys at my tiny school played every recess (that's about an hour a day, 5 days a week), through-out the hockey season. This was where I really fell in love with the game. I think it was the low pressure, casualness of the games, combined with the inherent fun of chasing a ball with a stick, and feeling included as one of the guys... Whatever the reason, I LIVED for those recess games.

Skating is a big part of hockey, but I remember many times as a kid wishing I had more opportunities to practice the skill. Many winters I would say to my self, and/or my parents, THIS is the winter I want to go to the arena every week! But I never did. Occasionally, there would be a frozen pond nearby to skate on too, but even so, I never did get to skate as much as I would have liked.

I took a long sabbatical from sports during high school and college. During these 10 years I focused on music. The exception was the year after college, when I moved back to Canada for a year, and lived mostly by myself, without very many friends around. I watched a LOT of TV during that time, and when the Stanley Cup playoffs came around in May, I got really into it. I was especially impressed with 5'9" NHL player Martin St. Louis. Not that I ever had any remote dreams of making it as a professional hockey player, but if someone my size could play pro, there was no reason I should be afraid to brush up on my skills and play again someday. It being the middle of summer then, I went out and bought some roller blades and started cruising up and down the street.

I got distracted again when I moved back to Goshen and got married. I also started singing in a professional choir, and got into filmmaking, both as a hobby with my own camera, and working as crew on other people's films. But the Winter Olympics in Vancouver CANADA, with the promise of exciting hockey to watch, and my entire native country rooting for hockey gold, piqued my interest again. Around the same time, my pastor Karl Shelly got his backyard ice rink up again, and invited people to come play hockey.

Oddly enough, in spite of my lifelong interest in hockey, this winter, at the age of 30, was the first time in my life I actually played hockey ON SKATES! I was a little nervous, but I found it surprisingly easy to combine the two skills. I played 4 or 5 sessions of 3 on 3 hockey on Karl's half-sized rink before spring weather hit. About a week later I realized I wasn't done with this ice-hockey thing, and I started hunting around for an organized league. I found one in South Bend, and was hesitant at first to drive so far, and to invest so much money in equipment and ice fees. But with encouragement from friends and family, I felt myself moving steadily in that direction, and last Saturday finally took the plunge and ordered a full set of hockey equipment.

Practice starts next Sunday, and a few weeks after that, I will be playing my first ever game of REAL, ORGANIZED ICE-HOCKEY!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Four days as a soldier

Joining the Tamarac Forces just sort of happened. I was on the island working construction on a bridge while the war was brewing. We finished a bridge on Friday, and I was going home Sunday. On Saturday the Tamaracs moved in, and I literally got swept up in the supply chain. Here were brave men, precise and disciplined, marching to put their lives on the line to defend us. I started walking with one of the wagons, and asked if I could help. "Sure," a guy said, and handed me the bag he'd been carrying. "Weird", I thought, and random, but suddenly, I was part of it!

Over the next few days, I helped fill sandbags, dig trenches, and fill more sandbags. At one point a sergeant asked me sharply why I wasn't in uniform. I said I had just joined, and hadn't been issued one. He asked me my name, and an hour later, a PFC marched up and handed me the brown and blue. No rank, but there was my name on the breast pocket, along with Tamarac, H. Co. I hoped it would fit, since my chest was swelling with pride.

I performed the randommest assortment of jobs I'd ever done in my life; I guess no rank made me lowest man, and everyone gave me orders. I was only too happy to comply, and got to see bits of all sorts of operations. "Good thing I'm not a spy," I thought.

By Tuesday, things were really kicking into high gear. Word had come in that the Ren-Paj were on their way, and we weren't quite as ready as we'd hoped we'd be by that point. But the army is good at stepping up the pace, and "on-the-double!" became "on-the-triple!" before you could salute. I got a good assignment that day; delivering a message to Captain Chase on the Western front. That was, of course where the Ren-Paj were supposed to be coming from, so I was excited and nervous about getting closer to the real action. They'd even given me a side arm to carry. I was a good woodsman, (or marshman, as the case was, here), and got to the camp by mid afternoon. I saluted, showed the message, and then I was done. I debated hanging around, but I'd made some friends in Hotel Company, so I started back.

I was about a mile out when I started to hear shooting. I started really booking it, and soon heard shouting too. One more grove of trees, and I could see. But what was I seeing? I could see where our trenches were, and I could see lots of people in brown and blue shooting at each other, but I had no clue who was who, or where the battle lines were. It looked like a backyard water-gun fight, except people were really dying. I started to shake, and began to understand why training was so important for a soldier. Even if I could have figured out who to shoot at, I don't think I could have hit the broad side of a barn. But I was here now, and I'd be damned if I was going to run, or hide.

I started to crawl forward. My eyes aren't the best, and I hoped once I got in closer I might be able to figure out who was who. I got to an old bridge, all overgrown with vines, enough that I could crawl along it without being exposed. Just as I started across, still on my belly, and soldier came pounding pell-mell up the bridge from the other side. He was wearing a Tamarac uniform, but he was weilding an unfamiliar gun. I use the term weilding loosely, since he was firing apparently indescriminantly in all directions, while running. If he'd hit anyone, it was pure lucky chance. Apparently it was an automatic weapon, because when he reached the peak of the bridge he held down the trigger and started a traversing arc. "Shit!" I thought, "it's coming this way!" I pulled my gun out, but I still wasn't sure which side he was on. I debated just putting my head down and hoping his shots would go over me, or that someone else would shoot him, which had to happen soon, since he was standing, completely exposed in the middle of the bridge. I tried this, but then I really couldn't see what was happening, and started shaking even more. I peeked, and saw that his arc was getting closer to me. "Fuck it," I thought, "it's going to be him or me." I lined up my shot, but as I lifted my head to get a better view, his arc finally came around.

Time slowed down. I used to think that was just a figure of speech, but I honestly think it did slow down--either that, or I have a more vivid imagination than I thought, because suddenly I could see his bullet coming towards me. It was just a tiny, bright speck, but surrounded by a balloon of warped air, like heat waves over a campfire. Too bad my body couldn't move as fast as my brain or I could literally have ducked out of the way. As it was, I must have somehow pulled my trigger, because I saw a second bullet, travelling the other way, toward his head.

His one-in-hundreds lucky shot was better than mine though. The bullet went in my neck, taking out my left jugular and windpipe, and exiting between my shoulder blades. (I know, because I could feel it. It didn't hurt though.) The last thing I saw was my bullet ruffling his hair as it missed.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New Moon: Dakota Fanning as Jane (*Spoilers*)

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Twilight film sequel New Moon, scheduled for release Nov. 20, 2009. But I'm not entirely sure I agree with casting Dakota Fanning in the role of Jane*.

Here is a description of Jane from when Bella first sees her in New Moon: "At first I thought it was a young boy.... The body...was slim and adrogynous. But the face was too pretty for a boy. The wide-eyed, full-lipped face would make a Botticelli angel look like a gargoyle." (pg. 456). On the next page, it refers to "the little one called Jane", and later, when Jane smiles, the narration notes that "the expression [makes] her look like an angelic child." (pg. 467).

I will give that Dakota is very sweet and angelic looking, and even happens to have wide eyes and full lips. But I'm less convinced that this budding young woman can be made to look "androgynous", nor that doing so will get any easier the older she gets, nor that the film makers will even try, given that beautiful women tend to be a selling point for Hollywood films.

There is also the issue of her voice**. In New Moon, Bella notices Jane's "childish voice" (pg. 456), and when Jane laughs, "the sound sparkle[s] with delight like a baby's cooing." (pg. 464) In the climax of Breaking Dawn we see another side of her: "Jane let out a high-pitched scream of a snarl."

I just watched a bunch of videos of Dakota Fanning, (including this one) and her voice is not child-like any more (it used to be). It's deep and rich, definitely teenage, and even in the trailer for Push, where her character is more bad-ass, I can't imagine her doing Jane's high-pitched witch-girl scream. Granted, she's an actress, and can probably do a lot to sound more girlish, or more evil, but again, I highly doubt that the director is going to ask her to do that.

I'm not just arguing against this casting choice because I don't like films changing stuff from books. Normally I don't care, or I even side with the filmmakers. I don't care intrinsically if the actress playing Jane is older than she is in the book. What I'm worried about is that she's too old to play the character. Jane's character is defined largely by the fact that she looks and sounds like an innocent child, yet she is the most sadistic of all the vampires. Casting a young woman instead of a girl diminishes the repulsive contrast between Jane's angelic appearance and girlish voice, and her demonic personality.

Is there really that much difference between the innocence of a 10-year-old and that of a 15-year-old? Yes there is; it's called puberty. The obvious signs of womanhood make it impossible to ignore a young woman's sexuality, and in Western culture (the setting for Twilight), sexuality is the opposite of innocence.

I'm sure Dakota Fanning will do a fine job in New Moon. She might even rock Jane's character, instilling fear in our hearts, and putting Jane on a future edition of Entertainment Weekly's Best Villians list. But I will always wonder: could Jane have been even better if they had cast a younger girl?

*In case you missed it, there was a big toodoo about Taylor Lautner continuing in the role of Jacob. Apparently not everyone was convinced that this cute 17-year-old boy could play a 25-year-old, 6' 5" werewolf. I think he'll do just fine, with a little time to bulk up, (which he is doing), and with some help from camera tricks and make-up. He definitely has Jacob's sunny smile, as well as great chemistry with Kristen Stewart (Bella).

**I can think of some pretty innappropriate voices cast in recent films. Even some in which only the actor's voice was cast! Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in LOTR (way too nasally for a great king, let alone a kick-butt ranger), Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep in Prince Caspian (um, he's a mouse, he should have a high, squeaky voice), and Rachel Weisz as Saphira in Eragon (she's a gigantic dragon, but her voice is soft and light).

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's Inauguration Speech

I think the strongest aspect of Obama's inauguration speech was the positive, unifying things he said. I can't imagine that any American, whether conservative or liberal, would have been turned off by any of the issues he mentioned or implied. He talked about revamping health-care and improving transportation and communication lines across the country. He affirmed the greatness of American democracy (that "all are created equal"), and called for mutual respect between the USA and the Muslim world. Even in referring to the universally unpopular war in Iraq, he spoke not of "winning the war" but of turning power over the the Iraqi people as soon as possible.

At the end of his speech, I wanted a job working for this guy! I hope that even some of his detractors were open-minded enough to see that he is not some crazy, idealistic liberal, but that he is going to work hard to find realistic solutions to the problems facing America today.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Host

One of my friends said, "I don't know why I continued reading The Host, because it was so bad!" Now that I've read it, I understand why she disliked it, but also why she kept reading.

The Host is frighteningly similar to Twilight. The main characters are almost identical, the writing style is identical, and even the confusing is-it-well-written-or-not is similar.

While I fell in love with the characters of Twilight, especially Bella, the characters in The Host felt creepy and wrong. The main character drove me crazy, and because her decisions drove most of the plot, that also drove me crazy. Can I say the book is badly written if it can make me crazy, and make me want to continue reading it?

I think history will be the best judge of whether Stephenie Meyer is a good writer, or whether she just wrote in a way that appealed to young people in the early part of this century. For now, I will just say: read Twilight because it rocks, and if you like it, and you love to read, try The Host at your own risk!

PS: My cat liked the book.