Thursday Quote Day: Michaelangelo

For this week’s Thursday Quote Day, here’s a quote from that pizza loving, skateboard riding, ninja turtle, Michaelangelo:

“Well I guess that’s today’s moral, dudes. Search for happiness and you find an old tire.” (Michaelangelo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Miyazaki Mondays: The Wind Rises

For this week’s (final “for now) Miyazaki Monday is the 2013 film The Wind Rises:

The Wind Rises is based on a true story.  It centers around the life of Jiro Horikoshi.  Jiro lived in Japan in the early 20th century.  He loved flight and grew up during the early years of aviation.  He longed to be a pilot but unfortunately had bad eyesight.  Instead, this drove him to being a designer and became fascinated with making planes.  Growing up, he read aviation magazines.  Inspired by these magazines, Jiro would dream about meeting famed Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni.

Years later, Jiro traveled to Tokyo by train to study engineering in university.  It happened to be during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that devistated the country.  He would help a young girl named Naoko and her maid get to safety and to Naoko’s family.  After studying at university, Jiro is hired by Mitsubishi to help design fighter planes and is sent to Germany to study abroad.

While on a retreat trying to find inspiration for a new fighter plane design, Jiro runs into Naoko.  Naoko’s family help run the retreat.  The two fall in love.  However, Naoko has tuberculosis and makes it difficult for the two to be together for long periods of time but Jiro loves Naoko.  He also loves airplanes and continued to try and design the best plane.  That would eventually lead to the Mitsubishi A5M, the predecessor to the A6M.  That plane is better known as the Zero, which was the plane used by the Japanese during World War II.

This film was a swan song for Hayao Miyazaki.  He announced publicly in 2013 that this would be the last film that he would direct.  While he had “retired” in the past, most people believe that this is his last film.  The film is based off a manga written by Miyazaki which itself was loosely based on the short story The Wind Has Risen written in 1937.  This film is truly a mix of fact and fiction.  Jiro’s public life (his design of planes and such) is true, his private life (relationship with Naoko) was fictional.  This doesn’t detract from the story in the least.

It was released in Japan on July 20, 2013.  It went on to be the highest grossing film in Japan for 2013.  It also was featured at several film festivals including Toronto International Film Festival and Venice International Film Festival.  Walt Disney Pictures held the North American distribution rights and did it through its Touchstone Pictures label.  The English dub featured Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Grey, Mandy Patinkin, Werner Herzog and William H. Macy.  It released in theaters in North America in select cities on February 21, 2014 before nationwide on February 28, 2014.  As of last count, the film as grossed over $132 million dollars.  It also received several awards and nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.

This is a very bittersweet film in a lot of ways.  It is some of Miyazaki’s best work and it will be his last with his retirement.  The relationship in the film between Jiro and Naoko is bittersweet because they love one another but tuberculosis kept them apart.  Jiro want to design planes for beauty and they end up being used for war.  If Miyazaki wanted to fly off into the sunset, then this film is the right sendoff.  It is in my top 3 favorite Miyazaki films and should be one that any film fan should see.  I cannot wait until it comes out on Blu-Ray and watch it again and again.

Sunday Devotional: Philippians 1:3-5

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  Philippians 1:3-5

Paul in his letter to the Philippians opens with this greeting.  He thanks the believers in Philippi for the encouragement they have been to him.  We all have people in our lives who are a blessing to us.  God brings these people in our lives to help us grow and mature in our faith.  They help to partner with us to fulfill the mission that God has given each one of us separately and collectively.

As believers, we are not alone.  God provides the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to help us.  He also provides fellow believers.  This week, remember to thank God for those people who are such encouragers and blessings.

My Visit to Busch Stadium

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Last night, I visited the “new” Busch Stadium and saw the Kansas City Royals play the St. Louis Cardinals.  That picture was the view from my seat.  I was at the game with one of my good friends from seminary and his wife.  They live about an hour east of St. Louis and he’s a huge Royals fan and she’s a converted Royals fan (she’s also a Cubs fan).  I got to spend a few days with them and that was a blessing and encouragement.

This was my first time at the “new” Busch Stadium.  My first ever MLB game was at the old Busch Stadium back on Labor Day 2002.  I had not been to a game in St. Louis since the stadium was opened in 2006.  I’ll say this, this stadium is better than the old one.  However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the stadium.  Granted, I didn’t do too much exploring on the main level as seats were upper deck.  And there was a great view from those seats.  The problem was it felt kind cramped to me and not as open.  For a newer stadium, would think there would be a little more openness.  Speaking of newer stadium, no wi-fi access.  Or better put, there were account to try to access but wouldn’t work.  For a stadium in 2014, that should be available.  And there wasn’t much food options in the upper deck, other stadiums I’ve been to have had better options, but like I said didn’t explore as much main concourse where they’re probably more options.

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As for the game itself, it was an entertaining game.  I was expecting it to be a pitchers duel between Royals ace James Shields and Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.  But nope, turned out to be a slugfest.  Cards hit a couple of home runs, including a grand slam and a pinch hit home run.  Royals scored six runs in one inning and had a home run on their end as well.  The lead kept changing hands back and forth.  It took a run by the Royals in the top of the 9th to take the lead and the Royals’ closer Greg Holland to nail down the save in the 9th to get the win for the Royals.  It was a fun game and a great win to watch.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_06_03_kcamlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=33410769&tcid=vpp_copy_33410769

I’ve now been to 5 MLB ballparks (Safeco Field-Seattle, Kauffman Stadium-Kansas City, Turner Field-Atlanta, Great American Ball Park-Cincinnati, Busch Stadium-St. Louis).  At some point, I hope to visit all the Major League stadiums.

Miyazaki Mondays: From Up on Poppy Hill

For this Week’s Miyazaki Monday, the featured film is 2011’s From Up on Poppy Hill.

From Up on Poppy Hill is set in 1963 in the port city of Yokohama, Japan.  The story centers around a young high school girl named Umi Matsuzaki.  She lives in and helps run a boarding house on a hill overlooking the port of Yokohama with her younger siblings Sora and Riku (no relation to the Sora and Riku from the Kingdom Hearts series) and her grandmother Hana while her mother Ryoko is studying abroad in medical school in the United States.  Two other residents in the boarding house are Sachiko Hirokouji, a college student and Miki Hokuto, a doctor in training.

Each morning before school, Umi raises signal flags that can be seen out in the port.  The message the flags send is “I pray for safe voyages.”  The message was meant for her father, a sailor who piloted boats but had died during the Korean War.  It had become a ritual that she continued since she was little.  One day at school, Umi saw a poem in the school newspaper of about her flags.  She tracks down the author of the poem and turns out it was written by Shun Kazama, who was also a member of the journalism club.  When Umi tracks him down, she finds him doing a stunt for the school newspaper which ends up not leaving Umi with a good first impression.

Umi’s feelings do change for Shun once she gets to know him.  She ends up going to Quartier Latin, a old, rundown building that houses many of the school clubs including the school newspaper, to help Sora get Shun’s autograph for the poem.  Umi later volunteers to help with the newspaper and in the process develops feelings for Shun and vice versa.

Through the course of the film, the two work through their feelings while at the same time are a part of a group of students that want to make sure the Quartier Latin is not torn down.  This requires traveling to Tokyo, which is going through change as well dealing with tradition vs building taking place for the 1964 Summer Olympics, to meet with the school board chairman and businessman Tokumaru.  It is a story of change both in the lives of the people of Japan as well in the life of the school and in Umi and Shun.

From Up on Poppy Hill is based on the 1980 serialized comic written by Tetsuro Sayama and illustrated by Chizuru Takahashi.  The screenplay was written by Miyazaki and also produced the film.  The director was Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son.  This was Goro’s second film to direct.  The first was Tales from Earthsea, a Studio Ghibli film that was based on a concept by Hayao Miyazaki on the Earthsea series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin, in 2006 (although Hayao ended up not working this film due to his work on Howl’s Moving Castle).  From Up on Poppy Hill was released in theaters in Japan on July16, 2011.  It was featured at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.

The English dub for this film was not produced and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  This film was distributed in North America by GKIDS.  This was the first Studio Ghibli film to not be distributed by Disney since Princess Mononoke, which was distributed by Miramax (which ironically at the time was owned by Disney at the time).  The English dub cast includes Sarah Bolger, Alton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Beau Bridges, Christina Hendricks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern and Aubrey Plaza.  It received a limited theatrical release in North America starting in March 15, 2013.  Overall, the film grossed over $61 million dollars, not as much as some of Miyazaki films but still pretty good.

I went and saw this film in an art house movie theater in Charlotte, NC.  I loved this film.  It is in my top 3 of favorite Miyazaki films and arguably is my favorite (it kinda flip flops between it, Princess Mononoke, and next week’s featured film).  Last year in this blog, I featured the theme song to this film.  I’ll end this post with a link to that song again.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 11:5-10

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed.  I cannot get up and give you anything’?  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Luke 11:5-10

Jesus is speaking here to his disciples about prayer.  He uses a parable about a person going to a friend late at night in need of some bread.  The persistence of the person asking his friend for bread leads to getting the bread.  Jesus in turn says that we are to be this persistent in prayer to God.  We should go to Him and be that persistent.  When we pray, are we that persistent?  Are we trusting that He will answer?  This week, let us go in prayer asking and seeking Him and trusting that He will answer us.