Monthly Archives: November 2016

Some Inexpensive Options to Keep Your Family Entertained

Summer is here, which means that people will be looking for lots of things to do to fill the long daylight hours and warm nights. It can be easy to get sucked into the trap of spending lots of money on summer entertainment, but you don’t have to break the bank to have a lot of fun. There are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to keep you and your family entertained this summer.
Free Museums, Concerts, and Movies

Check the local paper or the Internet for free stuff to do. If you live near a major city, chances are there are plenty of awesome activities the whole family can enjoy. Museums usually have free or reduced fare days that you can take advantage of. On these days, the museums are usually packed with people, but it can be a good excuse to get out of the house and learn. There are also a plethora of free concerts and movies in parks both inside and outside cities. Pack up your lawn chairs or a soft blanket, and get there early for the best seat in the house. You can even bring a picnic to these events, which can save money while being fun for the whole family or a romantic date night.
Visit the Library

Libraries are the most underused resource for free entertainment during the summer. Libraries have so much more than books. They carry CDs and movies, too, and often have free or inexpensive summer programs – like story time – for the kids. Many libraries also have digital subscription programs where you can get e-books, music, or audio books for free and install them on your MP3 player or e-reader right from your home computer. All you need is a library card. Don’t have one? Just bring a recent piece of mail to your local library and they’ll sign you right up.
Backyard Games

If there isn’t a park near your house, try playing some games in the backyard. Playing catch is an all-time favorite for dads and sons, but you can also try some new games, as well. Bags tournaments are a great way for kids and adults to have fun and improve hand-eye coordination at backyard barbeques. You can also try your hand at bocce ball, croquet, or horseshoes if you have the equipment. Of course, you could always sit and dip your feet in the kiddie pool as you watch people playing, too.
Potluck Parties

Potluck parties are great ways to get friends and family together without breaking the bank. Asking everyone to bring a dish to pass will help you save money and ensure that everyone has something there that they like to eat. If you are having a lot of people, think about preparing a list of items you need and have people sign up to bring them so you don’t get duplicates. Specifying what course people should provide can help, too.
Play at the Park

Some good playtime at the local park can be great exercise for adults, children, and pets. Best of all, it’s totally free to visit the park, and you might even make some new friends while you’re there. If you can walk to the park, you get bonus points for fitness. Make sure you pack plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen to keep playtime safe and fun.

For those rainy summer days, DIY projects and crafts are also one of the options that can keep you busy while you are stuck inside. Your local craft store most likely has lots of inexpensive ideas for projects that the whole family will love.

Lasting Impact on Western Film By Akira Kurosawa’s

More than just his own influence, Kurosawa represents much of what’s missing in today’s cinema―the willingness to openly experiment, borrow, and assimilate the ideas of the world’s greatest artists. That doesn’t mean stealing from better directors, but using their work to inform better work.

I have fond memories of so many great films from years past, movies that I saw on Sunday mornings, aired by cable stations unwilling to pay more than the most nominal fee for their air time. I watched those movies and discovered Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and a slew of other greats. I also watched those and discovered Crocodile Dundee, Beverly Hills Cop, and a load of ’80s fun. But, one morning in particular, on a rarely watched artsy channel, I found a film by one of the great Japanese directors of all time, and was enthralled.

That particular Sunday morning was interesting for a few reasons. First off, my brother was staying over at a friend’s house, meaning I had the full reign of the television. Second, it was raining very hard, so my parents couldn’t send me outside to ‘enjoy’ the sun by myself. Third, I was a little under the weather, so my normally short attention span stayed glued to the television, partially under the influence of cough syrup, and partially in pure lethargy.

All of these things were necessary as the film in question was Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, a three-hour opus. At the tender age of 11, it had not yet been restored to its original luster of 202 minutes, cut down by the unfortunate few who find foreign films too convoluted for American audiences. Regardless, I was enamored by this epic tale of right triumphing over wrong, and ever since then I’ve been in love with Akira Kurosawa’s work, constantly pointing out to my friends all the hundreds of different influences he’s had over Western cinema. It’s impressive really, the volume of work he produced and the volume of work that came to exist in America as a direct response to that work.

Many people are quick to forget just how much one man can influence the course of an entire art form. When that one man is a Japanese director who passed away more a decade ago, it’s almost impossible to educate the many who have never heard his name. But, film directors are not nearly so cloistered to world cinema as movie goers are. They watch everything they can get their hands on, and for that reason, an auteur like Kurosawa was high on many great directors’ lists, including Sergio Leon, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and dozens more.

So who was this man, Akira Kurosawa, who had a massive impact on the movies we grew up loving. He was a descendent of a former Samurai family, and as a child, had the kind of imaginative interest in stories and the new medium that was film, as any future director should. He attended film schools, worked with the first directors in Japanese film, and in the 1940s began directing his own films.

What made Kurosawa’s work so much different was that he had a mass appeal, a flare for seeking out the root of storytelling, that seed of a good yarn, and exploiting it with all the compassionate visual stimulation, that only Japanese films could offer. He invented numerous popular story telling techniques still used today in films like Rashomon (with multiple view points on the same story) and Seven Samurai (the powerful strangers hired to save a village). When he wasn’t busy creating archetypes for what Western films would become, he was taking Western archetypes and applying Japanese style to them. He wrote and directed two Samurai Shakespeare adaptations, with Throne of Blood adapted from Macbeth and Ran adapted from King Lear.

He adapted Dostoevsky in Hakuchi (The Idiot) and crafted stylish noir thrillers in Stray Dog and Drunken Angel. As original and inventive as he could be, Kurosawa was in love with the Western forms that informed cinema as well. For me, this is what true cinema is all about. Instead of constantly whipping out mindless sequel after mindless sequel, based on nothing more than the whimsy of a previous film, directors were seeking out new ideas from across the globe and integrating them into their own culture, exploiting universal themes in such ways that their viewers could understand.

When Sergio Leone crafted his Man with No Name trilogy, it was a rewritten script from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro. When George Lucas began piecing together his characters in Star Wars, he used many sources but none so openly as Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. You’ve likely seen some form or another of Rashomon hundreds of times throughout your lifetime, retold constantly with different characters. Unlike what many of today’s directors would deride as open infringement of ideas, this is how art actually works, assimilating and building. The cross-pollination of culture and story is what made Shakespeare’s work so epic, and in the 20th century made films so universally accepted.

Today’s film-going audience is not only woefully ignorant of the films of the past, but of the effects of those films and of ingesting the work of other cultures. While attending films at Seattle’s International Film Festival, I can’t help but think what would have happened to cinema if each nation had developed their own cinema solely independent of the others, how boring and repetitive it might have become.

Know More About Entertainment Divide

The entertainment industry is constantly under scrutiny―whether it is the sex and violence in movies, the language in music, or the focus of video games. As entertainment becomes more progressive, those who are vocal against that progression try to speak up louder to drown out the noise. For them, it is a seemingly winless battle, though as there are few if any instances in which moral disagreement has had a significant impact on the way the industry operates.

Music
Music has long since settled into a groove in which essentially anything is okay. The result is, a music industry that does not provide nearly as much objectionable and public material as it once did. There was one point in the early 1990s, when it seemed like every day had another music artist’s name in the papers alongside that of an angry senator. While albums are still marked with the Parental Advisory stickers that were introduced in those early days of moral objection, the bounds are essentially gone.

Access to music is as free and prevalent as ever, with services like iTunes and MySpace making it nearly impossible to filter out the unwanted noise anymore, and so, for the most part, the watchdog groups have stopped. It’s an interesting result, and has only occurred in the music industry.

Movies
Film has always been subject to scrutiny. After all, it features graphic images of violence and sexuality that can be offensive for a number of demographics, from children to adults and everyone in between. And while violence and sex have essentially wormed their way into mainstream acceptance, there are still plenty of topics that can bring about an uproar in certain communities.

Consider the recent uprisings in religious groups over what they feel is morally objectionable material such, the most recent example of which is The Golden Compass. The film is based on a series of books that depicts a fractured sector of society acting as a metaphor for the author’s vision of the Church. This sect kidnaps and experiments on children, forcing them to stand up and fight back. The result is a series of books that teaches an alternate view of religion, one in which it is not as cut and dry as organized dogma would have you believe. It is a strictly agnostic approach and one that the Church finds offensive.

Similar to their response to The DaVinci Code in 2006, the Catholic League―with its 350,000 members―has decided to boycott the film in the hopes of convincing other Christians to ignore it. The result is a wash of publicity and controversy over a film which is not supposed to be that good.

It is interesting that the current state of moral ethics provides ample space for protest against films that breach religious and racial boundaries (The Passion of the Christ is a good example), but the long time proliferation of sex and violence that has recently seeped into even the most innocent of children’s films and television programs continues.

Video Games
By far the biggest source of discussion and controversy in recent years in regards to moral obligations is the video game industry. Today, the ESRB rates and labels video games between E (for everyone) and AO (adult only). The rating system is effective in telling parents what their children will be facing in a video game. However, the ESRB is a self-regulatory board run and operated by the gaming companies, which has caused many senators and ethics pounding lawyers to grow even more upset at games like Grand Theft Auto, or the most recent maelstrom in Manhunt 2.

Most recently, senators have called for an overhaul of this system for a particular instance in which Manhunt 2, which originally received an AO rating for its violent portrayal of murder, was rerated with an M rating for Mature. No game console will currently support an AO game, meaning that for Manhunt 2 to be released, it needed to be edited and rerated. However, there has now been additional controversy over the leniency with which the ESRB rerated the game.

For the Nintendo Wii edition in particular, which allows players to act out the specific violent techniques with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, senators are concerned as psychologists have come forward citing the damage this can do to a child’s mind.

While video games have continued pushing the same boundaries of sex and violence as films, they have a slightly different hurdle to overcome. Because they are traditionally considered for children, and because acts are specifically handled by manipulating an on-screen character, they pose a more substantial threat for some individuals to the child’s mind. Regardless of how much they might grow or change, they will always be scrutinized for what they allow you to do.

The moral dilemma that strikes any entertainment medium will continue to strike as long as popular media is available to the masses. While music and film have become more accepted over time, the video game and eventually Internet mediums will probably continue to spark controversy, both in the media and in government.