Hello, My Name Is Stormcastle…

… and I’m a recovered and well-adjusted ex-Mormon.

To tell you exactly how it is, I will reiterate something I said on my facebook account:

Okay, people… listen up: I’m no longer a Mormon. I don’t want to be a Mormon. Not interested in regaining my Mormon sheepdom again – EVER. I don’t want to believe in magic underpants, make believe prophets who ripped off the Bible, in certain people being better than other people, sexual inequality, and institutionalized hypocrisy.

My apologies to family members who enjoy the Morg church, but I do not stand with you in the ways of theology. I’m happy for you that the Mormon church makes you feel better. However, I’ve lead a perfectly happy life without LDS tampering for more than a decade, and plan to remain this way to the end of my days.

Yes, I believe in a great many things that give order to the universe.

However, I do NOT believe in Mormonism.

I still love all my Mormon family members – that has not changed. Whether that’s a two-way street is yet to be determined, LOL.

Thank you and have a great day! 🙂

I think I should take this a bit further…

**Follow up: What made me stop being a Mormon 11 or so years ago?**

Because I decided that I was blessed with a brain and that it would be a sin not to use it – and that is PRECISELY what Mormonism is: something to believe in so you don’t have to think for yourself.

The Mormon hierarchy tells you what you can do, what you can think, who you should associate with – hell, it even dictates what you should eat!

Why would God give you a brain capable of processing vast amounts of information, and the ability to make choices for yourself if you’re supposedly not supposed to do those very things?

I’m not an anarchist – I live my life according to the laws of the land.

Am I perfect person? Hell no.

The question is am I better person having been away from Mormon tampering and thought manipulation? Yes… yes I am.

I’m free to pursue all things – free to make my own choices and not have them made for me by some geriatric gas bag in Utah who wouldn’t know fun if it kicked them in their magic underwear.

I’m free to experience EVERYTHING this world has to offer without feeling one single iota of guilt.

Can any of you Mormons who still are blindly following like sheep say that?

Am I apostate? Sure, why not.

Should I be excommunicated? Bring it on if I don’t finish my paperwork to get removed from the church membership rolls first.

Am I afraid of Mormon Disciplinary Councils? Not overly – they have zero legal ramifications and are only a way of church drones masturbating their officiality i.e. reaffirming their belief that they are masters of the universe.

Want to send missionaries, visiting home teachers, or church publications to me? I’ll take them on – as long as they are willing to have legitimate, reality based discussions without the use of magical thinking or the ramblings of church apologists (Mormons have that down to an art).

Tell you what, those Mormons who are shaking their head while reading this: I’ll make you one hell of a deal! Give me one shred of legitimate, non-Mormon peer reviewed evidence that anything in the Book Of Mormon happened and I’ll be front row and center at the next dreadfully boring General Conference.

What’s that? The apologists are saying that The Book Of Mormon is more metaphor than historical account now?

Hmmm… if I want metaphors, I’ll stick to Star Trek – much more entertaining.

For all my non-Mormon friends out there who think this is overly dramatic, I shall provide you with the Mormon Handbook if you ask nice – the secret book only handed out to the Mormon poobahs like bishops. It’s chock o’ block full or some of the most ridiculous shit ever put to paper.

Alright… end of rant.

I still love my Mormon family members – but they should try really hard to accept my choices in life without trying to change me, or else we have very little to say – which is pretty much the status quo anyway.

– Fin.

Movie Blog: Avatar

Holy OMG, Batman!

My mind is completely blown.

Like… it was there, and then Laura Roslin airlocked it.

Except… substitute the prez of The 12 Colonies with James Cameron.

Now, before you even think of saying it, I haven’t bought into the Cameron fanboy hyperbole – I’m really trying to be objective here in my summations.

I’ve just come home from a 7 p.m. 3D screening of AVATAR and these are – what I hope – my clearly understandable insights.

*Thoughts On The Story*

Okay, I’m not going to go into a play-by-play of the movie because I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, but I will give you my artistic observations.

As with all of his films (except for Piranha), Cameron has worked from his own story, which I think is always good when you’re going to blow $300,000,000 of somebody’s money: you need to be familiar with the narrative inside and out, forwards and backwards.

With this movie idea gestating in Jim’s brain since he was a teenager, I don’t think there is anyone else on the planet more equipped to tell the story of Jake Sully: Avatar Driver.

To boil AVATAR to its bare essence, it’s a movie about a boy and a girl – that standard and popcorn-bathed escapist standby that has been the root of most Hollywood blockbusters since God knows when.

Boy And A Girl movies appeal to just about everyone since it connects with the audience on a deep psycho-biologic level: everybody wants to meet that 1 somebody that transforms their life, and the story of AVATAR does that very, very well without being exploitative (a degree upwards from Cameron’s TITANIC – and I’m not hating on TITANIC either… just sayin’).

That’s not to say that the overall story arch of the movie isn’t exploiting anything… no no no.

This movie plays heavily on the guilt we feel about all the crazy, destructive shit we’re doing to Planet Earth – and it grabs that guilt by the spine and gives it a severe thrashing… maybe the most heavy-handed since AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.

However, it does it in the way STAR TREK has always dealt with real-world situations: via metaphor.

A very connectable metaphor with characters that the audience can identify/identify with – which is kind of the hallmark of Cameron films: characters that represent easily recognizable human traits and foibles i.e. greed, heroism, tenacity, stubbornness, caring, etc.

Speaking of connections, I must say that I love how all the indigenous life on Pandora has built-in biologic USB ports (maybe a bit plot-specific, but it’s one thing that amused/entertained me greatly).

I think one of the best qualities of the story is that you get sucked in and completely forget that you’re looking at something that is A) 3D, and B) 90% CGI – which says a lot because people have been hammering the hard-sell for AVATAR based on those two things alone.

Which brings me to…

*Thoughts On The 3D/Cinematography*

First off, this new wave of 3D is probably here to stay – way beyond a passing gimmick.

Yes, AVATAR is the absolute best showcase for this new technology.

Yes, the story is really sold by the 3D.

Could the story have functioned without it?

Yes. The 3D scope of the movie doesn’t get ‘gimmicky’ at any point, so the footage would translate (and has) quite well – though I haven’t seen the 2D version, and probably won’t until it debuts on DVD in the spring.

What the 3D footage does accomplish is give us a functioning window into things that don’t exist.

Is the 3D perfect?

No.

The current technology probably tops out at 80% perfect – but that failing is purely on the display side of things as far as I can tell.

My most prevalent observation is that movement in the near foreground can’t be tracked properly from eye to eye through the polarization effect that your glasses provide – which results in a blurriness that you could compare to a really low resolution photograph, despite the fact that the image is ultra-crisp.

It can be distracting sometimes in AVATAR and was my only real gripe with my experience (other than having horrible movie watchers scattered around me in the theater).

If there’s moving vegetation in the immediate foreground of the shot, I could never see it clearly.

This could also be an artifact of the digital projection system employed to show the new 3D films – a sort of pixel aliasing maybe.

Or… it could be purely my own eye-to-eye visual acuity.

Feel free to comment below if you experience the same.

Another thing that’s great is Cameron created physical camera moves inside his virtual construct, complete with shaky-cam vibrations to create that visceral action feeling – which really enhanced the experience I think.

The major technical hurdle that Cameron and his Weta Workshop artists completely decimated was the physics problem CGI in movies has always suffered from: 3D versus 4D.

4D?

Reality as we perceive it has FOUR dimensions: length, width, height, and time – time being the measurable space between any two points.

Computer generated imagery in movies has never really captured that fourth dimension: things happen too fast or too slow when compared to a similar sequence that was filmed from real life, and the resulting plasticity of the image was always a bit jarring for me if that CGI footage was up close and personal on the big screen.

However, AVATAR displayed not a frame of this problem – and I think that’s a result of James Cameron’s relentless search for perfection.

None of the movement on screen seemed pre-planned – it all feels completely organic.

The action didn’t seem to be animated – which is something incredible considering the amount of animation done – and I’m not even taking into consideration the photo-realistic textures applied to the virtual models.

Yes, AVATAR is photo realistic – to the point where you forget that you’re watching CG.

The only times you remember that you’re watching CG is those moments where the scenes feature flora and fauna that is simply too fantastic to exist – at least to our puny, Earth-bound comprehensions.

You will believe in 9-foot tall blue aliens that run around virtually naked National Geographic-style.

*Thoughts On How AVATAR Fits Into Cinematic History*

Is AVATAR James Cameron’s best movie ever?

No.

So far, he’s topped out with TITANIC.

AVATAR is fantastic popcorn escapism, but it doesn’t really explore the human condition like TITANIC.

Is AVATAR the best movie of the year?

Probably not.

I’ve seen quite a few flicks this year, and there were at least 3 that had a more solid impact… DISTRICT 9 comes to mind immediately.

However, I can say that it can go toe-to-toe with this year’s other sci-fi darling: STAR TREK.

However, AVATAR is probably the flick that kept me on the edge of my seat for the longest – and that’s saying something as I’ve become a bit jaded and analytical when I sit in the theater as of late.

So where does AVATAR sit in the Hollywood pantheon of cinematic history?

Top 3D flick of all time, that’s for sure.

Best December wide-release in more than a decade.

Best movie that takes place in the future and features humans vs. aliens that wasn’t called ALIENS (coincidentally also directed by James Cameron).

Hands down the best flick featuring CGI – sorry, Pixar (but I still love you!).

For sure the best movie featuring new A-List phenomenon Sam Worthington (TERMINATOR SALVATION was tepid at best).

Overall, I think AVATAR is the best way to close out the ‘Mean Decade’ – and yes, I have yet to lay eyes on SHERLOCK HOLMES, but I highly doubt that it will approach AVATAR in enjoyability (even though I like Robert Downey, Jr. – it’s just Guy Ritchie’s style that discounts it even before I see it).

*Conclusions*

Go see this movie.

See it in 3D while you can for less than $2,500 (starting price for new, top of the line 3D HDTV sets).

You’ll leave the theater feeling good about life – which really is a tangible something.

AVATAR won’t change your life, but it’s definitely the best way to spend your movie bucks right now.

Oh… you’re really saving your dollars to see CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL?

Leave this blog and never come back! You’re banished for having horrendous taste in film.

And no… having kids is NOT a viable excuse, LOL.

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If you somehow have missed the trailers for AVATAR and have no idea what the movie looks like, please view the following:

Or view the QuickTime HD version here.

UPDATE: Interesting back-and-forth conversation between James Cameron and Peter Jackson can be found here.

Life Blog: Getting Old Is For Chumps…

… And the chump is me.

We’re all doing that slow and eventual march to the grave – no matter what we prefer to think, or regardless of what ridiculous lengths we go to for the sake of being healthy

As time goes on, I’m ever more aware that this is true for me.

When I was 15, I used to unequivocally state – and was only half-kidding – that I was going to drop dead at 25 from eating the largest steak dinner ever and having the resulting heart attack while consorting with a beautiful woman.

I must report that at 25, only the beautiful woman showed up.

So now I’m circling 34 years of age… and honestly, I sometimes forget how old I am – mainly due to the fact that my age really doesn’t matter to anyone.

I’ve stopped relating age to the things that happen in my life, which is a development that was a long time overdue: I started getting gray hair when I was 13 years old – that one sure sign that The Reaper has started writing down your name.

My knees have been wearing down since I was 12 via both ‘natural’ and athletic processes – in that exact order.

Knees that grind are very unpleasant to hear internally, unpleasant to feel physically, and can really suck when it comes to endurance.

In fact, the only upside to knees that grind like a bad transmission is how easy it is to give a girl you’re dating the willies: ‘Hey… wanna feel something weird? Put your hand on my knee while I bend it.’

Works every time.

My back kills me some days after a lifetime of stress: a genetically exaggerated curvature of the spinal column, multiple athletics derived fractures (horse back riding, motorcycle riding, wrestling).

The most frequent symptom (other than overt stiffness when getting up from certain positions) is a burning pain through my left erector spinae (lumbar region back muscle) which can really suck sometimes: imagine someone trying to perform surgery on your back with a thin-edged wooden spoon and you might be able to visualize the pain.

I’ve fractured and right-out broken both legs… my left one in three places to the point where I now have a titanium rod holding it together for the rest of my life – which makes me happy that I don’t do a whole lot of flying.

My teeth are slowly chipping and crumbling away after a hard decade of drinking nothing but coffee, tea, and cola – which also gave my horrible kidney stones towards the end.

The 2nd most recent issue facing me is one that’s incredibly distracting at times: myodesopsia… or in plain terms, eye floaters.

Those of you out there who have this affliction know how insidious it is – especially if you work with computers or other high-contrast visual work. You constantly have things moving through your line of sight – you even think you see bugs on the walls if the floater is going through your peripheral vision.

For those who haven’t experienced floaters as a frequent plague, check this video and then try to imagine it happening to you.

Finally, the most recent issue for me requires an OTC treatment that is somewhat embarassing: Preparation H.

That’s kind of the sure sign that you’re aging.

I can no longer delude myself into thinking that I’m still amongst the young when there are days where I wish I had one of those funny rubber cushions you see at the drug store – you know… the O-shaped ones that look like they’re made at the same factory that issues whoopee cushions.

Add that to a litany of pre-existing gastro intestinal issues, and you don’t really have a fun time on certain days.

Not even 34 and I have a body that feels at least 43.

Yup…

The chump is definitely me.