Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was not terribly excited about seeing Brothers today. My wife and I were in Jacksonville visiting our daughter and son-in-law, and we decided to go see a movie. This was the only one that halfway appealed to us. I'd read several ho-hum reviews of the film, so I was expecting to be disappointed.

Not only was I not disappointed; Brothers is an excellent movie. We were all caught up in this well-acted, tense, moving drama. It's rated R for language and violence. I did not feel there was anything inappropriate here considering the setting and story.

Brothers stars Tobey Maguire as Marine captain Sam Cahill, called into duty in Afghanistan; Natalie Portman is his wife Grace; and Jake Gyllenhaal is Sam's brother Tommy. Sam and Grace have two young daughters named Isabelle and Maggie. They are played by amazing little actresses who show an incredible range of emotion and sincerity. They brought me to tears a couple of times.

Here's the story (without spoilers): While in Afghanistan, Sam's helicopter is shot down by Taliban fighters, but somehow Sam survives and is taken prisoner. However, he is reported back home as killed in action. Naturally Grace and the girls are devastated. Sam's younger brother Tommy, on parole for robbing a bank, is transformed by the event and becomes the family protector and surrogate father for the little girls. When the news arrives that Sam is not dead after all, the stage is set for all kinds of personal and family drama.

I can't say much more without spoiling the movie for you.

Among other things, Brothers is a study in family systems. The relationships Sam and Tommy have with their father Hank (played ably by Sam Shepard) are performance-based. You see how a lifetime of conditional love affected the two brothers entirely differently - one becoming a military leader, the other a deadbeat - yet neither brother has a healthy relationship with their father.

Sam and Tommy thus illustrate the two brothers in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15. Jesus told that story to show that both the moral person and the immoral person need the gospel. Sam and Tommy's very different stories intersect at the point of deep spiritual need. Neither one has the kind of relationship with their father that can carry them through the traumatic events that unfold here. However, they do have each other, so the movie is a touching look at the nature of brotherly love.

The movie is also a study in the nature and effects of guilt. But that's all I'll say about that.

See Brothers. It's raw and emotional, but I think you'll love it as much as I did. My wife and I walked out of the theater almost trembling from the tension, heartache, and energy of this movie.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This is my Christmas present from Suzy - an Epiphone SG (G-400) electric guitar. I had told her that's what I wanted this year, and she let me pick it out. I found it used on Craigslist. It's in really fine shape, and I like the look and feel of it. The action is really good and it has a nice sound.

I've played guitar since I was little, but I've never owned an electric guitar. My brother had a nice Gibson electric which I played from time to time, but this is my first. Epiphone is owned by Gibson, and the guitar I bought is patterned after the 1962 Gibson SG.

Christmas decorating

I finally got around to putting our lights up on the house for Christmas. I'm always the last one on my cul-de-sac to do this. One of my neighbors had his house all decked out before Thanksgiving. Suzy and I typically seem to wait until Christmas is two weeks (or less) away. I doubt we would decorate our house at all were it not for the fact that we host a couple of Christmas parties in our house every year! Well, that's not true. I would keep putting it off, but eventually I would get around to it.

I have great memories of Christmas during my childhood - until I went away to college. That's when my parents did what I'm doing now... slacking off.

It had been a great tradition for my dad and my brother to go out together and chop down a Christmas tree on some property Dad's company owned out in the country. I was sad when he no longer wanted to do that. But I can understand it now. A few years ago, Suzy and I did the unthinkable: we bought a fake tree.

I knew my parents were really getting older when they didn't even bother to put up a fake Christmas tree. Instead, they bought a dinky little 6" thing and put it on a table.

Please, if I ever do that, hit me over the head.

This year we went in with all our neighbors and bought luminaries to benefit the local school PTA. You can see a few of them in this picture. Seeing every house in the neighborhood displaying their luminaries was pretty cool.