Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angles and ICE: A Harris Christmas

As you may have gathered from other columns I have written, I come from a tradition-heavy family. And Christmas is a tradition-heavy holiday.
Unfortunately, because my siblings and I have grown older, some of our traditions have fallen by the wayside. We have been lucky, however, to have a mother who is determined to keep tradition alive — even if it is a new tradition.
For example, in the past five years we have started a tradition of going to ICE, an ice-scupture spectacle in the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine. We go to the hotel, my dad complains about the wait (even though we go when the wait is about five minutes long) and we bundle up to look at some ice.
We always pose for a family photo in front of the green screen at the entrance to ICE. Later, the people at the event put in a background and you can purchase a copy. We always end up buying a copy, but my mother also always insists that we get a photo with our own camera.
If you aren’t following, don’t worry, neither is my mother. The photo we buy has a beautiful winter wonderland behind it, but the one my mother takes just has a giant green blanket. We’ve tried to explain it to her, but she doesn’t seem to care. Who knows? Maybe she just likes the color green.
Our other tradition is to decorate our family Christmas tree. At our parents house, you may walk in to see a giant, beautifully-decorated tree in the foyer. It is a fake tree that my mother decorates herself with a decorator friend. Walk into the living room, however, and you will see our family Christmas tree.
It is a real tree that we cut down ourselves every year and decorate as a family. In a family, it would be the cousin you lock in an attic when company comes over. It just really isn’t something for the eyes of people who don’t understand it.
You would think with age, we would have learned how to make something look pretty, but no, we just like putting up the ornaments. We each have certain ornaments that only we can put up — my first Christmas, the ornament I made when I was in first grade and one with Superman.
Again, we are lucky to have a mother who is able to remember all of the various ornaments and who gets to put them up. Sometimes we forget, but she always remembers. Once all of the ornaments have been placed, one person gets to put the angel on the top of the tree.
As children, this was a coveted treat. It meant we got to get on my dad’s shoulders and rise above everyone else in the house and put the finishing touch on Christmas. One year when I was a child, however, it all went terribly wrong.
I was terrified to let the angel go all night long because I thought someone would take it from me, scurry up on my dad’s shoulders and put the angel on the tree before I could stop them. Therefore, I had a death grip on that angel for the rest of the night.
I even took it to the bathroom with me — yeah, you see where this is going. I was excited because it was almost time to put the angel on the tree, but in my excitement I was running and while running, the angel slipped out of my hands. For a moment, the angel was flying through its air in all of its majesty — before it came crashing down to earth and right into the toilet bowl.
There were many tears and hugs, but we got the angel dried off and I still got to put it on the tree, but every year it is my turn to put the angel on the tree I still hear about the drop heard round the world. We don’t get to climb on my dad’s shoulders anymore because my brother and I weigh as much as him (because of all of our muscles, of course), but the tradition lives on and that is the great thing about Christmas.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. His other favorite thing about Christmas is Christmas cookies. Anyone reading this can take that information and do what they will. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm a cool guy.

I am a cold weather kind of guy.
I have always enjoyed cooler weather because I am “fluffier” than the average person. I have a small little furnace underneath my chest in the form of a small basketball ­— OK, a regular-size basketball. Either way, I am constantly warmer than those around me.
I am the guy who is the only person to say “no” when someone asks, “Is everyone cold?” Then the fan goes off and I start to sweat. As the comedian Kevin James said, “You don’t need a reason to sweat when you are a big guy,” and turning off the cool air in the room never helped anyone like me.
Good looking people can get away with sweating and people call it “glistening.” The rest of us just sweat. Glistening people can get hugs from people while sweating, but most of us just get a pat on the dry part of our shirt.
I am getting back into the shape, thankfully, and I have lost a few inches off the old belt. But I still like the cold. As the temperature recently dropped in the area, I got giddy. I stood outside at night and just felt the cool breeze.
I told my wife it may be fun to sleep outside in the cool weather and she told me to tell her how it was when I decide to do that. The cold weather is a good opportunity to start a fire and cuddle next to the person you love.
Unfortunately for my wife, my maximum cuddle time at any given moment is about three minutes. When you are a warm-natured person, cuddling with someone is like snuggling next to a little fireball. Despite always being cold, smaller people sure do give off an insane amount of heat.
I inherited this warm nature from my dad. He wears shorts whenever possible. Even in the winter. If you ever hear, “What kind of idiot is wearing shorts in this weather?” it’s probably my father.
People always ask me, “Are you sure you don’t need a coat?” Sometimes, I give in and decide to take one, but then immediately regret it because I am hot and — in most places — you can’t just set your jacket off to the side. So, I either have to tie it around my neck or around my waist. Either way, I look like a yuppy college student from an early-90s comedy.
Ironically, I am a life-long Texan and my wife is from Oregon. These are the fun and crazy twists of fate that make life great. I don’t like the heat, she doesn’t like the cold, but we sure do like each other. So I don’t mind snuggling up with a little fireball every now and again and she doesn’t mind letting me run the fan while she hides under all the blankets in the house.
It’s going to be a good few months of cold weather before the sun comes back out to make me start sweating again. But who knows? Maybe by then my trips to the gym will have paid off and allow me to “glisten” instead of sweat.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. At the time of writing this column, it was 46 degrees outside and he had a little fan going at his desk. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I am thankful for tradition

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving.
My family is one of those that has traditions for almost every holiday. However, no holiday has more traditions than Thanksgiving.
For almost all of my life, we leave the Metroplex and travel to Tyler, Texas to a camp called Pine Cove. It is a family camp that offers a break from the world with no television, no computers and no running water. OK, there is running water and electricity, but other than that it is a refuge hidden in the woods of East Texas.
It is hard to believe that I am happy about a lack of television because it is one of my favorite things in the world. But there is usually nothing good on anyway, so it is easier to pry me away from my couch. I also get to play board games with my family — something rare in the days of movies, television and texting.
There are several families who travel to Pine Cove for Thanksgiving and we have developed friendships with many of them. We can find out about each other’s year and who is going to school, who is getting married and who is having a baby.
We also get to stuff our faces full of great food. The great thing about going to a camp for Thanksgiving is the amount of food. They are trying to feed a lot of people and they are always preparing more food than they actually need. That means I can get seconds — and 110ths. That works well for me.
We have always had a tradition of going into Tyler, finding the local bookstore and picking out a book. Everyone is allowed to pick one book and my father pays for them. Every year, however, I manage to find the one book my dad doesn’t want to pay for. It might be because he thinks it looks “weird” or “stupid” or say “that’s not a book, its a coloring book and you are married.”
Dads. They say the darndest things.
One of the best parts of the weekend is when we all start to travel back home. We always stop on Interstate 20 at a little Christmas tree farm and pick out which one will go home with us. Now, we cut down three trees for the three households — my parents, my brother and myself. In past years, however, it was just one tree and three saws.
Yes, that’s right, we cut down our own tree. In the past, the guys would trade off on cutting duties while everyone else critiqued them or told them to pull up their pants. Somehow, for about three years, every time the tree would finally give would be when I was on the opposite side saying, “Just a little more, you’re almost there.”
Then the tree would fall on my head.
Luckily, the tree was not that big, I am a pretty tough guy and there isn’t much in my head. Now, the tradition is for me to stand by the tree when it is about to fall and we take a photo mocking my past injuries. We then get hot chocolate, strap our trees to our cars and head home.
I can’t wait to do it again this year and years down the road, when I’ve got kids of my own to throw trees onto.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. The doctors said the only effect from the tree falling on him would be slight memory loss — he thinks. Something like that. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Childhood games and block parties

I felt pretty happy with my life the other day.
I recently attended a block party in my neighborhood in Burleson. It was wonderful to get to meet and visit with several of my neighbors and see children actually playing outside and enjoying each other’s company.
All to often today I see kids who are staying in their house all day playing video games or watching a talking sponge on television. As an adult I do pretty much the same thing, but I earned it after years of not being able to watch television in the afternoons.
My parents were strict about our TV time, and I am happy they were. After a dose of Disney afternoon — complete with Tailspin, Darkwing Duck and DuckTales — I was not allowed to watch television, so my siblings and I were forced to play outside with the neighborhood children.
When you have to play outside every day, you have to try new games in order to entertain yourself or you will just end up scoring drugs and becoming a 8-year-old repeat offender.
One of the games discovered by my young compatriots and myself involved a large dirt mound on a construction site near the house. As a church-going youth, many of the games we played were Bible-based.
On this particular occasion, we looked at the large dirt mound and decided to play “David and Goliath.” Well, all of my friends and myself were of regular height, but Josh towered above us with the height of a middle-schooler.
It was quickly decided he would be Goliath. The goal of the game became Josh would try and climb the dirt mound while we stood on top and deterred him from doing so by throwing rocks at his head.
Needless to say, after about two minutes blood was shed and we had to go home. Also needless to say, Josh was more than happy to show me the pain he went through during the game.
My brother wasn’t the only sibling that had a hard time with the games of the neighborhood children. No, that title belonged to my little sister.
In one particularly not-nice game, we tied my little sister to a lightpole near our house and instructed her that it was her job to get free and come find us. My friend then offered to let us go to his house to play Sega, so off we went.
I would like to say we forgot about my sister, but we didn’t. We just figured she would eventually get out of her bindings and find her way home.
Well, she didn’t.
At our friend’s house, we heard the doorbell ring and his parents told us to come to the door. There stood my dad with my red-faced sister. Apparently, it is very hard to get yourself untied from a pole, but screaming your head off will bring a lot of attention from neighbors and, thus, gain your freedom.
My father then walked us home and I am fairly certain his belt was off before we were in the front door. We did not sit right for about a month.
Those are just a dose of the mischief we got into as children, but we have great memories because of those days on our street with the other neighborhood kids. I am glad I live in a neighborhood that has children playing with other children instead of video games.
I am glad I live in a city that makes people feel safe enough to allow their children to play on the neighborhood streets because people care about one another and watch out for each other. I am glad I live in Burleson and I am pretty happy with my life.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. In case you were feeling bad for his sister, she once hit him in the head with a baseball bat during a game. He had to get stitches. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review for Red

If you just had an action movie with a bunch of retired spies, it would be a pretty stupid movie.
Add a dash of comedy, however, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Red takes the best of both the action and comedy genre. The best person to put a action/comedy?
Bruce Willis.
Add in Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a fun time.
Frank (Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) used to be the CIAs top agents but the secrets they know have now made them targets for the government they once served.
Now framed for assassination, they have to “get the band back together” and use their old-school techniques to clear their name and blow stuff up.
Like I said, it sounds like an action movie and it kind of is, but it also knows not to take itself seriously. There is a great balance of laughs and gunfights. No one believes anyone can do the things the characters do, but if someone could, it would be Willis and his pals.
The only thing unbelievable about the movie is the romantic relationship between Willis and Mary Louise-Parker. Louise-Parker is about half his age and is for lack of a better term — weird. The only reason the audience puts up with her is because Willis’ character likes her.
Because the Willis essentially vouches for her, you don’t get too annoyed and hope they end up together. If not for him, however, Louise-Parker would just be an annoying nuisance (which she sort of is anyway.)
The movie’s action is a bit over-the-top, which seems to be a draw in movies now-a-days. People don’t believe it if a movie tries to make the action realistic, but if you make it grossly over-the-top, people love it. I can’t explain it, but I’m on board with it.
Movies are a magic place where people can do anything. If a movie allows that to happen, audience members can let go of reality and have a good time. This is the perfect example of an opportunity to let yourself go and have a fun movie-going experience.
Willis is a pro at action/comedy and audience members are used to seeing him in that role. Freeman and Mirren, however, are both mostly known for their serious roles. It adds an extra layer of enjoyment to see them cut loose and play a silly part.
For the most part, the whole family can enjoy the movie. Younger audiences will enjoy it, as will older audiences. Kids might not find it as entertaining or get bored (it is a little long at just under two hours), but it’s not like there are many films you can take your whole family to watch these days.

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group Newspapers. He often wonders how he would be as a spy. Then he remembers that he gets winded packing for a trip and would probably not do so well. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

State Fair State of Mind

I always love this time of year because the State Fair of Texas is in town for a few short weeks and that means good food and pig races.
I am a native Texan and have attended the state Fair every year of my life except for the year I proposed to my wife and the year we had a family emergency and couldn’t attend. Other than that, the Harris clan could be found every year eating corn dogs and turkey legs.
Through the many years of going to the fair, my family has formed several life-long memories. There is the time I bought a plane being sold at one of the many booths of merchandise and had it immediately break when we got home.
There is the time we were walking down the Midwalk and saw a girl from school and waved at her — just in time for her to get sick all over the Midwalk. Everyone just sort of stared at each other before the girl said, “Well, that was awkward” and moved along.
And then there was the time the robot read my mind.
I want to start off by saying I am not a stupid person. I do stupid things and say stupid things, but I still consider myself a sharp guy. But this day, I was about as sharp as a marshmallow.
Anyone who has been to the State Fair knows there are several buildings filled with attractions and new inventions. In one of my trips to the state fair with my mother and brother, we were walking through one such building when a robot approached me.
“Hello, Luke.”
I was impressed that the robot could read my name tag and say my name — until I realized I was not wearing a name tag. I was wearing a shirt with my old soccer team’s name on it and no signs of identification. At first, I thought it was only strange, until it started talking about my life.
“So, are you enjoying the fair with your mom and brother?”
OK, now things were getting weird. I turned around and looked at my mom and brother only to have them shrug, looking equally shocked and amazed.
“How are you enjoy Mrs. Litzenberger’s algebra class? Need to be doing a little better, huh?”
Mrs. Litzenberger was the name of my eighth grade algebra teacher — yes, I was in eighth grade — and I was doing badly in her class.
“Are you going to buy that Mindy a corn dog while you are here?”
Mindy was the name of the girl I had a crush on in the eighth grade. I was now officially freaked out. I knew there was no such thing as a robot who could read minds, but how else was this thing doing this to me? I knew the State Fair always had new and exciting attractions and I figured, “this is the year they got a mind-reading robot.”
I thought this new invention was being showed off to the public by making spectacles of eighth-graders like myself and I decided it was time for me to leave.
My mom and brother were both eager to stay and hear more about me, but I wanted to leave right then. I wanted to leave the fair, the state and the country. I wanted to go to a third-world country where there wouldn’t be mind-reading robots for years to come.
For two hours of walking around the fair, I was mortified and trying to figure out what had happened to me. I knew robots couldn’t read minds — they just couldn’t — but this one did.
And that is when my mom started laughing, and my brother joined in. That is when I discovered the truth.
It turns out that, as I suspected, there was no such thing as mind-reading robots. There were, however, remote-controlled robots with a microphone installed inside them connected to a headset.
The headset being on the man who was standing next to my mom and brother and gathering information about me from them to freak me out. Every time I would turn around to look at my mom and brother, the man would take a step away behind a column and out of my line of sight.
My family thought about not telling me for a long time, but they could see how traumatized I was by the whole situation and decided to let me in on the secret.
To this day they still give me a hard time about how gullible I was and we can all share a big laugh about it. I couldn’t really get mad about it because you have to give props for a good prank and they got me good. I mean, they got me to believe a robot was reading my mind.
It was a great prank, but it was also a great memory. I am glad my family does something together every year that I can count on for a good time. I hope I can make memories like that one day with my children — and convince them of something to terrify them for a good little while.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He is afraid that when mind-reading robots really do take over the world, he will think it is a prank and be vaporized. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

Tales from the Gym: Paying for my own torture

I knew there was something wrong with me when I realized I was at the gym on a Saturday morning.
As I have written in the past, you would not look at me and think of me as an athletic person — and you would be right.
However, I recently had two realizations concerning my life. One: I needed to work out because, although I saw a fairly normal looking person in the mirror, to others, I appeared to be the second “pregnant man.”
The other realization was, although I have gone to the gym on my own before, it was too rare a thing to make any difference. I have mentioned before that my friends run the Burleson Athletic Club and have given me tips on how to lose some weight.
One of those suggestions was to cut back on the amount of soda I drank on a daily basis. That was hard because I was up to around 10 a day. However, I cut back and I immediately shed around 10 pounds. Now, all I needed to do was go to the gym and walk and lift some weights.
Walk. It seems simple enough, but when you are carrying as much weight as I do on a regular basis, it can be a bit of a hassle. I did a fairly good job of regularly attending the gym for a few months, but then fell back into the though of “why go walking when I can sit?”
That is when I decided to do something about my revelations. I called my friend and set up a time to have a training session at the gym. I figured I would go, learn some new things, and — after a few sessions — walk out with washboard abs and a career in male modeling.
How silly I was.
As I said, I’m not an athletic guy so I didn’t know things like you should eat or drink something before you go have a vigorous workout. Therefore, about 15 minutes into my first session, I began to question my decision-making skills.
Not only had I volunteered to put my body through this, but I was paying for it. I also decided this was a good time to get right with God because at the rate the workout was going, I would be seeing him very soon.
Luckily, however, my friend has the experience to recognize when my face matches my white shirt, it is time to lie down and end the session.
For the next few days, I walked like a fat penguin who had been beaten with baseball bats. People that saw me thought I had been in a car accident or in a vicious beating. It hurt to sit, stand, walk and think. Luckily, thinking has never been my strong suit, so that relieved me of some pain.
The craziest thing, however, is that I went back. Two days later, I went back to the place that hurt me and allowed it to hurt me more. I did it because I needed too — and I already had the check written out for two sessions.
I am happy to have friends who are willing to kick me in the rear and work me until I hurt because they know I need to be healthier. I don’t need to be told that I look fine and I don’t breath that heavily. I need to be healthy.
I have made the decision in my mind to stop justifying the things I’m doing as enough and decided what I can do to go further.
That is how I knew something was wrong with me when I realized I was at the gym on a Saturday morning, but I was happy to be there.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He thinks he could probably currently make it as a plus-sized male model, but is too modest to go into a career like that. He can be reached at burlesonstar@thestargroup.com.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My first and only fight

As with most brothers, I loved my big brother, but I also loved to hate him. We would the perfect crime-fighting or mischief-making duo — depending on how the mood struck us — or we could be mortal enemies. The difference could be made over something as elaborate as me making fun of his weight or as stupid as him not allowing me to swing on the “good” swing on our backyard play area. Either way, we would usually make fun of each other, yell at each other and occasionally come to blows.
On one such occasion, my family was visiting my brother at college for some special event. During the course of our stay, I was showing Josh how much I had missed him by throwing things at his head to annoy him.
One of those things was a little piece of bark that caught him right in the eye. He was not happy with this little game I was playing, but didn’t want to do anything at his new college that might jeopardize his future with any anti-violence co-eds on the campus.
He drove my family back to the hotel where we were staying and when he asked for the hotel key, I happily obliged him and flicked it out of my hand towards his face. An interesting thing about hotel keys, if you flick them just right, they will take a kind of swooping journey towards the general direction in which you threw it.
In other words, I’m sure the card would have landed in the vicinity of Josh’s hands if his head had not gotten in the way. The flight path the card took caused it to wobble in the air and come down right on Josh’s eye, near where the bark had hit him a few short hours before.
Well, this was the hotel card that broke the camel’s back. I had no real time to react when Josh began to charge me with the fire of murder in his eyes. My only thought was, “Luke, you are going to have to put him down.”
I watch a lot of movies and if I man is ever charging you in the movies, you punch them in the face and they go down. Well, in the real world, when you punch someone in the face they may pause for a second, but then they just give you a look that says, “You really want to die today, don’t you?”
After I punched Josh in the face, he gave me that exact look before returning the favor.
His punch hurt a lot more than mine.
I was, however, able to stay conscious long enough to continue to battle with him. We rolled around the outside of our hotel punching each other in the face until my father — all 6-foot-3-inches and 260 pounds of him — came upon us.
I had somehow ended on top of my brother punching down at his face while he was punching up at mine. That left my back exposed for my father to grab my shirt collar and toss me back five feet as though I was a rag doll.
He looked at both of us and said, “Stop.”
This was short for “Stop, or I am going to take you both on and pummel you into the ground and leave before the police discover your bodies.”
I had been mad at my father enough in the past to puff up my chest to him, ready to fight. He would always say the same thing. “Son, I am going to tell you what my father told me. You get the first punch free, but you better make it a good one, because then it’s going to be a one-sided fight.”
This is how I knew when the word, “stop,” exited his mouth, that would be the end of the fight. It remains my one fight to this day.
The great thing about being brothers is that even after a knock-down-drag-out fight or just a small argument about who can fart louder, you can still be best friends by the end of the day. There may have been a few occasions where we fought for more than one day, but I can’t remember it — and I am glad it is that way.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

American is foreign — in a bad way

When I heard George Clooney was going to be in a movie that came out in early September I wondered if studios were trying to get a jump on Oscar season, or if it was just a dud the studios wanted to dump in the summer-movie graveyard month.
Unfortunately, it was the latter.
It is always hard to see good actors and actresses do bad films. You can tell they were trying to go for the serious, art-house film that might earn some awards, but instead wind up with a movie you will find for $4 at Blockbuster in a year.
The American is Clooney’s big mistake for 2010. The film follows a hitman hiding out in a small town in Italy after a botched assassination attempt on his life. While in Italy, he is charged with building a gun for another assassin and must also avoid being killed.
There seems to be a lot going on with the movie, but you wouldn’t know that if you watched it. The movie moves at the pace of a snail out for a Sunday stroll. For a movie that lasts an hour and 45 minutes, there are about 45 minutes that could have been removed from the film completely.
There are many scenes of Clooney aimlessly walking through the streets of his small town or meticulously building a gun that were probably meant to add to the movie, but only take away from it. I understand the idea was to build suspense in the film, but it is hard to do that when the audience doesn’t really know what is going on in the movie.
Add to that a confusing relationship between Clooney and a Italian prostitute that seems to only be in the film to add some sex scenes and nudity. If the movie was better, the relationship might make sense or involve audiences in the movie, but as it stands, it is just a series of sex scene that somehow suddenly turns into love.
Why is he on the run? Who is chasing him? These are questions only partially answered by the movie. After 30 minutes, most audience members will probably be looking at their watches to find out how much longer they have to wait for some semblance of a payoff.
Believe me, it never comes.
At the end of the movie I was only slightly less confused and 10 times more frustrated than I was at the beginning.
I can’t imagine even the biggest Clooney fan finding a reason to like this movie. He doesn’t have much of a chance to impress with his acting skills. He barely speaks and mostly stares out in space.
This is not a film to go see unless you are trying to go to sleep or you like looking at pretty Italian towns. You are better off saving yourself money and renting Peacemaker with Clooney. It is a decent action/thriller with a real plot and a good ending.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scott Pilgrim: 1 The World: 0

I was getting a little tired of seeing Michael Cera in so many movies in the past couple of years before I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Cera has become the go-to man for any role involving “awkward young man” and people seem to be eating it up. I, for one, was not eating it up any more — although his role in Arrested Development is still genius — and was, in fact, ready to start going on a strict Cera diet.
However, I decided to give Pilgrim a chance because of the director, Edgar Wright who has brought great joy to my life through Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
I am glad I did.
Pilgrim is not only one of my favorite movies of the year, it is a movie I can see buying and enjoying for years to come. However, while I enjoyed it immensely, this film is a prime example of how some moviegoers will see a film as genius and others will find it both annoying and stupid.
It is a big jump, I know, but the aspects of the film I clung to with a smile on my face are the same aspects that may turn away some — and I really hate to say this — older audience members.
The film is based on the popular graphic novel of the same name. It takes place in a world which may look like our own, but is filled with people with superpowers and little hearts that appear when two people lock lips. Basically, it is a mix between the real world, a comic-book world and a video-game world.
Pilgrim (Cera) falls in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but doesn’t realize she comes with some baggage. While most people come into relationships with baggage, Flowers’ baggage is special — it comes in the form of seven evil exes.
Pilgrim discovers quickly after starting a relationship with Flowers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to be with her.
This is where the genius — or ridiculous — part comes in to play. All of the “battles” Pilgrim must take part in are shown like a video game showdown. People fly through the air hitting each other and throw each other through walls with little to no damage.
When an evil ex is defeated, they burst into coins and Pilgrim receives points. It is a gimmick that could easily fall flat with the rest of the film, but, somehow, Wright is a good enough director to make it seem like an every day occurrence.
The audience quickly gets immersed into the story and begins rooting for Pilgrim. It seems like a non-factor that a person gets physic powers for being a vegan. Instead of scoffing at a girl pulling a giant hammer out of her purse, the film instigates a cheer for such a over-the-top moment.
For my generation — those who grew up going to arcades and playing numerous fight games — the movie brings a feeling of nostalgia and happiness. You remember all of the crazy things that happen in those games and you don’t think, “that was so ridiculous.” Instead you think, “I really hope they incorporate...”
While my generation may enjoy the movie more than another, the film is still a great watch. If you can bring yourself to enjoy an insane alternate reality, you will find yourself in a totally immersing movie experience.
You will leave the theater with a smile on your face and wish your life was more like a video game. I also came out of the film ready to give Cera a second chance — I just hope he doesn’t ruin it.

Thank you to Premiere Cinema of Burleson for allowing Luke Harris to screen this film.

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group newspapers. His parents never bought him a video game system because they wanted him to focus on his schoolwork, but he fooled them, because he still found ways to not do his schoolwork. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

What I took away on my first day

There are not many “first day of school” memories stored in my brain.
I’m not sure if I blocked them out or if I just didn’t have many memorable things happen. I know on my first day of school, I was ready to get in the classroom.
I was the second child so my brother had already gone to school for a year. Therefore, I was ready to make my mark on the world of academia. My mother tells me I didn’t even look back when I marched into my first day of kindergarten.
I do, however, remember my first day of second grade. We had a small math assignment and I suddenly realized I had forgotten how to subtract.
I was nervous and I tried to glance at a few other classmates paper to get an idea, but I also didn’t want to cheat. I remembered that my brother got a cool drawing after his first day of second grade of a bear jumping over alligators. Under the picture were the words, “Congratulations, you survived the first day of second grade.”
I was terrified I was not going to be receiving one of these pictures. Would my picture be of a poor teddy bear being torn to pieces by a group of angry second-grade alligators? Was my mother going to move all of my things into the front lawn and tell me to find another family who couldn’t survive the second grade?
That is when the genius portion of my brain kicked in. If I just add everything I had a good chance of getting most things right and there was the off chance that addition was the same as subtraction.
So I added. I added for every answer. When I got my paper back, I had all the correct answers written next to the wrong ones and I remembered. Subtraction means “take away.”
I’m not sure what we did for the rest of the day. We may have read stories or played “Heads Up, Seven Up.” Either way, I do remember that the end of the day came and as I was walking out the door, I received the prize I had coveted.
They had not taken away or “subtracted” (see, I’ve still got it) my survival certificate. My bear made it across the pond and I was ready to take on the rest of second grade.
There were many first days of school to follow that, and I believe they all went off without a hitch. I never forgot how to subtract again, and I never had to worry about my first day of school. Nothing could stress me out as much as contemplating the fate of my bear, and now that he was safely across the pond, my worries were over.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. Once his math career got into long division, he sort of gave up on the dreams of following in his father’s footsteps of being an accountant. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Friday, August 20, 2010


A lot of films claim to be “the ultimate action movie,” but many actually fulfill that role. Lucky for action-movie fans, you can always trust Sylvester Stallone to deliver.
There are some out there who may not respect Stallone as a filmmaker, and that is fine. He is no Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese and he probably won’t be winning any Academy Awards.
But he knows action.
He has proven it in the past, and in more recent years with the last Rambo installment. He has taken his action expertise and made the “ultimate action movie.”
The Expendables is what I like to call “awfulsome.” It is an awesome action film while having the awful dialogue, bad acting and over-the-top situations needed for action films.
Some people — and I apologize in advance, but it is mostly women — who can’t understand why it is OK for a guy to enjoy a movie where someone can hang onto a plane while it is taking off, but can’t get behind a film where a guy stops traffic to profess his love for a girl.
The reason is simple — it is cooler. And this film delivers above and beyond expectations for a great action movie. One of the big draws for the film is its cast.
Jason Statham, Jet Li, Stallone and Dolph Lundgren have all made themselves known in the action movie community and newcomers Terry Crews and Randy Couture also fit the bill for over-the-top-action-hero.
The film follows Barney Ross (Stallone) as he leads the Expendables, a band of highly skilled mercenaries including knife enthusiast Lee Christmas (Statham), martial arts expert Yin Yang (Li), heavy weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Crews), demolitionist Toll Road (Couture) and loose-cannon sniper Gunner Jensen (Lundgren).
When the group is commissioned to assassinate the dictator of a small South American island, they discover a deeper plot and decide to save the people of the island and kill lots and lots of people.
It is the plot of any action movie with mercenaries as the good guys. They are always heartless killers until they discover their inner feeling and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter because no one comes for the plot, they come for the carnage.
The movie only has a plot to explain why the group is busy killing a bunch of people. It could be a movie about a puppy who is kidnapped by a ruthless animal shelter and the Expendables have to go in and kill everyone to get the dog home safely.
Guess what? I would still see it. I would pay $10 and go watch it because I know there would be a lot of cool fight scenes and at least one person getting blown in half. Does that make me sick? Nope, it makes me a guy.
This is the perfect movie for a group of guys to go enjoy so they can later re-hash all of the amazing action scenes and imagine what it would be like to be an awesome mercenary. If you are an action-movie fan, this is a must-see (there is always Eat, Pray, Love for your significant other if they don’t want to go.)

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group newspapers. He hopes they make another Expendables movie where the cast is pitted against the cast of the Twilight movies (Hint: he isn’t rooting for the Twilight folks). He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Life lessons taught by the dog

I have never been one to go out and buy a nice pair of shoes or the newest in men’s clothing. I’m just not built that way.
There are some things, however, that I am notorious for spending money on. Anyone who knows me can guess most of my money goes towards movies. If I was being really honest, I would say it was movies and comic books, but that makes me sound too much like a man-child, so I won’t tell you that.
I have recently had to cut back on my spending to afford pesky things like my house payment and electricity during these summer months, which has taught me to be happy with the things I already have and has shown me the difference between the things I want and the things I need.
The other thing that has taught me this lesson — my dog. It was cute when he was a puppy and he would get something in his mouth and run around the house, begging to be chased. In hindsight, I probably should have not enjoyed chasing him so much because he now believes it to be a fun game.
When he was small, I could chase him down, but now he weighs 55 pounds and has gotten a lot faster. Most of our belongings now go up high where he cannot reach, but there have casualties to his canine jaws.
My sister lost a cell phone, I lost a favorite movie and my wife lost a pair of shoes. This has taught me to keep my house clean and to not put so much stock in material things, but be happy with my wonderful wife and my mischievous dog. I couldn’t get the satisfaction or joy from any movie than I get from my own family.
My dog also encouraged me to quote scripture to my wife whenever she gets mad.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where DOGS and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20.
I changed up the words to make it more personal, but the same rules apply. All of my stuff is going to be gone someday, and that is OK because I have got other things to live for.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He recently discovered that dogs will eat a plaster cell phone holder if they get their paws on it. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some people just can't handle the heat

I really don’t like the heat.
I am a native Texas and I would never to think to live anywhere else, so I should be at least be OK with the heat.
But I’m not.
I like it when it is cool or even cold outside because it is easy for me to stay warm. I am warm almost all the time because I have a little extra insulation around the middle of my body.
I can sit in a room with my wife who has to cover up in a blanket to keep warm and be thinking about getting another fan in the room to cool it down a little more. I also like to the cool weather because it is more fun to finds way to get warm.
When you are hot, you can drink water, take a cold shower or eat ice cream. I am lactose intolerant and I can’t stand taking cold showers, but water is OK.
When it is cold, I can snuggle under a blanket, drink hot chocolate, take a warm bath or take a hot shower — and all of these things can be done by myself or with my wife.
When I am hot and I try to cuddle with my wife, it is like cuddling with a small campfire. I’m not sure how her body gets cold at the slightest drop in temperature, but somehow emits the heat of the sun when she gets near me.
She can often get frustrated with me for not wanting to cuddle with her, and I try to explain that I love her, but I also love being alive and don’t want to spontaneously combust in my mid-20s.
I’m not sure how, but sometimes it even manages to be hot while it is raining. For me, it makes sense that if there is water falling out of the sky, it should be cooling me off and feel nice in the air. In Texas, the water manages to fall out of a cloud, warm up on the way to the ground and make me even more miserable.
Smaller people don’t understand this, but I don’t need a reason to sweat. I sweat by just thinking about things. The heat just compounds on my already annoying sweatiness. I don’t need it.
Like I said, Burleson, Texas is not the ideal place for a guy like me, but there is no place in the world I would rather be.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He really didn’t mean to rhyme that last line. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Journey through the top 100 Part 1

You can’t call yourself a real movie buff unless you have seen the “best.”
I have recently been making my way through the American Film Institution Top 100 films of all time, and I have come to find some treasures I never knew, as well as some — what I feel — are movies that don’t exactly deserve the title of “best.”
This will be the first of a few columns I write about the list and my journey through it. I hope you enjoy.
In this first column, I would like to go over the films I have discovered or re-discovered from long ago that have moved their way into my list of favorite films of all time.

Singin’ in the Rain
For the longest time, my wife was trying to convince me to watch this film, knowing my love of musicals. I always knew I would watch it eventually, but never felt like sitting down and soaking it in because I wasn’t “in the right mood.”
One day, when I had nothing going on, my wife put the movie in and told me to watch it. After about five minutes, I knew it was going to be one of my favorite films of all time. The humor, dancing and singing were all perfect and held up to this day.
Nothing seemed cheesy or silly in “today’s society.” It was a hilarious film with a great love story and talent that seems to be lost in the films of today. If you haven’t seen this movie (and I know most have) you should watch it as soon as you can get your hands on it. It is great for the whole family and will give you a happy, new outlook on the world for at least a couple of days.

The Best Years of Our Lives
This is a film, I admit, I had never heard of before my journey through the list. After watching the film, I did a little research into the making of the movie and fell even more in love with the story.
The movie follows three World War II veterans as they return home and have to adjust to life at home. One of the men has a family to return to and remember how to love, one has a wife he barely knows and a new love in his life, and one has two hooks instead of hands and a bleak outlook on the future.
Harold Russell, a disabled WWII veteran, played the role of the handicapped Homer Parrish. He won two Oscars for that one role. One Oscar was for best supporting actor and the other was an honorary award for being an inspiration for disabled war veterans throughout the U.S., making him the first (and only) actor to receive two Oscars for the same role.
Most of the crew on the film were WWII veterans as well as the actors. While most movies about war today are played by actors who “study” people they are portraying, these men were simply showing the world what they deal with.
There are themes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as a heartbreaking look at those who came back after losing body parts in the war. In one heartbreaking scene, Russell shows the woman he loves what she is in for by describing himself as “a big baby who can only cry for the things he needs” at night when his hooks are removed.
I’m sure Sean Penn would do a good job, but nothing compared to the real man who dealt with the real pain.

City Lights and The General
I don’t know what I was expecting when I popped in Charlie Chaplin’s most famous film and Buster Keaton’s classic, but I didn’t think I would love them as much as I did. When I would hear “silent movie,” I would automatically think “boring and unentertaining.”
I was wrong.
Not only were the films great stories — they were downright hysterical. I found myself laughing out loud more than I have in a lot of modern-day comedies. It just goes to show that funny is funny no matter when it was made.

Obviously, there are several other films I have found in my search that have made a great impact, but these were the few I wanted to touch on. I also hope to talk about the films of Humphrey Bogart and some of the films I haven’t been so impressed with in a future column. If you have any comments or want to ask me a question about the list, please feel free to e-mail me at the address below.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He only has 30 films left in his journey through the AFI Top 100 films, and is wondering what number Robocop is on the list. He can be reached at www.burlesonstar.net.

A Dream come true: Inception Review

When people are asked, “What is Inception about?” the answer is usually going to be, “Well, it’s about dreams and — well I don’t want to give anything away and ruin it.”
The only better answer is to say, “You haven’t seen it? You should go see it — right now.”
Inception is one of the best films of the year and by far the best film of the summer. I’m not going to try to explain the plot other than to say it involves dreams and when dreams are involved you can pretty much get away with anything.
Even though you can get away with anything and it would be very easy to make a film that was overly confusing and too artsy for its own good, director Christopher Nolan doesn’t take that route. Sure, in the beginning of the movie you are confused and frustrated, but, as the movie progresses, the film is slowly peeled back layer by layer.
It is such a refined process that moviegoers don’t ever have time to be upset about not understanding something because it is explained or there is something so mind-bending on the screen, you forget what you were thinking about.
Not only is the plot superb, but the casting of characters is pitch-perfect. Every actor plays his or her role to perfection and does nothing but elevate the film. Leonardo DiCaprio, as always, gives an award-worthy performance. The person I was most worried about was Ellen Page, as she has recently only been cast as a snarky teen with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue .
I knew there would be no room in this film for that type of role, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Page play the role straight and do a good job of it, as well.
Aside from the great acting and great story, this is one of those films you want to take a nap after seeing because of its intensity. It is a nail-biter for a good two hours or so of its two hours and 22 minute run time. The action is mesmerizing and intense to the point where you want it to be over while simultaneously never wanting it be over.
This film had the potential to be a terrible movie. All it had to do was mess up one aspect and the whole film would have been ruined. But it didn’t. Every aspect of the film was spot-on and it deserves to be seen almost as much as you as viewers deserve to see it.

Rocks of Life

I attended my brother’s wedding in Oregon on July 4. My brother was shrewd enough to schedule the wedding for July 4 to make it that much easier to remember his anniversary.
Some people reading may know that my wife is also from Oregon. To many, it is a magical thing that my brother and I both fell in love with girls from Oregon. For my parents, it is magical that two girls fell in love with us at all.
Before the wedding, my wife, Sarah, and I traveled to see her family in their hometown of Boring. I am not making that up, my wife comes from a town named Boring.
The churches in the area tend to adopt the name of the surrounding cities as to not be the Boring Baptist Church or Boring Church of Christ.
While visiting the in-laws, we took a trip down to the Oregon coast. If you haven’t been to the Oregon coast, it is a beautiful site, but is not a sunny California beach. Much of the beach is filled with rocks and the sky is normally gray, but it has a certain charm and beauty all its own.
My mother-in-law wanted to travel to the Devil’s Punchbowl while we were on the coast. The beach is called the Devil’s Punch Bowl because it is a cave you can walk around during low tide, but fills up with water. It isn’t a scary looking place until you realize the water that was 20 feet away five minutes ago is now at your ankles.
Luckily, I didn’t get caught and wind up being one of those stories you hear about years later.
“Some guy in his mid-twenties was jumping around on a bunch of rocks like a 3-year-old and drowned in the punchbowl. Remember kids, don’t be idiots.”
I didn’t make it off the beach unscathed, however. I have a brother-in-law who is slightly younger than me and constantly challenges me to feats of strength or athleticism. If you have seen me, you can guess that most feats of athleticism that I am involved in are running to the fridge to get the last piece of pie.
However, I am constantly intrigued by the challenges presented by my brother-in-law and try to participate in them. I wind up hurt or tired — usually both — and think, “I’m not doing that again.”
But I do. And I did.
The challenge for this trip was to climb a rock on the beach which was quite tall and not easily accessible. My brother-in-law activated some sort of anti-gravity belt he was wearing and easily scurried to the top. It was now my turn and I looked the rock over, decided that I would jump, land on a foothold and lift myself up on top of the rock.
I didn’t consider, however, that I was wearing my rubber Crocs on my feet. As I said before, I am not athletic and don’t understand the concept of “correct footwear” when it comes to any kind of activity. If it is hot outside I wear sandals or Crocs and if it is cold, I wear my boots.
Well, I was casual on this day and wore my Crocs. Needless to say, the rubberness of the Crocs didn’t go greatly with the wetness of the rocks. I grabbed hold of the top of the rock, but my feet slid out from under me, leaving me dangling above the ground.
I was terrified that I was going to fall a good 10 feet into some rocks below and break something other than my pride which already lay shattered on the ground. Well if my pride wasn’t broken by the failed attempt, it was definitely broken when I looked down to see there was a good two inches between my feet and the ground.
I was hanging for dear life, kicking in the air to find a foothold when I could simply drop and land in the soft sand. I wish that was the end, but God, having a sense of humor, decided it wouldn’t be.
I was able to say, “That was embarrassing,” before I started walking, slipped on another rock and fell face-first into the sand. At that time, I thought it best to take a rest in the sand considering I was already there and I was pretty much terrified at the idea of getting back up.
Despite the broken dreams and bruised ego at the end of the trip, I had a great time. I allowed myself to go out and climb on rocks and just let loose. There are too many times where I decided not to do something because it would make me look silly or I might not like it.
I’m pretty much always going to look silly, so I don’t really have to worry about that anymore. I have decided that certain opportunities only come by every once in a while and it is best to try them. The worst case scenario is you fall a few times, get back up and decide to wear tennis shoes the next time you go to the beach.
Go out and climb some rocks in your life before it is too late because time flies and pretty soon, the water has risen and you won’t have the opportunity to do the things you once did.

Why get a medium when you can get a large?

I was faced with a question the other day that rocked me to my core.
“I can get you a large pizza for the same price as a medium, would you like me to do that?”
For most, this question doesn’t rival Sophie’s Choice, but most people are not me. I love pizza. I would walk across broken glass to get to pizza.
I’m also slightly overweight. I say this not in a “feel sorry for me” way, but in a “I realize how I look” way. In college I was once told I looked like Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook.” Recently, I have been said to look like Zach Galifianakis and Jack Black. Obviously, something has changed.
Luckily for me however, I joined a local church in Burleson and befriended a family that happens to own The Burleson Athletic Club, a local gym. They remind me of my family and, therefore, I have an inherent need to make them like me.
They encouraged me to start going to gym and start changing my life for the better. I was wary at first because, come on, it’s the gym.
However, after looking at a photo with my wife and thinking, ‘I could paint myself white, where a beret and look like the Michelin Man,” I decided I might need to go to place I have dreaded since the days of elementary school.
I wasn’t exactly what you would call athletic in school. I was the kid they let just hang on the chin-up bar instead of doing actual pull-ups.
In high school, I was on the varsity football team because they needed players and my friends were playing. At practice the coach would say, “Everyone get out here in 30 seconds or you are running laps.” He would then look behind anyone and see me trying to put on my shoulder pads over my helmet and add, “except for Harris.”
I was also, supposedly, a lineman, and when one of my teammates was knocked out during a game, the coach turned to me and said, “Harris, get up here.”
I jumped up and ran to the front, thinking (A) I’m getting into the game and (B) I should really take off my glasses. When I got to the line, my coach said some words I would never forget.
“We need your jersey.”
Apparently, you can’t have a certain number on the line or they just wanted to put one of my teammates in the game pretending to be me. Either way I had two more realizations standing on the sideline (A) My jersey was going to get more playing time than I was, which I was fine with and (B) that half-cut shirt that was funny in the locker room is not nearly as funny when standing in front of your entire school wearing bare shoulder pads and a helmet.
All this to say, obviously, I am not an athletic person. However, I spoke with my new friends and they encouraged me to not try to go cold turkey on everything bad in my life, because, most likely, it would not last. Instead, they said, I should begin to cut back, slowly eliminating the bad habits in my life.
This was great advice and I have taken it to heart. Where I would once drink a 12-pack of Coke a day, I have switched to Crystal Light waters. Still delicious, not nearly as bad for me. Where I would once order a large pizza for myself, I order a medium and save some for later.
Therefore, the question posed by the local pizza man was a difficult one. Did I get the large pizza? You betcha. I’m not shaking my nose at that kind of deal. However, I didn’t eat but three pieces and saved the rest for a future lunch.
This is not that great accomplishment to many people, but it is a big deal for me. I was blessed with new friends who have helped me on my path to being healthy.
It is important to be healthy. There are many ways to try to change your life, but not all of them are smart. If you are lucky enough to have people who care about you and know how to lose weight in a healthy manner, talk to them.
I am excited about the possibility of one day playing a game of flag football or baseball and being put in the game instead of my jersey.

A lesson learned through puppy love

It is a dog eat dog world out there, but every once in a while, you need a dog to show you what really matters in life.
I have a little sister whom I love dearly. When we were children, we would often be grounded together for one reason or another (it often involved one party making a snarky comment to a parent and causing the other to laugh or a bad report card).
We would pass the summer days when we were grounded by making up ridiculous stories and using the home video camera to document them. One particular video consisted of me falling out of a chair which we filmed for about an hour and still laugh about to this day.
However, in recent years, my connection with my sister was critically injured by the monster that devours relationships — addiction. My sister went to college and encountered a partying lifestyle she had not been familiar with at home. She was thrown into the deep end of this lifestyle and almost drowned.
My family intervened and helped her seek assistance for her addiction. It was a hard process for the whole family and extremely hard on me, because I felt I was a reason she was there.
As an older brother, I always felt it was my job to protect my sister and when I was in another state and knew she was living a dangerous lifestyle, there was nothing I could do to help her. I felt crippled and afraid I would hear something horrible had happened to her and would be helpless to do anything.
When she finally got the help she needed, I was still weak from being helpless to protect her, but I was also angry at the way she had betrayed my trust.
As addiction does with so many, it had driven her to lie and betray the people she cared most about. I was foolish and believed it was a personal strike against me, not having the knowledge of how powerful something like addiction can be and how much it can reek havoc on a person’s mind and soul.
As a brother scorned, I would often lash out at my sister at family outings or avoid having contact with her altogether. She had hurt me and I was angry.
Then something happened. I adopted a puppy.
Two months ago, one of my wife’s co-workers found a box of puppies on the side of the road in the snow. She couldn’t keep the dogs, so Sarah sent me a photo of one to see what I thought. My first reaction when I saw the photo was, “bring him home immediately.”
When she brought Whirley home, we were both instantly in love with the pup. We loved playing with him, watching him play and just having him lie beside us, content with life.
One night, while driving home, a still, small voice many know about told me I should call my sister so she could meet her new four-legged family member. My immediate response was to protest because I was foolishly happy avoiding contact with my sister and any pain she might cause me.
I accidently dropped my dog off the couch that day and he hurt his leg. I apologized profusely and explained that I didn’t mean for it to happen, but he didn’t care. He loved me anyway.
I realized I had been called to love my sister always because she was my sister. She was my little sister and it was my job to protect her and love her, even if it meant I may get hurt in doing so.
I called her and invited her to come hang out with the family. She was convinced my mother had put me up to it, but it was my Father. When I picked her up at her dorm room, she told me she was sorry Mom had made me do this.
I told her I was tired of being angry and I wanted to have a relationship with her. I want to be her friend and I want her to feel like I am there for her — because I am.
Since that time, I have spent several weekends with my sister and have felt the connection I once thought would never re-kindle burn brighter and brighter. I am loving every second I get to watch my relationship with my sister grow along with my dog — whose head could barely fit above the toilet a month ago and is now often found in it.
Life is too short and too hard to stay mad at people. Is it easier? Yes. But the reward of forgiveness is greater than anything you can comprehend. Many people may believe there are things you just can’t forgive, and maybe they are right.
But why not try?
In the end, I can be successful at any job or hobby, but nothing feels as good as when my sister called me last week and asked me for advice for the first time in five years.