Shroud of Turin Documentary

With Easter pretty much almost here, I thought it would be interesting to post a video on the Shroud of Turin, which thousands of people all over the world believe is the burial cloth of Jesus. Why do they believe this? Well, it ultimately boils down to a matter of faith, and faith is not really an easy thing to explain. But there have been some interesting scientific findings as well, and many of them are detailed in the documentary Jesus and the Shroud of Turin. This is one of my favorite documentaries on the Shroud simply because it states facts and findings in a very straightforward manner and doesn’t try to over-elaborate anything. I don’t know if any of you have seen this before, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

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Holy Thursday

Today begins the Triduum, the final countdown to Easter. These three days are Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Holy Thursday (today) is the day of the Last Supper and when Christ instituted the Mass and the Eucharist. To commemorate this, I decided to repost this video on the Fourth Cup of the Passover and the parallels between the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Passover feast of the Jews. It’s quite interesting and brought up points I had never considered before, and I hope you find it interesting, too.

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Abandon Your Thoughts and Let Your Dreams Descend to the Phantom’s Awesome New Lair in the US Tour of “The Phantom of the Opera”!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had a chance to see the US touring production of The Phantom of the Opera, and it was so incredible that I had to share everything with you. So strap yourselves in for a wild ride through the new production of the classic musical, a ride that brings the story to a whole new level.

First of all, I have to mention the brand-new set. Pretty much everything was contained in a rotating set; whenever they needed to change the scene, they would spin the set around and open another section of the drum’s wall. They even used the outside of the drum as the backdrop for the journey to the lair by attaching stairs to the wall. The stairs looked awfully rickety, though, and I was glad that I wasn’t the one walking on them. The lair itself was a bit smaller due to the decreased stage size, but color scheme of dark blues and purples had the coolest effect ever.

The chandelier was awe-inspiring, and I can safely say that the overture is about a thousand times more epic in person than any mere recording. Oh, and in case you’ve read any reports that they don’t drop the chandelier at the end of Act I anymore–it’s a lie. They do drop it, and it’s one of the most spectacular sights you’ll ever see. Just make sure than when you buy tickets, you don’t sit too close to the stage because you could end up sitting underneath the chandelier when it falls–unless you enjoy being scared to death.

When it came to the singing and acting, it was clear that all the cast members were enjoying themselves immensely. From the Phantom himself to the most minor of characters, everyone gave an outstanding performance. Though he was young, Cooper Grodin did a spectacular job in the title role; give his voice a few more years to mature, and he’ll truly be a force to be reckoned with. His performance was a bit reminiscent of Ramin Karimloo’s from the 25th anniversary in some spots (some of his pronunciations, how he would hold notes), yet he was still his own Phantom.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about Julia Udine’s Christine. Don’t get me wrong; she had a great voice, but…well…she sounded a bit too much like a pop singer for my tastes. It was annoying. Also, she didn’t quite hit the high E at the end of the title song; although she did well with the other vocalizations in the song, that one all-important note sounded more like shrieking than singing. Still, I give her props for singing it live–and I suppose it’s a bit more realistic, too, because how many people really can hit that note? The fact that she didn’t quite hit it does serve as an interesting insight to the superhuman standards to which the Phantom holds his student. Her other songs she nailed (apart from the annoying pop sound in her voice).

Ben Jacoby had a surprisingly strong voice for Raoul, and it was actually pretty similar to Cooper Grodin’s. This similarity made “Wandering Child” especially epic. Other than that, there’s not much to tell about him–he was solid and performed his role well, and he probably enjoyed getting to punch the Phantom in the restaged “Bravo, Monsieur!”. No, really, Raoul punches the Phantom in this one. I don’t know why that amuses me so much, but it does.

Perhaps the star who stood out the most was Jacquelynne Fontaine as Carlotta. Oh, my goodness, has that woman got a set of pipes. She outperformed Christine (I feel very treasonous for saying that, but it’s true), and I couldn’t help but think, “Why is everyone hating on Carlotta; she’s got a great voice!” The same was true for all of the others, amazing actors and singers of incredible caliber. There were no fops or fools in this production.

As great as it was, however, it wasn’t perfect. There were a few…confusing staging decisions. For instance, why during “Music of the Night” does the Phantom blindfold Christine and then proceed to dance with her? Why do they dance again during “The Point of No Return”? Why does Christine dance on the table in the same scene? Why did there have to be dance numbers in those songs at all? Well, perhaps they weren’t strictly dance numbers, but just those little interludes were making me go, “Eh…what?” Another thing that raised my eyebrows was they didn’t have Christine pull off the Phantom’s mask during “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It”; he had taken it off himself for a moment, and Christine tried to turn him around so she could see his face. And speaking of faces–or rather heads–I missed the Phantom’s hats. They showed his shadows wearing a hat, but there were no hats in his actual scenes, not even the Feathered Hat of Awesomeness. Also, for some reason the cloak the Phantom wears in “Point of No Return” made him look like a Nazgul. I never really noticed it before, but he had a whole Witch King of Angmar vibe this time. Maybe it was just me. Another big change is the lack of a wedding veil for Christine. Normally she throws it down and yells at him; this time she took his music and threw it at him. And it was the music he cradled at the end and not the veil. And speaking of the end–well, his new disappearing act is pretty cool.

All in all, it was amazing. The lights, the music, the sets–everything was on fire. One of the cool bits was the part where they lock down the opera house–there was one part where the Phantom sounded as though he was right behind me. Also, after the show I had a chance to meet Frank Viveros, the actor who played Piangi, an extremely nice man. For my first time seeing Phantom live, it was the best experience ever.

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A “Star Trek/Doctor Who” Crossover…from the Very Beginning

A Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover has long been dreamed, and we actually had a comic book crossover between the two landmark shows last year. Also, back in 2008 or 2009, Russell T. Davies, then Doctor Who‘s head writer, gave serious consideration to a crossover with Star Trek: Enterprise (which ultimately didn’t happen, but it would have been cool). But what few people don’t realize is that a Trek/Who crossover was done way back in 1968. Okay, it wasn’t an official crossover per se, but there were definite hints and clues that could point to a Whovian connection.

It’s all in the Star Trek episode “Assignment: Earth”, the Enterprise time travels back to the 1960′s to learn more about how Earth survived an extremely volatile period. When they get there, however, they accidentally intercept another transporter beam…and the beam is carrying a man who claims to be from 20th century Earth but has been living most of his life on another planet. It’s a secret planet, he says, one that will remain hidden even in the 23rd century.

Hm…a hidden planet with time travel capability–sound familiar? Not to mention that the stranger, Gary Seven, carries a sonic probe and has a companion who is clearly using a perception filter. Is Gary Seven a Time Lord? Doubtful in and of itself, but Dr. McCoy did say that Gary’s health seemed a little too perfect, so it’s possible he used the chameleon arch. But I do find it very easy to believe that Gary’s sponsors were Time Lords, perhaps the Celestial Intervention Agency. They had no qualms about interfering with history–heck they were the ones who sent the Doctor to Skaro to prevent the Daleks’ genesis!

So there it is, ladies and gentlemen, the first possible occurrence of a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen”

Recently I had the chance to watch Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen, a serial from 1987 starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel. I was curious to see this one because of its generally poor reception–this was written during a time when the BBC was actively trying to kill the show so they could use the production money to bring newer, original shows to TV. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but it could have been much better, too.

The story was set in 1959, which would have been perfectly acceptable had they not taken every single stinking opportunity to play 50′s rock and roll music. It was clever the first few times it happened, but by the end I was ready to scream every time 50′s music started to play. The plot, although intriguing, needed to be fleshed out better–what attracted Billy to Delta in the first place? How come Ray is taking her boyfriend’s decision to run off with an alien queen so calmly? Was there really a valid reason for Hawk and Weismuller to be in the story at all other than to provide some rather stale comic relief?

It wasn’t a complete disaster, however. The bit of exposition about bees was fun and educational, but then we found out that the development of bees was a parallel to Delta’s race, the Chimerons–some people might find that cheesy; I thought it was a clever little twist. Sylvester McCoy’s performance showed that his Doctor is truly underrated, and Bonnie Langford proved that Mel Bush really did deserve a better chance to prove her worth as a companion. Sara Griffiths was also enjoyable as the one-storyline-only companion Ray–in fact, she was so popular that she was almost the new full-time companion when Bonnie Langford left the show, but, as we all know, that distinction instead went to Sophie Aldred as the erstwhile Ace.

It’s difficult to decide if I recommend Delta and the Bannermen to the rest of you. If you decide to see it, just remember that you’re not seeing Doctor Who at its best. If you don’t watch it, you’re not really missing anything.

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And the Phantom/Les Mis Actor Crossovers Continue…

Recently I heard that Norm Lewis, aka Awesomely Awesome Javert from the 25th anniversary Les Miserables concert, has been cast as the Phantom in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. This is yet another example of how it seems the actors from Les Mis seem to inevitably find themselves in Phantom and vice versa. However, one of the nice things about an actor formerly being in Les Mis is that amazing singing skills are required for that, and if you can sing in Les Mis, you can sing in anything. And with as awesome as Norm Lewis was as Javert, I’m confident he’ll do well as the Phantom.

It’s also worthwhile to mention that he’ll be joined by Sierra Boggess as Christine, and Sierra, as we all know, did a phenomenal job in the role for Phantom‘s 25th anniversary.

http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/news/latest-news/phantom-in-new-york-proudly-welcomes-two-great-broadway-stars-this-may

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Who Said Nuns are Boring?

This popped up a couple of days ago, and I thought it was worth posting here. Apparently an Ursuline nun, Sister Cristina, decided to audition for the Italian version of the TV singing competition The Voice.

“What’s a nun doing on a talent show?” you’re probably asking yourself. The answer: sounding awesome.

Who ever said nuns were boring people?

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