WordPress Plugin Issues – WP Review

So you may have noticed the blogging has kinda tapered off the last few days. I found what I thought at the time was this incredible plugin – called WP Review. Plugged it in – got it working, changed the look of it a bit so that it ‘matched’ the theme of the site but I ran into a couple of what I thought were small issues.

Turns out they are not so small after all.

In short, the plugin is supposed to allow you – the reader – the opportunity to interact with my reviews on movies (or whatever else I wanted to review). It has a cool little box with stars (or points if you prefer those to stars) and you can pick your own colors.

The first problem was that the review box would not show up on the homepage or archive page, or any page that had multiple posts on it. It would only show up on the single post page.

Headed to their support forums and got two fixes. The first one didn’t work. The second one sort of worked. It put the review on the home page and/or archived pages but it was stripped of all the custom colors and the user rating interactive no longer worked.

The support forum has gone cold on help and I’ve gotten tired of sitting up late at night trying to fix it. It can’t be that hard of fix – but I don’t know CSS coding well-enough to problem solve it.

It’s a shame because if the could get those two issues solved – it would be the best plugin out there on reviewing items. I’ll try it again this weekend because it’s too good of plugin to punt yet.

UPDATE:
Just heard from one the plugin guys. Apparently it’s a bigger fix than either one of us thought. They are going to put it in the next update.

Major kudos to the plugin author for getting back to me and tracking it done.

Dabo Swinney, the Religious Right, and Freedom From Religion

If you haven’t heard yet, Dabo Swinney (the head football coach at Clemson University) is being called on the carpet by a group because he’s hired a team chaplain, organizes a church day for his team and prays as a team. There are other issues, according to this Wisconsin-based group – like he is vocal about his faith, he allows team bible studies, and apparently he let one of his players get baptized in the school pond.

I’m just going to tell you right now – there aren’t a lot of likable characters in this drama.

I understand some of the concern. Nobody wants religion shoved down their throats. And you know that the Religious Right would have wild-eyed fit if he was pushing Mormonism or Judaism or Islam. I’m a pastor and even I think Dabo (the most awesomest name ever) should be a bit more careful in how handles his faith. I’m all for being bold but I’m also all for being smart as well.

To his credit – he’s been like that from day one. Anybody who has ever met him or even listened to him talk for more than 10 minutes knows this. Every player that walks on the Clemson campus knows this as well. It should be noted that not one current or former Clemson player has come forward to complain about the way Dabo runs the team or that he has been unfair due to religious beliefs.

That’s not to say that he has never made his players feel uncomfortable or awkward. I’m sure he has and does every practice. It’s what coaches do. That goes on in every locker room in the country. It just so happens we have an organization that makes sure that this only happens with harsh language, coarse joking, insulting humor, and demoralizing insults but never religion or human decency.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have an organization watching out for these horrific activities on our college campuses. Clemson needs to get away from this Jesus stuff and get back to being a football school.

You know, schools like Florida State (Winston rape/murder charge), Oklahoma (Uzis in the dorm), Florida (stealing computers), Ohio State (free cars & tattoos), Auburn (drug usage), Alabama (ATM thefts), Penn State (child rape) or even Miami (take your pick).

That is what I think is really messed up about this whole ordeal. The same media that was screaming to give Jameis Winston a “fair deal” about his rape allegations is going to absolutely crucify Dabo Swinney. By the way, did you know the same week this group filed charges against Dabo Swinney, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights started investigating Florida State on how they handled the Winston case? Pretty ironic.

My guess is that Clemson will have to do a little public relations song and dance but that’s about it. Dabo may have to quit driving the bus on Church Day. Faith and football have been mixed together in the South since day one. Don’t think this is going to change that.

Movie Review: Mud

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Mud is the story about a two boys who stumble upon a man living out on an island in the local river and their attempt to help him. It’s a slow-moving drama where the acting is great but the pace is off. In the ‘biz’ I guess this would be called an ‘art-house’ movie or an ‘Indy’.

Matthew McCanoughy and Reese Witherspoon deliver incredible performances and the script deals with some great themes – love, loyalty, marriage, revenge, and failed expectations – and does so in deep scenes with no hint of saccharin. If anyone thought Witherspoon was just another gorgeous blonde designed for Rom-Coms and not much else – they need to take a look at her performance here. (Although the attempts of the director to ugly her up failed miserably. Is this even possible?) The film explores what real love looks like between three key relationships – Mud & Juniper; Ellis and May Pearl, and Ellis’ parents. The acting is top-notch from the two boys – Neck and Ellis – as they carry the load of the film.

The cinematography is also top shelf although at times a bit nostalgic. The long, slow shots of the rivers, creeks, hollers, and woods of Arkansas are beautiful and will find a sweet spot for those of us who have had the privilege of living in the beautiful state of Arkansas. But with the movie clocking in at over 2 hours, some editing needed to be done.

[spoiler alert]

Speaking of editing, this is where the film stumbles. There is a shoot-out at the end of the movie that seems forced. This is not as big of an issue as about a 30 minute stretch halfway through the film where you aren’t really sure where in the world the movie is going. Besides that, you are quite sure at that pace it will never get there either. The core of the story is outstanding, the acting is superb. It just takes forever to get anywhere. Perhaps that was the purpose – to immerse the viewer into the pace of life on the river.

It was an act of discipline to stay with this movie to the end which is not exactly how I like to watch movies. The big question the is was it worth it? Was the payoff at the end of the movie worthy of the slow pace?

This is the conundrum of the film. It was ‘good’ but I would not choose to watch it again. The themes and issues it deals with and even how they are dealt with are absolutely worthy of a great post-film discussion. But I’m not sure how many people will stick with the film in that crucial 30 minute stretch.

Its on Netflix, so it’s easy to access – just know you are going to have to want to finish this film in order to finish it.

[wp-review]

New Feature On the G sides

You know how much I love movies so I stumbled upon this cool little plugin called WP Review. It allows me to rate the movie – on a bunch of different scales if I wanted to – and it puts a cool little review box at the bottom of the post.

But here’s the cool part – it lets YOU rate the movie as well. So click on a couple of these movies or hit the sidebar widget and see for yourself.

Movie Review: 20 Feet From Stardom
Movie Review: Gravity
Movie Review: Let The Fire Burn

I like the plugin but I’m having a couple of issues with it.

1. The review won’t show on the home page or an archived page of all my movie reviews. The only place the plugin works is on the individual post page. I’ve asked for help on this in a couple of support forums but so far – to no avail.

2. Font issues. I’d love to be able to change the font of the widget and the review box to match my current theme. I’ve look in a couple of different places but there just doesn’t seem to be an easy fix for this without jackin’ up the other stuff.

3. The color of the widget background and review bars. Figured this one out. Took some doing.

4. Love to have the ability to put my own title above the widget with the widget itself. Know what I mean?

Movie Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

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I’ve wanted to see this film since it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary this year and Darlene Love sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” for her acceptance speech.

It did NOT disappoint.

The movie is about the chasm that exists between the backup singers and the star. It may be 20 literal feet but it might as well be to the moon and back. What makes an incredible back-up singer is counter-productive to being a star – and the film explores this reality with some of the best back-up singers that have ever existed.

Just take a quick quiz and sing 10 of your favorite songs prior to 1990. What are you singing? You are singing the hook or the chorus that was predominantly sung by these back-up singers. You won’t recognize these names – Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, or The Waters Family – but you will immediately recognize their voices as they were practically on every single hit record starting in the 1960′s to the 1990′s. Some are still singing today into their 70′s and 80′s.

Two huge things stood out in the film – the first one is how back-handed and superficial the entertainment industry is. This is exposed quite well as many of these singers had their voice recorded then “given” to other artists on records. Many of the artist talk about how for some labels – it didn’t matter how well you sang, it mattered how you look.

But the other HUGE point of the film was the role of the Church. It is astounding how many of these singers came out of the church. Some of the world’s greatest singers talk about how they look for back-up singers with a church background because they bring “something special” to the studio when they sing.

And when these ladies cut it loose…it is something special. Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen have cameo roles and huge insights on these ladies. You won’t forget Lisa Fischer either as she sings with both Sting and Mick Jagger. I realized as I listened to her sing – SHE’S the reason I love Sting – no offense to Sting – but it’s her voice that draws me in and makes it all work.

Loved this film.

[wp-review]

My Maundy Thursday

It’s a privilege for me to serve Topeka as a volunteer Fire Chaplain. My primary role is to facilitate the CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) Team. The short story – the CISM team helps first-responders learn tools and techniques to deal with traumatic stress that could impair their ability to function. It’s psychological first-aid for those who see and experience things that many of us will never see or experience.

So tonight I will be filling that role as a couple of us visit Soldier Township Fire Department. Over the last couple of months they have dealt with two fatality accidents involving children as well as the loss of one of their own and his daughter returning from enrolling her in the fire academy in Hutchinson. Tonight we will help all of these firefighters and their spouses try to deal with the hurt and find the ‘new normal.’

And it’s tonight. On Maundy Thursday.

This is not lost on me.

Maundy Thursday – a day where we remember Jesus serving others before he was betrayed and killed. Maundy Thursday – the last Thursday death had free reign and the last word. The last Thursday of dread, fear, and despair. There would never, ever be another Thursday where darkness reigned with no challenge. In less than 72 hours, the world would change forever.

Maundy Thursday was somber.

Good Friday was dark.

Saturday was silent.

But Easter Sunday…

That changed everything. It didn’t take away the hurt of grief or the sting of loss but it kicked down the finality of death. It destroyed the capability of loss to handcuff us to grief forever.

Easter changed everything. For good.

Today is Thursday – for many of these families. We will have to get through Friday and Saturday. But Sunday is coming. I’m praying and hoping to help them to make it through to their Easter.

Movie Review: Gravity

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It won 7 Academy Awards.

Don’t ask me how.

Special effects? Can totally see that. There were multiple scenes where I was going – ‘how in the world did they shoot that?’ Listen, I know it’s all greens screens these days but it didn’t look like a green screen. Some amazing cinematography.

Best Director? Ummm…okay.

Let’s be clear – this really isn’t a fair review of the movie. I went in expecting 2001 or at least the space version of Castaway or 7 Years In Tibet. Probably wasn’t a fair expectation, then again maybe it was given all the hype and the caliber of actors in the film. Let’s face it – these two – Bullock and Clooney – are two of the best ever actors.

After an incredible and visually stunning first 15 minutes of the film, it sort of coasted a bit and then when it was about to get interesting again -

[SPOILER ALERT]

Bullock’s character starts dealing with her past, the loss of her daughter, and her own insecurities – and it just races to the end. Much to abruptly, I might add. Who ever walks out of a movie thinking – you know, they needed another 20 minutes or so to end that movie?

Nobody.

Ever.

Until now.

Overall, it’s worth a rental. It’s one of the most visually stunning movies ever. Think Avatar and Life of Pi.

Unlike Castaway (another movie that depended upon a single actor carrying the bulk of dialogue and acting for a movie), Sandra Bullock (who I have always had a major crush on) just doesn’t quite hit the depth of authenticity or subject matter that was available to explore. I don’t think that is the fault of execution. I think it’s the fault of material. It just wasn’t there for her to explore. The script just didn’t take her there.

Clooney nails his part in the incredible short time he had to do it. You immediately fall in love with his character and want more from him. I almost wish they had kept him around a bit more to help push Bullock’s character a bit deeper into her own mind.

Gravity left a lot on the table. It could have really explored the topics of faith, life, regrets, grief, and survival. What is super frustrating about this is the film sets the table up to explore all of this about as perfectly as you can. It has all the ingredients – great visuals, incredible acting, and a superb setup. Gravity sucks you into the moment, gets you completely ready to deal with the deeper issues of life and then………..

It races to end the movie. Instead of being a film that you watch over and over again, it’s one that you’ll watch once, enjoy the eye candy and will forget about it entirely when this summer’s barrage of movies hits the theater.

It is a fine movie…but it doesn’t deliver like it could have.

[wp-review]