Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Post Twenty Three

On Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights

E.A. Poe's "Nevermore" Haunted House: My Favorite

My wife, son, and his cousin just returned from an amazing Universal Orlando 4-day vacation.  The highlight of the trip for me and the kids was the event known as Halloween Horror Nights which is pretty much regarded by horror fans as the sine qua non of Halloween experiences in the nation.  As a rabid horror fan I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have lived in Florida for over a decade, and have never attended.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to October 14th with great anticipation, and my only worry was whether or not this mental build-up would lead to a huge let-down.  I should not have worried; HHN's was all that and more. 

For those of you completely unfamiliar with HHN here is a quick guide:

A.  HHN is a special event held every fall at Universal Studios Orlando (not Islands of Adventure; now known as the Harry Potter Park). 

B.  HHN is not included in your daily park ticket.  At 5:00pm, Universal Studios closes it's doors and kicks everyone out.  I have read that some people try to hide in the park, but I have never heard of it being done successfully.  Besides, the penalty would probably include being banned permanently from the park which is not worth the risk. 

C.  Cost:  Not cheap.  I paid over $100 a ticket because I opted for the Express Pass.  In my opinion, you are simply wasting your time if you do not choose this feature.  The average wait time on a Friday or Saturday night for each haunted house is over two hours.  With the Express Pass you will easily see all of the houses in 4-5 hours.  Without one, you will be lucky to see four houses; not to mention the sheer frustration of seeing people with these passes walk on by you hour after hour. 

D.  Start early.  HHN open the doors at 6:30pm.  Eat beforehand, and get into the park.  Head straight for the houses.  It matters not if the sun is still shining because the houses are totally light controlled.  Later, when it gets dark, you can hit the Scare Zones which are simply not worth experiencing in the daylight as they are all outside.  At night, they can be truly creepy.  In the day, they are annoying. 

E.  Under no circumstances would I bring small children to this event.  The minimum age I would recommend is 13-14, and even then you should make sure your young adult is not scared easily.  The houses are intense, adult-themed experiences, and would be traumatic to a young child (I don't think they let children into the houses in any event).

The Houses

Nevermore (5/5)

Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite horror author, and I was excited to hear that HHN would have a Poe-themed house.  It could have fallen flat on it's face, though, as Poe is not what I would call contemporary, and if handled incorrectly by a bunch of Rob Zombie wannabees this house could have been an absolute disaster.  Fortunately, this was not the case.  All of Poe's major works are represented, and even the smell of this house was pure Gothic horror.  Awesome. 

Nightingales: Blood Prey (5/5)

This house was a big surprise as I expected a hospital theme.  Instead, you descend into a World War One trench and are attacked by ravenous beings from beyond.  The soldiers also take shots at you.  It was truly frightening.  A twentys-somthing woman behind me actually hit me in the back several times (not hard, thankfully) while screaming her head off.  The only reason I rate this a little lower than Nevermore is the theme (IMO, Poe can't be beat).  Other than that caveat these two houses were the highlights of the night.

Saws N' Steam: Into the Machine (4/5)

The theme of this strange house was truly creepy.  A mad scientist comes up with the idea to create a pollution free, steam-powered Utopian metropolis.  The only problem is the steam power will come from unwilling human victims.  In terms of graphic violence this house had no equal.  Each room was littered with scenes that would make a serial killer queasy.  Just a step below the first two in horror, and only just.

The In Between  (3.5/5)

This house will probably be the favorite of non-horror fans simply because of it's gimmick.  Yes, this house is presented in 3D, and if you love 3D, then this house would be near the top for you.  For me, it was cool, but the horror just was not there.  Not scary in the slightest, but the effect, I will admit, was pulled off successfully. 

The Thing (3.5/5)

High hopes for this house based on the movie that was just released (Carpenter's is better, by the way).  Overall, this house did what it was supposed to, but not much else.  By far the loudest house in the park as you almost feel like you are in a heavy metal concert.  It was a solid house, but nothing special.

Winter's Night (3/5)

Your traditional, Victorian-themed haunted cemetery comes to life.  Pretty cool for such a well-worn theme.  It was like Poe's "Nevermore", but with less scares.  A couple of jumpy moments take it above simply average.  Enjoyable, and the antithesis in theme from the "The Thing".  Overall, slightly above average.

H.R. Bloodengutz Presents: Holidays of Horror (3/5)

Traditionally, horror movies are divided into two general categories: the first takes itself very seriously (think "The Exorcist") and the second doesn't (think "Chucky).  This house ends up on the far end of the second kind.  Campy horror humor can be funny if you have an open mind, and a strong stomach.  My favorite moment: seeing a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings; instead of turkey, though, you have an actual human being!  The Indians getting back at the white man, I suppose.

The Forsaken (2.5/5)

Silly house.  I really didn't like Carpenter's "The Fog" theme to begin with (the movie is great, but as an indoor haunted house?), and all of the characters looked the same.  It was as if the team doing HHN ran out of ideas, and came up with this house.  I actually saw a woman come out of this house in tears.  I did, too, but for different reasons (just kidding). 


Well, 7/8 would grade out as an "A", and that's what I would give HHN.  It was an amazing experience in every way, and I will be back next year (draggin' the wife kickin n' screamin', but she loves me).  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Post Twenty Two

On Restrepo

Looks like fun, doesn't it?  Restrepo is a docudrama about the Afghanistan "kinetic conflict" (per the current administration).  The film follows a small group of soldiers over the course of their entire fifteen month tour of duty in 2007-08.  At various points, the action is interspersed with present-day interviews of the protagonists reflecting on their experiences.  I found the film riveting and totally unbiased.  The director had no political agenda.  This fact allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions based on the material presented.

Restrepo, by the way, is the name of an outpost in the unit's area of operations; the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan.  It is also the name of the unit's first KIA (Killed in Action; PFC. Juan Restrepo).  By all accounts, the Korengal is a very nasty place.  Were it not for gravity and an atmosphere I would be hard pressed to distinguish it from the surface of the moon.  This valley is home to some rather unfriendly locals, and a boatload of Taliban insurgents.  The soldier's mission is to win the hearts and minds of the locals while at the same time extending their zone of control deeper into Taliban-held territory.

Most of the action takes place at outpost Restrepo which is only a few hundred meters from the unit's main base.  It might as well have been in Kansas, though, as the Taliban frequently launches attacks and harassment fire from the surrounding mountains.  You really get a feel for how out in the open the unit has been placed, and how incredibly stressful this situation places on the individual soldiers.  The unit's commanding officer is Captain Kearney who has big dreams of building bridges with the locals and taking it to the Taliban. 

This dream leads us to the film's big finale where the unit is deployed in an aggressive patrol deep into Taliban territory.  The unit is attacked immediately, and the unit suffers more losses.  While we are told the Taliban suffer grievous losses we never actually see any bodies.  I guess we take it on their word that all the aircraft bombs and drones actually hit their targets. 

The bridge-building with the local elders is a joke.  Capt. Kearney is truly out of this depth, and while he means well the locals simply want us to leave.  It's a very sad situation.  You feel for the soldiers, but one cannot help but come to the conclusion that this war is simply another Vietnam.  And it is likely to end the same way.

Restrepo is well worth seeing.  I recommend it highly as a good way to get the real story about the war in Afghanistan with all the political fluff removed.

4/5 Stars. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Post Twenty One

On The Last Exorcism

Sorry I have been away for so long, but life must intrude on one's leisure activities.  I just completed a major revision of my home theater, and I feel motivated to write reviews of films that would fall in"the road less traveled" realm of the spectrum.  To be clear, you will never see me review any of the big blockbusters or flavors of the day.  There are plenty of other, better blogs for that.  However, I hope I can shed some light on some movies you would never consider; either for their content, reputation, or lack of publicity. 

Last night I saw The Last Exorcism.  For the record, I am a born, raised, and active Roman Catholic.  The subject of exorcism has always been fascinating to me, not only because of my upbringing, but that the concept of a lone, frail human battling a demon from Hell in a spiritual battle of wills appeals to my worldview of good vs. evil.  And light does not always triumph; meaning, good may win the war, but individual battles will indeed be lost.

All exorcist movies must be compared to the granddaddy of them all, The Exorcist (1973; directed by William Friedkin), which was based on a novel of the same name.  I have to admit this movie is downright scary, and additional viewings do not lessen it's impact.  Yes, some of the special effects are primitive by today's standards, but the tone and mood of this film is, for lack of a better description, evil and oppressive.  You endure The Exorcist as much as view it.  I consider it the greatest horror movie ever made. 

Having said that, The Last Exorcism has a great deal to live up to.  Viewers of this film are more likely than not to have seen similar movies of it's kind, and the result could easily be disastrous.  Indeed, we have only to look at The Exorcist II, one of the worst horror movies ever made, for proof.  It's very hard to stand on the same ground of something that has come before and been so successful, and such efforts rarely succeed.  The last big exorcist horror movie was The Exorcism of Emily Rose.  It was just "ok"; nothing really new here.  The movie was saved by the performance of Tom Wilkinson; a character-actor who gave a stellar performance of the film's protagonist priest, Father Moore.

So, what exactly is The Last Exorcism?  The film was billed as The Blair Witch Project meets The Exorcist.  In some ways this is true, but truthfully it's far more Blair Witch than Exorcist.  The Last Exorcism is a "mockumentary" in the same vein as Blair Witch.  This choice was polarizing as you either like that kind of gimmick or you don't.  Some good news; most of the "shaky camera" herky-jerky movement shouldn't cause too much self-induced nausea as it's effect is far less pronounced than in Blair Witch. 


Baton Rouge child-prodigy Pentecostal preacher Cotton Marcus becomes disillusioned with his career choice.  In short, he is tired of being a charlatan.  The preacher hires a film crew to document his last exorcism in order to expose the fraud which he and his kind perpetrate on the ignorant and superstitious (props for actually mentioning The Exorcist).  Marcus takes the crew to a rural Louisianian farm where the owner claims cattle and animals are being killed by his possessed daughter.  Marcus performs an "exorcism" using some very poor special effects, and pronounces the girl free from demon influence while gladly taking the farmer's money.  Unfortunately for Marcus and crew the demon inside the girl has other ideas.


As someone who is a practicing Catholic I was immediately put off by Preacher Marcus.  He insulted my faith and beliefs on a very personal level.  Having said that, though, the film does allow Marcus to find his way back at the end.  The story is not overly complicated, and very easy to follow.  You can feel empathy for this family that has experienced a great deal of tragedy, and the acting is overall very good for this genre.  There are some very scary moments in this film, and you will get goosebumps.  Creep factor is above average. 


"Why not go to the police?"  "Why are they not involved?"  You will be yelling these common horror-film cliches at the screen more than once.   To be fair, it's a horror movie, and common sense takes a backseat to entertainment.  Still... 

The ending is not very good or well done, and does not fit the overall tone of the film.  It felt rushed and amateurish.

Blu Ray Video and Audio Quality:

Considering the film is supposed to be sourced from video I think the video quality is more than acceptable.  Overall, the print has a "soft" look to it.  Colors are subdued with an earthy, organic quality that mirrors the locale of rural Louisiana.  Contrast is excellent with well defined blacks and good shadow detail.  The DTS HD Master soundtrack is excellent with clear dialogue.  Bass extension can get very low and powerful in parts, especially the wild ending, and surrounds are active and useful.  Very good effort overall.


It's not the successor to either The Exorcist or The Blair Witch Project, but The Last Exorcism is a good horror movie save the silly ending.  I really wish the director had not found it necessary to throw the movie in that direction.  YMMV, but for me it was totally over the top. 

3.5/5 stars.               

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Post Twenty

On the Cult of Personality
Back in the 1980's there was a rock band called Living Colour.  This band's greatest contribution to music (besides being black, a rare thing in the hard rock world) was a song entitled "Cult of Personality".  Basically, this muse is about how all us lemmings throughout history line up behind a charismatic 'Dear Leader'.  That leader can be a pacifist like Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. or a sadistic, sociopathic murderer like Josef Stalin or Adolph Hitler.  That's not really the big point, though.  The main thing the lyricist was trying to say is that humans tend to turn off our higher brain functions, and blindly follow this charismatic force to either two places; a better world or into the abyss.

The Cult of Personality is alive and well in 2011.  Many of us during the election of 2008 wanted "change".  Bush the Younger had taken this nation to an undeclared war under extremely controversial circumstances in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan.  After seven years of continuous fighting with no end in sight even staunch conservatives started saying it was time to bring the troops home.  The economic collapse of 2008 was mere icing on the cake.  The public was aroused from it's slumber, and wanted a leader in a completely different mold from Bush.  What they got, to quote The Who, was "the new boss, same as the old boss." 

Out of seemingly nowhere, a first-term democratic Senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama shocked the political establishment by beating the hands-down favorite, Hillary Clinton, in the democratic primary, and following up that victory with a decisive general election win over tired, boring neo-conservative fellow Senator John McCain (R-AZ).  Now, three years into his administration, we can now see Obama for what he truly is; a bought-and-paid for mouthpiece for the powers-that-be.  Wars have not been stopped, but expanded.  Constitutional rights have not been restored, but are increasingly being eroded with obscene violations being conducted daily by the Gestapo-esque TSA and the unconstitutional Patriot Act.  The spending...oh the spending.  While Bush was no Ludwig von Mises (google him...he's worth a Wiki read) he makes Obama look like a penny-pincher. 

Obama should never have been elected President.  Not because I disagree with him on politics.  That is not enough.  He shouldn't have been elected because his main claim to fame was his charisma, not his deeds or qualifications.  Instead, Americans elected the man with the same intellectual criteria as a high school President; by his "likability"; how he looks on camera and how he gives a speech.  Cult of Personality?  You bet.

Now, it is high time we fixed that mistake.  A man is running for President that is the antithesis of every other serious candidate.  This man is not handsome.  He is not going to provoke "a thrill running up my leg" ala Chris Matthews.  Instead, he is simply an honest man who desires more than any one thing a return to our constitutional core values of small government and fiscal responsibility.  He wants our republic back.  He wants to throw the powers-at-be straight out the door just like patriots once did to a King back in 1776.  His name is Ron Paul, and if you have had enough of being treated like a child I would suggest you visit his website, and see what he is all about. 

In conclusion, it is a shame that I even need to write a blog post like this one in the 21st century.  I am reminded of Khan's line in the original Star Trek, "Everything changes, except man."  While we should intellectually know that the two political parties are really just two parts of a larger whole we still hold on to our tribal instincts rooting for one side to triumph over the other.  How's that working for you? 

The republic is not dead, but if we are so stupid as to elect another "class president", then I fear for the future.  Our debt is such that we simply cannot afford another four years of borrowing and spending at levels that will force our nation into economic ruin.  Our "nation building" is not only costly in terms of human lives and material treasure,but it goes against the core values of our republic.  Ignoring these realities has cost us too much for too long. 

You want "change"?  It's Ron Paul, not Barack Obama.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Post Nineteen

On The Constitution and Military Action

Ask ten random people who has the power within the U.S. Constitution to declare war, and I would predict the following results.  One would say, "What Constitution?", two would say "Congress", three would say "The President", and the rest would say "Charlie Sheen".  Just kidding (sort of).  The Libyan mess has brought up the issue of who actually has the power within our society to initiate military action.  Thanks to my tutor, Judge Andrew Napolitano (whom you can see on Fox News Business every night at 8:00pm or 11:00pm), and spending a few minutes reading the Constitution I have a much better understanding of this answer. 

The Constitution addresses the concept of war in two parts; one directly the other indirectly.  For the direct language we have Article I, Section 8 which specifically says that Congress has the sole authority to declare war.  Now, I'm no genius, but I don't think the Founders wanted any deviation from this very basic edict.  Unless exigent circumstances exist (such as an invasion or some kind of surprise attack) a state of war can only exist if Congress so declares.  End of story, right?  Not so fast....

Modern thinking has vastly strengthened the power of the Presidency in this area.  The indirect route taken by these thinkers cite Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution where The President is named the Commander and Chief of the military.  In their view, this title grants the President the power of a monarch.  He can use the military where he sees fit regardless of the situation.  I have no idea where this view came from or how it is so easily justified by our leaders (enabled by our silence and "support the troops" rah-rah), but it is almost as if they simply ignore the Constitution as if it's irrelevant. 

In an effort to curb the power of the President regarding the use of military force Congress passed what is known as the War Powers Resolution in 1973.  In short, the War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of initiating military action, and such action can only last a maximum of 60 days without congressional approval (or a declaration of war).  The constitutionality of this resolution is dubious at best, even among supporters of limiting presidential power, and all Presidents basically ignore the intent of the Resolution; effectively neutering it's supposed check on military adventurism. 

After President Obama's address to the nation last night it is clear we are heading towards a constitutional crisis in regards to the use of military force against sovereign nations.  Obama basically said that where massacres of a population COULD occur the United States can intervene militarily to prevent this future tragedy.  The authority to commit the United States to such a military exercise comes from the President's own hubris, and completely removes Congress from the equation.  In the case of Libya, Obama has justified his actions because the United Nations Security Council gave him the go ahead.  Since when has the United Nations Security Council superseded our own Congress?  Finally, in an act of ultimate hypocrisy,
then-Senator Obama said on the floor of the Senate that he believed Bush the Younger's invasion of Iraq was unconstitutional.  This fact alone shows the utter contempt our leaders hold not only for the Constitution, but for us, as well.

Even though it may seem as if the Constitution is beyond saving there is hope.  Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) have banded together with Democrats like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to stand up to this trouncing of our beloved republic.  Whether they are successful depends on us.  Take a look at your Representative or Senator's stand on this insanity.  If they are being a good lemming and jumping off the cliff because the pied piper said so, then maybe it's time for that person to be retired. 

Our country is not a dictatorship, monarchy, or military junta.  While throwing despots like Gaddafi and Hussein into the category of Lucifer with our right hand, with our left we do business with repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and China who are in the exact same category.  Worse, our President has assumed for himself the power of a dictator while at the same time destroying his enemy for assuming that same power for himself.  It is a wrong that cannot stand in a country that claims, "In God we Trust".   

George Washington, the first President, knew that he could not assume the powers of a King even though the whole country was ready to anoint him as such.  The genius of our form of government is that our Founding Fathers understood history; that for every Julius Caesar, there is a Nero; that for every Peter the Great, there is an Ivan the Terrible.  We cannot put our fate in the hands of one person; it is the surest way to tyranny ever devised, and the greatest con in history.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Post Eighteen

On Libya

I try not to stray into the wild and woolly world of foreign affair op-eds as these subjects are highly controversial, and could provoke unwanted chagrin from those who read this blog.  However, the media has so badly handled the Libya conflict that I thought I would dedicate a short blog to getting the facts straight.  When you study or read about a civil war one must at least have some historical perspective beyond that being provided by our traditional media sources.  Here is a brief history lesson.

The first thing you should know about Libya is that Libya is not a country in the normal sense.  After World War II, the victorious Allied powers drew a few lines on a map, and put a king in charge of the newly-drawn country.  It says something about the creation when the king, Idris-al Sanusi, wanted no part of the plan.  He was first and foremost a tribal ruler of a section of what became Libya, and had no ambition beyond that role.  This king was overthrown by a military coup lead by a junta of ambitious junior army officers in 1969, and that was when Muammar Gaddafi came to power.  Throughout the Cold War, Lybia was a pawn of the Soviet Union, and like Castro in Cuba, was given generous amounts of military equipment in order to stay in power.

During Libya's time as a Soviet client-state it embarked on foolish terrorist operations (like the Pan Am disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988) which made the regime a pariah and embarrassment even to it's Soviet benefactor.  In recent years, Gaddafi has tried rebuilding his status in the world, and until recent events, has been a trusted trade partner with several Western European nations including Great Britain. 

The country of Libya is actually composed of three tribal regions: 1.  Tripolitania (western Libya which includes the largest city and the capitol, Tripoli) 2. Cyrenaica (eastern Libya which includes Benghazi and Tobruk; the two cities that are involved in the rebellion) and 3. Fezzan (southern Libya which is primarily desert and oasis).  These are tribal regions in the literal sense.  The only thing that really binds them together is their religion, Islam.  Of these two loyalties, tribe and Islam, tribe holds more sway with most people. 

Of course, the only real reason anyone cares about Libya in the first place is oil.  Europe is the prime consumer of the substance from this region, and the regional powers have been fighting over the area for a very long time.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the leading countries pressing for a no-fly zone are European. 

It also says something when the Arab League, an anti-democratic alliance of Arab despots, supports the European call for the destruction of the Gaddafi regime.  Common sense would indicate that when democratic western countries and dictatorial despotic regimes agree on something this significant then something stinks.  I'm not saying that Gaddafi is a good guy because he isn't.  He is a murderous despot who has no respect for human rights or the welfare of his people.  But I could say that about most of the Arab League and OPEC. 

Here is the bottom line:  Libya is not a country, and it never has been.  We have no right to dictate it's fate because the people who actually live there don't even want to be part of the country we created in the first place.  Instead, this situation should be allowed to run it's course without the intervention of Western or Arab powers whose interests lie in nothing greater than their own greed and avarice.

For centuries, outside powers have decided the fate of "countries" like Libya.  It's high-time we start letting people be truly free by deciding for themselves what is best for them.  Gaddafi's days are numbered in any case; his position has been irreparably weakened, and you can only pay a mercenary army so long before the money runs out.

I am not a fool, and I do realize that oil is essential to our economy.  But consider that Libay only represents less than 2% of the world's oil reserves.  Also consider that Libya's contributions to the U.S. oil supply is negligible.  And, finally, consider that a far more cost effective strategy would be to allow new oil drilling and refining in the U.S. rather than involving ourselves in another civil conflict.  What makes more sense?

As Galadriel in Lord of the Rings says, "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife.  Stray but a little and it will fail to the ruin of all."  Let us hope that our leaders have the prescient wisdom to see the situation for what it is, not what they want it to be.  The time for Wilsonian Democracy and Manifest Destiny is over.  We can either accept this fact, or proceed down a very dark road indeed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Post Seventeen

On Classical Music

I love classical music.  I know, I know, that's "elevator" music to most people, or if you're feeling really cruel, "old fart" music.  While I do agree that some classical pieces are downright horrible, I could say the same for any kind of music.  What most people fail to grasp is that most of what we hear today was inspired, in no small measure, by the masters of what is known as classical music. 

Like any genre, classical music is just a broad description.  Classical music consists of genres within genres, and is not something that is very easy to define by a few simple words.  For example, the genre is defined by three "Periods" set by a period of years: Baroque (1600-1750)), Classical (1750-1830), and Romantic (1830-1910 and my favorite) are the three accepted ages of classical music.  These periods are broad; they are not meant to be hard and fast rules.  You have various overlap, and some composers defy classification.  For example, based on the time he lived Mozart was so varied in his musical composition you could put him in either Classical or Romantic; some lovers would put him in his own Period.

Each Period was defined by notable composers who stood head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries; Baroque with J.S. Bach, Classical with Beethoven and Romantic with Tchiakovsky.  Each of these composers were the veritable "rock gods" of their day.  I am not taking away anything from other composers, but I think most people have heard of at least one of these composers.  I doubt you will be seeing the same staying power out of 99% of the musicians today. 

To me, classical music is a very personal kind of music.  At it's best, this music can take hold of your heart and move it like few things can.  One of my favorite pieces is Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  Everyone knows the piece because of the famous "Ode to Joy" chorus, but the symphony itself is a miracle on paper.  Four movements (most symphonies have three) combining and forming into a work of genius and virtuosity.  Beethoven's works inspired an entire generation of German people to forge a nation that eventually rivaled that of the great superpower of the day, Great Britian.  His works are a remarkable achievment right up there with any scientific breakthrough. 

I think one of the reasons classical music gets the shaft in the modern era is that it is a music that requires focus and patience to truly appreciate.  What's more, the music is best enjoyed live which few young people seem interested in doing.  Going to the symphony, instead of an all-night rave?  No.  It's funny as some of the best classical works, like symphonies, can be quite a taxing experience.  Some run an hour long, and once you get caught up in their power it's as addictive as any drug. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a local symphony in your area you really owe yourself a favor to try it out.  Some of the greatest musical experiences of my life took place watching my local symphony perform my favorite works.  Last week, my wife and I had the thrill of seeing Beethoven's 5th Symphony peformed at a very high level; as good as most CD recordings.  For those of you who don't know, the 5th is the symphony that begins with "Da Da Da Duh".  It's so much more than that, however.  The majesty of the 2nd and 3rd movements eclipse the opening movement in every way.  The conductor, a young man from Canada, had the orchestra moving at a furious pace which is quite untraditional for this piece.  Usually, the 5th is peformed "dignified"; which, to me, equals boring.  I have only heard one other recording of the 5th that was better than this performance.  It was that good.

One the best parts of classical music is it's sheer variety.  Want large-scale, earth-shaking, full orchestral works?  Check.  Want small-scale, intimate chamber works:?  Check.  Want virtuoso solo peformances from piano to cello?  Check.  Want opera?  Check.  It's amazing how many choices one has when starting to explore this world, and that can be both good and bad.  With so many choices one can simply become overwhelmed.  Worse, the person hears one piece that they hate, and conclude they hate classical music. 

In conclusion, liking or not liking classical music is just the wrong way to look at the genre.  I don't like all kinds of classical music.  Most small-scale works put me to sleep no matter the performer or composer.  While I love solo piano I'm not a big fan of the cello.  Opera?  Most of it is not my thing save for Wagner and some Mozart.  What classical music requires above all other kinds of music is patience and commitment.  It demands participation from the listener that simply is not part of the times in this instant gratification world.  And that's sad.

Here are some of my favorite recordings.  All of them are available for purchase on Amazon.  I am also including a couple of book and movie references to help the initiate get underway without feeling overwhelmed.  Give it a chance.  You might just be surprised what you might find thereby opening yourself up to a whole new world.

Beethoven-Harnoncourt: 9 Symphonies (Box Set) 


Beethoven the way it was meant to be played.  A reviewer once described the conductor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, as "scary".  Pretty much says it all.  If you are looking for clinical interpretation where one agonizes over getting every note perfect this is definitely not for you.  But if you are looking for passion beyond measure this is where it's at.  The best cycle in existence.  Affordable if bought used.

Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 / Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23


Martha Argerich is the best classical piano player alive, and this is her signature performance.  The Rach 3 is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, concerto ever written, and Argerich is more than up to the task.  Consider this is peformed and recorded live, and one simply marvels at her super-human talent.  The Tchaikovsky concerto is also very impressive, and is simply icing on the cake.  If you love piano it doesn't get any better than this.

Bach - The Complete Brandenburg Concertos / Pearlman, Boston Baroque [Box set]


I am not a huge fan of Baroque Period music, but of all Baroque works I like Bach's Brandenburg Concertos the best.  A complete recording of all of the concertos is the most desirable, and Telarc's recordings tend to sound very, very good.  Well worth the investment. 

Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring Cycle) / Sir Georg Solti [Box set]


With opera, for me, it's either go big, or go home.  Nothing is bigger than Wagner's Ring cycle.  While old, this recording is the best complete version available.  Not cheap, but opera fans (or fans of musicals) should really enjoy this set for years to come. 

Chopin: Favorite Piano Works


Chopin is my favorite piano composer, and Ashkenazy is my favorite Chopin pianist.  Whiile hardly complete, this very affordable 2-CD set is a great introduction to some of the most passionate piano works of all time. 

Mozart: Requiem in D Minor, K. 626


The work Mozart never completed due to his untimely death is one of his best.  Harnoncourt is the perfect conductor for this massive endeavor.  One the greatest masses ever written.

Orff: Carmina Burana


Used as a background piece in many movies involving massive amounts of testosterone this is one of those pieces you either love or hate.  The best way to describe this work is "primal".  Not for the faint of heart, but if you like big, bold music this is one of the best works out there.

Star Wars Trilogy [Box Set]


Modern Classical Music!  Yes, it exists.  Movie soundtracks have taken the place of massive symphonies.  Still, John Williams' music is a worthy successor to the masters of the past.  I never get tired of Darth Vader's entrance theme. 

Copying Beethoven (DVD movie)


Ed Harris plays a very believable Beethoven in this movie centered around Beethoven's 9th Symphony and one of his most controversial works.  It's a fictional story based on historical facts, but I enjoyed this movie more than it's competitor, Immortal Beloved, because of the strength of Harris' performance.  Well worth a couple of hours of your time. 

Amadeus (Blu-ray or DVD movie)


The best movie about the classical music genre by a huge margin.  Hulce is spectacular as the genius Mozart and Abraham is even better as his rival, the composer Salieri.  This Academy Award winner has some of the best set design and costumes ever seen in a modern movie, and it perfectly captures the feel of the time and place.  It's long, but never feels like it.  One of my favorite films of all time.

The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection : The 350 Essential Works


This book is all you need to start really enjoying classical music.  It's a great guide for the beginner, and will steer you in the right direction.  Indispensable.