Friday, December 22, 2006

The Girl in the Cafe, etc.

I watched The Girl in the Cafe with Dan last night and I'm watching it again with my mother right now. This is such a good film, in my opinion. It takes a really clever concept and weaves its characters into a great film that flows right off the screen with a message and a challenge for the audience. Why can't Christians learn to make movies of this caliber that challenge an audience as well as this?

I'm trying to think of a point where Christians went down the drain as makers of great art. Was it when we started making products, music, and movies aimed for a "Christians only!" audience. I went to a play on Sunday at a really really big church in the Carlisle area. It was an annual thing that the church does and they usually do it quite well. This year was different. It was a slip-shod story that contained a few morals engrained in the plot of the story, but otherwise the message was brought to the audience by characters giving hackneyed soliloquys that seemed extremely out of place and thrown in simply out of necessity because it's a "Christian" production. It was very discouraging and if I were an unsaved person watching, I would be turned away by all this overpowering message that breaks up the story.

Anyway, Christmas is in three days. Uncle David comes tomorrow around 3:00. It will be nice to have him home for a while. I've been working at the Pharmacy again and am reminded again of how much I LOATH the Franklin County dialect. I don't mind the Southern accent down in TN, but coming back up here I am getting so annoyed at people not realizing the simple rules of phonics and saying their letters right. I also need to make a bumper sticker: "LEARN ENGLISH OR LEAVE!" Not to be mean or anything, it just gets annoying.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas is approaching!

Christmas is coming, people. Are you in the spirit yet? I'm getting there. Today I helped with some inflatable games in downtown Dayton for the pre-Christmas parade activities. It was somewhat fun. Who knew that Dayton had a dog show. The coolest dog I saw today was (get this) a three-legged whippet. Even worse, its owner had put reindeer antlers on it. With only three legs, it walked really weird ... almost like a gallop. It sort of looked like a real reindeer.

This was quite the week. I was sick for the first three days, but then gradually got better. Then I learned that my ride back home for Christmas has to leave early and that I would have to find another ride. I did, so we’re good on that. Plus, I got TONS of sleep this week. On Wednesday, all I felt like doing was sleeping. And I did. 6 hours during the day and then my normal allotment at night. It was great.

Last night was the Christmas banquet and those of us in Long 2nd that didn’t go went down the Chattanooga to eat and see a movie on the hall’s money. Two guys saw Casino Royale (which I had already seen and didn’t feel the need to see again), Colton went to see The Nativity Story (which I will see with my family when I get back for Christmas), and I went to see Bobby.

Bobby was a great film, in my opinion and included some of the greatest actors from many generations of the Hollywood tradtition. It was the story of people living and working in the Ambassador Hotel on the day that Bobby Kennedy would be shot. It delved into some very important issues in the lives of the characters. Each character's story ended with a bit of an epiphany … the character realizing something about their lives, their importance in the scheme of things, things they had done wrong or right.

After Senator Kennedy was shot, the movie ended with an exceelent montage with Senator Kennedy delivering a speech in the background on the menace of violence in our society. Although some of what he said may simply be meaningless liberal platitudes, some of it really stayed with me and I will post it for your enjoyment and enlightenment:

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

Do you agree? You can read the whole speech here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Sleepless Nights, Steve Green, and Magnolia

I had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night. My roommate decided that he wanted to stay up until 2 A.M. with the very bright white sink light and his desk lamp on, so basically, it was like all the lights were on. Also, for some odd reason, he had the air conditioning turned off. I was wondering why I felt so hot and sticky until 1:30 when I said, “Is the air conditioning on?” This prompted him to turn it on. I don’t care if it’s cold … that’s what blankets are for.

The half hour from 1:30 to 2:00 was one of the longest half hours of my life. I laid my head on my pillow hoping that I would fall asleep, but just my luck, the song that has been in my head ever since I came here to Bryan decided to play again through the speakers of my cranium and not stop. It doesn’t help that this song is one of the most convicting songs I have ever heard in my entire life. And here it is, circling through my head constantly for half an hour, making me think about my life. I think the best help will be to quote the lyrics that were in my head:

May all who come behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light our way.
May the footprints that we leave,
Lead them to believe.
May the lives we live inspire them to obey.

Having those lyrics run through your head as you are trying to go to sleep is very disquieting. I finally prated that I would be able to fall asleep and eventually did although I was very tired in the morning and the lyrics were still running through my brain.

They don’t write songs like this anymore. Going back and listening to the lyrics of Steve Green’s older songs has been quite the journey. They are all poetic and beautiful, unlike any of the music I have heard come out of most Christian artists today.

In other news, I was sitting watching the end of Magnolia the other night and the whole message of the movie finally hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know why this didn’t happen to me the first time I watched the movie. Maybe I was just so overwhelmed in cinematic ecstasy that I didn’t take the time to really think about what Jim Kurring says at the end of the movie.

Every character in the movie essentially has an issue with their past or present that needs forgiveness by another character. Jim gives a monologue at the end all about forgiveness and what we, as humans, can forgive. It has turned into, at least for me, one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.

Enough for tonight.

Monday, August 28, 2006

India's 'Harold Hill'

About twice a year, this missionary comes to my home church in Chambersburg. Lets just say that his name is Behrooz. Ever since I was a little boy, I get this weird feeling every time Behrooz gets up on the stage. This mysterious feeling can be explained by a simple notion: I think that the man is a shyster … a con man … a thief … a swindler … an embezzler!

If you have ever seen “The Music Man”, you know the story of Harold Hill, another con man. From Wikipedia, “’Professor’ Harold Hill travels from town to town, taking pre-paid orders for musical instruments and uniforms, claiming that he will teach youngsters to play and form a town band” but plans to skip town after he gets the money.

This is what I have always fantasized Behrooz does to make his living. I imagine him setting up a bunch of under-paid Indian people on a soundstage in Southern California and telling them to act like they’re poor and destitute while he shoots low-quality video footage and takes really stupid looking pictures that are supposed to tug at people’s heart-strings.

I imagine that Behrooz is a born and bred American with no natural accent. I imagine that he gets up on the stage and starts speaking in an excellently perfected Indian accent, telling us about the poor women that are brought to the “sewing center” and given a new life. He gives a plea for money that will go to (with Indian accent) “vuying new zo-ing ma-zheanes and vund a new wideo CAM-ra.”

When Behrooz leaves church, he hops into his junker of a car and goes to a special place where he is able to deposit his earnings from the previous church into his Swiss Bank Account, which he draws from frequently at his leisure. He flies home to Southern California to his huge house which overlooks a vineyard where concord grapes grow to support the winery which he built from the ground-up using the money he had received from offerings at churches all across the United States.

I highly doubt that this is the case, but this is what passes through my head every time he gets on the stage. Why? I have no clue. Maybe it’s because all the pictures of him and his family look so comical! I mean, they look so happily placid and resigned to their lifestyle. It is absolutely hilarious to see! I wish I could find a picture, but, alas, I can not.

So watch out … anybody can be a con man and, even more importantly, anybody can be conned.

It's Been A While

Haven't updated this in a long while. A drastic change in the continuity of life leaves a very little amount of time to write "good" material. I am going to start writing on this again tonight because I have so many thoughts that I need to post on an intelligent-looking blog. Expect a post later...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good"

The man who said, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependant on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.

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So begins “Match Point”, last year’s well written and extremely thought provoking offering from famous director/comedian (and avid atheistic nihilist) Woody Allen. This is not typical Woody Allen territory; “Match Point” is in no way humorous. It is a journey in to the dark recesses of the human heart. It speaks of those times in life when we are overcome by temptation and are pulled into such a trap that it seems nearly impossible for us to get out.

“Match Point” is the story of Chris Wilton, a famous tennis player who gets a job teaching tennis and soon falls in love with one of his rich students’ sister, Chloe. While dating this girl, he meets her brother Tom’s fiancĂ©; the beautiful and seductive Nola. There is an immediate attraction between them that lasts through the film.

Chris and Chloe get married. While at the rich family’s summer home, Chris and Nola have a sexual encounter. Chris knows of his attraction to Nola, but marries Chloe nonetheless. They work on having children, but soon find out that Chloe is having trouble conceiving. Meanwhile, Tom breaks things off with Nola and Chris begins seeing her … often. While begrudgingly working on conceiving with his wife, Chris impregnates Nola. Nola refuses to abort the child and makes Chris’s life a living hell, saying that he needs to leave his wife and to do it soon!

(SPOILER WARNING) Chris knows that leaving his wife would ruin his career. He hatches an extremely flawed plan to kill Nola which includes killing one of Nola’s neighbors and stealing many things (including prescription drugs) from her house to make it look like a drug robbery, thus making his murder of Nola look like an accident. As Chris is disposing of the old neighbor woman’s belongings, he goes to throw her wedding ring in the water. It hits a railing and misses going in the water, just like the tennis ball at the beginning of the film.

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The police find Nola’s diary that talk of Chris. They interrogate him and he admits their relationship but denies her murder. A heroin junkie finds the ring that bounced off the railing. He is arrested later, the ring is found, and he is charged with murder since he is a drug addict and it looked like a drug robbery.

You can learn to push the guilt under the rug and go on. You have to. Otherwise it overwhelms you. The innocent [neighbor woman was] slain to make way for a grander scheme. … It would be fitting if I were apprehended and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justice. Some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning.

Luck. That is, essentially, the message of this film. Chris would find it good to be caught for his crime, as explained above, but he chooses to see the lack of justice as luck … the ball hitting the net and falling back. As far as we know (and as far as Woody Allen would like us to know), Chris will never suffer the due penalty for his crime. His character of Chris would “rather be lucky than good.”

Justice. Chris is unable accept the reality of what he did or realize that he is being held accountable to God. He would welcome being proved wrong but sees that luck rules everything. Since life is all about luck, life has no meaning.

You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
Jeremiah 12:1

As a follower of Christ, I know that all goodness and all suffering is not weighed out on an earthly scale. In the end, the wicked will not prosper because they will be judged by God. All people who say that there is no God are going to come to a stunning realization the minute that they die. When Chris Wilton takes his final breath, he will see the faces of Nola, the child she was carrying, and the dead neighbor lady; and then he will see the face of God. Then he will go to hell with the rest of the world that refuses to recognize a wholly sovereign creator.


I finally decided that since I finally got a laptop, I could write a little more. So here it is ... basically just thoughts from my head. They will probably include some movie reviews, cultural observations, thoughts on TV shows, music, etc. Hope you enjoy!