Monday, March 31, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Quantum Leap has just enough Science Fiction to provide it with the premise, and not really enough to disguise deeper messages. That is not to say it doesn’t have something to say. In fact it can be quite preachy. The thing that makes it work, and even quite powerful, is that it takes a contemporary character and inserts him in the recent past. The audience gets to sees how far society has progressed, but at the same time it serves to show how much work remains to be done. (The British program “Life on Mars” used a similar premise effectively.)
The basic premise is that Sam, a brilliant scientist, has come up with a way to achieve time travel within the confines of his lifetime. When his funding is threatened, he prematurely tests the theory on himself, and is sent bouncing around in time. He quickly discovers that he is not in control, and in fact, it appears as though his travels are being controlled by God and used to make wrong things right. It even goes so far as to imply that the Devil or Hell is using a similar process to cause the wrong things that Sam is correcting.Aside from this cosmic view of good and evil, individual episodes always carry a moral quest that Sam must perform, and the shows are at times directly religious. One of many great moments in the show occurs in “The Americanization of Machico.” Sam is a soldier returning home with his Japanese bride. His mother struggles with accepting the new daughter-in-law throughout the episode. Sam’s bride gets injured, and in response to Sam’s question if she was really praying for her, she replies: “Of course, I am a Christian,” to which Sam replies, “Then show it.” By the end, she does.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
If you ever get the chance to see Venice take it. Find a place to stay about an hour away and ride the train in for a day and then get out. Simply exploring the city for a few hours on foot is the experience of a lifetime.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
There comes a time in some people’s lives when they lose touch with the younger generation. For those who try to keep up with the way young people think there comes many a time when they wonder if they are loosing it.
There has been a great song (in some ways) out there from Nickelback called “Rockstar” that serves as an example. It is a catchy tune with witty satire for content describing the desire that many have to be famous. It makes fun of fame and in some ways of the band itself as it describes the empty debauchery in the lives of the rich and famous. Lines like “we’ll all stay skinny ‘cause we just won’t eat,” And “I'll get washed-up singers writing all my songs, Lip sync ‘em every night so I don't get 'em wrong” are sung with tongue fully planted in cheek. With stories ranging from the latest Britney Spears incident to Paris Hilton saying something dumb every few days, the song is funny (in a sad way) because it is so true. Why would anyone want their fifteen minutes these days?
On the other hand, the repeated lines “I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame, I’d even cut my hair and change my name,” speak to a modern version of the Faustian story that seems to play itself out over and over again with the “American Idols” and their franchises on every channel.
The question must be asked, is this song popular (it was the most downloaded video on iTunes in 2007) because everyone is in on the joke and loves making fun of the emptiness of fame? Or are young people today really buying into the lie that money and popularity are the answer to happiness?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
More than fear of change, which simply wants to keep things the way they are because they could get worse, nostalgia seeks to have things the way they were. However, nostalgia never seeks to return to a state of reality. While everyone fears change, everyone also desires it. We want to keep the good and the things we can handle and do away with the bad. By the same token, looking back on the past we only see what we want. We remember the good times and forget the rest.
Perhaps one of the best examples of how irrational nostalgia can be is a phenomenon known as “Ostalgie.” Ostalgie is a German word formed by combining the German for nostalgia—“nostalgie” with the German for East—“ost.” Basically, it is people pining away for the “good old days” when they couldn’t make any decisions for themselves and had a totalitarian government running everything into the ground. They miss the cheaply made cars that you had to wait years for them to build after you had ordered them. They miss the way oranges and bananas tasted sooo good when you could only get them once a year at Christmas. They miss the way West German TV was so much better when you could only watch it illegally. They miss the way you could just pretend to work while the government pretended to pay you.Maybe it is more a case of the grass on the other side of the wall failing to be as green as it had to look from the GDR. Things were pretty bad under Communism, but they didn’t get much better with freedom. Sometimes it is easier to deal with life’s imperfections when you have a Government you can blame for everything that goes wrong.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Acts: A Brief But Far Too Wordy and Perhaps Flawed Stream of Consciousness On Saul’s Conversion (9:1-9)
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
All of these films have other (sometimes) more important elements of plot, but it is this distorted perspective on what the world calls love that ties these movies together and speaks to something the world today needs to hear. What the world sees as love is really selfish, manipulating, about taking and not giving. When true selfless love is lost, the very fabric of society begins to crumble. The way “love” has been perverted in today’s western culture does not bode well for that culture’s survival.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Most people who arrive at the decision to reject God’s existence are reacting against Religion not God. They have discovered the not so hidden fact that all religion is ultimately man-made and empty, and have assumed that since man’s attempts to get to God are flawed, the whole idea of God must be flawed as well.
This is brilliantly illustrated in C. S. Lewis’ book, “The Last Battle.” The basic opening plot of the book is that an ape dresses an ass up like a lion (setting up a false version of the real God of Narnia, Aslan) and is using this fake Aslan to control the whole country. When the fraud is exposed and a group of dwarves are set free with the truth, they immediately extrapolate that if one version of Aslan is false, all versions must be and they reject him altogether.
Of course, in the book, Aslan is real and the Dwarves end up being just as mistaken in their beliefs as any false religion could be.
Religion ends up being a huge part of the argument for God’s existence. Religion’s flaw is that it tries to approach God on man’s terms with man’s rules. So many imitations and attempts at describing the idea of God point to the existence of a real God in the first place. A counterfeit bill does not refute the existence of real money. There has to be real money for the counterfeit to imitate. If you rejected the reality of diamonds because you had seen a cubic zirconia, you would be wrong. While diamonds are rare, they are the basis on which the imitation is modeled.
The real problem for thoughtful people is not, “Is there a God?” but, “if there is one, how does He relate to me?”
Monday, March 17, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
One good contribution Postmodernism has brought is the reevaluation of language and translation. Basically, meaning should carry more weight than mere words. Consider for instance:
Magic in literature. Should books be pegged as satanic if they have magic elements? Fantasy (and fable before it) has always had magic in it. Sometimes the bad guys use it, sometimes the good guys do. Often magic is used on both sides of the Good vs. Evil conflict. In English, the terms designating practitioners of magic vary greatly: wizard, witch, sorcerer, etc. Most terms are used for both good and bad types of magicians. In some English translations of the Bible, witchcraft is condemned. Other terms are also used (sorcerer, enchanter, augur, wonder-worker etc.) When you look at the actual meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible, in most cases Fantasy literature has a much different idea of magical characters than that of the real practitioners of occult arts. For instance, J. K. Rowling’s “Wizarding World” has a mechanical form of magic aptly described by Clarke’s 3rd law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Her books represent other forms of Magic (such as divination) as fraudulent.
Who is Lucifer? Another example would be the name Lucifer. Most people brought up with knowledge of the King James Translation think that is the name of the Devil. Little do they know it is really just a transliteration from the Latin Vulgate of the word naming Venus, or the morning star. In other parts of the Bible, Jesus is called “the Morning Star!” The chain of Baptist Bookstores in Chile is named “The Lucifer.” Most fundamentalists would probably accuse Chilean Baptists of being Satanists before they learned the real meaning of the word!Make sure you understand an idea before you judge its validity or worthiness.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Spring boarding off yesterday’s topic, horror movies have seen yet another resurgence in popularity (they seem to have one every 10-15 years), while at the same time they have declined in quality.
The origin of the horror genre is found in the old medieval morality play. Audiences were scared as they witnessed a person reap the consequences of poor judgment. Early on in film history, that was the formula for horror. Audiences were scared on an intellectual level. They left the theater with disturbing ideas and thoughts that stuck with them. The films scared because they delivered messages hidden in creepy unnatural elements.
Audiences today find the old horror, from the Universal variety up through Rosemary’s Baby and the Exorcist, boring because they have been fed a steady diet of thrills and adrenaline inducing jumps. Moviemakers have by in large taken the easy, lazy route to fear and tapped into instinct rather than intellect.
George Romero contributed greatly to today’s crop of “Torture-Porn” (movies that substitute gore for scares) when he made his cheap independent Zombie movies in the 70s and 80s. His “Dead” films do not induce fear. Disgust and fear both produce aversion, but they are not the same thing.This is not to say that there is no place for gore in horror; or that the only good horror movies are those with a message. The ultimate measure of a good horror film is: does it scare? In the last several years the best movies on that scale have tended to be the ones that show little to no gore and more creepiness derived from the “out of place” or unnatural. The Japanese Horror Genre or Spanish input such as last year’s “El Orfanato” are some of the best the genre has produced in a decade.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Of course, in spite of all the “messages,” these movies are made to appeal to the macabre in folks. Each one tries to outdo its predecessors in the gore department. That is the hardest part of a Zombie film to stomach; they are not really scary, just gross.
Monday, March 10, 2008
There are places in the world today where Christianity is simply a popular or culturally acceptable thing to do. There are “Christians” today who merely believe what the Bible says and think they have a “get out of Hell free” card or some form of “fire insurance.” Don’t ever present the Gospel as an easy escape from the punishment of sin. It is a life-changing surrender of control to God, a complete submission. Don’t try to sell Christianity as just another self-help program. Christ actually promised more hard times and suffering than health and wealth to His followers.
Friday, March 7, 2008
It seems in the children’s television world of today, full of frenetic animation and crude, and common denominator humor, that we need more ideals from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Where shows like the Teletubbies flash bright colors and repeat everything twice for the brainless children that watch, and the latest Barney knock-off engages in Diabetes inducing sweetness, and Dora or Diego boil “educational programming” down to the latest mindless three step task, someone needs to just spend time with the preschool audience and teach them some important truths. Let them know they are unique, they are loved, and teach them to behave according to the ethical standards found in Matthew 7:12.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
The Holiday movie season of 2001 was a monumental time for Fantasy movies, and indeed for movies in general. Up until then lovers of books, fantasy books in particular, had a difficult relationship with movies.
Ultimately, movies cannot compete with imagination when it comes to visualizing the worlds created by the great fantasy authors. Since the advent of film, many have tried to translate fantasy stories to the screen in some way approximating what the book. However, it wasn’t just the visual department that let viewers down. The biggest problem has been the writing.
Hollywood tends to change books’ plots and endings. They assume that no one will want to see a film if they already know the story. The completely fail to understand that an audience who love a book long to see that book made into a movie. They do not want the story changed.
All this began to improve in 2001 with the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is a completely different story and the great disappointment of the series.)
Many films have attempted to duplicate the Potter success. Studios are taping into every child oriented fantasy book ever made. More often than not these attempts are failing. The reason for flops when they occur is that the filmmakers fail to remain faithful to the book. True, movies and books are different mediums, and yes, changes need to be made. Films must shorten elements of the story and find ways to communicate things in a purely visual way, but plot; characters and basic story should remain. Finally, never change the end just because people know it. If they love the book, they love the end. If you want to surprise people, write your own material!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Every society has a series of traditions and institutions upon which it was built. Politically speaking, when a group or individual tries to stick to those traditions and defend the institutions, they are described as being right leaning. Liberal or left leaning individuals are those that want to change, get away from or at times destroy them. This kind of generalization of terminology causes a lot of confusion as most generalizations do. For instance, a right leaning person in France today would be called “Liberal,” as their positions would run contrary to the status quo and establishment there.
To make matters worse, the further one travels down either political ideology to the extremes, the resulting societies look a lot alike. Communism and Fascism would be placed on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but both societies tend to view individuals as unimportant and the “good” of society as preeminent.
Perhaps a better terminology would be East and West. The political realm tends to be more of a big sphere. With the relative uniformity of the United States political spectrum, not a lot of ground on this sphere is covered. For all the polemical things candidates say about each other, they are not all that different. Political ideology in the U.S. probably fails to reach more than 30 or 40 degrees to the right or the left. In fact, most politicians fall squarely into the “Moderate” area.The moderate side of politics has yet to be addressed here. Basically it is the philosophy of “wet your finger and see where the wind is blowing.” Moderates don’t believe in anything principally. The avoid taking stands and avoid making decisions, because once you are in office you do whatever it takes to stay there. Then again, the country is usually best served when government does nothing.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Last year was the tenth year since the hottest on record. 1998 was bad, but the good news is temperatures have been lower ever since. Now comes the news that 1997 saw a huge decrease in temperature, enough to drop the global average back from the one-degree gain seen over the past 100 years.
This will not likely change much with the Global Warming, sorry, Climate Change crowd. That name change is due to the fact that climate is always in flux, and the political force behind this movement was smart enough to realize that if they wanted to control people, they would need to account for the inevitable cooling that would come from time to time.
Summer is on its way for the northern hemisphere, and get ready for stories of temperatures going up. (They tend to do that on their own in summertime, but the masses can be counted on to accept the theory that they are to blame for the warming.) If someone really wanted to hold something over people, they would start a scare about Global Cooling. Human society will find it easy and even beneficial in most cases to adapt to a degree or two of warming. There are all sorts of benefits: more useful cropland, better growing seasons, fewer Hurricanes, etc. What we can’t adapt to so easily would be a degree or two of cooling. Food shortages alone…Climate changes. We may like to think that we hold some great power or influence over this planet, but just the opposite is true. In fact, that ball of fire 150 million kilometers away can do more in one year to change Earth temperatures than all the carbon dioxide released by humanity in 100 years. (The Earth, by the way, comes up with 100 times more greenhouse causing elements in the atmosphere on its own.)