Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life's Wish

May I never be remembered,
As a student, poet,
Writer, or teacher,
Scientist, Philosopher,
Minister, or Preacher.

All these things,
The things I do,
Noble they may seem.
But never compare to who I am,
Nor who I want to be.

Remember me, if you will,
As a husband, son, and brother,
Neighbor, Father, a faithful friend,
Lover of life,
A child of the Father.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Savings

I started me a savings account,
So someday I’d have a lot to spend.
I got so into the habit, though,
That even to myself I can’t lend.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Galatians 3:1,2 (How Were You Saved?)

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” –Galatians 3:1,2

Here is a difficulty for a lot of “Christians” in reading and understanding Galatians: we often do not effectively reach people with a message preaching faith. Too many people assume they are in a right relationship with God as a result of works; even people from traditions emphasizing “faith only.” We add works to the mix. The first is a prayer, The Prayer.

How many people think that they are saved as a result of a prayer—“asking Jesus” into their hearts? We have given this prayer a sacramental power.

There may in fact be people who are living a life of obedience to the lordship of Christ without having ever “prayed the prayer.” The important thing to emphasize is surrender to Christ and a confession of His lordship. Neither of these things requires a formulaic utterance. Unfortunately we have hung everything on just such an utterance and not on living a lifestyle. Empty “Works” instead of the natural life that precedes out of the change that true faith brings.

What other works do we impose on our faith?

Monday, April 27, 2009

An Eerie Dream

400 Union Street.
Backyard.
It is not full of rattlesnakes
–like last time.
I go in through the patio.
Next to the freezer,
On the floor,
Is the largest beetle.
Dull—flat blue; bigger than my hand.
I pick it up, behind the head, clasping the outer wings.
It tries to flutter.
I am going to need a bigger kill-jar…

Inside, Mama is nervous.
Papa fascinated.
I look at the beetle again.
The head is missing.
In its place there is a plastic doll head.
It reminds me of days gone by, the barefoot mad science days. You could gently pull a grasshopper’s head out in such a way that the whole inner body would slip out leaving an empty exoskeleton. If the reverse could be achieved, then perhaps a toothpaste cap could be used to replace the skull…

Papa wants to see the wings.
I shift my grip and the wing coverings open.
Underneath, the beetle unfurls not wings,
But a piece of cloth for a patchwork quilt.
Mama won’t want that back…

I let the dog out.
Earie is dead.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Atonement

The moral of the story is: never write a perverse thought, even in jest. The moment our protagonist does, every single viewer in the audience knows what is coming.

Atonement is one of those exercises in suffering. Think of the most tragic love story possible and then film it professionally, artistically, and beautifully. Make the viewer suffer with the tragedy of it all. Let the bad guy get away; tease the audience with a hint of a happy ending and then rip it all away like a Band-aid.

The worst part about it all is that it is unintentionally funny. Well, at least laughable.

Can’t bring yourself to declare your love? Write a pornographic letter. Are you in self-denial about your feelings? Said porn letter will open your eyes. Then you can have a moment of passion…your first ever…on a ladder, fully clothed, and be interrupted in the act.

Yet that moment of lustful passion will be enough to seal the lover’s passion for years of separation. Oh, but you must make sure their lives are both devoid of any normality or events outside of the all consuming passion of getting back together to finally “finish up” as it were. The have them DIE!

Oh, and have the whole story revolve around a girl that, as she ages 60 years, always wears the same hair clip so the audience can recognize her.

How did this mess ever get into the Best Picture hunt?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Poetry Reading

Hello. My name is PhD.
I’m here to read about me.
I’ll talk twice as long
before I read.
And may be the sense you’ll see.
Wow, I just now saw a way,
My nonsense may be saved.
I’ll add a word, change this,
And see?
No? Well, your no PhD.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Confusions Inspired by Transformers

When one is finally compelled to see a blockbuster over the objections that originally kept one away from it, the results can be a real treat. After all, most blockbusters are entertaining. That is why they make so much money. People who seek more out of their movies (i.e. a message, a meaning, or a study about some aspect of truth) can often forget that one whole raison d’etre of movies is to entertain.

Unfortunately, the masses are not always a source of good judgment. Transformers is a case where a movie, instead of entertaining, raises a bunch of questions:

How can anyone keep track of which robots are good and which are bad? Outside of a couple of colorful robots, like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, most in fights were hard to distinguish.

For that matter, how can you tell one transformer from any other? In the scene where Prime introduces all the good guys, they have all already converted to robot form, and this may be species-ist, but they all look alike that way. Which Gobot is which vehicle?

The greatest mystery though, is the target audience for this film. The obvious would be to go for the built in audience. That is to say kids (it is a kid franchise) and adults who were kids when the franchise started out (the parents of those other kids.) Instead, Michael Bay and co. decided to make this a teen movie. Not just any teen movie, but one with content that makes it impossible for kids to see it. So, in an effort to make a kids product cool enough for apathetic teens, you alienate the generation who grew up with Transformers, and make a product the natural audience is too young to see.

The reason it worked is the whole Hollywood rule. Any movie a 19-year-old boy will want to see will work, because boys of all ages want to see what 19-year-old boys want to see and girls will go with boys to their movies where boys won’t go to the girls’.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Than a Wanderlust, It's a Disorder

I walked past some apple vinegar in the store today and had a mystical moment. It was on of those flashbacks you see in movies and TV. Instantly, I was experiencing the emotions and feelings of our first weeks in Germany. Not only that, but they were the same feelings and emotions I went through when I first moved to Costa Rica, Chile, and to a lesser degree back to the US. It wasn’t just a moment, followed by a smile and a little jog down memory lane. It awoke a desire in me that comes every so often in the life of all MKs. I got the itch.

We have lived in the same city, in the same house for nearly three years now. That makes my current situation one of the longest runs in the same surroundings in my life. It is the longest of my married life. Starting out in any new place is never easy. Doing so in a completely different culture is exponentially harder. Why do I like it so much? Chalk it up to one of the many “disorders” common to most Third Culture Kids. I love it. Everything is different. Everything is strange. You don’t know what anyone is saying. You become an expert in mime. You frequently look like an idiot. It must be something akin to the adrenaline rush sought out by daredevils.

So, how did a bottle of apple vinegar trigger this temptation? There was a bottle of it among the things they had stocked our cupboards with when we moved here. Apfel is similar to English. I had no idea if Essig meant juice, but there was an easy way to find out.

I never forgot the word for vinegar.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Squirrel

I saw a squirrel,
Praising God today,
Doing what he was made to do,
With a joyful attitude of play.

I heard God ask me today,
Not for praise without spirit,
But freely offered from a heart,
Joyful, and loving to sing it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

An Animated Stream of Consciousness

Monsters vs. Aliens is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of escapism. It may not have a lot of deeper meaning (the self-empowerment story of Susan is endearing but hardly novel), but it is entertaining and would probably rank respectably in the list of animated movies you find yourself re-watching a few times. It also triggers a fun stream of “connective-ness” that intuitive types (see Myers Briggs) love to play with.

Monsters is the first computer animated movie to be made in 3D (as opposed to converted.) This is thematically appropriate, as it harkens back to all the sci-fi themed horror movies of the 50s, when 3D movies were all the rage. One of the monsters, “The Missing Link,” is based on The Creature From the Black Lagoon, which was one of the most successful 3D movies ever made. (The other characters based on 50s movies: Gigantica, from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; BOB, from The Blob; Insectosaurus, from Mothra and other Godzilla type movies; Dr. Cockroach, from The Fly and other mad scientist movies; and Gallaxhar, from every alien invasion movie of the 50s and 60s.)

Monsters is also an interesting chapter in the DreamWorks vs. Pixar saga. Ever since Disney handed the Animation title over to Pixar in the 1990s, DreamWorks has been vying to claim the number one animation studio spot. It has at times threatened to produce a better movie, but its string of productions has had a lot of stinkers as well. For every Shrek or Kung Fu Panda, they have several lack-luster stories. (Bee Movie, anyone?) Pixar on the other hand, has failed to make one terrible movie. Monsters vs. Aliens is the most “Pixar-ish” film DreamWorks has yet to produce.

One wonders if the 3D move will place this movie among other important landmark films (Snow White, 101 Dalmatians, Little Mermaid, and Toy Story) that each set a new standard for the industry and led the way for bigger and better movies for the format.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wittenberg

There are some cities that attract people due to their beauty. Others appeal to a sense of adventure or exotic living. Then there are those that are a part of history. Most of the time, these cities are best enjoyed when the traveler has a good idea of the history of the city, or an appreciation of what that city’s story mean’s to today. In fact, many cities have a huge and rich history that does not always add to the charm due to people’s ignorance regarding their place. Venice or Istanbul come to mind as cities that are generally regarded as “pretty” or “exotic” when in fact they have a huge historic richness largely unknown to westerners.

Wittenberg, Germany is the other type of city. Neither especially “pretty” nor “exotic” (compared to all the other towns it’s size in Germany it is quite normal), it remains a huge tourist attraction due solely to its history. The Castle Church on the west end of the historic downtown is the site where Luther nailed the most revolutionary idea of the past 1000 years to the doors. The doors sadly do not remain today, replaced by some large metal doors engraved with the theses. This church is just one of the many historic buildings from Luther’s time in town, but even beyond its significance; it is a site to behold. In a land where, after a while, you begin to classify the various churches and architectural styles into one of a few alternatives repeated over and over again, the Castle church is unique and stunning.

The other main church building in town is the City Church, where Luther actually worked most of the time. It is older (The Castle Church was brand new in Luther’s day) and looks refreshingly old whereas most churches in Germany are too obviously restored and “kept-up.” The alter inside the City Church is especially precious and old, depicting reformation figures and painted in the days of Luther himself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Discouraging Word

The air in Dalhart,
Is one big cow fart,
And in Hereford the smell is the same.
Bovina has cowses,
More’n people or houses,
And the air in nine parts methane.

Home, home on the range,
Where the stench
Will drive you insane.
Where seldom is heard,
A discouraging word,
‘Cept for moans due
To cow belly-aches.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finitude: Wisdom

The beginning of wisdom,
Is knowing I don’t.
Truth is evasive,
For those watching.
How do you know,
If you have all the facts?
Truth is you can’t.
Stop presuming.
God only knows,
And humility says,
You can’t assume,
You’re His spokesman.
So stop telling me,
You’ve a word from the Lord.
I’ve got all He’s said.
It’s been written.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Galatians 2:16 (Faith vs. Works)

“…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”


Paul makes it overly plain in verse 16 that Faith, not Works is what saves. This is the difference between Biblical Christianity and all other beliefs in the world (Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, the various Christian sects, Buddhism, Hinduism, and yes, even Humanism.) They teach a faith that requires people to do certain things in order to be considered worthy or good.

Religion condemns. The relationship with God through Jesus, however, frees. We are declared holy through His efforts. We are changed. We do behave differently, but not because we earn merit through behavior, but rather because we are different.

Tim Keller has highlighted the various differences between this relationship and all religion-based beliefs. Among them the idea that we obey based on the fact we are accepted, not to be accepted, that we are motivated by joy and not fear. One’s whole worldview is determined by whether one begins with behavior or being. Legalistic, religious belief—even in Christianity—creates a self-centered and idolatrous morality; the Gospel allows us to focus on God.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thoughts on a Passionate Subject

Hard to believe this thing came out five years ago. Here are some thoughts, written at the time, that still come to mind when this movie comes up:



Is The Passion of the Christ a complete telling of a long sanitized story, or is it Grand Guignol baptized into the church?

No doubt about it, there is a lot of good to be said of this movie. It is very well made, well acted, and well promoted. We are not used to the movie industry presenting anything friendly to Christianity with such quality. For that reason alone one wished for the success of this movie in the hopes that more would come. In addition to the business success, there is also the hope that this movie will begin discussions about religion that will lead people to faith in Christ. Of course for that to happen, we will need to be willing to fill in the gaps for those who watch this movie and come away with the questions. Why did this happen? How should I respond to what I have seen?

However, in all the hype and praise and urging from Christian leaders across the country and the world for people to watch this movie, this thinking Christian begs for an opportunity to raise a few questions and hopefully start some dialogue.

It is said that this story has never been told cinematically the way it should. Is that so? What are the important issues involved in the crucifixion of Christ? The “Why?” and the “What did it accomplished for mankind?” are certainly important and have been addressed. Sure, the portrayal may not be exciting in most of the other movies about this event, but those issues are addressed. What about the details of what occurred to Christ during the crucifixion? The Bible certainly mentions all the horrors, but it does not go into detail. Fully one verse out of 334 speak of the flogging of Jesus. This movie devotes a huge portion to it. It delves into each and every lash of the whip, each blow of the hammer. Don’t get me wrong. I am emotional about what Christ did for me. It doesn’t take a movie. Every time I give serious thought to what Christ went through I get emotional. In fact, I think in some ways this movie used gore in such a way that it distracted me from the important issues.

With the gore in mind I was amazed at the amount of Christians, many of whom had never seen an R rated movie in their lives, that were alright with this film, even after seeing it. I am not one to shun a movie based on the rating. I think some degree of things that make a movie R rated are necessary to tell some stories. I have seen many highly violent films such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. I have even seen movies not quite so edifying and decidedly violent. The Passion of the Christ is among the most violent movies I have ever seen. With that in mind I raise the question, do Christians now cease to let a secular organization decide what they will see and start deciding for themselves? Or do we only make exceptions to the R rule when our Christian speakers and personalities tell us it is all right?

How does this movie affect our interpretation of the Salvation event from here on out? I will never again see the Gospel story in the same light. I have always disliked the way any movie version of the story influences the way I imagine Christ. Even as a child I disliked the many portraits of Jesus, because I knew they were not really Him. This movie not only gives me a new picture of Jesus, it has given me mental images of the gore involved in His death. I already had a real, informed, gruesome understanding of what Christ had gone through, now I have the Technicolor images of it. For some this may be a new eye-opener concerning what Jesus went through. For others, especially non-Christians, it may translate into mere morbid fascination.

As an Evangelical Christian that grew up around Catholics I saw a lot of their understanding in this film. I think evangelicals need to be informed about the catholic view, but I hope we are not informed by it. Mary is important, and we do not give her her due often enough. This movie does. It also shows us how it is much easier to identify with her than Christ. After all, she is human, He is divine and human. This is the reason I have been given by countless Catholics as to why they pray to her and venerate her. It is said she can identify with us better than Christ. While I think we can perhaps identify with her more than Christ, it doesn’t work in reverse. I will not even approach here the coredemptrix possibilities found in the movie.

As a Christian, I saw that the movie tried to show us that Christ was dying for the very people who were killing Him, not just the ones present, but also every sinner that ever lived and deserves the death He endured. I am not sure however, that those non-Christians unfamiliar with the message will grasp that point. There is an intense feeling of hatred the viewer feels for the High Priest, the Jewish leaders, and some of the Roman guards in the film. While I was reminded of my own guilt through them, I don’t think all viewers will be.

My final two thoughts are just personal problems really. Why were the additions to the Gospel story found in this picture? (Presumably from the meditations of Emmerich or other source material.) . I found them to be a distraction. And finally, what happened to the resurrection? With all the effort and planning that went into the gore, don’t tell me that those sixty-one seconds of resurrection were not a tacked on addition after the fact. In a day of three-hour movies, an opportunity was missed in not showing another thirty minutes of well-planned scenes of the resurrection and the witnessings of Christ afterward. Sunday is the necessary addition to Friday for a complete story and this movie missed the mark in that regard. Unfortunately, I am not holding my breath that they will be making The Resurrection of the Christ any time soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blue

I painted my cat Blue today.
Painted him red with white spots.

I said,

"Blue, don't you like your bright hue?"
"Hooray," he said, "thanks a lot."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Slowly Observe, but Hurry!

Run through the meadows.
Walk among the trees.
Drink with all your senses,
Until your heart is pleased.
Time will have passed,
Before you’re ever done.
Tomorrow will come afresh,
Before the dew melts in the sun.
Arise and go forth.
Beat him to the day.
Catch his appearance,
A glorious, colorful array.
Wake the birds with your presence.
Surprise the fish in the streams.
Slowly observe, but hurry!
For you will never again have this spring.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Galatians 1:10-2:14 (What's With All The Personal History?)

Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the gospel he preached did not come to him from other men, but straight from Jesus Himself. He gives a lengthy testimony accounting for his actions from the time of his salvation on the road to Damascus up until he began his ministry with the Galatians.

Why is this so important? It shows us three things about Paul’s message: It (the Gospel) is not just Judaism updated. It is not dependent on the Law or any form of legalism. The Gospel as Paul preached it is not contradictory to that of the disciples—who received it from Christ as well—but equal.

God intended all along to establish the Gospel as the only means to Salvation. Judaism was merely the groundwork. The Law never saved people but rather exposed their sin, their dependence on God, and their need to turn to Him. Judaism as it developed in Christ’s day (and especially today) is not simply another version of the truth or a belief in the same god as Christianity. It is different religion.

One of the main ways Christianity differs from Judaism (and all other religions) is that it is not built on rules or legalistic practices. Simple faith, a knowledge that we are helpless on our own and dependent on God through Jesus Christ for our salvation, is all we have.

This Gospel Paul preached is the same news that Jesus preached and the same message that the disciples preached. The judiazers were teaching a false Christianity. Anyone then or today who teaches a salvation that requires anything beyond dependence on God is teaching contrary to scripture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Top Films: More Hitch: Rebecca

After his string of successes in Britain, (The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, and The Lady Vanishes among others) Hitchcock was finally brought over to Hollywood by the strong-willed producer David O. Selznick. His first film under that contract is a strange film in the Hitchcock canon. Some actually consider it his last and best British film. (Hard to do, when it is not a British film and not the best of that list even.) For others, it is hardly a Hitchcock film at all. Selznick did not allow Hitch to adapt the film, and used the editing room to shape the film the way he wanted, even though Hitchcock “edited in camera” as much as possible.

It eventually won the Best Picture Oscar for Selznick, and secured Hitchcock his first Best Director nomination. But it feels a lot like other pictures of its day. It does explore deep issues including the relationships between men and women, between women and women, and the powerlessness one feels when immersed in a completely foreign culture.

However, Hitchcock’s signature style is seen less than in other films. Mrs. Danvers is the best Hitchcock touch here. Her ghostly appearance and behavior, and the tension she brings simply controlling and manipulating the nameless lead with her words is chilling. More than most other Hitchcock stories, this is almost pure character study with little plot device (Macguffin) in play.

From an intercultural perspective, the experience of the leading lady as she moves to Manderlay is intriguing. Hitchcock shows us perfectly one way people feel and react when they are taken out of the life the have been accustomed to and are thrown into a foreign situation. The scene where she tries to “work” at Rebecca’s desk is perfectly orchestrated.

All in all, Rebecca is a great film, just not quite what one usually expects from Hitchcock.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Excuse the Geek-Out

“In the year 1999 high above Macross Island in the South Pacific a phenomenal event occurred in the skies which altered the course of human history.”

Meanwhile, in the mid-eighties here in reality, an American company bought the rights to three Japanese animated series and performed a “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” style rework that finally established the popularity of Anime in the west. For many children and teens, Robotech was a breath of fresh air in the animation desert that was the eighties. While still conceived as a mere commercial for the toys and products, the story-arch over the 85 episode series was highly developed and included sophisticated plots concerning war, intercultural relations, and complicated love stories. Let’s face it... it was a space/soap opera.

Over the first third of the series, the first generation of the story, a compelling interplay is shown between the humans and the Zentraedi who have invaded the solar system. Music, representing human culture, becomes a powerful “weapon” against the aliens who find themselves drawn to humanity and want to leave their war-bred ways behind.

Of course, it was the eighties… so the actual dialogue is sometimes painfully cheesy. It could use a bit of an update to bring the various elements up on par with the story lines. It just so happens, that might happen. It appears as though Toby Maguire is set to produce a live action movie based on Robotech, with Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, among others) penning the script. Writers Gough and Millar of Smallville have also been connected to the rumors. That raises a lot of potential that the religious elements of the original series might be expanded for the film.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flammable, Toxic

Keep away from heat of flame,
Keep away from children.
Take special care not to inhale,
Or use to baste your chicken.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Visitation and The Visitation

Frank Peretti was somewhat unique when he hit the scene. He is a Christian who writes fantastic stories from a Christian perspective, but that are pure fiction. He didn’t see an obligation to use his creativity to preach. His fiction was not propaganda or theology in story form. (Although many tried to turn his fiction into teaching early on.) He is basically a great storyteller with a very visual flair. One could easily imagine his stories being turned into great movies.

As he developed his craft, he did begin to use his stories to comment on reality. He especially was able to use his stories to turn a questioning eye toward many practices and methods one sees in church today. This was done extremely well in The Visitation, a story many people do not site when listing his books, but one that in many was is his best work.

The Visitation addresses such topics as denominationalism, varying interpretations of scripture, and the largely vacuous spirituality of many church movements today... particularly attractional mega-church models and emotional youth movements.

Imagine the joy of discovering that the Visitation was to be the first of Peretti’s adult books to be adapted to film; then imagine the disappointment experienced by most fans of books that are inevitably ADAPTED for the movie screen. The Visitation in film form is totally defanged. It retains and even accentuates the horror story elements, but all thought provoking portions of the book have been changed or cut out.

If you have not read this book, please give it a try. It is very good. The movie on the other hand is not worthy of a rental.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beautiful Horror

Beauty in evil, hope in horror,
Siren voice beckons again.
Even sheer terror hardly covers,
The desirous nature, the harkening din.

Silent death whispered so softly,
Fragrant, sweet, taken within.
Little by little, never so costly,
As to be mortally wounded with sin.

Slowly, how slowly, the monster awakens,
Dead man rises, "Its alive! Its alive!"
No new creation, an evil of ancients,
A battle that has been waged before then.
NonModernBlog written content is the copyrighted property of Jason Dietz. Header photos and photos in posts where indicated are the copyrighted property of Jason and Cheryl Dietz.
Promotional photos such as screenshots or posters and links to the trailers of reviewed content are the property of the companies that produced the original content and no copyright infringement is intended.
It is believed that the use of a limited number of such material for critical commentary and discussion qualifies as fair use under copyright law.

  © Blogger template Brownium by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP