Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year 2011

Thanks for reading, please consider following, tell others about NonModern, and of course keep visiting! Here is some data about the blog’s performance for 2011:

Entries in 2011: 298 (2010 was 278)

Page Views: 35,400+ (Up from 14,500+ in 2010 and 7,851 in 2009)

Visits came from 2,452 cities on six continents.

Countries: 124 and all 50 States

Top ten countries by viewers: USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, Philippines, India, Brazil, France

Top ten states by viewers: Texas, California, Georgia, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio

(For comparison here is the 2010 entry.)

Some of the most viewed entries in December:

A Buffy Excursus: Repentance

“Fringe” Season One

Further Styrian Adventures: Monsters

An Illustration for Yesterdays Post

“Midnight in Paris”

Inception: A (Spoiler Heavy) Critique

The Twitter Experiment

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7a)

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

The Christmas Special of “Doctor Who” has become a tradition. It is tradition that the Doctor will have one more light hearted, sentimental but largely un-impactful adventure every year on Christmas Day. The early years when Russell T. Davies was penning the special also required that they occur on our current, real world Christmas Day and that the Earth be threatened by alien forces. This aspect has had to be corrected quite a bit in the Moffat run of the show, because well… we were all there and nothing like an alien invasion happened. Moffat has also managed to use the special both years to have fun telling stories that are inspired by other Christmas fiction. Last year was loosely based on “The Christmas Carol” and this year turned to Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

That's Real Lady-like

I’m not a consumer of “raunchy” comedies. Looking back over the past decade or more, I have missed out on just about every one of them. It is not out of a sense of offense—I must admit, for instance, that bodily functions can be some of the most amusing things in life—but rather because the sort of comedies made these days tend to fail in the humor department. Where a well played poop-joke brings me to tears; over using language or simply shocking the audience into laughter strikes me as lazy, not funny.

However, with all of the buzz surrounding “Bridesmaids” this year, I decided to dip my toe back into what passes for comedy. The results were mixed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why “The Hobbit” Trailer Makes Me Sad

Last week the teaser trailer for the highly anticipated film, “The Hobbit” was made public. A friend lamented that there was a year-long wait ahead of us and consoled herself by saying that she might reread the book in the meantime. My initial thought was that that might ultimately be a more fulfilling experience. The second was sadness at how the experience of that book is about to forever change.

Not that there is a fear that the movie(s) will be bad. Jackson’s trilogy was done to perfection. It is among my favorite films. I know people (readers mind you) who consider the films to be superior to the books. Still, it is merely an interpretation of the story. In today’s culture however, the film version of a story tends to become the dominate interpretation. It is sad to think that today, a large portion of “Lord of the Rings” fandom have never ever read the books. That is what is about to happen to “The Hobbit.” The sad fact is that most people will not read a book once having seen the film, especially when it is considered to be a difficult or long book.

“The Hobbit” is a children’s book. Like all great children’s literature it is intended for kids and adults; but the point is it is an easy read. (Or at least it was considered an easy read back when people were literate.) If you have never read it, please take advantage of the time you have and get this book read before the movie comes out next year. If you have already read it, consider experiencing it one more time before it is forever colored by the experience of the film’s interpretation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7b)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.

<--Season 7a

The surprising result of revisiting season seven during this year’s exercise was to discover that it is less compelling than season six. That is often overlooked because the stand-out episodes are well done and memorable and the grand finale—that episode that sticks with one when all is said and done—is so satisfying. It has already been mentioned that the season’s overarching tale plods rather slowly and dominates most episodes in a “soap opera” style. This is only accentuated this half as few episodes have somewhat self contained ideas:

Monday, December 26, 2011

“You Can’t Take It with You” (1938)

It is always amazing just how well a Capra movie holds up. Seventy Three years after its release, “You Can’t Take It with You” plays like it was made for today’s audiences. The messages of the film are things that today’s audiences need to hear. Of course, the generational cycle has come back around to a point very similar to where we were back in the twenties and thirties, so it does make sense that films and stories from those days would ring true today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sing Out of Christmas 6

Is here.
Now God is nigh.
Good will
One night
Under Bethlehem’s sky.

The sound
Of Angels
For unto all men.
Christ has come, died,
Risen again.

Is the
Season not more,
Transcending one day?
Most Assuredly
Aye, To
Souls who are saved!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best of Christmas Markets

I have seen a lot of “Best Christmas Market” lists going around the web. Surprisingly only half of them include the true best of the best. To be fair, most of them seem to be constructed by reputation. I certainly doubt any of the writers have really been to all of the truly great markets. For one thing there are truly a lot, and you only have about 4 weeks in a year to see them. I have not been to many, even in six Christmases, but I can share some of the best that I have experienced—and maybe more helpfully—share some of the characteristics that make up a good market to help people evaluate markets throughout Europe.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sing Out of Christmas 5

Sing the carols
Through the night
Out in the meadows
To the sky
Of Christ who came
For you and me
Christmas canta
To the King

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 2a)

<--Season 1b  Season 2b-->

The second season of STNG starts out a little worse than the first season, if that is possible. It does quickly improve, however, and manages to address a couple of interesting philosophical things. (That being said, these episodes are not up to today’s expectations. A full hour of television devoted to one simple idea is no longer the way things are done. It is surprising today to look back on these shows and see how slowly and simply television writing was. One can watch these episodes at 2x speed and understand every word spoken and keep up with the plot completely.)

In a quick outline, here is what this half had to offer:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Canonicity" in Real Life

In terms of the Bible, canon refers to those works that are accepted by the Church as being authoritative. Teachings can be based upon canonical texts. They accurately reflect God’s truth—reality.

Over time, the term canon has been applied to other collections of writings. It all started with the fictional history of Sherlock Holmes. Those stories written by Doyle were “canon” while those by other authors or even just fans are not. None of the stories told about Holmes are real; they are all fiction. However, for the sake of people taking about Holmes—or even people who wish to write further adventures about him—the canon writings are the ones that must not be contradicted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MIB Insight

The “Men in Black” movies are mostly just clever entertainment. A new one coming out next year has prompted me to revisit the first two. There is not a lot of deep thought or insight here, outside of the most generic of bits about how small we really are in the grand scheme of things, how clueless people are to reality, and about the sacrifice of serving humanity.

There is, however, a moment of unusual insight in the first film when K is recruiting J for the agency. J asks why there is such a need for secrecy. He thinks people would be able to handle the weight of the truth. K’s response is revealing:

Monday, December 19, 2011

"What Would Buffy Do" by Jan Riess

This is one of several books released in the past decade that look to popular culture for insights into spiritual matters. Like most of them it is not a “Christian” book. It abounds with quotes and thoughts from many different religions. That being said it does have good, quality thoughts about what Whedon’s series has to say about life.

The fact that so many of these books exists is evidence of how preoccupied art is with the spiritual side of life, even these days. Or maybe more so these days. That is a good thing for people interested in sharing the truth of the Gospel with others. Interest is up and people are searching. Tom Wolf says that very culture has a mythos that is incomplete and wrong in some places but has some echoes of the truth. Every culture has people who have aspects of the truth in them. Pop culture does as well. These are points of contact.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Put On," Underwear (Colossians 3:12-15)

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

Rather than encouraging attempts at self-improvement through rules and prohibitions; Paul has instructed believers to remember that they are dead to their old, sinful behaviors. Instead, having risen in Christ, they are to take on His characteristics. If you carry the “put on” metaphor forward, these are the undergarments. That which is closest to us, that which shapes who we are and how others see us. This is not a costume that hides our true nature.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

“Guilty Pleasure” Holiday and Winter Songs

Even while keeping the “main thing” about Christmas the “main thing” and not misleading my kids, I don’t think everything about the Holiday season has to be on message. Here are some of my favorite songs this time of year that are not Christ-massy:

Songs celebrating the “feeling” of the season: 
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season
White Christmas
The Christmas Waltz

Songs with no mention of Christmas at all, more like winter songs: 
Marshmallow World
Winter Wonderland
Sleigh Ride
The White World of Winter

The possible “coal recipient” songs, the acceptably naughty: 
Santa Baby
Baby, It’s Cold Outside


Friday, December 16, 2011

This Post Is Not About Tebow

Tim Tebow has been the biggest source of conversations this NFL season. Everybody has an opinion, and he has generated a lot of controversy. Part of that is due to the fact that he is a bit more open and serious about his faith than our secular society is comfortable with, but that might not be the main reason. What Tebow is exposing and revealing about our culture today is that we have become whole-heartedly committed to the Cult of Self.

The knock on Tebow going into the league is that he was not a good quarterback. The only problem with that assessment is that, since he has taken on the starting quarterback role for his team, they went from a one win and four loss record to winning every game but one. How is it possible for a “bad” player to lead a team to so many wins?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Accidental Tourism and Random Adventures

While travel is amazing, tourism is rather lame. Nobody likes to be seen as a tourist, even when they are traveling in a strange place they have never been before. Even if they are there to see sites. Nothing produces such generic results as the guided tour. People who take the tour are certainly informed, but they end up knowing the “official” version of a place that everyone knows—the one that they could have gotten from Wikipedia.

The antidote to generic tourism is to simply explore. If you get the chance, when you go to a new place you should first seek to get lost. If you have enough time in a place, you should spend the first day or more with no agenda and simply explore. If your time is limited, or the area you are visiting is huge and overwhelming, do some research to get an idea, but do not plan an itinerary.

The results of such travel are discovery and a unique experience. You will never forget the things you find this way and often they will be treasures that only you, the locals, and no “tourist” know about. Even the famous sites, when stumbled upon this way, are more interesting and special because you have found them on your own. Every city visit is benefited through exploration; you don’t need world famous sites to discover things worth seeing. Traditional or more informative travel has its place, but if you get a chance to wander first you will gain far more appreciation for the places you get to go.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cross Walk Religion

In most parts of the Germanic world a cross walk is an important thing. You can see crowds of people standing at the light, waiting for it to turn green when there is no traffic to be seen. Even in the late hours of the evening (towns tend to shut down completely at 8:00 pm) when no cars are on the street, people will stop and wait for the light.

Now, lights are there to protect people. They give them a clear window in which to cross the street with no danger of vehicles. And it is a good idea to respect the light on a busy road, or even a non-busy road when there are children watching. You don’t want to be a bad example. However, to some extent an adult ought to be able to decide for themselves whether it is safe to cross a street or not. When there are no cars, or when the light is broken, punishing an adult for crossing crosses from protection to legalism.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


When Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” is brought up, most people think of Salvador Dali and the (in)famous dream sequence. Perhaps some think of it being Bergman’s and Hitch’s first collaboration, or the somewhat ridiculous and misogynistic plot. However, the standout detail in my latest viewing was the over-the-top psychoanalysis as modern religion angle.

The big issue in the film is that of guilt and specifically the fact that it is a lie we tell ourselves to punish us for something we did not do. This is all well and good in the case of a mystery story—if the protagonist is indeed innocent. The only evidence that our heroine has to go on in the case of Peck’s character is the fact that she loves him. Every time new evidence appears to implicate him, she goes back to the argument that he can’t be guilty because the feeling of guilt itself is a sign of innocence!

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams

This was the one I was dreading as I decided to read all of Williams’ novels this year. Years ago when I first decided to read all seven, “Descent” is the one that undid me. Reading the previous five this year was a good preparation and training apparently. That, and as they say: the third time is the charm.

Some, like the reviewer quoted on the back of my copy, say that this is Charles Williams’ best novel. It does certainly best communicate his theology. That is also where the problems arise.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take Off (Colossians 3:5-11)

Whenever anyone begins to point out that the Bible is against legalism, everyone assumes that they are teaching that anything goes. This is no more a Biblical position than legalism. Paul is always consistent in pointing out that the true antidote to legalism is not hedonism. However, instead of teaching a set of rules and guidelines he always fights for a change of behavior—like a change of clothes.

In Christ, the believer is a new creature. The new creature comes with a new drive—a new desire—new duds. Before we can truly put on our new way of life—or maybe as we change—we have to take off the old outfit to make room for the new.

In this metaphor, the legalist is arguing for a striptease. We are expected to merely take off all our old, negative, and now unnatural behaviors and stand naked and dying for something—anything—to put on. Instead, Paul is going to stress the new outfit far more than the old. What we should clothe ourselves in rather than what we should shed. However, it is only natural that we take off the old repulsive things before or as we put on the new.

Even then, this is not a detailed “how to” of what to remove. He simply reminds the believer of the things that are no longer natural for the believer, the things that go against love: sexual immorality, idolatry and hatred. The sort of thing that would suggest to a girl how she should dress; but not the type that would have her applying a ruler to her skirt to make sure it is a short as is allowable without breaking a “law.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top Cities I Would Like to See:

[Updated April 20, 2012, January 31, 2015]

As this post goes online, I will be returning home from a short glimpse at a city that was at the top of my “Cities to See in Person” list. (London) Hopefully it will now be moved to my “Favorite Cities I Have Visited” list, but that is another post. Here is the newly adjusted list of the top 15 cities I would best like to visit some day:

15. Marrakesh
14. Oxford
13. Bruges
12. Jerusalem
11. Brasov

10. Oslo
9. Nice
8. Amsterdam
7. Stockholm
6. San Francisco
5. St. Petersburg
4. Edinburgh
3. New York
2. Machu Picchu
1. Cairo

Florence (Was # 7, been there, would go again)
Rome (Was #1, been there, done that)
Athens (Was #11, been there, done that)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spirituality in "The Santa Claus 2"

The sequel to “The Santa Clause” is not a great movie. Then again, it is simply continuing the trend of the first film aiming to be a minor seasonal entertainment. It also shares with that first film a surprising insight into things that matter—into illustrating some spiritual truths that are worth considering.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Fringe" Season Two

Season Two of “Fringe” was a disappointment for the most part. The writers improved on their ability to tell a story that was interesting from a mechanical standpoint. The played with storytelling devices in a creative way. However, that overall season-long story was not terribly compelling until right at the very end. Meanwhile, their individual, episodic stories were far from interesting and fairly prosaic—for the genre. Especially for people who had watched the series that clearly inspired “Fringe.” “The X Files” had already done many of these themes far better.

That being said there were a couple compelling moments this season, especially in the redemptive thread that runs through the series (so far) in the character of Walter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirituality in “The Santa Clause”

I was a bit of a Santa spoiler as a child. My parents didn’t “do” Santa. In spite of that I had incredible and memorable Christmases. As parents, my wife and I carried that tradition forward. We don’t ban Santa or anything. We just never taught our kids to believe in him. They always knew that he was a "game" that some people played, but we didn't.  We take faith too seriously to cloud the issue with lies—however well meaning they may be.

Ironically, the 1994 movie “The Santa Clause” has something to say about the subject, and actually stumbles upon a very deep truth. When the new Santa arrives at the North Pole for the first time, an elf tells him, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.”

This is something the Bible teaches as well. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the assurance of things not seen. It repeatedly teaches that the Gospel is impossible to understand without faith. This highlights the somewhat misguided attempts of “Modern” Christians who tried to “prove” the truth of the Gospel, or to convince people of the reality of God through reason alone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Inside Missional Baseball

The goal of believers with a “Missional” outlook is to do things that will positively effect change in culture through the multiplication and growth of communities of believers. Such a cultural movement is usually called a church planting movement. These movements occur somewhat rarely but there are usually a few occurring somewhere in the world. A current and particularly exciting one has been featured in a book highlighting some of the factors and methods that helped this movement flourish.

The two factors that went unmentioned in the book are somewhat surprising and unexpected given that they go against a lot of the dominate thinking in missiology these days:

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Illustration for Yesterday's Post

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and the goal of this Blog is brevity, here is an illustration that may make yesterdays thoughts clearer:

“Youth Ministry” is a frustrating mix of leading people to truth that can change their lives and “pre-discipleship” using a heavy dose of legalism. Part of that is dictated by the fact that you deal mostly with teenagers who are not yet in Christ and therefore can’t be expected to behave as He wishes. Mostly, however, it is due to the fact that you are dealing with a bunch of parents who insist that your job is to keep their kids religiously in check and therefore out of trouble and decidedly NOT in helping their kids be passionate for God.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alive in Christ (Colossians 3:1-4)

[3:1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

The key for followers of Jesus trying to live a life pleasing to God lies in knowing who they are; not in following a regimental system or list of prohibitions. Sure, there is always the struggle between who we are and who we used to be, but overcoming in that fight is not something we do but something that God does in us.

The mistake a lot of people make when reading this passage is to think that it is about some Gnostic knowledge that we must obtain. As if everything about the physical world is negative and we are supposed to spend eternity on a cloud somewhere playing a harp. (Why aren’t harps bad like other “earthy” instruments?) The “things above” are not otherworldly, they are things the way God intended them to be. The Kingdom of God is and will ultimately be an earthly kingdom, but on earth as God wants it to be.

As His followers we are a part of that kingdom. Instead of focusing on what it is no longer our nature to do, we concentrate on doing the things that we know we should be doing. We live as Christ would live because we are hidden in him. The more we seek to live like Christ, the more the Spirit empowers us to do so.

Friday, December 2, 2011

X-Men First Class

The X-Men stories have always taken the super hero escapism and adventure and delivered unsubtle social commentary and, well… sermons. It stands to reason that Marvel Comics would eventually go this route, what with most of their heroes a result of radiation induced mutation. When they decided to have a whole slew of heroes whose mutation is a step in human evolution they had the perfect metaphor for addressing discrimination and intolerance towards those different in society. The fact that they came up with the concept in the 60s made it even more of a no brainer.

The series of X-Men films have all addressed serious issues while delivering diminishing levels of enjoyment. Some of the problems the films have are intrinsic to the story itself. The fact that the evolutionary mutations are occurring so quickly, haphazardly and with no limits other than each character generally has one special ability, push suspension of disbelief to the extreme—not to mention the huge cast of characters one must juggle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Must Remove My Jacket

(Inspired by Maroon 5 and Ashlyn)

Just look at the stars
On winter nights
It warms up the heart
Christmas tree lights
Memories of days
When our parents would say
We’d better behave

All the cold and the snow
And we waited
Time passed so slow
Now I see it
I feel I’m a kid
This season’s a thrill
But what’s blocking my bliss
My problem is this:

There’s just far too much sun
It’s way too warm
Hot chocolate to be drunk
But it’s too warm
Makes you want to lose your jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

I don’t need all the sunlight
I need more snow and more cold nights

Instead, I want to lose my jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

No snow in the yard
When I want to be
Bundled and scarved
My gloves and hat
Long underwear and white tee
They make me sweat
Woe is me

So I get in the car
I can drive forth
Wherever I want
Maybe up north
But I’m beginning to fear
That there’s no snow this year
My holiday bliss
is stifled by this:

There’s just far too much sun
It’s way too warm
Hot chocolate to be drunk
And it’s too warm
Makes you want to lose your jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

I don’t need all the sunlight
I need more snow and more cold nights

Instead, I want to lose my jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket
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