Friday, June 29, 2012

With a Name Like That, I was Expecting More of a Trip...

The film industry makes movies for one reason: to make money. Sure, film makers are storytellers and that is why they make film, but if a big film company gives them financing it is because they think it will earn money back. The problem is that sometimes big money doesn’t understand the product. They know what certain elements of a successful story look like and back the elements, often failing to see that the story connecting the elements is missing. “The Tourist” is a story that exists for two reasons: a great atmosphere/look, and excitement that happens to an average guy (i.e. the viewer). It is escapism.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stories Lead to Truth

“Castle” is another whodunit, procedural mystery show. It is a descendant of “Moonlighting” with the spirit of “Murder She Wrote.” Rick Castle, mystery author playboy, is teamed up with Detective Kate Beckett when he uses her as inspiration for a new sleuth in a series of books. It is the mutual attraction and sexual tension that keeps him working in this partnership for years, but He actually proves to be quite helpful on the cases.

The conceit is the same as the one that fueled the success of Jessica Fletcher. The idea is that a storyteller is adept at making connections and seeing the “plot” of a murder mystery.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

“Die Ehe der Maria Braun” (1979)

“The Marriage of Maria Brown” is considered by many to be Fassbinder’s best film. Fassbinder was an incredibly prolific German director in the 1970s. It was perhaps genius that he made so many watchable films in a span of 12 or so years, but it is a stretch to think of him as truly one of the greats of cinema. If this was his best film, then perhaps competent and committed might be better adjectives.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Fallacy of “The Greatest”

The nature of sports debate usually centers on hypothetical questions like: “Who is the greatest?” While that is a beloved argument and people will likely never tire of engaging it, it misses the whole point of athletic engagement. In competition we don’t want a hypothetical best to always prevail. We want the contest. We want a side that is perhaps not as gifted or able to find a way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

The story of Shadow and his chaotic journey across the American landscape and beliefs is both insightful and meaningless. It concerns itself with religion, that man-made concept that tries to explain and control the world. It is insightful in the way that it exposes the nature of all the belief systems that have emerged since the creation of man, the way that they live and die on the faith of followers and how they are all empty systems set up to merely feed the flame of faith. However, in dismissing any notion of a reality behind reality—deciding that the idea of a creator who would want anything to do with his creation is absurd—it makes this one of those stories that concludes there is no meaning after all.

Aside from that last sad conclusion, those who accept a Biblical worldview have a similar understanding of the many religions and deities across the world and history. The idea that spiritual beings would cultivate followings and systems of belief for themselves is even taught in certain parts of scripture. This idea that has trickled into popular culture and fantasy fiction over the past couple decades is nothing new. The difference being that believers would say that these spiritual beings are not merely seeking out worship, they are distracting people from seeing reality.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Fellowship of Christ’s Strength (Philippians 4:10-13)

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)

People tend to take this passage out of context and make it mean that we can do anything with God’s help. Some soften or perhaps improve on that by clarifying that we can do anything God wants with His help and power. What is interesting is to examine this passage in the context of the paragraph in which it was written.

What Paul is saying specifically here, is that he (and we can infer we too) can go through any hardship or suffering God allows to come our way with His strength. This truth in turn helps us to see two implications that it would be helpful for every follower of Jesus to keep in mind.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another City List:

This list will possibly be expanded upon in future posts:

1. Frederick, MD

2. Borger, TX


Friday, June 22, 2012

Missions, Impossible and Improbable

Contrary to the majority of critical opinion, this viewer does not consider “Ghost” as the best entry of the series. It is an entertaining action escape and if that were the sole appeal of a Mission Impossible story then it might be, because the quality of set pieces is high, but there is something missing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mountains or Beaches

It seems that humanity in some way was intended for the garden, the cultivated and cultivatable land. We function in the area between the wilds of the mountainous, dense forests and the vast, expansive mysteries of the seas.

That is not to say that we don’t enjoy or even desire to live on the edges. We are drawn to them, usually one over the other. Most people will describe themselves as either being “mountain” or “beach” people. The question could be raised, however: How much of that bent is purely attraction and how much does fear play into the issue?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"The Dark Crystal" (1982)

When Jim Henson and Frank Oz teamed up to make a fantasy masterpiece with puppetry, they achieved some amazing results. The set design, the characters, and the world building are all absolutely amazing. Watching “The Dark Crystal” today, thirty years later, one wishes that filmmakers would use more practical effects from time to time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 1a)


STNG   Season 1b -->

My entire experience with “Deep Space Nine” thus far has been to partially catch a couple of episodes that first season it aired. I have never been a good TV viewer, keeping “appointments” even with the shows I enjoy, and at that time I was busy with university life, so I was especially bad about keeping up with any program.

I have long wanted to check this show out as it is often hailed as the version of Trek that is most concerned with issues like religion and faith. However, the first half of the first season—among them the few episodes I had seen before—may go a long way to explaining why it has taken me so long to take the plunge. This is a slow start:

Monday, June 18, 2012

"The Witches" by Roald Dahl

Before I really hit my heavy reading phase, Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors. I have clear memories of reading and liking “James and the Giant Peach” and the Charlie books. Somehow, though, I didn’t manage to seek out and read all of his books. I need to get around to changing that. To my way of thinking he is an author with near perfect sensibilities.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Real Discernment (Philippians 4:8,9)

[8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

This passage is often misread to encourage believers to escape from the world, to retreat into a ghetto of their own making. Rather than engage the culture, they are told that they should surround themselves with only “Christian” influences. Escape the world and live within the hedges of the church community.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Story

life is story
truth deeper than
reality
discerning plots
in threads woven
by a master
creator God
in his image
we tell stories
good ones reveal
reality
that deeper truth
story is life

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Fiddler on the Roof" (1971)

“Fiddler” is potentially my favorite musical. It is not the flashiest, the most comic, the most purely entertaining. It does not have the catchiest tunes or the most memorable songs. It is, however, a story with tremendous humanity and emotion with which anyone who has truly lived can identify. The precarious metaphor that the whole story is centered upon—that nonsensical image of a fiddler balanced on the top of a high pitched roof—is one that we all live, even as we do everything in our power to ignore the fact.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where Do You Resonate?

There is a beloved hymn that speaks of the human heart being tuned to sing God’s praises. We are all created as instruments of praise, it is just a question of what or whom we play for—whether we are tuned to the key for which we were created or not. That being said, there is not a single melody, style or type of instrument in the celestial orchestra that is the people of God.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Panic Room" (2002) and Proverbs

In what is generally considered one of his lesser efforts, Fincher tells the straightforward story of a woman and her daughter who are trapped in their house while it is being robbed. The story may be straight forward, but the way he tells it is not. It is something like what Hitchcock would have done in his day. The story is told visually and with a lot of flair. Unfortunately, that flair is sometimes distracting, and even worse for film, confusing. Great filmmakers—and David Fincher tends to be one—tell their stories with flourish but they do not let the bells and whistles take away from the story. Here it does.

If the story is seen from the perspective of Jody Foster (which is the way this film presents it) it is more of an extended study of tension than a story. However, the side-story being told here is that of Forrest Whitaker’s character. As Burnham, the security expert who wants to make his child’s life better, he plays someone who gives into the temptation to commit the sort of crime where no one is hurt. An empty house full of money that no one knows about that belonged to a man who has died. Why wouldn’t you take it? It is sort of like the old dilemma of finding a lot of money on the street. Should you keep it, or try to find the rightful owner? Is “loser’s keepers” a good ethical stance?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Quest

I once met a woman
On a mission to be somewhere else.
Her whole life was given to the goal.
The somewhere was more an anywhere
The discontent was a constant
She finally managed it when she was really old.
Upon arrival she discovered
That it wasn’t the joy that she’d hoped for
But she was stuck as it was an old folk’s home
And she didn’t even have
The luxury of her memories as the quest
Was the only thing she had done.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Joy and Peace in the Now (Philippians 4:4-7)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Depression and Anxiety are the two most common occurring mental health issues. Interestingly, it could be argued that both problems often come from not living in the present. People obsess about the past—things they have done or experienced—leading to increasing sadness and inability to function in the present; or they do the same with the future and are frozen with fear.

The solution to both problems is found in the present, and the fact that we know God is with us. When we make our way through life with God and bring our past and future to Him we find joy, reason and peace.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hymenoptera

The ongoing, purely-for-fun task of finding my favorite representatives across the animal kingdom continues with: Hymenoptera.

Hymenoptera are the ants, wasps and bees. Without any doubt or hesitation they are my favorite of all the insect orders. They are absolutely fascinating to watch, beautiful to look at and their behavior—especially amongst the social varieties—is amazingly complex. And a bonus: many of them are poisonous and potentially dangerous!

Yellowjacket Vespula germanica

OK. This is a common, maybe even boring choice, but have you ever really watched these wasps? They are beautifully constructed and colored. They can be quite aggressive and are capable of intimidating creatures hundreds of times their size. Undisturbed, though, they are an interesting study. Plus, my kids are irrationally, scream-like-a-little-girl, scared of them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Unintentional Lesson in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Fincher takes a story that was ok but confusing and makes a technically proficient but additionally confusing film. In both cases the confusion is not in the mystery, but the peripheral details.

The story is about violence, often sexual, towards women. And yet the sexual habits of everyone in the book, both commendable and detestable, are edgy and even violent. It is hard to draw the line between what the author thinks is right and wrong. Physical damage is wrong but emotional and psychological isn’t?

In the book, Blomkvist (our hero) sleeps with just about every woman he meets. For some reason I can’t figure out, Fincher only chooses to show—in voyeuristic detail—his encounters with Salander. This is strange because in both the film as well as in the book, our titular girl is a damaged person. She has been hurt and abused and she does everything she can to make herself undesirable. She is an emotional porcupine.

I still can’t figure out what Fincher is trying to say, but the struggle has led me to an insight that is not contained in the book or the film.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964)

Strangelove is an enigma of a film. It is a classic comedy, universally acclaimed, and yet if it were made today it would likely bomb.

It is not a conventional comedy. Nowadays comedy is generally an exercise in seeing how far one can go. How much does it take to shock and offend people into nervous laughter. Even in its day Strangelove was out of place. It was released in the same year as “The Pink Panther” and “A Shot in the Dark.” It doesn’t push the slapstick or even intellectual humor that those films do.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meet Mimesis

He is a robotic imitation of a real puppet… or maybe he is a puppet version of a robot. In any case he dreams of someday being the real… thing. His creators were not the most skilled artisans. His programming is faulty and his stitching shoddy. He hangs out with puppets mostly. None of the robots he meets seem to have the A.I. needed to carry on a conversation let alone a relationship. Puppets aren’t all that much better. They are always speaking in puns, they break the fourth wall far too frequently and they tend to have people underneath them who refuse to interact with him. In fact, they pretend that they aren’t even there.

---

Actually, he is really just the product of a strong conviction I have about being creative in both the imaginative and artistic senses. I can’t be dogmatic about it, but I feel that we were created, in part, to be that way. When we stop telling stories, when we stop working with our hands, we cease to be who we were meant to be. We become a poor imitation of humanity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Faith

It is interesting to note how science fiction and fantasy literature, contrary to what one might think, nearly always gravitates back toward religion. Even in cases where the creators set out with an anti-religious or at least a “more enlightened” understanding of the universe approach to creating their imaginary world. More often, it seems that this genre is the tool of people with a religious agenda. Just think about three prominent examples:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sex and Nudity in Culture and Art

When you move to Europe from a more… puritan influenced culture, they warn you about all the nudity you will see. Maybe it is the fact that I spent a lot of my formative years in Latin America, maybe things are not as bad as people make them out to be, or maybe American culture has declined on the decency-scale… in any case, I have not been shocked much so far. (Then again, maybe my commitments and efforts to ignore such stuff have been more successful than I thought. More on that later.)

Well, six years on all the warnings paid off as a photography exhibit here in Graz has decided to go high profile by plastering posters all over town. Of all the photos the artist is showing, this is the one they have chosen to use in advertisements (slightly modified):

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Stand firm! (Philippians 4:1-3)

“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (ESV)

When Paul tells the Philippians to “stand firm” here, he could be referring to all of the talk in chapter three against legalism, or about what is to come in the next sentences. Since the last time he used the words in chapter one it was to tell them to be unified, and now he is encouraging members within the church to come together in unity, it is a safe bet Paul wants the church to “stand firm” in unity.

Unity in the body is huge. This issue may be one of the most important facing believers today. The Church has become so fragmented by opinions and theories and opinions and theories are not all bad, but they tend to be secondary. It is when we let our secondary issues become tests of orthodoxy that we lose sight of the only thing that really matters.

Having a thoughtful faith is important. We need to try to understand what we believe and what the teachings of our faith mean for our lives. One of those teachings, here, seems to imply that we need to make unity a big priority. We need to take a stand for it. The Gospel is powerful enough to withstand variations of opinion. The Church in this current “already not yet” state we live in, however, cannot withstand disunity and remain effective.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

NonModernBlog May 2012

May 2012 was another big month here at NonModern.  Pageviews more than doubled from April, which was the most active month until now.

Some of the most viewed entries:

"Romeo + Juliet" (1996)

"Hulk" (2003)

More Top Films: "The Shawshank Redemption" 

True Grit (2010)

"The Incredible Hulk" (2008)


Friday, June 1, 2012

"The Woman in Black" (2012)

Hammer Horror is making an effort to come back from the dead. They are not yet up to the level that they used to achieve, but progress is visible. Their previous effort “Let Me In” was a well made effort, but it did not have the Hammer aesthetic nor was it much of a good old-fashioned morality play.

With this year’s “The Woman in Black” they were in good form reproducing the atmosphere and mood of old Hammer. But however unintentional the old movies stumbled upon reaffirming stories of good vs. evil, this film is devoid of any sort of message. To be honest, there is not much of a plot here at all.
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