Sunday, September 30, 2012

Remember (Titus 3:3-8)

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Paul carries on his instructions: “Remind them… and I want you to insist on these things.”

Verses 4 through 7 area a beautiful summary of the gospel message, but I suspect what Paul is really wanting us to keep in the forefront of our minds is verse 3. Without verse three, you not only don’t have a gospel message, you have a people who begin to think that they are so special—that they in some way deserve a justification—that they don’t care about things like good works.

It is only when we (regularly) remember that we were (and frequently still are) foolish, disobedient, led astray etc. etc; that were can look upon others with compassion. That we can remember the love that has saved us and the daily need that we have for that love. That we can be motivated to do the good things that we have been created to do.

You see, a lot of people love to emphasize that works do not save anyone, and that is true. But works are always mentioned in relationship to salvation. They may not be the cause, but they are the effect… always. And while we shouldn’t look to merit as any motivation to do well, gratitude is not objectionable. So remember why it is that you need a savior. And while you’re at it, that you are no better than those around you who need it too.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Shameless Plug of Silly Poetry

Here are ten silly poems I posted a few years ago that didn't get much traffic at the time.  I quite like them so I hope some of you will check them out.  There's more up on the Poetry tab too:

007 @ 70

The Backup

Muscle Trouble

Under the Bed

Boy Meets Girl




Stuffed Animals


Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Hole" (2009)

Joe Dante, creator of such 80s gems as “Gremlins” and “Innerspace,” has finally had his latest film released in the States. It has been available elsewhere for some years, and it is a passable entertainment; especially if you save it for at home viewing and not, not in 3D at a high per-ticket price.

It is similar to “Gremlins” in that it is horror, but not too gory or offensive so it could be acceptable for younger teens who want scares. It is unlike “Gremlins” in that it is not in any way original or iconic.

Basically, two brothers move into a new house with a bottomless pit in their basement. When they open the pit, they also open the door to the things that most scare them. They seem to come right out of the darkness and into their lives. That opens the door for the filmmakers to explore such creepy things as ghostly children, clown dolls, and… child abuse?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Never Say Never Again" (1983)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

When I was a kid, we lived for a while in Costa Rica. While there, we got TV service from some guy with a satellite. You just had one channel hooked into his dish and got to watch whatever he happened to have it tuned into at the time. He watched all the Chicago Cubs games. He also tended to shift it over to one of the premium movie channels in the evening. I don’t know if he cut into “Never Say Never Again” midstream or if I just happened to turn it on then, but my first ever experience of James Bond was the moment in this film where Bond walks into the apartment, finds the dead woman in the waterbed, and chases down Fatima Blush on his tricked out motorcycle.

It’s not your average film series that can burn a random moment of channel surfing onto your memory like that. Then again, this is not really the Bond series. It is another imagining of the character.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Power of Three

It has to be said—even for someone who is a huge fan of “Doctor Who,” the old stuff with endless padded episodes of meaningless running through corridors—this was an exercise in treading water. Cool water maybe, but still, we were treading in it.

Ever since the Doctor deemed last year that his life was too risky for the Ponds, whom he cares a lot about, we have had this tension between their “normal” life and his endless excuses to take them on another adventure. In this episode we get a long, drawn-out telling of the year that they decided to start traveling with him again. (Just in time for them to quit for good, if rumors are true.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Stories Beyond the Chase?

“Happily ever after” used to signal the end of every love story. The traditional, popular romance is almost always about the beginning. The chase. We love the tale about discovery, the longing and the wish fulfillment of a new relationship. And, for-nearly-ever, we have always implied, assumed and just known that a real romantic tale is just the beginning of a lifetime. That was always the point, but one that not many really thought about.

We don’t even bother anymore. We don’t end these stories with “ever after.” We don’t seem to care if that is the outcome. In fact, those who claim the romance genre has become emotional porn would say that our culture doesn’t really even want that anyway. We want all our stories to be about beginnings; a long chain of adventurous beginnings that don’t really make it past the first challenge. And if you think about it, love is about overcoming challenges.

These thoughts were spurred (perhaps surprisingly) as the soundtrack to “Moulin Rouge” came up on my iPod the other day. At its heart, the film is about this distinction—the world’s view of love (sex, performance, and enticement) versus the real meaning of the word (self-sacrifice, commitment, putting another first) and I’ve talked more about that before.

Where are the stories of lifetime love? Anybody have some suggestions. The opening of “Up” springs to mind. What else is out there?

Monday, September 24, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Octopussy" (1983)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

This far into the Moore films you have to decide where your focus is going to gravitate. The films are made with tongue firmly in cheek, but with that they are still terribly unbalanced. Here in “Octopussy” you can gravitate towards the compelling surreal imagery represented in the opener, with a clown running through the woods trying to escape East Germany, or the loony groaners like where Bond swings through the jungle on a vine with the old Tarzan yell from the 30s films playing on the soundtrack.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

For the Sake of Civility, Fear God and Not Professional Fear Mongers! (Titus 3:1-2)

Sometimes I wonder what first century believers, under the persecution of Jews and Romans, would think of current American Christianity. As dependent as it is upon external forces and circumstances, and as much weight as we give things like politics and the economy in determining the state of the church, one would have to guess that we would be like the shallow soil of Jesus' "Parable of the Sower." History has shown us again and again that the body of Christ is at its strongest when under persecution. Yet we seem to think that we are strongest when the world is in agreement with us. (Something that, if we thought about it more, should scare us to death.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

13 of the Top Picture Books Ever

In light of yesterday's rant on a picture book adaptation, here are some of the best of that format of book of all time:

13. “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss

The first story here is my favorite Seuss fable, and I think his most impactful.

12. “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter

Any of Potter’s stories are the perfect example of a “picture book.” Great, cautionary stories about great characters with wonderful illustrations.

11. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein

This one feels very preachy, even to a kid, but it is an important sermon.

10. “The Spider and the Fly” by Tony DiTerlizzi

In a picture book the illustrations are just as important as the story. Here we get amazingly developed and elaborate pictures, but the story is delightful as well as having a point.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"The Lorax" (2012)

As is the case with many children growing up in English speaking lands, Dr. Seuss’ books were among the first I read on my own. In particular, “The Sneetches” and “The Lorax” stand out in my memory. They were some of the earliest examples I remember realizing story was being used to influence thought.

 “The Lorax” in particular was an early favorite. It is hardly subtle, and while that is not strength, it was helpful to my young mind. What was really great to my way of thinking was the way the story ended, on a question—not a resolution, but still offering hope.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

After twice saving the entire world from mad-men bent on destroying humanity and restarting things in their own ideal, be it under the sea or in outer space, Bond is asked to recover a glorified calculator before is falls in the hands of the Russians. Not exactly epic stuff. But that was the idea. This time around the producers realize the mistake they made trying to emulate “Star Wars” just as they had previously slipped up trying to emulate the likes of “Shaft” and “Enter the Dragon.” This is Bond and the best Bonds have been pretty straight spy stories.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recent "Doctor Who"

It has to be said that the past couple seasons of “Doctor Who” have be frustratingly uneven. For the most part every single episode has been entertaining, and the overarching storyline involving the relationship between this incarnation of the Doctor and his companions has been some of the most fulfilling in the history of the series, but long-time fans of the show look for more than entertainment. Many of the episodes have been “empty shells,” all flash and fun with little meaning or impact.

The most recent two episodes provide a good example of the contrast:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Escribo por Ejemplo" a Translation

For all my friends in Chile, I wish you a happy and wonderful Dieciocho! And for all of the rest of you included, here is a loose translation of one of my favorite, hopeful songs by Illapu. Enjoy:


If I am just to write
I think of every verse
As one more friend in the battle.
And I like to write about the times
About the need for Words
I write as an example. (and I write for example:)

My people, those who are a part of me
On the ways, in the paths, and in the very bread
My people, distribute the fishes
To the tables where they need to be
My people, receive my verses
In your arms where they are birthed
My people, your reason is life
That is starting to move again!

I seek out the ways into the country
And the necessary hollow for the construction
The embankment where the ancient harvest was
A small ray of the moon
The clarity of the sunshine on the absence

No matter if you shed a tear
No matter if she rhymes with life
No matter if your verse is painful
If we are about to be back at the start
Come let us invent new paths
Hope is the vital Song
We need to open all the doors to the sun
And set tomorrow on its way
Come let’s go.

Monday, September 17, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Moonraker" (1979)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Coming into this “rewatch” there were two Bonds that I had never seen. This was the first of those two. I still don’t know exactly what I watched! In all of its parts it was a Bond film, but I am not sure that all of those diverse parts belong together. This may be the most disjointed James Bond film. It doesn’t suffer from the unglamorous, un-cinematic curse of the early 70s entries, but unlike those entries it has no story to tell. It is more like a series of conceptual scenes and action setpieces strung together at random. By the end of the film, one has a hard time remembering all the things that have happened because they share no connecting thread.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More on Humble Authority (Titus 2:15)

As stated before, this is a great verse for truly godly leaders. If they are humble the way you would want them to be, they need to be reminded to step up and assert themselves at times. The church needs vision and it needs to stay on mission.

However, the truth is that churches these days probably face a different sort of challenge in leadership. Most western leaders see this verse and use it to support a false position.

What we see more often today is leadership from a position of authority. Leaders assume that they have authority simply based on the fact that they are in a role. We don’t have a humility surplus problem.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A New Anticipated Films of 2012 Post

[Updated Again]
Now that we are approaching the most important season for film, here is a look back at what was most anticipated here on NonModern, and a revised Top 20 for the rest of the year:

Three of our original films got pushed back to next year:

25. “Jack the Giant Killer” moved to 2013

24. “Hansel and Gretel” moved to 2013

8. “World War Z” moved to 2013

I have managed to catch seven films that were on my list:

22. “Prometheus” ***

21. “Chronicle” ***

19. “Men in Black III” ***

15. “The Avengers” *****

12. “Brave” *****

6. “The Woman in Black” ***

3. “Dark Knight Rises” *****

And six others have been released (in the States at least) but I have not yet seen them: (I should manage them all by the time my year end evaluation roles around in February.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

NonModern Nugget: Faith vs. Knowledge

True faith, the kind that saves, is not the absence of doubt. Just as courage is not the absence of fear. We are brave when we do what we must in spite of fear. We believe when we trust in spite of doubts. It is, after all, the assurance of things hoped for, not something you can always see.

Somewhere along the way we have made faith an intellectual belief that has no impact on life. It is enough to claim you accept a truth. It is unacceptable to question said statement or to have moments of doubt. However, since a statement of historic fact has no bearing on daily life in the present, we are not often even put in a position where doubt has to be considered.

The true nature of Biblical faith is found in placing our lives in the hands and control of a God who cannot be proven, excepting where that trust is rewarded. The very nature of that sort of faith makes questions and doubts unavoidable. But questions and doubts do not negate faith; they merely provide us with the means to exercise it.

Biblical faith is scary. Living that life is the adventure that everyone longs for but few dare to pursue.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

I’m going to go ahead and spoil this middle section of the rewatch and declare that this is the best Roger Moore entry. That is thanks entirely to a return to form in the technical department. Gone is the gritty, seventies “realism.” This film looks cinematic. The art direction is classic. The effects and gadgets are interesting and fun. All that being said, we still have to deal with the out of place cartoony moments, the sexual addiction that Moore has taken to a comical level, and the story.

Well, to be fair the story is better than that of the past three films at least. There is an attempt to tell a tale that is original and one that has international stakes befitting a spy of Bond’s stature. And, in the vein of “From Russia” or “Secret Service” this is a love story. Well, as much a love story as one gets with a hopeless womanizer for a main character.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fearful Side of Real Faith

Last Sunday I did something I would never normally do. I went and rode the world’s tallest swing carrousel. I didn’t let myself think about it at all as I did it. I just walked up, bought a ticket and got on. If I had thought about it I would not have done it, and I wanted the experience. I can now say that I have been suspended over 350 feet in the air by chains no bigger around than my finger and spun in a big circle at about 65 miles per hour. At that height I am told I would have cleared the Statue of Liberty.

How was it? Terrifying. I am scared of heights, but usually don’t have a problem with rides. You don’t have time to be scared. You are strapped in tight. This was as close to sitting in a folding chair hanging by chains that are smaller than your average swing-set as you can get. They start by raising the swings about 30 meters high—so you can clear the surrounding buildings—and then they start to spin. As you spin around they slowly, torturously, raise the swings up the full length of the 383 foot tower and let you drink in the entire view of Vienna.

Well, that is the theory. For me I had to work—for the first time in my life—to not have a full on panic attack. About 3 times on the way up I had to simply close my eyes and breathe. After a while I was able to get used to the feeling, but I never lost the instinctive sensation that I was moments away from death. By the time we got to the top I was able to keep my eyes open and even look straight down, but it was a level of self-control that I have never had to employ.

Rationally I never thought I was in any real danger, but every feeling I had was a panic of the threat of imminent painful, terrible death. I like to think that I was exhibiting a high level of courage, but what I really was experiencing was a good picture of faith.

I have often told people that true faith is not accepting an idea, but rather placing your life in the trust that what you believe about reality is true. The typical illustration is that you believe a chair will hold your weight by actually sitting in it. That is not really good enough. If a chair breaks all you may risk is a sore backside. This exercise was a much better illustration. If this chair or the chain holding it had failed to support me I would have surely died.

It was a revelation. In the beginning before you have much experience of how reliable God is, true, Biblical faith is a scary thing to accept.

(The pictures are not mine.  If you click on them it should direct you to the original site.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creating False Connections

We all have a little bit of that crazy in us… the one that could fill a room up with newspaper clippings covering every inch of the walls and ceilings with strands of red yarn spider-webbing from random points everywhere and little red circles around seemingly random words. (Or maybe I simply have that bit of crazy in me and everyone else is perfectly normal. If so, please don’t enlighten me.)

The point is that we all create connections in our minds, in the little systems we create out of the world around us. We learn a new word and see it everywhere we go. We discover a new-to-us artist and find we have known of his work our whole lives. We live somewhere once for six months and it follows us the rest of our lives. Or, if we are really desperate for connection, we go place flowers on a fence after a celebrity dies.

I have far too many personal examples of this quirk to create a simple NonModern post about them all, but here is the latest example:

Monday, September 10, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

To my way of thinking, this has always been the third part in the trilogy of terrible, early seventies Bond. Part of that is due to the fact that “Diamonds,” “Live and Let Die” and “Golden Gun” are a period in Bond where things get silly and dingy. After this they may stay silly but the dinginess simply goes with the time period.

For some reason our culture reacted against the polished, artificial, glamour of the fifties and sixties by not just going “real” but also gritty. Bond will do this again a couple of times in the series—try to go for a more realistic almost believable presentation—but they won’t lose the cinematic quality of things again like they do here. These might as well have been low quality TV productions.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Implications of Grace part 3 (Titus 2:14)

Here we see the same ideas of verses 11 and 12, only with the Gospel message, God’s grace, spelled out and explained. Christ is the source of God’s grace. His death on the cross has paid the way so that God can be just and punish our sin but still show us mercy by not exacting that punishment upon us. He offers us grace in giving us the love and relationship that Christ earned, not the death that we in our sin have earned.

Not only that, Christ gave himself up on the cross so that He might purify us as His people. We see once again that the result of grace is not just salvation and redemption, but also purification and sanctification. We grow in Christ-likeness, not through our efforts or in our power, but through the grace of God.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Top 20 Hitchcock Films:

With the publication of the latest “Sight and Sound” top ten films list last month, every movie lover was asking themselves the question, “which film really is Hitchcock’s best?” While “Vertigo” is a masterpiece, it is seldom his most beloved film. I decided to try to rank my favorites of his, and this is what I came up with this time around. It might change next week. There are so many good films to choose from, you almost have to cheat:

20. Any of about 10 more films that I wanted to plug in here.

19. “Rebecca” (1940)

18. “The Trouble with Harry” (1955)

17. “Suspicion” (1941)

16. “Strangers on a Train” (1951)

15. “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” (1927)

14. “Blackmail” (1929)

13. “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934)

12. “The 39 Steps” (1935)

11. “The Lady Vanishes” (1939)

10. “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)

9. “Rope” (1948)

8. “To Catch a Thief” (1955)

7. “Vertigo” (1958)

6. “The Birds” (1963)

5. “Notorious” (1946)

4. “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943)

3. “Psycho” (1960)

2. “North by Northwest” (1959)

1. “Rear Window” (1954)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading "Brave" as a Refreshingly Nonmodern Fable

Thirteen films in, Pixar has shown a pretty consistent trend of original, fresh storytelling that goes beyond entertainment. They are producing art that considers and illuminates life. With “Brave” we get their most traditional animated story—at least in the tradition of Disney animation. We get the princess story. Visually it is stunning. The story has the right amounts of humor, excitement, inspirational moments, and the accents of the characters are a delight to listen too; but it is a pretty “paint-by-the-numbers” Disney plot.

That being said, there is a great attempt at a lesson in the mix, but one that most—including the people marketing the film—seem to be missing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Live and Let Die" (1973)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Certainly not the best, possible candidate for the worst, “Live and Let Die” is fascinating to watch in the way that a devastating car wreck is. We are prepared to see Bond films be insensitive and culturally inappropriate by today’s standards, but this had to be uncomfortable to watch at the time even.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970)

The “little” pictures of the cinema giants can be some of the most surprising pleasures. In this case, we have a throw-away piece that Wilder made out of a love for the subject. It is one that he reportedly didn’t even like due to the fact that it was edited by someone else in a way that destroyed his vision. For the rest of us, not privy to his ideal, it is a delightful entertainment. Most call it small because it is a simple story without much to say and in no great way contributing to the Holmes fable.

However true that may be, it still has a message. In this case we are invited to think about the nature of the stories that we tell each other. The very nature of a detective story is the discovery of truth; the idea that there is truth and it can be known. Another side of that, especially in a certain vein of detective stories of which Doyle was a master, is the idea that stories are told in ways that hide the truth. Doyle would tell simple plots in such a way as to make the reader believe that Holmes was brilliant, but if we had seen the story from his perspective—as he would often explain things to Watson—they became rather simple.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Asylum of the Daleks"

Doctor Who returned to the airwaves this past Saturday and, as always, it was a lot of fun. There are moments in “Asylum” that don’t bear up to too much analysis, but that has become the nature of Who lately. It is best to simply go along for the ride and let the episode dictate what we are to contemplate. In this case since we have a return of the Daleks, we get a lot of talk about hatred but also its counterpart: love.

Monday, September 3, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

The short answer for this entry in the series is: you really can’t bring your brain along. There was a mad scramble of desperation when Lazenby left-the-series/was-let-go and they ended up backtracking. Not only did they go back to Connery, but they tried to go back to the “Goldfinger” approach. (Actually, up until this point in the series there has been surprisingly little consistency for a franchise the way the bounce from tongue-in-cheek to serious spy to humor to adventure…) However, since this is the early seventies and not the mid-sixties, they fail.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Implications of Grace part 2 (Titus 2:11-14)

Those who accept God’s Grace are changed by its teaching.

This passage begins with a connecting word, “for.” It shows us that the entire teaching of these four verses illuminates what has come before. Paul is teaching Titus about leadership in the churches of Crete. He has told Titus that he needs to appoint good leaders, and the key of good leadership here is in their teaching. They are to teach good doctrine based on the Gospel message, not speculations, myths and rules.
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