Friday, October 29, 2010

In Haste: Parents

Cooking with garlic is apparently as dangerous as onion cutting.*  The kitchen is a playground of dangers abounding from every orifice.  The Danger Zone.

There I am, sprinkling some garlic over my pot o' pasta.  I claim here that it was the garlic that started to make my nose run.  I notice said dripping from the nose outlet, and humbly attempt to swipe away the liquidified snot... but a problem emerges!  Somewhere in the action of hand swipe, my pinky finger lodges itself in the nose cavity itself.  May it be known, this was never my intention!

With my pinky firmly supplanted up my nose, a thought creeps forward; an ever-so dastardly thought!

How far can I go? 

With my nose in the condition it was in (running like water park), there was no difficulty in sliding my pinky further up the great unexcavated cavern.  Up it went.  Further and further.

Before I know it, my pinky is lodged farther than I could ever imagine it could go?  Weren't there preventative measures the body had for these sorts of things?!  How could this happen?  Worse yet was knowing that there was more acreage open to travel.  I was cognizant that my pinky had gone beyond the point of 'nose-ness'.  We were past the mountains of madness.

Instinctively, perhaps salvifically, my hand recoiled, and my baby finger once again felt the sweet rush of open air flood its surface.

It was a remarkable adventure, but a worry remains.  I could have kept going.  Who knows how deep were the reaches?  And the darkest question of all, 'Could I have made contact with my own brains?'  What paradoxes would that cause?  Oh Lord!  That despicable truth is so tantalizing to uncover!  What dreams may come!

This experience was quite similar to that of watching Bob Balaban's 1989 film "Parents".  Both introduced the same high levels of intrigue, fear, and disgust.

*For previous encounters of kitchen danger, click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Psalm of Tron

Greetings. The Master Control Program has chosen you to serve your system on the Game Grid. Those of you who continue to profess a belief in the Users will receive the standard substandard training that will result in your eventual elmination. Those of you who renounce this superstitious and hysterical belief will be eligible to join the Warrior Elite of the MCP.

My God,
You have created a people who create
You have made man in such a way:
he too yearns to create in his own image.
All this you have done.

My Lord,
May we discover more.
Will You lead us further?
May we find more and more of Your design.
Will You let us find You there?

My King,
You have made us with minds,
so that we may think.
You have made us with hearts,
so that we may feel.
You have made us with curiosity,
so that we may search for you.

Honor our Search, O Saving Messiah.
Do not hold back Your many mysteries.

 All that is visible must grow beyond itself, and extend into the realm of the invisible. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Desperate Search: On the Shelf

                                                                                                               Part VIII
Argentinian film, The Secret in Their Eyes, winner of 2009's Academy Award for best foreign film, is a masterstroke of excellence.  It is, simply put, wonderful.

It is such a wonderful film that I don't want to talk about it.  Not a word concerning it's movements.  Not even an acknowledgment of its specific instances of genius and craft.  Not a word.

I watched this film on Saturday night.  It is now Tuesday night.  I am not currently watching the film.  It ended three nights ago.  It's only two hours long.  I say this to make it clear that it is now over.  I am no longer experiencing it directly.  For me now, the film survives, in this very moment, as only a memory.  

Let's say for the sake of argument that we all get together and agree that Juan Jose Campenella's The Secret in Their Eyes is a bonafide masterpiece.  Let's say we put it up on the shelf right between Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia.  

What do we do with that?

...that is to say, what are we left with after we encounter such affecting art?  

I'm now laboring to launch a website with a group of contributors who will mine this question.  Together we will look at beauty... really look at it.  There, we will acknowledge that all beauty must, by necessity, be good and true.  And whatever is good and true surely has its inception from the very character of God.  So then, the website will amount to nothing less than the search for the mind of God.  

Perhaps this sounds philosophically indulgent or over-analytical.  It is not.  I watch many movies.  I experience much.  I cannot allow myself any longer to simply intake without an appropriate understanding of what I've just intaken (intook?).

Break it down:
1) You have your life.
1) You take time out of your life to watch a movie.
2) You categorize said movie as 'great'.
3) Your life continues onward.

Great cannot remain wholly in some obscure moment.  God is great.  We don't just leave it at that.  God is great and we worship Him.  Note: I am not advocating the worship of art itself.  Great things have a purpose and a usefulness.  Great things have power.  Therefore, in acknowledging the greatness of The Secret in Their Eyes, I must recognize its power.  What is that power exactly?  Well, that's the trick of it.  We don't readily have the tools available to know how to let great things affect us.

I am not great.  I am quite small.  And I am sinful.  Fortunately, I have a great advocate on my side in the blood of Jesus from Galilee.  He shows me greatness because he is greatness incarnate.  
He is perfection.

Because we have this awesome tutor, this Christ, we have a blueprint for understanding greatness, and what powers lie within it.  

With this understanding, we may become equipped to pinpoint beauty.  From the instant we pinpoint beauty, we may begin to describe it and further bind ourselves to its essence.  We may become intimate with this truth.  We do all this with a view to an administration of seeing God as He is.  Because 
God is Beauty.  

Get it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brutal Worship

Back in August I pondered coining the term, 'Brutal Worship'.

God is a big and creative and mysterious and awesome God.  Because of this reality, it seems good that there would be many forms of worship.

This may be true, that worship can exist in many forms, yet, I think we tend to homogenize our views when we come into the context of community.  Worship when it comes to Church often is left to the lone act of singing. Mind me, I am not criticizing, only observing.

While singing, my inner being (my masculinity?) gets an extra bump of excitement when I sing things like the bridge to Better is One Day:

My heart and flesh cry out,
for You, the living God,
your Spirit's water to my soul.

I yearn to worship with such power and emotion.  I want to be the type of zealous follower that cries out.  I want my flesh to cry out.  But what does that look like?

Sports has something of that, I believe.  When your whole being is enthralled in the current journey on that field... there's a sense of peaceful purpose.  I'm using my body and my mind in single accord with a group of other people.  If such deeds are done with an eye to serving the Lord, this seems quite good through my lens.  Just standing there singing can be a bit passive, no?

The men and women of the documentary Rize have concocted for themselves a bizarre form of dance.  It is at once frightening, electrifying, dangerous, and provocative.  To summarize such a style of dance is useless, it has to be seen.

We learn in the documentary that the style of dance, Krumping, has its origins in Clowning, which itself was started by a dude who drove around Watts in full-fledged face paint dancing for kids at their birthday parties.  For these people, dancing exorcises them of the all-surrounding world of drugs, gangs, and death.  It is kinetic freedom.  Freedom.

Hear the words of Tight Eyez: We're not gonna be clones of the commercial hip-hop world... because that's been seen for so many years.. Somebody's waitin'on something different... another generation of kids with morals and values... that they won't need... what's being commercialized or tailor-made for them... custom-made, because I feel that we're custom-made. And we're of more value than any piece of jewelry... or any car or any big house that anybody could buy. 

Amen brother.  

I wonder, when Moses first wrote, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength"*, is this what he had in mind?

Check out the trailer.
*Deuteronomy 6:5, New King James Version

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fade out.

I never wanted to be away from her. She had the spark of life.
I enjoy Halloween as much as the next guy.

Every year I try to find a new terrifyingly excellent film to absorb.
This year's official selection: Away from Her.

A couple of 44 years deals with Alzheimer's.  
What follows is the stuff of terror: 
sorrow, guilt, regret, doubt, heartbrokenness, unreasonable hope, despair...
It's all there!  Fire sale!

I think I may be beginning to disappear.
The film flutters around the dwindling lives of Grant and Fiona Anderson.  Fiona, a lovely, exquisitely intelligent, gentle soul, develops the memory stealing disease.  After much wrestling with reality, Mrs. Anderson decides that it is time that she be put into a home.  The worst of it for Mr. Anderson, is that the nursing home has a strict policy: no visitors for the first thirty days after admittance.

Well, once again, Nurse Kristy is taking me back to the second floor. The area to my right are the elevators, and as we go on down the hall, there's a man with a broken heart, broken in a thousand pieces.
Through 44 years of marriage, the couple had never spent that much time apart.  That's a world that Grant Anderson doesn't know how to circumnavigate.  Somehow, some way, he is able to see it through.  On day 31 he eagerly anticipates his reunion with his beloved.

She doesn't remember him.  Worse, she has become infatuated with another inmate.  We are led to believe that Grant comes to visit Fiona everyday.  Mostly he just watches her with her new beau.  When the day comes that the Fiona's new love is taken away, she spirals into a depression.  When Mr. Anderson comes to comfort his wife, her grief is a smattering of all the pain that's passed through her in life.

My Grandmother lost her husband in 2007.  In 2008 she remarried.  In 2009 that husband died as well.

I've never quite understood it, but her grief now is not held only to her latest husband's death.  No, she grieves both losses.

I don't understand how love works, but it appears sorrow functions in the same manner.  Love can be vast and be expressed in so many different hues, but still it remains somehow as one thing.  Grief is the same way.  A lovely person can love the world over.  And the person beaten by loss breathes it all in as one form.

Love is singular and plural.  A Father loves each of his children individually, distinctly, yet, that affection is all from the same 'stuff', the same source of Fatherly affection.  And yet, this lake of love has no bottom.  A good Father can keep adding sons and daughters; adding, adding, adding, and yet it never takes away from the love of the individual.

I'd like you to go. Because I need to stay here and if you make it hard for me, I may cry so hard I'll never stop.
Grief too.  Grief is only grief.  My Grandmother need not dissociate one sorrow from another.  They act as one.  All her grief, past and present, appears as one snarling demon of present betrayal.  

When it comes to sorrow, it's always a fade to white.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Fine

The bloodiest scene of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is also the most truthful.

Our very first glimpse of Sweeney informed us that he was a man who had been irascibly wounded by the world.  Through the quick flashes of times gone by, we learn Sweeney was once another man, Benjamin Barker.  Mr. Barker was a lovely being; a happy soul with wife and daughter.  Unjust judgment comes.  He is sent away.  Many years have aged the once lovely Benjamin.

Somewhere along the years, lost in memory and hope, Barker chooses to change his name to Todd.

Upon returning to his native soil, Sweeney meets the strangely sick Mrs. Lovett.  More pain comes.  He is told a horrible tale.  The Unjust Judge had, upon Barker's absence, ravaged his wife and taken the unknown daughter as his own.

 Sweeney's future is made crystal clear; he is to seek revenge on his false accuser.  He will take the life of the Unjust Judge.

Did he think about it then?  Did he realize his fate?  A man cannot be fueled by revenge alone.  That is not a sufficient motive for living.  There has to be something else, something more.  What will happen to Todd after he kills the Judge?  What happens next?

Benjamin Barker only truly becomes Sweeney Todd seventy minutes into the film.  Listen to his words.

And in the darkness when I'm blind
with what I can't forget
It's always morning in my mind
my little lamb, my pet.
You stay Joanna, 
the way Ive dreamed you up.

A choice is made.  Sweeney chooses to die... he chooses to succumb to the true meaning of Todd.  To be Sweeney Todd is to die to Benjamin Barker.  And what is Sweeney Todd?  He is nothing.  He is a creation of the mind.  To choose Sweeney is to choose death.
"We have to go back!"

Benjamin wanted what many men want.  He wants to go back.

Of course, the harsh reality is that he can't go back to the way things were.  The choice is then to accept this and move on, or grasp only at memory and dream.

Talk to one who is truly heartbroken.  The great hope, and sadly the very thing that keeps the heart from healing, is to find a way back.  UNDO IT.

For Todd, he comes to realize he can't undo it, and yet, he refuses to move on.

He is Sweeney Todd now.  A Harbinger of Wrath.  

And when that wrath is quenched, so is he.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Choose His Destiny

 Judge Sweeney Todd for me.

A friend recently told me that a great evil of the world was the proliferation and glorification of the Antihero.  When I first heard that sentiment, I didn't know how to take it.

I don't know how to judge those words now.

Initially, when thinking of the Antihero, my mind drifted to the barber formerly known as Benjamin Barker.  The distinguishing principle about him, in my quick recollection, was that he was born out of pain.  I hastily then surmised that to be diagnosed as an Antihero, you have to have endured some great atrocity. 

I took this disposition into my maiden viewing of Gus Van Sant's sophomore flick, Drugstore Cowboy.

I looked and I looked and I looked... 
...But my druggie of a lead really didn't have much of a claim to be an Antihero.  No real wrong seemed to be thrust upon him.  

He just was what he was.  

Then a revelation came to me; it's not about the amount of pity that we have for the protagonist, it's about what we compare him to.  In the case of Drugstore Cowboy, we meet many worse druggies than our lead, as well as meeting the old clergyman that hooked our boy on narcotics from an early age.  Passing out doogies from the altar, now there's some villainy.

Then there's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  He kills with relative abandon.  He slits the throat of many-a stranger.  And yet, we are given two (debatably three) characters who are far viler.  Mrs. Lovett, the pie maker herself, tempts Sweeney to eat of the sick fruit of murder from the very start.  She has no pity, no moral fiber.  And no bleak past that we are aware of.  Worse still is the Judge himself of whom Sweeney stalks.  He is a self-righteous evil.  Somewhere deep down we know pride to be the worst of all sins, for it came first.  And so we are happy when Todd catches his man.

If the Antihero is just the guy who is least evil, what does that mean?  What are the ramifications?  Is my friend right?  Should such creative constructions be undone?

It's a question of levels, no?

This rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.  This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  Revelation 20:5-6

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.  If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.   1 Corinthians 12-15

It would appear then that there are two resurrections, 
and various degrees of reward in heaven....
...So, can the Antihero be that guy that gets into heaven by the skin of his teeth?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

I, I, aye, eye, I...

I intook Rosemary's Baby this week.  Since the viewing, I've done a fair amount of mulling as to what I should write about the psychological gem.

I thought I could write a comparison between this well established classic, with Roman Polanski's hidden jewel, The Tenant.  They both swirl around a protagonist's slowly rolling apprehension that the world whole is against them.  And Mr. Polanski being who he happens to be, with the experiences he's endured, doesn't ever belittle a character's fear.  He exploits it.

I also thought that perhaps thought that perhaps it would be interesting to look at Rosemary's Baby (1968) from only the perspective of it being a taut conspiracy thriller.  What does the film look like if the supernatural element is withdrawn?  The film, I would imagine, would be a cousin to Coppola's The Conversation (1974) or perhaps even Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970).  Furthermore, there's this intriguing reality that all these conspiracy flicks rolled out during a span of just a few years.  Surely there's a Vietnam connection there.  But doing that takes all the fun out of the film -- because everyone knows Tanas root is an anagram for Satan's root!  This cannot be ignored!

I then strapped my attention to the film's audacious and obtuse ending.  What was Rosemary deciding?  Could it be that she was choosing to raise the little demon amongst that cult after all?  This debate might have a lot of fuel with someone else who sees the finale as something more ambiguous, but for me the deal is done.  Rosemary is a character who kept taking shortcuts.  She didn't want to conform, per se, but she inevitably is led to time and time again.  She doesn't have the gall or mettle to resist the mark of the beast.

I am not satisfied.  None of these topics will do.  What is important to me -- to my life!!!!!! -- is whether or not Rosemary had a choice?  Could she have ever hoped to overcome her assailants?

I presume, being that it appears that Rosemary's son may be the Antichrist, or some other foul demon of the end of days, it is reasonable to conclude that what we are dealing with here is the stuff of Revelation.  And when we talk of the Book of Revelation, things change quickly.

The Book of Revelation consumes us with a terrifying and awesome world.  If we are to have hope, if we are to remain until the end, we are called to do one thing:  

Are you ready?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.  2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.*  2:11

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.  2:17

He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations...  2:26

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  3:5

I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.  3:11-12

He who overcomes, I will grant o him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  3:21-22

Each of these seven promises comes at the end of each message to the seven churches.  The rest of the Book of Revelation is filled with many-a-horrific thing.  He tells us ahead of time why we should overcome, and then subsequently graphically depicts why it's going to be so hard too endure.

Those first Christians who received John's Revelation were existing within a world of hurt.  The Roman Empire was trying its best to obliterate the faith through various means of severe persecution.  The saints needed to be reminded to endure.

Rosemary could have used a message.  Notice that the churches are not told that they will escape torment.  They are only told to persevere.

This is what Rosemary never heard. 

She never had a chance.  But we do.

And after all is done: Then He said to me, "It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers ans idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." 21:6-8
 *All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Man 2 sees Man 1.  They are friends in the casual sense.  They walk up to one another.  Desiring to be pleasant and foster a continued relationship, Man 2 asks of Man 1,

How are you?

Man 1 slinks his left hand into his pocket.  He pulls out a small bag.

He explains that inside the bag are four stones.

3 white stones.
1 black.

When I want to ask this question of myself, I pull out a stone.  
Most of the time, a white stone appears.

Man 1 grabs a stone.  Fist clenched, he offers up his hand to his friend.

It occurs to Man 2 that he is unprepared for such an interaction as this.  He pauses, looks towards the sky, and confesses humbly, How can you judge your feelings based on the chance of rocks?

Man 1 chuckles.

The question the stones ask, my dear friend, is not whether or not I 
will be happy today, but rather, whether or not I should bother to ask.

Whatever stone is in my hand now, tomorrow it may be different.


Would you like to see which stone has been chosen today?

*Photos taken from Storm of the Century

In Haste: Eat, Pray, Love

I walked into this movie fueled by the preconceived notion that I would never be an advocate for such a film as this.

Let me tell you why.
Photo may be unrelated to discussed film

From the trailers alone, I was quite confident that this little tour of the prettiest aspects of Italy, India and Bali would result in a woman 'finding her way'.  I also presumed that this way would be full of trite sayisms about how there is bits of beauty in everything, and that the key to it all is just to be 'true to yourself'.

All this I had foreseen before I walked into that room.  Mind you, I didn't come to these conclusions because I'm a great prophet.  No.  I saw it coming because I was assigned Henri Ibson's "A Doll's House" as mandatory reading three times during my educational career.  Hopefully you understand what the ramifications of such indoctrination are.

So, was I right?
Yes.  Yes I was. 

What I didn't predict was that the script was devised by a smart person.  We meet many people who are intriguing, genuine characters.  They fill my cup half way full with real tenderness and care.  Furthermore, the direction was adept throughout the picture show.

There's a simple, depressing melody that slithers through the first half of the film.  It's the chorus for the ruin of Liz's (our heroine) life.  In India, she suddenly is forced to face her past; to face her depressing chorus.

She commits herself to an imaginary dance with her ex-husband.   She dumped him some months back.  While they dance, she makes peace with him.  She comforts this mirage by whispering that she did love him.  Past tense.  I never understood how that was supposed to be comforting.  We never again here the lachrymose anthem.  She has cleansed her palette of it. 
Elephants are awesome.

Liz then finds new love in Bali.  Throughout the film she meets delightful men.  She meets people that only ever want the best for her.  No one is motivated by a lustful gaze at the beautiful Julia Roberts.  No.  The men in this world are kind and soothing and altogether lovely. 

And so, in the end, Liz is brave enough to love.

I'm left still asking, "Why should I trust you?  Your love fades."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mindshot: Jesus Christ, Superstar

Much controversy swells around the depiction of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ, Superstar.  The film braves to tackle Mary's confusion over her emotions toward Jesus.  She wonders how she ought to act towards him.  She dedicates a resonating anthem to such thoughts.

The question of Mary is perhaps fascinating, but Jesus Christ, Superstar is not about her.
It's about Judas Iscariot.

Often I have felt sympathy for that pitiable character, but the Gospel of John clearly denotes that I shouldn't.

...So when He (Jesus) had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After the morsel, Satan then entered into him.  Therefore Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly."

There is no room for pity.


Judas has betrayed the Son of God into the hands of those who seek His blood.  He runs to Caiaphas, pleading to undo what is done.  It cannot be so.  What is done, is done.  Judas throws his reward money at the feet of priests.

Then, after a brief moment of silence, Judas falls to his knees.  He cries out.  He pleads.

In a moment of torment, Judas repeats Mary Magdalene's melody.  He sings,

I don't know how to love him.
I don't know why he moves me.

He's a man.
He's just a man.
He is not a king.
He's just the same as anyone I know.

He scares me so.

When he's cold and dead,
will he let me be?
Does he love, does he love me too?
Does he care for me?

A breath later, the voices begin.  A terror crafted only for the betrayer commences.

There is to be no mercy for him.
He hangs himself. 

I too, don't know how to love God; know how to love Jesus Christ, my Messiah.

He scares me so.

I find myself confessing the doubt; Does He love me too?

But I know He's not just a man.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stupid Points

Included below in this essay are six points of analysis of the film Wristcutters: A Love Story.  It's quite an enjoyable little film.  This essay will not do it justice.
  • I was once told that people have a tendency to marry others with similar physical features as their own (I think it was Brian Walton's ex-girlfriend that told me this... though the two of them didn't look too similar.  Did I mention she's an ex-girlfriend?).  The theory goes that people spend so much time looking at themselves, that when they find an opposite sex doppelganger, they innately find that face familiar, soothing, and trustworthy.  Throw into the mix American culture, in which we people tend to have heightened senses of self-worth, and you got yourself a match made in Narcissist Heaven.
I think the casting director spent too much time looking at pictures of the lead couple.  Notice the mirror image moles near the eye!


  • Tom Waits is here, that's fantastic!  Why is it that he always seems to be a prescient figure in films that take place in someplace other?  I hope that on the day I find myself beyond the Pearly Gates, I'll look around and find Mr. Waits making himself very comfortable there.  I'll walk up to him, shake his hand, and say, 
    It is a joy to find you here, good sir! 
    Oh, I've been here for quite sometime already.  Enjoy it, kid.

    That'll be perfect.
    • As much as I admire the comedy of Will Arnett, it's just that that I admire; his comedy.  He was miscast here.  I just kept thinking about the magical exploits of Arrested Development's Job, rather than focusing on this, quote, new character, unquote.  
    • My schoolyard buddy, Sam Borden, dropped out of High School during our Senior year.  He got a high school diploma, I think, but for some reason he got it into his head that the ghetto that is public school was something too... well, too something for him.  I'm not sure exactly what.
    Eugene's brother, the youngest son of a family of Russian immigrants to America that all canned themselves, tells our protagonist Zia that Eugene saved him from killing himself when he was ten years old.  We then are given a flashback of the event.  The 10yr old with noose around his neck, cries for his brother to explain what the meaning to life is RIGHT NOW or he'll hang himself.  The loving brother Eugene coaxes the boy to first step away from the noose.  The young one does so.  Eugene then promptly slaps the boy and walks away.  The boy, for some reason, took this as a sufficient answer.

    Long before Sam Borden abandoned the high school life, he told me that his older sister gave him the best reason for not dropping out.  I, being one who didn't want my friend to escape the ghetto we called home, was curious to know what epic wisdom this older sister shared with Sam that temporarily had quelled his desire to exit.  She had simply said, You shouldn't do that.  I was dumbfounded.  I had given my friend vast, poetic depictions of why he should stay in the trenches with me.  But that didn't matter. What mattered was that his older sister slapped him.

    I don't really get either scenario.  And in the end, Eugene's brother did commit suicide, and Sam did leave Oceanside High School.  But slapping does seem to have some temporary benefits, I guess.

    I guess.
    • I like the whole black hole plot device element.  I read it as saying, Yeah, we acknowledge that true love is impossible.  That's why we need black holes and other miracles to make it work.  Well played, indie film about purgatoryland, well played indeed.

    • I have no idea what this monologue by Tom Waits is about, or what it has to do with the movie's plot, but I think we can all agree it's the best way to end this essay.

    Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, 
    "You're crooked. You've always been crooked and you'll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!" 
    said the straight tree. He said, 
    "I'm tall and I'm straight." 
    And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said,
    "Cut all the straight trees." 
    And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange. 

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Swinging Bridges

    Sorcerer, 1977
    I have never served in the military, so take this comment with a mouth full of salt.  I find many aspects of the Randall Wallace flick, We Were Soldiers as just plain trite.  It's difficult not to view the film as a whole as part of Mel Gibson's inevitable march through war history on film.  When I first saw the film in theaters in 2002, I found the film's ending narration, the bop-you-on-the-head listen-to-this-part-because-it's-the-theme-of-the-whole-darn-film part as particularly trite.

    We Were Soldiers, 2002
    Some had families waiting. For others, their only family would be the men they bled beside. There were no bands, no flags, no Honor Guards to welcome them home. They went to war because their country ordered them to. But in the end, they fought not for their country or their flag, the fought for each other.

    That final line sounded to me like a cop-out.  They fought because our country was afraid of Russian commies (or something like that) not because they liked the guy beside them.  The whole deal resonated with me like one of those chocolate cherries that your grandmother buys you for Christmas.  It sounds like a good idea, but then you bite into it and this goo drips down your chin and the whole thing is just gagingly sweet.  

    Stand by Me, 1986
    3 years later.  It's about 7:30pm on a brisk November night at Biola University.  It's a Wednesday, which means I am strolling around outside during the 15minute break of my evening Systematic Theology course.  It's just past twilight.  I'm in a good mood this day.  I am whimsical, even.  At this moment I'm circling around the ugly fountain, just about ready to head back in for the second half of the lecture, when everything dims.  

    The electricity has gone out.  I begin to walk with hurried pace.  By this point in my Biola history, I had grown quite accustomed to electrical outings.  Biola had its own mini power plants, and during this period of population growth, it wasn't rare to lose power for a bit school wide.  I enjoyed such episodes generally.  There's something about power outages that breeds childhood joy within me.  

    Where was I going?  I wasn't heading back to class?  Nor was I going back to my dorm to come up with some great adventure to relish with my droogies.  No, without even realizing it, I was walking toward my girlfriends dorm.  To check on her.  To make sure she was okay in the dark.  My feet decided to do this before I ever consciously made such a decision.

    I tell this brief anecdote not to dwell on the past for the sake of pastness, but because it stood as a moment in my life (the first?), where my first thought was for someone beside myself.  It was instinctual.  I didn't need to resolve to do a good thing for another.  My impulse was for the good of not-me. 
    Horton Hears a Who!, 2008

    What a splendid sensation to encounter.  Watching We Were Soldiers today, I can know what it means to fight for the person beside you.  I can feel it.  And I can know why that is something that is worth living for. 
    Flip to the other end.

    Everyone knows that William Friedkin's The French Connection has the best car chase of all time.  But now I can say without hesitation that his 1977 flick "Sorcerer" has the all-time best swinging bridge scene I've ever endured. 

    Part of what makes the bridge episode so darn intense (as well as the whole film), is that our protagonists aren't living for anyone other than themselves.  

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984
    There's a futility in that idea.  When you strive for the betterment of someone else, you are offering them hope and grace.  When you strive for yourself, what are giving yourself?  Possessions.  Maybe a personal sense of accomplishment.  But you can't give yourself hope.  You can't accumulate hope like that.  

    Friedkin's characters look after themselves first, foremost, and finally.  

    He is a bleak director.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010


    Happy Feet.
    Happy Feet.
    Happy Feet.

    It all seemed so natural, so rudimentary, so everyday.

    It was so simple, so easy to surmise the premise, so effortless to outline the details.

    It was all so normal.

    This was Happy Feet for about 70 minutes. Just another day at the kids' shop. I threw it atop the massive pile of swell animated critter films that help us teach our kids tolerance.

    And then BLAMMO!  Suddenly the rock below my feet can't be trusted. Where's my footing? What am I standing on? The world twisted itself into a sincerely confounding shred of surreally undefinable existence.

    Just like that I've become a man without a past, because all my preconceptions of the reality I've been dwelling in are being ruthlessly torn asunder. Asunder!!


    Now!  A subtle little memory arises. A warning from the past.

    Long ago my brother had foretold of such third act devastation from the Feet. He was unable to articulate it, only managing to blurt out some strange doctrine.  He recklessly cajoled that the film was some form of Jedi Communism. Yes, yes, he knew about this. He had witnessed it before. He came out of it alive. We can too. We can too. We can live through this dammit!

    When the curtain finally, mercifully fell, all that was left in me was laughter. My brother saw something evil in Happy Feet's manipulated plot that was vitriolly against the very core of our souldom.   I, for one, found the subversive denouement as something so jarring that I couldn't help but appreciate it.  And so my response was laughter.  I could do nothing more.  There is no other response to the strangeness of life.

    Happy Feet!  Well done you little devil, you.


    Last night, as a seasonal treat, I destined myself to undertake a watching of all The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes.

    As I watched the Simpson quintet get levitated up into a spaceship, my thoughts became far too serious.  Far too serious, indeed.

    Certain thoughts drove my brains to contemplate The Matrix, and the ominous words of Morpheus as he tells Neo that they have a policy of not 'unplugging' people after they pass a certain age.  Our feeble minds get so accustomed to our way o' life that gamechanging realities don't help us, they break us. The age-ed mind can only bend so far.

    It's not that the spoon can't be bent, it's that our brains can't handle such bendation.


    Gamechanger: that which completely alters how you view and function in the world. An event/reality that comes to be known in a sudden way so that one's conception of existence significantly metamorphs.

    Sidenote: Three cheers for Animorphs!


    The first time I was introduced to the concept of 'the Gamechanger' was in the preceding weeks to the Season 3 finale of Lost

    The teasers kept shouting at me, "EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE!"

    I miss Lost.  I miss that relationship.  Boy was that a humpty-dumpty of an ending.
    My heart hasn't been the same since.


    I tried to think of any gamechangers in my life.

    Being raised in a Christian household all my days, it would be a bit disingenuous to say that my acceptance of God's gift was a gamechanger. Giving my life to Jesus Christ is a lifesaver, no doubt, but since I never avidly lived under another banner of reality, I can't say it resculpted my life palette.

    What does seem valid is the 911 attacks.  That changed America's sense of supremacy and invincibility.

    For Slovenians, I would imagine the disintegration of Yugoslavia would count.

    But both of those aren't as cool as the Alien Card.

    Aliens seem like the biggest gamechanger possible (aside from the coming of Jesus -- Come Now, Lord!).

    And the best thing about gamechangers is you can never predict quite how they'll change the game.

    Just look at how wrong Dustin Hoffman's Dr. Norman Goodman's predictions were in the Michael Crichton adaptation of Sphere.  He was ill prepared for that gamechanger, I say, I say.


    ill prepared.