Tag: Movies

Les Miserables: Grace and Law in Juxtaposition


Set a place at the table for both law and grace

Published Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Presents were opened, candy flowed from our stockings, gift cards were exchanged and a lot of tasty foods covered the table. After our food comas, my family sat together and talked about life. Then, we began talking about what movies were out, and everyone wanted to see “Les Miserables.” We saw the film, and it had me in tears. 

This film/musical is the strong juxtaposition of two men. One, Jean Valjean, is a man who stole bread and served 19 years of hard labor for his crime. Hardly a just punishment, and yet he has been branded a thief with papers that remind him and others that he is not to be trusted. Another, his polar opposite, Inspector Javert, vows to make sure that Jean remembers his crime and remains in his place — at the bottom — and in the horrible state that the title accents. Forever his place is to remain wretched and poor.

In the middle of these two is an intervention, by a kindly bishop named Myriel, who extends the grace of God to Jean in a moment of his weakness (in which he steals valuables from the bishop’s home and the bishop, rather than press charges, gives Jean all that he stole and more — the candlesticks as well). He claims the man for God — and thrusts Jean on a personal quest for redemption and renewal. Jean makes himself into a vessel of grace, while Javert remains a dark shadow.

The musical aside, in my own mind and heart, I struggle between the seeming coldness of law (as I read the law of Moses) and the grace that the gospels hold. I read about Abraham and God’s extended hand, doling out blessings often to the undeserving, yet faithful man. I know that the order of law is necessary, and yet without the softness of grace, the burden on all becomes like unbreakable chains.

Consider the parable of the beaten and broken man, robbed and left for dead on the side of a road (from gospel of Luke chapter 10). A priest and a Levite, people of the law, passed the man by, both not willing to soil themselves with the messiness of mercy. His life of order held his humanity at bay. It was a Samaritan who bent his knee and cared for the man, took him to an inn and paid for his mending. The Samaritan is like Bishop Myriel, extending grace and allowing the blood and soil of reality to stain his clothes, mess up his carpets and drain his bank account.

Is there a struggle between order and grace in reality? I think so. Those who lean toward order (like Javert) like to understand the universe in terms of hierarchy and by the ability to hold structures together. Like engineers, their plans are intricate and can build great civilizations. The weakness of order is that it can be judgmental and cold. Those who lean toward grace (Jean) see the world as messy and moldable. Their strength is empathy, and their arms are wide open, seeking to catch anyone who needs care or a helping hand. The weakness of grace is to be run over by those who would take advantage of kindness and can be seen as foolishness.

I once heard a speaker say, “The ‘grace people’ and the ‘law people’ need to get together.”

This would be a good thing. The two intertwined create the goodness of justice and emphasizes the dignity of all people, everyone created to do great things. Imagine a world where the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan all stop to save the beaten man. They have a conversation, nurse the man to health and then feast together. They talk about their differences and learn from each other, all confident in who they are.

I’d like to be at that table.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Movie Review – Brave by Pixar Studios

Last weekend, my wife was out of town, so I did something I’ve never done before.  I saw a movie by myself.  The fact that I did this was a testament to the movie itself.  I’ve always been a big Pixar fan (all but Cars), so this had a huge draw for me.  I remember seeing Toy Story in theaters and being blown away.  Similar awe followed for the films The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and Up.  These are all beautifully done films with points that you can take home and think about.  Toy Story was about feeling loved and finding hope in rejection as relationships change.  The Incredibles was similar, but had an action twist, and added the twist of finding your identity and holding to it even when others don’t want you to, Finding Nemo was about adventures love takes us on, Wall-E had environmental and societal warnings strewn throughout a robot love story.  Lastly, Up was brilliant, so much so that I had to keep from tears.  It was about dealing with loss and finding new dreams even when the world seems to have left you behind.  Very powerful. Squirrel!

So how was Brave?  Sitting in the front right, surrounded by well behaved children (a little awkward), I was melded into the screen immediately.  Visually, the views are big, and the lands are gorgeous and green.  I felt a bit like seeing a cute sequel to Avatar with the huge landscape shots, and the people were so small as you panned in.  It was beautiful and the whole movie remains beautiful.

The story surprised me.  I figured going in, that this was going to be an action adventure, with lots of battles and witty comments ala Kung Fu Panda.  It turned out to be something very different.  The beginning comes off with a seemingly feminist slant, with a girl fighting for the right to make her own decisions.  Seen that before.  An archery contest shows off the superb talents of an excellent young woman.  The middle, however, is the surprise (and I won’t spoil it for you, which will make me suddenly seem vague, but it is for your own good).  But I will say that the story slows down where you might expect action.  There is a magical component – it feels more Disney (which probably makes sense since Pixar is under their umbrella), and a fairy tale takes place.  There is even a musical montage in the woods. It was very interesting.  Then at the end, the action breaks loose again, characters who seemed subdued are unleashed.  Conflict moves towards resolution and the plot seems uncertain – and a new enemy erupts.

The overall theme that came through this, was “Family”.  There is a bumbling father (a common stereotype), lively and mischievous triplet boys, and a very proper mother.  The interactions of this family were heart warming at times and when they collided, the children in the theater were delighted.  There was plenty of laughter all around me.  No wiggling, I was surprised.

**SPOILER ALERT** For those with children, I will mention that there is a dark dark Bear that becomes an antagonist – a dark force for evil.  It reminded me of the Dragon in Sleeping Beauty from my own childhood, or the Wolf from The Never Ending Story.  Something a child will not forget, but is good for them to fight the fear of.  I think it is still a good film for small children.  I did notice that Fathers and Mothers immediately used the Bear at the end of the movie as a talking point with their children, perhaps worrying that it was a bit too scary.  The kids seemed fine.

If you are interested in seeing a beautifully and colorful animated film with lots of laughs, and a fight for the family orientation, I recommend this movie.  There is a relationship between mother and daughter in this film that could really teach young ladies to respect why mothers expect so much of them (or their mentors, in the absence of a mother figure).  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Culture Stuff: My Thoughts on The Avengers Movie

To begin, I will say that if you are excited about The Avengers movie, have seen all the previous Marvel Superhero movies, and are wondering if it lives up to all the hype and whether you should see it or not – It does, go see it.  But why does it have appeal?  And why does it seem to have something that everyone can enjoy?

First, there is a collection of such a diverse amount of strong characters, that it would be hard not to relate to one of the heroes/heroines.  From the Black Widow to The Incredible Hulk, from Nick Fury to Captain America, there is a plethora of different types of characters each with different strengths and flaws all interacting on screen, teaming or not teaming up, in ways that sometimes produce awe inducing moments, and sometimes, you have to laugh and say “Oh, Hulk…you’re so…you.”

Second, the enemy epitomizes what we do not like about ourselves, and so there is a universal appeal towards defeating him.  The enemy, Loki, sees himself as “entitled” as a God.  He lords himself, and merely wants to be seen as the Great Ruler who “frees” people from their own “freedom”.  It is a terribly flawed statement, which shows how little he has thought it through.  What he really means is: I think I am better than everyone else, so kneel to me.  There is a great moment when an old man (possibly a Holocaust survivor), stands up while everyone else kneels to Loki, rejecting his “godhood”.  The Avengers movie is a case study in tearing down the wanton destruction a callous dictator can create in civil society.  I think that we don’t like the entitled part of ourselves, so we gain a bit of spiritual discipline when we set our hearts against the antagonist in this film.

Third, the last 30 minutes are explosive, but the setup is brilliantly maneuvered.  The film spends a good amount of time setting up the final battle royale.  There is something for everyone in this film (relationships, anger, self reflection, cool gadgets and toys, philosophy, etc.), and the characters spend a good amount of time realizing how they will not get played by the enemy, who has a plan, and how to defeat a seemingly invincible opponent at his own game.  I can’t give out too much away without this being a spoiler, but I will say that Captain America’s character impressed me even more, as he did a bit of theology (whether you agree with him or not), when he said, “There is only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that,” concerning the enemy.  I love it.  There is another even more humorous moment that I’ll let you experience on your own.  In the midst of the explosive energy, the conversations keep the film grounded and help us think through how we would act under stress.  It is a good study in what we feel we need, especially as all people across the globe face bigger challenges because the future continues to come.

All in all – this film had me engaged throughout.  It was the first film that I feel that 3D actually worked well (possibly because it blended so well, I only noticed it a few times, and when I did I realized how much it added to the High Def, rather than being a gimmick).  Kudos to the Costume Designers, who did not make the film feel like a cartoon, and to those who did endless calculations and renderings to make the computer graphics seem like reality.  The seamlessness of the film, with only a few slow moments, make this movie one of my all time favorites, at least in the genre of Semi-Philosophical Action Movie.  Well played.  Well played.

Two Movies on Spiritual Leadership – Cromwell, Book of Eli


It is always an impressive feat when a movie delivers amazing production, high quality acting, action, a deep underlying philosophy to undergird the plot AND a deep spiritual underpinning.  

Two movies, one recent and one older in origin, stick out in my mind as great works that inspire the spiritual person to greater discipline and leadership in one’s own life.

The older movie is Cromwell, 1970, starring Richard Harris and Alec Guinness.  The story chronicles Oliver Cromwell’s opposition to a King who does not listen to the will of the people through Parliament.  Alec Guinness, as Cromwell, does an amazing job delivering faith filled speeches throughout the film.  Not only does his belief inform his leadership of an army rebelling against King Charles’ unjust actions concerning land, and the changes to the Church of England.  While Oliver comes off a bit self-righteous at some points according to modern standards, it is nice that he has standards and justifies them.  He is also the archetype of the leader who does not want to lead.  He is thrust forward by circumstance and despite the desire to retire to a common life, Oliver is thrust into history by great events.  Though the movie and its costumes are all 1970’s level, the underlying principles are solid and the acting is superb.  The musical score is beautiful as well, full of tones denoting the importance of the time period.  For anyone who is persevering in a leadership role and trying to integrate their faith into everyday life – this is highly recommended.  And great for retro appeal. Modern movie goers may recognize Alec Guinness as the Emperor at the beginning of the film Gladiator, or the first Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Series.  

The more recent film is The Book of Eli, 2010 film by the Hughes brothers starring Denzel Washington.  The film is about a post-apocalyptic world of the future after a supposedly religious war that ends in nuclear obliteration of civilization.  Eli is a man who is traveling west to the California coast, despite warnings that there is nothing out there, to preserve a King James Bible, which he received supernaturally after being lead to it by a spiritual voice.  The main antagonist is Carnegie, the leader of a town with a clean water supply and a small military force, who wishes to expand his townships and create a small “kingdom” (my words, not the movies).  He is a literate man but is basically a dictator in the tradition of Musselini, Hitler or Stalin.  He wishes to have absolute power by any means possible and desires the Bible for the words in order to control the hearts of the people.  Having watched this a couple times now, there are many twists and turns – it is incredibly gritty (expect a high level of violence, alluded to cannibalism and basic survival battles).  But Eli acts much like one would expect a person of faith to behave. He makes mistakes, but keeps moving.  He prays, he teaches others the word of God if he sees their receptivity, and he survives when he needs to.  The rise of Eli and the degeneration of those who do evil is a pervasive theme in this movie.  For anyone who wishes to watch a film of spiritual perseverance even in times of great evil and survival ethics – this is a film to watch.  

Both of these films hit me in a deep way. I’ve watched them both several times and find new facets each time.  Each time I am inspired and come to it differently (because I have grown a bit and bring more to the interpretation of the film) than before.  These are great films to watch on your own, or with a group of theological/philosophical friends who would converse deeply afterwards.  A religion and leadership club in college would do well to discuss these films.   Enjoy.

The Hunger Games: Donald Sutherland is Perfect to play President Snow

Donald Sutherland has been selected to be President Snow.  This is an important character selection since President Snow is the person responsible for the continuance of the Hunger Games in Panem and the one who keeps control over the districts through his consolidated power in the Capital:

In Collins’ novel, President Snow is described as “cruel and ruthless in his intimidation and control tactics,” ruling over Panem and its contained districts for 25-plus years. He and District 12 tribute Katniss (Lawrence) have a contentious relationship throughout the series. (source)

The good thing is that Sutherland looks like President Snow’s description in the books.  And Sutherland has played bad guys before which is a plus.  Looking forward to this movie next year.

The Adjustment Bureau and How to View the World: Free Will vs. Predestination

**warning – possible spoilers**

Amanda and I recently saw The Adjustment Bureau and it really got me thinking about some big theological concepts.  First of all, however, it is a spectacular movie to watch.  The world David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellars (Emily Blunt) occupy is a stark one.  It is the city, made of concrete, rigid pillars, highly structured politics, and plenty of police and authority figures.  Norris is a rising young politician who is being groomed for the Presidency but is currently running for Senate.  Elise is a dancer.  They meet in a bathroom after Norris is defeated, but the chaos of Elise Sellars and their mutual attraction, inspires him to give a candid rather than scripted speech.  Slowly, however, you find that even that random encounter is not random.  There are agents assigned to great people (the movie hints that they are a sort of angelic force who watches over humanity). When Norris’s watcher slips up and misses an opportunity to make him spill coffee and miss a bus – Norris meets Elise a second time, they flirt, and Damon begins to reorient his life.  The watchers look in their book of plans and see their characters off course.  That wasn’t supposed to happen. (The Predestined begin to make their own lives).

Next – a whole new world is opened.  Agents take Norris to a different dimensional warehouse for interrogation.  From this point on Norris is aware that he has to live rigidly according to plan, that his life and Elise’s will not reach their full potential unless he stays away from her, and that if he purposely defies or reveals the existence of the Agency, his mind will be erased and he will fall into obscurity and insanity.

This is where the movie gets into the kind of mind warping that the movie Inception brought about.  Doors are revealed that if opened using a certain hat, they warp the agents from spot to spot.  They are not omnipresent and they can’t control everything, however they have different degrees of skill in bringing about “The Plan”.  They are extremely hierarchical and they employ “riot police”.  They are also afraid of upsetting the top tier of The Agency, including the Top Dog who appears to be God himself.

To be honest, this is a scary version of the world. It presents the very basics of the concept of Predestination in theology.  That God has complete control and brings about His plans regardless of what we perceive to be choices.  In this case, the agency is the wall that keeps us in our tracks.

Then, the concept of Free Will is broached with Damon’s character begins to break the tracks.  God somehow loses control at times or gives up control to see if humanity can handle free will and make good happen.  The breakout of the two world wars were told to be a Time with God allowed humanity a chance to live freely.  We failed, and God took control back with the agency with this Gestapo like Angelic Super Squad with fashions stuck in the 50s.

In the end, Norris and Elise take the case all the way to the highest court – God Himself.  Though God isn’t actually present, he has been watching the whole thing and when the two main characters break through everything in their path to stay together, God gives a report to the agents and allows their Plans to be removed, or changed.  They win and God is pleased.  You will have to see the movie to see how this whole thing plays out.  I enjoyed it.

But it did make me uncomfortable in a lot of ways.  One, God continues the Hollywood streak of being a hands off kind of being.  The one who created everything allows an Agency to run the Created.  The allowance of a Holy Spirit interacting in human affairs and moving the hearts of people isn’t directly part of the script.

Also – the negative view of humanity is devoid of the great good that people do every day.  It just shows that we automatically assume that we are all sinful creatures with little hope of redemption.  Very Calvinist.  But theologically, Christ came to redeem creation and make it new and whole again.  Being an optimist, I don’t see the world like this film portrays it.  The world is full of hope because Christ came.  The World Wars happened, but great forces of good stood up and Pushed against Evil, and the Axis fell and fell hard.  The good folks who fought to bring freedom to the persecuted peoples of the world learned from the reconstruction mistakes in World War I and did things differently.  The world has lived in the shadow of our greatest darkness and the greatest light since then.  You can’t present the darkness of people’s hearts without recognizing that God originally created us for Good and His goodness in Christ transforms people from the inside out.  We still mess up, but we are getting better!

I would love to hear how the film struck you.  Do you feel the world is rigid like this?  Do you feel that the world is merely being maintained? Or is the will of humanity being transformed and moving towards a better Kingdom – The Kingdom of God?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Feel free to comment below.


Technological Lifestyle: All the Internet Tech I Actually Use (Life and Ministry) And Why


(everything i actually use on the internets)


(1) Apple Computers (2008 Intel Imac, 2004 G5 Imac, 2004 G4 Powerbook) – My first computer was a 486 Digital Equipment Corp, and then later bought a Pentium IBM Aptiva.  When viruses and reinstalls, and craziness got me in a fever pitch, I invested some college money in my first Apple.  The G4 Powerbook is still used, and the G5 and Intel Imacs I use at home and office are the sleekest, easiest to use tech enablers I have today.  In a year or so I’ll have to update my G4 Laptop to a MacBook Pro.  Can’t wait.

(2) Iphone (3g, OS 4.2) – My first cell phone was a Nokia free phone I got with my first AT&T plan in Florida.  I’ve carried the same number to different carriers and different states, but with the Iphone came out, I tossed my current flip-phone, and handed my ipod touch to my wife, and have been wowed by the amazing smoothness (though not without bugs) of the Iphone.  I love the no-feedback keyboard for my fat thumbs, and the amount of games I download and play – well, its ridiculous.  Best thing my wife likes – Being able to course correct using Maps app in Atlanta traffic.  That’s the win guys.

(3) Firefox (3.6.13) – I used to use Netscape back in the day, but when that went under, I moved to Safari.  I kept having kids in my youth group install Firefox on my pc’s at church, so I checked out Firefox – and it is really robust.  It saves your tabs if you want, and I’ve had twenty tabs going with minimal slowdown and multi-tasking like crazy.  I like the skins, but don’t pay too much attention to the design of it – it just works, unlike explorer  :/ IMO

(4) Facebook (online, app) – I switched from Myspace because I got sick of the raunchy ads on News Corps ad machine.  Also, html edits kept crashing my browser, and Facebook was cleaner, and so much more simple.  It was like a business card for life.  Now, alot of our church is on there, I have almost 900 friends (which I know em all – wow), and do alot of communication that I would otherwise do on the phone or through email by this app.  I don’t play games on it though, because I don’t like third parties using my information.  http://www.facebook.com/dannonhill (but I’ll only add you if I know you in real life somehow or respect your research in your field).

(5) Twitter (online, app) – I was an early adopter of Twitter, but it didn’t catch me for about a year.  I had a dormant account.  Then I started finding other youth ministers on there, and found out that they linked their blogs.  I also found all the news sources I like on Twitter, and some experts on adolescent and religious development, so I basically had a stream of what others thought was the most important content in my field.  Basically predigested research.  I’m now an avid twitter reader by surfing articles and blogs, and the Favorite tab allows me to Star important articles so I can share my favorite feed with others, or save it for later.  My twitter is @dannonhill if you want to say hey 😉  On a side note – the Twitter App is well worth it (used to be Tweetie until bought by Twitter) and I manage 8 twitter accounts there now.  It works well.

(6) Pandora (app) – Basically, I listen to music (like the Moody Blues) in feed style on this app.  It basically just takes whatever style I want to hear and keeps playing songs in that genre.  Kind of nice, and you can thumbs down any song you don’t like. I have the unpaid version, so ads happen sometimes, but that’s no bid deal.  I hardly use my ipod app anymore because of this.

(7) Kingdoms Live (app) – I have been a huge player in Kingdoms Live, and even lead up a clan of 150 people (my code: 2ps1r).  My name is Muad’Dib there, so drop in and say hey if you have a profile.  For gamers, this is a stats based Multiplayer Online Game like an RPG, based around building a strong profile and fighting others by buying gear.   Use this app in conjunction with Palringo Chat Application where the players go for talking off the record.  Great game, lots of fun – though watch out – some of the trash talkers are more than pg-13 (but you can report them to Storm 8).

(8) Playstation 3 (Sony) – I watch DVDs on this mostly, with my wife, but  I have a few FPS RPG games (Fallout Series) that I enjoy exploring in.  My brother bought it for me for my Seminary Graduation gift, and its been in non-stop use since then because it really is a one stop media machine.  Thanks Aaron.

(9) Xbox 360 (Microsoft) – We bought this with the Kinect for our youth group, and it was a big hit.  It gets em jumping around, and people laugh at the silly pictures of you playing after your done.  If you have a group of Middle or High School students this is great leisure, and for personal use, its similar to the PS3 in gaming and has a broader user base as well.

(10) Wii (Nintendo) – I had the Wii when it arrived by being a Nintendo fanatic and waiting in a cold New England line.  I love Zelda, Mario, and Metroid, so it was an easy decision.  Lately, however, its main use has been to play Guitar Hero III at youth group.  The wireless guitars are great, and always get a room talking.  Love it.  One side excursion, the mini-game Lit is freighteningly good even with its PS2 like graphics.  Download it now.

(11) Real Books (For Real) – I’m part of a Sci-Fi Book club, and read fantasy and other epics from time to time.  Lately, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins have my attention, but the Dune Series by Frank Hebert and his son have enthralled me.  I’m also a CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien fan, but who isn’t.  Just bought the whole Chronicles of Narnia collection in one book at the library for $3.  Nothing like having a solid book to read, and I still don’t feel good about the digital book revolution.  I’ll wait til the kinks are worked out.

(12) Dropbox (on computers, iphone) – All my important files that I need everywhere are now wherever I go.  Dropbox gives me 2 GB free of storage space, and then pay for more if you need it, to have your files in a cloud.  I can access them on all my macs, and amazingly, my iphone as well.  I’ve used this so much – try it out.

(13) Evernote (app, online) – Just got tipped off on this by Adam McClane (Twitter @mclanea, Blog: http://adammclane.com/) who uses this to collect his thoughts for blogging, pics, and notes etc on the run.  I’ve used it several times and am getting more and more into it.  Especially the ability to take a picture, sync it, and be able to access the picture on my computer later for blogging without having to sync my phone.  Excellent app, thanks Adam.

(14) Camera, Contacts, Calendar, Clock, Safari, Photos, Notes (app) – SO basic – So Necessary.  I use these constantly.

(15) Flickster (Movies App) – My wife and I love the movies, and this has been a great app to easily grab movie times, ticket prices, phone numbers of theaters, etc.  They have lots of other integration that I don’t use with their internet website.

(16) Word, Powerpoint (Microsoft) – I’ve always been a Word guy, and when I went over to Apple, I didn’t think that Apple’s solutions were as good, so I bought a school copy of Microsoft Office, and I’m glad I did.  The Mac version of office is very robust, and it means you can communicate easily with .docs with the rest of the world. I like the ease of use, and that’s why I stick with this suite.

(17) Photoshop/Illustrator CS1 (Adobe) – If you want to do any Graphic Design, you need Photoshop!  And for logo design, I am a big fan of Illustrator.  If you’re a youth minister, these Creative Suite applications are good to save you lots of money in sending out graphic design work if you have time and creativity to pursue it.  I’ve been using these tools since High School, and continued in Graphic Design classes in college, and continue to aid the visual culture of my and other youth groups with these programs.  It’s well worth it, but initially pricey.  May have to budget it in.

(18) Garage Band (Apple) – Every once in a while I like to record something.  I was in a band in college called Dj Why and the Image, and I miss those days – so I tinker.  Google my name with For Sheriff and maybe you’ll find some of my stuff done in Garage Band.

(19) Holy Bible (app, by Paul Avery) – Of all the Bibles out there in the App store, this is the one I’ve latched to.  I know there are some internet dependent ones that are better, but this one is completely offline, and has lots of versions including some Hebrew and Greek versions.  Even Russian.  I like that, and have used it since I got my Iphone.

(20) Tumblr (online, app) – I’ve just gotten into Tumblr, because I like the quick microblogging that is possible.  I’ve wanted to make a Youth Ministry specific blog, and I now do that through Tumblr.  Still learning how it works, but so far, I’ve found some youth ministry sites on there that are great.  Only issue right now is that unlike wordpress (which is my personal regular blog), you don’t seem to get alot of random google traffic.  I don’t know if that even matters, but my ego likes to see numbers.  One nice thing about Tumblr is that it has easy Twitter integration, so it can autopost to a corresponding Twitter account.  Check out my integrated sphere here (http://twitter.com/multempire, and http://multempire.tumblr.com).

(21) Gmail and Google (online) – Quite simply, I use Gmail as my personal, and work email.  Its easy to organize everything, easy to search, and I have it integrated on my iphone to pick up all my accounts.  I use Google to search everything I need, and I love my tailored Google News feed.  I know I’m feeding a big machine, but if that machine is good, I’ll go along with it.  Thanks Google.  “Don’t be evil” 🙂

(22) WordPress (online, app) – This is by far the best blogging service all around that I have experienced.  It is highly mod able, though I’m not proficient enough to dig like others I’ve seen blogging.  I like the ease of use, and the ability to make regulars like me look better than I really am thanks to skins, and automation of many tasks.  This very blog is going out to you on WordPress, and so are 115+ other blogs I’ve done in the last year and a half.  The stat tools are good for OCD folks like me, and in combination with StatCounter, the site is well thought out, and fun to surf blogs on.  Look down below, and you can start your own blog.  Take the time – its fun.


So there you have it.  Everything I actually use, that I can remember…right now.  Let me know what you use and post a link to your blog on the same topic.  I’d love to learn of some new things.  And if I forgot something, remind me 😉

Reassessment of Top Movies

These movies are intense and awesome to me for varying reasons.  This is a personal list so I can come back to it later.

Gladiator (Kingdom of Heaven as well, and soon hopefully – Robin Hood also by Ridley Scott and w Russell Crowe)

Iron Man (1 and 2)

About a Boy

The Devil Wears Prada

Hot Rod (Brilliant)

The Secret of NIMH

The Hobbit (Animated Classic)

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)

The Dark Knight

What About Bob

Groundhog Day

The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston)

The Fiddler on the Roof

Terminator (1,2,3, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Salvation)

Star Trek (All – but especially the New Reboot)

Star Wars (original trilogy – specifically)

The Book of Eli

Rush Hour (1,2,3)

Alien(s)  (1,2,3, not 4)

Predator (1, not 2, not Alien vs. Predator as much)

All Die Hard movies

Xmen Origins: Wolverine

Humble Pie

That’s a start.  I’ll add more as I think of em.

Clash of the Titans: Story Gone Wild before Easter

I remember seeing bits and pieces of the original Clash of the Titans on TNT when I was growing up.  I was fascinated by the story of Perseus, the demi-god, but I couldn’t quite sit long enough watching the claymation to really enjoy the whole of it.  I knew there was lots of action, but the fake creatures really turned me off to the whole thing.  But when I saw that the flick was being redone, I became excited.  Updated graphics and with Liam Nieson, how could the film go wrong.  I’ll just say for our purposes that it was a good movie, because I’m not really going to review the film here.  I am rather interested in talking with people who did see the film about something that struck me very hard from beginning to end.

Follow me on  some syllogistic logic here.

(1) If the Greeks had stories which guided their lives about the gods, and of men, and of creatures – and how they all interacted. (Mythology)

(2) And if, in this story, the Greeks are defying their gods,  making a way for man to be free of the crushing fear that they are too small to affect eternity.

(3) Thus, in this story, the Greeks were throwing off old stories that hindered their ability to be masters of their own fate.

I have to admit, I am not a huge reader of mythology, but I know enough from High School to know that the stories of the gods were pretty messed up.  Their lives were as twisted as the people that believed in the gods.  Adultery, conquest, murder, revenge, and all human vices are present in the battles of the heavens.  These gods are basically super-humans, much like the super heroes of American comic books.  They are eternal, but they are still tinged with humanity.  The stories themselves show that they are a product of people who are in difficult situations, horribly intense ethical situations, and seeking to make sense of the universe that wishes to crush them with storms, volcanoes, floods, and famine.  The people are using their imaginations to tell stories that orient themselves in their situations.

But then the story of Perseus.

Half human, half God.  Bred in a moment where Zeus was defiling a married woman’s womb, Perseus is a mistake.  The whole story hinges on him being a surprise.  Humans don’t trust him, his father wishes his death, his mother is dead, and he does not know who he is or how much power he holds.  He constantly surprises himself.  What does that tell us about the Greeks that told this story?  It seems to me that they were surprised with some power that they had aquired.  Some mastery that they had attained, some normalcy that they had eeked out from existence.  Perhaps cities had formed refuges, as people banded together, and the seas and the wind, and the sun were no longer as terrible as their ancestors had imagined.  Their stories had become obsolete.  They needed Perseus because he made their new situation epic and real.  This was the spirit of their age.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age (28) do not seem to like this movie from the impromptu reviews that I’ve seen on facebook.  The positive reviews seem to be coming from teens, which is very interesting to me because teens are often surrounded by uncertainties, but simultaneously discovering great power that they did not have in childhood.  New mental and physical capabilities surface daily, and like Perseus, they grow into their surprises.

I think that my generation has come out of the teen years, the college years, and many are finishing up masters degrees or are now professionals, and they may feel that they do not need the story of Perseus.  They have attained their powers, they are using them, and they may or may not like the direction those powers have taken them. Perhaps we need reminding that we are never quite “There” yet.  That new powers are always being discovered.

Now on Easter morning I’m thinking of the story of Christ that is told every year through the liturgical Christian calendar.  It is a different story than the story of Perseus, despite some similarities.  Christ was not discovering powers, he already knew everything.  He had all power but chose to remain quite small.  His Kracken was not a physical beast, but a spiritual bondage that the whole human race was suffering under.  The story is not of a human realizing he was a god, but the God realizing the frailties of the humans he created through experience.  And in that frailties, became broken, died, and this Easter morning we remember that Christ lives, even now among us.  A transforming spiritual presence that tranforms all stories.

I know that many in my culture think that Christ’s story, like the stories of the old Greek gods, needs to be expunged from our identity.  We are trying to rediscover ourselves as masters of our own universe because our world somehow became tame, as the consumer made all things good.  But the story of Christ is not like the stories of the old gods.  God’s story is of a perfect being, who shows man his error in worshipping created things (even worshipping our own stories), and asks us to remember Him.  That we are not merely servants of God, but stewards of his creation, and that the scariest things on our earth that we feel are beyond our control, are actually our failures in loving our neighbors.  That our cities won’t necessarily fall from a Kracken, but that we can destroy our cities by being hard and callous towards others in our hearts.  In Christ’s sacrifice of life for all people, we see how we can sacrifice ourselves for others.

Good movie, good story, but one story orients life in a more perfect way.  I’ll continue more on this later.

Where The Wild Things Are (A Review)

I’ve noticed that opinions on Where The Wild Things Are tend to be split down the middle.  One side thinking that the movie was a waste of time (ala http://ow.ly/vgia), and the other enjoying the subtle visual cues, and emotional sound tracks.  I’ve talked with people on both sides, but here is my take:

Growing up, having been shown Where The Wild Things Are as a child, I had fond memories of the pictures.  I don’t particularly remember any story, or plot.  It just was something to be grasped symbolically.  I know there were words, but that didn’t seem to be the focus of the book.  The pictures were huge, detailed, and imaginative.  I got the story without listening, and that is probably because I have a terrible audio memory – my visual memory on the other hand is spot on.

So what does this have to do with the movie adaptation?  I think that people’s orientations (visual/audio/hands on) to learning severely affect the experience of this movie.  The movie should not be compared to other films that emphasize equal bearing on plot, dialogue, visual effects, and musical score.  This movie is rather, a work of art, telling a story through the images – and in the process, scaring children and emotionalizing adults.  My confession is that I left the theater emotionally affected.  As I remembered certain scenes, and images tagged to dialogueless moments, or times when only wailing and thumping drove the film – I had to hold my composure.  The images brought me back to a time when I thumped through the woods of New Hampshire.  I remember picking up sticks and whacking trees and ferns.  I remember being frustrated so I took it outdoors so my civilized home would not be destroyed in the chaos that could ensue with young raw emotion tied to an undisciplined body.

I think that ends up being a problem for viewers who are trying to critique the film based on any sort of criteria and wishing to disseminate that information to the masses.  This can be presented that way, but it misses the point.  This movie is meant for the individual, and it will either hit nor not hit us – as persons.  A person being a collection of experiences (in other words – an identity), which connects with the piece of art and reinterprets it themselves.  Unfortunately, our epic adventure flicks, and fantasy adventures are more likely to take us away from our experience and transport us beyond ourselves as we imagine something bigger than our own lives – but WTWT’s is a different kind of film.  It is deeply psychological, it is deeply symbolic, and its churning and flow grow up from who we are.  The viewer is forced to deal with their self, emotionally, and grapple with their childhood, with its ups and downs, and really big downs.  This can be a strange experience for people who merely wanted to “get away” or “escape”.


There was a moment in the film that really hit me philosophically as well, and it was communicated not by words, because the characters didn’t have the vocabulary to communicate what they were building.  There was a time in the film where Max sends the Wild Things on a building campaign (as King, much like Solomon, or Xerxes, or Peter the Great).  It is illogical and is in defense of imagined enemies (though there are no real enemies but themselves where the wild things live), they build a massive fort.  This building campaign unites them – they are doing this for their mutual benefit.  They know that they will be happy when they have a good defensible garrison with a secret entryway and the monsters can all sleep together in the same “pile” together – a family.

But when the massive structure is complete, the dream falters.  Without the busyness, the characters turn on each other.  They find that their reality doesn’t match the dream, and their “civilization” begins searching in a terrible identity crisis.  This ends in violence and one bird creature loses its arm in a conflict.  Eventually Max is dethroned, and leaves to rejoin reality.  The imaginary kingdom lays in ruins.


So should you see the movie?  I think so.  I think your enjoyment or repulsion will tell you a lot about yourself.  Be open to the impulses of the film that remind you of your own childhood, or if it wasn’t too long ago – find parallels with who you are now.  But leave conceptions of the film until after you have experienced it, so you don’t ruin the visual by comparing the plot to other films. Think of it as a therapy session, where you remember young angst, and the inability to control life.  Remember how frustrating it was, and how you dealt with it.  And in the end – deal with how You are.  The film may not be that important compared to the insights gained in the experience.

Now I’ve gone too deep, but that is my reflection.  My wife would not agree with me, that this was a deeper journey, but she enjoyed it as well.  I hope you find the film as well as I have.