Friday, March 31, 2006

The Bible and Popular TV

The other night, my daughter was going to bed, and Krista and I were going to watch some TV. Julianna asked what we were going to watch, so, in trying to explain the show Prison Break I told her it was about some people who went to jail, but they didn't do anything bad, so they were trying to break out.

She said, "Like Paul and Silas?"

(Paul and Silas, were of course, thrown in jail after being falsely accused of disturbing the peace and subverting Roman law in Philippi.)

Well, she's learning something in Bible class at church...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Christian Music Sightings on Popular TV

I've heard Switchfoot songs on Smallville, but then, Switchfoot's a bit more mainstream and their message is more subtle. So I was genuinely surprised Tuesday night when I heard these lyrics from Kutless's All of the Words being played at the end of Scrubs:

By Your grace You let me come talk to You
It's not that I'm worthy I thank you Jesus
For the love that You have shown

All of the words in all of my life that could never explain and never describe
All of my love, which is nothing to hide so I lift up my hands and I worship
(If you're not familiar with Kutless, the group is currently popular on Christian radio stations with songs like Strong Tower and Voice of God Speak.)

It really surprised me, since Scrubs isn't exactly the watchdog-group poster child for "family-friendliness" on television. [Of course, family-friendly basically means "this show doesn't have any anything that's on our Bad Stuff™ list.]

It makes me want to ask questions like, Who chose this music? Why this song? It's interesting to me when I see expressions of my faith so overt in popular culture. Of course, it's always there, as Greg Stevenson might tell you, but it does tend to be a bit more subtle.

Then I found out on the radio yesterday (Wednesday) morning that one of the contestants on American Idol performed the song Shackles sung by the duo Mary Mary. Of course, American Idol is a favorite of the family-oriented watchdog groups. That makes sense, considering their strong emphasis on outward appearance. Singing ability might be important, but if you can't look and act like a celebrity, you don't have a chance. That's the message I want my daughter to hear. OK - let me get back down off this soapbox.

As I was saying, Mandisa sang Shackles, so the entire American Idol viewership heard her share
Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now

I just wanna praise you...
But it wasn't well-received by the judges. Randy (while praising her singing) questioned her choice of songs; Simon called it indulgent (not sure what he meant by that), and while Paula loved the singing, she seemed ambivalent about the song itself. (I don't watch American Idol, but luckily my brother and sister-in-law record it, so I was at least able to watch this segment.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

V for Vendetta Commentary

Short commentary.

V for Vendetta is an excellent film. I know Alan Moore (the writer of the original comic) hates it based on the script, but I think the film is extremely well-made. However, this isn't about how good I thought it was...if you even care about that, you can read my mini-review. Here, I just want to note a few of my thoughts after watching it.

In the film, the main character is trying to release Great Britain from the hold of a tryannical chancellor. It made me better appreciate our Constitution and the freedoms that we have, because whether the president is Bill Clinton or George W., we are still allowed to speak our minds regarding how we feel about him.

I guess I could be wrong, by I don't think Will Ferrell's ever been kidnapped and beaten by agents of the government for mocking the president.

Of course, if you're a female entertainer who airs your griefs on foreign soil, you might get hate mail and death threats from his supporters, but at least they're not from the government.

I realize it’s a fictional story, but regardless of what you think about the film itself, or the main character's actions, I'm not sure how you could watch this film and not come away with a greater appreciation of the freedoms that we have.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Health: Week 10

Ok, it's more difficult than I thought.

I've gone back to old eating habits. I've started working out, so I think they balanced each other out, but I'm kind of disappointed in myself for falling off the wagon.

I've also come to understand, just a little bit, why Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. Was it wrong for Jesus to eat? Maybe, but just because he had made a commitment to God to not eat.

Thank God for grace.

Off to bed so I can get up early and exercise.


Current Weight: 263#
Total Weight Change: -10#

V for Vendetta

It's late, so I just want to note that I just got back from the movie.

It was a fascinating experience.

I can't wait to see it on IMAX.

That's all I have to say about that. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Corpse Bride

In this age of computers, it's exciting to watch films that use reality more than virtuality to create the look they're trying to achieve. Don't get me wrong - some of my favorite films are animated by computers. Toy Story would probably rank in my top 10 favorite films of all time, and Jurassic Park is somewhere high on the list. But there's something about the texture of real life that can't always be captured by animation. I think this is why I'm so drawn to films that still draw on realism to express a mood. I still love stop-motion like Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and films like Mirrormask that involve more live-action puppets than animated ones. Of course, it doesn't hurt that these films are helmed by creative geniuses like Tim Burton, Nick Park, and Neil Gaiman, but that quality of reality is still there. Even with a traditional live action film, there's something about makeup that trumps digital effects. (Though I do realize that in this age of computers, they are heavily involved in making just about any type of movie.)

Of course, maybe I'm just fooling myself and couldn't tell the difference if I didn't already know, but we can pretend.

So yesterday morning, before the rest of family woke up, I dragged my tired body out of bed, made a pot of coffee and watched Corpse Bride, since my daughter Julianna is probably a bit young for it (she'll be 4 next month), and my wife Krista just isn't as interested in non-live-action films as I am.

And I loved it. It's a great film, with awesome visuals and a sweet love story. It's is also an interesting study in contrasts. More a contrast between the world of the living and the world of the dead, as opposed to Burton's previous stop-motion venture, Nightmare Before Christmas which contrasts Halloween and Christmas. As a matter of fact, Nightmare is equally as fascinating as Corpse Bride, but on different levels. Now if I could only convince my wife to watch it with me.

Opening weekend

I'm going to see V for Vendetta tonight - nothing like seeing a comic book film on opening weekend! I'm looking forward to see if it's bad as Alan Moore thinks.

Quote of the Day
They were written to be impossible to reproduce in terms of cinema. And so, why not leave them simply as a comic in the way that they were intended to be? And if you are going to make them into films, please try to make them into better ones than the ones that I have been cursed with thus far.
-Alan Moore on the comics and graphic novels he's written (From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mirrormask and Comic Book Movie Stuff

I saw Mirrormask last night - truly an amazing film. Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean at their best. Another film I'm kicking myself for not seeing at the theater. Gaiman weaves an exotic tapestry of a story and Mckean applies it to canvas. [Did I mix too many forms of art there?] Dark and bright all at the same time, it's the kind of film that leaves you awestruck. Rent it or buy it or something...just see it.

Here are a couple of interesting articles intertwining Mirrormask and Comic Book Movies:

'$1m a minute to film? No problem' by Neil Gaiman

Best quote from the article:

Comics are one step in the digestive process of Hollywood eating itself.
-Alan Moore

It’s not always who draws wins by Dominic Wells

Best quote from the article:

Basically, it’s the work of two thwarted and impotent liberals who want to say how annoyed they are with their President, but want to do so in a safe way — by setting it in a fantasy Great Britain.
-(again) Alan Moore, describing the film V for Vendetta - the Wachowski-adapted version of the Moore graphic novel of the same name

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Health: Week 9

Well, I've been getting hungry every day. I'm thankful that God has been keeping me on the same path. It's not as difficult as I thought, but then:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(Paul, in his letter to the Phillipians)

Current Weight: 263#
Total Weight Change: -10#

The Bare Necessities

A couple things struck me while watching Jungle Book with my daughter last night...I hadn't seen the film in a long time.

One of the characters actually quotes Jesus:

Greater love hath no one than he who lays down his life for his friend.
-Bagheera the Panther

Jesus says this when talking to his disciples about the importance of love just before he died:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (King James Version)

Interestingly enough (to me anyway), while this film was released in 1967, and the New International Version New Testament wasn't published until 1973, the NIV quote (except for the "hath") sounds closer to what was said in the movie:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Something else that I noticed was how the song The Bare Necessities speaks a lot to our culture today - and seems to echo the sentiments of a subculture that's trying to be less consumerist and less about our stuff, so that we can be more about generosity and giving. Take a look at some of the words...

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life
And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you

This is what Jesus had to say about the very same things:

Don't worry and ask yourselves, "Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?" Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ultraviolet, Comic Book Movie

Pure, pure comic book, indeed.

That quote from writer/director Kurt Wimmer proved more prophetic than statement of fact.

I saw Ultraviolet this weekend, and I'm glad I did - it was well worth the watch. I won't spoil all the comic connections here (check out my review for a more in-depth discussion), but the film has an intense comic book feel. And it appears that all the internet references to the obscure European comic was a sly marketing ploy akin to what Mark Hamill did with Comic Book: The Movie, albeit with a little more cash behind it.

The movie started extremely strong, but kind of languished in the middle. It ended stronger, but if it could have maintained it's intensity, it could have been an excellent film, rather than just a good film.

I remember thinking something similar at the end of Wimmer's Equilibrium where the climactic end lost something...I think his movies would have more success, if he could maintain what he does right with some consistency throughout a film.

I have to get in one more comic book connection (external to the film): Milla Jovovich has a quote in an article I saw over at, comparing her protagonist in Resident Evil (Alice) with Violet in this film:

I think Violet is very much like some mythological character I had in my head, where Alice is a bit more of a modern character in my head. Violet was kind of all my dreams of being a ninja my whole life, like coming true in this moment. There was a bit more of that comic book edge so it was a bit brighter.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Health: Weeks 7 & 8

I've lost a few pounds over the last few weeks. But when I had lunch on Ash Wednesday at Krystal's (mainly to see if there was WiFi access - there was, but it wasn't much better than Atlanta Bread Company's), I came away with this awful, bloated feeling. Is it apparent that I'm not in the practice of doing anything different during this time of year?

That day, with some prayer and reflection, I decided to give up food, in a sense, during Lent. Or more specifically, give up that "full" feeling I'm so fond of. It's interesting that gluttony is an indulgance we never discuss; but I've talked about that before. If there's anything I abuse, I'd have to say it's food. So during Lent (the 40-day period, excluding Sundays, before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday), I'm going to concentrate less on food. Whether that means not eating anything after lunch (which I did after that Krystal's meal), or just halving portions of regular meals and reducing the amount of snacking I do during the day, my actual practice will probably change from day to day. The point being getting used to getting physcially hungry at least every day; hopefully several times during the day.

I'm not doing this primarily to lose weight (or at least I don't think so - if I was I'm pretty sure I'll fail - we'll see). I'm doing this for a number of reasons. For one, to understand what it's like to not be full all day long. I live in a culture where it's easy to gorge myself at every meal. Plus, the constant barrage of marketing of snack foods really helps me in keeping that "overly full" feeling throughout the day. I feel like I need to understand what it's like to not feel that all day long. Understandably, at any time during the day, I know that I can eat, so it's not like I'm able to relate to someone who unwillingly experiences hunger on a regular basis; I'm not deluding myself that I'll have some new kind of understanding of what it's like to go hungry. Jesus fasted for 40 days; and while I'm not ready for that, I want to be reminded just how long he went without food, even if it's just by experiencing hunger on a daily basis.

Also, I think there is this major disconnect with food in my life that needs "fixed", so to speak. Sometimes I think it's odd that to say a prayer of thanksgiving for my food because it seems like it would go like this: "Dear God, Thank you for this food I am about to abuse myself with..." I mean, how can I ask God to bless something "to the strength and nourishment of my body" when there's nothing to work with? "Bless this deep-fried, fatty, non-nutritious food to my health." I realize He's God, but it seems somehow wrong to ask Him to do all the work when it comes to my health.

I just need to put food in a different perspective, and I'm asking God to do that over the next 40 days or so. It's not the traditional Lenten fast (one meal a day, around mid-day), but I think it's a step in the right direction.

Current Weight: 267#
Total Change: -6#