C.S. Lewis: Five Books that Changed My Life

Of the Inklings, C.S. Lewis has had the greatest impact on generations of Christian scholars. Inside of the Torrey leadership, I would guess he is the author with the greatest shared impact on all of us.

He certainly changed my life. I am a Christian in great part because of the role his works had in shaping my imagination. I am the kind of Christian I am, because Lewis wrote and lived as he did.

There is no moment I can remember when Lewis has not been one of my primary literary guides. As a child my basement room had a map of Narnia carefully rolled out on a table in the middle of my work space. My first club formed with my brother and a dear cousin attempted a unification of Narnia with all our other favorite writers. We played at Narnia . . . hard enough to scar ourselves with metal swords carefully constructed out of scrap metal.

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Poetry Friday: Billy Collins

Today's poet is Billy Collins, New York City native, U.S. Poet Laureate since 2001 (aren't you glad, in spite of our country's general disregard for the arts in general and poetry in particular, that we have a poet laureate?), and recipient of most of the prestigious fellowships and awards that you can earn as a living American poet. Collins' poetry is simultaneously accessible and profound.

He has a website called Action Poetry, a collection of short films of his poetry, which I highly recommend - especially if you don't "like" or "get" poetry. The poem below is included on the website.

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People always ask me, "Why does Hollywood turn out so many loud, abrasive, empty-headed movies?"  Do movies have to insult our intelligence?   Can't we find something life-affirming instead of soul-draining?    The studios suggest that they simply supply what audiences want.  If we supported smaller, independent films loaded with heart, we'd get more of them.   Here comes another golden opportunity.

The most timely and relevant film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival was THE VISITOR.  It is smart, subtle and filled with sneaky humor.  It puts a human face on the immigration issue and causes us to consider the cost of our post 9/11 policies. The timeless biblical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" emerges from the movie.   The performances are spot on, brimming with nuance and intelligence. Basically, The Visitor is a brilliant independent film that will likely by overlooked until Oscar time. You can read my complete review here.
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Tags | Film

The Search for Online Truth

If there's one constant about technology that trumps all others, it's this: change. We can be sure that whatever technology is cool and useful and popular today will be replaced by something that's cooler, more useful, and more popular tomorrow. It's just the way it is.

With truth it's different. Unless you're a relativist, truth doesn't change. We need to know that what's true today will still be true tomorrow. We also need to know that the content we access, whether it's on a printed page or in some kind of electronic form, is trustworthy.

At ConversantLife.com, we are committed to both technology and truth. We are using the latest technology to present trustworthy content by a team of passionate and knowledgeable communicators, all the while inviting our users to comment and post content of their own in the form of news stories that have faith implications.

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From the opening strains of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” through the rousing finale of “Yes We Can Can,” YOUNG @ HEART makes audience laugh, shout, and celebrate. This inspiring documentary follows the rehearsals of a geriatric choir (average age 80!) in Northampton, Massachusetts. Led with a punk rock ethos by Bob Cilman, the Young @ Heart chorus includes great, great grandparents. It is the most entertaining film I’ve seen in 2008.

Director Stephen George focuses upon the most lively characters in the choir, including 76 year-old, Stan Goldman and saucy 92 year-old Eileen Hall. At the beginning of the film, the camera seems to be laughing at them. Their shouts animate renditions of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” Producer Sally George also stages some hilarious music videos to The Ramones’ “I Want to be Sedated” and David Bowie’s “Golden Years.” But soon the satire turns into something far more moving.

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Tags | Film

Wresting With Evil and Hope

Christy Tennant continues her conversation with Makoto Fujimura about the third language…

CT: Tim Keller’s latest book, Reason For God, deals with addressing hard questions that all people grapple with. For example, he delves into the theology of suffering, and all the hard questions that arise simply because “good people” suffer tremendous evil, while “evil people” seem to get off scot free. How does the issue of suffering inform your art?

MF: Tim’s book is apologetical – it’s a resource aimed at defending our faith. But he’s been doing this since the ‘90’s – this book is not just because of “new atheism;” it’s not a response, as much as it is an addressing of genuine questions bubbling in culture for a long time.
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Bananas with Larry Norman

For just over a month now I've been trying to come up with a proper response to the passing of Christian rock legend Larry Norman. Nothing's been adequate, so here are some memories instead:

The first time I ever played for a paying audience was as the opening act for a Larry Norman concert at Glad Tidings Church in Vancouver. My teen-aged brother was the concert promoter (now you know how I got the gig.)

To my brother Chris and me (and to many others), Larry was already a legend back then. We'd freaked out to "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", campfired to "Sweet Song of Salvation", felt dangerous and cutting edge to "Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music" and worn out our cassettes to "The Outlaw" and "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus". What blew our minds was that Larry agreed to stay at our house (which was our parents' house), and I have a particularly poignant memory of sitting on our couch watching Sesame Street and eating bananas with him.

Tags | Music

Man Is the List-Making Animal

I’m biding my time until my review of Expelled hits the ‘net. Until then, here’s something to break the silence.

I recently discovered a website called YMDb (your movie database), which appears to be nothing more than a massive collection of favorite movie lists from users around the world. Anybody can join, so I quickly logged my top twenty. It’s fun, and it’s free!

Choosing favorites can be as painful as passing a kidney stone, but it’s also a healthful exercise in decision-making, and sometimes you discover things about yourself in the process. Here are my current choices, culled mostly from memory and subject to change at a moment’s notice.
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Tags | Film

The Cult of Sincerity

As you know, I see a lot of indie films. I also ride the subways with a lot of hipsters. And I know a lot of filmmakers.

And I haven't been this excited about a movie in a while. It's called "The Cult of Sincerity", and it will be the first full-length feature to premiere, for free and in its entirety, on YouTube. The big day is April 8, 2008, and you can read the whole press release or join the Facebook group.

How does it work? The filmmakers teamed up with AmieStreet.com, a digital music site for indie musicians - AmieStreet will donate $1 for each viewer who signs up for a free no-strings-attached account at their site (and they'll throw in two free music downloads just for kicks). The film is also available for a $3 digital download to your iPod or other mobile video device, and $2 of that will be donated to Fount of Mercy, a charity which works at a very low overhead with grassroots organizations in sub-Saharan Africa to provide help to widows and orphans.

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Tags | Film

March Reviews

Gus Van Sant continues his odyssey through the inner landscapes of wayward youths with Paranoid Park,a film of ambitious formal invention and negligible impact. In tellingthe story of a skater kid (Gabe Nevins) trying to cope with hisinvolvement in a horrible tragedy, Van Sant once again turns toexpressive slow motion to isolate and extend moments of great emotionalturbulence. All of this is very lyrical, some of it strikingly so (theace cinematographer is Christopher Doyle), but for all the time spentwith this uncomprehending lad, the film never reaches beyond theobvious.

Snow Angels marks another step in the devolution of David Gordon Green, the promising young director of George Washington, who with each successive film seems to shed the qualities that made him interesting in the first place. His scenario, a small town gripped with grief over a recent tragedy, promises much, delivers much less. We also get something we haven’t yet seen from Green—mild condescension toward his characters (though they are sensitively acted by all). The ill-judged ending, in which a character does an extremely desperate deed, doesn’t come across as honest. The trick is to make the final moments seem both excessive and unavoidable. In Green’s hands it only seems like a filmmaker’s conceit.

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Tags | Film
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