April Reviews

Some more reporting from the land of the moving image:

Leatherheads is a colorless comedy (literally—the sepia-toned photography turns 1920s America into a perpetual autumn of burnt leaves, mud, and crabgrass), although not without a few brightspots. Directed by and starring George Clooney, it offers a glimpse of the early tumultuous days of professional football, when the players had to compete with the more popular college market. The film is rudderless and a trifle boring, although a few of the visual gags (a human shape emerging from a slough; a grazing cow taking notice of a scrimmage game) are well executed. With Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce.

My Blueberry Nights is Wong Kar-wai’s first film to use the English language, though it makes rather better use of his favorite language of all—the language of love. Except for the unusually coarse image, the film has a seductive surface—everything seems to be lit by neon lights, traffic lights, candlelight. It’s a film to get lost in. Lawrence Block collaborated on the screenplay, and it resembles a good short story—lightly plotted, but rich in detail. Wong’s game plan is to cast a moody spell based entirely on shared experience. If you’ve ever been kicked in the groin by love, you will empathize with these characters. With Jude Law, Norah Jones, Natalie Portman, Rachelle Weisz, David Strathairn, and, in a particularly arresting cameo, Cat Power.

Tags | Film

MONSTERS!? Cloverfield and Emerging Christians

Having heard my fill of speculation regarding emergent Christians, I finally found an appropriate equivalent.  The panic sweeping the streets in Cloverfield matches the hyperbole abounding on the blogosphere about whatever Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell et. al. MAY espouse. Fear can be fun. Fear can be silly. Fear can also be foolish. Why are we so wound up about a revitalizing movement?   Read more about it at OUT OF UR.

And if that isn't enough, I expanded the metaphor with a second post. How did producer J.J> Abrams create such advance buzz for a reimagination of monster movies?   When have we allowed panic to supercede discernment?   These random musings on faith and culture generated heated remarks.
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Tags | Film

Poetry Friday: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is the quintessential American poet. He's most well-known for his book of poetry, Leaves of Grass.

He also was the impetus for the creation of the park in which I run every morning. Thanks, Walt.

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,

God in a Nashville Bar

It’s Sunday night around 10 pm Nashville time. My work and pent up curiosity have brought me to Nashville, Tennessee for the GMA (Gospel Music Association) Conference. What began years ago as a giant celebration of Christians in the music industry has now become a spectacle of all things Christian-Culture. Today alone I’ve witnessed everything from godPods and godtube, to Convert tennis shoes and yes…even Christian water. I’ve heard song after song sung from Christian songwriters: some famous, some not, and some who aren’t but think they are.

In a moment of pure jet-lag induced exhaustion, I turned around from the acoustic showcase I was supposed to attend, out the hotel doors, and began walking into the brisk, southern air toward the neon lights of Music City. Following the cadence of about 20 different drum sets down one block to another, I slipped inside a bar where acoustic instruments were exploding with electric energy. My ears perked to the sound of dueling fiddles clashing against the rhythms of a double bass as the smell of alcohol and smoke filled the room, a room filled with passion and realness…and more cowboy hats than I’m normally used to seeing.
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Tags | Music

The World That Ought to Be

Christy Tennant and Makoto Fujimura continue their conversation about the evolving “third language…” Here, they discuss five specific terms in the third language: rehumanize, creative catalyst, generative creativity, the world that ought to be and mediate.

CT: Let’s talk about the language itself. One of my favorite words in the third language is “rehumanize.” I find it really insightful that the word “dehumanize” is recognized by SpellCheck, but rehumanize is not. When I type “rehumanize” into Dictionary.com, I am told, “No results found for ‘rehumanize.’” So clearly, this concept is not common. How would you define “rehumanize?”

MF: “Re-humanize,” which I took from Jane Eyre, is, to me, rooted in the biblical theology of shalom found in Isaiah 61, which is also what Jesus quoted when began his public ministry. This passage is God’s re-humanizing vision for the world. It’s also in Romans 8. Creation itself is waiting for the re-humanization of humanity. God has frustrated creation so that it won’t be satisfied until humanity has been restored. I love the way Hans Rookmaaker put it – “Christ did not come to make us Christians; He came to make us fully human.”
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Why My Family Switched to Apple: Five Reasons

My family home schools. That means computers are necessary and everyone in the family has their own. I have been running a home network of seven computers for the last five years. It has been a nightmare job.

One day I noticed that my personal Mac was never causing me troubles. It was older and slow, but always doing its job. Once a hard drive crashed, but I had backups (which are easy to do) and after an evening of work was back in business.

Vista (outside of the marvelous media center application) has been horrid. Only an eight year old computer in the network (now too slow for most functions) did not constantly blue screen or cause other problems. XP by the end was marginally better, but looked like a Mac from a decade ago and was horrible at networking.

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Poetry Friday: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson - many an American schoolchild's first introduction to poetry. She wrote highly accessible, whimsically capitalized, incisive, rhyming poetry during the mid 1800s, even though she lived a mostly secluded life.

This one was part of the New York City MTA's "Poetry in Motion" project. I read it while riding to work one morning and thought how many storytellers - especially Christians - could benefit from its exhortation.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually

Danny Federici and the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen’s sound cannot be separated from the E Street Band, especially the evocative keyboards of Danny Federici. I have so many vivid memories of Springsteen shows--from the Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina (1981!) to The Greek Theater for “The Seeger Sessions.” Last year, I had the privilege of catching Springsteen’s “Magic” reunion tour with the E Street Band at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Danny was in the house, commanding the keyboards. So the passing of Federici from skin cancer deserves a serious moment of silence and respect.

Although he created several solo works, Federici’s most distinguished recording remains “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”  His accordian playing immediately snaps me back to the New Jersey boardwalk and an ocean breeze. Tonight, I play “Sandy” for Danny. As Springsteen sings–

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Tags | Music

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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