Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Dude, God Has Given Me, Like, So Many Blessings..."

“I don’t know, man, like I have a lot of trouble sometimes, just trying to reach God, and keeping all of these temptations out of my head…”

“Oh, that’s great, man. Praise God, you know? He’s given us so much in this life…”

“Man, today was amazing. God was just helping me out, and it was so great, and He just gave me a great day….”

I think you’ve heard something like this before. Call me prejudiced, but after months of reading comments here, I have an idea of the sort of people who are reading my blog. A lot of you seem to be Christian. And I welcome that. It is with that background in mind that I put down those quotes. They're not verbatim. I put them down to get an idea of a certain style of speaking. Ever heard a teenager (or a youth minister) say something like that? I tried to replicate it, but you have to hear it. It’s as if the speaker wants to sound like a reformed Crip coming into Christ. Or something “gangsta”.

Don’t copy it. Please. I hear it everywhere, and I won’t hold it against the perpetrators, but I denounce it and hope I never slip into it myself.

It won’t be easy to explain why if you haven’t heard it. There’s a certain inflection that is used. I tried to pinpoint it with the italics. Speakers say those lines with a lot of emphasis. All the other words are more quiet, and slow, like they’re building up to those big phrases. What you wind up hearing is a lazy drawl.

It’s the drawling that disturbs me. It doesn’t sound motivated. Even with energy, it still comes off as someone trying to make Christ sound cool. Is that right? If you truly believe that everything in the world is ruled by a power that transcends your senses and your understanding… you don’t slur when you talk about it. If you do, you will sound like an idiot. People like me won’t believe you about your faith.

Religious faith is not compatible with a particular culture. If you want to make such a commitment, it must transform everything by definition. You cannot shift your worldview on such a fundamental scale without shifting yourself fundamentally. I haven’t done it yet, not fully. I use the lazy drawl in non-religious matters. Always I use it when I’m bored or apathetic. Or when I’m trying to blend in with other guys in my dorm.

When adults do speeches for teens, they use this tone. I have a stereotype of the 20-something who wants to be hip with the local youth group. Even up on a podium, those people try to talk like every uninspired sadsack in America. 

Have they forgotten that they’re on that podium for a reason? They have a job there, and that is to be the standard. People need someone to look perfect. They need that tangible sign that someone else has already been down the road they're walking, and can show them how to walk it. Religious speakers must be one of those tangible signs, especially for youth. They must show that they are free of culture. They cannot be bound by the evil in culture, and they must see through the neutral in culture, and appreciate the good in culture. They must show how they have been changed into something better by the truth, and look like they’re following the truth. They cannot sway with fashions any more than they can help it.

My apologies if this seems garbled to you. Essentially, if you mean to speak about a deity that is within, around, beyond, and over everything, and is absolutely undetectable by the senses, and speak about said deity like he is a reality… say it with respect. Make it clear in your voice. A sense of gravity is not a bad thing. I am pressed for time, and will say no more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

7 Ways to Make Hollywood A Better Place

Once again, I fail in my duty to post regularly. However, if all goes according to plan, from this post henceforward, you may expect new material every Sunday.

The time is ripe for a movie post! Oscars are on their way, and I’m sure there’s more people yapping about them than can fill a Wal-Mart. I’m adamant that Hollywood needs better storytellers. Therefore, I have some suggestions for them…

1) Put at least four of these men as stars in the same movie: Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McKellan, Christopher Lee, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. These men have been cast as butlers, wise mentors, and grand villains one time too many. They have amazing acting chops and they deserve a story that will let them use it. I will write the screenplay if I have to. In fact, I will write the screenplays for any of these if I have to!

2) Make a serious paranormal romance. Twilight is cowardly. Imagine if someone had a story where realistic happened between a human and a vampire, or werewolf, or demon, or whatever. What would happen? Is such a thing even possible? Would there be doubt in their hearts? Would they be able to have children? There are so many directions that Stephanie Meyer seems to have passed up. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never read the books.

3) Make on old-fashioned fairy-tale. Ever seen the climax of Sleeping Beauty? Or, more importantly, the whole thing? It does get girly at times, but when it hits the grand moments… it hits the grand moments. Watch the scene where the fairies break out Prince Phillip from Maleficient’s twisted, astoundingly huge castle. Watch them flee her wrath and then face her as a dragon, and all the fireworks that follow. Watch that and then tell me with a straight face that fairy-tales are stupid.

4) Make an inspirational movie that isn’t cliché. Seriously. I lost my faith in this genre longer ago than I care to admit. A fresh angle is needed. What is it that connects us to these films? What are ways to touch that something again without miring oneself in stereotypes.

5) Make a movie where sex and violence lead to consequences. The Graduate didn’t take this all the way, but the consequences it did show made for a ton of conflict. I was hoping that No Strings Attached would give it a chance, but according to reviews, it seems I hoped in vain. As for violence, the lack of responsibility completely ruined Taken for me. So action directors take heed. Make your characters pay for the evil they do, even the end justifies it!

6) Make a horror movie that does not show a drop of blood. Psycho and Alien scared me so much that I could barely look at the screen. Psycho, especially, was good at telling without showing, and it told so well that I still look behind me in the showers sometimes. Throw morality back in, and you’re set. Morals are essential for a good horror movie. If there are none, what is there to be frightened about?

7) Adapt any one of these books to the screen…
-          The Count of Monte Cristo (because the 2002 adaption with Jim Caviezel is great, but it didn’t adequately capture the essentials of the novel)
-          Redwall (Yes. It can be done. God rest the soul of Brian Jacques, and may he find someone who can bring his works to life without the result being either cheesy or pretentious)
-          Thunderbird (Odds are you haven’t heard of this one. It’s flawed, ambitious, sinful, and deeply engaging)
-          The Brothers Karamazov (This novel is practically begging to be put on screen. It would be a pain for whoever had to write the screenplay, but it can happen)
-          Morte D’Arthur (Everyone likes a good adventure. If someone can handle Malory without Hollywoodizing him too much, we’re in business)
-          Eragon (Do not speak to me about the 2006 movie. This is another escapist movie that could immense fun if done right. Please avoid the “beat-you-over-the-head” moralizing of The Dawn Treader movie)

I believe any of these films, if done correctly, will make for better stories for the American public. My, that sounded pretentious. Let me re-phrase it. People will like these stories, and by watching them, hopefully, they will come in contact with something deeper than what tends to be successful on the screen today.

Any questions?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Republican And Unsatisfied

Busy times call for idle measures. Therefore I will let my essay from school do the talking today. What political party do you support?


“I pulled up a PDF of the Republican Party Platform, circa 2008. It was 60 or so pages. The one for the Democratic Party was not much shorter. Therefore, considering the instructions to write a brief essay, I limit myself to two issues: abortion, same-sex marriage. I will detail my reasons for each when I come to them. What I will say now is that I am not completely satisfied with either party’s views, because they do not look at it from a philosophical perspective. I find this to be vitally important in politics. Philosophy asks questions about humans, and the world in which they live. Politics is the practical application of the answers. The two must interact. Since no parties face this seriously, and I must make a stand with someone who may reasonably make an impact on my country, I hereby endorse the Republican Party, and will compare it only with the Democratic Party.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats endorse education- as well they must, or the public would tear them to pieces. I might be among the first to lay hands on them if they ever endorsed otherwise. Education shapes the minds of a country’s citizens, and therefore the country. I do not like either of the two parties’ goals about it. However, the Democrats’ annoys me more. Their 2008 party platform does not even define what an education is. The closest definition I could find read, “The Democratic Party firmly believes that graduation from a quality public school and the opportunity to succeed in college must be the birthright of every child–not the privilege of the few” (Democratic National 18). They speak of how American youth must be trained to do well in the post-modern economy, and how declining test scores are hurting America so much (Democratic National 18). Reading this rhetoric, I get the impression that the Democratic Party believes education is a means to good socioeconomic status. I cannot accept this definition. Education is the shaping of the whole person, not job training.

The Republican Party comes closer to that ideal. When they come to education in their 2008 platform, the first sentence reads, “Education is a parental right, a state and local responsibility, and a national strategic interest” (The Committee 43). That is not much better, but it more explicit in defining terms. That carried my favor even before I read the following: “It is through education that we ensure the transmission of a culture, a set of values we hold in common. It has prepared generations for responsible citizenship in a free society, and it must continue to do so” (The Committee 43). The Republicans are thinking about deeper and ultimately more important things than dollar bills. I would prefer that they look even farther than social values, but this at least I can accept.
I am much more firm about the next issue: same-sex couples. The American verdict about this is an American verdict about sexual morality, and what a family is. My verdict is that men cannot copulate with men, and women cannot copulate with women. If this is accepted, there is nothing wrong with men copulating with sheep, or women copulating with oak trees. Same-sex couples are unacceptable. Therefore I rejected the Democratic Party when I read, “We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections” (Democratic National 52). I am not advocating persecution or violence against them, but I refuse to support their choice.

The Republicans agree with me. “Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it” (The Comittee 53). I fully endorse such a measure. The Republicans are clearly unwilling to allow this sin to gain any more ground on American morality. Whether or not they are willing to reclaim any ground is unclear, and I doubt highly that they have the political courage to do so. Nevertheless, we stand together on this issue.

There are several more issues I could compare between platforms, but the task description was a brief essay. Three pages are already pushing it, I wager. Therefore, I conclude with repetition. The Republican Party is far from the perfect party. They have slung mud at the Democratic Party, to a point that disgusts me, and they are philosophically stunted. Nevertheless, they fit closer to my views than the Democrats. In all likelihood, my voice will not do much here and now unless I side with the donkey or the elephant. I will endure the elephant for now.”

Works Cited

The Comittee on Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention. 2008 Republican Platform. Ed. Bill Gribbin. 2008. PDF file.

Democratic National Convention Committee. The 2008 Democratic National Platform: Renewing America’s Promise. 2008. PDF file.

P.S. If I messed up the citations, notify me and I'll correct them.