Saturday, March 26, 2011

Also from Metaxas' Bonhoeffer biography

A quote from Hitler:

It's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? the Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?

For those who think Adolf was a Christian guy.

Amazing Bonhoeffer Quote

Came across this while reading Eric Mextaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. DB wrote this during his 1930-31 trip to the United States, "I want to have a look at church conditions in the South, which allegedly can be quite peculiar, and get to know the situation of the Negroes in a bit more detail. I don't quite know whether I have not perhaps spent to much time on this (race and segregation) question here, especially since we don't really have an analogous situation in Germany..."
This was, of course, before Hitler's rise, but is a reminder not to take our freedom lightly.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Top Ten Movie Theater Experience #1`: "The Terminator" (1984) & "Code of Silence" (1985)

It’s a difficult call for #1 movie going experience, but I knew it would be something I saw with Mindy. I always remember hearing in my youth that one should really be more creative with dates than dinner and a movie. But movies comprised a majority of my dating life, even, especially with Mindy (often without the dinner.)

So which experience to choose? I could have gone with the movie Mindy thought was our first date, “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985) which Mindy thought of as our first date. (But I just asked her to go at the last minute with another couple and didn’t think it was a date.) I could have chosen the film I thought of as our first date, “Desperately Seeking Susan” (1985). (Mindy wondered why I acted so nervous, like it was a first date, when she thought it was the second.)

I could have gone with the drive-in double feature of two really bad films (“Teen Wolf” and “Volunteers” both 1985) which we saw the night I proposed. Or the movie we saw on our honeymoon (“F/X” 1986).

But I have to go with a drive-in double feature that a bunch of us guys from the dorm of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School were very excited to see. Arnold and Chuck for the price of one. I had already seen “The Terminator”, but certainly wasn’t opposed to seeing it again. And “Code of Silence” was a Chuck Norris film that had actually gotten two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert and that did not happen very often.

So I asked Mindy if she wanted to go. She said no, but she began to pop popcorn for us to take to the show. I said to her, “Oh, come on, Mindy, you’ve never let us down before” and she agreed to go. I didn’t know that the reason she didn’t want to go was because the cost of the show would wipe out her remaining cash.

Several of us guys went, Mindy was the other girl. She rode in a different car than I did, but when we sat on cars to watch the show, she sat next to me. We came in halfway through “Code of Silence”, a film about a cop fighting police corruption. We then watched “The Terminator”, a film about utter awesomeness. We then watched “Code of Silence” in its entirety.

Mindy rode back to school in another car. But she had been right next to me for 2 ½ guy films. This won over my admiration almost as much as her willingness to listen to me talk about that incredible new comic, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

In the next couple of weeks, Mindy and I will celebrate our 25th Anniversary. Thanks, Arnold. Thanks, Chuck.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A "Weirdly Engaging" Bill Review

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stewardship Skit from a Couple of Years Ago

[Setting – Five people lined up in chairs with usher bringing offering plate. Voiceovers are used for each person as they hold the plate, starting with the usher.]

USHER: Nothing from that first row. What a bunch of cheapskates. How are we ever going to get the parking lot repaved unless these cheapskates start coughing up some dough?

KID: (pulls out handful of pennies): I got all the pennies from my brother’s piggy bank. This is going to be the loudest offering ever.

PARISHONER 1: (holds plate in lap while puzzling over amount to write on check): Now what has the entertainment value of this service been? The music was good this morning, but last week’s sermon dragged. I hope today’s will be better. It certainly was better than the Adam Sandler movie Larry dragged me to last night, and that cost $9.00. Of course, my cable bill is $30 but the whole family uses the TV, and that’s for a whole month. I know, I’ll give what it cost to see the community theater production of “Sound of Music”. It’s important to support the arts.

PARISHONER 2 (putting envelope in plate): I do need this tax deduction! Uncle Sam is going to take a hefty bite. I need to be careful to leave the envelope right side up so people can see the size of my offering. Should I add an extra zero on the envelope? No, it would probably throw off the usher’s count.

PARISHONER 3 (putting in cash): Okay, God, I’m putting in $5 for what I did to Betty, $10 for those extra bourbons the other night and $20 for the time on that website. You know which one I mean. Does that make us square?

PARISHONER 4 (putting in a check): Thanks God, for a chance to give back to You. You’ve given me so much! It’s such fun to be able to give back.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Top Ten Movie Theater Experiences #2 “The Star Wars Trilogy”

Sure, making it a tie between the original trilogy is a cheat, but who’s reffing the game, anyway?
The first footage I saw of “Star Wars” was a preview on Creature Features. The host of the show, Bob Wilkins, was lauding the film as the “Science Fiction ‘Gone With the Wind’”. But I wasn’t impressed. I thought the ape guy (Chewbacca) didn’t have make-up nearly as impressive as what was done in “Planet of the Apes”.

My family went on vacation the summer of ’77 to Colorado. And a cousin of mine told me I had to see this film. He spoke with awe about “Star Wars”. He had already bought the LP soundtrack. So I went with him to the theater in Grand Junction. Have no idea of the name of the theater, but it had a big screen. And when those space ships passed right over my head, I was in love.

So three years later, I thought I was ready for the sequel. Yeah, I expected to love it as well, but I didn’t think there would be anything that would surprise me as much as the original film itself. After all, I had been to that universe several times by then. I went with Gregg Naslund and Garth Shaw to the Corta Medera theater with the 70 mil and the huge speakers. While waiting in line, Garth (who had seen the film) hushed some people exiting the show. Apparently, there was some big secret. I was loving the film, but when Darth’s big reveal came, I was dumb struck. The rest of the summer of 1980 was spent arguing whether it could be true. We came up with all kind of theories to work out how Obi Wan’s claim that Darth had killed Luke’s father and that Darth WAS Luke’s father could both be true. (And just about every theory we came up with was better than the lame, punk exposition of the Lucas garbage second trilogy.)

I was anxious, desperate to see the next film. In the summer of 1983, I was working at the UA5. So I was able to go to the employee’s screening the night before the opening. This was before it was common practice to have midnight screenings for the general public. We felt like we were seeing it before anyone else in the world. I invited my sister Lola and her husband Dave to come. Lola was not impressed with Jabba’s muppets, but I was okay with them. But when it came to the scene with the great pit of Carkoon, the resting place of the powerful Sarlacc, well, the awe was back in full force.

Looking back, I’m with the general consensus that the ‘Jedi’ is the least of the originals. But on that night, as the story was completed and the heroes found victory….Well, as you can see by the rankings, the first viewings of each of these films I found were theater going highlights. And you may think it sad, but they were life highlights. (I don’t find it sad at all.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Cost of Pretty

At a recent memorial service for a dear woman of our church, among photos of the woman’s 90+ years hung a couple of landscape paintings. Pastor Becca commented, “She used to offer some of her paintings for sale at the Fall auction. But usually they didn’t sell. It made me sad.”
I recently finished reading a novel about the art world, An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (Grand Central Publishing, 2010). The book covers the New York art scene from the 1990’s to the present(ish), focusing on a Holly Golightly-like character by the name of Lacey. Lacey ventures into the world of art for the love of it, but something changes in her when she works at a prominent auction house.
Martin writes, “At Sotheby’s, she started to look at paintings differently. She became an efficient computer of values. The endless stream of pictures that passed through the auction house helped her develop a calculus of worth…When Lacey began these computations, her toe crossed ground from which it is difficult to return: she started converting objects of beauty into objects of value.”
Lacey pursues art for money’s sake, and hurts a number of people along the way.
It is quite easy to fall into the trap of viewing art through the lens of monetary value. Not just painting, but also literature, photography, woodworks, etc. If someone is willing to pay for it, then it has worth. Stephen King wrote in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Scibner, 2000), “If someone is willing to pay for your work, you’re a writer.”
I’ve attended writer’s conference with fellow writers who seemed desperate to see their name in print. Desperate for the validation of a publisher saying, “I’ll buy it” and anxious that many readers would then buy it as well.
But most paintings are never sold. Most poems go unpublished. Most of the screenplays written are never filmed.
So was all that work pointless? Much of it was. But not all.
Paul wrote in Colossians 3: 23 & 24: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
The work we do, the art we create, can have great value, eternal value, if it is done for the Lord’s sake.
Recently, I watched the 1965 film, The Agony and the Ecstasy, a historical drama about the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo and Rex Harrison plays Pope Julius II. Both act with hammy abandon.
According to the screenplay by Philip Dunne (based on Irving Stone’s novel), Michelangelo did not want to take on the job. He was a sculptor who didn’t want to paint. He was not inspired by the assignment to paint the apostles. And he didn’t trust the Pope to pay him adequately because he had failed to pay him in the past.
He took the job because he felt he had no choice. He submitted to the authority of the Pope.
But eventually, he took the job. According to the film, he had a vision of the Creation of Man and that was the beginning of his epic recreation of stories of Genesis in what is arguably the greatest artistic creation in history.
According to the film, he was never properly recompensed financially. But I don’t think the artist ultimately cared about that; he came to see the work as something done for the glory of God and not himself.
Those paintings I mentioned at the beginning of the article? They do have an audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if God has his own gallery in which those landscapes are quite prominently displayed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Airport Skit

Here's a skit I wrote for tonight's church dinner with a travel theme. Y'all feel free to use it.

Airport Setting

Roxanne: Dean! I didn’t know you were flying out today!

Dean: Yeah, well, my flight was delayed. With security and all, it can take so long these days.

Roxanne: These days it’s really smart to pack light, to get through security and baggage check.

Dean: I always pack light these days. I don’t bother packing shampoo and soap because the hotels already have it.

Roxanne: I learned from Survivor I don’t need to pack a toothbrush. I can always find twigs that you can fray to provide good dental hygiene.

Dean: I found if I bring a small deck of my cards, I don’t need to bring my lap top computer. I just use it to play solitaire anyway.

Roxanne: I don’t need to pack books anymore. I download books to my phone.

Dean: I don’t pack a hair dryer. I just stick my head out of the rental car where ever I’m going.

Roxanne: I don’t pack jewelry. I learned to make darling ear rings out of baggage claim checks.

Dean: I don’t bring T-Shirts. I’m going to buy souvenir shirts anyway, so I just where those.

Roxanne: I don’t pack nylons anymore. I bring along silk worms. They don’t take any space. They weave darling panty hose.

Dean: Why do you need a coat when there is always local game you can hunt for furs.

Roxanne: You can make such cute skirts from the local grasses.

Dean: Most places you go in the world you can find sheep and you can use their wool to make great sweaters.

Kid 1 (dragging trunk): Roxanne, you forgot your luggage.

Kid 2 (dragging bigger trunk): Dean, you don’t want to leave without this.

Roxanne: It’s lighter than it looks.

Dean: Mine too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top Ten Movie Theater Experiences #3: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)

This is probably the best film on the list. It got the Academy Award for Best Picture the year it came out. But I didn’t see it the year it came out. I saw it in re-release when I was in the 4th grade. I think it I saw it at the Coddingtown Cinema in Santa Rosa. I liked it, but had a hard time following the plot. This could because I was in the 4th grade. It could also be because in re-release an hour had been hacked out of its nearly four hour length. This was not a top movie theater experience.
The next time I saw the film was in 1989 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The film had been carefully restored to David Lean’s original vision. (But not fully restored. Some footage appears to be forever lost, and other segments needed to be dubbed because the original sound track was lost.)
Mindy and I went to see the film in 70 mm, a huge picture on a huge screen. And that is how this film is meant to be seen. The story of a passionate, perhaps mad, Englishman who entered the world of the Arabian desert is perhaps the greatest epic ever made (step aside “Gone With the Wind”.) There is a scene in the film where Sherif Ali (Omar Sherif) thinks T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is lost in the desert and may never return. But then he (and we) sees a tiny speck on the horizon through the sand billowing in the desert wind. That speck becomes a man…Lawrence. That scene does not have the same impact in 35 mm on a smaller screen, let alone on a television screen (even a home theater.)
That was a wonderful night, but it was still not the best.
An even better experience, #3 on this list was when I could take my kids to see “Lawrence” in 70 mm at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. It is a true cinema palace, with art deco interior and an organ that plays before the show. The huge theater was full the night we went. It was amusing to hear the audience laugh knowingly when the dialogue referred to the foolishness of Western nations interfering in the Middle East (this was not long after the start of the second Iraq war.)
We watched up in the balcony. During intermission, the projectionist let the kids into the booth to look around.
But the best thing was being able to share with my kids the glory of Lean’s beautiful vistas, O’Toole’s impassioned performance and a story from history told with humor, majesty and mystery. One of the most lovely images in cinema is Lawrence spinning in the sand in his first native robe.
I’ve taken the kids to other films at the Castro (the original “King Kong” and “Blade Runner”), but this was a truly memorable night.