Sorry…

I’m eating up time I should be spending on my thesis right now in order to post on something that I read this morning. Through a rather meandering route of blog surfing (which I won’t bother to try to recreate) I ended up reading an article written by a guy named Paul Porter about the recent death of Kyle Lake (a young pastor who was electrocuted while performing a baptism, check out the details here). Go read Porter’s article for yourself and make your own determinations, but I feel that I need to say something here, though I’m honestly not sure what.

When I read sentiments like those that Porter expresses I am torn. There is a part of me that wants to be angry. Very, very angry. I want to rip him up, tearing into every single hermeneutical error he commits and laying bare his true intentions for the world to see. I want to make him bleed intellectually, spiritually and (frightening as this is) even physically. Then I take a breath, I reflect on the words of Scripture, and I come to realize that as a follower of Christ I don’t get to do these things.

So what’s left for me? I suppose that I could write this gentleman a cordial letter of concern, outlining how my opinions differ from his and how I feel that his words might be damaging to the reputation of the Church and Christians everywhere. Unfortunately I have too much experience with these kinds of people. I doubt that my well intended remarks will find a home in the heart of a man so hopelessly lost in a labyrinth of his own personal self-righteousness.

The only thing that I can think to do is say something to everyone else out there, particularly those who do not confess to be Christians. On behalf of the followers of Christ everywhere, I apologize. I am sorry for our cruelty, for our ignorance, for our hatred, for our self-righteousness. I am sorry that we cannot even show love and grace towards each other. I am sorry that, as hard as we try, we continually fail to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel in our actions.

May God forgive us.

Ad Nauseam…

I was just checking out an article at Slate (check it out here) about movies that people have watched again and again. None of the films listed there are on my list, but I certainly do have a list. This is one of those things that I think you do or you don’t do (watching movies multiple times I mean). I absolutely do this. In some cases I love the story and want to see it again and again. In other cases there may be a particular way that the story is told like the acting or writing or directing. Add to this the fact that I really don’t like dead time. Even when I’m cooking or cleaning I prefer to have some kind of background noise on. If I lived in a stand-alone house I might crank up my stereo, but as is I think that might piss my neighbors off unnecessarily. Instead I throw on a movie that I like or, as is far more frequently the case these days, an episode or two of The West Wing (aka The Best Television Program of All Time). I therefore present here, for the first time, my Top Five favorite movies to watch over and over again (find the movie reference in this sentence and win a prize!!).

1. High Fidelity – I have no idea how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it’s a hellofalot! The writing is great, the music is great, it’s funny and touching and edgy all at the same time. And if all of this weren’t enough…John Cusack ladies and gentlemen!
2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Okay, shut up! This is a great movie and I feel totally justified watching it again and again. Seriously, shut the hell up! Okay fine, the acting is tragically wooden, and Potter fans are the poster children for Nerds Anonymous, but I still love this stuff. The first film in particular is, I think, an excellent translation of Rowling’s world onto the big screen. For pure cotton-candy, escape-from-reality fantasy nonsense, you can’t beat Potter.
3. The Matrix – This film has the distinction of being both packed full of action and brimming with pop-culture pseudo-philosophy (read here: philosophy without the pain and hassle of actually reading Plato and Aristotle…or, you know, thinking very hard). The Watchowski brothers hit it clear out of the park on the first try, revolutionizing both the special effects industry and the possibilities and potential of ultra-violent action movies as social and political commentary.
4. The Usual Suspects – Best murder-mystery movie ever! The first time I watched this movie I had never heard anything about it. I picked up the one copy that was available at the movie store and watched it in the middle of the night. It almost broke my brain. I still watch it because I like to see the setup for the big plot twist. Plus Kevin Spacey rules.
5. Grosse Pointe Blank – John Cusack takes the top and the bottom of my list. This movie is darkly, deviantly funny. It takes a common Hollywood caricature (the mysterious Hitman) and turns him into an actual person visiting his high-school reunion and feeling angst over the general emptiness of his life. I can’t see myself ever getting tired of this one.

And there you have it…five more reasons to believe that I am, indeed, the biggest nerd you’ve ever met.

Unicorns…

Here’s another little tidbit from The Name of the Rose (which I am still slowly, but faithfully, reading…what a great book). This scene takes place in the vast library at the monastery, which our heroes Brothers William and Adso (the narrator) are exploring without permission. They wander across a book containing information concerning unicorns in a room whose purpose is to store books containing only falsehood. I mention it here because just last week I remember chatting with some friends at life group (read here “small group,” “Bible study,” “church group,” etc., for those unfamiliar with the term) about the existence of unicorns and I thought they might appreciate this little excerpt from Umberto Eco (on the off chance they end up wandering about here). Without further ado, the excerpt:

“But why have they also put a book with the unicorn among the falsehoods?” I [Adso] asked.
“Obviously the founders of the library had strange ideas. They must have believed that this book which speaks of fantastic animals and beasts living in distant lands was part of the catalogue of falsehoods spread by the infidels….”
“But is the unicorn a falsehood? It’s the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol. It stands for Christ, and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin in the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters’ snares.”
“So it is said, Adso. But many tend to believe that it’s a fable, an invention of the pagans.”
“What a disappointment,” I said. “I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood. Otherwise what’s the pleasure of crossing a wood?”
(Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. Translated by William Weaver; New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983: 315).

I love the fact that it isn’t seeing the unicorn that gives Adso pleasure in crossing a wood, it is simply the hope of seeing one. Amen to that.

Kudos…

I just want to throw out a big “attaboy” to Mr. Bill Gates, Mrs. Melinda Gates (“attagirl”) and Mr. Warren Buffet. I don’t know a lot about corporate or personal philanthropy, and I am by no means an expert on charity and relief organizations. I can, however, count to 30 billion (though it might take me a little while). For those of you who haven’t been following along thus far, Warren Buffet has just donated $30 billion (yes, with a “b”) to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (check it out at the Washington Post,here). The foundation is involved with a great many humanitarian projects throughout the world, including research into AIDS/HIV as well as other incurable diseases that ravage the developing world. As I said above, I don’t know a lot about organized charity but I simply can’t see how this gargantuan donation can do anything but help. So to Mr. Buffet and Mr. & Mrs. Gates…Damn good job!

On to Serious Matters…

Since my last few posts have been about trivial matters I thought it might be time to offer my thoughts on something a little more important: who is the better superhero, Superman or Batman? Like all of the most important debates in the world this one has been going on for a very long time. There are strongly held opinions on both sides and I know that emotions run deep. I want to ensure my readers that though I offer my opinion on this issue, I realize that it is merely that…an opinion. For those of you who disagree, I hope that my words here do not create an insurmountable obstacle and that we might still engage in discussion on other less sensitive issues like religion and politics.

And now, to business. I will offer five simple reasons why Batman is a preferable superhero to Superman.

1. Superman is too perfect. He’s bullet-proof, he can fly, he has super strength and super speed. I don’t understand why this guy ever looses any fight. His only weakness is kryptonite, a glowing green extra-terrestrial rock.
2. Which brings us to our second point. If this was your only weakness, wouldn’t you pay a little more attention to it? Maybe develop some kind of technology that would detect kryptonite from a distance, like a kryptonite Geiger counter. This leads me to believe that Superman isn’t really all that bright. All brawn…
3. But what of Batman you say? Batman’s greatest single quality is his incredible will. This simple man, with no supernatural powers at all, trains himself to combat evil. He is powerful because he is driven.
4. Batman is a little nuts. Some people might list this as a negative point, but I think it’s one of the most interesting things about him. Bruce Wayne/Batman is, deep down, kind of psycho. Witnessing his parent’s death at such a young age and growing up with a perverse guilt that he was responsible for this tragedy has created a dark and fascinating aspect to this hero’s personality. At the end of the day I think it’s fantastic that as readers it’s not always easy for us to tell who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in Batman stories.
5. My fifth and final point is that Bruce Wayne/Batman is brilliant. Yes he’s strong, yes he has money, yes he has determination, but it’s his brains that usually save him. Where Superman uses his superpowers, Batman uses his head. The moral of the story? Nobody can actually leap tall buildings in a single bound, so stay in school kids.

And there we have it, why Batman is a better superhero than Superman. Again I hope that this does not cause any serious rifts between me and my readers, and I also hope that I do not create painful clashes between family members or longtime friends over this issue. If any of these terrible things do occur, please forgive me but know that on this most vital of issues I felt that it was particularly important that I speak my mind.

Death to the Beast…

On the CBC’s news website I came across this article by Rachel Giese about professional celebrity watcher Mario Lavandeira, aka Perez Hilton. You’ll note that I haven’t provided a link to Lavandeira’s celebrity watching blog. If you want to go look around there, sacrificing your higher brain function on the altar of dumbass useless famous person gossip, be my guest, but I’m not willing to be an accomplice in the cold-blooded murder of your mind. This guy’s job is actually commenting on the lives of people who are famous. This involves, to quote Giese, “just enough snarkiness to entertain bored cubicle drones and bitter stargazers, but not so much as to question the construction of celebrity itself.”

Now, I feel that I can be legitimately condescending to stupidity like this, but the fact of the matter is that this kind of celebrity culture commentary exists because we let it. Lavandeira’s website receives as many as 600,000 hits per day. He is clearly providing a commodity that the public wants to consume. Consequently my complaint is not really with him or his website (as incredibly stupid and insipid as it may be)…my complaint is with all of us who feed the beast from which parasites like Lavandeira in turn receive their sustenance.

I’m not ripping on people who have been captured by the celebrity-gossip monster. I’ve gotten sucked in by this nonsense myself, and a lot of truly good people who I genuinely like invest serious amounts of their time in the lives of famous people they’ve never met. Actually that’s not really true, we don’t invest ourselves in the lives of people we haven’t met, we invest ourselves in characters invented by the modern media machine who have little if any resemblance to actual human beings. That being said I would like to make a proposal.

I propose that we stop caring about these virtual people called celebrities and start caring about ourselves and the actual people around us. How you say? Read a book, watch a good movie, learn to cook, buy a dog, go on a date, kiss someone you love, write a novel (even a bad one), go to school, go to Church (or maybe try going to synagogue this week), learn a language, visit a place you’ve never been (perhaps in the city in which you live), go have a beer with a friend, listen to music, make music, build something…in short, live your own life. I think that if we all start learning to do this more something stunning will happen. We will come to realize that our real lives are actually far more interesting than the virtual lives of “famous people.”

And maybe, just maybe, if we’re really lucky, the beast and all of its parasitic hangers on will slowly but surely begin to die.