Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Censorship of Bias

From Best of the Web, a report on something every woman has the right to choose but must not be called by name:

The New York Times reports that South Korean men are increasingly marrying
mail-order brides from Vietnam:

More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside
of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean
partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the
domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and
other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a
disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are
facing the same problem.

The rising status of women in the United States sent
American men who were searching for more traditional wives to Russia in the
1990s. But the United States' more balanced population has not led to the
shortage of potential brides and the thriving international marriage industry
found in South Korea.

How exactly has "the traditional preference for sons . . .
created a disproportionate number of men"? Traditionally, after all, a couple
having a baby didn't get to choose its sex. Do South Koreans engage in
sex-selective abortion or infanticide in order to realize their "traditional
preference"? The Times is too delicate to say.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Good Year (2006)

This is my second shot at watching A Good Year on a Delta flight. The first one was canceled and saw about 30 minutes of it. The second time around I can actually blog it with my computer while I’m watching it. I've recently had a powerful urge to take my laptop to the movie theatre when I go because I always find myself thinking during the film and I can’t record my thoughts at the time. I realize that would be bad form and since I’m a bit of a people pleaser I haven’t done it.

At first look this film appears to be similar to other films about men who have aged but not grown up (e.g. About a Boy, Jerry Maguire, In Good Company). This one doesn't seem to be marketed to women, which is a bonus, and it contains the most important feature of any story about a man achieving maturity: a wise, elder/mentor.

When I initially saw previews for it I wasn't interested. Then on the plane I saw that Albert Finney portrays the Elder/Mentor and I was all in. Finney has ripened like the vintage implied in the title of this film. His august voice and formidable presence give him the appearance of an aged titan, deploying his full powers (ok, that was a little over the top but I love vocabulary). He was outstanding in his portrayal of John Newton in Amazing Grace and I’d watch him in anything at this point.

As it turns out the film is good but not great. It brims with clever dialogue and has several interesting plot twists. It’s a bit muddled however, part mystery, part romance, part meaning of life tale. It raises many of the right questions about life but the answers were a bit convenient.

The story revolves around a successful British stock trader Max whose life amounts to money made at the all costs. The pivotal question of the film is stated openly in one of the final scenes, “your money or your life?” This question reminded me of the Sabbath film in the 10 part cycle of films on the Ten Commandments. Both films raise the issue of whether there can be meaning without rest. I read the other day that Quantum Theory proves that time is an illusion that keeps us from experiencing everything all at once. Maybe God invented time to give us experience and the Sabbath to give us meaning. Max is left the French estate of his deceased uncle and remembers his boyhood experiences in this very estate of rest, fellowship and wonder. Being thrust again into the smells, sights, sounds and most of all tastes of this enchanted vineyard suddenly reminds Max of what life was like before money, power and the work that produces it became the insatiable idol of his devotion. Max’s character is very similar to The Family Man hysterically portrayed by Nicolas Cage. Both films challenge the religion of greed and power but A Good Year focuses more on rest than the other films focus on relationship. Both are notable in that they cut against the grain of usual Hollywood fare and mores. Which is why I enjoyed both (full disclosure: I've been married 16 years and have 3 children).

The greatest shortcoming of A Good Year is its end at the beginning. Max decides to begin his year of Jubilee but it looks a bit like a pendulum swing from workaholic to permanent vacation. And there is no inkling of the cycles and labors of long term maturity save for the grapes. It is ironic that wine making in the film looks more like marriage in reality (with constant care, labor and patience), while marriage in the film is something so beyond the realm of possibility that it dare not be uttered or even implied. This makes the film shallow, though a good first step into the pool. We don’t see any future steps so it is left to the viewer to guess whether Max has taken his first step into deepening maturity or a splash in a wading pool; fun and refreshing but a diversion only. Would that Max and all who inhabit his estate would see marriage as a vineyard worth pouring a lifetime into. God knows children can be the bitter or mature fruit of these labors. Max’s own adulthood is an outworking of his Uncle’s poor example and he says so himself. The Family Man portrays mature manhood over time and is therefore a more compelling tale. I hope that the Max’s of the world will pursue covenant faithfulness beyond a good year.

My Rating: Rentable

The Cameron Code

Hubris thy name is Cameron:

"Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's sinking is Christianity.


In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.

No, it's not a re-make of "The Da Vinci Codes'. It's supposed to be true.

Let's go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.
Israel's prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn't associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn't afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Facebook, Thuggery and Repression of Speech

Michelle Malkin posts images and documents regarding an anti-war activist who was so motivated to advocate for peace that he stalked and assaulted a college Republican. You won't believe your eyes.

Joyeux Noel (2005)

I saw this film a few weeks ago at a retreat and was moved to tears. It dramatizes actual events from Christmas Eve 1914 on the front lines of war to end all wars. German, French and Scottish soldiers laid down their arms and declared a temporary cease fire to celebrate Christmas. A mass was led by a Scottish priest serving as a medic.

It is inspiring and tragic, much like war and life. It is wonderfully made and the casting is perhaps perfect. There are Christians to revile and emulate in this film. It is provocative but not hamfisted.

It is perhaps intended to be a blanket anti-war statement. This is due to the never stated reasons for WWI. Set the events in WWII and the moral ambiguity begins to lift (cf. Spielberg). Perhaps it is intended as a criticism of The Great War only

I hope to own this film and watch it every Christmas (along with A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, The Grinch, The Snowman and the first Andy Griffith Christmas episode) because it truly captures the spirit of Christmas with its portrayal of Christ-like sacrifice.

Merry Christmas Uncle, God save you!

My Rating: Own it

A Liberal Christian on Liberals

Jim Wallis:

"However, we both know that there are powerful voices on the Left that have no tolerance for faith. As I said, I won't name names, but here are just a very
few specifics: I've been attacked publicly by leaders of major progressive
organizations who've said that the Left has no need for religion. They've said
that religion, "whether conservative or progressive" should have no place in
politics. "It's still religion," they say. I remember one particularly lovely
comment from after I'd done a talk at a progressive political gathering (with me
still in the room), saying that the kind of religion I subscribe to "puts signs
out in front of churches that say 'Jews and gays need not apply – just white
Aryan men!'" That kind of diatribe says much more about that person's own
experience and view of religion than it does about my track record over three
decades.

Friends on the boards of major progressive publications tell me
they have fought this kind of intolerance of religion for years. A few brave
writers in those magazines, who aren't even religious themselves, have labeled
this "shooting ourselves in the foot," which is where I got the title for my
response to your piece. Friends who've tried to help the Democratic candidates
understand religion have been marginalized and disregarded – until after
embarrassing losses. I've had Democratic members of Congress who are people of
faith tell me for years that they felt marginalized within their party as people
of faith; that they were not really allowed to speak as who they were as people
of faith. And for those who don't think the Democrats have appeared hostile to
religion, read the polls. That can't just all be blamed on Fox News. "

Stinky Blogger

The New Blogger works like this. When you write a new post and click the publish button, it posts it immediately. Except when it instantly loses the post forever without a trace.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Teen!

Today my daughter turns 13. I'm not afraid.

Tifah

Denver - Music - Tifah - westword.com:
"'We, by no means, want to contribute to any sort of tension between the
idea of Christian music and non-Christian music,' Al-Attas emphasizes. 'We play
in a lot of churches and Christian venues, but we also play in a lot of bars and
clubs that aren't religiously affiliated at all. It's really important to us to
be able to play in both of those places. "

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I miss Philosophy of Religion

Steve Hays:

What examples of evil in the world would count as *gratuitous* evil *according to Christian theology*?

That’s the question?

Boston Missacre

I spent all day with my family in the Boston airport waiting for ice pellets to turn to rain or snow. Nope.

So I'm up late checking flights for tomorrow. But not too late to blog!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rational Response to Rational Response Squad

Triablogue:
Brian Insapient of the Irrational Response Squad Refuses to Put His Money Where
His Mouth Is


Isn't Rational Response Squad the secular equivalent of Campus Crusade for Christ? Only with better use of New Media? I'm just, ya know, wondering.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Amazing Grace (2007)

Tonight I saw Amazing Grace. It was a faithful and powerful history lesson reminding us that William Wilberforce is a name that should set beside those of Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our pantheon of civil rights leaders.

The faithful history depicted in the film leaves a story long on dialogue and short on action. If however you are like me and enjoy well written dialogue delivered by talented orators, this film will be very satisfying.

The story is so inspiring to me that it almost seems too good to be true. This has been the case with many films based on exceptional history like Seabiscuit, Miracle and Cinderella Man.

The superior aspect to this story is it's field of competition: not a track, rink or ring but a human race. The battle is waged with ideas so capturing it's rage is both difficult and important. The Wilberforce story is a treasure that has long been obscure in the popular mind. In sincerely hope this film embeds itself in our cultural literature.

The actors are superb. Albert Finney and Michael Gambon are both titans in powerful display. I was struck with the thought that had the men in the film lived in the day of Wilberforce and Penn they very likely would have been orators of Parliament. Such is their ready skill with the spoken word.

The film kept pulling me along, scene after scene, with compelling and revealing detail of the abolition of the slave trade. Some of it's scenes are the very paradigm case of the virtues they depict. Surely the film will be widely used by educators, moral, political and otherwise to illustrate how to plant and grow a movement that changes the world.

My Rating: Own It

An Inconvenient Truth Shines Through

I'm so glad the Internet is able to broadcast information like this. I probably won't see this in a documentary at Sundance anytime soon:

Nigel Calder: What does the Intergovernmental Panel do with such emphatic evidence for an alternation of warm and cold periods, linked to solar activity and going on long before human industry was a possible factor? Less than nothing. The 2007 Summary for Policymakers boasts of cutting in half a very small contribution by the sun to climate change conceded in a 2001 report.

Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate. The sun’s brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmark’s idea — apart from its being politically incorrect — was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

Thanks to having written The Manic Sun, a book about Svensmark’s initial discovery published in 1997, I have been privileged to be on the inside track for reporting his struggles and successes since then. The outcome is a second book, The Chilling Stars, co-authored by the two of us and published next week by Icon books. We are not exaggerating, we believe, when we subtitle it “A new theory of climate change”.

Obama Supports the Troops

Instapundit.com -: "WHAT OBAMA SAYS ABOUT THE WAR"

Click the link.

Going to see Amazing Grace

I'm going to see a sneak preview of Amazing Grace this afternoon. It should be really good.

There's great clips and such at http://amazinggracemovie.com/

World Trade Center (2006)

Tonight (or this morning) I stayed up late and watched World Trade Center. I was bummed that I didn't see it in the theatre.

It was outstanding. Most amazing was Dave Karnes. He's almost too good to be true.

"As for Dave Karnes, his role as one of two Marines to locate McLaughlin and
Jimeno by searching the pile when the professional rescuers had backed off is
based on reported accounts and fictionalization, since he didn't cooperate with
the film's producers. Rather than work on a picture in Hollywood, Karnes
re-enlisted in the Marines at age 45 "to go after the people who did this so it
never happens again," as he told me. (When his first tour of duty didn't take
him to Iraq, he re-upped for a second tour and made it to the combat zone,
serving 17 months there.) In the movie, Karnes leaves his Wilton, Conn., office,
dons his old Marine fatigues, stops to get a Marine Corps haircut, and visits
his pastor on his way to Ground Zero. While these events are mostly accurate,
the film seems to overplay his zeal without conveying his motivations and
reasoning. In reality Karnes wanted to dress the part of a Marine for access to
an all-but-sealed Lower Manhattan. In the movie, many of Karnes' lines are
cryptic religious references that make him seem like a robotic soldier of
Christ—a little wacky and simplistic. This may be why test audiences didn't
believe he existed, according a report in Newsweek. The man I interviewed, while
he embodied extraordinary inner conviction, was a real human being who took
risks that most of us didn't."


It's a great movie. It didn't make me angry the way United 93 did. Probably because it focused on the bravery of those who responded to aid victims in the attack. This film isn't easy to watch but it's worth your time.

My Rating: Big Screen

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Great Ministry Opportunity for the Church

The Suburban Christian: As I just said in the comments to my previous post, when I was researching my suburbs book, I came across the statistic that 46% of people living below the poverty line live in the suburbs. And that figure is a few years old, so it doesn't surprise me that it's higher now. (I looked around the Census Bureau's site to see if I could find the report or news release about suburban poverty now being higher than urban poverty, but I couldn't find it offhand.) As Bob Lupton said in his book Renewing the City, "Poverty is suburbanizing."


He makes a great suggestion of suburban churches developing ministry to needy people through caring for and providing cars. Makes sense.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gisburne: Victim of Google Fascism?

"They can have my internet, when they pry it from my cold dead fingers."

Seriously, this is disturbing.

Atheist Nick Gisburne was fine on You Tube while he was skewering Christians, but when he turned his attention to Islam, it turned out the you in You Tube didn't include him after all.

Even though I'm not an atheist I am angry at Google's decision to curb speech because of it's content. Please don't call it You Tube any more. Call it Google Tube or something equally undemocratic.

Glenn Reynolds sums up the obvious whirlwind awaiting Google and all of us:
"Christians who want similar consideration from Google will presumably have to start blowing things up and beheading people. As I've noted before, it's quite unwise to create this kind of incentive structure. I thought the Google people were supposed to be smart."

Join me as I visit Matthias for clues on how to give You Tube a little free speech.

Video: Pat Dollard on Iraq, media bias, and George Clooney

Video: "Pat Dollard, interesting guy."

Click the link. It's a fresh perspective worth a few minutes.

PeaceMaker - A Video Game to Promote Peace

The Game :: PeaceMaker - A Video Game to Promote Peace: "Genre: PeaceMaker is a role-playing game with a high level view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not a first-person shooter."

See the demo here.

Update: I was just reading in An Army of Davids the other day about video games and how they actually can be educational. I'd like to try this one out. It looks fascinating.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Adult Sink

DRUDGE REPORT FLASH 2007®: "I am sure you are aware of recent events in which a component of an Adult Swim marketing campaign made Turner Broadcasting the unintended focus of controversy in Boston and around the world. I deeply regret the negative publicity and expense caused to our company as a result of this campaign. As general manager of Cartoon Network, I feel compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch. It's my hope that my decision allows us to put this chapter behind us and get back to our mission of delivering unrivaled original animated entertainment for consumers of all ages."


Good for him.

New Look Blogger

I like the new Blogger. It's much easier to do basic stuff like updating your blog roll etc.

You'll notice I added links to the stuff I'm reading etc. down the right side of the page.

Much easier.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lovie

On Friday, February 2, Campus Crusade has placed a full-page advertisement in
the USA Today Super Bowl special section. The ad features both head coaches and
points readers to a special Web site, www.BeyondTheUltimate.org.

Lovie Smith was one of my coaches at Arizona State. He was perhaps the kindest of all the coaches that I knew. It is a pleasure to see him do well in the NFL. I hope to reconnect with him someday soon and talk about then and now, and Jesus.

Come help change the world...

After 6000 years of institutional slavery, who ended it's place in the Establishment?

www.amazinggracemovie.com

Saturday, February 03, 2007

McDonald’s beats Starbucks

McDonald’s beats Starbucks in coffee smackdown - Los Angeles Times: "In the ultimate coffee smackdown, it was yuppie Starbucks vs. Ronald McDonald.

And the clown won.

Consumer Reports magazine said today that in a test conducted at two locations of each emporium, its tasters found McDonald's coffee to be 'decent and moderately strong' with 'no flaws.' On the other hand, the Starbucks brew 'was strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.'

The March issue of the magazine, due out Monday, thus advises, 'Try McDonald's, which was cheapest and best.'"


Update: Reader Brian Ellis (and when I say "reader" I mean one of a handful) sends me this factoid from Cooks Illustrated (Subscription Only):

"Most surprising, Starbucks came in not first but fifth out of the eight
samples. "Burnt, with a bitter aftertaste," said one taster. "Like gnawing on charcoal," said another. Top honors went instead to Green Mountain Roasters and
Eight O'Clock, which tasters found complex and well balanced.

By no stretch am I a trained coffee expert, but I also wasn't convinced that I've been blithely sucking down "burnt coffee" twice a day. So I devised one more test--a
tasting of coffee with milk. Why? An informal poll revealed that more than
two-thirds of the Cook's staff (including me) add milk to their coffee, and it
seemed only fair to try the brands that way, too. So I brewed up eight more
pots, added 3/4 cup warmed whole milk to each, and summoned 25
soon-to-be-jittery tasters into the test kitchen for another tour.

Sure enough, preferences changed. This time, Green Mountain and Eight O'Clock, the plain-coffee champs, ended up in the lower ranks--bland and insipid, according
to tasters. In contrast, Starbucks landed near the top, along with Millstone and
Seattle's Best, two other fairly assertive coffees. The bitter, burnt notes that
had menaced tasters in the first round were suddenly "robust" and "complex" when
tempered by the milk. Simply watered down? Not quite. Additional research
revealed that the proteins in milk (and cream) bind some of the bitter-tasting
phenolic compounds, reducing the bitterness and intensity of the coffee flavor."

Free Inquiry? Not on Campus

Free Inquiry? Not on Campus by John Leo, City Journal Winter 2007: "Remember when the Right had a near-monopoly on censorship? If so, you must be in your sixties, or older. Now the champions of censorship are mostly on the left. And they are thickest on the ground in our colleges and universities."

Global Warming Religion

Instapundit.com -: "THE BIG GLOBAL WARMING PUSH IS UNDERWAY: I won't take it seriously until they ban private jets and stretch limos.

No, seriously. A Gulfstream III releases 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide an hour. How can we demand "sacrifice" from ordinary Americans when our leaders -- including those who call for the sacrifice -- are flying in jets like this? If commercial first-class isn't good enough, they should stay home."

It's interesting that Global Warming seems to provoke similar sociological instincts as the now hated Puritans.

Interesting Stuff