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Archive for September 2006

We Have a Date

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After a trip to the hospital two nights ago (no worries, mother and baby are fine), we have a due date for May 21, 2007.


Our visit included an ultra-sound, which at four weeks doesn’t show much, except for probably the most phenomenal sight I’ve ever seen—the four-week-old beating heart of my child. 

Since we learned we were pregnant, the reality of this has taken its time to settle in me.  For the first week it felt like it was happening to someone else.  Seeing that pulse on the screen, though…there just aren’t any words.

Written by taj

September 26, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Baby News

Thoughts on Last Night’s Studio 60…

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Last night could be called “the show that could’ve been.”  We could assemble quite the little list were we to take a look at the last ten years and highlight the shows that had potential and immediately jumped the shark. 

So much of the show is classic Sorkin.  He pokes fun at bloggers and touches on the usual liberal talking points.  He makes fun of people who believe in the rapture, but manages to make some decent observations about the character of Jesus Christ that too many tend to ignore, like His sense of humor.  

One of the more interesting elements had to do with Matthew Perry’s character—the show’s head writer who many receive as Sorkin’s representation of himself.  During a meeting with the staff writers, Perry’s character (Matt Albie) goes around the room asking for ideas, all of which have to do with parodying Bush administration policy.  Albie appears frustrated, tired of spinning yarn from the same old spools, and shoots off on a rant about…workplace dress? 

I’m not sure where this is going.  It has all the set ups of something that could be magic, but Sorkin will have to distance himself from some of his overused colloquialisms that have followed him around since Sports Night if he ever hopes hit this one out of the park.  I keep waiting for this to jump to warp speed, but so far we’re still cruising at impulse. 

Written by taj

September 26, 2006 at 1:10 am

Posted in Television, Writing

On Devotions

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Confession time—my fortes lie not in discipline.  Just ask my father.  However, for the last five or six years, I had maintained a relatively consistent devotional life.  I started out with a small devotional booklet, and worked my way through that for a few months before I moved on to more advanced reading, especially after enrolling in Bible College. 

It’s been maybe three to four months since I’ve actively pursued any kind of devotional discipline, however.  I had settled into an innocuous routine of reading a chapter of scripture, usually from one of Paul’s epistles, and then journaling a few pages of prayer. 

Truthfully, I think I just got tired of it.  I had read through all of Paul’s letters, and every book thereafter (save for the Revelation) probably four times.  My journaling had turned into exhaustive displays of my worry spilled out onto paper.  My experience of anything new, or refreshing, or even provoking had become as still as a pond.  My prayers became a lumpy collection of confused thoughts and a laundry list of requests. 

I think God the Heavenly Father deserves a little better. 

Prayer, I think, is more about forging and maintaining a relationship than it is a delivery of wants or needs, or even a string of confused prose pieced together by a mind that’s forgotten how to quiet itself.  So things have been a little frustrating for me, and it’s led to a certain amount of questions. 

Although, I do believe that God receives even addled prayer.  If anything through this, I am reminded of His considerable patience. 

Written by taj

September 21, 2006 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Prayer

Reactions to “Studio 60”

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I highlight here two critics’ reviews of the show—one positive, the other, not so much.  In fact, the split between these two have already caused me to wonder if we could have another Sports Night on our hands. 

Sports Night, also created by Aaron Sorkin, ran only for two seasons.  Due to a number of factors (ABC’s apparent ineptitude in marketing the show among them), it never developed the kind of following needed to keep afloat.  It started out slow, but it eventually found its bearing, earning several critical awards.  TV Guide even went so far to call it “the best show on television you’re not watching.”  And those of us that did tune in knew exactly what they meant. 

“We’re all being lobotomized,” Judd Hirsch cried in his opening soliloquy, lamenting the state of television. 

“Sorry,” writes Tom Shales in response, “but the whole speech comes off as if Hirsch were speaking on Sorkin’s behalf and wreaking some kind of revenge on muck-a-mucks and higher-ups who wronged him during his career — or maybe he’s chastising the audience for drifting away from “The West Wing” when the show grew tiresome.”

Perhaps Mr. Shales fails to remember that The West Wing took a dive when Sorkin quit writing the show.  Either that, or he’s never had to endure a half hour of George Lopez.  Otherwise, he’d know what being lobotomized by television really feels like. 

Matthew Gilbert acknowledges this staple of network TV in his piece for the Boston Globe.  In response to the Hirsch rant that opens the show, Gilbert writes, “A pop cultural moment ensues, as it would if Lorne Michaels exploded on “Saturday Night Live,” and Sorkin gives us TV news shows mimicking one another’s observation that Wes Mendell’s [Hirsch’s character] break down was right out of Paddy Chayefsky’s playbook.” 

Look closely and you might be able to spot the point at which my concern stems.  Have you ever heard of Paddy Chayefsky?  I have.  Maybe you have too.  He wrote the screenplay to the movie Network.  But I’m betting that most of the TV audience won’t have a clue.  Mind you, this is not lost on Sorkin—he’s written one of his characters to express a similar sentiment. 

See, we really have been lobotomized.  Audiences really do shrink away from a challenge.  They prefer their TV harmless and easy—you know, something to “veg out” with.  And that’s not an altogether terrible thing.  But overindulgence is detrimental; just look at that fellow in Super Size Me. 

So watch and cross your fingers.  Here’s to hoping for a solid year for Studio 60. 

Written by taj

September 19, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Television

Thoughts on “The Path to 9/11”

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There’s been lots of arguing from various fronts about ABC’s decision to cut and / or trim scenes from the mini-series / film The Path to 9/11 that aired Sunday and Monday.  The short of things runs something like this:

Former president Bill Clinton, and a handful of those involved in his administration that are depicted in the film, are portrayed unfavorably.  A small number of scenes in which their characters appear, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, never took place. 

Therefore, due to consistent pressure from Clinton, and other members of Congress, ABC trimmed the film by about 20 minutes.  Libertas has written plenty about this, so I’ll leave it to you to read more over there if you’re so inclined. 

There are two things on which my mind lingers on this matter, so bear with me while I try to sort through them.  First, we’re a scant five years removed from the most atrocious tragedy of my generation.  With such little time between the event and the dramatic interpretation of that event, it does seem important to accurately illustrate the apparent facts of the story.  The film itself spans eight years, beginning with the ’93 WTC bombing.  That’s a lot of material to cover inside a five hour running time.  Which leads me to my next thought…

If a film is not a documentary, then it falls into that fickle category of an adaptation.  Now, books are adapted to film all the time, as are the true life stories of people and events.  Some of them are relatively accurate while others border on complete fabrication.  We can debate the ethical civility of this all we want, it doesn’t change the fact that film, being a visual medium (and mindful of an audience’s attention span), must follow certain parameters if it is to tell a story well.  Many times, in the case of portraying a real, historical event, it means compressing time and characters, and creating fictional dialog and / or scenes.  In other words, it takes the very things for which the filmmakers of this mini-series were catching heat. 

Now, the dilemma…

The film itself, especially for a made-for-TV effort, is rendered exceptionally well by everyone involved.  The characters are compelling; the dialog, crisp.  Judged solely on its artistic merit, it falls well ahead of the curve.  And in case you were wondering, the film remains very critical of both the Bush, and
Clinton administrations


Given that some of the scenes are fabrications; given the heated nature of the current political climate; given that the event portrayed is so significant and so recent, the film is misleading. 

Now, if we were to make a list of every misleading film based on historical material, printed or otherwise, we’d have a long list.  One of the more glaring examples I’m aware of is Spielberg’s Amistad.  The story itself is relatively true, and it hits the broad picture.  It’s a good film.  But if we were to haggle over the accuracy of the details, I think it’s important to note that Morgan Freeman’s character in the film never existed.  And let’s not even begin with

Changing a film in regard to the reactions of a screening audience is one thing.  Political pressure from government officials is another, and it does give me pause.  The implications on this matter touch so many topics across the arts and the nature of political and governmental involvement—including issues of censorship and free speech—that for now, I’m left befuddled. 

On the other side of this coin, the cuts that were made did not affect the narrative.  The fabrications did make for compelling storytelling, but therein lays the rub, and what I suppose is the ultimate point of this post: 

If you really want to know the facts, YOU WILL NOT FIND THEM IN A MOVIE. 

Yes, the film is misleading.  I know I felt duped when I learned what details were real and what wasn’t.  I agree that creating those fabricated scenes may not have been the responsible thing to do. 

And, if anyone really is concerned with the facts, they can always read the 9/11 Commission Report, something I intend to do myself. 

Written by taj

September 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Movies, stories, Writing

A Kind of Mythic Quality

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Some of us have internal calendars.  We can remember particular days with ease because they are marked with events of special, and even tragic, significance.  We can recall the birthdays of friends and family, but even more so if one happens to fall eleven days into September. 


A friend of mine from college has such a story.  He has two boys, each born exactly one year apart—9/11/03 and 9/11/04.  And this year, September 11 has added one more event into this strange, mythic tendency within my small world…


It will always be the day that I learned my wife was pregnant. 

Written by taj

September 12, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Posted in General

Too Soon?

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We’ve asked this question at least once or twice, what with two movies about 9/11 at the theater this year, and now an ABC mini-series causing a stir of its own. 


Is it too soon?  Read this, and you tell me. 

Written by taj

September 9, 2006 at 9:31 am

Posted in Questions


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Why are we mean?  Why do we do that?  We say things that hurt people, and we do it without intention.  Sometimes, we do it with intention.  We are calculated in our meanness, and it lingers.  It bores into our hearts and blackens our souls.  Why are we mean? 

A friend of mine drove through a major thoroughfare today, tailgated by someone for several miles.  When the moment came, the tailgater swung around, pulled up along side my friend and rolled down his window.  The actual quote is laced with certain profanities, but the gist of the tailgater’s short rant was, “If you can’t drive that thing, stay off the road.” 

What was that?  Was it brave?  Was it just a man having a bad day?  I don’t know if he felt bad about it later.  Maybe he did.  I know I have said things that have caused harm and cut deep.  I think about those words and my remorse is great.  Call it sin, call it evil, call it breaking the rules of an implied social order—there is something wrong with the world.  It’s broken, like the gears of a faulty clock, struggling every a second to beat in time with an eternal clock, falling back a fraction with every movement. 

Why are we mean?  Why are we so callous?  I know that the world is broken, and that sin sits in every heart like a panther stalking prey.  Somehow, through grace and through faith, and through the action of a man dying on a cross, we can cross a bridge over the brokenness. Yet we’re still mean.  At times, we grow cold. 

How do we kill the panther?  How can we burn its flesh and drive it away to its cave? 

Is it fear or is it prejudice?  Are we mean when we sense danger and move to preempt the coming blow?  Were we to hold back our fist, would the blow ever come?  Yes.  And no.  I can never tell when I’m about to get hit.  Still, there is a small part, a whisper, that tells me that I deserve it.  I suppose that I do.  If we can ascribe a give and take to things—an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth—then yes, I deserve it when people are mean to me.  So I want to be good.  Good so that someday, good will come to me. 

Unfortunately, we know it doesn’t work that way either.  For all the good Mother Teresa gave to others, she still had to die.  God did not send a fiery chariot to scoop her up and deliver her into paradise as He did with Elijah.  Hurricane after hurricane has pounded the Gulf coast over the past few years, and there were good people there.  There is a badness, and it strikes with impunity and disregards our best efforts to explain it away. 

So then, why are we good?  What is it that leads us to let the tailgater go?  Why do we hold doors open for the elderly if it can’t stop the bad?  Perhaps, if there is something wrong with the world, then there is something that makes it better.  Something that heals the wounds.  My words feel so inadequate to capture it, though many books have tried to understand Jesus Christ.  I go back in my mind often to that moment in the Gospels when the Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus.  This woman was found in the very act of adultery, and according to the Law, she is to be stoned.  Stoning would be horrible way to go.  People stand in a circle and throw stone after stone until the offender is dead.  That could take a long time.  It would take many hits.  But Jesus does this extraordinary thing.  He sets her free.  He gives her only the instruction to leave her life of sin.  That’s all.  No questions about her faith.  We are not even told if her heart was penitent.  He still sets her free. 

He still sets her free…

There’s something there, sitting in that unreachable place.  I would really like to touch it someday.  

Written by taj

September 2, 2006 at 10:32 pm

Posted in Questions

The Curse of the Special Edition

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I remember when “Special Edition” used to mean something.  Now it’s a generic term attached to any film with a special feature, and it’s led to a whole new era of consumer exploitation.  Behold now the Limited Edition. 

Just in time for Christmas, the “Limited Editions” of both The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars trilogies will be released on DVD.  

No, the filmmakers are not dragging out yet another version of their lauded masterpieces.  There are no extended / deleted scenes.  There is, in fact, nothing different about these films; they are the very same movies you already have on DVD.  One small exception, however, is that George Lucas will finally release the original unadulterated versions of the Star Wars Trilogy, but there is a catch.  You’re forced to buy the Special Editions too. 

Apparently they’ve attached new “extras” to spice up the package, which will attract those who might have missed these movies.  Believe it or not, it does happen.   I was walking through Sam’s Club last week and actually overheard a conversation in which one gentleman confessed to having never seen The Lord of the Rings. 

Just not worth it.  But that’s me. 

Written by taj

September 1, 2006 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Movies