Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for October 2006

Trick or Treat…can you hear me now?

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I realize tonight that I am cut from a cloth sewn in a bygone era. A little girl came up to the door and held out her sack in a mechanical way, expecting me to oblige and give her some candy. I dropped a pair of Hershey kisses into her sack, and she sauntered off to join her friends.

No “trick or treat.” No “thank you.” Not even a “Happy Halloween.” I do not even remember her costume. I was distracted, you see, by the cell phone pressed to her ear.

Written by taj

October 31, 2006 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Pop Culture

Smells like Pooh

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Sorry—I couldn’t resist.

Had our third appointment with the doctor today; baby’s heartbeat is 165 beats per minute and doing fine. We commemorated this by searching out a particular bedding pattern my wife found on the internet yesterday in the design of Winnie the Pooh.

I can’t say that I have a preference as to how the baby’s room will look. I just don’t want it to look like something in the vein of Barney, or any other annoying Saturday morning creature. The Pooh bear I can live with. He got the nod when my wife discovered a pattern that came in burgundies and greens—the color scheme of the rest of the house—proving once more her greater aptitude in interior design. Undoubtedly, the baby will gain his/her sense of style from mom.

We should know the sex sometime after Christmas. There are two reasons for knowing in advance: one, it takes the guess work out of baby showers, and two, we can drop the compulsion to dance around pronouns.

Which means that the child’s love (or disdain) of words will come from me.

Written by taj

October 30, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Baby News

Anniversaries—they only come in fives and tens

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I think I might surprise my wife and take her to Europe on our ninth anniversary just to shake things up, you know?

The snow has settled. Thankfully the roads are just wet, though that’ll change come nightfall. As I sit here in the office, killing time and enjoying the day off, I’ve discovered that quite a bit happened this week in history.

I’ve already written about the blizzard of 1997, but I neglected to mention the iPod, which turns five years old this week. And I still do not own one. Call it my own act of non conformity—I even quit wearing my Discman in high school. When I used to go out running (something I intend to start again once the sciatic quits hurting) I actually enjoyed the quiet solitude, so I just never saw the need.

But another, probably more significant anniversary fell yesterday, and I forgot to mention that too. On October 25, 1415, Henry V, King of England, led his outnumbered knights against the French in the Battle of Agincourt. King Henry somehow rallied his troops to an unprecedented victory, an act immortalized by the words of Shakespeare nearly 200 years later. The Saint Crispen’s Day speech stirs something deep in the hearts of those who read it. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to leave you all with it today.

KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

–William Shakespeare, Henry V

Written by taj

October 26, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Posted in For to Be a Geek

Review of “The Nativity Story”

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The birth of Christ is the stuff from which legends are forged. The story itself is inexplicable. Yet, after 2000 years, it’s been reduced to a series of clichés, and immortalized in a handful of simple carols that find a voice roughly four weeks out of every year. We read the narrative from the Gospel of Luke. We know the words. We can recite them by heart. Old wine.

Last Tuesday night, the people for whom I work treated me and some 300 others to a preview screening of The Nativity Story, which will premiere December 1, and I got to drink some new wine. Just a taste, mind you—the cut we saw was still rough, scored with a temp track and pieced together with unfinished visual effects. But the fragrance still lingers.

The film tracks roughly three plots—Herod’s obsession with the ancient prophecy of a ruler destined to displace him; three wise men from a far eastern country following the movement of three stars that herald the fulfillment of the prophecy; and the journey of Mary and Joseph, her pregnancy, and the subsequent trek across the desert from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The familiar story hits every beat from the play the children put on at Christmas time. This iteration, however, breathes verisimilitude back into the tale, allowing us to experience it for the first time. The filmmakers have approached this film with great care, crafting the characters with honesty, integrity, and more importantly, humanness. For instance, Hebrew law in those days commanded that an unwed mother be put to death, a detail many overlook, but something the film approaches head on.

Therefore Joseph, portrayed in the film by Oscar Isaac, emerges as the most rounded character of the ensemble. He encapsulates the despair of learning about his wife’s pregnancy, confronting the very real threat of her death. He believes her wild story of conception only after enduring a nightmare, followed by the intervention of the angel Gabriel—a scene very reminiscent of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth.

Among other notable moments is a short exchange between Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. She wonders how they will raise such a child, when he will know who he is. “Will it be a look in his eyes?” she asks. “Something he says?”

“I wonder if I will even be able to teach him anything,” Joseph muses.

Above all, this film simply tells its story, free of the self-righteous exploitation of so many earlier efforts from the Christian community’s ventures into the movies. It recalls, albeit on a much smaller scale, the biblical epics of the 1940s and 50s. The film does tend to fall into cliché, but only on a handful of points. The character of Herod feels more like a caricature of the actual man, though his tyranny is unquestionable (I always imagined him as a kind of Edward the Longshanks from Braveheart). There will always be things over which to quibble, especially when it comes to this material. While there may be some areas that could stand some improvement, I believe the filmmakers could have done much worse. They have delivered a solid piece that will at least earn a quiet satisfaction from even the harshest critics.

Perhaps the schism between Christianity and the arts will see some mending once people have had a chance to view this film. The Passion of the Christ showed Hollywood that Jesus was still marketable. I hope this film will take the effort one step further.

Written by taj

October 26, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Movies, stories

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

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People went to bed in Colorado on October 25, 1997 with maybe half an inch of snow on the ground outside. I remember waking up the next morning and opening the front door to find a snowdrift that reached over my head. A blizzard had passed through in the night, dumping 19 inches across the region, effectively shutting down most of the state for nearly two days.

There’s another blizzard blowing outside my window this morning, exactly nine years later. It’s not as bad as that one from before, but it has caused the closure of every school in the area, including my place of work.

So, we’re sequestered at home today, enjoying the show. There’s a pair of footprints trailing down the sidewalk where someone was walking their dog. No doubt they’ve returned indoors, as the storm appears to be getting worse.

I’ve got a pair of reviews I’d like to finish, so you may see those posted later today. We’ll have to see how the day goes.

I may opt to find a sled and take it to a tall hill instead.

Written by taj

October 26, 2006 at 8:24 am

Posted in General

A Christian Response to Studio 60

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Back when Studio 60 premiered, I received a number of hits from people searching for this topic. I ignored it at first. But then I found myself lingering on the idea, and pretty soon I was writing this post in my head.

Recall last January when a little show called The Book of Daniel put a lot of us on the defensive. We responded with phone calls and emails, and NBC cancelled the series one week out of the gate. They couldn’t find enough sponsors willing to take the risk that we would not boycott their product in response to their buying air time during the show.

Make of that what you will. Some will call it victory. It represents the kind of change that takes place when your voice is loud enough for long enough. That’s what many of us do when we feel offended.

The first episodes of Studio 60 threw a few digs at Christianity—a skit called “Crazy Christians”; a conversation criticizing people who believe in the rapture; they call Pat Robertson a bigot. It’s an old story, you know. Enough critics, both Christian and secular, have already written that such plot devices are overly cliché. I tend to agree, specifically where Sorkin is concerned since he’s dropped these little jabs in ever since he was writing Sports Night.

While I do not agree with all of Aaron Sorkin’s politics, I do admire his writing. I like the symmetry with which he crafts a scene and I enjoy the meter he employs in his dialog. His plugs for Christianity usually gain attention when he says something hateful, like comparing the 700 Club to a Klan rally (which earned the character speaking a slap across the face, mind you, and from the Christian at that). So incensed do we get that we miss the times Sorkin has written about Christianity and actually gotten it right. It’s a great thing to see.

There was an episode in the second season of The West Wing called “Shibboleth.” The title derives its name from its usage in Judges 12:5-6 as a kind of password. A group of Chinese refugees had escaped to the United States and sought asylum to protect them from their return to China where they would face serious reprobation. Bartlett made to meet with the group’s leader in the hopes of discerning whether or not their claim to Christianity was genuine, or just a clever ruse to avoid deportation.

“Who is the leader of your church?” President Bartlett asked.

“The head of our parish is an 84 year old man named Wen-Ling. He’s been beaten and imprisoned many times. The head our church is Jesus Christ,” said the refugee.

“Can you name any of Jesus’s disciples?” Bartlett asks. “If you can’t, that’s okay. I usually don’t remember the names of my kids, or for that matter—”

“Peter, Andrew, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas and James,” answers the refugee. “Mr. President, Christianity is not demonstrated by a recitation of facts. You’re seeking evidence of faith, a wholehearted acceptance of God’s promise for a better world. ‘For we hold that man is justified by faith alone’ is what St. Paul said. ‘Justified by faith alone.’ Faith is the true…uh—” He struggles, searching, and then he says, “Shibboleth. Faith is the true Shibboleth.”

Sorkin wrote that. Liberal and unbeliever he may be, but those words came from his script.

We worry about erosion. We worry about a constant chipping away at our faith from cynical secularism. Well, I know some of you may not like this, but we only have ourselves to blame. This great divide between the sacred and the secular deepened a long time ago.

Around the turn of the 19th century, Christians got it into their minds that the culture of the arts had become too profane. Great minds were asking tough questions about Christianity, and instead of engaging, our ancestral believers decided to focus their energies on a personal, private piety. In other words, we got up and walked away from the table. Think back to the friend that left you at the lunch table that day at school—your animosity then will help shed some light on the animosity we face in the culture today.

I remember stating once that if the Christian community really wanted to respond to the heresy of The Da Vinci Code, then we should write better books. The story and Gospel of Christ has survived 2000 years. A single television show won’t make it go away. The power of its message still retains great strength on the page and on the screen, even if someone else writes it. I know it’s difficult. Many Christian writers have told about how hard it is to get their work seen by important eyes. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

How best can we respond to Studio 60? I can think of three ways. One, if it offends you, change the channel. Two, if it doesn’t, enjoy it. Three, if you’re talented, get involved, and join the creative process. A friend of mine felt so much enmity toward V for Vendetta that she wrote a story. She’s out there trying to get herself published. Many of us are. Call me naïve, but I can still hear Robin Williams in my head, speaking lines from Dead Poets Society. “Words and ideas can change the world.” I believe it.

Written by taj

October 20, 2006 at 11:36 pm

A Real Pain in the Back

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Been suffering from a small bout with my sciatic lately, which makes it difficult to walk, and therefore makes it less tempting to hobble over the keyboard and write for the blog. 

So.  There are a few items I am hoping to post soon, but I won’t make any promises. 

In the meantime, my quasi-incapacitation has led to an inordinate amount of TV watching.  I’ve decided to ban The Bachelor from my house.  I have never seen a more cursed, immature display of “romance” in my life.  Well, except for high school. 

I’ve tried following Heroes these past weeks—parts of this show are great; almost equal parts border on obscene.  I’ll give it another week. 

Written by taj

October 18, 2006 at 2:09 pm

Posted in General

Do You Feel Lucky?

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UPDATE 4:30PM –  HT to The Point, the phenomenon last occurred 476 years ago, January 13th, 1520. 

And, for all you word geeks out there, there’s actually a name for those that fear Friday the 13th – paraskevidekatriaphobic.  Your triple word score for the day. 


So, it’s Friday the 13th.  And not only is it merely thirteen days into October; if you wrote out the date—10.13.2006—the integers will actually add up to thirteen.

(When you enter the numbers into the computer and press the button, the timer will reset to 108 minutes.) 

I heard on the radio this that a Harvard mathematician somewhere looked it up and learned that this last happened some 400 years ago.  Someone with acumen in numbers that far exceeds mine can try to look up the actual date. 

Written by taj

October 13, 2006 at 3:13 pm

Posted in For to Be a Geek

Gearing Up for Election Day

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I faxed in the application updating my address with the county clerk’s office this morning so I’ll be able to vote on Nov. 7.  As the day approaches, the political rhetoric takes on that sour, banal flavor as blame is assigned along the same tired talking points. 

Hillary Clinton’s quip regarding the possible North Korean test of a nuclear device remains a favorite example:

Some of the reasons for this danger are the failed policies of the Bush Administration.

As if we didn’t know she was going to say that. 

One of my old professors who studied and lived in Holland for several years once offered a small nugget of perspective that helps me ride through these frustrating days—the political mess is just as dirty in Europe as it is here.  For some reason, I find that comforting.  Don’t ask me why. 

Written by taj

October 10, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Politics

From the office of the writer

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Okay, if that wasn’t a terrible title for this post…

I’m adding two links to the blogroll that have, in recent weeks, become regular reads for me, and have therefore met the one and only requirement for my liking them—they write the things I wish I could write. 

Sword of Gryffindor—a Harry Potter fansite that reaches beyond waxing triviality.  Travis Prinzi (good name) brings thoughtfulness to his exploration of the higher quality of Rowling’s work, particularly her literary merit.  Now if only he’ll lay off Michael Gambon…

The Point—the writers at Breakpoint have started a blog, and while I don’t agree 100% with everything they write, they can least comment on popular culture without being self righteous about it.  And they like Lost, so I’m in. 

Welcome to the roll. 

Written by taj

October 10, 2006 at 12:24 am

Posted in General