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

Archive for March 2007

Judging Deathly Hallows by its Cover(s)

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Have a look at them here.  I have to say that, initially, I was a little unimpressed with the U.S cover.  But the covers have always had that what-are-we-looking-at-here quality, and their relevance always find stunning clarity within the pages of the book. 

After a more discerning look, the cover illustration does leave you wondering…Harry reaches toward…what?  Is he standing inside amphitheatre?  Is Voldemort reaching for Harry, or are Harry and the dark lord reaching for the same thing?   And who are all those people watching? 

Very curious.  And only scratches the surface—just follow the discussion going on here

113 days and counting…

HT: Sword of Gryffindor

Written by taj

March 29, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Harry Potter

These are the Days of Our…Lost

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In and around the viewing area of our local ABC affiliate, much of last night’s Lost was preempted to cover a thunderstorm that wrecked much of Colorado’s eastern portions.  Therefore, I only caught maybe 20 minutes of the 41 minutes that typically make up an episode. 

I’ll try to watch the whole thing online tonight.  However, I did get the gist, and…well, it’d take to long to ‘splain, so le’ me sum up. 

If anything characterizes this third season, it would have to be the soap operatic tone that began somewhere around the moment we saw Jack in Thailand.  I usually hate to compare something to soap—it just seems like a juvenile and lazy way to express disdain because, admit it, what serialized drama doesn’t follow the same paradigm.  What separates soap is melodrama.  And so far, Lost hasn’t breached that particular plane, but it has stepped awfully close. 

Last night, the show (what I saw of it, anyway) felt like it tumbled into that device we like to criticize about the original Star Trek.  Expendable crewmen just do not make for good television. 

Anyway, I may change my mind after I watch the whole thing.  Even with the current lull in overall umph, Lost still rises above the current crop of primetime television. 

With the exception of maybe Heroes.  But we’ll have to hash that out another day. 

Written by taj

March 29, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Posted in stories, Television, Writing

In Absentia

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There are days I write a post, and it ends up languishing somewhere on my hard drive.  So I have a few of those that I will try to have up soon. 

Plus, I recently scored another assignment for work, which of course leaves less time to blog.  Not that I am complaining—I like the blog, but I like writing for work more. 

Will return…

Written by taj

March 29, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Posted in General

From Start to Finish

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A couple months ago, I wrote about doing a series on the process of writing a story, posting at least a portion of the story here and tracking its evolution from rough draft to final. 

I finished the rough draft weeks ago, actually, but only got around to showing it off for feedback this week.  I am still not sure if I’ll ever publish it—I’ll have to wait and see how subsequent drafts turn out.  But as far as doing a thing on its evolution, I see no problem.  I’m just trying to figure out the best way to present it with the least amount of hassle for both you and for me. 

I have procured a cheap .pdf converter, and though it isn’t Adobe, I am told it is at least compatible.  But, having had my heart broken over those words before, I remain cautious.  So, hopefully I’ll have the rough draft of the story—untitled, thus far—posted by the weekend.  All you aspiring writers out there may then see just how bad a rough draft can read, and then rejoice, for I am sure yours are far better than mine. 

Written by taj

March 21, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Posted in General, Writing

The Proliferation of Wow

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I try to mute the sound during commercial breaks. Thanks to this book, however, I try to keep my eyes open for ones that stir something in me, and then ponder the feelings they arouse. They’re rare, but one recent ad has me feeling inspired and annoyed at the same time.

The full spot runs for one minute, built around a montage of brief scenes that invoke, for lack of a better word, “wow.”

—a child watches a rocket lift off into space. Awed, she says, “Wow.”

—a jogger hops down the front steps of his home and sees a deer standing in his yard. “Wow,” he whispers.

—another runner crests a hill, stops and looks behind at the valley below her, and she too whispers…you get the idea.

And then there’s a my personal favorite—a family watches the Berlin Wall crumble on live television as a family member enters the home and removes a piece of the wall from his pocket, setting it in on the table.

Then comes the reveal; that big moment when we see the product that’s supposed to deliver all that wow. Surely something prolific and life-changing, you reason. A car that runs on water, maybe.

No. It’s only Windows Vista.

How you can equate a software package with the fall of the Berlin Wall just escapes me for the moment. The ad feels like watching The Sixth Sense for the first time and knowing Dr. Crowe is already dead. Personally, were I in charge of marketing at Microsoft, I’d have held on to this ad for the release of Vista Service Pack 2. But that’s just me.

I know I’m running a little shallow here, but bear with me. Ads are like thirty second movies. Like it or not, they set trends and influence pop culture enough to where I cannot think of iPods without hearing Bono belt the chorus to “Vertigo.” All this ad does, at the end of the day, is give us more excuse to celebrate mediocrity.

And when you make everything super, as the saying goes, nothing is.

Written by taj

March 15, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Pop Culture

Fear and Knowledge

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There’s a phrase used in C.S. Lewis’s final chapter of the Narnia chronicles—The Last Battle—that has not left my mind since I finished the story. Forgive my paraphrase; my copy of the book is elsewhere at the moment…

“We must take the adventure Aslan has set before us.”

There’s a great deal I wish to cover, and do not desire to recap the highlights of the plot. But, suffice to say, the heroes of the novel find themselves in mortal peril throughout most of the narrative. During this, there’s some interesting exposition concerning courage in the face of death. To die is nothing, says the king of Narnia, if that is what Aslan desires.

I could feel his courage as I read those words. I think I caught, if only for a moment, a glimpse of what Paul must have felt when he wrote that he could rejoice in hardships. I always thought that sounded just a little bit crazy. No one enjoys hardship. Scripture is even honest enough to point out that no one enjoys discipline. But here we have Paul, chained and imprisoned, shipwrecked and beaten. And he rejoices.

These thoughts soon recalled a moment from The Return of the King. The film transpositions one of my favorite pieces of prose from the book, giving it to Gandalf as words of comfort for a fearful Pippin. In the book, the passage describes Frodo’s journey into the West—Tolkien’s figurative journey to heaven…

“[T]he grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

To which Pippin replied in the film, “That doesn’t sound so bad.”

No, it does not. And so I am compelled to write a few words on fear. Last Sunday, I tried to assert in my Sunday school class that the opposite of fear is knowledge. Growing up, I told them, I was afraid if bullies. This fear made me sick and afraid to even step through the doors some mornings. I did not know then, as I am learning now—that bullies are themselves cowards. They harbor a deep fear and internalized powerlessness that compels them to assert whatever power they can muster over any who refuse to resist. Like me.

Rules compelled me, in return, to tell a teacher. I learned quickly that a teacher wields enormous power, but can do little to save a frightened boy from a bully. Their eyes can never remain as watchful as they ought. So I became a victim, quite against my will, mind you, but feeling powerless to do anything about it.

The Apostle Paul frustrated me. He presented to me a fearlessness that I could not comprehend. He went to his death confident that he had fought a good fight. He put his trust in Christ, and spent a great deal of time chained to a guard. He slept chained to a guard. Even went to the bathroom chained to guard. And he rejoiced. I could take a swing at him.

To die is nothing. Remember Ed Bloom in Big Fish? When he met the witch—the one who could show you the day of your death if you looked into her eye—he looked at the knowledge she could impart as a kind of help. I felt so envious. I am sure there are Christians somewhere who would cry blasphemy, that to know the day or your death and the circumstances surrounding it decries sorcery and paganism. I see their point. I think they miss the point of the film. The stories we see on film are themselves exaggerations, just like the ones Ed Bloom would tell to his friends. That moment with the witch told of knowledge that could dispel fear.

The hope of those children and kings and queens of Narnia was in Aslan, the son of the emperor across the sea, and with whom they spoke on numerous occasions. I envy them, too. Because I feel that if I could see Christ, touch his cloak as those children had touched Aslan’s mane, then I too could claim that hope, and live without fear.

We watched Signs in small group last Saturday. As I prepared for the discussion afterward, I read a source from Focus on the Family that downplayed the significance of signs and wonders. Jesus did, after all, downplay this himself. Still, John the Beloved wrote his Gospel with the intent of illustrating the signs and miracles of Christ so that his readers would believe. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, he said that those who believe without seeing are blessed. Quick aside—Thomas gets a bad rap. All he wanted to see was what the other disciples had seen, and for this, we call him the doubter.

Is it wrong for me to want to see what they saw? Part of me wonders if I could even handle it; that perhaps God knew I couldn’t, so he placed me here instead. These men all died for the faith. But death is nothing. Paul rejoiced. I want to rejoice too, and much of the time, I do not feel like it.

God placed me here. A professor of mine once told us that God places us perfectly in time. This gave me hope because it reminded me that I have a purpose. I was placed here, strategically, like a piece on a chess board. I can honestly say that I would not care if I learned I was merely a pawn instead of a rook or a knight. It makes me feel a little better to know that I am at least a part of the game. This fear, though, that’s something I can stand to lose.

Therefore, I seek to know. Not to win arguments or debates, or even to try and convince people of the truth. But to rejoice. To live deep, as Thoreau says, and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived.

Written by taj

March 13, 2007 at 10:56 pm

So long, Cinescape

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I discovered Cinescape Magazine in high school.  While it never garnered the kind of reputation Entertainment Weekly doesn’t deserve enjoys, I found it suitable for my needs.  In fact, the first acceptance letter I ever received came from them—I had written a small review of The Phantom Menace, and they planned to post it as a letter to the editor. 

It never ran. 

But I forgave them for that.  I was nineteen and I am sure that if I were to read it now, I’d reject it too. 

Over time, the need to purchase gas for my car trumped the need for the magazine, but I kept up to speed on their website, which remained a favorite of mine until recently. 

Close to a year ago, Cinescape Online became Mania. It appears yet another owner has assumed creative control, and the site has since devolved into a mess of fanboy editorial and shallow nonsense. 

As a movie lover engaged in the never-ending search for movie news, there are some sources you come to count on, some opinions you tend to respect, and a thoughtfulness you wish to emulate in your own writing.   Mania lacks each of these.  And, since I quit reading a long time ago, I do not want the link cluttering up space on my sidebar. 

Written by taj

March 12, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Movies, Writing

Harry Potter and the Search for Hardcover Copies

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While visiting Barnes and Noble day before yesterday, I asked the clerk at the counter about reserving a boxed set of all seven Harry Potter novels in hardcover. I came to the party a little late, you see, and I only own a set of paperbacks. I had purchased them on a gift card, thinking then that, should the rumors turn out to be true and they really did draw me into witchcraft, I could trash them or give them away and feel free of fret. That’s an unfortunate use of alliteration, but still.

After reading the first four books, I quickly ran out and bought book five, and then read number six soon after. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to turn either of my cats into wine goblets, and thus, I desired a set of longer-lasting hardbacks.

Well, the clerk behind the counter smiled and politely explained that a boxed set of hardcover books that would include the latest novel—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—would not follow until a few months after the final novel’s July release. My plans deflated, I have found myself considering other means of meeting my goal.

I’ll likely go ahead and just get the boxed set that came out soon after the release of the last book, and go on anticipating reading Deathly Hallows with everyone else on July 21st.

As for those paperback copies, I am giving them to the college library for which I used to work. As a library for a bible college, I am sure of their reluctance to shelve these troublesome tomes. But my old boss—the head librarian—told me once that if I can convince her that the novels would somehow benefit theology students, she’d take them.

The library carries an exhaustive collection of holiness works, and stocks an impressive collection of classical literature as well. Nearby, you can even find Patrick O’Brian’s tales of the HMS Surprise. Unfortunately, the Left Behind series shares room on the very same stacks.

While Harry Potter would make an interesting addition simply because of the inherent implications for the church’s ability to interact with the culture, I will need to demonstrate those facets of the book that edify faith. To believe that J. K. Rowling may follow in the same footsteps as the Inklings isn’t very popular in some circles, though I believe I can make a compelling case.

The work of John Granger already lays an impressive primer for discovering the faith related aspects of the books. I often refer to an interview conducted by Anne Morse of Breakpoint with author Connie Neal who has utilized the books to witness to nonbelievers. There’s even the writing of that one fellow that shares my noble and most excellent name.

My personal conviction is that, should Rowling even turn out to be a faithless author merely looking to entertain us with a fresh spin on an old paradigm (the hero’s journey), her stories are ripe for theological extraction, discussion, and even illustration.

However, I do not believe her to be faithless. I believe it possible that Christians will look back ten years from now with a much different perspective on the boy who lived, similar to C.S. Lewis when he first published the Space Trilogy. When Lewis first wrote about Ransom, most of his critics believed he was still an atheist. Years later, after Lewis had effectively demonstrated his faith, we took another look, and we saw there something special.

Perhaps history will repeat itself. Perhaps not. Either way, the books will remain on my shelf, hardcover or no. I will read them to my children. And I will enjoy them myself for many years to come.

Written by taj

March 8, 2007 at 12:34 am

Anticipating Prince Caspian

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UPDATE: 8/9/07 – Click here



Disney has targeted an early summer 2008 release for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

As one of the more character driven stories of the series, Caspian holds a number of adaptation challenges for the filmmakers. Not the least of which entails bringing one of my favorite characters to life: Reepicheep the Mouse.

While nearly every main character of the series exhibits traits of personal honor, valor and courage, Reepicheep holds each of these qualities almost to a fault. In fact, the little warrior may well have received that last statement as an insult, and challenged me to a duel, were he real.

The last film did rather well in terms of adaptation, though the finished cut massacred one of the more poignant lines from the book (who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe—but he’s good). So I can only hope that a little moment involving Reepicheep’s tail survives the transition. Few better examples of solidarity exist in literature.

Written by taj

March 3, 2007 at 6:35 am

Posted in Books, Movies, Writing

I feel as if I’ve read this somewhere before…

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Before I ever sat down to read A Wrinkle in Time, my wife used to describe to me a scene from the book in which every house along a neighborhood street looks the same, and every boy standing in the drive of every home bounces a ball in eerie rhythm, keeping time with every little girl jumping rope to the very same beat.

Back in November, I listed Madeleine L’Engle’s classic as a challenging read, a book I had begun and had yet to finish. Due to the gentle prodding of one of the commenters (I believe she threatened to “brow beat” me), I finished the novel soon after. L’Engle’s gift for prose shines in numerous places within her work, but that moment in the neighborhood never left me. Nor has that twisted vision of the brain, sending out its pulsating rhythm to every entrenched heart on that dreary world.

I read something today that recalled that image with overwhelming clarity. Picture a classroom, if you will, instead of a neighborhood street. And in the hands of young boys, imagine a Lego…

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.


The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown “their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys.” These assumptions “mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive.”

They claimed as their role shaping the children’s “social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity … from a perspective of social justice.”

So they first explored with the children the issue of ownership. Not all of the students shared the teachers’ anathema to private property ownership. “If I buy it, I own it,” one child is quoted saying. The teachers then explored with the students concepts of fairness, equity, power, and other issues over a period of several months.

At the end of that time, Legos returned to the classroom after the children agreed to several guiding principles framed by the teachers, including that “All structures are public structures” and “All structures will be standard sizes.” The teachers quote the children:

“A house is good because it is a community house.”
“We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.”
“It’s important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building.”

I don’t mind opening my home to someone in need. I don’t even mind that its size is regulated to a set of parameters established by people who sat around a topical grid and mapped out the area with thumbtacks. What I do mind is losing the ability to think for myself.

What the kids learned with the Legos sounds fair. It feels reasonable. After all, we are all made up of the same parts, and we should all have equal opportunity. But however much I may enjoy playing basketball, I’ll never play like Pete Maravich. And those who can should not have to come down to my level, either.

Something like this only cheapens an individual’s sense of value. We are all part of a process working itself out to some end, but if our roles and functions are all one in the same, then nothing will ever get done. Cars won’t run on hinges alone, you know. And human beings are more than just fingers and toes. L’Engle knew it. So does this fellow, by the way—he wrote a book about it too.

HT: CalvinDude; a man I may soon have to call “prophet.”

Written by taj

March 1, 2007 at 12:36 am

Posted in Books, Life, Pop Culture