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Archive for June 2007

Potter Unspoiled

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Scholastic has undertaken a supreme effort to ensure that not a single detail of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows leaks out from between the covers to find its way in front of the eyes of readers before the July 21st release. 

This kind of effort usually keeps to the confines of Hollywood.  The tricks filmmakers employ to ensure, what Scholastic is calling, the “magic moment,” range between practical and absurd.  And someone still manages to smuggle out the juicy details—just pay a visit here, and you will never be surprised at the movies again.  Print, however, is a different animal, and easier to contain.  At least Scholastic hopes so. 

But again, I am forced to wonder just how much of a danger those galling “spoilers” really pose.  From the article…

People read books for any number of reasons; finding out how the story ends is one among many and not even the most important. If it were otherwise, nobody would ever bother to read a book twice. Reading is about spending time with characters and entering a fictional world and playing with words and living through a story page by page. The idea that someone could ruin a novel by revealing its ending is like saying you could ruin the Mona Lisa by revealing that it’s a picture of a woman with a center part. Spoilers are a myth: they don’t spoil. No elaborate secrecy campaign is going to make Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows any better than it already is, and no website could possibly make it useless and boring.

I knew when I first opened Order of the Phoenix that Sirius Black was going to die.  Knowing did not in any discernible way detract from my enjoyment of the book.  If anything, it actually made the experience more enjoyable—instead of anticipating the shock of a character dying, my focus went to Harry.  How he would react and whether he would recover were the questions dominating my thoughts, and I hung on every word out of Dumbledore’s lips in the book’s closing chapters. 

No one can spoil a good story.  Yes, there are rare cases, but in general, I believe this is true.  I actually flipped to the back of The Lord of the Rings and read how the ring was destroyed before I had even made it through half of the first book, and I still kept reading.  I knew about the firebird in the lake at the end of X2 before walking into the theater, and I still watched the movie. 

People will still read Deathly Hallows.  Some will read it many times afterward with ever growing enthusiasm until the pages become too tattered and they have to buy another copy.  So much the better.  I hope my writing can one day earn so high a compliment. 

HT: MuggleNet

Written by taj

June 29, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Thoughts on “The Beginning is Near”

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I have a friend who, in a greater display of boldness than I am capable of, tries to share his faith with at least one person on the bus each say.  That’s quite a feat.  When I ride the bus, I keep to myself—I read, I stare out the window, and I will not speak until spoken to. 

My friend told me this week that he had an encounter with one of these people with whom he shared his faith, and that it changed his entire perspective.  The man told him that he could understand what my friend was offering; he could see that Jesus loved him and that he needed that kind of love.  What drove him away was that he did not believe my friend really loved him.  He said that he could not believe it unless he could see how it had changed my friend’s life first. 

Evangelism sits in tension between two ideals: conviction and relationship.   In the videoThe Beginning is Near—we see both ends of the dichotomy placed side by side, and we are given a clear victor. 

The church spends much of its time fostering a sense of imminent doom.  You won’t find many pastors on street corners condemning people as they walk by, but the desperate plea for the reversal of our immoral culture hits many of the same notes.  “Just look at this,” we say, “it’s getting worse all the time.”  We react much like the first fellow does in the video.  And we shake our heads when people return to the bottle. 

In my very limited experience, a desire for real change finds strong rooting in a firm sense of hope.  For instance, I used to struggle with severe depression.  The motivation to seek healing came during a seminar I attended where one of the men stood to give a testimony of how his life had changed in recent years.  He talked about how he always felt oppressed and uncertain; he had alienated his wife and his kids, and lived in a constant state of deep morose.  Then he told us about the healing that had taken place in his life; he had become a good husband, at home with himself, and secure in his sense of worth and calling.  And I found myself wishing I was as lucky as he. 

I am reminded of that scene in The Shawshank Redemption just after Andy Dufresne is released from solitary for playing Mozart over the prison PA system.  What do you need with Mozart in a place like this? one of the inmates asks.  Here is where you need it the most, Andy says.  You need it to remind yourself that there are places in the world that aren’t made of stone. 

Many of our efforts of evangelism have left people trapped inside the stone walls of their inner prison cells with our message that The End is Near.  We have neglected to deliver the message of rescue, and forgotten to allow the space for that hope to prove evident within ourselves. 

Much of this, I suppose, depends on perspective.  Yes, the culture is awash in the exploitation and glamorization of various sordid affairs, and this is not, by any means, a good thing.  Our first instinct is to react rather than relate. 

Yet, within all this mess, if you look close enough, you can find a piece reaching out, aware of some unnamable need.  Tyler Durden even gave it a voice—“We’re the middle children of history, man.  No purpose or place.  We have no Great War.  No Great Depression.  Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives.” 

People want hope.  Hope is something Christ offers in limitless provision, and if we were a true testament to this hope, the world would look much different. 

Written by taj

June 29, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Initial Thoughts on Blue Like Jazz, The Motion Picture…

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The boom in Christian filmmaking since the release of The Passion of the Christ lends hope to the belief that films that affirm Christian values can draw an audience, but the results have seen less than favorable returns.  Recent efforts over the last year have caught the fire, but have stumbled over creating a solid, well-delivered story.  A couple examples…

–I liked The Nativity Story for breathing fresh character into the person of Joseph, but much of its characterizations either fell flat or came off as clichéd.  Angels on film should never look like they just stepped out of a VBS skit. 

Facing the Giants, while it had a tremendous heart at its center, suffered under numerous script problems.  This movie was written by two men, and shot with one camera. One camera.  You can’t tell me passion didn’t play a part in the creation of this movie.  And the film they delivered was all right.  But it could have been great.   

Studios have begun tapping the well for good stories to sell to their Christian patrons, purchasing the film rights for books ranging from The Screwtape Letters to even nonfiction works like The Purpose-Driven LifeAnd now, Blue Like Jazz.  I’m one part excited and about two parts terrified, because I can see here the potential for a could’ve-been-great that just might wind up lingering around all right. 

Despite the profundity contained within, Don Miller’s non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality amount to little more than a collection of short essays.  He tells some good stories, too—but a good story alone does not a good film promise. 

I love the book, and Miller writes with a casual, comfortable prose.  But screenwriters live in a world far removed from essayists.  (Read this little nugget over at Libertas, and you’ll get a small taste of the screenwriter’s life.)  If they can deliver a story that can capture the humor and wisdom of Miller’s essays, then we could have a decent film on our hands.  Maybe. 

Written by taj

June 28, 2007 at 11:22 am

Posted in Books, Movies, stories, Writing

Re: The Reasoning of Thieves

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Just in case anyone was interested, the bread and the bracelet were returned yesterday evening. 

Written by taj

June 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Questions

Blue Like Jazz – The Motion Picture

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No. I am not kidding.  Not sure what to think of this yet.  More soon

Written by taj

June 26, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Books, Movies

The Reasoning of Thieves

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I have to tell a story, and I have to keep it vague enough to avoid specifics, but still convey the heart of the matter.  Therefore, a parable…

A man finds a sack in the road along a strip of merchant vendors.  Inside, he finds a diamond ring, a bracelet, and a loaf of bread.  He takes the contents home, pleased that he has discovered this treasure.  However, he discovers a shopkeeper’s name etched into the pewter of the bracelet.  The man knows the shop—he passes by it every day on his way to work. 

“Thank God you have come,” says the shop keeper as the man presents to him the ring.  “But where are the remaining contents of my bag?”

The man does not lie.  “I have kept them at my home,” he says.  “They appeared to be of little value as the bread was quite dry and the bracelet was chipped.  Are you sure you need them back?”

“My good man,” says the shopkeeper, “these items are deeply personal.  The bracelet is a gift for a friend and I need the bread to feed my family.  I would like them returned immediately.”

And the man leaves to return home and retrieve the items.  The shopkeeper knows not whether he will return, and doubt lingers.  But his joy is full as the ring he means to give to his wife is now safe in his possession once more.  

Thus sums up an encounter I had with an anonymous gentleman today.  Thankfully, none of these items were mine, though I did play the role of the shop keeper today. 

Consider the man in the parable.  The act, to me, was criminal the moment he realized these items had an owner.  What possess people with this kind of reasoning?  The man returned with the ring, why didn’t he just bring the bread and bracelet too? 

The owner of the ring, I am pleased to say, is happy to at least have that back.  Though, we’re all unsure as of yet whether our anonymous friend will complete his good will and return the remaining items. 

I want to remain angry at this person.  A colleague involved told me, however, that “God will be in charge of the matter.”  Doesn’t that just snuff the flame of my anger.  And I am left wishing I had such faith.  They are items that can be replaced.  The gentleman will find no immediate use for them—its not like he’d find a decent return for them on eBay.  I have to keep reminding myself of the One to whom I—and others—are ultimately accountable.  It removes significant weight from my need for vengeance.

Written by taj

June 25, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Questions, stories

The Beginning is Near

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A video production developed by students of Nazarene Theological Seminary for the season of advent.  You have to view it in two parts…part one and two

We need to change the way we think.  We need to change the way we love. 

Written by taj

June 23, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Evangelism

Summer Reading

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Over the next few months, I want to try and get a good taste of decent fantasy literature.  Like any genre, I’m sure, fantasy has its true staples, and then it has its rip offs.  Here are the titles I have in mind…

The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower II – Andrew, I am finally going to read this.  I have to confess, while parts of The Gunslinger intrigued me, I found it hard to get through.  Though you told me once before, I believe, that it’s the weakest volume.  I enjoyed the bits about Roland’s past and I am eager to learn more. 

The Sword of Shannara – I have never read Terry Brooks.  I did read his introduction to one of the reprints of this volume, and his ideas intrigued me enough to at least put it on hold at the library.   

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Like this surprises anyone.  Though the literary world has yet to take a serious look at Rowling’s work, the next ten years or so ought to establish her credibility as a writer.  She’s already proven her ability to sustain a vast and deeply variegated universe.  Rowling draws much of her inspiration from Jane Austen, which to me seems like an odd author to emulate when you’re writing fantasy.  But she makes it work.  Besides, her talent speaks for itself. 

I am open to suggestions, by the way.  If anyone has a title they think would be good for me to read, please, drop a note in the comments. 

Written by taj

June 22, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Books, stories

The Painful Task

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Day after day the writer plugs away
at his labored and painful task
He must create, he must do it today
or else face the question they ask
Where’s the new story, how does it end?
the writer doesn’t know, he lives the story within
but the ones who write his checks have bills to tend
So the writer must hurry or else the story goes in the trash bin.

Written by taj

June 21, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Poems

What do You Call an Empire?

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Monday night, my local news aired an interview with Mike Jones, the male escort now infamous for his exposure of Ted Haggard.  Though the interview aired a full seven months after the actual incident, Jones has a new book out, which I guess justifies the air time. 

We can debate the merits of Jones’s principles (?) another time, but I wanted to take a minute to dissect one of Jones’s remarks. 

“I simply wanted to expose this man,” Jones says.  “I didn’t want to tear his whole empire down, that was not my intention.”

Why do people think that Christians live under theocratic imperialism?  Every Christian leader with a committee that earns time on television suddenly gains an empire.  I do not remember ever having to pay taxes to Haggard, nor do I remember ever seeing his face on my currency.  I do not bow to his statue upon entering my church and he has never appeared before me in spectral or holographic form to ask me to destroy Luke Skywalker. 

The phraseology baffles me.  Especially when you consider that, upon investigation, New Life Church has seen almost no drop in attendance since Haggard was ousted.  If there is an empire that has crumbled, I would like a look at its pieces please. 

Written by taj

June 20, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Questions, Television