Archive for October, 2007

Damages – A Review

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

   Damages – A Review

An Anatomy of Innocence Destroyed

“I don’t believe in the law anymore.  But I do believe in justice.”  – Ellen Parsons

FX has added another slam-dunk to their repertoire.  Director Allen Coulter (Rome, Millenium),  executive producers and writers Glenn and Todd Kessler (Robbery Homicide Division) and Daniel Zelman (The Practice) have managed to put together another powerhouse of a TV drama about lawyers, lies and revenge.  From an all-star cast to a story that never quits to scripts with more twists and turns than an Olympic Luge event, this new show is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Glenn Close (The Shield, The Stepford Wives) plays Patty Hewes, a hard driven power attorney and she is a genius at making this character work.  She has brought to life probably the most complex character on television since Livia in I Claudius.  Her antagonist Arthur Frobisher, (Ted Danson, Cheers, Becker), is a billionaire who swindled his workers out of their retirement money and is willing to do anything to protect what he has left.  Joining them is Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne (Troy, 28 Weeks Later…).  She is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first time attorney given the opportunity of a lifetime by working for Hewes & Associates but who slowly loses her innocence as she learns what is at stake and what must be done to win a case against a determined foe.

                                                                                                                                                      

The first season begins with Ellen being accused of murdering her fiancée.  Then the show takes us back six months in the past and through each episode reveals to us the story of how everything came crashing down.  From there we are introduced to a character list that would have made Tolstoy proud.  The story arc is so sweeping and involves so much that at times it may be hard to keep up.  This is not a show you can watch while cooking dinner.  For instance, a character who was introduced in the first episode hardly makes an appearance until the season finale, but the VERY short scene he is in is integral to the entire story.

For as smart as this program is, its own intelligence may be its undoing.  The fall in the ratings may be indicative of people losing interest in following so many plot points and story lines.  Perhaps some couldn’t stand to watch seemingly good people get sucked into situations where the morally questionable side of their nature had to come out.  By the middle of the season there wasn’t one character I wasn’t ashamed of.  Although, I must say for me to think that, the characters have to be well written AND well acted; Damages comes through in spades with it.

As I watch these people destroy themselves and those they love, I can’t help but think of Patty Hewes as Jezebel (the shrewd Israelite queen who was willing to murder for her own gain) and Arthur Frobisher as Ahab (the king of Israel who cares for no one other than himself and allows himself to be swept up in evil misdeeds).  The way that the case is handled and the way that people are manipulated could be a modern day story of Naboth’s vineyard. 

Poor Naboth had a vineyard that Ahab wanted.  Ahab had offered him different deals to give up that piece of land because he’d wanted to turn it into a vegetable garden.  Needless to say, Naboth refused.  Jezebel had a plan though on how to get that vineyard.  She had a dinner celebration in his honor then put two scoundrels next to him.  During the celebration that evening, the two paid men falsely testified that Naboth was a traitor to both his God and his king.  Treason is of course a capital offense and when he was killed, Jezebel and Ahab took his familial vineyard.

These types of actions never go unnoticed and the consequences for all involved are disastrous.  For their dealings in this and other matters, Jezebel and Ahab paid a humiliating and ultimately destructive price.  The characters in the show play this out excellently as everyone’s life that is touched by this case is slowly destroyed.  It’s not the case that does it either!  It’s the actions of those people who are willing to do anything to win the case that start tearing people’s lives apart.  It’s amazing and disturbing to see how self-destructive people can be by trying to get the things that they believe they want most. 

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Aliens in America – A Review

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

 Aliens in America – A Review

With shows like 24 and movies like The Kingdom, Muslims are on our collective consciences as we continue to recover from 9/11.  With that in mind it’s great to see a show which is not afraid to challenge our perceptions and is willing to poke fun at our fears.  The basic premise of Aliens in America is that a nice Christian family from Wisconsin decides to take in an exchange student, to their surprise said exchange student is none other than a young Muslim Pakistani boy.  The jokes simply make themselves.

Adhir Kalyan plays Raja, the innocent yet brilliant exchange student who is more than eager to learn from his American experience.  Raja’s comrade in adolescent arms is Justin, played by Dan Byrd (The Hills Have Eyes).  Both boys attempt to navigate the minefields of high school, parents, prejudices and misconceptions as they grow together as friends.  Through every new challenge the teens face, they are accompanied by Justin’s well-meaning if clueless parents, ex-jock Gary and overprotective Franny (Scott Patterson, Gilmore Girls and Amy Pietz, The Whole Ten Yards).

                                                                                                                                           

Anyone who has gone through any kind of high school experience (or heck, even been a teenager) will appreciate the different subjects tossed around from week to week.  Topics tackled include the crush on the popular pretty girl, trying to establish independence (without your parents noticing), trying to be accepted while displaying your individuality, dealing with “uncool” parents and coping with your rampaging hormones.  With this kind of atmosphere, you can have scripts for days.  The excellent acting simply adds juice to already great writing.

Unfortunately, where this show gets some of its humor from can get old very quickly.  While our recent national obsession with Muslims may deserve at times to be laughed at, it will get quite old rather quickly if it is continuously used as a central gag (just look at That Eighties Show in comparison with That Seventies Show).  Mixed in here and there and used properly it would produce good laughs and could maybe even enlighten the viewers on prejudices in their own lives.

Another detrimental factor of the show is that it tends to rely too heavily upon the “Magical [insert favorite minority here]” device to make its philosophical statements.  It appears to be that the only one with any wisdom to give is young Raja while everyone else around him seems to simply careen through the various trials and tribulations they are faced with.  At the end of the show, innocent Raja is there to impart some sort of profound advice that can only come from someone who is not culturally or racially similar to his/her cohorts.

Don’t get me wrong, the injection of Raja into Justin’s existence is exactly what he needs at this moment in life.  The duo helps us to see the importance of having a friend who will be there for you, to look after you, no matter what the cost to themselves.  Friends like that in high school are few and far between.  It’s also difficult to face all of the social and physical changes going on at that time when you have no one in your age group to empathize with you.  We see Justin taking this stranger and helping him wend his way through the varied customs and rights of passage that would be completely foreign to poor Raja.  And, we see Raja helping Justin cope with the difficult moral and social decisions that come naturally with being a high school teenager.  This show is (and hopefully will continue to be) a great case-study in what a friend is. 

I must further mention the fact that the show’s unique characteristics for the role of Raja also puts a fresh face on the struggle of being a young person in today’s society while maintaining the essential hold on your faith that can help you get through this difficult time in life.  In a conversation in which Justin and Raja are reconciling with each other Raja states, “You know, I pretend to be above certain feelings because they are outside my faith and, well, because sometimes they are easier to deny, but in truth, they are there.”  It’s comforting to see a television character who is so steadfast in his faith admit to ordinary human weaknesses and experiences.  In this one line, Raja confesses to the fact that even though he is faithful to his God, he is still a growing human being with the same feelings and desires as everyone else.

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Listening to the Silence

Posted on October 23, 2007. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

 

 

How Long O Lord!

Most of my close friends know how badly I had sunk into depression these past couple of years (about 3).  All throughout I had flailed in the darkness trying desperately to hold onto what little faith and trust in God I had left.  As much as I wanted to throw it all away, I kept thinking along with Simon Peter in John 6:68,69 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  But I counted the days that I wallowed in my doubt and fears and I saw no end in sight.

Dawn finally began to break for me about 5 months ago.  I didn’t have an experience like St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa of Avila but it was my own dark night, my own desert wandering period.  Now it’s a time for recovery.  There’s no trumpets, no blinding lights, no visions, no voices from heaven for me.  I don’t need them and I don’t expect them.  But right now, I’m left with the feeling of what do I do now?  Even though I do see my time sitting in the silence as a time that helped me to grow spiritually, I don’t know what to do about it or what to do with it.  I’m growing listless and anxious.  It’s as if I’ve reached a spiritual plateau and all I see is flat land stretching out to the twilight horizon, you know, that time of day where land and sky seem to intermingle. 

I continue to discover old things that I used to do, old spiritual exercises that I used to perform and those seem to be helping some.  With our little Spiritual Growth/Exercises/Formation thing that myself and some friends have going on, I’ve brushed the dust off the time tested Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina.  One of the reasons why I like it is that you must be completely open to have your thoughts and beliefs challenged and broken.  The way that I view God and my own place in life can be called into question at any moment by simply listening in the silence. 

Today I read something that is still giving me chills.  It was just a little piece in a seldom read book that truly stuck out.  The Lord is speaking to the prophet Zephaniah and says, “Therefore, wait for me,” (3:8).  I know it’s not the entire verse, I know it’s not the entire chapter but it still stuck out.  “Wait for me,”  the cry of one who is separated from a loved one for a time.  “Wait for me,” the plea of a child running after a parent.  “Wait for me,” the pledge given in an engagement.  “Wait for me,” the voiced desire of a friend seeking fellowship.  “Wait for me,” the reassurance from a confidant that help is on the way.  For all the times in which I have wept in the night, “How long O Lord?”, he has silently whispered, “Wait for me!” 

This is why I’m relearning to love the silence.  How long was the voice of God carried away by the wind?  How long did I drown out the warm sotto voce of God’s song with my own unharmonious cacophony?  I sit in the silence and breathe.  It may sound like a paradox, it may not make sense but I’m learning to sit in silence, not saying a word vocally or mentally, and listen to God.  The odd thing is that I’m learning that in the silence, he’s listening to me. 

It’s so odd and yet it is so comforting.  I listen without speaking and God listens without responding.  I’ve gained more from this in the past few months than I have in the ten previous years of chasing after God.  And, in the quiet, I hear God and I know that God hears me.  For those that come and read my blogs, I welcome you to join with me on my pilgrimage.  I ask you to come to the quiet.

 

 

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30 Days of Night Movie Review – by Maurice Broaddus

Posted on October 22, 2007. Filed under: Reviews |

Recently I did a review on the comic 30 Days of Night.  Unless you’ve lived in a cave for the last month you know that amovie has come out with the same name.  Here is Maurice Broaddus’ review of 30 Days of night the movie.

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The Gospel of Judas and Why We Want to Believe the Hype

Posted on October 17, 2007. Filed under: Theological Crap |

Kind of dug this article from Relevant Magazine by Scot McKnight.

I know that I’m using a blog to post someone else’s article but how else am I going to get it to you.  I honestly think we should be looking into things such as why people want to rush to believe the “newest thing” even though across the board it’s decredited (much like the Gospel of Judas).  It almost seems like a “Hey, at least it’s not the New Testament so it must be true!” kind of things.  People are going to do what they are going to do but not everything is a grand conspiracy.  I leave those for people who stay locked in their houses all day playing on the computer.

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Heresies

Posted on October 15, 2007. Filed under: Theological Crap |

Heresies

Misconceptions abound when this word is thrown around.  Sometimes it’s used correctly, other times it’s used to mark “us” from “them”.  Some people even impose it on themselves as some sort of honorary title.  The air has been muddled with various misunderstandings of this term; so much so that people no longer know a heresy when they see one and also at times will call themselves or others heretics without properly grasping the concept.  Just like the Gnostic post, I will try to give a small primer on heresy.  It’s a subject I love to study and it can sometimes get confusing with all of the semantics involved but for someone who is going to deal in church history or in theology, it is more important beyond my means of explaining.

Someone who leaves the faith is by definition an apostate, not a heretic.  Someone who removes themselves from the unity of the church to do their own thing is a schismatic, not a heretic.  All heretics are schismatics but not all schismatics are heretics.  Apostates are not heretics because they have left the realm of Christendom and therefore, by nature, are not changing a Christian dogma.  When someone is obstinately opposed to a clearly defined article of faith and begins teaching something contradictory, then they are a heretic.  Please understand that I am saying that it is a CLEARLY defined article (i.e. I know what some people are going to say, “Well it’s a man made system that put those rules into effect.  It’s just the church trying to stifle free thought”; it’s not and they aren’t). 

Almost every heresy was started with the best of intentions (and by the way, no one sets out to start a heresy).  Pelagianism for example was a teaching that was began essentially to make people accountable for their actions as Christians.  Pelagius’ fault lay in that he denied the doctrine of Original Sin and also claimed that mankind was responsible for their own salvation thus removing the redemptive quality of Jesus’ death.  Arius was striving to maintain the unity of God but in so doing he denied the incarnation of God in the man Jesus (Arianism).  Apollinaris of Laodicea was trying to defend the divine nature of Jesus in saying that Jesus was a human with a soul but with a divine nature (Monopysitism) thus denying that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  Cyrus of Alexandria tried to find a common ground by saying that Jesus had two natures but only had one will which does away with the divine and human will of Jesus (Monothelitism, also denying that Jesus was fully God and fully man).  Sabellius (like Arius) wished to protect God’s wholeness and stated that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were simply three different modes of one God which goes against the Trinitarian Three Persons of the Godhead (Sabellianism/Modalism).

Every once in a while we see an ancient heresy rear its head and start prancing around.  Some actually take hold and become rather sizable communities (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, etc.)  The trick is learning to be able to tell if something that sounds right is right.  I read a magazine article one time where the person they were reporting on said, “He was the Father in creation, the Son in the Redemption and is the Holy Spirit in Sanctification.”  In a smaller book that he wrote, this same person stated that Jesus ascended into heaven so that he could become the Holy Spirit.  Both of those statements are absolutely 100% undeniably heretical.  The problem here is the same problem that Christian theologians have faced for over two thousand years.  Here we have a man who is highly esteemed by his community for how he speaks and how he motivates.  People like myself are called nit-pickers and hair-splitters for even looking at those few lines and breaking them down to their fundamental fragments.

Now what is so bad about having separate thoughts in one church?  St. Augustine said, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty and in all charity.”  To call yourself a Christian, which is a system of belief, you first of all have to believe something.  The Church for the first couple hundred years of its existence did everything it could to hammer out a belief system that was in the right way of thinking.  You don’t want to worship Jesus as God if he is only a human being and you don’t want to make the mistake of saying that Jesus is only a man if he is truly divine.  You may say that it is hair-splitting or just words but if you want to categorize yourself as something, you need to have a category to fall into.  If I make counterfeit money I can call myself the US Treasury all I want, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a US Treasury and I’m not it. 

To preserve the unity of the faithful there are certain belief structures we must have in common to remain unified (moral as well as theological, you can’t be a Christian who believes arson and battery are okay).  If that creepy uncle comes and tells the rest of the family that it’s alright for him to have sex with your children, no matter what other beliefs you may have in common with him that one idea is going to have horrific ramifications on the rest of the family if it’s allowed to be perpetrated or gains a following.  I know that these may seem like drastic examples but think about some beliefs that you hold that are absolutely central to who you are as a person and that is the equivalent of heresies and orthodoxies.  This is one of the main reasons behind the formation of the Creeds, so that all of the churches that called themselves “Christian” had a standard to go by.

Not all dissenting opinions are heretical.  A dissenting opinion on birth control (one way or the other, depending on what your church teaches) does not prove heretical.  Any thoughts on spiritual gifts (i.e. tongues and prophecy), no matter how much you may love or hate the subject, with a dissenting opinion on the matter is not a heresy.  I’ve always tried to tell people that there are a lot more non-essentials than there are essentials.  Sometimes we major in minors, it’s a human trait and we need to realize that not everybody majors in those same minors as we do.  This is why in all that we do and in all that we hold we need charity.

 

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Why Some Animals Eat Their Young

Posted on October 5, 2007. Filed under: Me and only ME ranting |

Why Some Animals Eat Their Young

At times I have wondered at and been appalled by the fact that some animals kill or go so far as to eat their young.  “Why would they do this?” I would silently scream, “Why would an animal want to do in something so cute and cuddly?”  With big heads and big eyes, baby animals are so cute as they stumble around discovering the world around them.  Sometimes they chase their tails, sometimes they jump up in the air with all four paws for no reason, and other times they just want to rough-and-tumble-it.  Most people can’t help but bubble over into vulgar displays of affection.

So why would animals want to lay waste to such adorableness?  It wasn’t until tonight that I think I finally realized why.  My wife asked me to take Titus to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and to meet her there with some other friends with small children.  Being as I’ve never been to the museum before, I figured what the heck, I can only learn something while I’m there, right?  Yeppers, I sure did.

At first it was an absolute blast to be able to watch Titus run around, eyes wide, panting with anticipation, running from one exhibit to the next.  Then in a heartbeat he began pushing other kids out of the way to get to things, started grabbing tools out of other kids hands, climbing on different displays (that had prominently displayed signs stating in no uncertain terms, “NO CLIMBING!”).  I began to think I had the most difficult child in the world on my hands.  Even when Marcia was available to watch him, I began to despair.

But alas, my gloominess turned to glee as I saw what other children were doing to their parents.  Screaming, crying, kicking, shoving, running away from them.  I actually had to chuckle, my kid sure as heck ain’t that bad after all!  Some of the parents didn’t care, which made me think, “I ought to remember that kid’s face, I’ll probably see him at the detention center pretty soon.”  But the maelstrom of chaotic flailing limbs and banshee-like screams did not begin until it was announced that the Children’s Museum would be closing in just a few minutes.  You could almost hear in the announcer’s exasperated voice “So get the hell out!”

Marcia was to take the boy back to the house so when I finally lost track of them, I beat a hasty retreat.  I wandered out of the Agrosciences section on the fourth floor and found my way to the elevators.  Now I was in for a real treat.  Starting with the closing of the elevator doors, a sound began to emanate from the other side of the thin sheet metal.  I heard a young girl whining, “No, I want to go back that way!”  I smiled knowing the frustrations of the parent of that incorrigible little child.  As I watched the floor fade from four to three, I was once again met with the protestations of another little rugrat.  This time, on floor three, I heard a much louder tantrum (I believe it was a young boy) in which the young child screamed, “Go back!  I don’t wanna go!”

I suddenly had visions of descending through the rings of Dante’s version of Hell.  Moans, cries, protestations, yelling, cursing.  I was afraid Judas Iscariot or Brutus was going to appear on the elevator with me and put a reassuring arm around my shoulders to say, “We all end up going to the same place.”  Floor two flashed its bright gleaming redness into my eyes.  I could hear (through what I could now only assume was a portal to the netherworld) a bloodcurdling “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”  At that pitch, all voices become unisex.  The fear built in my soul as the elevator began to come to a stop.  My hands began to tremble.  My throat became parched.  My eyes proceeded to well up with tears.  What would await me on the other side of this transdimensional doorway?  My ears were never meant to hear such things.

No longer were there any words involved.  All that surrounded me were the mingled growlings of parents and the spine-chilling screams of their spawn.  I don’t know if I’ve ever walked so fast in my life.  On my way out I noticed a sign that mentioned that the Children’s Museum was going to have a Haunted “House” type attraction from October 16-31.  I chuckled and thought to myself, “The 16th?  Ha!  They actually posted a typo.  Lord knows nothing could have been more frightening as this evening has been.”  Reaching for the soothing cool metal of the exit door’s handle, I knew I would soon be safe from the cacophony that was rising and falling like waves.

I walked across the Sky-Walk thingy over Illinois St. and had my welcoming Monte Carlo in sight.  At this time I noticed three sets of parents with their offspring in tow.  This is the moment I had my grand insight.  I realized that children today are conspiring with each other.  How else could the following event have happened so perfectly?  As the children stepped from the concrete onto the pavement of the Parking Garage, all three (from different families mind you) scattered in three different directions.  It was like watching the three horsemen riding off to lay waste to the earth.  I began fretfully to look around for the Fourth Horseman (for he is Death and Hell follows after him, little did I know that HE would end up being a little 3 year old girl).  Dodging in and out of parked cars, I watched as natural selection was bested time and again as the God’s precious little creations dove Matrix-like out of the way of oncoming traffic.  Meanwhile, the parents are frantically yelling, “STOP, STOP!”  At least one had the sense to yell out, “I’ll beat your behind if you don’t stop!”  I swear it was like hearing tires screech as that child ceased and desisted. 

I finally made it to the Monte Carlo and was able to put it into reverse, I checked carefully and pulled out slowly as to not do my part in proving Social Darwinism.  As I began to pull away at a crawl, I spotted her.  The Fourth Horseman I will refer to as Death!  Most people are fully aware of the patience of grandmothers with everyone, especially young children.  But this little one was going to be the death of her grandma.  Grandmother was trying to pull one way (I can only guess to the car) while the little imp was pulling the other way and pointing back to the museum.  Grandma had the situation well in hand.  Until that is, when the little one named Death decided to try a new tactic….running towards traffic.

In no time, the good being of Light who is the Grandmother snatched that little child up (did grandma conquer Death?) and swung her into her arms.  As she tried to cradle the little one, Death flailed like a spider monkey;  arms, legs, feet, hands….my god I believe I even saw a tail….they flew every which way. 

This is when I had the epiphany.  I understood it at last.  THIS is why animals sometimes will eat their young!  I can only think that the parents/grandparents did nothing of the sort tonight because they knew people were watching.  No doubt there was a whispered word of warning or two to some of the children, “You do that again and what happened to your bunny is going to happen to you….yum, yum!”  But for the most part it was an unspoken understanding of how things used to be back before we had social mores and CPS.

I hope you all enjoyed the story.  For those of you who are feeling upset, I hope that you could at least pick up on some of the sarcasm because I was laying it on pretty thick.  If you still can’t see the humor in the writing, then maybe you too are just proof of why some animals eat their young.

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