Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Things I Got to Do in January

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Oklahoma City, Places, Television, Thought, TV, Young Ones on January 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I know the month is hardly over, but I'm not sure I'll have time to post again until February. In the meantime, here's a visual record of some things I got to do in January:

Sell an old car (our 1998 Delta 88 threw a rod and died a peaceful death in our driveway)

Olds

Buy a "new" car (meet "Victor the Volvo," a 23-year-old car whose official color is "wine")

Victor

Chronicle blatant church hypocrisy (best picture ever)

Hypocrisy

Take part in City Pres' first-ever leader retreat (I'm the one about to throw up on the right)

City Pres Leadership Training

Eat (and live to tell about it) at a place featured on Man vs. Food

Catfish Barn

Care for our first foster child (this 3-year-old was cute as a button)

Fostering

Study with daughters at Starbucks (also known as caffeinated homeschooling)

Starbucks Studying

Launch a new school (The Academy) with friend and fellow Head of School, Nathan Carr

Craig Launching Academy

Nathan Launching Academy

All in a month's work…

 

A Dispatch from January

In Books, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Movies, Oklahoma City, Places, Pop Culture, Sports, Television, TV, Veritas, Young Ones on January 21, 2012 at 8:03 am

I have over 150 "have-to-answer" emails in my inbox, so it would seem a good time to work on the blog. (I'll just think of this as a warm-up rather than a put-off. Note: If you're waiting on an email from me, it will come today). Some items of late to mark the days:

I just finished two books, both with a financial theme: The Price of Everything, a parable of economic emergent order, by Russell Roberts, and The Third Conversion, a "novelette" by R. Scott Rodin about fundraising as ministry and not just money. The first book is a very readable text that our seniors are reading in Economics; the second is a more semi-hokey series of conversations between a seasoned fundraiser and his up-and-coming protege.

While recovering from my first kidney stone surgery, I found myself with some time to actually watch a few things on Netflix via the iPad. I'd heard of Joss Whedon's Firefly series (only one season of 15 episodes, capped off for resolution by the movie, Serenity) and enjoyed this "space western" well enough. I also had time for a few Shakespeare films (Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V and Patrick Stewart in Macbeth were excellent), which were fun and novel to watch.

There's been a lot of "launching" going on this January. A week ago, City Pres got off the ground with our first official worship service (I helped serve the Lord's Supper) and our Tuesday night CityGroup started back up; this past week, we kicked off our Veritas capital campaign and website, which we hope will come to first fruition in early March; and I've  enjoyed getting back in the classroom twice a week teaching the second semester of our senior American History course (two very different but engaging texts: A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schwiekart and Michaell Allen and A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn).

Other highlights so far this month: 70-degree weather, my four capitalist daughters selling three (and counting) enormous boxes worth of chocolate for their homeschool band program, Megan clearing off and cleaning my desk (she loves me), NFL football playoffs (which is really the only time I'm interested enough to watch), the daily newspaper in my driveway, cold milk on hand, and people who call me "friend".

Okay. Guess it's time to deal with email, to which I say (in my best British accent): "Do your worst!" Thanks for reading.

On the 10th Anniversary of September 11th

In Musicians, Places, Thought, TV on September 11, 2011 at 5:16 am


Never mind the fact that it’s my favorite U2 song and the single greatest performance in the history of SuperBowl half-time shows, but I remember how healing and powerful U2’s 9/11 tribute was in February of 2002. Even watching it now, I’m blown away by the visual of bright hope emerging from the dark background of tragedy.

Maybe this (among other reasons) is why, ten years later, my sense of grief is not as personally paralyzing as it seems for others. Some may roll their eyes, but in reflecting back, I think Bono and the boys helped me deal with it then…not completely unaffectedly I’m sure, but in a way that allowed me to move on.

“Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building, then burning down love
Burning down love, and when I go there
I go there with you, it’s all I can do”

For those struggling with today’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings, I hope this can be of some comfort to you. (Thanks to my friend, Al Li, for reminding me of this tribute.)

Communications or Entertainment?

In Internet, Movies, Technology, Thought, TV on July 24, 2010 at 12:11 am
Bundle
"Here we are now…entertain us"

Nirvana

So Megan and I, having been the victim one too many times of AT+T raising our home phone/DSL rates again, have re-entered the fray of trying to figure out the best communications deal out there. If you've done this recently, you know it isn't easy: there are far too many options, and none of them seem all that great bundled together for our particular purposes.

Our particular purposes, I suppose, are part of the problem, but so are the prices. In researching options, I was amazed both at the breadth of what's available as well as what the market is apparently willing to bear per month to subscribe to them. By my estimation, families with a land line, multiple cell phones (say 3-4), 300+ TV channels with multi-channel DVR capabilities, and broadband Internet across multiple computers could be paying as much as $400-$500 per month in fees, which doesn't even include hardware (cell phones, receiving dish or cable installation, computers) costs on the front end.

We currently have a land line, one pay-by-the-minute cell phone ($100 goes about 6 months), antenna television (6 channels), a mid-level (two movies out at a time) NetFlix subscription, and DSL. Add on a subscription to Covenant Eyes for the computers and we now pay about $120 in monthly fees, which we've determined is too much for our budget.

We'd like to find a cheaper land line provider (or drop the land line altogether and bite the bullet financially and philosophically by going to two cell phones), but we can't make the numbers work (and, of course, none of this even deals with the whole television part of the equation, nor the movie rental fee).

How much is too much in this area of communications? And is it really "communications" being talked about, or is our culture's thirst for entertainment – visual, digital, social – behind the willingness to pay ever-increasing amounts of money to ensure access to it?

For the Christian, how does what gets spent on entertainment compare to what gets given to the Kingdom each month? How much is too much/too little? Where's the line and what are the reasons for where it's been drawn (or re-drawn) over the years?

Wrestling through this anew these days. Feel free to add your two cents and share your own communications/entertainment experiences, ideas, and counsel. I'm open like 7-11.

Summer 2010 Preview, Etc.

In Books, Calling, Education, Family, Humanity, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, TV, Vacation, Web/Tech, Westminster, Writers on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sitting here on a Sunday night listening to some Lucinda Williams and doing a little writing. It's been a while since I've done a summary post of sorts, so since Megan and the girls are out of town and we're collectively an entire season behind to really make the LOST finale worth watching, here are a few things I've been thinking about and/or looking forward to:

School: This week is finals week, so I'll be spending most of my time grading. The good news is, unlike the past three years when I was evaluating projects and papers, I'm going into finals week with nothing other than finals to grade, so that should make for a little less consuming week in general.

In other school news, I've signed on for another year at Westminster, but my role is changing a bit as I'll be leaving the world of freshmen New Testament behind for fourth section of sophomore Ethics and one section of senior Worldviews next year. I'm glad for the transition all around.

One last note on the school front (this time the homeschool front), we're going to be entering a new stage of education here at home. This fall, our two oldest girls will be full-time students at Central Christian School in Clayton, while Megan continues leading the Classical Conversations group and homeschools our younger two (here are details from Megan's perspective).

Summer: In addition to writing (more on that below), my primary goal in June is to hang out with the little ladies, read some books, and get a few projects done around here. In addition, I'll help coach our Westminster summer baseball team for a week in June, as well as get trained on some new school information software, as I've been asked to be a mentor teacher to the rest of the staff this fall.

July ups the ante considerably in terms of travel, as we're planning a family trip to Colorado Springs, as the girls are now old enough (somehow) to attend The Navigators' camping programs (Eagle Lake and Eagle's Nest) we helped lead back in the day. I'll try to see as many folks as I can in a few days' time before I jump on a plane from Denver to Portland for my third year as part of Westminster's Summer Seminar. This time, I'll be investing ten days with 25 soon-to-be seniors in Washington state instead of South Dakota, after which I'll fly back to Colorado and then we'll all drive back to Missouri.

August sees staff reporting as earlier as the week of August 9th, but I'll have a few publishing projects to edit and design from the Washington trip, as well as a fair amount of prep work to finalize for my new
Worldviews class. Orientation starts the 12th and the first day of class is the 16th.

Studying: Despite baseball high-jacking my time and energy, I've been reading in a couple areas of interest this spring, not the least of which has been the study of the end times, or eschatology. N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, has been helpful, as has revisiting my notes from seminary (particularly Dr. Dan Doriani's notes from his Epistles and Revelation class). Of the three years I've taught Revelation to my freshmen New Testament classes, I feel like I've done the best job this year.

I'm also finishing up a couple books on education, namely John Dewey and the Decline of American Education by Henry T. Edmondson III, Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, and The Secret of TSL by William Ouchi. It seems I've been reading these for a while (and I have), but there's been some good content that's come as a result.

Looking ahead, I have some Worldviews reading to do this summer, including (Re)Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand; The Compact Guide to World Religions edited by Dean C. Halverson (ed.); The Journey by Peter Kreeft; Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey; and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. Should be fun.

Writing: Now that my second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is finished, I'm turning back to finishing the ThirtySomewhere manuscript this summer. I'm still looking for a formal publisher to get behind it, but now that I've experimented with the self-publishing gig a bit (and am still experimenting), I may go with what I've got at some point this fall and see what happens. We'll see.

I plan to continue blogging here, though I really wonder how much people are interested in anything longer than 140 Twitter characters these days. Speaking of which, I've enjoyed Twitter enough to keep using it, but there again I just have no way of really knowing how far the medium's actual reach is so as to invest more time in it. Oh well.

Guess that's it for now. There's more, but this is long enough. I'll try to post a few more thoughts later on this week (nothing brings out literary creativity like the desire to avoid grading). Have a good one.

O Canada (revised)

In Musicians, Places, Poetry, Sports, TV on March 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

A friend of mine in Colorado is in a fun but fierce battle with a Canadian friend of his over the outcome of the Olympic gold medal hockey game in which Canada beat the U.S. My friend asked me to write a parody of the Canadian national anthem to use as ammo.

Here's the original (click here to listen):

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Below is my version (click here to sing along). Keep in mind the following is all of 5 minutes of work, stereotypically-dated by my coming of age in the 80's (so take off, eh?):

O Canada!
Our home and TV land
True luck that we have Captain Kirk's command.

With glowing hearts made warm by beer
and McKenzie brothers two!
S-C-T-V,
O Canada, we raise remotes to you.

God keep us warm, laid back and free.
O Canada, we love to watch TV.

O Canada, we love to watch TV.

Other lyric suggestions?

(Semi-) Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

In Movies, TV on January 24, 2009 at 12:23 pm

X-Files: I Want to BelieveOn Friday night, for old time's sake, Megan and I rented The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the second of two movies based on our all-time favorite television show that ran from 1993-2001 (we have all nine seasons on DVD). Being the X-Philes that we were/are, we caught the midnight show of the movie on the night it came out last July (I wanted both of us to dress up like FBI agents but Megan thought we might be the only dweebs in attendance, which was far from the case), but were disappointed by creator Chris Carter's decision not to develop the government conspiracy story arc that was so key to the weekly episodes and the first movie in 1998. The second movie worked well enough as a monster-of-the-week episode, but that was about it; I didn't even write a review.

Still (and in light of discussion on my recent LOST post), watching the movie a second time last night, I found that it played better than I remembered on the big screen, mostly because of the depth of characters Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson). Even without the government conspiracy arc, the personal transitions the characters had made over the nine seasons were still there and went beyond "type" to believable humanity. Granted, the direction wasn't as strong and the plot was plenty morbid (think Frankenstein meets organ trafficking), but the humanity of the lead characters really stood out, which made it that much more watchable.

So, if anybody's looking for a new DVD fetish with real characters that actually change and grow over time, let me recommend The X-Files. The stories are well-written, the science is fascinating, and the tension of the modern world trying to make sense of what cannot always be made sense of is a healthy one.

Lost Season 5 Premiere: B-

In TV on January 22, 2009 at 9:26 am

LOSTI can't believe I'm writing a post about the Lost premiere last night, but here goes.

We came to the Lost hysteria late, watching a majority of the seasons on DVD this past summer, and finishing up season four over Christmas break. I just about bailed in the middle of season three (it was like watching paint dry), but season four redeemed things for me as the plot actually began moving somewhere.

That said, I'm semi-bored with the characters and much more interested in the island itself – its history, its abilities, its significance. I've read theories of what the island represents (purgatory, etc.), but I doubt it's that simple (though I don't think it's altogether non-spiritual in meaning either); I'd just rather spend more time on the Dharma Initiative and the island's supposed metaphysical characteristics than watch Kate cry (again).

For me, the most interesting scene of the whole series has been the brief confrontation in season four between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore. While one could interpret Widmore's claim to past ownership of the island merely as proprietary, it seemed a loaded statement, almost hinting at some larger cosmic "ownership" normally associated with deity. Not sure where to go with this (it can't be a good vs. evil thing between the two – who is which?), but I'm holding onto that scene as a key to the resolution of the story.

Overall, I give the premiere a B- for the evening – not bad by any means – but the human characters are getting in the way of the show's real star: the island.

Your thoughts and theories?

Black Friday on the Farm

In Books, Family, Friends, Holidays, Places, TV on November 28, 2008 at 11:04 am

I’m doubtful many folks are checking blogs today, but if you are:

  • We had a great Thanksgiving here on the farm – fun with family, amazing food, some basketball, a star-filled evening hayride, a couple of naps
  • No one has so much as even mentioned doing a little Black Friday shopping
  • Megan and the girls are going to see Bolt with my sisters and their kids today
  • I’m trying to resist the temptation of my parents’ Dish Network and Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch marathon
  • Instead, I’m hoping to write some Old Testament reflections (as they’re to be more devotional, I’m going to pull a Wendell Berry and write them longhand)
  • Speaking of Wendell, I’m also attempting to resist the temptation of finishing his book, The Memory of Old Jack, which I made the mistake of packing
  • We’re heading back to St. Louis early tomorrow morning for what will surely be a very sad memorial service and funeral, but look forward to finishing out the Thanksgiving break at home

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday, but the break always feels so short. The good news is, because Thanksgiving was so late this year, I only have two weeks of teaching and a week of finals before two weeks of Christmas break.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, everyone.

Not Even Jack Bauer Can Get Us Out of This One

In Calling, Humanity, Places, Thought, TV, Westminster on November 24, 2008 at 6:57 am

Powerful episode of 24 Sunday night. “Redemption” caught us up with illegal expatriate Jack Bauer (played by Keifer Sutherland) coming to the aid of African children kidnapped to be made into child soldiers under a would-be dictator.

As always, the show’s story was straight out of news headlines, even including a presidential transfer of power in Washington, with the only major detail missed being the casting of the new President as a woman instead of a black man (apologies to both Senators Clinton and Obama). In a word, the episode was heartbreaking, as the use of thousands of child soldiers is going on in at least 17 different countries today.

For the past two years, Westminster has been involved with an organization called Invisible Children, whose Schools for Schools initiative exists “to creatively raise money for the schools of northern Uganda, improving the quality of education for war-affected students.” So far this fall, the WCA student body has raised over $15,000 (mostly in spare change) to help the same secondary school in Gulu that we helped last year, ranking us first in the country of all participating U.S. schools with less than a month to go of the 100-day window.

While I’m not a big fan of the competitive giving strategy utilized by the organization (and enabled by Westminster), I was glad that one WCA student, as well as my friend and teaching colleague, Ann Heyse, “won” the opportunity to represent our school in Gulu this past summer. Ann spent six weeks with Invisible Children, training teachers and teaching students with her expertise in English, and based on both her personal testimony and her excellently-written blog documenting her experience, it seems the organization does good work in a place that needs much good work done.

Last night, as I watched the two-hour teaser that creatively gets Jack Bauer back to the United States for the show’s seventh full season beginning in January, I found myself overwhelmed by the realism of it all…that is until one particular commercial break when there was a quick screen shot for the Human Rights Watch website, followed immediately by a national Pizza Hut commercial, and then a local ad for St. Louis’ very own Casino Queen (“home of the loosest slots”). Whew. Assuagement by advertising.

What an incredibly confusing postmodern culture we have created, one in which almost every aspect of life is separated from any true and meaningful meta-narrative. How strange to go from African children dying to ordering two-for-one pizzas to having a great time gambling, all in the course of 60 seconds. And yet for those of us who have been breathing this postmodern air our entire lives, the progression doesn’t seem strange at all; it is exactly what we have come to expect (at least, that is, before God’s revelatory red pill of the gospel allows us to see power, gluttony, and greed for what they really are).

We live in a broken world, friends. Whether in Africa or America, ours is both a needy place and time to be alive, and not even Jack Bauer can get us out of this one.

The Kids Are Growing Up

In Internet, Movies, Musicians, Thought, TV, Westminster on November 20, 2008 at 7:28 am

A thought crossed my mind this week that I’ll throw out to see if it sticks. For many of you, this may fall in the “I could care less” category, but since I spend a majority of my time with teenagers, I’m interested.

It seems to me there’s a major generational shift going on in the teen entertainment business. For instance, earlier this week, the MTV show TRL (Total Request Live) took a final bow after ten years of attracting the “biggest and hottest recording artists, actors and celebrities on most weekday afternoons,” all while playing “the most iconic videos of the day.” For better or for worse, a majority of the boy bands, pop tarts, and rappers of the past ten years got a whole lot of promotion via TRL, a fact wonderfully and cynically documented in the 2001 movie (not the 70s TV show) Josie and the Pussycats, one of my favorite commentaries on the youth culture of the time.

But that’s not all that makes me think about a shift occurring. This weekend, the movie Twilight – teen romance with unfortunate vampire issues – comes out, and the teen world all over will be filling theaters for weeks on end tomorrow to see it. I was intrigued by a comment one of the girls in my class made when, commenting on the “hot or not” looks of the movie’s Edward character (Jane Austen fans, imagine a teenage Mr. Darcy with fangs), she said, “He’s not even really that cute. All the cute guys – with the exception of Zac Ephron – are older.”

Hmmm.

Finally, I don’t know if anyone’s seen the trailer for J.J. Abrams‘ new Star Trek movie, but there’s nary a recognizable face among the actors playing the new (and young – very young) versions of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, et. al. Granted, Abrams’ name is the draw (he of Alias and Lost fame), but with him at the helm, it’s interesting there isn’t more familiar young “star power” (notice I didn’t say “talent”) attached.

Is something going on here? Anyone have any thoughts, or am I just spending too much time with high schoolers? My interest is not in the fact that I’m getting older (I know that already), but in the fact that the youth culture of recent years seems to be.

The Truth Is Out There

In Movies, Pop Culture, TV on March 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

In the comments on my last post, the discussion took a turn and ended up on The X-Files and the upcoming second movie, due out July 25th. I'm geared up for the flick, though I have no idea why they're apparently letting go of the government conspiracy arc and dealing only with the paranormal; still, as long as Mulder and Scully are back, count me in (we own every season on DVD, and watched one episode a night last year to reconnect with our TV counterparts).

Back in the glory days of The X-Files, I had an idea for an episode in which Mulder and Scully were chosen to participate in and test the ultimate Witness Protection Program. The gimmick? Those in the program were unaware of their involvement in it, thanks to a combination of drugs, relocation, and cover-up. It could have been a cool idea, but later that same season, there was an episode in which Mulder and Scully went undercover as a married couple, so my screenplay would have seemed redundant after that.

Still, for your enjoyment, here's the intro to my episode; let me know what you think. (Note to X-Files creator, Chris Carter: Have your people call my people; I'm in the book.)

(Fade up. Mulder, gun in hand, is slowly making his way through a dark, foggy factory strangely reminiscent of those seen in previous episodes. As he rounds a corner, he sees a door with a bright light coming from underneath it.)

(Making his way to the door, he opens it to find he is standing at the end of a long aisle in a well-lit church with people looking back at him from all sides. Soft organ music is playing in the background. As he considers the scene, a little girl waves to him from the last pew and he raises his left hand sheepishly to wave back. In doing so, he notices the gold ring on his left hand, and is dumbfounded.)

(The music continues and all the attendants and congregants are looking away from him, sharing his stare at the dark back door of the church. Nervous and a little uncomfortable, he continues to look around, again catching the eye of the same little girl in the pew who smiles and waves again. He again waves back, unsure of what he’s doing here or who this girl is.)

(Suddenly, the door at the end of the aisle opens, and whispers of excitement travel through the crowd. There in the doorway in proper tuxedo attire is the Cigarette-Smoking Man serving as the father of the bride, Scully, all aglow with the glory of the day.)

(Mulder, visibly shaken, scans the room trying to figure out what is going on. While doing this, he becomes distracted by a stuck key steadily pulsing from the organ. Mulder turns back to the crowd, now wearing all black and looking directly at him with dull expressions, except for the one little girl in back waving at Mulder. As he looks up the aisle, he sees Scully and the Cigarette-Smoking Man are nowhere to be found, and the heavy, dark door begins to close.)

(Mulder, frightened that Scully’s gone, begins running toward the back door. As he does so, the pulse of the broken organ grows louder and louder, and the crowd of black-clothed people converge on the aisle zombie-like, preventing him from making his way to the back. Finally, the pulse of the organ is so unbearable in his ears…)

(Mulder wakes up in a warm, decorated, sunlit bedroom, realizing that the pulse of the organ was really his alarm clock going off. He fumbles to turn off the alarm, sits up straight, and takes a deep breath, glad to be out of the dream. Understanding what just happened (ie. that he was dreaming), he shakes his head and begins to get out of bed.)

(Just before he walks off to take a cold shower and begin the day, he sentimentally turns back and kneels on the bed with one knee to bend over and plant a quick kiss on the cheek of his still-sleeping bed partner, Scully, who responds to his affection with a half-asleep sigh. Mulder smiles as he walks past a framed (and dated) picture of their wedding day, flips the light in the bathroom, and turns on the shower while the camera zooms in on the picture of the newly wedded couple, then fades to black.)

THEME SONG & OPENING CREDITS
TAG LINE: "THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE"

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Jon Stewart

In TV on October 6, 2007 at 8:32 am

Jon Stewart is brilliant. Watch this short interview with Chris Matthews about Matthews’ new book, Life’s a Campaign, and marvel at how quick (and right) Stewart is (hat tip: Jon Barlow).

Tragedy Capturing

In Internet, Thought, TV on April 18, 2007 at 11:20 am

My friend, Travis, has a good (but too short) post on both his disgust at the shootings at Virginia Tech and the media’s Pavlovian dog-like pantings in covering it all, live and on location. My own impression was similiar to Travis’ – when I finally got home Monday evening and turned on the news, I found myself actually talking back to Brian Williams on NBC, begging him to stop posing for the camera and over-dramatizing his lines while he interviewed students who had almost lost their lives in the horror of the day.

I’ve since limited my following of the story to the Internet (though part of ABC’s “special” with Diane Sawyer – complete with cross-fading pictures of victims set to slow, dreary music – almost snuck in before my nightly X-File last night). Reporting the news has sure gone beyond reporting the news; it’s all about “tragedy capturing” now.

Thinking about some of this, I remembered a point along these lines made by former (and now deceased) professor/media theorist Neil Postman in the opening chapter of his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. After a quick search of the library, I found the book and the quote:

“The information, the content, or, if you will, the ‘stuff’ that makes up what is called ‘the news of the day’ did not exist – could not exist – in a world that lacked the media to give it expression. I do not mean that things like fires, wars, murders, and love affairs did not, ever and always, happen in places all over the world. I mean that lacking a technology to advertise them, people could not attend to them, could not include them in their daily business. Such information simply could not exist as part of the content of culture.

This idea – that there is a content called ‘the news of the day’ – was entirely created by the telegraph (and since amplified by newer media), which made it possible to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed. The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is, quite preciesely, a media event. We attend to fragments of events from all over the world because we have multiple media whose forms are well suited to fragmented conversation. Cultures without speed-of-light media – let us say, cultures in which smoke signals are the most efficient space-conquering tool available – do not have news of the day. Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist.”

Or, to make the point more crassly (but succinctly), don’t forget this Don Henly ditty from 1982.

Which is a poorer commentary on human nature: the VT murders or our fascination with them?

24 and Convergence

In Church, Humanity, Thought, TV on January 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

The four-hour premier of Fox’s 24 these past two nights was quite a start to the sixth season of the show, ending with last night’s detonation of a nuclear bomb (the first of supposedly five across the nation) in Los Angeles. Megan and I became fans of the show by way of a DVD “catch up” of seasons 1 and 2 just before season 3 came out, and we’ve been looking forward to this new sixth season with great anticipation. (Oh, and I secretly have a “man-crush” on Jack Bauer, played with tragic brilliance by Kiefer Sutherland.)

I won’t go into all the minute-by-minute details of the last two nights (you can get them all – literally – here), but I will say I’m struck by both the uncomfortable reality of its vivid portrayal of terrorism, as well as its powerful illustration of Islamic discipleship in the world today.

Sure, Hollywood takes a few liberties (terrorists never looked so handsome, in a GQ kind of way), but a peek at the commitment and community of a guy who’s getting ready to blow up a bus or a bomb along with himself in the name of Allah is, well, gripping. While we in America may call such an act cowardly in terms of traditional warfare (and it is), we can’t deny the extent to which these followers are willing to live out their convictions either. It’s the difference in a plate of ham and eggs: the chicken was involved; the pig was committed.

In my Old Testament Prophets class this past weekend, Dr. Richard Pratt asked if anybody knew of the existence of a Covenant Seminary martyr list? There were a few smirks and uncomfortable glances, but somehow that was one document that hadn’t shown up in the promotional materials.

Dr. Pratt was dead serious about the question, however, going on to make the point that, in a world in which more Christians are being martyred for their faith than at any other time in history (first century included), how is it that very few of us in the PCA or the larger American evangelical church know any one who has been martyred for his or her faith?

Fewer smirks; more uncomfortable glances. Come on, Pratt…just teach the Bible.

Oh.

Tertullian wrote that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And, while I suppose it’s a morbid convergence of my January-term class schedule and my recent television habits, you don’t have to be Jack Bauer to figure out the connection between the persecution of the Kingdom and the accompanying growth of it, both historically as well as present day.

Which kingdom am I really committed to build? God’s? America’s? Mine? Perhaps more telling: how far am I willing – really willing – to go to build it? How far have I gone so far? How willing is Megan? Our family? This, I suppose, is the hard one for me. When I was single, I really did have more of the martyr mentality than I do now. Obviously, being a husband and father changes you, but, as Dr. Pratt challenged us, our grandfathers went to fight in World War II because of their love for our parents, not in spite of it.

Dr. Pratt’s point: “They died for who they loved. Don’t tell me your kids growing up – knowing you died for who you loved (Christ) – won’t shape them more than being home to play catch.”

Whoa.

It’s not that God is asking us to take up arms against Muslims (or anyone else); his is not the call to a 21-century version of The Crusades (one of the worst human ideas in the name of the Church, bar none). But we are called to give our lives for the sake of the One who gave his life for us – not to blow people up, but to risk reaching those who would us.

In many regards, Jack Bauer’s job is easier than mine: he can kill anyone who attacks him and his citizenship; I’m to love my attacker and give my life for mine.

Talk about your differing war strategies…

When Sub-Culture Attracts

In Thought, TV on January 5, 2007 at 2:00 am

One of the many perks of moving into our new place is picking up an extra channel or two on the old tube. As we don't have cable, we're heavily reliant on our rabbit ears, which (now that we're above ground instead of in our basement apartment) pick up the following stations:

  • NBC
  • HSN
  • PBS
  • CW
  • ABC
  • TBN

We don't get CBS, but that's not as big a deal as not getting FOX, at least for the premiere of 24 in ten days, as well as the baseball play-offs later in the year. I suppose the nice thing about our limitation is that one quick flip through the channels is usually all it takes to decide there's probably a book somewhere in the house worth reading.

Tonight, however, as I was doing my customary 30-second flip before heading for my reading chair, I happened upon a preview for TBN's new show called GIFTED, a blatant American Idol rip-off featuring overly-giddy, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"-quoting teenagers and twenty-somethings anxious for their big break in the Christian music biz.

In addition to the official site above, there's a MySpace version, but the gist is the same:

"16,000 contestants. 8 finalists. 3 judges. 1 winner. GIFTED. On February 2nd in prime-time television, the first season of Gifted will be televised to over 49 million households on TBN (95 million total U.S. reach) This 2-hour show hosted by Brian Littrell (Backstreet Boys) will showcase 8 finalists singing some of the most well-known songs in Christian Music in styles ranging from Praise & Worship, Gospel, and CCM with the winner receiving a recording contract with EMI Christian Music Group.

The winner of GIFTED will also receive management by the Wright Entertainment Group and day-to-day support from Wright Gener8Xion Entertainment. The winner will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact with an invitation to open for Brian Littrell on the road. Additionally, a $10,000 donation will be made to the church where the winner originally auditioned."
The judges for this extravaganza are EMI publishing president, Eddie DeGarmo; pastor and artist, Andrae Crouch; and former lead singer of Stryper, Michael Sweet, who, judging from the preview, is probably going to play the truth-telling role of Simon Cowell, letting kids know in no uncertain terms (but in the name of Jesus, of course) that they really can't sing.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this came about (actually, the Christian sub-culture was a bit slow following American Idol's immense success – the mimicry normally takes about two years). Regardless, this is just one more reason for people not to take the things of God seriously (if you need more than one reason, be sure to check out the remainder of TBN's programming schedule).