Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow falling and Another link

Snow is falling. Christmas is close. Presents are under the tree. Good feelings all around. I've been doing nothing except watch movies/tv shows and reading books. I don't think Christmas break could be any better.

I hate doing this but I think it's worth sharing. Burnside Writer's Blog has some of those pictures based on those "cats with the funny sayings" pictures that have been so popular in the last few years. I think they're pretty grand. Here's a few of my favorites:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is Rick a heathen? Is Obama the antichrist? (please note: Sarcasm)

Rick Warren praying at Obama's Inauguration - I'm pleased. The following quote pretty well describes how I feel:

"I'm encouraged that Pastor Warren is praying at Obama's Inauguration and that by doing so is confounding those on the right and the left. Two thousand years Jesus' ministry repeated crossed the lines of the religious Right and the religious Left (The Pharisees and the Sadducees). Jesus ignored these group's boundary markers and went about building the kingdom.

Thanks Rick for doing the same."

courtesy of the Burnside Writer's Blog.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Men of Madison Avenue

I've been watching a little bit (3 episodes thus far) of this show. I gotta say, I understand why it wins awards. As Paste described it, it "looks more like a movie than a TV show." By that, I think they mean that the costumes, set design, anything pertaining to the aesthetics of the show are just at a level above most television series. The acting, plot lines, and script are all solid as well.

To give a basic premise of the show, Mad Men refers to the wealthy, educated business guys who work on Madison Avenue in NYC. They themselves coined the term, "Mad Men." The show follows the advertising department of a fictional company and is set in the 1960's.

One of the most appealing aspects of the show is that everything is so pretty. Everyone is smoking in that sexy old way or drinking high class drinks. The guys are always wearing suits. The girls always wear dresses and makeup. But that is part of the indictment the show is getting at. A society in which destructive behaviors such as smoking and drinking are celebrated holds a certain charm to it but that's when the viewer realizes that those behaviors are actually destructive (does that make sense?). The sexist attitudes prevalent in the office and home are alarming yet it's fairly accurate in depicting American society 40-50 years ago.

So far, there isn't a character that totally "gets it." You know how in The Office, Pam and Jim are the two solid characters who seem pretty in touch with reality amidst an office full of crazies? This show doesn't seem to have characters that are "progressive" or think like someone from today's age. Although that can make it difficult to become attached to the show, it's a little more realistic. The results of negative parts of that era (sexism, discreet affairs, stigmas) are felt by the characters but they seem to be a part of the system with no real alternatives. I'm assuming they get played out in later episodes but I like what I see so far.

Up to now, Mad Men gets a thumbs up from me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sonically Speaking - Best of '08

Top 10 albums lists never bode well with me. Although I listen to a fair share of music throughout the year, I don’t come close to listening to the amount that “real” critics encounter. Therefore, my last few albums tend to be solid albums but not necessarily all time favorites of mine. I also discover a lot more music that has not been released in 2008 but would represent my year of listening much better such as Menomena or Rogue Wave. With all those clarifiers out of the way though, I can’t help but make a “best of 2008” list because let’s be serious, who doesn’t love lists? And this time I’m going to stick to albums released in 2008.

10. Sam Amidon – All is Well

This guy from New York came to Taylor for an IFC concert and although I could only stay for half of his live performance, I was convinced that this guy was … well, weird. Amidst his songs, he rambled on about inane philosophies and enjoyed showing us his chicken impression. Suffice it to say, I was left wanting more. I did pick up his album simply because I had heard a few bits on iTunes and liked what I heard. I’m thankful I did. Relying on old Appalachian folk songs, the simple guitar plucking supported by strings and other assorted instruments make for some hauntingly good music.

9. The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale

That’s right, a rap album made it to my top 10 … but then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for well produced rap music. The Cool Kids, a collaborative effort with a guy from Chicago and Detroit, make some old school beats that you can’t help but nod your head to. I originally heard about them from RELEVANT Magazine’s editor (Cameron Strang) via their podcast. I downloaded the album, thought it decent but put it on the backburner for a while. But within the last month or so, Morgan and I have officially made them the soundtrack to Mario Kart 64 (try it sometime) and considering the amount of MK64 we play, they’ve quickly become favorites. With relatively zero sustenance to their lyrics (although void of much profanity as well), The Cool Kids bring a good time, anytime.

8. MGMT – Purchased Music

These guys write pop songs. To be honest, I don’t have a bunch of stories or reasons why I like these guys so much other than their music is catchy so I keep listening.

7. Fleet Foxes – [self-titled]

Beautiful harmonies. Beautiful music. Take a listen. I need to sit down and listen to the lyrics a bit more but these guys rule. Signed to SupPop, I’ve come to realize those guys don’t produce a whole lot of crappy bands.

6. Son Lux – At War with Walls & Mazes

Electronica? (Is that what this is classified as?) I first heard Son Lux off a sampler I got from Calvin College’s Faith & Music conference. I only had two songs to listen to so when the full length came out in the spring, I was quick to purchase this one. With simple phrases often repeated alongside electronically produced music, one might think it alike all other electronic albums. My answer to that would be that Son Lux’s lyrics are more like a spiritual repetition of words to engrain them in one’s soul rather than a catchphrase to accompany repetitive techno beats. Also, Andy Whitman from Paste Magazine and Johnmark Hatfield (my musically inclined cousin) think Son Lux is great.

5. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

I listened to the single “I will possess your heart” to death before the actual album came out but it remains one of my favorite tracks off the album. I had rather high expectations for this album considering Death Cab’s last three albums would all most likely make my top 25. Although I can’t say that I was completely blown away by their second major label production, Narrow Stairs definitely has its high points. Bixby Canyon Bridge” is a near perfect opener with lyrics reflecting Gibbard’s inner struggles alongside crunching guitars and “Cath…” proves that DCFC still rules the “lost love” category of song writing. A few of the tracks (Talking Bird) lose my attention and others hover around mediocrity but I’m glad to say that Death Cab has not “sold” themselves over the mainstream. From what I can tell, they still have plenty of steam left.

4. Vampire Weekend – [self-titled]

Preppy, ivy-league pop music that occasionally utilizes a few African instruments. Why would Vampire Weekend not be in my top 10? Some may say their music is too simple or whatever but I think they’re missing the point. This is a pop album. The guys may all be rich and go to ivy league schools where they are probably pampered and disconnected with life (at least that’s the impression I get from what I’ve seen) but they write music that makes you feel good. I think they accomplished what they set out to do.

3. Coldplay – Viva la Vida

I had low expectations for this one after X&Y. Although X&Y wasn’t a let down, it wasn’t exactly a progression for Coldplay and they kind of claimed their spot in the music world by making music that everyone could like. Gorgeous vocals from Martin etc, easy chord progressions, and it was all so listenable. So when I bought Viva la Vida, I was thrilled to hear a variety of sounds coming from the band. Their two singles were decent but have quickly become two of my least favorite on the album. “Lovers in Japan” and “Yes” each clock in at over six minutes but use the long time length to split the song in two. I personally loved this move, the piano outro on “Japan” is beautiful and the second half of “Yes” reminds me of an m83 song except with Martin crooning in the background. Predictably, this album has sold a bunch and hasn’t broken any musical boundaries but I do think that they are open to other influences and changes in their style. Good job, boys.

2. Sigur Ros – Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

My Icelandic friends have done it once again. I only found out that Sigur Ros was releasing another album about a week before it dropped so it definitely made a pleasant summer surprise. Where as the quartet has relied on slow building, angelic devices for the large part of their previous albums, Med Sud shows Sigur Ros’s more upbeat, happier side with their opener “Goobledigook” showcasing quick guitar strums and an up-tempo drum. That’s not to say that the entire album is an upbeat ruckus of tunes but the slower building songs deliver as well as any previous album of theirs. Seeing them in concert (which has been a life goal for a few years now) also made me realize that these foreign speaking dudes might make the most beautiful sound in popular music. [One last note – check out their music video for naked people running through the forest.]

1. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

The story is over-told but important: Bon Iver (French for good winter) recorded “For Emma” in a Wisconsin cottage after breaking up with his previous band and after dealing with a lengthy sickness. The sound resulting is one more heartfelt and genuine than any emo album put out (suck it Chris Carabba) in the last ten years. They performed at Taylor for what I must say is the best performance I’ve seen at Taylor and the best intimate concert I’ve ever been to. Although restricted to a guitar, drums, bass (and a few other assorted instruments) the simple harmonies and sounds easily earn this album my best of 2008. “Skinny Love” probably received the most plays this year although the entire album is a solid, introspective piece of goodness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Onion Speaks

The Onion has some of the best satirical material out there. An article popped up on my GoogleReader today satirizing the Christian community. Way to go The Onion, way to go.

Read on

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Life as of late or Responsibility respect

This blog would fall under the category of "avoidance of paper writing."

I'm slightly stressed about the vast amount of writing left to do this semester but I'm a senior in college so I should suck it up and do it. On that note, I love the competition sought out over who's the busiest. I don't feel like I've really realized it fully until this year (surprisingly) but college students love to do this. Almost everyone has a lot of homework, a lot of extracurriculars, and a lot of relationships to keep up. When asked to do something, almost everyone has the response, "Oh, I would love to but I've got so much to do tonight that I couldn't possibly fit in something else" with which the enquirer responds, "Dude, I've got so much going on too, probably more than you, but I'm making the choice to do this (whatever event is going on)."

Basically, this has little to no effect on people because practically everyone thinks they are the busiest person in the group. In reality, most people are probably rather comparable, and even if there is a clearly "busier" person, that person is probably more capable of handling more. My thought is that we each need to consider how much we want (and should) commit to our various responsibilities. If we have clear commitment levels, other people should understand the heart of the person has designated certain amounts of time to certain responsibilities and respect their decision or, if the other person feels the first person devotes too much time to one responsibility, confront them on what they should be devoting their time.

I guess I give surface level attitudes little thought. I'm more interested in well adjusted people.

This blog doesn't really make sense but I've run out of designated time I've previously set aside to blog writing so you will have to live with an unclear/unedited blog.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mayhem! Mayhem!

In efforts to erect new light posts around the loop, workers hit a gas pipe, causing mass hysteria and danger on the Taylor campus. Chapel canceled. Students sent to their dorms. It's like War of the Worlds and every other apocalyptic type book/movie.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Watching McCain speak tonight at the Republican National Convention made me realize something: Republicans annoy me. Not so much all of the Republican policies so much as the people who are hardcore Republicans. :) I speak all of this in love.

To the point. Here's a video of Mr. Brian Mclaren speaking about righteousness/justice and the use of power. It's good. And it adds to the conversation as to how we, as Christians, should be thinking about politics.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Everything I believe (Well, some of it)

The following is a blog/essay I had to write for my Senior Seminar class concerning my worldview. I did not cover everything, but many things. I thought I would post it here because ... I can

Feel free to comment.

Josiah Hatfield


Senior Seminar

I would like to structure this essay loosely around a few of the “Questions to Ponder.” I am not sure if that will cover the whole of my worldview (or outset on life) but I think it will cover a decent portion of it.

What is the nature of a human being?

When asked this question three or four years ago, I would have answered spiritual, easily beating out biological or other options. My answer now is still that of spiritual, but with a pause for clarification or clause. I believe we all have souls, that there is a world outside of our physical existence to which we are held responsible for and which play a part in our “post-death” life but I also think that the physical realm plays a large part in the physical realm. For instance, when a person meets a physical need (such as feeding a homeless person lunch), there is a strong spiritual occurrence happening concurrently. I am also persuaded that much of what Jesus speaks of is bringing heaven to earth. In my church going experience, a lot of attention has been placed on an “eternal” view of Christianity; that the “winning” of a person’s eternal soul was the ultimate goal of the church and that disregarding the physical need was, although not directly expressed in church, of lesser importance. However, while reading other authors or the Bible itself, I have come to realize that the Bible directs that it is our job to build a life here where it is “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).

Can we really know anything? How?

I am going to steal the adage that “all truth is God’s truth.” I believe there is an absolute truth out there. I believe God’s word (written or otherwise) is absolute truth. I believe that much of man’s creations, words, thoughts, etc have elements of truth and it is our job as Christians to find truth and claim it as the Lord’s. Throughout the history of Christianity, we have constantly been rediscovering what God’s truth means for the current generation. I once read the (perhaps cheesy) analogy that Christianity is like railroad tracks, viewed from ground level or from above or from the side present totally different ideas of what railroad tracks look like but the tracks themselves remain the same. I think it is important for us as Christians to keep this idea of constant interpretation of the Bible in the back of our mind as we live by its precepts.

To do some more stealing, I will use an analogy Rob Bell uses in his book Velvet Elvis: we need to view our faith as springs on a trampoline. If one of our beliefs is taken away, the trampoline still works. Opposite of that, if we view our faith as a brick wall and we take a brick away, our “wall of faith” is in danger of collapsing. With that said, I think it is easy for us, as Christians, to claim a stranglehold on truth based on our understanding of the Bible or life in general and become rather indignant of outside commentary. Reinforcing the last point made, we need to be humble in our claims of knowing absolute truth.

Is there a God? If there is a God, is God active today? How?

As far as “defending the faith” goes, there are much smarter people who can do that and prove that the Bible is 100% historically true and thus, Christianity’s claims are 100% true but then again, there are a number of atheistic intellects who can “100% defend” their worldview. But I have found that it has less to do with intellectually finding what religion or worldview is right and more about finding out who God is and realizing that He makes sense (Donald Miller makes a similar point at the beginning of the chapter titled Belief in his book Blue Like Jazz). The Bible’s words make sense but more than that, the Bible presents a God that earnestly loves His people and longs for a restored relationship. When Christians grab onto that and practically live it out, it is beautiful and I have a hard time refuting that.

The question of God’s activity today has been a recent rumination of mine. I recently read Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great. In essence, it is a bash on any and all types of religion and it defends an atheist’s point of view. I disagreed with a lot (well, most) but it furthered my thought process of wondering how much of what we credit to God is actually His doing. When Joe Christian prays for the healing of a friend and the friend is healed, is that God? When Joe Christian prays for a new car and he wins one on The Price is Right, is that God? When Joe Christian asks God to send a wake up call to the United States because the U.S. allows abortions and homosexuals and something like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina happens, is that God? I realize God can answer in “Yes, No, or Wait” and I realize some of my example prayers had more to do with God’s will than others but my question remains as to how much we should attribute to prayer. Is it too much? Is it even too little? This is my one “agnostic” (or currently unanswered) portion of my faith.

What does it mean to be a good person? Are humans essentially good?

To answer the second question, no. I believe we are born with a sin nature and calling on Jesus’ name and living the life He has called us to is the only way of salvation (salvation for this life, and after death). Humanity has done some pretty awful things throughout history but they have also done some good things as well – both inside and outside of Christianity. Regardless, each human has a tendency towards sin, towards doing the wrong thing; it is our natural inclination. We need a savior.

I sometimes wonder if we as Christians do not put enough emphasis on works though. I am not suggesting that we bring back a religious spirit of requiring certain actions but rather, we should emphasize that a life transformed by Christ is something that should be displayed in our actions. The parable of the sons in Matthew 21:28 asks the question “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” of two sons: one who verbally agreed to what his father asked but does nothing and another who verbally denies his father but actually helps him. I wonder if the church today places too much importance on grace and not enough on living out a life of true sanctification (i.e. becoming more like Christ on a daily basis).

That is all the questions that I am going to answer. I feel as though I covered quite a few bases concerning my worldview. I can honestly say that my experiences over the last three years has aided me in thinking through what it is that I believe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The following is taken from my Romantic Literature's syllabus. It's going to be a good semester.

The Politically Correct (products of secular relativism) and what might be called the Pharisaically Correct (products of religious legalism) share some characteristics, including the following:
a. They sometimes ignore reason due to an excessively earnest pursuit of their ideology.
b. They sometimes distort or censor language in order to impose their ideology on others.
c. They often lack a sense of humor or irony.
In this course, let us try to avoid being either kind of PC.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Transitional Sentence (or Blog)

Dear Readers (Ruf),

Tomorrow the freshmen come. For anyone unaware, I'm a PA (RA) at Taylor University this year. The arrival of the freshmen more or less signifies the beginning of my job as PA and really, as the beginning of the year. The past week has been filled with PA bonding and training time but now the practice is put into use.

I like Taylor's ResLife program. One reason: today (the last day before move in day), we had two hours of 'reflection time' or whatever you want to call it. Basically, two hours to sit back, read, journal, pray, etc. Something hard to come by with such a busy week of planning, decorating and such.

I don't really have anything significant to say in this blog other than that it feels like a transitional time moving into this small role of leadership, beginning my senior year, and moving back into academia after a summer of care free abandon.

I wish you all (Ruf) a fantastic fall and ask for your prayers as I am a human with much wisdom yet to be gained.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

été 2008

les films
(j'ai évalué des films, 1-10)

chronicles of narnia: prince caspian 5.5
i am legend 6
wristcutters: a love story 7
baby mama 5
click 6.5
about schmidt 8
the bridge 4.5
indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull 7
chumscrubber 4
as good as it gets 6
pollock 7
gangs of new york 8.5
billy elliot 8
little children 8.5
mulholland dr. 7.5
adaptation 9
monster's ball 8.5
shakespeare in love 6
sideways 6.5
erin brokovich 8.5
the virgin suicides 8.5
chicago 8
for the bible told me so 7.5
the insider 8.5
the english patient 7.5
get smart 5.5
dogma 7.5
[40 rock: season 1]
[extras: season 1]
wanted 4
be kind rewind 7
elizabeth: the golden age 7
away from her 8
in bruges 8
the green mile 8
hancock 6
the godfather: part II 8
before the devil knows you're dead 7.5
the full monty 7
the dark knight 9
the thin red line 7
ghost 6.5
[extras; season 2]
quiz show 7.5
schindler's list 9
dances with wolves 7.5
pulp fiction 8.5
old school 6
jerry maguire 7
the air i breathe 5
il postino 6.5
4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days 8
love actually 5.5
sweeney todd 8
witness 6.5
kinsey 7
pineapple express 5.5
the orphanage 8
wallE 8

les livres
everything is illuminated .. jonathan safron
dress your family in corduroy and denin .. david sedaris
the road .. cormac mccarthy
the virgin suicides .. jeffrey eugenides
the poisonwood bible .. barbara kingsolver
i sold my soul on ebay .. hemant mehta
jesus for president .. shane claiborne
do you believe? conversations on god and religion .. antonio monda
passion for jesus .. mike bickle
tree of smoke: a novel .. denis johnson
people's history of the united states .. howard zinn (1/4)
the kite runner .. khaled hosseini
american pastoral .. philip roth
falling man: a novel .. don delillo
on the road .. jack keroac
a thousand splendid suns .. khaled hosseini
the feast of love .. charles baxter
me talk pretty one day .. david sedaris
god is not great .. christopher hitchens

Friday, August 8, 2008

Christopher Hitchens and His Book

I just finished reading Christopher Hitchens' book, god is not Great. The book was published sometime last year (Wikipedia: May 1st) and sold real well and is a part of the "New Atheism" movement and catches your eye because the cover is yellow. I read it because no one likes those people that bash on a book/person when they are uninformed (i.e. The Golden Compass - do you really think any of those Christian bloggers out there had actually read the book?). Plus I thought I might pick up some ammo to use against mainstream evangelical Christianity because c'mon, let's be honest, being all emerging church is sexy.

A brief outline of the book can be found here (thanks again Wiki),
but if you're looking for my words, Hitchens basically tries to bash every religion for every evil thing they have ever done including (but not limited to) genocide, limitation of thought, mistreatment of women and children, the banning of medical treatment, and so on and so forth. Then he points to how atheism is the logical, scientifically proven option for humankind where we are evolving out of this mystical madness that made sense for peasants hundreds of years ago but now that we have the internet and front loading washing machines, it's rather absurd that we spend so much time on religions that do nothing but harm mankind.

About half way through the book I thought to myself, "he's trying to take on a whole lot of stuff." Now The New Yorker calls him an "intellectual" on the back cover so yes, it's true he is smart. But even my limited knowledge (well, I guess I go to a Christian school...) found a number of things that I could pretty easily answer to. Then again, he brought up some things that I agreed with him on. But the point being, you cannot "disprove" every religion in a matter of 300 pages.

A lot of the Christian church's past has been pretty screwed up. The Crusades, using scripture to support slavery, the Inquisition, not allowing women to do anything, etc. What I'm not totally sure of is why Hitchens cannot grasp the idea that Christians renounce these things today. He argues that the religion itself changes and therefore, is unreliable. But that's just incorrect. As we better understand the Scriptures, the closer we come to what Jesus describes as the Kingdom of God. Now I'm sure the church is far from being perfect but I think it unfair to discount the presence of a god because of the mistakes and misinterpretations its followers have made (although that only highlights the weight our decisions as a universal Church hold).

(As I was reading god is not Great, I was re-reading Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. This was a good co-read. The beginning of Velvet Elvis looks at Christianity as constantly being "repainted" by its followers. From the doings of the early Church to the meetings to decide what would be included in the "official" Bible, to the constant interpretations of Scripture, Rob explains our responsibility as Christians is to constantly be understanding what the Bible is saying for us today. This aided in my understanding of past church mistakes.)

In addition to the critique of past offenses, Hitchens says that the church is currently harming its members. He uses the example of Jesus' messages of loving thy neighbor or committing adultery in one's heart. In these messages, Jesus is furthering the commandments to move them from simply physical actions to heart conditions but Hitchens sees it as a micro-management that the church uses to shame their members. I think he's misunderstanding the messages in the same way that some church leaders might. He simply sees them as rules instead of as to an invitation to join something better. I think most the larger majority of Christians today understands this and to be frank, Hitchens misunderstands a lot of the details.

In covering practically every religion, he also seems to group a lot of religions together. One example of this would be his medical chapter where he claims that circumcision of every kind is grotesque and evil of a religion to require. He obviously points out Judaism and how awful this was for the males. Now maybe this has something to do with him being born in the UK but circumcision is fairly common in the States (with the uncircumcised usually being the minority) so I didn't really see his point there but then he seamlessly moves onto female circumcision (which is practiced in some African cultures). Female circumcision on the other hand, is a horrible practice that is not really accepted anywhere except for these remote cultures and it is forced onto girls. This is only one example but when attempting to make points, he seemed to pick and choose from varying religions and then claim it as a defect of all religion (which is really unfair to the innocent parties).

Perhaps the point I don't understand the most is how he pits Religion vs. Science. OK, the church thought the earth was the center of the universe. There's been a number of other bad moments in the church when it comes to denying scientific progress, but there are scientists out there that believe in God. There are those that believe in Intelligent Design in the strictest of sense (which would go against the majority of science believed today) but there's just as many that believe in a Theistic Evolution approach to the earth's beginning. The pursuit of religion and science is easily (and done best) when done together.

Those are my rantings. I sort of sound like a fundamentalist. That's not sexy at all... although I do have one "Evangelical Critic" comment to make. As I read Hitchens' critiques of other religions present today I repeatedly thought to myself that if this were a Christian author just trying to disprove other religions, the Christian mass would eat this stuff up and make it a best seller a la Left Behind. Throw in an atheist and a Christianity critique and the author receives death threats. What little difference between our "enemies."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Me . And Blood

Me update: I return to school in 9 days. That is one crazy thought. But I'm ready and excited for the upcoming year. Adding up PA duties, IFC, and 17 credits should result in a fairly hectic fall schedule but for as much as I complain and "hate" being busy, it's so great being at school. I'm going to have to do some major adjusting for post college life.

As I've repeatedly mentioned before, this summer has been filled with an overabundance of movie watching. Last night I re-watched There Will Be Blood with the Hallings and my little brother and I was reminded of why movies are made. This little P.T. Anderson gem showcases Daniel Day Lewis doing what he does best but you already know who's in it. What I concretely realized while watching it last night was that this particular film was structured very much like a novel. Now that's a quasi-stupid statement considering it is indeed based off of Upton Sinclair's novel, Oil! but what I mean by that statement is that while watching the movie, the pacing and unfolding of the plot is novel-esque.

Something movies do is speed up the pacing in order to sell tickets. Which is understandable. As I mentioned in my last blog, no one wants to watch a movie that's longer than it should be. But I felt that in There Will Be Blood, much more attention is given to the few events that happen and the viewer is allowed to chew on the themes of the movie while actually watching the movie - like a novel. Watching Daniel Plainview become consumed with greed, comparing Daniel with Eli the preacher, or anticipating H.W.'s response to all that he is put through are all themes easily identified if it were a book. Believe me, I'm a Literature Minor (that was a joke). I thought P.T. gave us a movie with a different pace which has allowed for me to give it much more thought than most the movies I've seen. Kudos.

(Oh, I haven't read the book, Oil!, so I'm making no comment there.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's [been] too long

I started the summer off with grandiose plans of writing piles and piles of fantastic movie/book reviews or thoughts that stemmed from them. The common human function of failure is beautifully displayed here. So I will ashamedly try and get back into things by transcribing a rant describing a pet peeve of mine being tested this weekend.

I love [good] movies. If there is thought put into a film and it shows on screen, that's beautiful. It speaks to humanity in ways other art mediums cannot. I even love a good summer blockbuster if it's done well (e.g. Dark Knight) although most of the time they're just put out there for the money (e.g. Hancock). One of my top frustrations I have with summer blockbusters, and really all films, is when they run too long. Here are my expectations with a few examples (and I feel they are at least moderately reasonable):

  • Cartoon/CGI Film: 80minutes-110minutes.
    • (WALL.E, 98minutes), (Kung Fu Panda, 92 minutes), (Aladdin, 90minutes)
  • Comic Book or Summer Blockbuster: 90minutes-140minutes.
    • (Spiderman, 121minutes), (X-men, 104minutes), (The Bourne Ultimatum, 115minutes)
    • I gave leniency here - case in point: The Dark Knight filled its 152 minutes very well.
  • Epic or Heavy Drama: 100minutes-180minutes.
    • (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring, 178minutes), (Saving Private Ryan, 170minutes), (No Country for Old Men, 122minutes)

OK, I may have gone into a little too much detail there but that's how I do. All that to say, when a movie largely steps outside of these time limits they better have good reason. I, in no way, want to stifle a director's artistic vision of making a film how they see fit but there's also an audience that has to watch. There's a happy medium that must be treaded upon by directors (and editors) in this time length arena (as well as a number of other aspects of film making).

Moving to this weekend: I am a sad and lonely person. Last night (Friday) I watched Schindler's List and tonight (Saturday) I watched Dances with Wolves. (I have the goal of watching all the movies nominated for Best Picture from 1990 to the present.) Now Schindler is 195minutes and Wolves is 224minutes. As I mentioned before, if you're going to stray so far outside your genres' typical time length, it better be for good reason. In my humble opinion, both films probably could have been shortened a bit although Schindler held my attention the entire time. The beautifully shot film kept me engaged the whole 3+ hours even when there wasn't a ton of dialogue. Wolves on the other hand, (granted I watched the director's cut on accident (although to my credit, the box didn't really make it clear that it was a longer cut)) could have used some definite reductions. Buffalo and Costner can only fill so much time.

It almost seems that if you made a movie over three hours long in the early 90's, your chances of nabbing a Best Pic award quadrupled. Maybe it was a different time or something (all 15 years ago...). You know how in the 60's and 70's, band's singles were often around 2 1/2 minutes (look at the Beatles' 1 album), where as now, you can get a 5+ minute song on the air? Anyways, it seems like a long time to be sitting in a movie theatre. Why, film editors/makers, can't you make a film that doesn't overtake an entire evening? I'm not just saying this for my own gratification. I really think that the correct time length (both long or short) is key in keeping the audience engaged and really, at making a good film. I'm glad films have shortened slightly.

That is my rant.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Don Miller (along with others) is riding his bike across the US. He's doing it to help raise awareness for Jars of Clay's project, Blood:Water. You can donate here if you'd like.

Here's a vid:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Shakespeare in Love

OK, this blog is only a rant.

How the heck did Shakespeare in Love win best picture? It was a slightly above average chick flick with a lot of good actors who, I thought, were acting in a sub-par movie? So I liked the cast... except for the character who played William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes). If you're not familiar with him (and why would you be unless you've seen this movie?), here's his mug:

He's your stereotypical late-90's movie star. Like Freddie Prinze Jr.:

I understand that it knowingly muddied up historical facts and in turn, tried to create a romantic movie that "has heart" or something. But it really just came off as a slightly better made yet unfunny A Knight's Tale. How the academy chose this movie over Life is Beautiful or Saving Private Ryan (which I didn't even like nearly as much as everyone else seems to) stumps me.

Oh, Judi Dench is over rated.
And Ben Affleck is in it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Back in Action: Inside Out

I told myself that this summer I would watch a bunch of movies and read a ton of books and then write reviews or quasi-essays on favorites because that's something I like to do and it felt more constructive than simply selling hot dogs. It's safe to say I've watched a lot of movies (16) and read a lot of books (4) so far in the summer but I've done a poor job of really projecting my thoughts concerning them. I've journaled a lot but my journal is often incomplete thoughts where as a blog forces me to at least make sense out of a sentence. That's where I am currently.Movie: Adaptation

As of right now, I believe this to be my favorite movie of the summer. Why? Mainly due to it's fantastic twisted plot line. And I don't use the term "twisted" in a demented, serial killer way. More like a "this story is so crazy and the writer created so many levels of reality that I don't know what to do with myself" type of way. Charlie (and his fictitious brother, Donald) Kaufman wrote this movie. (Charlie also wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, if that gives you an idea of the style.)

In a nutshell, the movie is about Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage) and his twin brother Donald (also Nicholas Cage) and Charlie has to write a script based off a book called The Orchid Thief (who's author is played by Meryl Streep). The book, The Orchid Thief, is about a man in Florida who hunts down endangered flowers and steals them (this character played by Chris Cooper).

Now the script is based off of real events in Charlie's life (with some events exaggerated) but what I love about the movie is Charlie's conflict on how to write this script. And how it actually reflects the real Charlie Kaufman's conflict of how to write this script. I know, confusing ... but that's kind of what I enjoyed about the movie.

Part of the conflict Charlie goes through is the use of cliched material versus the striving after truly original ideas. Example: Charlie has a twin in the movie, Donald. This Donald (who, in real life, isn't real but is credited to co-writing the actual script ... and got an Oscar nom) wants to get into the screen writing business and tries to write a script but uses tired out ideas which the character, Charlie, tears to pieces. One of the ideas Donald has is of a serial killer who has a multiple personality disorder and in the end, the audience realizes he is the serial killer, the cop, and the victim. Cliche and over the top, no doubt. Watching Adaptation, you're suppose to look down on this overused trick with a superior air.

But, the real Charlie does this with himself by adding a character twin in the movie that has all of these old ideas that make money but the character Charlie wants to maintain artistic integrity. Thus, real Charlie displays his conflict over trying to write a screenplay that maintains artistic originality while connecting to the audience at the same time - and gets there by using an overused method. But he's self-referential about it. He mocks the device and yet uses it in his movie. Which in the end, makes me love how he used the overused device (really, he made it original ... sort of) and love Charlie Kaufman.

That's all I'm going to write. Nicholas Cage gave a surprisingly good performance. Chris Cooper won an Oscar for his role. And Meryl Streep is her usual self (I'm annoyed by her despite her great acting).

I just wanted to write out a little bit on this movie. And I did that. I feel satisfied. Watch the movie if you're bored or like creative scripts.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

consumption I possible digestion

january-[mid]may, 2008
favorites* italicized
favorites = objective meets subjective

the cost of discipleship .. dietrich bonhoeffer
don quijote .. miguel de cervantes
is the new testament reliable .. paul barnett
joseph andrews .. henry fielding
but don't all religions lead to God? .. michael green
northanger abbey .. jane austen
madame bovary .. gustave flaubert
making sense out of suffering .. peter kreeft
crime and punishment .. fyodor dostoevsky
a meaningful world .. benjamin wiker & jonathan witt
life together .. dietrich bonhoeffer
to the lighthouse .. virginia woolf
god's grace and the homosexual next door .. alan chambers
the crying of lot 49 .. thomas pynchon
white noise .. don delillo
real sex .. lauren winner

eastern promises
green street hooligans
the diving bell and the butterfly
the big lebowski
the godfather
i'm not there
the scanner darkly
no country for old men
paris, je t'aime
there will be blood
michael clayton
edward scissorhands
rescue dawn
dr. strangelove
gone baby gone
the squid and the whale
last days
the darjeeling limited
into the wild
l.a. confidential
bee movie
night at the museum
the assasination of jesse james by the cowardly robert ford
the talented mr. ripley
rocket science
the savages
dan in real life
lars and the real girl
shaun of the dead
iron man
the kite runner
charlie wilson's war

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From Low to High (With a Dramatic OC Sing-a-long Ending)

I'm home and sitting in my bed.

I left Taylor around 7:15pm earlier today (Friday, May 16th). I had just eaten dinner with a few friends and hugged goodbye. Driving away, I was hit with the change that college brings. Many of my close friends are graduating. DC dinners and sleepy chapels will be replaced with weddings and once-a-year reunions. I look forward to my last action-packed year but the end is clearly in sight and I wonder why I have to leave. If it was natural, I would stay in college for many years more.

I fill my driving time with NPR's This American Life podcast. Ira Glass is the host of this weekly radio show in which they elegantly tell stories (of normal American people). The show gets pegged as uppity, hipster fodder at times (probably for good reason) but I love it. It fills my "more refined" media intake slot perfectly. As I was taking the Brighton exit on my little trip home, Ira Glass told a story of how he loves to watch The OC with his wife and every time they watch it, they sing along to the California intro song. Coincidentally, this episode was a taping of a live show in which they featured the band, Mates of State. Mates of State (who just so happens to have a cover of the song on one of the later OC soundtracks) started playing the song and the whole audience sang along to California. In this beautiful mixture of high and low art (or however you want to label those), I was first reminded of one of the major reasons I love summer, media. I love reading books. I love journaling. I love watching television series and movies. I love writing about it. My goal is to be proactive about that whole process. The song also made me realize the summer was going to be good (how that connection came, I have no idea). That I can relax. That I can see friends here. That I can prepare for the next year. And that next year was going to be really good.

I'm happy to be where I'm at and I'm happy to rest for a little while. Here's to a good summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Until then,


I am not dead. Please do not worry. School work and such has taken my time and it's been a good ride. It's all over in two weeks. Perhaps then I will begin a more thoughtful and slow paced lifestyle in which blogs are created and complete ideas are formed. Until then, I wish you an enjoyment of warmer weather. Spring has a way of making people happy.

On a side note, I would like to state that my favorite season is fall (autumn). I say this now because come late summer, everyone will think fall is their favorite season when really they are just ready for change. So I want to make an objective statement in saying that fall is great. The crisp days. Sweaters. Fall colours. New beginnings, in a sense (at least of a school year). All the above.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Break it

Break was great. California was beautiful. Always good to see the fam.

I now view break as an extended Sabbath. A relaxation. Not laziness. I support it.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Recommendation for Laughter

Following in my current streak of lacking real material -

My newest "favorite blog" has to be:

Stuff White People Like

Let me tell you why.

I love this blog because it pretty much describes me perfectly and yet it is making fun of me. And if it isn't making fun of me, it's making fun of my roommate or the guy that lives across the hall. I'm pretty sure I've been able to relate to every blog. You should check it out.

Monday, February 25, 2008



I've been busier than I have been in my earlier college experiences. This has led to the decrease in blogs especially when I made the mental decision to limit my blogs to more than the mundane. I've started on a few others and then stopped midway but I thought that although this one is brief and not really a full thought, it's still worth posting. So keep in mind my slight hesitation in posting demi-thoughts...

I occasionally read articles on a website called The Burnside Writers Collective. I like what they say and the subjects vary. They recently posted a review of a book called Do You Believe? Conversations on God and Religion in which the author (Antonio Monda) interviews a variety of famous people, many of which have Nobel Prizes or are accomplished writers (basically - the intellectual elite). This book is on my list to read. Hopefully this summer.

Anyhow, the article ended with 8 questions which are a compiling of the questions asked in the book:

1. Do you believe in God?
2. What is the image you have of God?
3. Were you brought up in a religious environment?
4. Then what happened?
5. What do you think there is after life?
6. What artists do you admire in whom you feel a strong religious presence?
7. What is your opinion of Dostoevsky’s assertion “If God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted?”
8. How do you see a believer? Someone deluded? Ingenuous? A person blessed by grace?

Good questions. I'm too tired to put the mental effort into legitimately answering them but I wonder how I would respond and how my responses have changed in the recent years.

I think that's it. If you wish to respond to the question(s) through comments, blogs of your own, or verbally with myself or others, then do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Well it's been a little while and I feel obligated to write something but my new goal for the blog was to continue a steady amount of blogs to practice writing and hopefully commentate on important issues including social, political, spiritual, personal, etc without simply typing words that are only there to fill space. So I'm forcing myself to blog but I hope it encourages real thought and not just ramblings.

New years are filled with resolutions. I suppose I'm in favor of them despite the failure rate I always hear about ("My new year's resolution was to get in shape - I've since gained 15 pounds") and I try and steer clear of totally cliche ones like losing weight or stop smoking... even though those aren't really applicable to me... but I would avoid them anyways if they were applicable because I'm always opposed to the cliche. Last year my two new year's resolution were to start flossing on a regular basis and to not be anal about being on time. I'd say my teeth are cleaner now and I've realized that I will probably never enjoy missing the previews despite living in Latin America for 4 months.

I decided to follow in last year's footsteps and choose one semi-ridiculous one (flossing) and one semi-serious one (being anal about punctuality). So, I decided to start stretching on a daily basis (I've heard it's healthy for you and I've always wondered if I could stretch myself to double-jointedness) and to somehow interact with the poor (this last year I've been reading/listening/talking about how God is a god of the oppressed, how God can be found amongst the poor, and how poverty is one of the major issues Jesus addresses and so I thought it about time to hopefully do something about it).

I've yet to start on either of these but I plan to.

In the last week though as I've been thinking about the new year and new plans and how I want my life to be lived and having to come up with a prayer request every week (Matt Morgan), I've come across one thing that keeps popping up and could possibly be inserted as "new year's resolution #3." Resolution #3 would be that of slowing down. Living in Wengatz (now) is different than living in a home with your own room (last fall, last summer). Although I don't think I took full advantage of having time to myself, I think I was at least able to understand the advantages that spending time alone can offer.

I love living on a wing. There's constantly guys around to hang out with, do stuff with, and just live with. But I will admit that I fall into the trap of sitting on couches telling stories or talking about music and getting distracted from other parts of life. I don't want to downplay hanging out, because I think that's the point of living on a wing - being bored together and hopefully forming relationships. So I'm not saying that talking about the top 50 albums of 2007 is unimportant or even not spiritual. What I do want to say is that there should also be time where I'm not doing that.

My definition of slowing down: being [relatively] alone and forming thought processes that are beneficial to my maturation as a human being.*

This can include but is not limited to journaling, reading a book (Bible or other), praying, or simply thinking. Some might call it a quiet time but in case you forgot, I'm not a fan of cliches (especially Christian subculture terms) and more importantly, I would probably find my slowing down to be different than a quiet time. Why? Because I wouldn't require the Bible or praying part to be necessary to call it slowing down and I also find the term quiet time to suggest that I'm in relationship with God during my quiet time and then I go into some sort of nonspiritual hiatus from God until my next quiet time. Maybe that's not the connotation that's always or generally associated with the term quiet time but it does for me.

The reason I want to slow down is because I don't want to always be immature and I hope that I learn to understand the heart of Jesus while simultaneously understanding myself better. I think the before mentioned actions of slowing down may get me closer to that.

I hope this resolution fares better than most diets do. Gotta be resolute.

*How'd that sound?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fall Media Intake

My tri-annual media update. Highlights are highlighted.

Fall '07:

one day in the life of ivan denisovich .. alexander solzhenitsyn / the castle .. franz kafka / anna karinina .. leo tolstoy

the relevant magazine podcast / this american life / mars hill bible church

superbad / evan almighty / live free or die hard / next / the goonies / constantine / knocked up / rush hour 3 / the simpsons movie / ratatouille / it / the weather man / underdog / van helsing / 3:10 to yuma / goodfellas / the last king of scotland / [friday night lights: season 1] / lucky number slevin / the da vinci code / cinderella man / letters from iwo jima / fracture / alpha dog / disturbia / the final cut / the good shepherd / the treatment / american gangster / deliverance / breach / the break-up / waitress / the sentinel / three kings / hot rod / once / death at a funeral / juno / sigur ros: heim / end of the spear / this is england / amazing grace / apacalypto