Saturday, June 14, 2008

my review: 'the happening'

the crap-penningM. Knight Shyamalan takes himself too seriously.

Apparently, M. Knight has come to the understanding that it really doesn't matter what his film is about. As long as his name is on the movie trailer, people will come & see it... all in the hopes of experiencing that sense of awe we all felt when we realized Bruce Willis was actually dead; or that Samuel L. Jackson was actually the comic-book nemesis who caused all those tragedies; or that Ron Howard's blind daughter was actually living in modern day...

Of course, with that hope comes the disappointment that there IS no mind-bending twist... that the aliens attacking the world look just like every other alien movie FX, or that the wierd girl in the water is about as interesting as the drain-hair in the bottom of that pool.

Well, to quote one reviewer, The Happening should be titled The Crap-pening. Because it just lays there, stinking, floating-- waiting for someone to flush. But no one ever does.

Lets be honest. It was Shyamalan, so I was tense. The eery pace and ominous music built the perfect mood for a terror-ific payoff that never happened. Instead, The Happening was all about realism-- how would real people respond to such a 'happening'? There was no rioting in the streets. There was no grand battle to determine the victorious species. There was only the helpless hope of a man, as he faced uncertain death... at a less-than-frantic pace.

(***Spoiler Alert***)
And while the cinematography was beautiful, and some of Shyamalans storytelling was effective, the story itself was just, plain stupid. The 'parable' (as some have called it) of this movie was that the plants were upset with humans, and were fighting back... SERIOUSLY?!? A global warming/save the planet message?? Give me an Al-Gore break!!

And what about all the sub-plots that give a good movie nuance & depth? Oh, that's right. There were none! Instead, we are saddled with cheesy, suicide Special FX (yes, your ficus wants you to kill yourself), and a singular, unwavering story-line that was about as exciting as a Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch reunion tour.

One aspect of this flick that I have enjoyed, however, are the inevitable number of reviewers who explain to the rest of the world that we don't "get" M. Knight Shyamalan, because we're not filmmakers or we're too jaded by Hollywood. That may be. But I have yet to read a positive review that can effectively give me any poignant, redeeming quality of this film. Instead, they offer only condescension or rhetoric.

Still, I cannot say that I totally hated this film. Although I left disappointed, I sat through the entire film in eager anticipation and hope, searching frantically for the twist that would pull it all together ("Could it be the mood ring??? The honey bees? Maybe the hot dogs??"). There really was a lot of suspense.

At the very end though, my greatest joy in this film was the realization that, I got punked! I expected twists and turns, but was saddled with pretense and anti-climactic melodrama. And in the face of a public crying out to M. Knight for another "Sixth Sense", I can imagine "anti-climactic" was what he was going for, in an attempt to prove that he doesn't have to bow to public opinion or demands. He's M. Knight Shyamalan, for crying-out-loud. He can fart on film-stock and people will come to see it.

And that's exactly what "Happened"...

Friday, May 23, 2008


Say what you will about X'n music, musicians, songwriters...etc. -- but this sucks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

ramblin' guy...

dorse...I would like to dedicate this post to one of the single-most influential people in my life, my brother.

Now granted, this isn't much of a dedication, since only about 3 people will even see it. And even worse, even though we celebrated his 45th birthday earlier this week (May 5th) over an amazing dinner experience at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, I was so busy, I didn't even get him a card.
So this is my Hallmark to Dorsey.

Today, I finished listening to the audiobook, 'Born Standing Up', by Steve Martin. For me, such an act cannot be completed without thinking of my goofy brother.

It was the late 70's. I was not yet even a teen. But I remember seeing Dorsey, sitting next to his Radio Shack/Realistic©, stereo combo unit-- his puffy blonde hair matted by a pair of ridiculously huge, grotesquely ugly, over-the-ear headphones. Of course, that was the ipod of the day. But what struck me, as a prepubescent/pre-teen, was not his cool 'wish-I-was-a-Hi-Fi', or even the groovy phones. No, it was his tears... as he doubled over in laughter, emitting a high 'heeheehee'-- sheer joy streaming down his freckled face.

With this, I, little-Jeffrey, Dorsey's little 'bubby', was introduced to my first Steve Martin record.

I remember a few years later, as we were being dragged up the stairs to Dorsey's room by our overreacting father, I realized the power of Steve Martin's comedy. Here's the scene:

Our dad, fresh off listening to a series of sermons about the dangers of
rock-n-roll...etc, had taken it upon himself to begin looking through Dorsey's record collection (I didn't yet have a collection to call my own). In his search, he stumbled across a copy of Steve Martin's "Wild and Crazy Guy".

To prove his point, my father decided to play this 'seedy' recording for the whole family to hear and judge. (What resulted has become one of my favorite childhood memories)

Steve began, "Wouldn't it be wierd if you died, and you woke up, and you were in heaven? Just like they always told you? Everybody had wings on? And pearly gates? Wouldn't you feel stupid?"

At this, my father sat-- triumphantly offended, and totally self-righteous. But he made one mistake. He let the record keep playing.

"Awwww man... You mean this is all real??? In college they told me this was all bullshit... Well, I'll just come in... What? You've been keeping records on me? Well I wasn't so bad... How many times did I take the Lords name in vain? (pause) Ewww...a million-six?!? Jesus Chrrr--..."

At this, my father began to snicker. By the time Steve got to his trip to Paris ("'s like those French have a different word for EVERYTHING!! never appreciate your language 'til you go to a foreign country that doesn't have the COURTESY to speak English!!!"), my father had, like Saul in the book of Acts on his way to persecute christians, fallen from his high-horse. He was doubled over in laughter. My mom was crying hysterically.

I looked at my brother-- he just grinned... another convert!!

at his best...These are the moments I relived as I listened to Steve Martin read his memoirs today.

As the audiobook credits rolled, I thumbed my ipod over to Steve Martins recording, "Let's Get Small". And as the soon-to-be mega-star Steve Martin deftly played his banjo while singing "Ramblin' Guy", I must say I got a little emotional. It was all so genius.

And even today, I understand just what it was my brother was laughing about all those years ago.

For a taste of the nostalgia, here's a cool MP3 ringtone I made from that first LP:
Ramblin' Guy Ringtone (00:25 / 601kb)

For those of you don't understand the significance of 'Spaniards & Mexicans', here's the whole bit:
Ramblin' Guy (2:12 / 3.04mb)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

another reason i'm voting for ron paul...

Ron Paul's Israel Problem
by Chuck Baldwin
January 15, 2008

If evangelical Christians are hesitant to support Ron Paul's candidacy for the Republican nomination for President, two reasons are usually proffered: he does not support Israel, and he wants to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Unfortunately, many (if not most) of today's evangelical Christians have bought into the whole neocon warmongering mentality. Somewhere along the way, evangelicals have forgotten the historic Christian understanding of "just war," not to mention our Savior's promise of divine blessing upon peacemakers. They have allowed President George W. Bush and his fellow warmongers to hijack the legitimate use of defensive war and turn it into a commitment to aggressive and preemptive war.

If the United States continues on its current path of aggressive, preemptive war, incessant nation-building, empire-building, and globalism, our country will collapse. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that no super-power can long survive global warfare. The economic, moral, and spiritual strain on the nation would be more than it could long endure. In other words, Bush's war doctrine has put America on a crash course with disaster, and evangelicals are downright foolish to go along with it.

Ron Paul is anything but a pacifist. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, for goodness' sake. He believes in Ronald Reagan's "Peace Through Strength" philosophy. He believes in a strong military. He believes in defending the United States. That is not in question.

Obviously, however, Ron Paul rejects nation-building, empire-building, preemptive war, and globalism. By the way, this is something the Republican Party also used to reject before George W. Bush came along. And please understand, this is something that the vast majority--and I mean vast majority--of the American people also reject. If the GOP nominates a pro-Iraq war, pro-attack Iran, pro-preemptive invasion, pro-aggressive war candidate, they can kiss the November elections goodbye. The American people (except for the most fanatically loyal Bush supporters) are sick to death of American soldiers and Marines dying for Mideast oil, million-dollar Halliburton contracts, and "surrender-your-liberties-because-we-are-at-war" dribble. However, it is evangelical Christians' misunderstanding of Ron Paul's position on Israel that seems to be the most problematic.

To be sure, not all believers agree on the subject of Israel. Christians are divided between pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, and even amillennialism. For the most part, pre-millennialists (such as me) believe that God will yet fulfill the Davidic Covenant with the nation of Israel. Post-millennialists, on the other hand, believe that the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is the complete fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and David.

Regardless of one's particular view of Eschatology, believers should be united in their support for protecting the sovereignty and independence of these United States. If this were really true, the vast majority of believers would enthusiastically support the candidacy of Ron Paul, as there is no one in Washington, D.C., who more faithfully defends the integrity of America's sovereignty and independence. The problem is, some Christians seem to give more loyalty and support to the government of Israel than they do their own country's independence and freedom.

In this regard, it is incredible to me how evangelical pastors and leaders can continue to associate with--and support--radical Israel apologists such as John Hagee. His ranting about Jewish people having a special covenant with God and needing not to come to the Father through Christ--and even that Jesus never claimed to be Christ--is nothing short of blatant apostasy.

Whether one believes in a future Davidic Kingdom or not is immaterial to the preservation of America's freedom and independence. If God intends a future place and purpose for Israel, He is certainly capable of fulfilling that place and purpose. He will not need your help, my help, or Ron Paul's help. I know that is shocking to the pride and arrogance of many evangelicals, but it is true nonetheless.

Does that mean that an American President should deliberately inflict harm upon the State of Israel? As long as they do not inflict harm upon us, no. No more than he should deliberately inflict harm upon any nation that does not inflict harm upon us. A free and independent nation--not to mention a nation whose roots are grounded in Christian philosophy--should seek only that which promotes peace and prosperity. Of all people, Christians should understand this. Ron Paul does understand this.

Accordingly, Ron Paul rightly wants to return America's foreign policy to the established and historic principles of its founding documents and sentiments. That means free and fair trade with all and entangling alliances with none. Not even Israel.

My dear Christian brethren, let's get real: America's policies toward Israel have not been a blessing to her. They have been a curse. George W. Bush and most other Presidents during the last 40 years have treated Israel like the proverbial red-headed step-child.

For example, America continues to furnish Israel's enemies with three times more aid and assistance than it does Israel. Three times. Is that being a blessing to Israel? America gives unflinching and magnanimous support to militant Muslim governments such as Saudi Arabia. There is no nation in the Middle East that has harbored, trained, supplied, and supported more terrorists than Saudi Arabia. Is that being a blessing to Israel? In addition, every time an American President wants to meddle in Middle Eastern affairs, he insists that Israel give up land for peace. President Bush is doing that very thing anew and afresh at this very moment. Is that being a blessing to Israel?

Let me assure the reader (if he or she needs assurance) that Israel knows how to defend itself. In fact, Israel has over 300 nuclear weapons. Israel has enough weaponry and nuclear capability to take out any threat to its sovereignty that any Arab nation--or group of Arab nations--could mount against it.

Herein lies another problem: it is a heavy-handed, dictatorial, do-as-I-say foreign policy from Washington, D.C., that prevents Israel from defending itself. Before Tel Aviv can do anything, it must come hat-in-hand to Washington for permission.

If Iraq was a legitimate threat, Israel could have taken out Baghdad, Saddam Hussein, and his entire army with little difficulty. The same is true right now with Iran. If Iran is a legitimate threat, Israel could launch whatever attack is necessary to defend itself. It should not need Washington's permission. Israel is a sovereign nation. It should have the right to defend itself as it deems necessary. Frankly, it is none of Washington's business. The truth is, Israel's perennial precariousness is a direct result of Washington's constant interference.

Ron Paul would put an end to Washington's deleterious and insatiable appetite for nation-building and entangling alliances. The result would be a stronger Israel and a more stable Middle East. Not to mention the lack of resentment and hatred that results from the worldwide perception that America is an arrogant and bullying country.

Furthermore, Christians need to understand that Jewish interests are not always harmonious with the interests of Christianity or the interests of the United States. Israel certainly did not act in a friendly fashion when it attacked the Navy intelligence ship, the USS Liberty, in 1967. That attack was the second deadliest against a U.S. vessel since the end of World War II. The attack also marked the single greatest loss of life by the U.S. intelligence community. 34 U.S. servicemen were killed and 173 were wounded in that attack. In addition, Israel is often found to be engaged in espionage within the United States. Should America turn a blind eye to such activities? Of course not.

Beyond that, Hebrew Christians are still pretty much regarded as second-class citizens in Israel. There is no freedom of religion for Christians in Israel. I have spoken at the only two Baptist churches in Israel (at that time): the First Bible Baptist Church in Jerusalem and the Bible Baptist Church in Bethlehem. The vast majority of the churches' members were Palestinian or Arab; they were not Jewish. Most of the opposition to Christianity in Israel comes from Jews not Arabs.

Evangelical Christians in the United States also need to seriously consider the impact of America's actions upon the Christian missionaries throughout the world, but especially in the Middle Eastern world. There are numerous Christian missionaries throughout the Muslim states. Ask any of them and they will tell you that America's meddlesome foreign policy makes their job harder--not easier.

What I am saying is that Ron Paul's position on Israel is not problematic for Israel's future security or prosperity. And neither is it problematic for America's future security and prosperity. In fact, Ron Paul's foreign policy is compatible with both historic American principles--not to mention constitutional government--and with deeply regarded Christian principles. The real problem is that many evangelical Christians have themselves lost their appreciation and understanding of these principles.

Friday, April 25, 2008

jesus for president...

I'd vote for Him...

(of course, I don't really think He's running)

Still, this new book by Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw is a very interesting book. The graphics are meticulous and stunning. Someone really took their time on this one.

But the message is what's even more stunning.

Did you know that the Bible tells us that we're to be different from the world & the government and all that? Weird, I know! Apparently, we've been called to be a 'peculiar people'... living by a different set of rules, than what the government dishes out. How revolutionary!

As Shane and Chris walk us through the Bible, we gain a fresh perspective on God's relationship with varying forms of government. Then, we get to spend quite a bit of time focusing on the political context of Christ's life.

Granted, I'm not finished, but in the middle of a torturous election year, this book is a refreshing call for a radical departure from political/religion-as-usual and a call for 'change' that actually makes a difference.

(I may actually write-in 'Jesus' this November...)

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I recently discovered this book.

It is authored by David Kinnaman, the President of The Barna Group (the guys that brought us 'Revolution', one of my favorite books on the subject of modern-day christianity).

What makes this book interesting is that it studiously reveals what we've all suspected... that modern-day christianity has a real image problem. Those who do not consider themselves to be Christ-followers largely look on christianity negatively.

I'm just digging into it. But so far, I agree...

Yeah... I got through the whole thing and I can say that while I do not disagree with the conclusions of this book, I found them to be shallow and somewhat elementary. Nothing wrong with what is expressed here-- just nothing new.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I have hope.

...and it's not because Barack Obama promises it to me.

No, I'm filled with a sense of hope, as it pertains to life as a follower of Christ.

There's been a lot of talk about "moving forward". I'm really not sure what that means, exactly. But I know, when this year started, I decided that if I wanted some changes in my life, I'd have to make some changes.

So I did.

...and now I'm filled with hope.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

rob bell, elvis & jesus christ...

This evening, I finished reading the book, "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell. I highly recommend this book, if you are exhausted with religion-as-usual. I know I am.

Mind you, it's not that I'm cynical. I'm really not. I'm filled with hope... hope that we can grow beyond the Americanized, drive-thru version of christianity that is so prevalent in our bookstores, on our radios and all over our televisions. Hope that people will recognize the revolution of love that is taking place in the hearts of believers everywhere - people who are done with that whole "give to get" mentality, and replacing it with the "give to love" idea that Jesus made so popular in his day.

Maybe self-help christianity has its place. But the hope I have is not founded so much in the idea that God will help me. No, my hope is that God might actually be able to use me in blessing someone else. And people like Rob Bell have helped me come to that realization.

Granted, he gets some flack for alleged heretical theology (most of which is solid thought, twisted out-of-context, for the sake of accusation). I don't buy into any of that. All I know is that I've met the man. I've followed his teaching. And he's helped me a lot.

Here's a great example:

"Most of the messages we receive are about how to make life easier. The call of Jesus goes the other direction: It's about making our lives more difficult. It's going out of our way to be more generous & disciplined & loving & free. It is refusing to escape and become numb to and check-out-of this broken, fractured world.

"And so we are embracing the high demands of Jesus' call to be one of his disciples. We are honest about it. We want our friends to know up front that the costs are high, which is what is so appealing about Jesus - his vision for life takes everything we have.

"In the accounts of Jesus' life, often the larger the crowds get, the more demanding and difficult his teachings get... He is constantly trying to find out who really wants it. And so he keeps pushing and prodding and questioning and putting it out there until some leave and the diehards stay. We never find him chasing someone, trying to convince them that he really wasn't that serious, that it was just a figure of speech... If anybody didn't have a Messiah-complex, it was Jesus.

"This is what we are dying for - something that demands we step up and become better, more focused people. Something that calls out the greatness that we hope is somewhere inside of us."
('Velvet Elvis' - Rob Bell, p.169)

I believe that greatness IS inside each of us. And the only way to really get it out is to let it flow out, into the lives of those around us. Of course, that's not the easy way. It's the christian way. And it's what we're called to.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

my new church...

Today, my family and I attended a new church... not that there was anything necessarily wrong with our old church. We just sensed that God was leading us into something new. We prayed about it. Fasted about it. Prayed some more. And after 3 months of this, it seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us that we simply dive in.

It wasn't what I expected.

I figured there'd be goosebumps and tears. I mean, we FASTED, for crying-out-loud! I was totally looking forward to some magical, burning-bush experience that would light my hair on fire, and leave me glowing & radiant like Moses, when he came down from Mt. Sinai.

No visions. No dreams. I didn't "fall out" or "speak in tongues".


Sure, the music was excellent (really!). The multimedia presentation was spot-on. And the people were more than friendly. But where were all the spiritual fireworks & glory clouds I anticipated?

Then it hit me.

This is not about me.

You see, I spent the last 20 years on stage during worship... playing bass, playing guitar, playing drums, singing... you name it. And over that period of time, engrained somewhere in my subconscious was the seed of egocentric self-worship that is not healthy for or reflective of a proper worshiper.

I think we're all guilty-- especially in life. We get so focused on what we "do", that we forget the true nature of life... that is, spiritual.

Every aspect of life can be worship. Every aspect of life can reflect faith, and God, and spirit; but only when we've made the time to purposely promote His glory, instead of our own.

So without a tear or a shiver or the attention of anyone else, I entered into worship... conscious, purposeful worship. No one was looking at or listening to me. No one really cared if I had my eyes closed or my hands raised. In a building filled with 500 or 600 people, I stood there with my wife-- just us & God.

At that moment I realized that I was starting from scratch... slowly turning my reflective soul away from that familiar image that looks a lot like me, toward the One who orchestrated this pivotal moment of grace.

And I sensed true peace.

Now, the sermon was unorthodox. Of course, that makes sense, since the pastor is (thankfully) unorthodox, as well. And while his theme dealt with overcoming in this life, one impromptu, side-point stood out to me like a flashing light at the crossroads of an unlit street.

He recalled how earlier that morning, in the shower, he prayed, "Lord, teach me". He repeated it. "Lord, teach me. Lord, teach me."

And suddenly, I got it. This whole "new church", for me, was about becoming absorbent again; becoming willing to be soaked-- recognizing that this man, and these singers & musicians, and this fellowship of people have no desire to squeeze every drop out of me. No, they have something for me-- FOR me!

So I'm ready to breathe again (to quote my wife). I'm ready to inhale and then exhale, and then inhale again... you get the picture. Yet, this time is not just about what I can "do", but more about what God wants to do in me, my wife and our kids.

And while the experience and the impartation will be different for each of us, the change has already begun... and it is good.