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In the Downton Abbey Tradition: 1956’s Giant

12 Feb

I know, I know, Giant came first.  But Downton Abbey came first historically.  And so did England.

There is something so refreshing about Downton and, yes, it is in the same tradition as Giant and other important and influential films of its era.

They have a clear sense of values, of right and wrong.  

Those who do well, end up being rewarded, eventually.  Those who do evil are eventually exposed and fall by the wayside.  

Note that, theologically, nothing is said about people being inherently good or evil.  We are all born with a sin nature.  But in this world and on into eternity, our choices after birth matter.  

Downton Abbey shows that.  So does Giant. 

I saw Giant for the first time today.  I got up at 6 AM and watched it till almost 9:30 on Turner Classic Movies.  Yes, it is an epic.  And, yes, I am glad I made the time for it in this period of unemployment.  

In fact, since Noel was already awake, it was kind of fun to sit on the end of our bed, watching with the lights off, on top of our warm comforter, with a quilt across my lap and a plushy throw around my shoulders.  Very cozy on a day when we expect more snow . . .

I have long “collected” epic films that start with “G,” most of them war movies:  Gone With the Wind, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, Gladiator, The Grapes of Wrath, and Gallipoli (well, that one is a bit shorter than the others but packs a punch nonetheless).  I will add Giant to that number.

It is said that Giant was Rock Hudson’s best film ever and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s best.  They aged beautifully across two generations.  

It was James Dean’s last film.  He remained the rebel till the end, still without a cause, except he envied the wealth of the other two, and their ranching family, and became a self-made man merely to get revenge (and to try to marry their daughter).  

The lessons were clear.  Rock Hudson’s character was changed by being married to Elizabeth Taylor’s character, who brought to Texas and to ranching a kind disposition toward everyone, especially the Hispanic people who already lived in the state when the U.S. acquired it.  

Everything ties up neatly, throughout the movie, not just at the end.  

The way Downton Abbey neatly ties up approximately one storyline per week.

In an era when the majority of movies are made to promote not just ambiguity in life (which we all face every day as an inevitable part of our existence) but ambiguity in values, a movie like Giant is refreshing.  Most movies in our era end with totally messy outcomes which we can second guess for weeks.  It is not just that it is hard to figure out the complex situations in these movies, it is that they are never resolved.  Resolution itself appears to be held up as a bad thing.  

It is good to see films and television series in which the director sets out to use situations and problems in the lives of the characters to cause them to grow morally.  If that results in neatly tied up endings, all the better because our lives rarely do that for us.   

We will never become perfect on this earth, but we can all grow.   

And I will never tire of such stories as Giant, inspiring us in that direction!  

Link

The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

5 Feb

The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

Disclaimer: not all young Christians are hipsters and not all hipster Christians spend their time acting like they would like to hide the fundamentalist folks in Christianity in a broom closet, along with their hardworking old grandmother who makes them feel ashamed in front of their friends by her terminal lack of coolness.

But there are enough young hipsters like that in Christianity to be ironic.

Ironic because they denounce fundamentalists for hating them and trying to make them go away.

They denounce us while using these same tactics against us.

Enough already. Mom here! I don’t care who started it. Let’s just stop it. We are all part of the same Christian camp.

The above post doesn’t address many things theologically.

If you want to be a hipster Christian and defend marriage as being other than Christ defined it (one man, one woman, for life), then show me where the moral authority comes from to do that.

If you want to believe in theistic evolution, explain to me theologically how death came along before Adam and Eve fell.

If you want to reconcile a world that is millions of years old with a Saviour who was born of a virgin, explain to me how a God who wasn’t capable of creating an old universe in the Old Testament (with starlight already in progress, since stars that we can see are millions of light years from earth) suddenly became capable of creating a virgin birth in the New Testament.

There are lots of things that need to be addressed theologically by the above post. They were not even attempted. The writer merely did some terminally cool posturing. I throw a flag on his play.

And just sneering at fundamentalists does not count as a logical argument. In fact, that is called an ad hominem argument, for anyone who is truly looking to learn the fair rules of debate.

Just sayin’

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The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

4 Feb

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

Reblogging this as a “slice of life” in the 1960’s. It is hard to remember when there were only three stations on television and kids functioned as the remote control for their parents!!!

And then when the Beatles had the top five songs (and 12 overall on the top 100) . . . Who can totally fathom the effects of Beatlemania in the light of all of the choices kids have right now?

Link

Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

31 Jan

Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

This piece, on worldwide poverty, brings to mind our microcosm in the U.S., as addressed by the President in the State of the Union address Tuesday night (January 28, 2014).

I had some thoughts on the wage inequality that the President raised. I don’t believe it will be touched by raising either the federal employees’ minimum wage to $10.40 an hour, nor the country’s minimum wage to $10.40 an hour.

First of all, most federal employees already make far more than $10.40 an hour, so that statement was just window dressing anyway.

Secondly, what can be done on $440 a week? Not much here. Even two married people, both making minimum wage, would be barely able to scrape by on $880 a week in coastal Virginia.

Should we federally control prices? In a free market? Never. That would be the worst of Soviet communism, come to fruition on our own soil.

So how do we equip people to live in this expensive economy?

Certainly not by preparing them to be minimum wage workers all life long.

Our newspaper, not a bastion of liberal nor of conservative thought, laid it all out again last week (these statistics are well known and have often been reported by bipartisan sources): point #1) there is a huge difference in wages between high school graduates (or dropouts) and college graduates, point #2) college graduates tend to marry each other and point #3) college graduates are the ones who still believe in the institution of marriage and embark on it, trying to make it last (high school graduates and dropouts tend to be the ones who believe that the entire institution of marriage is flawed so we should all just cohabitate whenever we wish).

I have had people who don’t believe in the institution of marriage try to give me anecdotal evidence that suggests the above points are not true. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But the points are true.

So, given that, I was less than encouraged that neither the State of the Union nor its rebuttal led to a discussion of strengthening the family.

It seems that finishing college and embarking on long-lasting marriages is the way forward economically for Americans.

Yes, we used to be able to make it in single-earner households. Some, by drawing down their requirements, still do. But most of us do not. World War II changed that by putting women to work. The economy grew to the point that it costs the wages of a husband plus the wages of a wife to live.

Society shifted. Life is like that.

Any constructive ideas from others about the way forward?

Link

What Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson Can Teach Us about Authenticity!

28 Jan

What Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson Can Teach Us about Authenticity!

A teaching on holiness riffing on Downton Abbey themes.  What could be lovelier?

Phil Robertson, New Jersey, and You

20 Dec

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-star-fired-over-remarks-on-homosexuality/

Watch New Jersey to see whether any religious exemptions will be allowed to the acceptance of gay marriage.

Link

Disclaimer: I Don’t Watch “Duck Dynasty” but I Do Support the Free Exchange of Ideas

19 Dec

Disclaimer: I Don’t Watch “Duck Dynasty” but I Do Support the Free Exchange of Ideas

This post contains the Phil Robertson quote about homosexuality. It is not nearly as graphic as I thought. It is actually Biblically accurate with the first three chapters of Genesis, in which God created us male and female.

It’s the kind of thing you would say to friends, not in a national interview. So, for that reason, it is just a bit tactless.

And . . . maybe it is a bit insensitive in not acknowledging the obvious fact that gays don’t automatically feel the same desires that heterosexuals feel. But is it now a requirement for heterosexuals to always present that disclaimer when talking about the sex act? I don’t necessarily think so. God clearly created us male and female, in a complementarian way (including sexually). Again, see Genesis 1-3. I think it might be up to those who don’t live by that model to present the disclaimers. It is nice when a heterosexual remembers to do so, but I don’t see it as a requirement.

Phil Robertson’s remark was certainly acceptable within the realm of the free exchange of ideas.

The quote on the races is more disturbing to me. I can see the insensitivity there. Saying he worked with blacks in the field because he was “white trash” . . . Sounds like something out of “To Kill a Mockingbird” (and that may very well have been the culture and era in which he grew up, but he could have said what he did with more tact, as it is now 2013).

Still, should A&E have fired the lead on their most lucrative show? Only time will tell. They have the right, under free enterprise, to hire and fire whomever they want. They definitely exercised viewpoint discrimination, but that is not protected under the labor laws. You very much can be fired if the boss doesn’t like your viewpoint. It isn’t right, but it is what it is. And there are many petty people around who only want to work with people who agree with them on issues. Sometimes they are the boss.

I think maybe Paula Deen and Phil Robertson should start their own network for fallen people who realize that not everything in this world operates according to what we regard as ideal . . .

Can We Be a Poseur So Long that We Start Believing our Own Press?

12 Dec

Image

So how about the deaf interpreter in South Africa who stood next to the president of the U.S., along with multiple other foreign leaders, and signed gibberish instead of the words to their speeches?

Can there be a better example of a poseur?  And apparently he has been at it so long, as a loyal member of the African National Congress, that he is unapologetic about the fact that his presentation had no meaning for the thousands of deaf people who watched it.

The guy’s an artist and his interpretation is masterful.  If it doesn’t contain real words–well, that is his audience’s issue, not his.  <serious sarcasm alert there> 

He also claims that he had a schizophrenic break while up there signing.  Don’t think about that too hard, folks.  He says his schizophrenic breaks have led to violence in the past; he was right there next to the president of the U.S.   Great!

It’s kind of like if we had let the Navy Yard shooter have clearance to go wherever he wanted around dignitaries after he had had violent episodes.  Oh, wait, we did that! 

Folks, it is not a safe world.  And no one has any business letting people who have documented violence in their past go near governmental dignitaries.  It’s not logical to give them targets so they can act out.  Ya know!

But back to the poseur issue:  it seems this guy really does believe he is a deaf interpreter.  I am willing to say he is not.  There is an easy way to find out.  Give him a test, right now, administered by a sign language expert.  If he fails it, have him pay back all of the money he has made faking sign language at events in South Africa these last few years.

The trouble with poseurs is that they are always found out to be the fakes they are, eventually.

Just because someone has faked his way through 100 events, he can’t use those events as a defense when he gets caught during event 101 (the guy is actually trying to do this.  There have been complaints about him in the past but the ANC would not pursue them.  So now he says his past is proof he is a good interpreter.  Except his company seems to his vanished this morning . . .).

A fake is a fake, no matter how many times he has done it.  You can spend a lifetime pretending to be something you are not and . . . you are still a fake.  

The shame is that the guy could have spent his lifetime actually learning sign language instead of sinking all of his energy into covering up the fact that he is a poseur.  

Sad.

 

 

 

Link

Black Parenting Principles!

14 Oct

Black Parenting Principles!

A reminder from a prominent black Baptist pastor, Thabiti Anyabwile, that black parenting in the U.S. doesn’t always look exactly the same as white parenting. And he links to some classic scenes from primetime television.

He mentions a couple of crosscultural points I have needed to hear:

-When black parents seem to be harsh with their kids, historically they have looked at such techniques as preparing the kids for a world that will be harsh with them.
-When black kids “bust” on each other in the school hallway, it is not usually a sign that a fight is about to occur. It is a means of communication (side note: I think some hipster whites have learned this technique pretty well, too, judging from some white “putdown contests” I have recently heard).
-When a group of black kids seems to generate more noise out in public than a similarly sized group of white kids, that is just a cultural difference. Glaring at them will only make them think we are prejudiced. They will not suddenly realize that their noise level is inappropriate for the venue they are in, because it is a normal noise level to them. I am not sure how this one can be addressed, say in a restaurant where your group can’t hear each other’s conversation because the kids at the next table are talking at the top of their voices. After so much water over the dam racially, almost anything we will do as whites, including asking to be moved so as not to bother the other group, will probably be seen as prejudiced. We truly need to have that racial conversation in this country . . . at last.

Good post. Burying our heads in the sand over our racial issues doesn’t work anymore (hint: it never did).

Link

The Man in the Red Bandana on 9/11 . . .

11 Sep

The Man in the Red Bandana on 9/11 . . .

A heroic story that is still being lived out in red bandanas worn in this man’s honor!

For Monk-ophiles: Check out Foyle’s War

30 Aug

I, a longtime Monk-ophile, have found another totally addictive detective show to follow on Netflix.  It is Foyle’s War, a BBC detective show set on the South Coast of England during World War II, before the U.S. entered the war.  Mmmmmmm, exquisite stuff.

I just found out Foyle’s War has been on PBS.  And it is coming back in early September at 9:00 on Sunday nights for about four weeks.  

The way the series has been made, since about 2002, is to film 2-4 1.5 hour segments in Britain.  They are sometimes divided when shown in the States.

Kind of like movies, with a constant ensemble of characters.

Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is an older man who conveys his thoughts with quiet mannerisms, usually a quick blink or a raised eyebrow when he figures out a case. He is very like Monk in his attention to detail and in his brilliance in putting together the story line of a murder. 

His crime-solving ensemble includes Milner, a former soldier who was retired from active duty after nearly being crippled in the action in Norway, and Samantha Stewart (Sam), the “police driver” who more often than not becomes part of the action!

Additionally, Mr. Foyle’s son, Andrew, is an RAF pilot who shows up in about one-third of the episodes.  He has an on-again, off-again relationship with Sam.

As with the ensemble in Monk, the cast is very strong together.  Every viewer probably has a favorite in the cast.  Mine is Foyle himself.

I love the balance of having 3-4 characters work as a team to move the narrative ahead. The detective shows that are one-man or one-woman teams (think Columbo or Murder, She Wrote) take so much out of their lead, who has to be “on” for a straight hour every week.   

I love the clothes and period details in Foyle’s War.  It is definitely worthwhile to make it a period drama, particularly about a period with which we are all somewhat familiar.

Great show.  Try it! 

One Big Spoiler Post about “Call the Midwife”

8 Jul

Wow, what a heartwarming series this new one is!!!

I am watching season one on Netflix as season two is apparently wrapping up over in Britain.

Nothing like a good historical British drama, filled with real characters with hopes, fears, and flaws.  

Fabulous television.  Better than most American movies!!!

Set in the East End of London (Docklands) right after World War II, the show concerns a convent with a handful of secular nurses attached to it.  Everyone is focused on delivering the huge number of babies being born at home in their borough.

This was right at the beginning of the implementation of National  Health in Britain.  For the impoverished characters on the show, it was a godsend.  

What I love is that no one is the subject of mockery in this show.  Upper class people who need an attitude adjustment, clumsy people (like Chummy, the oversized nurse who can’t seem to learn to ride a bike), impoverished people (whose stories are shown to be as rich as those of any upper class person), and even women with venereal diseases (a nurse initially has a reaction of aversion to finding out a pregnant woman has a venereal disease, but the show reveals that she is able to grow and learn compassion in the situation.  How many U.S. shows would play that situation for cheap laughs?).

In the third episode, we all fall in love with the old veteran of the Boer Wars who is displaced from the tenement where his late wife helped him raise two boys (who died in World War II).  The sweet old man says he lives in the lap of luxury, while Jenny, his nurse, initially has a reaction of revulsion to the insects that live in the tenement, and crawl out from under a plate of cookies as she picks them up!

She later takes him to a reunion of his unit, where he is greatly honored as a war hero.  But she then must watch him be moved to a nursing home, where he is neglected and dies of gangrene which develops in his old war injuries.

How many old veterans who have spent their lives for their countries face similar indifference from the authorities when they are old?  How many of them never have a Jenny to love them when their families are gone?  

Watching the faces in this episode was a thing of beauty, an absolute wonder.  The characters are so well drawn that the movements of the eyes, the hands, and the feet are all used to maximum advantage in furthering the story.  

Mostly the stories concern babies about to be born, but this detour to community nursing of the elderly was beautiful.  The whole series is beautiful.  

The nuns in the convent are not all conventional Catholics.  One or two of them are eccentrics, possibly over the line into dementia.  They are still full, strong characters.  

The faith of the nuns, moving forward to help the needy in the face of fear, reminds me of why the Catholic church is so often admired, even by people who don’t agree with its doctrine.  Few groups are as able to reach out to those who are impoverished and to raise their standard of living via quality health care or education.  

The Brits have been producing a series of quality television shows to universal acclaim these past few years–among them “Downton Abbey” about the rich and now “Call the Midwife” about the poor.  Both shows also reveal interactions between the rich and the poor–that may be the greatest contribution of all they make!  Every person is a unique soul, made in God’s image.  It is wonderful to find television shows that reveal that truth, rather than playing to cheap laughs and mockery!!!

Link

Welcome to Rome, Part II!

5 Jul

Welcome to Rome, Part II!

I love it! I wrote a post called “Welcome to Rome” last year and now the Southern Baptist Conference has so many posts on that issue that the writer of this one calls it “cliche.”

I promise you the phrase was from my own brain, after much reading, when I posted it last year. Obviously, nobody who is a thinker thinks in a vacuum, so I probably took data points from the SBC as well as from other voices when I made my assessment.

But the phrase “Welcome to Rome” was original to me.

Great minds think alike, or our blogs crossed paths and someone over there saw my post . . . one or the other.

Very cool. Since I am not paid for this blog, it is not important to know whether I was the first to use the phrase. But neat that I found it on my own, in the midst of others coming to the same conclusion.

Link

Downton Abbey Special: “Pratt, You Have Nice Knees”

11 Mar

Downton Abbey Special: “Pratt, You Have Nice Knees”

What a treat! I found Elizabeth McGovern’s most stellar scene in “Ordinary People,” the best picture of 1980.

She was a supporting actress in the film, the love interest of Timothy Hutton’s troubled teen.

This scene is where he first takes her out for a soda and she asks him point blank why he tried to commit suicide.

Get your kleenex and prepare to see Elizabeth McGovern work her magic as a teen actress.

(The title of this post comes from something the young men yell to her from their car when she is on the sidewalk in front of the school one day! Ha ha!).

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play: The Long-awaited Engagement Scene

11 Mar

Wasn’t the last scene in Season Two of Downton Abbey worth the wait?

As the snow starts falling more rapidly, in big cottony flakes, Matthew and Lady Mary stand on the porch in front of Downton Abbey, talking after the Servants’ Ball.  After several minutes, it becomes obvious that Matthew not only intentionally asked Mary to dance at the ball but he is now, once again, going to ask her to be his wife.

Since the last time he popped this question, he has gained a fiancee and lost her to death.

Since the last time Matthew popped this question, Mary has gained and lost a fiance who was wealthy enough (and able, as a newspaper publisher!) to buy up the rights to her story about the death of the Turkish diplomat in her bed and to squash the story.  She has now set Sir Richard free from the engagement, despite (or because of!) his threats to ruin her by publishing that scandalous story at this late date. 

She has told Matthew everything.  She concluded that, in doing that, she would lose his friendship.  That has not happened.  

In fact, as he moves toward his proposal, my favorite theological moment in the entire series occurs.

Mary asks him whether he has found it in his heart to forgive her for giving in to lust with the Turkish diplomat.

And Matthew says, “No, I have not.”

As she looks at him in shock, he adds, “There is nothing to forgive.  We both have lived our separate lives until now.  I am just saying we should live them together from now on.”

What a wonderful statement!

He, unlike many people who learn before marriage that their potential spouse has had a past,  realizes that her sin, before she was engaged to him, was against God alone.  Unlike so many people who cannot forget that their spouses had a past and use it to bludgeon them mentally for the next twenty years, Matthew is able to let go of all this before God.   

Matthew is willing to leave it there, at the feet of the only qualified Judge.

What a precious truth of marriage.  For whether our spouse has a past or not, he/she has a sin nature.

If only we could all leave our spouse’s sins in God’s hands, as Matthew did, and offer our love and support in place of recriminations.  

Marriage would be that much sweeter for it!

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