Category Archives: Culture

The Cave

 

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I was talking to one of my favorite people the other day, Kesseljunkie (He’s my podcast partner on Aggressive Negotiations: A Star Wars Podcast as well as a myriad episodes of The 602 Club). As we so frequently do, we were discussing movies, specifically the DC films and the latest Justice League trailer and it brought something to mind.

There is a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke is being trained by Yoda and he asks about a place that seems cold. Yoda says it is a domain of evil and that Luke must go in. Luke asks, “What’s in there?” to which Yoda responds, “Only what you take with you.”.

This got me thinking about how movies and movie theaters are a lot like that cave on Dagobah. Whenever we step into a theater to see a movie or que one up on Netflix we are not going in blind, we bring with us a plethora of preconceptions, experiences and prejudices into that cave that act as weapons for or against the movie which impact the film. Now, unlike Luke, there are certain “weapons” that are impossible for us to completely get rid of when we enter the cave. We cannot discard our prior experiences, but we can curtail out preconceptions and our prejudices, if we are self aware enough to know what they are. The reason this is important is because what we get out of a movie and whether or not we enjoy it greatly depend upon our own point of view. To put it another way, it greatly depends on what we bring with us into the theater.

The reason this struck a cord for me was the way in which this seems to directly apply to the geek culture that I am apart of. Every franchise has it’s diehard followers that will defend anything that comes out of that franchise no matter what it is. Then there are others that will seemingly hate everything a certain franchise does, just because it’s from that franchise. It’s par for the course in the 21st century where everything is one extreme or another and there seems to be no middle ground for anything. Hyperbole is the language of the day, films, tv shows, politicians and everything else all seem to be either the worst or the best thing ever.

Again referencing the conversation in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke asks “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?” and Yoda replies, “You will know. When you are calm, at peace.” We live not only in a world drowning in hyperbole but it’s accentuated by an eternal hype machine. So I want suggest a different path, like the Bendu in the recent Star Wars Rebels season and chose the way of the middle. We must unlearn what we have learned as we walk into the cave. Approach every movie on it’s own merits. As Yoda says, we should clear out minds of our expectations, preconceptions and presuppositions and allow the film to wash over us, absorbing what it’s trying to say and do first. If we get out of a movie, only what we bring to it, then it seems important for us to not enter with a bad attitude in the first place. The neutrality of the middle allows us to, I think, truly judge a film better.

For me personally, this has worked out thusly. I do my utmost to approach every movie on it’s own. I do my best not to prejudge too much on trailers, since many times trailers can be so misleading. I find it best to go in always hoping the movie will be good and allowing the finished product to speak for itself. It’s hard work disarming the weapons I can bring to bare, like previous films in a series, thoughts on a direct or actor, my own prejudices. I’ve found it to be a much more rewarding experience with movies, tv shows and even books to look at it without those weapons. It’s made it easier for me to see and understand the themes, character motivations and what each work is trying to say, which in turn allows me appreciate it more.

Now, does this mean I like everything? Of course not. But it does even help there, because when I don’t like something, this process allows me to be constructively critical about why and what I feel made something not work. With the self awareness that comes from trying to disarm all the weapons I might bring with me into the cave enables me to be, I think, more fair to the film, show our book and not resort to hyperbole, but break it down in a more constructive and valuable way. In the end, almost every movie, book or tv show is not going to be the best or worst thing ever and finding out the muddle in the middle is most of the fun.

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Owl Post 8-11-15

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

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The Coddling of the American Mind:

image6087947xSomething strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Educationdescribing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

From Gamergate to Cecil the lion: internet mob justice is out of control:

In this animated image created by Matt Groening and released by Twentieth Century Fox, the entire town of Springfield is transformed into an angry mob, in a scene from When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer’s life and punish him for what he’d done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn. Web users uncovered Palmer’s personal information, including about his family, and published it online. They went after his business, a private dental practice, posting thousands of negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The practice has since shut down. Users also went after professional websites that host his profile, leading the sites to remove his information. On Twitter and on his practice’s public Facebook page, people made threats of physical violence.

Go Set a Watchman: Why Harper Lee’s new book is so controversial:

20150326140533US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanTo Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best-known books in America. It’s an inspiring story about standing up to injustice even if doing so is difficult and unpopular; an accessible coming-of-age tale; and a convenient way to teach high school English students about the Jim Crow South. It’s also the only novel that its author, Harper Lee, had ever published — until a sudden announcement in February 2015 heralded the publication of Go Set a Watchman, a new Lee work featuring the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird.

A lot of people are suspicious about the discovery of the new manuscript. There are questions about whether Lee actually wanted it to be published, or whether she even wrote it at all — and if so, when. These questions have only become more urgent since the book’s release on July 14, due to its “reveal” that Atticus Finch, the anti-racist hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, is a virulent racist in Watchman.

How Kerry Conran saw Hollywood’s future – then got left behind:

skyangelina-xlargeShortly after completing their first movie, in 2004, Kerry and Kevin Conran received an invitation from George Lucas. The Star Wars mastermind would be hosting a summit at Skywalker Ranch, his production facility-cum-small town in San Francisco, gathering some of the most forward-thinking people in the movie business to discuss the future of film.

James Cameron was there, as were Robert Zemeckis and Brad Bird. The brothers were newcomers, but that day they were treated as peers; each of their fellow directors told the Conrans how impressed they were with what they’d accomplished. Their work, they were told, was way ahead of its time.

Planned Parenthood: 4 Ways to Respond:

PlannedParenthoodsignWe have come to a singularly important moment in the battle against abortion (which is to say, the battle for life). The stunning undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have taken us right to the heart of the abortion industry. They have shown that Planned Parenthood is enriching themselves with the bodies of murdered babies. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood is willingly increasing the risk to the women they serve in order to enrich themselves—altering the abortion procedures to deliver intact bodies. Planned Parenthood is a business, a government-supported business, that buys and sells death.

Carly Fiorina at the Reagan Library:

How Culture Disciples Us:

i-mass-media-inducono-alla-violenza-L-kysDzCWe hold a misconception about discipleship: that it’s a merely Christian idea, only taking place at weekend worship services, on weeknights in groups and in the mornings or evenings when we “spend time with the Lord.” On the contrary, discipleship is taking place all around us and in us every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are being shaped and formed by the movies and TV shows we watch, the music, podcasts and radio stations we listen to, the books and magazines that we read, the social media feeds that we skim, and the trips we take to the mall. Our cultural practices and habits are discipling us either for good or for ill.

Owl Post 9-5-13

Owl Post

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The Cul-de-sac of Stupidity:

cul-de-sacColossians 1:19-21

In the passage above, Paul speaks of our alienation from God resulting from the work of our hostile minds, an alienation ended at the crucifixion of Christ. Until we understand the reconciling work of the cross, we will remain stuck in our patterns of alienation—from God and others.

How Logic Can Help Save a College Student’s Faith:

Human-Logic-Brain“I’m a liberal, pacifist, atheist, and if you don’t like it, you can leave,” the professor said as he began the first day of Renaissance history at the University of Colorado. Joni Raille, who grew up in a conservative Christian home, was taken aback and wondered what her professor’s bluntness had to do with Renaissance history. I asked her if she ever considered dropping the course. “No,” she replied, “I can learn from anybody, even if he is an atheist.”

New Music: Jars of Clay’s Inland:

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgI am that rare Jars of Clay fan who does not hold their debut album in highest esteem. It is not a bad album by any means–”Worlds Apart” is a classic–but it never reached me the way If I Left the Zoo (my first Jars album), Who We Are Instead and Good Monsters did. Those three are the albums by which I judge their output. In certain circles, that statement would have me discredited. So I may not be the best person to write this review. Of course, that has never stopped me before.

The Psychology of the Man of Steel: Should Today’s Superman Be More Morally Realistic?

jacobin-man-of-steelSuperman has changed, and there’s no denying this. Although he wears the same iconic “S” on his chest, the Superman we see in the film Man of Steel embodies a very different psychological makeup than in past versions of this DC Comics hero. He questions whether humanity is worth saving. He is driven by emotions like anger and desperation. He seems reckless, destructive, and impulsively violent. This article, which includes some spoilers, examines why this new Superman represents a more psychologically realistic version of the iconic character, and asks us to question whether a more morally fallible Superman makes more sense in a post-9/11 society.

Derek Webb Was Wrong, He’s Sorry, and He Loves You:

d6c009d654bfc269e774924d8837bddcDerek Webb first appeared in the Christian music scene with the Texan folk-rock band Caedmon’s Call. On their 1996 self-titled record, Caedmon’s Call (their first national release), he was the angst-ridden voice, expressing doubts and agony that weren’t common threads in CCM. Some instantly identified—people who’d always felt a bit out of place in the church, for whom doubts and struggles were constant. For other listeners, Webb was like the outspoken skeptic in your small group, the one who seemed suspicious of sentiment that were a little too warm and smiles that were a little too plastic. In nearly 20 years since, he’s maintained that posture, agitating and provoking the very world his music inhabits.

Wonder Woman Can’t Have it All:

Blue-Eyes-wonder-woman-3338872-1024-768Following any Wonder Woman project isn’t unlike reading some gossip rag about producers and directors dealing with a talented, but demanding actress. “Challenging” is the reason filmmakers give when Wonder Woman projects fail. “We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky,” is a DC Comics executive Diane Nelson’s explanation of why the company hasn’t moved forward with a film. In a self-perpetuating cycle, studios constantly wonder if enough people will buy tickets to a Wonder Woman movie, or if she has enough star power to anchor a film on her own. Inevitably, the first question journalists usually ask hopeful producers is why they’d ever take on such a “hefty” project.

Owl Post 10-22-12

 

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I Am Going to Vote:

Thoughts from John Piper on the election and voting.

Having read several articles by people who don’t plan to vote in the presidential election, my conclusion is: I’m going to vote.

It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting. Then it also seems that this same good would be accomplished if those who thought they would not vote did all that talking, but then voted.

Too big to maintain?

Something to think about from George Will.

If in four weeks a president-elect Mitt Romney is seeking a Treasury secretary, he should look here, to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Candidate Romney can enhance his chance of having this choice to make by embracing a simple proposition from Fisher: Systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), meaning too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, are “too dangerous to permit.”

Previously on Parenthood: I Thought I Could Do It All, but I Can’t …

This is a little tardy since the most recent episode of Parenthood (“There’s Something I Need to Tell You …”) aired over a week ago, but I—perhaps like many of you—typically watch shows online several days later. Nevertheless, this is a follow up to a recent post regarding new developments in the Braverman clan. I am really enjoying season 5 for all its insight into human nature (and relationships, and suffering, and grace…), and this time I want to highlight what is happening with the Julia Braverman-Graham, the hard charging lawyer in the family played by Erika Christensen.

Romney has the momentum:

We are at a turning point in the presidential race. For the first time today Mitt Romney leads in the RealClearPolitics electoral college averaging of polls by a 206-201 margin. In the Gallup 7-day tracking poll Romney went ahead by 7 points, suggesting that the vice presidential debate (Oct. 11) was, if anything, a positive for the GOP ticket. There is so far nothing to show that the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 slowed Romney down.

The ‘Cloud Atlas’ Question: When Is an ‘Unfilmable’ Book Actually Filmable?

There’s no telling why a great but straightforward book might become a lousy movie—or why a film version of a “difficult” novel might be a classic.

The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases:

Not sure if I agree with the rankings; what do you think?

For most consumers of pop culture, fandom is a lower-case concern. They are “fans” in the sense that they may like a particular movie, TV show, band, or personality but don’t think much about it when not experiencing it firsthand. Capital-F Fandom is something else altogether. It goes beyond “like” or even “love” and straight to “devoted.” Their Fandom is all-consuming, a jumping-off point for a deep dive into fan fiction, convention-attending, recap-writing, role-playing, costume-making, language-learning, and more. There is a passion to this kind of Fandom that binds enthusiasts in the manner of people who share a secret — this secret just happens to be shared with millions of others.

My good friend Colin from Treknewsandviews was able to get a shout-out from Connor Trinneer of Star Trek Enterprise fame while he was at Destination Star Trek London.

Owl Post 6-22-12

The Religious Right Turns 33: What Have We Learned?

Many historians say the modern religious right was birthed in June of 1979. That was the month when the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, an organization tasked with saving the American public from the threat of moral decline. Not coincidentally, Concerned Women for America was formed the same month.

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All:

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

What Sanctification Is and Is Not:

J.C. Ryle’s Holiness is a classic work that bears repeated readings. Recently I returned to his chapter on sanctification, a term that he defines as “an inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer.” After defining the term, he lays out the differences between true and false sanctification, first saying what it is not and then saying what it is.

Off The eBook Shelf:

Readers are voting with their wallets: The eBook is winning. In the US, eBooks sales are now topping hardcovers for the first time (story in TechCrunch). Not everywhere of course. According to the Bowker Global eBook Research, the global market for eBooks is driven — in that order — by India, Australia, the UK and the United States. The laggards are Japan and (no surprise) France. The chart below shows the percentage of internet population reporting the purchase of a digital book over the last six months prior to the survey.

Reality Check: Most Internet trolls are probably trolls in real life, too:

One of the biggest myths about the Internet goes like this: people who are perfectly pleasant and reasonable in real life become total jerkfaces when they get online. It conjures up the image of a mild-mannered office clerk, who talks courteously and sweetly to everyone, and then goes home and spews venom on comment sections and web forums for hours. Like the Secret Trolling Life of Walter Mitty. And I’m sure this does happen. But, I’m guessing, most people who troll on the internet actually are trolls in real life, too.

Why You Should Consider Cancelling Your Short-Term Mission Trips:

I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.