Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

h1

The Person You Really Need

November 19, 2013

I don’t like this particular guy. His voice grates on my nerves and the things he talks about are annoying. I have called him “fake” and “plastic” to people who know me well enough to not take everything I say too seriously. This guy rarely listens to anything I say, and he perpetually lets me know all his life accomplishments. He pretends to always be successful, even when other people know it’s not true.

In recent months, he has said some nasty things about me to other people. These people are friends of mine and told him he was wrong to his face. Because they are my friends, they haven’t told me what he said, only that he’s been saying things to them and other people.

I wish he would go away. Why do I have to have him in my life?

Last night, I was thinking about a gathering I was invited to, a party I know he has also been invited to. I don’t doubt he will be there, which is why I was considering not going. I am still considering that. But last night, I read something which has made it harder to keep feeling the same way about this guy.

I was reading some quotes from The Lord of the Rings and one of them slew me with its truth and intensity. (Note: If you don’t know the story, let’s just say it’s an epic book about people on a journey to get rid of the cause of so much grief). In a scene in the underground mines of Moria, the wizard Gandalf is speaking to one of the young hobbits.Gandalf-Gollum-Wide-560x282 This young man is complaining about the wispy phantom who is dogging their steps through the mine: Gollum. To everyone’s minds, Gollum is the epitome of all things rotten in the world. Yet he will not leave them alone. Pippin complains to Gandalf that Bilbo should have killed Gollum when he had the chance. Gandalf’s answer is remarkable:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.

Gandalf knows one thing about all men, even Gollum: He has some part to play in the events of the future. Even though some of those events may be evil, his part is important. If you know the end of the story, if it were not for Gollum, Frodo could never have cast the ring into the fire. His heart could no longer bear to part with his “treasure” and he pulled it back to himself with fierceness and stubborn will. As Gollum bit off his finger and ultimately fell into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo and the rest of the world was released from the ring’s wretched power.

Without Gollum, Frodo’s life would have been easier; and he would have become a slave to that ease. The ring would have become his jailer and his death.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says “Therefore, I was given a thorn in the Flesh, a messenger of Satan…three times I plead with the Lord to take him away. Then the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you.” Many people believe that Paul is referring to a physical ailment. But the word “messenger” – the same word used for Angel in the Bible – always refers to a personal being, not an illness or injury. Paul is asking God to take away a person who is causing great pain in his life. But God has no intention of doing that. We know now that Paul had several people who followed him around talking him down and stirring up trouble for him. Maybe this is who he asked God about.

But God said “No way, Paul. This guy is yours to deal with, and I will allow it.”

Why? Often in life, we cannot become the person we were always meant to be unless there is a foil, a person we consider a villain and a rotten person. I am not saying we should welcome every horrible person into our lives, or live without boundaries. But, perhaps it is best to see that some of these people we can’t stand are actually there for a reason. And maybe we won’t find the “best” that God has for us unless we accept these people have to be there.

After hearing Gandalf and the deep truth of Paul, I thought about this guy I am having trouble accepting. My meditation did not instantly make him more palatable to my taste. I still don’t like him. But I can now embrace his place in my life. He may turn out to be one of those people who shape me in ways my friends cannot.

Perhaps.

Therefore, I will stop asking for God to take him away. I am still wary of him and I don’t have to like him. Now I am asking God to use him in my life.

Let’s see what happens.

h1

Repost: Movies that Teach the Value of Hard Work

March 27, 2013

Continuing in our series on the ten most read posts on this blog, we come to #3. I love good movies and because I also love lists, I often put the two together. This list hit a nerve somewhere. It has been reprinted about a dozen times on other websites.

It is helpful at times to watch movies according to a theme or a value. In doing so, the mind can be directed subtly to consider and evaluate how a particular value can look when played out in life. Movies are visual parables, and as such direct the mind and value system much more strongly than almost any other media.

I believe that a culture based upon the value of work for its own sake is a strong and vibrant culture. Therefore, I look for movies that contain that value at least as an underpinning to its plot and characterizations. Here are some that I love to watch when I consider how hard work can be put into practice. As with all my lists, these are not in any particular order.

Stand and Deliver

Door to DoorStand-and-deliver

A Beautiful Mind

Gattaca

My Left Foot

The Pursuit of Happyness

Rudy

Secretariat

Finding Forrester

Homeless to Harvard

It’s a Wonderful Life

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

Chariots of Fire

Rocky

If I had to pick three that are the best of the bunch to watch today, here is what I would choose: 1) Door to Door: The true story of a man who became one of the most successful door-to-door salesmen while having Cerebral Palsy. 2) Gattaca: No matter what they tell you, there is a way to fulfill your dreams. Sometimes the obstacles are high, but hard work will find a way. 3) Homeless to Harvard: Few have overcome the obstacles this girl did…it will inspire you.

h1

The Most Quotable Movies

March 2, 2012

I have had this discussion now with dozens of my friends and we have come up with the list of the most quotable movies of all time. What makes a quotable movie? I think there are three ways to measure this:

  • Highest amount of quotable lines
  • Most memorable quotes
  • How much those quotes have become a part of the culture

Several of my friends mentioned that most movie quotes are time-sensitive. If you watched a lot of movies in the 70s, that’s where most of your movie quotes will come from. Same with the 2000s movies. I have tried to give a large leeway to eras and epochs of movies, even having one from the 30s. I normally don’t do lists in order, but I decided to break that rule here. See if you can think of a quote from each movie. I have listed my favorite after each one.

14. Anchorman: “I love lamp” or “ I know that one day Veronica and I are gonna to get married on top of a mountain, and there’s going to be flutes playing and trombones and flowers and garlands of fresh herbs. And we will dance till the sun rises. And then our children will form a family band. And we will tour the countryside and you won’t be invited. “

13. A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the Truth”

12.. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off: “No way, Cameron. Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.”

11. Groundhog Day: “You have never thanked me” or “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

10. The Wizard of Oz: “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” or “There’s no place like Home”.

9. Clueless: “Why am I even listening to you to begin with? You’re a virgin who can’t drive. I’m outtie”.

8.  The Godfather: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”

7. Caddyshack:“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”

6. Star Wars (first trilogy): “I am your father Luke” or “May the Force be with you”.

5. Napoleon Dynamite:Nunchuk skills… bowhunting skills… computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!” or “Pedro offers you his protection.”

4. Office Space:Ah, ah, I almost forgot…I’m also going to need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. We, uhhh, lost some people this week and we sorta need to play catch-up. Mmmmmkay? Thaaaaaanks. or “We don’t have a lot of time on this earth. We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.”

3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail:You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” or “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

2. Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. or “Stupid is as stupid does.”

1. The Princess Bride: “Allo, my name is Inego Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”. or “Sleep well and dream of large women” or “Have fun storming the castle” or “He’s not dead, he’s mostly dead.” or, or, or, or…. That’s why this one is number one.

h1

Movies That Teach the Value of Hard Work

November 29, 2011

It is helpful at times to watch movies according to a theme or a value. In doing so, the mind can be directed subtly to consider and evaluate how a particular value can look when played out in life. Movies are visual parables, and as such direct the mind and value system much more strongly than almost any other media.

I believe that a culture based upon the value of work for its own sake is a strong and vibrant culture. Therefore, I look for movies that contain that value at least as an underpinning to its plot and characterizations. Here are some that I love to watch when I consider how hard work can be put into practice. As with all my lists, these are not in any particular order.

Stand and Deliver

Door to DoorStand-and-deliver

A Beautiful Mind

Gattaca

My Left Foot

The Pursuit of Happyness

Rudy

Secretariat

Finding Forrester

Homeless to Harvard

It’s a Wonderful Life

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

Chariots of Fire

Rocky

If I had to pick three that are the best of the bunch to watch today, here is what I would choose: 1) Door to Door: The true story of a man who became one of the most successful door-to-door salesmen while having Cerebral Palsy. 2) Gattaca: No matter what they tell you, there is a way to fulfill your dreams. Sometimes the obstacles are high, but hard work will find a way. 3) Homeless to Harvard: Few have overcome the obstacles this girl did…it will inspire you.

h1

My Top Feel Good Movies

June 10, 2011

If I want to improve my mood with a movie, there are many I could choose from. Here are my criteria for putting a movie on this list:

1. Positive message and very little violence: This is why I would leave Shawshank Redemption, Hotel Rwanda and Braveheart off this list.

2. Believability and Accessibility: Would these things happen to real people? Therefore, though I love the Princess Bride, it isn’t on this list.

3. I could watch this with my family: I want to invite my wife and kids to watch a feel-good movie with me.  I really like The Green Mile, but my wife would walk out on the execution scene.

4. Happy Endings: I am a sucker for happy endings. I want a movie to leave me feeling better than I felt when I started watching.

So, here are my top twenty movies to lift my soul…in this order:

20. Up (okay, so houses can’t really fly with balloons…but it still fits the other criteria).

19. Erin Brockovitch

18. August Rush

17. Temple Grandin

16. Remember the  Titans

15. Rudy

14. Stand and Deliver

13. The King’s Speech

12. We Are Marshall

11. Field of Dreams

10. Secondhand Lions

9. That Thing You Do

8. A Beautiful Mind

7. Chariots of Fire

6. The Blind Side

5. The Pursuit of Happyness – When he gets the job after all that work, our hearts glow with his

4. October Sky – I am so moved when dad sets off that rocket.

3. Freedom Writers – The best teacher in America

2. Mr. Holland’s Opus – I could watch him walk up and take that baton a hundred times and still be moved

1. Hoosiers. When Jimmy Chitwood sinks that final shot, I cry and cheer. I know it’s coming and it still gets me where I live.

h1

My 10 Favorite Pieces of Writing Advice

November 23, 2010

In no order whatsoever (that I can discern), here are the ten best pieces of advice I have ever received on writing.

1. A good writer uses verbs and nouns, and makes use of adjectives and adverbs only when necessary.

2. Honest writers admit they want others to read their writing. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves and is probably on some sort of medication.

3. If you can make a sentence (paragraph, chapter, book) shorter, and still say what is necessary, you should.

4. No one starts writing with their own style. Therefore, start writing by copying the style of those you admire most and avoid the style of those you admire not at all.

5. All good writers are good readers. Not all good readers are writers. If you can find out why one is true and not the other, you may be a good writer.

6. Never edit your writing until the first draft is done. Then, edit that draft until it allows no more editing.

7. Always write in the active voice.

8. Learn the rules of grammar, syntax and punctuation so you will know the perfect moment to break them.

9. There is no true work of fiction. Every novelist and short-story writer has some truth in every character, setting and plot device. Conversely, there is no true story either. We each store memories with our own bias, unable to see around us accurately, oblivious to that which others see.

10. The only way to produce good writing is to write a lot of mediocre material and learn how to make some of it good.

h1

“What is Art?” the offended one asks

July 16, 2010

The question of the nature of art, the validity of certain pieces of art and acceptable reactions to art, all depend upon who is offended by it. I am not an Art Historian, or an Art Philosopher (are there such things?), but I have read many who are and have friends who place themselves in those categories. As far as I can tell, there are four primary sub-sections to artistic expression:

1. Art as Decoration: In the past 200 years, this is the art we have come to buy because it matches the drapes or  our mood. Musically, Muzak or elevator music fits into this category.

2. Art as Ability: The dutch masters (Rembrandt, etc.) in painting, the orchestra members in music, the Method Actors in drama, all elevate art by their precision and focus. They produce art for its own sake…because it can be produced at such a high skill level.

3. Art as Emotional Expression: The emergence of Impressionism and all its children and grandchildren showed us the naked truth about art: It is a language of the soul which bypasses logic and reason. When one reads “Ulysses” by James Joyce, it is the force of the emotion and not the logic of the words that strikes the reader. When Kenny G waxes timeless on the sax, it stirs feelings of far-off places in the same way that Notorious B.I.G. can evoke anger with his rap lyrics.

4. Art as Philosophical Discussion: Whereas these other genres of art can provoke discussion ad nauseum, it is the art of the Philosopher that prompts the question, “is this Art?” For instance, this week at the Sacramento County Law Library, an artist has posted this painting:

Sacramento County Law Library painting

Though it is hard to see from this angle, the painting has a Bible with the caption below “Warning: May Impair Judgment”. This is a philosophical statement musing that the opinions of the Bible may have a detrimental effect on one’s sense of right and wrong. It is a mild anti-Bible, anti-Christian statement. Fortunately, only one group has protested the inclusion of this painting in the latest exhibit. But in the Sacbee page devoted to this controversy, many ask whether this is art.

How are we to respond to art which offends us? If it fits into the category of philosophical art, our response should be the same as how we respond to any philosophy which offends us. We should get to the heart of the message and address its validity. Does the Bible impair someone’s judgment? Does the reader of the Bible come away impaired? Can a society be better off without the Bible? These are the concepts to interact with. Unfortunately, some will respond to the legality of the message. Others will be offended and negate the art. For instance, when Andres Serrano put a plastic crucifix into a jar of urine and called it “Art”, the outcry was deafening. It was attacked from every angle. But few people took issue with the art’s main theme at all. Because of this, Serrano’s work took on mythic status. He entered that arena with banned books and music: Status based upon reaction and not the merits of the work.

Taken at face value, Serrano’s work is pedantic and juvenile. The same can be said of the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ”, which was poorly edited, lacked a cohesive plot and whose research was shoddy. If those offended had approached the art critically, instead of from a place of offense, these pieces of philosophical art might have been jettisoned onto the slag heap of history. When we respond from offense, we see stupid books like “The Tropic of Cancer”, movies like “The Last Temptation” and art works such as those produced by Serrano become elevated in importance.

%d bloggers like this: