Thursday, June 25, 2009

Das Blog Returns Briefly, and Transformers

Holy W-2s, Batman! I haven't blogged in more than TWO WEEKS!

Stop laughing, BlogEater.

Oh, you guys haven't heard about the BlogEater?

Well, here's your chance to hear about him. Her. It. Whatever.

The BlogEater is a shark-sized reptilian creature with glowing ochre eyes, three feathery wings, a long, broad tongue, a Boston accent, a very annoying sarcastic bent, and a disgusting affinity for failed blogs. It's a well-known fact that blogs, in this day and age, are quite--some would say too--easy to start up. It's equally well-known that 99.9% of all blogs die a natural death less than three weeks after they are begun. Now, of course, these failed, dead, decaying blogs have to go somewhere, and burying them under a mountain in Nevada is not going to work. So some scientists somewhere genetically created the creature now known as the BlogEater to deal with the dead blog problem.

It's worked out pretty well so far, but the BlogEater has grown rather aggressive, and has even helped kill some nearly-but-not-quite-dead blogs. While this is technically okay, there is some concern that eventually the BlogEater will begin attacking young, promising blogs. Supporters of the BlogEater point to the extreme statistical improbability of such an occurrence, but the question remains: could we lose the Next Great Blog to this monstrosity we've created?

So...that's the BlogEater. He/she/it was laughing at me a while ago, and I had to shut him/her/it up. He/she/it won't get the Uninformed Opinion!

For the record, I was not being PC there...I really can't tell the thing's gender. Ick.

So Das Blog has returned. Deal, peeps.

Also, I went to the midnight premiere of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and it was...interesting. I saw it on a Large Screen, the kind that's an IMAX wannabe, but I was way down in the front, and way to the right of the screen. (In a related and creepily coincidental story, I saw The Dark Knight on a Large Screen, and my seats were almost exactly the same. Different cinema, but same position relative to the screen.) We really should have gotten there earlier. Oh well.

The movie was...hmmm. I was caught up in it, which I suppose was what they were trying for, but the movie did drag a bit. I loved the effects, and Bay pulled out all the stops with this one, constructing world-record-size gasoline bombs for some of the explosions.

By the way, what is it with Michael Bay and explosions? I mean, okay, everyone knows how much he loves them...but explosions? Why, Mr. Bay? It's just...weird, and it's creepy. But what do I know? I'm not a critic.

Anyhoo, I thought the funny parts were pretty funny, but the whole thing seemed somewhat episodic. I didn't get a continuity throughout the whole thing; I mean, Good Griffin! The climactic event (trying really hard to not be a spoiler here) was pretty freakin' awesome, but the plotline which led to the climactic event wasn't really elucidated until about 90 minutes in, or maybe less. I mean, there were things which foreshadowed the plotline from the beginning (including The Fallen in the title) but it wasn't a straightforward slow-reveal setup.

That's the only conclusion I can reach: Bay was aiming for the slow-reveal. But Bay should NOT do slow-reveal stuff. He's not that kind of guy; his movies should just lay out the plot premise in the first five minutes and then turn up the action, noise, and explosions the rest of the way.

I don't know...I enjoyed the experience, and I'll probably rent the DVD eventually. It's grander in scale than Transformers, but ultimately that hamstrings it, because the story is not grander in scale. Or if it is, it's in fragments. The film has potential, but I don't think it measures up to Transformers. I give it a 6.5 out of 10.

That is all. And this may be the last blog for a while, but hang in there, you my imaginary readership!

Shut up, BlogEater.

Long live revivals!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Danger of Ideology

Sometime in my college career (I'm getting old; I can be vague like that) I took an Economics class, not from any Interest in the topic, but because it would fulfil a requirement for my major. And...well, I respect the fellow who was teaching the class, Dr. Van Mobley, to the point of a Man-Crush.

To that point...not beyond.

Shut up.

Anyway, he said something in that class which stuck with me. I asked him one day after class, "Dr. Mobley, are you a free-marketer or a Keynesian?"

(For those of you unfamiliar with economics and things, that's the equivalent of saying "are you conservative [free-market] or liberal [Keynesian]?")

He said to me--and this is where it gets good--he said, "Ian, I don't believe in having ideologies, except in one area. I suppose you'd call me a Muddle-Headed Middleman."

Naturally, I asked for an explanation, and he said that with a lot of things, "what works" is the most important, not "what's right." He said that especially with economics, religiously clinging to one or another "camp" could really hurt everyone involved. And then I had a class, so I raced off and sorta forgot about the whole thing.

But...well, it's summer, and I have nothing better to do than Think, sometimes, and I began thinking about ideologies, and how having Ideologies can be really very dangerous.

Explain, Ian! you shriek with your creepy, nonexistent, disembodied voices.

Well, let me start by explaining the one ideology I do hold, and proudly:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Yes, that's the Nicene Creed. Deal with it.

I live by what that document summarizes. Actually, I live by the rules of the Bible, but that was too long to put in here. The Nicene Creed is a bit shorter.

Where are you going with this, Ian? you shriek again.

Just hear me out: this is an acceptable ideology--even, it's a GOOD ideology to have. The problem arises when people start adopting ideologies about things which should not be ideologized. Like, democracy. Or...economics.

Now, I recognize the Bible does touch on how governments should interact with God (humbly, pretty much) and how money should be handled (responsibly). But when people start talking like Democracy or Keynesianism or NoCopyrightLawsIsm or any other Ism or Ocracy or whatever is on the level of the only worthwhile Ideology, red flags should go up.

Ah, it's hard to explain what I'm thinking. Christianity has its ardent apologists, as well it should; but should capitalism have as ardent apologists? Aren't those apologists perhaps slipping into idolatry? The only thing that can save us is the atoning blood of Christ; reduced emissions can't save us, deregulation of gun ownership can't save us, lower taxes can't save us...

Nearly all ideologies are chiefly concerned with bettering the human condition; it's my contention that if we live at peace with all men and wait for the Better Country, God will Iron out our problems here in this brief pale for us.

There's a Bible verse which talks about this, but...well, I can't find it.

Long live Dithering!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some More Links. I Really Need To Work On Being Creative With My Post Titles

This is becoming enjoyable. And I've given you imaginary readers THREE--count 'em, Three--pontification-filled posts within the last 48 hours (I think), so I'm due a bit of Lazy Down Time.

Fun for its own sake. Also, what sort of message is the designer of this gimmick attempting to send? That it's okay to screw around with animals' DNA? I'm mystified. Also, designing this...whatever it is...interesting math-wise. By my calculations, there are 45 different options...Eh? True? or False? (Math Geeks, this is directed at You.)

Ready to be freaked out? Actually, I don't care what you're ready for, because you don't exist. So check out this awesome site. It makes me just a bit scared...just a bit. THE COMPUTERS IS READING MY MINDS!

Humor, my friends, is a good thing to have. However, too much can cause Problems. Like,, just stop bothering me and check This One out. If you don't laugh, you're probably dead. Or sleeping. Which raises the question: why are you dead and reading my blog? Did my blog kill you? or, perhaps, a different question: why are you asleep and reading my blog? Did my blog kill you?

Finally, a sobering reminder about the dangers of bread. Considering it seriously, though, it's a comment on how statistics can be made to say pretty much anything. Pity, really.

Okay, that's all. No more links for you tonight!

Long live posterity!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Okay, NOW The Post About Movie Franchises

First, I want to apologize to my trillions of readers who wanted to hear Ian the Pontificator's Uninformed Opinion about Movie Franchises. Presumably, you saw the title of my last post and proceeded to salivate copiously, expecting something awesome. Of course, the previous post was Something Awesome, but this post here will be Something Differently Awesome...

You know what? Maybe, when it comes to self-awareness, one CAN have too much of a good thing. Eh?

Anyway--back to Movie Franchises.

I was recently cogitating on the scarcity of Great Movie Franchises recently. Looking back in history, some of the greatest movies of all time have been parts of franchises--hallmarks for their genre, and genre-transcending films as well. For instance, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is part of what has come to be considered a trilogy, directed by the same person (Sergio Leone) and centering around the same person (Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name"). The Dirty Harry franchise is widely recognized as one of the greatest action series of all time, as is the Death Wish series (starring Charles Bronson) and Die Hard (with Bruce Willis). Drama has had its lucrative franchises as well, with The Godfather, a film many consider the best of all time, sparking two sequels. Significant benchmark sci-fi (Alien), horror (Friday the 13th) and comedy (The Pink Panther) franchises, as well as genre-benders (Back to the Future) have also attracted much attention.

Looking at these well-known franchises, a few things jumped out at me, and the first thing to do an Olympic leaping act was the fact that with the exception of Die Hard, none of these franchises have had an iteration released in the past decade. Interesting, and rather sad.

Another thing, more true of older franchises, is the willingness to NOT use the franchise name in the title of the films that make up the franchise. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the James Bond film franchise, in which each film (there have been 22, to date) has had a different, unique title. However, in the Eighties, Advertising Gurus, or somebody, figured out that if you are NOT creative with your titles (The Godfather, Back to the Future) people will recognize that This Movie Is Related To That Movie Which Happened A Few Years Ago. This trend has grown to the point that franchises which do the Old-Fashioned Thing, like the Riddick trilogy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick) and, to some extent, the Transformers franchise, which added "Revenge of the Fallen" to the second iteration of the series, are unusual.

Another point--this one somewhat random--is that Structure in franchises, perhaps intuitively, is rare. In other words, directors seldom set out to make a four-film franchise: usually the franchises are open-ended, and die a natural death (or live disturbingly long, as is the case with the Bond franchise). Obvious exceptions to this rule are book-to-movie interpretations, such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. A less obvious, and therefore more intriguing exception, is the Star Wars franchise, which saw two trilogies being completed, rather than a Long String of Sequels. Another random point, perhaps important, perhaps not, is that other than Return of the King, the last iteration of a franchise to win Best Picture was Rocky in 1976.

Also, why does horror tend to invite franchises? Why are there so many horror franchises and so few comedy franchises?

I have no idea where this whole bunch of Drivel is headed. I just wish good franchises were still being originated, but are they?

I suppose this post sorta invites comment. So...

Long live blithering!

Rafa Is In Pain, and Movie Franchises

Y'know, I really hate it when athletes lose and THEN come out with the stunning news that they've been playing in terrible pain. It seems to me that there's a chronology of acceptability and honor related to the interplay of winning and being injured:

1. The best situation for a player's name is when he/she/it is in pain and/or injured, but still wins. An example of this is Tiger Woods' stunning win at the U. S. Open last year. The guy was injured, and people knew it, and he still won.

2. A close second is playing not-hurt and winning. An example of this would be Tom Brady and the Patriots a couple of years ago, when their playmakers were iron men and the team won 18 games before the Super Bowl loss.

3. Next-most-acceptable is when a player is hurt, everyone knows they're hurt, and they lose. An example of this...the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL, people...seriously!) this year in the playoffs. They lost their best player to injury, and as a result they got eliminated from the playoffs. Everyone knew that the player was hurt, so when they lost the series, the responsibility was lifted from their shoulders a bit.

4. Less desirable is when a player or team is healthy but loses. Note that the disgrace of this event fluctuates, changing according to the quality of the loss (close vs. blowout), the quality of the opponent, and the missing of opportunities. For instance, the Celtics' playoff series loss to the Bulls was not very disgraceful for the Celtics at all, because the series came down the wire. However, the Pistons' playoff series loss to the Cavs was quite disgraceful for the Pistons, because the Pistons basically lay down and handed the series to the Cavs.

5. Most despicable, though, is when a team or player loses and THEN informs everyone that he/she/it was injured. For example: Rafa Nadal, who lost in the fourth round of the French Open at Roland Garros recently, just now lets everyone know that he's injured--his knees are giving him trouble. Now, everything seems to indicate that Rafa is in fact injured, and his injuries most likely did hurt his ability to run around on the court. So this is, quite possibly, a valid excuse...but should athletes give excuses? The answer is a resounding no.

And yes, I realize I didn't get into Movie Franchises at all. That post is upcoming.

Long live fringe sports!

Perception, People!

This new camera has done wonders for me. Wonders, I say. Wherefore? you delightful readers ask. Well, the following, to some extent, is my answer.

Looking at some of the pictures I took over the weekend, I noticed that the looks people were aiming for didn't always translate to the photos. For instance, somebody would be trying to look nonchalant, and they'd come off as inebriated. It's safe to assume, then, that in photography, and perhaps by extrapolation most visually-representative art, it takes training to be able to translate Intention to Presentation.

Continuing to cogitate, I remembered similarities in acting, where often actors claim to be trying to communicate one thing, while in fact their actions read quite differently. As a matter of fact, I myself have fallen into this trap, when I played Dr. Rank in Ibsen's A Doll House. I attempted to communicate hopeless, love-lorn sickness, but my attempts at communicating hopeless, love-lorn sickness read instead as creepy, homeless rapist, or at least Stalker.

I've run into this tendency many other times in acting: people, sometimes I, think that the character is clear and evident on stage, but to the people in the seats, something vastly different is occurring on-stage. And it's not just limited to characters and intangibles: physical motion, business that seems almost overstated from the actor's point of view, reads from the seats as almost understated.

So what? Given my Dutch ancestry and my good Presbyterian upbringing, my nature abhors the absence of Application. Again, so what? Perhaps the moral of this story is that people shouldn't be too confident that they know what vibe they're giving off. Perhaps we should judge our behavior not from the standpoint of where we think we are, or where we want to be, but from where others say we are. We should put ourselves in the shoes of others; but beyond that, we should let others occupy their own shoes.

Of course, self-confidence is vital. If one has no trust in himself, herself, or itself, one won't go far. But to bring this to a spiritual level, the human heart is desperately wicked. What's more, people decieve themselves. Sad, but true, and the more dangerous for its allure. Self-deception is one of the most crippling of sins.

We must not try to create a mold for ourselves and then fill that mold. That'll only end in failure and humiliation. Only by living outward, by being advised, by NOT getting into Ralph Waldo Emerson's "self-reliance" can we truly succeed.

Wow, that was actually rather...MOTIVATIONAL!!!! OH YEAH! OH YEAH! RAH RAH RAH!

Seriously, though, it's my opinion that motivational efforts (books, magazines, speakers, etc.) are the most despicable life-forms on the planet, and if the self-help genre were to be blotted from existence and memory, life for many would be much more wonderful.

It's 2.18 in the morning. I'm going to eat mac'n'cheese, and then go to bed.

Long live spection!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Grammarian's Delight

Yes, I am a grammar nerd. But here's how much of a grammar nerd I am: I wasn't intending to blog at all today, but then I ran across this article. WHOA.


People are smart.

Long people!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Back To Basics

My dad had a radio show called Back to Basics. I don't remember much about it, because I was pretty young when he had the show, but I do recall that he had this show. And That-There is your Interesting Fact Of The Day.

(I get paid for every capital letter I use.)

(I don't know. The money gets shoved under my door every morning.)

(Creepy? Of course I think it's creepy. But it's also free money. Which I like.)

(You know what? Shut up. Can't you see I'm busy Blogging my little heart out?)

(Oh, real mature. Walk away. Jerk.)

I think it's funny that the TV spots bumping Burn Notice's new season have ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" for their music. I mean, I realize that the lyrics fit, but seriously? ZZ Top isn't exactly Spy Show music. Whatever...

Contrary to what you're probably thinking right now, you imaginary readers, this is not going to be a post dedicated entirely to Raving Lunacy. That's tomorrow's post. No, I am actually going to give you some awesome links, beginning with this video, which I'm pretty sure is not doctored. I mean, it's possible to doctor pretty much anything these days, but this looks relatively clean.

There is still dry humor out there on the web! Most of these are good--there are a few groaners--but Mr. Glenn Jones and his T-shirt designs is a keeper...Is a keeper? Are keepers? Are a keeper? I'm lost.

Again, thanks to the Telegraph for this story of a mother bird being innovative in her drive to protect her young. Reminds me of the oft-quoted verse from Matthew 6: "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" God provides. Pretty cool.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume everyone reading this blog can See. If you can' Well, then this groovy and simple little illusion won't appeal to you. The rest of you...OH MY GOSH! ISN'T THAT SO UBER-AWESOME??????

Fine, whatever. I thought it was sorta cool.

Finally, something which will cheer everyone up: a mystery! Woo Hoo for wikipedia, btw. Aliens? Hmmmmm? Creepy, indeed.

That's all for now, imaginary folks. Keep it quasi-real.

Long live eclectic tastes!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Using Drama To Worship God. Also, Das Blog Returns, Again.

I know you people!

(Cue Tropic Thunder reference: "What do you mean, You People?")

Yes, I know you so well. You were just pining for another wonderful glimpse into the twisted, convoluted, mirth-inducing, and jawdropping mind of Ian the Pontificator. You were pining, I say: and no wonder: you hadn't had a glimpse in, like, 4 days. So that's, like, a lot. And stuff.

(Of course I know that my "readership" exists only in my mind.)

(No, it doesn't make me crazy.)

Sorry about that. Having a little argument with myself.

So Friday, I went DramaMinistrizing (a real word...BECAUSE I CAN!...look, we'll discuss my right to create new words some other time, okay? I'm in the middle of something.)...Friday, I went DramaMinistrizing. It was enjoyable, I injured my hip slightly, we got to see people praising God through dance, and I established that I can, indeed, play something I'm not (a strong person.)

That last point is important, believe it or not, because most of my theatrical roles so far have been a) crazy, b) egomaniacs, c) pirates, d) emotionally tormented, or e) so small as not to really be developable as characters. You could argue, of course, that I am not a pirate, but I would ask you to search Youtube for "Ian DeJong pirate cutthroat swashbuckling grainy footage walk the plank", and your opinions will be dramatically altered. Yes: I played a bodybuilder, and I felt pretty good about it.

But that's not the point of thish-yar post: I'm going to pontificate on the use of drama to worship God.

Here we go.

Ready for this?

Okay then.

See, the question needs to be asked. More churches these days are replacing proper preaching of the Word with dramatic interpretations of the Word. No churches I attend (thank God), but it's happening. Should this be happening? I recognize that drama can be used in non-worship settings to edify and instruct, but should drama replace preaching to become the focal point of worship?

Part of the problem when looking more at the question is the absence of precedent. For a long time, drama has been considered sinful, despite any explicit or implicit condemnations within the Bible. Thus, any correspondence or cooperation between drama and formal worship is a 20th-century innovation. I think it's fairly clear that although drama sometimes can be a breeding ground for sinful behavior, it's not inherently sinful, and can be used to instruct and edify believers. However, since this was not the prevailing notion for centuries, there is no precedent about the question.

Perhaps the answer lies in the inherent qualities of the respective methods of ministry. Preaching tends to be instruction- and edification-centric, given its essential lecture format. Drama, however, is much more an entertainment form. While preaching's primary goal is building up the faith and knowledge of the hearer, the goal of dramatic performance often is to entertain, rather than teach. In addition, drama has a connotation, an accompanying reputation, as entertainment-focused.

Hearing the Word expounded doesn't have to be boring, and drama can indeed instruct and edify. It just seems to me that drama, while useful in informal worship settings, would be more distracting and less edifying than the proper preaching of the Word. Drama should still be used in especially informal worship settings.

So...that was some pretty heavy-duty Pontificating. At least I thought so. I'm not sure even of my position on the exact place of drama in formal worship. But drama should NOT replace preaching as the focal point of the service.

Long live pontificating!

(It's quite therapeutic, in my uninformed opinion.)

Long live pontificating!