Monday, August 30, 2010

The Two Commissions

I may take some flak for this post, but what the heck--my 360 just died, and I'm feeling antagonistic.

Not too antagonistic, mind you, because I was the third owner of said machine. Nevertheless...ouch. I'm not a fan of things that break. It's not my idea of A Fun Time.

Okay, so I was back home for the weekend, and my esteemed father, who happens to be a pastor, preached about Matthew 28:11-15. You know, the bit right before the Great Commission where...meh, I'll just pop it into the body of the post. Can't hurt, right?

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

So...yeah. Those chief priests were bad, bad men.
And then, right after it says that "this story has been widely circulated", there's this bit. Perhaps a tad more familiar. 

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Now, notice anything interesting about those two little blurbs? Right: they're kinda parallel. First you have the bad guys sending out their minions to spread their version of the truth...then you have the Good Guy sending out His...well, I won't call them minions...His disciples to spread His version of the truth. (We all know which truth is Truth.) Then you have the promise of reward (money/omnipresence) and an allusion to eternity.

Awesome, huh?

I just love it when the Bible is good literature. And as I've learned more about literature, I keep finding instances of fine craft in the Holy Scriptures. I guess there's a reason Jesus is called the Word in John 1...

Long live epiphanies!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Evolution of Arrogance

I'm going to be a senior this year.

Instead of waxing verbose on how delighted/scared/proud/humble that makes me feel, I'm going to look back. I feel that this year my attitude is different than in past years, and that's a good thing. But it also prompts me to consider exactly what my attitude was in the first three years, and exactly how my current attitude is different.


My freshman year was a strange one. I was nobody...but I liked being nobody. Shortly after beginning classes my first semester, I came to the very welcome conclusion that I was more intelligent that 90% of the student body--or maybe that 90% was closer to 95%. I was riding high in all of my classes, and I sort of considered myself an intellectual ninja--someone who nobody expected to excel, because they didn't know him, and then he'd STRIKE FROM THE SHADOWS and get an A in the class, and then disappear back into the woodwork.

More than that, I thought of myself as a youthful, fresh-faced savior. Nobody knew me, but they would, I told myself. I was going to be an intellectual shot in the arm here at my school.

Gosh, I was a pill.

Then came my sophomore year. This was when I began doing theatre, incidentally, and this change brought about a shift in my priorities. While previously I had been rather narrow-minded, viewing academic achievement as the only way for me to leave my mark here at school, now I realized that there were other ways to achieve "remembered" status.

During my sophomore year, I began realizing that my willingness and ability to work well with my superiors gave me an advantage over my fellow students. I had figured out by now that, while I was smarter than most of my peers, I also had to work to cultivate that advantage. I didn't particularly love work, and toadying to my superiors was a whole lot easier than striving and achieving.

As a sophomore, I didn't see myself as a fresh-faced savior; now I saw myself as something of a rising star. My potential was no longer latent; it was becoming active. In another year, I felt, I would be well-known and powerful.

Then came my junior year. By this time, I had honed my social skills to the point where people could actually bear spending time with me, and I had been elected to the executive board of a student organization. I got the lead in our Fall Musical, I had a semi-official position (unpaid, of course) within the machinery of our theatre department, and I felt that I had almost arrived. Surely by my senior year I would be king (or at least committee chairman) of all I surveyed.

Then some funny stuff happened. I lost an election I considered a foregone conclusion. I was in charge of an event that didn't live up to my expectations. I got in touch more with the world outside my school. And I saw a lot of freshmen.

This led to a shift in my perception of myself. Whereas before I thought I was all that and more, now I began to realize that my point of view was wrong. I was considering my accomplishments relatively, not absolutely. In other words, I was viewing myself as a big fish and denying the fact that I was in a tiny, tiny pond. When I have had the opportunity to experience larger arenas, like, say, the Milwaukee theatre scene, I am sharply reminded that I am nobody and I have done nothing.

Now, one might ask, "Ian, how does that differ from how you looked at things your freshman year?" The answer is that I'm in a different pond now. When I was a freshman, I was a small fish, but I was in a small pond; it takes less time to be biggest in a small pond than to be biggest in the ocean. Sure, I'd like to be influential and affect people's lives. But I now know that the chances of being "influential" are pretty small. Everything has to line up right and fall into place perfectly. And I'm starting mighty late.

And one may not neglect the spiritual side. I don't often do this, and perhaps I should do it more often...but here's a bit from one of the least-known books of the Bible, 2 Corinthians:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5.1-10)

This is interesting, because it doesn't specifically say that the "mortal", the earthly, is bad. It's a "burden", and "we groan" under it, but that's not because the "mortal" is evil. It's because we yearn for our "home not made with earthly hands." I also think the repetition of "being...of good courage" is noteworthy--this earthly pond of ours here can be trying at times, and stressful, but we were "prepared...for this very purpose" by God.

But that's all incidental. What I focused on in this passage is where it talks about "our ambition". See there, where it says that our ambition should be "to be pleasing to Him"? Yeah. My #1 priority should not be building my influence or creating a legacy or even maximizing my potential. It should be pleasing my Father in heaven.

As I enter my senior year, I think I'm on a healthy path. I need to finish these two semesters, and I don't need to elevate my status here any more. I mean, I'll be gone after this year. And who cares if I'm remembered at some two-bit Lutheran school in Milwaukee? The fact that this has been the only world I've known for the last three years doesn't mean that it's the only one--or even a worthwhile one.

I have moved beyond school. I'm beginning to think like an adult.

This concludes the personal, uncomfortable, boring section of this post. Here's a video.

It's catchy, it's intriguing, and it's atmospheric. I don't know why recently I've been on such a '60s and '70s kick...but it seems like they put more thought into their music back then.


(Maybe sometime I'll write a blogpost about my sign-off. It's an interesting story. And don't forget, if you want to view this post with all sorts of flashy stuff, especially that video which I so kindly embedded, travel on over here to The Uninformed Opinion and get the real lowdown.)

Long live introspection!

Also, long live great (really great) music!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A New Poem of Mine!

Enjoy it.

Or else.

The floor:
is changing.
Alphα and Ωmega
infinite, immortal, and unchangeable

And what looms up treelike?
      huge puffy translucent puffs of ice
trees without trunks
or stems
leaves foliage twigs branches…
hovering ethereal and mysterious over the surface of the waters.

Above the canopy?
Cyclopean, a knife-spear
rends the heavens and comes down
piercing bone and marrow
belligerently defying its lunar superior…

and a swallow
past my head.

Long live experiential poetry!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Random Unstimulated Thoughts

I've been thinking a bit, and here's the offspring of my mutated cerebral processes.

1. This is the first year I've had decent financial aid. Funny, my last year of school, and they finally get my FinAid right.

2. I'm watching The Office right now. Now, I love The Office--unlike a few (foolish) people I know--and I think the reason I like it so much is because of the commitment to character that most of the actors display. Some would argue that characters like Kelly Kapoor, Creed Bratton, Dwight Schrute, Kevin Malone, and Angela Martin are what made The Office great during its heyday, and across the board, the actors playing those characters are absolutely committed to being in character. The show's set is reportedly a hotbed of improv, with some of the greatest moments emerging spontaneously off-script (like when Michael kisses Oscar in season 3). In terms of practice, The Office has got it goin' on.

3. There's a lot of buzz recently that the superhero film as a genre is dying or fizzling or something. I don't think superhero movies are dying, exactly...but I do think they're in danger. Pity. There have been a lot of superhero flicks over the past decade which have had a serious impact on the film industry. Spiderman 2, for instance, gave the genre a lot of cred because of Alfred Molina's performance--it showed the American moviegoing public that superhero films can have good acting as well as good effects. But when a "superhero film" with Nicolas Cage and Christopher Mintz-Plasse makes $50 mil in a relatively unopposed market...that means that there's a problem. Here's hoping the efforts of Marvel Studios can turn things around.

4. A poem. The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats. Here ya go.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Long live randomization!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Instrumental Voices

I like the title of this post 'cause it's kind of got a double meaning. Or rather, two double meanings. You'll probably understand better after you read this whole post.

Speaking of which, I will be embedding a whole buncha videos in this post. So if you are viewing this on my Facebook page, you probably will want to come on over to my blog proper and view this post. That way you can see all of my pretty embedded videos.

This post will be a bit of a departure for me...bear with me. I was inspired to write this edition of the Uninformed Opinion when I was listening to Pandora Internet Radio and allofasudden "Mrs. Robinson", by Simon and Garfunkel, came on.

Here it is, btw...

This song struck me as really capturing the spirit of the psychedelic movement in '60s and '70s music. It's got that soft groove, a bit of a multicultural feel to it, and their inimitable harmony.

Simon and Garfunkel are weird, because they preach in their music, but their music is never preachy. A paradox perhaps, but nevertheless true. For instance, take what is arguably S&G's best-known song, "The Sound of Silence". It's full of message, but its unique sound keeps the message from being too jarring.

I think it's interesting how versatile they are, while never really breaking out of a genre they epitomize. They never really deserted their folksy ballad-with-a-kick format, but the interpretation of that format varies widely from song to song. "The Boxer", another of Simon's masterpieces, is a more produced sound than the pared-down a capella of "Sound of Silence".

The greatest thing about Simon and Garfunkel isthat their music is incredibly well thought-out. Lyrics, vocals, tempos, even the aggressiveness of their all works together. And it can be subtle, too; not all of their preaching is clubbing. In "Scarborough Fair", the song as a whole subsumes the message, and oddly enough, strengthens it thereby.

Sure, there's a message there, but the first time you hear the song, you don't pick up on the anti-war just get a feeling of pain and loss.

So that's it. My fandom for S&G knows little boundary. Remember, if you're reading this on Facebook, take the time to check it out in its original version, here at the Uninformed Opinion.

Long live harmonization!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

News...Probably Bad...

First news: Ricky Gervais won't be taking over for Steve Carell as Michael Scott. He wrote that in his blog. One name that's being bandied about to take Carell's place is Portia de Rossi.


That would be really, really horrible.

Michael Scott is one of the few awesome Office characters who's stayed awesome. It's sad that Carell is leaving.

Second, Toy Story 3 has broken records. It's now Pixar's highest-grossing film...domestically, I think. It's doing well, still. The Toy Story franchise has to go down in history as one of the most solid animated franchises ever.

For the record: I see the first news as bad, the second news as good. But I could be wrong. I have been wrong before. It happened that one time.

What do YOU think? Portia de Rossi as head of Dunder Mifflin-Scranton? Toy Story as a classic franchise?

Long live random news!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Revolutionary Road Is A Strange Film

I watched Revolutionary Road recently. You know Revolutionary Road, right? Sam Mendes' adaptation of Richard Yates' acclaimed 1962 novel of the same name? Starred two Oscar-winners and an Oscar nominee? Didn't do very well commercially, but the critics loved it?

Yeah, you've probably never heard of it.

I mean, since you're all so imaginary, you probably haven't heard of much.

Is it strange that I write a blog for imaginary readers? It seems like a small step from talking to myself.

Anyway--Revolutionary Road.

Interesting film. It wasn't a narrative film; but it wasn't a "character piece". It was more about a relationship than anything. The relationship between Frank and April Wheeler is so alive, so deep and richly-constructed, that it almost functions as a character by itself.

I was talking with an associate of mine--the one who lent me the film, in fact--and complaining to him about the fragmented nature of the narrative. He pointed out that the question of the film isn't "will they move to France?" or "will she self-abort?" but "can their relationship survive?"

I don't think I've ever seen such a strange film. Kathy Bates and Kate Winslet give great performances, especially Winslet. Funny; I've always hated Kate Winslet, because she annoys me...but in Revolutionary Road, she was really awesome. Not that I liked her character; but her performance was consistent and sensitive.

As much as I liked Winslet's performance--and Michael Shannon's Oscar-nominated turn--I dislike DiCaprio's more and more as I continue to think about it. One reviewer mentioned the film's careful adherence to '50s parlance--slang, in particular--and DiCaprio's lines are the most '50s-ish. For some reason, though, his emotional development throughout the film is spotty. It seems that he has three modes: angry, puzzled, and serious. He switches between these logically, but predictably, and that ultimately cripples his character, in my mind.

I enjoyed Revolutionary Road--if "enjoyed" is the right word. Perhaps I should say that I was impressed by Revolutionary Road. It's an impressive movie; the Wheelers' unique relationship kept me engrossed, and the top-notch supporting cast helped mask DiCaprio's somewhat shallow performance. I'd rate it 7.5/10.

Long live careful fiilmmaking!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Piranha 3D

My girlfriend wants to see it. She's brave, that's for sure. The first one, from 1972ish, was pretty well-received. Now it's being remade, like every 1970s and 1980s horror movie.

You have to admit that the '70s and the '80s were good decades for horror. But for some reason all of these remakes are horrible. HORRIBLE. The only passable remake in recent memory--at least, in my uninformed opinion--was Rob Zombie's Halloween.

I just needed to make the point that the idea behind Piranha is kind of like the idea behind Aqua-man: lame. Lame, because the agents in question are bounded by a very finite geographical location. Aqua-man is pretty awesome in the water--but useless on dry land. Piranhas are not fuzzy fun friends if you're swimming with them, but if you stay far away from the water...well, there's not much they can do, is there?

Of course, many horror films are more about effects than about plot or character. And what plot one does find within the horror genre is often riddled with logic holes.

Maybe I'm expecting too much...

Long live nostalgia!