Friday, August 31, 2007

And a Movie update

Haven't done a movie post in a while. Let's see what I've been watching:

Double Indemnity For a lot of folks this is THE great American film noir. Snappy dialogue, sexual tension (but oh so carefully tap danced around, thank you Hays Code!), the wonderful lighting, the betrayals. Just great stuff. Fred McMurray is great in a role very much against his usual type. Barbara Stanwick is great as the femme fatale, but it's Edward G. Robinson who is the real ace of the cast. Really good stuff.

Saved Second time I've seen it, first time was at Senior High camp. I think this is a wonderful movie and aims a sharp finger at a lot of what I think is wrong with youth ministry today. Yes, I'd love to have Pastor Skip's facilities and budget. I just don't ever want to be that youth minister. He's shallow and so is his ministry IMHO.

This is Spinal Tap Had a quiet day and watched an old favorite. Great parody of the music industry and heavy metal bands especially. How can you not love a movie that gets excited about going to "11"? And in the end the music wins out over the power hungry personalities.

Cabaret Yes, it's about decadence, deceit, dishonesty and sex. But it's honest about them and where they lead (no one ends up happily ever after in this film). It's filled with some wonderful music and Liza Minelli at the start of her movie career. Normally I can take or leave Liza but she's smashing as Sally Bowles. And Joel Grey is rather scary as the MC.

Wow, I just looked back and saw how many movies I'm behind. So some quick looks:

Whale Rider - It's well done coming of age movie. Not something that I want to see again though.

Man of the Year - One of Robin Williams' "OK" movies. Fun to watch, especially with a national election coming up, but nothing exciting.

Sunset Boulevard
What can you say? One of THE classic American movies. Incredible performances by a very small cast of off the scale talents. You'll never see the movies the same after this one. And it's great the DeMille's scenes were actually shot on a real movie that he was making at the time. The back story of the making of the movie is almost as incredible as the movie itself. Put it on your "Must see before I die" list (along with "Double Indemnity")

GoodFellas Really fine mob flick. And I like mob flicks. "You think I'm funny?"

Ed Wood Johnny Depp guaranteed my daughter would watch but she got sucked in by Wood's incredible personality. Just an amazing movie about, well how would you describe Ed Wood?

Bulworth A movie that I liked more than I expected till the end. What a stupid, horrible out of place ending.

Barton Fink This one seemed to have everything going for it. Great cast, the Coen brothers. Hated it. My family loathed it. Pointless and dark.

Good Will Hunting Good movie, good performances. But not a watch again and again movie for me.

The Prestige This was a wonderful movie, filled with great performances and keeps you guessing till the end. Toss up if I like this or "The Illusionist" better.

Ice Age and Ice Age 2 - Yeah OK fun. Moving on. First one was better than the second.

The Commitments A band struggling against all odds to win movie and a good one. I just felt like I expected more of this one. Music's great. I was left feeling "eh". Not bad, just not blown away.

A couple other things that aren't movies -

The Blue Man Group "The Complex Rock Tour Live - 2003". My whole family loves these guys. We're into that orchestral rock stuff (it's silly but I like it), the theatricality of it all, just the novelness of it. Plus you get instruction on how to act at rock concerts!

Slings and Arrows If you're into the theater and haven't seen this Canadian TV series what the heck are you waiting for? Bitingly funny, you'll recognize people you've worked with, both good and bad. The show ran three seasons and it makes me pine for more. Great actors, wonderful scripts and you'll learn some stuff about Shakespeare along the way. Even if you only know the theater from the audience side of the footlights, see this series!

OK, dear God that's enough!


Just dragging

I finally finished updating the youth ministry website. New look, great new logo, checked the links to weed out the dead ones (hope I got them all), add some new content, make sure the calendar is up to date. The whole deal. Took me a lot longer than I thought but one change led to another which made me realize that THIS was stupid and should be changed and THAT was now totally useless.

So it's done. And I'm excited. And I have several other projects just screaming for my attention.

But I have no motivation at all at the moment. Does anyone else get post project let down? It's like my body and brain just say "That was really good work. Now we need a wee lie down". I know this will pass quickly. It always does. Besides it HAS to since I have all this OTHER stuff to do. But it's frustrating at the moment. I'm keeping busy by doing some simple things, finally putting things away after camp. Generally cleaning and sorting, throwing out junk, trying to remember what I've forgotten.

Hi Ho.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God Blessed America

I have no idea what set me off. I've seen and heard the phrase probably a million times in my life. This time it was on a bumper sticker.

“God Bless America”.

Over the years I've been disturbed by the smugness that seems to underly the common use of that phrase. Too often it seems to mean “...but not you”. Or it is used as a triumphant punctuation at the end of a speech, one that says, “This is what God means/wants/ordains”. Worst yet is when it just a hollow political catch phrase meant to give the speaker the appropriately pious sound. I intensely dislike all of those usages.

This time was different. Suddenly a different phrase echoed in my mind. Not “God Bless America” but rather “God BLESSED America”. It suddenly struck me how much and in how many ways God has already blessed us. It borders on avarice to continually ask the Creator for more blessings. Then I began to consider some of those blessings.

We have been blessed with an area of land so filled with the riches of this world that we have created a standard of living beyond the dreams of most cultures before us. Even the poor in our country have comforts and wealth that the equivalent members of earlier societies could not even imagine. This blessing has allowed us to create almost limitless social wealth, and to produce food in quantities almost equally endlessly. Yet there are hungry not only in lands less blessed than ours, people in our own country are hungry. In a land of wealth beyond the dreams of Croesus we have not managed to provide basic health care for everyone. Families live in substandard housing. Basic education levels still fail to be reached. It's not that we can't do something about it. There is no doubt that we have the material wealth to make a difference.

Speaking of the wonderful land area with which we have been blessed, how well are we taking care of this blessing? Our great inland seas, the Great Lakes, suffer from vast areas where life can not exist. A river not far from where I grew up once caught fire! (In fact this same river caught fire several times over the span of some 30 years). The air can get so bad in parts of our country that we advise people with certain illnesses to avoid going outside and breathing it. We dumped so much junk into the ground in some places that it wasn't safe to build homes (or much of anything else) there because of the toxins that worked their way back up out of the ground. Maybe the reason we drink so much bottled water is because in our hearts we know we can't trust the water flowing in our streams and rivers and lakes. We deforest the hills, then strip mine them. The hills we build are the ever growing mounds of garbage we create.

This blessing of place also resulted in the chance to create a novel form of government. Unlike many political movements in Europe we could experiment with very little danger of our neighbors invading to overturn it. In that moment of space and time we created a governmental form that can actually function “...of the people, by the people and for the people”. Instead more and more of us turn our back on this blessing. We choose to walk away from the political process. That allows the power hungry and the profit hungry to turn the blessings we have been granted into their own personal resource.

Choices have been made and continue to be made. In this land of milk and honey shall we choose to continue to grow ever more out of shape letting our life spans decrease now instead of increase? Shall we choose to waste food (in so many ways) in a world where people go hungry? Shall we choose to continue building our lives on consumerism, usually in pursuit of things that are little more than throw away toys? Shall we choose to continue to pump toxins and filth into the air, and land and water because we do not want to be bothered to make the changes that could begin the process of revitalizing our land? Will we continue to choose to turn our backs on our responsibilities as citizens of this wondrous republic and allow our governmental processes to become a simple marketplace where the deepest pockets win? Is right to be complicit in a society that demeans it's members at home and uses torture on those we declare our enemies abroad? Is this truly how we are to use the blessings that we have been given?

Most parents face those moments when a child keeps asking for something over and over again. Even when you give it to them they can come back and ask for more or another. Finally you reach the point where you say, “What did you do with all the others I gave you? No more, till you learn to appreciate what you have!” . As I looked at that bumper sticker it struck me that our constant prayer/request/demand for God's blessing is a lot like that child. In all the ways that God has blessed us how can we possibly muster the temerity to ask for more? Rather we should be thankful for what we have been given and ask that God help us to better use those blessings. I recall the Gospel of Luke (13:48) which reminds us, “ whom much is given, of him much will be required...”. Given our blessings what shall be required of us? Can we say that we have loved God and our neighbors to the standard of our blessings? Will we be able to say that we have “...act(ed) justly, love(d) mercy and walk(ed) humbly...”?

God blessed America. Now what?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Well I'm back

And I'm feeling grumpy.

Running around between three camps and a major family visit all in the span of 14 days has taken their toll. I've come down with a summer cold, quite possibly the most depressing of all illnesses. Plus the weather has been cold and dreary the last couple days.

Grump, grump, grump.

But that's not all. We had three campers simply not show up at one camp. The new management team at our facility is holding us to the terms of the contract (the previous managers were more casual about that. Which may be why they're the "previous" managers) which says we have to give a final count two weeks in advance. Well the count we gave was 33 and the final count was 30. That's a nearly $900 unfunded expense staring at me. I'm not upset in anyway with the facility, they are perfectly in their rights and they are at least considering my request to adjust the count. That's EXTREMELY nice of them. And something they don't have to do.

No the people I'm ticked with are the folks who simply didn't show up. Two of the three are folks with whom I'm familiar, they have my number, my e-mail, my address. Never heard a word from them. And now my budget, tight at best, has a big ole hole in it. The bills will be paid, money can be juggled to cover. But it means that other programs will be even tighter for the rest of the year.

So next year we'll be more serious about deadlines, deposits will be non-refundable, and fees paid for campers who drop out less than two weeks prior to camp will be forfeit as well.

And people will scream bloody murder. Just lovely.

Other than that camp went really well. All our camps were successes on their own merits. The kids had a great time. The staffs were marvelous.

Just wish I could enjoy the moment.

Grump, grump, grump.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Off to camp I go

The next two weeks are going to be crazed! I'm headed out the door shortly to A.R.T.S camp (Art,Recreation, Theater and Song). It ends on Friday night with performances by the kids, then I'm off to a rehearsal dinner for the wedding of one of my former youth, the wedding is on Saturday. We've volunteered to sort of MC the event, just keep things organized and rolling so the family doesn't have to.

Oh and both my brothers and their families are coming to visit this week too. I'll have to sneak out of camp a couple nights to hang with them (which I can do without damaging the camp program)

Then next Sunday it's off to Junior High Camp and on Wednesday I'll be at Sleep Away camp. Yes, two in one week. Fun, wow.

Then I have to try and put everything in order.

Then I'm taking my usual week of post camp vacation.

So I'll probably not be updating here for at least a couple weeks. I'll try to sneak in if I can but I'm not sure either of the camps have internet.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

It seemed like a good idea at the time

How many times have I thought that?
Gotta love Mr. Bean

Just some filler while I frantically try to get ready for two straight weeks of camp. Plus helping with a friends wedding. And having my family come visit. Plus trying not to melt in this heat!