2) Saw very two good movies this weekend, but good for different reasons. First, if you haven't rented it yet, go get Akeela and the Bee. The movie is a "poor girl from the ghetto rises up against incredible odds" tale, but thankfully avoids all of the cliches you find in these movies. There is no evil teacher, or horrible rival who humiliates her repeatedly, a gangbanger who doesn't want to see her rise out of the community, or any of that crap. This is a serious movie about race, gender, class, grief, and embracing your community. I won't give away the ending, but one scene from the movie still sticks with me.
Early on, just after Akeela learns that there is such a thing as a Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, she watches a tape of the previous year's competition (which is televised by ESPN and is one of the most compelling television moments of the year... this blogger is a fan). As each child comes forward and spells, or fails to spell the word given to them, the movie cuts through the contestants quickly, while occasionally flashing to Akeela's eyes which increasingly are filled with fear. Why? Well there are all kinds of different races and both genders represented... but not one African-American girl. A great movie where a young girl learns not be afraid to be herself, and to be great. There's some language in the movie that we're not ready for Max to learn yet (let alone Xavier), but for older kids, particularly middle school and older, I wouldn't hesitate to show them this movie. It was very, very good.
3) Last night, after Aimee and the boys hit the hay, I had intended on reading a book for my Pastoral Leadership class. But after an hour of such gems like "cooperative and or uncooperative, this could be your biggest attitude choice" and "bitterness, unless handled, will cause you trouble", let's just say I was getting tired of mastering the obvious. A quick trip to the computer, and I discovered that at the beautiful, old historic Kentucky Theater in Lexington, there was a 10pm showing of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which is actually rated NC-17.
And with good reason.
The movie, by filmmaker Kirby Dick, focused on the history and practices of the MPAA - the group that determines whether or not a movie should be G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. What became very obvious, quickly, is that the MPAA favors major studios, as opposed to the independent filmmaker, the motive of which is probably to limit competition for movie screen space. Thus, while major studios receive detailed instructions by the MPAA as to what cuts need to be made in a movie to make it an R instead of NC-17 (which is commercial death because you can't advertise it on TV, can't sell it places like WalMart and Blockbuster, and can't show it at most theaters in the country), independent filmmakers aren't told anything, and just need to guess as they re-cut the film for re-submission.
What's more, the MPAA is an anonymous group of people, whose names are withheld from the public, and process for making ratings is totally secret. Thus the issue of accountability becomes even murkier. Since many independent filmmakers portray aspects of the culture most of us rarely see (i.e. lots of issues regarding sexual identity), what happens is that movies about these subjects aren't seen by the majority of the country because their rating prevents them being shown there. Is this an act of censorship? The movie poses the question, and isn't afraid to give you an answer.
But, to be honest, even as someone who loves independent film... most of these movies wouldn't be seen by the majority of the country no matter what they were rated, cause, to be honest, most of them are short in the "good" department. You gotta be kinda patient to be a fan of independant film..... let's just say there's a reason nobody will put up money to make a lot of these films.
But, by far, the most damning aspect of the film is the double standard the MPAA seems to have toward sex and violence. Four times as many films are rated NC-17 for sexual content than for violence. So while "The Cooler" gets an NC-17 rating for showing a two-second clip of a woman's pubic hair during a sex scene, "Sin City" can show all matters of people getting killed in the most graphic fashion you can imagine, and gets an R.
The movie isn't perfect (it gets a little preachy... I would know), but it will definitely make you think. Not for the squeamish, people who are Republicans, or the easily offend.
4) The Ted Haggard situation sort of resolved itself today, as far as his church is concerned, when he was permanently dismissed as the pastoral leader in the wake of the allegations made against him. Haggard might have weathered this storm a little better if he hadn't allowed himself to be interviewed, in his car, in his driveway, in front of his wife and three of his kids, admitting to buying crystal meth from a gay escort who he had hired to give him a massage.... particularly after he had denied even knowing the gay escort in question.
Whatever happened to "no comment"?
Friday I made a post where, as opposed to condemning Haggard, I tried to give people a sense of the pressures pastors face to teach and preach things that maybe, they can't live up or question, in their own life. And how, if you continue to do this, you will begin to find yourself isolated from the very group of people, the church, who should be your community.
Today, though, I want to make something very clear. There's a reason I refuse to call myself an Evangelical Christian (as if there are Christians out there who are opposed to evangelization), and it has to do with the shameful way this particular group exploits the homosexuality issue for profit and political clout. I wrote a post earlier this summer where I express my dismay for liberal Episcopalians who used their General Conference to push particular theological and social issues, because my feeling is that those kinds of conferences (which all mainline denoms have) are turning into opportunities for certain people to take serious issues and turn them into sound bites... which makes it impossible for us to deal with issues like homosexuality and scripture with any kind of maturity. They just become free-for-alls where each side competes to gets the best quote on AC360.
Well, conservative evangelicals are pretty good at this dirty little game also, and the upshot is that groups of people (gays and lesbians) are painted with broad hateful strokes, mostly to convince people to get to the polls and write a check. I personally don't think Jesus needs a whipping boy or girl to make his point (isn't that the point of the Cross?).
Ted Haggard became famous deamonizing the homosexual community, which is what makes this whole affair so seamy. Maybe this is will be a wake-up call to people who have taken these issues, and blown them way out of proportion... as if the future of the world hinged on their outcome. Surely you can be principled, and yet still civil. Surely you can believe that homosexuality is a sin, and yet realize that you sin willingly each and every day (I just did with three consumed Monster Cookies I didn't need.... don't eat that chubby) or feel that it isn't but can still appreciate the damage sexual sin can do.
5) Great quote that fuels the plot of "Akeela and the Bee":
Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson (from her book A Return to Love)
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be
brilliant,gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
6) Three games into the NBA Season, the Cavs are 2-1, with big wins over Washington and San Antonio on the road. And the Utah Jazz are 3-0, tearing up Phoenix and the Clippers among others. Will this be the year that my dream NBA Championship, Cavs v. Jazz, is realized? Oh to dream the impossible dream....
7) Went up to Highbridge Park today. The boys had a great time looking at the bridge and playing at Highbridge park. Apparently Sue Dickerson, a member at Shawnee went to school down here, and the big deal in her day was to go up on the bridge and play chicken with trains (of which, she admitted to doing.... I will leave this here so someday it can be discovered by her grandchildren). All I know is 308 feet in the air above a shallow river playing chicken with train is, well..... just plain stupid. I leave a pic of the bridge, and of a historical marker nearby (primarily for my father..... he's a civil engineer. Enjoy Dad!)
Capped a great family day where we went to church, got lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, the parents got a short nap with the youngest whilst the eldest children played, we hiked around a pleasant little park, and ended the day with some ham and beans for dinner. I am blessed, indeed.
8) Leadership, I am beginning to realize, is an art. Experienced a very good presentation by James Holsinger, who was (among other things) an undersecretary of Health and Human Services (in charge of all the VA Hospitals) for President George HW Bush and the President of the Medical School at UK. Holsinger now teaches "Situational Leadership" classes to medical students in intense 5-day sessions. There, he instructs students in understanding what people you are leading need, in terms of instruction and support, at different points of their employment journey. Holsinger, who has studied extensively the work of Ken Blanchard, posits that leaders, if they can present exactly what they are willing to offer (coaching, directives, space, whatever) to those they lead, and work out with those led what they think they'll need to succeed, stand a much better chance of helping that person succeed than dictatorial leaders, or leaders who simply take their hands off the wheel and say, "Go ahead and drive".
I know I didn't explain that well, but to me it made sense. I have been guilty at certain times of being a dictator, and others of being almost a non-existent leader. What Holsinger helped me understand is that the role of the leader to the follower needs to change as the skill sets and competency of the follower improves. Thus, the high support - high directive model (where you tell people how and when to do things, and then correct/praise them accordingly) is necessary early on, where as later, I might need to provide high support (correct/praise so people know their headed on in the right direction) but little direction (cause they know what to do). The goal is that every employee would be become low support (because they know where they are heading and are self-motivated to get there) - low directive (cause they probably know their job better than I do).
This reminds back in my youth ministry days, when I would teach kids how to play guitar. Now, anyone who has heard me play knows that I know almost squat about guitar playing. I can finger enough chords to lead praise songs, and that's about that. But here's the deal. If you teach a kid a few chords, and they bust their hump learning them, chances are you won't have to do much else. The kid who then wants to learn how to play, will bust their tail learning and practicing all they can. In short order, they end up knowing more than you do, and making the band sound great. All I do then, is provide the sheet music, a tempo, and a sense of what kind of playing will be necessary to give the song the "feel" we are looking for. Anyhow... it was good stuff.
9) For those who haven't heard, my lovely wife has become a budding website designer (here's her homepage: www.aimeebucher.com ). It all started when a member of the church, Millie Hughes, asked Aimee if she'd be willing to teach music to middle school and high school kids, on-line. Of course, Aimee would have to design the curriculum first, cause it didn't exist, so the promise of a nice chunk of money per class designed (and the need to take college courses to get re-certified as a teacher in Ohio) led her to take an online "web design for music websites" class from the Berkeley School of Music in Boston.
Now, a couple of years later, she's working on her first gig... designing a commercial site for a jewelry designer who lives somewhere out west. She's being paid in jewelry (kind of like the Indians when they sold Manhattan for some beads... believe me when I say this is an accurate comparison), but she's learning all about e-commerce, flash, and all the stuff you need to put together a cool site. Now, others are starting to inquire about her services. I think something good is starting to get rolling here.
10) And finally, Max joined the ranks of the eye-glass wearing world, which given the gene pool from which he emerged, was pretty much a given. Fortunately, he loves his glasses, doesn't mind wearing them, and enjoys being able to see all the stuff he couldn't see before (like signs and the chalk board.... stuff like that). And what's more, it appears, at least, that he hasn't been teased at school, which is great. Of course, now he looks like the little Einstein he is. Never in my life thought I'd hear one of my children thank me for buying him glasses, and then play a game of catch with him to celebrate the fact that now he can see the ball.
And this big ol' world just keeps on turning, I keep getting older, and life is becoming just so much more sweet than bitter. I am a blessed man, indeed.