October 24, 2005

Movie Reviews and My Thoughts On Them

I was reading the movie review of "North Country" at Focus On The Family's movie review site for teens. Normally I just read the reviews and move on. This time something struck me about what the reviewer said. As it happens when something strikes me, I let my opinions be known. So I sent off an email to the editors of the magazine. Here's what I wrote:

I have been reading your online movie reviews for many years now because they serve as a valuable guide to the *content* of the movies I am potentially interested in seeing. This is one aspect of your reviews that I value highly. This morning I was reading the review of North Country when I was struck by something. In the closing paragraph, Tom Neven summarizes about the movie with this: "My only wish is that she could have found a way to convince us that life is precious and that respect is essential without simultaneously forcing us to witness such graphic scenes of rape, assault, obscene abuse and grotesque harassment."

This is the first time that I have had the thought of actually questioning the motive, and targeted audience for your reviews. Sin is rampant in this world, and injustice is to be found at every corner. How can a movie that is dealing with the basic corrupt nature of the human heart deal with its matter without showing the reality of how things are? I mean, most Christians don't need to see a movie like North Country to realize that left to themselves, humans are capable of indescribable acts of cruelty, evil and so on. But when a director is confronting head-on the base nature of humans, how can he or she forcible demonstrate the falsity of "people are basically good at heart" philosophy by downplaying the very real issues of 'rape, assault, obscene abuse and grotesque harassment' that happen in our everyday life. It's like saying that Schindlers List would have been a great movie but for all those Jews that got murdered.

I recognize that Plugged In is a service aimed towards teens. And thus, your reviews are targeted towards that audience (and for their parents). But there are several important philosophical issues that arise here. The most fundamental one is whether anyone should be watching a movie like North Country with the content that it has? Can adults watch this movie (and should they be watching such material)? If so, then is this a movie that older teens can watch? These questions are important because in my view, a movie like North Country cannot serve to faithfully convey its message without "forcing" the viewer to confront the issues. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that this movie is the best thing since the Ten Commandments. I'm merely pointing out the inherent flaw in your reviewer's summary. Either no one should be watching this movie because of its content, or if they watch it, they should be ready to witness some very graphic material. Subjective summaries regarding directorial decisions should probably be avoided in reviews.

October 23, 2005


So a couple of days ago I got the BODYLINE DVD (see reason for my excitement in an earlier post). I stuck in into the DVD player. A helpful message appeared that told me the disk was not meant to be played in America (darn Australian disks). But I knew that would happen. I was confident I could find a hack for my Sony DVD player. After hours of searching - no luck. Then I realized. Wait a second. Even if I hacked my player, the output video would still be PAL. No good on a good ol' NTSC Sony TV. Now what do I do? Ahhh technology... There's an answer for everything.

I needed three pieces of software, and my handy dandy HP computer with DVD burner. The first software blocked my computer from recognizing that the DVD was a region 4 DVD. Then I used the second piece of software to burn the movie to my hard disk. Now this movie was still region 4, PAL signal. Now with the third software I changed the header file of the saved DVD movie to make it NTSC and region free. (This is something I didn't even know of before. It is only this header file that makes any given movie region-locked, or NTSC or PAL.) Burn these edited video files to a new DVD, and presto! I have a fully compatible DVD!

I love software.

October 20, 2005

Terrors from the Deep. Also known as singleness.

Recently, a single friend of mine went out on a date. It didn't go so well, but this isn't about the date. I was talking to a married Christian friend of mine at work about how lucky I felt to be out of the whole dating thing. If something were to happen to Tish, I can't even imagine what it would be like to go back into it (assuming I get some semblance of sanity back). And now with Priya, forget "casual" dating. We've been together almost seven years, but it's still not that long for me to forget all the desires, longings, expectations, dashed hopes, broken hearts, etc. that preceded that. All the encouragements from people on how God is in control of your life, and that you have to seek him first, and that he knows the desires of your heart, and it's all going to be in his time... If you're single, you know what I'm talking about. You know what's interesting? Go back and read Gen 2:18 ("...It is not good for the man to be alone..."). We've all heard it, right. But think about when this was said. God made this determination before the fall. Before sin came in the picture. When man had a perfect union with his creator. And in that state, God decided that it wasn't good for man to be alone. As a side note, think about the strange word "alone". Even in perfect union with God, it was possible for man to feel "aloneness." Anyway, voila! Here comes Eve. Now fast forward to our present desperate times. We are born in sin, separated from the Father, and all that stuff. How much more alone do we feel now? We need that much more grace, and that much more leaning into the Lord.

So anyway, if you're reading this and are married, rejoice in the favor that the Lord has provided. If you're still single, it really is true: it is not good for the man to be alone. But as God made that determination, he also did the providing. Left to himself, Adam only had a choice of the farm animals. And we all know how much fun they can be!

As for me, I pray that I don't ever have to wander those paths again.

October 17, 2005

South Side musings

It is only choice of colleges that made me into a Sox fan. When I got to the Illinois Institue of Technology in the spring of '93, it was hard not to see this big stadium literally across the street (well, across the Dan Ryan). The Sox came into my radar that fall because they went to the division finals against the Blue Jays (and lost). From my room I could see the fireworks every time there was a home run. To me, baseball was a primitive sport with none of the finer nuances and complexities of cricket. So it didn't really matter much who was playing.

These many years later, I now regret not having gone to more games. I didn't have to deal with parking, and student tickets at that time were in the 10 to 20 dollar range for pretty decent seats.

Over the last couple of years, I've tried to make up for that, but ironically every time I buy tickets for the games, I have had to go out of town. So Tish ends up going to see the Yankees, or the Tigers with friends of hers.

So maybe it's a good thing that I ended up at IIT instead of, say, Northwestern. I'd still be a bitter Cubs fan!

Go Sox!

October 14, 2005


I have to say I love Fridays. Especially Friday afternoons. Even more especially Friday afternoons when you've just been paid. Especially, especially when its Friday afternoon, and you've just been paid, and no bills are due. Especially, especially, especially... Well.. You get the picture.

As it turns out, today is just a Friday afternoon.

No major plans for the weekend. Tish is working, so it's going to be a Priya-Papa weekend together. I love spending time with Priya. Other than her expected moments of infantile behavior, she is a great girl.

Time to hit the road. 294 here I come.

October 11, 2005

Days away

Ahhh.. the days on the road. I'm writing this from my nice hotel room in Milwaukee. It's 5.30p and there's not a lot to do. Well... if I were a bad boy, there would be plenty to do, but I've never fancied being much of a bad boy. So I think I'm gonna go watch a movie, get some Subway on the way back and call it a night. Most out of town calls are never the same. It's rare that I have a free evening. Dinner out with customers is usually how it goes. But right now I wish I was home with my family. I mean, I have a pretty nice expense account and I could go to any restaurant I wanted. But how boring is that - eating amazing food all by yourself... I'm happy with Subway and watching the Sox beat the Angels. Well.. first the movie.. I think I'm gonna go see Flight Plan.

October 10, 2005

Rejoice.. If you can.

Very few people this side of the big pond will even begin to appreciate how significant today's find was for me. Back in the mid-80s (84 to be precise), there came an Australian mini-series called Bodyline. It was about the 1932-33 Ashes series (OK.. how many people know what that is!). It was the first time that bowlers in cricket deliberately aimed for the body so as to not only make the ball very unplayable, but if need be, cause physical distress to the batter (as a pleasant side effect for the team bowling). Who else but the English could have come up with such a gentlemanly tactic. OK. This post is not about the English and their tactics. Anyways, the mini-series was simply amazing, and I vividly remember watching it every week. It starred in its lead role Hugo Weaving as the captain of the English team Douglas Jardine (that's right, Matrix fans - long before Agent Smith happened, there was still life for Hugo). I have searched for years and years and years for a VHS or DVD of this mini-series. I'm not kidding. I have been looking for the last 13 years. Finally, the DVD was released a couple of months ago in Australia, and it's now on its way to me. It is a region 4 DVD (pop quiz - what are regions?) and I will have to find a hack for my DVD player to make it region free. I can't tell you how excited I am. Yay for me.

October 07, 2005

Joys of Ebay

Ebay has to be the most ingenious invention ever made after the concept of paying money for goods. It's possible to indulge in all sorts of hobbies without having to work too hard for them. For two years I was painstakingly collecting the state quarters from both the Denver and Philadelphia mints (the D ones are especially hard to find in the midwest). Then I found guys on Ebay selling complete collections for about fifty cents a quarter (brand new coins too). What a way to get a complete collection!

People also buy all kinds of stuff I can put on there. I had a five year old VHS-C camcorder that I had no use for (who uses VCRs anway?). The darn thing sold on Ebay for close to $80. I just put on the car radio I had pulled out of the old Escort when I had put in an aftermarket CD player. The tape player was close to being busted on it, though the radio worked. Well, we sold the Escort when we bought the van. So now I have a piece of hardware that I have no use for. Trash it? No way. Up on Ebay it goes. And it's selling! Man... I need to look around the garage more closely...

October 05, 2005

The Daily Grind versus Missionary Living

Picture a family living in the middle of nowhere as "missionaries". That word is sorta strange because it has a lot of connotations. But how is their life defined by? A lot of prayer. A lot of "believing in faith." Needing stuff for daily living. Needing stuff for long-term living. Where is this going to come from? Where is that going to come from? You get the idea... A lot of us would say, 'Man that's a tough way to live.'

Now picture a family with a husband and a wife and their three kids. The husband goes into work every day, and his wife takes care of the kids at home. He has to be at work at 7 every morning, and work till 4. His work is OK, but not terribly stimulating or challenging. But it's how he provides for his family.

Who do you think is more challenged? I would posit that it's the latter family. In my own experience, I find that it's more difficult to be faithful in the everyday grind of life. When one day of the week looks very much like the next. When you have to drag yourself out of bed and go to work regardless of how late you were up the night before ministering to someone. When you live for the weekends and praise God for "hump day."

Nothing against my hypothetical missionary family. These thoughts are meant to be an encouragement for those of us who are employed in the secular world and look to those in "full time ministry" as people on the cutting edge of the gospel. Far from it. God's grace, mercy and enabling is just as active, and sometimes needed in greater capacity for the secular workers. When the daily grind becomes unbearable, we call it a mid-life crisis. But mid-life crises come for people at all points of their life. And that's where it helps knowing the difference between quitting, and pressing on.

October 04, 2005

Had to show this one

I had to follow up with this picture. This shows everything that is good in my life right now.

A simple narrative

Time flies. It doesn't crawl, it doesn't walk, it doesn't jog. The darn thing flies. When I got off the boat, I was a teenager. I hit 30 last year. Whatever happened to time dilation? Oh wait. I have to go faster than the speed of light for that. So why does time contraction work so well then? A great many things have happened, and a great many things have yet to happen.

For right now, I love being a father. I claim what many other men before me have claimed - I was born to be a dad. I was sitting on the porch last night with Priya, and I told her how much joy and happiness she brings into my life. She is an amazing girl, and is already 6 months. Doggone time. Slow down a bit...