Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rock Sugar!

Thanks to my good friend Jeff (via his friends Jason and Cailean), I have been exposed to a great new(er) band.  They do covers, but in a seamless and creative way---mashing up both pop and rock songs from the 80's into one song medley at a time.  They're called Rock Sugar, and you should check them out!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peter Jackson starts filming on "The Hobbit"

Cameras roll on 'The Hobbit' films in New Zealand

Peter Jackson – Photo: AP
Peter Jackson
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Cameras started rolling Monday on director Peter Jackson's production of "The Hobbit," following months of delays on the prequel to his Oscar-winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Hollywood studio funding problems, a threatened actors' boycott and ulcer surgery for Jackson have plagued pre-production on the $500 million, two-movie project.

The director posted a studio news release on his website Monday saying production has commenced in New Zealand on the much-anticipated project.

British actor Martin Freeman will star as hobbit Bilbo Baggins alongside Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom in twin movies of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novel about a short, hairy-footed hero.
The films are expected to take up to two years to make, with the first timed for release in late 2012.

"The Hobbit" is a prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy by Tolkien that Jackson helmed to blockbuster film success in 2001-03, winning best-picture and best-director Oscars for the finale.

Jackson underwent surgery last month for a perforated stomach ulcer, pushing back the start of filming at least by several days.

Last October, New Zealand changed labor laws and tipped in extra tax breaks for Hollywood studios MGM and New Line Cinema to ensure the Hobbit films would be made in the country.

The changes mean actors and others working on the films will be hired as contractors not employees. The union had wanted local actors and other production workers to be hired as full-fledged employees on union contracts.

New Zealand received a huge boost to its tourism and film-making industries from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Freeman, whose films include "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Hot Fuzz" but who may be best known from Ricky Gervais' "The Office" television comedy, has said playing Baggins is the role of a lifetime.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Upcoming Films on Jesus - "The Messiah" and "The Resurrection"

In the wake of "The Passion of the Christ," there have been talk of subsequent movies in the same vein, some of which want to portray the "sequel" of the events of the Passion, usually focusing on the Resurrection and start of the early church.  One in production is to be called "The Resurrection," produced by Tim LaHaye's Ministry.  Currently, they are raising money to finish filming the film:

The Resurrection Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization operating on a DBA under the Tim LaHaye Ministries organization. We are reaching out to the Body of Christ to help us fund a $25,000,000 major motion picture based on The Resurrection of Jesus Christ that has been 5 years in the making. We have a script in-hand that we believe will unite the Global Church as well as the Jewish community by creating a movie of the highest quality for the whole world funded by the Body of Christ. We are looking for 1,000,000 Christians to sew in $25 to help make this film a reality. Please see our DONATE page to make a contribution.

Follow our journey through fundraising, pre-production, filming, post-production and theatrical release as we make history by creating the first film fully funded and afforded by the Body of Christ which can be used to bring revival to the four corners of the world.

The second film is to be called "The Messiah," and will deal with the events of the death & resurrection of Christ and the subsequent start of the early church.  It's is being made by a production company called "In Jesus Name Productions" and is founded by a member of my church (McLean Bible Church), leaving his position as a VP of Oracle to pursue this filmmaking company and its projects.

While remaining true to scriptures, The Messiah unfolds the events surrounding Jesus’ death, resurrection and Pentecost in a relevant and compelling way, and for the first time, allows audiences to visually experience the full message of the Gospel - God lives within us.  Set against the staggering backdrop of first-century Jerusalem, the film will bring this breathtaking city to life in a way we’ve never seen.

The Messiah
is a major motion picture and is tentatively planned for a 2012 worldwide release.

So these are a couple of movies to be looking for in the near future. It looks like there are those trying to produce some quality Christian films, but both of these are needing financial support in order to be completed.  Whether or not you want to donate is your choice, but at the least, it's refreshing to see that there are still those who want to keep filmmaking a God-honoring art.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Congrats Alice! Induction into the R&R Hall of Fame!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Congrats to Alice Cooper, who with his original bandmates as the group Alice Cooper,
are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Watch the induction here:

Here is a Rolling Stone interview with the band after the induction:

Here is an interview with Alice and his inductor, Rob Zombie:

And here is his performance on Jay Leno on the 18th (wearing his tux from the induction) with Dweezil Zappa playing lead guitar (it starts at the 38:00 minute mark):

Here is a nice interview he gave to USA Today...
Who knew his favorite book of the Bible was James?

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent in Narnia

Lent in Narnia
Would C.S. Lewis have renounced Turkish Delight from Ash Wednesday to Easter?

In his short essay "Some Thoughts," C. S. Lewis examines the paradoxical fact that the Christian calendar is as full of feasts as it is fasts, as full of fasts as it is feasts.

How did the Christian faith come to have this unique "two-edged" character, a stance which is both world-affirming and world-denying? Lewis explains that on one hand "because God created the Natural—invented it out of His love and artistry—it demands our reverence." But at the same time, "because Nature, and especially human nature is fallen it must be corrected and the evil within it must be mortified."

But make no mistake, Lewis writes, its essence is good, and correction is "something quite different" from repudiation or Stoic superiority. And hence, Lewis argues, all true Christian asceticism will have "respect for the thing rejected" at its center. "Feasts are good," Lewis concludes, "though today we fast."

Lewis makes a similar point in his essay "A Slip of the Tongue," where he argues that in the life of a perfect believer, feasts "would be as Christian" as fasts.

Though today we fast, feasts are good. Feasts are, or should be, as Christian as fasts. These statements might serve as helpful signposts as we enter the seasons of Lent and Easter.

This two-edged, world-denying and world-affirming, stance is seen clearly in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the Turkish Delight which Edmund is tempted with and in the delightful meal served up by the Beavers.

Early in the story, the White Witch creates a box filled with "several pounds" of Turkish Delight which Edmund greedily devours. Donald Glover has called Lewis's specific choice of Turkish Delight a master stroke, one made with clear intention. What would have been lost if the Witch had tempted Edmund with, for example, oatmeal and raisin cookies? Glover argues that Turkish Delight is "a highly overrated sweet," and Narnia fans who have gone in search of the candy may agree, wondering how Edmund could have fallen prey to the overly sugared confection. Surely the name promises more than the candy delivers, and this, perhaps, is Lewis's point. Furthermore, it is not just Delight but Turkish Delight, a title containing, as Glover has observed, "Oriental and romantic overtones," further promises left unfulfilled by the sticky goo.

Gilbert Meilaender, in a chapter appropriately titled "The Sweet Poison of the False Infinite," provides an analysis of the spell that the Witch's candy casts upon Edmund. As Meilaender explains, the phrase "the sweet poison of the false infinite" comes from Lewis's novel Perelandra and refers to any love of secondary things which has become inordinate. In Miracles, Lewis maintains that we are to offer the created things and pleasures of this world "neither worship nor contempt." Meilaender points out that the theme of inordinate loves is one to which Lewis often returns.

The Witch's magic candy is a sickly imitation of the wholesome food the children are served at the Beavers' house. There they eat boiled potatoes with "a great big lump of deep yellow butter" from which everyone can take "as much as he wanted." The main course is "good freshwater fish" followed by "a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll" fresh from the oven and steaming hot. Afterwards, they each have a big cup of tea, push back their stools, and let out "a long sigh of contentment."

Lewis's point with the Turkish Delight is not that enjoying sweets is bad; in fact, his position is quite the contrary. Enjoyment of life's pleasures in all their variety and plenitude will be an essential quality of proper Narnian life. This was seen earlier in the tea that Mr. Tumnus provided for Lucy which included "a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake." Meilaender points out that in both his fiction and non-fiction, Lewis suggests over and over that "to be fully human involves a certain stance toward the things of creation," one of deep enjoyment but not slavish adoration.

Lewis's devil Screwtape explains the situation to his young nephew this way: "Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. …  He made the pleasures. … All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasure which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden."
In his essay "First and Second Things," Lewis elaborates on this point, writing:
By valuing too highly a real but subordinate good, we … come near to losing that good itself. The woman who makes a dog the center of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping. … Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good. … You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.
These real but subordinate goods come in endless variety besides the sorts of activities which are typically given up for Lent, things like eating sweets, smoking, or drinking Coke. Human curiosity, for example, is one of these real goods which must have its ordinate place. We see its proper role in the lives of the four Pevensies when they decide to explore the Professor's house. As the narrator tells us, "That was how the adventures began." The Professor's house is described as having a whole series of rooms lined with books, an indicator of the goodness of curiosity in its proper place in the Professor's life and vocation.

It was not always like this. In The Magician's Nephew, Digory's healthy sense of curiosity became inordinate as he forcibly made Polly stay in Charn while he struck the mysterious bell to find out what would happen. As Jonathan Rogers has noted, here Digory shows "an excessive desire for knowledge." It is fitting that at this point Polly tells Digory he looks just like his Uncle Andrew.

But lest we react too strongly and reject curiosity or any other created thing altogether, Lewis also includes in The Magician's Nephew one of the most awe-inspiring creation scenes in all of literature, as Aslan sings Narnia into existence—each star, stag, bird, and blade of grass. You may choose to despise the things of this world, Lewis seems be saying, but know that they came from the Creator's loving hand with a very different relationship in mind.

"A properly Christian view of things requires more than a right relationship to the things of heaven," Jonathan Rogers writes. "It requires a right relationship to the things of earth too." Rogers concludes that "by allowing the reader to watch the creation of another world, C. S. Lewis evokes an appropriate awe and delight in the things of this world."

As we enter into the season of Lent, it might be helpful to see these 40 days not so much a time of renunciation (unless, of course, we have things to renounce) but a time of reordering, a time to slow down, step back, and carefully examine the things we have actively made or passively allowed to become the first things and second things in our lives.

Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury University. He is the author of Inside Narnia (2005), Inside Prince Caspian (2008), and Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Toddlers & Tiaras

I came across this video skit from Jimmy Kimmel Live's show, parodying the TV show "Toddlers and Tiaras" to show the ridiculousness of such a lifestyle. I must say it had me in stitches a few might need a couple of viewings to catch everything.

FYI, if you want to see a real life example of what Mr. Hanks is parodying, here is a great episode: