Thursday, July 31, 2008

armies clash by night: some war films end in sight

build me a ladder of logic up to the sky, a string of carefully constructed proofs that creatively illumine the uncertain state of this world and that beyond. that's my charge to any issue-oriented documentary; do that and i'll happily climb the rungs of your rhetoric. i am so charmed by logic that if a filmmaker sugercoats truth or skillfully twists on-screen action away from one view or another, i'm likely to miss it, likely to fall into the rational trap of the film's narrative.

all that to say, although i can't be sure of the objectivity of
no end in sight, the movie makes me angry, angry that the occupation of iraq was undertaken in a fog of idiocy. no end convincingly argues that our leaders had access to effective means of avoiding a full-scale insurgence but they chose to plug their ears, close their eyes, and clash by night.

still, i don't know where to go from there. i obediently followed
no end's story arc, and just as the title might suggest, it left me without a conclusion, without some sense of what to do next. this frustration is complicated by the increasing optimism of the war in iraq. no end leaves us in 2007, when things were still going horribly wrong, but now in 2008 the latest AP reports suggest that there may in fact be an end in sight. and so, while no end may be a fine piece of cinematic rhetoric, i seriously question it's timelessness and application for the world today.


and here's another rhetorical success. this film (not a documentary) successfully demonstrates the injustice of "stop-loss," the US military's doctrine of reinstating soldiers after their tours of duty have already been completed, that is, sending them back to iraq against their will. i might gripe that some of the film's characters behaved incongruously to their personalities or life scenarios, and that the film may have went a little overboard in some places, but like
no end in sight, stop-loss is a likely candidate to make you mad. oh, and get these guys some prazosin!

Friday, July 25, 2008

leave it be

The world is full of wonders, great big wonders and little tiny wonders. Yet we are often so caught up in our routines and single-minded sense of purpose, that we barrel right by these God-granted glories.

On a recent bus ride downtown, I was having one of those moments. My eyes were locked on the seat in front of me, but my mind was elsewhere. I was worried about our fare or the next stop or what was for dinner, and then Beth nudged me and directed my attention out our window. She was pointing at a rather ordinary looking rose bush.

"What?" I asked.

"Look at that leaf," she said, "If you think about it, that leaf is in a constellation of other leaves, a rose bush universe."

That's not quite what she said, but I think it sums up her point. Beth was highlighting the miracle of life. That leaf, albeit it an ordinary, brainless bunch of chloroplast, experiences rain storms and beetle migrations, Metro exhaust and pedestrian chatter. I doubt there's a mansion in heaven for that leaf, but here on earth God has provided it with everything it needs; He has even provided it with purpose. That tiny, insignificant leaf is responsible for some of the earth's oxygen. We breathe because of that leaf (and his leaf buddies).

So pause and smell the air. Taste the food. Listen to the sounds. Live in the moment.

And remember, God wants you right where you are: That leaf makes air, and you sit there reading this blog.

[adapted from a letter to someone traveling abroad]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the 17 points of attraction

i guess i'm not the only one to see the scientific merit of 17 point scales. check out this site to hear the informal findings of some engineers who used a 17 point scale to gauge the perceived attractiveness of their 70-some subjects. as one might expect, their scale ranged from 0 (disgustingly ugly/repulsive) to 17 (perfectly attractive/marry this person right now!).

photo: blb, "the 17 builds a dam" great smoky mountains, tennessee

Saturday, July 12, 2008


the next issue of the other journal will focus on the 2008 election. although i'm interested to see how theologians will address this topic, and i think it will be an interesting issue for our readers, i wonder how creative writers will take to it.

if poets and writers are our modern prophets, our contemporary truth-tellers, then it makes sense that their work might be politically noisy, that it might voice protests or hoorahs over policies and potentates. and perhaps we should listen.

but when i sit down to read a poem or a short story, i don't want to bullied into belief. i don't want a writer knocking me up side the head with the moral bush is bad. if this is their point, i'd like the message to sneak past my defenses, settle in my mind, and convince me via the rhythm, images, and story.

so, yes, i'm afraid that some writers will forget their subtlety and fly headlong into the role of teacher. therefore, when i think of our next issue, i'm most excited by the lens we're hoping to use for election '08: change.

it's a word that's on the lips of all our pundits and politicians these days, but i also think it's a potentially rich word for christian writers. when you think about it, nearly all great literature is about change. we read books that have shifting plots, characters that are melded by their stories. and at the heart of the christian faith is change.

and speaking of change, here's the point of today's entry: today i'm on the brink of change. after battling a nasty cold, i'm starting to feel much better. this seems small and shallow, of course, but to me, at this moment, it feels big and important.

and i just finished haruki murakami's the wind-up bird chronicle, which i hope to say more about later.

and after several years of off-and-on practice, i'm finally learning debussy's "claire de lune" in its entirety.

so hooray for change!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

bad decisions

it's a dark day in seattle--thunder, lightning, ruptured community.

today, on the verge of a courthouse victory in their case against clayton bennett, the city caved. they got cold feet, or perhaps greedy, and agreed to a cash settlement. mayor greg nickels claims that the settlement will keep seattle in the good graces of the NBA--commissioner david stern has even reversed himself, stating that a remodeled key arena will meet the NBA's standards. in exchange for stern's weak promise that if the washington state approves funding for the remodel, seattle will be on the short list of cities to receive the next expansion team, bennett gets a get out of jail free card. already he is whisking the sonics away to oklahoma city.

after hearing the news, i turned my radio to 950 KJR and then made my way to i listened as choked-up fan after choked-up fan bitterly torched the city of seattle, called for starbucks boycotts, vowed to never watch another NBA game again. some seemed close to tears as they talked of their memories, torn from them, perhaps forever. others talked of the future and their children who will have no shawn kemps or gary paytons, no kevin calabro.

and they said goodbye. a community 1000s strong suddenly deemed irrelevant by the powers that be. a community that in a flourish of ink, suddenly lost its reason for being.

perhaps there's still some hope.

(1) the city may have acted with prescience--balmer's still around, so this seeming betrayal of fan interest may actually result in seattle getting a second shot with the supes someday in the far future.

(2) howard schultz's lawsuit to rescind the original sale of the team is still on the table. if successful, we could be cheering in the streets once again.

in the meantime, here's my list of annoying people that deserve an otter-pop spanking:

howard schultz
clayton bennett
commissioner david stern
governor chris gregoire
speaker frank chopp
mayor greg nickels
city councilman nick licata