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July 2004

Manchurian Candidate & The Village

Thursday night a few of us gathered at the Von Wootens' to (re)watch the original Manchurian Candidate. Then a lesser few of us went Friday night to see the new one.

I enjoyed it. Just like with the original, it's quirky and has parts that I think could have been done better. The plot isn't as tight as the first one, though this one is better for the contemporary setting. Sometimes Demme's filmmaking style gets in the way, I thought. Though the Dallas Observer seemed to think this was the film's strength. They viewed it as more of a dark comic attack of the current president.

Meryl was fantabulous as always. And I must say I prefered Denzel to Frank.

The weirdest moment was when the new one had one instance of Freudianism. The original film was thoroughly Freudian and this one wasn't, so the one extreme moment was rather out of place.

Then, today, I saw The Village. Stylistically I really liked it. But it wasn't as satisfying as other Shyamalan films. For one thing, you now immediately start trying to figure out the "twist" when you go to one of his films. Which means that it is pretty impossible to hide it. I got this one pretty damn quickly, which sorta spoils the film. I wish that they had not revealed, in the movie, the truth about the monsters before Ivy takes her journey into the woods. It would have made her journey scarier. This was really the best part of the film and could have been played up more than it was.

The Manchurian Candidate: 3 1/2 popcorn balls & 2 1/2 film reels
The Village: 3 popcorn balls & 3 film reels
I, Robot: 2 1/2 pocorn balls & 1 film reel

Political Tidbits from the Week

Make sure to read Fareed Zakaria's article on the 9/11 Report. It is entitled "It's More Than War" and is in the August 2 issue of Newsweek. I kept looking for a link on Newsweek's site (for almost 30 minutes), but couldn't find one. It details things about the report that I haven't seen elsewhere, mainly by talking about a strategic vision suggested by the report. As the conservative Zakaria has recently, there are criticisms of the current administration's handling of post-9/11. Again, make sure you read this, it is excellent.

Barack Obama. Wow! Really loved his speech Tuesday night. He and Harold Ford are the most exciting people in the Democrat party, in my opinion.

Clinton was good Monday night, though I didn't hear all of it. I missed Wednesday completely and only saw Kerry last night.

Excellent speech. It was well written (though I'd have edited out a few corny things) and well delivered. Best speech he's ever given, which it needed to be. It was very presidential, in my opinion. Serious. With good themes. Critical to the right measure, visionary to the right measure, etc. I sure hope it played well across the country (haven't watched the news yet this morning).

A Wendell Berry Poem

This morning I was completing A Timbered Choir, a collection of poems that Wendell Berry wrote over the years on his Sunday morning walks. I found this poem near the end and really enjoyed it. The subject is somewhat surprising for Berry, though I'm not sure why I should think it is.

The lovers know the loveliness
That is not of their bodies only
(Though they be lovely) but is of
Their bodies given up to love.

They find the open-heartedness
Of two desires which both are lonely
Until by dying they have their living,
And gain all they have lost in giving.

Each offering the desired desire.
Beyond what time requires, they are
What they surpass themselves to make;
They give the pleasure that they take

Mission Trip Story #2: On the Bridge to Mexico

My van had some time to kill one day as we travelled from one work site to another. So, I suggested that we just drive down to the border and see it for those of us who had never been. We weren't taking the whole group to Mexico, because we didn't want to have to deal with the hassle.

So I was just planning on turning around when someone said, "Let's park and walk around a bit." So we did. We walked up near the bridge and notice that there wasn't a check point until the Mexico side. So, we said, "Don't cross the Mexico check point, but let's walk out on the bridge." Which we did. We had fun standing in two countries at once, etc. Then we started walking back.

And here came Mr. Border Patrol.

"Where are you headed?"

"Back to our car."

"You're supposed to come back on the other side."

"We didn't cross over, just went out on the bridge."

"That counts."

Of course, no sign had warned of this. Here I was with a group of high school boys, one another full adult, and I was the only one with my ID. They all got rather nervous. I acted calm and cool.

We went over to customs. She of course let me through, I had my ID. Then next was Matt Levy who is half Cuban.

"Are you and American citizen?"


"How old are you?"


"You don't have your ID?"

"No ma'am."

Scott: "I don't think any of the rest of them do. We didn't go all the way across. . ."

Custom agents looks carefully at us. Then lets everyone through. Big sighs of relief.

Then all the guys started telling me I'd broken international law. That I'd done something you can't do. They didn't seem to understand the logical point I was making:

p: We'd just done it.
q: Therefore, you can do it.

Singin' the Old Hymns

As I've been working this morning, I've been listening to Johnny Cash. Right now I'm listening to his posthumous album of old hymns. How comforting are these old words, especially as I sing out loud in my office along with the Man in Black.

Glory Hallelujah, I shall not be moved.
Anchored in Jehovah, I shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
I shall not be moved.

Do Lord, O Do Lord, O Do Remember me.
Way beyond the blue.
I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun.

Some glad morning, when this life is o'er
I'll fly away.
To that home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.

There is a land that is fairer than day,
and by faith we can see it afar
for the Father waits over the way,
to prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet by and by,
we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
In the sweet by and by,
we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
We shall sing on that beautiful shore,
the melodious songs of the blessed {what a great line!}
and our spirit shall sorrow no more,
not a sigh for the blessing of rest.

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
and cast a wishful eye,
to Canaan's fair and happy land,
where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the promised land,
I'm bound for the promised land.
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

And he walks with me,
and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own,
and the joy we share
as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.

Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.
Calling for you and for me.
See on the portals he's waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me.
Come home. Come home.
Ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling.
Calling, o sinner, come home.

Just as I am without one plea
But that thy blood
was shed for me
and that thou bidst me come to thee
O lamb of God I come. I come.
Just as I am though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt
fightings and fears, within, without,
O lamb of God, I come. I come.

"We are called to the fight of our lives."

That's how Bill Moyers ended his address to the Call to Renewal's Pentecost 2004 conference, which address became the cover article for the most recent issue of Sojourners magazine. I encourage you all to read the entire address.

Veteran journalist and ordained Baptist minister Moyers declares that the American experiment of democracy and religious tolerance is under attack by an alliance of corporate interests and the Religious Right. He speaks first about his heritage as a Baptist and as an American. He talks about America's & religion's checkered pasts when it comes to tolerance and equality. Then he asks these questions:

How do we nurture the healing side of religion over the killing side? How do we protect the soul of democracy against the contagion of a triumphalist theology in the service of an imperial state?

Moyers preaches that "There are two Americas today" and gives startling statistics on the gap between the wealth and the poor, on the decline in social services, on lack of health care. He writes, "a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift in the direction of private control."

Knowing what his critics will say he writes:

I know: This sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago . . . By the end of the '70s, corporate America had begun a stealthy assault on the rest of our society and the principles of our democracy. Looking backward, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warnings signs at the time. What has been happening to the middle and working classes is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual collusion, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that has made an idol of wealth and power, and a host of political decisions favoring the powerful monied interests who were determined to get back the privileges they had lost with the Depression and the New Deal.


And they built alliances with the Religious Right . . . who happily contrived a cultural war as a smokescreen to hide the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the war. . . . The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and Religious Right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. . . . It calls for righteous indignation and action. Otherwise our democracy will degenerate into a shell of itself in which the privileged and the powerful sustain their own way of life at the expense of others and the United States becomes another Latin America with a small crust of the rich at the top governing a nation of serfs.

He writes that they hijacked Jesus. "Hijacked, he was made over into a militarist, hedonist, and lobbyist, sent prowling the halls of Congress in Guccis, seeking tax breaks and loopholes for the powerful, costly new weapon systems that don't work, and punitive public policies."

Finally, Moyers writes that we need to take Jesus back, and he reminds us of Christians who helped to reform society for the common good, like Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. He calls us to a new politics of justice that is not partisan because both parties are corrupt. But we are to enact this new justice in love. Not sentimentality but an active, committed love.

Moyers is calling us to live boldly as people of faith and citizens of our democracy. His comments remind me of Cicero, whose calls to oppose the growing power interests were not heeded and the Roman Republic fell.

These are important times in which we live. We cannot afford to be timid.

Mission Trip Story #1: The Ladder Story

We were split into two groups. One group did a VBS at a Spanish-language church in Weslaco, and one group did construction at some homes in Progreso (the school mascot is the Red Ants). On the construction site were two houses. We were teamed with a crew from a church in North Carolina. The person in charge of our site was Trula; she had built homes for 40 years. But she was not good at coordinating volunteers, especially a group of youth. Her normal tone of voice was closer to a yell.

It ended up that her crew was working mostly inside on house #1. And I was in charge of the paint crew. At Royal Lane I have affectionately become known as "The Paint Nazi" because of my pickiness regarding painting (even who I allow on my crew). The paint crew was working on the outside of house #1. Over the course of the first day and a half, we had painted all we could of the exterior of the house. We needed ladders or scaffolding to get up high. There was, initially, only one ladder on the worksite. And the North Carolina crew had had almost exclusive use of it inside the house. Having worked on job sites like this before, with limited ladders, one main rule is that the ladder never goes unused (something George Wardlow would definitely support me on).

Tuesday afternoon my crew returned from lunch. We had thought that the North Carolina people would be gone, but they weren't. They were sitting inside the house eating. They had plans to leave that afternoon, and we were looking forward to getting a lot of our work done.

Since they were eating and weren't on the ladder, Barrett Wooten went inside to get the ladder for our use. When he went to pick it up, a guy named Ox from NC (he and Trula don't get along), said not to use it because they were planning on using it. Joy (also from NC) said to go ahead because they weren't using it at the moment. Then, when Barrett went to take it, Trula yelled out "What are you doing? We are using that. Just because we are sitting on the ground doesn't mean that we aren't using it." [We've been enjoying that sentence ever since.]

So, Barrett said, "Make up your minds" and stormed out. After about 5 more minutes, I had gotten my paint crew completely ready and on the one ladder we had (we were expecting two more to be delivered). I then walked inside and said, "You aren't using this ladder. When you need it, I'll give it back to you, but I'm going to put a kid on it to paint, even if it is just five minutes." And picked the ladder up and walked out while Trula yelled, "Well that's not a good attitude!" She then stormed out of the house after me and came up to the ladder. She and I argued about the ladder and it ended with her saying "This is a petty thing to be arguing about." To which I respond, "I agree, so you should have let me have someone on it the last five minutes." She "HUMPH"-ed in response, grabbed the ladder, walked back inside, and proceeded not to use it for another 10 minutes.

Back from the Valley

We got back early, before 5:30. But it was after six before I got home. Then I cleaned up, skimmed Newsweek & Time, napped, read my mail (mostly junk, as always, that needs to be recycled), listened to my fourteen phone messages, read my 41 e-mails (mostly junk), and then caught up on all the blogs I read (which took a lot of time). It is now almost 10, and I think I'll go to bed very soon.

Not sure what to write about the trip. I think I'm too tired to write about it now. So, maybe later in the week I'll post some stories. Also, last week before I left I wanted to post on Bill Moyers' recent cover article in Sojourners, so I'll try to get to that.

I can't believe that I have to get up and go to work in the morning! But I don't think I have afternoon/evening plans, so I can call everyone back who left messages.

I made it to Purgatory!

I took this test from a link on Kara's site. It's fun.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test