Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Inception Rises

Following are spoilers for two movies, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, but mostly for Inception.  If you haven't seen either movie, get thee to a Redbox and/or theater to watch.

I watched The Dark Knight Rises this weekend.  It was fantastic and I look forward to seeing it again.

Anyway, I was checking out some theories and ideas about the film on a message board at The A.V. Club and came across this post regarding the ending of TDKR relating it to Inception and it blew my mind:

I have no idea who the poster is or if the idea's original with him, but it just makes so much sense.  

What do you think?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Beef With The Beefcake

I see them on Facebook quite a bit, they’re lighting up the Twittersphere and quite visible in pop culture: Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Before diving in, a couple points of clarification: I’ve got no problem with the man Mike – never met him, from what I’ve read he seems to be a decent guy; probably someone you’d want to get a beer with.  Of course, Mike is a fictitious character in a movie played by the actor Channing Tatum.  I’ve got no beef with him – I’ve enjoyed some of his other movie roles, he seems like a good guy, and I’d be happy to buy him a pint and talk about life.

Steven Soderbergh – director of the film – no real beef with him either.  I liked his version of Ocean’s Eleven as well as Traffic and Erin Brockovich.  He’s a director with vision and I hope to emulate his success as a filmmaker someday.

E L James – author of Fifty Shades of Grey; never met the woman; obviously a successful author as well as mother.  I also hope to be a successful author someday and have a family.

So, what is my problem?  My problem is witnessing and hearing about women, especially married women, swooning over and getting ridiculous about this movie and this book.  I see it in my Facebook news feed, I see it on Twitter, I hear about it on TV, I read about it on the internet and I think, “Man, their husbands must feel like the lowest possible grade pieces of crap on the planet.”  If they don’t, there’s something far worse wrong with that marriage than the wife getting her jollies off on what amounts basically to porn.

“But guys do it all the time and make us feel like the lowest-grade pieces of crap on the planet,” says the voice of reasonable females.  “Why can’t we have some fun?”

At this point – shucks, long before this point – it’s quite easy to start pointing fingers.  But there’s really “no point in pointing fingers unless you’re pointing to the truth.”

This issue could be pared down to simply a matter of the shoe being on the other foot.  To that I say, “Guys?  Men?  Why am I, a single guy, a serial-dater speaking out about this and not any of you married folk?”  Is it just a matter of developing the stones to speak up to your spouse?  I’m sure it is easier for me to say rather than someone who is engaged in such a relationship because I don’t live with anyone else.  However, I think the main reason it may be more difficult for men to speak up about it is:

Guilt.  Generally speaking, men indulge in porn.  A LOT.  Trust me, I know – I’m a man and I have partaken more than I’d ever care to admit.  Suffice to reiterate the aforementioned, emboldened and now italicized A LOT.  Shucks, let’s throw an underscore in there too – A LOT

So who am I, who is any man to speak up and against this issue?  It’s harmless anyway, right?  It’s just you, the website/magazine and some free time.  Well…no, not really.  It creates false impressions of what sexual intimacy is supposed to be like.  You hold those impressions and resulting expectations up to your spouse and you’re going to be disappointed every time.

For me, that’s been a significant contributor to every failed relationship I’ve been involved in.  Another way of saying that is “for every relationship I’ve been involved in” (I mean, duh, if any of them had been successful I wouldn’t be single – unless I was a widower – but that’s beside the point).

Porn is such a contributor to failed relationships as drunkenness is to stupid decisions (“Nah, we don’t need a condom”/”That 395-lb. kung-fu master? I can take him”/”Maybe if I hit you hard enough you’ll learn to love me”).

Am I hitting any marks here or did I take my Crazy Pills instead of my Claritin this morning?  Am I just talking out of my butt or out of truth?

Very simply put, I say to myself and my brothers – stop getting off online and just get off the line.  Porn doesn’t make us more manly, it turns us into useless lumps of bread. 

You fought for that woman’s affections before – what happened?  Think about it.  Need help?  Of course we do!  We’re not alpha males but we are the main men in our women’s lives (or should be).  Team up, encourage each other, be accountable to each other, pray for each other – help each other.

That idea about being able to handle everything on our own? That’s a freakin’ lie.  If that was true there’d be no such thing as wingmen, partners in crime, or anybody else ever.  We are social creatures meant for friendship, fellowship and relationship. 

Think about it people – anyone can have a bunch of people they’d party with, but how many people would you go with to the funeral of a loved one?  How many people would you trust to the point you could bare your soul to them (the idea is that the number of people should be diminishing)?  And to how many people should you bare your body?

And again…I say this with no judgment or pointed fingers; for with every word I speak and point to myself.  I know what it’s like to break hearts and to have my heart broken the morning after; it’s no way to live.

Wives, let your husbands be the husband.  Let him be the man in your life.  What did you first see in him that made you fall in love with him and decide to spend the rest of your life with him?  Think about it.  Don’t just complain about your idiot husband to your friends – ask for help in ways to encourage him in being a better man, in being the man you originally fell in love with.

Don’t compare your spouse to some ideal our culture puts out and then find an endless amount of faults – you can find plenty of those without any help as we are all human and thus, inherently, beautifully flawed.

Think back and remember why you love.  Think back and remember what it was like when you first realized you were loved.  Realize mistakes and disappointments will abound and remember you committed yourself to your spouse for better or for worse, to grit your teeth and work through every issue in love and understanding, and God-given patience (He gives if you ask). 

If I was married and my wife started going cuckoo for Magic Mike or otherwise escaping into erotica I’d straight up ask, “Honey, what’s the deal?  What am I missing here that’s causing you to miss something?  Let’s talk,” and I’d text my buds asking for prayers for wisdom.

…yes…  Talk.

Talk, listen, pray, act…


And then, from what I hear, among the struggles and toils, you'll have some of the greatest times of your life ever making it all worth it.  Married people, can I get a witness?


What about singles?  Save ‘em for the stripper’s thong or for something else?  To be addressed in a future post.

In the meantime, some resources:

On sex and how it’s handled:

On porn and some ways to handle it:

On fatherood:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Next Three Years

Six months have come and gone in the very slow and rather protracted blink of an eye.

The two months prior to these last six went by even quicker.

The few months leading up to those two months seemed to take forever...

Funny how time flows, no?  Or, I suppose, funny how it's perceived.

A year ago I was in the early stages of trying to enlist in the Navy.

I was living in Columbus, Ohio, working for a natural gas company - the people for whom I worked were very gracious and supportive of my decision (especially A and T!) and made allowances for when I'd need to go off for an interview or screening with either my recruiter or at MEPS.

Shucks, a year ago I hadn't even relaunched this blog, yet.

Now, in a little over a week, I'll be wrapping up my time at Fort Meade, have a couple weeks to see my friends and family, then head out to my first duty station which is....Pearl Harbor.

Well, Pearl Harbor will be my homeport - I'll actually be working for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command - or JPAC.  I definitely recommend checking out the website, but the short description is they're responsible for searching out and recovering the remains of fallen American servicemembers from past wars. My main duty will be as a photographer.

So that's where I'll be based for the next three years!  It's going to be quite a time of growth, excitement, and travel.

As far as the blog goes, it's taken me some time to rediscover my voice after going through boot camp and then "A" School, but I think it's coming back...  Saying all that to say, I'm not sure what I'm going to do - either keep it going here or start a new one (again).  We'll see...

Off we go!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Measured Response to Amendment One (NC)

I was born and raised in North Carolina.  I love the state, I love the Triangle area, I love the Central Area of Relocated Yankees.

Right now there's an issue facing the region that's quite divisive.

On May 8, the citizens of my home state will be voting on an amendment to the State Constitution which will reinforce what apparently is already state law, that marriage would only be recognized by the state as a dedicated union between a man and a woman, not a man and a man, not a woman and a woman.

Every now and then my Facebook news feed will light up with people voicing their ire and frustration over the amendment.  I've never really seen anyone voice support for the amendment.

These folks who light up my wall also light up my life - people I count as friends who have all had meaningful impacts on my life and I am grateful, so very grateful, for every single one.  I would not be who I am had our lives not intersected for periods brief or extended.

For a period of time, from about 2003 to 2007, I attended the Summit Church in Durham.  Though it's been five years since I've been a member, I still enjoy listening to the sermons J.D. and the staff put out each week and some of my longest-lived friendships are with folks who go there.

As a church, the folks at Summit generally don't speak out on political issues; neither do I.  Frankly, I think politics are a waste of time - it usually seems to be about personal agendas rather than actually serving the citizens who voted those folks into office.  I'm thankful for the government as they do maintain order (and now supply me with a paycheck), I'm just not a fan of politics.

However, seeing as how there is such little representation for this issue from the other side, I reckon it's time to speak out.  J.D. just today put out a post on his blog about Summit's position on the issue - here is the link:

J.D. begins:
A very important amendment is being considered this week by people in our state. At our church, we try to avoid politics for the simple reason that godly people often disagree about which policies are the most helpful in society.
At the same time, there is a time, when out of love for our neighbor, civic action is appropriate and ought to be commended by the church. The church should have been vocal during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century.
I believe this is one of those times. 
 And he goes on from there in a manner more eloquent than I am able to at this point.

I'd encourage you to read it, with an open mind.  Think about it, pray about it, and anyone, especially my friends in NC, consider what J.D. has to say.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life Lessons From Contra (NES)

Last night I watched this video of a guy reflecting on his experience with the NES game Contra (video here). It got me to thinking of my own experience with the game and have thus gleaned some life lessons.

Like all platforming games, you improve your performance by repetition.  You play up to a certain point and then die because of some obstacle.  So,  you keep playing up to that obstacle until you remember what's coming and finally you're able to anticipate what's coming and either dodge or shoot the sucker and move on.

It could be some enemy that pops up out of the underbrush, or maybe the movement and attack patterns of a boss - regardless, it takes practice.

Now, the thing about Contra (and again, any platformer worth its salt), is it's difficult.  You get four chances, or lives, to make it through and defeat the Red Falcon menace.  When all four are exhausted  you get three chances to continue.

The difference is, when you die with more than one man left you pick up right where you left off.  If you lose all of your lives, you can continue from the beginning of that stage (which can be really frustrating when you have the boss on the ropes, and then it comes through with some sort of cheap sneak attack (but then again, that's the point of this whole post)).

But if you use up all of your continues you have to start all over from the very beginning.

This is how God works His sanctification out in us!

Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the p├Žan of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, Aug. 13 entry

When we "go through it but not quite," we lose a "life" but we get another shot at it.  Fail again, we get another shot at it, but we're set a little further back.  Keep on failing, keep on being impertinent and never-learning, well, then we've got to start the whole dang thing over again from the beginning.

Why waste life going through the same things again and again, going in circles, traveling at a certain pace but never really getting anywhere?  Do you ever get that feeling?

Now, maybe we're successful on a certain level - let's say, professionally.  We move up in a company but then never seem to be able to hold a steady relationship; be that one of romance or meaningful friendship.  They always start off well enough - there's the initial excitement of finding someone who shares common interests (Browncoats, are ya with me?) and you ride along on that excitement for awhile.

Now, "awhile" can be a matter of years or a matter of hours, and then for some reason or another it starts to break down.  It could be for any number of reasons, but it all comes down to this primal one: we're human.  The threat of a failed relationship is inevitable - we all face it at some point.  Until we learn how to deal with that - communication, reconciliation, commitment, love - then we'll just keep going in circles, looping around from one relationship to another, never sustaining anything more than an enthusiastic acquaintanceship - never being without someone nearby, but always and forever alone.

Or maybe it's not relationships per se, but integrity, or loyalty, or time management; until we learn whatever God is taking us through we'll just keep going in circles.  Unless you're in an over-sized teacup, that's really not much fun.

BUT - if we maintain a spirit of wanting to make it through, if we fall 20 times but stand up 21 - thanks be to God for His infinite grace!  So long as we accept the fact our hearts beat for His purpose, He is faithful when we are not; He is our 1up.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

What's God taking you through right now?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blue Like Jazz

I put the "pro" in "procrastination."  One of these days I'll get back on a regular posting schedule, but there's a lot going on right now and I'm trying to maintain my center.  Anywho, one thing I really want to talk about is the film Blue Like Jazz.

I've seen it twice now; once opening weekend and again a couple of days later.  It's that good.

Apparently, the project to produce this film started about six years ago and then they ran out of money.  Someone suggested they check out  They did, and in 30 days raised enough money (and then some) to complete production.  The film was released on April 13, 2012.  It's kind of like an indie film with really, really wide release.

Actually, that's exactly what it is.

Anyway, it's a film adaptation of Donald Miller's book of the same title, Blue Like Jazz. I read it a few years ago, back in '06 or '07 and really liked it.  I thought of it as the book I was aspiring to write.  Instead, this yahoo, Miller, beat me to it.  It's not like I've had anything published yet, anyway.  It's just one of those things.

I haven't read it since, though I enjoyed it very much.  I was excited to hear about the film, especially after seeing the trailer.  I was thinking to myself, wow!  This looks like an honest-to-goodness honest film made by Christians, not a Christian propaganda piece made by Christians!

Going into it, I was glad I had only read the book once and didn't remember much about it because then my expectations were able to be fairly broad.  I only expected that it'd be honest, it'd be real, and it'd be an authentic account of a young man struggling to make sense of his faith and the world around him.  In those senses, all expectations were fulfilled - in all other senses, I was blown away.

Now, I knew this film was going to be edgy.  It was going to be edgy because it was going to be honest; honest almost to the point of transparency.  The difference is, being honest is being real, but with discretion and thoughtfulness.  Transparency is being real but without a filter of any sort.  You get the warts and dirty laundry as it comes; that, along with the good stuff, is practically thrown at you rather than entrusted as you get better acquainted with an individual.

Transparency I can handle; honesty, that's a little tougher.

With transparency, it's all out there; you know what to expect.  It's simpler, though it's messier.  Plus it's similar to how I primarily function when I'm not paying attention.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve; I'm typically on or off in any given situation - there's no room for in-between, just chilling - again - when I'm not paying attention.

Honesty?  Well, that's different.  It's scary.  God is honest with us, but He's not transparent.  He doesn't lay all His cards out on the table; He entrusts with a little bit of knowledge, bit by bit.  And that's how it's to be in all relationships.

You don't lay out all your cards at once; you wait and see if the individual across from you is trustworthy, for each card is a piece of your soul being revealed.  How do you know that person isn't just going to take that piece of you and trash it?

Alas, I digress...

Honesty is more difficult than transparency because you can't lay out a map of how to predict the other person's behavior, you can't just categorize individuals and make the business of a relationship so easy to deal with.

People are people - not things to be put in boxes.  All areas of our lives bleed over into the other and back and forth, and vice versa, and so on and so forth.

I have to let people be people and that's scary because getting each successive card also takes commitment - it takes time and a commitment to share some of your self with this person.

It's scary on one hand because what if you commit yourself to a lot of time with this person only to find you don't like what you're finding?  Or regardless of if you like what you discover or not, you realize it just won't work; what then?

It's scary on the other hand because what if, card by card, piece by piece, you reveal more of who you are and then the other person decides he/she doesn't like what he/she sees?  The prospect of rejection looms over us all at some point.

So, what does that have to do with Blue Like Jazz?  Like I said, it's an honest movie.  The narrative doesn't play its full deck immediately.  But like when you get to know someone, bit-by-bit we learn more about it and I was thinking to myself, how on earth is this ever going to come back around to Jesus in a meaningful way?

In its honesty and candor, the filmmakers pull no punches as to what life was like for Miller in college, and they accurately portray the life of a statistically typical college freshman in all its drinking and debauchery and mischief - but never to the point of exploitation.  That is to say, there are no sex scenes (there's not even a kiss!), the cussing is realistic but not gratuitous, and one particular prank that is pulled...well, it's done and I was shocked.

Me - I was shocked at what I saw portrayed in the movie.  I was actually uncomfortable.  My self-righteousitis flared up and I found myself thinking, how on earth is God going to be glorified in this??!

Well, it all comes together in the end.  When the final scene started taking on its heft and depth, my heart was in my throat and I nearly cried.

The story makes me think of my own: raised in the church, lived as a naive Jesus Freak in high school, went off to college out of my Christian bubble and began to question my faith.  I went through my own prodigal years, my time of questioning and doubt, my time of pain.  None of that weakened my faith just as the first 7/8s of the film don't weaken the story; all of that is tinder for the fire of God's love - in my heart and in what's communicated in the heart of the film.

So, for the doubters, the philosophers, the seekers, the founders, the whomevers, I highly recommend this film.  It is enjoyable, it's fun, it's poignant, it's sad - it's a meaningful dramatization of the human experience.

And if you're like me, wondering what some of the songs in the movie are, the one that involves a bear and a bicycle is called, Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle by Be Your Own Pet.

The song featured in the trailer and in the film when Miller hits his catharsis is called Taos and it's by Menomena.

So that's all.  Go see it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Love Armadillo Hide

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we wake up in time to form up in the day room by 04:45.  When it's warm enough - as it has been the last few occasions - we go running as a detachment.

After taking an accountability muster in the day room, we go out and form up in the street for stretches and then get into three ranks and get to it.

Along the way we have someone calling out the cadence.  One of my favorites is "Runnin' Through the Jungle" in which a narrative is told in the first-person about running through the jungle early in the day and encountering different jungle animals.  The animals threaten the runner, but the runner warns each of the creatures that if they don't yield they will each be turned into a battle helmet, a parka liner, a pair of skivvies, or a pair of boots.  Each of these articles of clothing are necessary parts of a sailor's uniform.

With that in mind, not too long ago at church someone mentioned the armor of God and then we went through the different pieces of the armor.  When we got to the helmet of salvation I couldn't help but think of "battle helmet."  I mean, after all, where else do you wear any kind of helmet other than in battle?  In the context of armor, that is.

"Battle helmet, battle helmet," I thought.  The thought was like a mouse with a lit dynamite stick tied to its tail, scurrying around in my mind seeking safety.  And then it hit me: "I looooove armadillo hide!  / Makes my battle helmet fit me just-a right!"

The helmet of salvation made out of armadillo hide?  I hardly doubt that's what Paul was thinking when he wrote his letter to the Ephesians, but what if...?

In the cadence, the sailor is running along on his mission.  He comes across a threat - an armadillo - let's say a rabid armadillo because I don't think armadillos are particularly menacing (and probably not actually found in the jungle), but I digress.

Or maybe the armadillo isn't exactly a threat, but still an obstacle.  So the sailor says, "Armadillo, armadillo, you better move, / before I make a battle helmet out of you!"  Clearly the sailor is without a helmet of his own and in need of one seeing as he is on a dangerous mission running through the jungle.  So instead of quailing at the first sign of resistance, as innocuous as an armadillo could be (unless it's rabid), the sailor soldiers on and takes that obstacle and makes it an asset; what was once threatening to impede his mission is now helping him.

And ain't the spiritual journey of faith just like that?  Are not the trials and temptations we face meant to test us and make us stronger?  Do those trials and temptations then not become assets to us?  We have the experience of getting burned by sin, by pain, by loss but we conquer those trials - by the grace of God - and we are more than conquerors because what once was a threat is not merely removed, it is re-formed into aiding us!  

As we are strengthened by the testing of our faith, does that not strengthen our assurance in our salvation in Jesus Christ?  So doesn't that old armadillo, in a sense, become a helmet that assures us of our salvation?

What if that's what it's like?  We are in a spiritual battle; what if the armor is supplied to us from our Lord via on-site procurement?

Just a thought....