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  • About my avatar
    Modern Times
  • Favorite movies
    In no particular order: Dekalog, Ikiru, Magnolia, Au hasard Balthazar, Winter Light, The Third Man, All About Eve, Late Spring, The Man Who Planted Trees, The House is Black, City Lights, The Night of the Hunter, Rosetta, and The Sun Shines Bright
  • Favorite music
    Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, The Decemberists, Fiona Apple, Elliot Smith, Pearl Jam, Sleater-Kinney, Ben Harper, The Who, Sigur Ros, Bob Marley, Brandi Carlile, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday
  • Favorite creative writing
    Dostoyevsky is my favorite, though I also enjoy Flannery O'Connor, George Eliot, Nikolai Gogol, Graham Greene, Charles Dickens, Mikhail Bulgakov, Wendell Berry, Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace, and Marilynne Robinson

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  1. Thanks to everyone who has posted here. I am grateful for the reflections. I read this thread about a week ago, but life got in the way before I could post my own thoughts. I didn't grow up in an Evangelical environment, but had a traditional conversion experience while I was in High School. After some years of academic wandering in college, I decided to pursue a career in academia, and received a PhD in Theological Studies in 2008. I've since found a full-time teaching position in a Christian seminary and, as a result, have moved a couple of times. The moves in the last few years have created a fair amount of upheaval in our personal lives, and have, as a result, created opportunity for reflection on this subject. Underneath that rather traditional backdrop, I have not felt settled in the church for a very long time. There have certainly been things about it that appealed to me--a sense of care and connection motivated by a shared love of God and neighbor and opportunities for service to "the least of these" being two of the most significant. My wife and I have made a consistent habit of serving in each church we've been part of, and while that has led us, at times, into direct conflict with others, the service has been the most valuable factor in our being able to abide or persevere or just plain hang on in church communities. The sense of dislocation has strengthened in recent years as I've chafed against pressures to conform to a particular image of Christianity that simply does not fit what I believe to be the heart of the gospel. This started in the '90s with pushback against new, bland church music that seemed designed for little other purpose but to elicit an emotional reaction from me (a trend that has only grown, to my dismay), to being shunned and looked down upon by family and "friends" for not fitting their image of true Christianity, to what we've all seen in the past several years with the monstrosity of Christian Republicanism, where someone's stockpile of guns matters more than the life of an impoverished brown kid. Church life has felt very much like an accumulation of wounds--not from the "baddies" out there, but from the "good guys" on the inside. One of the early church fathers described the church as safe harbor. Despite the issues noted above, it has sometimes been that for me, not often through organized services or studies, but through a few key relationships that continue to bear fruit, to challenge and encourage and love me. However, when I look at organized activities and megachurch pastors, I see less a safe harbor for the weak and broken and more politicking or fighting the supposed culture war against those same people. My portrait of the church remains terribly conflicted. I suspect it will always be so. I continue to actively engage in the church because I can't shake Jesus and I continue to see a strong connection between him and the church he has created. I appreciate very much Mike's earlier language of believing as discipline. Attending an organized service is an extension of that discipline for me. And continuing to serve the church remains a significant way in which my belief makes itself tangible.
  2. John

    Spinning Plates

    I suspect this documentary would be of interest to several around here. While I had some issues with the structuring, its interest in three groups/families of restauranteurs in three very different restaurants led to some interesting conversations around the value and function of gathering for a meal around a table, the importance of meaningful community, and the relationship between innovation and the fundamentals of table fellowship. If this all sounds vaguely (or not) ecclesiological, well, that's where it sent me. Anyone seen it? Thoughts?
  3. Au hasard Balthasar (Bresson, 1966) Certified Copy (Kiarostami, 2010) City Lights (Chaplin, 1931) The Decalogue (Kieslowski, 1989) The Immigrant (Gray, 2014) Late Spring (Ozu, 1949) The Man Who Planted Trees (Back, 1988) The Son (Dardenne, 2002) The Sun Shines Bright (Ford, 1953) The Third Man (Reed, 1949) Darren, "This Land is Mine" is worth your while. A really interesting film. I had similar aspirations for a Renoir study a while back, and have recently been toying with giving it another go.
  4. I enjoyed the film, though it did feel a bit uneven in places. It spurred me to write about it.
  5. I've read four of the Port William novels (Hannah Coulter, Jayber Crow, The Memory of Old Jack, A Place on Earth), and none of them gets within even forty years of 2008. Indeed, all of the novels that I know of were published before 2008, making the Wikipedia claim a strange one. I have heard there's a recently (2012) published collection of Port William stories (A Place in Time) that has a story set in 1991.
  6. Great connection, Darren. I thought of Tenenbaums several times when Stiller was on screen, but hadn't made that specific link. That particular moment between Stiller and Grodin was when the film took a real turn toward the positive for me--the vulnerability of Stiller's character brings a real sense of humanity to the film, just like that moment in Tenenbaums. This also struck me as something of an All About Eve for documentarians.
  7. Whew, what a difficult film to watch. That said, German accomplishes something pretty interesting here--he offers what is essentially a material vision of humanity, focusing on the concrete world, and especially the tangible details of bodily solids, liquids, and gases. The immersive sound design and the crowded frames bring us this troubling vision in unrelenting and innovative fashion. And yet . . . the question of deity continually breaks in. Not that German ever offers a moment of release or transcendence. Rather, the film seems to push so hard in the direction of the material and the imminent that the question of deity seems to naturally insert itself into the proceedings. That it does so in the midst of this painful vision of "human" life makes it all the more significant. Let me also say simply that I've never seen anything like this. I've seen it compared to Fellini's SATYRICON, and while I think that is helpful in part, German's film (and particularly his framing/sound) move beyond the bounds of Fellini's film. I'm not sure I've seen a better example of mingling disgust and wonder.
  8. Thanks for the heads up, Darren.
  9. My journals go back to 2003, and I've averaged about 190 per year in that time, from a high of 260 in the last year before we had kids, to lows of 133 & 134 in the year I wrote my dissertation and last year, when we made a major move to a new city. I can see staying steadily in the 150-200 range, as I suspect adding more films than that would cut into my thinking/writing time, which I already feel is limited.
  10. These are my favorites... -Certified Copy -Poetry -Once Upon a Time in Anatolia -Another Year -The Kid with a Bike -Lucky Life -The Tree of Life -Two Days, One Night -The Immigrant -Nostalgia for the Light -A Separation -Tuesday, After Christmas
  11. So my copy of the Blu-ray arrived yesterday. I'm really looking forward to seeing this again.
  12. SUNNY IN THE DARK is one I've had on my radar. Director Courtney Ware premiered a short film called BLUR last year at the AFI Dallas Fest that had a nice visual sensibility. SUNNY is her first feature, and I've been wanting to check it out.
  13. John


    Good stuff, Jeffrey. I appreciate your attentiveness to the specificity of the song, as well as the spiritual turn it takes as it nears its end. SK don't often invoke explicitly religious themes, but when they do I find myself nodding along (see Sympathy off of their album One Beat for another great example). One editing note on your piece: the drummer's first name is Janet, not Karen. I am digging this album as well. I probably haven't gone two whole days without listening to it since it came out. I am captivated by the tight and purposeful arrangements of these songs. These ladies are going somewhere on this album, and every time I feel like I'm just trying to keep up with them.
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