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The Best of (and History of) Arts & Faith


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#1 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 11:28 AM

Four score and seven years ago, it was 1922, and the Internet was somewhat smaller than it is today.

But sometime between then and now -- specifically August 1999 -- was birthed the OnFilm Yahoo! Group, an e-mail-only list founded by Shari Lloyd and featuring trailblazers such as Peter Thomas Chattaway, J. Robert Parks, Jeffrey Overstreet, Alex Klages, Jason Morehead, Ed Rock, Don A. Smith, and, yes, even M. Dale Prins (going by the moniker "Matthew Prins") -- most of whom cut their teeth on the newsgroup rec.music.christian in the 1990s. The tagline: "A forum to discuss movies from a Christian perspective. Many Christians go to the movies more than they go to church and film has been called the most powerful narrative experience of our time. This is the place for fans, critics, and thinkers of great thoughts to hash through the implications of what they see, especially as it relates to their faith."

While OnFilm did continue (and, although relatively quiet, survives to this day), in April 2001, OnFilm member Doug Cummings started a threaded message board at his website Chiaroscuro. The intent, as I recall, was a more serious discussion of film than some of what was being posted on OnFilm. In March 2002, after some problems with the message board software at Chiaroscuro, Doug Cummings, Steve Lansingh, and Jeffrey Overstreet started a new message board using the more advanced and stable Novogate software.

Concerns about the long-term viability of Novogate (and probably wanting to have a more user-friendly URL) led to, in June 2003, the closing of the Novogate board and the creation of a forum at Promontory Film by Steve Greydanus, Jeffrey Overstreet, and someone whom we will just call Alan. This was the first forum to share the look and the style of the current Arts & Faith Forum (and the first forum in which the archives are fully available today). Three months later, presumably to bring in arts discussion outside of cinema, Promontory Film became Promontory Arts, but otherwise stayed more or less unchanged. Around April of 2004 came the first iteration of the Arts & Faith Forum -- again, mostly just a changed name. The Arts & Faith went under revisions over the next five years as the improvements to the forum's software were released, but while people left and people came, during that time the board stayed surprisingly stable -- no name change, no major software change. In May 2009, while staying mostly the same functionally (and while keeping the same name) the board moved under the warm, glowing, warming glow of Image Journal, where it remains to this day.

Anyway. Inspired by digressions in this thread and the realization that some of us have been at this now for a full decade, I think it's time for us to narcissistically go back and talk about some of the highlights we've had with A&F et al. over the years, be they favorite threads, people who used to be around here that we...oh, y'all are smart enough to figure out what to talk about without me coming up with a sample list.

To start, I have a great deal of fondness for this dorky thread.

Dale

[Thanks to PTC, MLeary, and Andy Whitman for history help.]

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 22 September 2009 - 01:56 PM.


#2 SDG

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 11:49 AM

QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Sep 22 2009, 12:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
To start, I have a great deal of fondness for this dorky thread.

Yes. But some of the beats (in this and other threads) are missing, because of retroactive self-censorship by people on their way out the door.

For those who don't know, ellen (e2c's) Best Smilie Ever at the end of the grammar thread was occasioned by a now-deleted post with the interjection "Grammar got run over by a reindeer."

It's kind of like hearing a favorite piece of orchestral music performed by an undersized orchestra, or played from a tinny recording. If you know it well enough, you can supply the missing bits. If not, you're out of luck.

A good reason to actually include quoted text when responding to people.

Edited by SDG, 22 September 2009 - 11:48 AM.


#3 M. Leary

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:01 PM

[Placeholder for someone with a better memory than I to interject. I can't remember if Novogate was the next board, or if there was a board before Novogate. And I can't tell when the Novogate board actually started, except that it was started no later than May 2002.]

Between the Camelot.rec/OnFilm days and Novogate came a version of the board that was hosted at Doug Cummings Chiaroscuro which Stef Loy famously described as a "reverse explosion" board because of the way replies to topics were arranged hierarchically. It was so Web 1.0. This is the version of the board that brought everyone together who participated at the Novogate forum.

Right?

Edited by MLeary, 22 September 2009 - 12:02 PM.


#4 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:14 PM

QUOTE (MLeary @ Sep 22 2009, 12:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Between the Camelot.rec/OnFilm days and Novogate came a version of the board that was hosted at Doug Cummings Chiaroscuro which Stef Loy famously described as a "reverse explosion" board because of the way replies to topics were arranged hierarchically. It was so Web 1.0. This is the version of the board that brought everyone together who participated at the Novogate forum.


Ah, yes! The missing link! That helps immensely.

Dale


#5 M. Leary

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:33 PM

And I think there was even an additional step that involved moving from Chiaroscuro to The Film Forum for a time. Or vice-versa. Or maybe not at all.

#6 Andy Whitman

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:35 PM

QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Sep 22 2009, 12:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
But sometime between then and now -- specifically August 1999 -- was birthed the OnFilm eGroup, an e-mail-only list founded by Shari Lloyd and featuring trailblazers such as Peter Thomas Chattaway, J. Robert Parks, Jeffrey Overstreet, Alex Klages, Jason Morehead, Ed Rock, Don A. Smith, and, yes, even M. Dale Prins (going by the moniker "Matthew Prins") -- most of whom cut their teeth on the newsgroup rec.music.christian in the late 1990s.

Rec.music.christian was earlier than that, wasn't it? I definitely recall conversations there with Peter, J. Robert, Jason, Ed, and yes, you, Matthew Prins, and I'm pretty sure I threw my hands up in disgust sometime in the mid-to-late '90s after Biff and Muffy and all their buddies got AOL accounts and started posting things like "DC Talk R0000LZ D0000D!!!! LOL BFF WTF Etc!!!!." Some of y'all have been around longer than that chronology indicates.

#7 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:35 PM

Better history now posted in post no. 1.

Dale

#8 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:40 PM

QUOTE (MLeary @ Sep 22 2009, 12:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And I think there was even an additional step that involved moving from Chiaroscuro to The Film Forum for a time. Or vice-versa. Or maybe not at all.

Looking through archive.org, it looks like Chiaroscuro went straight to Novogate, thanks to the suggestion of someone here. It's possible there was a board at The Film Forum that led into the Chiaroscuro group, but I don't recall one right now. I'll take a look, though.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 22 September 2009 - 12:47 PM.


#9 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:50 PM

FWIW, this is a modified version of the account that I wrote here four years ago:
The Phantom Tollbooth created the OnFilm YahooGroup (or was it still an eGroup then?) discussion list in August 1999; I don't know how others got involved, but I was invited to join by one of the PT editors, who had probably seen me go on and on and on about film at rec.music.christian. The discussion list still exists, but the traffic has been REALLY slow the last few years.

Doug Cummings, who created the Movies & Ministry website (which used to be here) in 1998, subscribed to OnFilm for a while, but he eventually left the group and ditched his original website in favour of Chiaroscuro: Spirituality in the Cinema. This new website had a message board, which I believe Doug co-founded with Steve Lansingh of The Film Forum (now renamed The Joy of Movies). Lansingh, too, was a former OnFilm subscriber, and he had created the 'Film Forum' column at Christianity Today's website in November 1999 before passing the reins to Jeffrey Overstreet (another OnFilm subscriber) in February 2001.

Eventually, technical problems with the Chiaroscuro message board led us to create the Film & Spirituality Conversation message board at Novogate in March 2002, which was eventually renamed The Promontory Film & Spirituality Conversation, after an organization that Jeffrey was associated with at that time. The renaming happened partly because Doug had grown increasingly disenchanted with religious film criticism; he eventually scuttled Chiaroscuro in 2003 and replaced it with his new website Film Journey. Chiaroscuro's place as one of the board's three sponsors was taken by Decent Films, the website run by Steven D. Greydanus, who had joined us in the Chiaroscuro message-board days.

I can't remember why we moved exactly, but in the summer of 2003 we started a new message board at PromontoryFilm.com, which then became PromontoryArts.com, and then eventually became ArtsAndFaith.com. Fortunately, all the posts made at PF and PA are incorporated in the archives at A&F, whereas the posts that were made to the earlier message boards now exist only in fragments, whether in personal archives like my own or in sites like web.archive.org.
There have been other interesting offshoots since then, but I don't know how many of them are supposed to be "on the record", as it were. Filmwell, a group blog that was created earlier this year and consists entirely of current and former A&Fers, would be an obvious example.

#10 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:50 PM

QUOTE (Andy Whitman @ Sep 22 2009, 12:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Sep 22 2009, 12:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...on the newsgroup rec.music.christian in the late 1990s.

Rec.music.christian was earlier than that, wasn't it? I definitely recall conversations there with Peter, J. Robert, Jason, Ed, and yes, you, Matthew Prins, and I'm pretty sure I threw my hands up in disgust sometime in the mid-to-late '90s after Biff and Muffy and all their buddies got AOL accounts and started posting things like "DC Talk R0000LZ D0000D!!!! LOL BFF WTF Etc!!!!." Some of y'all have been around longer than that chronology indicates.

You're absolutely right -- *I* started in college in the late '90s, but some of you were around prior to that. Fixed.

Dale

#11 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 12:56 PM

QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Sep 22 2009, 12:50 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
FWIW, this is a modified version of the account that I wrote here four years ago:

You know, I was thinking there was something like that around somewhere, but I couldn't find it -- gracias.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 22 September 2009 - 12:56 PM.


#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:17 PM

QUOTE (M. Dale Prins @ Sep 22 2009, 09:28 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Concerns about the long-term viability of Novogate (and probably wanting to have a more user-friendly URL) led to, in June 2003, the closing of the Novogate board and the creation of the first iteration of the Arts & Faith Forum by someone whom we will just call Alan. The Arts & Faith went under revisions over the next six years as the improvements to the forum's software were released, but while people left and people came, during that time the board stayed surprisingly stable -- no name change, no major software change.

FWIW, this isn't quite accurate, or at any rate quite complete. As I mentioned in my previous post, the board's address was PromontoryFilm.com and then PromontoryArts.com before it became ArtsAndFaith.com -- and archive.org happens to have this page which indicates two things: one, that the switchover from PF to PA had come by December 2003; and two, that Alan had been brought on board as a primary contact person (due to his role on the technical side or whatever) but he didn't quite "create" the board, certainly not on his own, since it was still going by the name of Jeff's organization.

Based on what we have at archive.org, it would seem that the board changed its name from PromontoryArts.com to ArtsAndFaith.com sometime between March and May 2004. Jeff and Steve remained administrators until March 2005.

#13 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:27 PM

History updated again, this time with some help from PTC's history (and more archivedotorging).

(Edited to note:
QUOTE (Peter T Chattaway @ Sep 22 2009, 01:17 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
FWIW, this isn't quite accurate, or at any rate quite complete.

Yeah, I was changing it (after reading your earlier account) while you were posting that message. It should be better now.)

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins, 22 September 2009 - 01:28 PM.


#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:49 PM

'Tis indeed.

One slight other change I'd recommend: Right now, in your third paragraph, you refer to Steve Lansingh (who was a co-administrator in the Chiaroscuro/Novogate days), and in the fourth paragraph you refer to someone simply as "Steve" without noting that this is, in fact, a different Steve (i.e. Steve Greydanus, who was an administrator in the late Novogate, Promontory and early Arts & Faith days). I don't think Lansingh followed us to Promontory/A&F; if memory serves, it was around that time that he stopped reviewing films more or less altogether.

And now I'm getting weird flashbacks to historical discussions re: the confusion between James the son of Zebedee, who appears in the gospels before dying in Acts 12:2, and James the brother of Jesus, who is first mentioned by name, as a follower of Jesus' that is, in Acts 12:17.

#15 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:56 PM

Got it. Thanks.

Dale

#16 M. Leary

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 02:02 PM

Yes, Steve the Elder - that is, the Lansingh bowed out before the Promontory shift. I am almost positive his exit coincided with his last CT Film Forum column, which could serve to provide a firmer date.

#17 M. Leary

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 02:12 PM

Ah, here is The Film Forum link. At the beginning of 2002, Steve linked to the discussion board at Doug's Chiaroscuro board with a link that said "Forum." I think the tacit understanding was that the discussion board belonged to Doug but served both websites as several writers at The Film Forum were very active in the conversation at Doug's board. So when the board turned to Novogate, it was essentially a blend of OnFilm, the Chiaroscuro discussion community, and The Film Forum discussion community.

Edited by MLeary, 22 September 2009 - 02:12 PM.


#18 Persona

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 06:36 PM

QUOTE (MLeary @ Sep 22 2009, 12:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Between the Camelot.rec/OnFilm days and Novogate came a version of the board that was hosted at Doug Cummings Chiaroscuro which Stef Loy famously described as a "reverse explosion" board because of the way replies to topics were arranged hierarchically.
Right?

For the record, I thought I referred to as a "reverse exposion of the board" because it reversely exploded.

Serious. First, it exploded. And we panicked cuz we had nowhere to chat. Then we had another place. Then it exploded again, only in reverse. And that sucked even bigger. So someone fixed it again.

I'm just sayin', that's how I remember it.

And what of the Music Forum we had for a little while there, right before we went to A&F? Leary and I loved that little board. No mention of it here... I think we only had it for a few months, I thought it was loads of fun. Don't know what it was, don't know where it went, don't know where to find it...

My favorite moment over the years was when Mr. Sprins came on board. Is that how he spelled it?

And the Looney who went nuts over -- Lynch, was it? Or was it Donnie Darko? We had a looney on here for a while, no doubt about it.

Edited by Persona, 22 September 2009 - 06:37 PM.


#19 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 06:55 PM

QUOTE (Persona @ Sep 22 2009, 06:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My favorite moment over the years was when Mr. Sprins came on board. Is that how he spelled it?

Donald Napoleon Sprim, username dnsprim. Maybe he ought to make a return visit sometime...

Donal...uh, I mean Dale

#20 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 06:58 PM

Persona wrote:
: And the Looney who went nuts over -- Lynch, was it? Or was it Donnie Darko? We had a looney on here for a while, no doubt about it.

I believe it was David Lynch. But a search of the board doesn't turn up anything promising. I wonder if that person, too, deleted all his comments. (If memory serves, he also posted a handful of Lynchian raves in the comments section at Jeff's blog.)