The Matrix

Posted in Movies, Staublog in April 2, 1999 by | No Comments »

A Promise of Justice : The Eighteen-Year Fight to Save Four Innocent Men


David Protess & Rob Warden

Posted in Books, Staublog in August 1, 1998 by | No Comments »

With New Eyes: Fresh Vision for the Soul

Harvest House

Margaret Becker

Posted in Books, Staublog in July 1, 1998 by | No Comments »

Simon Birch

Simon Birch: Ian Michael Smith
Joe Wenteworth: Joseph Mazzello
Rebecca Wenteworth: Ashley Judd
Ben Goodrich: Oliver Platt
The Rev. Russell: David Strathairn

Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Suggested by the novel “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG (for language, emotional thematic elements, and an accident scene).

Central Theme
There is a God who has a purpose for your life. Be patient, have faith and you will discover it.

Born the size of a human hand, Simon Birch’s parents were told that he wouldn’t live through the week.Then the month. Then the year. Twelve years later, Simon is still alive, and still incredibly undersized due to his Morquio Syndrome, a disorder that causes Dwarfism. He constantly reminds his best friend Joe that God has a special plan for him. Meanwhile, Joe spends his time closed off from his mother’s new suitors, preoccupied with the knowledge that he has never been told who his real father is. When fate intervenes in the form of a foul ball during a little league game, Joe understands that he will never learn the truth; unless Simon is right about there being a purpose for everything, that is. A hopeful, heartwarming tale that the whole family can enjoy. Based on John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany.‚© Hollywood Pictures.

A sweet film that explores Gods purposes, through the lives of two boys, one with Morquio Syndrome, a disorder that causes Dwarfism, and the other who is the bastard son of a mother who dies in a tragic accident. The church is dutifully cold an unloving towards the young Simon whose family is irreligious and who is possesses an inexplicable confidence about his own destiny.

The Christmas pageant is an irreverent disaster, but not a far-fetched rendition of what happens in small churches nationwide every year.

Beliefs num
–There is a God.
–God has a purpose for everyone and everything.
–It takes faith and patience to discover your personal destiny.
¢€œThe church will not always encourage you in your pursuit of God’s plan for your life.
–Young people think theologically.
–Young friends shape each other’s understanding of God.
–People who are different are welcome in God’s family.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What are the artistic merits of this film?
–What elements common to human experience did you resonate with in this film?
–What elements in word, deed, theme or behavior created a dissonance with who you are or want to be spiritually?
–What does this film tell us about who God is? Who humans are? What we are seeking in life?
–Does God have a purpose for everyone and everything?
–Can you find a purpose without faith or does faith ¢â‚¬Ëœcreate” a destiny for you?

Provocative Quotes byline
–He is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have I owe to Simon. It is Simon that made me a believer.
==Joe as adult.
–She means cute like a baby turtle is cute. Girls don’t kiss baby turtles.” How do you know, asks Joe. “I just know. If you were me, you’d know, too.
==S.B to Joe when Marjorie says he is cute.
–Things will be different once God makes me a hero¢â‚¬¦I don’t need proof. I have faith.
–Maybe God sent him to be your father. God has a plan for everybody, even Mr. Ben Goodrich.
==S.B. to Joe.
— What do coffee and donuts have to do with God? Whoever said the church needs a continental breakfast? I doubt if God is interested in our church activities. If God has made the bake sale a priority, we’re all in a lot of trouble.
==S.B.’s reaction to the church fundraiser.
–Your parents don’t go to church. That’s because they don’t belong¢â‚¬¦and neither do you.
==Sunday School teacher to S.B.
–I’m sorry Joe. It was out of my hands. I’m God’s instrument. There are no accidents. God has a plan for all of us.
==S.B. after death of Joe’s mom.
–There is no plan. There is no God. It’s like believing in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. Stop trying to make sense of it all. You can’t.
–Did she tell you about my destiny? I’m going to be a hero. I don’t know how. I keep waiting for God to give me a sign¢â‚¬¦like the burning bush or the 10 commandments. I’ve been patient, but I’m running out of time.
==S.B. to Ben
–How could we have known everything was working together for a reason?
–Does God have a plan for us? I think God made me the way I am for a reason. I think I’m God’s instrument¢â‚¬¦that he’s going to use me to carry out his plan.
–It’s wonderful to have faith Simon, but let’s not get carried away.
–Simon. What I’m trying to say is that all of us around here need a break from you¢â‚¬¦once this all settles down and Marjorie Albright’s father accepts your apology. We’ll talk about your coming back.
==Pastor to S.B. after Xmas Pageant fiasco.
–I want to know that there is a reason for things. I want to be certain¢â‚¬¦but now I am not so sure. I want you to tell me that God has a plan for me¢â‚¬¦a plan for all of us¢â‚¬¦Please.
==S.B. to Pastor.
–Simon¢â‚¬¦I can’t.
==Pastor to S.B.
–I was thinking. Maybe this was your destiny¢â‚¬¦to help me find my father.
==Joe to S.B.
–Are the kids OK? They all made it? Did you see the way the kids all listened to me because of the way I look? That window was just my size. That was 200 Mississippi¢â‚¬¦Promise you’ll take my baseball cards. Joe. Gotta go now.
–Ben Goodrich legally adopted me just two days before my 13th birthday, Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for bringing him into my life. With Simon’s help I finally found my real father.
–There is a prayer I say for Simon Birch. It’s the same prayer he said at my mother’s grave that night I found him in the darkness¢â‚¬¦Into paradise may the angels lead you.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in May 18, 1998 by | No Comments »

Falling Forward

EMI / Sparrow

Margaret Becker

Posted in Music, Staublog in April 21, 1998 by | No Comments »

Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X


Tom Beaudoin

Posted in Books, Staublog in April 1, 1998 by | No Comments »

Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for A More Joyful Christmas

Simon and Schuster

Bill McKibben

Central Theme
Few experiences have been drained of their joy like gift giving at Christmas, but limiting our spending and refocusing our time, energies and money can help us capture the deeper spirit and opportunities of the season.

¢â‚¬ËœChristmas should be something to enjoy rather than endure. Instead of an island of bustle, it should be an island of peace amid a busy life. We want so much more out of Christmas: more music, more companionship, contemplation, more time outdoors, more love.’

Setting limits on how much we spend on gifts helps accomplish this and frees up money for the poor and time for more productive and restorative where were activities during the Christmas Holiday.

Beliefs num
–Christmas gift-giving has become burdensome and wearying.
–We lavish gifts upon people who don’t need more stuff.
–We could be mindful of the need of the poor.
–Christmas could regain it’s freshness is we focused on what matters.
–We were made for relationship with the natural world, community with each other and for a relationship with the divine.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Do you agree Christmas gift-giving has gone over the top?
–What could you do about it?
–Why is simplifying so difficult to do?
–Who could benefit most from our gifts in this season?
–Is gift-giving at Christmas an example of an area in which Christians should be counter-cultural? How so?

Provocative Quotes byline
–We were asking our families, our friends, and our church of brethren to try and limit the amount of money they spend upon the holiday to a hundred dollars–to celebrate the holiday with a seventh or eighth of the normal American materialism.
==Bill McKibben
–It was abundantly clear who the grinches of our culture really are: those relentless commercial forces who have spent more than a century trying to convince us that Christmas does come from a store, or a catalog, or a virtual mall on the Internet.
==Bill McKibben.
–Once, after an evening program filled with carol-singing and kid’s stories and a general proselytizing for the idea of simpler Christmases, one woman said to me: “Thank you for giving me permission to celebrate Christmas away I’ve always wanted to.”
==Bill McKibben
–The new Christmas was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm by the emerging class of American entrepreneurs who saw in it a a source of a vast potential wealth… By the end of the 19th century, his Christmas trade alone netted F.W. Woolworth half a million dollars. “This is our harvest time-make it pay,’ he instructed his managers.
==Bill McKibben
–For most of human history, people lived in tightly knit communities in which each individual had a specified place and in which there was a strong sense of shared fate. The sense of belonging, of being part of something larger than oneself, was an important source of comfort.
==Paul Wachtel. The Poverty of Affluence
–I have no ready-made set of directions for how to have a ‘proper’ simple holiday; only the notion that setting a limit on how much money you spend may help.
==Bill McKibben.
–I think we were made for some relationship with the divine, I think Christmas offers one of the most comfortable ways to begin and renew that relationship, at least for those of us who have grown up the Christian tradition.
==Bill McKibben

Posted in Books, Staublog in January 1, 1998 by | No Comments »

As Good as It Gets

Melvin Udall: Jack Nicholson
Carol Connelly: Helen Hunt
Simon Bishop: Greg Kinnear
Frank Sachs: Cuba Gooding Jr.

Directed by James L. Brooks. Written by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks. Running time: 138 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for strong language, thematic elements, nudity and a beating).

Central Theme
Most people live lives of quiet desperation, fearing this could be as good as it gets, but even the most entrapped person can change and experience a richer life.

Melvin Udall is a successful romance writer who is anything but romantic. He is an obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, racist, homophobic and generally hateful person, until he finds himself bound up in relationships with two people and a dog he can’t avoid.

Carol is the waitress where Melvin eats lunch every day and is one of the only people who attempts conversation with Melvin. Her son is a severe asthmatic and her financial situation prohibits her from getting the best medical care. She is gutsy and tough, but also disarmingly vulnerable and kind, even to Melvin. When she decides not to go onto work to care for her son, Melvin selfishly foots the bill for medical treatment just so she’ll come back and serve him. But this act of kindness changes their relationship.

Simon Bishop is an artsy, gay and lives in the apartment across the hall from Melvin. Melvin’s cruel attitude towards gays is matched by his mistreatment of Simon’s dog, but when Simon is brutally beaten and robbed, Melvin is called upon to take care of the dog. Melvin and the dog become best friends and when Simon returns home to recuperate, Melvin is forced into a relationship with Simon so he can keep his contact with the dog.

The story moves towards a humanizing conclusion when Melvin, Simon and Carol take a two-day road trip and we see Melvin earnestly trying to become a better man. The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

Note all the crosses in Carol’s apartment. They are in almost every room and possibly a sublte explanation for her tenacious commitment to doing the right thing and being the right kind of person.

Beliefs num
–Anyone can change.
–Beneath it all most of us want to become better people.
–We are trapped in our own patterns, mostly selfish.
–Only by putting others ahead of ourselves will we find release from selfishness.
–Such an act is counterintuitive, but in losing our life we find it.
–The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Have you ever become friends with someone who you initially couldn’t stomach?
–Is there some redeemable good in every person?
–Can anybody change?
–What does it take for a person to truly change?

Provocative Quotes byline
–This is New York. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
==Melvin as he drops the dog down the laundry chute.
–I work all the time, so don’t ever interrupt me.
–I’ve got Jews at my table.
==Melvin complains at lunch.
–We’re all gonna die. I will. You will. Sure sounds like your son will.
==Melvin’s heartless remarks to Carol about her son.
–Why are you doing this to me?
==Simon to his assailant’s
–What if this is as good as it gets?
==Melvin in lobby to other patients waiting for the shrink.
–How can you diagnose me as an obsessive-compulsive and then act like I have some choice about =barging in?
==Melvin to shrink.
–He’s a freak show. He’s the worse person I ever met.
==Carol explaining Melvin to her son.
–Do you have any control over how creepy you get?
==Carol to Melvin.
–I think of a man. Take away all reason and accountability.
==Melvin on how he writes from a woman’s perspective.
–Sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here!
==Melvin to Panamanian housekeeper.
–It’s high times for you. The gay neighbor is terrified.
==Simon to Melvin when he gets home from the hospital, broke and futureless.
–I’m not going to sleep with you. I will never sleep with you. Ever. Ever.
==Carol to Melvin after he shows kindness to her son.
–Shouldn’t that be a good thing, telling somebody no thanks allowed?
==Melvin to Carol.
–Think white and get serious.
==Melvin to Simon’s black agent.
–What you did changed my life. You are going to be in our prayers, our daily prayers forever.
==Carol to Melvin after he gets her son help.
–It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories, that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad–just no one in this car.
==Melvin after Carol says everyone is trying to get over his or her terrible story.
–Look at this place, they make me wear a coat and tie and you wear a housedress.
==Simon’s thoughtless comment about Carol’s nicest dress.
–You make me wan to be a batter man.
==Melvin to Carol.
–That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.
–What he gave me was better than sex. He held me.
==Carol after a night with Simon.
–I don’t care what you did for me. I don’t think I want to know you. All you do is make me feel bad about myself.
==Carol to Melvin at end of road trip.
–I don’t know whether I’m being sensible or hard on you. What I said in the street was a bad thing to do. You’re not ready and you’re too old to not be ready. But there were extraordinary kindnesses that did take place.
==An apologetic Carol to Melvin.
–OK if I say something? I should have danced with you.
==Melvin to Carol.
–Do you know where you are lucky? You know who you want. Go over there. The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to be humiliated.
==Simon to Melvin.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 23, 1997 by | No Comments »


Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 19, 1997 by | No Comments »


Theodore Joadson: Morgan Freeman
Cinque: Djimon Hounsou
John Quincy Adams: Anthony Hopkins
Roger Baldwin: Matthew McConaughey
Martin Van Buren: Nigel Hawthorne
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by David Franzoni. Running time: 145 minutes. Rating Rated R (scenes of slavery, nudity and brutality).

Central Theme
A freeborn human being cannot be considered the property of another and has the right of insurrection over any who would lay such a claim on him.

A sometimes fictional reconstruction of a true story concerning a group of slaves from Sierra Leone, who overthrew their captors on the Spanish vessel, La Armistad, only to enter the American legal and highly politicized system which seemed prepared to return them to their captors. Cinque, their leader, finds help from a property law attorney, Christian abolitionists and none other then former President John Quincy Adams himself. The case holds special interest to Southerners, who are threatening civil war over slavery, and to Spain’s Queen Isabelle II, who considers a failure of the US courts to rule in her favor, a threat to the economic well being of her throne, sustained as it was by slavery. Ultimately, it is not the immorality of slavery or rights to freedom declared in the US Declaration of Independence that wins the day, but the fact that these particular slaves were freeborn (as opposed to being born to enslaved) and entitled to the freedom accorded by their own sovereign nation. The positive impact of Christianity is portrayed through: Christians advocating the abolition of slavery, a judge who prays earnestly before delivering an unexpected decision in favor of the slaves, a slave who learns the gospel through looking at the pictures in the Bible. Spielberg includes a number of visuals portraying the cross, including a shot with Cinque, on his way to court, seeing three masts rising high in the sky like three crosses on Golgatha.

Beliefs num
–Abolitionists believed slavery is immoral and must be overturned completely.
–Their opponents feared that the end of slavery would mean economic and societal ruin.
–The Queen of Spain believed she should control the courts while the US system theoretically provided for separation and equality of the executive and judicial branches.
–Cinque believed he could literally call on his ancestors for help, while John Quincy Adams called on the founding fathers through their words as recorded in the Declaration of Independence.
–One defender of slavery points out that Africans themselves were sometimes selling Africans into slavery and that therefore the practice of slavery was justifiable.
–A few good people can make a huge difference.
–America is a nation of laws and the system relies on judges who rule based on law and justice not political suasion.
–Slavery destroyed the lives of individuals and their families and there is no possible justification for it.
–Africans possess a rich heritage and their descendents in America often represent a collective memory of the wrongs imposed on their forefathers.
— One slave gained a deep affection and appreciation for Jesus simply by looking at the pictures in a Bible and piecing together a storyline of history’s most remarkable character.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–How could the drafters of the Declaration of Independence believe in the essential rights of liberty for all and yet deny it to the slaves?
–How could the personal and economic benefits of slavery outweigh the right to freedom?
–Why is the involvement of American and British Christians in the abolitionist movement such a seldom told story?
–Shouldn’t these historically verified actions by Christians on behalf of justice and in opposition to slavery be taught to kids in our schools?
–What issues of injustice should Christians be involved in today?
–If the best story wins, shouldn’t the story of Jesus, as recounted through the slave be the ultimate winner?

Provocative Quotes byline
–With three to four million negroes in America already, why on earth should I concern myself with these forty-four?
==President Martin Van Buren
–Sir, there remains but one task undone. One vital task the fathers left to their sons before their 13 colonies could precisely be called free. That task is crushing slavery.
==Abolitionist Theodore Joadson to John Quincy Adams
–The present issue at hand is the wrongful transport of illegally procured goods.
==Roger Baldwin
–It is our duty as abolitionists and Christians to save these people.
==Abolitionist Mr. Tappan to Baldwin
–If they are entertainers, why do they look so miserable?
==Cinque of the Christian abolitionists singing Amazing Grace
–In a courtroom, whoever tells the best story wins — You have proven what they are, but what you don’t know is who they are.
==John Quincy Adams advising Baldwin
–Give us Free! Give us Free! Give us Free!
==Cinque chants to the judge
–These people have suffered. They have suffered more than us.
He was born and it changed everything.
Whoever he goes he is followed by the sun.
Here he is healing people with his hands.
Protecting them.
Being brought children.
He could walk on the sea.
But then something happened.
He was captured.
Accused on some crime.
Here he is with his hands tied.
Do you want to see how he died?
His people took him down from this thing.
They took him to a cave.
They wrapped him in clothes just like we do
They thought he was dead.
But he appeared again and spoke with them
And then he rose into the sky.
This is where the soul goes when it dies.
This is where we will go when they kill us.
It doesn’t look so bad.
==Slave Yarmu explaining the pictures in the Bible to Cinque
–To destroy slavery will destroy us as a people. They believe we are immoral and inferior. We all know what will happen if they are set free. They are the rulers and we are the slaves. But not without a fight.
==Southerner John Calhoun to President Van Buren
–We aren’t going in there alone. Our ancestors will be there. I will call on the past, far back to the beginning of time and beg them to help us. They must come. For at this moment I am the whole reason they have ever existed at all.
==Cinque to John Quincy Adams
–Our treaty of 1795 with Spain is inapplicable. They are not slaves and therefore cannot be considered merchandise, but rather free individuals with certain legal and moral rights, including the right to engage in insurrection against those who deny them their freedom. Therefore it is the opinion of this court, with one dissenting vote, that they should be released at once, and if they so choose, to be returned to their homes in Africa.
==Supreme Court Justice announcing Armistad ruling
–What you told me to tell them.
==John Quincy Adams explaining to Cinque what he said in defense of the slaves, having called the ancestry of the Declaration of Independence to bear witness on Cinque’s behalf.
–Thank you Baldwin
==Cinque to Baldwin

Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 4, 1997 by | No Comments »