Monday, July 30, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
The Girl in the Cafe (2005) I chose this one because interesting things happen in cafe's. Lawrence, [played by Bill Nighy], is a civil servant helping a political team by preparing statistics for the G-8 conferences. He is detached from the rest of the world until meeting Gina in a cafe. As they subsequently date, Lawrence shares with Gina the information about world poverty and the G-8 millenial goals to deal with it that he thinks will get pushed off the agenda in the upcoming meeting. Lawrence's detachment does not mean he doesn't care, and his silence does not mean that he doesn't have many things to say. Gina, on the other hand, has a refreshing candor and spirit with an eloquence that supplies where Lawrence lacks, to Lawrence's horror. As a romance, the movie is predictable (What? We have to share the same room in this posh Icelandic hotel? Everything is booked on the island? Horrors!) and Gina, as shy as she supposed to be, isn't shy about whipping off her shirt after Lawrence tenderly kisses her on the cheek. (Stop at the kiss, guys, that was good enough.) As a social commentary, Gina's observant quips and final reprimand echos of Bono-esque speeches I have heard in the past (Gina! Don't do that finger snapping thing!).
Despite it all, I liked the movie. I liked the fact that Gina didn't fit in at the G-8 convention--like, who let this young person in here? Her presence was symbolic how the decisions made would affect generations to come. The message was true, that people in power are responsible for people who haven't got power at all. Bill Nighy, played Davey Jones in the "Pirates of the Caribbean". I rented this movie to find out what he was like without the octopus face.
Bagdad Cafe (1988) I've been wanting to watch this one for years. I was too busy as a single person to see it when it first came out. And never saw the movie on video, until I saw that Netflix had it in DVD. It's a weird little movie with weird little characters, and it all kind of grows on you. The lives of two women in the Mojave desert parallel until they intersect at a dusty lonely truck stop outside of Vegas. One is a German tourist,Jasmin, a stout frau with flaming red hair all buttoned up in a tweedy German suit and funny little feathered hat. The other is a skinny, angry and overwelmed African-American, Brenda, who is trying to run a motel/restaurant /gas station in the middle of nowhere. They are both starting over after kicking their husbands out of their lives. Jasmin starts to clean up the place and bumps up against Brenda's live and let live lifestyle. Jasmin also welcomes Brenda's kids, encouraging them to do homework and giving them order as well as security. She wins Brenda over, and after awhile, the truckstop becomes a lively place where Jasmin does simple slight of hand magic tricks to entertain the truckers. But the place and the people have an effect on Jasmin as well. She becomes free of the restrictive German clothing in more than one way. She poses for an artist and a progression occurs symbolic of what is going on inside of Jasmin. The art is both funny and nude--so beware--but not erotic. Well, in my point of view. Men have another, I'm sure.
I like the movie because there is a culture clash, a racial clash, a values clash and a socioeconomic clash, but amazing things happen because of it. We learn from people who are different than we are, from places different than where we come from--the tourist became more than a visitor. And we learn from people who enter our worlds and bring new ideas. And I like how beauty is portrayed--Frau Jasmin is not a thin young chick by any means. Roger Ebert calls her fat. His review is pretty good if you want to give it a read.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sophie Scholl, The Last Days--this one won an Oscar in Foreign Film. The true story of Sophie Scholl in Germany during WWII, who was caught distributing anti-war fliers in the university with her brother, Hans. The movie is based on transcripts of her interrogation released after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 and conversations with a fellow prisoner. Good questions to discuss: Was it morally wrong for Sophie and Hans to try to lie to the interrogator? What was the basis for The White Rose's protest? What motivated Sophie, according to the interrogation? What would motivate you to risk your life?
Forgiving Dr. Mengele--a documentary that follows the controversial statements of a survivor of Auschwitz's concentration camp, a twin who suffered Mengele's cruel medical experiments at the tender age of ten years old. Questions for discussion: In what ways does the past experiences concentration camp affect Eva Kor's present life? Why does Eva forgive? What is her concept of forgiveness? When Eva takes her forgiveness of the doctors in Auschwitz publicly, why does it offend other survivors? Why does Eva have a hard time feeling remorse when confronted with the pain that Palestinians experience in Israel? What do you think is harder: forgiving others or having to be forgiven? How does the Bible define forgiveness? How does Eva's forgiveness compare to Corrie ten Boom's forgiveness from The Hiding Place?
Downfall--movie based on Traudl Junge's memoir "Until The Final Hour" about how she worked as Hitler's secretary during the last days of his life. When she was hired, she was about the same age as Sophie Scholl when she was executed. A comment she made in the documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary about how she went past the Sophie Scholl memorial and realized that age was no excuse for participating in the murder of 6 million Jews made me rent the Sophie Scholl movie. How would you compare Traudl with Sophie? How were they different? The same? What do you think was Hitler's appeal to Traudl? What do you think Traudl would have learned from Sophie if she had the chance to know about her? If Eva could have had a chance to talk to Traudl and Sophie, what do you think she would have said? What would have they said to her?
As for me, I watched three films about three girls from the WWII era, from three different angles of the war. Two of the girls faced deep sacrifices and had to grow up beyond their age in a very short time. One seemed to have found a father figure. Two had to face hard facts and deal with truth. One followed her feelings and did not open her eyes to the truth available to her. I mention Corrie ten Boom, but left her out of the list of movies, since she experienced the concentration camp as a middle aged woman. Yet, she had to confront her own pain and anger towards the oppressors and murderers of her family. Corrie was clear that she went beyond the point of justified anger into sinful bitterness, and for her to forgive required strength from the Holy Spirit to obey Jesus' command to forgive in order to be forgiven.
We've also been watching:
Stranger Than Fiction--reminded me of a discussion I had a few years ago with my sister about my concept of God. She asked me if I thought things happen for a reason. I replied that God was the Author of our lives, that our stories have already been written. We don't see the reasons or the impact of our stories, but it is comprehensible from God's point of view. I told her Corrie ten Boom's picture of a tapestry, the side we see is the working side with knots and a vague idea of a design, but the side God sees is the magnificent picture. The movie is a good analogy of a story being written--Emma Thompson is making it up as she goes, until she hits writer's block. Question to consider: If you were to list events under comedy verses tragedy in your life, which side would come out ahead?
Premonition--Sandra Bullock is a desperate housewife jumping randomly all over the calendar week. That alone is a horror movie for women. I dislike various points in the movie--trying to be scary but ending up being stupid in a '70's sort of way. I admire other points, as in Sandra's depiction of a woman trying to make up her mind whether to fight for something or not, and then taking biblical Ruth like steps to express her commitment to her husband. Finally, it addresses the idea of predestination versus self determination. Are we really in control? What can we control? Wish that the movie explored that question more--showed a contrast in how Sandra changed within herself instead of changing circumstances by following the priest's suggestion to have faith and hope, but hey, I like Sandra B. and will watch her in everything she does, even Lake House. The gag reel is hilarious.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Praise is mightier than an army
With its banners all unfurled;
Praise will win the victory sooner
Than all the powers of this world.
For the God who rules o'er all things,
And the God who longs to bless
Only waits until He hears you
Your love to Him confess.
Beg Him not for any blessing;
Tire Him not to spell your need.
This He knows before you speak it;
Stay Him not to beg and plead.
Lift your face and sing it heav'nward,
From the deeps within your soul;
Let His praises fill your being,
Let the shout of rapture roll.
Frances J. Roberts, From Come Away My
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The tutors for the English as a Second Language class meet for prayer before the classes start. I was encouraged that Keiko prayed tonight that we would serve the people coming to the classes as Christ served us. Our class has people from the middle east, Europe, Asia and Latin America, with a huge variety of religious backgrounds. We are hoping that they see Christ in our service.
Monday, July 16, 2007
For awhile, I could kid myself and use "products" to cover it up. The more money available, the better the "products" we can afford. But I think I've hit my limit. For every mid-40's woman who can pass for someone in their late 20's, there's an army of hairdressers, plastic surgeons, personal trainers, and not to mention, plain old wonderful genetics.
I used to get compliments 5 years ago, that I didn't appear to be as old as I said. I think those days are over.
I didn't think I would have a hard time dealing with declining with age. But looking in the mirror this morning, it was difficult to accept a few more wrinkles appearing than last time. I think that lines give us character, but I hope for a lot less character.
Awhile ago, I was going through some old pictures of family ancestors. There was one arresting picture of a great, great aunt with my grandma as a toddler. She was one of the original German settlers in North Dakota; she was a homestead pioneer from the Lang side of the family, immigrated from the Ukraine. She looked tough as nails, a fierce expression in her eyes. My first reaction was that it was me, sans a lifetime of moisturizer. Her oval face and the shape of her forehead and hairline was identical to mine with deep furrows that I know that are starting to be a part of my visage. She wasn't fat nor was she thin. She looked like she could plow a field, handle a scythe, and butcher a pig without a problem. Her clothing was widow's garb. The story was that my great grandmother died, and an aunt took care of my grandmother and my great aunts until he re-married (twice). She died while Grandma was still a kid, she had no kids of her own and no one talked about her much. But what a picture.
I had two other great, great pioneer aunts that lived long enough for me to meet when I was about 8 years old. They didn't speak English, only German. They sat sturdily in the living room, sipping tea, talking to Mom in German, and Mom shocking me by speaking to them in German in return. They wore their silver hair back in buns, with hair nets. They dressed oddly to me, in dark dresses with lace shawls, dark stockings and lace up black shoes. No jewelry. No make-up or perfume. In my immediate and extended family, the adult female members never leave the house without jewelry or make-up or perfume. So, it was hard to believe these ladies were actually related to me. They were nice and pleasant, sweet oval faces with furrowed brows that I now realize is the Lang family trademark, along with the funny shaped nose that I sort of have. I remember thinking that they liked me--their eyes followed me wherever I went and whatever I did. Perhaps because they saw in me something of themselves as kids--Mom told me that they had sons and grandsons, but no girls in the family. It was a short visit. Mom's German wasn't really that good to keep a conversation going very long. The ladies drove themselves home in their old but well cared for Studebaker, apparently they were in the Bismarck area socializing with family, making rounds to visit those they haven't seen before they passed away. They lived in a German speaking community that I don't remember ever visiting.
Before Mom died, she gave me long lectures about "not letting yourself go" prompted by my choices of hairstyle, shoes and clothing. And lack of make-up. Mom would quiz me about perfume, what kind that Dennis was buying me for birthdays. I was in my thirties, and was proud about my thriftiness. Now, I realize that Mom was afraid I would go the way of the great, great pioneer aunts. Anything that reminded her of them--lace, crochet, high collars, lace up shoes, dark stockings, long, unstyled hair--she didn't like. I think that there is more to it than old world taste and fashions. These gals were Baptists, and my grandmother went against them by marrying my Catholic grandfather. They might have been really harsh and unsympathetic through the years. Perhaps, they regretted that towards the end of their lives. Perhaps, that is why we had that rare visit when I was eight.
So, while I moisturize and try to maintain appearences, I should not neglect what truly is important--the inward stuff that is precious to God. The quiet heart. The submissive spirit. The discretion in choice of words and deeds. In that, I would really err in "letting myself go".
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I get weekly updates from Urbana. org, following the stories of students who are overseas this summer. Marian Wang is writing about her experiences among the people of Cairo who work as garbage pickers. Her journal entry about visiting a sick elderly lady I highly recommend: http://www.urbana.org/feat.trek.2007.cfm?recordid=1200
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
Yep, I'm "G" rated and proud of it.
Tonight, Dennis and I went to the "G" rated "Ratatouille" and had a great time. Totally recommend the movie--a lot of these kind of features are boring and insults to the intelligence. But this one is pretty special. Yes, of course I like it because it involves cooking. But it involves real knowledge of cooking. And of french culture. And of those little critters we call rats.
Before the movie, there was fifteen minutes of previews--all of "G" rated type of entertainment. I read sometime back that Hollywood is realizing that the audiences want more family friendly films--that ultimately, there is a higher demand for them than "R" rated movies. Also, thanks to Mel Gibson, films with Christian themes also have a market that Hollywood didn't know existed.
Which brings me to the DVD's Den and I have been renting lately. I have heard of Jeanette Oke's Christian fiction series--she practically started the genre back in the 80's--but never read them. In fact, most of the Christian fiction I have never really been interested in. Well, Oke's books were made into movies in the last four years, starting with "Love Comes Softly". I was impressed with that one, but the episodes afterwards fall flat. I haven't read her books, but I don't think that Oke meant that the spirituality of the pioneers would resemble contemporary Christianity. It just seems more and more forced and fake as the series goes on. I've watched "Ranch House" and "Colonial House" on PBS and read "Gap Creek"--so I know that life was much dirtier, riskier and harder than what tends to be portrayed in these movies. For instance, the fact that Marty and her first husband got her books through the trip west was a lighthearted joke in the beginning of "Love Comes Softly", but I don't think today's audiences would have appreciated the sacrifices that Marty had endure to make sure that her life and her children's lives would not be devoid of literacy.
I don't think there is anything wrong with the books or the plots or the director or the acting, really. There is a slick superficiality instead of gritty historical reality, the kind that Catherine Marshall's "Christy" did not sidestep. The tone is way off. We know that the pioneers had to deal with a lot, including tedious boredom. The following movies in the series make everything in day to day pioneer life to appear too easy instead of the harsh survival that often was the case. What I longed to see was tough faith bourne through tough lives. I resent the treatment of the Oke's stories that waters most of it down, beginning with the cheesy soundtrack that accompanies it.
I hope someone who really values Jeanette Oke and her novels would take another crack at bringing them to film. I hope that Hollywood would realize that Christians would not be satisfied with cheap and unartistic efforts tossed their way. As for me, I hope the books are much better than the movies, so I will actually read them to find out.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Women have to work through an intricate web of factors that make their emotional state. It is never just "black and white". For me, it takes awhile to even identify I'm upset, and to what degree. Extended prayer times are vital in the process--I need to run to my Creator who wired me this way. Sometimes I need to run to Him often and fast.
This morning, after a night of sleeplessness and seeing my Hubby off to work (with a smile and a kiss), I turned on Fernando Ortega's CD on hymns and spent some time in prayer and worship. I'm thankful that I haven't gone completely out of my mind with the fireworks all night long, and I'm thankful that God reminded me that He alone gives me peace despite the noise.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
The fireworks going off all night long have a lot to do with it. I tolerate the noise to a certain point, until midnight at least. But at 3am? Why do I have to put up with that? More than once, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and use some really bad language, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't work. Today, they had a neighborhood parade. I was thinking of participating, walking down the street with a big sign that said what I really felt about the noise in the neighborhood, but the parents of small children would've had me censored or arrested or something...
Hmmm, would a jail cell keep out the sound of fireworks?
Maybe next year, with careful planning.
Monday, July 02, 2007
The peddler now speaks to the countess who's pretending to care for him
Sayin', "Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go out and say a prayer for him"
But like Louise always says"Ya can't look at much, can ya man?"
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
I was in Barnes and Noble, and looking over the Gospel music section. I picked up a CD by the Dixie Hummingbirds and turned it over to see Tony Garnier (he's playing the big double bass next to Bob in the video) and Larry Campbell, a guitarist also in Dylan's band posing for a picture with the Hummingbirds. Larry produced their album "Diamond Jubilation" and wrote a few songs for them--Someday (which Larry wrote in the '70's with the Hummingbirds in mind)and When I Go Away. I like the Hummingbirds a lot--they have a witness that has stood the test of time. I also like the Fairfield Four--a group that is also strong in history, tradition and meaning.
Last year, while watching the opening acts for Bob Dylan, I noticed Tony coming out to join the audience and watch the show. He smiled as a little toddler danced and twirled to the music and chatted with his mom a little before going back to the tour bus. I don't think she knew who she was talking to. He just seemed like a nice guy who enjoyed a two year old boy's enjoyment of music. It's great when musicians behave like normal people. It's great when musicians appreciate gospel music. It's great when they help make it.
So, have a good day and take care if your "conscience explodes"--it probably is a good thing 'cause it's warning you of trouble.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
I cleared my dining room table except for a tablecloth and a decorative bowl. I used to avoid the dining room because of the clutter that was growing on top of the table--piles of papers, objects I didn't know what to do with and plain junk. Now, it is a space that invites me to sit down with my Bible and journal and enjoy God's company.
While moving through our family room between the basement and the garage to get ready for the yard sale a few weeks ago, our carpet got stained from dirt and oil spots. It was discouraging and I didn't want to hire a carpet cleaner for one traffic area. While going through cleaning products in our laundry room, I ran across a spot remover that was left behind by the Oreck carpet cleaning guys and I forgotten about for several months. So, what the heck, Dennis and I used it and it worked beyond our expectations. The sight of the stains on the carpet was creating a lot more stress on me than I realized.
The desk that I am sitting at is clear of clutter and a functional reading and writing space. I feel as though I can concentrate without getting distracted by junk in a pile sitting next to me. I still have a list of things to get more organized, but it doesn't feel overwhelming. In college, I read a book called "Ordering Your Private World" by Gordon MacDonald. I'm re-reading it now, intrigued by his insights about John the Baptist, since I've been focusing on him in the Gospel of John for the last week.
MacDonald essentially gets to the heart of one's character by the cultivation of the inner person, or what seems to me to be the soul. It marks the difference between the driven or the called person. When your inner life is disorganized, it shows up in your environment and in your relationships; what is private manifests itself in the public eye.
So, my problem isn't about an ordered home, but an ordered heart.