Thursday, July 28, 2011

Play time - A Review of Magic by GK Chesterton

For the text of the play look here:
Project Gutenberg Link to Magic

I make no claims to have read many plays.  The required amount in highschool plus a few, they are not regularly put on my reading list.  I am a Chesterton fan and fairly familiar with his writing style and thinking; both of which I enjoy.

I downloaded this to test our Nook we received for Christmas. I merely knew it was a play written by GKC. I wanted to see readability, page turning and general format with a secondary goal of getting through another GKC item.  I was awake until somewhere near 3am finishing this story.  It is compelling and lingers long after reading.

This is GKC's first foray into being a playwright.  He had a close friendship with George Bernard Shaw despite being very far apart in philosophy/theology.  Shaw prodded GKC into penning the play.  I haven't read/seen enough Shaw to say it was clearly against the thinking of blah-blah or counter to the contemporary writings of the time.  I can say I greatly enjoyed it.

GKC pours humor and dark themes into this tale.  I chuckled at the banter back and forth and just couldn't put the book down.  He also sharply takes shots at the philosophies of his time.  He does so in much of his other writings but this is a neat and concise shooting down of characters holding to each.

A dinner party seems to have been planned with a conjurer for entertainment.  The party guests end up seeing a challenge to what they believe rather than sleight of hand parlor tricks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Signs of the Times

I'm generally content in my own little world and don't lash out with criticism at things.  It usually strikes me as being smug (prideful), and not productive.  I see stupidity everyday and it often produces a chuckle.  Sometimes a sadness that someone didn't see the errors.

I'm taking exception to my general principal today.  Mostly because stupidity on signs is advertising stupidity.  Not that you have a bad product, but there should be more care in putting out a quality message.  Unless you're a mattress salesman.

Today I'm going to laugh at peoples mistakes.  2 items specifically.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Movie time - Kung Fu Panda 2 (and Dreamworks)

I see this going two topical directions; a review of KFP2 and how Dreamworks is different from Pixar.

First the original Kung Fu Panda.  My kids beat me up for a few ours after first seeing KFP.  It was fun and a nice story despite the bruises that followed.  Excellent animation and voice acting as you would expect anymore.

KFP2 kept the same pace.  Story, animation and delivery.  I think sequels can be either a continuation in the timeline (Hobbit & LOTR) or another chapter in the lives of the characters (Rocky 1-5).  KFP2 was another story in the lives of the characters.  Po is now the dragon warrior and is still studying and growing in Kung Fu.  I think it did well for making drawing me in and caring about Po.  It touches on themes of destiny and choices, and the meaning of family.

Onto Pixar vs. Dreamworks
In doing quick research for this blog I found some interesting comparisons between Pixar & Dreamworks

Pixar - Lucasfilm, Steve Jobs, Disney (after '06)
Dreamworks (animation) - Spielberg, Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder, investor), Paramount

I think Pixar tends to work harder for the art of the story-movie.  Well set situations, compelling characters and good stories.  I would go so far as saying they work at and enjoy the art of storytelling.  At the end you're happy but pondering, or motivated, or perplexed; generally moved.  You go play with your childhood toys again (Toy Story).  You value your friends more than glory (Cars).  You value relationships (Up!).  You dig in the garden and like it (Wall-E). You try a new recipe (Ratatouille).  You fight for your family even if your scared (and scarred) from bad outcomes (Finding Nemo)

Dreamworks is all about the movie.  They found a niche and are running with it.  They have churned out sequels (Shrek, Madagascar, KFP2, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Madagascar 3 on the way) and will probably continue to do so.  They tend to make a fun movie to watch with your kids, some jokes aimed at the adults, good animation, and good acting.  At the end you're happy and come out to resume your life, having had a 98 minute break.  You laugh at Shrek, Po, bees, Bob and 50-ft Susan,.

Both studios are good with what they do; and I'm glad.  I seek more and find more from Pixar.  I will still go and see both, and enjoy both.  One seems to stay with me longer because I'm getting old and sappy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More PC-USA stuff

I attended a Shenango Presbytery meeting last night on the denominational issues.  It had a large turnout (175-ish) and I haven't seen that large of a cross-church gathering that fired up in a long time.  It felt like a church softball game.

Everyone was about on the same side.  There was a general wondering of "how did we get here?" and "is this what the denomination is focused on?" "What about Jesus?".  I wonder the same thing but on more than the issue of ordaining those who will not submit to "faithfulness and marriage and chastity in singleness" (old language now removed).  Also, and just as stomach churning for me, is how did we get so tied to "social justice"?

Social Justice is a vague term to cover many errors.  On the surface who would be opposed to social justice.  A just society is essential and a good thing.  But when social justice is used to support social programs and political ideologies everyone loses.  Social Justice becomes a joke and those truly suffering from injustice are ignored.  It seems like giving them padding for the shackles instead of removing the shackles.  We can feel better about ourselves, have a nice padded program, pad a pad company profits, and leave those suffering exactly where they are so we can find them and "help" them tomorrow.  Social Justice is about the programs and not about stopping the injustice.

The meeting last night was refreshing in that people are getting involved, aware, and passionate about their churches.  It may lead to the PC-USA having fewer congregations.  It may lead to some changes in the PC-USA.  I don't know if much will change for the denomination though.  And truly it seems like it isn't much of a hop for churches to switch to another Presby denomination.  All should be considered prayerfully.  Hopefully it drives everyone to their knees.

'The Church is not a thing like the Athenaeum Club,' he cried.  'If the Athenaeum Club lost all its members, the Athenaeum Club would dissolve and cease to exist.  But when we belong to the Church we belong to something which is outside all of us:  which is outside everything you talk about, outside the Cardinals and the Pope.  They belong to it, but it does not belong to them.  If we all fell dead suddenly, the Church would still somehow exist in God.'
The Ball and the Cross - GK Chesterton

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cars 2 - a speedy review

I took the movie going wee ones to see Cars 2 on Sunday.  I didn't like it that much.

I love Pixar and the work they do.  They have a history of making movies that are fun to watch.  Fun for the adults and the kids.  It isn't just neat animation, but even more they tell great stories.  They draw you in and don't let you go until they are ready.  And that's fine by me.

Lifted  an example of Pixar doing what it does.

Toy Story -   It is the landmark movie that did more than put Pixar on the Hollywood map; it redefined (rediscovered?) what movies are about. Big gamble, big payday.  Would people accept computer animation instead of classic cels?  Yes.  Because a good story is worth watching.  Not really the founder of the genre, the genre existed but was lost under "The Land Before Time 23 - Because Kids like Dinosaurs and we don't have any original ideas".  I'm glad Pixar re-found quality animated movies. The first one was excellent and unlike usual sequel attempts they kept getting better.

Up! - The first 10 minutes had me sitting there babbling in the theater with my kids wondering what was wrong.  Why is dad crying? Because I now know why the old man is grumpy.

Wall-E - makes me want to go out and do something; it touches my inner spirit of activity.  That or I just sat through a 2 hour movie and need to stretch my legs - either way I'm getting up and marching straight outside to enjoy a beer while sitting on the porch.   Somehow Pixar pulls off a Johnny-5 clone being a believable character that you care about.

Cars was very good for the same reason.  It was a great story which very effectively laid out some tough human feelings (identity - who am I really?) on vehicles.  There was no huge, scary bad guy.  Plenty of layered jokes for kids and adults. 

Cars 2 is not the original Cars.

Cars 2 kept with the jokes and good animation but lost something.  It came off as an easy sequel to me; which isn't what Pixar does.  It was not story driven, it was the Mater show.  There were a few subtle James Bond, name puns, and lemon car jokes; but there wasn't a compelling story.  It felt like a Disney sequel and not a Pixar movie.  A friend told me he enjoyed it because now it had action.  I felt like it had action and jokes but no story.

Pixar had done well for a long time under the Disney umbrella of not cutting the corners.  Pixar wasn't about following formula for box office success, it was about making movies worth making and worth watching.  They took pride in their art and every one of their films was a homerun, until Cars 2.

The movie was okay, just not the usual level of Pixar quality.  I hope it is merely a stumble and not a harbinger of Pixar being absorbed into the Disney machine.  Toy Story 2 and 3 did away with my scepticism that it would just be a mediocre sequel.  It is easy to recycle characters & jokes just for more tickets.  Pixar kept the bar high and each installation was compelling storytelling.  I was expecting the same from Cars 2 and left unimpressed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Art is the Signature of Man

It is the simple truth that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is here; that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man. Something of division and disproportion has appeared; and it is unique. Art is the signature of man.  -GK Chesterton

Monday, July 4, 2011

On PC-USA Denomination Issues

Our church (local) is wrestling with recent changes by the large PC-USA denomination.  This letter was drafted to let the congregation know where the session and presbytery was standing. -Dan

On PC-USA Denomination Issues

Center Church is at a cross roads in its long and rich history. Culture changes with the times, and our current culture has forced a debate upon our congregation that some wonder why there is a debate at all.

Center Presbyterian Church is a congregation within the Shenango Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church USA. PC-USA had a proposed amendment before the 2010 General Assembly referred to as -10A. This amendment was for a change in the Book of Order regarding officers of the church. Previously the Book of Order read for office standard as:

"Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament."

"Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

In other words, it is now up to each Presbytery and congregation to determine the standards for the Officers of the church. The long standing requirements of the denomination can now be changed by each church. They may determine that the Biblical standard is less important than style or yield to a desire to reach out to the culture. This being a local option Center Church is not required to lower our standard, and will continue to hold to the traditional Book of Order regarding the offices of the church.

The votes are still being tallied (amendments are voted upon for one year and closes July 10) but the amendment already has a sufficient number that it will pass. There is nothing to be done regarding it passing. The Book of Order will be changed and some Presbyteries and congregations may start ordaining avowed, unrepentant, practicing gay officers.

The Shenango Presbytery has taken a firm stand against -10A. They are drafting a response and a document clarifying the options for the congregations. The passing of -10A marks a decision point for each congregation. There are some churches that will stay and fight. These churches will seek to form a united block and still remain under the PC-USA structure. Some are seeking other Reformed Denominational bodies that hold to a scriptural understanding at every level.

Session is awaiting this document and will prayerfully discuss and weigh the options for Center Church. Things may move slowly in this process but the process is moving and our Session, in representing our congregation, seeks to stand firmly upon the Holy Scripture.

The Gospel is good news to be shared with every end of the creation. We are to reach out to culture with love and grace, for without the love and grace of Jesus we are lost. We must also be sure that in reaching out we do not lose our firm foundation on the rock of our salvation.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to discuss this further please feel free to speak with any Elder or Pastor Woodman.

Please keep Center Church, the Shenango Presbytery, and the Presbyterian Church USA in your prayers.

-Center Church Session

2 Timothy 4

 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Recommended Additional Resources:

Presbyterians For Renewal

Shenango Presbytery
(specifically look for the button labeled "Special Committee to Monitor Denominational Issues")