Monday, December 18, 2006

Persian Mirrors

I'm nearly finished with Persian Mirrors, by Elaine Sciolino. Like Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, it is full of fascinating and exciting stories about day-to-day life in modern day Iran. I highly recommend it; it'll help put a face on what is all too often a political strawman.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vulnerability and strength

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that twentieth-century man has decided to abolish himself. Tired of the struggle to be himself, he has created boredom out of his own affluence, impotence out of his own erotomania, and vulnerability out of his own strength. He himself blows the trumpet that brings the walls of his own cities crashing down until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, having drugged and polluted himself into stupefaction, he keels over a weary, battered old brontosaurus and becomes extinct.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Forgiving the Church

"When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.

The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer."
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Annie, Silvi and I went to two used bookstores last night to find copies of Perelandra, That Hideous Strength and any book by George MacDonald (I settled on The Princess and the Goblin, one of his better known children's books). I also bought another Bible, a used NRSV. I often buy books based on aesthetics, and Bibles are no exception. I would rather buy a trade paperback over hardcover, and try to stay away from mass market paperbacks. I also hate buying the "movie" version of a book. I looked for a copy of Contact without Jodie Foster on the cover with no luck.

I own about ten Bibles. (apologies to Brother Andrew): the NIV, NASB, The Message, New Living Translation, The Living Bible, The Complete Jewish Bible, and the New English Bible from Scotland. The last two I purchased in an effort to free myself from Reformed and conservative evangelical theology (although the CJB was translated by a graduate from Fuller Theological Seminary). I needed to view the Scriptures through a new lens, gain fresh insight into the words. I wanted a literary Bible, one with language that was both poetic and true to the spirit of the texts. I found that in the NEB.

I bought the NRSV last night as a version with which I can commit verses to memory. Much of the NEB's language, although movingly poetic, is difficult to follow in that it is written for readers in the United Kingdom. (Examples include asphodel, batten, bustard, distrain, felloe, hoopoes, keen (as a verb), lapis lazuli, panniers, reck, ruffed bustard, runnels of water, and stook.) I also like that the NRSV is used by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox believers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Best soccer film ever?

Last night in Edinburgh the film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. (It was shot before the infamous head butt.)

Training 17 cameras solely on footballer Zinedine Zidane, over the course of a single match between Real Madrid and Villareal, we see the legend in action and in repose, following him around the pitch. Sometimes at the centre of action, more often waiting, watching - while, in voice-over, the footballer himself broods over what he can and cannot remember from his matches. Magnificently edited, and accompanied by a majestic score from Scottish rock heroes Mogwai, this is not only the greatest football movie ever made, but one of the finest studies of man in the workplace - an ode to the loneliness of the athlete, the poise and resilience of the human body.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blog depression

There are a few blogs that I glance at most days. It's starting to get to me. Being the contrarian that I am, I like to frequent opposing viewpoints. I find myself reading a few Emerging Church blogs, such as TallSkinnyKiwi and Backyard Missionary, then click over to Slice of Laodicea or Apprising Ministries to read some rather forceful critiques. When I'm done with the "serious" discussions, I pop by Purgatorio for some old-fashioned satire. I sometimes follow links to the people that comment on these blogs, and their blogs usually reflect similar positions.

By the time I finish with these writers, I usually need a shower. I find some refreshment from reading Rain City Pastor, the blog of the pastor (obviously) I knew in Seattle. His thoughts are usually balanced and matured, seasoned by years of pastoring a rather large metropolitan church.

A few months of following the battle within the walls of the Church has me longing for something - solid. Maybe that's why I find myself gravitating toward Lewis and Chesterton and MacDonald. I'm searching for the "mere" in the chaos of modern-day Christianity.


I finished reading Out of the Silent Planet by Lewis last weekend; I am about a third of the way through Till We Have Faces. I am also 120 pages into Stephen Lawhead's The Paradise War and 200+ pages through Contact by Sagan.

Thus far, I am unimpressed with Lawhead. It's really quite uninspiring writing. Chapter upon chapter with not much happening (kind of like this blog). I like the concept (based on Plato's idea of Forms) but he needs to tighten everything up. Three or four chapters could be condensed into one. Sagan, on the other hand, is a good writer, but provides entirely too many details. And his constant insistence that Beings from other planets must possess higher intelligence can get old quick; he refers to this belief all too often.

Lewis, of course, is the master of words. It is refreshing to come back to him after an hour with Lawhead or Sagan. His sentences are taut, the action is compelling yet not overwhelming and his characters stay with me into the night. Next? Perelandra.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

No limits

One of my favorite movies is The Big Blue (the theatrical version, not the director's cut). It's the story about two competitive "free divers," also known as "no limits diving." A free diver is
one who tests how deep humans can go underwater or how long they can remain submerged--on a single gulp of air. "No limits" free divers go deeper than most. Wrapped around a weighted sled that slides on a cable, they plunge hundreds of feet down, then inflate an air bag that shoots them swiftly back to the surface. In the process, they withstand near-crippling water pressure; their lungs shrink to the size of baseballs; their hearts slow to 20 beats a minute; and their sinus cavities fill with salt water to keep their eardrums from exploding.
The above video is of the deepest dive in history by Patrick Musimu to an astounding 687 feet. It's best watched with the sound up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


One of the primary arguments for the need for propositional and foundational apologetics is the "crisis in the university." According to many traditionalist organization's estimates, 75% of Christian students lose faith when they attend college. They attribute this to the fact that when students "have no idea why they believe what they believe and have no ability to defend their beliefs, they’re taken captive by ideas for which they aren’t prepared."

I think this issue is more complex. But first, I have to challenge the statistics a little bit. Statistics are all too aften misleading. Statistically speaking, Vatican City is the most dangerous place in the world while Yemen is the safest. Of couse, reality is much different.

Is it true that because students are ill equiped to face the ideas they encounter in the classroom that they walk away from a relationship with Christ? Sometimes. But I think that ideas that challenge faith are only a part of the problem, and may indeed may not be as significant as claimed.

I assert that proximity and peers probably have more to do with any loss of faith than contact with abstract ideas. Proximity because for most students it is the first time in their lives when they experience freedom from the watchful eyes of parents. Peers because it is friends that shape and reflect who we are within. True, false cerebral ideas often do lead the faithful astray. But let's not forget the role of relationships in this battle for the heart.

And let's be more careful with statistics. I know higher numbers mean higher dollars, but sometimes they only mean greater fiction.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A just Israel

Martin Buber's great-granddaughter, Tirzah Agassi, writes about the current situation in the Middle East.
We can’t turn back the clock and undo mistakes that have already been made. But we can note the wisdom of Buber’s warnings, understanding our own people’s contribution to the chronic mistrust between ourselves and the Arab world.

It is easy to point to Arab provocations that have contributed to the current horror. But how about our own part in its creation? What could we have done differently? And what can we still do differently? How does Israel, the Jewish state, live up to Buber’s vision of “prophetic politics” which, like our prophets, charges us “to remain ever cognizant of the effects of our community’s actions on others and, accordingly, to ‘sin’ no more than is absolutely necessary”?

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I am prone to live in the world of abstraction. I enjoy philosophical language not only for it's poetry and ability to clarify, but because it can transport me into an ideal world. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. I was reading, re-reading, Subversive Spirituality by Eugene Peterson and he says that only stories can rescue us from abstraction. Once we lose our place in a Story, we tend to interpret the events in our lives disconnected from any greater meaning.

The lady who lives across the hall was arrested last night. Two police officers banged on her door, and in the matter of a minute or two, cuffed her and took her away. She talks to Annie almost every day, telling her about her recent divorce, custody battle and losing her daughter to her ex-husband. She's been drinking heavily nearly every day, and lost her job last week when she showed up drunk. She broke a restraining order yesterday, trying to get her daughter back. After the police took her, she never came home last night.

I tell you this because I have a question: How do you stay in a Story if the Story is filled with pain and heartbreak and loss? Peterson encourages us to revisit our Stories, to live in the concreteness of life, to abandon abstraction. I agree with him, but what he asks of us is almost impossible.

Peterson calls us to see our stories in the light of the bigger Story. Only there will the seemingly random occurences in our lives find the thread that will weave them all together.

Give us some words

An excellent article by Peggy Noonan: What is the president's philosophy?
I continually wonder, and have wondered for two years, what his (the president's) philosophy is--what drives his actions.

Does he know? Is it a philosophy or a series of impulses held together by a particular personality? Can he say? It would be good if he did. People are not going to start feeling safe in the world tomorrow, but they feel safer with a sense that their leaders have aims that are intellectually coherent. It would be good for the president to demonstrate that his leadership is not just a situational hodgepodge, seemingly driven and yet essentially an inbox presidency, with a quirky tilt to the box. Sometimes words just can't help. But sometimes, especially in regard to the establishment or at least assertion of coherence, they can. And it's never too late. History doesn't hold a stopwatch, not on things like this.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nil, nil

Very witty, guys, but it makes me want to buy a plane ticket to Spain.
Soccer is the perfect game for the post-modern world. It's the quintessential expression of the nihilism that prevails in many cultures, which doubtlessly accounts for its wild popularity in Europe. Soccer is truly Seinfeldesque, a game about nothing, sport as sensation.

Good Morning

Some mornings I make a lot of noise when I'm dressing so that my daughter will wake up before I leave for work. Most mornings, she wakes before I do, and asks - rather, demands - to climb into our bed. She usually falls back asleep, her feet finding their way into my back or onto my face. She's a bed hog. She likes to stretch out, arms over her head.

She's in a good mood when she wakes up. "Hi - hi," she says. She lays her head on my all-too-soft stomach, and laughs. When the clock radio alarm sounds, she begins to bounce up and down to the music. She will watch the clock LED numbers for minutes on end as they advance into eternity. She laughs again as each minute ticks by.

These are some of my happiest moments each day. Her bedhead. Watching her stagger down the hallway to watch "Elmo," her morning ritual. Pausing to pet the cat. Eating cheerios in front of the tv.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Legalism and alcoholism

I thought this was excellent (by John Piper):
Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one.
  • Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.
  • Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.
  • Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.
  • Alcoholics don't feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.

Monday, July 31, 2006


I just got back from a root canal over lunch. Funny how all dentists say the same thing. "This may tingle just a bit. Just lift your hand if it's uncomfortable."

Tingle. Uncomfortable.

That's kind of like the Russian soldier telling Rambo he might feel a tingle when the electricity is turned up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Feeling my age

I'm a little sore this morning. Last week as we were cleaning out our closets, I stumbled across my old rollerblades. It's been at least ten years since I strapped them on and I only used them a few times at that. Last night was one of those perfect summer nights, the kind when it's still 80 degrees at nine at night and the air is sweet and thick. Under the cover of darkness I went down to our lake, Lake Harriet, and strapped on my blades. I was sure I would remember how to use them, and would be catching air in no time.

I did in fact catch air, just not how I intended to. I had hoped the lake would be deserted, yet it seemed that everyone had the same idea. I landed flat on my gluteous maximus in front of a carload of teenagers. It was a great fall. Feet flying out in front. Hands clutching for the air. I don't know how the teens responded because I was in pain. Yet I kept at it for the better part of an hour, trying to keep a little of my dignity.

Lake Harriet is gorgeous; I love that I can see the city in the background, and one of my favorite fountains is on the east side. My plan is to be able to rollerblade completly around the lake, then make my way through the park to the adjoining Lake Calhoun. After I soak in hot tub for a few hours. And I think I'll wear those wrist guards, too. Rollerblading is fun, but I already broke my wrist once trying to take a ramp my first time snowboarding. I hope I've learned my lesson. Probably not.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Philosophy Football

If you like philosophy at all, these Monty Python clips, here and here, are a must watch.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Chicken Philosophy III

Let no one say that I show favoritism...

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am for it now, and will remain against it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Chicken Philosophy II

We continue to search for the secrets of the universe as the chicken crosses yet another road.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

If there's any one man who exemplifies Either/Or thinking, it's President W. In the film The Princess and the Warrior, the protagonist is an ex-soldier who is expertly skilled in fighting and adapting to life-threatening situations. Yet, in the midst of battle, he weeps and continues to fight. His tears do not display weakness; they show us his strength. In the Lord of the Rings films, Aragorn fights for his rightful place as king, yet he does so with a moving combination of conviction and humility.

Are there any leaders in real life who can call us to more while also acknowledging our humanness?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road. Now watch as the F-15...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Chicken Philosophy I

Sometimes a kernel of truth hides in the strangest places. I think that "the chicken crossing the road" jokes may indeed hold the secrets of the universe. Let's explore...

So, why did the chicken cross the road?

DR. PHIL McGRAW: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on "THIS" side of the road before it goes after the problem on the "OTHER SIDE" of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his "CURRENT" problems before adding "NEW" problems.

Annie likes Dr. Phil; I can't stand him. She likes his "common - sense" approach to relational and existential problem solving. I think he's nothing more than a pragmatist with a flair for the dramatic and an MBA in marketing.

Ok, I'll give a little. Pragmatism can get you part of the way toward becoming that which we were meant to be. It's just that Dr. Phil is so... American in his approach. And not just American; "George W." American. "Take control of your life." "Set goals." "Accomplish... things." "Buck up." "Change your behavior." His counseling advice is little more than a Nike catch phrase, "Just Do it." I imagine that his solution to the current Middle East crisis would be to tell Hezbollah to forget about establishing an Islamic republic. "Listen up, y'all. Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right."

I think we'll have to continue investigating why that chicken wants to get to the other side of the road.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Annie's Dad

Tomorrow Annie's Dad undergoes a double-bypass surgery to take care of two blocked arteries in his heart. Please remember him as you talk with God along the way.

[UPDATE: My father-in-law's surgery was successful, and he will remain in intensive care for 24 hours, and stay in the hospital for another 4 - 5 days. He'll be back on the tennis court in no time. At least I hope so. I want a rematch. Last time, he beat me.]

Friday, July 14, 2006

Talk about the weather

Oscar Wilde said that conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative. So let's talk about the weather. It's going to be hot.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Headbutt heard round the world

One British announcer commented during the awards ceremony that in the French locker room sat the loneliest man in the world...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Celtic Monastic Gathering

This weekend I'm planning on attending the Celtic Monastic Gathering, sponsored by the Northumbria Community. As a descendant of both the Celts and the Vikings (who conquered and terrorized the Celtic people) I've oscillated between the gentleness of the Celtic traditions and the desire to grab the nearest Chieftain Sword and cut my way through the world. It should be an interesting weekend.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Inno di Mameli

It's been a busy week. I had four days off of work, and a World Cup to watch. I had intended to write the next Great American novel during those four days, but you know how it goes. Saturday was the England vs. Portugal game, which Silvi and I watched at Brit's Pub on their huge screen out on their lawn bowling greens. Hundreds of fans (England all the way) packed the downtown pub, the cheers echoing off of the skyscrapers forming a man-made amphitheater around us. Alas, due in part to an angry kick by Rooney, the English footballers packed their bags for home, and the German authorities breathed a sigh of relief as busloads of drunken hooligans crossed the border out of Rheinland.

The Fourth of July, and back to Brit's Pub with some of Annie's friends from London. (who were still sulking over having lost to the Portuguese, of all people.) Germany met Italy, and I have to say I was torn. Shocking, I know, but I half wanted Germany to win in their home country. Probably because of what a great Story it would have made, retold through the ages. I'm a sucker for happy endings. But the fairy tale ending was saved for millions of fans in Rome, as Italy drove two shots into the net in the final minutes of overtime. (A television camera crew was at the pub, and my mom told me that Silvi and I made the evening news.)

Yesterday, (I'm not even going to bring up Brazil's shameful performance over the weekend) I skipped the Portugal vs. France match. All I know is, I hope the world is singing Inno di Mameli on Sunday instead of La Marseillaise.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


This is a site that scans your blog and generates a wordcloud based on the frequency of your entries. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

World Cup takes over

I've been remiss in posting much because I'm engrossed in the World Cup. Italy's frustrating yet successful performance yesterday, the ref's ruining the games, Beckham bending it to give England the win. broadcasts the games for free online, so my productivity at work must have reached an all-time low. And now Wimbledon. I should have just taken this month off.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The ordinary

It's hard to write about the ordinary when I keep reading the extraordinary over at my sister's blog. Read her two latest entries here and here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Father's Day Letter

My brother-in-law, Jim, wrote a beautiful father's day letter to his daughters here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Smart cities

Seattle, Colorado Springs, and Minneapolis, cities in which I lived, are ranked in the top ten of America's smartest cities. Coincidence? I think not. (Los Angeles, where my brother lives, ranked 42nd. Coincidence? I think not.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fun vs. "meaningful"

My experiences on the 48 Hour Film Project have given me a lot to think about this past week. Nearly twenty years ago when I was a freshman in college, I did a project on Christian vs. secular filmmaking. I proposed that most Christian films ... well, they came up short. Short on plot, short on character development, short on storytelling. "Message" movies. Ugh.

I'm a co-leader of a "serious" documentary discussion group. We meet in a church (much to my chagrin), and there is always a Christian element to the gathering. Prayer at the end. Looking for the spiritual element in the films. I like films that are open ended, that don't answer all the questions; the audience, from the comments I receive, does not. Truth be told, I rarely enjoy these gatherings.

Yet, I loved working on the goofy and campy 48 HFP movie. It had no message. It didn't try to solve the world's problems or answer deep philosophical questions. It was just a chase film with some pretty bad acting. But I had a blast.

I assert the following:
1. Most Christian filmmakers (cut from the evangelical cloth, that is) misunderstand the ending of the book of Job. Is the end of Job a "and they lived happily ever after" ending? I don't know about you, but my wife and daughter are irreplaceable. Job may have received many blessings from God, but do you think that there wasn't one day that he woke up and didn't think about the family that he lost?

2. Most Christian filmmaker's stories are more shaped by Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and John Owen than by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Christian filmmakers do not write and shoot their stories in a vacuum. Their stories spring from generations of influence. I wonder what kind of stories would be told if American filmmaker's theology was shaped by Soren Kierkegaard or Jurgen Moltmann?

3. Most Christian filmmakers "light" their stories with a 18K Fresnel when they should have used a 650 Mini-Softlite. Do the metaphors candle or salt mean anything anymore? Stop shining the spotlight when all you need is a small fill-light. Perhaps God has given you a lot of light; but maybe your glaringly bright light is only blinding me, and it's washing out the scene. Put a dimmer on that puppy.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Past entries

Many of the 48 Hour Film Project films from previous years - some good, some not-so-good - can be seen here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

48 HFP: Do we make it?

Friday 7:00pm
I drive over to meet Nate and Steve for the first time, the two young guys who have entered the 48 Hour Film Project. Both are a bit reserved. Mid-twenties. Nate owns the camera, and is the video enthusiast. He shoots and edits small projects for fun on his personal computer. Steve, a warehouse supervisor at the Metrodome, is an aspiring scriptwriter.

I have been asked by my brother-in-law, Kyle, who is a friend of Nates, to help with the production. Kyle, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, is composing the original soundtrack for the film.

The rules: Write, shoot and edit a 4 - 7 minute short film in 48 hours. From 7pm Friday night until 7pm Sunday night. Sixty teams from Minneapolis have entered the competition. Each film must include the same three elements: A prop (this year's prop was a wallet), a line of dialogue ("Thanks for the help. Thanks alot."), and a character (DJ Mooney). At 7pm, each team draws the genre of story they must tell. Our team draws "Silent Film."

Friday 7:30pm
I read the scenario that Steve wrote prior to the competition. It is about 15-20 pages long, with around 30 or more characters. Extremely complex. I realize it is going to be a very long weekend. Nate informs me that we begin shooting in thirty minutes.

Friday 8:00pm
A group of about 10 of us meet in the basement of Hope Community Church to shoot a dream sequence. I don't understand how it fits into the story. Briefly, the story is about a briefcase that is said to contain $10,000. It has been lost and the main character, Pete, is searching for it. Through a series of mishaps and circumstances, he keeps missing the briefcase by a few mintues.

We shoot a rather frightening scene in a dirty and bare room; two "men" are tied up. A single light bulb swings from the ceiling. Pete runs through a hallway, sees the words "UNLUCKY" eerily written in shaving cream on a dank bathroom mirror, roughs up the two men and runs to...

Friday 10:30pm
We have finished shooting the first part of the dream sequence, which lasts about 45 seconds in the film. It has taken two-and-a half hours. Nate and Steve realize that they must radically cut their script in order to finish in time. Steve, Ben (another friend and the "shoot coordinator") and I sit down at the kitchen table in Nate's house, and begin rewriting the script. We cut and cut and cut. We are just getting to know each other, so we dance around not hurting each other's feelings. We argue. We compromise. In the other room, Kyle and three friends are comprising original music. It is excellent. Brass instruments. Classical guitars. Vocals. No 'canned' music. Nate is in another room, editing together the dream sequence.

Saturday 2:30am
I crawl into bed. We have cut ten characters from the script and simplified it immensely.

Saturday 5:00am
I get up and drive to the Metrodome. I feel suprisingly good for only a few hours of sleep. I meet Nate, Steve and Pete (the main character) in the parking lot, and we take an elevator into the basement of the Metrodome. We walk out of the tunnel that the Vikings run out of during the games, and we begin shooting the ending of the dream sequence in the MN Twins dugout. The dome is suprisingly active: Dozens of Somali women, wearing their traditional scarves, are cleaning up the litter in the miles of aisles of the Metrodome.

The four of us shoot for about an hour on the field, then race to the next location.

Saturday 7:00am
WCCO, the CBS affiliate's, studios. We shoot a "reporter" announcing the missing briefcase.

Saturday 8:00am
All the "actors" and "crew" begin to arrive at Steve's house. Steve's car breaks down as he goes to pickup the 78-year-old deaf woman (she is actually deaf) who is to play the deaf bag lady. We "phone"" her (text phone) and she drives up to our location. The house fills with about 30 people.

Saturday 9:00am
We shoot the first scene. I help to break each scene down, to compose the shots so that there will be minimal amounts of setups. Each setup takes valuable time, so I try to frame each shot to tell as much of the story as possible. I begin to have fun. It has been a long time since shooting a production has been fun.

Saturday 11:00am
It is essentially a huge block party. We have taken over a street in order to shoot a car crash scene in which a girl is hit by a car and the briefcase is stolen by a couple of thugs. Nate is shooting from a ladder, Steve is directing the "actors", and I am framing the shots. A few blocks away, Kyle is recording foley sounds: car tires squealing, a case falling into water, etc.

The shooting is going suprisingly well. The three of us work well together. All the cast and crew are enthusiastic and the energy level is high. We shoot a scene with the bag lady. She is walking down an alley and we instruct her not to look at us or the camera. When we yell "cut", we often forget that she cannot hear us, and we proceed to critique or compose the scene. The bag lady continues to walk down the street until one of us remembers her and chase her. She is a wonderful sport about it.

Saturday 3:30pm
We are shooting in a park with the bag lady (who is tiring), two fishermen, a little girl, two boys on bikes, the main character, his friend, and a DJ jamming on a boom box. It is a complex series of scenes, but everything goes off without any major problems. One "actor" keeps asking for his motivation(it's a silent film!); there is always one.

Saturday 5:00pm
We are shooting the final scenes! I am amazed at how smoothly the day has gone. There were no yelling matches. No one got hurt. We got all the shots on the shot list. I am tired, but have really enjoyed the day. And have made a few friends.

Saturday 6:00pm
We meet at Nate's house and begin digitizing the footage into the computer. My role on the film is finished. I head home and crash on the couch as Nate, Steve and Kyle spend the night editing and composing the soundtrack.

Sunday 1:00pm
I take Silvi over to Nate's house to view the rough cut. The guys got about five hours of sleep, which was actually pretty good. The final music was still being written and Nate was working on the credit sequence, but the film looked great. The scenes flowed well and I don't think the audience will get bored. It's campy and goofy and sincere.

Sunday 6:30pm
Nate and Kyle have been frantically trying to fix a technical problem! They must submit their film in thirty minutes (15 minute drive away). They try one last thing and it works. They hop in the car and race across town, arriving at the drop off point with only a few minutes to spare!

This coming Thursday night 9:30pm
The films will be screened at the Riverside theater on the big screen. I'll definitely be there.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chat Room

I added a chat room to my website. Drop in here. I'm in front of the computer most days and in the evenings around 9:30 to 10:30pm Minnesota time.

48 hour film

This weekend I'm helping a couple of guys with the 48 Hour Film Project. We have from 7pm tonight until 7pm on Sunday night to script, shoot and edit a 4 to 7 minute film. I'll help with the writing and the shooting; we have access to one of the television stations as well as the Metrodome (and possibly one of the Twins baseball players.) We find out tonight what kind of film we have to shoot: a mockumentary, comedy, drama, spy, western, detective, or horror film.

World Cup starts today

"What terrible series of events could have been predicted by authorities and experts to produce an increase in national and racial hatreds, public disorder, domestic violence, depression, binge-drinking, obesity, heart attacks, drunk driving, human trafficking, suicide, and even global warming within the next month or so?

The answer, of course, is the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which kicks off today, Friday 9 June."

(Continue reading...)

Thursday, June 08, 2006


My sister created a nice slideshow of her daughter, Hannah, here. She also asks the unanswerable quesions here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Leap of faith?

I was thinking about yesterday's post and the phrase "beautiful and terrifying leap of faith." In some ways, that phrase is a cop-out. It really doesn't mean anything. It may have a nice literary ring to it, but it is neither precise nor practical.

"Leap of faith," of course, refers to Kierkegaard. Without delving into his dense and complicated theology, suffice it to say that I tended to side with him on matters of faith rather than with one of his fiercest critics, Francis Schaeffer. I reference Schaeffer because his methodology is so prevelant in many circles today. At least the circles I run, or ran, in. I believe that Schaeffer places too much emphasis on the use of the mind to find our way to God, to discover truth with a capital "T."

However, I also have to agree with Kierkegaard's critics that he places too much emphasis on subjective and individual faith.

So where does that leave me? And why did I refer to the "leap of faith?"

Most of my early spiritual journey was shaped by Schaeffer's methods of searching for Truth. Eventually, I tired of Schaeffer's dogmatism and sought refuge in Kierkegaard. Over the past few years, I have found a third way. I have slowly returned to Schaeffer, modified by Kierkegaard, and framed by Marcel, Buber and Levinas.

What is missing in both Schaeffer and Kierkegaard are the categories of hope, trust, community, love, mystery, and responsibility. Schaeffer may offer an explanation for the way things are, yet he does not touch us where true change is possible: the heart. Kierkegaard touches on hope and love and despair, yet he has us face the struggle alone, without companions.

Marcel, Buber and Levinas affirm the mind, address the heart and tell us that we need each other to find Truth. It is a "leap of faith." But it is not taken alone.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


We need good teachers. I've had a few. We need teachers who will challenge our beliefs, who will not only agree with what we believe, but also call us in new directions. A few of my teachers:

Brett is a modern-day mystic. In many ways, I am not. Rather, I tend to be a mystic in the company of pragmatists, and a pragmatist in the company of mystics. I'm a contrarian. Brett and I met regularly for coffee by Green Lake in Seattle. We talked into the evenings as the sun set over the many rollerbladers and joggers circling the city lake. Brett taught me to be comfortable with questions, to allow paradox it's place. As I pushed for cohesion, he quietly made room for contradiction. Brett lives the Mystery. And he continues to teach me.

Kevin was my boss when I worked for Summit Ministries. He and I spent hours debating - arguing. He was Reformed Presbyterian. I was... well, I don't know what I was. Just not Reformed. Kevin was very well read, knowledgable in many areas of classical apologetics. The New Age movement, Postmodernism, Secular Humanism, Relativism. I (without knowing it at the time) sided with the existentialists. The "concretists." Those whose launching point for understanding the world was the lived life, not the abstract world of ideas. Kevin unintentionally drove me to voracious reading binges, searching for the vocabulary to battle his world view. He was eloquent in his arguements while I stumbled and stuttered my way in the world of thought. Although he would be horrified to know it, he helped guide me away from "absolutes" and "objectivity" to the beautiful and terrifying leap of faith.

Some teachers need speak only a few words. Liam was a professor (who I never had) at Mars Hill Graduate School. He also is the founder of Lothlorien, a study and retreat center modeled after L'Abri. I only had three conversations with Liam, but he opened new vistas for me to explore. He taught me that my suffering is not a "lesser-suffering." The pain I experience on a daily basis - loneliness, doubt, anxiety, etc. - is just as legitimate as the pain suffered by those in less fortunate countries. Just because I have a full stomach does not mean that my suffering is of no concern to God. Liam also taught me to be practical in my philosophy. Concrete. And he also allowed me to call myself a "writer."

I had the opportunity to know Brent before he died in a rock climbing accident. Annie and I attended his conference on The Sacred Romance, and I have never been the same since. My conversations with him led to a true paradigm shift in my thinking about God, theology, philosophy, literature and film. He offered me water when I was dying of thirst.

I hope you have good teachers.

Inspire me

I stumbled across this website recently. "A weekly dose of inspiration to be creative, try new techniques and explore new mediums. We challenge all artists to get out their art supplies, experiment and CREATE!"

Sunday, June 04, 2006


My sister has begun to write about the loss of her daughter here. She is a wonderful and powerful writer; I hope you spend a few minutes in her story.

Friday, June 02, 2006

My sister

Tracy, my sister, left on Wednesday after five days here in Minneapolis. She continues to grieve horribly for her lost daughter. I say lost because I imagine my sister hopes that one day she will find her daughter. At the end of the toy aisle in the department store. In the car next to her at the stop light. In the park.

Grief is so very lonely. So personal. I want to go into my sister's world, to sit with her. She is a shell these days. A container that holds who she once was... before.

Her eyes reveal... a terror. Death is real. It comes at night. It takes the innocent. The weak. My sister cannot stop Death. It will come again. And again.

And again.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Writing and writing

Karey Kirkpatrick, animation screenwriter of Over the Hedge, (as well as James and the Giant Peach, The Rescuer's Down Under, and Chicken Run) recently wrote:

"I turned 40 today and did some math. I've written four animated films. Each one is roughly 80 pages long. That's 320 pages that have actually made it to the screen out of an estimated 10,000 pages written. That's a ratio of 32:1. I write about 5 pages a day. That means I generate approximately 3/4th of a usable page in a week. That's 39 usable pages a year.

Note to self: Don't do math."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost in American Idol

If you follow the show Lost, you know it can be more than a little confusing. Last night was even more so because I kept flipping back and forth between it and American Idol.

Eventually, the two worlds merged in a rather frightening way.

A poem

Over at Brett's blog, he wrote a great poem called Mom's Day. Check it out here.
Souls of generations
in the eyes of my son
Oh, that I could be found worthy
of such a gift

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wimbledon 2006

My pick? Everyone's pick: Federer vs. Nadal on center court. And I think that this year the Spaniard may vanquish the Swiss back to the Alps.



(revised) It's been very different than I imagined, this reconnecting with people I haven't talked to in twenty years. I woke up thinking about these "kids" I spent nearly four years with in high school. I've heard back from four of them so far, with details on a fifth.

It's making me think of things I hadn't thought of in... well, twenty years. The sand dunes in New Jersey on our senior trip. Writing a rather bad play for the student talent show. Singing a solo. Yes, a solo. It's a good thing, getting back in touch. It's fun to find out how twelve others who started out much like me crafted their lives. And "the good ole' days" can all too often maintain a mythological hold on us. It's important to make it real again. Concrete. Lived. Breathed.

It's good to go back. From time-to-time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mercado Central

Yesterday morning was daddy - daughter time. At least once a week I like to kidnap my little girl and explore. We often go to the Mercado Central in the Latino part of town. It's a small mall with kiosks full of clothes and jewelry and loud music. We are often the only Anglos there, and elicit a look or two. It really does feel like you have crossed the border into Mexico. There's a food court where I can get delicious empanadas and apple soda. Silvi and I shared an excellent pastry and lots of new sights and smells. I hope she remembers these times, or at least that they create a "feel" within her.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I suppose if I were Hindu, I would say, "Thank Agni, Indra, Soma, Savitr, Vayu, Varuna, Marutas, Aditya, Rudra, Vishnu, Brahma, Pusha, Brihaspati, Ashwinis, Vishvedavas, Prithvi, Dyaus, Antariksha, Dishas, Moordha, Prajapati it's Friday."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A sure sign

One sure sign that you're speeding toward the edge of a midlife crisis? You sign up at Next week marks 20 years since graduating for high school. I know it may open up a can of worms, but I'm starting a blog over at and am trying to get everyone in my graduating class to contribute. (There were eleven of us, so that makes it a little easier) I've been in contact with two classmates so far. It'll be interesting to see where this goes...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Devotions and a sleeping baby

Around five this morning, Silvi slept on my chest for the better part of an hour. As she slept, I thought about the many sermons I heard growing up about doing your devotions first thing in the morning. "A man who starts his day without God is like a man without breakfast!" Morning devotions were part of my spiritual culture. The more "holy" one became, the earlier they would rise to spend time with God in his Word.

As Silvi lightly snored, I realized that I had finally shaken all the guilt I had accumulated over the years. The guilt of not sitting in the morning darkness, highlighter in hand, doing devotions.

This morning, with the help of my daughter, I was simply being a devotion.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Da Vinci Code

Last one to mention the Da Vinci Code in a book, on a blog or talk radio show is a rotten egg.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Leadership, Life and Theology Institute

Solomon's Porch is hosting a Leadership, Life and Theology Institute next month. There are a few events I am interested in attending. (The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann being one of them. Reading the Questions: Interpreting the Bible with Hints from Derrida and the Ancient Rabbis also looks interesting.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Narrow Ridge website

I updated my Narrow Ridge website.

Commitment and repentance

Repentance is a commitment to a new course. commit myself I must first know myself; the fact is, however, that I really know myself only when I have committed myself.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

Linden Hills

We live in the best neighborhood in Minneapolis. Hands down. Linden Hills is in the heart of the city, yet it feels like a true community. It's almost like living in a small European neighborhood. We spent the weekend down at the park, letting Silvi explore and "bark" at passing dogs. Met a few friends to play frisbee and sit by the water.

When you get a chance, read more about Linden Hills here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Foul mood

I have been in a really foul mood since returning to work. So has everyone else here in the office. (I don't think it's because of my return, but I could be wrong) Clients complaining, boss yelling, projects cluttering my desktop. It's the week from post-production hell.

If you've visited my Narrow Ridge website, you know that I've been trying to do some projects of my own on the side. To raise money for them, I'm taking on a freelance project; I met with a board member of the MacLaurin Institute, a Christian thinktank on the University of Minnesota campus. They need a promo video to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I should clear a nice chunk of change from the project, if I get it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Crank start

Growing up, my parents had a late 50's Land Rover that you had to manually crank to start the engine. It often died at traffic lights, and my mom had to get out and wrestle with the crank to the tune of honking horns. Kind of what it's like to come back to work after a week off in Vegas and Newport Beach.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

NAB Clip

If you have Quicktime, you can watch a clip from the NAB Show I attended here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Dad

How glad I am to be a dad.
Glad to sit and read to little Silvi, her blue eyes searching for the voice reading The Power of One to her in the darkness.

How sad I am to be a dad.
Sad to hear my daughter cry, while I - helpless - can only rock her and whisper that the sun will soon return.

How glad I am to be a dad. How sad I am to be a dad. Mostly, glad.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I'm flying out to Las Vegas for this year's NAB show, then driving to LA for a few days with my brother and his family. Back in a week.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I hated, hated this movie

I hated the Italian film, Padre Padrone. I detested it. If only I could find all the copies of this miserable film and throw them into the depths of the Mariana Trench. I only watched it two nights ago because it was the first role for Moretti in a major film (1977). Maybe it was the extended scene of three boys having sex with chickens. No, I believe it was when one of them had sex with a mule. Or maybe the scene when a boy severely beats a sheep before having sex with it.

But I watched every vile minute of it. It won at Cannes in the 70's, after all. I hope the director gets a paper cut.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Editing blues

It's 10:45pm; do you know where your local corporate video editor is? Not in bed, where he wants to be.

Memo to all future Clients: If you spend two years developing a new product, don't wait until two weeks before it's launch to create a marketing piece.

Il Caimano selected for Cannes

Il Caimano has officially been selected for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Via! Tutto via!

Holy Land Deli

Best place to watch the World Cup in Minneapolis: Upstairs in the Holy Land Deli. (Of course, you may have to pause for the mid-day prayer call over the very loud PA system.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Take that, paradox!

That pair 'a ducks ain't going to bother me no more!

Grown up films

I came across a review of Nanni Moretti's, Aprile, about an anxiety-plagued director who isn't sure how, or even whether, to finish his films:

"...the self-doubting director in Aprile (played by Moretti himself) is so lazy (emphasis mine) and haphazard that the film is less a serious probing of the creative process than a comical, light-hearted testament to the virtues of procrastination."

In the film, Moretti awaits the birth of his son. He is torn between making a "grown-up" documentary about the political situation in Italy or making the film he really wants to make, a whimsical musical. He begins shooting his musical, then quits to make the documentary, then... back to the musical.

The reviewer seems to have missed the entire point of the movie. Moretti's character's indecision springs from the impending birth of a child who will require Moretti to become an adult, to "grow up." His "procrastination" is a sign of his inner struggle, of having to leave the light-hearted world of musicals to the responsible world of real films, important films. In the end, Moretti refuses to "grow up," and returns to his passion.

I was glad that Moretti's character returned to his passion at the end of the movie. The world has far too many "grown up" filmmakers making "serious" films. Moretti's character could have made political documentaries - and would have been completely miserable doing it. How does the quote go? Something like, "God's glory is a man fully alive." Along those lines.

By following his passion, Moretti's character was indeed a "grown up." He listened to his inner song and let it take form. I, for one, am tired of grown ups. I am surrounded by them.

I hope Moretti never grows up.

Commitment brings freedom

You all know that I like to think of myself as an existentialist. (a modified one, to be sure) In my reading, I stumbled across this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 19th century German writer.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too, all sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!"

So much of my theology is framed by "waiting on the Lord." "Be still." I much prefer the theology of commitment. Is there room for both?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monday, April 17, 2006

Money and Power

While eating an excellent turkey bagel sandwich on this gorgeous afternoon, I reread the first chapter of Jacques Ellul's book Money and Power. You can read the whole book online here. (I listed this book in a previous blog as having impacted me many years ago.) Ellul is sometimes called a "Christian anarchist," and his thought is highly influenced by Marx.

Moretti? Ellul? Am I becoming a socialist in my old age?

"When we open the Bible we do not find a philosophy, a political statement, a metaphysic or even a religion. We find instead the promise of dialog, a personal word addressed to me, asking me what I am doing, hoping, fearing‑and especially what I am."

"The texts (Scriptures) are therefore never a "solution." To the contrary, they get us started on a journey, and the only answer we can hope to find is the one we ourselves give by our lives as we proceed on that journey."

The Green Issue

There's a scene in Moretti's film, Aprile, where he and his young son sit in a pile of letters he never mailed to the leaders of his political party. At the end of the film, he rides through the streets of Rome on his Vespa, throwing the letters into the wind.

This month's issue of Vanity Fair, The Green Issue, is causing me to write yet another "letter", one of those "letters" that clutter the mind yet never get put to ink.

My "letters" are always composed to the same group of people. Those who, in my youth and early adulthood, so greatly influenced my perception of God and the way He interacts with the world. As I began reading one of the environmental articles in Vanity Fair, I started to compose a rather angry "letter" to an old co-worker, one who supports these views of the environment.

I think I need to rent a Vespa and take a ride around one of the lakes tonight.

International Film Festival

This week the 24th Annual Minneapolis - St. Paul International Film Festival begins. I'm going to try to catch The Friend, a German film, on Saturday night.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Cristo degli Abissi

(click picture to enlarge)
Christ of the Abyss

[Updated] I was just sitting here, thinking about why this picture appeals to me. I posted it about an hour ago. It's Good Friday, so I felt compelled to post something to do with the occasion. I nearly posted this picture (too... artsy), then I nearly posted this picture. (from a place Annie and I visited in Lisbon... not quite right)

There is a feeling when you're diving, the weightlessness, the otherworldness, the... helplessness. When you're thirty to forty feet under water, you are at a threshold, a crossroads. Any deeper, and you begin to lose the light and your dive-time decreases. At fifty feet and deeper, your risk of the bends increases. Moving into shallow water brings more safety, yet many of the most beautiful sights lie in deeper water.

Cristo degli Abissi lies in 50-feet of water.

I guess I thought this picture was a great metaphor for my relationship with Christ. He keeps calls me into the deeper water. Not really an original thought, but it's mine for the day.

(or maybe I just couldn't think of a way to tie Nanni Moretti to Easter.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Italy's natural selection

A good piece from The New York Times. "Dear Lord, I was born under Mussolini, please do not let me die under Berlusconi."
[Updated] Another good article on the state of politics in Europe.

Christians and Moretti?

Conservative film reviewers at Christian Spotlight endorse Moretti's 2002 The Son's Room. (while giving it a "somewhat offensive" moral rating.) Ultra-leftist Moretti and ultra-conservative film reviewers finding common ground? Has Moretti lost his edge?

"'s too bad more believing Christian families don't seek out these kind of "art house" films instead of settling for the usual vulgar timewasters at the cineplex."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Faking it

What should be done about "diving" in football?
It's not that I support diving - it's just that there are far more important things in life to get worked up about than a few footballers rolling around in mock agony. We all know that footballers dive. They've been falling over for years. (more)

Elections in Italy

It's been an exciting few weeks in Italian politics. After two days of voting, it appears that centre-leftist Romano Prodi has beat Silvio Berlusconi and the centre-right coalition in a photo-finish election. Although I have a very limited understanding of the complexities of Italian politics, from my seat across the seas I tend to believe that Prodi, a devout Catholic and former President of the European Commission, is better suited to lead Italy toward a new Europe.

Busy summer

Three things to look forward to this summer: the Cannes Film Festival, from May 17 - 28th (this year's program will be announced on the 20th of this month), Wimbledon, June 26th - July 9th, (Agassi one last time?), and of course the 2006 Fifa World Cup. On June 17th, the US team meets Italy. Who am I pulling for, you ask? Do you read my blog much? Does that make me a traitor? (Dream finals match: Italy vs. Brazil)

Monday, April 10, 2006

How my daugther's birthday party helped me enjoy my in-laws...

Let me begin by stating that I absolutely love my in-laws. I could not have asked for better. Yesterday we had my daughter's one-year birthday party over at their home. My in-laws (whom I will refer to as Mom and Pop H.) are notoriously late. Late for meetings, for meals, for...well, everything. Even a funeral once. Yesterday, that no longer mattered to me.

You see, they invest their time in people. And people tend to be a rather messy business. My wife and I and the birthday girl arrived at their home to the usual chaos. Mom H. sweating in the kitchen, cleaning up from the previous occasion. Pop H. moving chairs. Sixty minutes to go until the party begins. Pandemonium.

Usually, I immediately get frustrated, then become quiet. I'm courteous, but that's all.

That's how it started yesterday. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and grumpily started in the living room. Late, late, late. I looked over at Mom H. to see her reading a story to my daughter in the dining room. Forty-five minutes to go.

I started arranging furniture and looked over to see Pop H. playing with another grandaughter. Thirty minutes to go. Now Mom H. is helping her grandson wake up from a nap. Twenty minutes. Pop H. is playing with my daughter, making her giggle.

Ten minutes to go.

You know what, who cares about the time. Mom H. is carrying my daughter around the house, and my daughter is happy. If you spend your lives with people, you're just going to be late. You don't get to clock-in and clock-out of a conversation.

Keep being late, Mom and Pop H. And keep making my daughter laugh.

Something beautiful

I must film what brings me pleasure, not those ugly things. The designers show their collections in a museum of Florence... And because of that I must go film them?


Commentary on Il Caimano

The best article on Il Caimano I've read so far; a great overview of the politics in Italy and the role of art. From Swans, an on-line publication.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Documentary group II

A little over a hundred people showed up last night to watch Invisible Children. Afterwards, we opened it up to discussion and questions with the filmmaker via a phone interview from Southern California. He (Bobby) was articulate and enthusiastic about this and future projects. This film has had wide distribution and has the support of some in the Hollywood community. (such as Jon Turteltaub, director of National Treasure)

Many in the mostly college-aged audience seemed genuinely moved by the documentary. I was moved by a few moments in the film, but on the whole, thought it missed the mark. It made the common mistake many social issue films make by being too broad, to scattered. It would have had more impact for me to get to know one person, to follow his or her story. (revised)

The most moving moment in the film occurs when we see the filmmaker try to comfort a grieving boy whose brother was killed. For that moment, the film was worth watching.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Documentary group

Tonight I'm hosting our monthly documentary group; we're watching the video Invisible Children, about children forced to become soldiers in Uganda. Last month about 120 people showed up. I'm also in charge of the blog, but never update it.


Who speaks badly, thinks badly and lives badly. We must do words justice: words are important!
Palombella Rossa


Here's an interesting article on Silvio Berlusconi. Italy's elections are on Sunday.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Movies that influenced me

When I was ten, I saw La Momia (the Mummy, a Spanish wrestler) on tv. I wrapped myself from head to toe in gauze bandages, and scared the paper boy.

When I was fourteen, living in Kentucky, I saw My Side of the Mountain. I found an old rotting oak tree which I carved out so that two of my friends and I could sit inside. I remember it was dirty and cold.

When I was nineteen, I watched the movie American Flyers, about a bike race in Colorado. That afternoon, I went to Sears and bought a ten-speed and, with a backpack and bottle of water, began peddling through the Kansas countryside. After about 20 miles, one of the pedals broke off. I stayed the night in a small town, and bought another pedal at Walmart. I got a bad rash between my thighs.

When I was twenty-one, I saw the movie The Big Blue. I spent nearly $5000 on scuba diving. I got to ride on the back of a sea turtle.

When I was thirty, I watched Caro Diario. Six months later, I gave my watch as collateral to a moped rental owner on a Greek Island. With Annie holding on for dear life, I raced around blind corners, nearly wiping out more than once.

I think tonight I'll rent The Right Stuff. What's the cutoff age for becoming an astronaut anyway?

You know what I was thinking?

You know what I was thinking? I was thinking how sad it is that I, even in a society more decent than this one, will always find myself in tune with the minority of people. But not in the sense of those films where there is a man and a woman who hate themselves, stranded on a desert island because the director does not believe in people. I believe in people, just not in the majority of people.
Caro Diario

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

David di Donatello Awards

"The nominations for Italy’s national film prizes, the David di Donatello Awards, were announced yesterday in Rome. Two films eclipsed most others with 13 nominations each: ‘Il Caimano’ (The Cayman) from Nanni Moretti, currently holding the top spot at the local box office, and Michele Placido’s ‘Romanzo Criminale’ (Crime Novel). Both were nominated in most categories, including ‘best film’, ‘best director’, ‘best script’, ‘best actor’ (for Silvio Orlando and Kim Rossi Stuart respectively), ‘best supporting actor’ (Nanni Moretti, Pierfrancesco Favino), ‘best cinematography’, ‘best music’, ‘best production design’, ‘best costume design’ and ‘best producers’."


I got a kick out of this.

Dreams and Diaries II

This excellent review of 1994 Cannes winner, Caro Diario, captures what I had hoped The Cinema of Nanni Moretti: Dreams and Diaries would.

"Moretti's three-part movie-essay is structured as a wry, affectionate and very funny odyssey through the Roman suburbs, the Aeolian Isles, and the Italian health system. Relaxed and leisurely, it's an effortless blend of documentary and fiction, part road movie, part sociological satire, part polemical reminiscence. As Moretti travels around, investigating and commenting, he manages to provoke not only laughter, but the sense that we are seeing Italy anew. Accordingly, just as he includes offbeat gags about, say, movie critics being fed a taste of their own medicine, so when he drives to the site of Pasolini's murder, he forces us simply to look and listen, to take in light, space, shape, movement and music; in other words, to recognise the essence of cinema shorn of story and superfluous stylistic tropes. That's no mean achievement in these days of narrative and technological overkill, though the movie is too modest to insist even on its own quirkiness, let alone its more serious subtextual concerns."

With friends like...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


It's come to this.

Moretti the existentialist

My Amazon Review: (read it here or on

"I've been reading the study of Moretti films, Dreams and Diaries, with some disappointment. The reason I am so attracted to his films is for the quiet "existential" moments: riding his Vespa around Rome, kicking a soccer ball on a deserted field, pausing to watch an old film on a cafe television.

The authors of this book focus on subjects such as a citizen's relationship to the state, the form of autobiography, postmodern politics, etc. Even their study of the crisis of masculinity, where they elicit the work of Robert Bly, seems to miss the mark. I appreciate academic studies, yet they never quite capture the essence of Moretti's work. The apartness, the playfulness, the longing for a new Italy, a new man.

As far as I know, this is the only study of Moretti's films available in English. I think that's a shame. I hope someone writes another book, and remembers the man - not just the ideas - behind the lens."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Politics and Sharon Stone

I was happy to see that Nanni Moretti's Il Caimano beat Basic Instinct 2 in the Italian Box Office over the weekend. (Il Caimano was #1 and Instinct was #2. In the US, Instinct was #10; a flop)

Both films are about power. Il Caimano is a negative portrayal of Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the wealthiest man in the country and a media proprietor. His investment company controls Italy's three largest private television stations; with elections a week away, the airwaves have been flooded with pro-Berlusconi propoganda. (He is still expected to lose.)

Of course, Basic Instinct 2 is about sexual power, the power to possess another with one's body. Politics and sex. In Italy, politics beat out sex this weekend. I think that the power to control ideas will always conquer the power to control the body. Because once you control ideas, the body will follow.

Twenty years

Next month marks twenty years since graduating high school. There are no plans for a reunion. That's right; that makes me thirty-eight.

When my Dad was thirty-eight, I was sixteen. Sorry, Dad.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

My friend Brett recommended The Squid and the Whale. Excellent film. Without giving the end away, the film concludes with one of the central characters confronting a source of his fear, which is also tied to one of his happiest times in life. It is a dramatic moment where this character leaves the old ways behind to run to confront this sacred memory.

After the film, I sat there wondering: What would have happened if this source of fear - and joy - had been moved. What if this character, finding the courage to face the past, had turned the corner to find his memory replaced with a parking lot or a condominium complex.

I suppose he would have continued to run.

Friday, March 31, 2006

What about her?

(Based on actual events.)
Project: Create a promotional video for a university in Minnesota.
The producer and cameraman are standing near the entrance of the university library. A student enters.
"What about him?" asks the cameraman.
"We've already interviewed a white male." says the producer. Another student enters the library.
Producer: "He looks Latino."
Cameraman: "Are you sure? He could be Filipino."
Producer: "Well, we've already got a Korean."
Cameraman fidgets nervously. "Are you sure we should be doing it like this?"
An attractive girl opens the door.
Producer: "Let's interview her."
Cameraman: "But we've already interviewed three white students."
Producer: "But she's cute."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

How "soccer" doesn't explain the world

With the World Cup right around the corner, I've be itching to read How Soccer Explains the World. That is, until I read this review in an Aussie newspaper.

Here's an excerpt: "Any book about Association Football with soccer in the title is ultimately written from an outsider's perspective. Aficionados would never refer to the game as soccer, except in circumstances of coercion or necessity. And they would normally do so with measures of hesitancy and guilt."

Perhaps one day I will write a book entitled, How Corporate Video Explains the World. "In the backyards of middle-class pre-fab homes, in the city plazas of Mexico City, on the greens of St. Andrews are lawns that need to be manicured. Toro was there to meet the challenge..."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Something to say

I got my used copy of The Cinema of Nanni Moretti: Dreams and Diaries in the mail yesterday. Very exciting.

Moretti says that he only makes movies when he has something to say. If I ever made a film, I think it would be because I had a question I had to answer.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Box office – Italy
Strong start for The Caiman
Nanni Moretti’s new film had a strong opening weekend at the box office, earning over €2m euro, with the best per screen average of any current release (€5,458). Opening on 380 screens, The Caiman grossed €400,000 alone on its first day of release (March 24).

The decidedly anti-Berlusconi film received good reviews (we cite here just two of the top Italian dailies: "Morettian touch; apocalyptic pessimism of a great humourist"; "certainly Moretti’s most mature film") and naturally drew criticism, just two weeks from the presidential election. Even the president himself even said sarcastically, during a rally: "I am the caiman!" Nanni Moretti doused the controversy, however, during a Q&A with audiences in Milan: "A film shouldn’t change anyone’s mind about voting".


My Dad's retina got tired of hanging out on the back wall of his eye and decided to move last week. Doctor's concluded that it was more beneficial to my Dad's sight that the retina move back to it's old neighborhood; with a little luck, Dad should regain most of his sight in a few months.

My Dad. He makes me laugh. Mostly deaf, shaking with Parkinson's, healing from a broken ankle, diabetic, blind in one eye. After the operation, he turns to me, with a twinkle in his good eye, and says, "Life gets a little out of focus from time-to-time."

Friday, March 24, 2006


Nanni Moretti's first film in three years premieres in Rome today.

My perfect day would be to meet a few friends for dinner at a small restaurant in some quiet corner of Rome. We would start with an apéritif, followed by roasted chicken with potatoes, then a slice of Tiramisu and coffee.

We would walk a few blocks to the local theater and watch Il Caimano. After the film, we would find a crowded cafe and sit outside, discussing the film until two in the morning.

Here are a few advance reviews of the film: Screen Daily, AGI, AGI Online

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Slow days

I'm scared.

It's a slow week at work.

Here it comes.

"Tom, could you build a new shelf for that equipment? While you're at it, why don't we update all the software, repaint the dub room, organize the DVD Masters, clean the studio..."

Alan Greenspan, where art thou? Cut these interest rates so that we corporate producers may bask in the wonderous light of another Bull Market.

In the meantime, where's the circular saw...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


On days when my wife takes the car, I walk to a restaurant for lunch. Taco Bell. KFC. Subway. At least once a week, someone yells something at me as they drive by. I never really catch what they are yelling.

Bloomington isn't a good place to walk. Weir, Germany is a good place to walk. Athens is not. Seattle is, if you don't mind the hills. West Palm Beach isn't; no sidewalks and too hot. Chicago is probably the best city that I've lived in to take a walk. No one ever yelled at me there.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bloomington, MN

I make videos for many of the corporations in Bloomington, Minnesota. Training videos, promotional videos, interactive and educational videos. I shoot these videos, edit them on a very nice computer in a very dark suite, and then distribute these videos, usually as DVDs, although lately, clients have been asking for streaming media.

There are two Bloomingtons. One Bloomington is beautiful: expensive houses overlooking pristine lakes, a ski area, quiet neighborhoods, a college campus. The other Bloomington, where I work, is the industrial part of Bloomington. Railroad tracks, equipment rental facilities, massive corporate headquarters, the Mall of America, hotels, freeways, tourists from Iowa. John Deere. Caterpillar. Donaldson Company. Toro. Thermo King.

Bloomington suffers from schizophrenia. Beautiful and ugly. Delicate and coarse. Lexus and 18-wheeler, side-by-side.

This is where I spend most of my days. Welcome.

Nanni Moretti quote

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Quick update

Thanksgiving: At our place with Mom and Dad. We had Boston Market.
Christmas: At the in-laws. We had steak for breakfast, watched Little Lord Fauntleroy, played games.
New Year's: Watched the ball drop on Univision.
Currently: Reading anything by Peter Kreeft, watching season two of Arrested Development on DVD, taking Silvi to the doctor tonight because she throws up everything she eats. Driving "new" car, the fourth in two years. Spending nights working on website and researching documentary series.