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.