Apr 28, 2010

Glurge Movie Trailer

Okay this is actually really funny. I know you've seen this movie trailer. A thousand times.

Apr 23, 2010

Whether Thou Gleest?

I should start by saying that I love Glee. But I'm not really sure where they're headed. The mid-season cliffhanger left us with some great plot twists. Principal Figgins finally got Sue suspended. Emma Pillsbury gave notice and emptied her desk. Finn found out about Quinn and dumped her.

The show came back two weeks ago, and almost all of the plot twists were undone. Sue got reinstated, Emma is back at her desk. Will's wife Terri is (conveniently) gone. And here's some moments I wanted to see on camera: Finn and Rachel are already "sort of" dating, then Finn backs out mid-episode. The show built up the suspense between Finn and Rachel the entire previous 12 episodes, and they couldn't show the first kiss? Maybe they're saving that for later. Who knows.

Another illogical plot twist happened earlier in the season in the "Mattress" episode. The kids got disqualified from competition for doing a mattress commercial and thus accepting professional work; but Will was blamed for it, because he slept on one of the mattresses, not knowing where they came from. (Easy Fix: Will buys the mattress and no one's accepted anything. But no.  They kept him suspended from Glee.) It all defied logic, because Sue was on local TV every night, profiting professionally from her role as a cheerleading coach.  The sloppy plotting bothered me at the time, but there was so much more to like about the show that I forgave them.

The show came back with a controversy. Sue Sylvester constantly throws ridiculous insults at the Cheerios.  You think this is hard? Try waterboarding, THAT'S hard ... You think this is hard? Try passing a gallstone, that's hard!  In the first episode, Sue ridicules her Cheerios as the dumbest cheerleaders she's ever coached, and that's saying a lot, I once coached Sarah Palin.  Extreme-right talk show hosts accused the writers of using the show for left winged propaganda, and said TV entertainment shouldn't veer into  politics. Well, political talk radio shouldn't veer into melodramatic fiction. So I guess we're even.

Anyway, the second show back from hiatus was "The Power Of Madonna." All Madonna, all the time. The songs were creative and very well produced. But it was thin on plot. LA Times said it the best here.

Given it was Madonna Week, they were going to deal with  sex. Three couples were planning on it. It happens in high school; many teenagers are curious and anxious to try it. Many already have, that's the reality.  They dealt with the aftermaths of those three trysts in a solid way, I thought. But the attendant "Like A Virgin" video felt like soft porn. It made me sad. Maybe I don't watch enough MTV, maybe this was tame in comparison.

What's GOOD: There is a new plot development: Jesse St James, a guy from the rival glee group Vocal Adrenaline, shows up to steal Rachel's affections and is probably a spy for the rival group. The actor, Jonathan Groff, costarred with Lea Michele in the Broadway musical adaptation of "Spring Awakening." They are great together onscreen. It's a great plot twist that they've planted here. I hope they really use it well. I can imagine where the season finale might go with this homme fatal in the picture.

The Madonna episode informed us that Sue Sylvester had been Madonna-obsessed all her life.  She forced the entire school to listen to Madonna for that episode, then got over it.  Again, felt forced to introduce that and then eliminate it. However, it did produce my favorite part of the show: they replicated Madonna'a Vogue video, frame for frame, with Sue in the title role.  Jane Lynch is always terrific.

Okay Glee writers. We love you.  Get back to the story. Let the music work with the story, not upstage it. We can watch MTV for that.

Catalyst West: Tripp and Tyler

I just had the privilege to lead a writing workshop at the Catalyst West Conference in Irvine, California.  I teach a workshop on writing your spiritual memoir. We discuss notable memoirs that work and why; I encourage the participants to write down the stories that shaped their lives. We do an in-class exercise to get story ideas flowing, and they leave with something they can start writing about.

I've led this workshop several times at other conferences. I didn't realize it; but the Catalyst Conference is "kind of a big deal." It's a massive leadership convention aimed at inviting change and innovation in the church. You won't see James Dobson here, unless he's a hipster in a fedora and hair gel. Everything goes to 11. Just go to their websiteThere's so much stuff happening on the website, that they give you the option to turn the background or foreground off,  There's a live feed to what's going on backstage; video clips, audio podcasts, you name it.  It's an ADHD's dream.   This year they had a group of Samoan dancers and a gum wall. It was crazy.

I am cynical and have an overzealous BS detector. I reached a point in my life where I'd seen it all, done it all, experienced every "new thing," (Despite Ecclesiastes claim that there is nothing knew under the sun.") and knew how every New Big Thing turned out. Not always so great.  I may be right to hold onto a bit of cynicism, but I have to remind myself that the story isn't over, God continues to inspire people and get them to move on and do new things.  That's what Catalyst tries to harness: people willing to plunge into new things.  That's who was there.

When I arrived in the main sanctuary yesterday, the band was warming up the crowd with Train's "Hey Soul Sister." During lunch they carried on with Coldplay's "Yellow," some James Brown. And on a tweet dare, they attempted "A Whole New World."  It was totally insane.   Note: While I was typing this, the live feed went on and I witnessed some kind of snowball fight (with tennis balls) while the band played Britney Spears "Hit Me Baby One More Time." The picture at right was from last year. This year the tennis ball fight also involved confetti. I wasn't in the main sanctuary during worship, I was off doing a podcast. So I can't comment on the real worship. But judging by people's reactions, it "went to 11."

Unfortunately, when you're participating, you don't get a lot of time to sit in on sessions, because you're off in a booth doing an interview or a video clip. But I did get to watch a clip about the Compassion guy who got stuck in the elevator during the Haiti Earthquake.  I also listened to Eugene Cho, a pastor of a church in Seattle. He and his wife were visiting in a third world country (I don't know which, again when you're participating you only get to hear snippets) but he found out the average year's wages there was $40. Forty bucks a YEAR.  Cho and his wife donated their entire year's salary and started an organization called One Days Wages, where you can donate one day of your wages to a cause. You can even set up your own donation page, choose a nonprofit, and invite friends to donate one day of their wages to your cause. That was probably my Profundity Hightlight of the time I spent.

There were these two guys who did comedy bits in between sessions. I was dreading that: oh dear, Christian Comedy.  I did Christian comedy in my early days and it was never that comedic.  But these guys were awesome.  g Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton do live comedy and produce short films.  They work for Catalyst but also do stuff on their own.  They produced this short film before they'd seen "Devotion" That Tony Hale and I were in.  There's only one similar bit in the two clips.  

They also just posted their Visit With Don Miller

After watching that I think Don needs to beef up his cameo on Blue Like Jazz, when they make the movie.

I was impressed with these guys, and thrilled that somewhere, the church is embracing a different kind of entertainment and humor.  In fact was impressed with the whole event and all the people I met. And I came in feeling wary. I left regretting I couldn't stay longer. Oh sure, all of these great movements that start from these events will experience the same hardship, conflict and disillusionment we all did. But maybe they'll skip some of the mistakes we made. And then a new generation will take it from there.

BTW, I DID see this car in the church parking lot. I don't know who's rocking this particular "Suffering for Jesus" look.  They better come forward and explain.  Maybe the Hertz dealership had run out of Priuses. 

I'm bummed I'm not there today. If you did attend Catalyst I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Apr 13, 2010

Easter Vigil

This is a continuance of my Holy Week observance, the first part is here.

Good Friday at noon I took our dog for a walk. It was fittingly murky outside: neither cold nor hot, rainy or sunny. I found myself counting my steps, praying for Jesus to have strength. Yes, in human time Christ won the victory long before I was born. But in eternal time, I could actually walk the Via Dolorosa with him. “You can do it, I found myself saying out loud. “We are standing with you.” And I could weep.

We attended Good Friday services that evening. Rather than an elaborate sermon, they staged reading of the events. They were short a reader, so Pastor Anne roped me into participating. I got off easy: I read Pilate and the chick who accused Peter of being one of Jesus’ cronies. Poor Larry had to sit in the congregation and shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Try reading that and walking out clean.

There was little music to mark the evening. We walked out in silence. It wasn't until we were safely in our car and down the road before either Larry or I spoke. Larry said very little. He only managed to choke it out, "All my life in evangelical churches they never captured it. Tonight they got it right."

Saturday I thought about what it was like for the disciples to have witnessed the previous 24 hours. They were off huddling somewhere in shock. Their leader had been assassinated. All those plans about the kingdom of God coming, arriving, it was gone. All those hopes about justice returning? Gone. And all those moments with their friend? Over. Done. He was dead. We sit from our confident promontory in 2010 A.D., we know how it all turned out. But they didn't know. Not yet.

We attended Easter Vigil on Saturday night. We were told to bring bells. (In what church service can you actually say, "More cowbell?") This is my favorite service of Holy Week. You arrive in darkness. Jesus is still dead. The only light in the church is that of the candle you hold. We read four lessons: The Creation, the Flood, Ezekiel, and Isaiah 53. I don’t know why the Church chooses these passages, but I wondered if it were this: In the midst of this yet-unredeemed tragedy, God reminds us of all he has done up to this point:

Remember how I made this world and called it good? Remember that even when I wanted to wipe out evil entirely, I spared Noah? Remember when you thought you were dead and all hope was gone, that I breathed life back in you? And remember your idea that the Messiah was gonna be a kick-ass rock star? Think again: it’s right there in the scriptures. He’s going to be led like a lamb to the slaughter. For your sins he will be chastised. And by his stripes you will be healed.

At this point the candidates were baptized, and we reaffirmed our own decision to die to Self. Then the newly baptized were presented to us: they stood in a line, in candlelight, at the front of the church.

Then, while the church was still in darkness, Pastor Anne charged out to the front and shouted, like Mary rushing back from the garden: “HE’S ALIVE! CHRIST IS RISEN!” All the lights in the church flipped on; the organ fired up, the choir shouted and we rang our cowbells. The words of Wesley’s hymn never seemed so alive to me.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Sunday morning I went to the grocery store to pick up some items for Easter Brunch. I couldn’t help but hum the tune as I was walking down the aisle. As I left the store a woman smiled and said, “Happy Easter!”
I replied, “Happy Easter! Christ has risen!” I don’t know if that shocked her, but it should have. The reality is shocking: Christ has opened paradise. Allefreakinluia!

Apr 2, 2010

Why We Call This Friday "Good"

I grew up in the Lutheran church. Easter Sunday was wonderful, but by the time we got to church, Jesus was already alive, up and at 'em. When I was in high school I attended an Easter Sunrise service. The coolest thing I remembered was getting up at 3:30am and eating eggs at Denny's. Since then I celebrated Easter Sunday on Easter, waking up with the good news already on my mind. 

Four years ago Larry and started attending an Easter Eve vigil at an episcopal church in Beverly Hills. it blew us away. Tried as I might to keep it together, I always ended up weeping.  Two years ago we joined a different episcopal church near where we live. And we are ready for Saturday Night.

The Anglicans know how to take you through Holy Week.  If all time is present to God, then they walk you through the week as it's happening. It's like the Lectio Divina in 3-D. You are THERE.

Last night we went to Maundy Thursday. One of our pastors walked us through that last meal. Jesus had thought about what he wanted to tell his friends on the last night of his earthly life. "This bread is ME. Take and eat it. DO IT. Love one another, that's how the world will know you are mine." Then our pastors washed out feet. Talk about humbling. When it came time for communion, the same pastor who'd given the sermon, gave me a swatch of that bread, pressed it firmly into my palm and said with deliberation: "Susan: this Christ's body. TAKE IT and EAT IT." It felt like I was there at that table with the disciples. Only I now knew what it meant, that bread.I knew what it was goign to mean in less than 24 hours.

The choir continued to sing, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Let All Mortal Flesh keep Silent. No jaunty triumphant songs. Not yet. Then pastors stripped the altar. Episcopalians have a lot of stuff up in the front of the church. Banners, doilies, candles, flowers, and of course the cross. But they stripped all of it, washed the altar (our pastor Anne reminded us that this was to signify getting that altar ready for a dead body to lie on it. Yeah, no jaunty easter eggs just yet).  And then they left.   The choir vacated their place up front and sat in the pews. We sat there staring at the entire front area of the church, totally bare. Totally barren. Bereft. Jesus was off getting arrested by now.

Suddenly ALL the lights in the church went out, the heavy wooden door into the altar area was SLAMMED SHUT. It sounded like a gunshot. It was shocking.  We sat there in the dark. Silent. There was the sound of tears somewhere off behind me. And some in front of me. And next to me. And mine.

I forget what it was like for the disciples,  and Saturday night. They were huddled somewhere in shock. Their leader had been assassinated. All those plans about the kingdom of God coming, arriving, it was gone. All those hopes about justice returning. Gone. And all those moments with their friend. Over done dead.  We sit from our confident promontory in 2010AD, we know how it all turned out. But they didn't know. Not yet.

We will attend Easter Vigil this Saturday night. Waiting in the dark. Of course we know it ends well. We actually bring our cowbells to ring. In what church can you actually say, "More cowbell!"
We will.

But for now it's Friday.

Here's a poem I discovered this week. They sang it in church, set to Thomas Tallis' Third Tune. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed "Fantasy On A Theme By Thomas Tallis, which you heard if you saw the movie, Master and Commander.

If you can, play this mp3 file and hear it over the words below.

To Mock Your Reign

To mock your reign, O dearest Lord,
they made a crown of thorns;
set you with taunts along that road
from which no one returns.
They could not know as we do now,
that glorious is your crown;
that thorns would flower upon your brow,
your sorrows heal our own.

In mock acclaim, O gracious Lord,
they snatched a purple cloak,
your passion turned, for all they cared,
into a soldier's joke.
They could not know, as we do now,
that though we merit blame
you will your robe of mercy throw
around our naked shame.

A sceptered reed, O patient Lord,
They thrust into your hand,
and acted out their grim charade
to its appointed end.
They could not know, as we do now,
though empires rise and fall,
your Kingdom shall not cease to grow
till love embraces all.

Apr 1, 2010

Protect Your Privacy

Totally unrelated to Lent .... my cousin sent me this info about this creepy site.  spokeo.com collects info about people from all sorts of sources, and then publishes it online. I went there and looked up my profile and YIKES, people. I saw all sorts of personal data about myself: financial, personal, hobbies, activities. It was creepy.  In an age of identity theft, credit theft, and fomenting social unrest, this is not what you want hanging out for anyone to see.

Go please go and search this site to see if your information is out there. If so, here's how you can remove it.

1. Go to spokeo.com:  http://www.spokeo.com
2. Type your first and last name in the search bar at the top of the page
3. Locate your profile and click on it (the names are separated by state)
4. When your profile appears, copy the URL from your browser address bar
5. Scroll down to the very bottom of the screen and locate “PRIVACY” in the bottom right corner
6. Click on the “PRIVACY” link
7. Paste the copied URL in the text box
8. Enter your email (you’ll receive a notification email with further instructions)
9. Enter the captcha code displayed to the right of the text box
10. Click the “REMOVE LISTING” command button
11. Go to your email and follow the instructions to confirm deletion

    Please pass this info along!