30 March 2008

may God bless you, Dith Pran

Dith Pran died today.

For those who don't recognize his name, I strongly urge you to watch the 1984 release, The Killing Fields. It's not only a great movie, but it tells his story--the story of a truly heroic man, portrayed by Dr. Haing Ngor, who himself was forced to flee his native Cambodia after it was taken over by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rogue in 1975.

In the movie, Sam Waterston plays Sydney Schanberg, an American journalist who works with Pran. When the Khmer Rouge enter the capital, Phnom Penh, Pran stays, even though there's the option to flee to America with his family. It turns out that the Westerners are forced out, and Pran is taken to a labor camp. He eventually escapes, and when Schanberg meets him in Thailand (burdened with guilt), Pran says that there is "nothing to forgive."

It's a wonderful movie about an amazing man.

29 March 2008

I really don't worship the earth!

I spent Earth Hour tonight (8:00-9:00) sitting in the dark and watching the movie The Wicker Man. (That is, an hour of it, anyway.) By the way, I watched the original version, with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, not the less-interesting remake with Nicolas Cage.

That movie, with its dancing around the maypole and its nature worship, might seem to be the perfect film to watch during Earth Hour. But like the poor Scottish policeman, I would maintain that the old pagan gods are no gods at all--even while I go up in flames!

27 March 2008

slavery, alive and well

As part of our church's "Christ in the Media" series--which we recently held during Lent--we watched the movie Amazing Grace. It tells the story of the British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, as well as his relationship with the former slave ship captain, John Newton. (He authored the hymn, "Amazing Grace.") For many people, that's the idea they have of slavery: something that was abolished in the 19th century.

Hannah Wallace of Salon.com, in a revealing interview, recently spoke to Benjamin Skinner about his book, A Crime So Monstrous. There are estimates that 27 million people today are victims of debt bondage, forced domestic servitude, and forced prostitution. On this planet, more people are in slavery than ever before. Skinner speaks of his four years under cover of investigative journalism. He recalls a time in Bucharest, Romania, when he was offered a young woman with Down's syndrome in exchange for a used car.

But it's not all bad news. He offers some constructive advice. Read about it right here.

20 March 2008

a breath of fresh air

For those who have grown weary of politicians who doggedly assert that they know what's right, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary...
For those who are tired of having their intelligence insulted by those refusing to humbly and courageously engage with the real issues...
For those sick of media broadcasts that have plenty of heat, but precious little light...
I offer what seems to me to be a breath of fresh air. Take a half hour, if you haven't already, and listen to Barack Obama's speech on race. I'm still wavering between Barack and the Green Party, but hearing someone talk to me like I'm an adult goes a long way toward making up my mind!

18 March 2008

the last supper, battlestar galactica style

Maundy Thursday is just two days away. The quite excellent Sci-Fi Channel program "Battlestar Galactica" will soon begin its fourth, and final, season. I'm not suggesting that the two are in any way close to equivalent in importance. What can compare with our Lord's body and blood?

But if, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps Leonardo da Vinci can excuse this take-off on his masterpiece. Is there room for human/Cylon art?

13 March 2008

spit him out

The latest casualty in the war of sexual politics has resigned, effective next Monday. I'm speaking of course, of our former New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer (that's his wife, Silda, in the obligatory appearance beside him). It seems that whenever a politician gets caught thinking with the wrong part of his body, friends disappear and enemies sharpen their fangs. Understand, I'm not defending what he did. In fact, he probably committed a worse crime than doing business with prostitutes--and that would be stupidity. Many speak of his hypocrisy, given that he vigorously prosecuted such crimes while state Attorney General. But then, who among us has never acted in a hypocritical or stupid way?

If his behavior were looked at in a vacuum, I would certainly agree with forcing him out of office. (I guess I still do, anyway.) The people who would be our leaders need to have high standards of character. (Though not impossibly high!) It seems, however, that sexual offenses are usually the ones that get the attention of those calling for high standards of character. Don't dishonesty, waging war on nations of no threat to us, ignoring the concerns of allies and of Congress, and a slew of other end runs around the constitution speak to standards of character? If only that were so--then a certain president and vice president would have taken the perp walk that our former governor has taken.

11 March 2008

uli jon roth!

I received in the mail (it's now yesterday) the disc by Uli Jon Roth, Beyond the Astral Skies. He's in the category of "one of the greatest guitarists you've never heard of"--unless, of course, you're one of the few who have heard him. In the 70s, he was with the German band, the Scorpions. He soon left them to pursue his own musical vision.

In 1985, with his band, Electric Sun, he released this album. In my opinion, it was "one of the greatest albums you've never heard of"--unless, of course, you're one of the few who heard it! By the way, 1985 was a big year. That was the year that Mikhail Gorbachev became the final leader of the Soviet Union, and less important to world affairs, on the third of August, I experienced what I consider to be my conversion experience.

On Beyond the Astral Skies, Uli Jon Roth demonstrates an awesome display of guitar virtuosity. His vocals, unfortunately, aren't nearly as impressive. Some people would be less than impressed by his hippy / new age lyrics as exemplified on the song, "Angel of Peace": "but now we've got a chance / To end that evil trance / If we're all joining hands!" That said, I still thank God for the import CD I obtained from Japan!

08 March 2008

my sister and international women's day

There are two events that I always associate with today. The first, of higher priority for me personally, is that it's my sister's birthday. The second, of higher priority for the entire world, is that it's International Women's Day. At times, I've attempted to be funny by saying that I remember the 8th of March is International Women's Day because it's my sister's birthday--and my sister is a woman.

We haven't heard very much about International Women's Day in recent years, at least, not as much as in the 90s. Surely Republicans aren't afraid of the "International" in the title? If more countries in all parts of the world were run by women, I really believe there would be far less war. (Not that women don't fight--they just tend to use stuff other than bombs and bullets!)