Monday, February 27, 2006

The Way Starbucks Sees It

I've always enjoyed quotations. Funny. Inspiring. Whatever. I like quotes. As if I needed another reason to like Starbucks, I think their "The Way I See It" series is wonderful. If you haven't seen it, they put quotations on their hot-beverage cups. They're supposed to get people talking. They number the quotes, in case you want to read them all I presume. If you're not addicted to caffine, maybe you can be addicted to thought-provoking quips. I admire The Way I See It idea. Anyway, here's one I picked up Friday night that really got me thinking:

The Way I See It #68

In an age when pictures have become more eloquent than words, schools are still programmed to reduce the child's immersive interaction with the visual world to the practical poverty of the alphabet. Visual literacy should become a pedagogical priority in order to prepare our children to function within the increasingly visual complexity of our environment.

--Vick Muniz, Artist and photographer. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he now resides in New York City.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Significant Cinema Series: THE GAME

I thought I would occassionally post a review of an older film that really holds-up for me. These will be movies that I think are worth owning, movies that matter. Here's the first. It's one of my favorite movies of all-time.

THE GAME, directed by David Fincher, Polygram, 1997

"You want to know what it is? What it's all about?
John. Chapter nine. Verse twenty-five."

Millionaire Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is a man who actually thinks he lacks nothing in life. He has everything. Above all, he is in control. From multi-million dollar business deals to phone calls from his ex-wife, Van Orton controls every facet of his well-ordered life. An unanticipated visit from his estranged brother changes all of that.

Van Orton is just "Nickie" to his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn). Early in the film we witness their luncheon reunion. It's the first time they have seen each other since their mother's death four years before. Nick's expressions show us that he despises Conrad; he expects his flaky brother to ask for a handout. Likewise, Conrad thinks Nick's mansion is "the house of pain." And, that's an apt title given that their affluent father committed suicide there by plunging off the roof (an event we see via flashbacks). The elder sibling is surprised that his brother initiated the visit merely to give "the man who has just slightly more than everything" a birthday gift. A gift certificate from Consumer Recreation Services (CRS) is presented. Conrad promises Nick "a profound life experience."

Despite reservations, Nick is intrigued by the company's self-described "game." At their local headquarters, he is subjected to a battery of tests. Later, in a follow-up telephone call from CRS, Nick is told that his application has been rejected. Nick is incensed, but doesn't connect the dots. At his initial meeting he was told that CRS provides a person with "whatever's lacking" in their life. What's lacking in his life is frustration, rejection, uncertainty, danger, insecurity, and above all, humility. He's oblivious to the fact that those things are missing, but Nick is about to learn them. Thus, unbeknownst to him, with the words, "Your application has been rejected," his game has already begun.

To say the game is a nightmare would be an understatement. Like Nick, the moviegoer is left guessing. Lines between reality and fantasy are not just blurred, they are indistinguishable. The director, David Fincher, is a master at placing characters in vexing situations and bleak locations. Both of those elements are present here. Part of the film is shot on location in Mexico. That sequence alone is such a fundamental moment in the breaking of Nicholas that one could analogize it to a descent into hell.

The central theme of the movie is crystallized by a character identified in the screenplay simply as "Businessman 2" (see the introductory bolded quote preceding this review). Uttered after a time cut that takes us to an interior shot at an athletic club, the quote is the centerpiece of the film. Despite the fact that it is not veiled at all, many miss the biblical reference.

"I was blind, and now I can see."
--John 9:25

Like the blind man healed on the Sabbath, Nick is made well by his brother's gift. Indeed, the game is Nick's "Road to Damascus" experience and a case can be made for Conrad as the Messiah who leads his brother to salvation. Just as Christ knew that Saul required a dramatic conversion experience, Conrad grasped the severity of Nick's situation: Only a confrontation with blindness could bring about a change. Or, as a good friend of mine says, "It takes an awful lot of humiliation to get a little humility."

"I had to do something; you'd become such an asshole."
--Conrad Van Orton

Thus, if Conrad is not a type of messiah figure, he is at minimum an Ananias used to restore sight to Brother Nick (see Acts 9:12-18).

In the great tradition of Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Fincher's THE GAME is a remarkable variation of "the blinders are off" story. Like George Bailey before him, Nicholas Van Orton is a despairing man who greatly needs to be shown the light. Bailey's finances were kaput whereas Van Orton had a bankrupt soul. The only difference between the two is that Nicholas was unaware of his desolation. However, in the end, the gratitude Nick wears on his face shows us that he recognizes just how bleak things had become. Is it any wonder that we don't see Nick really concerned for anyone other than himself until after he's been saved?

Reviewed by Shenandoah Lynd
Photo copyrighted: Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Inc., 1997


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Visual Art

That picture is my favorite painting from my favorite artist. The painting is called "Friendly Walks." The artist is Aldo Luongo.

When I started this blog a few months back I knew I would be putting poetry up here, but I wouldn't have guessed I be posting any visual arts. Well, that all changed today when my buddy Jon Hall decided to start a conversation off one of my posts. I thought my post was about the long, almost lost, art of poetry, but Jon expanded the discussion into visual arts. If you're interested, check out his post Medium of the Poets. In it he points out that visual art (i.e. paintings) have become, at worst, "irrelevant to our culture" and, at best, inaccessible. I think he has a point and that bums me out a bit. There's something magical and peacemaking about going to a gallery and staring into a painting until you get lost.

So, in an homage to Jon's tallent as an artist, I thought I'd pay my respects to his medium of choice. I got to thinking about my gallery experiences and I wanted to share my favorite artist, Aldo Luongo. Granted, on-line browsing cannot do justice to looking at a full-sized and textured work of art, nor can even the best of monitors capture what Luongo's color choices do to my soul. Nevertheless, I adore his work and hope that you will visit his website:

I love all of Luongo's work. Yet, it is "Friendly Walks" that really captivates me in person. I think it's because I've always looked forward to old age. Additionally, the idea of longevity in any area whether work, living space, marriage, church, or whatever, has always appealed to me. At the top of longevity desires would be the desire to have a life-long friend. This painting captures that joy. The man on the right is Luongo's "Hawk" which is his depiction of his idea of his future self in combination with the memory of his father (I love this concept). When I look at this painting, I think that I want to live my life in such a manner that I can be proud of the choices I made. I like to imagine the guy on the left saying, "Remember when we took THAT leap of faith way back when?" or "Remember how God came through for us back in that moment 25 years ago?"

That's the great thing about visual art, it's not "spoon fed" like so many films are. Rather, we get to fill in our own blanks, take our baggage and apply it to what's on the canvas and walk away with our own interpretation. I too hope for a renaissance in terms of the mediums through which visual art and poetry are expressed. I'd also like to see more of it in churches, but that's a whole other conversation.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Defenseless Pray

Abrasive not bold
Adjectives flung like dung
Mincing words
Taking my inventory

Only you know my heart
Outside judgments fail
Nothing muddles your truth
You are my defender

Brash and brazen
The accusations flew
Sizing me up
One down on the ladder

You know the score
Heart cracked open
I long to please you
Complete surrender

So I'm brusque
Dullard and no fun
Got my number
You're spreading the word

Standing on solid ground
My tank's full
Accountable to you
You are my bottom line

--Shenandoah Lynd


Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Silence of the Poets

Up to now all the poetry I have posted on Doah's Ramblings have been poems that I wrote. I thought I would share someone else's poem. This is my favorite poem written by someone not related to me. Let me know what you think . . . .


is something to be grateful for.
One there were so many books, so many poets.
All the masterpieces one could never read,
indistinguishable even then
among the endless shelves of the unreadable.

Some claim the best stopped writing first.
For the others, no one noted when or why.
A few observers voiced their mild regret
about another picturesque, unprofitable craft
that progress had irrevocably doomed.

And what was lost? No one now can judge.
But we still have music, art, and film,
diversions enough for a busy people.
And even poetry for those who want it.

The old books, those the young have not defaced,
are still kept somewhere,
stacked in their dusty rows.

And a few old men may visit from time to time
to run their hands across the spines
and reminisce,
but no one ever comes to read
or would know how.

--Dana Gioia


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Valentine baby. Age 4 today. Nick name "Curley" because of those wild locks of blonde hair. Lookin' a bit like Shirley Temple nowadays. Zoey means "life" which is the perfect name for this little girl because she is indeed full of life. She may be more full of life than anyone I know. Her middle name is Anne, named after mom Chrisy Ann, grandma Sherry Ann, great-grandma Ann Marie, and Aunt Lori Ann. We added the "e" because it seemed to work better with the way we spelled Zoey.

I think Zoey's birth says a lot about her personality. It was joyously complicated. She started out in the correct position, they started the drugs to induce labor, and then she decided to turn around into the breech position! They had to stop the induction and call a specialist to hand-turn her back into the correct position. Zoey's heart rate was all over the place while she was in the womb. Finally, she came out but she wasn't breathing. She was purple and had apparently wrapped her cord around her neck. No time for niceities or for dad to cut the cord, they rushed her over to the resuscitation table. It was the longest four minutes of my life. When she drew her first breath and started crying, it was the single most miraculously joyous moment of my life. Anyway, all I can say is that I really relate to the song that Sting wrote about his daughter wherein he sings: "She can be all four seasons in one day."

Zoey loves for me to tuck her in at night and she asks for some soft tickling on her back then she says, "Daddy, tickle me all of the days, okay?" She loves to pick out her own clothes. In fact, just like her mother before her, she wants to do everything herself! And, as a good friend of mine just helped me to realize, if you inquire, "Would you like me to help you with that?" before actually doing something for her, you'll avoid a lot of meltdowns. She loves to eat macaroni-and-cheese although "mack-a-wronegie" is her name for it. If you get her angry, she'll look very mad, cross her arms and say, "You hurt my heart!" Currently, she likes to watch the DVD, "Annie" over and over. Her favorite book is "Guess How Much I Love You" about Little Nutbrown Hare and his daddy. She even tries to jump like the hare to show me how much she loves me. She's in constant competition with her big brothers. Ask her why she's so cute and she'll tell you, "Because Jesus make me like this." Happy Birthday my first daughter!


Monday, February 13, 2006

Best Picture Nominations

With the Academy Awards rapidly approaching on Sunday, March 5th. I have just completed my annual tradition, okay, maybe it's more like a compulsion, to see all five of the nominees for the Best Picture Oscar. Usually, I'll rank them 1-5, in the order I think they deserve to win. This year is lackluster for me. All five of the films are good, even very good, but there's not one I am really excited about. For example, it's not like when SILENCE OF THE LAMBS had to win, or BRAVEHEART was my clear favorite, or "I'll go take a dump on the Academy's doorstep if SCHINDLER'S LIST doesn't win!"

In alphabetical order, here are the nominations this year: (1) Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN; (2) Bennett Miller's CAPOTE; (3) Paul Haggis's CRASH; (4) George Clooney's GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK; and, (5) Steven Spielberg's MUNICH.

Having seen all five, if I could vote for Best Picture, I'd cast my ballot for GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. Likewise, I'd give the Best Director Oscar to George Clooney. I think his little film is beautifully shot and quite an acomplishment. For what it's worth, I've seen all the Best Actor nominees too and I would definately vote for David Strathairn for playing Edward R. Murrow in this film. These aren't my predictions, just my personal picks.

It's a weird year though because I think the other four films are just about equal for me. And, I don't think I'll ever buy any of these films on DVD so it's just kind of a so-so year, not a lot at stake here emotionally for me, just five pretty good movies.

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