27 June 2006

Great movies with bad scenes

So, beloved and I are watching the movie North Country last night. What a powerful movie. Having grown up in small-town America, where women weren't always treated as human beings, I felt more than a little shame at how the main characters were treated. I'm not sure how much of the movie was fact and how much was fiction; whatever was fictional was certainly believable to me, to my shame and dismay.

That is, until the final courtroom scene. The main character was being slandered right and left by the defense, all too believable, unfortunately, knowing how these things tend to work. But when the plaintiff's attorney, played by Woody Harrelson, rose to question Charlize Theron's main persecutor, something horrible happened: they movie-fied it!

I'm no screenwriter, and certainly don't have the talent to become a movie director, but COME ON ALREADY! I know enough about courtroom proceedings to know that the dramatic, over-zealous assault on a hostile witness is simply not allowed by any defense attorney or judge worth a tinker's damn, and no witness is going to be so emotionally overcome by a big ol' meanie attorney that they'll admit the truth and perjure themselves. It just don't happen, folks!

But we weren't done when Woody finally got the confession he wanted. Oh, no, we need a good 2 or 3 minutes of addressing the visitors' gallery during the questioning phase of the trial. (the line I expected, but never got, goes something like this: "Is there a question in here somewhere, Counselor?") AND THEN we gotta have the big Hollywood reversal of fortune: those terrified co-plaintiffs who wouldn't join the class action before Woody's big temper tantrum suddenly grow a spine and literally stand up to the big, mean corporation and its attorney (who just happens to be a woman, ironically).

I don't want to make it sound like I consider the historic and societal aspects of North Country unimportant; they most definitely are not. What was done (and continues to happen in some places) to women in the workplace was obscene. But just once I'd like Hollywood to stay out of its own way. Seems to me that the whole point is to tell the story so well that I never think, "oh yeah, it's a movie we're watching here."


26 June 2006


Okay, so maybe it wasn't that great, but the past three days have been pretty incredible, and that's why I haven't updated in quite some time. Friday noonish we had visitors arrive: my brother Brian, sister-in-law Donna & nephew Zach, as well as my good friend Matt, his wife Karin & their son Tyler. My folks arrived around 4:00 that afternoon also. At 6:00 we What a GREAT weekend we had.

June 24th traditionally marks the beginning of "Old Settlers' Reunion" in Barrett, our town festival. Rumor has it that OSR is the longest continually running town festival in the state at 102 years. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that I couldn't be prouder of our community members for all the hard work they put into hosting this annual event. From parades to petting zoos, car shows to community dinners, Barrett really puts on a show this time of year, and it's become one of my favorite things about living in this community.

I am most heavily involved with Prairie Wind Players for the big weekend. This year I'm playing guitar in our summer musical, "The Spitfire Grill." It's running this coming weekend also, so if you're in the Barrett area, stop on by for a spell! Here are some pictures:

You can see in the pictures that I'm playing an Ovation guitar. That's my new baby, Red! I picked it up at Grand Central Music in Duluth when Kris and I were on the north shore for vacation a few weeks ago. So far it's been a great instrument - good tuning, solid projection for a medium-depth bowl and fantastic amplification clarity. My only complaint is a little buzzing on the lower strings at times, but that may just be my playing and not the instrument. Even though this musical has forced me to become a cleaner player, I'm still pretty sloppy when it comes to fretwork and picking. I'm getting the bug to take my playing to a higher standard, though, and so far I'm really enjoying the experience of working with a group of musicians again. The Orchestra for Spitfire has been really tight; our pianist Cheryl has done tons of work with the cast, and Arlyn and I are just along for the ride most nights. It's been great fun. For more information on Prairie Wind Players and our other shows, please visit our website!

Obviously, the other major part of a town festival for the ONLY pastor in town is the community worship service. We held ours Sunday morning at our Lakeside Pavilion. We had good attendance and even better leadership, with Orlo Thompson and two of his friends providing great music and my lovely better half running our power point and video portions of the service. I did preach for the first time in four weeks - felt good to work the old homiletical muscles again. I'll post the sermon tomorrow morning after I'm back in the office.

With all the happenings over the weekend, I thought that today would be a good day for a break. So Kris and I are at home today. Later I'll golf a round and we're going to have pizza for supper. Life is good in Barrett!

10 June 2006

Musical Fun in Barrett

Every summer the Prairie Wind Players, our community theater in Barrett, puts on a musical for the weekend of our summer festival. This summer I'm playing guitar in the pit band for "The Spitfire Grill," and am I ever having a good time doing it!

I've enjoyed the musicals PWP has put on the past few years, but never felt really drawn to participate until this year. I actually auditioned for a part, but wound up strumming instead. The summer musical and my brother-in-law's wedding are two events that made me think it was time to finally upgrade to a new guitar, which I did last week in Duluth. It's been great breaking in a new instrument and hearing how much my playing improves with the right kind of motivation and the structure of playing in a band again. I've really enjoyed it.

I'm discovering over the past year that I don't get motivated without a goal. Ever since the marathon, I've really had to push myself to run. This morning I just decided I needed to find another race, because I'm tired of self-rationalizing out of workouts that I know are good for me. And dammit, I would like to keep the same wardrobe for more than a couple of years, without yo-yoing back & forth between sizes! Anyway, I'll be posting my next race here shortly. If we're in town, I'm hoping to run the Flekkefest 5K in Elbow Lake in August. If that doesn't work, I'll find something else. I need to find something to run towards!

If you're in west central Minnesota the weekends of June 23-25 or June 29-July 1, you should come see "The Spitfire Grill" at Roosevelt Hall in Barrett - it's going to be a great show!


05 June 2006

A final thought on The Not-So-Disturbing Da Vinci Code

On Saturday afternoon, Kris and I went to Alexandria to see The Da Vinci Code. I'm mentioning this here because of what happened in church yesterday morning. Nothing happened. I have not lost my faith in the virgin birth, the many healings attributed to Jesus, the resurrection or the church, tarnished though her history may be. I saw a movie and was able to refrain from either a) setting off on a quest to deconstruct the facades the church has built to maintain her power over the years or b) deciding it's all a sham and withdrawing from any type of organized religion completely. Guess I must be doing something right, huh?

Honestly, I did think of the movie as I was speaking the words of institution yesterday morning before communion. You'd be surprised sometimes if you could hear the thoughts that pass through a pastor's mind sometimes, even in the most sacramental times. As I held the cup and said, "this cup is the new testament in My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," I did think about the movie. "Huh," thinks I, "I still believe that this is the truth, even though I can't prove a word of it." And off we went to share in the holy meal of Christ along with billions of our family around the world.

I believe that blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, there are things people can say about God that make my blood boil, but if the God in whom I believe is truly the Creator of all that exists, how is God ever going to actually be harmed by anything we might say? As has already been noted in this blog, people can say all kinds of stuff, but that doesn't make any of it true, and untruth certainly can't harm us if we see it for what it really is.

Here we have two books: the Bible and The Da Vinci Code. One is a fictional bestseller that has captured the minds of millions around the world: the other has been on publisher's lists for 1700 years in one form or another, and the story it contains has changed the lives of untold billions for almost 2000 years. Personally, one was a book that captured my attention for the five hours it took to drive to the Twin Cities & back one weekend while my wife and I were still courting; the other has claimed my life, challenges me when I am comfortable, comforts me when I am afflicted, and reminds me that I am actually part of a story that is still being written by its Author. Which one should have more power over the other? If anyone's faith is threatened by The Da Vinci Code, then I would argue that the problem lies in weak faith, not blasphemous writing, and I would suggest the threatened person use their experience as an opportunity to grow into a mature, discerning Christian who has the ability to bear the burden of actually thinking about what she or he believes.


PS: It was a good movie, by the way. But if you're looking for unbelievable stuff, the thought that two people in a Smart car can outrun Paris police in reverse ought to suffice, shouldn't it?