Wednesday, March 24, 2010


When I talk to people about that sugary breakfast cereal that was only around for a short time, and had a robot for a mascot, I get blank looks--even when I further remind them that it got really soggy and had red, orange, or purple inside it. But Brandon (that bounteous spring of obscure factoids) remembered it was called "Treasures." Saith Brandon, "How much information do you think Wikipedia has on it?" I doubted it would warrant its own entry. I mean, talk about a trivial subject. Oh, me of little faith. (See the Hidden Treasures (cereal) wiki!)

There could be a whole wikipedia of nostalgic items--and they could even have a separate Wiki-Nostalgia for Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, etc.

Why, just a few weeks ago, as the professor lectured on Calvin's concept of "virtual realism," I suddenly remembered what may be the most inane t.v. theme song I have ever heard. It was for a show called VR Troopers, and the song went, "Troopers. Three. (Go!) Virtual reality. Troopers. Three. (Go!) Virtual reality." And so instead of listening to the lecture, I was thinking about how stupid that theme song was.

And remember that cartoon about crime-fighting t-rexes wearing suits with different colored bow-ties and sunglasses? Who sat at a round table? It was called The Adventures of T-Rex. It ran from 1992 to 1993. Oh, Wikipedia! What a wonderful waste of time!

So, anyway, I am having a good Spring Break. But mostly because I've been working away at my children's/young adult fantasy fiction series. Just finished a draft of Book Three. Ideas for Book Four are starting to shape up. Soon, I will have Books Two and Three cleaned up enough to ask people to read and give feedback. Mwahahahaha! (Not evil laughter--just a little maniacal.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (movie!)

We saw the Sherlock Holmes film this past weekend. I went in with very low expectations. I assumed there would not be any kind of a mystery, and that the characters had been vaguely inspired by the books, but more or less completely re-envisioned. I also thought Robert Downey Jr. was too nice and sweet to be a good Holmes.

I was surprised to find that not only was there an element of mystery, but its resolution was based on Holmes' keen obseravtions and vast knowledge, which is very much in keeping with the books. And likewise for Downey/Richie's interpretation of Holmes. The detective is not the same character from the books, but he is very much in the spirit of the "real" Sherlock Holmes.

And that's probably the most one can reasonably expect. I suppose Sherlock Holmes as written by Conan Doyle and illustrated by Sidney Paget is too vivid a character ever to be depicted accurately on screen. A good movie adaptation shouldn't aim for slavish imitation, and I thought the film did a good job of creatively re-imagining Holmes while also remaining faithful to the essence of the character.

The portrayals of Watson and Irene Adler were much freer, which is understandable. They weren't all that interesting to begin with so it's not distressing to see them conformed to fit contemporary character types.

I think that of the four of us who went, as the only Sherlock Holmes / Arthur Conan Doyle fan, I enjoyed the film more than anyone else. (Other people's comments were along the lines of "Not bad at all!" and "I would watch a sequel"--I was like "Woohoo! That was fun! That was about as good a contemporary re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes as one could hope for!") So, if you've been trying to decide whether to see it or not ... there's my estimation, for what it's worth.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wild At Heart / Captivating

I finally picked up a copy of Wild At Heart and its companion book Captivating (for those unaware, these books by John Eldredge--the second one in collaboration with his wife, Stasi--are about their idea of what it means to be a real Christian man and real Christian woman. The books have been quite popular among some evangelicals--Wild At Heart especially).

If I had known when I started the books that Eldredge is a Focus on the Family man, I would probably have read with a less charitable eye and would have caught on quicker to some of the problems with the books.

Now, I don't want to disparage the books too much, because I think they communicate a good deal of powerful truth. They preach the gospel, and I respect the apparent fact that so many people have found genuine healing in from these books. It is certainly true that every man and every woman is deeply wounded inside, and that God alone can heal our brokenness.

I think it's kind of helpful that they frame "the wound of the masculine heart" in terms of feeling inadequate, or not up to the task, and "the wound of the feminine heart" as feeling unloveable, or unworthy.

But this would be much more helpful if they understood that gender differences are really only general tendencies, not rigid categories. Often times women are plagued by feelings of inadequacy and not being up to the task. And it would be absurd to say that men care nothing about being loved.

The Eldredges make some statements that seem on the surface to support the kind of role flexibility that is truly healthy and helpful (e.g. they talk about wonderful Christian women they know who are not into "girly" activities, but are nonetheless "captivating"). But these efforts at accomodating the outliers on their gender map go unexplained and unreconciled to the main thrust of their argument--e.g. part of their argument being that every woman dreams of being a beautiful princess.

Which brings me to my second complaint: the Eldredges make no effort to distinguish what is healthy and what is unhealthy in the gender role expectations set by the media. Instead, they appeal to popular movie themes as if these could tell us what the innate desire and fantasy of every man and woman must be. It as if it never occurred to them that the media shapes people's fantasies, often in unhealthy ways.

Perhaps most glaringly, however, these books openly reject the teaching of scripture, without giving any explanation. They pretend to draw conclusions from a handful of stories and passages, but it seems pretty clear that they are reading into these texts what they have already decided to be true.

They reject the image of the industrious, hard working wife described in Proverbs 31 as impractical. They state that Christian women are too busy and are only tiring themselves out in trying to serve others. Instead, women should be putting their effort into being beautiful and seducing their husbands. Because the real purpose of a woman is to cultivate her own beauty. And here they appeal "every woman's" desire to dress up in beautiful clothes, and "every little girl's" interest in make up and doing things with their hair and being a princess.

Now, the last time I checked, vanity was a sin. 1 Tim. 2:9-10 exhorts women to "dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds" (NIV). Likewise, 1 Pet. 3:3-4 advises wives "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (NIV).

I am sure the Eldredges would protest that they are advocating the same kind of inner beauty of which 1 Peter speaks. Perhaps they are. But they are also advocating the kind of vanity about one's personal appearance that the texts are warning against.

The same problem occurs in their discussion of masculinity. The books hold up male aggression and even violence as what God created men for. But the New Testament seems much more concerned about curbing aggression than encouraging it. Just before the previously mentioned advice to women, 1 Tim. 2:8 exhorts men "to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (NIV). And 1 Tim. 3 states that male church leaders should be "temperate, self-controlled, respectable," "not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome." This sounds a lot more like the "domesticated" man John Eldredge despises than the "dangerous" and "wild" man he upholds as a model.

As I said before, there is some powerful truth in these books, but unfortunately it is mixed with some highly destructive falsehoods. And the more I try to wrap my head around what exactly John and Stasi Eldredge wanted to say, the more I conclude that they are in fact, two deeply hurting, broken, and very confused people, who don't really know what they are talking about, but who are grasping hard, both at the gospel message, and at the stiflingly rigid gender roles they advocate.