August 2008


Today I bought a Carrie Underwood CD for thousands of dollars.

It came with a free Honda Accord.

I threw one of them in the trash.

Wanna guess which one?

This post is pretty much pointless since everybody who reads this blog has already heard the news.

But.

I am engaged.

Make all checks out to Mr. and Mrs. Tyler Smith.

Thank you to all who have encouraged Jennifer and I throughout our relationship. Through many roadblocks and trials many of you have encouraged us, convincing us that despite seemingly insurmountable odds, yes, God does have his hand on us and has designed us to share life with one another as husband and wife. Thank you for your prayers and love.

Make all checks out to Mr. and Mrs. Tyler Smith.

Wait. Did I already say that?

Love,

The Future Smiths

p.s. make all checks out to–ah. never mind.

1) Right now I should be working. But Jen is coming. How can I be productive when I am waiting to see my love?

2) Here’s a list that I made while I waited for The Dark Knight to start (which I was watching for the third time).

    obscure and/or underrated movies that make me laugh

  1. Shakiest Gun in the West, starring Don Knotts
  2. Buck Privates, starring Bud Abbot and Lou Costello
  3. Sons of the Desert, starring Laurel and Hardy
  4. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Carey Grant
  5. Blast From the Past, starring Brendan Fraser (trust me, it’s good!)
  6. Housesitter, starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn
  7. No Time for Sergents, starring Andy Griffith
  8. Pure Luck, starring Martin Short
  9. Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and John Candy
  10. Bringing Up Baby, starring Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn

3) Interesting article in Collide about the death of the Christian Music Industry. Features a great pic of Sufjan in his hawk getup. That never gets old!

4) Jeffrey Overstreet links to this article interpreting Wall.E. His observations on Marx’s influence on the way we interpret art is very telling, especially in light of the article on the death of CCM. Do Christians make art merely to win idealogical points? See the latest offering from the makers of Facing the Giants for proof that they do do that, courtesy of my favorite film critic David Kern.

5) Another list:

books that have shaped the way I think, for better or worse, whether i agree or disagree with the writers on the whole or not, etc, etc. and why

  1. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor–revealed God to me as a wild lover who will stop at nothing to have me as His child. Inspired me to once again try my hand at fiction. The single most important Christian writer of fiction in the last century, Flannery possessed a prophet’s spirit. She should be required reading at every Christian college, University and seminary. She changed my life (and continues to change my life) not through cheap, ideological diatribes with a thin veneer of fiction, but through well-crafted stories that manifest the intersection of heaven and earth.
  2. Mere Christianity, CS Lewis–showed me the clearest presentation of the core beliefs of Christianity that I had ever read, and convinced me that being a Christian and a thinker are not mutually exclusive
  3. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury–the first book I ever read multiple times. I finished reading it, flipped back and read it from the beginning again immediately. Instilled in me an enormous appreciation for the power of literature when I was only 12 years old.
  4. A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren–Out of all of the writers on this list, certainly the one I disagree with the most. Nevertheless, this book gave me a new paradigm for the way I look at the world and evaluate cultural mores.
  5. The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis–the first Lewis book I ever read. His wit and wisdom inspired me as an artist and got me reading again after a lull during most of my high school years.
  6. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut–It was while reading this book that I began to hate war and violence for the first time. Along with The Ringing Bell by Derek Webb, this book is what first caused me to consider pacifism.

6) As I look at the above list, I can’t help but notice that four out of the six books I listed are fiction. That’s 66%. Also, i strained for along time to think of other books that have come close to affecting me the way these have, but came up short. I am struck by how so few books have really shaped me, and that of those few books so many are fiction.

5) Jacob Dylan, Seeing Things

4) Amos Lee, Last Days at the Lodge

3) Ezra Furman, Inside the Human Body (oh yeah, maybe because it’s not released yet!)

2) Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst

1) Coldplay, Viva la Vida

1. Lest your hope in the police be restored, allow me to shatter it with this horrifying story.

2. If a SWAT team doesn’t attack you as in the above story, an SNL comedian just might…just before eating!!

3. If you’re wondering what could make someone crazy enough to punch rockstars just before eating, the answer is in the water. Yet another reason to distrust our government. (Special thanks to Riley Miller for pointing out this disturbing development).

4. If you’re looking for proof that Obama is the anti-Christ, the Burnsdie Writers Collective provides it…in spades!

5. As long as we’re talking about the folks at Burnside, may I pose a question? Am I the last person on earth to hear about the Blue Like Jazz  movie? Am I? Am I?? And secondly, can this much-above-average book make anything other than a mediocre movie? Can it? Can it??

1) The Dark Knight’s only flaw.

2) I am over halfway through Frank Viola’s “constructive sequel” to Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church. It’s very good, but has some of the same flaws of its predecessor (such as Viola’s penchant for self-reference and gaps in his Biblical exposition). I am enjoying the book thorougly, but it so far hasn’t answered very many of my questions about organic church life. I will hopefully post more thoughts soon.

3) David Kern has done it again. My favorite film critic also happens to be one of my very best friends. Sweet.

4) Watch Daniel Plainview drink some milkshakes. With a giant straw.

5) “The only people on earth who do not see Christ and His teachings as nonviolent are Christians.” –Mahatma Gandhi.

It is no secret to those of you who personally know me, that I love the new Batman movie. In fact, with the exception of the Hellboy films, it is the only superhero movie I have ever loved. Superman Returns came close, but came up short. Batman Begins had potential, but it too failed to impress me.

The Dark Knight is not just a good superhero movie. It’s a good movie. It also has as much to say about humanity, life, justice, morality, and peace as Citizen Kane, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, The Godfather, Ghandi and Glengarry Glenross.

This, the bloodiest and most psychologically disturbing of all superhero film makes for an ironic  polemic for pacifism. It raises tough questions about the value of human life. More pointedly, what human life we value. The Joker, the greatest personification of evil (or, as many have suggested, Satan?) in the history of film, forces his victims to consider how valuable human life is to them. His great goal is to bring everyone down to his level. When push comes to shove, he seems to say, human beings will inevitably lose all civility and become just like him: homicidal madmen.

*SPOILER AHEAD*SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM*THEN SEE THE FILM =)

When the Joker engages in his “social experiment”, he is testing his theory. A boat full of ordinary citizens and a boat full of prisoners are given a choice. Blow up the other boat within a given time frame, or both boats will be blown up. The debate on the boat of “ordinary citizens” isn’t much of a debate. The only ones brave enough to speak give voice to the evil heart within all of us: “those men had their chance.”

Ineveitibly, the viewer places him or herself on that boat. Would we vote to detonate that load of criminals? Sadly, we need only look at history to find the answer. The fact that humankind has consistently devalued certain human lives throughout history makes the conclusion of the matter in The Dark Knigh seem a bit glib. Or does it? Maybe it’s hopeful.

In the end, neither of the parties choose to destroy their fellow men. The day is saved when Batman kicks the master-detonator out of the Joker’s grip. Glib or hopeful? I prefer the latter.

Many Christians are all about the sanctity of human life from conception to birth. After that, it all depends on good behavior. And we Americans (and I’m certain the rest of the world as well) have a nasty habit. When calculating casualties in a conflict, we tally up the death of our own. What life do you value? Is it only the unborn children, or the murderer as well? Is it only the American soldier, or the terrorist too? More importantly, what human life does God value?