Tuesday, January 30, 2007

CT's most redeeming films of '06

A valuable resource here for those that enjoy films that feed the soul and the eye. (I'll blog about "eye-candy" movies another time.)

Christianity Today, the magazine founded in the 1950s by Billy Graham, has dug deeply into modern culture, and with none of the finger-wagging that is associated with TV stereotype evangelicals. That's why I love their annual "Most Redeeming Films" list.

The list includes Tommy Lee Jones' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (rated R), and "Sophie Scholl" (unrated, German, with subtitles), just two examples of the off-the-beaten-path filmography so rare in most Christian circles. (Perhaps it's my own anti-Christian media prejudice?) Also on the list, the family hit "Akeelah and the Bee," "Charlotte's Web" and "The Nativity Story."

So visit the '06 Most Redeeming Films list, and discover some well-told stories that will stir your inner man.

Crying kids, whining parents: hooray for AirTran

By now, most of what needs to be said about the incident on board a recent AirTran flight (crying, unruly toddler, frazzled parents, impatient passengers... DEPLANING) has been said.

The traveling public has given a resounding thumbs up to the airline (92% of e-mails to AirTran were supportive of the crew's eviction of the family). One blogger declared that AirTran is his airline of choice from now on. One can almost hear the passengers cheering when the toddler was put off the plane.

My two cents: the parents are in for a trifecta of embarrassment. Shame #1 - the child was out of control in public. Few things are more awkward. Those who practice the fine art of corporal punishment look for a restroom or return to the parking lot for a clear, decisive, non-abusive swat. Where to go on a plane? If you don't use "the rod," what do you do for a "time out" on a tightly scheduled airliner?

Embarrassment #2 - the threat of a lawsuit. Even the couple said they were humiliated by being put off the plane. What a misplaced sentiment! The whining of adults (threat of lawsuit) is plainly read by all (now 22,000 + hits on Google!) as nothing more than a tantrum.

Embarrassment #3 - the rejection of that suit. The airline was more than generous by picking up the cost of their tickets, and an offering three more free round trip tickets. (AirTran passengers are thankful the couple refused, vowing never to fly AirTran again.) Should this couple have the chutzpah to actually file, I hope the legal system puts them off that "plane" as well.

Brothers in Massachusetts, rally around your friend, Gerry Kulesza, and help him build some loving discipline in his home. Of course, discipline is up to both parents. But dude. Seriously. Step up and help those beautiful ladies in your house understand the essential nature of discipline. By God's grace, they can live down this episode of parental immaturity.
By the way, I actually enjoy sitting next to children on flights. I interact with them, play with them, distract them, and otherwise try to give their parents some rest and encouragement. And if they're uncomfortable or agitated, or just bad, I enjoy it all the more, because I look at them with the "eye," and they know that I know the game. They usually simmer down, and I tell the parents, "Keep up the good work. Be strong. You can win at raising these children." Those are important words for parents in a society that gives little support to strong disciplinarians, but always appreciates the peaceful result.
I am forever indebted to Dr. James Dobson's first major book, Dare to Discipline (1982). When I read it as a young parent in the 80's, his was a rare voice in parenting. He laid out the nature of children, and the terms and conditions for discipline, corporal and otherwise, in the context of LOVE. Brilliant, and still valid. Kids haven't changed.

MSN posted an article on its Men's channel, "No" by Kristopher Kaiyala.

Another good article from MSN Travel: "No Babies on Board"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meet LaShawn Barber

"The Blogosphere. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Old School. Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new, lively discussions, and new intepretations of civilization, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

I made a great discovery while researching the notion of "black-on-black crime," the blogger LaShawn Barber. Her blog is getting strong reviews, and she is a credible, thoughtful voice on national affairs. I share with her some non-conventional views about race relations, politics, culture, faith, etc. Some of her views are outrageous, and for me, disagreeable.

"I want to share my faith and my opinions and encourage others to be bold in everything they do," she writes. Her boldness is unsettling, enraging... in other words, perfect for the wild frontier of the blogosphere. I'm adding her to my recommended blog list, and I hope you'll visit her often.

LaShawn Barber

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Muslim TV show in Canada

Check out this review of the new Canadian TV sitcom, "Little Mosque on the Prairie." Interesting and important questions, including, "can Muslims laugh at themselves?"

The future of Islam in the West is largely up to Muslims themselves. It is because there are so many competing forces in play over this issue.

Humor is foremost for easy-going, pleasure-loving Westerners. If they can break through at the sitcom level, other walls will fall quickly.

The violent, radical mindset must be marginalized within Islamic communities themselves. CNN's Christiane Amanpour profiles radicals in England this weekend, and that suggests that even moderates and liberals are prepared to deal more honestly with the issue.

Conservatives in the U.S. are going to have to give more time, attention and clout to moderate Muslims. Rather than the relentless campaign to marginalize Islam as "dangerous" and solely "violent," American media moguls (and especially conservative ones like Rush and Laura Ingraham) will have to pay attention to the Muslim in the check out line.

Why should the first thought be suspicion? The American way is to show what you're made of. I expect to see Muslim girls playing high school basketball with their head coverings. I expect to see more Muslims in Congress. I expect to see more Muslims in the business world and at the PTA, participating in the fabric of American life.

It's up to you, my Muslim friend. Show us what you've got. Lest the bad guys define Islam.

Terrorism and "24"

I'm seriously hooked on the Fox show "24." I missed the first 2 seasons, while I was into "Alias," then went back and watched them on DVD. Stayed up late - nights in a row - because I couldn't get enough of Jack Bauer's body count and edge-of-the-seat action. Been watching ever since - won't miss an episode.

Media critic Elvis Mitchell pointed out on NPR's "Weekend Edition" today that "24" is pilloried by some as a "right wing fantasy." I know where he's coming from, because TV is fantasy - almost entirely - and because there are few pop culture references to the entire notion of terrorism inside these shores. (Friday's NBC hit "Law and Order" did cover the matter.) Such an acknowledgement of the reality of terrorism is considered by some as "right wing."

Muslims and Arab-Americans (not the same thing) are also concerned about the stereotypes and racism that "24" might foster. While Islamic terrorists were villians in past seasons, bad guys were also depicted as "Americans, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, ... and the fictional president of the United States."

But the "Season/Day 6" premiere puts some other questions in play, and from a range of political perspectives:
--How hawks at the elbow of the president could care less about civil liberties. For them, martial law is always a viable option.
--How there is a struggle within Arab politics and Islam between terrorism and violence on one hand, and negotiation and diplomacy. Yikes! Jack's right hand man in the field Curtis bought the farm because he could not fathom that a former terrorist would change his spots and work for peace.
--And critical to modern day terrorism - how regular American citizens will do anything to save their loved ones and preserve personal safety, believing... hoping against hope that this terrorist guy holding my family hostage will let them go if I just do what they say. (It was said by one observer that Americans love life, while terrorists love death. That will always give the evil among us an edge in negotiations.)

The turning point in American aviation after 9/11 is the fact that no American passengers will allow a plane to be hijacked again (in the foreseeable future). With the heroism of United Flight 93 fresh in our minds, rank and file US airline passengers will force the plane down before we let some crazy person take over our flight. That's why no one is successfully hijacking planes any more. One might suggest that the TSA is almost entirely needless because citizens are once again willing to preserve and secure the peace on board aircraft. (Of course, we do need to screen passengers just to keep the most flagrant offenders from skating on board too easily...)

Each succeeding season of "24" offers a smorgasbord of possible non-Muslim terrorist threats. Consider:
-Tax protestors.
-African-American nationalists (holdovers from the revolutionary days of the 70s.)
-Eco-terrorists serious about ending US dependence on oil "by any means necessary."
-More of the McVeigh/Nichols type, uber-patriots willing to accept some "collateral" damage as part of the "price of liberty."
-Narco-terrorists coming to the US in earnest, packing serious heat in their effort to "crack" the US dope market wide open.
-Eager Latin dictators working on some "payback" for the Bay of Pigs. This could be timely as the demise of Cuba's Castro is near, and the vision of global socialism is nearly extinguished. These south-of-the-border militarists could seek to put "America in its place" by creating fear and instability. (That is terrorism's only real weapon - fear.)
The possible story lines are endless.

Yes. Citizens are occasionally required to be heroes. In a dangerous time with bad guys always seeking to take it out on the innocent, there is a little Jack Bauer in all of us.

Friday, January 12, 2007

So, where are you from?

(Immigrants trepid about living in 21st Century America)

It was one of those five or ten year blizzards that brought Coloradans together. The snow began falling at 6:00 a.m., and by noon, it was a wet, sloppy mess. I had gotten stuck three times already on my “short” trip to the grocery store, and by the time I tried to climb my little street (just three houses from my driveway!), I was stuck for sure.

Sunny days and authentic natural disasters bring the neighbors out in droves. That day, they all had shovels. Selfishly, we all had to pitch in just to keep the street clear for everybody else.

Most of my neighbors are Latino now. The subdivision “flipped” in the last half-decade or so. One young woman with a shovel came to my aid, and as we sweated and grunted and dug and pushed, we complained about winter’s onslaught. I was raised in Detroit, and have been in Colorado for 30 years - I had my snow stories.

Casually I asked, “where are you from?” She glanced quickly at me and her pause told me I had crossed some line of appropriate neighborly behavior. “I was born in Texas, but I was raised in Mexico,” she replied haltingly.

It’s plausible enough. Around these parts, most Hispanic folks never got the part about “sovereign U.S. borders” since the end of the Mexican-American war (1848). As the battle lines are being drawn over immigration, Colorado’s Hispanics are quick to remind others that they’ve been on this land for centuries, and been able to travel south and back relatively hassle-free. Those days are done.

Have the militant pro-Mexicans (“you need us,” “we deserve all the benefits”) and virulent anti-immigrants (“send them all back,” “America for Americans”) made us suspicious of each other?

A western U.S. pizza chain announced their plan to accept “pesos” for pizza, and in just a few days, the death threats and racist bile began to flow. The pesos promotion is news only off the border. Border towns in the South have done business in pesos for years, just as border towns in the North accept Canadian dollars (but not in Detroit, where Canadian coins would give vending machines fits).

While America figures out who “belongs” here, I hope we don’t lose our civility in the process.