Friday, September 17, 2010

Freaky Friday: Point Break

"I am an F-B-I agent"
Those immortal words ring throughout the history of cinema--a reminder to all that real talent is overrated.  If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, "Keanu Reeves don't make a bad movie."  And this is indeed no exception to that rule (however "A Walk in the Clouds" might be).
Year- 1991
Rating- R
Running Time- 126 minutes
Enjoyability- UNLIMITED
This movie stars 3 great thespians: the aforementioned Keanu Reeves (playing Johnny Utah), The late Patrick Swayze (as Bodhi the leader of a rogue gang of bank robbing surfers), and wild man Gary Busey (as Angelo Pappas).  The fact that Gary Busey wasn't nominated for an Oscar further proves that the Academy Awards are run by Communists who want to undermine freedom in the USA.  This movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow who recently won an oscar for some other movie (obviously the the Academy was just rectifying a 20 year old mistake).
This movie is about rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah--former college football star turned G-man who is now in LA to stop a series of perfectly executed bank robberies.  Angelo Pappas is an aging agent who holds the key to this mystery and urges Utah to go undercover as a surfer.  He falls in love with a surfer girl (who hasn't?) and falls in with a surfer gang led by Zen philosopher Bodhi.  Of course, we all know that Bodhi and his metaphysical warriors are the ones robbing the banks, but Utah is blinded by his admiration for Bodhi's philosophy, cool hair, and awesome abs.
In the end, he must go all "21 Jump Street" on his friends, admit that he's lied to his girlfriend, and bring down this laid back crime lord.
This movie works on every level.  It has been copied but never duplicated (aka Fast and Furious).
And if you doubt this movie's staying power, just know that a live version of the movie exists in the Los Angeles underground.  There is a "broadway" type show in LA where they re-create the film using a random person from the audience to play Keanu Reeves part: it's called Point Break Live! 
If you've never seen this movie, please do yourself a favor and check it out.  It's not my all time favorite movie, but it's pretty close.  And remember that sage advice given so many times--Keanu Reeves don't make a bad film.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hair Metal Monday: Cinderella

Whenever I wonder how Glam Rock could have possibly given way to that unholy pseudo music called "grunge", I need only remember the heights of lunacy embodied by bands like Cinderella.  This group embraced every Glam Rock stereotype: Ultra big hair, transvestite pirate outfits, over the top music videos, and attitude like nobody's business.  It seems almost oxymoronic that their biggest hit was "Nobody's Fool".....hmmmmm.
By the end of the 80's there were so many Glam rip-offs that the Sunset Strip was populated solely by androgynous crowds moving from one party to the next--ah the good ol' days.
The really tragic element in this scenario is that Cinderella for all their faults (which are legion) they were really a good band.  They could play their instruments and lead singer, Tom Keifer, had a great, albeit AC/DC voice.  They wailed.  Their music was solid, but their bravado outshone their talent.  In the end, they were just another Sunset Strip band that went the way of the dinosaur....too bad.  Their rookie album "Night Songs" went multi-platinum and their follow up effort "Long Cold Winter" is also a solid album.  They kept going even into the 90's and possibly their greatest song, "Hot and Bothered" is featured on the Wayne's World soundtrack alongside Queens uber-hit "Bohemian Rhapsody".  Cinderella rocks, but few remember this once heralded quartet; if you want to know why watch this.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Freaky Friday: Ghostbusters

I've been preoccupied with other things the last few days, like not laboring on Labor Day.  So this is a couple of days late...but definitely worth the wait.
In 1984 (what a great year for movies), this big budget summer blockbuster sparked my imagination like few other movies.  For years (and I'm not exaggerating), I wanted to be a paranormal extermination technician (a.k.a Ghostbuster).  These guys were awesome--they had great gear (nuclear accelerators, PKE- psychokinetic energy- meters, ghost traps, night vision goggles, etc), they trapped and contained ghosts, and they were geeks.
I even did a great deal of research on the topic.  When my dad caught me reading a guide to haunted houses in colonial America, he gave me that look as if to say, "I'm not getting grandchildren, am I?"  Well in your face, dad!
This movie stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver-- Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Rick Moranis also provide a great supporting cast.
The plot is not bad: Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis play disgraced college professors who turn their expertise of the paranormal into a ghost extermination business right on the eve of a supernatural explosion of "biblical proportions".  They have to fight Zuul--an ancient Mesopotamian god who is back to end the world. 
The movie does go a bit astray with a 100 foot marshmallow man, but all in all this script is full of great one-liners and is immensely entertaining.
I give this one 4 1/2 stars (I have to deduct half a point for Mr. Stay Puft)
If you've never seen this one, shame on you!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summer Greek: The Martyrdom of Polycarp

A text showing Peter's martyrdom
After finishing the Didache, I decided to translate portions of "The Martyrdom of Polycarp"--a letter written around 160 AD recounting the the persecution, trial, and death of the Bishop of Smyrna.
Polycarp 1:1-2
1- We write to you, brothers and sisters, things concerning the witnesses (martyrs) and especially the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to persecution by placing a seal on it with his own (witness) martyrdom.  For almost everything that came before happened in order that the Lord might show from above a witness (martyrdom) in accordance with the gospel.
2- He waited until he was betrayed, just as the Lord, in order that we might be imitators of him, not only looking out for ourselves but also for our neighbors.  For true and steadfast love does not only wish for itself to be saved, but for all the brothers and sisters.

The word martyr is the Greek word for "witness".  That is why I included it in brackets.  Polycarp's death "bore witness" to the power of Christ's resurrection, and this "witness" was meant to point others in the direction of Jesus and his Kingdom.  Polycarp refused to deny his faith even when tortured and ultimately killed.  He didn't do it to earn a good spot at the heavenly banquet table, he did it so that he might show others that Christ's "love is better than life"--that Christ is "the resurrection and the life".
People were so taken by Polycarp's "witness" that his story has been retold through the ages.  His testimony remains a powerful reminder of self sacrifice.  Polycarp was 86 when he "bore witness", reminding us that there is no retirement from Christian service.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hair Metal Monday: Power Ballads

Never post prom pictures on the internet
 Hair Metal gave us some of the greatest aggressive exercise music ever made: Kickstart My Heart (Motley Crue), We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister), and of course Round and Round (Ratt).  But these cross dressing maestros were more than just tough guys, they were sensitive men whose hearts could be broken just like yours and mine.  Of course, they didn't cry--not only would that be unmanly, they also had the whole mascara issue to deal with.  Instead they wrote songs.
There are three criteria that make a song a power ballad: Obviously it is slower (so you can slow dance), the singer has to look incredibly melancholy (extra points if the music video follows a story line where a beautiful model breaks up with the lead singer and/or dies), and it must contain a righteous guitar solo.
These power ballads pull at your heartstrings, and should not be listened to without the expressed permission of your therapist because too much exposure can cause extreme lovesickness.
 So here are my top ten power ballads
10. Headed for a Heartbreak by Winger- Kip Winger's hair is awesome.
9.  Fly to the Angels by Slaughter- a song about untimely death
8. Carrie by Europe- Obviously a song about a girl named Carrie
7. Alone Again by Dokken- no explanation needed
6. Love Bites by Def Leppard- Great slow dancing song with bittersweet overtones
5. Is this Love by Whitesnake- a philosophical exploration of romantic love
4. Don't Know What You Got (till it's gone) by Cinderella- so true....
3. Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue- This video is the greatest live concert collection ever made
2. Every Rose has it's Thorn by Poison- "To see you cuts me like a knife" one of the greatest lines ever delivered by one of the greatest front men ever
1. Love of a Lifetime by Firehouse- This song takes me back to the skating rink and couples skating with Julie McMillin, tears streaming down my face, and that moment seemed to last forever....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Freaky Friday: The Last Dragon

Ah, Kung Fu!  The culmination of thousands of years of an ancient culture, the beauty of an entire civilization distilled into a lethal art form.  Now set that against a backdrop of inner city struggles, add a Motown soundtrack, and introduce one of the greatest villains this side of Ernst Blofeld and you've got The Last Dragon: the greatest Kung Fu musical ever made.
Year- 1985
Rated- PG-13
Running Time- 109 minutes
There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who love this movie and those who have never seen it.  (well there might be a third category of people who've seen it and don't like it, but who cares what those people think)  Berry Gordy (the Motown legend) produced this little gem.  And it does the Motown name proud!  This movie stars not one, but two actors with only one name: Vanity (former Prince girl) and Taimak (Martial Arts fitness guru).  Neither of them are really proficient actors but they are both real pretty.  
Eddie Arkadian (played by Christopher Murney) is a passable bad guy, but the real engine of this movie is the ineffable Sho-Nuff: the Shogun of Harlem.  Julius Carry (RIP) carries this movie from beginning to end.  Most of the time I find myself rooting for Mr. Nuff and his goons because the good guys are just boring.  I defy you to find a better villain in the 1980's (I mean other than Gorbachev).
The plot is irrelevant.  This movie is about getting Bruce Leroy (Taimak) and Sho-Nuff together so everybody can get all Kung Fu Fightin' and so maybe the pretty people can kiss in the end.  
The last battle between Leroy and Sho is pretty cool, what with the glowin' fingers and what not.
If you really liked Yentl and Terms of Endearment, by all means don't see this flick, but if you like GOOD movies, this cinematic masterpiece will not disappoint.
The soundtrack isn't too bad either.  I've got two words for you: DE BARGE.  
I'll give this one four stars.  Check it out!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Learning Greek!

Over the years, people have often asked me about programs to learn Greek.  They long to read the Bible in the original languages...perhaps out of fear that the English translation leaves out some secret theological insights that might somehow impede their spiritual growth.  The English translations available are quite reliable (stick to NIV, TNIV, NASB, or NRSV...or perhaps a combination, and you'll be alright).  Most Christians throughout history couldn't even read, much less read the original manuscripts. 
But if you just long to open a Greek New Testament; to explore your inner Greek Geek, you will be happy to know, that it is easier than ever  to learn Greek or at least get some tools to help in your own Bible study.
Let me first say that I don't get any kickbacks from Bill Mounce!  That being said, I don't think there is any better system available than those at  For a mere $156.77 you get everything you need to learn New Testament Greek: The grammar book, workbook (and an answer guide), flash cards, etc.  But the best part of this is that he includes a series of DVDs of him teaching through the book.  The video is high quality, and he's a pretty engaging teacher (considering he's teaching Greek).  Plus, the website offers all sorts of helps, and he's constantly improving the website and the learning aids. 
So let us recap: $156.77 for a class that I spent thousands of dollars to take.  But if you're not a geek (like me), but you still want to learn a little Greek, Mounce has resources available for that too.  He's a good guy and a great teacher.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Didache 3

Here is another section of my translation of the Didache from chapter 16:
1- Be mindful of your life; don't let your lamp be extinguished.  Do not grow weary, but be prepared; for you do not know the hour in which the Lord will return.
2- Meet together frequently, seeking what is proper for your souls, for your journey of faith will not benefit you unless you complete the journey.
This is the last exhortation in this short teaching, immediately followed by a mini-apocalypse.  This document is a distillation of the Christian life, from proper actions to proper worship (there is a section dealing with communion, baptism, fasting, and prayer).  As I mentioned before, there is little in the way of doctrinal theology, but it's purpose is to help people "complete the journey".  Christians in the first century faced incredible challenges, fears, and difficulties (not unlike Christians in the twenty-first century) and this little handbook provides concrete teachings to help believers "be prepared".  
This "preparation" is rooted in fellowship.  In verse two, we are told to "meet together frequently" and "seeking what is proper for your souls" is a communal activity.  These early believers understood the great need they had for each other...a concept lost on many contemporary believers.  We need each other; it is the only way for us to "complete the journey".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hair Metal Monday: Whitesnake

One of the greatest treasures of Rockdom is Whitesnake's titular album--containing 9 incredible tracks, 3 of which are legitimate top 10 hits.  If I were trapped on a deserted island, and were only allowed to take 5 albums with me, this would be on the list.
Whitesnake is not my favorite band (RATT will always hold that position), but I think David Coverdale might be the greatest Front Man in the business...that hair, that voice, that brooding stare.  He's got the whole package.
Be honest, the first day you got your driver's license, you know you popped this cassette in the tape deck, put on black leather gloves (or in my case my mom's gardening gloves), turned up the volume on "Here I go again", and drove down to Dairy Queen....feeling alive for the very first time.  OK maybe that was just me.  And every time I hear "Is this Love", I'm transported back to junior high dances held in our gymnasium...that aroma of romance and sweat socks--my first taste of unrequited love.
"I don't know where I'm going, but I sure know where I've been"....Whitesnake has helped me navigate "the only road I've ever known" and for that I will always be grateful.
So "make up your mind, and don't waste no more time" and give Whitesnake a listen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Freaky Friday: Police Academy

Well, you voted, and since I believe in democracy, here it is for your reading pleasure: Police Academy
Year- 1984 (a very good year for films)
Rating- R
Running Time- 96 minutes
There was a golden age of cinema; a time when people didn't worry about offending anyone, when people made movies simply to make money (instead of making statements), a time when we just wanted an escape from the threat of total global annihilation.  I like to call this time the Guttenberg Era.  
This movie contains all the good (and bad) elements of 80's cinema: bad hair, short shorts (on men and women), slapstick, and, of course, Steve Guttenberg. Ol' Stevie made quite of few big name movies in the 80's like: Cocoon, Three Men and a Baby (and the sequel), Diner, and of course it was Guttenberg who launched the Police Academy franchise.  And for you Guttenberg fans, another sequel in the 3 Men and a Baby series has been announced--Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg have already signed on for 3 Men and a Bride....but back to Police Academy...
The plot is simple.  Get a lot of screw-ups together, make them run laps, add a sadistic overbearing task master, and see what happens...actually sounds like reality TV.  As in all 80's movies, this rag-tag team of misfits rises to the challenge and proves everyone wrong by becoming exemplary police officers.  
There are some funny gags in this movie (like the Blue Oyster Bar), but I didn't think this movie aged all that well.  We do get to see Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, and Michael Winslow (the guy that makes noises with his mouth), and this movie spun off 7 sequels and a TV show that only aired in Canada (it was actually produced in French).
I really liked this movie as a kid, and as an adult I found it sort of funny.  I'm going to give this movie 2 1/2 stars mostly for the sake of nostalgia.  It's not a bad movie, but I will probably wait a while before watching this again.  (although I probably will watch it again....)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lucite Grapes: The Key to Decorative Greatness

These really build an appetite.
 One of the joys of being a pastor is people often think of you and give you great tokens of their love and admiration.  And then there are times when people know you're hopelessly out of date, and against their better judgment, decide to enable you anyway.  Then there are some gifts so wonderful that the English language fails to provide the means necessary to describe them. 
This weekend I received a gift that brought me back to my grandparents kitchen.  These decorative pieces were all the it fruit?  is it decoration?  It's both! 
So Nikki and I tried several different locations to adequately display such a fine gift.  Here are some of the places we tried. 
Honey, what's for dinner?

Honored place between Brees and Bradshaw

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Didache 2

As I mentioned before, I'm spending some time this summer translating through the Didache (pronounced "did-uh-KAY").  There has been renewed interested in the early documents of Christian history, especially the Didache--there are several new books about the work, new translations, and reproductions of the original text in Greek.
Here is a portion of my own translation from chapter 3:
7)Be meek, "for the meek shall inherit the Earth"
8)Be patient, merciful, innocent, quiet, and good; revere the words you have heard
9)Do not exalt yourself, neither let your soul grow arrogant.  Do not join yourself with the proud, but make your home with the righteous and humble
10)Whatever comes to pass in your life, receive it as good, knowing that nothing comes about without God.
I think what strikes me most about this brief document, is how heavily it relies on the Sermon on the Mount.  Early Christians were devoted to the words of Jesus--often quoting directly from his teachings.  Jesus' words had become ingrained in their vocabulary; his sermons flowed from their mouths as easily as their own words.  Right after I became a Christian, I read through the Gospels over and over--I remember committing to read one chapter in the morning and one at night before bed.  Sometimes i would "cheat" and read 2 or 3 chapters--devouring them as "bread from heaven".  And believe it or not,  until I was in college I read from the King James Version (just like Jesus said it). 
Since then, I've studied the Bible in the original languages, read commentaries, studied background materials, and listened to others (both ancient and contemporary) expound on the scriptures, but I've never felt a connection to Scripture like I did in those first few months.  Perhaps I just haven't been as hungry for it....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hair Metal Mondays

Since I've had so much fun writing about cheesy movies, I thought I would reflect on the golden age of music--those days when dudes with long hair, stiletto heels, and makeup roamed the streets of Hollywood--the zenith of guitar virtuosos and lead singers who were more concerned with stage presence than actual vocal ability--that magical music was Hair Metal (a.k.a Glam Rock).
I'll begin with my all time favorite Hair Metal Band: RATT
RATT is comprised of:
Stephen Pearcy- Lead Vocals, Front Man, Swagger
Warren DeMartini- Lead Guitar,
Robin Crosby- Guitar (RIP)
Bobby Blotzer- Drums
Juan Croucier- Bass

I remember my first introduction to RATT.  My brother brought home their cassette entitled "Invasion of Your Privacy", and from the moment I heard the first riff of "You're in Love" I was hooked: transported from rural Louisiana to the SunsetStrip at the Whiskey Agogo.  I was mesmerized by the blazing guitar riffs, the scratchy, wailing voice of Stephen Pearcy, the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I was listening to something forbidden.  (My dad thought the "rock" music of Helen Reddy was too seedy for me to listen to)  It represented everything I wanted my life to be.  I wanted to grow my hair out, spray it with Aquanet, and tease it out to the breaking point...unfortunately my hair looks more like Greg Brady's than Steven Pearcy's...."hey there groovy chick"
Alas, history has not been kind to the rock gods of Sunset blvd, but RATT showed me there was a larger world out there.  They really gave me my first (and last) feeling of rebellion.  They made me truly understand the meaning of the phrase: RATT N' ROLL.
RATT N' ROLL indeed!                 
Here is the song that set me on the road to complete cultural oblivion!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Freaky Friday Apology

Hello readers and followers of the Fabulous Freaky Friday Post (both of you).  I deeply regret my error in not noting the fact that yesterday was indeed Friday the 13th.  I missed a wonderful opportunity to talk about one of the great (if not the greatest) slasher series: Friday the 13th.  I really don't know what I was thinking.  Come on, there were 11 incarnations of the Voorhies family plus a remake (which I didn't actually watch).  They even made a 3D movie (which, just to be honest, gave me a headache).
Teens today would find these pretty laughable, but they made me almost pee my pants. 
Obviously when you make 10 sequels, some of them are bound to stink.  But Friday the 13th IV: the final chapter (oddly named since they made 7 more movies) was actually not bad and featured a young Corey Feldman (who by then was already a veteran actor).  I don't really encourage people to watch horror movies anymore, but I did want to correct my oversight.
P.S.  Since today is Saturday the 14th, there was a really, really terrible spoof called "Saturday the 14th", I thought I'd mention it.  Yes, I've seen it (twice) and it really is as bad as it sounds.  Actually, it's a spoof of Bruce Campbell's delightful "Evil Dead", so the title is a little misleading.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Freaky Friday: Revenge of the Nerds

Ah, 1984.  We got Van Halen's "Jump", Reaganomics, and the most influential movie of my young life...Revenge of the Nerds.
Year: 1984
Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes

This movie oozes the 1980's:  Lovable underdogs beat the odds, become the most influential fraternity on campus, and, of course, start dating cheerleaders.  It was my pre-pubescent dreams come true!
The movie begins with Lewis and Gilbert (played by Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards) leaving for college.  They arrive at the fictitious Adams College (filmed at the University of Arizona) and discover that they are outcasts, unwelcome by the ruling class of jocks--the dreaded Alpha Beta fraternity.  They are "picked on and put down" but through a series of clever plans they get their revenge on the Alpha Betas and their female counterparts the Pi Delta Pi's.
This movie has heart!  The Nerds try to join a fraternity and are rejected; mostly because they send accompanying photos.  The one fraternity that gives them a chance is Lambda Lambda Lambda, an all black fraternity--reminding us again that we must look beyond appearances to discover the real person underneath.
The final sequence is a series of contests, which of course the Nerds win, in order to take over the Greek Council.  We close with Queen's "We are the Champions" while each person discovers that deep down we're all nerds (i.e.  we feel left out).  While I write this I'm crying just a little....
One caveat: This movie is rated R for good reasons.  I suggest you catch this on Comedy Central or TBS where they have edited out the copious swearing and nudity.  But the fact that these channels constantly air this movie is a testament to its lasting greatness (or its ability to crack you up at 1:30 in the morning.)
I give this movie 4 stars: Great story, great heart, geeky kids overcoming the odds, and once again Queen in the soundtrack!

P.S. in the 80's, Queen wrote, produced and composed many soundtracks.  These became immortal songs etched in the psyche of America's collective consciousness...not unlike John Williams.  Wouldn't that be cool John Williams conducting Queen music at the Hollywood bowl!  just a thought!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Freaky Friday

I've been asked by friends to write about my vast knowledge of bad movies, especially those made in the 1980's.  My video collection is a who's who of movies that haven't won academy awards, but are still fun to watch (and even more fun to mock).  So each Friday I will regale you with a new movie review.
I'll begin with a movie made in 1980.  The fantastic "Flash Gordon" starring Sam Jones as Flash, Topol as Dr. Zarkhov (whom I told was in Fiddler on the Roof), Max Von Sydow as Ming the Merciless, and Timothy Dalton as Prince Baron.  This movie has it all: poor script, abysmal acting, over the top sets, and cheesy effects.  BUT the soundtrack is by Queen...need I say more.  The movie opens with Ming the Merciless attacking an unsuspecting, peaceful Earth.  Unfortunately for Ming, Dr. Zarkhov kidnaps Flash Gordon (Quarterback for the New York Jets-a nice touch) and Dale Arden (travel agent extraordinaire) and takes them on a mission to counterattack.  Flash immediately challenges to Ming's minions to a backyard football game, he's executed, brought back to life, fights a future James Bond in a flying city, kills Ming by skewering him with a spaceship, and saves Earth.  I'm not sure how this movie didn't make money....  But if you're looking for a way to waste a rainy Saturday afternoon, than do yourself a favor and watch this gem from 1980.  This movie gets three stars for the soundtrack alone!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I've recently started translating/reading through the Didache.  The Didache is an early Christian document (between 50-150 ACE) that was widely popular, and some ancient Christians even viewed it as scripture.
It begins by describing the two ways: one of life and one of death.  The odd thing about the first 6 chapters or so, is that it doesn't give a list of doctrines to which one must subscribe.  Rather, it is a lifestyle of love for God and love for neighbor.  The following list of ethics flow out of that love (most of the ethical behaviors listed are quotes from the sermon on the mount)
Today, if one were to write a book about the two ways, it would probably focus on believing certain prescribed theological propositions, such as: the deity of Christ, or the virgin birth.  Being a seminarian, I'm not apposed to theology, but it seems that Christianity has become more an intellectual pursuit than a living relationship.  Well, maybe it's become more of an intellectual pursuit for me....
What would it be like if Christians really focused on loving God and neighbor?