October 29, 2010

Power of Words

Spent a bit of time this morning working on a project that may never see the light of day. Because the whole time I've been drawing this thing, some awful words someone said about me keep creeping back. So I'll toy with working on this project, and then push it away . . .

Interesting how I tend to hang on to THOSE words, and not all the encouraging words from other sources.

I don't think that's uncommon for artists and writers. But it IS unhealthy. I've found myself being more critical of this work because of the words from this guy -- words about a similar project from over a year ago! Can it get more silly than that?

I guess the real question is how to use those words. Let them fuel me, to "prove him wrong"? But what if he's NOT wrong? Try to figure out a way to "use them constructively"? But there was no "constructiveness" to them -- they were just mean, with just enough truth to make it bite. Just ignore it? But if it were that easy, it wouldn't be a problem!

I don't have an answer. Maybe I should stop asking the question! I'd love to go to the guy and ask him to just retract what he said. But to be honest, I'd doubt he'd even remember.

So here's one lesson i can take from this: words have power. More power than we'd like to admit, sometimes. The real question isn't "what should I do about HIS words?" The real question is "what am I doing about my own?"

~ Ben

October 25, 2010

Seeking the Kingdom: Some Thoughts on Prayer

In my reading over the last few days, I made a couple connections I hadn't noticed before.

Many people I know who pray tend to focus on the physical, asking for healing and for the money needed to do this or that. And that's fine. It's something that Jesus actually encourages when he says, "Ask and it will be given to you."

But Jesus also encourages us to go a bit deeper. "And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after these things, and your Father knows that you need him. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

I find it interesting how little I hear people talking about wanting to "seek his kingdom" and how often I hear people talking about wanting to expand their own kingdom when it comes to prayer. But I don't know that's what Jesus is talking about when he's saying "ask and it will be given to you", especially when he says, "those things" will be given to you as well . . . when you seek his kingdom.

Jesus also says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can ask a tree to move and it will. Often, I hear that verse applied to, again, physical things. Rarely do I hear it applied to internal matters. To the "seek first his kingdom" type things.

We can ask the God who can and does move mountains for us to move those mountains in our hearts. The mountians that get in the way of our honest seeking of the kingdom.

~ Ben

October 16, 2010

Nano Film Review #28 -- Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Terrible film. Terrible, terrible film.

I hate it when films have such great potential for being emotional, character driven action films . . . only to decide to forgo any actual emotion beats to make sure they hit all the action beats.

Here's a film about Superman discovering that he's not the last, living person from his planet . . . only to have his worst enemy convince her to turn against him.

But the emotion in this movie is as flat as the animation. Superman leanrs he has a cousin, and he says with no emotion at all: "Uh, I think she's my cousin."

His cousin gets kidnapped by his greatest enemy, after slaughtering a number of people from Wonder Woman's island? No emotion, just, "Uh, let's go get her."

His cousin is turned evil? No emotion, just a flat line reading of, "Uh, you don't have to do this."

Meanwhile, at the beginning, Supergirl wants to learn what it means to be an earthgirl . . . so Superman takes her to the mall and we get a pretty woman montage. Yup, that's what it means to be an earthgirl!

Batman is Batman, and does Batman stuff. Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman, and does Wonder Woman stuff. Superman is Superman, and does Superman stuff. But it all feels so flat. So dry. So lifeless. I want to see character development. I want to see emotional moments with action based emotional payoffs . . . not action moments with action payoffs. I want emotion, not going through the motions.

The fight scenes are impressive. Even more impressive? If they had taken the time to actually let the characters be true to the emotional elements of the plot instead of just crafting brilliant, brutal fight scenes.

~ Ben

October 15, 2010

Story vs. History

I was listening to Peter Kreeft's "podcast" (in quotes, because technically it's not him podcasting but posting lectures that can be accessed freely) about Imagination while on my walk this morning. Peter Kreeft has become a moprning companion of late. He and I have been talking about story ideas and fundamentals of storytelling and philosophy of fiction. Of course, it's a one way conversation, and he has no idea that he's a part of it.

But he is.

I highly recommend listening to his lectures. They are brilliant and insightful. And he talks about Lewis and Tolkien a lot.

But as I was listening today, I had a thought. It didn't have a lot to do with what he was saying, but I was struck by a thought.

Story is false, but can contain much truth; history is true, but can be interpreted falsely.

There's all sorts of implications that can then be made. History is jaded by our own personal perceptions. Story has power.

And I got to thinking about all these ideas . . . big, philosophical ideas . . . about Art and Truth and Life and Other Big Concepts that I capitalize to make them even more Grand!

And then, I had another thought that brought me back down to earth. With all those concepts and implications and philosophical ideas (which are Good, and deserve thought), there is one Big Durn Ol' Trinity of Truth in Writing:

1. Just write.
2. Do your best.
3. Be honest.

Follow those guidelines, and you're on your way to meaningful fiction . . . or meaningful nonfiction . . .

Just some thoughts. Not sure what they're worth, but there they are.

~ Ben

October 1, 2010

What They Say; What They Mean

And now, for something completely different . . .

With political ads and debates and all that stuff, here's my little guide to what is really being said:

INDEPENDENT: Both sides will be using this word in their ads. The flip side of this word being just not putting what party the candidate actually belongs to. Why? Both sides don't want you to know what party they belong to. Democrats know people aren't happy; republicans know that people aren't happy. And both sides know that it's going to be close.

TOLERANCE: When this word is used, it means, "I accept everyone except those people who don't think like I do."

FAITH: In other words, "Hey, religious people, I have faith just like you." This IS used by people who actually do ACT like they have faith in God. But it's also used by people who just want votes.

TEABAGGER: Whenever you see someone use this phrase, what they are saying is, "I'm going use this word that is also used to describe a sex act, so I can call people in the Tea Party a totally derogatory name right in public and nobody will care." This is incredibly clever and subversive. It's entered the popular lexicon, and there are many uninformed people who unsuspectingly use the phrase now. In other words, people who should know better (politicians, who have at least had the phrase explained to them) are using the phrase, and causing people who don't know better to use it as well. (EDIT: I should have put this in earlier, but a friendly e-mail from a friend reminded me that I should have given you this warning: don't Google the meaning of the word. It is a work that has been given a pretty nasty meaning -- which is WHY Tea Party opponents are more than happy to use it.) 

"IT'S ALL (STILL) BUSH'S FAULT"/"IT'S ALL OBAMA'S FAULT": Nothing is all anybody's fault. Or maybe I should say it's all everybody's fault. First, I can't believe how hard it's been for Obama to get anything done, considering his party pretty much has control over everything in Washington. His inability to get much done has two by-products: 1. It gives the Democrats an easily identifiable enemy for the people to rally against -- Republicans; 2. The Republicans have really rallied together to obstruct almost everything. But here's the real truth -- nothing is really getting done because no one is willing to work beyond party affiliation. Still trying to decide if this is a good thing or not. On one hand, it COULD mean that people are sticking to their principles . . . except when they vote FOR their party AGAINST their principles. On the other hand, this whole two party thing just means there's only two voices in Washington, and I don't think either voice accurately reflects the average American.

Personally, I'm getting tired of "the lesser of two evils".

~ Ben