Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Photoshop, Memories, and Real Life

When I went hiking on the Boardman River with my mom and two of my boys, I wasn't really expecting much from Mother Nature since the peak of the colors had passed. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when the gold and red sprang from unexpected places.

SmartPhone in hand, I hiked and took pictures with the second app I figured out (Angry Birds was the first one). When we got home, I uploaded them to iphoto and let Mac do its magic.  My mom murmured kind words about my pictures, then said with a hint of sadness, "That's even nicer than it was."

And you know what? She was right. The pictures made our hike look a lot cooler than it was.  I clicked buttons and slid bars until I made a picture that, to a large degree, was not true.  The only picture that accurately captured the event was one where Vincent did NOT want his picture taken. When you see his face - that's how it was.

I was on a trip once in which a father and daughter were among the group.  When I saw photos after the trip, the smiling, affectionate freeze frame put the lie to a trip that was full of tension, avoidance, and drama. I remember thinking, "Hey, at least they have their pictures. I hope it makes up for the trip."

I embrace a worldview that grounds itself in words more than images.  Jews eventually became know as People of the Book, and Christianity arose from the soil of language over pictures. The Ten Commandments make clear that God was not interested in His people trying to capture His reality or nature through images. The Bible  contains lots of beautiful poetic imagery and word pictures to describe God, but that's not the same thing as the actual image. When Jesus incarnated as the express image of God, even that was temporary, not permanent.

That command about images always seemed odd to me, but I'm starting to feel differently. Is it possible that the Bible (and by extension, God) stresses the importance of words because both the power and the frailty of images are greater than that of words? Sure, images move us - one of them is worth 1,000 words - but that great blessing can also be a great curse.

As much as I love how my pictures capture time well spent with my family, I will also remember that the day was not quite that sunny, and the colors not quite that bright, and the lake not quite so blue.... and wonder what else about my life I have not remembered truthfully, and why I sometimes feel the need to photoshop my memories in order to treasure them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Scream Queens

Season One of Scream Queens, Fox's star-studded horror comedy, has been nominated for two awards (Golden Globes and Satellite) and won another (the Critic's Choice TV Award in 2015 for Most Exciting New Series). In spite of a declining audience throughout Season One, it appears to have enough of a following that Fox will likely renew it for another season.

If you are not familiar with Scream Queens, imagine the Simpsons, Mean Girls, and Scream mashed together. The result is a funny, satirical, shocking, violent, crude, and occasionally insightful comedy/horror show that intends to offer a cutting commentary on college culture. That's the intent, anyway.

Scream Queens takes place on a college campus where coeds are being killed rather horribly (if not creatively). All the girls in the featured sorority scream a lot - thus the title of the show - but nobody sheds a tear. Well, not real ones anyway.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Some Answers For 'Questions Christians Have For Other Christians'

I suspect there will be plenty of posts responding to the latest Buzzfeed project from Christians who are challenging other Christians to step up their game. "I'm Christian But I'm Not…" certainly sparked a lot of conversation; "Questions Christians Have For Other Christians" looks to do the same. I'd hate to see these questions be reduced to rhetorical status, so... let's do this!

“Do you really think [Jesus is] freaking out because his name isn’t on a cup that you get to hold for ten minutes while you drink a pumpkin spice latte?”

Nope. If I had to guess (and I don’t have to, but I want to), maybe 10% of Christians initially thought this mattered, and 5% of them got talked out of it by the 90% of Christians who rolled their eyes when they saw the story cross their news feed. If this incident hadn't fit neatly into an increasingly popular cultural narrative wherein all Christians look crazy like Josh Feuerstein, this would have been a non-story.

 “Why does Christian music always sound like a mixture of Nickelback and Third Eye Blind?”

For the same reason so much non-Christian music does – it sells. And though there is definitely a lot of derivative and uninspiring music put out by Christians, there’s also needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Andy Mineo, NF, Steve Taylor, Josh Garrells, Fireflight, Flyleaf, Rend Collective, All Sons and Daughters, For King and Country, Kirk Franklin, Lecrae, August Burns Red,The Devil Wears Prada, TFKJonny Lang...

“Do devotions actually happen if you didn’t post about it on Instagram?”

Of course, but point taken.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children)

Hollow City is the sequel to Ransom Rigg's MissPeregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a New York Times best-seller that reached the #1 spot on the Children's Chapter Books on the way to selling over 15 million copies. If reader response is any indication, Hollow City doesn't miss a beat. 

Rather than detail the plot (which can be found here), I would rather focus on several elements of the story I found thought-provoking and meaningful.

“You have a home – one that isn’t ruined – and parents who are alive, and who love you, in some measure...” 
“Why are you pushing me away?” 
“Because you have a real home and a real family, and if you think any of us would’ve chosen this world over those things – wouldn’t have given up our loops and longevity and peculiar powers long ago for even a taste of what you have – then you really are living in a fantasy world.”

In a culture where families are collapsing at a sobering rate, this kind of story strikes a chord. Hollow City is not suggesting every family is automatically good, but it is asking readers to appreciate the family they have.