Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Morning Show

My first task of the day was to visit the set of the KFSM Morning Show. Saturday is Community Outreach Day and we are publicizing the event.

I enjoy visiting television studios because they deconstruct the reality of television. That is necessary treatment for one such as myself born under the sign of the test pattern. As the Talking Heads sing, "I was born in a house with the television always on." Indeed, in a time when reality television is considered more than reality it is good to go behind the scenes and remember that TV is magnificently unreal.

I notice all of the subtle imperfections that are not visible on the broadcast - the green screen, the rigging in the rafters, the window facade, the placement of the newsdesk and the weather center ("Hey they aren't even looking at each other when they engage in witty banter!") I delight in the backstage view.

I enjoyed my visit to KFSM. They really did a wonderful job helping us to get the word out about Community Outreach Day. I think that Bobbie Miller, Brad Flickinger, their producers and crew are top-notch. I have a certain nostalgic nook in my heart for KFSM. I remember watching the news, weather, and the Santa Show on this old station. I always wanted to be on the Santa Show. That never worked out, but at least I made it on the Morning Show and I got a coffee mug to boot.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Good Old Days of Criminal Adventure Part 2

Now that I have let the irony and sarcasm of my previous post sit on the site for a while, I thought I would follow up with a less satirical voice. I did intend to make a point with my previous post, so here is the meaning of the parable. . .

First, I want to be clear that I am not slamming Sen. Clinton or any of the other senators that are calling for an investigation. I think it is important for people in positions of leadership to raise questions that are in the interest of our children.

Second, I can accept Rockstar Games' claim that the sexual content in the game is the result of unauthorized modifications and isn't part of their original game design.

Which brings me to my main point, the original content of the game is enough to warrant some sort of protest from the public, especially as these games are often popular among children. (I know they are not the intended audience, but that's who usually winds up buying them and playing them.) According to the official site for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the premise of the game is as follows:

Five years ago Carl Johnson escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, San Andreas... a city tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. Where filmstars and millionaires do their best to avoid the dealers and gangbangers.
Now, it's the early 90s. Carl's got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster.
On his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.

For those of you hoping that the game will satisfy your nostalgic urge to revist the early 90's beware. The game is rated M for mature. (Breaking News: Not anymore!) Trying to download a clip from the game at the official website prompts a warning that asks for the age of the viewer. At least the producers of the game recognize that children shouldn't be watching the trailer for the game. (Why they don't assume a 13-year-old would lie about his age escapes me). After watching the trailer I see why they issue a warning. The soundtrack contains profanity, the sreenshots show drug deals in action, shoot-outs, and gangsters executing a drive-by shooting from a motorbike. And that's just the original content.

I wish the Senators well in their efforts to raise public awareness. I hope that Rockstar Games will do even more to convince the public that their game is really for adults and not just limited to being purchased by adults. All of this highlights the fact that responsibility ultimately devolves to people like me - that is, parents and guardians. Pay attention to your children. Help them make choices. Get involved and do not rely solely on the ESRB rating system. Step up and be the parent. And let's all help each other along the way.

[Addendum: I wrote this as part of the previous post but decided to hold off on publishing it. For an explanation as to why, go back and read the third comment on the previous post. It is my reply to Anonymous.]

[Addendum 2: As I write this, it would seem that some good has come from the public debate. Grand Theft Auto will now be rated Adults Only. Also, the company that manufactures the game admits that they are actually responsible for the pornographic content. And to think I was willing to accept that it was the work of drive-by "modders." Why did you lie to me Rockstar Games? Why?!]

The Good Old Days of Criminal Adventure

This news just out from Reuters: "U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton pressed on July 13, 2005 for a government investigation into how simulated sex cropped up in a modified version of the blockbuster criminal adventure video game 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.'"

What is the world coming to when our children cannot play their criminal adventure video games without pornographic content? I remember when boosting a sweet ride and capping pigs with a Mac 10 was more wholesome. Now someone has gone and made something nasty of what used to be nothing but old fashioned fun with one's homies. You kids should really keep your digitized clothes on when you are clocking 120 m.p.h. on the simulated streets of San Andreas in a stolen Mercedes. What's the world coming to these days!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Haste Ye Back

Eighteen years ago I made a momentous trip to Scotland. The before, during, and after phases of this trip have shaped my identity and my faith. The details of these phases would take more room than I have in this single post. These are, as I have said before, stories for another time.

In Scotland they have an expression similar to the Arko-Texan phrase "Ya'll come back now." They say "Haste ye back!" I did haste back in 1991 with my new bride, Karen. Now Scotland, and especially the families of the East Kilbride Church of Christ, have a special place in our hearts.

Yesterday, one of my friends and brothers from East Kilbride, Kerr Thomson, arrived at our house. He is visiting America with his new bride, Susan. The visit with Kerr and Susan rekindled memories of significant moments in my life. We shared stories of the past and news of the moment. I am saddened to hear that the last few months have not been pleasant for the church in East Kilbride. I ask you to pray for these people. They are my family on so many levels. It is always a tragedy when the body of Christ is torn and wounded by conflict. I hurt for them because they are the church and the pain is doubled because I know most of them very well.

If the Lord wills, I want to haste back to Scotland. I would love to be there on June 24, 2014 for the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn. The Battle of Bannockburn is the only conflict in Scotland I care to commemorate. My fondest hope is that when I do haste back I will find the bride of Christ in East Kilbride happy, healthy, and new.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Look At Me

The movie theatres need to consider a better method for determining what previews are shown with which films. I took my six-year-old son to see the Fantastic Four today and just before the film begins we are blasted with a trailer for The Transporter 2. Sure, I know that Fantastic Four is rated PG-13, but there's something different about the comic-book style fighting of an orange rocky giant throwing an automobile at an electricity-wielding metal-hided villian compared to the violence depicted on the trailer for Transporter 2. Call me inconsistent, but when I made the decision to allow my son to watch the Fantastic Four I did not bargain that he would have to sit through a scene of a woman dressed like a Victoria's Secret model firing semi-automatic machine guns in an emergency room. When I checked the family reviews for Fantastic Four there were no warnings about watching the Transporter himself use super-quick martial arts moves to break the necks of assorted hoodlums.

So, I am faced with a crisis and I have little time to act. I covered my son's eyes during the intense moments in Revenge of the Sith but my simple method of censorship didn't seem to work, so this time I followed my instinct and said to my son, "Look at me! Keep your eyes on me." He did. He kept his eyes on me the whole time and I kept my eyes on him until the trailer was over.

The symbolism of my parental instruction has stuck with me all afternoon. "Keep your eyes on me, son." Instead of just distracting him from what he shouldn't see, I suppose I need to give him something worthwhile to watch. Not on TV or the movie screen, but in my life of course. Isn't that what being a father is all about?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Putting the Hurt on Evil

During my research for the sermon on Mark 3, I discovered this image from the Getty Museum. It comes from the page of a 13th century manuscript. The scene is obviously inspired by Revelation as it depicts unclean spirits issuing from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.

What is Christ doing in the illustration? It has been a few years since I studied art history. I had almost enough hours in art history to minor in the subject. I know that certain poses and gestures are artistic conventions that are visual shorthand for theological concepts. For example, when Jesus is shown in some paintings holding up two fingers he isn't giving the sign for peace; rather he is flashing the sign that says that he is one with the Father.

Well and good, but what is this odd gesture above? If any of you out there know perhaps you might illumine me. In the meanwhile I will share my theory with you: I think Jesus is taking up his "wax on" kung fu stance and he is about to put some ginormous theological hurt on evil. Hey I like that! You will have to have some serious art history credentials to convince me I am wrong.