"A Real Deal" or "R.I.P. Roger's Video"

The only store I would frequent the last 3 years is Roger's Video, actually a rental store, but I would pick through their previously viewed DVDs and bring them home by the half dozen every month or so. With their reward points system and regular sales, I'd get the usually mint condition movies for about $5.

My local franchise, the Country Hill Blvd location, closed its doors in August. I was sad. Since then, I've been meaning to head to the Silver Springs location, but I simply haven't thought of it enough.

Last night I remembered as I was driving out of Co-op and found a nearly empty business. 4 parallel shelves and a mostly empty wall held a few DVDs and 3 guys stood around the cash registers. Big signs hung in the windows: Buy 1, Get 3 Free. My lucky day!

I took a good 45 minutes preening through the alphabetical collection and carried a large stack of DVDs to the counter. I left my Roger's Star Rewards card and $110.15 (tax incl.) with the kindly soon-to-be-unemployed video store clerks and walked out 40 movies richer.


Non-Fiction Reading List

I'm a book collector. But I like reading my books too, albeit slowly and steadily. I finished three great non-fiction books this fall and if I did New Years Resolutions, I would determine to spend more time reading.

These are the books I plan to read in the coming months.

VIOLENCE by Slavoj Žižek
Popular philosopher Žižek engagingly discusses the roots of violence rather than surface issues. And by violence, he means even the passive violence and class struggles against sexism, poverty, and ideology.

This is required reading at work so we can coach our students to approach challenges with a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Recommended by a psychologist who both attends my church and is working with our school.

Since receiving daily emails from the Bruderhof communities (Mennonite Communes) in 2005 and watching the Amish response to a slaughter of 5 school girls in 2007, I have been fascinated by the Anabaptist expression of Christianity. This should flesh it out for me. It carries endorsements from Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne.

I enjoyed Blink by Gladwell a couple years ago, so I plan on continuing to read his popular books. This one focuses on how certain people, usually ordinary, have greater influence on people than others do.

I first heard Dr. Rauser (philosophy prof) speak at our ACSI Teachers Conference when I started working in Calgary. I only ever attend his seminars now. Lately I have followed his blog with great interest as he duels with Atheists, Calvinists, and Fundamentalists.

I recently completed Archbishop Puhalo's The Soul, The Body, and Death and was impressed at his scholarship and how this ancient theology is so engaging and still so relevant. My friend Chris lent me these two books, so I had better read this one too. I've been watching Archbishop's regular YouTube videos too.

I found this on my father's bookshelf. The author was my philosophy professor in university and I quite liked him. His book questions why Christians believe the way they do.

I found this book on Tony Jones' blog and read the the first chapter online and was hooked. Got it for Christmas from my sis. It is a collection of essays on what he has found on the faith frontier in the USA. I think the title of the first chapter is pretty rockin' too.

I've mentioned how Anglican Bishop Wright has quite turned my head around after reading his Surprised by Hope a couple summers ago. I plan on reading more of his books (and collecting them) as time passes. Great faith grounding material.

This is assigned reading from the Process Team in our Cohousing Project. I have been recruited to be one of the groups six facilitators and now I must read this book. So far, I haven't had anything to complain about (ask me if I've started it).

Conspiracy or Inattention?

The kids got pyjamas for Christmas. An unnecessarily large tag had to be removed from the inside of the top so the kids could wear their new outfits comfortably. I don't normally pay much attention to tags, but as I tore these out, I noticed the instructions to wash in English, French, & Spanish:

wash warm

à l'eau chaude = in hot water

en agua fría = in cold water

All the other instructions were the same, just the water temperature varied - and varied greatly! So, is it that people of different languages wash clothes differently? Is it that Joe clothing brand hired some lazy translators? Is it that someone thought it would be funny or cruel? Is it that it really doesn't matter?

...for the slave is our brother

Our family attended our church's Christmas Eve candle lighting service. It was packed and glorious. We had sat in the second to last row so I could get back to the camera for a minor role I contributed to the tech team. By the start of the service, so many rows of chairs were added that we were in the centre.

Beside me sat/stood a man I had never before seen at church. He carried a medium sized backpack. Other than the big bushy chops on his cheeks and the baseball cap, he did not appear any more unkempt than I. What was noteworthy and distracting about this young man was that he clearly exhibited the effects of Tourette's syndrome: body spasms and tics and shouting out. While he was in my peripheral sight as I looked at the screen to my left, I did notice others glancing uncomfortably backwards at him.

During the songs in particular, he would rock unceremoniously and wave his unlit candle around. He would sing some of the time, but mostly smile and then shout. He lit his candle from mine twice as his went out because he was moving around so much.

As the band led us in O Holy Night, I sang this beside him:

Truly He taught us to love one another; 
His law is love and His Gospel is peace. 
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother 
And in His Name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

He left the service, alone and quickly, before I could introduce myself. 

I left the service somberly. Did he have friends or family? Did he have a home? Did he receive love from the Body of Christ tonight?


700 Films Reviewed

Over on my Zaak Watches Movies by himself blog, I've reached the 700 movies milestone. I started the blog about four and a half years ago when I was living in Guatemala as a way to practice writing but also to write about the values I drew from film. The reviews were longer and far more reflective than they are now. Now, I'm too busy to get into long discourses. The reviews are typically only 5-7 sentences long now.

Based on my current milestone, I know that I watch three movies per week. I watch very little television (a couple shows a week) and I think this is far more edifying.

The 147 best films of the 700 can be referenced here, and I've listed them below:

… And the Pursuit of Happiness
Darwin’s Nightmare
Deliver Us From Evil
Encounters at the End of the World
Fahrenheit 9/11
Grizzly Man
Hoop Dreams
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
Taxi to the Dark Side
To Be and To Have
Foreign Language Films
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
8 ½
As it is in Heaven
Che: Part One
Che: Part Two
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I’ve Loved You So Long
It’s Not Me, I Swear!
Joyeux Noël
Lady Chatterley
Letters from Iwo Jima
Tell No One
The Child
The Class
The Counterfeiters
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Human Condition
The Lives of Others
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Necessities of Life
The Post
The Postman
The Reader
The Son’s Room
The Time of the Wolf
Wings of Desire
Yi yi
Animated Films
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Grave of the Fireflies
Spirited Away
The Man Who Planted Trees
The Secret of the Kells
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Everything Else
127 Hours
500 Days of Summer
A Passage to India
A Serious Man
Alice in Wonderland
All the President’s Men
American Gangster
An Education
Barry Lyndon
Barton Fink
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Cast Away
Crazy Heart
Dancer in the Dark
District 9
Do the Right Thing
Dog Day Afternoon
Flags of our Fathers
Forrest Gump
Get Low
Gran Torino
Green Zone
Half Nelson
I’m Not There
Inglorious Basterds
Judgment at Nurenberg
Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Kramer vs. Kramer
Lars and the Real Girl
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Michael Clayton
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown
Mysterious Skin
No Country for Old Men
Punch-Drunk Love
Rachel Getting Married
Revolutionary Road
Shaun of the Dead
Shutter Island
Sling Blade
Slumdog Millionaire
Sunshine Cleaning
Synecdoche, New York
The Apostle
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Fall
The Fighter
The Godfather
The Godfather Part III
The Hurt Locker
The King’s Speech
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Machinist
The Prestige
The Road
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Social Network
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
The Taste of Others
The Tree of Life
The Visitor
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
The Wrestler
The Young Victoria
There Will Be Blood
Things We Lost in the Fire
True Grit
Up in the Air
Where the Wild Things Are
You Can Count on Me


"A Dingo Took My Baby!"

I heard this phrase twice yesterday with overdone Australian accents:
"A dingo took my baby!"
Both times, the comment was followed by laughter.

This bothers me for two reasons. First, it is a statement that is copied from pop culture in order to elicit laughter; a "TMI" or "Oh no you di'n't" kind of phrase that lacks any originality and is way too overdone in our culture. Secondly and for a far more important reason, the dingo joke is rooted in a dark and recent tragedy.

In the summer of 1980, an Australian family, the Chamberlains was camping at Uluru (Ayer's Rock) where their 2 month old daugher Azaria was taken by a dingo, a wild dog. Because such a thing had not happened before and because the family belonged to a fringe Christian church (Seventh-Day Adventist), the media and investigating police doubted the mother's story that she had seen a dingo bolt out of the tent as she approached. Mass hysteria broke out throughout Australia calling for Lindy Chamberlain to pay for  what most of the country believed to be a covered up murder of the baby. She was brought to trial in what became the most publicized trial in Australian history and deemed guilty based on dubious evidence (and likely popular pressure). Lindy was sentenced to life in prison.

After spending more than 3 years in jail and giving birth to another daughter to which she wasn't permitted to care for, new evidence surfaced proving her story of a dingo was true and that she was indeed innocent. The Chamberlain family suffered greatly as a result. You can watch a film based on their story: A Cry in the Dark (brilliant title with a double meaning).

Because "a dingo took my baby" became such a catchphrase and substitution for a lame excuse in Australia from 1980-1986, it persists even today.

What is remarkable to me is how someone who would not joke about a grave injustice or a baby being killed can handily refer to this tragic event as a way to get a laugh.


To iPhone or not to iPhone?

I expressed this carnal dilemma on facebook last night:
Zaak thinks an iPhone is terrific, found an ideal monthly plan, has his wife's permission to get one, but still can't list enough reasons why he "needs" one. He guesses he'll just keep his money.
Not surprisingly, I got 15 comments. I'll get to those in a minute.

What I didn't post was my full tech needs and resources. 
  • I currently have an iMac (on it's 4th year) on which I do most of my personal work (design, video, email, photo & music library, website, address book, calendar, Skype with family, etc.).
  • I have a school MacBook Pro (also on it's 4th year) on which I do all of my school work (making assignments/tests/lesson presentations, email, grading program, media class prep), cohousing work (email, proposals, committee work, Skype, etc.), and where I do most of my web browsing and blogging (I'm on it now). 
  • I have a first generation iPod Touch 8 GB (which my students think is totally retro) on which I listen to tunes at work during preps, play Angry Birds, use as a calculator, check my email / calendar / address book, look at maps before traveling to a new location in Calgary, and check the news/blogs on the rare occasion my laptop isn't around and I have wifi). I have tried reading books, the Bible, and blogging from my iPod, but it just isn't a very fulfilling experience.
  • I have an 80 GB iPod Classic which serves as our entire music library. It's hooked up to our receiver in the living room and it comes on long car trips. 
  • I share a Nokia mobile phone with my wife that we usually forget to bring with us or forget to charge. I use it to text for carpool rides (about 10-15 texts a month). When we do remember to bring it with us, we'll call home to ask if there is anything we can pick up on the way home (the answer is usually "no"). We've never exceeded the 50 free minutes on any given month.
  • We also have a brand new set of Panasonic wireless home phones. We spend about $30/mo total to have the home phones including all of our long distance.
So, what more could an iPhone (or an Android smart phone*) add to my life?
  • iPhones are a thing of beauty, not unlike a mountain vista or a glorious symphony. My life could be impacted just by the beauty (harmony, intention, power). 
  • The odd time I am a little lost in Calgary, I could use the G4 network and the maps app. 
  • Amber could have full ownership of the Nokia or we could cancel that $15/mo subscription. 
  • I could shoot video and take impromptu photos rather than having to drag my Canon miniDV camcorder or Flip Cam and my Nikon DSLR around everywhere. 
  • I could update my facebook status from almost anywhere. Something I barely do at home.
  • I could give my kids my iPod Touch to play with. 
  • I could adapt enjoy more apps that I have been unable to try/use because my iPod is so old (3.5 years!!). 
Other than that... I can't think of more options. All of these would be super cool. Being able to carry my Nokia, iPod, and Flip all in one is pretty cool - though I rarely have more than 1 of those in my pocket at a time.

Is that worth $60/month (plus the cost of the phone) for the next 3 years (about $2,650 total including tax, fees)? I would likely spend a couple more hundred dollars on apps etc. too.

Now for the facebook comments:
  • Dean, Isabel, Janis, Cate, Marta and Karry LOVE their iPhones and believe I would also. I agree.
  • Sara, Justin, Helen, and Landon suggest alternatives: Androids, something cheaper. Reservations? Yikes!
  • Mom, Petra, and Trish share my dilemma. Yup.
  • Lawrence and Jon discourage me from giving in to my wants. True, true.
So how would an iPhone impact my life? This should be my question.

Yes, I would have a marginally (?) richer tech life. 

Would I likely have my nose glued to it all day and all evening? Probably, knowing my experience with my iPod/MacBook/iMac. This likely means less facetime (irony?) with my family. 

The pocketbook** would suffer. 

As a whole, I will have become more materialistic, though I've already achieved gold status, so what harm could an iPhone do?

As a global citizen, would owning an iPhone be better for everyone? I believe that is a resounding no. The factories aren't exactly a place where I'd like my children to work, so why would I support the employment for the Chinese. The materials used are likely mined unethically and may even contribute to wars around the planet. But again, I'm already a global criminal by the amount of energy, food, and technology that I consume, what's one more gadget?

Finally, the tough question, and one I am reluctant to post here, but hey it might generate a good discussion. I should iterate: I am not judging those who own and love their iPhones. This is my struggle, but maybe it is yours too: Can I as a professing Christian own an iPhone based on the reasons I've posted? I'm not sure I can. And I type these words with sadness because I really, really want an iPhone.

  • My money could be spent more generously, in a more giving way.
  • My time could be spent in relationship, rather than entertainment.
  • I should consider the full, global impact of my spending as the ripple effect is great and terrible.
  • Can my purpose here on earth (to be used by God for the restoration, renewal, and redemption of the world) be better accomplished using an iPhone? (maybe?)
And this applies to far more than just an iPhone. It demands a re-evaluation of my entire life.

* I'm already fully integrated into the Apple Borg, so would an Android phone fully integrate itself with all of my Mac stuff? I was at a loss trying out my coworkers new Android tablet.
** by using this word, do I disqualify myself from even being able to buy an iPhone?