Untitled Cicadian (on lunch break)

16 02 2013

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Rose Parade 2013!

1 01 2013

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Home Ice

22 10 2012

Home Ice by the late Jack Falla is a wonderful book.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It’s sort of a memoir of a hockey-infatuated father, husband, writer who is best able to express himself and point out his flaws in relation to the ice rink or a frozen pond.

* * * 

I gave all my hockey gear away on Saturday.  This marks the end of the line for me.  I had just finished Home Ice the week before, but I have known that it is time for me to move on for months now.  I guess the thing that really drove this point home for me was last month, when I got a text message from the goalie of the 18+ inline team I’ve played a few seasons with since 2009.  

As much as I enjoyed a few more stolen seasons of hockey, and as much as I loved the exhilaration from skating up the rink and executing a perfect pass or a tip-in, it was time.  I’ve pulled a groin muscle on my work softball team last year, and I think I bruised a rib last year out at the rinks in Corona.

My brother and I have always relished the competition and measurement offered by sport, but he’s been a good example to me in the last few years of how to transition from needing to compete to truly desiring to succeed.  And for him as well as me, success is becoming more and more clearly defined by what happens during the workday, during my downtime, and how I serve others at home and at church.

Taking hours each Saturday (and spending plenty of money besides) just to slake my sporting thirst is no longer permissible to me.  I started feeling guilty when I realized I didn’t care much about the people I was playing hockey with, didn’t care much who saw me succeed.  I really found myself mainly caring about what I did relative to what I thought I was capable of.  That scared me.  If it’s woodworking or writing or running, pushing yourself to excellence is an admirable thing that requires dedication and hard work.  However, what I saw was something twisted and self-absorbed beyond what my sense of responsibility could let me get away with any longer.  

It was fun, for a time.  Rarely, it was a joy.  I still won’t forget the smell of stale sweat and bearing lubricant as I hopped off the bench to take my first shift wearing a crisp #7 Minnesota North Stars Neal Broten jersey in 2011.  I scored two goals that game, and I started thinking that I was “breaking in” the jersey, finally getting it ready for what jerseys are made for: playing.

“In life as in hockey, you’ve got to play hurt,” Falla says in Home Ice.  He’s right.  You have to accomplish  things without the benefit of comfort or consolation, because those things are a distraction far more frequently than they are a reward for a job well done.  And once we find ourselves seeking comfort and consolation as ends in themselves, we wind up working at the same place for thirty years because it’s easy.  We increasingly devote ourselves to vices and amusements to satisfy urges that we used to have the strength to temper.  We become bodybuilders who only work on the glamour muscles, working all day long to stave off insecurity while the most vital elements of our well-being and self-defense grow flabby and impotent.

So I gave up playing hockey.  At least for the future.

Of course, after reading Home Ice, I would rather skate by myself on a 40-foot backyard rink at 6 in the morning than almost anything else.  

 





The Resurrection of Batman

17 09 2012

Spoilers follow about The Dark Knight Rises, so don’t come crying to me if I ruined it for you. 

* * * * *

Batmunny?

                In The Dark Knight Rises, there is a scene in which one of the orphan boys in the besieged city of Gotham is drawing a chalk outline of a bat on the side of a building.  When Officer Blake sees him, the child asks Blake if he thinks Batman is ever coming back.  Blake responds with a wistful answer and looks to the sky as the scene transitions, and we are left anticipating the inevitable return of the film’s hero.  The audience can sympathize with this uncertainty as Batman is currently at the bottom of an inescapable pit,* but the picture of childlike hope is encouraging, and the audience is invigorated after the scene, excited to see how Batman will prove the boy’s faith true.

*Yeah, he escapes

                In a thought-provoking article at Alternate Takes, James MacDowell gives a very good argument for why the “happy” ending of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy is both earned and justified.  One of the specific objections that he addresses is the notion that the final scene with Alfred—in which he sees the thought-dead Bruce and Selina eating at the same café he mentioned to Bruce earlier in the film—is a fantasy sequence borne of Alfred’s intense desire to see his friend alive and happy, and that the scene is analogous to the audience’s desire to always see everything turn out all right.  MacDowell’s argument to the contrary is timely considering the increasingly prevalent notion in film* that a truly “artistic” film should have tragedy and pain woven throughout the entire work, most especially the ending.

*Since 2000, Best Picture Oscars have gone to films like Million Dollar Baby, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, Crash, and A Beautiful Mind.  I am not saying that these movies are bad by any means; only that they represent a trend in film endings towards the macabre and cynical rather than the joyful and redemptive.  Even in Million Dollar Baby the only “redemption” is that of death and the release from life’s hardship. 

However, what caught my attention in the article was a commenter who, in his argument for the ending’s being a fantasy (and contrived at that), compared Alfred’s desire to see Bruce alive to the “delusions” of those who claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ after his death.  The comment put forth the idea that those who claimed to witness Jesus after his death were simply victims of their own fantasies—that is, they loved Jesus and missed him so intensely that out of their grief arose visions of He whom they missed so dearly. 

Now, it is a not-uncommon occurrence for grieving people to “see” their lost loved ones, and I even have a close relative who had an extremely vivid experience of this very sort (which Cory pointed out sort of seems to run against the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19ff, but I’m willing to leave the “reality” of that particular instance ambiguous for now).   But I would like to point out that, of all these occurrences, the one that should be considered most likely from a purely objective point of view is that of Easter Sunday.  I mean, think about it:  While the people in question were grieving and recently bereft of the greatest man they had ever known, the reason they were so distraught in the first place is because of who Jesus was.  Specifically, one who had performed miracles with the power of God.  One cannot accept that Jesus was simply a great teacher with a following even to this day while simultaneously discarding the very miracles that caused such a following in the first place!

Of course, that same commenter would also assuredly say that the perceived “miracles” were nothing more than either tricks or after-the-fact embellishments by those seeking to trump up the figure of Christ, and I could simply move on to cite the prophecies of Jesus (and many others in Scripture) about his own resurrection.  Then, I suppose, the commenter would say that the Bible has been corrupted by fanatic believers throughout the years or try to compare Jesus’ prophecies to those of other “great teachers” that were thought to have come true by followers of the deceased leader, only to be proven false in the light of day.  

But better apologetics have been done on those objections, and I need not give my own poor version here.  I simply feel compelled to point out that the resurrection of Christ has within its very nature far more support on the basis of its subject than any person before or since.*

 

*Yes, even Batman

 





You Must Shoes

11 09 2012

Been a bit, but here’s a lark.  It’s even politically apathetic!

* * *

Wearing footwear on your feet
Is the way to go about it
If you want to show your stuff
Then there’s just no way around it
For as the debutante can tell you
(Or the cobbler can sell you):
Fashionably-footed people soon will rule the world
 
I suppose it might surprise you
That those boots you bought last week
Shall soon serve a greater purpose
Than just keeping up your chic
Yet there’s simply no denying
That the toe well-shod and styling
Will always lead the way of those who soon will rule the world
 
Halls of power will ring out with shouts
Of sharp stilettos clacking
Supreme Court justices will blush
As his or her clogs are found lacking
None will be spared from critique
If one’s shoes are not unique
Only people whose heels are shrewdly clad will rule the world
 
Looking for respect is useless
If your Jimmy Choos are absent
How can you demand our admiration
If your flats are has-beens?
Form and function notwithstanding
Haute couture is now demanding
Only swanky on ankles of those who would rule the world
 
Now I know there are the skeptics
Who will write off my projections
Many will I’m sure think it absurd
That shoes decide elections
I know how valid that reply is
But I may be somewhat biased:
I’ll take anything over how we now choose who rules the world





My Birthday

6 06 2012

I had a wonderful birthday.  It was a wonderful one in the truest sense of the word in that I was continually stopping and thinking about how cool it was that I was being celebrated by people that knew me.  There’s something telling in that part of our society, I think.  I’m not sure what it tells, but it is very cool, to me. 

One of my best friends growing up (and still, despite great distance) sent me an email yesterday that kind of blew me away.  I’ve included an excerpt below so you can see how awesome my friends are.  Yeah, this email kind of made me speak softly for a couple of minutes and miss my childhood.  

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Nerf Wars:  History has seen the rise and fall of armies who put less thought and planning into their campaigns than we did when scheming as to when we would hide, where we would take cover, and how we would assault the Barnes Canoe Fortress or the Sanctuary of Holy Baptismal Bunker.  Our armament, whilst initially meek, evolved into weapons so fearsome as to have caused Roman Legionnaires pause at the thought of advancing within their range; of note, a Triple Strike, Big Bad Bow, Supermaxx 1500, and Supermaxx 3000 that propelled plastic and foam (and occasionally metal) at velocities that would’ve made safety-minded engineers cringe.  With this armament, we fought with valor and squeals of mirth in the shade of skies darkened by raining darts and arrows; many of which still lie in dark shadows and thick bushes as a silent testament to the battles that were fought nearby.  We were Nerf Warriors once, and young.

Back Bay Bike Rides:  Of the many traumatic events that childhood brings, none likely hold a candle to the casual observation of our mothers faces following our arrival from a successful voyage into the Back Bay Swamp.  As often as not, our two-wheeled ATVs would bear testament to the grim journey we had made, with oily black mud in various stages of solidification clinging to our tires, frames, and handlebars.  Likewise, our adventurers outfits would be then and forever transformed by the muck through which we waded, as would our expert choice of footwear selected for it’s otherwise clean appearance and ability to track mud across carpet.  Yes, these expeditions were filled with adventure, bravery, jubilation; our bravery was tested in those moments when we had to confront our greatest fears; namely returning home and being seen by our parents, and occasionally while fleeing from free-roaming wolf-dogs.

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Randall put together a really cool video (with the help of a few others) that I’ll try to obtain and post here.  It and this email really punctuated the ongoing wonder of the day.  

I’m very grateful.  





Youth Evaporates

4 06 2012

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But joy never ceases to surprise.