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Home » 2011 » February

Stepping Up- (No, not Step Up) – 2/5/11

I saw a variety of movies recently.  Well, maybe not variety, as they were all a similar type.  First I watched The Taking of Pelham 123 on Netflix.  Next I watched The Next Three Days at the Dollar Theater, and I finished up the triad with Unstoppable also at the Dollar Theater.  I noticed quite a few similarities between the movies.  Well, obviously, 1 and 3 involve trains.  2 and 3 had some similar actors, while 1 and 3 both star Denzel Washington.  1 and 2 deal with people dealing with charges they might be wrongly charged.  But all three involve a striking similarity.  Well maybe not as striking as trains, but crucial upon reflection.

In Pelham, Denzel plays a subway train dispatcher who has to confront some hijackers and save the day.

In Days, Russell Crowe plays a college professor who has to figure out a plan to break his wife out of jail and save the day.

In Unstoppable, Denzel and Chris Pine play train engineer and conductor who have to stop a runaway train from wrecking havoc and save the day.

No men in tights and flowing capes.  No geniuses inventing away in their lab.  No super spies with guns and explosions.  Well, there are guns and explosions.  But these guys aren’t the experts.  At least, not experts in saving the day.  But here is point number 1 of todays’ post: Everyone is an expert in something.  Maybe expert is not the best word, but everyone knows something about something.  You prepare and live your life and learn and grow and work and become the person you are.  Everyone has a place, a sweet spot, a comfort zone, if you will.

They know their craft.  They have studied their line of work, like subway trains or literature or, well, trains.  They are good at what they do.  (Although, this disclaimer: Crowe’s John Brennan is seen less as a professor character and more as a father/husband character.  Which is even more of a lifestyle than simply a job.)  And something happens in their situation.  Whether it’s hijackers stealing a train and interrupting the schedule, murder accusations breaking up a family, or a series of goof choices by a couple of goofs causing a train to run amuck and charge onto the characters’ train line, it’s always something in their neck of the woods.  So, there’s point number 2 of today’s post: Trouble always finds its way home.  Not home as in origin, but home as in HOME- your home, my home.  Whether it’s weather or war or pain or rain, something is always coming or has already come.  It’s going to hurt and it’s going to smart, but it’s life, and you have to get used to it.

So trouble comes and what do they do?  They try to pass off the responsibility to someone else.  But that won’t stay or satisfy.  They try to pass the blame off on someone else.  But that won’t stick.  They try to live as if nothing happens, but that can’t sustain them in such troubling times.  Eventually, they can’t stand it anymore and are either called to step up, try to step up, or simply step up and do something about it.  Meet the hijackers.  Plan an escape.  Chase the train.  And there’s point 3 of today’s post: Sometimes, it’s you who has to step up and do something.  Sometimes.  Sometimes it’s the police or firefighters or politicians or philosophers or teachers or parents or trial lawyers.  But sometimes it’s you.  Sometimes.  And when it comes down to you—when the hijackers want you to come to them or the lawyers give up or the higher-ups keep goofing up and cause more mayhem—you have to do something.  And it’s going to be something out of your zone.  You’re going to leave your home, leave your sweet spot, leave what you know, or at least move beyond just knowing.  Crowe’s John Brennan is not prepared to kill or steal or break in or hide from the cops—but he ends up doing it, because he believes it has to get done.  Denzel’s characters are experts in the train systems, but not in running with a gun or atop a train or confronting killers, but it gets done because it has to get done.  They choose to sacrifice themselves for others, because– you want to know why?  Because they do it every day.

All three heroes (even Chris Pine’s character, who seems to fade in the shadow of Denzel’s Frank Barnes) are fathers.  They know what it is like to give up freedoms, personal feelings, lifestyles for their children.  They are heroic figures in these adventures because they are heroic figures in the everyday.  And even more, they aren’t perfect.  One is accused of taking bribes, another is making immoral choices to save his love, another is… well, Barnes is pretty much awesome.  (I guess he disobeys commands, but…)  But they all have something to fight for.  More than just their job or their workplace or the status quo- they are fighting for those who are the victims of trouble—a train full of hostages, a motherless child, towns of unsuspecting citizens.  In the end, the heroes fight the people.

And so, where are you in these stories?  Do you take the easy way out?  Do you cause terrible situations?  Do you let trouble come home?  Do you stay out of the way?  Or do you step up and do something?  We all have our areas of expertise, whether work or art or passion or just our own lives.  Trouble always comes.  But you have been prepared, trained, readied in your sweet spot to rise above it, rise above yourself, and become the hero.  If it’s your time.  But that should never be the excuse—“It’s not my fight.”  If trouble comes to your home, you need to pull out the shotgun and fight—(although it can often be done without violence)—for the ones that you love.  If it’s your place and time, it’s time to step up and save the day.

Is it your time?



Beautiful or Beastly? – 2/5/11

This is a theme for yesterday and today, from TV and Internet browsing and thoughts running around in the fields of my mind.

First, I took a look at http://www.totalcreeper.com/ after a redirect from some comedy site (BTW- IT’S NOT PORN or anything dangerous or such.  Just sad.  Might be bad language)  It reminded me a lot of the horrors of http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ (IT’S JUST LIKE ABOVE, but definitely bad language.)  Sad words, sad thoughts.

Next, I have been watching the Glee marathon on Oxygen.  Yeah, I know.  But the episode I just watched was partly about the character of Beist and her challenge to see herself as beautiful.  And Kurt trying to find his voice and identity.

Finally, the ad for a new movie showed during the commercial break: Beastly.  http://www.beastlythemovie.com/  Either it’s good planning by the people over at Oxygen to run the commercial during the “Beist” episode, or a God thing.  Or both.

The other day, we were sharing our pet peeves, and I thought about what I wanted to say.  People who clap out of time.  That used to be my old standby, but I actually like it now.  Eggs?  No.  Two and a Half Men?  That’s just obvious.  People who like Two and a Half Men?  That’s just cruel.

So I said something along these lines: “I can’t stand people who refuse to open their minds and look beyond their area of understanding.”  That is awkwardly phrased, and it was probably more awkward than that.  But it was such.

It is a pet peeve of mine.  Learned in elementary school where I got to know people of different cultures, relearned when I saw myself being a cruel little kid to the “less cool” kids in school, empathized when I became one of the “less cool” kids from middle school to high school and generally understood over my life as an outsider, an oddball.  Not just that I can’t stand it when people look at me and don’t understand who I really am, but even more when people see my friends or others and can’t look beyond simple appearances.

We are a culture of image.  We try to imitate the beautiful, successful ones, whether we realize it or not.  Even our idea of “perfected bodies” or “angels”- we typically think of bright glowing skin (usually white) and youthful, thin, unblemished appearance.  What if we spent forever in eternity as chubby individuals with potmarked faces for every sin we committed on earth?  Now, I’m not putting out a theological view—simply dreaming a “What If?”

People are beautiful.  All people.  And not just some on the outside, some on the inside.  It’s both.  Because as they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  But you’ll argue, “Does that mean beauty is subjective?  Are there any standards of truth, goodness, beauty?  Yes.  External.  Because the beholder is God.  And we are his art.  Yes, we are sinful and fallen, much like a painting that has been destroyed over the ages.  But God is the painter.  He sees the original as well as the present condition as well as the redeemed possibility.  And when He looks at us, He sees “the image of God” within us all.

The difference is the person who refuses to see the beauty in others.  Like a wire coiling around itself, all they can see is things from their perspective, their eyes, their standards.  And so they look at others and see them as nothing but animals and creatures.  Such is the case with the websites above.  They throw around insults and tear down other people that they forget it’s supposed to be humor.  Sure, maybe you can laugh at someone’s awkward clothing or bad hair day.  But it just gets twisted and perverted and turns wrong—such as seen before.  If you say, “But it’s just a joke.”  I say “Fine.”  But the words we say and the words we read are like air we breathe.  If we breathe out foul air, there’s probably something foul underneath.  If we breathe in foul air, it’s gonna get at us eventually.  Now, yes, those people are loved by God and beautiful as well.  Heck, I’m sure their wit is God given. And I’m not better than them.  This is just a personal thought of what is going on over there.

In Glee, we see people trying to find their identity, find their own meaning in life.  I’ve posted about it before.  Probably a lot of the same thoughts are coming up again.  But with Beist, we see a person who is so unlike others, so foreign to the norm.  It’s almost impossible to find a person that can say she is lovable.  But Will steps up and does that.  And he seems honest.  Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but can we do the same?  Speak love and beauty into the lives of others?

In this movie, we see a guy who is all wrapped up in himself and he looks down on others, so he is changed to be ugly in the eyes of the people who once loved him, and he has to find someone to love him as he is.  Okay, yes, I just told you the plot of Beauty and the Beast.  It’s a take off of that story.  But relevant all the same.  When we turn to the point of seeing all others as beasts compared to our own beauty, we turn into beasts ourselves.

So who do you look down on?  Who do you “feel sorry for”?  Who do you pity?  Who do you ignore?  Who do you hate?  Who are you disgusted by?  Who can you not stand?  Who irritates you?  Who is awkward beyond all belief?  Who is ugly and gross and weird and just wrong?


They are the beautiful artwork of Creator God, Incarnate One, Redeemer and Lover of the soul.

So love them.  Love him. Love her.  Love them like you love yourself and maybe you will see the beauty of the “beast”.


I will try to do the same.  I have no handle on this.  I fail as well.  But now that I am aware of it, I can try.  Try.  Yoda was wrong.  There is try.  But you try by doing.  So do.  Try.  Love.