Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, June 18, 2004

Charles Krauthammer writes on Israel's victory in their war against terror. When you're fighting the same kind of war, you do well to observe the success of others.

Friday, June 11, 2004

A sense of awe prevails as I write after watching the national funeral for President Reagan. I cried proud tears - to have served under him was a privilege; to vote for him an honor; to follow his example of humility, leadership, and service, a necessity.

His sun-bright mind was eclipsed by alzheimer's disease. I remember thinking in December of 2000, what would Ronald Reagan think? Would he cheer the decision of the Supreme Court? Sorrow over the divisions in the country? And again in September of 2001 - what thoughts would Ronald Reagan have, what guidance? I quietly thanked God that he could not know, and at the same time that we had the man in the oval office that the Lord knew we needed, in His infinite wisdom. The spirit of Ronald Reagan prevails in America, and will prevails as long as we stay faithful to our heavenly Father. Few men in any time of history embody the Lord's will for government, and in our time, it seems, fewer still. Ronald Reagan did that as well as anyone I've known.

I am communicating to my son, that when you put on the uniform it matters very much who occupies the Oval Office. That is why this has been a hard grief. To President Reagan I render a lingering salute, and it is so hard to express how much I look forward to heaven, when I can see with my own eyes his jaunty hand giving his return. Until then.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will have to wait in line; Ronald Wilson Reagan stands higher on my heavenly dinner guest list. No disrespect intended to the others, but he was the man of my times.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A very favorite passage of mine, from An American Life, Ronald Reagan=s autobiography, pp.181-182. Here he recalls a day someone made a difference in his life in the middle of the student unrest of 1969:
AThese were stormy times, but I=ll never forget one very quiet moment during that period. One day, I arrived at the University of California campus in San Diego for a meeting of the Board of Regents and there was a huge crowd of demonstrators waiting outside.
The security people told me to remain in the car so that they could drive around to a rear entrance of the building away from the demonstrators. Well, I didn=t want to do that. I told them I=d walk through the front door of the university administration building as I was supposed to.
It was a long walk, about 150 yards, to the building. On one side was a knoll and on the other side a smaller rise; both areas were packed with demonstrators all the way from the street to the front door of the building, and I had to take that long walk between them by myself.
The protesters had decided to hold a silent demonstration, with not a sound, and everyone just standing and glaring at me as I made the walk; the silence had an effect and pretty soon it began to seem like a very long walk and I was feeling a little uncomfortable. I had almost reached the building when one girl left the crowd and started descending from the knoll, headed right for me, and I thought, Lord, what have they got planned now? As I approached her, she was waiting for me and she held out her hand and I took it. Then her voice broke the stark silence and said: AI just want to tell you, I like everything you=re doing as governor.@
I=ll never forget the sound of her voice rising out of the silent crowd. I was going on into the building, she was going to be left outside with her peers in a crowd with whom she had had the courage to disagree.
In subsequent years, sometimes when I had a decision to make and the easy way out was to go along with the crowd, I have thought about this young woman=s demonstration of courage. And I have always felt terrible that afterward I didn=t try to learn her name so that I could tell her how much it had meant to me that day.@
"When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future,I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

- Ronald Reagan

Friday, April 30, 2004

"Tillman's platoon was split into two sections. Tillman was the team leader of the lead section when the trail section began receiving suppressive mortar and small-arms fire. ... [The] cavernous terrain made it extremely difficult to target enemy positions, and there was no room for the trail element to maneuver out of the kill zone.

Even though his element was out of the area that had come under fire, Tillman "ordered his team to dismount and maneuvered his team up a hill toward the enemy's location," the Army said.

During the battle, he issued "fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground," the statement continued.

"Only after his team engaged the well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished."

Because of Tillman's leadership and his team's efforts, the trail section under fire "was able to maneuver through the ambush to positions of safety without a single casualty," the Army said.

He died leading a charge up a hill to take out an Al Qaeda position...

Thursday, April 29, 2004

From Dennis Miller, a dose of common sense.

"A brief overview of the situation is always valuable, so as a service
to all Americans who still don't get it, I now offer you the story of
the Middle East in just a few paragraphs, which is all you Really need."

Here we go:

The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about
that: There are no Palestinians. It's a made up word. Israel was called
Palestine for two thousand years. Like "Wiccan," "Palestinian" sounds
ancient but is really a modern invention. Before the Israelis won the
land in the 1967 war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, the West Bank was owned
by Jordan, and there were no "Palestinians".

As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as
basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the Palestinians," weeping
for their deep bond with their lost "land" and "nation."

So for the sake of honesty, let's not use the word "Palestinian" any
more to describe these delightful folks, who dance for joy at our deaths
until someone points out they're being taped. Instead, let's call them
what they are: "Other Arabs Who Can't Accomplish Anything In Life And
Would Rather Wrap Themselves In The Seductive Melodrama Of Eternal
Struggle And Death."

I know that's a bit unwieldy to expect to see on CNN. How about this,
then: "Adjacent Jew-Haters." Okay, so the Adjacent Jew-Haters want their
own country. Oops, just one more thing. No, they don't. They could've
had their own country any time in the last thirty years, especially two
years ago at Camp David. But if you have your own country, you have to
have traffic lights and garbage trucks and Chambers of Commerce, and,
worse, you actually have to figure out some way to make a living.

That's no fun. No, they want what all the other Jew-Haters in the region
want: Israel. They also want a big pile of dead Jews, of course --that's
where the real fun is -- but mostly they want Israel.

Why? For one thing, trying to destroy Israel - or "The Zionist Entity"
as their textbooks call it -- for the last fifty years has allowed the
rulers of Arab countries to divert the attention of their own people
away from the fact that they're the blue-ribbon most illiterate,
poorest, and tribally backward on God's Earth, and if you've ever been
around God's Earth, you know that's really saying something.

It makes me roll my eyes every time one of our pundits waxes poetic
about the great history and culture of the Muslim Mideast. Unless I'm
missing something, the Arabs haven't given anything to the world since
Algebra, and, by the way, thanks a hell of a lot for that one.

Chew this around and spit it out: Five hundred million Arabs; five
Million Jews. Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and
Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these
same folks swear that if Israel gives them half of that pack of matches,
Everyone will be pals..

Really? Wow, what neat news. Hey, but what about the string of wars to
obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to
drive every Jew into the sea? Oh, that? We were just kidding.

My friend Kevin Rooney made a gorgeous point the other day: Just reverse
the Numbers. Imagine five hundred million Jews and five million Arabs. I
was stunned at the simple brilliance of it. Can anyone picture the Jews
strapping belts of razor blades and dynamite to themselves? Of course
not. Or marshaling every fiber and force at their disposal for
generations to drive a tiny Arab State into the sea? Nonsense. Or
dancing for joy at the murder of innocents? Impossible. Or spreading
and believing horrible lies about the Arabs baking their bread with the
blood of children? Disgusting. No, as you know, left to themselves in a
world of peace, the worst Jews would ever do to people is debate them to

Mr. Bush, God bless him, is walking a tightrope. I understand that with
vital operations in Iraq and others, it's in our interest, as Americans,
to try to stabilize our Arab allies as much as possible, and, after all,
that can't be much harder than stabilizing a roomful of supermodels
who've just had their drugs taken away.

However, in any big-picture strategy, there's always a danger of losing
moral weight. We've already lost some. After September 11th our
president told us and the world he was going to root out all terrorists
and the countries that supported them. Beautiful. Then the Israelis,
after months and months of having the equivalent of an Oklahoma City
every week (and then every day) start to do the same thing we did, and
we tell them to show restraint.

If America were being attacked with an Oklahoma City every day, we would
all very shortly be screaming for the administration to just be done
with it and kill everything south of the Mediterranean and east of the

Please feel free to pass this along to your friends

Sunday, April 25, 2004

More on Pat Tillman: Time Magazine

And a terrific article at National Review Online.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Sad news from Afghanistan: Pat Tillman Killed.

Tillman was the Phoenix Cardinal who chose to give up millions to join the Army Rangers. What a profound loss. He chose a virtuous approach to it all, shunning publicity, and serving without fanfare. He is the basis for the question I would ask of the fabulously wealthy professional athletes: "Why didn't you go?"

This one really hits hard.

Here's what Peggy Noonan wrote on his enlistment: Privileged to Serve

2 Samuel 1:23b, 27, "23 They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions."
"27 “How have the mighty fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”

Senator John McCain has said: "I am heartbroken today by the news of Pat Tillman's death. The tragic loss of this extraordinary young man will seem a heavy blow to our nation's morale, as it is surely a grievous injury to his loved ones. But there is in Pat Tillman's example, in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait. When Pat made his choice to leave the NFL and became an Army Ranger, he declined requests for interviews because he viewed his decision as no more patriotic than that of his less fortunate, less renowned countrymen who loved our country enough to volunteer to defend her in a time of peril. It is that first lesson of patriotism that we should reaffirm in our own lives as we celebrate the courageous life and mourn the heroic death of this most honorable American."

Friday, April 16, 2004

Here's the thing: it was a bad career move in the first place. Fox News Report

AIDS is a disease whose victims are very often involved in immorality. Even so, it has profoundly affected health care costs, even for those who are incredibly unlikely to contract the disease. Is it divine discipline? No brainer.

Courtesy of

The Private of the Buffs

Sir Francis Hastings Doyle

LAST night, among his fellow roughs,
He jested, quaff’d, and swore:
A drunken private of the Buffs,
Who never look’d before.
To-day, beneath the foeman’s frown, 5
He stands in Elgin’s place,
Ambassador from Britain’s crown,
And type of all her race.

Poor, reckless, rude, lowborn, untaught,
Bewilder’d, and alone, 10
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
He yet can call his own.
Ay, tear his body limb from limb,
Bring cord, or axe, or flame:
He only knows, that not through him 15
Shall England come to shame.

Far Kentish hop-fields round him seem’d,
Like dreams, to come and go;
Bright leagues of cherry-blossom gleam’d,
One sheet of living snow; 20
The smoke, above his father’s door,
In gray soft eddyings hung:
Must he then watch it rise no more,
Doom’d by himself, so young?

Yes, honor calls!—with strength like steel 25
He put the vision by.
Let dusky Indians whine and kneel;
An English lad must die.
And thus, with eyes that would not shrink,
With knee to man unbent, 30
Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,
To his red grave he went.

Vain, mightiest fleets, of iron fram’d;
Vain, those all-shattering guns;
Unless proud England keep, untam’d, 35
The strong heart of her sons.
So, let his name through Europe ring—
A man of mean estate,
Who died, as firm as Sparta’s king,
Because his soul was great. 40

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Ten second book review: Ian McEwan's Atonement. This is a book written with genuine skill and enormous talent. The pictures painted and the characters drawn leap to life in rare form. However, I have two complaints: one is that McEwan cheats with his ending, and second, that ending is essentially godless. I enjoyed the writing; I didn't enjoy the ending, which is such a fantastic gimmick I am sure it is the reason for the popularity of the novel. It is also the reason that it is utterly godless. I understand that McEwan is an atheist; no surprise there. I think he's angling for a movie treatment, and I expect it to occur in the next couple of years. I can only sigh and think of what might have been, had there been my God in that universe.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Some intelligent commentary from the UK: Barbara Amiel

Another radical muslim uprising put down. Hundreds Fallujah's extremists died because they stupidly underestimated our president's willingness to let our Marines fight, and the remarkable combat efficiency of the Marine Corps infantrymen. Evidently the geniuses in Fallujah haven't read their history. Hundreds of them are now conversing in torments with the Japs from Iwo Jima and the Huns from Belleau Wood, among tens of thousands of others who had to learn the hard way.

But we live in dangerous times, when millions of Americans would throw away the amazing gains made in the War on , and go the way of Spain. It is not that Iraq is another Vietnam at all, but liberals so long for it be just that - a return to the halcyon surrendering and betraying days of their youth, when they managed to defeat from the jaws of victory and betray the s of 57,000 Americans, and countless Southeast Asians. On whose hands is the of the fields of Cambodia?

May it never be in Iraq.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

From a Marine in Fallujah:

Things have been busy here. You know I can't say much about it. However, I do know two things. One, POTUS has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on ism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah). There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of shed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of ists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. I'm hoping they stay and fight.

This way we won't have to track them down one by one.

This battle is going to be talked about for a long time. The Marine Corps will either reaffirm its place in history as one of the greatest fighting organizations in the world or we will die trying. The Marines are fired up. I'm nervous for them though because I know how much is riding on this fight (the war in Iraq, the view of the war at home, the length of the war on and the reputation of the Marine Corps to name a few). However, every time I've been nervous during my career about the outcome of events when young Marines were involved they have ALWAYS exceeded my expectations. I'm praying this is one of those times.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

During my time in the service, I came to conclude that there were two kinds of soldiers: those who get it, and those who don't. Those who get it have a sense of esprit de corps and an understanding of what it means to serve our country even to the point of self-sacrifice. Marine Lt. Benjamin Klay gets it. Semper Fi, and thanks to Powerline for the link.

The Spirit of Grand Strategy

Grown up language alert, but it's worth every bleeping word. If you've been to Quantico, you'll get flashbacks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

And from the whimsical side (it's so much better when you know the tune):


You all know my big brother and his Christian name is Paul
He's lately joined a football club for he's mad about football.
He's got two black eyes already and teeth out from his gob
Since Paul became a member of the gaelic football club

He's football crazy, He's football mad.
The football it has taken away the little bit of sense he had
And it would take a dozen servants to wash his clothes and scrub
Since Paul became a member of the gaelic football club.

The first match that he played at, I was there myself and saw
Two turf sods for goalposts and a tin can for a ball
The Lord Mayor he was there, himself, and Lords and Ladies grand
And Paul got an orange box and made a Hogan stand

In the middle of the field one afternoon the captain said to Paul
Would you kindly take this place kick since you’re mad about football
And he took 40 paces backwards and shot off from the mark
And the ball went sailin’ over the bar and landed in New York

His wife she says she'll leave him if Paul doesn't keep
Away from football kicking at night time in his sleep
He calls out, “That’s a fifty,” and other things so droll
Last night he shot her out of bed and swore it was a goal
What better way to return to blogging?

The Battle Eve of the Irish Brigade

by Thomas Davis:

THE mess-tent is full, and the glasses are set,
And the gallant Count Thomond is president yet;
The vet’ran arose, like an uplifted lance,
Crying—“Comrades, a health to the monarch of France!”
With bumpers and cheers they have done as he bade 5
For King Louis is loved by the Irish Brigade.

“A health to King James,” and they bent as they quaffed,
“Here’s to George the Elector,” and fiercely they laughed,
“Good luck to the girls we wooed long ago,
Where Shannon, and Barrow, and Blackwater flow;” 10
“God prosper Old Ireland,”—you’d think them afraid,
So pale grew the chiefs of the Irish Brigade.

“But surely, that light cannot be from our lamp
And that noise—are they all getting drunk in the camp?”
“Hurrah! boys, the morning of battle is come, 15
And the generale’s beating on many a drum.”
So they rush from the revel to join the parade:
For the van is the right of the Irish Brigade.

They fought as they revelled, fast, fiery and true,
And, though victors, they left on the field not a few; 20
And they, who survived, fought and drank as of yore,
But the land of their heart’s hope they never saw more;
For in far foreign fields, from Dunkirk to Belgrade,
Lie the soldiers and chiefs of the Irish Brigade.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I saw The Passion of the Christ tonight. I'll save the majority of my thoughts for a later date, after I'm pretty sure most of you all have seen it. There is a certain power in the imagery, and emotion when coupled with truth in the soul can be a force for good. I imagine that there will be many who become emotional because of Mel Gibson's movie, and go in bizarre directions with it. The enemy can use this work of man just the same as he does the gospels, which were inspired. I will say this: the gospels are the product of the Holy Spirit; even with technicolor, the movie is only the product of men; it is both powerful at times, and painful in both its inclusions and exclusions. Go see it, if you will, then by all means read the gospel accounts of the death of our Lord.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

To my dear neglected readers (both of you).

I am bogged down in study like a good little pastor. I hope to blog again late next week when my academic schedule will allow. Good things to come, including a review of The Passion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The truth hurts.

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
- President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
- President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

"Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
- Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
- Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
- Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9,

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
- Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999

"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of elicit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
- Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, December 5, 2001

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."
- Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
- Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do"
- Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members .. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction . So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real ."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003

Monday, February 16, 2004

Anyone else not like "President's Day?" It seems to me to be a politically correct kind of holiday now. "Leave no president behind, even the ones that stunk." I don't like president's day because then I have to include Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Rather, Abe Lincoln's and George Washington's birthdays were great; we should also be adding Ronald Reagan to that group soon, and if I recall correctly, he has a February birthday too.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

A curiosity: my review of Secondhand Lions is far less verbose than for Lost in Translation. The reason is simple - Secondhand Lions is about old-fashioned integrity. It may have a few minor flaws, but it is far more view-worthy than the other movie we saw this week. So I can say: get it. See it. Enjoy. No further explanation is necessary.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

William Buckley's West Point commencement address, June 1971: Buckley comments on John Kerry's antiwar speech which was in the Spring of that year. Pay attention to Buckley's key question, akin to the priest asking "Is there a God?"
Lost in Translation movie review.

We caught this one last night on our late-night DVD cinema. Tuesday nights after Bible Class are good for movies we missed at the theatre, and I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about regarding Bill Murray's Oscar-nominated performance. I'm a fan of Bill Murray since the old SNL days, and Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Caddyshack still make me chuckle when I catch them. Now Murray takes a dramatic turn in Lost in Translation.

Warning: this movie is not for the average moviegoer. A survey of user reviews at Metacritic reveals that this one is quite polarized outside the world of move critics. Of course, one should take great caution at reading the words "critics agree," which translated means, "normal people won't agree." The critics' reviews of Lost in Translation strike a resoundingly unified thumbs up pose, but the users are polarized. The two kinds of people who didn't like it were those who thought it racist (it wasn't), and those who thought it boring. Those who loved it were in the movie critic camp. I have my own interesting test - the Rene' test. If Rene' doesn't like it, it's probably because it's too rough or unvirtuous for her demanding principles. So... Rene' fell asleep, and her comment at the end was, "I had a good nap." Lost in Translation failed the Rene' test.

But let's go deeper. This is a quirky remake of Roman Holiday. Its theme is romantic love in an exotic location. Now Rome in Roman Holiday is very romantic, and the love that blooms between the princess and the reporter is a wonder. In Lost in Translation Tokyo is not romantic, but a monstrously foreign and puzzling place, and the two lovers are married. Both marriages are in trouble: the young woman, Charlotte, has lost the identity and romance of her husband of two years, and the world-weary older man Bob is seriously out of love with his own wife, who calls and talks about domestic things, and is doubtful of his interest. She has reason to doubt. For a few days the two yearn for each other, enjoy the slipstream of mutual experience and ignore the inevitability of their parting. There is no question that in the singularity of the time and place of their meeting they have fallen for one another, each for their own reasons. One person at Metacritic observed that Bob is the future of Charlotte's husband, and Charlotte the past of Bob's wife. She longs for the time when her husband will look at her again with the same eye as their courtship, and he longs for the time that he can never redeem, when he loved his wife of 25 years. Bob sees in Charlotte's youth and beauty something of the past.

Lost in Translation records the flawed logic of such an affair with faithfulness. Charlotte asks Bob if he is in midlife crisis, and later states plainly that he is. "Maybe you need a Porche." But she latches onto him nonetheless, in hopeless and tragic fashion, and this is the way in a godless world. People without God need one another with a desperation that goes beyond reckoning, and from the outside looking in it is painful to watch.

That's the point I really want to get at. Director Sofia Coppola has a knack for the feelings and logic of the godless world, and Lost in Translation is a funny, touching, and ultimately hopeless film. With great skill, she brings out the looming of their parting, and the final silence and emptiness of the first stage of that, and then the false hope of the second stage with an equal eye to detail. But make no mistake: the unreal singularity of their mutual event is just that. They connect, it feels real, and then it's over. Ouch.

Regarding morals, it's an interesting mix. Bob and Charlotte don't consummate their physical relationship, and even at the end, when there is a physical expression of affection, it's just this: "We felt that way, but we didn't do it." But Bob has four relationships with women in the course of the movie. A loveless, dry, tired relationship with his wife of 25 years; a puzzled, humorous rejection of a Japanese prostitute; a one night stand with an American cocktail singer; and a falling-star brief romance of the heart with Charlotte. So... Bob has blown it with his long-time wife (which could be fixed by the grace of God), he has rightfully said no to the prostitute, but it was not difficult to do so because the cultural gulf is laughably wide. He gives in to the singer, largely because he deeply loves the young woman, but knows its going nowhere and doesn't want to bring destructive sexuality into something that is far deeper than physical love. Those four are knit together with great logic, showing the complexity of the sinful nature of man.

But that wasn't Coppola's intent, because she genuinely likes what happens between Bob and Charlotte. The acting and directing was great. Murray deserved the Oscar nod he got, and Johansson is a marvel for a 18 year old playing a confused 22 year old. Look out for her in years to come. But... the movie was an almost realistic look at an affair of the heart, and the twilight of a mid-life crisis. If only I could whisper "There is a God" into it somehow, it might have real value. And if only it wasn't quite as wistful and loving of what happened between the two, it might have even more value.

Lost in Translation is another example of the axiom, "Skill is Not Virtue." Go rent Roman Holiday and enjoy the genre in its more noble form.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Re: Super Bowl II.

The Beer Dogs commercial was somewhat funny, but it made our day since the triumphant dog was a Border Terrier, the breed of our very own Frisky.
Big Tuesday is back. I'm back on a five hour a week teaching schedule, one that is much more demanding. On Tuesdays especially I have to study like a whirling dervish just home from Starbucks, or else the rest of the week slides into chaos. Today I am putting the finishing touches on the Doctrine of Trial and Temptation. I've been at it hard since 6:30 AM, and I should be done with that shortly after lunch so that I can move on to write the history of Israel during the 9th Century, B.C. as the prelude to our Obadiah study. Obadiah has some significant parallels to the past two years on the geopolitical scene, and should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Re: Super Bowl.

Great game that was almost completely marred by the worst halftime show in history. Thanks for the showing the world the most degenerate side of our nation possible. There are too many things to mention and who wants to anyway, but wearing a flag like a poncho does a tremendous disservice to what it stands for.

Here's hoping the NFL has the sense not to award the Super Bowl TV contract to CBS for a long, long time. And... Phil Simms is the worst announcer since Harry Caray in his dotage. He's like fingernails on a blackboard to fans who have any sense at all. It is sheer agony to have to hear him pontificate during Broncos TV, but hey you can turn him off and listen locally to Dave Logan, one of the great ones. Not so on Super Bowl Sunday. Ugh.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

An all-important link for purists: Nitpicking the Lord of the Rings.

Also note the photo at the bottom, which explains so much about the president's domestic agenda.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I know that the mars-ologists are all a dither about finding water there, and how water may have begotten life at some far-past point. They're going to be disappointed, I think. The Bible doesn't directly indicate that life is exclusive to planet earth, but I have my doubts. One thing is clear: our planet is certainly the spiritual center of the universe.

It seems that there's a lot at stake with all the science that's happening with the rovers. The evolutionists, who take a naturalist view of the formation of the universe and of life on earth, see as their priority the justification of their view. Thus, the search for water and life on Mars. I totally disagree with these priorities. I think we should be investigating the viability of life on Mars for the purpose of its habitation, and create a genuine manifest destiny toward the Red Planet. I hope our president is able to do just that without getting distracted by the environmentalists.

On Mars there's another challenge lurking to young earth Christians. The rocks will be tested and of course found to be millions and billions of years old. And although this is a subtle argument lost on many Bible-believing Christians, the absence of a noachic flood on Mars means that there is no deluge-aging of the rocks. Deluge-aging is the argument that the great flood of Noah made the sedimentary layer of rocks on earth, thus making the earth's geology seem much older than it really is. Marsology will then support current dating methods in geology. Marsology will be one of two challenges that face Christians in the next 50 years. The other will happen if Christ doesn't return in the next twenty or thirty years: Christians who cling to the view that we now live in the last days before the Great Tribulation will be forced to review their exegesis and theology, and many will fall away. Of course the Lord may indeed return before then, but He's not require to do so.
Really tough question:

Friday, January 23, 2004

I grabbed this straight from Powerline.

General Robert Barrow (ret.) is the former Commandant of the Marine Corps. We have obtained a copy of General Barrow's summary of First Marine Division interviews for an internal military "lessons learned" project. A reader has kindly forwarded General Barrow's summary received courtesy of a Marine officer who prefaces General Barrow's summary with the statement that "General Barrow is easily one of the top five human beings I have known in my life time. As a result, his following comments take on additional meaning." Here is General Barrow's summary:

Last week I sat in on several of the 1st MarDiv interviews that two retired Army colonels now working for RAND conducted on OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] Lessons Learned. They are writing a history for the Vice Chief of the Army on OIF and they recommended that the document also include Marine Corps and British forces experiences. Thus their visit to 1st Division and I MEF.

While at 5th Marines, several of the regimental, battalion, and company commanders involved in the fight in Baghdad recounted some of their experiences. The fight on April 10th for the Amilyah Palace and Hanifah mosque were particularly noteworthy. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines was tasked with the mission. As a 5th Marines account of the action states, "Significant enemy action in several locations along the axis of advance and in the objective area, characterized by a relentless barrage of RPGs, a torrent of heavy machinegun and small arms fire, resulted in the commitment of the RCT quick reaction force in support of the 1st Battalion. In securing their assigned objectives, 1st Battalion experienced heavy casualties and killed an estimated 100 Saddam Fedayeen fighters...Following 1st Battalion's attack, thousands of Iraqis spontaneously took to the streets of Baghdad to cheer and thank the Marines and Sailors of the RCT for liberating them from Hussein's oppressive regime."

During the debrief to the Division, the RAND personnel said that they had no idea that this fight had taken place, the ferocity of it, and the bravery of the Marines until these interviews were conducted. Here are some additional details of the fight that we learned from the 5th Marines officers and SNCOs who had taken part in this engagement. I felt I had to share with other Marines.

The Battle of the Mosque, as it is known, was actually a nine-hour, intense urban fight. Nearly 1,000 RPGs were fired at the Marines and Sailors from windows, doorways, corners of buildings and rooftops. Some of the casualties the battalion suffered were from small arms, and one of the Gunnery Sergeants was killed by small arms through a thin-skinned vehicle.

The vast majority of casualties were from RPG fragments. One company reported that their 12 AAVs received 33 RPG shots, but that none caused a catastropic kill to the AAV. Some of the shape charge rounds went through both sides of the vehicle. On the first day of the battle, the battalion reported 34 wounded, most with fragmentation wounds to the head and upper torso. It was only on the day after the battle that the regiment realized the number of wounded was actually 74.

Many of the Marines had not reported their wounds to the corpsman, because they were afraid that they would be medevaced, and not be able to return to their unit in the midst of this intense fight. Illustrating the bravery and devotion to their fellow Marines, a field grade officer in the regiment told us of one young Marine who only went to the Doc on the day after the battle to report severe shrapnel wounds to his left arm, asking the corpsman to look at the wounds and to not say anything, because he was losing the use of the limb. The Marine confided to the corpsman that he had been unable to stop the bleeding for the past 24 hours. Looking at the blood-soaked dressing, the corpsman asked the Marine how many bandages he had bled through. The answer, "I lost count."

As soon as the regimental leadership found out about Marines hiding their wounds, the word quickly went out ordering everyone who had suffered wounds to have them taken care of. We still make them like we used to.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Now that's twice Roger Ebert has surprised me. From his review of Open Range: One of the many ways in which the Western has become old-fashioned is that the characters have values, and act on them. Modern action movies have replaced values with team loyalty; the characters do what they do because they want to win and they want the other side to lose. The underlying text of most classic Westerns is from the Bible: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" The underlying text of most modern action movies is from Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

Open Range is a movie retelling of a dime western. As the final credits rolled, I was surprised to see it was based on the book, The Open Range Men, by Lauran Paine. Thinking I had missed a classic of western literature, I checked it out at and elsewhere... pure pulp - maybe even only a nickel western of the kind that sold only at truck stops and tourist traps 25 years ago. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I am studying and writing on fairy tales as a part of my Sea Monster article. The western dime novel is a fairy tale, or a myth, one told in a myriad of different ways and set in the variety that is the West, but always with certain familiar elements. Open Range has those elements - the geographical separation from the law, necessitating swift and violent action; the evil figure who tes a town and perpetrates wanton violence and murder; the feeble townspeople who look for a savior and gradually come to ally with the good guys; the drifters who find a cause and a home they didn't know they were longing for. These elements and a ten gallon hat-full more are present in Kevin Costner's work, and walk the familiar country of Wagon Train and Gunsmoke and all the rest. The truly original Western can no longer be made, any more than a truly original crime movie, romantic comedy, or any other genre. What makes Open Range a real winner is that it retells the story so well.

As Ebert says, this movie is about values; it has morals in every step that it takes, and affirms our national morals by its beauty and skill. There is morality in its justice and gunplay, and even in its romance. Adding to the morality of the film is its sheer physical beauty. Rene' and I both looked and saw the Rocky Mountains clearly in its vistas, but not the mountains that we knew. It had to be filmed in a yet untrammeled portion of the range, and as we found out, it was Alberta, Canada. The green of the prairie and the gold of the sunlight effuse this movie with beauty that is often noted as the extra character in a Western. Costner used this extra character very well. But more than that, the weather plays a significant role, another major element in a Western - landscape and also weather. The gunfights are also a revelation. Pistol play demands short ranges, and Open Range plays within this restriction. The ranges are brutally short, yet shots are missed. Men have to reload their weapons at several key junctures, and there are no long range miracle shots. Even the Gunman with a Past, the Costner/Shane figure, misses many shots, even those he should hit. The thud of lead in flesh and wood is alarming, the pall of smoke an epitaph on brutal, short range gunfighting. It is not portrayed as glamorous, and does not come off that way. I think most of all, Robert Duvall lifts the movie by his powerful acting. Duvall is truly the one, the greatest and easily the most charismatic actor of American cinema; he carries every film that he's in, and has done so for decades.

All in all, this is an enjoyable couple of hours of movie watching. One of the few that would bear watching back to back, and it is the best Western in quite a while.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

It's me again.

A couple of brief book reviews:

At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. I was cynical, so was Rene'. We were wrong. Great children's book absolutely packed with virtues. Hard work, sacrifice on behalf of others, and God's control of history all come through with crystal clarity. Plenty of interesting meat for theological discussion as well. Read it to your young children, or read it first and then have your older children read it and have a conversation about it. And, being fond of fairy tales as I am, I found that the fairy- tale-within-the-book, Daylight, to have exceptional charm. North Wind is an earlier work of MacDonald, but in my opinion it is simpler, and for that, better than some of his later works, including the oft-revered Phantastes and Lilith.

An Army at Dawn, by Rick Atkinson is the narrative of the Allied invasion of North Africa in November, 1942, and the subsequent seven months of campaign afterward. This is a fascinating, painful book to read. I don't mean painful in the usual sense of a war narrative, which is also very present, but instead painful in the sense of watching the strategic, operational, and tactical mistakes of green generals and soldiers. The United States Army was very green, meaning inexperienced, in 1942. They were logistically chaotic, strategically short-sighted, ill-equipped, and clueless in battlefield coordination. A lot of brave men were betrayed by the shortcomings of the Army during that period. And yet, they recovered, and went on to become a war-winning force, proficient in all their endeavors. Atkinson is an exceptionally skillful narrator, having previously won a Pulitzer Prize for literature. He brings home all the poignancy and horror of armored warfare, describing the course of German 75- and 88mm rounds across the desert floor, and their chilling effects on Stuart, Lee, and Sherman tanks. There is a scene from Kasserine that remains seared in my memory - of tank crews by the dozens running across the desert to the rear, burned, wounded, and afoot after their vehicles were slaughtered by the superior German armor, their retreat impeded by their wounded and prodded by enemy machine gun fire. Our Army prevailed in the end, despite their complete lack of experience coming in, and the dangerous risk they took in Operation Torch at the beginning. Rick Atkinson is also a capable biographer, tracing the likes of Patton and Ike through their halting steps along the North African shore, and he does not at all spare the criticism which is their due.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

So, how are our nation's churches doing? Barna Research Group

Only half of Protestant pastors have a biblical worldview, and only 15 % of women pastors share the worldview of the Bible.

Barna defines a biblical worldview in the following way: "For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings."

There is tremendous impact from a worldview onto other beliefs: "People's views on morally acceptable behavior are deeply impacted by their worldview. Upon comparing the perspectives of those who have a biblical worldview with those who do not, the former group were 31 times less likely to accept cohabitation (2% versus 62%, respectively); 18 times less likely to endorse drunkenness (2% versus 36%); 15 times less likely to condone gay (2% versus 31%); 12 times less likely to accept profanity 3% versus 37%); and 11 times less likely to describe ery as morally acceptable (4% versus 44%). In addition, less than one-half of one percent of those with a biblical worldview said voluntary exposure to ography was morally acceptable (compared to 39% of other s), and a similarly miniscule proportion endorsed abortion (compared to 46% of s who lack a biblical worldview)."

Think attending church would lend itself to a biblical worldview? Guess again: "The research indicated that everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people have a biblical worldview - even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life. The numbers were even lower among other religious classifications: Protestants (7%), s who attend mainline Protestant churches (2%) and Catholics (less than one-half of 1%). The denominations that produced the highest proportions of s with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches (13%), Pentecostal churches (10%) and Baptist churches (8%)."

Even the pastors who have a biblical worldview are failing to communicate that.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Mogadishu survivor dies in Iraq: CWO Aaron Weaver. He was an extraordinary soldier. I pray he is in the arms of God.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Alfred Pugh dies: Oldest wounded vet. The Statue of Liberty division, the 77th U.S. Army Infantry division, has lost a legend.

Read the article. He was a lot more than a wounded vet.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Meanwhile, Dennis Prager notes in a great satire that Jimmy Carter believes that the Lord of the Rings films are evil. The satire remains second behind Bored of the Rings, but that's saying a lot.

Monday, January 05, 2004

My own thoughts on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I've seen all three films now, including the extended editions of the first two films. First and foremost, Jackson captured the look of every location with superb faithfulness. I can still remember the chills I felt two years ago when I saw Bilbo Baggins' round door, and again when the panorama of Rivendell unfolded on the wide screen. Perhaps the one sour note in the symphony was Weathertop. It didn't fit the book quite well enough, even though the natural location was striking. Still and all, it was Middle Earth up there, from Hobbiton to Barad-dur.
The characters were pretty close, but there were a few more misses. Viggo Mortenson had the look of Aragorn, hood and bedraggled hair and all, with the piercing eyes and ranger's build. His speeches were well done, but some of his best words were left out. The hobbits were fair matches for personality, but didn't quite hit my ideal. They weren't fat enough, or perhaps small enough or even provincial enough. They didn't strike me as a unique race, but instead just smaller versions of our own humanity. Thinking through Tolkien's essay at the beginning of the trilogy, it felt like there was a missing charm. The elves, I felt, were the big miss of the movie... Somehow Elrond and Galadriel were far off the mark and big disappointments. Elrond lacked the agelong wisdom of his counterpart in Tolkien, and Galadriel fell short of any real attraction or ethereal beauty, despite the magic of the filmmakers. I believe there is a reason for the falling short (ahem) with the hobbits and elves: they are magical races being portrayed by common human folk, and it doesn't translate well, even with any amount of soft white lighting.
Among the race of men there were two dead center hits: Boromir and Eowyn. These were two fine actors making drama at its best and making the literary characters come to life. Both are tragic in their own ways, and both find redemption on the field of battle. When Boromir utters his last words the films find their most poignant moment, and when Eowyn strikes for glory, I believe she eclipses the climax at Mt. Doom. Faramir, unfortunately, becomes corrupt at the hands of Jackson, a far cry from his nobility under Tolkien's hand. The film Faramir is a mirror of his brother's weakness. Other bit players deserve kudos - Pippin and Merry, Eomer and Denethor, and the geniuses behind Gollum all come to mind, but there are many more.
Then there was wonderful Gimli, the comic relief of the film. "It still only counts as one!" resounds as one of the most clever lines in recent memory. Through Jackson, Gimli had more life and attention, and it worked exceedingly well. He was Sancho Panzo, the faithful sidekick, except here for the fellowship of nine. At the tension on the verge of battle at Helm's Deep, Gimli's provides a breath of relief without uttering a word. He falls from horses, has ugly, bearded women, is too short, and gives us all a laugh with perfect timing. Who would have thought that Indiana Jones' Arab friend would make such a great dwarf?
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings has been a delight to see, a good retelling of a marvelous myth. The battle scenes have not been equalled in any film, although for my eye there are too many combatants on the field to make sense, and the battle in front of Minas Tirith echoed the Star Wars battle on Hoth a bit too closely. But they shine with all the genius and techo-ability that are the blessing of modern filmmaking.
I am eager even now to see the extended edition of The Return of the King, especially to discover the full treatment of Sam and Frodo's journey through Mordor, a section of the film that was left sorely shortened for the general public. How they get from Shelob's Lair to Mt. Doom was terribly simplified in the film, and the editing didn't really do justice to their journey or even make that much sense according to space and time. It was in fact awkward, and I'd like to see it done better.
Regarding the ethics of the film, self-sacrifice is taught clearly and even forcefully. It exalts the worth of the common man, and the sacrifices of everyday citizens. This may be difficult for many to understand who have only a casual acquaintance with Tolkien, but in some significant ways the film secularizes the spirituality of Tolkien's work. Perhaps this is the greatest error of all, but it doesn't cast a debilitating shadow over a great work. A friend asked me whether we would ever see a remake of this work. My first response is absolutely not. From where we stand now the definitive work has been done. Finally, what s for me is this: God, I love the cavalry. The thunder of hooves and shock of horse and shield echoes in the memory of Middle Earth.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The Weak Anthropic Argument for creation: Thanks to Evangelical Outpost.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Another good article: Reflections on Hefner

The article brought to mind a remarkable episode of my own life. In September of 2002, I took my family to Disneyland. Turner was 7 and Alex 4. On the last day we decided to enjoy the Peter Pan ride... you remember, the boy who never grew up. Turner and I came to the front of the line, and instead of an empty car, there were two young women: they wore impeccable makeup and impressively revealing clothes, and were smiling up at my son and I with those 10,000 watt Hollywood smiles. The next car was empty, so we hopped in, although the one after that was occupied by an elderly man and another chick. Evidently they were allowing a group of VIPs to load from another location, and putting them in every other car so that us common folk could still load reasonably quickly.

We rode the ride, occasionally seeing the VIP types as (if you recall the ride) the car turned this way and that. The old guy was wearing a white leisure suit that shone like the robes of an angel of light when the black lights hit it. We disembarked, blinking in the sunlight, and the VIP group stood a few feet away, reassembling around their elder statesman. It was, of course, Hugh Hefner, who was comporting himself as the magnanimous tour guide of his seven friends. The irony hit me like a thunderbolt: Peter Pan Ride. As we walked away I told Rene' who it was we rode with, and she was really creeped out. For me, the rest of the day was thoughtful. I hoped to see old Hef again to tell him about Jesus, but the opportunity never came.
Good and wise words from Ralph Peters: New York Post

"Even if terrorists attack our homeland before the stroke of midnight, 2003 will still have been a year of remarkable progress on every front in the global War on Terror - and the greatest year for freedom since the Soviet Union's collapse.

"A decisive government in Washington, backed by the courage and common sense of the American people, worked with allies around the world to carry the fight to the terrorists' home ground. We continued to seize the strategic initiative from the most implacable enemies America has ever faced. Unless we choose to defeat ourselves, there is no chance of a final terrorist victory...

"...The stunning campaign that took our troops to Baghdad in just three weeks made it clear to the world that no other state or combination of powers can oppose us militarily and left us with the most experienced, combat-proven forces of our time..."

"...Yet 2004 is going to be a year of decision in the War on Terror. As our presidential election approaches, the terrorists remaining at large will sacrifice their last reserves in an effort to dislodge President Bush, freedom's great crusader, from the White House.

"The terrorists will seek to convince American voters that the War on Terror is failing, paving the way for the electoral victory of a weakling and allowing them to surge back into vacuums created by an American retreat.

"Their last, desperate hope will be to hit us so hard that we elect a coward in place of a hero.

"I'm betting on American guts. And glory."