Category Archives: Media

Over-stimulation of Imagery

Using images and symbolism in order to engrain a new way of thinking into our heads is one of my favorite approaches. It works better than just telling yourself to do something. It also is a lot more interesting and can become very creative. For example, imagine a samurai, in full garb and sword drawn surrounded by enemies. He is however next to a koi pond and cherry blossoms are flying through the air. He is not in a tense fighting stance, but standing calm and relaxed, and smiling slightly. Now that is peace in the midst of chaos. Be the Samurai. Don’t stress, don’t prepare once the battle has started, just do.
Depending upon your ability to imagine, and your familiarity with the concept of peace in chaos, this could be a very good image to bring to your mind in the middle of stress. Pictures carry a lot more weight than words at times, and bring in one more of the senses in order to try and connect the person we want to be with the one that is.
Images are also used for creating passwords. Imagine a tree, next to a boulder, next to an oddly bent light. The password is ‘tree.photon?’ where the light is shaped like a question mark. Now this could be made as complicated as you like.
However, this method is becoming weaker and weaker. As you go throughout your day you are going to run into countless images. Many will be normal, billboards with a face on it, but others will be odd drawings or graffiti. The problem that poses for us is that it makes each individual image more difficult to remember. The brain naturally partitions things as important or unimportant, as standing out or plain. The more images you have running through your head, the less any one of them can take up significance or stand out.
Using images to spur us on towards success, becomes less and less effective. I have no application, just an observation. I am sure the over stimulation of images has other affects, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Do you have any ideas?


Marvel: Agents of Shield

Marvel Agents of Shield

Marvels Agents of Shield is not what I expected. I admit that I so loved Marvel’s Avengers, and believe it to be a masterpiece that I fully engage myself in, therefore my expectations were a bit skewed. I was hoping for the deep questions posed by such television series as Lost and Heroes. These series ask questions about what makes us human, how do we connect, what are we willing to do to survive, how far are we willing to go to protect those we love. The audience is shown the heart, emotions and internal struggles of most of the characters.

Why I expected these questions I do not know, because neither the Avengers or any of the other Marvel films ask these deep questions. They are concerned with how people change, and overcoming great obstacles—“simple” themes of life. Agents of Shield shows us good verses evil. The question that it may be raising is, “how do we deal with evil?” “How do we deal with people doing wrong that are doing wrong mostly because of their situation?”

The reason I say, ‘may be raising,’ is because the main character Agent Coulson seem to already have it figured out. He is a Captain America type character who is already good and has a moral compass that points him to always seek the third alternative that works everything out well. The questions aren’t worked out by characters that are struggling with internal conflict with good and bad responses to tough situations. Coulson knows what to do and does it.

I applaud the show for two things, with a caveat. The first is that they do make a very simple portrayal of good and evil. There is the good guys and the bad guys. However, it also blur both evil and justice. The bad guy of the pilot is simply caught in a bad situation and is not in control because of a biomechanical device. We never see justice enacted in response to him killing someone.

The second point I applaud them for is that Coulson brings compassion and grace to those that need it. His life mission is helping those who are in need. He is the good guy through and through.

                In all the series does capture the idea of old comic books. There were good guys and bad guys, things were simple. The only complicated thing was figuring out how to stop the bad people without anyone, including bad people, getting killed. Modern comics deal more with difficult choices that must be made. It is like the difference between The Brady Bunch and Modern Family. Though fun and entertaining, placed next to the more dirty down to earth modern t.v series, Agents of Shield, seems to be lacking depth.


“The Innovation of Loneliness” A Commentary

I digress today from the question of, “Are People Worth It” A friend of mine shared a very interesting video on Facebook today which is worth going over.

The Innovation of Loneliness from Shimi Cohen on Vimeo.

In the video Shimi talks about the effect social media has on loneliness, or better yet how social media can increase our loneliness. He provides some very interesting points, and I would like to take some of them just a little further.
Shimi mentions that social media is used to choose how we are perceived. Since everything is not done in real time but can be edited and changed, it can create a gap between who we really are and how we are trying to be perceived. This has some merit. Those who do try and change how they are perceived are not living honestly and even if they feel connected are alone because they are not known. (I find the notion of living honestly as a requirement for friendship and intimacy as to basic to argue here). But I find that most people on social media are pretty good at typing stuff off the cuff without editing it and letting their true selves out.
The issue of social media communication lacking the real time constraint I believe is only part of the issue. Carefully to editing material can be the real us we are trying to be and thus a real aspect of who we are. If we take time to edit grammar and what we say carefully, that is part of our personality if done right. The bigger issue is relationship communication in time and space.
Real interactions happen in space. Conversations through social media do not. I am all for conversations. I love a good conversation and that is my primary way of relating with and loving others. However, social media conversations lack the physical side of relationships. We are physical beings and our bodies carry a great deal of the relational burden. Our bodies are supposed to respond alongside our minds. Text carries mostly a mental response.
When I say something to you I am intended to illicit a response from you and I have a goal in mind for communication. I want you to laugh, empathize, share the feelings of my experience etc. I expect to see you smile, laugh, squirm or cry. I can see, hear, and sometimes touch your response. If I type something, I can’t. I am solely reliant upon my imagination to imagine your physical response. Which history tells me most humans imaginations and understanding is often flawed.
When we simply type something, we get less experience with others humanness. Our physical bodies and reactions are very important, and not having that causes a gap in our relationality. So I end with a challenge. Next time you want to like something, call a friend and tell them what you think or why you like something. Next time you want to leave a quick comment, go hang out instead. Let me know what happens.


Captain America as Ideal

                Captain America the leader of the Avengers is idealistically my favorite Marvel hero, however, as the epitome of a hero for us to copy he is also the hardest to relate with. Captain America embodies all of the values of character that we should strive for, but can become an unreachable standard. He is willing to take a beating for what is right, he takes care of those who are less fortunate than himself. He quickly takes risks on his life for others. Even as a wimpy asthmatic that is continually turned down from military service Rogers before he takes part in the experiment that makes him Captain America, he wants to fight bullies.

                Culturally, people do not relate with Captain America as much because of his near perfect character. We often relate more with those who are flawed, like Tony Stark in Iron Man. Christians often also see a standard of perfection that we believe we cannot attain because of our sin. It is true that we cannot attain perfection here on this earth, but Captain America: The First Avenger does not teach us to reach for perfection, but goodness.

                As Christians watching the movie, we can see in him the character that we should be striving for as followers of Christ. We are not taught in the films that we can be perfect, but that we should be good. In the seen before his procedure, Dr. Abraham Erskine tells him, not to be, “a perfect soldier, but a good man.”  When questioned as to why he would choose the scrawny Rogers, Dr. Erskine responds, “why did I choose someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power. And he also knows compassion.”

                In these few words the Dr. is speaking in line with the life we are to live as followers of Christ. We are to live well and do good for Christ. We are to live humble lives of sacrifice. As Christ humbled himself and understood meekness, so should we. We are supposed to be willing to give of ourselves to stop evil and promote good.

We will never be perfect. We won’t be perfect soldiers or followers of Christ, but we by the power and faith of Christ do good and can be good men and women. As we build our crowns, they may be broken, but crowns none the less.


Humor and What We Watch

                Here is a conversation I have had with multiple unrelated people.

Me: “So how was the guest speaker?”

                Person who must not be named: “Good”

                Me: “What was it about?”

                Person: “Uhm, well. The Christian life… and such.”

                Me: “What about it?”

                Person: “Uhm, well I don’t really remember.”

                Me: “Then how do you know if it was good?”

                Person:“It was funny. J”

               

A comment that I used to make about programs like, The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother,

                Me: “I know it’s pretty crude, I don’t recommend it.”

                Good friend: “Then why do you watch it”

                Me: “I know I know, but it is sooooooo funny!”

 

                The UnHoly Grail of Humor

                Last post I talked about choosing what we watch and how it affects our mind. Everything in culture affects us, whether we like it or not. So why do we as Christians often allow ourselves to watch or be around negative influences? Often times the excuse is humor. “It is so funny!” is used to justify why we watch material that is on the edge, at best. “There is nothing funny out there that is clean.” Is claimed as an excuse; a really poor excuse at that.

                Is humor worth spoiling your mind? My answer is no. When we laugh, we are more likely to remember what was said. Also, we let our guards down as to what is said. We laugh; we don’t critique. Because our guards are down, we just subconsciously learned something. Now it is not that one joke can’t just be a joke. A joke may be harmless, I will be quick to point that out. But often, when it comes to television programs, it is never just one joke. The humor on television programs usually remains fairly consistent in their content. That way viewers know, to some degree, what to expect.

                All I mean to say here is that when you are choosing what to watch and what not to watch do not let humor influence your decision. If a program is unwholesome, it is unwholesome; humor doesn’t make up for it.

                Also, remember that there are plenty of programs that were funny without being crude just a few decades ago. Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres, The Munsters, I Dream of Genie (I am talking purely humor and ignoring her choice of garb at the moment), The Adam’s Family and others. Hollywood primarily produces movies and series that make money. If we as Christians want more comedies that are not crude, then we need to not watch ones that are crude. May, just maybe if all 246 million Christians in the United States[1] only watched good movies and television shows, just maybe Hollywood would change. Will you put your money and time where your faith is?


[1] Note, I don’t find this number very accurate or convincing. The 64% that claim being affiliated with a church (9% less than the 246 million listed) seems a bit more accurate.


What We Watch

Part of engaging culture as Christians is finding out how culture affects us, and acting counter culturally to that. A second part is making sure that we are not partaking in culture in such a way that it hinders our Christian walk. Everything we listen to, watch, and read will affect how we think. How we think will affect our actions.

Subtly, the culture you engage will begin to infiltrate your mind, for better or for worse. For instance, in the short documentary by Jean Kilbourne
, Killing Us Softly (warning, mature content), Jean shows how even just the advertisements that we visually consume can affect every ones views of women, both the way men view them, and the way women view themselves.

She draws strong correlations between the advertisements in a society and the number of cases of eating disorders and self image issues. She shows how consistently in advertising women are presented as sex symbols, victims, prey, objects, and finding value in their relationship to men, not on their own. Where there is no mass media, there are drastically lower numbers of eating disorders.

Advertisements also affect how we think about manhood, womanhood, parenting, children, ethics, morality, sex, vacations, rights, and more. Therefore, we must be careful as to what we consume. Now, we may not be able to avoid all billboards, commercials, and Facebook advertisements, but we can choose what television shows we watch.

The television series, The Big Bang Theory, Community, My Name Is Earl, Friends with Benefits, How I Met Your Mother, and others all devalue the importance and sacredness of sexuality. Sex is a commodity, sex is cheap, sex is between any two consenting adults without repercussion (At least in the movie, Knocked Up, the movie is about a pregnancy after foolish choices).  On a short note, our society does not understand sacredness of any form, and certainly not when it comes to sex.

My primary point though is that whether we like it or not, these shows are going to affect how we think and therefore how we live. Is it then worth it? Is it worth it to watch programs that consistently portray life contrary to biblical principles when there are many other good shows that do not. One could watch, White Collar, or Sherlock

(BBC. Really, you absolutely need to watch this, if you gain one thing out of my blog I hope it is that you watch the BBC Sherlock starring, Benedict Cumberbatch), or movies like, Valkyrie,
, Howl’s Moving Castle any from the Marvel Universe and others.

I am not saying that we cannot watch anything that contains ideas contrary to Scripture, (each denomination would, in their opinion, need their own Hollywood!) but we must be careful and we must remember that self control, and personal sacrifice  are part of the Christian walk and more important than our own entertainment.


Marvel Comics and Binding Stories

The ancient myths of the Greco-Roman and Norse God’s were shared in order to show the listener how to live. It showed them how to behave in society. It demonstrated the relationship between men and women. It explained why the weather changed or why catastrophes happened. It explained the motivation for wicked deeds and what honor is. They also helped to hold together the whole of society. Since everyone in a society knew the same stories and lessons from the stories, it added a thread of commonality.

Joseph Campbell spent most of his life studying myths. His goal was to find the common threads in myths around the world. One of the themes that came up in most cultures is the quest of the hero. A hero overcame obstacles in order to become the person he needed to become. He would prove his worth, his place in society, become a man etc. These stories showed young men what they were supposed to do to become a man (women were often left out or given secondary roles). The quest could include defeating a monster, traveling to a distant place, or often a death and resurrection.

In America, we have many movies, but we have few stories of lore to guide the young generation in how to live. We have historical figures, like Davy Crockett, George Washington, Daniel Boone, and Martin Luther King Jr. but they are given a cursory telling at best. I am rather disappointed that such fantastic historical figures are not held up as bedtime and campfire stories. However, I am very thrilled that the United States is starting to tell stories of its own mythical heroes.

Our American Heroes are comic book heroes. Currently the comic book industry that is dominating the market is the Marvel Universe. Marvel is the company that has produced the heroes known as, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, The Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Ant Man (who is not like an ant in the same way that Spider Man is like a spider) the X-Men and many others. For many years, comics and baseball cards were what young boys would spend their allowance on every week.

Until the release of the recent blockbuster hits, Marvel Studios was slowly going under. Comic book sales were down and their profits were disappearing. Now bought by the Walt Disney Corporation, Marvel Corp. is taking the United States Culture by storm. With no signs of stopping the production of their main heroes, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, as well as planning to continue to add more Marvel heroes. Marvel is a major force in shaping our thinking. This is especially true because now they are making good movies. Through the flop of the Hulk films, the mediocre Fantastic Four, and the dismal falling of Spiderman, it seems that Marvel is learning to make good movies.

These good movies are not just fun to watch, but they are actually beneficial for our American character and culture. The marvel heroes, who will be the subject of the next several postings, are teaching young people the importance of right over might, relationships, honor, personal growth, learning from mistakes, and good choices.
The marvel movies are also so wide spread that they offer a semi common thread to the USA. They give an actual story to follow, and not just the commonality of consumerism, hard work and baseball.