Browsing Archives for October 2009


 If you have any suicidal tendencies at all, I would strongly recommend against viewing the film, Where The Wild Things Are based on the book written by Maurice Sendak.  Despite what some of the readers of this blog think, I have relatively sound mental health, but I almost shot myself in the parking lot as I left this movie and during the film, I attempted to hang myself three times with a noose made out of a twizzler.  

Aside from the fact that this somewhat odd version of Maurice Sendak’s story plunged me into an abyss from which I almost did not return, I did like the film.  The ‘Wild Things’ or as I would more accurately describe them based on the movie’s interpretation – ‘the extremely, extremely, way extremely, super extremely melancholy things’ – are like people without any pretense.  They are creatures without any emotional defenses. They lack the human shellac of a hearty ho ho! Every moment in their lives is an excruciatingly honest moment.  They say exactly what they are feeling and they are almost always feeling intense emotional pain.

“No one ever listens to me.”

“Why are you talking to him and not me?”

“You like him more than me don’t you?”

“Is she your favorite?”

“Why do we do everything his way?”

etc, etc, etc…

The big birdy creatures in this re-telling of Sendaks’ story, were clearly not raised by German protestants on the High Plains of Kansas.  Their dads never mentioned the stiff upper lip and their mothers never taught them how to feign delight at a plateful of Aunt Margaret’s lima beans just for the sake of family peace.

Instead, The Wild Things are all a bunch of Eeyores and even though Max tries very hard to turn things around by playing the roles of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl and Christopher Robin all at the same time, he cannot stop the overwhelming tidal wave of hurt and resentment flowing towards him from these creatures.


We never learn why Max’s creatures are in so much pain.  It could be that they all represent different characters in Max’s life.  It could be that they are symbols for the selfish ‘out of control’ beast that Max must leave behind if he is to find peace.  It could be that they are just manic depressive figures that everyone must combat on a daily basis. Whatever they are, there is one thing that seems to cure them, if only temporarily, and that is sleeping in a pile.  If they could just all curl up together, they were suddenly able to get along… if only for a few hours.  

I have to agree with the potency of this ‘sleeping in a pile’ prescription.  It may be one of life’s cure-alls.  It made me think of camping, when my whole family sleeps close together in a tent.. or when my boys were small and regularly slept in our bed.  Sleeping in a pile…even though there isn’t much actual sleeping that happens due to the the pile part – there is a lot of intrinsic joy in a mass of sleeping bodies curled up beside you.  You can reach out and pull them close, tuck in the covers, wipe the sweaty curls off their foreheads, all whilst attempting to pull the elbows out of your back, the foot out of your neck and breathe in the contentment of a family at peace…

Until the next morning when someone remembers…

You don’t ever listen to me….

You don’t like me do you?…

Why are you staring at me that way?…

He’s your favorite isn’t he?…


The magic of the sleeping pile never seems to last very long.

Jack The Knife… Part II

October 24th, 2009


I have no good reason to put these photos…

of my tiny, helpless, seven year old son carving a pumpkin on my blog…

Except for….

How could I not???

In last year’s episode of Jack the Knife, I took the knife away and gave him a magic marker.

This year?…

There was no taking that knife away.

I’ve discovered a few interesting sites lately and thought I would spread the joy and possibly the pain as well…

1. Christoph Niemann is an artist who writes a sort of ‘cartoon blog’ for the NY Times. Niemann uses legos, paper, tile, coffee stains and drawings to portray simple stories about his two sons’ obsession with riding the subways, his love of coffee, his lack of sleep and his passion for New York City. He recently moved his family to Berlin. His posts are really fun to read. You can find it here – Christoph Niemann blog for the NY TImes

2. I also found this article to be fascinating in light of my recent posts on Christian homeschooling. The Coming Evangelical Collapse written by Michael Spencer for the Christian Science Monitor. You can find Spencer’s blog at Internet Monk. Spencer is a practicing evangelical himself and his blog is for folks who like to read about religion and have a great amount of tolerance and/or devotion for dissecting all the particulars.

And since I can’t seem to find my way out of this religious sink hole, I will go ahead and mention a few films I have watched over the past months that were extremely interesting and worth a viewing if you can find them.  I downloaded them from NetFlix.

First off is Jesus Camp, a documentary that was released in 2006 during the Bush administration. This film follows a children’s minister and a few children as they participate in a somewhat unusual church camp in North Dakota. There is a segment in the film that features Ted Haggard denouncing homosexuality to a packed church full of swooning evangelicals right before he arrogantly dismisses a young boy who dreams of someday becoming a pastor just like him. The film is worth a watch just for that scene alone, but it is also a fascinating look at Christian extremism targeted at children and yes – homeschooling features prominently.  Below is one of my favorite clips, although it was tough to decide if I should post this one or the clip where all the kids are praying and speaking in tongues over a life-sized cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush.


Next up is another documentary called Hiding and Seeking; Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust. This film has the exact opposite theme of Jesus Camp. Instead of indoctrination and religious absolutism, a Jewish father who was raised by Holocaust survivors desires to crack open the narrow world view of his two grown sons who are both devout Orthodox Jews. To do this, he takes his sons and his wife to Poland, a country with a strong reputation for anti-semitism and they visit sites that figure prominently in their families pre-world war II history. They also find the Polish family that risked their own lives to hide their great-grandfather and his two brothers for three years during the war.

As you watch the film, you can actually see the sons and the wife in this family slowly opening to the possibility that there might be a few good gentiles in the world. When they meet the Polish family that saved their grandfather they are at first convinced that the reason these people saved their relations was due to their grandfather’s honest reputation. That theory quickly unravels and instead they discover that the Polish farm family who hid their grandfather were just decent human beings and they also believed that they would eventually get paid for the enormous risk that they took to hide the three Jewish men during the war. By the end of the film, you can sense a true shift in the minds of this particular Orthodox Jewish family. A truly powerful documentary.


I have wanted to mention the film – Arranged – for quite some time and look how perfectly it fits with this post!

Arranged is a film that follows two young women – a Muslim and an Orthodox Jew who live in New York City and come from families that believe in arranged marriage. Both of these young women work in the same public school – one is a teacher and one is a para-educator.
The two girls soon discover that they have more in common with each other than they do with any of the other young teachers in the building. A friendship grows despite their differing religions and the viewer gets to watch both girls go through the arranged marriage process as well as deal with issues in their jobs and with their families. A fascinating, hopeful, thoughtful, and extremely well done film.


To conclude, I think I will let Bill Maher and his guests dissect the subject of religious belief, non-belief, and religious extremism in the following nine minute segment that discusses the documentary, Jesus Camp. I found that the final comments of this conversation when Middle Eastern analyst Reza Aslan speaks about the moderate majority of all faith communities needing to speak up and be heard to be the most pertinent remarks of the day. And yes… Reza who is a Muslim has the last name of Aslan… that’s right… Aslan… which for most literate Christians is the same as having the last name of Jesus Christ. Is it possible that C.S.Lewis had a secret agenda?

I will try and cover that conspiracy theory in a later post.