Bibi makes his case in biblical fashion

Moses

The sculpture Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to in the House chamber during his speech.

The greeting Benjamin Netanyahu received in the US Congress chambers today reminded us of how strong a relationship America and Israel have with each other, regardless of who is in power in either country.

Despite boycott threats from Democrats, their leadership joined with Republicans in heartedly welcoming the Israeli prime minister to the podium. For the most part, they also cheered mightily during his remarks.

Yes, Bibi came hat in hand to just about the only nation on Earth that considers Israel a friend. That’s what you do when a bully on your block is threatening you. You find a big, strong friend to protect you.

Netanyahu was gracious in his opening comments. Even though the American president did not welcome this speech, Israel’s conservative leader thanked Barack Obama for the things he had done for Israel.  Bibi even made a point of welcoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) back after an injury.

Bibi made his case concerning the acceptance of what he calls a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that desire its destruction.

These countries don’t even try to hide it. First and foremost among them is Iran, who as Netanyahu made clear, has been unambiguous about its plan to annihilate Israel.

Lest the US leadership think that Iran only means to destroy the nation and leave the Jews alone, he reminded them that Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, has commented that “if all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”

Bibi’s spoke of the present nuclear negotiations with Iran by the Obama administration as similar to attempts by a  parent to deal with a rebellious child. Further, he described Tehran’s present behavior as a kind that threatens the entire Middle East.

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations,” sad Netanyahu.

Perhaps Bibi’s best argument did not concern the protection of Israel from destruction, but  how a nuclear armed Iran would result in nuclear proliferation around the entire region. Nations such as Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by while its Shiite enemy gathered atomic weapons,

Netanyahu indicated this would risk nuclear war and threaten not only the peace of the Middle East, but of the entire world.

“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” he said. “It would be a farewell to arms control.”

And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

Netanyahu did not rule out making a deal with Iran concerning its nukes, but he wants Iran to change its present behavior.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said.

Bibi finished his speech with a comment which at first sounded like a threat, one that could have suddenly turned the harmonious atmosphere in the House chamber into ice.

Netanyahu noted,”For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

When that statement came from Bibi’s lips, my first thought was,”Uh-oh.” But he finished his thought with this:

“But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.

I know that you stand with Israel.”

One again, Bibi offered a gracious olive branch to the Obama administration.

Netanyahu knows America and Israel share a biblical heritage, a connection that Republicans have accused Barack Obama of replacing with Islamic influences. He made allusions to this truth in his remarks.

Early on, Bibi referred to the current threat to Israel by relating it the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther. A Jew, she saved her people from a Persian enemy, an event celebrated on March 4 by Purim.

Further, at the end of his talk Netanyahu pointed to a sculpture of Moses in the House chamber. He quoted the biblical patriarch to the Congressional membership,first in Hebrew, then in English.

“Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”

Netanyahu whetted my own appetite for Bible reading today with these remarks. I have decided that after I finish this piece I am going back and read the book of Esther for my own edification, not for any geopolitical purposes.

During his speech Bibi showed why the people of Israel elected him. He is a strong leader in dangerous times.

The Israeli prime minister is also a gracious one. I have much more hope for Israeli-American relations after this appearance before my country’s leaders.

Some of them appeared to view  Bibi as government leaders did the aliens in the film “Mars Attack”. Looking at their faces it seemed to me that Netanyahu’s world view was completely strange. But for the most part, as noted above, his comments were warmly received by members of both parties.

Israel is not guiltless in the world, but what nation is? It certainly doesn’t deserve to have its fate left in the hands of religious fanatics, people who run a government which has made it crystal clear that it seeks to obliterate the Jews from the face of the Earth.

I hope after Bibi’s talk that our president understands that. If he doesn’t, may the Congressional leaders who gave him a standing ovation take up Israel’s defense instead.

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Bibi makes his case in biblical fashion

Moses

The sculpture of Moses referred to today by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The greeting Benjamin Netanyahu received in the US Congress chambers today reminded us of how strong a relationship America and Israel have with each other, regardless of who is in power in either country.

Despite boycott threats from Democrats, their leadership joined with Republicans in heartedly welcoming the Israeli prime minister to the podium. For the most part, they also cheered mightily during his remarks.

Yes, Bibi came hat in hand to just about the only nation on Earth that considers Israel a friend. That’s what you do when a bully on your block is threatening you. You find a big, strong friend to protect you.

Netanyahu was gracious in his opening comments. Even though the American president did not welcome this speech, Israel’s conservative leader thanked Barack Obama for the things he had done for Israel.  Bibi even made a point of welcoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) back after an injury.

Bibi made his case concerning the acceptance of what he calls a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.  Israel is surrounded by neighbors that desire its destruction.

These countries don’t even try to hide it. First and foremost among them is Iran, who as Netanyahu made clear, has been unambiguous about its plan to annihilate Israel.

Lest the US leadership think that Iran only means to destroy the nation and leave the Jews alone, he reminded them that Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, has commented that “if all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”

Bibi’s spoke of the present nuclear negotiations with Iran by the Obama administration as similar to attempts by a  parent to deal with a rebellious child. Further, he described Tehran’s present behavior as a kind that threatens the entire Middle East.

“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.

So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations,” sad Netanyahu.

Perhaps Bibi’s best argument did not concern the protection of Israel from destruction, but  how a nuclear armed Iran would result in nuclear proliferation around the entire region. Nations such as Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by while its Shiite enemy gathered atomic weapons,

Netanyahu indicated this would risk nuclear war and threaten not only the peace of the Middle East, but of the entire world.

“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” he said. “It would be a farewell to arms control.”

And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

Netanyahu did not rule out making a deal with Iran concerning its nukes, but he wants Iran to change its present behavior.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said.

Bibi finished his speech with a comment which at first sounded like a threat, one that could have suddenly turned the harmonious atmosphere in the House chamber into ice.

Netanyahu noted,”For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

When that statement came from Bibi’s lips, my first thought was,”Uh-oh.” But he finished his thought with this:

“But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.

I know that you stand with Israel.”

One again, Bibi offered a gracious olive branch to the Obama administration.

Netanyahu knows America and Israel share a biblical heritage, a connection that Republicans have accused Barack Obama of replacing with Islamic influences. He made allusions to this truth in his remarks.

Early on, Bibi referred to the current threat to Israel by relating it the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther. A Jew, she saved her people from a Persian enemy, an event celebrated on March 4 by Purim.

Further, at the end of his talk Netanyahu pointed to a sculpture of Moses in the House chamber. He quoted the biblical patriarch to the Congressional membership,first in Hebrew, then in English.

“Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”

Netanyahu whetted my own appetite for Bible reading today with these remarks. I have decided that after I finish this piece I am going back and read the book of Esther for my own edification, not for any geopolitical purposes.

During his speech Bibi showed why the people of Israel elected him. He is a strong leader in dangerous times.

The Israeli prime minister is also a gracious one. I have much more hope for Israeli-American relations after this appearance before my country’s leaders.

Some of them appeared to view  Bibi as government leaders did the aliens in the film “Mars Attack”. Looking at their faces it seemed to me that Netanyahu’s world view was completely strange. But for the most part, as noted above, his comments were warmly received by members of both parties.

Israel is not guiltless in the world, but what nation is? It certainly doesn’t deserve to have its fate left in the hands of religious fanatics, people who run a government which has made it crystal clear that it seeks to obliterate the Jews from the face of the Earth.

I hope after Bibi’s talk that our president understands that. If he doesn’t, may the Congressional leaders who gave him a standing ovation take up Israel’s defense instead.

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Movie Review: shots at “American Sniper” are way off target

“In the world there are people who take a power drill to a kid. Thank God there are people like Chris Kyle up on a roof who blow the guy with the power drill’s head off.”

This is comedian and commentator Dennis Miller’s reply to Fox News star Bill O’Reilly when the latter asked him about complaint’s from some that the film “American Sniper” is pro-war propaganda.

O’Reilly noted prior to  Miller’s comment that he was annoyed at the attack on “American Sniper” because he felt that director Clint Eastwood had gone out of his way to show the suffering endured by Kyle and his wife from the Iraq War.

I would agree with both men’s assessment of this film, a unique work that is creating quite a stir at the box office and in American culture at the moment.

I knew little of Kyle’s story before I went to see “American Sniper” last week, but a close friend and my brother-in-law were highly complimentary of the flick. Therefore, I had high expectations for it. I was not disappointed.

The storyline generally follows Kyle’s four tours (yes, four!) of Iraq where he protected American Marines from concealed places with his adept shooting skill.

It was the culture shock Kyle experienced in going back and forth from the normality of the US to the chaos of war that moved me the most.

Kyle, played by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”, “American Hustle”), sees himself as a man on a mission to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Much of the conflict in himself and with his wife comes from the guilt he endures when he is not in Iraq carrying out it out.

American Sniper Movie (1)

                                  Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper filming “American Sniper”

Credited with the most “kills” by a sniper in American history, Kyle has been quoted as saying that it was not the shootings that troubled him most.

It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.

Cooper reflects this attitude in the film. He did something for me that I feel an actor should always do. His performance made me forget that the person on the screen was not an actor. As far as I was concerned, as I got lost in the film, I saw Cooper as Chris Kyle.

While I would agree with O’Reilly that the violence is downplayed, it is there. Yes, there is blood in the movie, but as I told a friend today, it is a “tempered gore”. There is enough of it to show the tragedy of death under such circumstances.

The person who enters the cinema expecting to see a war movie will be disappointed. Like the 1955 film “Battle Cry”, the film is not so much about combat as it is about the sad effects of it on people’s lives.  (In fact, I like to tell my friends the former flick is more “cry” than “battle”.)

Indeed, it was not the deaths of the people in Kyle’s sights in “American Sniper”that bothered me the most. It was his senseless killing back in the States at the hands of a veteran that he was trying to help.

I mistakenly entered the theatre too early and saw his funeral procession as the credits ran. I quickly hurried out of the room, but even at that point thinking about his ultimate demise was a very emotional experience.

Why? Because as Miller and others have said, I knew that Chris Kyle is an American hero before entering the theater. The movie just confirmed it.

Unfortunately, for him to survive multiple visits to a horrible battlefield and end up dying violently in his own land speaks volumes about our culture today.

However, given what one headline writer called the “rampage” at the box office to see “American Sniper”, I believe there is hope for our society. Most people value the contribution Kyle made “over there.”

To echo Dennis Miller, thank God for such men.

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People line up to see “American Sniper” as I exit the theatre

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On Comet, On Cupid…On Waiting!

I know me. I will not do something until I’m good and ready.

At the moment, I am writing these thoughts when I probably should be working on a proposal for a presentation at a conference next March. I am King Procrastinator, or more likely, a Procaffeinator. I saw that term on Facebook today. A Procaffeinator is a person who cannot accomplish a task until they’ve had their coffee or tea.

Well, I am sitting right here at Panera with my cup of coffee, but the deadline for this proposal isn’t until this weekend, and it has even been extended! Too soon. Thus, the only real deadline I am facing is one in about 90 minutes. That’s when the last bus of the day leaves the mall area.

I have been on a Christmas break from my university job for a week now, so that’s part of my problem. I think I am on vacation, but I am really not, I have spent a lot of time catching up on much-needed sleep when I guess I should have been more productive. I did pick up my room today though!

It’s not that i have avoided the proposal project altogether. Yesterday I did some research, scanning the Internet for potential sites to review on my topic. But I’m really only half done.

Like anything else, I think the only way I am going to get this proposal done and out is by promising myself a reward. Shoot, if my current host Panera and other places like movie theaters can do it, why can’t I? A “selfie reward” I will call it.

The big time waster for me thus far has been my affection for movies, especially the classic ones. When I haven’t been sleeping,I have been watching flicks.

I think how I can get this job done is to give myself the right to watch a decent movie after its finished, and not until. I’ll have something to look forward to and therefore be more motivated.

I wonder what’s on Netflix tonight? Oh forget it! When I get home I’ll do a little research, go to bed and hit it hard in the morning.

At least then I can make some morning Joe.

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Movie Review: “Birdman” Makes the Imagination Soar

I had to go see a movie called “Birdman.” I figured the main character had to be a brother from another mother given his name and my surname. Birds of a feather flock together.

I was looking for something decent, too. I skimmed (I don’t ‘read’ for fear of prejudicing my own opinion) a couple of reviews mainly to see if there were any superlatives. It turns out this  flick I had never heard of is something of a ‘sleeper’.  One major review said it very could well be the best movie made all year.

The flick opens with a backside view of a man sitting in his underwear staring out of a window and musing on his crummy state.. Not having the greatest eyesight, I had to focus to notice that he was in fact sitting on air, i.e. levitating.

This is indeed the Birdman, whose real name is Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). Sitting in a dumpy room reminiscent of pictures of Adolph Hitler’s abode during his early house arrest, Riggan is conversing with an unseen voice. At this point, as a Christian person, I was beginning to have some concerns about the potential spiritualist bent of “Birdman.”

However, the film, i.e., “Birdman”, begins to fly, especially photographically right after this opening scene

The camera follows Riggan around. The filming technique is unique. especially at the beginning. Internet sites focusing on the cinematography note the movie was filmed as if it was all done in one take. The cinematography is the work of Emmanuel Lubezki, the man who also worked his wonders on the space thriller “Gravity”, a movie I had high praise for.

Riggan has sunk all his money into producing a Broadway play based on the work of an author whose book is 60 years old. When one of the key actors experiences an unfortunate accident while rehearsing, the play seems doomed. However, RIggan is glad the man is gone because he was a terrible actor.

One of the other actors, a woman named Lesley (Naomi Watts), uses her relationship with well known Broadway star Mike Shiner (Ed Norton) to convince him to join the play. Initially elated, Riggan begins to regret Mike’s presence when it is clear the actor is a first-class jerk and is taking over the play. This relationship serves as the major character conflict in “Birdman”, Also providing pain to Riggan is his former druggie daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who is his personal assistant.

The “voice” is also a source of conflict. It continually makes its presence known to Riggan, and what he has to say is not particularly encouraging, especially when it comes to the former Birdman’s efforts to be a success on Broadway. The film portrays Riggan as a man trying to attempt a feat he apparently doesn’t have the chops for.

The frustrations experienced by Riggan”s battles with the other characters tend to produce F-bombs at times. I note this only for the sake of my fellow believers whose sensibiities might bothered by watching a film with this kind of language.

Typically, as with many men, Riggan is encouraged by the women in his life, including his ex-wife and girlfriend, an actor in the play. Lawyer friend and producer Jake (Zack Galifianakis) also more vociferously pushes Riggan to carry on, especially since he is privy to their financial straits.

Keaton is Jack Nicholson-esque in his portrayal of the aging, fading actor trying to turn his life around. Norton and Stone also provide fine performances as flawed people seeking to make their way in New York City. Wasn’t it Sinatra who used to sing that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

keaton

RIGGAN THOMSON HAS AN EPIPHANY DURING “BIRDMAN”

“Birdman” is definitely a special movie, in a strange sort of way. It is difficult to separate truth from reality in this film, especially when it comes to RIggan’s musings. But isn’t that what the cinema is for–to spark our imaginations?

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Movie Review: “Interstellar”–Loss in Space

In the last couple of weeks I have been thinking of love and loss. This comes from developing those topics in my university classes for the purposes of teaching English to international students.

It’s not that I have this morbid fascination with grief. It’s just that materials I have created in the past on these subjects illustrate how to define difficult terms. As one of the pieces  says, it’s almost a cliche that no one can define love.

Since both love and loss comes in many forms we can attempt to define them.. For example, one recent news source I used in my classes dealt with the assisted suicide of a vibrant 29-year-old American woman who had plenty to live for. It was heart wrenching to hear Brittany Maynard and her family talk of her impending death and the life and people she was leaving behind.

So when I ventured into the local cinema to see “Interstellar”, my schema lent itself to viewing the film through that lens. I didn’t plan on becoming emotional over that theme, but cognitive psychology wants what it wants.

Indeed, “Interstellar” has been criticized for having no themes. It is getting plenty of rave reviews, but these have come because of the movie’s fantastic cinematography and how it stirs the emotions due to technical wowie zowies.

I concur with the critics who have praised the picture because of its  wizardry and roller coaster trips through space. There are times when the film is simply stunning.

In some instances I felt I was riding along with the astronauts as they rocketed into space and zipped through and around wormholes and black holes. I literally held on to my seat during these scenes.

But the story, supposedly a weakness of “Interstellar”, has not been given its due.

As is common lately, it focuses on an Apocalypse. In the not too distant future, the Earth is on its way to extinction due to a blight on its food supply. Cooper (Matthew McConnaughey) is a widowed farmer trying to make due with his two kids and father-in-law on a farm even though his heart is clearly not into agriculture.

But he loves his kids and he especially has a close relationship with his 10-year-old daughter Murph (MacKenzie Foy). When her brother teases her with a reference to Murphy’s Law, she complains to her Dad about the name.

“Murphy’s law doesn’t mean that something bad will happen,”Cooper tells his daughter affectionately. “It means that whatever can happen, will happen.”

This statement foreshadows the events to come in the film.

Seeking to find the location of some coordinates they found in a dust pattern in Murph’s room,  Cooper  finds a hidden NASA facility housing a rocket meant to explore planets on the other side of a worm hole located near Saturn. These worlds have been explored by other astronauts and some are deemed to be candidates for a relocation of humans from Earth.

NASA scientist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) tells Cooper, a former test pilot, that he is the one man trained enough to pilot the craft through the wormhole, but the latter is reluctant. He doesn’t want to leave his family.

However, Cooper eventually relents to the chagrin of Murph, who becomes beside herself with grief at the prospect of not seeing her father for years and perhaps never again. She refuses to send him off happily.

At this point the story moves into outer space. “Interstellar” shows dedication to scientific accuracy here, including the potential effects of space travel on aging. In fact, Cooper good naturedly tells Murph before he leaves that he might be her age when he returns, a thought that does nothing to assuage her sorrow at becoming separated from her father.

This ongoing dysfunctional relationship between Cooper and Murph, two people who clearly love each other deeply, and the effects of their separation give “Interstellar” something more than just the special effects common in flicks in our computerized world. It gives it the film conflict, the element required in any good story.

interstellar_movie_still_2

The movie still have plenty of glitz, including a star-studded cast (Anne Hathaway and Matt Damon, for example). I was especially drawn to Michael Caine’s role as Professor Brand. Caine seems ageless, which is appropriate for a film which has references to space and time in its repertoire. He could have come out of a wormhole himself.

“Interstellar” isn’t perfect. While the pictures of space and the happenings there  are quite unique, some scenes are reminiscent of other movies and television shows. For instance, one closeup of McConnaughey in his space suit  passing through an anomaly is rather hokey. It seems like something out of “Buck Rodgers”. McConaughey  has never been one of my favorite actors. Yet in this film I give him credit for his attempt at portraying a caring father. Where he fails is trying to pass himself off as Harrison Ford in Star Wars.  Furthermore, as one news clip  I saw noted, the movie is so loud I could not understand the dialogue at times.

In addition, it is sad that in a film about loss, this viewer got lost. There were scenes where I couldn’t follow the plot. I think Interstellar’s three hour run time and the aforementioned garbled English had something to do with it.  In any case, I had to read WIkipedia to fill in the gaps in the story.

Even with these weaknesses, I want to see “Interstellar” again and perhaps again after that, viewing it from different angles, including the scientific and sci-fi fantasy aspects. I think by the time I’m done I’ll feel like Alice in Wonderland.

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When I recall this summer, one of the things I will remember was the amount of time I spent with God. And the movies.

By the beginning of July I was toast after a long year a university educator. I had several weeks off, and I intended to sleep a lot and get time alone with God. I pretty much accomplished both.

I did have an agenda with the latter goal, I was seeking God’s leading on my life. What I learned at the end of many hours in the Bible and Christian books and prayer was that God was more interested in me seeking Him: period.

The flicks I watched tended to convince me of this, also.  I am drawn to biopics, and the one’s I have seen this year have centered on the failed lives of musicians, real and fictional.

Before the summer I had seen “Jersey Boys”, the life story  Frankie Valli. I wanted to see it because I had gone to the show in Las Vegas and wanted to see how the movie treated his life.

Both the play and the flick noted Valli’s messy life, although the former focused more on his music, which made it better in my view. The singer was involved with hoods and had a failed marriage. A later relationship ended when the woman decided she would always be second in his life to his career.

Despite his success, I walked out of “Jersey Boys” thinking how badly Valli’s personal life was in shambles, even at the end.

Another flick I saw this summer was a fictional treatment of a singer who is in a rocky relationship with a pop star, played by Adam Levine. In “Begin Again” Gretta (Keira Knightley) is a gifted songwriter, but one who doesn’t care so much about fame. However, she is discovered by Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a down and out record producer who sees her perform a song impromptu in a small club in New York .

Dan is only there because he has gone on a bender after losing his job with an indie record label, one he helped start. Add this catastrophe to his failed marriage and non-relationship with his 14-year old daughter Violet, and it is obvious that Dan’s life is in the toilet.

Gretta is in the pub for similar reasons. She has just moved in with her fellow British pal Steve because she has walked out on her budding rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl (played by pop sensation Adam Levine). The insightful lyricist has just figured out that her boyfriend cheated on her after he plays her a new song which has infidelity as a theme.

Gretta is at first reluctant to perform at the club or anywhere else. She is pushed on to the stage by Steve and when Dan attempts to convince her to let him produce an album for her, the best she can say is that she will think about it.

However, Gretta calls Dave the next day and agrees to come under his wing. What happens next is nothing short of brilliant. Dave and Gretta’s plan for their collaboration is extremely creative.

Their imagination and use of their talents are what makes the story in “Begin Again”. From their vision comes a new life for them and for several other characters in the film.

“Begin Again” will inspire those who find themselves at a crossroads to use their talents and ingenuity to take the next step when their lives are shattered.. Dave and Gretta’s original thinking is a model for people who need to find a way to pull themselves out of the slough of despond.

Finally, there was the movie about the life of “The Godfather of Soul”, James Brown. “Get On Up” reveals the harsh nature of Brown’s upbringing and how it influenced his approach to life. The singer, born in 1933, was the son of a 16-year old mother and a barely adult father. The film shows the violence and immorality surrounding Brown in his youth. His mother eventually left the family and moved to New York. His father is portrayed as an abusive husband and parent. The movie shows Brown spent part of his childhood growing up in a brothel.

I felt sad for James Brown after walking out of this flick. It is said that it is lonely at the top and “Get on Up” emphasizes how true that was for him. His only true friend was singer Bobby Byrd, who helped Brown get into music. As Byrd’s role in their singing group diminishes and Brown’s shines, their relationship in the film becomes more like one between a boss and a subordinate.

Great men and geniuses like Brown seem to have a certain arrogance that drives others way. As the story in “Get On Up” develops, Brown grows more and more authoritarian and tyrannical in his personal and business life. The end result is that he alienates just about everyone around him.

Even as a famous entertainer, Brown can’t seem to avoid jail time. He ends up in the pokey after firing a rifle at one of his business enterprises and leading police on a high speed chase.

Valli, Brown, the fictional Gretta and her producer Dan inspired me to reflect on my own losses. By July I had no strength left and was trying to figure out how to maintain my health with changing insurance rules. In many areas I felt hemmed in. I couldn’t move. I felt I was growing old. I felt alone and abandoned.

The one common denominator in the terrible lives of all these musicians was that they did not have God in their lives. My discovery while doing all the reading and praying was that I did not need direction from God. I needed Him. I needed to give Him my life.

I had supposedly done that in the past–many times over. But this time when I decided to quit trying to manipulate my circumstances and let God do what He wanted to do, I really meant it. 

I was hoping for great miracles and a change of environment. None of that has happened. What HAS happened is that I have more joy in just knowing God every day and trusting Him.

One of the authors I focused on this summer was Henri Nouwen. He wrote, “Your search for communion often takes place too far from where true communion can be found. Still, communion is your authentic desire and it will be given to you. But you have to dare to stop seeking gifts and favors like a petulant chhild and trust that your deepest longing will be fulfilled. Dare to lose your life and you will find it.Trust in Jesus’s words.” 

I am trying to do that minute by minute.

After all the searching for God’s leading I was led to the simplicity of believing that God exists and that he rewards those who seek Him. Just as simple is my understanding that I know God loves me and that I can trust in that love.

 My prayer at the end of the summer was Nouwen’s:

“Dear God, I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled.’ Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen.”

 

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