The Book of Eli

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Warning! This post contains major spoilers for "The Book of Eli." I strongly recommend that you see the movie before reading this.

The Book of Eli is, for lack of a better term, prophetic. I hedge my bets a little because this interview leads me to believe that perhaps I'm drawing more meaning from the movie than perhaps the filmmakers are themselves. Still, I believe that God can speak through people despite their intentions. Even if you can't go there with me, I think you'll agree that there are "lessons" to be found in the ordinary.

Depending on your viewpoint, the message of TBoE is either really good or really terrible news. This wasn't evident to me immediately, but upon further reflection I have come to this conclusion. I believe this is true for other works in the same genre. Perhaps the most famous entry in the Apocalyptic tradition, Revelation, contains an extensive passage that explicitly backs up this claim. In Chapter 18, Babylon, the symbol of excess wealth (among many other things) falls, and the people who have built their lives on the sandy ground of materialism weep for it. In the very next chapter, the multitude who have been calling for its destruction celebrate the one who destroyed it. Two groups of people witnessed the crumbling of an empire and had completely different reactions to it.

So it is in TBoE. When asked about the difference between the world they live in versus the one before "The Flash," the titular character observes: "People had more than they needed...we threw away things people kill each other for now." This is the thought of a man who is not invested in the culture of STUFF. In fact, this is the thought of a man who is truly on a mission from God. Contrast his attitude with that of Carnegie. The entire infrastructure of the world has collapsed. Roads and bridges are no more, cannibalism and "hijacking" is commonplace, and even the currency system has been replaced by bartering. Yet Carnegie is a man who is so in love with capitalizing on capitalism that he hoards what is probably the most precious resource in the world (water) and uses his coercive power to gain more power. He exploits the weaknesses of others. Optimistically, we would call him an opportunist. Either way, you have to admit that he is smart. And because he is smart, he knows that one surefire way to control people is through religion.

We Christians don't like to admit that this is true. We're not under anybody's control but our own, we say. (Church of Christ-ers have a particular independent spirit due, in no small part, to the autonomy of our congregations.) But if we're honest with ourselves, how often do we use religion as a means of control over others, both within and without the Church?

There's so much more I want to talk about in regards to this movie - the symbolism of the blind man being the one that "sees" the best and the weak shaming the strong, the fact that Eli's ultimate destination is nicknamed "The Rock," the moral ambiguity of Eli ignoring the women getting raped so he can complete his mission, the subtle and not-so-subtle references the director makes to other post-apocalyptic and dystopic works, and so on. This post was originally a lot longer and rambled more, if that's possible. But ultimately, I cut it down because I want to discuss this question with you. Whose side are we on? When our infrastructure crumbles, are we going to be rejoicing because we have been faithful to the Word of God, or are we going to be devastated because we've used the Word of God as a false pretense to wield power over others?

The 2006 Rose Bowl, Part 2 - Alabama Gets Overhyped

Thursday, January 7, 2010

National Championship Game. Texas is in it. So is another undefeated school, a media darling. Texas' quarterback has already had a career that few could dream of, yet he was snubbed for the Heisman again this year. This time, the winner is the running back for the team they're about to play in the title game. The teams have no common opponents, yet most of the populace and even more of the pundits are going with the traditional power. After all, the Big 12 is weak, and Texas struggled against Texas A&M of all teams, only beating them by 10 or 11 points. Don't forget that they can't run the ball.

Listen, I know it's not the 2005 Longhorns that are going to take the field tonight against Alabama, but it sure has that feel. I remember the hype surrounding the Trojans before the game was even played. Mark May, Kirk Herbstreit, and Colin Cowherd were just some ESPN employees who were crowning USC as one of the best college football teams of all time. It turns out that they weren't even the best team that year. This time around, it's not so much Alabama getting the love as it is the SEC. For the past few years, we've heard so much about how great the SEC is that people simply state as fact that they're the best conference, hands down. I don't buy it, and I really don't see how it's relevant. The Big 12 is not playing the SEC tonight. Texas is playing Alabama.

Another reason you can't just assume tonight's game will be a walkover for the Tide: you cannot use the transitive property in sports. People try to do it in college football more than any other sport because when two teams from different conferences get together, there's almost no common opponents. This doesn't happen in real leagues where the league sets the schedule. The problem is, comparing Alabama's win over Florida to Texas' win over Nebraska, for example, is insane. Just the same way, you can't go back in the season and compare Texas' 34-24 win over Texas Tech to Alabama's 34-24 win over Virginia Tech. The reason is that there are way too many variables to consider. People like to use the phrase "comparing apples to oranges" a lot, but I think that analogy was originally used about college football teams. If it wasn't, it should have been.

Finally, the coaching. Alabama folks will tell you that Nick Saban is a great football coach. They may be right. He does a great job of getting his boys ready to play from week to week. The problem is, the National Championship Game is played over a month after the last bit of action. Saban has won a title before, so he can't be terrible at this, but it's not like he's great at it either. In 10 bowl games, his record is 4-6 overall and 1-1 at Alabama, including that embarassment last year against Utah. Mack Brown is 11-5 overall and 8-3 while at Texas. The point is, Mack can coach 'em up when he has a month to prepare for a team, while Saban's ability to do so is questionable at best. Let's not forget that the players in this game are kids. That's the number one thing people overlook when talking about college football, in my opinion. Professionals don't care what the media says; they just line up and play. College kids are affected. When a team is discounted, they tend to play inspired, while teams that have already been crowned tend to play with a sense of entitlement. (By the way, I think that's what happened in the Big 12 Championship Game. Another circumstantial part of the game that people fail to consider when comparing apples and oranges) In 2006, Mack Brown said the following in his press conference the day of the game: "I would like to thank all of the members of the media. I don’t even have to make a pep talk.” He could probably say the same thing today, and I think that's reason enough for Alabama to be scared.

ATTN: Bono Haters

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lots of people love to hate Bono, the lead singer of U2. A lot of it has to do with his perceived vapid self-importance.

I disagree with this viewpoint. I've been paying attention to Bono's guest columns with the New York Times, and they have been intelligent, articulate, and relevant. Here's a list of his Top 10 something or others of the next decade. (I didn't say he could stay on topic.)

There's not a comment page on the NYT website (probably a good thing), so I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

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