Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where are you Bill Buckley?

I was watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart the other day and, in between laughs, was forced, when confronted with witty and intelligent liberal satire, to bemoan the sad state of affairs when it comes to witty, intelligent conservative satire.

As a conservative (small c) with a thirst for pithy, political discourse I think I am in my rights to ask, "Where are you Bill Buckley when we need you?" Buckley, who died last year was the "Godfather of Modern Conservatism". His mind was razor sharp and he used it to turn the tide of liberal thought in this country. He did it with charm, humor, and a little twinkle in his eye that seemed to say, "When I'm done embarrassing you, I'd like to buy you a drink."

But where are the intelligent voices on the right these days? I know they are out there but they tend to get drowned out by the bombastic ravings of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the like. Now don't get me wrong, I am amused when I watch Beck or listen to Limbaugh. I can even enjoy the same way I can enjoy a WWF wrestling match for a few minutes; but I would never call it a sport.

It is what it is...lowbrow entertainment. They will continue to feed the piranha that swirl beneath them awaiting their next frenzied feeding, but will never create a conservative shift in the cultural arena in the way Buckley could.

To put it in a nut-shell...Bill Buckley made it hip and cool to be conservative in way that the current host of talking heads could never do.

But don't dispair, there are some bright lights out on the horizon but you do have to look for them:

Dennis Miller: I've loved Dennis since the 80's when he did Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. I used to go see him as well in the comedy club circuit and have always enjoyed his clever word play. Unfortunately he is more libertarian than conservative, but in a desert, beggers can't be choosers. I love listening to him anyway. Lately he has camped out on FOX News and my advice to him is that I know he has to pay the bills...but aim higher. Check him out at:

Dennis Prager: Another very smart Dennis. Dennis Prager hosts a syndicated morning radio show out of Los Angeles. I used to catch it in Denver and loved it. I may have to pay up for his podcasts as I can't listen to the live broadcast anymore here in China.

Joe Scarsborough: Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarsborough hosts "Morning Joe" on MSNBC and is the token conservative on that rather interesting little cable news channel. I'm able to catch the Itunes podcasts here and I always love his perspective on political and cultural situations. If all conservatives were like Joe the Republican Party wouldn't be in the mess they are in.

Dinesh D'Souza: Recently a conservative friend who was citing the positive qualities of Rush Limbaugh to me asked who Dinesh D'Souza was when I suggested he give one of his books a try. The fact that he knew Rush but didn't know Dinesh shows you the uphill battle conservatives with a brain are fighting. Dinesh is an American of Indian descent who is primarily a writer but is also featured regularly on the lecture circuit. I'm currently reading his book, Letters to a Young Conservative which is outstanding. I suggest you read one of his books or check out the many entries he has on Youtube.

Now I don't endorse every position these four gentlemen take and it is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list BUT it should get you started. None of them can replace the great Bill Buckley, but we can try to emulate the culture of wit, reason, and humor he brought to the conservative argument.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top 10 Guy Flicks

Time to take a break from politics & theology and blog about other important movies. I was watching Dirty Harry this week and started musing about my top 10 "Guy Flicks" (I'm hopelessly addicted to "lists")

Now to make MY top 10 Guy Flick movies there has to be not just a testosterone driven storyline, but a character or characters who adhere to a strong moral code, even if that code goes against society's mores. Now, I don't care much for car chases and explosions bore me. Instead a top "man flick" must have good guys who fight bad guys (usually against overwhelming odds),say really cool things while doing it, save the girl, and ultimately, serve as a beacon of masculinity in an increasingly metrosexual world.

My top 10 in no particular order:

1) DIRTY HARRY: The movie that started this list. The 1971 Clint Eastwood classic was a cultural phenomena when it was first released. When the liberal policies of President Johnson & the Warren Court were creating an America that seemed to reward criminals at the expense of law and order, Dirty Harry Calahan arrived on the scene to fight not only a serial killer but "the system." 30 years before Jack Bauer, Harry was torturing the bad guy to save innocent lives...and America loved it! Favorite quote: "You're wondering did I fire six shots or only 5?...Well do you feel lucky, punk?"

2)The Three Musketeers: This 1940's classic is a favorite of mine. Gene Kelly and Van Heflin lead the musketeers against the English...and the "system" (Its a recurring theme in these movies) Great swordplay but mixed with a fantastic story and dialogue. Favorite quote:
Villian(during a swordfight)- "Why don't you fight with your right hand Athos?
Athos- "I save my right hand for my drinking."

3) Tombstone: Both Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer's best film. Kilmer's Doc Holliday is so good it nearly overshadows the flawless performances of Russell and Sam Elliot. The story of 4 guys who just want to be left alone but bringdown hellfire when their world and the lives of innocent townspeople are threatened. Favorite quote:
Jack Johnson- "Why you doin' this, Doc?
Doc Holliday: Because Wyatt Earp is my friend.
Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.
Doc Holliday: ...I don't.

4)The Lord of the Rings: Yep, I include all three movies under one banner here. Each part has its special "guy moments" and although The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite installment the battle at Helm's Deep in The Two Towers has to rank as one of the best "yes we're going to die, but we'll die gloriously" moments in cinema history. Favorite quote:
Aragorn: I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail.
Boromir: Our people, our people. I would have would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king.
Aragorn: Be at peace, Son of Gondor.

5) 300: I think George Bush could have sold the Iraq war to the American people easier if there were a few more caped American soldiers sporting bare six-pack stomachs and wielding spears on CNN every night. Alas, that was not to be. But we do have Gerard Butler as the Spartan king Leonidas leading his 300 Spartans against the Persian armies numbering in the thousands. I'm betting on the guy with the six pack.. The quotes are too numerable so we'll have to go with:
King Leonidas: "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed."

6) The Man who Shot Liberty Valance: My favorite John Wayne movie also stars Hollywood legends Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin. The story: Before Stewart's character, young attorney Ransom Stoddard, can prepare the American west for rule of law, John Wayne has to deal with a the the evil Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Never has shooting someone in cold blood been so justified. Yes, the act is morally ambiguous, but when John Wayne does it, it must be OK...right?
Favorite quote: (Valance trips Stewart in the saloon while carrying John Wayne's steak)
John Wayne: "That was my steak Valance...pick it up"
Libert Valance: "Hear that boy (to Stewart) pick it up"
John Wayne: No Valance I said you!. YOU pick it up."

7) Fight Club: Ok, I'm stretching the criteria for morally strong protagonists by including this one but I have to do it. Now Tammy really hates this movie but I think it speaks to a generation of men who have slowly been worn down to a nub. In a society of increasingly androgynous "girly men" this film rebels against the cultural neutering that is taking place across the Western world and says "No, you will not be defined as a person by your choice in dining set."
Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden secretly hides in every one of us who is willing to admit it. After watching this movie I wanted to blow up an IKEA :)
Favorite quote: Tyler Durden: "No, it is not. How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars. So come on; hit me before I lose my nerve"

8) The Godfather: The granddaddy of "guy" flicks. I have never met a guy who did not like this movie. Marlon Brando's Don Corleone sets the standard by which all other cinema mob bosses are inevitably compared. James Caan's Sonny is not just a mobster, he's a force of nature and, of course, Al Pachino' Michael. From the moment he pulls the trigger on Capt. McClusky, we know his destiny as the future head of the Family has begun. Once again the favorite lines are too numerable but this one ranks up there:
Johnny Fontaine: (Whimpering) "I don't know what to do Godfather...I don't know what to do."
Don Corleone: (Slapping him) "You can act like a Man!"

9) Braveheart Ok you have to include at least one Mel Gibson movie in a list of "guy films." Gibson has single handedly cornered the " bad guys have killed my wife and/or kid so lets break out the can of whup-ass" genre and whether it be Lethal Weapon, Mad Max, Ransom, or The Patriot, Mel it sure to rain holy fire down on whoever he is seeking revenge for. Of course his magnum opus in this series is his Academy Award winning Best Picture "Braveheart". In it, Mel's wife is murdered (surprise) and he and his merry band of men take on all of England. A classic!
Favorite quote: "Freedom!!"

10) Ocean's 11 & 13: George Cloony and Brad Pitt radiate cool out to about 15 feet in this classic heist series. (But notice how I omit Ocean's 12). Honest crooks who take on nastier real crooks are always a favorite movie plot to any real man. These films have an added bonus; because of the inclusion of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, they camouflage themselves as "chick flicks". By watching them, girls think they have made the movie choice of the evening when it was really you getting the pick. Pretty cool huh?
Favorite quote: No quote here (although there are some). Instead I have to include the scene at the beginning of Ocean's 13 when Brad Pitt is with a crew breaking into a bank. The wall is broken down and they are just about to take the money when Pitt's phone rings. Its a call notifying him his friend is in trouble. Ignoring the money around him he just says sorry to his crew and walks away as they stare on in disbelief. Too cool! Gotta go, a friend needs me.

Ahh finished and yet there are others that come to mind so Honerable Mentions must go to:

* The Magnificent Seven (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen)
(...This really should be in the top 10)
* The Untouchables (Kevin Costner & Sean Connery)
* Highlander (Christopher Lambert & Sean Connery)
* Excaliber (The John Boorman King Arthur film)
* Silverado (Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline & Scott Glenn)
* The Right Stuff (Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Sam Shepherd)
* Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.)
* Nearly anything with Robert Duvall

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hong Kong: Its Official!

Well, its really official now! In about 9 weeks we will leave China for Hong Kong to take up a new position as Head of Christian Education at Yew Chung International School. In affect we are going "home"!

We left Hong Kong ten years ago to plant a church in Boulder Colorado but for the last few years we pined for our lost home in Asia. Its funny because Hong Kong often drove me crazy but after a while both Tammy and I just missed the "crazy". Sometimes you don't appreciate things until it isn't there anymore.

In 2005 we returned to the city to visit Island City Church, which was the church we founded, on the occasion of it's 10th anniversary. On our first morning there while walking the busy streets Tammy was almost giddy! She finally just turned to me and said, "Lets come home."

I was pretty sure then that we would be back in Hong Kong one day. Of course there was a long haul between then and now.

In 2008 I flew to Hong Kong to explore some job opportunities. In a nutshell after a week I had a couple of possibilities that would allow us to relocate back to the city but nothing "felt" right.

Increasingly though we were feeling God's tug and I responded to a friend's suggestion that I apply for a Dorm supervisor position in Qingdao China. I was very reluctant. One, I didn't want to be a "Dorm Parent" and two, I knew Tammy would not entertain a move to China. But we argreed to an interview and, lo and behold, it was the best interview I had had in a while. I knew that the Dorm Parent position would be a foot in the door to both a higher position and a move back to Hong Kong and I was given every opportunity and encouragement from the school. In the last year I assumned many other duties including secondary teacher and campus coordinator while Tammy has assumed the Dorm Supervisor role as well as teaching art.

Last month I received a call from the main office in Hong Kong indicating that the Head of Christian & Moral Education (who is a friend of mine) would be resigning and offering me the position. Wow!

God does have his ways. We followed his leading even when it didn't always make sense and now He is leading us back to the place where we had started.

Hong Kong is so special to us. Its the city where Tammy and I met and fell in love. Its the city where as a young couple we spent years doing missionary work and eventually pastoring a church. Its the city where our son was born.

So, I don't know yet what He has in store for us as He brings us home to Hong Kong but we are ready...older...and hopefully a little wiser :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Colorado Rockies: What a Season!

The Colorado Rockies ended their 2009 season with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the Philidelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series. Both their losses on Monday & Tuesday (yes, I know it was Sunday & Monday but I'm watching the games in China) were nail biting heartstoppers that came down to the last batter of the 9th inning both times. In the end however it was the Phillies who prevailed.

But when you think where the Rockies were in May of this year, then the fact that they were in the playoffs and had the highest seasonal wins in franchise history(92)
becomes all the more extraordinary.

On May 29th the Colorado Rockies were fighting for last place with a 19-28 record and a frightful 15 games out of first place. Its about that time when the fans gave up any hope on the current season and begin making loud voices about what needs to be done to be contenders in 2010.

The Rockies ownership did something more drastic. They fired their Colorado loved manager Clint Hurdle who had led the team to a dramatic World Series appeareance in 2007 and replaced him with Bench Coach Jim Tracy. I had read a book on leadership by Richard Nixon years ago and one of the points he made in the book went along the lines of , "Never underestimate the value of a stratigic firing."

Well, it worked. Inbelieveably so. In the month of June the team posted their franchise best wins in a month by winning 21 out of 28 games. The rest is history now as the Rockies made an incredible run climbing out of the division basement.

I followed all the action from China thanks to and a high speed internet connection. In fact Tammy said at a Rockies game we attended before we moved that a move to China was now OK as long as we could still watch the games.

You know when you can get a wife to say that, you have found "the One!"

Anyhow, my dilemma for the last couple days have been that the games were on during school class time here on the other side of the world. No problem! I set up my netbook in the office, give the kids book work to do in class, and let a few select baseball fans among the students join me in my office to watch the game...keeping an eye out for the principal of course :)

Anyhow, great year Rockies! Good luck in 2010...Oh Lord, how I love this game!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama & Nobel

Wow! So President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Although everyone, including the President, is a little shocked at this little sudden turn, we really shouldn't be. This follows the natural order of events surrounding Obama; Give him awards and positions because, you know, one day he'll probably get it anyhow.

President of the United States? "Sure, he's not experienced... but he probably will be one day, so lets give it to him now."

Nobel Peace Prize? "Sure, he's only been in office 8 months and hasn't really done anything yet... but he will, so lets give it to him now."

As of late, I have been at odds with some of my compatriots in the Republican Party who I feel criticize Obama just for getting up in the morning. Last week when they rallied in opposition to his Chicago Olympic support in Europe, I couldn't go there. I thought it was a fair move and supported the President.

But even I was shocked when I opened my web browser and saw President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. My first thought was, "For what?"

Now to be fair to the President, he seemed to have a "for what?" look on his face as well and responded that he viewed the decision "less as a recognition of his own accomplishments and more as 'a call to action'".

Translation: "Ok, Yes, we all acknowledge its pretty silly I got the Nobel Peace Prize but hey they're Europeans, and, really, who can understand what Europeans do or why they do it? But maybe I can use this completely ridiculous situation to help get healthcare passed."

So just why did the committee in Norway decide to honor our still wet behind the ears president for such an illustrious prize?

The Nobel prize is awarded by 5 lawyers who are nominated by the Norwegian Parliament. Traditionally those in the 'Nobel inner circle" have espoused a world view that is decidedly European and President Obama fits neatly between their goal posts. The election committee was unanimous in it's vote and said in justifying their decision, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."

Translation: "He's not Bush, so welcome back to the fold America"

Hey, why we're at it, let's give him the Nobel Prize in Literature as well, because, you know, he wrote a book too.

The disturbing aspect to all this is that there are people who toil a lifetime to bring both International and Domestic peace to troubled regions around the world and by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an untried and inexperienced President goes beyond absurd; it reduces a highly respected and distinguished recognition into a scoffed at political tool.

President Obama may have one the Nobel Peace Prize one day, but even he knows, he hasn't won one yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hollywood Hypocrisy

In 1977 famed actor and director Roman Polanski (who was 44 at the time) gave drugs & alcohol to a 13 year old girl while doing a photo shoot for Vogue. He proceeded to take nude photos of the girl and then raped and sodomized her. Polanski admitted guilt to all of these charges but then fearing that a plea bargain would be reneged on by the judge, fled the United States to France where he has lived in exile ever since.

This week, while traveling to Zurich to receive an award at a film festival there, Polanski was arrested by Swiss police and is facing possible extradition back to the U.S to answer for his outstanding charges.

What is baffling is how the Who's Who of the Hollywood elite such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Harvey Weinstein, among others have rallied to their friend's defense.

Debra Winger read a statement which said his arrest was "Philistine" in nature and that his next "masterpiece" was awaited. Whoopi Goldberg, speaking on her talk show The View said its not like it was "rape-rape".


For years Hollywood has joked non stop at the sexual scandals of priests within the Catholic church. Comedians have had a field day and hardly a crime investigation show has aired that hadn't at least one episode where a priest and pedophilia were front and center. And now that same Hollywood cabal is defending sexual conduct with children. The hypocrisy is staggering...

What I find amazing is that the calls for Polanski's release in Hollywood makes no acknowledgement of his heinous crimes. I could appreciate an argument that at least paid lip service to the fact that a 44 year old man drugged and raped a 13 year old.

Instead we get the argument that the great art he has given the world should be some kind of "get out of jail free" card. Debra Winger sounded amazed that he was even arrested because, you know, he's an Academy Award winner and all.

And you know what...he is a great artist. As a film lover, I love Polanski both as actor and director. A 1995 movie with Gerard Dipardieu and Polanski called A Pure Formality is a personal favorite of mine. But that doesn't put him above the law.

Hollywood has instead put blame not on Polanski, but on "Puritanical" American law enforcement. Crazy Puritans!!... if it wasn't for them 13 year olds would be fair game.

The truth is, 30 plus years have passed and the Roman Polanski that raped that young girl doesn't exist anymore. Instead, the person the police have in custody is an old man who has lived in France and been married to his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, for twenty years. Furthermore, the victim in all of this, Samantha Geimer, is a woman in her 40's now and does not want Polanski prosecuted anymore. I don't blame her, this just brings all the ugliness back up to the surface again. I'm sure she just wants to move on with her life.

But there is no statute of limitations on what Polanski has done and Hollywood must now go to the board and write 100 times so they remember it, "Raping and sodomizing children is a bad thing."