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

Monday, February 27, 2012

2012 Oscars: My predictions

Well its 3 hours as I write this until the 84th Academy Awards.  In Hong Kong its a Monday morning hence I need to take a vacation day in order to throw my little annual Oscar soiree. But hey, Billy Crystal is hosting its worth it.

Ok, really quick (Yes I usually do this earlier but it has been a busy week this week) I wanted to give you my picks for the top 6 awards.


Who will win?  The Artist

Who Should win? The Artist

Honorable Mention: Hugo & The Tree of Life  

Comments:  Director Michael Hazanavicius made a silent movie that kept a 21st Century audience engaged for 90 minutes.  It harkened back to the Golden Age of cinema which the Academy members will richly reward with Oscar gold.  I enjoyed every movie in the 'Best Picture' catagory this year unlike last (Black Swan anyone?) 


Who will win?  George Clooney

Who should win? Jean Dujardin

Comments:  George is an Academy darling and his performance in The Descendants was well received.  However if The Artist starts to sweep the awards look for an upset from Jean Dujardin.


Who will win? Viola Davis

Who should win? Michelle Williams

Comments:  The Help's Viola Davis has been winning earlier awards this season and the thought is the gold is hers.  However Michelle Williams had me convinced she was Marilyn Monroe and the academy likes to reward actors who nail their bio pic doppelgangers.


Who will win? Christopher Plummer

Who should win? Kenneth Branagh

Comments:  The 81 year old Plummer has won many awards...but no Oscar.  This will be his life time achievement nod for his role in Beginners.  A good movie and answers the age old question of 'what happens when Captain Von Trapp comes out of the closet?'  However I'm a huge Kenneth Branagh fan and his performance in My Week with Marilyn as his personal hero Laurence Olivier was wonderful. 


Who will win? Octavia Spencer

Who should win? Anyone but the chick from Bridesmaids

Strong performances by everyone except Bridesmaids.  That this film is even acknowledged at the Oscars is a travesty.


Who will win? Michael Hazanavicius

Who Should Win?  Any of them

This year's movies were incredible.  Scorsese's Hugo made me a kid again.  Terrence Mallick's Tree of Life was the most bold endevour at understanding the nature of humanity since 2001 A Space Odyssey.  But Hazanavicius made us love film (come to think of it, so did Hugo) and will be richly rewarded.

Well I gotta run.  The Red Carpet has started and my guests will be arriving soon.  Enjoy the 84th Academy Awards!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why I don't do "Valentine's Day"

I surprised my students the other day.  They asked me during class what I and Mrs. Hackman would be doing for Valentine's Day?

"Probably nothing." I replied.  They were a bit taken aback figuring a guy like me would take advantage of a day like that.

I'll come back to what happened in a minute.

I personally find Valentine's Day to be something forced and artificial.  Granted, when I was a young child I loved the classroom exchange of cards organized by the teacher.  In and amidst the nice, friendship affirming greetings from other playground pals, there was the chance, albeit ever so small, that the cute girl in class MAY, just may, write something that meant something a little more. :)

But over the years things got weird.  Couples, and particularly men,  come under the pressure of producing some artificial token of love on the artificially conceived Feb 14.  When a guy from the church men's group I was in years ago organized a meeting to discuss what we were going to do for our wives for Valentine's Day, he was shocked that many of the other men's wives did hold the "romantic" day in the high regard his wife did.  In fact he confessed one of the main reasons he broached the subject was because of the high expectation level she had that he produce something special for the day.

Yes, I could make the traditional arguments about Valentine's Day.  That it's an fake holiday which benefits no one other than the card, flower, and chocolate companies.  All true of course, but Tammy and I have our own reason for not really doing Valentine's Day.

It's really just not OUR day!

Which brings me back to my classroom discussion...

I explained to them that Tammy and I already have our special days, "Oct. 8, the day I met her, April 4th, our wedding anniversary, and Dec 7th, the day we fell in love."

They seemed a little perplexed on the last one. "How did you know you fell in love on Dec. 7th?" they responded.

"Because," I smiled, "I fell in love."

The class responded with "ooohs", "aahhhs", and admiration.

And THAT is how its done.  Here endeth the lesson!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee

On February 2, 1952 a young 25 year old woman ascended to the British throne following the untimely death of her father George VI.  Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth who, now at the age of 85, has become the oldest British monarch.  However it is only in September of 2015 that she will become the longest reigning monarch when she passes the mark set by her Great Grandmother, the iconic and beloved Queen Victoria.

The day yesterday was only mildly noted with the main celebration of the Diamond Jubilee kicking off in the summer around the anniversary of her actual coronation, June 2.  That celebration will feature Paul McCartney, Elton John, and a 1,000 ship flotilla floating down the Thames.

Gabriel and I will be in London and other parts of England for 3 weeks this July so between the Queen's Jubilee and the London Olympics I suppose there will be a lot of celebration in the air. (Being the Anglophile that I am I'm looking forward to getting a Q.E. t-shirt :)

As Queen of England and the U.K, 16 Commonwealth States, as well as defacto Queen of the English-Speaking Peoples, I imagine there will be a lot of celebrations this summer in every corner of the globe.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: Hong Kong Style

 Spent a Tim Tebow-less Super Bowl in Hong Kong watching one of the most exciting, nail biting, last minute cliff hanging games in a long while.  Too often in Super Bowls past the game looked pretty well wrapped up by half-time but not so with the New York Giants late 4th quarter win over the New England Patriots.

I spent the game with friends at the Hong Kong Brew House in Lan Kwai Fong and because of the time difference the bar featured American Breakfast for HK$ 138 (US $ 16) which in included the traditional eggs, choice of meat, hash browns, toast, and the option of coffee, tea,...or beer.  (I went with the coffee at 7:30 AM)

The pub itself seemed totally unprepared for the event although they had told me the day before that it would be a full house.  The service was painfully slow and (true story), when the waitress asked us how we wanted our eggs, 3 of us replied "scrambled" and the girl in our party asked for "sunny side up".  The waitress returned with 4 plates of scrambled eggs.  When our friend corrected the waitress that she had ordered "sunny side" eggs the waitress looked confused (embarrassed?) and replied, "Sorry, we're all out of those."

Out of Sunny side eggs! (That became our comic relief the whole game. "Hey, do you think the sunny-side eggs have arrived yet?")

The fact that I received white toast instead of the whole wheat as I ordered seemed like a small issue compared to the chaos of service all around.  One guy at our table waited for an hour to get his coffee.  Then I got a second cup of coffee but I think they switched to "instant".  (Had they run out of real coffee?)  I took two sips and then let the rest sit.  When the bill came they tried to charge me HK$ 34 (US$ 5) for the worst cup of coffee (in a cheap paper cup) I'd had in a long time.

I don't usually complain but I made it politely clear I wouldn't be paying for that one...and I didn't.

Couple other points:

* was it just me or was Madonna's half time set all show and little substance?  There was alot of effects and cool stuff but I thought the Material Girl herself looked a little weak.  (Was she lip syncing?)

* Lenny Kravitz was amazing and should have done the whole show

* The live feed from America we were watching in the bar eliminated all the cool Super Bowl commercials so we were subjected to forgetful ads showing us the joys of staying at a particular hotel in Bali.  I'll have to see some of the good commercial;s I missed on the web.

Anyhow, Eli Manning pulled it out over Tom Brady and I lost HK$ 100 because of it!  :)  Nevertheless a good time was had by all!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Religious Intolerance? A Face Book Exchange

Had an interesting exchange on Facebook the last couple of days.  The residential complex where I live has its own Facebook site where about 250 subscribers can talk about the neighborhood, offer things for sale, or suggest activities others might want to participate in. 

Since I help lead a Bible study at my place every Wednesday I thought I would send out an invitation.  I was surprised by the direction it went: (I removed last names for privacy reasons, except mine).  Note: I don't know these guys and have never met them...but they are my "neighbors".

Steve Hackman: If anyone is interested a few of us get together on Park Island on Wednesday evenings for a Christian home group and Bible study. Tomorrow night we will be meeting in Block 1, 21/D. We usually get going around 7:30. All are welcome...

Nic: I read a review of the Bible on Amazon. Do you also study that side of the story Steve? I can't really tell if it's true or not as I haven't read it yet. (The review really denigrates the Bible)

Steve Hackman: Well, come around Nic and we'll see...

Matthew: Let's watch Riligulous on the first night

Steve Hackman Actually Matthew I think we may have a spelling contest.

Matthew: Checked on Amazon eh?

Nic : Haven't seen that documentary yet, but i just watched the trailer and it looks so funny.

Matthew: Recommended my friend

Steve Hackman: I'm surprised you haven't seen it Nic. You seem to have so much enthusiasm (not to mention time) for this subject. Even I've seen "Religulous" ...and Bill Maher live ( good show).

Nic : Yes I have to get on it indeed. I have been busy recently reading 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins which is a fairly good read. I recommend it to everyone.

Steve Hackman: I prefer Christopher Hitchens to Dawkins. I find Dawkins to be a little shrill

Matthew: You also seem to have quite a bit of extra time to watch movies and read books which don't exactly agree with the Bible.

Steve Hackman: I apologize if the" extra time" I give to diverse reading topics bothers you Matthew. Its not my intention to offend...

Matthew: Doesn't bother me at all. You are a free man and thus free to do whatever you please.

Matthew: And furthermore I was only referring to what you said to Nic in your earlier post.

Steve Hackman: Matthew- lets be honest for a minute. I posted an innocent invitation to people on Park Island who may be interested in an evening Bible study. Nic thought he'd have a little fun and try to take the micky out of it. I'm good natured and we've had some fun back and forth but really, if this sort of activity is not your interest, wouldn't really have been more dignified to ignore it?

Matthew: This is an open forum. Some people might agree with you, but others might not. If I invite people to join a Jehovas witness evening group on an open forum, I wouldn't expect everybody to just ignore my post. And by now it's all been well meant sarcasm rather than direct attacks. As innocent as your post actually is, Religion is still a touchy subject for some and you need to be prepared to defend your view as long as it's not getting below the belt line.

Matthew: Or simply take it with humour like you have previously

Steve Hackman: Matthew I agree that if I had made some kind of religious claim on an open forum then I have to be prepared to defend it and expect some people to agree and others to not. I'm not sure if inviting anyone interested around to my place for a Bible study qualifies in that category though. If you are looking for good discussion and a little friendly banter I'd be happy to buy you and / or Nic a beer at Cafe Roma and continue the discussion

Matthew: I was going to suggest the same (to take this discussion elsewhere) but actually this "conversation" went down the wrong route completely. I was only joking around and left my actual opinions on the subject aside. I think you got a bit offended after I mentioned what you seem to have time for. You're right, you didn't make any religious claims but nor did I say anything against your religion. If you re-read you will see that the tone changed after you suggested I should ignore your post. You might have or have not realised that I rarely post here, but your post tickled some comments out of me. Regardless of your post being "innocent", as it is an open forum, people are free to comment. That's a risk anyone has to take poting in places like this.

Steve Hackman: I love these kind of conversations and thats why I'd like to continue it just somewhere else I'm not "offended" per se but I did want this to be an just an invitation to other people on Park Island who really are interested in possibly coming to a Bible study and, well, that is kinda lost now.

Matthew: That's a classic phenomenon of forums on the internet. The chance that someone messes it up for another is quite high haha. "Thread hijacking" is the term which probably isn't in the dictionary yet. We hijacked your thread in a way, but the general sense persists I believe. Invite someone for a beer, you'll probably get a couple of general responses. Invite someone for a bible study, you'll get some jokers coming out from behind the corner. See the positive side, this thread has been on top since yesterday afternoon so it's all "publicity". But seriously, I don't think you, Nic or me were out to offend. Maybe re-post this and see what happens then haha

Friend 1: Discussion over a beer at Roma's sounds interesting guys. I would suspect it will be a looooong discussion :)

Matthew: That depends (Friend 1)

Steve Hackman: But fun...I'm game! I have to head to China for work tomorrow but could do something next week. And Matthew, you're right, there is no such thing as "bad publicity" ;)!

In the end it went pretty well but I'm used to these types of things happening "in America".  In Hong Kong we tend to pretty much leave each other alone so I was a bit taken aback by such a sharp dig at a pretty innocent post.
Religious Intolerance?  You be the judge