Don’t Be Rude (and Parodies)

The Song & Videos

I’d never heard of the band Magic! before their song Rude began to dominate the air waves. I must confess that I enjoy the song – even though I feel ambiguous about its lyrics.

The song has an upbeat and happy feel to it, at its best speaks of true love unwilling to allow any obstacle stand in its way, and it reminds me of the song in Disney’s The Little Mermaid “Kiss the Girl.”

You can watch the original music video embedded below:

Then you have to watch the parody by Benji Cowart portraying the dad’s side of the story:

Nicky Costabile’s parody from the perspective of the daughter is also worth viewing:

And if you have time you might check out Alisha Thomas’ parody, also from the daughter’s perspective (and quite different from Costabile’s):

Reflections on Lyrics & Videos

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I feel some ambiguity about the lyrics. Why? Because I can empathize with each of the different perspectives presented…and I think, as in most conflicts, all sides can have legitimate points.

I believe that in most situations if opposing sides can take the time to empathize and understand the mindset of their opponent, common ground and understanding can be found.

[Sidenote: I’m not naive, I’ve been burned multiple times, sometimes quite severely, in attempting to live by this belief…but I try not to allow these painful collisions to dethrone my hope…not b/c in the future I won’t be hurt, but b/c I don’t see a better way…this way, with its potential for suffering, is the best way I know.]

In the music video the boyfriend sees the father as a stereotypical white collar man who is concerned primarily about one’s prestige (based upon employment), possessions (nice car, nice clothes), and appearance (wearing a suit and tie).

The father meanwhile sees the boyfriend as a stereotypical young man who is self-absorbed (spends his time making music instead of getting a real job) and lazy/undisciplined (unwilling to spend the time and effort to dress appropriately).

The boyfriend perceives himself as hard-working but communally focused; concerned with living life well rather than making life stable.

The father perceives himself as hard-working and family oriented; concerned with ensuring life is stable for those he loves rather than experiencing life as it comes.

Here we have a clash of generations and of worldviews…and the opportunity for growth on both parts, or for a retrenchment of current positions.

The young man would do well to learn to be more concerned about the future stability of his family, the father would do well to look beyond appearances to recognize the worth of the individual himself.

The father’s response is provocative – he doesn’t suggest ways in which the young man must change in order to be acceptable but rejects the man’s proposal out of hand.

The young man’s response is similarly provocative – he doesn’t respond by asking what it would take to become acceptable to the father but instead threatens to go around the father.

The way perception affects one’s interpretation of the song is most clearly seen in Nicky Costabile’s parody in which she refuses both the father and the boyfriend’s control insisting that “I’m human too.”

This perspective will seem strange to many fathers who don’t assume they control their daughters – only that they desire to protect their daughters from the evils of this world – and that they have a right not to control whom their daughter marries but to give or withhold their blessing upon the marriage.

And the perspective will seem strange to many young men who would assume that asking for permission to marry someone’s daughter is not asking for control but for blessing and is a cultural sign of respect for the parents and the daughter by willing to engage in tradition in securing the relationship.

Additionally, many (most?) young men would have already talked to their girlfriend about whether she was willing to marry him before he asks permission of the father…and even if he asked permission of the father first, it is almost certain he would then ask rather than demand that the daughter marry him.

Thus, one sees how the song has no implications to most men about male chauvinism but to some women (e.g. Costabile) the actions appear forthrightly chauvinistic.

A Final Observation

I thought it was interesting how the music video begins with the boyfriend and girlfriend in a bedroom together (an intimate location) where he is playing music for her (a non-sexual interaction). This (to me) infers a certain respect for the woman by the man (e.g. he is not taking advantage of her, but is acting in an honorable manner).

At the same time, the video portrays towards the end behavior by the girlfriend influenced by the boyfriend that to the father, in appearance (and perhaps actuality) is indicative of a negative dimension to the man’s influence upon his daughter.

I’m Happy!?! (Music Videos)

A Little Fun…

Today I watched (HT: Mashable) a beautiful, fun video by some of our elder generation performing a rendition of Pharrell Williams’ recently famous song ‘Happy.’ I’ve embedded it below.

After you’ve watched it (or before) check out the original music video, embedded below.

Some More Serious Thoughts

[Feel free to skip this if you just wanted to smile. =)]

This makes me think of three ways of living, ways we are all likely to favor at one juncture or another in our lifetimes:

  • Denial – Things are bad but we are unwilling to admit it.
  • Reality – Things are bad and we are willing to admit it.
  • Choice – Things are bad, we admit it, but we are choosing to experience it differently.

I think this cycle of choices can be seen in individual’s lives as well as in society as a system and over time. It doesn’t matter when one jumps on the merry-go-round, you are still on the merry-go-round and will go past the place you did not start with at some juncture or another.

So, we deny bad things are happening until they become so bad that we can’t bear them any more…then we break and sometimes this break results in a choosing to be real. Being real is highly valued…and I value very highly being real.

That said, depending on our circumstances, real is a place we may remain for a very long time – and over time the expression of real can become pessimism, hopelessness, anger, fear, and so on.

So then we have a third way of living that acknowledges what is real yet  chooses to make the best of a bad situation.

I’ve worked for years with teenagers[1] and each generation I have worked with has heard me repeat on more than one occasion that it doesn’t matter what we do as long as we are together and choose to have fun.

What I mean is, it is primarily (I would not say only) our attitude that determines our experience. I can have a great time cleaning – if others enter into the experience with me and we all have a positive, upbeat attitude.

But I don’t think as a society or as individuals we stay there – rather we loop back into denial. Why? Because once we have chosen to be happy we feel that we must be happy and when we aren’t happy we don’t want others to know that we have “failed” at being happy and now are back at the “lowest point of our emotional maturity” – and so we go into denial.

So which is the best phase? I’d say that each phase has its place. Denial is useful in situations of overwhelming suffering and it is oftentimes utilized when we first experience trauma as well as when the trauma is sustained over a long time.

Reality is useful when we are no longer in the overwhelming suffering and need to move out of denial.

Choice is the preferred state of being (that is, we prefer it, I’m not saying it is inherently superior) which allows us to recognize the effects of reality upon us without being broken by reality.

  1. [1]It feels awkward saying this, I feel so young and inexperienced…but I’m not. As of the end of August it will be eleven years non-stop.

HitBliss – Supplement Netflix and Hulu for Free

A long, long time ago (okay, I really don’t remember how long ago – but in internet time, it has been a long time) I signed up for a program called HitBliss. It allowed me to watch a few videos and earn cash. I think I could cash out back in the old days, I’m not sure if that is still possible…but they do still let you earn money which you can then use to purchase various items they have available. Sounds pretty lame, right? Nope.

The HitBliss store contains a wide variety of movies and TV shows – and no, I don’t mean old or B movies – I mean real movies, many recent blockbusters (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Gatsby, After Earth, Oblivion, Thor, Now You See Me, The Croods, The Help, Inception)…and real TV shows – and not just from network TV either (BBC, HBO, FX, The History Channel). Many of these films/shows are not available via Netflix or Hulu Plus.

A screen capture from the front page of HitBliss which includes a sreenshot of the HitBliss. Unnecessarily complicated? Yes.
A screen capture from the front page of HitBliss which includes a sreenshot of the HitBliss. Unnecessarily complicated? Yes.

This is how it works. You let HitBliss run a little app on your computer that analyzes your web browsing habits (it can be easily turned off for a period of time and by default disables itself if you are using incognito browser sessions). It uses this analysis to determine what products/services you are likely to be interested in. When you want to earn some money – you open the HitBliss application and choose earn. Click on HitBliss Earn and HitBliss will begin playing advertisements it believes will be relevant to you. You can save or bury ads – if you bury an ad you won’t see it again. As the ads play you’ll notice little blue bars at the bottom right being filled. This indicates the amount of money you are earning – you can earn up to $5 at a time. Then go back to the HitBliss Store and use the cash to purchase/rent TV shows/movies. $5 isn’t a lot – but it is enough to purchase two TV episodes or one movie and one TV episode. When you’ve used up the cash, go back, earn some, purchase show/movie, rinse, and repeat.

The niftiest feature they’ve added recently is integration with Amazon. They have numerous movies available via Amazon’s Video on Demand service (no, I don’t mean the ones you get free with Amazon Prime) and you can purchase Amazon through HitBliss.

Right now it is a fairly primitive implementation. It looks like when you click on purchase for something via Amazon, HitBliss purchases a gift certificate to Amazon, automatically purchases your selected show/movie on your behalf using the gift certificate, and then launches in your web browser the page for the particular movie/show you selected – from whence you can begin instantly watching your purchase (that you made without having to spend any real cash).

Now the problem with these sorts of programs is two-fold. Those who have been around the internet will remember the madness pre-2000 when any idea that was internet focused was having huge amounts of money thrown at it – including ideas that involved paying people cash for their time such as AllAdvantage. Most of these programs went belly up after burning through their cash.

Those programs that did survive brought to the surface another problem…in order to remain viable the programs had to reduce the payouts so significantly that you couldn’t make any significant cash…unless you were the “referrer” for literally hundreds of other users (changing these programs into a form of multi-level marketing (MLM)).

It appears that HitBliss has landed upon a sustainable model. Its use of video ads means that they are worth more per view than traditional image/text ads…their use of random checks to make sure you are actually watching the ads help reducing the prevalence of gaming the system, and their restriction of purchases to items in the HitBliss store allows them to control what is being purchased based on how affordable it is for HitBliss to offer the product.

In addition to the movie and tv options, HitBliss also allows you to purchase a Pandora One subscription for $3.99 for one month. Pandora is a well-known web-based, custom radio station – Pandora One is the same but with premium features including no ads, higher quality audio, a desktop app, and so on.

One last item – what about the earn rate? I mean, is this like so many other programs where it takes years to accumulate the necessary points to earn cash? No. I’d guesstimate it takes around 10 minutes of videos to get a full $5 credit…working out to around $30/hr. spent watching ads (which are usually decent entertaining in and of themselves).

Well, that is all I’ve got. I hope you’ll give it a try…and use this link. I’ll get $2 for each person who joins via it and you’ll get $1.

Why is Netflix’s Website SO Abominable?

I don’t have cable or broadcast television. I watch almost exclusively via the internet (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video).[1] I pay my $8/mo. to Netflix and am fairly happy – though not as happy as when DVDs were still included in the price.

So, I love Netflix – but I also want to note just how horrible their website is. I don’t think this is a developer/designer problem – their developers/designers have done some pretty neat stuff (for example the open source projects Chaos Monkey and Genie). It seems to me this is a intentional choice by Netflix’s higher ups – though I don’t understand why.

Netflix running on Laptop.
Netflix running on Laptop.

If you’ve been with Netflix for any span of time you’ve experienced the many different variations of the site that have come over time. These iterations rarely add significant new features, almost always drop useful old features – and generally are a wash as far as their advantage over previous iterations. What in the world is going on here?

Let me make a “shooting-in-the-dark” guess. Netflix is attempting to increase the perception that it has an almost unlimited selection by making actual analysis of the collection by consumers difficult. I really don’t think this is a wise business move – but it is the only reason I can think of that a company like Netflix with talented employees is continuing to provide a sub-par experience to their customers.

“Come on Dave, the site isn’t bad. What are you talking about?” I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Netflix refuses to hide watched titles – so they are always cluttering up the screen. Want to watch an Action or Adventure movie? Good luck wading through all the films you have seen to tease out one you haven’t seen.

  2. Netflix seems to hide some watched titles (the logic seems arbitrary) but if you have rated a title without watching it on Netflix, then they will show it forever and ever. Come on Netflix, did you think this was an exclusive relationship? Of course we are doing business with Amazon, Hulu, and company…some of us might even venture out once in a while to a movie theater!

  3. One cannot add movies to one’s queue that are not currently available on instant watch. Why not? I’d like to know when films I’m interested in seeing are added and in being able to create a “watchlist” of films I’d like to see (rather than forgetting all about them until I stumble upon them again at some future date).

  4. The lack of fine-tuned sorting and searching tools. I can see New Releases – that is great – but could I see new releases sorted by year and then by average rating?

  5. It seems that Netflix is also using some arcane or arbitrary method for what titles it displays under “New Releases” and “Recently Added.” Films which show up when you drill down to a specific genre as new releases don’t necessarily show up in either “New Releases” or “Recently Added” at the top (all genres) level.

Granted, none of these are huge issues – and yes, I am being hyperbolic when I describe Netflix’s website as “abominable” but I am genuinely confused how such a large company could continue over such a long period of time to propagate an inferior website.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised…Amazon’s Instant Video site is horrendous as well. Only Hulu’s site offers a modicum of power – and even it lacks flexibility in certain areas (e.g., why can’t I search my viewing history?!).

  1. [1]Though Redbox also gets occasional visits from me.

Musical Artist Review: Brooke Fraser.

I have no clue how popular Brooke Fraser is. She writes songs that are oftentimes cryptic and open to interpretation with a folksy sound. But it doesn’t really matter how popular she is – b/c I like her music – so I listen to it and I want to share it with you.

Probably my favorite song by Brooke Fraser is “Hosea’s Wife” – based off of the Old Testament book of the same name:

Brooke Fraser.
Brooke Fraser.

I just spoke silence with the seek next to me
She had a heart with hesitant, halting speech
That turned to mine and asked belligerently
“What do I live for?”

I see the scars of searches everywhere I go
From hearts to wars to literature to radio
There’s a question like a shame no one will show
“What do I love for?”

We are Hosea’s wife
We are squandering this life
Using people like ladders and words like knives

[Chorus]
If we’ve eyes to see
If we’ve ears to hear
To find it in our hearts and mouths
The that saves is near
Shed that shallow skin
Come and live again
Leave all you were before
To believe is to begin
[/Chorus]

There is truth in little corners of our lives
There are hints of it in songs and children’s eyes
It’s familiar, like an ancient lullaby
What do I live for?

We are Hosea’s wife
We are squandering this life
Using bodies like money and truth like lies

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
We are more than dust
That means something
That means something
We are more than just
Blood and emotions
Inklings and notions
Atoms on oceans
[/Bridge]

She also has a song titled “C.S. Lewis Song” – now how can you not like someone who names one of their songs after C.S. Lewis? The song is based around one of Lewis’ most famous quotes, one John Piper uses frequently, which she paraphrases as, “If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy, I can only conclude that I was not made for here / If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary, / then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared.”[1]

I’m also a fan of Crows + Locusts – and I imagine from the title you can get a sense of the topic – somewhat similar (dark) to Hosea’s Wife…So I won’t quote it here for you…But Brooke Fraser doesn’t sing primarily darker songs – in fact she has a number of light and joyous songs that a more general audience may find appealing.

The most popular of these on Spotify is “Something in the Water.” If there was ever a song that was meant to be danced to, this is it.[2] You can see the music video below:

And I’ve included the lyrics below:

Do do do do do do do do do do

I wear a demeanor made of bright pretty things
What she wears, what she wears, what she wears
Birds singing on my shoulder in harmony it seems
How they sing, how they sing, how they sing

Give me nights of solitude, red wine just a glass or two,
Reclined in a hammock on a balmy evening
I’ll pretend that it’s nothing that’s skipping my heart when I think of you
Thinking of me babe I’m crazy over you

[Chorus]
Aaah Aaah Aaah
There’s something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
There’s something in the water, that makes me love you like
[/Chorus]

I’ve got halo’s made of summer, rhythms made of spring
What she wears, what she wears, what she wears
I got crowns of words a woven each one a song to sing
Oh I sing, oh I sing, oh I sing

Give me long days in the sun,
Preludes to the nights to come
Previews of the mornings laying in all lazy
Give me something fun to do like a life of loving you
Kiss me quick now baby I’m still crazy over you

[Chorus]

Oooh oooh ooh (3x)

Give me nights of solitude, red wine just a glass or two, give me something fun to do

[Chorus 2x]

Do do do do do do do do do do

  1. [1]Lewis’ original quote (in Mere Christianity) is “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
  2. [2]I would dance to it, if I danced.

A Useful Tip: How to Boost Your Laptop Speakers.

Laptops are great. You can take them with you wherever you go – but they tend to lack in the speaker department. Between the cooling fans in the laptops and any background noise in your environment, watching or listening to anything on your laptop can be a real chore.

Sure, you can wear headphones/ear buds and that is often an excellent choice – but what if you want others to hear as well? At some juncture you may need to plug in external speakers – but that sort of defeats the idea of a laptop. You could buy wireless speakers but they are pretty pricey. So is there any affordable option that will allow you to maintain your mobility and increase your laptop’s sound? Yup – and it isn’t just affordable, its free.

In Windows[1] click on Start, then Settings, then Control Panel. You should see a window like this:

A snapshot of Windows Control Panel in Windows 8.
A snapshot of Windows Control Panel in Windows 8.

Yours may appear a little different. If it only has a few icons or looks significantly different, look in the top-right corner. Note how in the window above it says “View by: Large icons” – change whatever it is currently set as to Large icons and your window should more closely match the one above.

Once you’ve done this you’ll need to open the Sound application, so click on Sound. You should see a window like this appear:

This is what the Windows sound application looks like on opening.
This is what the Windows sound application looks like on opening.

Now we need to select the speaker we’ll be working with. In my case, I have three different options – Speakers (High Definition Audio Device), Headphones, and Speakers (USB Multimedia Audio Device). We’ll want to select the Speakers (High Definition Audio Device) and then click Properties at the bottom right of the window. Now a new window should open that looks like this:

This is the Speaker Properties window of the Sound Application.
This is the Speaker Properties window of the Sound Application.

Great! We are almost there. Click on the Enhancements tab. You’ll see a window like this:

Speakers Properties Enhancements Window
Speakers Properties Enhancements Window

Ensure that “Loudness Equalization” is checked. Note the description under “Enhancement Properties”: “Loudness Equalization uses understanding of human hearing to reduce perceived volume differences.” In other words, if you are watching a movie and people are speaking normally and you can hear them fine but then the movie moves to a scene where individuals are whispering, this option will automatically boost the volume of those whispers so they can still be heard by the human ear.

Click OK at the bottom to close out the Speaker Properties window and then OK at the bottom of the Sound Properties window to close it out. Now give it a try – you should notice that your computer’s volume has “appeared” to increase.

The actual max volume your laptop speakers are capable of hasn’t increased, it is just that Windows is now increasing the volume of sounds that previously were being generated at a lower volume.

  1. [1]Sorry folks, I’m not familiar with the process, if there is a process, for doing the same on Mac OS X or Linux.

The History Channel’s The Bible Mini-Series (Part 2)

Introduction

300px-Samson_in_the_Treadmill
Last week I wrote a review of The History Channel’s The Bible Mini-Series, Part 1. If you’ve read the review you’ll know that I wasn’t a huge fan of the series thus far due to (a) its being too ambitious in covering too great of a time span, (b) the lack of multidimensional characters, (c) the over-focus on fight scenes, (d) the odd mixture of literal biblical interpretation with completely fictional elements, and (e) the poor casting of some secondary characters.

So what about week two? Did the issues continue in this episode? Where there new issues? Happily, the second episode made significant strides in rectifying several of the shortcomings seen in the first episode – namely, it focused in on a more limited time span which in turn allowed for slightly better multidimensional character development. It also utilized better casting for secondary characters and the fight scenes became a more measured portion of the entire narrative. I also didn’t notice the blatant mixture of strict literalism with oddly fictionalized elements.

Thus the second episode was significantly better than the first, but still significantly below what I had hoped for before viewing any of the series. I am optimistic that the series will continue to improve in quality as the time spans continue to shrink, but I also feel pessimistic about the potential for a moving portrayal of the life of Christ and/or the Acts of the Apostles. This is not because these narratives lack in the material to make good television, but because I rarely have seen a portrayal of these narratives which has managed to move beyond the mediocre, wooden, and tedious (ironic, given the power of the material!).

The Siege of Jericho

I don’t have any significant complaints about the Siege of Jericho or the portrayal of Rahab, other than wooden dialogue and the general lack of being swept up in powerful emotions in the portrayal of these epic stories (for comparison, one might watch Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit and compare the emotional experience to that felt during The Bible – at least for me, the former have a much greater impact than the latter).

I did wonder to myself about marching around the city. Did the people of Jericho just allow the Israelites to walk around the city? Or did they fire at the Israelites? Send out sorties to attack and break their ranks? Or did the Israelites walk so far outside the city walls that they were out of range? I visualize the people of Jericho shooting arrows, throwing rocks, and attacking via cavalry sorties. If so, this would have been a great test of the Israelites faith. As they walked around the city day after day, suffering causalities, they must have thought, “Why are we wasting our time and our people walking around the city? We will be too weak by the time we actually attack the city to overcome it!”

This is also only one of a few scenes thus far in which a woman (Rahab) is portrayed in a positive light (I suppose one might consider Moses’ adoptive mother a positive female character in Part 1).

Samson and Delilah

This narrative was told in an okay manner. I think Samson’s African heritage may have been a subtle nod to the correlations between Israelite enslavement by the Philistines and African enslavement by Americans/Europeans. While historically unlikely that Samson was black, it may go towards furthering the narrative further in the future as I imagine they will emphasize the inclusive nature of Christianity and the tearing down of ethnic and social barriers that Jesus implemented.

Again, I found the dialogue fairly wooden and the primary female characters weak (Samson’s mother) or downright evil (Delilah). I did however greatly enjoy the narrators overture that, “Samson was given great strength to cast out the Philistines but he was distracted.” (as Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman) This was a genius line that added some levity to the story.

The secondary characters looked more like hardened soldiers in this episode, although they seemed completely one dimensional evil villains.

King Saul

Here is where I thought things improved significantly. The cast (both primary and secondary characters) looked much more the part than in early narrative segments. Time was spent on the narratives which allowed us to develop some affinity for the characters. King Saul is a multidimensional character who honestly struggles to obey God’s will, and one feels empathy for him when he is rejected by God.

King David

One can hardly separate the narrative of David from that of Saul, they overlap in so many areas and as with the overlap in story so there is overlap in quality. The time spent on the story is more appropriate, the characters are more multidimensional, and at times the dialogue is almost inspired. I especially enjoyed the combination of David’s Psalm 23 with his advance against Goliath.

I found the portrayal of David’s relationship with Bathsheba interesting. Ever heard the saying, “No means no”? In other words, one is raped or sexually assaulted if one says no and the person persists? This is what frequently happens with date rape, etc. Individuals reject the advances but the other individual continues to pressure and eventually the original individual gives in. They are thus not necessarily physically compelled, but they have been emotionally or psychologically compelled – their personal will being overwhelmed by the aggressor.

In this portrayal of David, it is clear that David’s advances upon Bathsheba are unwanted and would have qualified as date rape. While in the end she acquiesces to David’s advances, her initial attempts at rejecting him indicate clearly her heart and will’s desire, which is overwhelmed by undue pressure by David.

I don’t think I had ever thought of this scenario as being a rape before – always having thought of it as consensual…but if it was a rape, this would throw significant light on the later rape of Tamar and even Absalom’s actions with David’s wives (neither of which are portrayed in this series).

For those holding discussions after the series this might be a worthwhile discussion. Too often folks feel as if they have to be physically compelled into a sexual act for that act to be a crime against them – but the truth is that the act of overpowering another’s will is a crime against them. On an emotional level we see this when “brainwashing” occurs – an individual’s will is subsumed into the will of a leader, e.g. of a cult.

Narrative Threads

There are two narrative threads that flow throughout the series thus far – intentional or otherwise. The first has to do with the significant characters who follow God (e.g. Abraham, Saul, Samson) – they are told to perform acts of which they are unsure, they act sometimes in a way that seems unthinking, they are torn by what sometimes appears to be a lack of faithfulness of God’s part, and so on. In this manner, the relationship between God and his followers is mysterious and frustrating…

The second thread is the peripheral character of women to the series. Women are constantly used by the male characters or influence the male characters by speech rather than action. This does reflect, to some extent, the character of the ancient mindset regarding women, but I get the feeling that the women are weak characters, unable to act or think for themselves, whereas while the ancient cultural context may have deemed them as such they oftentimes showed themselves to rise above these low cultural views, challenging the men to step up and stop being such cowards (e.g. Rahab, Deborah, Abigail).

I Dream

I must admit that a while back as I was reading through the Scriptures regarding King David my mind’s eye was filled with the epic nature of the story and I felt a yearning to see a TV series made which would address this topic in detail over several years. I don’t think I have the technical skills for such an undertaking…but just in case anyone out there is thinking about properly funding such a series, may I make a few suggestions?

I’d recommend Paul Scheuring, Jon Turteltaub, and Jonathan E. Steinberg to head up the film crew. For cast I think Kim Coates would make a dynamic and powerful King David and Ian McShane should retake the role of King Saul. Jesse Spencer would make a dashing Prince Jonathan. Scott Wilson could play one of several wise prophets.

Katey Sagal and Mary Steenburgen both would make great leading ladies and Sarah Wayne Callies, Lisa Edelstein, Olivia Wilde, and Clea Duvall would be excellent choices as well.

Mark Boone Junior, Omar Epps, Idris Ebla, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, Common, Tommy Flanagan, Robert Knepper, William Fichtner, Lennie James, Mickey Rourke, Lance Reddick, Vincent D’Onofrio, Stephen Lang, Mandy Patinkin, Rockmond Dunbar, Gabriel Byrne, Jeff Goldblum, Walton Goggins, David Meunier, David Morse, and Don Cheadle would all be excellent choices – some for David’s Mighty Men, others for commanders of the various enemies David faces throughout his reign.

The budget for such a series would need to be significant – as it would need an ensemble cast to hold things together. Scheuring, Turteltaub, and Steinberg should head up the film crew for their ability to enter into the minds of their characters and to create connective tissue between episodes. The series should have a definite arc, concluding after a predetermined period of time to avoid “jumping the shark.” But I digress…

For Further Reading

The History Channel’s The Bible Mini-Series (Part 1).

Lot Flees as Sodom and Gomorrah Burn
Lot Flees as Sodom and Gomorrah Burn (Gen. 19:1-20,24-36) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have cable – so I don’t watch a lot of The History Channel. I do respect some of the programming that comes out of the channel, but my limited exposure to its “documentaries” on Biblical/Christian topics has raised serious concerns about their accuracy and fairness in dealing with this subject matter. That said, when I initially heard about The Bible mini-series coming out on The History Channel I wasn’t particularly interested – expecting more of the usual. But then YouVersion, an extremely popular bible web / smartphone application began pushing it – and I have respect for the folks at YouVersion and LifeChurch…and the accolades began to roll in from there – I received promotional emails from Christian Book Distributors (CBD) and Christian Cinema and apparently Rick Warren and Jim Daly (Focus on the Family) among others jumped on board as well – Warren even acting in an active consultant role to the mini-series.

So, when friends offered to host us to watch The Bible miniseries I said yes and settled in for the first two hours. The food and company was great – but the mini-series, well, I was unimpressed. I’ll keep watching b/c I want to continue to see how they unfold the story and also b/c the conversation we have during the show is profitable and entertaining – but I’m not continuing b/c I am enamored with the show nor do I expect to be (though I’d love to be surprised!).

Too Ambitious

When I heard about a mini-series covering the Bible one of my first thoughts was, “How are they going to tie it together?” The Bible was written over hundreds of years, covering a time span of thousands, and contains numerous stories of varying character. This is probably the greatest failing and the greatest success of the mini-series thus far. It was a bit too ambitious to attempt to undertake the entire Bible all at once, and at the same time they did manage to stitch the narrative thus far together. I’m most impressed by the way they recounted some stories within stories – e.g. the story of Creation being told by Noah in the midst of the flood.

But attempting to tackle so many stories so quickly results in one huge downfall: you never become emotionally connected to the characters…and by the end of the first two hours I walked away thinking, “If I didn’t know the God portrayed in the Bible…I’d think this God is a real jerk.” Now I’m hoping that they will bring everything together and show in retrospect how God was working in all these situations – but at this point it feels too slipshod to be redeemable and I am afraid folks will walk away thinking that the God of the Old Testament at least was a sadist.

Flat Characters

Due to the pace of the narrative the characters are exceptionally flat. Eve is just the means by which Adam is persuaded to eat the forbidden fruit. Lot’s wife is a nag, manipulative, and selfish. Sarah is hesitant and self-centered. Abraham is crazily following this strange God.

Lets Kill More People

There are so many great stories surrounding Abraham and Sarah, but so much time is wasted on a relatively minor incident in which Abraham rescues Lot from enemy armies. While large portions of the narrative (and character development) are skipped over, there is plenty of time to watch Abraham and his servants hack the enemy to pieces.

Later we’ll see the same thing when the angels enter into Sodom and Gomorrah to rescue Lot’s family. In an entirely extra-biblical take, the angel’s fight their way out of the city. Now, I’m not complaining about the extra-biblical aspect, but that this supplants much more important narrative – especially character-development narrative.

Biblical or Extra…But What?

Another item that really frustrated me was the way in which the film mixed the biblical with the non-biblical. Now, I’m not a strict, “thou must use the KJV and must stick exactly to the storyline” kind of guy, but I felt that the melding of the biblical with the fictional was strangely done. There are many parts where the speech is directly from the Scriptures, but then there are other parts that are entirely invented – especially the scenes with the angels in Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m okay with ninja angels, but, shouldn’t the rest of the film reflect a similar aesthetic? It doesn’t, so it feels choppy – part bible quoting, part ninja.

Casting?

The last issue I’d like to raise is the cast. Some are okay, but many seem obviously out of place and I can’t understand the choice. I don’t mean their acting is poor, but rather why so many secondary characters obviously overweight and out-of-shape? This was a time when food was oftentimes scarce. I found this especially disconcerting in combat scenes when soft, round-faced men were portrayed as elite warriors.

The Vikings

I watched the first two episodes of Vikings, History Channel’s other new series which is running immediately after the Bible – and here I saw a production of the quality I would have liked to have seen in The Bible mini-series. The character development is present, the actors are realistic, though the story is much darker and the gore more explicit.

It reminds me of the film Gettysburg and its successor Gods and Generals. While Gettysburg was a multi-hour epic covering a span of three days, Gods and Generals attempted to cover two years in a shorter film. Gettysburg is a classic, Gods and Generals is forgotten. Why? Mainly b/c the lack of character development and story which occurs when you try to compress a story so greatly.

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