Posts Tagged With: Arts

My Open Letter to Justin Bieber on

Puff the Magic Dragon. Screen capture from "Puff the Magic Dragon and the Land of Living Lies" via

Puff the Magic Dragon. Screen capture from “Puff the Magic Dragon and the Land of Living Lies” via

Below is an excerpt from “My Take: An Open Letter to Justin Bieber” posted on today:

“…Last year you reached a milestone when you turned 18. You are living in a liminal state, standing at the threshold between childhood and adulthood, still more boy than man.

Times of transition and change are difficult for anyone, never mind someone whose every move in public is chronicled by relentless paparazzi and other members of the media. You must be gentle with yourself as you navigate these new waters, but you also must be diligent to guard your heart and mind more now than ever.

Whether you’ve partaken of the “sacred herb” just once or burn more cabbage than Tommy Chong at a Furthur show is not the issue that most concerns me.

It’s the decision to light a spliff or one-hitter or cigarette or whatever it was in that Newport Beach hotel room last week where folks were snapping pictures with their smartphones that troubles me.

What you do and say echoes around the world. Your very young fans watch and listen to you carefully. When they see images of you with a butt or blunt in your hand or waiting for a friend to pour you a glass of vodka, the message they receive is inconsistent and confusing.

I can’t imagine that was your intention, if you gave much thought at all to what you were doing before you chose to do it, but that’s the reality.”

Read the letter in its entirety HERE.


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What I Literally Would Have Given My Staff for Christmas (If I Figuratively Still Had One)



What would William Safire do?

The misuse of “literally” when the speaker or writer means “figuratively” is right up there with employing “impact” as a verb (when not speaking of a molar or a colon or a rogue meteor striking Earth) instead of “affect,” or “over” when one literally means “more than.” It’s even more grating than the perennial misuse (or mis-type) of “their” instead of “there.”

I was considering getting a literal tattoo of the figurative grammatical sin, but these t-shirts might be a better choice.

You can find yours at for $19.95 in men’s and women’s styles and sizes.

So, about this literally…Minnesota Public Radio reminded us on its Grammar Grater program that:

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, literally means “in a literal way or sense.” The dictionary goes on to define literal as “the most usual or basic sense of the word.”

The Oxford Dictionary of Current English also tells us that the word literally is used to add emphasis—and in those cases, the word is not intended to be taken literally. Fowler’s Modern English Usage calls this secondary use of literally a weakened sense of the word. The Associated Press Stylebook also advises against using literally this way.

Read more of the Grammar Grater’s report or listen to the podcast HERE.

And finally, the video below is lit’rally the best example of the over- and misuse of “literally” we can think of without getting ourselves into trouble (or jackpotting one of our favorite Canadians.)

Categories: TWO CENTS | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soul Food

Author Annie Dillard, standing in her writing shed, 1987.

When Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis departed on his three-month sabbatical at the beginning of January, I sent him a list of books, films and music that I thought would nourish his mind and spirit in, perhaps, different ways than the media he normally consumes do.

Jim’s sabbatical — a true Sabbath in the literal sense — is designed to be a time of rest and, more importantly, rejuvenation. It will also be a creative time when he will be working on a new book.

Jim is a creative. A writer. A visionary. He regularly digs deep into his heart and soul, breaks himself open and pours out his passion, hope and faith for the edification of others. If creatives aren’t diligent, though, we can work ourselves into the ground. Our wells can run dry.

In sending Jim this list of what I like to think of as “soul food,” I hoped to inspire his imagination and give him new fuel for the fire, if you will.

A few friends who saw the list asked for a copy to share with others, and encouraged me to share it here on the blog, in case there might be a nugget or two in the mix that would be a blessing to you (or someone you know.)

This is, of course, a totally subjective list. But it is mine.

May something on the menu feed your imagination and slake your soul-thirst, too.


Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (PLEASE READ THIS FIRST. It’s quite short and one of her lesser-known books. But I often return to it when I’m beginning to write. It’s a special book. And you could read it in an hour or two.)

The front cover of Lamb: The Gospel According ...

Image via Wikipedia

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield (Another one that I wouldn’t even think about trying to start writing without reading it.)

The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen (An oldie but a goodie — this is Nouwen’s memoir of a time of great transition in his life and the months he spent in silent retreat at a Trappist monastery.)
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. (His first and still, I think, his best)

All New People by Anne Lamott (One of her earliest novellas and my favorite of her fiction.)

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoirby Brendan Manning

Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermonsby Frederick Buechner

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Palby Christopher Moore (Requires a significant suspension of disbelief, but it’s wonderfully whimsical, funny and its message is one that will linger long after you’ve put it down.)


Why I Wake Early and Thirst by Mary Oliver

North, Field Work  and Human Chain by Seamus Heaney


From the Sky Down(The new U2 documentary — released on DVD today — explores how the Irish band came to make create its album Achtung Baby 20 years ago. At the time, the band members almost called it a day. But instead, they re-imagined and recreated themselves, their sound, and their friendship. Super powerful on the issue of how we are inspired, where inspiration comes from, and how we can be vessels of grace for one another.)

Lars and the Real Girl (One of the very best cinematic depictions of what Christian community should be.)

Buechner: A Documentary (A little-known documentary of Frederick Buechner filmed the day the war in Iraq began in 2003. Stunning film. Buechner ever leaves me inspired and pole axed with his forthrightness and wisdom.)

Endgame (This film — featuring simply outstanding performances by William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jonny Lee Miller — chronicles the behind-the-scenes negotiations that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa. Magnificent.)

Breakfast on Pluto (A Neil Jordan film adapted from the novel by Patrick McCabe, this quirky little film set in Dublin follows the adventures of Patrick “Kitten” Braden, “a gay Candide,” as one reviewer called him, “off on a kaleidoscopic journey of self discovery.” It’s weird and wonderful and idiosyncratic. Just … watch it.)

Millions(Magical thinking. Saints, real and imagined. And the purity of a child’s faith. Such a beautiful and inspiring film. I dare you to watch it and not want to run out immediately to try to change the world for the better in whatever way you can.)

Harold and Maude (My favorite film. Full stop. One that you might have seen before but maybe not in many years. Ruth Gordon’s “Maude” is, I think, one of the most enduring characters in modern cinema. Would that we would all find as much joy and wonder in life as she did.)


So Beautiful or So What by Paul Simon

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

Fallen Empires by Snow Patrol

Hymns of the 49th Parallel by k.d. lang

Everything is Everywhere and The Geography of Light by Carrie Newcomer

Passengers (Original Soundtracks 1) by Passengers (aka Brian Eno and U2)

Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu by Bruce Cockburn

Categories: GODSTUFF | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GG makes a BELIEBER! out of Steve Brown: Listen for yourself!

Ya know, I’ve been interviewed a lot over the last five or six years and I have to say that, hands down, my favorite venue to be grilled publicly is on the Steve Brown Show. Earlier today I recorded a new episode with “The Old White Guy,” as Pastor Brown calls himself, about BELIEBER!  and it was an absolute hoot. The show airs this weekend on the Salem Radio Network (click HERE to find stations and air times), but you can listen to it now by clicking on the link below.

GG talks BELIEBER! on Steve Brown’s Radio Show

p.s. According to Steverino’s Twitter feed this afternoon, he now admits I made him a Belieber!

Score one for the Lad!

Speaking of Canadians … I’ll be on the Drew Marshall radio show tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012) at 3:30 EST (12:30 PST). Drew’s program is “Canada’s most-listened to spiritual talk show” and I’m stoked to be his guest to talk about young Mr. Bieber and BELIEBER!

Categories: God Nods | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

GODSTUFF: “Christian” Film? What should be coming to a theater near you

This fall a film based on Donald Miller’s bestselling spiritual memoir, Blue Like Jazz, is expected to hit theaters nationwide. In many ways, Miller’s book is an unlikely subject for a feature film.

Blue Like Jazz is a collection of semi-autobiographical short essays based in part on Miller’s experience auditing classes at Reed College in Oregon that explore the author’s wrestling with questions of faith.

But the film project is part of a growing trend of adapting well-known “Christian” or Christian-themed books (both fiction and nonfiction) as feature films. Recent movies based on C.S. LewisChronicles of Narnia series have grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide. Two more film adaptations of Lewis’ works — The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce — are in development.

Ralph Winter, producer of the X-Men films and a self-professed Christian, is set to produce the film version of The Screwtape Letters in a partnership with Fox and Walden Media, the studio that produced the Narnia films, as well as “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Fox has owned the film rights to The Screwtape Letters since the 1950s, and adapting Lewis’ 1942 satirical novel for the big screen has been an endeavor of epic proportions. The book is composed of a series of letters from the veteran demon Screwtape to his junior “tempter” nephew, Wormwood, on the best ways to bring about the spiritual downfall of his target, a British man known simply as “the Patient.”

Winter told The Christian Post
last year that producers hoped to attach director Scott Dickerson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose“) to the film, which likely be rated PG-13, because it is “edgy, serious material.”

While the film is on a “fast track” and a 2012 release is likely, Winter is in no hurry to get it into theaters. “I don’t want to be known as the guy who ruined it,” he said. “So I’m gonna go slow … We’ll get there in God’s timing and when it’s right.”

“Screwtape” has sparked speculation about who should play the demon protagonists. Winter talked about “archetypal” actors, such as a “John Goodman-type” for the role of Screwtape, and perhaps someone wholly unexpected for Wormwood — maybe even an actress, such as Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon. The film likely would not be a period piece set in 1940s Britain, Winter said, but instead feature a more contemporary setting in North America or elsewhere.

How about a Screwtape Letters set in modern-day Dublin? Bono of U2 (who played with Screwtape-style spiritual parodies as Macphisto during the band’s Zoo TV tour in the ’90s) could be Screwtape, with the wide-eyed Irish actor Cillian Murphy (“Breakfast on Pluto”) as Wormwood, and world-weary countryman Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game”) as The Patient. If Dickerson doesn’t come through as director, Irish director Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” “In America”) would round out a Dublin Screwtape production perfectly with his signature mix of melancholy and dark humor. And Roddy Doyle (“The Commitments”) could lend a hand with the screenplay.

What is it about Lewis that makes his work — both fiction and nonfiction — such appealing fodder for films?

“First and foremost, Lewis was a serious scholar, steeped in the classics,” said Craig Detweiler of Pepperdine University’s Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture. “He understood the mythic power of story and the indelible impact of memorable characters. Lewis engaged in flights of fancy. His cinematic imagination exceeded Hollywood’s ability to render it onscreen. So special effects are just no catching up to the visions of authors like Lewis and Tolkien.

“He also found metaphors that embodied enduring truths. Lewis’s stories are laden with issues of faith and doubt, frailty and redemption that inspire us across generations. And surely, the entertainment industry longs for stories that appeal to all ages and cultures, “Detweiler said.

While the prolific Lewis has enough material in his oeuvre to keep filmmakers busy for decades to come, his are not the only enduringly popular Christian books that could translate into powerful cinema. Here are a few humble suggestions, with a little help from my Facebook friends:

Godric by Frederick Buechner
Godric is a fictional retelling of the life and travels of the medieval English saint, Godric of Finchale. Phillip Seymour Hoffman would be stunning as Godric, with Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”) as his secretary/biographer and the inimitable Wallace Shawn (“Princess Bride”) as Elric the wizened old hermit. (Imagine Shawn’s quirky lisp delivering lines like, “My skull’s a chapel. So is yours. The thoughts go in and out like godly folk to Mass. But what of hands that itch for gold?”) Peter Jackson directs.

(Actor Ned Beatty holds the film rights to Buechner’s epic Book of Bebb, a quartet of novels about the Rev. Leo Bebb, the archetypal smarmy, corrupt preacher. Get this project to Joel and Ethan Coen, pronto, with Beatty or Charles Durning as Bebb.)

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Lamott’s hilarious and deeply spiritual memoir about her unexpected single motherhood and the first year of her son’s life would take “Christian” fodder to a new place: romantic comedy. Sandra Bullock, Catherine Keener (“The 40-year-old Virgin”) or Laura Linney (“The Big C”) have the strength, humor and neurotic energy to portray Lamott. Fill out the cast with the quirky soulfulness of folks like Frances McDormand, Holly Hunter, Dianne Wiest, Mark Ruffalo, Jim Broadbent and Zooey Deschanel. Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers directs, and Sam Phillips does the musical score.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel — the fictional autobiography of the Rev. John Ames, a dying, elderly congregational minister in rural Gilead, Iowa — is ripe for a cinematic retelling. Robert Duvall/Brad Pitt as Ames. Ryan Gosling as Jack Boughton. Cate Blanchett as Lila. T-Bone Burnett does the soundtrack with ample input from Alison Krauss and Union Station. Clint Eastwood directs.

The Shack by William Paul Young
In the novel, God appears to the protagonist, Mack, as three persons — “Papa,” an African-American woman (who also goes by “Elouisa”); a Middle Eastern carpenter; and an Asian woman named “Sarayu.” Young has said he is working on a screenplay for “the Shack,” and at least one fan site is lobbying for Queen Latifah to play “Papa/Elouisa.” (If not the Queen, how about Wanda Sykes or — do we dare — The Oprah?) Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) would bring a great ironic soulfulness to the carpenter and Margaret Cho an unexpected fierceness and humor to “Sarayu.” Steve Carrell, Greg Kinnear or Luke Wilson as Mack. Director Tom Shadyac (“Evan Almighty”) would hit it out of the park.

Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
This 1971 science fiction novel follows its protagonist, Dr. Thomas More (a descendent of Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia), an alcoholic lapsed Catholic psychiatrist and enthusiastic lothario in a small Louisiana town called Paradise. Set in a time when society is coming apart at the seams (a fact only More seems to notice), the novel deals with themes of social ills, psychological malaise and a machine called the Ontological Lapsometer that might be the solution to (or the downfall of) society’s impending destruction. Cast Bill Murray as More and let Terry Gilliam direct with his Pythonian sense of humor and eccentric twists on reality.

Paradise Lost by John Milton
Milton’s 17th-century, 10,000-line poem about the temptation of Adam and Eve by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden (and the subsequent fall of man) is laden with eternal themes of good and evil, sin and free will, God’s goodness and justice, and laced with mythological and theological touchstones. Let Francis Ford Coppola have his way with this one and cast Jack Nicholson (or Robert De Niro) as the Devil with Jason Schwartzman as Adam and Natalie Portman as Eve.

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
Bell’s first book, a nonfiction bestseller that, as the author puts it, “re-imagines” the Christian faith, could be the jumping off point for a biopic about Bell himself — the 40-year-old evangelical pastor Time magazine dubbed a “rock star” of the faith. At the same time, a movie version of Velvet Elvis could be a cultural snapshot of so many other young Christians pushing the boundaries of traditionalism and embracing culture in innovative ways. Owen Wilson is a shoe-in for Bell. And the mind reels at what Wes Anderson’s singular storytelling, idiosyncratic sensibilities and hyper attention to cultural details could do with this story.

A version of this post originally appeared via Religion News Service.

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