Wednesday, January 30, 2008
It's in those times that I have to give credit and my thanks to God for partnering with me in the creative process.
It can happen any number of ways. Maybe I forget to have a visiting actor record a line until they're out of town again. Maybe I accidentally put a different effect on a musical track than what I intended. Or sometimes an idea will simply pop into my head that I can't imagine how it logically could have arrived there.
Now, that's not to say that every "happy accident" becomes something that works perfectly. After all, God is still leaving the bulk of creative work in my hands to screw up as I may. But since I'm not the type to believe in luck, I have to give credit for the "golden mistakes" to whom it belongs.
I'll give you one real example. In "Spirit Blade", there's a big continuity error regarding which arm Raan lost in the attack from the Atlantean Shock Troopers. Do you remember which one it was? In two different scenes a different arm is referred to as being lost.
Too late to back and re-record. So if I want to make it work for those perceptive listeners and die-hards that notice, I have to explain it somehow in "Dark Ritual". I'll leave the explaination for how Raan loses BOTH arms for you to hear when "Dark Ritual" comes out. But the need to fix the error brought about some wonderful opportunity for Raan's character, who is becoming increasingly cybernetic and decreasingly human. It will be one of the emotional centerpeices for "Dark Ritual" and an element that would be less effective or possibly even absent, had I not made the mistake I did in the script for "Spirit Blade".
And that's just one example. If I kept track more faithfully (which maybe I should), I'd have a lengthy record of God's grace toward my creative efforts, along with multiple stories of God cleaning up my messes.
Of course, that's the story of our lives, isn't it? Our natural tendency is to make a mess of our lives and everything in them. Thank God, he's interested in cleaning up and being a part of every little thing we do. From the sin that destroys me, to a little "sci-fi thing" I'm working on. God's a part of making it all new. And he loves being a part of MY life! (Psalm 18:19)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Relativism strikes another blow to pop culture in "Countdown To Mystery" from DC comics.
I love the Spectre. One of my favorite character concepts. The Wrath of God bonded to a human soul. John Ostrander's run with Tom Mandrake doing artwork was a critical success, but since they stepped down, the character has gone downhill. First with the J.M. Dematteis "Spectre the Friendly Ghost" series, where the character suddenly became the "Spirit of Redemption", going on all sorts of touchy feely journeys with people who "really aren't so bad after all."
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about redemption. I know my own heart, and I'm certainly deserving of some wrath. But there are people in this world who are completely given over to evil and they will never seek redemption.
Granted, we don't want to be judgmental and pretend we know who those people are, but history has demonstrated that plenty of people go their graves cursing everyone around them and having no remorse for the horrific evils they've committed. They may not be in the majority, but they definitely exist.
And what's more, if you're writing a work of fiction, you objectively know what your character's "spiritual condition" is. So the Spectre is the perfect opportunity to write stories that remind us that there really is such a thing as evil and there really is such a thing as justice. There was a time when ANY superhero book could be looked at for clear examples of good, evil and justice. But as American pop-spirituality infects entertainment media, we run increasingly short on stories that handle these ethical realities with clear definition or distinction.
In Countdown to Mystery, a book partially showcasing the Spectre, we see a cruel, remorseless murderer kill someone in cold blood with a smile on his face. The Spectre shows up and kills the murderer. But instead of going to hell or facing ANY real form of punishment other than the brief discomfort of death, he just hangs around. Why? Because he's an atheist, and so he has "nowhere to go".
Okay, fine. But the grounding of the Spectre, as a character, is based on the absolute, monotheistic concepts of the Bible, or at least the Old Testament. The Spectre is supposed to be unstoppable. But now, some sick jerk who has no value for human life can look at the Spectre and essentially pout, "I don't believe in you. Go away!" and get off the hook?
Why even bother writing stories about the Spectre anyway if it's that easy to avoid justice?
Anyway, I'm a DC fan, a Spectre fan and so far the rest of the story and art are compelling enough to continue reading. However I can't avoid a sigh every now and then...
Cornelius was a Gentile (non-Jew) who had great respect for God and a desire to please him. But he didn't know some important details. In fact, although his intentions were good, he was missing enough information that he thought it might be appropriate for him to worship Peter when the Apostle arrived to speak with him! Despite this, God saw his heart and was pleased with him on some level.
So does this support the idea that God will accept anyone "as long as they are sincere in what they believe"? The text doesn't lend itself to that kind of conclusion. If God were content to have this man worship him in ignorance, he would have left him alone. Instead he sent an angel to direct him to someone that could present the truth accurately. And it wasn't until Cornelius heard the truth and believed it that his relationship with God was made right and restored. We see this happen in verse 44, when the Holy Spirit, who is God himself, enters into Cornelius and those listening to Peter.
This story is also interesting to look at from Peter's perspective. A devout Jew, Peter would have had the ceremonial law (designed to identify Israel as a chosen race) so ingrained into his mind that he would have shuddered to think of eating the mix of clean and unclean animals mentioned in verse 12. (Check out Leviticus 11 for info on "unclean" animals.) But Jesus had already made it clear that the ceremonial laws regarding food were being set aside. (Matthew 15:11) Peter also would have been hesitant to associate with non-Jews. Similar to the way Christians often avoid the strange or unusual people in our culture. ("I mean, what would my Christian friends think if they saw me hanging out with THEM!")
Like many of us, Peter had a hard time separating the tradition he grew up with from the truth. In this case, God went so far as to give Peter a vision in order to help correct his thinking! And because Peter was willing to step outside of his comfort zone, God gave him the opportunity to share the truth with a group of people that, at best, had an incomplete understanding of who God is. When Peter made the effort to discern the difference between tradition and truth, God used him to bring the ultimate, eternal gift to those who really wanted it!
Peter makes an important observation here. Based on what he says in verses 34-35, it becomes undeniable to modern readers that the Bible is intended for everyone. Every nation, every sub-culture. Beyond heritage or tradition, God wants everyone to be set free by the truth presented in the Bible!
No special ritual or ceremony required. No years of self-sacrifice or giving will buy heaven for anyone. (Remember, Cornelius HAD been giving financially to the Jews already(v.2), but God STILL wanted him to believe specifically in Jesus.) Genuine belief in Jesus is the trigger. After hearing and accepting what Peter said in verses 34-43, those listening INSTANTLY gained eternal life and a real connection to God.
Next Week: Change is Good!
Coffee House Question:What can you think of about Biblical Christianity that makes it unique from any other religion or spiritual path?
Friday, January 25, 2008
If you like fantasy that's dark and gripping, but is more than just a hack-fest of blood and gore, I'd highly recommend investigating Terry Goodkind.
Although this has been a great week for mixing scenes, we will temporarily be focusing more time on developing and mixing the songs for "Dark Ritual". A few of Randy Hesson's(Vincent) lines were discovered to have recording errors in them and so we are currently making an effort to get him back to re-record.
Only four very short lines need to be redone, so we're confident we can work out a time to have him back in. Meanwhile, it seemed like a good excuse to take a break and work on music again.
Speaking of music, we're using much more "out of studio" production music for "Dark RItual", which we believe will result in faster production and higher quality! Paeter enjoyed the scoring he did on "Spirit Blade", but since he doesn't consider it his strong point and would rather spend that time improving songs for "Dark Ritual", it looks like a "win-win" scenario!
That's all for now!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
In broad strokes, this chapter is about Saul, a zealous opponent to the first Christians, who finds himself faced with the reality of who Jesus is. It's also about Peter and a community impacted by a miraculous resurrection. (Is there any other kind?)
But let's look at some interesting particulars-
In verse 2, followers of Jesus are said to belong to "the Way". Although we can make an easy comparison to Jesus' words from John 14:6 when he said, "I am the way", a look at the Greek used here for "Way" reveals something about what it is to be a Christian.
The word used is "Hodos". In other contexts, it can refer to a path or road. Here it refers to a way or manner of religious life. To really be a follower of Christ means more than intellectual agreement with who the Bible says that Jesus truly is. To belong to "the Way" is to be on a constant journey, moving forward and growing as the journey continues.
As you look back on the last decade, year or month of your life, do you see patterns of real growth and maturity? Would you say that you're on the kind of journey that results in continual changes to your life and the way you live it?
In verse 4, Jesus asks Saul why he is persecuting him. Jesus so closely identifies with the church that the Bible calls it his "body"(1 Cor. 12:27). When God's people are hurt, in some way he experiences it right along with them(Matt. 25:40-45). Another reminder that the God of the Bible is not distant, but very near to everyone who loves him.
Additionally, we can see an incredible example of God's grace. And by grace, we mean "undeserved, or unmerited favor". For Saul's actions, God had every right to punish him. Instead, he revealed himself in a way that made it impossible for Saul to deny the truth. He took a man that had done so much harm to so many, and made him into a man that would reveal truth and the character of Jesus in ways no one had previously done in writing.
However, this kind of ministry wouldn't come without pain and sacrifice. Some of Saul's future suffering is foreshadowed by God in verse 16, and even in this chapter, the hunter becomes the hunted. Saul's amazing journey that shocked the world is only just beginning.
In the final part of this chapter we see that God continues to use miraculous healing to reveal both his power and his loving character. A man unable to walk for eight years is given his strength again and a woman taken by death is restored to life. You might think that Peter, whom God used for both miracles, was the "Christian of Christians", however as miracles go, God was just warming up, and as we'll see next time, Peter still has a lot to learn.
Next Week: "Christianity": Jewish, American, None Of The Above?
Coffee House Question:
We all know that studying the Bible can be difficult. What are some things that keep you from reading or studying the Bible more often, or more deeply?
Friday, January 18, 2008
We've now begun work on scene #16 out of a total number of 36 scenes in "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual". At this point, our second major antagonist is being introduced and one of our lead characters begins his descent into darkness.
If you haven't scene our MySpace page yet, it's because we've never talked about it! But we've finally gotten into the habit of updating it in synch with this weblog. So although there's nothing new for you to see if you're already connected here, we'd love it if you made us one of your "friends"! Just do a search in the "Music Category" on MySpace using "Spirit Blade Productions". You'll also find an early mix of "Necromancy", one of the key songs from "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual"!
We'll be closing things down this Monday for Civil RIghts Day, but will have "In Search Of Truth" available on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
"America is a polytheistic culture."
Sure, we've got a Christian tradition in our history, but as it stands today, we worship an entire pantheon of gods. Different packaging, but basically the same in nature to polytheism.
For example, the phrase "all paths lead to God" sounds very unified and monotheistic. But if I believe God= a, b and c and you believe God does NOT, we've got a problem.
See, if one of us is wrong, that feels icky and intolerant. But if we're BOTH right, and ANY spiritual belief is equally valid, then we have a multitude of equally powerful spiritual realities. Since God can't be both "a" and not "a", we must be talking about two different gods.
We might look back on Greek civilization and make fun of its family tree of gods, but it would seem to me that's the culture we live in today. We don't think of ourselves as polytheistic, but we're closer to it than we realize.
Looks like the Biblical references to "idols" are still relevant after all.
Monday, January 14, 2008
After the mediocre offering provided by "Terminator: Rise Of The Machines", I wondered what the future held for this franchise. Luckily, the future seems potentially bright.
The series stars Lena Headey ("300") as Sarah Connor, Thomas Dekker (Claire's friend from season 1 of "Heroes") as John Connor and Summer Glau ("Firefly", "The 4400") as the Terminator programmed to protect John and Sarah.
It's clear almost immediately that "Terminator 3" has gone the way of "Highlander 2", "Highlander 3" and... well, various parts of the first Highlander movie. In other words, it's being ignored and considered no longer a part of continuity. I almost thought that maybe the timeline of "Terminator 3" was changed by the presence of Glau's Terminator, but the Pilot starts out in 1999, while Sarah Connor's grave in "Terminator 3" clearly indicates that she died in 1997. Oh well. That movie is still okay for a so-so action fix, but I'm guessing most fans are willing to put it behind them if this tv show provides a good story. And I think it will, based on what we've seen so far.
First off, a story is only as good as its characters and a character is only as good as the actor portraying it. Lena Headey does much more than hide her natural british accent. She provides a hardened characterization that seems appropriately mellowed after putting several years between herself and the events of Terminator 2. But although not as extreme as Linda Hamilton's version, Headey has taken the character into a natural "next phase". No longer a border-line psychotic, this Sarah Connor is a centered, focused woman who feels powerful enough to lead the cast and bear the show's title on her shoulders.
Thomas Dekker is a more grown up John Connor than we saw in "Terminator 2", and while not as juvenile he still has a healthy amount of rebellion with an added dose of brooding that makes his character flawed and interesting. His performance is well-suited to the character, and while he doesn't have any unusual quirks like Sarah or Glau's Terminator, he provides the anchor for audience members to relate to on what will probably be a wild journey.
Summer Glau portrays a Terminator that shares traits with her three predecessors, but certainly has its own personality. Her model's capabilities are nowhere near fleshed out (no pun intended), although she seems to be somewhere between Schwarzenegger's T-101 and T2's T-1000. It would seem that one ability she has is to heal her flesh more rapidly than a human. Not "Wolverine" levels or anything close. But enough that a quarter sized hole in her skin heals over in about three days with no remaining scar tissue. That or we've seen the show's first continuity error.
Glau brings a little humanity to the character, almost to the point of emotion once or twice. Hopefully they will go the route of having her SIMULATE emotions and never actually DEVELOP them. We've "been there and done that" with Data on Star Trek and we certainly don't need a killing machine to "soften up" and get all weepy on us. Glau's performance covers the appropriate ranges and she seems suited to the subtle humor that this kind of character requires. I also have a funny feeling that she will play an unusual role in John's life at some point. I'm not sure what, but after the flirtatious beginning between her and John, you can use your imagination on the possibilites that may come around season 3 or 4.
It's clear the producers want to link this series to "Terminator 2", given the references to and appearances of several T2 characters in the Pilot and second episode. But this series doesn't look to be simply a watered down "poor-man's" version of the film franchise. Terminator 3 reminded us that big explosions and cool special effects do not equal the best Terminator story. With elements like a time-lost romance, adjusting to an eight year technological leap, helping a Terminator blend into society long-term, hunting down the origins of Skynet and avoiding various threats from the future, this series has alot to draw from to tell great stories.
Some of my favorite elements included the gun inside the Terminator's leg, (It's been done before in a Terminator comic, but it was still cool.) and a headless Terminator reclaiming his skull and covering up with winter clothes to hunt down John and Sarah. I was afraid they might go with a "Terminator of the week" formula, but it would appear that on this show, one Terminator will still be enough to last a long time. As it SHOULD be. The show will do well if they continue to surprise us with how much damage these things can take and still keep coming.
I can't list many flaws. My only grudge is a small one. In the second epsiode, Glau's Terminator was hit by a car because she didn't do something as simple as look both ways before crossing the street. Sure, it was a cool action beat, but it didn't make sense that it happened.
I'm also not ready to weigh in on the show's Relevance score. Some shows, like Battlestar Galactica, will develop meaningful themes over time. This show has the opportunity for that, but I don't have a sense of what they want to say yet, so I'll hold off on that rating for another time.
For now, the show looks great. From the characters to the music, it seems to be making every effort to "feel" like a Terminator story. So far so good!
Relevance: No Score
This chapter begins by describing persecution of Jewish Christians that resulted in scattering believers into Judea and Samaria. Although they didn't plan it this way, this would be how Jesus' words in Acts 1:8 would begin to unfold. We're also kept up to date with Saul's story. He was present for and in approval of Stephen's execution and afterward began a mission to take Christians from their homes and put them in jail.
To avoid imprisonment or other danger, believers escaped to Judea and Samaria. One of these escaping Christians was Philip. This isn't the Apostle Philip. This Philip was among the seven men chosen to help administer food on behalf of the Apostles. (See chapter 6.) Despite the cultural tension between Jews and Samaritans, Philip began sharing the truth with those he met in Samaria.
We see in verses 14-18 that although these Samaritans apparantly believed in Jesus and the words taught by Philip, they didn't immediately receive the Holy Spirit. Over time, there has been room left here for different views on why this would be the case. The concepts of the Holy Spirit and how he operates in our world today are exciting and valuable to study. Although there isn't room here to do the topic justice, we tend to lean toward a view presented by Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology". He suggests that God chose to delay the arrival of the Holy Spirit in this case so that the highest leaders of the Jerusalem church would be present when the Holy Spirit came. This would allow them to be direct witnesses to the fact that Samaritan believers are not "second class Christians" but are as much a part of Christ's church as anyone.
Simon, a man practicing sorcery, saw the miraculous power that Philip displayed and like many, becamed convinced of his message regarding Jesus. When he saw that the Holy Spirit came to people after the Apostles layed their hands on them, he offered to pay the Apostles for the power to do what they did. Peter saw Simon's motives and condemned his behavior.
This interaction between Simon and Peter gives us a good opportunity to check our own motives. We may have reasoned out in our minds that we want to serve God by taking some action or joining some church ministry. But is there even the slightest chance that we're also aiming to have the attention and compliments of others? Is there a part of us that wants to be looked up to and admired? Other people may not be able to see our motives, but God can. And we have little reason to think he'll back our ministry efforts if our motives aren't focused in the right direction.
Finally, Philip provides a great example that Christians can aspire to. He's ready at a moment's notice to share the truth. And notice that his "readiness" isn't just about being outgoing enough to talk to a stranger. He had obviously spent enough time reading and studying scripture that he could use the passage of scripture a stranger was reading to explain who Jesus is and what relevance he has for all of humanity. As the result of Philip's willingness and knowledge, God used him to bring the truth to someone that may have never learned it otherwise.
Wouldn't that be amazing if we challenged ourselves to be more like Philip? Granted, teleportation will likely not become a regular part of our lives, but we might just be astounded by what God is willing to use us for.
Coffee House Question:
Who is someone in your life that you wish you could be more like? In what way?
Next Week: The Transformation of Saul!
Friday, January 11, 2008
Raan has become even more "cybernetic" in this story and the ramifications of his lost humanity will play a big part in his running subplot.
Lastly, one of Raan's songs is being re-worked to add some more intensity and "dramatic flavor" to the sound.
That's our week in a nutshell! Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
As I make every effort to establish "Spirit Blade Productions" as a quality brand, I'm re-thinking some ideas about "release dates". Don't worry, I'm not projecting any major lag in the release of "Dark Ritual", but if it ends up taking a "summer release" to produce the quality I'm demanding of myself, I certainly don't plan to rush things to have a mediocre product out "on time".
Given that I report each week on both this blog and our podcast regarding production work updates, I'm considering no longer placing "release dates" on any projects until they are no more than a month of being ready.
There's a precedent for this kind of "release date neglect" with companies like "Blizzard" (the producers of the Diablo and World of Warcraft pc games) and "Fantasy Flight Games" (producers of "Descent" and a ton of great sci-fi fantasy boardgames). However, I'd like to get your feedback on this idea.
Would you prefer I place release dates or estimates on our website at the risk of not meeting the deadline, or should I simply list a year for a project's release and refer web surfers to our blog and podcast for updates? You also may have a different idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Please consider leaving a comment here or e-mailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Stephen, a believer with an incredible ministry of miraculous signs and wonders, has been dragged before the Sanhedrin (a group of Jewish religious leaders) to defend himself against false accusations. Immediately, Stephen launches into a speech recounting major events in the history of the Jewish people. At first, it may seem unrelated and odd for Stephen to be telling these religious leaders about things they already knew. He covers issues very important to his Jewish listeners: Circumcision, The Promised Land, Temple worship, etc. In all of this he seems to be establishing a foundation for his main point, presented in verses 51-53.
It's also interesting that he mentions the construction of the Temple as a desire of King David's, not a command of God's. (See 2nd Samuel, Chapter 7) God was pleased with David's desire because it was motivated by a great love for God. But the Jewish leaders of Stephen's time had a greater love for the Temple and all the superficialities of religion than they had for God. And this was displayed through the way they treated Jesus.
As we look at some of the ideas mentioned, we can see how Stephen may have emphasized certain points that would lead to this final accusation against the Sanhedrin. Look over Stephen's speech again. How many times do you see him make reference to doubt or disobedience in the lives of their ancestors? Of real significance is the doubt he shows that people had toward Moses, the greatest and most respected human figure in the Jewish religion. He wanted the religious leaders to see that the doubt against Moses, which they would no doubt see as wrong, is being repeated by them toward God himself!
Stephen calls them stiff-necked in the NIV (meaning stubborn) and refers to their hearts and ears as "uncircumcised". Circumcision was a sign that a man had been set apart and deciated to God. It was meant to be an outward sign of an inward reality. Stephen was essentially saying that they do not listen to God and they do not love God. And the final blow: he accused them of murdering God.
In the moments before his execution, Stephen sees a vision of "The Son Of Man", a reference to Jesus' prophetic name from the book of Daniel.
At this point Luke, the author of Acts, introduces Saul for the first time. We see that at the very least he was present at Stephen's execution. While this chapter brings one life to a close, with the introduction of Saul we will soon see another life be completely reborn.
Next week: Teleportation in the Bible?
Coffee House Question:
Can you think of anything or anyone that you might be willing to die for?
Friday, January 4, 2008
1. Spring- Completion and release of "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual"
2. Spring- Outline and adaptation of "The Pilgrim's Progress" into a new script.
3. Late Spring/Early Summer- Begin development of a short (30 minute) sci-fi audio drama for a possible Fall 2008/Spring 2009 release. (This untitled project is still under consideration)
4. Summer- Finalize "Pilgrim's Progress" adaptation and begin casting for the project. ("Similitude Of A Dream"- working title)
5. Fall- Finalize casting for "Similitude" and begin recording for a 2009 release.
We're very exicted about the new developments coming this year, and this short list will only be the tip of the iceberg as new opportunities present themselves along the way! Please be praying for us and for God's guidance as we work hard to represent the truth in thrilling and imaginitive ways!
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Colin Snow while I was out in Pennsylvania with my wife's family. Colin has been a fan of "Spirit Blade", a cast member in "Dark Ritual", and I'm now proud to say, my friend. Thanks for a great afternoon, Colin!
Today I'm mainly playing catch-up, but tomorrow will be full steam ahead again with mixing for "Dark Ritual".
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!