Review (Kind Of): “Tron Legacy”

kevin and sam flynn in tron legacy

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m biased.

I’m biased in part because I was born at the right time to love the original Tron, and had conversations in college about how cool a sequel could be. (Answer: Not nearly as cool then as it could be now, given how movie-making has changed in the intervening years.) So I wanted to see a sequel to Tron, and I wanted to like it.

But I’m biased for another reason. I still have vague memories of my dad taking me to see the original Tron in the theater that used to be in what used to be Parkway City Mall the year I turned seven. Friday night, Heather needed to do some Christmas shopping, so I took the boys, seven and almost-five, to see Tron Legacy. And it was really cool sharing with Finn something that I got to do at the same age. As an added bonus, the next day, we all went to a Christmas church service Sunday night, and I got to watch Finn and my dad talking about Tron, getting to be both the kid and the adult at the same time.

Arguably, that was the ideal way to see Tron Legacy — with the recaptured joy of the child that I was 28 years ago, and vicariously through the fun of a child enjoying the neon thrills of the new film. For all the world-building and exposition and family emotion, it’s still, ultimately, a movie about guys that throw glowing Frisbees at each other. It’s a tribute to how much fun the original Tron was, and this movie is, that they can make kids want to leave the theater and have fights with Frisbees.

And it is fun. It’s pretty and frenetic and glossy and cool, and unabashedly and unapologetically fun. Thanks to changes in technology and movie-making over the intervening years, it’s a much more polished and mature and accessible film than the original Tron, with a more rooted emotional core, but at the same time it takes itself less seriously in a lot of ways. As critics will point out, it’s not perfect, but, really, that’s OK.

And me? I bought my toy Tron disc the next night.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

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I had planned to write a great post for today about all the things I’m thankful for in life, all the things I’m thankful for in the past year.

But, you know what? It’s Thanksgiving. I don’t need to be spending time on the computer today writing that any more than you need to be sitting around on Thanksgiving reading it.

In fact, if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving Day, just stop, right now, and tell someone thank you. If there’s someone around you, tell them something about them or that they’ve done that you’re grateful for. Or just that you’re grateful for them. If there’s not, send an e-mail. Send a text. Make a phone call. Right now.

You done? Good. Happy Thanksgiving! Now, go enjoy it!

Just Like A Prayer

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Prayer.”

I’m behind on writing these, and I’ve been pondering this one for a while before finally finding time to write it, so it’s been through several mental iterations before I typed the first letter.

I’ve been working through my thoughts lately on corporate prayer, and had planned to write about that. Should we pray differently in groups than we do alone? Should we close our eyes when we pray in groups? Things like that. (I’m leaning towards “no” to both, for what it’s worth.)

But even though that’s where I am with my current rethinking of the topic of prayer, for some reason, I really felt like I should go back a bit in writing this post, and tell the story of a pivotal time in my prayer life. So I will.

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

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I never stopped praying after the divorce. Not really. Not completely.

Oh, I came very close. Basically, I did everything but stop praying then.

My faith in God wasn’t shaken. But my faith in my relationship with Him was.

What was the point in praying? If He really cared about me, if He really listened, I wouldn’t be in this situation to be debating this issue.

I had prayed. Really I had.

I’d prayed for Him to fix my marriage. I’d prayed for Him to give Nicole a willingness to work things out. I’d prayed that He make me a better husband.

My mom told me a story not long afterward about when I was a child, and when I broke a toy, I would take it to my father, and say, “Fix it, Daddy.” Back then, I lacked the understanding to actually put it that eloquently in my prayers, but that was pretty much the sentiment. My marriage was broken. “Fix it, Daddy.”

But He didn’t.

Or, at least, my marriage ended.

So what’s the point of praying? I had shared with Him my heart, and He had shown how much He cared.

I kept praying. But my prayer was almost bitter, like the bit from the old Five Man Electical Band song, Signs — “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.” I told God what was going on in my life, how I was feeling, what my issues were, and so forth.

But I asked for nothing.

No requests, no intercession. I didn’t pray for others out of a feeling that I would be hurting them more than helping them.

I’m not sure how long this went no. Weeks? Months?

I do know what changed it. It was the smallest of things. Something that normally a person probably wouldn’t notice or pay attention to. But something that made a huge difference for me.

My sister-in-law said she was praying for me.

It helps in telling this story if you know Erin. She’s kinda amazing. Jonathan did well. She’s pretty and she’s smart, but most relevant to this story, she’s incredibly sweet and has a beautiful heart. She’s also the mother of two of the greatest kids on the planet.

In my hurt, in my despair, in my confusion, I could believe that God didn’t care about my prayers. That He didn’t care about what I wanted.

But even in my hurt and despair and confusion, I couldn’t believe for a moment that He didn’t care about Erin’s prayers. Not for a second.

And, using the transitive property, if God cares about Erin’s prayers, and Erin is praying for me, then God has to care about me.

I couldn’t escape it.

Regardless of how I felt, I had to bow to the superior power of logic.

I went to the track near my house where I do serious prayer, and had a heart-to-heart with God about it. I wish I could say that it brought about a sea change in my prayer life, but it didn’t. And, really, that was probably better. I didn’t get the answers. But I got a whole lot of questions, that I’m still trying to answer.

There was a phase when I prayed, but only that God do things that could be accomplished through me. Don’t change the world, change my heart. No “poofing,” no prayer for anything that required the supernatural. This related to the “We pray to love” phase, when intercession focused on wanting God to soften my heart toward people so that I would want to stand in the gap for them.

This was followed by the “remake the world” phase, praying boldly to ask God to do things so huge they could only be Him. And during this time I learned that, during the current age at least, God can remake the world, but it’s still fallen. He can do anything, but man can still ruin it.

I assumed that one or the other of these approaches had to be better, but since then, I’ve been working to find some balance, to let them be different instruments playing together in harmony. And still seeking another better route.

I guess, if anything, I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter. If I’m in a relationship with someone, I’m not going to sit around debating what sort of strategy I should use for talking to them. I’m just going to talk to them.

Same with prayer. Really, it should be about saying to God what we feel like saying to God. Treating Him not like a bureaucrat to whom we have to submit requests in the proper format, but like a caring Father, albeit an omnipotent one, who wants what’s best for us.

But the other lesson in all of this is that we don’t always know what our prayer accomplishes. In a very real way, Erin’s prayer for me was fulfilled, but almost certainly not in a way that she imagined. But her prayer for me, and her incidental comment that she was praying for me, made a huge difference.

Really, I should pray like I believe my prayers will do for others what hers did for me.

Father, help me to do so.

Like A Good Neighbor

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Your Neighbors.”

I’m a bad neighbor.

I couldn’t tell you the names of anyone I’ve lived next to since high school. Anywhere. Ever. Eighteen years, and I don’t know the name of a single one of my neighbors. I think the last name of the guy across the street is Yim, but I’m not positive about that. And I don’t know that from talking to him. I know that from one of my friends getting insurance information after somebody hit somebody’s car, which has happened a bit too often in the seven years I’ve lived in the house I’m in now.

Making it worse is that I’ve lived next to some decent people. The aforementioned Yim has helped me with lawn-mower problems before. Another former neighbor helped out with car problems once. And me? I don’t know that I’ve ever offered help with anything. I’m always glad to help when asked, and have done so on multiple occasions. But being aware enough to offer? I’m too oblivious.

I feel a little bit like I’m missing out, just on enjoying the benefits of that sort of relationship. It would be nice even to have the sort of acquaintance that I would feel OK asking a neighbor to get my mail if I’m out of town, but I don’t.

By and large, however, I’m pretty OK with that.

My Wednesday night Bible study group was recently assigned a curriculum by the church on gospel-centered life, and in one of the lessons, the author talked about the call to love his neighbor. He was doing a bit better than me; he at least knew one of his neighbors, he just didn’t care much for him. He wondered if he should be doing more for the neighbor, and, in particular, witnessing to him, but just didn’t feel any drive to do so.

Skipping everything thereafter in the lesson about how through his good works he got God to change him so he wanted to minister to his neighbor, and the rather large issues I take with that teaching, I’m also pretty OK with where he was, as well.

Increasingly, I feel like we’re living in a post-geographic world. I believe we should love our neighbor, but don’t believe that the idea of a “neighbor” means the same thing it did 50 years ago. And I think we need to be more open to God not being too tied up on geography, either.

I pretty frequently hear people talk about feeling guilty that they’re not witnessing to some person they encounter in their life. “I see ten people at the gym every day, and I don’t witness to any of them, so I’m a bad Christian.”

“Uh huh. And do you feel that God has put it on your heart to witness to any of them?”

“Well, no.”

“And the problem is?”

There are a lot of people on Earth. Like, really, a lot. And there are a lot of people we encounter as we go through our lives. And I don’t know that God calls us to witness directly to all of them. (I do believe He calls us to witness indirectly to all of them — we should live in a way that makes others want what we have.) I believe He often places us in relationship with certain people to play a certain role in their lives.

And I don’t think He limits that relationship to geographical proximity of residences. We’re in relationship with our “neighbors” at other places where we spend time regularly — our jobs, our churches, etc. We’re in relationship with our community of interest neighbors — the person at the gym or the book club or the improv troupe or the like.

And, increasingly, we have our virtual communities, the people we interact with on Facebook or other networks that we “see” more than our physical geographic neighbors. I don’t think those relationships are any less important to God just because they aren’t about residential proximity. In fact, I believe they’re more important, because they often involve a deeper connection.

And I would hope, that to those people I’m in community with, versus those that just live in my community, I’m really not that bad a neighbor.

Only Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written just a general “what’s going on in life” post, but I’ve written enough topic-specific posts about different things that I thought I should do a catch-all catch-up post.

My brother Jonathan came in fourth place in the election. He was only slightly behind the third place candidate, but both of them were well behind the two candidates who made it into the run-off. He had a pretty decent lead over the bottom four candidates, however. It was, of course, disappointing that things didn’t go better, but he did a good job making a name for himself, and he ran a respectable campaign. The other candidates took him seriously as a contender, and he received some notable endorsements. I don’t know what he has planned for the future, but I think he built up some political capital this summer should he choose to use it.

For the first time in months, we had to cancel an improv show Tuesday night, because only one person showed up. We told him he can use his ticket for a future show, and, as a bonus, used him as a test-market for trying out a new game that we’ll probably bring back out in a couple of weeks. I’ll be in a show tomorrow night at Kenny Mango’s Coffee Shop in Madison (Buy tickets here and save!) and will be playing in the show at Sam & Greg’s next Tuesday. Come check us out!

The mission trip to Costa Rica that I wrote about a while back has been indefinitely postponed.

The deadline for the shuttle book I’m co-authoring has been postponed, but not indefinitely.

I got my Arlo & Janis strip in the mail last week, and it’s awesome.

Heather’s NASA blog has finished its initial pilot phase, and, rather than going into normal operations, is instead going into a second pilot phase in which we test a version with even more awesomeness.

I’ve still only taken my kayak out once. Sad, really. Of course, the weather is getting to a point where it should be more agreeable to do so soon. Probably not this weekend, though.

I’ve worked at Marshall for eight years, as of a week ago today.

OK, I guess that’s enough.

Gerbils And Turtles And Cats, Oh My

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Pets.”

Soyuz and Apollo.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really much of a pet person.

I had pets growing up — fish, cats, a mouse, a gerbil and a turtle that I recall off the top of my head. And, oh yeah, the chicken. The evil, evil chicken. (The chicken may be why I’m not much of a pet person, really.)

After I moved out, my family had a dog and lizards, but I didn’t really have much of a relationship with any of those.

While I was married, we had cats on more than one occasion — A pair of kittens, Padme and Amidala, in Eupora; a pair of kittens, Soyuz and Apollo, in Huntsville (in a case of kitten names imitating life, an attempt later to integrate Orion into the mix ended badly); and the welfare cats in Indianola, which we didn’t really acquire but which, as happens with fed strays, became ours nonetheless.

But living on my own, I’ve never had pets.

As much as anything, it’s been a question of time.

(Let me interject here that I’d really rather be writing this post about the malevolent chicken, but that’s not really rethinking anything.)

Pet ownership requires time to be of benefit. When I went through the divorce class at my church, one of the things they recommended was getting a pet so that you can come home at the end of the day and be greeted with affection. But even at that point, I just wasn’t spending that much time at home; not enough that I felt it would be worthwhile.

Pet ownership requires time to invest. Pets have to be cared for. They have to be cleaned up after. And all those things take time. And given that the benefit was going to be limited, I doubt the time investment would be worth the pay-off.

And those things scare me. The surface level, I’m fine with. I can live my life without pets, and be okay. But, you know, they say pets are a good practice for kids. And I’m still working through what it would look like if I were to ever have kids someday. And those are not encouraging signs. Now, that said, I would like to think that I’d be more willing to change my schedule for kids than pets. I stay busy because I’d rather have human contact than be home alone, pet or now. A family would sort of meet that need for human contact, you know?

But the part that scares me most ties into time also, and relates to the second issue, about taking care of them. And that is, the older I get, the more quickly time moves. I can come home and say I need to do something soon, and the amount of time that seems “soon” keeps getting longer and longer the older I get. And with kids, you really can’t do that. If you’re going to feed them “soon,” soon needs to not be measured in days.

That said, I’m trying not to get too hung up on that issue. It’s easy to be afraid, but plenty of people do just fine as parents at my age, right?

And, besides, age might actually help — after all, I was a much, much younger 11 when I raised the evil chicken.

My Brother, The Candidate


Can I say I’m proud of you? Because I very much am.

I considered writing something telling people they should vote for you, but of course I’m going to endorse my own brother, you know? And I’m not so oblivious as to be unaware that I’m basically doing that with this post. But while it goes without saying that I would endorse you to others, it might not go without saying to you how proud I am.

It’s been interesting following the campaign. It was very neat seeing you on the front page of The Huntsville Times. And, while I’m sorry I haven’t done it more, I’ve enjoyed going out door-to-door campaigning for you. I’ve been surprised how easy it is. I’m going because you’re my brother, and I want to help. But when people would ask me why they should vote for you, the reasons just flowed. I support you, but I also believe in you.

I was proud when I read the flashpoint endorsement of your candidacy earlier this week.

But it just really drove things home hearing Dale Jackson’s endorsement this morning and your discussion with him.

I’ve known that you were qualified for the position, and that’s been one of the things I’ve talked about in discussing your candidacy with people. But, yeah, wow. For some reason, this morning really captured just how much experience and expertise — how much high-caliber experience and expertise — you bring to the table. (If I were writing this to convince people to vote for you, I’d list all of that, but since I’m writing it to you, you already know your extensive qualifications.)

Since I already kind of knew all of that, however, what was even more impressive was hearing you on the radio. You’ve been interested in politics for as long as you’ve known such a thing existed, and I can’t count the number of times we’ve had long, heated discussions about political issues over the years. You’ve always been knowledgeable, and you’ve always been passionate. But the heated and passionate parts could be as much a detriment as a strength. You’ve always been an ideologue, unwilling to compromise what you believe. And, growing up, that could make it hard to have those conversations constructively sometimes.

The man I heard on the radio this morning, however, impressed me a lot. It’s clear you’re still knowledgeable, more so than ever. And it’s clear that you’re still passionate, and that you still have the courage of your convictions. But it was a man who approached things constructively and pragmatically. A man who, even when led toward being divisive, was cooperative. A man who has learned that you can stand for something without fighting for it — that sometimes it’s better to work with than to fight for. But, at the same time, a man who knows the difference.

And that was something that very much was showcased on the radio this morning, that you’re a good candidate not because you’re a good politician, but because you’re a good man. I am very much proud of the man you have become. The man I heard on the radio this morning was the man who is father to my niece and nephew, and I’m impressed with both.

I hope you win. I really do. I hope you win for your sake, because you’re my brother, and I want you to do well. But I want you to win selfishly, because I want to live in a Huntsville that you help govern. Goodness knows, I would rather pay taxes in a Huntsville that you help govern. I love my city, and I believe in it. And I know you do, too.

So I wish you good luck and Godspeed in the election, and wanted to tell you that.

But I also wanted to tell you that I am proud, very proud, to call you my brother.