Agile Approach to Prayer

At work, I’ve been moved onto a new project. This uses an Agile approach, a technique for managing the development of software and systems.

One of the components of this methodology that I’m rather fond of is the daily scrum meetings. These are limited to 15 minutes and each person on the project answers the following questions:
– What did you do yesterday?
– What are you going to do today?
– Are there any blockers?

I’ve found this immenseley helpful to stay focussed. It maintains accountability between the project leader and those doing the work, keeping the relationship active. It also reminds me at the start of the day what my focus should be.

I’ve started to I’m trying to apply this to my prayer life. The aim is to build consistency, transparency and to encourage focus. I don’t want it to be the only praying I do, but to be a framework for the relationship. I’m using it to remind me what I want to achieve at the start of each day, as a remedy to getting lost in the busyness of life.

Fantastic Four trailer debuts

One of my favourite superhero franchises is the Fantastic Four. I love how the story embodies the ideas of friendship, family, power and responsibility all in one. It offers one of the most interesting dynamics of superheros interacting with the real world that any series can offer. As far as I’m concerned, Fox has the best groups of heroes, Sony has the best single hero and Marvel is doing the best with what properties it has left.

Despite not even images from on set having been released until last week, there is a new film out in August this year. I liked the previous series, fun and light as it was, but I’m quite excited about the idea of starting again with one of Marvel’s original set of characters.

The footage looks a lot more serious and grounded than before, but I like that. The effects look modern, the characters real and the scale looks large. This looks less like it was made for the MTV generation, but one that it is struggling to find its place in the world, or possibly out of it. This is definitely my most anticipated superhero film of 2015.

Happy new year

Welcome to 2015, long live the new year!

My year in blogging started with a realisation that I only wrote 5 posts last year. That is a tiny amount, especially considering that I hoped my new phone would lead to me writing more.

Life is a funny thing. It can get in the way and take you by surprise. Last year was busy and there were a lot of things that made me think of blogs to write, but I never got round to them. Both Guardians of the Galaxy and the Lego Movie stood out as original mainstream movies worthy of comment (I’m a still a little unsettled by the Lego Movie’s condemnation of all who obey the instructions) but that I never got around to writing about.

I would like to write more this year, but I’m not promising anything. I just want to assure you that I am still here and will still be writing when I can.

I leave you with one of the positive things from last year. The headlines constantly spoke of the dire state of the world, but this video brought a smile to my face. There is no reason why the partnership should have happened, yet it did. The result is something completely silly and purely made for fun.

Sherlock’s limitation

I have just finished reading the Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams. They are really very good and I highly recommend them. The main idea in the series is that Dirk takes a holistic approach to detective work, stumbling along through life believing in the interconnectedness of all things. He believes this will lead him to all the clues he needs in time, wherever he choses to go and investigate, whether it be an all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas or simply following any driver who looks like they know where they are going.

It is therefore with great amusement that when reading this I happened to stumble upon a quote which sums up precisely my problem with Sherlock and his defining limitation. Here is said quote:

“What was the Sherlock Holmes principle? ‘Once you have discounted the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ ”

“I reject that entirely,” said Dirk sharply. “The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbably lacks. How often have you been presented with an apparently rational explanation of something that works in all respects other than one, which is that it is hopelessly improbable?…The first idea merely supposes that there is something we don’t know about, and…there are enough of those. The second, however, runs contrary to something fundamental and human which we do know about. We should therefore be very suspicious of it and all its specious rationality.”
― Douglas AdamsThe Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Sherlock only works so well because he is essentially a know it all. Which makes him in the end rather dull, as his limitation is the unknown. It is not exciting to see someone solve a case by trial and error, which by eliminating all the possibilities is what Holmes is doing, though very fast and in his head. I believe it is far more thrilling for someone to assemble unconnected clues, join the dots by intuition and point out a conclusion we had not even considered in a million years. A lot of Sherlock’s cases look like this to an outsider and in my opinion, that is the far better view to hold.

Review: Noah

Before I get to my review, I think it is best to add some context. As you can see from my previous posts, I’m a guy who likes the story of Noah. Genesis is without doubt my favourite book in the Bible and Noah is one of my favourite stories in that. It’s very short I know, but it has such an epic scope. I have had thoughts about adapting it as a science fiction film myself, with the ark being a spaceship and our planet being completely destroyed.

When it was announced that there was to be a film based on the character, naturally I was curious. I followed production eagerly, fully aware that the man creating it was not a christian. His first comments on the news was that he saw Noah as a great environmentalist, which I couldn’t quite understand. Having seen it, I now get his point (and agree with it), but from the very start I knew that this was going to be someone’s reaction to Noah, not a traditional adaptation. I was still curious though, and wanted to see what makes someone who questions the Bible want to make a film about it. I kept updated with news, laughed when filming was halted by flooding and was wowed by the first trailer.

When it eventually came out (I heard of it being an option back in 2007) I was too busy to see it immediately. I therefore saw the reviews before I got to see it myself. To put it simply, they are mixed. Some love it, singing its praising for acting, scope and bold scriptwriting, while others criticised all of those things and more. Christians too were divided on what they thought of it, with some praising it, others condemning it as evil. I asked my friends on facebook, and all were negative, some of whom hadn’t even seen it. I’ve made that mistake before (see Sucker Punch here) but in short, the reactions were overwhelmingly hostile.

There have been a lot of claims that this film is unbiblical. That is a big claim, especially since the bible passage is very short. For example, in the film fallen angels help Noah build the ark.  This is not mentioned in the Bible at all, so does that make it unbiblical? I suppose it depends on your definition on what that word means. It is as unbiblical as dinosaurs are I guess, which in my opinion is not at all; they have just been left out for some reason.

After doing more research, I have found out that this is following the Jewish tradition of midrash, where they use their imaginations to fill in the blanks from stories in scripture. This is not done to set the record straight on what actually happened but to give flesh to the bones provided and see what holds up in context of the details we know.

In this light, I think the film makes a lot more sense. The director has a strong emotional resonance with the story, there is no doubt about that. He wants more than the Bible says and has spent years imagining what those look like. Coming from a Jewish background, now being an atheist, his view is not fully formed, but it has a lot of interesting questions. This is what frame of mind you should see it in. This is a film of one man’s reactions to the story which has been told as a sweet story to children in churches but when thought about as an adult has a lot more depth than simply getting all the animals onto a boat.

With the parts he has imagined, there are details which contradict the Bible but I believe the film’s core holds true to the story. Aronofsky employed someone to ensure that he did just that. The contradictions to the text are always used to illustrate a point, either about humanity or about God. The story speaks of judgement and mercy, two things that are rarely covered by Hollywood.

So what did I think of it? In short, I loved it. It was simply superb and while I can see people’s objections, I thought that it was excellent filmmaking and a must watch. The acting is for the most part very good with each character coming across as fully formed, complex and believable. The story is grand in scope and mainly serves to highlight the theological ideas and questions that Aronofsky has.

What I particularly loved about it was that Noah was a real person. He has very big character flaws, something which many people have found difficult. All that we know about Noah from the Bible is that he was a man of faith, deemed righteous among his generation. This film focuses on the first part, showing a man who did amazing things without ever seeing clearly. The latter is harder to explain, as he most definitely sins. This is shown in the Bible though, when he gets drunk and naked in Genesis 9. This is shown in the closing moments of the film and it’s clear that the director has extrapolated backwards to try and explain why Noah would have turned to drink after leaving the ark.

I know that some people fear that because Noah is a more unconventional film it will turn people away from God or confuse them. I would disagree for several reasons. At the core, it is the same God being presented and I truly believe that only a few details have been changed. Secondly, this film is not intended to replace the Bible; only that is the word of God. Also, I believe that God can use a negative reaction, one of repulsion, to the parts which are not of Him to drive people away from what is wrong and closer to Him. And finally, I think that people with questions are likely to ask people about them and that conversation will have greater impact than a blockbuster ever could.

I know of another christian film released at the same time, the Son of God, an adaptation of the Bible television series for cinematic release. I’ve heard nobody talk about this, know nobody who’s seen it and only one person, a christian, who wanted to. That I imagine would most definitely falls into the safe conservative film category, something Noah would not do. This is a risky, controversial film that definitely leads to a reaction. It does not present a God that most people know, but shows them another side to the God called Creator.

I would highly recommend this film.  It is worthwhile film making that made me spend 2 hours engaging with big questions and with God. A film studio have never spent as much (a reported $125 million) on adapting a biblical story before. Even though the director was not a christian, there would have been many working on it, praying for it and hoping that this would be a success.

Please, if nothing else, give it a chance. Don’t write it off without having seen it; God can work miracles. If you’d like to watch it and live in the UK, you can currently get a 2 for 1 offer all this week if enter the code NOAH at this website and is accepted at most major cinema chains.

 

Batfleck!

Earlier in the week, Zak Snyder revealed the first image of Ben Affleck as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel, stood in front of the new Batmobile.

batmobile

I really like the new look. It’s exactly what I hoped for when he was cast; a brooding middle age Bruce Wayne with a lot on his mind. The new logo on his chest has yet to warm on me, but this is a minor detail. The silhouette is exactly right and the mask couldn’t fit better. The new batmobile looks great. I especially like Wonder Woman’s jet in the back fo the shot.

One of the consequences of this has been the sad batman meme. The internet has gone wild over taking this image out of context and the results are hilarious! I’ve included a few of the best below, enjoy!

batflume

batbarbie

batcoffee

whatsupbatman

batswing

 

Mrs Noah and sons

Another thing that makes me ponder about Noah is what his wife did.

I can imagine things were a bit awkward in bed that night.

“I need to build a massive ark”
“Why dear?”
“God told me too. He said all men are wicked, but because I have found favour, he will save me and my family. I just have to build this boat and we won’t be destroyed by the deluge.”
“What’s a deluge?”
“Not sure exactly, but it can kill, so I don’t want to find out.”
“How are you going to pay for this ark? You promised that I could have some new sandals.”

And so on. I highly doubt she accepted it as a command straight away.

I imagine though, that there was a point where she realised her husband wasn’t going to give up. Did she at this point decide to support her husband and decide to leave her questions unanswered or did she remain critical and seek out other options? The Bible doesn’t say either way, but because we know the ending, we really want her to have had faith alongside Noah.

I don’t imagine Noah’s wife to have been a very good carpenter. She probably thought there was nothing she could ever do to help at one stage, but I doubt she stopped there. She kept looking at what was going and upon seeing what she had in her hands, she pitched in. She could have made food and drink for the workers, or kept records, or helped with making the pitch. I don’t know what her skills were, but I’m pretty sure that there were jobs she could do.

In a large venture of faith, there is a lot that needs to be done. Some tasks are visible, others are more behind the scenes, but all are worth doing. Noah was probably leading the ark building, but I imagine the whole family were involved. His sons would be aware what was going on, and I imagine that if nothing else, they prayed for success.

I hope people won’t look at my lifestory and wish I’d had faith in the crazy ideas I rejected. I’d much rather be seen as someone who tried lots and was willing to give it a go. I want to be someone who did things, not just saw them. I don’t care what it is I do, that’s not the point. I just want to be involved in something spectacular, that’s much bigger than me.