Movie Review: Slumdog (Untouchable) Millionaire
March 2, 2009, 8:26 am
Filed under: culture, globalization, India, media, travel

Note: This isn’t really a movie review per-se.  It’s more of a reflection from a guy who doesn’t watch many movies, and is, therefore, unqualified for such a task.

This weekend I followed the masses and went to a theater to watch the recent Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire.  I had heard from a wide variety of people how good the movie was.  I had heard a couple of radio interviews with the director as well.  The fact that the film told the story of extreme poverty in India, which I was able to witness first-hand last summer, was all the motivation I needed to see it.

The movie was as good as advertised.  It tells a compelling story of survival, love, and faithfulness.  It does so while giving a glimpse of the complex changes taking place in India – the extreme disparity between the super-wealthy and the slums.  The framing device – a television quiz show – actually hides one of the remarkable truths about the economic rise of India in the past decade.  What I mean by this is that while it is extraordinary that a “slumdog” would become unimaginably wealthy via the game show, it is really quite impressive that this same character would have had the opportunity to get a job fetching chai in a call center.

My main response to the film, though, is that I’m very disappointed that in all of the hoopla, in all of the critical praise, in all of the attention this has brought to the issue of global poverty, there’s a word I’ve literally not heard mentioned until I Googled it this morning: caste.  When I did so, I found an excellent article (written prior to the Academy Awards) that deals squarely with the truth that’s left unmentioned by the film.  The destructiveness of the caste system is in full view, but it is explained away as exploitive organized crime, religious extremism, or the birth pains of a new economy.  The truth is, caste is hugely responsible for India’s poverty – a massive majority of the poor are Dalits, or “Untouchables.”  This is the system that locks people into lives of digging through trash heaps, living in houses made of mud, begging.

I don’t want to be cranky – I’m glad the film has brought attention to the issues being widely discussed.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I definitely encourage you to do so.  It just would have been nice if it told a little bit of the rest of the story.  Go read that article, as well as the lengthy discussion in the comments section – it’ll give you a better glimpse of what’s really going on.


Getting it together
December 3, 2008, 9:03 pm
Filed under: family, school, travel

Well, after several days of being back on the mainland, I figured that it might be time to try this thing called blogging again.  The time away was helpful in many ways, difficult in some ways, beautiful all over the place, and certainly unique as Thanksgivings go.  My dinner consisted of stuffed Mahimahi (that’s the way the restaurant spelled it) with a crushed macadamia nut crust, and asparagus.  Killer – dang, it’s almost a week later, and my mouth is still watering!

The time away, while relaxing, was also a bit of a working vacation.  For the first time since I started writing my doctoral dissertation back in July, I hit the “print” button right before I left . . . 135 pages later, and I was ready to go away for some editing.  I still have at least one full chapter left to write, but I was able to go through the first six with a highlighter and make some comments. 

Michelle and I didn’t ever really try to adjust our bodies to the two hour time difference in Maui, which meant early to bed and early to rise.  I think the latest I slept was about 6:15am . . . of course, there was at least one night where I was asleep at 8pm.  Thankfully, 1.5 miles down the road from our hotel was Java Jazz, a great coffee house and cafe that serves a pretty good Americano, so I went there daily to check e-mail, do a little research, and stay connected.

So, overall, the vacation wasn’t completely sabbath-y, but it was still good.

While I was away, I had multiple episodes with the Windows BSOD . . . the blue screen of death.  When I returned, I got nothing but the BSOD.  So, I’ve spent the past few days tearing down and rebuilding my poor computer – total wipe of the hard drive, installation of a new operating system, and re-installing all of my software.  It’s been painful to say the least, but I’m thankful to say that I have been super paranoid about this kind of thing happening over the past few months, and was able to back up all of my data before hand.  I’m pleased to say that my system is pretty blazing fast at this point, and all signs are go.

I’m actually not done re-installing stuff.  For example, just a little while ago I got Windows LiveWriter plugged in, which is my blogging platform of choice.  Thus, this post.

So there is all the mundane stuff of life that a few of you are interested in, and the rest of you just fell asleep to – sorry.  I just felt the need to explain my absence a bit.  In the next few days, I’ll try to post some thoughts about attempting to be “strategic” and “viral” at the same time.  Until then . . . cheers!

Equal opportunity annoyance
November 26, 2008, 10:05 am
Filed under: friends, travel

IMG_0123 I didn’t mention it here on my blog, but those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook are, no doubt, already annoyed at my status updates, which brag about the fact that I’m with Michelle in Maui for Thanksgiving week.  So I thought it would be good to annoy blog readers as well.  Aloha to you all!

Just in case you hate me for rubbing it in, just know that it’s not all paradise here.  I mean, geez, you should see the rental car we got stuck with – horribly ugly, piece of junk!  My opposition to the auto industry bailout got about 400% stronger after driving this thing.  I don’t want to offend any of you who may own and enjoy this kind of car, so I won’t reveal its identity.

But seriously folks – I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.  In these days of social networking, and the fuzzy-ing of the definition of “friends,” I’m thankful for all my friends.  Some people that I’ve known only online have become terrific traveling companions.  Some people that I met initially online have become great real-world friends.  Some of the people that may stalk me from a distance from time to time are welcome to do so . . . emphasis on “from a distance!”

Enjoy your turkey and football . . . we’ll enjoy our Mahi Mahi, and perhaps some football as well.

India Journal: So this is what it feels like . . .
July 14, 2008, 1:57 pm
Filed under: India, travel

Toward the end of our India adventure, we made the obligatory trip to see the Taj Mahal in Agra.  Before we arrived there, some friends of ours in Delhi had been kind enough to arrange for a hotel and transportation while we were there.  This was certainly helpful, as our train didn’t arrive in Agra until after 2am.  When we got up in the morning, and me0703081029t up with our driver, we discovered that we also had a tour guide for the day.  Wow, o.k.  So we drove to the Taj Mahal, got the tour, pushing litres of sweat through our pores in the heat and humidity.  The Taj Mahal costs 250 rupees (there are about 42 rupees to the U.S. Dollar) per person to get in . . . for Indians.  All others pay 750 rupees.  I will say this, though – the place is extraordinary.  Quite an impressive piece of art, well deserving of the accolades.

We then walked back to our vehicle, and the driver took us straight to a marble emporium, to show us some local craftsmanship.  It was beautiful stuff – very intricate.  And expensive.  Unusually so.  Like, $100 for a set of coffee table coasters.

We then went back to our vehicle, and they drove us to a restaurant – of their choice, not ours.  It was an Indian restaurant.  By this time, we had been in India for nearly two weeks, and were very familiar with the food, as well as what a normal pricing structure should be.  Yeah, this place had an Indian menu, but American pricing.  By the time we had finished our meal, we had noticed that we had seen almost all of the other diners at this place as we were walking around the Taj Mahal.  All were white Westerners.  And, oh, by the way, this restaurant was well off the beaten path – it wasn’t any coincidence that we all ended up there for lunch.

We figured out pretty quickly that this was a racket.  Our tour guide and/or driver were getting kick backs from all the places they were taking us.  They weren’t asking us what we wanted to see or do – they were taking us to their favored places.  It was only when we got pretty demanding about where WE wanted to go that they relented.

The locals knew that they had a power position, exclusive language, and an ignorant group of people that they could exploit.  We were able to see through this, only because we had spent two weeks with actual Indian people, not being tourists, but learning from the culture.

That feeling of being the targets of exploitation was very telling.  Normally, the rich, white Westerners are the ones getting over on others.  We’re not supposed to be the losers.  We’re supposed to be the ones with power.  That’s just the way it is. 

A very brief moment of realization.  I wish this moment on all my rich, white, Westerner friends.

Mornings Like These
November 5, 2007, 7:31 am
Filed under: campus ministry, conference, friends, travel

On days like today, I haul my tired butt out of bed, and at some point look at myself in the mirror and say, “Dude, you’re looking old.” Typically, I’m more oriented toward “feeling as old as I think,” which is to say, fairly young.

Happily I can say on this Monday morning that I’m tired from having had a weekend of seeing good friends. I spent Thursday evening and Friday morning/early afternoon at the Off The Map Live event. Got to at least touch base with a number of friends and acquaintances that I only see at events like that. It would have been really good to be there longer and relax a little with some friends. But I had to jump in my car with a couple of my younger friends (a.k.a. my staff team) and drive many hours through the dark of night to get to eastern Oregon. We were attending the Northwest Collegiate Ministries fall conference. I’m grateful to have some fun, good hearted, and adventurous people – the road trip was good. Being at the conference was good, too – I respect and enjoy my counterparts in ministry, and I don’t get to catch up with them often enough.

At the conference, we had Lauren Winner come and talk through her book, Real Sex. I’ve not read the book, but I definitely appreciated her perspectives. She debunks many myths we hear in the church about sex, and does so in an intelligent way.

Yesterday afternoon it was back in the car for the road trip home. It’s good to be back.

So, while I didn’t have my favorite person in the world with me, I had a tiring weekend of rich relationships, all of which I’m thankful for. I would have name dropped specifically who I’m talking about, but I’m too lazy to link them all here. A younger version of me would have done a better job at this.

Seattle in the Summertime
September 8, 2007, 7:39 am
Filed under: family, friends, San Diego, Seattle, travel

Michelle and I just returned from a blurryfastwaytoobusy trip to SoCal. We went down there to clean up our rental house from previous tenants and prepare it for the next go-round. Tons of work. And blazing blazing HOT. The mercury hit 107 (f) one day. Sadly, our time was very limited with family and friends. We got a lot of work done, but not quite enough for our liking. Happily, we were able to get some new tenants lined up and ready to move in. That’s a relief – things get financially tight with two mortgages.

We came home to amazing weather. The Pacific Northwest has to have the best summer weather in the nation. We’ve had a few spots of rain, but for the most part, it’s sunny and mid 70s. No smog. Good times. It’s almost enough to make me forget about the long, rough winter we had this past year. So if you’re looking to visit Seattle, make your plans for July/August or early September. Take a drive across one of Lake Washington’s floating bridges (like I do every day) and see some eye popping beauty.

I guess I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’ve lived in two metropolitan areas in my life – San Diego and Seattle. Not bad.

I’m pretty sure I’ll wake up soon . . .
August 20, 2007, 5:51 am
Filed under: denomination, friends, sabbath, school, the purple door, travel

. . . and when I do, I’ll wonder where my summer went. Wow, it’s continued to be super busy. Transitioning at the Purple Door, welcoming new staff, cranking on school, etc. At the end of last week, I had a quick trip to Atlanta for some meetings at one of the denom’s big mission centers. It was a good trip – got to see some George Fox school buds for dinner, and the work project at the denom went very well.

I’m quite certain at this point that one of the key things that’s kept me sane has been my renewed “efforts” in the area of Sabbath. I’ve not been perfect, mind you, but more often than not, I’ve been able to significantly mellow out and spend some down time reflecting, talking at a reasonable pace with my lovely wife, and realizing that the world will still be waiting for me when the day is over.

I only have two weeks left before my DMin school stuff gets going again, which means I need to hustle hard to get my summer school stuff knocked out. The classes I’ve taken this summer are on Jewish scripture . . . what we Christians call the Old Testament. That’s been interesting, in the sense that it’s a wonderful reminder to me that God’s Kingdom has always been central in scripture, and that our story goes back a long, long time. Even the legal focus of these texts points in a direction that focuses on the true King, and the fitting response of his people.

Like it or not, the next few months are gonna stay hectic. In fact, I can almost guarantee that things will get “worse” before they start getting “better.” It’s almost all good stuff, though, so I don’t want to complain (much).

Peace to all who read this.