Juno

April 20, 2008 at 12:00 am (Uncategorized)

When “Juno” was released in theaters a number of months ago, I wasn’t particularly interested in going to see it. I didn’t really have anything against it, it just didn’t really seem like my type of movie. It seemed like just another small film that would probably win an Oscar that the majority of the public would never actually go and see. Films like “The Queen“, “The Squid and the Whale”, “A Mighty Heart”, and “Babel”, would be films that fall into this category. I’m not saying these are bad films; I saw “Babel”, and it was great! All that I’m saying is that this is the category that I placed “Juno” in. Let me just put this out there and say that sometimes when I go to see a movie, I don’t want to be intellectually challenged to the point to where it feels like I’m sitting in an advanced math class and not a movie theater.

Anyway. “Juno” was released on DVD this past Tuesday, and I was actually pretty excited to see it. A lot of people had added it to their ‘Favorite Movies’ list on Facebook, and a number of friends had told me it was worth checking out. I headed over to the Redbox by my house (paying a dollar for a movie rental is brilliant; forget Blockbuster and their $4.50 with late fees!), and was delighted to see that all the copies hadn’t been checked out. I killed the 90-something minutes during the afternoon, when I probably should have been doing things more productive, and watched it. I’ve got to admit, it sparked a number of different emotions in me. It was funny, warm, real, crude, awkward, surprising and disappointing.

I knew that it was going to be pretty hilarious after watching that first scene when Juno goes into the drug store after having downed a gallon of Sunny-D, buys a 3rd pregnancy test, and then has a bit of hilariously odd, witty banter with the store clerk (played by Rainn Wilson from “The Office”). That’s typically the kind of stuff I find funny. That, plus painfully accurate, awkward situations that actually happen to people.

Certain details just made me smile, too. My family has always had a minivan of some sort, with dings and scratches aplenty from rogue shopping carts at the grocery store. When I saw Juno and her father driving to this upper-class neighborhood in their dinged-up, bumper-sticker strewn, slightly rusted van, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my mom driving me places in our old, bright blue, built-like-a-tank, Chevy Astro van back in the day.

Any movie that is trying to be real and earthy is going to be crude, because that’s how life actually is. “Juno” reminded me a lot of “Superbad” which is pretty much as crude as they come without being pornographic (which it almost was, what with Seth’s pre-adolescent, genital obsessed drawings!). The way that Evan and Seth talked throughout the movie IS how the majority of high school guys talk. All of the dialogue and scenes in “Juno” had that true, real-life feel to them. Since I’m not a teenage girl, and I definitely haven’t been pregnant, I can’t speak to the teenage girl lines and scenes (although most of the conversations, though crudely entertaining, seemed pretty legit). One that I perfectly related to was when Bleeker’s mom walked into his bedroom. Like any loving mom with a thin and gangly son, she asked him to come to dinner. Bleeker quietly refuses, seeming vaguely morose while dwelling on Juno, at which point his mom quietly withdraws and closes the door. I can’t tell you why exactly, but looking back upon my high school years, I can remember times like that in my life just like that, which this movie captured spot-on.

So what exactly could possibly disappoint me about “Juno”, you ask? Although, within the story, Juno’s choice of giving up her child to Vanessa makes sense and provided some peaceful and unexpected resolution to the story, that was precisely what disappointed me. This is the point where I go behind the pulpit and preach, as it were, so you might want to stop reading here.

While I TOTALLY support adoption and I think it’s a wonderful thing in an indifferent world, this movie is basically taking the choice they made, which I think is irresponsible and lazy, and putting it in a nice package with a bow on top without giving it a second thought. That last scene, although cute, is basically saying, ‘Well, let’s move on with our lives, playing guitar and singing as the credits begin to roll, and not dwell on the past where we gave up our flesh and blood for adoption so it doesn’t interfere with our lives and we can go back to being normal high school students, who’ll probably go back to being sexually active anyway.’ I could see giving up the baby for adoption in Juno’s case if neither of their families were financially able to contribute equally to the raising of the child, but, that wasn’t the case. Both families were middle/upper-middle class citizens. Some people might think I’m cranky (I am, I didn’t sleep much last night) and am making a big deal out of nothing, because it’s just a movie. Maybe. Although, don’t people tend to relate to characters they watch in movies or TV? Don’t they tend to sympathize with them? Don’t people tend to admire certain characters attributes? Want to be like them? I won’t deny it; Juno is an attractive, clever, funny, witty and wonderfully different personality. What high school girl wouldn’t, on varying levels, want to be somewhat like her? All that I’m trying to say is that movies like this have an influence on people’s thinking about life, and I’m not sure that the endgame ‘message’ here is morally centered.

::Steps down from pulpit::

What’s my verdict on the movie? It’s definitely endearing, clever, funny and real, but the end made me feel like I’d missed a step going down the stairs in my house. Like I said earlier, it makes sense within the context of the movie, because Vanessa emerges as a sincere character (albeit strange, awkward and somewhat detached socially), who really wants to be a good mother to this child. It just seems like Juno and Bleeker got off scott-free. They get to go back to being a couple with no consequences for their actions, when what I really wanted to see was them raise their child and find a way to make it work simply because it belongs to them. Ah, well. I’ll stop whining. I’d give it a B+, though.

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It’s Starting to Make More Sense…

April 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Over the past 2 months, I’ve been experiencing a lot of spiritual growth. God has been convicting me, teaching me and blessing me in ways that have overwhelmed and surprised me.

A lot of the conviction has been coming from the mouth of Mark Driscoll, who is the Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. All Christians, from the recently converted to Billy Graham are undergoing the sanctifying process through the work of the God the Holy Spirit. I’m a Christian, which means that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, which also means he’s Lord and Master over my life. So, basically, my money is NOT my own and it is his. Therefore, I need to use it in such a way that it honors him. This means that I need to give an offering out of my income, save, spend wisely, and to make prudent investments. Jesus is also Lord over my time. I’m your stereotypical, cliche’, lazy, loves to sleep, eat pizza and watch movies as much as possible, college student. Now, sleeping, eating pizza and watching movies aren’t bad. You can actually glorify God doing them, if you have the right mind set. But it got to a point in my life that I was neglecting other things that needed more attention than they were getting. So, I repented of my sin, spent less time with Pizza Hut and Frodo, and started spending more time getting done what needs to get done.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mark Driscoll’s sermons, which I downloaded off iTunes (for free!). Mark’s way of teaching scripture makes a great deal of sense to me. The centerpiece of every single one of his sermons is Jesus Christ. As a result, my understanding of salvation and basic systematic theology has greatly increased! It’s seriously a wonderful joy that I’ve been basking in lately. Christians and non-christians alike can recite the basic Christian belief with robotic dullness that, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for sin, and those who believe in him get to go to heaven.” This is a simple and wonderfully amazing truth that as Christians I think we begin to become too familiar with and take for granted. Think about what God did. God the Father sent God the Son, to save us from our sins. God the Son laid aside all of his power and humbled himself, came down into the darkness and filth of this world because he LOVES us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross for sin, understand that he willingly laid down his life for mankind (no one took it from him, according to scripture), out of love. I find it curious, although it makes total sense, that under the ‘Religious Views’ section on Facebook, so many profiles have something along the lines of ‘Love’, ‘All you need is Love’, ‘I believe in Love’, etc. Yes, love is the answer, and God by definition is Love. People believe in the thing itself, but not the God that gives it with such an abundance that he gave himself! Anyway. This, then makes the God of Christianity of completely different from and superior to every other God. Every other God in every other religion remains distant and angry. Also, in every other religion, you save yourself. In Confucianism, you save yourself through education, self-reflection, self-cultivation, and living a moral life. In Islam, you save yourself through your good deeds. In Scientology, Tom Cruise will eventually be your savior. Seriously? The head of scientology, David Miscavige, said that he, “believes that in the future, Tom Cruise will be worshiped like Jesus for his work to raise awareness of the religion.” The sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross, it has been said, should be viewed as a jewel, with many sides to be fully appreciated.

Blessings. God is good and he’s recently blessed me in a way that seemed impossible. I’m a music major, currently attending a community college, with plans to enroll in Roosevelt University’s music conservatory program in the fall. Roosevelt’s got a fantastic music program with an equally fantastic faculty. I put in many hours of practice, did the audition as best I could, and left it in God’s hands. Let me make this clear, though: I’m not an amazing double bassist. I work pretty hard, but I’m no virtuoso, and anything I can do reasonably well on a double bass that wouldn’t make you recoil and cringe probably took me hours of work. I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining all of this so the blessing God gave me can be fully understood. I got an email a few days ago informing me that Roosevelt had awarded me a very, very nice annual scholarship. What?? Me? That much money? Why? Apart from God’s providential grace, who knows. Apart from this scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to attend Roosevelt. I’m very, very thankful.

As a final note, I’d like to say that I’m not very clever, and a lot of the stuff in the 2nd paragraph is factual information taken from Mark Driscoll’s wonderful book, Vintage Jesus. Check it out here.

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Here we go again

April 10, 2008 at 7:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Before I started my first blog, Double Bass Padawan, I can tell you quite honestly that I never saw myself starting a second one. The motivation–or inspiration, really–came from the frequent reading of Jason Heath’s blog (doublebassblog.org), and Chicago Symphony Orchestra bassist Michael Hovnanian’s blog (http://csobassblog.blogspot.com/). I’m really into double bass and music, and I had all of these different ideas I wanted to  write down and make available to people, so starting my own blog focusing specifically on both of those things seemed like a good way to do just that.

Blogging in itself is addictive! Well, maybe not for everyone. For me, starting a blog helped me to discover that I really, really enjoy writing. As the months and subsequent blog posts rolled by, I began to have this desire to publish posts about things aside from double bass and music. I’d read a fantastic book, want to write a post about it, only to realize that people reading Double Bass Padawan probably wouldn’t care about the Vintage Jesus book I read by pastor Mark Driscoll. The same thing kept happening in regards to movies, theology, philosophy, people, life experiences, and the like. So! This blog is what I plan on doing with all of those thoughts and ideas I’ve been wanting to express that are outside of the double bass and musical spectrum.

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At this point, I should probably explain a bit about the title of the blog. During my high school years, I neglected everything having to do with school: math, history, science, philosophy, etc. My parents really tried hard to get me to understand that school’s important, but I was utterly obsessed with skateboarding and managed to find a way to tune them out. My dad was the pastor of a small church at the time, and one of the members of this church was the head of the math department at Naperville North high school. My dad knew my math grades weren’t exactly stellar, so he arranged with this man for some tutoring. When my dad told me what he’d done, I can remember cringing at the word ‘tutoring’, feeling that it was synonomous with ‘idiot’. Pictures began to flash through my head of me in a dunce cap in the corner of my algebra classroom 1st period. As it turned out, I really liked this man a lot anyway, so I didn’t really mind going over to his house. He proved to an incredibly warm, funny, intelligent, righteous and patient man. He even gave me  graham crackers. Suffice it to say he taught me about a lot more than just math. My dad told me that he had had a conversation with this man after church one day, asking him how things were going with the tutoring. He said,

“Dave, their isn’t anything wrong with that boys head; he just hasn’t it in a couple years.”

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It perfectly sums me up during my high school years. I was extremely narrow minded, naive, selfish, and as my mom would say, I, “didn’t use the brain God gave me.” Now that I’ve grown up, matured (in a sense of the word), and started “using the brain God Gave me,” I’ve learned a lot, am still learning, and I find that I have all of these ideas that I really want to write about. So, that’s that. The introduction, or prelude, as it were, to everything I’ll ever write about on here. Please leave comments, threats, or anything you like.

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