Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Free Simpleology Course

In order to check out this new course on blogging, Simpleology requires that I post the following:


I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.


I've been going through a ton of material about blogging recently (when I have time outside of filming), so this fits right in with that. I will see how cool it is after they send me the stuff now that I've posted this.

But for now, it's bedtime because shooting starts again tomorrow morning.

~Luke Holzmann

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Media and Messages

Last week I heard a statement of a sentiment that is oft repeated: "The World" "sends you messages" about what will "make you happy" or "this is how you should live". This kind of talk is rampant throughout "religiondom" and is the motivating force for much of Christian media. "We must counteract this affront to our worldview and morals" the concerned religious say. "We have to get our message out there because otherwise people will just believe Hollywood--or whatever media they see as the bad guys".

Michael Medved has built a career on this kind of thinking. I've seen his stuff and it's well done, compelling, and makes you think. He talks about how Hollywood has an anti-Christian "agenda" and then sites many movies where this is the case. He also points out that "Hollywood" produces a majority of R-rated movies every year, even though those are not the ones that turn the biggest profit. He considers this evidence that "Hollywood" is not in the entertainment business but in the business of attacking solid morals.

With that as the foundation, let's start to break this down.

1. The World/Hollywood does not "have an agenda". People in the world and Hollywood have agendas, and certain films have agendas as well. But there is no overarching flood of anti-Christian/religion material out there. In Medved's documentary that I saw, he pulled his "anti-Christian" clip examples from movies I've never seen or heard of people who had. This is an important point to keep in the back your mind for when I come back to it later.

2. I can't, off the top of my head, think of a single film that had an anti-Christian message. In fact, all the great movies have messages that tend to be very positive. "Truman Show", "Citizen Kain", "The Princess Bride" all have very positive messages about life, happiness, and even some aspects of morality. But as for specific messages about what happiness is or how you should live, there is very little. Instead, films at most show a person who is happy or living well, and viewers decide if that makes sense or not. There is not preaching on the subject of living life.

Even movies like "Saved!" that bash religion merely demonstrate the problems with the institution and many of the people who profess faith. I wouldn't consider a single person in that movie to be acting Christ-like. It is unfortunate that they don't have someone who is Christ-like, but it doesn't surprise me. How many people do you know who act like Christ? I know precious few and am all too aware of how little I emulate Him myself.

3. While watching a documentary on "Basic Instinct" (yes, that movie with sex, nudity, and more sex) I was blown away when a "gay rights" activist started to decry Hollywood's "anti-Homosexual agenda". 'What?' I thought. 'Hollywood is anti-homosexual? Where do they get that?' In fact, from what I've heard from the religious around me, Hollywood has a very strong pro-homosexual agenda. What was going on?

Turns out that religious people aren't the only ones who feel attacked by the media. In fact, you can feel attacked by just about anything. A few days ago I heard about a complaint from a guy because someone wanted to include the image of a Confederate Flag in a video. He made it very clear that there is still too much racial discrimination to show such a throwback to slavery. It doesn't matter that the Civil War wasn't about slavery (however, slavery became a huge theme, and has been made even more prominent by us "Northern Folk" since we won) or that the Confederate Flag for the video was poking fun at country singers. Just because people can get themselves offended does not mean that something is offensive. To be fair, if people are getting offended, there is need for tact and courtesy, which all of us (including Hollywood) lack from time to time.

4. But what about the fact that so many movies are rated "R" and films like "Brokeback Mountain"?

I watch a lot of R-rated movies because most of them are about subjects that are actually interesting. Filmmakers want to shoot movies that mean something and comment on life. They allow us to experience life in a way that we normally do not see. We can then ask questions of our views, ideas, and ourselves as to how we would hope to respond to such situations. And for all the talk about "Brokeback Mountain", did you see it? I did, and it wasn't anything to talk about. A bunch of sweeping landscapes, a homosexual sex scene, and then a movie exploring the themes of love (not even homosexual love) with two characters that are terrible at loving... if you draw that much from it.

What does all this mean?

First, Christians make media for the wrong reason. Our films are terrible because we are making movies in response to something Hollywood isn't doing. We want to preach because we believe that Hollywood is preaching. Hollywood is telling stories well. It turns out that stories seem to be the best way to pass on values for a couple of reasons. Stories show life and how it works, what is good and what is not good to do, and what works. Instead of showing how Christianity works better than any other approach to life, we make movies like "Facing the Giants" where we spout out truisms and preach messages instead of telling a story from life. Now, unfortunately, when we actually do try to tell a real story it seems fake because we have lost our credibility and no one believes we're for real. If you want evidence that this is true of all media, when someone in Hollywood tries to preach they make a flop... or get a Nobel Peace Prize. The great movies that stand the test of time tell stories, they don't preach.

Second, we need to stop demonizing the media. We give them far too much power. I've heard over and over again that parents don't let their kids watch something (like, "The Simpsons") because it's "evil". It's not evil. Not even close. Sure, it may not be the best thing in the world, especially if you're not into that style of humor, but most Bible study and Sunday School materials are worse from a literature standpoint and contain less truth. The ideas and criticisms in the world today aimed at Christianity are widespread. The media may make the points more cohesive and pointed, but the critiques are the same as they were a couple thousand years ago. These issues are not hard to overcome, and the ones that are must be considered if we hope to keep the faith of the intellectual.

Third, it's time for some new stories. I've been asked before what Christians can do to turn the tide of the media and make movies that change people for the better (because movies can do that). I reply with the reminder that good movies are good stories told well. What contemporary story demonstrates the validity and power of living a Christ-like life? I don't know of a single one. Christianity must become life changing for us as Christians if we hope to change anyone with a film we make.

There is hope, though. The power of movies like "300" comes from a tale from long ago. We have tales like that as well. We could use someone with the gonads to make an incredibly awesome movie of David's Mighty Men; just, please, if you do, don't title it "30"... I've had enough of Christianity trying to take the creativity of others and just putting a Christian label on that. We're better than that.

At least, we should be.

~Luke Holzmann

Saturday, December 22, 2007

God and the "Gay Grene"

I'm not sure how the conversation got there, but somehow a discussion I had at a Christmas Party tonight turned toward personal responsibility. The questions center around why God would allow sin to enter the world if by allowing such a thing people will be damned. This reminded me of something I read in a very fascinating book recently about the emerging research that points toward the genetic influences on homosexuality.

When I read that there is significant evidence for something like "the gay gene" I was perturbed. From what I hear in the Christian community there simply isn't such a thing. They cling to the fact that there isn't any real scientific proof for such a gene. But what happens when science "proves" this, or, at least, makes a convincing argument for biological links to homosexuality? What will happen?

If I were to hazard a guess, probably a lot of what has happened with the "Young Earth/Old Earth" debate: There would be a split between those who find a way to harmonize their interpretation of Scripture so that it matches the "new evidence" or find other research that keeps their current view of Scripture viable. But for people like me, who don't really care which side is right, another question arises: What difference does it make? First, we already know that we often misinterpret Scripture and need to reconsider our positions on things; keep humble. Second, even with a biological propensity toward evil, that doesn't mean that we have to do it. I think we forget that.

It starts very early, trying to pass off our bad behavior on things: Such as the kid driving the toy truck so that it rips the wrapping off the Christmas present. "I didn't do it. The Truck did it." We quickly learn that this doesn't fly and we are responsible. So we move to the next level: "I hit Tommy because he hit me first." Even here, logical, reasonable, and just, our actions are still our responsibility. This battle between revenge and mercy, justice and forgiveness is a lifelong struggle. It becomes more complicated the older we get, and the more we learn of people's motivation. After this, we figure out that there is sympathy for external/internal forces. People have tried arguing, even flippantly, "the devil made me do it", or claim "insanity", but the most powerful would be to point the finger at God. If He made me do it, then He can't damn me.

What we forget is that we all have a tendency to sin. The fact that we feel cheated is due to the fact that all our wants are not met, nor are we perfectly content with what we have. The fact that we lie is because we fear for our wellbeing, or the wellbeing of others. We beat up our siblings because we want to protect ourselves or others. Some theologians have wrestled with the question of God's involvement in sin, but overall Christians have come to terms with this issue. So why are we so freaked out about a "Gay Gene"? This isn't new.

~Luke Holzmann

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Brown" and "Candleflame"

I wrote another short story last night while waiting for my wife to log out of World of Warcraft. After posting it to, I realized that I hadn't posted here about my first short story I posted there: "Brown".

"Brown" is the result of my wife asking me to tell her a story. I didn't have a good one, so she pressed me to write one. My goals for "Brown", as with most of my creative writing, slowly formed as I wrote. First, I decided I would focus on color, but keep the post-apocalyptic reality very earthy. Second, I started to use common phrases in off-beat ways, as if a child were reasoning out the meanings. And third, I wanted her to have the feeling of an anime character: Seemingly normal yet somehow supernaturally "special". is certainly not a perfect site, but I'd love to get some more reviews and ratings if you read "Brown".

Yesterday I woke up in the middle of a dream. It was a very moving dream, but it didn't make much sense. Well, it made sense in a "feeling" sense, and I knew what it "meant", but none of that would have been transfered to a listener if I'd told them about it. So, since I had time last night, I decided to write it up as a story. The short story goes a bit beyond where my dream was interrupted by day, but I think the spirit is still there. The resultant tale is "Candleflame".

"Candleflame" has dark religious overtones and the romance of self-sacrifice. This is not a tale of romantic love, nor is it a tragedy. In fact, the end is meant to be read as hopeful, in a clouded, out-of-control kind of way. There is much more to life than our common experiences tell us, and perhaps it takes an extraordinary event to force us to challenge the leaders around us who have not lead us where we need to be. I guess I'm also exploring the ideas of maturing "youth" when it is pitted against the "wisdom of age". I hope you enjoy "Candleflame". Please rate it.


~Luke Holzmann

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Mischief. Mayhem. Soap."

Title link here.

I saw "Fight Club" back in college. This was pre-"Sin City" so it was disturbing in places. It was also profound and hinted at a path that men should walk down.

Now, in the past week, I've heard of two books that seem to push a similar line, just without quite as much violence and more contained graphic sex: "The Barbarian Way" and "No More Christian Nice Guy". I haven't read either book yet, but the ideas I've heard from them are powerful and demand that we, as men, shape up and bring the Church back to a proper understanding of our role.

A quote that Jason read to me from "No More Christian Nice Guy" went something along these lines: Since women are frequently considered more spiritual, moral, and godly than men, and since they do not display the same sexual urges that guys do, the natural conclusion is that a sex drive is sinful. This has led Christian couples to talk about becoming "closer" to one another and so avoid any mention of sex. ...One Christian woman even called her husband a "pervert" for his sexual desires. A man's sex drive is such that he will seek satisfaction elsewhere, often in places that truly are perverted.

Sex. God made it, and it should be intense. We may not need the yellow glove (didn't get it when I saw the film and don't feel like I need to understand it now), but sex is good in the proper context of marriage. I certainly feel the tendency to think that girls are not only the "fairer sex" but also the sinless one to boot. As Coughlin points out, if you printed off sections of "Song of Solomon" and showed it to many church-goers, they would decry it as pornography written by a sick mind. That's not good.

A similar message holds true for violence as well. Our Christian culture tells boys that it is wrong to punch another kid. "Violence is not the answer" stuff. Instead we hear that we are supposed to "turn the other cheek", even though Christ did not demonstrate this the way we interpret it at all. When struck at His trial, Jesus demanded that the man be held responsible for his action [John 18:23]. Not very "Christ-like" is that when He clearly told us to just let things slide?

Similar things can be said about parents who demand that boys "respect" them even if they are being tyrannical. Coughlin makes many other fantastic observations which are much better in his book than in a small blog post here.

Suffice it to say: "Fight Club" is closer to the truth than many church going Christians. Not that mischief and mayhem are good, but perhaps we need to lay off the soap a bit.

In a recent conversation with a Christian media producer, he recounted the story of a woman who wrote in berating him for putting such filthy content on his program that allowed a guy to touch a young lady's shoulder during a love song. His response was to tell her to "shut the hell up and go to hell." When he said that I smiled and knew I was in the company of a Christian man.

~Luke Holzmann