Tuesday, January 16, 2018

MoviePass Goodness!

Back in August, I started seeing articles about this company that would let you see a movie a day for only 10 dollars a month.  This sounded like a typical scam scenario on the internet... if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

However, after reading about it on some reputable sites, I decided to give it a try.  The worst I would be out is 10 bucks.

It took about 5 weeks to get my card, much longer than they had promised. But I was also aware that there were scores of folks like me jumping on board for the first time, and this little company was probably being overwhelmed.

My Moviepass came in September and I was excited, but still very skeptical.  The program seemed straightforward enough - one standard 2d movie per day for 10 dollars a month.  But seriously!  How could they afford to do this?  One movie for the month was essentially paid for by me... and the rest of the time THEY were going to cover it?  Surely I am missing some point in the fine print.

So, off to the movies I went.  To get this to work, you have to be within 100 yards of the theater.  Then you open the app and check in to the movie you want to see - at which point a timer starts, giving you 30 minutes to go buy your ticket.

I didn't expect it to work.  I swiped my card at the ticket kiosk... the kiosk indicated I had a bad card.  Figures, I really couldn't imagine this was legit.  I was about to step away when I remembered that a lot of card readers can fail on a swipe.  So, I tried it again.  The kiosk hesitated, then spit out my ticket.

I just stared at the ticket for a minute.  "No... WAY!" I said out loud.  I felt like I had just gained a super-power.

Since that day, I have seen about 34 movies (8 or 9 a month).

I still don't know how Moviepass can do this.  In fact, it got cheaper.  I bought an annual pass which brought my price down to 7.50 a month.

I wrote a note on a MoviePass FB page talking about how MP has changed my theater-going experience.

I went from one movie every month or two to two or more movies a week.
That means I now buy concessions... something I never did before. I am still cheap... I bought the annual popcorn bucket, which was never financially worth it before given how often I went to the theater.
I see movies by myself a lot... and I love it. Moviegoing is much more spontaneous now... and it is often too cumbersome to find someone who can grab a show on the quick. The theater has been my go-to activity when I have a few hours to kill.
I skip the previews. They used to be a highlight, but now that movie time is eating up more of my week, skipping those saves me some time... plus, I usually have already seen them.
I watch a wider selection. I used to reserve going to the theater for blockbusters... dramas and comedies just didn't seem worth the expense to fork over for the big screen.
I have realized I get more out of the movie at the theater. At home, I am distracted. I am usually working on something as I watch, or the phone rings, or someone wants to ask me something, etc. At the theater, the movie has my undivided attention.

Here are the movies I have seen so far.  The MP app keeps a history, but that function cut out for a bit in November and I am not sure that it got all of my movies added back correctly.  However, these ones I am sure about.

It (2x)
Wind River
American Assassin
Brad's Status
Kingsman 2
Blade Runner 2049
Happy Death Day
American Made
Marshall (2x)
Thor (2x)
The Foreigner
Goodbye Christopher Robin
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Justice League (2x)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Coco (2x)
The Disaster Artist
Star Wars Last Jedi
Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
The Greatest Showman
Lady Bird
Molly's Game
I, Tonya

My popcorn intake is off the charts and will probably need to be regulated if I want to celebrate my 50th birthday next year.  I don't know how much longer this ride will last, but I am going to strike while the iron is hot!

I have been to the movies more in the past 4 months than I had in the past 4 years.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Facebook Faith #58 Schoolyard Bickering

I am part of a group on Facebook which discusses 90s Christian music.  It is quite an eclectic bunch consisting of Christian fundamentalists, liberal Christians, varied levels of vague spirituality, and atheists.  For the most part, music is at the fulcrum but religious discussions happen.  I appreciate that most folks keep it at the discussion (and not argumentation) level.

Someone started a thread asking if the folks in the group considered religions like the Mormons and JW's to be Christian.  In the thread, I responded and this is part of the conversation.
Andrew Hackman - I moved out to Utah 13 years ago. One of the things that led me out of the faith was a realization, for the most part, that Mormons were simply better at Christianity than my Evangelical sect. Since I was taught that they were not even Christians, this was a bit of an eye-opener.  :)
Holly - Doesn't make them Christians, though.
Andrew Hackman - Why not? A person who believes in Christ and his teachings would seem to be, in the simplest sense, a Christian. Anyone denying that would merely be stating their preferred articulation, but that would not have any basis. Any attempt at such quickly devolves into schoolyard bickering.
Holly -"Not all who say to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
Andrew Hackman - Sure... but every sect could announce that of every other sect... like I said, schoolyard bickering.
Holly -You don't get to merely self-identify as a Christian, you have to be incorporated into Christ through baptism according to the Lord's command. Mormons do not have a valid baptism.
Andrew Hackman - And they say you don't have a valid baptism... see how this works?

The conversation went on a little while longer, but I bailed.  When I find myself wanting to repeat something I have already said, this shows me I am not really being heard ... so why bother?

Holly could not see the folly of claiming her baptism had validity while Mormon baptism did not.  She could not understand why I felt her belief did not have a superior claim.  It is like some believers cannot achieve escape velocity, so they keep spinning around the same gravity well.  I will join them rhetorically for one orbit, but then it gets tedious.  In the past, I would have spun around in that conversation to exasperation.

Later in the thread, a gentleman referred to Mormon beliefs as "kooky".  I tried to explain that, from an outsider's view, his religious beliefs would seem just as "kooky".  No movement there either.

I have to clarify that I do know plenty of religious believers who are aware of what their beliefs look like to an outsider, and so are careful in how they approach the belief structures of other religions.  They do not try to supply objective certainty to something that is inherently a subjective experience.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Christians Don't Make Atheists

In the article The Christians Making Atheists, John Pavlovitz makes an argument that the reason people are not coming to Christianity is due to the bad behavior of its adherents.  He closes the article by stating:
... the reason the Church soon will be teetering on the verge of extinction and irrelevance will be because those entrusted to perpetuate the love of Jesus in the world, lost the plot so horribly, and gave the world no other option but to look elsewhere for goodness and purpose and truth.
I can agree with most of his critiques here of American Christianity - there is little Jesus left in the faith. It is often just a bastion of bigots waving tribal flags in the faces of those it calls "other".

However, Christians behaving badly is not the reason most folks become an Atheist. As my friend Brook said, "Christians are not the biggest obstacle to people taking Christianity seriously. That's just a story Christians tell themselves so they don't have to face the fact that their story and entire foundation sounds utterly ridiculous to non-Christians."

Religion will make little sense to most folks not raised in it. And it makes less sense to more and more religious folks as they are being exposed to the thoughts and religions of their neighbor.

Religion continues based on two foundations:
  • Its ability to control the narrative delivered to children
  • Its ability to control the narrative delivered to its members. 
Religion is losing control on both fronts.

When I was growing up, every kid I knew went to church. Maybe not my church, but a church. Nowadays, kids usually have a friend or two that does not attend church or belongs to a completely different faith. When I had questions regarding my faith when I was a young person, there was no one to talk to about it other than those within my faith. Today, people with questions have many resources available. Religious groups are losing the ability to control the narrative.

Mr. Pavlovitz assumes people are leaving his faith because of the bad behavior of its members. I left religion because I realized that the sincere devotion of others to their religion was no different than what was occurring in mine. When my religion ceased to be uniquely true... it ceased to be true. I no longer believed.

The bad behavior of those in my tribe was incidental.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Some Facebook Thoughts on Trump

October 4

I am fascinated by the arc much of American Christianity is taking. No longer is it about the teachings of Jesus, but rather about the acquisition of power. Oh, the name is kept for tribal identity, but - as my believing brother often says - these Christians have chosen Barabbas. When the way of Jesus failed to get them the governmental power they sought, they chose a zealot who could move the ball down the field.

September 30

I have always known Donald Trump was a vulgar man with a decrepit soul. If you had asked me 10 years ago about Donald, I would have described him as a singular embodiment of all that can be worst in human nature. My view has not changed.

Many folks on the Right, 10 years ago, would have described him the same way. They could easily spot him as a huckster, who would step on his own children to advance his ego.

Now though, I watch these same folks defend him at every corner and rail against anyone who would point out his obvious affronts to humanity. 10 years ago, they would have objected to Donald Trump on a plethora of moral grounds; now they are angrily defending all of his misdeeds.

It makes clear to me that their previous "moral" objections to him were nothing of the kind. In fact, they have no sense of morality at all. Morality was simply a useful pawn in their rhetorical repertoire, easily sacrificed in the larger game of dominating others.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Boy Turns 16

My youngest was born 16 years ago today.  I am out of practice with writing blog entries and I find my thoughts are running into one another.  Do I start by talking about how proud I am of him?  How I enjoy our time together?  Should I talk about his many and varied accomplishments?  How do I make this entry fit the love I feel for my son?

I am not sure, so this may be an exercise in Freewriting.

Jake was in a play this year where he played an older gentleman who learned he had a terminal illness.  He ends the play with a heartfelt monologue about living.  Though I knew he was playing a character, I was still affected by watching my son talk about the meaning of life... in the face of death. I also noted that Jake really does "get" life so much better than I did at his age.

I got to hear my son sing for the first time this year.  Last fall, I was in a play with Jake's choir teacher.  She was doing the musical direction for a different play Jake was in and told me that he was doing really well with his solo. Solo? I did not even know Jake could sing.  If he ever takes up poker, he will clean house because he rarely lets people know what cards he is holding. He sung so well in his play that his sister and I kept looking at each other in surprise and awe.

Jake grew dill in the garden this year.  He grew a few other things too, but the dill sticks out to me because he found lots of uses for it and tried his hand at pickling vegetables.

I did not realize Jake and I had started a tradition.  We had binge watched all of the previous Marvel/Netflix series together.  We began each one by picking up a round of Chinese food to gorge ourselves on as we worked through the first three or four episodes.  I was at work when "The Defenders" dropped and I got a text from Jake - "Don't forget to bring home Chinese!"

Jake started High School two weeks ago.  I know from having already been through this with his sister that the years will sweep past us hastily.  I only have two more years with "children" under my roof.

I am not sure where Jake's future will take him.  He has a sharp mind, a contemplative temperament, and a gracious nature.  He tends to do well at anything he sets his mind to, so I suspect the hardest part of his future will be in the choosing.  I have every confidence he will choose well.

Happy Birthday Jake!  Enjoy your high school years, enjoy your friends and family, and just keep enjoying life!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Facebook Faith # 57 - Less of Me...

A friend of mine on Facebook posted, "What Would Actually Make You Happy?" He is a religious man, so many of the responses were of a religious nature.

One of the responses made my heart heavy. A gentleman replied:
"Less of me..."
It was painful to read because I know that is exactly how I would have answered that question throughout most of the time I was a believer. In conservative Evangelical theology, you are seen as bringing nothing to the table, everything is about what God does. The only thing preventing God from doing his best for you and in you is you. With such a view of one's relationship to the divine, self-disparaging comments become the norm.

Growing up, sermons from the pulpit, bible studies, and song lyrics constantly drove home the message that I was, inherently, the problem. These lines were typical of the Christian bands I listened to as a believer:
"I know how I ought to be. Alive to You and dead to me."
" More of Jesus, less of me."
" I am nothing! So I lay down and cry for mercy."
I recently moved my entire music collection over to a USB drive for my car. Even still, most of my music collection is Christian Rock. I tried listening to some old songs as I drove around town. Though I could still enjoy the music, the lyrics tended to be so... depressing, that I just had to turn it off. It was just weird listening to a good tune where the lyrics repeated how awful everyone is.

The above meme was posted by another believing friend of mine. I sigh when I read things like that.

You are not the villain. Happiness will not come from there being less of you.

The answers will not be found in tearing down "you".

What I have discovered since leaving the life of faith a few years back is that happiness and peace develop as I am becoming my best self.
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