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Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Time for Monster Movies

It’s October.  It’s time for monster movies.  It’s time for screams in the dark.  So I’m going to watch a horror movie every night this month.  (I’m actually rather excited, so I’ve started early…)

Here’s my plan:

Sept. 30 – Trollhunter (2010)
Oct. 1 – Mark of the Devil (1970)
2 – Wolfen (1981)
3 – Glass Dolls (1971)
4 – Moon of the Wolf (1972)  Dagon (2001)
5 – Sheitan (2006)
6 – Shiver (2008)
7 – Goth (2008)
8 – Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
9 – The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
10 – The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)  Dead Snow (2009)
11 – Daughters of Darkness (1971)  Arang (2006)
12 – Inferno (1980)  Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)
13 – The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971) Paranormal Activity (2006)
14 – The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974) Creepshow (1982)
15 – Xombie: Dead on Arrival (2003)
16 – Empire of the Ants (1972) Undead or Alive (2007)
17 – The Food of the Gods (1976) Cronos (1993)
18 – Return of the Ape Man (1944)
19 – The Legend of Hell House (1973)
20 – Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
21 – Black Swarm (2007)
22 – Mutants (2009)
23 – Ripper: Letter from Hell (2001)
24 – Let the Right One In (2008)
25 – Thirst (2009)
26 – Vampire Circus (1972)
27 – Dunwich Horror (1970)
28 – Countess Dracula (1971)
29 – Shadow Puppets (2007)
30 – Night Junkies (2007)
31 – Vampyre (1932)

I’ve tried to pick a wide selection of movies – vampires, zombies, werewolves, killers, ghosts, and trolls (TROLLS!) – from different eras and from all around the world.  I’ve not seen any of these.   I’ll be writing up my thoughts and reviews of them for this blog. 

If you’ve seen any of them feel free to share your comments.

I might change this list as I go along. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another Film Collaboration with my Brother - Dane County Salvation Army

Recently my brother filmed a promotional video for The Salvation Army of Dane County, Wisconsin.  (That our father is the Dane County Coordinator had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.)

This is background music that I made for the film at my brother's request.

If you like it, you can download it here.

This version is slightly different than that in the film.  I continued to tinker with it after I gave it to Brad, but the differences are minimal, and the music is mixed pretty low in the film, so you probably can't hear them anyway...

The Salvation Army of Dane County from Brad Carter on Vimeo.

I used the following sounds:

Lullaby for a Young Comet

Lullaby for a Young Comet by thatjeffcarter was here

This song is available for download.

I used a couple of sounds from the Freesound Project:

Comet stretched  - which is a manipulated version of this comet sound

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well... Which is it, Luke?


"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."
      -Luke 9: 49 - 50

or No

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed.  They would say, " In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out."  Seven sons of Sceva, a  Jewish chief priest were doing  this. One day the evil spirit answered  them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"  then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all.  He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding."
-Acts 19: 13 - 16

Well, Luke?  Which is it?  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zion Born - Zephaniah

Many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament follow a similar introductory formula: The prophet is introduced along with a reference to his father, and perhaps his grandfather, the town where he lived and the king or kings who were in power during his ministry. There is some variation among the prophets, but they largely follow this pattern.

But the prophet Zephaniah deviates from this formula slightly in that his pedigree lists not one or two but five generations. This variation is intriguing on two points The first being that Zephaniah ben Cushi traces his ancestry back to Hezekiah.

Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah.

You probably recognize the name Hezekiah. There was a king of Judah named Hezekiah. He ruled from 715 - 687 BC. But was Zephaniah's great-great-grandfather King Hezekaih? Were they one and the same? Well it’s possible. It cannot be discounted based on the time frame and it would certainly explain the irregular extended family tree in the prophet’s introduction.

That also makes him a second cousin to the king in power during his time as prophet – King Josiah, and a third cousin to kings Jehoaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedikaih who would follow. The prophet Zepheniah came from a powerful and royal family.

But there’s another interesting tidbit that I find even more compelling than his descent from royalty. Zephaniah is called the son of Cushi – the son of Cush. There’s a definite possibility that this is means the area of Africa just south of Egypt. (Modern day Sudan and Ethiopia) "This form of the word [Cushi], whether taken as a proper name or as an ethnic designation, regularly points in biblical usage to Israel's darker hued neighbors to the south, peoples from Egypt, and the extended regions of the Nile valley”[i]  Zephaniah, very likely, may have been part African.

Zephaniah’s short book zigzags back and forth between Jerusalem and the nations that surround. He declares Yahweh’s judgment on Jerusalem then on the nations, and then on Jerusalem again, and then on the nations. Then Zephaniah delivers a promise of Yahweh’s salvation to the nations and then to Jerusalem, or Zion. It’s this promise of salvation we want to look at today.

Like many of the other prophets, Zephaniah dealt with the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah and the surrounding nations because of their various sins against the Lord. Of their many sins Zephaniah lists the worship of false gods, abandoning YHWH, mocking God’s people, not listening to the prophets, and not accepting the correction that they offered among others as the reasons why God would send his wrath on the immanent Day of the Lord.

The great Day of the Lord is near,
near and coming with great speed
how bitter the sound of the Day of YHWH
the Day when the warrior shouts his cry of war.
That Day is a day of retribution.
a day of distress and tribulation.
a day of ruin and devastation.
a day of darkness and gloom.
a day of cloud and dark fog.
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against fortified towns and high corner tower.
I shall bring such distress on humanity
that they will grope their way like the blind
for having sinned against YHWH
their blood will be poured out like mud,
yes, their corpses like dung;
nor will their silver and gold be able to save them
on the Day of Yahweh’s anger
by the fire of his jealousy
the whole earth will be consumed.
For he will destroy, yes annihilate
everyone living on earth. (1: 14 – 18)

I suppose complete literalists would demand that this means that God at some point after this prophecy, or even yet in the future, has literally annihilated or will soon annihilate everyone living on the earth – every single living person on the earth!. But the context of Zephaniah is clear that this Day of the Lord would be the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding nations under the army of the Babylonians.

Zephaniah begins with Gods’ voice ‘unmaking’ everything in a sort of ‘anti-creation’ Just as in the Genesis account God speaks everything into existence, here God speaks creation out of existence.

“I shall sweep away everything
off the face of the earth
declares YHWH.
I shall sweep away humans and animals,
the birds of the air and the fish of the sea,
I shall topple the wicked
and wipe all people off the face of the earth
-declares YHWH” (1: 2 – 3)

Humans, beasts, birds, fish – reverses the order of creation in Gen. 1: 20 – 26. From chaos to creation and back to chaos again. This judgment on the sins of Jerusalem and her neighbors was described as an unmaking of the whole created world.

But Zephaniah’s prophecy doesn’t end with doom, gloom, destruction, and damnation. After the devastation of the Day of Wrath God says:

Yes, then I shall purge
the lips of the peoples,
so that all may invoke the name of YHWH
and serve him shoulder to shoulder from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
my supplicants will bring me tribute. (3:9 –10)

From the burning fire of God’s wrath come the burning coals that purify the lips of his people everywhere.

“Woe is me! I am lost. For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King YHWH Sabaoth. Then one of the seraphs flew to me holding in its hand a live coal which had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this it touched my mouth and said, ‘look, this has touched your lips, your guilt has been removed, and your sin forgiven.’” Isaiah 6: 5-7

The burning wrath was not to destroy the world but to burn away the impurities, and to leave behind only purity. God’s burning wrath on the nations would leave them with “pure lips” able to call on his name.

“in the end I will turn things around for the people. I’ll give them a language undistorted, unpolluted, words to address GOD in worship…” (the Message Bible)

And with their new language for worship the peoples (all the peoples) of the nations will serve him with one accord – shoulder to shoulder – and that particular English idiom almost exactly reflects the Hebrew idiom used – they will serve with “one shoulder”.

After the fire of God’s vengeance falls on the nations they will be left with a pure language – the ability to call on God’s name, to worship him, and to serve him in unity.

God’s burning wrath would result in the conversion of the nations. The burning and destruction wasn’t to be the end of the world (despite the universal destruction language – not to be understood literally) It was the end of an age… and the threshold to a new age.  The future, Zephaniah, said wasn't going to be a remake of the old segregated order with enmity between the peoples. God’s chosen people would include all peoples and all nations. It would no longer be Jews on the inside and Gentile dogs on the outside - all would be welcomed.

With it’s foundations on the holy mountains
YHWH loves his holy city
he prefers the gates of Zionto any dwelling place in Jacob.
He speaks glory for you, city of God.
‘I number Rahab and Babylonamong those who acknowledge me;
look at Tyre, Phillistia, Ethiopia,
so and so was born there.’
YHWH in his register of peoples
will note against each, ‘Born there’,
princes no less than native-born;
all make their home in you.
(Psalm 87)
In God’s kingdom there are no national boundaries, there are no boarder disputes. All are included as natural born – and are thought of as princes and princesses no less than the natives.  I can easily imagine Zephaniah ben Cushi pointing to himself as an example of this coming conversion of nations. "Look at me. I am not African born. I am Zion born. We are all Zion-born."

Zephaniah continues:

Shout for joy, daughter Zion
Israel, shout aloud!
Rejoice, exult with all your heart,
daughter Jerusalem!
YHWH has repealed your sentence;
he has turned your enemies away.
YHWH is King among you, Israel,
you have nothing more to fear,
do not let your hands fall limp.
YHWH your God is there with you,
the warrior-Savior.
He will rejoice over you with happy song,
he will silence you with his love,
he will dance with shouts of joy for you
as on a day of festival
(3: 14 –18)
 “Do not be afraid. Look I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord….. Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace for those he favors…” Luke 2: 10, 14

Our King is among us. Our God is among us. Our God is With Us. Emmanuel. There is no reason for us to be afraid. We are princes and princesses of Zion, born into God’s eternal kingdom, born into the presence of our God and King who sings and dance over us in great joy and great love. What a great image. Our God, our King, our Warrior-Savior sings songs over us and dances in delight for us. He loves us. He is overjoyed in us.  He is King over all the nations, tribes, and peoples - and all languages and tongues are united in a language of praise to the One-In-Three who lives, and reigns as God among Us. Amen.

[i] . Robert A. Bennet - The New Interpreter's Bible pg. 670 Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996.

Morally Valueless Religion in Battlestar Galactica

When that day comes
I shall search Jerusalem by lamplight
and punish the men
stagnating over the remains of their wine,
who say in their hearts
“Yahweh can do nothing
either good or bad.”
Zephaniah 1: 12

 I am, unabashedly, a fan of science fiction and fantasy.  I am also an ordained minister within the Christian faith.  Some might say that these are but different names for the same thing but we’ll let that slide for now.  Part of why I have always liked science fiction and fantasy novels and movies and television programs (aside from the laser blasters and green bug-eyed monsters and beautiful intergalactic women) is the frequent overlap of religious and spiritual themes.  

I have recently finished watching the re-booted Battlestar Galactica series which ran from its opening miniseries in 2004 through 2009.  (I know. I know. I’m usually a few years behind everyone else…) And as a minister, I was interested to watch the portrayal of religion in the series.

After the destruction of the twelve colonies by a race of robotic life-forms known as Cylons, a small remnant of human survivors make their way across the galaxy in search of a planetary refuge remembered from their distant past through myths and legends – Earth.  The humans of the series are either polytheistic or agnostic.  The Cylons, too, have a religion, though their faith is monotheistic.  Through the show’s four seasons there were numerous references to religion and faith and the spiritual realm.  Some of these were direct and obvious, others were more subtle.  For instance, the character Colonel Saul Tigh begins the series with an intense and burning hatred for the Cylons.  But, like his biblical namesake, he is blinded (in one-eye) and undergoes a sort of conversion experience when he realizes that he himself is a Cylon, and ceases to persecute them.

During a memorial service for the dead during the show’s initial miniseries the priestess recites a Hindu mantra.

 Asato mā sad gamaya                       From ignorance, lead me to truth;
Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya                 From darkness, lead me to light;
Mtyormā amtam gamaya                From death, lead me to immortality
Aum śānti śānti śānti.                    Aum peace, peace, peace.

Reflecting the pluralist society in which we live there are references many religious beliefs including: Greek gods and goddesses, Stoicism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity.  And this is important.  Despite the science fiction trappings of the show such as the Robotic life-form and faster-than-light travel through the galaxy, Battlestar Galactica is really a show about us. Although the setting and dressing of the show is futuristic, it is a reflection of and a comment on the time in which it was produced.  [i]

But for all the religion and spirituality in the show there is little indication that the polytheistic religion of the human characters or the monotheism of the Cylons has any effect on their morality or ethics.  Their religions are morally valueless.

They read their sacred scrolls, specifically The Book of Pythia, but not for moral instruction.  Instead, they read The Book of Pythia as a sort of interstellar treasure map that will guide them to the celestial-x-marks-the spot.  They remind me of modern Dispensationalist Christians reading the book of Revelation in order to determine the identity of Antichrist. 

The faithful characters of the show are morally indistinguishable from the atheists and agnostics of the show.  They plot and scheme and lie and steal.  They beat up their friends and torture their enemies. They murder and begin plans for genocide.  They read the sacred scrolls and they have dreams and visions from god or the gods, but they have no compassion, mercy, and little forgiveness or patience.  There is a lot of hatred among the characters but little love. 

Now either the writers and producers of the show either completely misunderstood the nature of true religion or they are making a very sharp criticism of those who claim to be religious and spiritual – particularly those in political and military leadership.  Is it possible to call yourself a follower of Christ (or the Torah, or Buddha, or Allah) and still live lives of fear and hatred and violence? 

If religion doesn’t correlate with ethical behavior, then what is the point?  Why bother? Just drop the charade and do as thou will.[ii]

But the show’s criticism of this sort of hypocrisy is itself negated and undone.  In a dialogue near the end of the series Gaius Baltar, one of the more spiritual minded humans of the show, discusses the nature of God with one of the more atheist Cylon characters.

… there's another Force at work here.  There always has been.  It's undeniable, we've all experienced it.  Everyone in this room has witnessed events that they cannot fathom let alone explain away by rational means.  Puzzles, deciphered in prophecy.  Dreams given to a chosen few.  Our loved ones... dead!  Risen...Whether we want to call that God, or Gods, or some sublime inspiration, or a divine force that we can't understand.  It doesn't matter, doesn't matter.  It's here… it exists!  And our two destinies are intertwined in its force."

"If that were true, and that's a big if!  How do I know if this force has our best interests in mind?  How do you know that God is on your side, doctor?"

"I don't.  God's not on any one side.  God's a force of nature.  Beyond good and evil.  Good and Evil we created those.  Want to break the cycle.  Break the cycle of Birth, Death, Re-Birth, Destruction, escape Death!  That's in our hands...and our hands only.  It requires a leap of faith.  Requires that we live in hope, not fear."

God is a force of nature … beyond good and evil.  Gaius Baltar’s religious sentiments by the end of the show have a sort of new-age-all-inclusive-no-judgment-post-modernism about them.  There’s no good. There’s no evil. There’s no moral absolute. God (or the gods, or the divine force, or the sublime inspiration) is beyond all of that…  But if the gods (or God, or the sublime inspiration, or the divine force, whatever you want to call it) are beyond good and evil then there can be no basis for the show’s criticism of religious hypocrisy. 

The show moved quickly to its happy ending.  The humans and Cylons come together (almost… that too is quickly undone in a fit of rage) and the survivors make a new home on a new Earth.  Everything is green and sunny and wonderful.  In a sort of epilogue two of the show’s angelic characters (angelic as in “messenger” – the meaning of the Greek word) discuss whether or not the human race can survive, whether or not we’ll continue in the same sort of self-defeating paths.

And again I wonder – if there is no divine / absolute standard by which good or evil can be determined, then what does it matter how we treat each other?  If the divine force (or sublime inspiration, or god, or the gods) is unconcerned with good or evil, then the only thing that has eternal value is survival.

Ultimately I was disappointed with the show.  Despite the strong performances from the actors, the terrific writing, and the spectacular effects, the show fizzled at the end like a soggy firework.  It had the potential to say something powerful and challenging, but instead went with a “can’t we all just get along?”  Until the end the show was provocative and daring.  The ending was not. 

Still and all.  It was fun to watch.  My son and I are now watching the original series – and usually laughing at it.  

[i]  McGrath, James, ed. Religion and Science Fiction, Pickwick Publications, Eugene OR, 2011.

[ii] That is, of course, a slightly ironic reference to the syncrectic religion, Thelema, that abandons ethics. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Family Photos

This is a picture of my brother and my sister in law... or my sister in law and my brother, I can't tell which.

You might remember my other brother and sister in law (sister in law and brother...)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wicked Tongue

This is a halfhearted attempt at dubstep - with a little parseltongue mixed in.

Wicked Tongue by thatjeffcarter was here

I used the following from the Freesound Project 

If you like it, why not share it with a friend?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And When He Awoke...

And when he awoke, dazed and bloodied from the blow, he found himself in a tenebrous and  fiery cavern.  Above him appeared to be stars.  But that couldn't be right. Not inside a cave.  And it surely was a cave. He'd been exploring the caves around his village since he was  just a towheaded boy.

But it was the strangest cave he'd ever explored.  And for the first time in all his spelunking adventures he felt afraid.

Something had clubbed him and left him for dead and now he could hear something or many somethings moving through the dark shadows of the cavern.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lamar (for my Father)

Great-grandfather kept rain barrels in the backyard,
mosquito hatcheries to water his garden
though dry summers and Kansas heat.
This was a garden we couldn’t explore.

Inside the house he kept elephants and horses,
plaster statues on every shelf and mantel,
but they were not toys and we could not touch.

If we watched television
he told us to go outside.
If we played outside
he told us to quiet down.

And every summer was
“maybe the last chance we have to visit,”
so we’d load up the car and drive across the country
to visit someone who didn’t seem to want us around.

Now he’s gone and we have no more
maybe last chances to visit.

We're Putting the Band Back Together

Three shows nightly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Daughter's New Bible

I bought a new bible for my daughter the other day. She's 12 and she asked for this specific bible - Archaeological Study Bible (an illustrated walk through biblical history and culture) published by Zondervan.

I was quite pleased to buy this for her.  Pleased that she asked for it. Pleased that she expresses such an interest in archaeology (she wants to be an Egyptologist) and in the bible and pleased that it was more than 60% off .  This father was beaming. Still is.

But I have a couple of slight reservations about it.

For one - it's the King  James Version.  This is only a minor reservation.  I don't have anything against the KJV. It's fine, I suppose. It's not my favorite. It wouldn't usually be my choice.

My real concern is in the conservative / fundamentalist bias in the notes.
For example - The Documentary Hypothesis is casually dismissed with a brief note on page 15.  "The main arguments for this theory are the existence of repetition and apparent contradiction within these five books [the Pentateuch], as well as the use of different names for God." The theory, we are told, has been abandoned by scholars because it is "based on a faulty understanding of ancient Near Eastern literature" and that it "contributes nothing helpful to our understanding of the Pentateuch."

Another example -  questions raised by archaeologists about the date of the "conquest" of the Promised Land are glossed over.  2nd and 3rd Isaiahs are dismissed without consideration.  Jonah is assumed to be factual history.

I could go on with this list, but I really haven't given the book a thorough examination yet.

While I am concerned about some of the bias in the notes - I am quite pleased to see the inclusion of "Ancient Voices" within the text; quotes from other ancient extra-biblical sources that help shed light on biblical texts.  There are numerous photos of archaeological sites and discoveries.  There are maps and time-lines and all the usual study-bible-stuff. It really is a neat bible - one I might be inclined to borrow from my daughter on occasion.

As I said, I was pleased to buy it for my daughter. I encourage her to read and to study - even material that I don't necessarily agree with.  I trust her to use her brain. And maybe we can both learn something new.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Carter Family Golf

We've had a few days of vacation with my family - my parents, my two brothers and their wives, and my new niece. It's been a good time even if we have to spend it in Wisconsin...

This afternoon - after church, of course, my dad and brothers, and my son and I went out for a round of golf.  My son is 10 and this was his first time out.  My youngest brother has only golfed once before.  The other brother and my dad are more frequent golfers.  I don't play much, but it's fun sometimes.

It was a par three course. I got 47 and then we moved on to the second hole.

My son did really well for it being his first time ever.  He hit the ball well, and most of the time it went straight down the fairway (if not very far...)

This is me at the driving range afterwards. My father took these photos with his new camera. He was keen to try out all of its special features.

The girls stayed home and made dinner.  As it should be.
(I can say that here because my wife rarely looks at my blog...)

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I took this photo yesterday at the zoo in Madison, WI.

According to Wikipedia:

There is no measured average lifespan for an alligator.  Muja, the alligator has resided in the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia since 1937.

How cool is that?

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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