Archive for December, 2009

Some of My Highlight Blogs of 2009

I’m still stunned about how many words I commit to this blog in a year. As is the tradition around this time, each year I manage to summon enough ego to come up with a list of my best or favorite blogs that I’ve written over the course of the year. I define “favorite” as blogs which elicited the most discussion/angry e-mails. It’s a bit of a jump on point and, as usual, there’s a mix of spiritual, race, and writing discussions. In no particular order:

Emotional Affairs (AKA No Longer Just Friends) – Might as well get this elephant out of the room right off. There was much debate about whether I should have gone so public with so private a matter. Then again, have you met me?

Obviously, the blog took an introspective turn in light of this: Walls, Forgiveness Takes Time, God’s Failed Ambassadors, and Wounded Story Tellers. And I Hate(d) Nicknames.

“Just a Servant” – A few ideas on the idea of leadership.

Post-Racial Church: the myth and the hope – with all this talk about things being “post-racial”, the more things change … the more they stay the same

I’m Just Praying – Sometimes I just struggle with what it means to pray in faith

RaceFail ’09: Why horror ignores the elephant in the room – I keep saying I’m not going to wade into these debates, then somehow someone (read: Chesya) pushes the right button …

FNDP: Believing the Lie and Embracing the Truth – I still get requests to resurrect the Friday Night Date Place column. Maybe one day. However, this was a fave.

Belly Pride (Eat THAT Kate Moss) – Ok, I still giggle that my wife posed for that pic.

Oddest Places – My essay for the Spirit and Place Festival. You can also hear it read by me.

Are You there, God? It’s Me, Maurice

This year has sucked.

It’s been filled with a seeming unending list of disappointment and unanswered prayer. There have been marriage issues and employment issues which has often left me pissed at You (OF COURSE we reserve the right to complain: because we value our free will until our choices make a mess then we’re all “why didn’t You do something?”). This year has seen the drama and trauma of us switching churches, has been a relational nightmare as circles of friendships broke and realigned. It has seen my parents and more than a few friends and family get divorced. My mom alone provided a roller coaster ride between her retirement, divorce, cancer scare, surgery, engagement and move back to Jamaica.

During the dark times, I felt alone and abandoned with the silence making me think of You as grandpa asleep on the couch while chaos was breaking out all over.

So needless to say, it’s been a little hard to hear You.

Hard to see and difficult to hear are different from absent, however. Sometimes faith requires its own CSI crew to look for evidence of your presence. Though, honestly, I don’t have to look too hard. You held my marriage together which was a miracle unto itself. Counselors had no words, friends were at a loss, WE didn’t know which way to turn, yet You held us in your embrace. You strengthened our community and friendships, showing me that Your church isn’t one lone body, but a worldwide one. You opened doors for my writing and helped me to not only find myself but revealed what I’m called to be. And You’ve walked me through the dark times, to the point where it’s like the pain was so overwhelming at times, I blacked out, and yet found I had been carried along without my realizing.

I’ll be honest, I can’t wait for 2009 to be over with. I’m trusting You for 2010 and looking forward to what You have in store for us. As ever, You are an artist in my life. Thank You, not only for the storms but for them passing and carrying us through them.

Snowmen – A Review

“The unending year of the snowmen”

DISCLAIMER: I saw an early version of this film. Final editing hadn’t been done.
Snowmen is a movie of good intentions. It is aimed squarely at the wholesome family fun crowd and makes no secret of it having warm fuzzies to impart and lessons to teach. And it barely escapes the orbit of feeling like an afterschool special.
“I don’t have to be remembered forever as the pathetic bald kid.” –Billy

Written and directed by Robert Kirbyson, 10-year-old Billy Kirkfield (Bobby Coleman) is convinced that he’s dying from cancer. His baldness, a lingering effect of his treatment and constant reminder of his mortality has left his abandoned by all of his classmates except for his two best friends, Lucas Lamb (Christian Martyn), a plucky “pacifist” and recent Jamaican immigrant, Howard Garvey (Bobb’e J. Thompson). Billy is determined to by remembered, staging bigger and bigger stunt in order to make the history books. Of course there’s a journey of self-discovery as they conquer neighborhood bullies, unite a community, learn from/teach their parents lessons, and realize that fame isn’t as important as family and friends.

“It’s like so super important, you’re like … wow.” –Lucas

The adults in their lives—Billy’s car salesman Dad (Ray Liotta), the Mayor, the school Principal—often prove to be largely insincere; more concerned with image, spin, appearances and publicity. Having formed a kind of Losers Club, where the social rejects have banded together. Billy wears the stigma and shame of being sick. It has infected his whole being, not just being tired of his condition, but allowing it to determine how he sees himself, how (he believes) others see him. It’s like letting a sin, a condition, a lie we’ve come to believe about ourselves, define us. And he is more than just his sickness.

“I gotta do something so that people don’t forget me.” –Billy

Part of our soul yearns for immortality. Sometimes, it’s an issue of our self-worth, wanting to show that our lives meant something and that we made a difference or mattered while we were here. So Billy begins to do things in order to be remembered, from hitting with snowballs, to getting on the news, to performing stunts. Thing is, as a relational being, not only do we find our meaning in our friendships and in our family, but our relationships have an eternal aspect to them. We can get caught up in wanting to do something big, something profound, only to realize that conquering the Kill Hills of our lives or even setting the world records wasn’t the point. As we go about our daily lives, we experience God moments, opportunities to create memories and touch other people’s lives. Where the doing the things that “matter” may be as simple as helping people through tough times and thus impacting the lives of lose around him. As we reflect on our life stories, when people talk about someone living, good life, it’s not what they think, but how they did it. Being a good friend leads to ripple effects and becomes truly profound.

“People do not like missing out on opportunities.” –Reggie Kirkfield

A lot of threads are woven into this movie: the need to defeat bullies, the building of snowmen, the will he/won’t he tension of Billy’s dying of cancer, Billy’s relationship with his father. The movie doesn’t balance them well as the various strands don’t quite come together. With so many messages being thrown at us, it diffuses the message of movie. And don’t get me wrong, we are beat nearly to death with the message stick. And because the movie makers are so focused on making sure their message came across, Snowmen ends up feeling treacly and earnest, but far from profound. One can hope that by the time of its final release, the movie will have been tightened up, with its jokes/humor punched up. Because it’s not a perfect movie, I’m letting the horrific Jamaican accent as well as the “comedy relief of the cute little ethnic child” thing pass.

Blessed are the Peacem–ack!!

A one to grow on conversation:

“Daddy, why don’t we talk to so and so anymore?”

“Sometimes life happens. People get mad, hurt each other, or misunderstandings build up to where relationships get damaged.”

“Have you tried talking to them?”

“Yes. A couple of times. Sometimes talking just makes things worse.”

“You need me to talk to them?”

“I appreciate the offer and how your heart works. I’d like to just say that making up is ‘easier said than done’, but really, sometimes adults just … act stupid. Sometimes it’s hard to make the leaps of faith required to bring reconciliation. It’s hard to writing a letter of healing to those who might not forgive you or to make a call to people who have rejected you.

“One of the hardest things you’ll ever learn how to do is to love without expecting love in return or to give without the expectation of receiving. But you know what? Each attempt leads us closer to a glimpse of our Father. Each attempt shapes us into the people we would like to be.

“From our weak and very human perspective, some damage may not be recoverable. Ultimate healing and forgiveness are always possible, but sometimes it may not happen for a long time. And I know that for me, I’m not there yet.

“Today I nurse hurts and need time to heal. Today I don’t trust in love enough to love and risk boldly. Today I don’t live in the light enough to know peace. Today I live in the shadows of self-rejection in the tension of still wanting to be liked. Today I … WOULD YOU QUIT HITTING YOUR BROTHER?!?”

Merry Christmas from the Broaddus Family

(And yes, this is the actual Broaddus family creche scene, complete with black Joseph, white Mary, and a mixed baby Jesus). May God bless you with the very best gift during this Christmas season … Himself.

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

Hanging with My Sons

So after watching How to Train Your Dragon, I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with my sons and how each of them have such different relationships with me. My oldest likes to engage me intellectually, a bit of a schemer, and do what I do. He asks questions, talks to me, challenges boundaries at every turn, writes, believes he’s more charming than he is, and watches television like it’s an interactive event. He’s his father’s son.

My youngest is a daredevil, physically and emotionally as he’s prone to wear his emotions on his sleeves. He loves to be held, constantly needs physical assurance that I’m there. So he hugs, enjoys snuggle time, lays on me, and holds my hand. He pretends to be shy, but really just enjoys keeping people at a distance and making them relate to him on his terms. It’s like raising my baby brother.

One thing it’s reminded me of is the need to be present for them. We often forget how much our relationships with our parents can teach us about our relationship with God, how it should be, what it ought to be, and what it isn’t. The longing of our heart is to be with our fathers (sometimes causing us to seek out adopted fathers or mentors or other role-models when one isn’t present).

Fathers can be absent in a variety of ways: emotionally distant, aloof; overly critical, abandoned us physically; or being abusive. Sadly, even these things can teach us (false) lessons about the idea of fathers: that they can’t be trusted, they are prone to abandon, they aren’t safe, they are prone to judge, they are prone to be painfully silent, they are prone to be abusive.

We teach when we aren’t intending and we communicate in all we say and do. What we model is more important than what we preach. To be known, find security, and have stability, that’s what I want my sons to know about fathers. Most importantly, that they are loved.

How to Train Your Dragon – A Review

“The Dragon Whisperer”

DISCLAIMER: I viewed an early screening of this movie. Not all of the animation was completed in spots. That said, my capsule review is: boy + Vikings + dragons = WIN!!!

How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_PosterWhen you hear words like “computer animate” and “Vikings”, your first thought might be Beowulf. From DreamWorks Studio (Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda) comes How to Train Your Dragon. Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the movie tells the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of his Viking tribe. Whereas they have what he demurely calls “stubbornness issues”, bred early on in the craft of warfare and dragon slaying, he meekly goes about failing at trying to live up to their expectations. His world is both really turned upside down and given direction when he encounters an oft-whispered about, but never encountered, Night Fury species of dragon; and has to challenge his fellow Viking to see things from an entirely new perspective.

The focus of the movie revolves around two relationships: Hiccup and his father, the Viking chieftain, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler, 300) and Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless. (Okay, three if you count Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera, Ugly Betty)).

“I need to make my mark.” –Hiccup

Our hero, point of view character, and narrator, Hiccup has a modern voice, full of snark and sarcasm that gets him through life. He wants little more than to do something with his less than ordinary life that will get him notice, status, and/or a date.

“I know what I was and I knew what I was meant to be.” –Stoick

Because he is such a laughing stock to his community, and a disappointment to his father, he is constantly told that to make his life, to find his true calling and purpose, he has to “stop being all of you”. It’s a frustrating lesson to be formed by, to be seen strictly in terms of potential or calling, yet offered little guidance to become what he’s meant to be. So much so, that it becomes easy to be afraid of being different. He also walks a line between longing to be accepted and having the courage to think differently, because his choices have the potential to cost him his family and community.

“It’s who I am, dad.” –Hiccup

How to best form others is the dilemma faced by parents and teachers. Stoick is no different. He struggles to find a way to talk to his son without the burden of expectation (the lessons learned from his own father, no doubt) believing that he knows who and what his son is meant to be. Just like he struggles to learn his son’s actual gifts and skills and personality and talents; appreciating him for who he is and his existence, not what he can do.

“I looked at him and I saw myself.” –Hiccup

While there seems to be no place for the non-conformers or those outside the mainstream, a benefit to Hiccup being so different is that it helps him to relate to those who are also different. His life had provided him with a skill set and lessons on how to reach out to others who find themselves on the fringe or outcast such as Toothless. Like the journey of the missionary, rather an initial missionary attempting to relate to an indigenous people on their terms, Hiccup had to learn to communicate without words. He had to walk, talk, and think like his new friend. By learn to communicate and being open to learn from one another, he found that he was able to appreciate The Other. Bring something new to the conversation in turn, he was able to show his people a new perspective and a new way of doing things. Allowing both of them to overcome all manner of handicaps, which becomes an important theme in the movie.

“Everything we know about you guys is wrong.” –Hiccup

As for the animation itself, the lush production work is apparent from the first minute of the film.
Its detailed work and great use of shadows added another layer to the movie. The animation proved superior even to the lavish setting of Kung Fu Panda. The aerial scenes of soaring dragons are breath taking, the combat scenes are fierce (say about the same as a The Incredibles level of intensity), and the movie maintains a snarky tone (say about the same a Shrek) yet manages to not be impressed with its own hipness. It’s wickedly funny, with fully realized characters (one in particular there to give some of us some Dungeons & Dragons gaming flashbacks). In the DreamWorks versus Pixar animation battles, usually DreamWorks gets the nod for cheekiness and being an enjoyable ride, while Pixar tends to have more heart and depth to their features. With How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks finally makes that leap to fully embrace both and will stand the test of time.

Look Upon My Cover, Ye Mighty

I love what Angry Robot has to say about Cover Love.


U.K. debut … March 2010
U.S. debut … September 2010
from Angry Robot/Harper Collins UK

Ninja Assassin – A Review

As a quasi-professional movie reviewer, it is rare that I pay actual money to see a movie. Such occasions are reserved for movies that I want to experience, usually in the company of men. Real men watching a real men type movie. Enjoying the secret things that men do. Such a movie was Ninja Assassin (another such movie was The Hangover, but I saw that with my wife).

“Perhaps the path you’ve chose is not the path for which you are suited.” –Tattoo Artist

Hopes were high. We’re talking executive producers Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogy) and director James McTeigue, the team who brought us V for Vendetta. The script was written by comic book scribe J. Michael Straczynski (Silver Surfer: Requiem, Thor, Strange, Squadron Supreme).

“It doesn’t make sense in a modern world.” –fbi boss

Ninja Assassin
is slowed down by trying to have a raison d’etre for ninjas in a modern world. It’s like the movie experienced delusions of being an international thriller. Like we need a reason: they’re ninjas! It suffered from what I will call “the Hitman effect”: when an action movie decides to take itself seriously, so earnest and without humor rather than embrace its ridiculousness and being an enjoyable experience (like say, a Wanted or Crank). With their peppy mantra of “Weakness compels strength. Betrayal begets blood,” the problem with demythologizing or deconstructing the ninja is that it is reduced to being basically a movie about systematic child abuse by a cult.

Ironically, there was not enough … ninja-ing. In fact, at one point, our hero goes from ninja to Bruce Willis in Die Hard mode. The solo training sequences feel like action masturbation. The violence, once the movie gets going, becomes an excuse to hack limbs and sheer torsos. I’m good with violence for violence’s sake but this exercise in blood spraying was filled with some downright silly, poorly lit fight sequences. Not to mention relying entirely too much on CGI effects.

“All this loss, this waste because you put yourself before your family.” –father

All that being said, I can say that I learned a lot during the course of this movie:

1) It rains a lot in ninja world. Almost every ninja training school scene seemed to be mid-downpour.

2) Blood is red as Frank Miller’s ink well. It was splashed all over the place in ways I haven’t seen since Kung Fu theater.

3) Speaking of cost issues, for as intensive and expensive the training is to create one ninja, they sure have no problem sending a buttload of them into battle. Especially when …

4) You can still bust a cap in a ninja’s ass. This movie would have been a lot shorter if they’d just rolled in the military from the beginning.

5) A few gangs signs thrown work better than Mr. Miyagi’s hands (yeah … a Karate Kid reference. I went there) when it comes to healing injuries. But despite that …

6) Ninjas have keloid issues. At some point our hero ought to consult a plastic surgeon to take care of his scars.

7) Ninjas do not believe in recycling. This was a carefully observed lesson, but I remember from my days in junior high school (cause there was always “that” guy who had them, usually the one who whipped out his nunchuks in shop class), that Chinese stars are not cheap. Yet the ninjas in this movie were tossing them around like bullets in a John Woo flick.

“Every moment of your life is a gift.” –master ninja

And I bet you’re wondering what kind of spiritual musings I had while watching this movie. I suppose I could go on about how you must never forget who you are. Or how the path of the master is one of discipline and self-denial. Or how we must be careful about who our true fathers are and what voices we let speak into our lives. But in truth, the main thing I could think of was how different the New Testament would have read if Frank Miller re-wrote it. Cause you know what makes any story better? More ninjas.

“You were the son I was waiting for.” –father

Ninja Assassin didn’t deliver what the trailers promised, the cardinal sin of movie making. I didn’t even bother remembering or looking up the characters names of the actors/actresses who played them. What’s the point? The best any of its makers can hope is that this will do for kusara-gama (I think that’s what my Chinese star wasting friend from junior high shop class called that chain sickle thing … which of course he brought to class) what Bruce Lee flicks did for nunchuks. Or, maybe not. The last thing I need to do is come home to find my boys whipping their belts or dog leashes around at each other.

Looking for a Few of My (free) Stories?

People are always asking me where they can read my stuff. You know, without having to actually PAY for the privilege. So I thought I would list the stories of mine that are available online as free reads:
Pimp My Airship
– “I think I’ll write a steampunk story with all black characters and call it ‘Pimp My Airship'”. Which Apex Magazine published August 2009

The Ave
– from the now defunct Horror Literature Quarterly (November 2007). Originally, this story was the second half of the story “Rite of Passage” published in Space and Time Magazine (November 2008). An incarcerated man comes face to face with the spirits of his African heritage.

In the Shadows of Meido
– IDW experimented with having short stories in the back of their comics (December 2005). Because if I’m going to write a vampire tale, it might as well have some samurai in it. Warning: this vampire doesn’t sparkle.
Uncle Boogeyman

– I believe this was the second story I wrote when I decided to be a writer (and originally the other half of the tale “Nurses Requiem” which was published in Dark Dreams III). Many drafts later, it was published by Dark Recesses in November 2009. A few nurses aides take it upon themselves to carry on the work of a mysterious force within the confines of a nursing home.

Just and Old Man on a Bench
– Originally bought by Brian Keene when he was the editor of the site (June 2004). Everyone has a story, perhaps even a deadly one, even an ordinary looking old man just sitting on a bench. This story is the prelude to “Just a Young Man and His Games” published in Doorways Magazine (March 2008)

– an EARLY story of mine published on the Fear & Trembling site in November 2007. A little girl realizes she has the power of life and death over her baby sister. It was inspired by and named after this painting by Seymour Guy.