Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Economy of the Word

Studying the word this morning, specifically the letters to Timothy from the Apostle Paul, I had an Epiphany!

It occurred to me that the current economic crisis we are experiencing might just be one of God's wake up calls to a world that has gotten itself way out of whack in how we prioritize our lives, view prosperity and the purpose of worldly wealth. The Bible is full of examples of situations that occurred on local, regional or even a global scale, which God used to redirect his people. I for one am a believer that God does still work in our world this way, though because of our enlightened condition many of us are blind to those occurrences, or dismiss them after wise secular analysis.

The apostle Paul had direct contact with Jesus after the time he was reported to have descended to heaven and shared much of the same wisdom Jesus imparted during his earthly ministry to his disciples (which are evidenced in his letters). In the first letter to his disciple Timothy (who was leading the church at Ephesus at the time and who Paul considered like a son), Paul shares some of that wisdom when he wrote about wealth and how Tim should deal with the wealthy in his church*:

"Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow (as many of us have experienced first hand over the past year or two). Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining a life that is truly life!

But if it's only money that people are after, they'll self destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble, nothing but trouble! Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

A Devote life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God."

*1 Timothy 6: 6, 10, 17-19 (The Message Bible)

As a nation and culture, do we put too much emphasis on acquisition of wealth and being wealthy? (That's a rhetorical question, in case you were wondering). As the current financial meltdown has shown, our whole economic prosperity was based upon greed and the illusion of wealth on paper, and like Paul wrote, in a cosmic blink of the eye, it was gone and in it's wake left a country...and by association the whole turmoil, despair and regret!

Paul never disparages our right to support ourselves, profit from our hard work or even thrive, but rather this is a cautionary tale about what we do when prosperity comes our way. Do we congratulate ourselves and hoard our wealth, or do we count it as a wonderful blessing which should be shared with those not so fortunate?...and are far to few people doing this?

Of all the wonderful things that Jesus and his apostles shared, money and how we handle our money I believe tops the list of mentions in the Gospels. Both Jesus and Paul were very clear that worldly wealth is transient and for those who believe in the promise of Eternal Life, it only serves our needs a tiny portion of time. In other words, truly important wealth is gained by: Doing good, being rich in how much we help others in need and being generous to a fault. The kind of wealth these actions accumulate is sustaining throughout our Eternal Life...while earthly wealth is only good here and now...which in God's cosmic timetable is only a blip.

It's hard getting your hands around this kind of concept, especially when it runs so contrary to how our world seems to operate. But if you've ever met someone that has made the commitment to this kind of lifestyle, you many times will find a person who has a peace and joy in this life which (excuse the pun) "money just can't buy."

So take stock in your life and examine your faith. Do you truly believe that following Jesus is the way to Eternal Life? If so, Jesus and his apostle Paul have given us a blueprint to how best to enter and prosper in that next destination. Are you prepared to follow their direction?

R. J. Luedke

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Digital Remastered Version of Eye Witness Now Available

Beginning on Sunday May 10th, we are going live with our first "digital only" offering...a fully remastered and revised edition of the first book in the award-winning Eye Witness series, A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth.

This is our first attempt at creating something specifically for digital distribution and since the original edition of the book was very experimental, production wise, I was dying to go back and remaster the colors, revise some of the narrative while cleaning up the editorial missteps.

Initially, the revised edition of Eye Witness Book One will be exclusively available through the Head Press Publishing website, at:
...but also, we are currently having discussions to make it available through other select comic and Christian venues sometime in the near future (Stay tuned).

This is a huge step for us toward making Eye Witness available to more people, both inside and outside of North America. We've heard from numerous potential fans, who've read a very complementary review on the Internet, only to find the books weren't available to them locally in stores or through web retailers. Now, virtually anyone with a computer and PDF viewer can purchase and read the first book in the Eye Witness series at a very reasonable price.

The fourth and final book in the Eye Witness tetralogy, Eye Witness: Unknown God, is currently in production and tentatively scheduled for a summer 2010 release.
R.J. Luedke

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fed Up With Enabling (Re: MLB)

So, another day, another major league ballplayer caught trying to circumvent the rules and cheat the league, his team and the fans (re: Manny Rameriez banned by MLB for 50 games for violating the banned substances rules).

I for one and getting sick and tired of this reoccurring theme in baseball. No, I am not talking about the continuing trend of players getting caught using banned substances...even years after the league cleaned house (yeah....right). Rather I am referring to the people who steward the game always making excuses for these cheaters-violators...and allowing the cheating to go on with a wink, a nod and a hand slap!

Watching the ESPN report on the story last night, we got to hear the L.A. Dodgers GM say Manny had just made a mistake; team manager, Joe Torre, say we all stand behind Manny and forgive him; and "The Donald" (head of the MLB players union...Donald Fehr) once again state this infraction is nothing larger than someone purchasing a supplement from GNC by accident. ARRRGGG!!!

Can't someone just come out and say it? He cheated and he got caught. It is something that will not be tolerated in our game. End of story! But naturally they can't/won't do that because it could affect the game, affect Dodgers attendance and might make Manny angry that he's being thrown under the bus (though in reality he snuck under there himself).

Going to the store and buying whole milk when you were suppose to get 2%, is a mistake. Taking a female hormone, designed to restart testosterone production after you stop taking steroids is no "accident", it's cheating.

When an employee is convicted of breaking the law while carrying out his duties for a company, he is fired and distanced from the organization. He is not supported by the company, nor publicly forgiven...that would give the appearance of endorsement of his illegal behavior.

Every team in MLB has physicians on staff that are there to clear all supplements and meds. the players take just to make sure they don't contain any banned substances. Players have been directed (for a few years now) to not take anything without their seal of approval. So to do so is either totally irresponsible, just plain stupid or being done in an attempt to circumvent the rules. So this day and age players just don't go to the local vitamin store and load up on supplements.

Manny's defense was he was given this by "his personal physician" to treat some mystery condition and he'll take all responsibility. But responsibility for what? For not using or at least consulting with team physicians? For allowing a doctor to convince him that taking a female hormone would be okay? Or...because he rolled the dice and got caught and now has let his team, his team-mates and his fans down.

This scenario is like a broken record that is played over and over again, each time another big name star goes down. No one has deliberately used banned substances and if they did it was just once...long ago, in a Galaxy far, far away...or wait for accident! Here's what happened: I was sitting around the gym the other day and I accidentally let someone shoot an hypodermic needle full of female hormone into my butt. Quite ridiculous, isn't it?

Until pro. sports refuses to play these games anymore and declare a lifetime ban for any offense, you'll keep seeing people attempt to cheat...'cause after all, look at the upside if Manny didn't get caught...a $25 million dollar payday signed this last summer...which is now about $7 million dollars less!

R.J. Luedke

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Going Where Others "Have Gone Before" (A Star Trek Review)

I had a chance to watch the all-new Star Trek tonight and am proud to say that this movie is one of the best big screen adaptations of the original TV series (from the '60's).

Yes, I realize there were movies made with the original cast, (duh), but to me they all seemed a bit out of "phase" with the dynamics of the original show (Wrath of Khan not withstanding). Maybe it was Kirk's hair weave or those constrictive uniforms, but they just didn't seem to capture the same magic. The interactions seems to be a parody of what was created on the small screen.

This totally new cast of old favorites does an excellent job of recapturing the original character dynamics and interaction which made the original series go beyond being just another sci-fi tv show. The real trick for the cast was for them to play these iconic characters, (Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty et al), without digressing into merely doing impressions of the original actors.

I feel Kirk (Chris Pine) was played with the mandatory reckless abandon, (but seems to get punched out way to much), Spock (Zack Quinto) was sufficiently serious while wrestling with his human emotions, McCoy (Carl Urban) was a wonderful incarnation of a young angry person who will one day be known affectionately as bones and Scotty (Simon Pegg) captured that playful genius that you can't help but love. The majority of the rest of the standard crew are all accounted for, except Nurse Chapel....who is only mentioned by name, but not seen. I was pleasantly surprised to see Eric Bana playing the Romulan, Nero!

You will find the writers of the story used this time traveling saga to create an environment where they don't have to rewatch the entire 40+ year history of the franchise when creating future story lines. It is a brilliantly crafted piece of writing that effectively frees them from stepping on any trekkie's toes in the future if they veer from continuity.

The special effects were wonderful and the two-plus hours zoomed by so fast, I was wanting more...always a good sign. Just for good measure there is the mandatory appearance by an original Star Trek hand....but you're just going to have to see it for yourself, I won't spoil it for you here!

Star Trek, definitely rates a solid A and after this weekend's box office I would guess it won't be too long till the sequel is announced. This movie should be suitable for most children above 10, but there is a smattering of curse words...all used for humorous effect.

R.J. Luedke

Monday, May 04, 2009

An Insiders View of Wolverine Origins

As someone who been puttering around the comics industry since 1989 and been following Wolverine since Uncanny X-Men #98, (circa 1975), I wanted to share my thoughts on the latest X-Men franchise movie, Origins: Wolverine.

I went into the theatre with a bit of trepidation due to the two disappointing reviews I read in the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle. The thing was, I really understood what the reviewers were bothered by and based upon the trailers I saw I could understand how what they thought could indeed be true (not enough character development, story paper thin and with little explanation, special effects lacking).

But I'm here to say that even though I walked into the theater looking for these flaws, I did not agree with them. Now that may be because I'm pretty versed on Wolverine's (and X-Men) history, but my daughter who watched it with me is not...and she had no problem following the storyline or making sense of the characters and their abilities.

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine was sufficiently agonized, gruff and when circumstances called for it...a bit sarcastic and funny. It wasn't necessary for him to carry most scenes because there were so many other interesting characters with very diverse personalities. This allowed Jackman to maintain Wolvies penchant for being a bit brooding and moody.

Liev Schreiber was sufficiently dark and blood thirsty for Sabertooth, though I would have liked to see someone with a more massive body style, ala the size of Sabertooth from the first X-Men movie. I thought his habit of falling back to charging someone on all fours, like a wild animal, was a nice touch to establish the feral nature of his character.

Ryan Reynolds was at his wise cracking best as Wade (Deadpool), reminiscent of his character in the Blade Trinity movie. The only problem was, there wasn't enough of him! (spoiler warning) I thought Wolvie's explanation of why he wasn't talking late in the movie was very clever, but I would have rather had them trade some witty repartee! (end spoiler warning).

Though I thought the scene with the Blob (played by: Kevin Durand) a bit gratuitous and out of pace with the rest of the movie, I still enjoyed it non the less because of the accurate way they portrayed the character and his abilities.

And last but not least, Gambit was a joy. Watching Taylor Kitsch (Friday night lights) playing him, I couldn't help but picture Johnny Depp in that role! But Kitsch did a good job illustrating gambits attitude and abilities (which never have translated well in print, in my opinion), even though they spent almost no time establishing his background. One of the strongest battle scenes of the movie involved the Gambit, Wolvie and Sabertooth in kind of a free for all.

The negatives?
I thought the prediction of Wolverine's pending memory loss was a bit hokey (what experience or data did Styker have to possibly make that kind of hypothesis)? Just dropping that whole line of dialog and letting it happen naturally would have had much better shock value, where as this way they telegraphed it from a country mile for the audience.

I am a purist where my comic book based movies are concerned. For decades comic book movies basically bombed for one simple reason. Hollywood refused to follow the successful character designs and story lines of the comics and chose to "hollywood-ize" them. With the release of the first X-Men movie, a trend began of not only some incredibly successful movies, but also some of the most loyal to the source material. These type of movies were now being created by directors and producers who were familiar and respected the source material and it showed in the quality and the bottom line. The characters as written have been loved for years (in some cased decades) don't mess with what works!

I read a quote by the director (Gavin Hood) for Wolverine, who said that the first writer working on the screenplay wrote a script till the point where he was unwilling to do any further revisions. (paraphrasing) "The difference between that movie and the one we made, was that I didn't want to make the comic book into a movie." He stated he had no problem if his vision differed from the history of the character, as long as it made "his movie" work better. (Spoiler warning) Thus you get things like Wolvie and Sabertooth being brothers and the powers of Deadpool (End Spoiler Warning).

And finally, I would have liked a bit more of Logan/James' formative years (you know, the story we've come to know as Wolverine: Origins...the comic mini-series). As it was you get about 3 minutes of it and then they move on.
But when it's all said and done, the story was very enjoyable. The action sequences with the exception of one were all very thrilling and easy to follow. Special notch. The movie does nothing to diminish this franchise, nor the career of Hugh Jackman and I'm already to watch it a second time just thinking about it...always a good sign.

I rate it a B+...but it could be too of intense for kids under 12.

R.J. Luedke