Triumph Over Blogging


You may have noticed a shortage of posts recently. With this post, I’m back to flogging the keyboard. And I begin with an explanation.

In April I upped my commitment to motorcycling and purchased a new mount – a Triumph Thunderbird 1600. With plans to do some motorcycle touring this summer, I realized that I could use a little more torque and horsepower than my Honda 250 Rebel could provide. Ahem.

Triumph Thunderbird 1600

I have the good fortune of living within a mile of one of America’s best-selling retailers of one of Great Britain’s most enticing exports: the Triumph line of motorcycles. Though the temptation to make frequent visits proved irresistible, I managed for a couple of years to restrain my impulse to “gear up.” Then, in April, Triumph rolled in their 2011 demos. This was my chance to see what I really thought of the Triumph America that had me drooling. I rode it and liked it. Of course. Then I rode the Speedmaster and decided there wasn’t much difference between them. Somebody suggested I ride the newly-released Triumph Thunderbird Storm. Okay, why not?

Why not, indeed! The America quickly dropped from the radar. In other words, the 1700 cc displacement of the Storm blew the 860 cc powerplant of the America right out of my mind. Literally within seconds of starting out on the Storm, I knew it was too good to be true. I would have to “settle,” now, for the America while dreaming of a Storm receding on the horizon. The Storm was just too much bike for too much money.

Out of curiosity, I jumped into the saddle of the Thunderbird 1600, the “base model” Thunderbird. The difference in torque was significant, but it had a lot of the virtues of the Storm. And the price was a bit lower. Not low enough for my wallet, though.

2010 Triumph America

So I went home to study up on the America, hoping I could be persuaded that it was the right bike. Along the way, I made the mistake of reading reviews of the Thunderbird 1600, introduced in 2009. This Triumph was uniformly trumpted as the crusier to turn heads. In 2009 and 2010, it was judged best cruiser on the road in North America.

Meanwhile, back at SoCal Triumph, they were lowering the price on the 2010 Thunderbird 1600 to make room for the new 2011’s. Jay, their chief salesman, was by now a familiar face. He could read me pretty well. My commitment to the America had grown tentative. To his credit, Jay never pressured me to go for the T-bird. But he did see me gravitating in that direction. And he did tell me that in addition to the special they were running on the 2010, they would include a windscreen, a touring seat, and a sissy bar and pad in the price. The only thing that didn’t resonate with me (still doesn’t) was the concept of a sissy bar. But that wasn’t a deal-breaker. The only remaining question was what 2010 Thunderbirds they had in stock. I was in luck. There was one blue bike in the inventory, with a wide white stripe garnishing the tank and fenders.

I immediately realized that I would find a way to crunch the numbers in favor of the Thunderbird. This would take some time and effort. Intense concentration would be required. I would have to put a hold on blogging for a few days.

A few days. That was in April. So why so long getting back online?

I bought the Thunderbird, that’s why. And a new Thunderbird has to be broken in. You understand.

Now, 3500 miles later, I’m back to check in here. And since the next best thing to riding is talking about riding, here I am talking about the new ride. I’m sure future posts will report on specific rides. Here I’ll just note that a week ago I returned from a five-day, 1500-mile jaunt up the California coast and back. For the past week I’ve been scheming and planning. Mid-July I hope to be back on a northerly bearing, this time with Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula as a destination. The trip will include numerous visits with friends and family, some camping, and lots of great riding.

I’m already thinking about future trips. A guy’s got to justify his guilty purchases! Maybe some day my travels will bring me to your door, every bone in my body vibrating, a sleeping bag in my tingling hands, asking the favor of a roof over my head.

Note:

I didn’t see a single other Triumph on the road during my recent coastal tour. Lots of Harleys, though. I’m happy to report that Harley riders have been remarkably friendly. I won’t say they’re jealous. I might think it, but I definitely won’t say it. I’m outnumbered about a million to one.

Army of Shadows: A Film Discussion Guide


army_of_shadows_1shThe French film L’Armée des Ombres (“Army of Shadows”) is an adaptation of the 1943 book (same title) by Joseph Kessel, who participated in the French Resistance. Whether you know little or much about the Resistance, if you want a realistic film portrayal of a critical aspect of the Second World War, this is a film to rent or buy. I can’t imagine a more effective vehicle for presenting an insider’s view of the movement.

The film is expertly cast and paced with precision. But the action is subdued, so don’t expect a Jason-Bourne-meets-James-Bond kind of experience. Army of Shadows offers a tight shot of espionage—plotting with limited resources, the paltry odds of success, endless psychological misgivings, and complex interpersonal dynamics.

The movie is filled with tension. But it’s the kind of tension that invites serious consideration of difficult questions:

  • What does it really mean to be courageous?
  • Is it possible to exercise genuine freedom of self-determination in the very moment you are about to be executed by a firing squad?
  • Can a cause be so just that killing an innocent co-belligerent is justified if letting her live could compromise the mission?
  • On what basis can you entrust your life to someone you’ve never met?
  • Should a woman with the skills needed to execute a tactically sophisticated and personally dangerous mission be enlisted if she has a husband and children who know nothing of her activities?
  • Does it ever make sense to engage in a fatal rescue operation if no one will know of your valor?
  • Why does the simple offer of a cigarette enable some men to face certain death with dignity?
  • Was the French Resistance a prudent response to the Nazi occupation of France?

This film churns the emotions and the mind. The Resistance is testimony to the indomitable spirit of human beings guided by commitment to a high ideal. I saw  Army of Shadows soon after seeing the Angelina Jolie film Changling. The similarities are unmistakable. Both are based on actual events. In both cases individuals pursuing righteous causes suffer terrible indignities. In both, success seems humanly impossible. Hope wells up from a secret place and keeps men and women in the game, even when the game is almost certainly lost. These are remarkable parallels, parallels I would have missed if I had not seen the two films in the same week.

As these films end and the credits roll, some viewers will be stuck to their seats with feelings of sadness mixed with cheer. The sadness explains itself. The cheer is unexpected. But the cheer is solidly grounded. It rises in response to the failed heroism of Christine Collins, the mother in Changling, and of Phillipe Gerbier, the head of a Resistance network in L’Armée des Ombres. Because the heroism is real, though it is not rewarded with complete success (or perhaps because it is not rewarded with complete success), our own dignity is affirmed.

I’m ususally content to see a movie once, even a very good movie. But soon I’ll be downloading L’Armée des Ombres from Amazon to my TiVo. This one is worth owning and re-viewing.

Amazon DVD

Amazon DVD

Amazon Video on Demand

Amazon Video on Demand

The Book by Joseph Kessel

The Book by Joseph Kessel

Back in the Saddle


For the past two weeks I’ve been off-blog. Two weeks ago I was in Birmingham, Alabama to debate Michael Shermer on the question, “Does God exist?” Then I travelled to Spokane, Washington for a conference on “Faith, Film and Philosophy,” co-hosted by Gonzaga and Whitworth Universities. The title of my presentation was “Big Ideas on the Big Screen—How Arguments Work in Film.”

When the conference ended, my daughter caught up with me and we flew over to Seattle, then drove to the Olympic Peninsula to do some writing without distraction. I worked on an essay on “Death and Immortality.” She worked on two novels she’s been drafting.

Today was the first day back on my motorcycle, a ritual that comes before blogging. With that out of the way, I’m ready to log on.

With the election past, and the unctuous posturing of the media, I think my blogging in the immediate future will move into other areas. I’ll still find it irresistable to post comments on the media, political happenings, and media coverage of political happenings. But there’s so much more to think about!

Catch ya later!

The Truman Show: A Discussion Guide


The Truman Show (USA, 1998); directed by Peter Weir

Chapter 4 of my book, Faith, Film and Philosophy, is titled “Escaping Into Reality: What We Can Learn from The Truman Show about the Knowledge Enterprise.” Here are discussion questions for the film The Truman Show that I’ve used in conjunction with this chapter.

  1. What is Christof’s purpose in “designing” a life for Truman? What kind of life does he want for Truman? And what is Christof’s purpose in televising Truman’s life?
  2. There’s The Truman Show that is the TV show the movie is about, and there’s the movie called The Truman Show that we see in the theatre or on DVD. We’ll call the TV show TS-1 and the movie TS-2. In TS-2, viewers of TS-1 are depicted in various ways. Presumably, they enjoy watching TS-1. What is it about TS-1 that keeps them watching? Why do they like watching? What does this say about them?
  3. Those watching TS-1 seem to have opinions about the quality of life Truman has on “Seahaven.” What are they supposed to think about Truman and his quality of life? How does this compare with Christof’s attitude about Truman’s quality of life? Now think about how we are supposed to regard Truman’s life as we view the film, TS-2. Is there a difference between what we’re supposed to think or feel as we watch the movie and what the TV viewers are supposed to think and feel as they watch the TV show? Describe whatever differences you think of.
  4. Truman falls in love with Sylvia, who is kicked off the show (TS-1). Later she calls in to speak with Christof during a rare interview on television. What is her thesis about what Christof is doing? Do you agree with her? Are we supposed to agree with her? Does she make a good argument? Can you think of ways to strengthen her argument?
  5. What is this movie about? Do you think the filmmakers are making an argument? If so, what is that argument? What is the thesis and what evidence is presented in support of that thesis?
  6. What kinds of freedom does Truman exercise while living in Seahaven? What kinds of freedom is he lacking? How is he presented from exercising these freedoms?
  7. Are you more free than Truman? In what ways? Are you sure about this? Can you be sure? [This question was suggested to me by David Hunt, a contributor to Faith, Film and Philosophy.]
  8. Some critics see Christof as a god-figure in this film and suggest that the film is actually a critique of the Christian worldview. If that’s true, what do the filmmakers assume about the Christian worldview, and especially about the Christian or biblical conception of divine sovereignty and human freedom? Based on your understanding of what the Bible teaches about such things, how is Truman’s life in Seahaven like, and how is it unlike, human existence in the actual world? Support your answer from the Bible and from evidence in the film.
  9. In his chapter in Faith, Film and Philosophy, Geivett claims that this film illustrates how a person may be able to acquire knowledge that is important, even when much of his community is determined to deceive him or her. Is this a plausible claim about the film? How could this claim be challenged?
  10. What does this film “say” about the responsibilities people have toward each other when it comes to seeking the truth and tracking the evidence? Can you describe some contemporary attitudes about truth, the objectivity of truth, and the possibility of knowing truth? How are these attitudes reinforced socially?
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