I stumbled into my home around 3:30 a.m July 20 having just seen a midnight screening of the final installment in the Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, "The Dark Knight Rises." I tip-toed into the bedroom and my wife woke up to ask if it was good. I explained my disappointment and we soon fell asleep.
I awoke this morning to see that dozens of people were shot in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening. Now, an estimated 71 people were shot and, for now, 12 are dead. A 24-year-old young man, James Holmes, is accused of the heinous action.
Throughout the day I haven't stopped thinking about how those people went into the theater with the same enthusiasm I did. Batman is a man who fights violence and injustice in an often cruel world. He fights brutal people such as Bane and the Joker because he believes in Gotham City.
There is something magical about going to the movies. The lights dim, the curtains part and the screen lights up. You might not know more than two people in a theater, but you're on the same wavelength with hundreds of people, especially with a pop culture phenomenon like "The Dark Knight." It's an incredible communal experience, especially a midnight screening of a new movie.
Real world violence captured the attention of those people in Colorado. No one saw that coming when the movie began at midnight. Movie theaters are a place for an escape from the real world. You can only imagine the horror they experienced and saw in that theater. Some of them of didn't get to go home to their parents, children, husbands, wives or friends last night. Some won't ever breathe again.
I went home to my pregnant wife and slept comfortably. I can't help but think about how lucky I am to write that and I pray for everyone involved in Colorado.
July 20, 2012 04:09
By Matt Palmer
Almost anyone who's a Gen X'er or Millennial spent some significant time in Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theatre during the 1980s, 1990s and today. That sounded like an advertisement for a mix radio station, didn't it?
It was a place that reflected the rise of video games and a nation's love affair with pizza. They had the best birthday cakes, too. Yep, they were even better than McDonald's cakes. There were rides, slides and ball baths that provided ample opportunity to pelt unsuspecting friends and siblings. It was like an over-aggressive eigh-year-old's dream.
It was where a kid could be a kid, but never really feel like it at any other time in their lives.
For a blue collar kid like me, though, Chuck E. Cheese brought a little of Disney World to Maryland. I realize how sad that is to read. Stick with me, though. Established characters dressed in costumes and came to your table to say hello! Or, they just stood there and waved while a teenaged-worker awkwardly waited a few feet away and acted as a bouncer in case a kid hugged Chuck E. too much.
Then, creepy animatronic versions of those characters stood on stage and sang "Feliz Navidad" and Elvis songs. I remember back in the 1980s when Showbiz Pizza came along and it seemed like I was torn. I waited for the day when I would go to one place and there was going to be a rumble with Fatz Geronimo's Rock-afire Explosion and Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time band over who would get my attention. Yes, I had a hyper-active imagination.
Chuck E. was almost like a Vegas entertainer and even had a cigar at one point. He sounded like a big talker and his bandmates called him "Big C." He had a bow-tie and vest. Wait a second, who thought this guy was appropriate for kids again?
By the the mid-1990s, he got a skateboard and a hat, but still looked like Chuck E. I was a teen at this point, so I thought his renovation came off as a desperate attempt to make him hip. But, kids came to accept that version of him. During the 1990s, a guy most people would never know - Duncan Brennan - began to voice Chuck E. He voiced the character until the last month, when he was replaced for a completely redesigned version of Chuck E., one who enjoys rock and/or roll and is voiced by Bowling For Soup's Jaret Reddick. He looks like Stuart Little went to the guitar shop.
Anyway, at this point, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about Chuck E. Cheese on this blog. It comes down to Jesus. Well, it comes down to Brennan, the oustered voice of Chuck E. Cheese, and Jesus.
Brennan wrote a statement that said: "What it was about, what my sincere hope is that you--you Fans, you parents, and all you kids who have loved Chuck E. Cheese over the years--have seen, heard, or experienced Jesus Christ in and through my life in some way. For He is all that matters, now and for all eternity. I hope that you have seen Christ in me. I hope that He touched your life through mine in some special way and, if that happened, then I was doing my one true real job, which is sharing Him with all of you."
Well, that was unexpected.
It leaves me curious, though, if anyone really did feel the way Brennan intended. Did you, in the middle of plunking down quarters to play bubble hockey, feel closer to Jesus?
July 17, 2012 11:59
By Matt Palmer
I was talking with Father Matt Buening, pastor of St. Paul's in Ellicott City, this morning about movies. He asked me what I thought about Pixar's new movie, Brave, which we've both seen. Yes, two guys in their 30s spent part of their morning talking about a Pixar animated movie.
What struck him about the movie was the idea of freedom and how the main character, Marida, just wants it and never particularly earns it. And she never really learns that freedom comes with a cost. On this Independence Day in America, it's worth remembering that freedom does come with a cost.
In Hollywood movies, freedom is at the core of some of the greatest movies ever. While the Star Wars saga tracks the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, it's also about how tenuous freedoms are. The prequels show how fear can lead us to give up freedoms and hand over authority to power hungry individuals.
The original trilogy shows us that love and sacrifice are the paths to freedom and redemption. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes one look at Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars and smiles before sacrificing himself to Darth Vader's lightsaber and for a greater cause.
Look over Lord of the Rings and the characters who make the choice at the right moment (Boromir, King Theoden, Galdalf), Harry Potter (Harry and seemingly all his friends), the recent Batman movies and Braveheart. For those of us who love cheese-fests, even Independence Day features Randy Quaid flying a jet into an alien ship, knowing it could be a turning point for earth.
At the heart of those movies is sacrifice for others. Freedom comes with a cost. I'm not saying we should all run around laying our lives on the line, but we should be aware that someone else did that for us. We have to fight for them.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus died for our sins. What a gift. It's a freedom we have to earn each day and it's one of the hardest things to accomplish. Like the most recent Pixar movie's title, we have to be brave.
Happy Fourth of July.
July 04, 2012 12:59
By Matt Palmer