Culture Glutton

scott embarrassed

– *hiccup* “Excuse me! I think I ate too much…”

A blog idea I came up with last night – presented to you after slight editing…

I am on a race with the clock against the sleep aid/melatonin nightcap that is racing through my bloodstream. I need to capture some observations before pharmacopeia-induced sleep hits me.

It has taken  3 1/2 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2 seasons of Spaced, and a severe nutritional deficiency of good reading, for me to realize that consumption of too much visual entertainment is bad for my creative output.

It has been great for the analytical half of my brain. I find myself more aware of story elements, plot, character development, the filmography of numerous directors and actors. I even find myself increasingly aware of the details in the world around me. But my own inner eye has been squeezed to a tiny squint. Any natural flow of ideas has become encased in the frozen walls of other writers’ visions. I can clearly visualize the creative works of Josh Whedon, Simon Pegg, James Cameron, Hayao Miyazaki. Less clear are the endless worlds that once floated in my mind, like tantalizing fruit hung from a tree ripe and ready for the plunder. Two years ago I couldn’t type fast enough to capture the images and characters boiling away in my head, brimming to the surface in dreams – both waking and sleeping.

I suppose I could go back, retreat from cultural relevance, abandon my IMDB Top 50 movie project. Stop watching Buffy. Forego television (well, my Hulu and Netflix equivalents thereof). Become just another mediocre writer with lots of ideas but no creative well to draw from. A writer who is a mile wide and a cultural inch deep.

But I think it can be done. Balance that is. Take Stephen King for instance. The man is a cultural glutton, yet somehow he finds the time to publish dozens of books while wading neck deep in music, television, and film. Granted, he is a self-prescribed hermit. And he does not volunteer his time to the mission of his local church. And I wouldn’t exactly say that all (or most) of his books are particularly stunning – from a strictly literary perspective. But he has found some modicum of balance (or maybe he just learned how to live without sleep once he got himself off the cocaine). Either way, he demonstrates that it is possible to remain both creative and analytical; aware of the world around him, even as he creates the worlds that exist only in his head. There is a balance there.

One I have not yet discovered.

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 7:36 am  Comments (1)  
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Take a bite out of


I had a dentist appointment today. This is also known as a bad day.

The procedure that I need is complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and far too embarrassing to talk about in a blog post.

No, really.

Instead, I am going to use my current oral fixation to talk about teeth, as any good writer should:  using allegory, symbolism, and metaphor.

Teeth issues are some of the most embarrassing to have. Buck teeth, gaps, missing teeth, crooked teeth, or, worst of all, hideously stained teeth, the product of a lifetime of sacredly held vices. Teeth problems steal smiles, thereby siphoning joy. Rather than flash our brokenness, we hide it beneath the veil of sealed lips. Well, most of us.

I have a friend (who will remain unnamed, though it is impossible to embarrass her) who used to play with her flipper during social functions. What is a flipper you ask?



(Kind of looks like something Neil Gaiman would fantasize, doesn’t it? Possibly something cooked up by Coraline’s Other Mother?)

And what kind of social functions? Any.

Church functions, birthday parties, and small groups of friends in intimate settings. She would play with that damn thing whenever the fancy took her, and it took her often; and it didn’t matter how many times you saw it, the sight of someone flipping her tooth back and forth through her lips is disconcerting at best, and very redneck at least.

I have another friend who has teeth dreams. She told me once about a dream she had where broken pieces of her teeth were falling from her mouth, and she was trying to cup them in her hands before they hit the ground.

I’ve read that this signifies change in one’s life. Or insecurity. I think it’s probably a mix of both.

These memories were running through my mind as I sat in the dentist’s office. The hum of the fish tank mixing with the easy listening elevator music. Today was one of the few times I’ve been in a dentist’s office as an adult, and I realized that something changed from when I was a kid.

I remember having my front baby teeth taken out. The dentist knocked me full of drugs, plunged me into a Lethean dream, and when I woke, I was a gapped monstrosity. But I didn’t feel like a monstrosity. Sure, I was slightly embarrassed, but if the same thing happened to me now, I would be devastated. Think about it. Can you imagine Mr. President giving his Cairo speech with no canines?

Something changed. But where is the balance? I think the line has to be somewhere between flippant disregard and nightmarish concern, when it comes to the way we portray ourselves to the world.

But maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Care to take a bite?

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 7:26 am  Comments (2)  
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What a sensitive guy


I am losing sensitivity in my fingers. 

For 3 weeks now, bordering on 4, I have been succumbing my left hand to the rigor of steel guitar strings. The result has been a deadening of the nerves – a limbo land of acute sensation and rhythmic numbness, with numbness slowly domineering.

I stare at my fingers, symbolically. Something tells me there is a a meaning to this numbness: “a man of stories goes numb”; or “idle hands find their tune”; or “one must lose life in order to find it.” For the price of sensitivity, my hands discover harmonic beauty. For the price of time, my heart beats with new sounds; from these sounds shall come new words, and these words will find homes among my stories.

Published in: on January 2, 2009 at 3:52 am  Comments (1)  

Piracy – parodied, dismissed, or unregulated – still a sin

Shall I count the many ways I’ve heard to excuse piracy?

Prices are too high.” 

The artist only gets like 1% of the money, anyways.” 

Some artists tell people to copy their stuff so they can get their name out there.” 

It’s just sharing.” 

With the box office success of Pirates of the Caribbean, nominated for 5 Oscars, and grossing $2,673,091,461 worldwide, Disney successfully turned villains of history into entertaining quasi-heroes. In a surprising coup d’état, kidnapping, barbary, and plunder were toned down through Disneyfication. According to Disney’s franchise, to be a pirate is to be part of an ignoble and misunderstood class, men and women who have embraced their real selves, but who can, on occasion, pull up their bootstraps and save the day.

This popular Disney romanticization helps me understand how the stealing of intellectual property, “piracy,” is so prolific, among the religious and irreligious alike.  

Recently, a Christian friend of mine asked if I would like to burn his copy of Fleet Foxes. Politely, I refused and asked what album he recommend I buy, which was followed by his rote defense of why he thought it ok to rip music (I recall he used reasons #1 and #2 from above).

Some artists, including Neil Gaiman, Sigur Ros, Coldplay, and Derek Webb, give away samples of their work to entice readers and listeners for more, but it’s the difference between the owner giving and the thief taking.  

I was saddened, but not surprised, to find my Christian brother participating in intellectual theft, a vice that is overlooked (like gluttony) in the smorgasbord of pseudo-religious America. But what is common among the children of wrath ought not to be practiced among the children of God (Ephesians 2).

Some would argue that the writers of Scripture did not understand copyright law and intellectual ownership – it’s not really stealing if the person can’t see you do it, after all…a ridiculous excuse, no different than the blame-shifting that happened in the Garden. 

Piracy is just that timeless sin of covetousness, wrapped in old excuses and faulty reasoning, desiring what belongs to your neighbor without making the sacrifices to obtain it:

You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:21

You may be wondering, why does Rivene rant so harshly against piracy? 

First, I am an artist. Unpublished, with vague, hopeful dreams of selling some of my stories, I sympathize with artists whose work is stolen by covetous fans.

Secondly, I think it is a sign, a billboard so to speak, announcing to the world either ignorance or stubborn blasphemy. In the words of Martin Luther, the first of the ten commandments is encapsulated with,

Thou shalt fear, love, and trust in Me as thine only true God. For where there is a heart thus disposed towards God, the same has fulfilled this and all the other commandments. On the other hand, whoever fears and loves anything else in heaven and upon earth will keep neither this nor any.

Piracy, like pornography, adultery, murder, blasphemy, and countless other sins, is the fruit of breaking the first of the ten commandments – “you must not have any other god but me.” 

The heart behind piracy is the same heart that led our first parents to the Fall. It is a subtle twisting of words to hide the breaking of commandments, no different than modern couples that distort the biblical view of marriage.

The typical American views monogamy as an antiquated ideal, propagated by ancient stoics, men who were unable to uphold sex as pleasure without propagation. This realist understands (but certainly won’t admit) that unfaithfulness is inevitable – with separate career paths, emotionally entangling friendships, and constant pornographic visual bombardment – so rather than bending the heart to the ideal, the ideal is devoured by the world. 

Like the Apostle Paul, I would remind you dear friends, what is common among the children of wrath ought not to be practiced among the children of God. 

And so dear friends, please do not entice me to blaspheme, do not offer me your wife, and do not tempt me to steal. And as much as I am able, I will reciprocate likewise.

Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 6:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Unfaithful Rivene


To those faithful readers wanting to keep up on the latest Journey posts, I have a small confession to make:

I have been unfaithful.

For some time now, I have been splitting my writing commitment between this site, and my church’s blog site.

I know, I know. I should have told you.

You probably feel hurt. Betrayed. You wonder if you will ever be able to trust me again..

What can I say? I am sorry. But I’ve decided to make things right. 

If you want to keep up on all my writing, you will have to occasionally wander over to Mars Hill: Lake City.

If you can forgive me, and want to try and make this relationship work, I would recommend my latest article: Thanksgiving is an attitude, not a day.

(And don’t worry, faithful readers, because like that childhood sweetheart with the awkward smile and the too large glasses, Rivene’s Journey is still my first love)

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 6:32 am  Comments (3)  
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