Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Talking 'Bout Da Vinci

I love talk radio and I spend a lot of time listening to various pundits on both sides of the political aisle.  In fact, talk radio engendered many of the posts on this very blog.  Over the course of the past few weeks, several radio stations (especially those owned by the evil empire known as Salem Communications) have run ads regarding the upcoming release of The Da Vinci Code.  Apparently, some on the “religious right” feel that Dan Brown’s work of FICTION causes the reader to think too much and they feel obligated to dissuade Christians from seeing the movie and using the release of the movie as a proselytizing tool.

This morning, a local talk show featured a call-in segment about this very issue.  The host, a man notorious for aligning with the far right, admitted to never reading the book, but proceeded to attack the work on several grounds.  The callers seemed even less informed.  One caller noted that The Da Vinci Code was “very well written” and should be treated as a work of literature.

Hold up playa…let’s stop the boycotts and let’s stop labeling the work, “literature” and instead examine The Da Vinci Code for what it is, a means for entertainment.

Like many Americans, I drank the Mona Lisa laced Kool Aide and read The Da Vinci Code. Normally, I stray from reading mainstream best sellers.  After all, bad writing is like cheap after-shave—it’s everywhere, it’s hard to get rid of the stench and it’s no replacement for the real thing. Yet, The Da Vinci Code was different. Honestly, it reminded me of the Left Behind series—poorly written, yet sinfully entertaining, a true guilty pleasure.  Both use bad theology to exercise their points, but neither should be read as a replacement or supplement to the Bible.  

Scripture tells us that with faith the size of mustard seed we can move mountains.  Surely, the same amount of faith can protect us from a secular work of fiction.   The people who boycott this movie based on Brown’s portrayal of the Christ story lack the very entry-level faith Jesus begged of his disciples.  These Christians require a very controlling pastor and church that will dictate every move in their life and live life perpetually as a puppet, never experiencing life as a true child of God.

I say read the book and watch the movie.  Judge it based on its entertainment quality.  Is this Tom Hanks’ next Forrest Gump or has he stumbled into another Joe Versus The Volcano?  How does Brown’s novel translate on screen?  For an hour and a half you’ll relax and be treated to an entertaining story.  An hour later, you won’t even remember the name of the main character.

An Open Letter To David Stern

Dear Mr. Stern:

I just wanted to write and share a few thoughts with you.  However, I feared that sending a letter via “snail mail” or a regular e-mail would not get your attention.  My friends suggested that I devote a blog entry to sharing my thoughts with you, but I told them that you didn’t read blogs.  After all, the playoffs are in full swing and require your full attention.  I told them that you were busy reviewing tapes of the games to ensure that the officials called each game properly and that you couldn’t possibly find time to read a blog.

Imagine my shock and joy to discover that you do indeed read blogs.  Apparently, Mr. Cuban decided to share a few ideas on how to ensure the playoffs feature the best officiating possible.  I guess these comments hurt your feelings and you felt that $100,000.00 fine would cheer you up.  Indeed, fining Mark Cuban in the past has made you swell with joy.

Sorry about the loss last night.  I know that watching the Spurs fall to the Mavs truly breaks your heart.  I can only imagine the pain you must have felt watching Mr. Duncan sob like no grown man should.  I can only imagine the pain in your heart watching Little Manu bite his precious little lip.  I’m sure you will find some way to ease the pain caused by the organization you love so. After all, you and your media buddies will not be happy unless you can draw even less of an audience than last year’s Finals.

Obviously, the Mavs fans, players and owner are way too passionate for your taste.  The bitter taste of the Knicks continual slide has made you quiet callous and you no longer enjoy this game.  A bit of advice, let go, Willis Reed is forever gone.

In closing, I look forward to June.  I wonder how awkward it will be for you to present Mr. Cuban with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.  For once, you will have to swallow your pride and admit that you are not the smartest man in the NBA and that the “maverick” in Dallas got it right.

With kindest regards,

Josh H. Ellis

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Recently, a close friend blogged about the passing of a generation, losing the last of the “Survivors” and the continual passing of World War II veterans.  After initially reading his post, I found his entry to be highly informative, but I failed to grasp its true relevance—until this weekend.

As chronicled in yesterday’s entry, I spent the weekend traveling East Texas and visiting with Clay’s relatives.  Many of you know Clay’s paternal grandfather, “Grandpa”, as we know him.  Others of you have heard Clay or me share humorous vignettes about our time with Grandpa.  Anyone associated with Clay understands the role Grandpa plays in his life.  Indeed, few men like Grandpa exist.  

In September, Grandpa turns 80.  Like other members of the “Greatest Generation”, Grandpa saw a “Great Depression”, a world war against an evil dictator, a Cold War and the rise of the United States as the world’s lone super power.  However, Grandpa’s story stands out even among this group of American icons.  Not only did Grandpa serve his country, he also served time for murder on more than one occasion.  Not only did Grandpa survive the Great Depression, he also survived lung cancer and regained his vision after being blind for over a year.  Not only did Grandpa’s service to America foster and nurture her growth into the world’s only super power, he also fostered and nurtured six kids and later in life became the sole guardian/supporter of three grandchildren—two of which still depend on him to this day.  While many members of the “Greatest Generation” retired years ago and spend their days playing bingo, Grandpa continues to work in the garage in his backyard.

With each story that Grandpa tells, he paints a picture that captures the true essence of Americana—all on a 4th grade education.  While books sales and movie ticket sales continue to plummet, Grandpa finds no trouble in entertaining people with his stories told through his unique voice.  Harvard educated students must plagiarize in order to capture an audience; this “shade tree” mechanic just talks about his life.  Sadly, Grandpa will not live forever.  In fact, he told us over the weekend that he recently purchased his headstone.  Apparently, he feared that his children would spend the money on other things if he left it to them.  

Grandpa’s mortality reminds me of the importance of oral history. In college, I had a history professor who constantly talked about oral history.  He spoke about interviewing Orval Faubaus prior to his death and using that as an oral history of the Civil Rights movement.  I feel it is imperative that the same attention be paid to Grandpa’s story—his recounting of becoming a “born again” Christian, how he gave up alcohol and cigarettes, his memories of Korea, Woodstock, Watergate and Reagan.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Welcome to Atlanta: A Reflection

While I tend to stray from the cliché, going back home never ceases to flood my mind with countless memories, often serving as an impetus for deep thought,

Clay and I traveled into the Piney Woods this past weekend to introduce our girlfriends to our native culture and way of life, causing me once again to pause and try to reconcile the psychological and emotional disconnect formed through years of living in rural East Texas.  Indeed, Uptown living in Dallas is a long way from the streets of Texas’ ATL.  Here are a few random thoughts from my trip:

First, a note to all Atlanta (Texas) natives, the town is DEAD!   Drive through downtown Atlanta and count the vacant buildings.  Perhaps, it would be easier to count the actual businesses (2 antique shops, one female dress shop, one drug store and countless churches.)  Do members of the Atlanta City Council not understand the concept of economic development?  Remember when there were Ellises on the city council?  Downtown wasn’t so depressing then…..Maybe I should move back and run for mayor.

By the way, doesn’t Stephen Frost call Atlanta home?  Shouldn’t he try to help out with Atlanta’s economic woes?  If not, you that are registered to vote in Atlanta should vote his ass out.

I pick up the Texarkana Gazette on Saturday and evidently they are still burning crosses in Fouke, Arkansas.  For those of you not from East Texas/ Southwest Arkansas or Northwest Louisiana, Fouke is an “all-white” town in a region where African-Americans outnumber Caucasians.  Fouke comes complete with a “hanging tree” in a residential neighborhood that has been used to deter African-Americans from moving into the area.  Two years ago, Fouke schools consolidated with Bright Star schools, which had a few African-American students. Fouke citizens referred to the state mandated consolidation as “the integration.”  Well, apparently, some Fouke residents recently placed a burning cross in the yard of a white lady who had invited her black boyfriend to move in with her.  The men were arrested and the Gazette wrote an article about Fouke’s racist past.  They interviewed Fouke’s mayor, Cecil Smith, who tried to play down many of the points the Gazette raised.  My favorite quote from Smith was, “When colored folks come in here and ask for different types of things, we treat them like our next door neighbors.”

A mayor using the phrase “colored folks” in 2006?  

I really do miss the cooking from my homeland.  On Saturday afternoon, Clay’s mother prepared a huge feast for us that included fried catfish, fried alligator, fried shrimp, stuffed crab, boiled shrimp and bacon wrapped grilled shrimp; the only thing missing was the crawfish.  It’s nearly impossible to find good seafood in Dallas—all the seafood is so bland and don’t even try to find good gumbo here, it is impossible. Luckily, Clay’s mother taught our girlfriends how to prepare this meal, so hopefully they will be able to duplicate the culinary experience.  

Finally, East Texas is not a good place to travel if you are trying to quit smoking.  It seems like everyone in the area smokes and it is so tempting to pick-up the habit once again after three months of being nicotine free.