Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah: A Disaster Movie of a Different Sort

This movie is a disaster.

     If you now think that you know what I think of the movie Noah, you are wrong. Read on.

     I read a myriad of reviews about Noah before going to see it. When I saw the first trailers, I was pretty excited to see this movie. I didn't know anything about it besides what I saw in the trailer. However, after reading many reviews, mostly from Christian reviewers, I was convinced it would be a waste of my time. I then watched a podcast by The Blaze featuring Greg Thornbury, president of King's College, who not only had seen the movie but had the opportunity to be a part of a small group with the director himself. Hearing his evaluation of what was done with this movie; to the story, and to the theology, made me rethink whether I would see this movie or not.

     Noah hit the theaters on Friday. I was still wavering between seeing it or ignoring it. Then a friend on Facebook linked to a review of Noah by William P. Young, author of The Shack. He hated it. My mind was made up, I was going to this movie and I was going opening night.

     Many of my friends from around the country went as well. To a one, they disliked this movie. There are a couple who I haven't read their thoughts yet. They are writing their own reviews which I will post here, unedited. I am anxious to read their thoughts.

     As I thought about this movie and the controversy surrounding it, it seemed to me there are three areas where this movie needs to be evaluated. How faithful is Noah to the actual story? How accurate is Noah to the theology of the story of the Flood? How does Noah stand as a film?

     I sat down in my seat at the theater with my extra-buttered popcorn and my diet Dr. Pepper. What I was expecting to see was the "christian" version of Avatar.  As I stood up from my seat to toss my bucket of popcorn crumbs floating in a liquid that is clearly not real butter and my empty cup into the trash, I knew that what I had watched was not Avatar. Not by a long shot.

Grizzly Adams...I mean Noah
     Probably the most controversial part of Noah was the apparently dramatic departure from the Biblical story-line. To be sure, there are significant changes to the story of the Flood found in the Bible. All the ages of the characters were modified greatly. Noah was 500 years old when he was instructed by God to build the ark. His sons were around a hundred years old. How was this supposed to be accurately depicted?  We have no sense of reference when it comes to a person that old. The world was a vastly different place at this time, how does a man look and act, who is 500 years old and still capable of building a large ship? I have no problem with the changing of the ages. It would have been more accurate to have the sons already adults and married, as they were in Scripture, but this doesn't make a huge difference for me. While the movie does accurately place 8 total members of Noah's family on the ark, the circumstances of them coming to be on the ark are very different. Again, I am not too concerned about this change.

Noah's young family
     Here is where we must admit, and understand something very important about the making of this story into a movie. In the Biblical account of the Flood, precious little happens. There are almost no details. This being the case, it is required of the maker of such a movie to create a story nearly out of whole cloth. This is the story that Aronofsky came up with. I might have created a different story. It wouldn't have been any more or less accurate or better than what he designed. There is really nothing to go on.

     Some of the other variances include the death of Lamach, Noah's father. The only thing we know about Lamach's death is his age. But since the ages in the movie are totally changed up, it is very difficult to complain about this. My suspicions are that the direction Aronofsky took in this regard had much to do with answering the question as to why Noah went to see his grandfather Methuselah rather than his father.

     Probably the largest departure from the Biblical account is the handling of the angels or "sons of God", who came to the earth and defiled themselves with human women. This is the aspect of the movie that is most derided by the people I have read. In the movie, these angels came to earth to help mankind after they were banished from the Garden. In the Biblical account, the only motivation for coming to earth was to fulfill their lusts, which is a very different motive indeed. For me, this is the greatest disappointment I had with the movie. If Aronofsky had stuck to the real story in this area, it would have made for some very dramatic and epic scenes. It would have brought the evil of mankind to a whole different level. But he chose to go a different route. I will let you be the judge on whether that was a good idea or not.

A Watcher coming to Earth
     This brings us to what I believe is the deciding factor to evaluating Aronofsky's faithfulness to the story. Nearly every one of what has been attributed as departures from the Biblical account of the Flood story are aspects derived directly from the Book of Enoch. If you are not familiar with the Book of Enoch, it is a book contained in the Apocrypha. It is thought to have been written in about 300 BC. Though it was a book read and used by the Jews of the day, it was not considered in the canon of the Old Testament. However, the Book of Enoch is quoted in the Book of Jude in the New Testament and many other phrases contained in the New Testament seem to be derived directly from the Book of Enoch, such as "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords". Interestingly, the major focus of the Book of Enoch is the pre-flood world of Noah and the events leading up to the Flood. Aronofsky, rightly in my opinion, garners most of the story he uses to fill in the blanks left by the Biblical story from the Book of Enoch. Since the Book of Enoch is quoted in the New Testament and was clearly a book known, read and trusted by both Jews, before and during Jesus' ministry on earth, and the Christians of the early church, there can be no complaint that I would entertain about Aronofsky's use of its details in this movie.

     Still, Aronofsky chooses to create an amalgam of the details found in the Book of Enoch about the angels. Maybe he felt that a faithful rendering of this aspect of the story would complicate things too much and take away from the real focus of the story. I can only speculate of course, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

     In the Book of Enoch, the angels that came to earth and defiled themselves with humans were called Watchers. They came and did what they did out of selfish lusts and rebellion against God, not for benevolent reasons as described in the movie. I can surmise he changed this aspect of the story because of another change he made. In Enoch, God sends angels to help Noah build the ark. In the movie, the damned Watchers help Noah build the ark. This can only make any sense if the Watchers had good motives to begin with, however misguided they were.

     In Enoch, the punishment for the Watchers who came to earth was to be encased in stone in the earth. This is why the angels were represented in the movie as these weird, Transformer-type, stone giants. (Contrary to many reviews  have read, there are no Nephilim in the movie)

     In Noah, the Watchers end up being the angels who help Noah and his family build the ark, and in the final twist to the story, when the Watchers petition God for forgiveness, as they indeed do in Enoch, they are forgiven and returned to Heaven. In Enoch, they are denied their petition and damned forever. Scripture would suggest a similar fate.

     Another aspect people seem to have an issue with is Noah's struggle to come to terms with any reason for any of mankind to survive the Flood, including himself and his own family. In my estimation, I think this part of the story was an answer to a very important event that happens after they eventually leave the ark. This is a huge part of the story of Noah. After the flood waters subside and Noah and his family have survived, Noah inexplicably gets drunk and is found by his sons passed out and naked. Through this event, Ham is cursed and the cycle of evil continues on the earth. Why does Noah, a man who "walked with God" and had just survived and witnessed such an incredible event, end up in such a drunken state? Neither Genesis nor the Book of Enoch lend us a clue. Aronofsky, showing his absolute dedication to faithfully expressing the true essence of this story, couldn't leave this out. But he needed to give us a reason for it. His answer was to show Noah's struggle with the fact that though he was the only one on earth who still followed God, there were still aspects of what made the rest of mankind evil within himself and each member of his family.  Can anyone argue with this? I think it was brilliant, and it is one of the most powerful messages of the entire movie because what is lifted up and glorified through it is the love, mercy, and faithfulness of the Creator.

     This brings me to the theology of the movie. What does the movie Noah say about God? This movie presents God as the Creator. Not a "Force" or an "alien", but as a supreme Creator. And not just that, but a Creator who cares about His creation. A Creator who is actively involved in His creation.

     What does this movie say about Creation? It shows a Creator who created the universe in six days. It shows a Creator who created each creature after its own kind, especially and extravagantly, human beings, Adam and Eve. It presents Adam and Eve as husband and wife. In direct contrast to our current world's diminishing of that truth in the promoting of promiscuity and homosexuality. The depiction of Adam and Eve in their glorified, "in the image of God" states is stunning. It does continually refer to the animals as "innocent" which, of course, is not a correct view of creation. All of creation was affected by the Fall, including animals. And Scripture makes it very clear that all of creation needed to be destroyed, not just humans.

     There is a scene near the beginning of the movie where a dog-like creature is fleeing from some hunters and comes across Noah and his son's path as they gather plants for food, the result being a statement clearly establishing Noah as being a vegetarian and the other men as being meat eaters. I have read many who have cried about this making Noah out to be some environmentalist wacko. If you read the Genesis account, you will see that God did not give the animals over to be food until after the Flood. He actually gives this command to Noah at the same time that He instructs him to take dominion over the earth and populate the earth. So this representation of Noah is 100% Biblically accurate, if we are to believe that Noah "walked with God". It is speculation, of course, that the other men would have been meat eaters but it is certainly not far-fetched since God had not allowed such a thing yet and men were wholly rebelling from God in every conceivable way.

     In the end, theologically, this movie is absolutely sound. This realization stunned me to be honest. In a world where every new movement in the church is trying to pull us away from Scripture and particularly, Genesis and all of its truth, to have a movie directed and written by two men who are not explicitly Christians and released by a wholly secular company, is nothing short of amazing.

Dream sequence of the killing of Abel
     So, how about Noah as a work of art? If you have watched any of Aronofsky's other films, you already know that he is unconventional. If you want to experience a cohesive and consistent film, an Aronofsky creation is not for you. Noah is no different. Aronofsky uses several different mediums to tell this story.  I am not a student of film enough to know all the proper terms to adequately describe the different forms he uses throughout the movie. Just know that while the majority of the movie is filmed in a very crisp and realistic way, there are dream sequences and visions that take on an entirely different look. There are scenes that are very "artsy" for a severe lack of a better word. There is CGI as one would expect. Some of it is very good, such as the flood waters. Some of it is in sci-fi action movie styles such as the Watchers. Some of it is rather poor, such as the dog creature in the beginning of the movie. I think the biggest failure in this regard is the varying styles force our minds to constantly shift our expectations of what we are seeing or should be seeing. When I go to a LOTR's movie, I am not surprised by an Orc. But when I am watching a movie presented in such a realistic manner as Noah is, my mind has a hard time processing the Watchers. Or the almost Japanese martial arts style flinging of and drowning of people in the flood scenes. Not to mention the huge visual deviations in the vision sequences and the telling of the creation story. There is so much going on from scene to scene that my mind had a difficult time following it. Not that what I was seeing didn't make sense from a story standpoint but rather from an artistic standpoint. It caused me to be discombobulated and uncomfortable throughout the movie.

     Another aspect this brought into play was the world that was presented to us. Somehow, and I have no explanation as to why, it lacked the vastness that the movie required. This was a story of the entire earth, and it was presented that way, but it felt like it was taking place in very small settings. It felt very claustrophobic to me. One reason this might have been is that we are never taken to where the rest of the men live. We only see what they have left behind. We meet them in both small groups and large armies appearing out of nowhere, but we never see them in their own habitat until they become camped out in the forest surrounding the ark. At that point in the movie it seems as though everyone on earth is in one place, and though there is a huge landscape for them to camp, they choose to set up so confined together that they are literally walking over each other. It all seems very suffocating. And while there are a huge amount of people there in relation to the few members of Noah's family, there just doesn't seem to be a lot for the entire earth's population. If we were given an idea that there were other similar tribes of people around the world, maybe it would have seemed different but just the opposite was communicated to me at least by the fact of their leader was a direct descendant of Cain and the very same person who killed Lamach.

     There were scenes that communicated how large the scheme of things were, like when the entire planet is shown engulfed in dozens of hurricanes covering its entire surface. What an amazing graphic that was! But those were fleeting moments and did little in relieving the feeling of this world of Noah being very myopic.

Ham and his bride to be,
     The other area that made this movie feel lacking for me was the poor character development. This is such a vague thing for me. Maybe others understand it as a science but I am never able to put a finger on it. Some movies spend a full thirty minutes at the beginning of the movie developing the characters and it makes no impact on how I feel about them, while other movies develop deep characters that evoke immense feelings from me in three minutes. This movie somehow failed at creating characters that pulled me one way or that other. Take Ham as an example. His appearance made me sympathize with him, even while he was betraying his father, scheming for his death. I found myself hoping against hope that he would turn from what he was doing and become a part of the family. I shouldn't have. I should have felt contempt for him. I didn't. Even as he walked away at the end, I felt sorry for him. Feeling sorrow for him would have been better than that. But I wasn't invested enough in him for even that. And it was like that with every character in the movie, except the king of men. He was aptly repulsive. Oddly, the character that seemed to connect with me, and even the rest of the theater, from what I could tell, was Methuselah. I say oddly, because he was introduced late in the movie and shared very little screen time. A perfect example of how great character development can be had in mere seconds. He was a deep character and probably one of the most emotional points of the entire movie was his search for the ever elusive berry.  How that could trump the death of tens of thousands of people, I don't know.

     The end result of this poor development of characters for me was a suffering of an edge and intensity when it came to several climatic scenes. This movie should have invoked fear, dread, disgust, horror, sorrow, trepidation, and great relief. It just didn't do this for me. I found myself asking why. I found myself trying to search for the emotions within myself during the movie. Trying to dredge them up to match what my eyes were witnessing and my ears were hearing. But I couldn't. When Lamach was murdered I should have felt anger and anguish. When Noah was in the midst of the horror that was the encampment of men, I should have felt disgust and sorrow. When Noah was about to murder his two infant grandchildren, I should have felt extreme sadness and dread. When the rain finally stopped, I should have felt amazing joy and happiness. I just didn't. I can't explain why. Something didn't connect. Something didn't click for me. Maybe it was uncertainty. Maybe it was being thrown so far off balance by the retelling of a story I thought I knew in my head that I had guarded my emotions or was simply unable to access them. Whatever the reason, the moments of impact were great, but not very impacting. And that is too bad.

     Despite all of that, there were some great things about this movie. If you like abstract and artsy movies, you will enjoys aspects of Noah. It is Aronofsky's calling card. He does it well and this movie is no exception. The script is really good. It has its subtleties and its self contained history. It has humor and passion and conviction. And it relays incredible truths. The more I think about the dialogue and the words used, the more I am amazed at this script. It astounds me that something as banal as Evan Almighty had Bible study material made for it, whereas Noah is being shredded on all levels despite being incredibly well written.

     The acting is top notch. Outside of possibly a poor choice in the casting of Ham, every actor and actress in Noah does a magnificent job. And there are some absolutely amazing scenes in this movie.

     The telling of the creation story is the best I have ever seen. When God said "Let there be light" I was literally pushed back in my seat. What followed was an ultra fast paced visual journey through the six days of creation, culminating in the Garden of Eden and a wonderful depiction of Adam and Eve. Again, the best I have ever seen. I wish I had always envisioned them in this way. I will from now on.

     Something that was repeated throughout the movie was looking to the sky longing for some sign of the Creator. That was probably one of the most emotion evoking parts of the movie for me. It was different characters at different times in the movie but each time it became more and more filled with anxiety. I strained my eyes to see even the slightest sign of God emanating through the clouds. My heart yearned for the hope that something would appear. But there was nothing. It really drove home the idea of what it must have felt like to be one of the only people on earth who still believed in the true Creator during a time when God was mostly silent. We cannot imagine what that would have been like. We have the Holy Spirit who speaks to us daily. Noah had nothing but stories and faith.

     And then there is the moment when the flood finally strikes and Noah and his family are huddled inside the ark with only the pounding of the water and the screams of the dying, echoing in their ears. What horror! The scene then moves outside the ark and we see one of the last of the mountain tops, covered in people trying to escape the waters, only to be swept off the rocks by enormous waves. It was a scene I will never forget.

     But the scene that hit me the hardest was the final time we look up into the sky. It is the last moment of the movie. And a rainbow breaks across the sky. If you are not one who understands the significance of that scene, then its magnitude is probably lost one you. But for those who understand, that last moment is incredible. The promise, the love, the mercy, the faithfulness, the hope for mankind and the sign that the Creator is indeed there and has not forgotten us was absolutely devastating in its power.

     The story of Noah is that a God who created the universe and then specifically man, in His own image, is heartbroken when Eve takes the forbidden fruit. He heart is wrenched when even His angels desert Him and His beloved children become vile, evil creatures, destroying all He created. But yet there was one man who still followed all he could of what he knew the Creator wanted him to do. Noah wasn't perfect. He had in him the same sin that destroyed the rest of mankind. But he had faith in God. And the Creator was faithful to him. He rescued Noah and all of creation through him. God loved, He showed mercy, He executed justice, He was faithful to His Creation. He never deserted them even when they did so to Him. That is the story of Noah. And that is the story told in Noah, the movie. I challenge you to go back and read the story of the Flood in Genesis and see if you could do better. Maybe you could. I know I couldn't.

     So then, why do I say this movie is a disaster? I say that because of how it was marketed. The way it was presented to the Christian community in particular does the movie a disservice because it created expectations that could not be met by this movie. Paramount knew what was in this movie and should have never suggested that is was specifically the re-telling of the Bible story. If they had simply said it was based on a true story or something of that nature, people would have accepted that. At least most people would. What has happened instead is that many people are not even going to go. They are going to simply react by what others have said and they are going to miss out on one of the greatest telling of a Biblical stories ever to be put on film. This is not a children's tale. It is sophisticated. It requires thinking. It requires understanding. It probably requires multiple viewings. This was a disaster because it is not going to accomplish half of what it could. The result is that a movie that accurately depicts the Creator in a way that is not even guaranteed from our own pulpits on Sunday mornings is going to be buried and lost because of poor marketing. That is a disaster.

     When all is said and done, I would encourage you to see Noah for yourself. Discard your preconceived notions at the theater door. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you and reveal the true God of the universe to you through this film. If you have already watched Noah. Go again. Watch it with a fresh eye. Let it teach you of God's everlasting love and mercy. It was a great miracle that Noah, his family and all the creatures of Creation survived the Flood. But it is also a miracle that this film ever got made. It would be a disaster of an entirely different kind if someone missed out on its true message: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...and He loves us.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Story Behind The Story: Adidas, Puma and Uhlsport

     This is a new series I am beginning here at It is called "The Story Behind The Story".  I love getting the real story behind some of the common things in our lives that we take for granted. English phraseology has always captivated me. I have always wanted to be the one to create a catch-phrase or a slang term.  Living in North Dakota made that very difficult. However, with the advent of the internet, it might be possible. Still working on that. Regardless, there are many phrases and products and stories we have grown up with but have no idea how they came to be or maybe even what they really mean. Sometimes it is nothing special, but sometimes they are quite fascinating. As I come across stories that are fascinating to me, I will share them in this series. I hope you enjoy them. And, please, if you do, share them on the social media site of your choice. And don't forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+. The links are at the top of the page, on the right.

     Now onto the story behind the story of Adidas, Puma and Uhlsport.

     Likely, most everyone is familiar with the German brand, Adidas. They provide gear for all major sports in the US with their focus, historically, being soccer and more specifically, athletic shoes. Likewise, many will be familiar with Puma. This German brand of sportswear is no where near as popular as Adidas but you will see the brand in many sports, including soccer. Again, this brand began with athletic shoes. Uhlsport is an even more obscure German brand working almost exclusively around the world with soccer. They also supply gear for International Handball and European basketball, however, these are done under the brand names Kempa and Spalding, respectively. Uhlsport also began in the athletic shoe business but quickly transitioned to goalkeeper gloves and apparel.

     But what is the story behind these three German powerhouse brands?  How did Germany become the location for world famous athletic gear? And how does WWII play into the whole story? Let me tell you.

Adolf Dassler
     What now is Adidas began as Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in 1924.  Operating in the small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany, the two Dassler brothers, Adolf and Rudolf, began creating shoes specifically for sports. The business grew steadily until the start of the Second World War. Karl Uhl, the founder of Uhlsport, worked for the two Dassler brothers.

     There was always competition between the two brothers and tension between the brother's wives. The story goes that this reached a decisive moment due to an apparent misunderstanding during an Allied air strike on Herzogenaurach. During this particular air strike, Rudolf and his wife were hiding in a bomb shelter when Adi and his wife climbed in. Adi exclaimed "The dirty bastards are back again.", supposedly referring to the Allied bombers. Rudolf, however, was convinced that Adi was referring to him and his wife. From this point on, every event that happened to the brothers which included Rudolf being sent to the front lines, being arrested by the German military and being held as a POW by Allied forces, and accusations of theft and adultery added to the feud between the two brother's. All the while, Adi continued to build the brother's business. In 1948, the brother's finally split the company. Rudolf moving to the other side of the river in Herzogenaurach and splitting the town's allegiances between Adolf's company and Rudolf's.

Rudolf Dassler
     Rudolf formed PUMA Schuhfabrick Rudolf Dassler in 1948 and Adolf formed Adi Dassler ADIDAS Sportshcuhfabrik in 1949. This same year, Karl Uhl left to begin his own company, Haase und Uhl OHG in the town of Balingen, Germany.

     The feud between the Dassler brothers raged on for decades even while both companies found success. The situation was so extreme that some places in the town only catered to people who wore either Puma or Adidas shoes. There were Puma diners and Adidas diners. A Puma bakery and an Adidas bakery. Adidas employees were not even allowed to date, much less marry, Puma employees.

     It finally ended officially, in 2009 when employees from both companies played a friendly soccer match.  The only reference to who won the match was the score, 7-5, with no winner noted. Probably the best idea.

     While the story of Adolf and Rudolf is tragic, affecting many lives over many decades, there is a positive to come about through the whole event; three magnificent soccer companies. The innovation and history that have been made by Adidas, Puma and Uhlsport are things of legend, benefiting more people around the world than they hurt in their hometown of Herzogenaurach.

     So there's that.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Revolubetion Is Here! King of Shaves Does It Again


     I was in the shower one morning, getting ready to shave with the latest King of Shaves gel, when a sticker on the side caught my attention. The sticker was encouraging customers to email King of Shaves with any questions or comments I may have about their products. I felt inspired. I had been using King of Shaves oils and gels for years and it had revolutionized my daily shaving experience by alleviating the constant razor burn I had dealt with since I began shaving all those years prior.
The Azor
     I reached for my Blackberry and from under the streams of hot water in my shower, I emailed King of Shaves with my praise of their products. To my amazement, I received a response. Not just an automated response. The Queen of Shaves herself, responded to my email personally. In it, she revealed that King of Shaves had recently released a new razor called the Azor. She asked if I had tried it. I had not even hear of it. Of course, it wasn't available in the stores in the US, only in England. The Queen then sent me a package that included the Azor, some blades and some other products such as oils and balms and a very nice hand written note. I had never had a smoother shave than the first one with that Azor.

     I connected with the Queen via a new social platform called Twitter and to my surprise, the King, himself tweeted me. This began a fantastic relationship with the founder of King of Shaves and his amazing US Rep, the Queen.

     So it has been with great anticipation that I have been waiting patiently "State-side" for King of Shaves new Hyperglide razor. For the first time the King of Shaves razor would be carried in US stores, exclusively through select Target. Amazingly, one of the only 200 Target stores to get the Hyperglide was my Target store in Bismarck, North Dakota. I like to think that the King made a special request of Target just for me. One can dream.

The nice Target employee getting me
my King of Shaves Hyperglide
     I checked almost daily for the arrival of the Hyperglide at my Target. Finally, one evening I saw the blades, gels and oils on the shelf for the first time. But there were no Hyperglides. So I acquired an assistant and persuaded him to look in the back for a box of Hyperglides. He found them and I purchased my first four Hyperglides, right out of the packing box.

     I decided to use this new razor for a couple cartridges before writing a review. And that day has come. I would like to start by highlighting a few things that were revolutionary about the Azor since this new Hyperglide is essentially the next rendition of the Azor.  I find that important because before the Hyperglide, the Azor was already a revolutionary razor that superseded all other wet razors in design, quality, function, price and results. The Hyperglide is an improvement on that life-changing razor.  Of all the reviews I have read on the Hyperglide to date, they have all been remiss to mention the great features that have been retained from the Azor.  If you read those reviews you might come away with the idea that this razor from King of Shaves is just like any other razor except for the new and admittedly segment changing Hyperglide feature. This would be a huge mistake. The Hyperglide is unlike any other razor in the world, not simply due to the Hyperglide feature.

The Azor's unique design
     This razor is designed in a very unique way. It is curved in the opposite direction of every other razor. This means it must be held differently and used differently than other razors. But it is a brilliant design. Instead of needing to maneuver the razor through all the angles of your face to get a close shave, this design molds to the curves of your face on its own. As you move it across your cheek and over your jaw, by virtue of how it is shaped and held, it automatically holds to the curves of your face. This ensures a close shave, even in places where you have struggled in the past, regardless of the acrobatic contortions of your wrist, required with other razors.

     Another part of the design is a split handle that connects to the cartridge on the ends rather than the center. This opens up the area just below the blades, allowing you to easily see where you are shaving. Combining this feature with the see-through gels and oils from King of Shaves, gives you unprecedented ability to shave more precisely and effectively.

Bendology Technology
     Lastly but by far not leastly (yes, I know that is not a word) is the Bendology Technology. This has been refined over the years and comes in a totally new form in the Hyperglide but its effectiveness is even greater than its first manifestation. Most razors have a pivoting head. That is not Bendology Technology. What is built into the Hyperglide is a technology that doesn't simply allow the cartridge to pivot, but rather, it allows the cartridge to always remain firmly, and solidly, against your face (or legs, ladies) regardless of the angle. It's not about the contortions of your wrist or the angle of your arm, the Bendology Technology does it all for you. Before the advent of the Hyperglide technology itself, this was the single greatest reformation of the modern razor ever.

    So what about the newest and greatest innovation in the Hyperglide?  Is it such a paramount change that it does indeed warrant being the very name of the new razor?  In short, yes.

     To truly appreciate this new invention in razors, you must understand that King of Shaves began with one product, shaving oil. And even after the release of the Azor, the focus of King of Shaves has remained shaving preparation products such as oils and gels. And they are top notch. There are none better. I have tried them all, I know. So, for a company founded on providing world class quality shaving oils and gels to release a razor that presumably eliminated the need for said oils and gels, it must be something revolutionary, or "RevoLUBEtionary" as the King puts it. And it is.

     The Hyperglide has new technology infused into the face of the cartridge called superhydrophilic self-lubrication. It creates a Hypergel layer between your skin and the razor when it comes in contact with water. This, of course, means you can shave with just water , no oils, gels, or foams required.

     The feeling the first time I placed the Hyperglide against my face with only water between my skin and the blades was unreal. How often do you get to experience something in life that you have never experienced anything like it before? As you get older it is less and less frequent. This was one of those times for me. Just the experience itself was worth the cost of the razor. You owe it to yourself to try it just for the experience. It felt as though if I were not pressing the razor against my wet face, it would literally be repelled from my skin and fly across the room. It wasn't simply the feeling of another gel or oil between my skin and the cartridge, it felt as though the actual cartridge was being repelled from my face. All friction was eliminated completely. It was an unreal feeling. 

     I then figured if it was this good with only water, how much better would it be with King of Shaves Kinexium Oil? Surprisingly, it wasn't any better. Now, the blades will last longer if it is used with a King of Shaves oil or gel, however, the effect isn't any different.  That is amazing. Or as Will King puts it, Shamazing.

     I remember introducing the Azor 5 to a friend and I loved his response the first time he used it. He said he had to actually run his hand across his face to make sure it had actually shaved something because it had moved across his face so smoothly. This was true for me too. The Azor 5 moved across my skin so smoothly and without effort that it seemed hard to believe it had actually just cut off all of my whiskers. But it had. The smoothest shave ever. 

The NEW Hyperglide, front and back
     When I asked Will King what would be redesigned with the new Hyperglide, his answer was one word, and all inclusive. "Everything".  And while the Hyperglide still is an Azor, even the features that it retained from the Azor 5 are completely redesigned for the Hyperglide. This includes the blades themselves. I found it hard to believe the blades from  the Azor 5 could be improved upon. After using the Hyper glide for several weeks, I think this is still true. This is the one aspect of the Hyperglide that doesn't seem like an improvement on the Azor 5. Some days I do get that unbelievably smooth skin and unreal close shave from  the Hyperglide blades as I consistently did from the Azor 5 blades but it is not as consistent as it was. The blades themselves are not as friction-less as the previous Endurium blades of the Azor 5. I can feel them cutting my whiskers whereas with the Azor 5 I never felt that. I have faith they will get this worked out.  

     Regardless, the Hyperglide is still the premium razor on the market, providing the newest and best technology available and delivering the best shave out there. If you are not lucky enough to live in a city where Target is carrying the Hyperglide and other King of Shaves products, you can easily purchase them from   and they will be quickly shipped to you. I have been using King of Shaves products for years, mostly shipped from the UK directly and have never had an issue so do not be afraid to try them from Target. 

     You can also order directly from King of Shaves via

     In the end, the Hyperglide is truly innovative, extraordinary, and effective. You will be Shamazed by the Hyperglides RevoLUBEtionary superhydrophilic tech from the company who is out the Shave the World. King of Shaves.

     Check out King of Shaves' clever Hyperglide commercial!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Something to Die For...

     Today I would like to bring back a post from my previous blog, The Blackhorse Inn.  This was from early on in the beginning of that blog but I really like the questions it raises. I never did come back to it and arrive at any concrete conclusions but maybe re-posting this will afford me the opportunity to do so.

     Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, I would love to hear from you. Also, please share on your favorite social media site if you are so inclined. Thanks!

     No onto "Something To Die For..."

     Last night I was listening to my iPod and on came a song whose chorus stated, "Give me something to die for..."  We often hear the phrase, "Give me something to live for," but this other way of saying it seems more profound.       There are plenty of things out there to live for, there is no short supply, but that rarely seems to be enough for most people.

Russian soldier rallying troops,
killed seconds late
     I remember reading a book about the English Hooligans.  The conclusion of the book was that these English males (mostly) needed a sense of belonging which, in the past, was supplied by National pride during times of war such as WWI and II.  With the lengthening time since those wars, men in England looked to something else to bring back that National pride.  They found it in their football clubs.  But it wasn't enough to just go to the matches and support their clubs.  They had to move it to a feeling of war.  With all the prejudices that arise in war and the colors and violence.  We have often focused on the English but there are smaller versions of this all around Europe.  It seems that a club worth living for wasn't enough.  These people needed a club worth dying for.  So they raised their support up to a level that certainly could bring the possibility of death.     
Football Hooligan
     Are these football fanatics an isolated example?  I am beginning to wonder.  We see it in the military, in militias, on the roads, in gangs, in the political realm, in religious conflicts, and even in pacifists.  When I started to think it through it was quite amazing to me how pervasive this idea is throughout all of culture.  It manifests itself in many different ways.  There are violent gangs, there are militias and warlords, there are homicide bombers, there are vigilantes, and there are even peace protesters who put themselves in harms way.    What do all of these people have in common?  They all seem to have a need for something more, something to die for.  If a leader asks his people to live for him, some follow and some don't but nobody does it with much vigor, but when a leader asks his people to die for him, the support is overwhelming and intense.  We see this most often at times of war.  When a speech is made by a president or a prime minister and the people rally around the cause.  When a country goes a long time without some life and death situation, the people seem to lose the passion for life.  Things get dull.

     Then I thought about the fact that we are all created in God's image and wondered about what this idea said about God.  Is He interested only in having something so important that it is worth dying for?   And is that the sort of passion that He instills in us?  That we have this inner desire to be involved in something so important that it is worth dying for?  And what happens when there isn't anything like that?

     I can see two things ending up happening.  Either people become self absorbed and ultimately depressed and live in a sense of hopelessness and apathy or they begin to attribute greater importance to lesser things.  The classic example would be the English Hooligans.  They, without a real thing of value in their lives to pour their passion into, elevated football to a thing of utmost importance.  Important enough to die for.  And many did.  Some people increase risk through dangerous activities.  And some take usually mundane protests to the extreme.

     I think that all of these things point to an inner passion that drives us to finding something in our lives of such paramount importance that it is worthy of death itself.  Somehow it seems that death is more important to us than life.  And life, without the threat of death does not interest us.  To the point where we will go to great lengths to invent things that involve the threat of death.  Ultimately, for some, choosing to die by suicide rather than live life without that thing that is worthy of dying for.

     Of course it is not that I am saying we want to be oppressed and live under the threat of death such as what might occur in an abusive relationship or slavery or tyranny.  No one desires that, but what I am talking about is a positive thing that we can believe in, get behind and support to the point of death if necessary.  You might ask how gangs or drug cartels can be positive.  To most of us they are not positive but when you hear the people involved in them talk, they view it as positive.  A family sort of system.  They belong to something bigger than themselves.     

     I think that is the key to the whole thing.  Each one of us knows within that we are not the biggest thing in the universe.  We all know that there is something bigger than us out there.  And it is a burning desire within each of us to belong to that thing that is bigger than we are.  There are millions of things that people choose to be a part of but, as a Christian, I believe the thing we are desiring so deeply is God, Himself.  That thing inside us is really desiring to be a part of God.  And don't think that isn't dangerous.  Don't think that is void of the possibility of death.  In fact, it requires standing against evil.  Evil that certainly is not remiss in killing when the opportunity presents itself.  Actually, belonging to God requires death.  And in death, victory.  It seems to be what we are made for.   

     So how do we work that into what we do?  Without turning it into some new "holy war".  How do we keep it positive?  Or, maybe it is God's plan to change our propensity towards death to a deep desire for life.  And if it is, I can only imagine that happening in a place completely different from this place.  Someplace like Heaven, maybe?  I haven't finished thinking about this and don't have any conclusions to offer you in closing.  So please bring your own comments to the table.  I think this could be very interesting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Black is the New Black

     Orange is not the "new black". Brown was never the "new black". Neither was pink. Ever. I just got an email today that stated "Blue is the new black." No, no it's not.

Don't watch this show
     Black is always  "the" black. If there must be a "new black", that color is still black. There is nothing that compares to black. Black is more intense than any other color. It is deeper. It is darker. It stands out in a crowd. It blends into the night. It brings out the best in every other color. Without black, the world would be a very drab place. Overrun with the other colors, void of distinction. Just like salt, black brings out the taste in color. Black is not just the anti-color. Black is not the opposite of white. Black is integral and essential to our vision. Life without black would be truly dreary.

      I think sometimes we view darkness similarly, as a thing we can just do without, or maybe even desire to do without.  As if, just as the season's change and a new year brings a "new black", we can simply choose for something else to replace darkness. We associate darkness with fear, with something bad. Darkness blinds us. Darkness harbors evil. It gives evil a place to hide. A hiding place where it can stalk us and jump out of the shadows at any moment and strike us down. We hate the darkness. We loathe the darkness.

     We strive to eliminate the darkness from our cities. We erect street lights at every corner and put more and increasingly brighter lights on the front of our cars. We light up our front yards and our backyards. We have a nightlight in every outlet in the house. We sleep with the lights on.

     Emotionally we wish we could eliminate the darkness. We wish we could replace it with joy, or happiness, or love (all we need is love), or contentment, or humor. We fill our every moment with some distraction or entertainment just to avoid the darkness. We leave the television on a timer to shut itself off after we have passed out. We log into Facebook and Twitter until our eyes can't process the characters streaming from the light of the screens. We sleep with our headphones on. We fall asleep on the couch. Anything to keep away from the darkness.

     Maybe darkness is supposed to be here. Maybe darkness should be embraced rather than reviled. What if darkness was actually good? What if darkness were the other side of light. I am not talking of yin and yang. Not opposites. Just different aspects of the same thing?

     Think of the positives of darkness. Without shadows, light would pervade every scene. Nothing would be distinguishable. Darkness lets us rest our eyes. It helps our bodies renew overnight. Total darkness increases our other senses. They become heightened within darkness. Black velvet, light absorbing borders bring out the colors and brightness of a projector screen. Darkness helps focus our attention. Darkness is relaxing. There is just as much life going on in the darkness as there is in the light.  Light and dark compliment each other. Interestingly, darkness can function without light but light really needs darkness to be effective.

     Three passages in Scripture really help me frame darkness in what I feel is a proper way.

Genesis 1:2 "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters."

     I had always tended to think of darkness associated with the words "formless" and "empty" in this verse. Those things would seem to be negatives. Out of the formlessness, God creates form. Land, oceans, vegetation and living beings. Out of emptiness, God fills the earth with teeming life. Formlessness and emptiness are eliminated from creation. But darkness is not treated the same way. God creates light and He says that light is good, something He never says of darkness. Yet, this light does not eliminate darkness. Darkness keeps its place within the world. Darkness seems to just be. It was in existence before light and it continues even into God's perfect Creation. It is not the result of the Fall. It was always here and has always continued to be here. I have no doubt darkness will always have a place around us.

2 Samuel 22 Yes, the whole chapter but here is the pertinent part: "He parted the heavens and came down, a dark cloud beneath His feet. He rode a cherub and flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He made the dankness a canopy around Him, a gathering of water and thick clouds. From the radiance of His presence, flaming coals were ignited."

     No, God did not actually come down to rescue David from Saul but what is interesting here is that darkness is not seen as a negative thing that a Holy God would not dare let keep in His presence. Rather, it is something that He is seen to have gathered around Him. And yet, it somehow doesn't diminish His radiance at all.

Psalm 139:11-12 "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night' - even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You."

     A revelation that the Spirit showed me when I was writing the song "The Manifestation" was the reality of this passage is not that the dark somehow does not exist for God because of His light, but rather because of His innate darkness. Yes, He is light, but He also is the source of darkness, to the point that when set against His presence, the darkness seems like a bright, sunny day.

     If this is true, and I believe it is, then darkness is no longer something that we should fear, or try to extinguish, but something we should recognize for its place in the world and for its beauty. Knowing all along that it comes from God and is a part of who God is. In the same way that both men and women are made in God's image, light and dark are a part of the same creative power that emanates from God, Himself.

     Fear of the dark is one of the greatest phobias of humankind. It knows no race or culture or creed. We see the evidence of it everywhere, from the Jack-o-lanterns of All Hallows Eve to the witch doctors of Africa. But it should know creed. Our creed should dissolve those fears. Our creed should see darkness for what it is, not something to be feared but something to be revered, bearing testament to the fact that no matter how much the darkness can overpower our senses and make us feel vulnerable and lost, our God is no farther away from us than when we are in the light. It is not a barrier to Him. And if we allow ourselves to experience darkness in that way, as being a part of God's creation not an anathema to it, it will open us to new worlds of hearing and listening, of feeling and smelling. And ultimately restful assurance of God's presence and power in the world.

     This is even more the reason I love black. And why nothing will ever be the new black. It is irreplaceable. There is no substitute. It represents the darkness and nothing can replace darkness and its complimenting effect on the light. Maybe this is why joy always comes in the morning. We can't replace the darkness with joy. But without the darkness, maybe true joy would never come.

     Spring is almost here, and black is still the new black for me.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Apple Launches CarPlay, Integrating iOS with Auto Entertainment Systems

     Apple just announced, in rather diminutive fashion, CarPlay new feature integrating iOS into existing automobile entertainment systems. This is a feature that many people, both inside and outside of the auto industry, have wished out loud to me many times. It was usually expressed with the idea of simply setting an iPad into a dock in the dash and having that serve as the entire system. With CarPlay, Apple has released essentially the same thing.

     Rather than using an iPad, all you need is an iPhone 5 or newer. And rather than setting it in a dock and using the devices' screen, you just plug the phone into the USB port and the phone connects with the existing entertainment system. This gives you full access to a modified-for-driving Siri, as well as many Apple apps and even third party apps such as iHeartRadio and Spotify, with many more to come.

     One of the best features besides the awesome feature of turning reading and writing into listening and dictating via Siri assisted texting, is being able to use Maps right on the screen of the built-in entertainment system, effectively equipping every compatible vehicle with full navigation.

     For this year, Apple is launching the new system exclusively in Ferrari, Hyundai, Honda, Volvo, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. However, the list of committed auto manufacturers is rather large and includes Ford and Chevrolet.

     I work as a Technology Specialist for a Chevrolet dealership, so this is an exciting development. GM has already built it's newest entertainment systems with Apple in mind. Mostly because guaranteeing compatibility with nearly 400 Android phones is nearly impossible but also because Apple's iOS and Siri are the best and most user friendly systems out there today. Now with this announcement, we can see where it may have been with an eye to the future that GM chose this route for it's systems.

     While it is disappointing that GM isn't one of the first companies to integrate CarPlay into their vehicles, I am excited to see how it is ultimately manifested inside our new systems, which are already among the best in the world.

     I still would love to see a fully Apple designed car. There are many other areas outside of the entertainment system where cars would benefit from Apple designs, but it is clear that Apple is making the smart move by placing a foothold firmly into the auto tech industry in a unifying way that will make them the major player in auto tech worldwide. Will CarPlay make people go out and buy a new car? Not many. However, it will make those who buy new cars, go out and buy a new iPhone. And once they use iOS in their cars, they will likely want to use it in their tablets, laptops and desktops. It only makes sense. Or as Apple would put it, it just works.

How To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning

     It snowed this morning. Not much. Maybe less than an inch. It was the type of snow that doesn't even get mentioned in the forecast around here. But it makes things a little slick. Not a big deal.

     I was walking past a quick lube and the approach up to the doors where the cars enter to get oil changes was on an incline. There was a car there, spinning its wheels, trying to get into the bay (must have been from out of state).  I paused and watched for a while. The car just sat there, wheels spinning. There was no chance it was ever going to get into the bay. Not like that. Another guy walking the other direction on the street I was on, just looked at me and smiled, shaking his head. We were both thinking the same thing. Just back up and get some momentum and the car will easily make it into the bay.

     I need momentum everyday.  I need momentum to get out of bed. I need it to exercise in the morning. I need it to make it to work on time. I need it to start using my brain before 1 in the afternoon.  I need it to write this blog. I need it to create music. There are a number of things I try to do everyday to build up the momentum I need to make each day a success.

     It all starts the night before the next morning. I try to go to bed so that I get at least 8 hours of sleep before I have to get up in the morning. I want to get up by 7:45 am so this means I need to be in bed by about 11:30 each night. I have been keeping track for the past ten nights. I only managed this twice.  Two other nights was close. But I do not fall asleep immediately so this means I had no chance at 8 hours of sleep. That is bad. I need to do better.

     One thing that has helped the past ten nights is a new app I am using called Sleep Cycle. It uses the gyroscope in my iPhone to measure my sleep cycles via my movements during the night. It then wakes me up slowly during a time when I am not in a deep sleep. It has been working great. Now when I awake, I am ready to get out of bed which was not always the case in the past. Momentum.

     I read something every morning before I get out of bed. Sometimes it is my twitter feed from overnight, or something from Facebook, or a blog post from an email. I try to get my mind thinking and comprehending right away.  I try to avoid something that is going to get me agitated. I look for things that are interesting or humorous. Now I have something to think about as I begin my day getting ready for work.  Momentum.

     I eat breakfast every morning. This gets my metabolism going and gives me a boost of energy just when I need it at work. It also is a nice quiet time to collect my thoughts.this is one meal where it does not matter if you are hungry or not. This is a meal your body needs. If you are trying to be healthy or lose weight, breakfast is a must. It gets my body moving on the inside, providing energy for my body on the outside and certainly doesn't hurt in jump starting my brain.  Momentum.

     And I always stop by and talk with the girls at the front desk, even before I clock in. Whether I feel like talking or not. Sometimes it is a full conversation, sometimes it is little more than saying good morning but I always do it. They are the first people I speak with every day. I want to have formed words with my brain and mouth before I speak with a client for the first time in the day. Plus, they are interesting people and it is nice speaking with them. Once I get to my desk, every part of my being has been activated and I am ready to start the day. Momentum.

     I am ready to help customers. I am ready to solve problems. I am ready to write. I am ready to listen. I am ready to learn. I am ready to have a successful day.

      Not that long ago I sat and spun my wheels. I didn't get enough sleep. I didn't want to get out of bed. I was tired, moody, non-functioning throughout most of the morning, hungry, frustrated, spinning.  Then one day...over a series of many days actually, I backed up, surveyed the situation, and began to make adjustments to provide me the momentum I needed to make it up that incline every morning. I am 45 years old. It is never too early or too late to back up and gain some momentum in your life.

     And it is never too late to add to the ways you gain that momentum. I am constantly searching for new ways to kick start my day, or my diet, or my exercise, or my Faith, my disciplines, my music, my writing, my life. It is never too late to add to the places you need momentum. Sometimes we look at a task or a goal and we think there is no way to achieve it. Maybe we have tried and failed. We need momentum. Focus on the things that will give you momentum and before you know it, the thing you thought was unattainable will be a success in your rear view mirror.

     As I stood there in the snow, wondering when this car was going to begin sliding backwards down into the street, common sense finally filtered through the frosted mind of the driver and he backed down the incline, into the street. Then he moved methodically and determinedly forward at a steady pace. He drove up the incline and right into the bay as if there were no snow at all.

 It is amazing what a little momentum will do.