Faith, Media & Culture

I’ve been away for a while – due to a combination of reasons good and bad (i.e. book deadlines, TV pilot work, storm-related blackouts, site glitches, etc.) But, hopefully, today’s effort somehow finds its way to you.

Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. Remembering 9/11. Odyssey Network’s inspirational app Call on Faith (available via iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, Nook and any video-enabled phone) is currently offering On 9/11, a series of 10 videos commemorating the 10th anniversary of the tragic attack in the words of some of those who lived through it. They include:

Phyllis Rodriguez-A teacher in White Plains, NY. She lost her only son in Tower One but transcended grief and bitterness to reach out to the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the infamous “20th Hijacker”

Stanley Praimnath-As one of the few to escape from the offices of Fuji Bank, he felt called to change his life and left the trading desk for the pulpit of a little church in Queens, NY

Rais Bhuiyan-Far from Ground Zero in Dallas, a would-be avenger attacked this retail clerk and killed his co-worker. Though blind from a gunshot to the eye, he worked to save his assailant from death row.

Dan Holdridge-With the Pentagon in flames, he lay just a few feet from dozens of the dying, knowing his life could never be the same. Now he travels the nation urging his audiences to take up “Weapons of Mass Appreciation.”

In addition to these and other stories, ON 9/11 offers meditations and original prayers from a variety of traditions for the tenth anniversary. Check it out here.

2. Moving Beyond Hate. Speaking of Odyssey Networks’ 9/11 programming, a diverse collection of original videos aimed at inspiring conversation of reconciliation can be seen at the company’s website.  Among them is Odyssey Networks President and CEO Nick Stuart’s own conversation with Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship, a coalition of Christian churches and ministries that works to bridge religious divides.

BTW, I recently interviewed Nick Stuart about his own fascinating background and the innovative faith and media work being done at Odyssey Networks. Barring more unforeseen circumstances, I’ll bring that to you tomorrow.

3. Walden Media’s interesting development slate. The company that has given us classic films as The Chronicles Narnia series, the historical drama Amazing Grace  and the provocative documentary Waiting for Superman has an interesting group of films in development. They include:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Resilience and Redemption…based on the New York Times best-seller by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, it’s based on the true story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash in WWII only to become a prisoner of war in Japan. Director Francis Lawrence (I am Legend) will reteam with his Water for Elephants screenwriter Richard LaGravanese to bring Zamperini’s story to the big screen.

Mavericks…Another true story. This one based Santa Cruz surf legend Jay Moriarity’s quest to ride the mythic and treacherous Northern California winter waves (aka Mavericks) that can swell to the height of five story buildings. Moriarity trained for more than a year under the tutelage of mentor Frosty Hesson and, in the process, the two forged a unique relationship, ultimately transforming both of their lives. Jay’s story remains an inspiration to surfers around the globe, who’ve coined the phrase, “Live like Jay.” Jonny Weston is set to play Jay. Gerard Butler (300, Machine Gun Preacher) will play Hesson with.  Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) is directing.

Flat Stanley…Based on the Jeff Brown’s popular children’s book series that follows the adventures of a two-dimensional person in a three-dimensional world. No, it’s not about me. John Carls (Rango, Where the Wild Things Are) is attached to produce.

Rex Libris…Based on the tongue-in-cheek comic book, the planned film will follow “the zombie-slaying, monster-wrestling adventures of quirky librarian Rex Libris whose heart beats to preserve, protect, and defend the books of the Middleton Public Library.” As head librarian and a member of the secret society Ordo Biblioteca, going extreme measures to track down late books, as well as to retrieve readers sucked into alternate-realities, is all in a days work for this unique hero. Written and illustrated by James Turner, Rex Libris is published by Slave Labor Graphics.

4. Strange Herring is 82! Anthony’s Sacramone’s funny-but-serious blog on faith and culture has recently broken into the top 100 of  Technorati’s list of 10,000 blogs dealing with religion. Sacramone claims, in the blog announcing the accomplishment, that he’s “unworthy.” Actually, he’s very worthy. Great stuff. Check out his blog here.

 5. Donald Taffner, Sr. dies. From Hollywood Reporter: Donald Taffner Sr., an inventive executive who was responsible for bringing Three’s Company, Too Close for Comfort and The Benny Hill Show to American TV audiences, died Tuesday. He was 80. Taffner’s daughter Karen Butler told St. John’s University newspaper The Torch that doctors believe the cause of death was a “cataclysmic heart event, like an aneurysm or clot.”
Personal Note: I began my TV career (such as it is) working in the mailroom at DLT’s New York headquarters in the eighties. At the time the company occupied a fantastic brownstone on Manhattan’s West 56th Street which remains to the this day the nicest building I’ve ever worked in.  But, I digress.

Don Taffner was actually a nice guy who was friendly to even the lowliest of his employees (that would be me). I remember getting stuck in the building elevator with another employee one time and waiting for help to arrive – as DLT himself stood a floor or so above shouting down his reassurances and letting us know that he personally was on top of the situation.

May he rest in peace and may his family find the strength and comfort they need as they mourn his passing.

6. Recommended reading for CatholicsCatholic Guy Lino Rulli’s new book Sinners captures the quirkiness of growing up in and attempting to live the Catholic faith.  As a practicing Catholic (and someone who has actually worked with Lino), I can relate.

7. Making way for The Way. The spiritual road movie starring Martin Sheen and his other son Emilio Estevez (who also wrote and directed) tells the story of  an American doctor (Sheen) who walks the famed Camino De Santiago pilgrimage in France after his son is killed making the same journey. It’s due in October. Till then, check out this interesting article in Script Magazine.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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