The word, "credit," comes from the Latin, "credere," which means, "belief / trust." To extend someone credit - or to lend money is to trust someone to pay it back. Our financial system is based on a belief that people will honor their commitments and fulfill their debts. America's "credit crisis" is therefore a crisis of trust and belief in our ability to make good on our financial obligations. Banks don't trust enough to lend to one another or to consumers, and consumers don't trust banks to safeguard their deposits. It is a meltdown of good faith across the system.
The background mechanics of our financial system have become very complex and are beyond the scope of this blog to untangle. However, I think we can wrestle with the foundational principles that are being exposed by the current credit crunch. Quite simply, personal responsibility and professional ethics have vanished in the face of greed. Lenders have extended too much easy credit on homes and unsecured debts because the rates of return look unbelievably rich. Getting 10% on a sub-prime mortgage or 15% on credit card debt looks like a great business to be in! Consumers have decided that failure to pay their debts back is no big deal because after all, the banks are gouging them anyway. So what if I don't pay my credit card?
Even though this doesn't characterize our whole system or even most of it - small problems have big implications because our financial system is so interdependent and over-leveraged. Our big toe is a small part of our body, but if the infection spreads to our leg, amputation and / or death may result. Time to stop with the creams and go to a major course of antibiotics. Kill the infection and make sure the patient takes care of his feet from now on.
I believe the bailouts of recent days were probably necessary and that a certain level of regulation is absolutely in order. No argument here. However, no regulation can fix the root issues of personal responsibility, professional ethics, and greed. Those are problems government CAN'T and WON'T solve. Our free-market system is utterly dependent on the "good faith" and trust of its participants. If our culture continues to drift towards Godless secularism, this will only continue to happen on a larger scale. The American capitalist experiment is ultimately dependent on the morality of its culture. As with so many issues, it is an issue of "credere." It is our collective crisis of faith.
Iron Man - (Fantastic) I think this will go down as one of the all-time classic superhero movies. Well worth seeing and my 11 & 10 year old boys loved it.
WALL-E (Good) There is little question that this was quite a story-telling / cinematic achievement. Nevertheless, my kids were bored. It moved a bit slow and in some ways seemed geared towards adults. I'm a little weary of the hyper-environmentalism messages out there, but no biggie.
Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian (Good) I didn't come into the movie as a CS Lewis wonk or purist. Frankly, I had forgotten the story of the book, so I didn't view it through that lens. The movie worked well as a sequel and my kids and I liked it.
Kung Fu Panda (Good Enough) I like Jack Black so this movie had a leg up to begin with. The story was fun and moved at a pace that keeps you interested. The kids enjoyed it and it met my expectations.
Indiana Jones and the... blah, blah, whatever (Ok, I guess) Let's put it this way - it was cool to take my kids to a new Indy movie. It brought back memories of being their age - excited just to hear the theme music start. The film was pretty disappointing in several respects, but I kind of figured it would be, so...
Two August birthdays and my mom's wedding / family reunion were the justification for our purchase of the Nintendo Wii a few weeks ago. It is a unique game console because it works off of remote controllers that sense your movement - so for example, you can "play" tennis against your virtual opponent.
I thought this would be all hype, but let me tell you - the Wii is fun! We have had people of all ages, shapes, and sizes delighted to swing a golf club, throw a bowling ball, or even give a couple of right hooks in boxing. This should DEFINITELY be on your Christmas list!
If you have to buy a vacuum, buy a Dyson. My wife and I have spent hundreds on Orecks, Hoovers, etc., but the Dyson is by far the best and is totally worth the money. If you have carpets and obsess about getting them clean, look no further. No bags, no loss of suction, and easy to move around. Good stuff.
Transformers - (Disappointing) I think this is going to be the last time I utter the words, "the special effects were good." Of course they were good, this isn't the Sci-Fi channel or something! The story and the dialogue were as thin and hokey as it gets. My favorite example of this is a scene when the teenage boy-hero has to get an artifact out of his room before the evil robots do it and annihilate the human race. Even though the good robots urge him to hurry for the sake of the human race, the boy is worried about what his parents might do if they hear him rummaging around! When his parents do hear noises and see lights they come and ask him if he has been... self-pleasuring in his room. This isn't what I signed up for with this movie. Instead of being entertained, I was bored, irritated, and inundated with corporate product placement (by the way, is there a new Camaro coming out?). This movie was a huge disappointment and I put it in the category with other flops like The Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Yuck.
Bridge to Terabithia - (Horrid) This is NOT an appropriate movie for children. It is actually a very deliberate piece of anti-Christian propaganda. The only reason to watch it with your children is to teach them how to discern a message that is completely antagonistic to the Christian faith. The story features a young boy and girl who become fast friends in their imaginary world of Terabithia. Shortly before the girl dies in a tragic accident, she attends church with the boy's family and says something to the effect of, "That stuff about Jesus is interesting. You believe it, but you hate it. I don't have to believe that. God is too busy running this beautiful world to send people to hell." This sets up a conflict in the boy's mind - and obviously in the minds of young children watching. Could this great little girl really go to hell for rejecting Jesus? A great question, but set in a horribly antagonistic narrative. Ick.
Ratatouille - (Fun) A great story about the conversion of a dour restaurant critic. My kids liked it, but the themes were probably more appropriate for adults. I'm not sure they could really appreciate the art appreciation / childhood nostalgia / conversion of critic angles. I definitely recommend it and encourage you to pay close attention to the converted critic's restaurant review / monologue at the end of the movie. That is some good writing. Live Free or Die Hard - (Brain Candy) The action is really fun to watch and is sustained by a plot that is just good enough to hold it together. Don't get me wrong. Critical elements of the story are paper thin, but the premise is good enough to keep you interested. It is definitely summer blockbuster material that the action / Bruce Willis enthusiast should go and see - probably not with your kids, though.
Ever feel like the price of groceries is just outrageous? Well, you have to try this site called, The Grocery Game. Someone figured out that if you combine on-sale items with Sunday coupons you can save big, big moolah. They know what is on sale and what coupons are coming - and tell you what the best deals are. Take your list and clip your coupons, baby.
I was pretty skeptical about it at first, but the four-week trial for $1 pushed me over the edge. Let me tell you - I went shopping yesterday with my Grocery Game list and coupons and my bill dropped from $106 to $52! Seriously! I double-dog dare you to try it, and if you do, please list me as your referral source: firstname.lastname@example.org.