Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Night ... and Days

My brother-in-law came into town this past weekend to celebrate my birthday.  Very kind of him, I will say.  Even more kind:  he helped get everything ready for my birthday party on Saturday, staying around to grill and clean-up.  Nice dude that Drew.

Drew and I had talked a few weeks ago about seeing the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, which has created quite a stir after months of anticipation - largely stemming from Heath Ledger's untimely death.  From what I gather, the movie has benefitted nicely from the tragedy.  
Anyhow, I had given up on the idea of seeing the movie about a week ago.  Anna and I had refigured our budget, which invariably makes me feel like it's time to pinch some pennies.  Plus, I had read a review in The New Yorker that was fairly scathing of The Dark Knight.  And, on top of that, the other review in that same magazine was for Wall-E, the newest Pixar film that has been released, and that review was glowingly positive.  

So, I had determined to see Wall-E if I saw any movie.  But, here's the thing, Drew shows up and asks me, "What are you thinking?"  He's like this, one of the many reasons I love him.  He'll just show up on your doorstep one day, as if you and he had never parted ways.  And, he'll pick up a conversation that you started two weeks ago.  And, this time, which is not usual, I knew what he was talking about.

"You want to go see Batman?" I asked back.  

"Well, I figured we could go," he began.  In the next few moments we did the dance of commitment.  I realized that he had actually waited this long simply to see it with me.  He realized that my promise might not have been complete.  

But, Drew, he's a nice guy, and I hate to be the one to bear bad news to a nice guy.  And, in fact, I did want to see the movie.  So, two hours later we're standing in line at the local cinema that is overwhelmed with families and teens and college students on a busy Friday night.  

And not long after that, we're sitting in the theatre, jam packed full of human beings, about to be belligerently assaulted by over two and half hours of what The New Yorker called a celebration of perversity.  And, it was.  

Yes, the movie was good - riveting and dramatic.  No doubt about that.  And Heath Ledger's performance?  Well, it wasn't really a performance.  It seemed real, which was both the draw and the repulsion.  He seemed to overwhelm the film and the movie theatre with his unwieldy madness.  As one commentator said, Ledger is proof of how staring into the abyss of madness is dangerous.

But that raises the question.  How can staring into the abyss can be good for anyone?

What I am really driving at is this:  movies in particular, but also our news and television, have become much darker, much more sadistic in recent years.  I'm sure some sociologist is taking note of this somewhere and beginning to evaluate when it began, but it seems to me that the turn came almost precisely after September 11, 2001.  At least that's how I remember it.  In the years that followed that horrific morning, images and stories of torture, of nihilistic destruction, of horror that leads to post-traumatic stress-disorder began to appear:  Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, movies like Hostel and Saw, television shows like 24.  And the age old debate about culture influencing media or media impacting culture begins anew.  

The Dark Knight then is but one in a series of movements that makes this decade one of the harshest, darkest in my personal memory.  And it seems like a shame that Drew and I spent $8 a piece to be immersed into that world.  Like I said, Drew's a nice guy.  And I'm more of a Pixar guy anyway.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hearts and Bones

"You take two bodies and you twirl them into one - their hearts and bones - and they won't come undone." - Paul Simon

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 Months

It's so difficult to believe Elise is 8 weeks old today.  We are told to cherish the early weeks and months of our children's lives, as they pass so quickly, never to return.  I didn't grasp that with Wyatt; I couldn't see the time passing, couldn't see him growing older.  It has been markedly different the second time around.  Knowing that we are planning no additional children is perhaps another reason I'm not taking these months for granted.  I look at Elise and try to will myself to remember every possible detail.  I look at Elise and her changes over the last couple of months and am determined to love every moment with her...and it's easy.  Today I realized how sincere she appears in every expression, and at the same time doesn't exaggerate a single one -- she gives to each only what is necessary.  Amazing.  I love this girl.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


The Simpsons: Season 5 ... wherever you are, I miss you. I hope someone is watching the "Rosebud" episode tonight.

I've just finished Citizen Kane (still AFI's #1 movie of all time) for the first time in my life (my previous attempt secured a great nap after only making it through the first few minutes in my dad's lazyboy recliner).

Perhaps just as good as the movie was the accompanying second disc, which details the momentous battle between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst - Godzilla and King Kong egos at war.

The lesson learned: beware the appetite of ambition. It ultimately consumes the consumer.

Welles prodigious will catapulted him into fame, fame he created in radio and theatre. But, he was always living on the tight-wire of genius, running from place to place and project to project as a way to keep his attention off of the shadow and faults that lay at his feet. With youth, he could do so. His enormous energy kept his identity glamorous, but it was an identity like a stage set - thin behind the show. He devoured life, plowing through meals (two steaks, two baked potatoes, a pineapple and a bottle of whiskey for dinner every night), dominating rooms, overwhelming nay-sayers, bewildering critics.

Two generations before him, though, Hearst had fashioned himself in similar manner - using his inherited wealth, which his father secured from mining in California, to launch a whole new way of seeing the world: print journalism that captured the fantastic, the strange, the nitty-gritty, and thus the common man's attention.

In Citizen Kane, Welles launched himself at Hearst, seizing hold of a man that would give Welles what had always brought fortune to him earlier: adversity. Only this time that is exactly what he got.

Welles' refusal to back down from Hearst, and his own drive to make himself a great man eventually brought his own life into the arc of tragedy that was the fictional Citizen Kane. It is harrowing to watch an aged Welles before the camera confessing that 2% of his life after Citizen Kane was about making movies. The other 98%: "hustling," trying to live a lie which was his life, trying to let his image outpace his reality.

So, let the words of the Beastie Boys stand as the last voice of reason: "Be true to yourself and you will never fall."


Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Miles

there's a trench that cuts through a large patch of farmland - 
halfway then to Exit 41
and a place
the miles stay the same
but we change

The land hardly notices us pass by
amorous and expectant
compelled and burdened
taxed and relieved  

driving towards Greencastle for a love affair
to be known and to know
that when we cease our keeping
we are kept
by grand, lofty particulars
of heritage and memories
so says Chesterton
I hear

the dark friendliness of a pioneer bridge
wrought by hand
of fallen timber
 triumphing a small river
of cornstalks knee high
and fireflies over tall grass
and gravel
and an amber light in a farm house
beneath a cemetery with oak trees and pansies laid to rest

we gave each other music when it all began
to pass the miles,
spilling from our open windows
hurtling down the highway 
and through the back way home

swallows now circle the fields to collect their keep,
following the mower's wake
that wakes life from the grass

hostas in bloom
with daylilies 
popping forth
along trenches
to line these miles

beauty and fragility
seasonal triumphs 
of a place
and a reminder of longing
and the deepest gladness of procreation
giving life
a family
through the miles
to a place
where a name carries history
and peace
that we need not
drive miles
and canvass the land
we are home


Saturday, July 05, 2008

God and Mammon

I referenced this article by D'Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Agency for a sermon and thought it might be interesting to other folk:

Baby Boomers:  The Gloomiest Generation

America's baby boomers are in a collective funk. Members of the large generation born from 1946 to 1964 are more downbeat about their lives than are adults who are younger or older, according to a new Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey.

Not only do boomers give their overall quality of life a lower rating than adults in other generations, they also are more likely to worry that their incomes won't keep up with inflation -- this despite the fact that boomers enjoy the highest incomes of any age group. (read the entire article by clicking here).