Monday, September 25, 2006

Sophie's Trifecta

After church on Sunday my wife and I enjoyed an afternoon at the Kennedy Center watching opera, courtesy of some tickets we received for petsitting a cute little dog named Roxie. The opera we saw was Nicholas Maw’s adaptation of William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice.

With this viewing I hit an artistic trifecta, having in the past six months read the novel (courtesy of a 25¢ purchase at a thrift store in Williamsburg, VA by fellow blogger I Love Taco Bell) and seen the film version. If I had the time or the inclination (or was enrolled in some expensive graduate film school), I believe I could come up with an esoteric thesis for dissecting the material and comparing/contrasting the various artistic modes used to tell the thoroughly depressing material in three different mediums, and whether those mediums enhance or detract from the story itself (as well as shed new light on the nightmare and evil of the Holocaust). But who has time for that?

Obviously all three have their strengths and weaknesses. As source material for the film and opera, the novel provides a wonderful framework to work from. Director Alan J. Pakula does a very faithful adaptation of Styron, and Maw does a faithful adaptation of Pakula and Styron. Each version is tragic without resorting to false notes or manufactured emotions. The novel and film effectively use realism to get the story across. The opera (at least this version of it), with its sparse set and use of many, many photographs dangling from the rafters, creates a dream-like vision of memory and loss. Of course some of the audience members complained, wanting more realistic sets (perhaps reflecting their fondness for the film) and others debated the omission of some details from the original story (I suppose wanting more detail regarding the character Stingo's various sexual mishaps) as well as the significance of the title, “what exactly was Sophie’s Choice?”. Those complaints of course were trivial to the visceral appeal.

Spoiler Alert!!!

The opera ends with the narrator asking “Where was God at Auschwitz?” a classic theological questioning dealing with, among other things, theodicy and suffering, to which the narrator retorts, in some ways as the voice of God, “Where was Man?” The layered complexity of such questions only adds to the overall power and impact of all versions of Sophie’s Choice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Discovering something worth writing about

Ok, ok, ok. I know I had previously stated that I will attempt to blog twice a week. Of course that hasn't quite panned out, but that is still my intent. I've got to keep my fans happy!!! Also, a component of the mission statement of this blog was not to post too much about those issues that have a tendency to raise the ire of a variety of people. Well, for today I'm letting that slip a little, without apology. I mean I am supposed to be a Meddling Methodist, aren't I?

The past couple of days I have had the opportunity to sit and listen to Donald Dayton, a religious scholar who has refused categorization as well as defy the status quo, as any good Christian should. Thirty years ago he published a little book that still resonates with many across the broad spectrum of American religious identity. His Discovering an Evangelical Heritage is a seminal work that provides refreshing insight into the true nature of the roots of, I suppose, the uniqueness of American Christian culture. It overturns current assumptions about the formation of the "mainline" and "evangelical" protestant branches in American history. And it seeks to move beyond the current false dichotomy perceived to be the main cause of division within those two traditions. In other words, most of what we think we know is wrong and lest we take an honest look at the true nature of our history, then we will continue on a trajectory that both denies the past (thus ultimately denying the true nature of the Gospel) and will continue to divide us into the future. Let us regain what has been lost.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Reason #47 to quit my day job

Check this article out. A bartender in Hutchinson, KS gets a pretty nice tip. Gotta love those Kansans. What I find particularly amazing is the fact she's been at Applebee's for eight years. Further proof that all the time and money I've spent in college has not yielded any financial benefits (not that that's a bad thing.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rove-in Around D.C.

D.C. is a place where those with the keys to power can brush up with those destined to stay on the margins. Chance encounters between the governmental elites and the majority of non-entities forced to cling to singular hopes and pipedreams intersect, sometimes with glorious results, most of the time with narry a ripple in the cosmic fabric binding the world together. So it was this past weekend when my wife and I enjoyed a quiet Italian dinner in NW D.C. I have no illusions regarding my place in this democracy. I vote as often as I can when I can in a city that has very few voting rights. But I do have a variety of eating establishments to choose from, and this night we ventured to a little family venue that serves very good spaghetti.

As we left the restaurant in the middle of a rainstorm, the remnants of Ernesto creeping up the Atlantic Coast, I noticed a man in a raincoat approaching us. The spark of recognition ignited in my brain as he drew closer and my mind raced through the millions of cells searching for a name to match the face. The brain opened the celebrity file, and in doing so the rest of body stopped and stared. The man came closer and looked at me and cracked a subtle smile, as if knowing that I knew him from somewhere, perhaps on TV or in a movie. He had that knowing look of one used to being recognized. And it hit me.

My wife was not transfixed as I was, for she was thinking of other things, of places to be and things to accomplish, her mind not cluttered with the mundane task of celebrity sighting. Yet I was pleading with her, telepathically, to look over, to see this giant of American culture, this person that both she and I have admonished in mixed company and questioned his integrity as a human. Yet she would not, could not.

Thinking back there are things I wish I could of said at that moment. Thousands of times I have rehearsed with me and my friends arguments to make regarding the political movements of this country. Those arguments involve disagreeing with the strategies and public persona of this one who now was walking past me into the restaurant. It donned on me that yes, he needs to eat and enjoy the food just like us. He has friends somewhere to enjoy a glass of wine with, to talk about sports and weather and other fun items. So I let him pass me by to enjoy his dinner without the distraction of political engagement. This person that I have built up in my mind as the root cause for all America's ills (an exaggeration to be sure but one reflective of our political culture in general, perhaps pointing to its sorry state for all involved), simply wants to be. My chance encounter with the corridors of power will not even appear on any radar screen as having any effect on the shifting tides of culture, political or otherwise. Yet I did noticed that Karl Rove in person has appeared to have lost some weight. While engaging in a variety of wars, intellectual, physical, sociological, etc., Rove, aka Bush's Brain, aka numerous expletives, and aka numerous affirmations, has time to exercise. Now if only I could do the same.