Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Little of What I Like and Hope to Like

Some years back, after rather too much time spent in a library (hard as it is to believe such a thing is possible), I asked my husband, "Does it mean there's something wrong with me that I can't read much literary criticism without feeling sick to my stomach?" His answer: "It means you're a normal person."

But writing about books can be very worthwhile, when it's actually about the book, rather than the author's pet political theory or his desire to sound impressive. I think writing about books is most useful when the author gets us to notice something in the work we wouldn't have otherwise. Case in point: Recently I pulled out my Bevington Shakespeare to look up something in As You Like It, and I looked at the introduction. I've read AYLI many times over the years, but Bevington showed me something in the Ages of Man scene that I'd never noticed.

Jaques gives his speech, dividing the life of man into seven stages. In the sixth, the formerly vigorous man has shrunken muscles and his voice is becoming childish again. And that stage is succeeded by the helplessness of extreme old age, when we become "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." That final line, delivered by a really good actor, is devastating. But Bevington points out something I'd never noticed: that line is immediately followed by Orlando coming in supporting the old Adam, bringing the old man to food and rest before he would take any himself. Adam is moving rapidly toward the seventh age of man, but he is clearly not "sans everything", because there is human kindness and love working in the hearts of the people around him. Something to think about.

Speaking of AYLI, I just found out not more than a couple of months ago that Kenneth Branagh is releasing a movie version of AYLI later this year. How I missed hearing about it until production was complete, I don't know, but it was welcome news (all the more so because it came at a time when it seemed every headline was about the government doing something incredibly stupid, some celebrity saying something unpatriotic or blasphemous, or some technological "advance" that threatens to chip away the foundation of what it means to be human.) AYLI is one of my very favorite plays, and I have high hopes for this production. For one thing, I loved some of Branagh's previous films; for another, I like Kevin Kline; and for a third, Branagh has brought some Japanese elements into this production and, true-dyed Westerner though I am, I am fond of many things Japanese. Also I like the movie poster; a good movie poster doesn't guarantee a good movie, but it never hurts ticket sales and I'm hoping in this case it shows attention paid to quality throughout.

(Does "true-dyed" count as one of those portmanteau terms Tweedledee and Tweedledum talked about--encompassing both "true blue" and "dyed-in-the-wool"? Either that or I'm just linguistically awkward.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Random Thoughts

The lefty/progressive slogans about how "the personal is political" and we should "think globally, act locally" have nothing on Christianity, which holds that everything we do has eternal consequences in the way it affects our souls.

The now-old joke about the gene pool needing a little chlorine is only funny until you ask yourself who'd get to administer the chlorine.


There's a lot of talk about how women find it easier to talk about their feelings, to say "I love you", and so on. But really, when it comes to love, isn't it easier for anyone to say it than it is to show it with concrete actions. There's a reason we have the expression "talk is cheap".


It's amazing how the visual media penetrate our thoughts. Recently I reread Emma and the whole time I was reading I was picturing the blonde girl (Gwyneth Paltrow?) on the poster from the movie of a few years back--and I never saw that movie! I can't even remember how my former mental Emma looked.


I saw a TV ad telling men they could enter their girlfriend, wife, or sister in an amateur pole dancing competition. Whatever happened to men wanting the women in their lives to be protected from that sort of thing?

Someone I read once suggested that many of the angry young Islamic men have a bit of an inferiority complex about how the West is so technologically advanced and prosperous while the Islamic Middle East, once more advanced, is not. Sounded a little iffy, but recently I wondered if he might be right when I saw an article about how there's a youth fashion in Palestine for copies of US military clothes. We might be hated there, but the US military is seen as strong and the young Palestinian men wish to be seen as strong too.


Hippie-esque slogans to the contrary, "going with the flow" is not necessarily a good thing. Tissue in a toilet goes with the flow. So does your dropped cell phone, your earring, etc. And I, for one, don't want to go where they're going.


Have you ever noticed that a lot of the things that say "for mature audiences" would be more accurately labeled "for sophomoric audiences" or "for adolescent male audiences"?


I've said in the past that I suspected the sexual revolution was won by dirty old men. Maybe it's more accurate to say it was won by loutish young men--there's a lot more of them.


One for the Wendy Shalit women who choose to wear slit skirts but frantically grab and hold the slits together when a wind comes by files: UP saw a woman wearing low-rise pants with a tattoo on her lower back repeatedly trying to pull her pants up.


I have to wonder about the motives of the young men wearing pants that sag to show their underpants band. Is the fact they're designer underpants supposed to impress anybody? I'd be more impressed if they knew how to pick out pants that fit.

Although the line in my last post is the best line I've heard recently, this from Thomas Sowell's column at today is worth repeating:
"If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the
Middle East would be
the most peaceful region on the face of the

Best Line I've Heard Lately and Why

I watched Spanglish last week. I saw a couple of good reviews of it when it came out, but I never would have watched it then because it had Adam Sandler and because I figured it was likely another "Americans bad, Mexicans good" thing. But recently my husband wanted to see 50 First Dates and having, to my surprise, enjoyed it, that got rid of the first objection and I was willing to try Spanglish. (As to the second objection, there is a little of that in there, but not enough to offend even me; I thought if was more that the mother wanted to be the one who exercised influence over her daughter, not so much that America is bad.) Turns out it is pretty good, as those reviews said.

The line I mention comes in when the self-centered, selfish wife of Sandler's character has moved on to out and out adultery. Her mother guesses and tells her that if she keeps on doing what she's doing, she will lose her husband. She says a few more, needed-to-be-said lines, and turns to leave. Daughter says something like, she could always count on her to make her hate herself. Mother turns, comes back, and says gently, "Honey, lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense."

That gave me my only LOL moment in the film, and it was a good long one. See, I've been waiting for someone to say something like that for a long time now. The high self-esteem brigade would have us believe that all people should feel good about themselves all the time. But I don't think so. If you're cheating on your spouse, neglecting your children, or running con jobs on elderly pensioners, then I don't think you should feel good about yourself. If you're stealing money from your company or stealing gas from the local gas station, you've earned your low self-esteem. If you're lying to your spouse about your spending habits or to your significant other about where you spent the weekend, that niggling sense of guilt is a healthy thing, not a sign you need a self-esteem workshop. Guilt, disappointment in ourselves, or just generally feeling bad about ourselves are often deserved feelings. And they can and should be spurs to help us repent and do better.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we should hang on to those feelings after they've passed their usefulness. It is natural to have some regrets over past misdeeds, but once we have repented and done our best to correct the problem, we should let it go. Jesus didn't say to the woman taken in adultery, "Go and wallow in guilt", he said, "Go and sin no more."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sign of the Times

Out in Los Angeles some members of an Hispanic street gang are being tried for hate crimes for allegedly conspiring to kill blacks. Here's part of their defense:

Defense attorney Reuven L. Cohen told jurors last week that one of
the slayings cited in the charges — the 1999 shooting of Kenneth Wilson — was
not a hate crime but "a simple gang killing committed out of boredom."

See, they didn't kill him because they hated him, they killed him because they were bored.

Oh, well that's a relief.

Wait--no it's not. I'd rather live sandwiched between a family of KKK members and another of Louis Farrakhan's followers than have even one person on my block who's decided that murdering fellow human beings is an acceptable solution to the problem of boredom. Really. The latter is clearly the more dangerous. The racists might hate me (or other people on the block), but they probably don't hate enough to kill and even if they do, it will likely take some grievance, real or imagined, to set them off. With the murder-to-alleviate-boredom guy, everyone on the block is in danger every time there's nothing good on TV.

In a sane society "I killed him because I had nothing better to do that day" could not be considered a defense--no way, no how.