Comments, criticisms, or (one can hope) compliments are more than welcome! Please let me know what you think, tell me I'm crazy (I suspect this) or what you'd like to hear about. Comments are screened before publication, so if you want to share something with me only, just put that in the comment and I'll keep it to myself.


Monday, March 21, 2011

La Bella Luna

Thomas Cranmer - Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr (1556)

So New York was abuzz about the perigee-syzygy  (extreme supermoon) that took place this weekend.  The Archwarden and I were busy running around visiting family and friends and did not pay more than a few moments' attention, however we did mark the occasion by screening Moonstruck.  The 1987 film is one of the family institutions to which he has been indoctrinated, and -- veteran of the silver screen that he now is -- he pointed out some subtle foreshadowing that escaped my notice during my approximately 4,962 previous screenings.  Next time you watch it, pay attention to the scene in the airport where Ronnie asks Loretta to invite his brother to their wedding.  A hint: five years.

I am not good at night photography and thus did not attempt this at home, but many New Yorkers took many photos of the moon. You can see some of them in a slide show here.  Otherwise let's hear your favorite Moonstruck quotes in the comments.

Super-Moon-on-Manhattan by Lydia2222 on flickr.com.  (C) All rights reserved.

"Super" moon on Brooklyn Bridge
"Super" Moon on Brooklyn Bridge by John de Guzman (C) All rights reserved.

manhattan moonrise
Manhattan Moonrise by dshep727 on flickr.com.  (C) All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Say Hello to a Brand-New World

Shrove Tuesday

To distract myself from thinking about how I wish I was in New Orleans right now, I thought it was as good an opportunity as ever to ponder the creation of a new television series. It's funny enough that I am even talking about television, as anybody who knows me can tell you I literally don't know how to turn our current setup on, let alone wrest the remote away from A Certain Party long enough to have my own viewing schedule.  The remoteS, that is; there are five of them of various shapes and sizes and apparently if not activated in a precise order, it will release a chain reaction of plot twists and ratings dips from which humankind dare not hope to recover.  Truth be told, I wouldn't watch much TV even if I could.  The Internet is my vice of choice, and I have been trying with mixed results to limit my exposure to that, let alone take up a new sedentary habit.

But -- despite the odds -- there IS a new show coming out this fall with which I am intrigued in spite of myself.  I have had an illogical obsession since I was a kid with the now-defunct airline Pan Am.  I only actually flew them once, since they were already on the wane by the time I was old enough to make my own travel choices, and the various attempts (there were one, two, three of them) to resurrect the brand, which -- while nice in a nostalgic sense -- fell increasingly short of the mark when it came to recreating the experience of the airline in its heyday.  A fourth was recently announced; this one not even using the original livery or carrying passengers.

However, if you can't do it for real, you can do it on television.  ABC is launching a new series in the fall which will attempt to portray the intrigue and romance of international air crews during jet-setting's golden age.  Called simply Pan Am, it will star Christina Ricci among other names which I would call "lesser-known" at the risk of revealing my complete ignorance of current popular culture.

Coincidentally, a friend that used to attend my church, Bob Gaynor, is currently in the cast of the Broadway musical version of another Pan Am story, Catch Me If You Can.  A stylized biography of  young con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., who managed to fool the airline among others about his credentials in order to commit check fraud.  He was so successful that the FBI later employed him to catch others at the same game.

I'm not sure how many episodes I will actually be able to see, or will want to sit through.  The period backdrop is likely to be the only aspect of the story that interests me, but it is still nice to see that the good guys still wear white hats, at least on stage and screen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Can't Hear You

John & Charles Wesley - Renewers of the Church (1703-1788, 1707-1791)

"Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them."


Groggers - from 1970
Groggers, by Avi Schwab
Used under Creative Commons License
There is in the Jewish tradition a historical character so repugnant that -- when his name is said aloud -- the congregation produces such a racket so that they don't have to hear it pronounced.  When the Book of Esther is heard during the feast of Purim, there is even a special percussion instrument called a grogger that is used to generate some of the noise.  The sound it creates is a sharp and dry, much like the warning of a rattlesnake.

I like to think that there are few people in our contemporary lives who conjure up such profound universal dislike.  Of course there have been despotic figures throughout history -- responsible for swaths of misery and death -- whom we could agree the world would have been better off without. 

I can, however, think of one contemporary American family that probably fits that description.  While their actions are nowhere in the scope of the atrocities committed by Haman or Hitler, they manage to conjure up much of the same reaction.  And that is by design.  They want you to hate them.  They want you to hate them because they want you to talk about them, tell people about them, come out to confront them and possibly let your emotions get the best of you and do something for which they can -- shrewd scholars of the law that they are -- take you to court, where they will most likely win.  That's how they can afford to seemingly be everywhere at once, and -- now that they have forced America to once again acknowledge that even hateful speech is protected under our law -- they have vowed to redouble their efforts.

We wanted free speech, and now we've seen what that can sometimes cost.  As upsetting as it is to see such vile people be handed a victory, I do not think the Supreme Court could have ruled any differently. Once you start deciding that some speech is subject to censure, you're opening the door for any opinion that is unpopular to be repressed. As we have seen during certain political conventions, even as it is the First Amendment does not protect protesters when the vague claim of a security threat trumped their right to assemble peacefully and speak their minds. Do we really want to open the door for courts or -- worse -- legislators to decide what speech should be protected and what is fair game for punishment?

What upsets me more is the knowledge that the outrage of the public, now that the targets include military families, Catholics, the Swedish, Queen Elizabeth and whatever other group has managed to cross their delusional paths, was pretty much non-existent when the only people whose funerals were being picketed were AIDS patients. Where was Sarah Palin then?

So what do we do?  One school of thought -- which seems logical -- is that we respond to the way civilized people respond to an act of shocking incivility whose only purpose is to gain attention: we stop rewarding it with more attention.  Readers should tell news outlets "This is not news. Stop covering it." Interviewers should not kid themselves into thinking they will be the one who can foster a rational conversation.  Counter-protesters should stop thinking they will get the upper hand. Satirists should stop going for the easy laugh by giving them a platform for their bile.

We have tried it.  It didn't work.  So stop rewarding the behavior.  Turn your back.  Don't react.  Stop feeding the beast and maybe it will go away. After all, with any miscreant you encounter, what happens next is as much about you as it is about them.  In this case, they may serve us Christians well, because -- in a scramble to make sure others know we're not like that -- its up to us inclusive types to witness to our own understanding of who God does and doesn't hate.

If that doesn't work, maybe we should all be issued groggers.