You know, there’s just always interesting stuff to read on the Internet, and I still can’t stop reading and sharing it. So I’ve decided to relaunch my “What I Read the Week of…” feature, with a couple differences.
First, it won’t be on a set schedule (hence the #1 in the title). Instead, it will be as I have time, taking articles that I shared to Facebook in the order in which I shared them. Starting just after my final “What I Read the Week of…” post, the following all showed up on my Facebook “timeline” in December 2012 and January 2013.
Second, I’ve taken to putting up excerpts along with the links on Facebook, so it makes sense to do the same here. Each quotation below will give you an indication of what the whole article has in store. I’m offering direct quotes instead of my own commentary. As always, I’m not endorsing everything that everyone has to say in these links, but for the most part their thoughts resonate with my own. Sometimes they challenge my own preconceptions. In any case I find them valuable. I’m always happy to share my personal thoughts with anyone who asks for them. And now, here’s some cool/intelligent/amusing/meaningful stuff I found on the Internet.
“Our songs were mocked today. Hate was strong, and there was no peace. Evil won the day, filling the eyes of even our world-weary President with tears. There was nothing about December cheeriness that could keep it from happening, nothing about the Christmas spirit that could save those children’s lives. Sinatra goes on to sing, ‘Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.’ But I think anyone who has lived a bit of life knows that the fates never do. In this song, at least, Christmas is merry because we pretend it is, because we hope for things that won’t come true. It is merry when we can suspend disbelief for just a bit longer. Longfellow came to a different, more universal conclusion. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”
“God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t ‘systematically remove’ God if we tried. If the incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. God cannot be kept out.”
“The film has become a family tradition for us, but underneath the sense of kinship and connection with my in-laws that the film seems to foster, are more disturbing family memories. Like Jack Torrance, my father was an alcoholic, and several scenes in the film capture the experience of being the child of an alcoholic better than any film I know. In particular, I find especially troubling the scene where Danny quietly enters the chamber of his sleeping father to retrieve his toy fire engine and finds his father sitting awake on his bed. In a kind of narcoleptic daze Jack calls Danny over for a little talk. As disturbing as is Jack’s affectless attempt at speaking on a child’s level, what most troubled me about this scene when I first saw it with my father was the benumbed wariness of Danny’s responses to his father’s affection. What is most unsettling about being the child of an alcoholic is the sense of uncertainty: I never knew which version of my father I was dealing with from night to night, and this is what I saw in Danny’s response…More powerful than the haunting by aggrieved Indian spirits or the souls of the murdered Grady family is the haunting of the Torrance family by what they aren’t able to say to one another. Watching The Shining over the years with friends and family, I’ve realized that sometimes a horror film is the only way to say I love you.”
“One of the things that makes Wonderful Life endure is just how cracked it is. Yes, we get the little angel framing story that lets us know we’re not just watching a slight and unlikely morality tale, but for the most part, the film is a relentlessly small-scale tragedy of errors. George makes a decision for anyone but himself. He is beaten down by it. Everybody else, whom he sacrificed for, gets ahead. Rinse. Repeat…The gimmick everybody remembers about the film—wherein Clarence Oddbody, the guardian angel, plummets down from heaven to show George what life would have been like if he’d never been born—only takes up roughly 20 minutes of its running time, but it’s intensely cathartic, as is the joyful ending that follows. Capra knew that the only way to earn an ending this happy would be to send the audience through utter, bleak horror, so everything before George gets to live again is shot to maximize the sense of his confinement, before breaking loose into rapture. It’s the story arc the country itself had just lived through for the four years prior.”
“The music is juvenile stuff—tonic-dominant, without harmonic richness or surprise. Listen to any score by Richard Rodgers or Leonard Bernstein or Fritz Loewe if you want to hear genuine melodic invention. I was so upset by the banality of the music that I felt like hiring a hall and staging a nationalist rally. ‘My fellow-countrymen, we are the people of Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin! Cole Porter and George Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Burton Lane! We taught the world what popular melody was! What rhythmic inventiveness was! Let us unite to overthrow the banality of these French hacks!’ (And the British hacks, too, for that matter.) Alas, the hall is filled with people weeping over ‘Les Mis.’ … [O]ur great musicals were something miraculous. They were a blessed artifice devoted to pleasure, to ease and movement, exultation in the human body, jokes and happy times, the giddiness of high hopes…If you want emotion in a musical, please, if you’ve never seen it, catch the George Cukor version of ‘A Star is Born,’ in which Judy Garland (John Lahr agrees with me on this) produces the single greatest moment in film-musical history. Late at night in a club, when she thinks no one is listening (while James Mason lurks in the shadows), she sings the Harold Arlen torch song ‘The Man That Got Away.’ Overwhelming.”
“The unjustly despised prequel trilogy has had such a retroactive fallout on the original three and their reputation that Lucas’ involvement in the Star Wars saga (and, to an extent, the Indiana Jones films) can be boiled down, by many, to ultimate responsibility for all the saga’s missteps, and none whatsoever for its triumphs. Spectacularly unfair, this claim, nonetheless, has become a shibboleth amongst the most ardent fans of the saga, as well as its saner aficionados. One doesn’t need to be well versed in Star Wars lore or Lucas’ biography, however, to see how major an influence the latter had on the former (and, naturally, vice versa) — even in the two films that he did not direct. In fact, it is in the beloved first sequel that the saga reached its philosophical apex, and it was because of Lucas’ direct involvement. The Empire Strikes Back is not just the finest chapter of the Star Wars saga, it is also the most personal.”
“Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage. You don’t have to consign your sexuality to the box marked ‘Wrong.’ Your very normal and healthy desires aren’t a switch to be flipped. Morality tales and false identities aren’t the stuff of a real marriage. Purity isn’t judged by outward appearances and technicalities. The sheep and the goats are not divided on the basis of their virginity. (Besides, this focus is weird and over-realized, it’s the flip side of the culture’s coin which values women only for their sexuality…Really, there’s a lot of baggage from this whole purity movement heading out into the world.) For I am convinced, right along with the Apostle Paul, that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any other power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Not even ‘neither virginity nor promiscuity’ and all points between can separate you from this love. You are loved — without condition — beyond your wildest dreams already.”