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Archive for December, 2006

Tonight, at the grocery store, I noticed that one of the items in the impulse-buy-racks at the checkout line was Hotel Rwanda.

“Gum: check. Soap Digest: check. Agonizing portrait of heroic courage against genocidal massacre: check. Batteries: check.”

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We saw the Good Shepherd last night, spending nearly three hours in a dark theater with family we only see a few times a year, rather than just sitting around enjoying the opportunity to stare at each other.

It’s good. There was a blurb in the ad referencing some spy classic that this movie is for a new generation – I can’t remember what, but it was appealing – but it turns out to be more a mix of that spy movie and the Remains of the Day. Seeing this was a little like my experience with Michael Mann’s Heat, which I went to with a buddy in college because of the cast and promised action. When we left, my friend offered his review: “Heat: a movie about relationships.” It’s a great film, but I would have done better to read a few reviews before I saw it. (Actually, there is something very Michael Mann about what DeNiro is doing.)

The main thing is, although part of me is dying to see Babel, I just can’t handle this kind of excruciating portrayal of families in the crucible. I spend all this designated imaginative energy on the fictional terrors of the what-ifs that plague me as a husband and parent living in the real world of potential disaster and personal tragedies.

I think I could handle the Queen, since I’ve already processed that family’s crisis and dismissed them as wholly implausible characters.

But maybe I’ll just go see the James Bond movie again.

Happy h007idays.

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Every Christmas there are a few songs that I’d never noticed before, but suddenly I can’t escape. I usually discover (or finally pay attention to) at least a few unfamiliar gems. Last year, I was mercilessly persued by the infinitely creepy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (most scarring moment: “Say, what’s in this drink?”) and the schmaltzy charm of the “Christmas Waltz” (line burned in my brain: “And this song of mine/in three-quarter time/wishes you and yours/the same thing, too”). Oh yeah, and the catchiest absurdity of the season, Nat King Cole’s “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree.”

This year was a good year. Thank you, Sufjan, Sarah McLachlan, and assorted cast. I was the beneficiary of three sweet and low carols that kept the incarnation in ear’s reach for the last several weeks: “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” “Once in David’s Royal City,” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”
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(An Advent candle-lighting meditation)

At this most wonderful time of the year, we hear the angels sing in the strangest places and in the strangest voices. While everybody from Frank Sinatra to Jessica Simpson croons about the holy family, it’s the regular old family that takes center stage in the pop music of Christmas.

Christmas pop music looks back, usually with rose-colored binoculars, to a picture of family and loved ones. Just a like the ones we used to know, but better: joyful memories of being snuggled up together against the Victorian cold before the blazing yule, home for Christmas – troubles out of sight. Even those of us in southern California hear those sleighbells ringing. And these tidings of comfort and joy spill out into the streets: the warmth of brotherly and sisterly love on the busy sidewalks and at the glistening five-and-ten.

But right in the middle of the happiest season of all, there’s a part of us singing, “o that we could always see such spirit through the year.” Which brings us to the Christmas protest song. The activists come a-caroling.
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Lived Music

Inspired by Slowly Going Bald, I’m starting a list of all the live music I can remember hearing, when I can remember artist’s names. I find that I’m much more interested in this list than the movies I’ve seen. Most of those movies I could see again if I wanted, but none of that music will ever be heard again just as it was when it happened in that time and place. That’s the thing about music. I imagine this will slowly expand as more shows and artists come to mind.

It’s not an impressive list. It’s a downright embarrassing list, really. That’s why I’m hiding it here, in December of 2006. (more…)

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I was thinking on Sunday how sometimes overhearing people talk at church is about as intelligible as wandering into a debate at a Star Trek convention.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I admire their passion, and am impressed with their knowledge, but am sometimes at a loss for why this is good news.

Of course, I just mean this is what it’s probably like at other people’s churches.

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I was listening to Kurt Anderson on Studio 360 interview historian and author Richard Rhodes. He comments on US history with nuclear power, and particularly the Cold War (with a great piece on Dr. Strangelove), and reports that in the last 10 years we have turned 10,000 former Soviet nuclear warheads into American energy through a government program that purchased their former Soviet enriched uranium. Rhodes suggests that this is basically the only route to reducing nuclear weaponry’s destructive potential, as all that nuclear material has to be burned up somehow.

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

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