Monday, May 31, 2004

So if you've ever wondered what the Iliad is about, and thought maybe you'd just see the movie instead--get the Cliffs notes.

On Sunday night, after a pleasant barbecue with a group of friends, we decided to go to a late showing of "Troy" for a good laugh. While we knew it would be a poor adaptation, I at least was not prepared for the depths to which film creators can go. We were somewhat cheered, at the end, to see in the credits that it was only "inspired by Homer's Iliad", but that was a small comfort. I suppose the other moviegoers were unamused by our hilarity during the movie, but it was impossible to keep from laughing at Brad Pitt's "smell the fart" acting.

All the acting, in fact, was remarkably terrible, although it may be unfair to criticize the actors when the script and direction are so wretched. We did agree that Priam was excellently portrayed, even before I discovered that the actor is Peter O'Toole; but the rest of the cast got bogged down in soulful looks, heroic profiles, and cliched lines about honor, credibility (?), and posterity (yes, fine, Achilles, your name will be remembered forever, now shut up!!). There were a number of memorable lines, however, though perhaps not for the right reasons. I liked how they illustrated my favorite Odysseus epithet, "devious-devising", at the beginning when Boromir--I mean Odysseus--says to Achilles, "You have your sword; I have my tricks." I bet Patroclus knows about that sword--oh, wait, sorry, that whole relationship was neatly avoided by making the two cousins. Probably just as well.

Later Achilles rouses his men to battle by saying, "Do you know what lies on that beach? Immortality! Take it! It's yours!" Quite.

And then Hector rallies his troops with the code by which he has always lived his life: "Honor the gods; love your woman; defend your country!" Which I must say I actually liked, outside of an Homerian context--they're not standards espoused much nowadays, particularly the last one. It reminded me that patriotism used to be more than pasting bumper stickers on one's car and occasionally writing a letter to the editor.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie was that somehow the gods were not important enough characters to be included. Indeed, their existence was denied and disbelieved by a number of the characters--nearly all except for the fanatically wild-eyed priests and priestesses, and they kept getting proved wrong. So much for Paris being saved by Aphrodite in the nick of time; so much for the reason for Achilles' invulnerability; so much for the squabbles between Zeus and Hera that affect numerous outcomes of the war; so much for the guidance of Athene, etc, etc. None of that's important. What's important is watching Brad Pitt skip around the battlefield. Obviously.

And apparently there aren't any other important Greek playwrights, either, since their characters are so casually killed off. Too bad, Aeschylus, no Oresteia for you--it fits our plot better to let Briseis (yes, she's a character, just like Arwen!) stab Agamemnon. Oh, and Sophocles? It's a lot more interesting to let Hector take out Ajax than to let him commit suicide. Sorry.

So anyway, like I was saying, get the Cliffs notes. Or better yet, read the real thing. Then you can play the game!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I spent last weekend in Colorado, celebrating one sister's graduation from high school and another sister's birthday. A beautiful drive through the spring green freshness of New Mexico and the fields of wildflowers in Colorado raised my spirits immensely, and it was a great treat to spend four days with my whole family. Meg and I whiled away more than a few hours sitting on the porch and solving all the world's problems--one of my favorite activities!

And I must extend congratulations again to my little sister Emily, the only one of four sisters to graduate from high school--you're the greatest, Em! The ceremony was refreshingly free of shenanigans, thanks to strict rules this year; all the students were dressed nicely and, with one exception, deported themselves in a dignified manner. Speeches were mediocre, save for that of the salutatorian, who stepped up with a brief, clever, heartfelt, and uplifting message that was surprisingly bold in its profession of Christianity. Kudos to GHS for approving a religious message at a public ceremony!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

For some reason I never read Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence as a child. Well, that's not entirely true--I did read the first book and possibly one of the others, as they were part of our public library's collection. I loved the first one and read it several times, and if I'd realized it was the beginning of a sequence I would have looked for the others. Anyway, I just rediscovered them, and wow! What a treat! It's always heartening to read children's literature and find it as good or often better than the junk available to adults. Reading these books was like re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia--they never fail to delight, no matter what your age. I wish the sequence were not so obviously pagan--if the author didn't insist on spelling it out I could be very happy in my ignorance--but other than that it's a terrific story with riveting characters. Now I have to get my hands on the Prydain Chronicles (Lloyd Alexander), as Odious and Jack assure me they are excellent.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I was trying to remember why it had taken me so long to read Eagle Dreams, and realized that I could blame it mostly on Odious! After he read it while we were in Hawaii, he immediately loaned it out to two different people before I got my chance; then somehow it ended up getting shelved upon returning to our house instead of going straight to my nightstand. I happened to notice it the other day while looking for something to read, and I can only say I'm deeply ashamed I waited this long.

The author, Stephen J. Bodio, is Peculiar's stepfather, so we have been privileged to know him and his wonderful wife for several years now. Visiting them in the tiny New Mexican town of Magdalena is an experience rather beyond description, and one I hope to have again this summer. As they now have five dogs in their 4-room house, in addition to birds of varying sizes, I'm not sure how visitors will be crammed in amongst the impressive library and vast collection of items and artifacts from around the world, but we'll figure that out later.

Steve has been an avid falconer for most of his life (he's written several other books on the subject of birds), and Eagle Dreams is a memoir of his travels to Mongolia and Kazakhstan in search of eaglers. Because he writes much the same as he speaks, it's a fast-paced and infinitely fascinating account, combining travel notes with descriptions of food and alcohol (mostly vodka) and, of course, eagles and the men who hunt with them. He seems to have a knack for meeting thoroughly interesting and odd characters, and just as much of a knack of portraying them to his reader.

Though I heard many stories of Mongolia as a child, through a young missionary based from our church in Colorado, it had never particularly grabbed my interest until now. And I must admit that it's probably the things least appealing to most people that draw my attention--the cold, the vast barren sweeps, the solitude, and the animal population greater than the human. Steve makes it all, if not alluring, certainly fascinating, and I believe I may have to add Mongolia to my list of places to visit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Jack has an excellent post up on Utility, a topic we've been discussing a lot lately. That and a concert at St. John's last night have inspired me to pursue voice lessons, which I've been meaning to do for a long time--I need something unnecessary and beautiful in my life. And I hope everyone appreciates that I've refrained from making a joke about Odious after that last sentence.

Also, my sweet sister Meg has started a blog called The Journey Project. She's an awesome writer, with great insights on life and faith, so her blog is well worth visiting.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Books and food are my favorite things in the whole world. Oh, and of course Odious. Ahem. Anyway, having the first two combined is always a wonderful treat, whether it be eating while reading (many of my books have crumbs ground into the bindings) or reading cookbooks or other food-related works. I recently had the pleasure of reading Monsoon Diary, Shoba Narayan's memoir with recipes included. It's the best kind of memoir, like M.F.K. Fisher's, where the history of the author is told through the various meals and food experiences that shaped it. And then there are recipes.

The last time we were in London we were privileged enough to have a South Indian meal cooked for us (by a wonderfully motherly young South Indian woman), and I wished I could have enjoyed it more. Odious gobbled everything down, especially the lime pickle, but unfortunately I found the flavors and combinations too alien for my palate to immediately enjoy. After reading this book I'm inspired to try again, because Narayan's descriptions are mouth-watering--particularly because she herself takes such delight in them. I love the sensuousness of foodies!

Monday, May 10, 2004

As a reader, I adore Patricia McKillip. As a writer, I loathe her.

For writers like John Grisham or Brian Jacques, one assumes that the reason they publish only one book a year is because people would notice more quickly that they're just recycling plots. But somehow Patricia McKillip manages to pop out books at a disgustingly regular rate while still making them GOOD. I hate her.

No, actually I really like her a lot. Although her last few books have been a little too enigmatic for me, Alphabet of Thorn is fantastic. Odious says he didn't care much for it, but then he's been reading Heidegger lately, so that illustrates his taste (or lack thereof). [Looking over my shoulder, he protests that that's a low blow, especially since he just brought me a chocolate croissant. Yum.] Anyway, I liked Alphabet of Thorn because it was a good story and I could understand it. And who can resist the appeal of time travel? Certainly not the sorceress Kane, or so it seems to the young translator Nepenthe as she untangles the thorny words of an ancient manuscript to reveal an unbelievable story. While cranky mages question Nepenthe's lover Bourne about his involvement in his uncle's rebellion, and the strange young queen wanders around in the wood practicing invisibility, the nearly forgotten history of Kane and Axis, the emperor she loved, becomes more and more relevant to the present world.

McKillip's writing is, as always, elegant and evocative, and her storytelling abilities are superb.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Hmph. I was going to leave an irritated comment on the site, but realized that then I would be doing exactly what bothers me most about such people. Ranting and raving about those who don’t share one’s opinion is counterproductive and pointless, and happens a lot in Santa Fe (I’ve stopped reading the weekly Reporter because it just annoys the heck out of me). So instead of screaming about how narrow-minded and intolerant people are, I will instead post a defense of traditional marriage in hopes that a positive outlook will be convincing and helpful, and I’ll start with words far better than mine.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

These words, which follow the well-known “Dearly beloved” in the marriage service found in the Book of Common Prayer, give a perfect summary of the solemnity and importance of marriage. Marriage is not merely a public commitment of love, or an arrangement for mutual financial benefit; rather, it is a sacrament, blessed by the church and witnessed by friends and family who are expected by God to hold the couple to their vows. This concept, “established by God in creation”, is something that seems to be slipping from our understanding, as groups of all sorts seek for recognition of their ‘marriage’.

The intent of marriage is for a man and a woman to become one, through avowal to each other and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Through marriage two people are stronger and better than they were before, as they help each other through life and provide stability for their family and community. It is a serious matter, to be well considered in prayer and discussion, and to be worked at and upheld. Yet it is also perfect joy, for two people to be joined under God’s blessing and to find delight and comfort in each other for the rest of their lives. A true marriage is something that can be counted on, that is strong and reliable and stable.

A civil union is not a marriage. The government cannot bestow blessing on a couple and wish them true happiness in a Godly life together. Only the church can do that, because marriage is and always has been a sacrament. However, marriage is also a fundamental building block of society. A man and a woman who have pledged themselves to each other, and who create a solid home in which they are happy and secure, cannot help but affect those around them in a positive way. Even a small degree of personal security gives one more ability to serve others, so that private harmony promotes public peace. A society based on such a firm foundation will only prosper.

And a society must be governed. For this reason, and because of the church’s fading influence, at this time it seems necessary for the government to consider its self-preservation, and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, “honored among all people.” Our absolute need to maintain this successful tradition must be reinstated beyond a doubt lest our society crumble.