Monday, October 29, 2007

It's All Because

Another blog I read on a fairly regular basis recently had the following YouTube video. With all the heated discussions recently around who was/was not appearing with Barak Obama, whether or not it matters that J.K. Rowling said Dumbledore was gay, as well as recent administrative changes in the Presbytery of Hudson River, the video struck me as both very funny and a sad but real commentary on our churches, our politics, and our society.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Plague

I’ve just finished rereading Albert Camus’ The Plague. This time through, as I read the latter part of the book I seemed to hear it echoed in Joni Mitchell’s newish song “If I Had a Heart”. I continue to be so moved by Tarrou’s lautobiographical speech in Part 4 and by the later reflection of Dr. Rieux – a quote that I’ve carried with me over all the years since my first reading as a teenager and has resonated each time I've reread the book-- that “…a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Global Adoption

Usually I read the articles in Mother Jones not because I’m captivated by them but because I feel I need the information they contain in order to balance out some of the facts I’m receiving from the mainline press. But this month, Elizabeth Larsen’s article “Did I Steal My Daughter?” spoke to both my head and my heart. I’d heard a lot of the particulars listed in it before—especially about adoptions from Haiti, but also from the ongoing coverage of celebrity adoptions--but none were presented in the balanced but personally touching way of this piece.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Late yesterday afternoon we went to see the film The Darjeeling Limited, a truly weird though entertaining film by director Wes Anderson. Before going, I had my doubts about whether I’d enjoy it since I’d really disliked Anderson’s earlier films The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. Darjeeling had a lot of the same actors playing in it that had been in the other Anderson films, including Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Angelical Huston. The theme even struck me as similar –one more attempt keep a melancholic tone while dealing humorously with and becoming free of one’s psychological and familial baggage. (In this film, the brothers do that literally toward the end of the film.) While I can’t say I loved TDL, I did enjoy it more than the earlier movies, partly because it seemed like Anderson had done a bit less navel-gazing in this piece—or maybe it’s just because I enjoyed seeing the Indian scenery enough that it balanced out a lot of the juvenile pepper-spray and poisonous snake jokes.

Monday, October 15, 2007


If she were still alive, today would be my mother's 85th birthday!


Saturday evening we went to see Kevin Kline in a preview of “Cyrano” which was based on Anthony Burgess’ translation of Rostand’s classic. The acting was great, the play (as, from my perspective, the original piece by Rostand) mediocre. I found myself waiting in the first act for the one good exchange coming-- between the Comte de Guiche and de Bergerac in which the Comte says that when you fight with windmills they may “swing round their huge arms and cast you down into the mire” and Cyrano adds “or up, among the stars!”

In the second act--mercifully shorter-- I waited for Cyrano’s wonderful lines toward the end:

“ What's that you say? Useless? Useless? But one does not fight merely to win! You have it wrong... One fights for far more than the mere hope of winning. Better, far better to know that the fight is totally irreparably, incorrigibly in vain!... Are you there too, Stupidity? You above all others perhaps were predestined to get me in the end. But no, I'll Fight on, fight on, fight..."

But before we could get to those lines, there were staging difficulties and the play actually stopped for a while so things could be fixed. Watching the tech guys out struggling with the large curtain that had gotten caught was the most interesting part of the evening! Other than that, not much stood out from the play (though in truth I was dead tired and that could have had an effect on how I felt about what I was seeing). Opening night is November 1st so I’ll be interested in hearing what the critics think then.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Classroom Taking Shape

The freshman computer science class from Buena Vista University (thank you Ken Schweller!) has been helping my Mercy class build our Second Life classroom space. Here are a couple of shots of what they've done so far.

The class setting is on top of a rocky mountain-- fairly appropriate for a course studying ancient Greek philosophy-- on the Buena Vista island. It's got a marble base and Greek columns surrounding it.

And right now, in the middle of it is the "modern trial" setting for when we do a modern day version of the trial of Socrates in early November. To my right in the picture is the witness stand, to the left of that is the judge's bench, and right in front of me you can see the prosecutor's table.

Directly below our classroom space is Plato's cave, a visual creation of the cave allegory that Socrates mentions in the Republic. The BVU students are using their computer skills to do a nice job of picking out what should be in that. That class and mine (which is reading the Republic this semester) will get together in SL to discuss the text itself, why it was reconstructed the way it was, anything else that should be added, the meaning of the allegory, and how it fits in with the rest of what Socrates/Plato taught. And then, in November, as a followup to that interaction, the BVU students will serve as the jury for my class' Socrates trial.
I think everyone on both campuses-- Ken, me, and each of our groups of students-- is excited about the possibilities that bringing the groups together in SL is providing.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Peach and Strawberry

Early Saturday morning was a nice break in a week that has been a fast blur of work and family obligations. For two and a half hours, my entire focus was taken up with stirring fruit, pectin and sugar (lots and lots of sugar) and then heating and jarring it for jelly. The end result—35 jars of peach-strawberry and strawberry jelly. Do I like jelly? Not very much, but I enjoyed learning the new skill and I love having something concrete to show for my work.