Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oubliette

(Poetry Scales 16)

Playing with its new, Deluxe Castle Play-set,
A child found a door in the floor of the keep.
A miniscule, unmarked, windowless, chamber
Intended to imprison blackguards and thieves.

Needing a victim to justify the find
It locked away the sweet little doll princess.
(Never intending to use her anyway,
Next to dragons and knights she seemed quite senseless.)

The problem was that the little doll princess
Had for a crown, mommy’s favorite diamond ring.
Inside the promptly-forgotten Oubliette,
It did practically—and truly—cease to be.

Practically while the child never remembered
To release her once her sentence had been served.
Truly, because the castle some years later
Went to rest in a landfill quite unobserved.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"The Book Thief" (2013)

When you entertain a story about Germany in the late 1930s, narrated by death, you know going in that you are in for a depressing tale. “The Book Thief” does not disappoint. There is little uplifting or encouraging to be had. And with takeaways like: “I am haunted by humans.” or “I see their ugliness and their beauty and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” You aren’t going to get much in the form of the encouraging or inspirational.

That being said, we need constant reminders of the worst in human nature and in particular the evil that humanity embraced under fascism. “Doomed to repeat” and all that, you know. And this is a beautiful adaptation—and a faithful one—of a beautiful story designed to remind us all of the attitudes and fears that drive us to those evils. So, my recommendation would be to check this film out if you haven’t seen it. Or better yet, read the book then watch the film.

But beware, it is not a pleasantly beautiful story.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Naïveté

(Poetry Scales 15)

The beginning of fools
lies in a priori trust
without the benefit of
a posteriori adjustment.

Like “hope and change”
given another go around
or for that matter the thought:
“This partisan’s not like the other ones.”

We now have a culture
where every man, every woman
says, “One thing is certain;
everything is subjective.”

“Don’t show me the facts,
I know what I’m feeling.
I don’t want a truth,
just an opinion I can champion.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Muppets Most Wanted" (2014)


Kermit: “You mean all this time I've been trapped in a Russian Gulag, no one, not one single person from the Muppets, except Animal, noticed I'd been replaced by an evil criminal mastermind?”
Fozzie Bear: “It sounds worse than it was...”
Walter: “No, it's as bad as it sounds.”

Perhaps you may have heard that the new Muppet Movie was not as good as the last one, that it is another let-down of a sequel, that you needn’t catch this one. Well, It really isn’t as bad as some would have you believe.

Sure, there is a little let down from the last film, that really rivaled the original film in heart, which is where the truly great Muppet endeavors excel. This film still has all the clever humor, well done songs, and the characters we love doing the things we love. It just isn’t about the classic Muppet message of believing in a dream.

This film picks up right where the last one left off. The Muppets have reunited and found their audience again. The issue they confront now is, what are the challenges of success? In this case, they are targeted by some bad guys (one named Badguy, “It’s French”) and their naiveté is exposed.

The way the criminals manage to manipulate the Muppets so effectively is by simply giving them everything they want. It is actually a timely message for today’s culture. Where Kermit’s path to accomplishing one’s dreams is through hard work, smart decisions, and taking things one step at a time, his evil doppelganger’s approach is to let everyone do whatever they want, lie in evaluation, and to pay off audiences. Everyone is so caught up in their “success” they fail to see the clear signs that things are very wrong.

But mostly, this film is less about message and more about hilarity and wit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"De Musica Ligera"

Ella durmió al calor de las masas
Y yo desperté queriendo soñarla
Algún tiempo atrás pensé en escribirle
Que nunca sortié las trampas del amor
De aquel amor de música ligera
Nada nos libra nada más queda
No le enviare cenizas de rosas
Ni pienso evitar un roce secreto

In honor of the Argentine win over the Netherlands in today’s semifinal (which I don’t so much celebrate, as I am a Chile fan but being even more of a German fan I feel Argentina is a better option to play in the final) I thought I’d loosely translate my favorite song from my favorite Argentine group, Soda Sterio. The song is an enigmatic poem entitled “De Musica Ligera” or, as I like to see it, “Concerning Easy Listening.”

She slept in the heat of the masses
And I awoke wanting to dream her
Some time back I thought of writing her
That I never did figure out the traps of love
Of the love of easy listening
Nothing saves us, nothing remains
I won’t send her rose ashes
Nor will I avoid a secret brush

When they perform it, I really here a different line from what they claim to sing. Instead of nothing remains, it really sounds like Cerati sings nothing more than to give (nada más que dar) rendering the line:

Nothing saves us, nothing else but to give.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Monuments Men" (2014)

When I saw the preview for “Monuments Men” I thought it a promising premise for a movie. I liked the “Ocean’s” remake and its sequels. I like WWII films. I like the idea of Art and cultural heritage and the meaning it has for humanity. When I saw the film, however, I would have to say I was sorely disappointed.

The whole film feels more like a series of vignettes than a cohesive story. Each scene is written and acted like a super serious, overly preachy, film school project. You begin to recognize the rhythm to which the film is marching, and pretty quickly you begin to anticipate the clichéd way that each piece is going to over reach in an effort to tug at the heart strings. This film aspires to be a piece of art similar to the works it is dedicated, but it is too schlocky and formulaic to really work.

It is a shame really, because the ideas the film is riffing on are good ones. Art represents our culture and the ideas and thoughts we have entertained in a way that does make it a treasure. But, how many human lives is any painting or sculpture really worth in the end?

No one need risk their life for “Monuments Men” at any rate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mummification

(Poetry Scales 14)

As the proverbial frog in the pot
Life gradually ties us in knots
Tells us lies and sings us thoughts
Rendering life a mere afterthought.

Buy a home; bow to the HOA
Work just enough; only for the pay
Structure game; it’s no longer play
Put off life; until someday.

Removing brains,
They aren’t needed
Who thinks?
Preserved in cement
They can’t change
Who repents?
Dried dusty stiffs
They’re entombed
Who notices?

The lie now bought:
There is no afterlife.
Why bother living?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Teaching (Mark 12:35-44)

After the repeated questioning at the hands of the religious professionals, Jesus turns the tables on them. Here in Mark, we have a small collection of some of the teaching Jesus did in the temple in those last days. The first topic is in direct response to the testing that the scribes and Pharisees were dolling out. Jesus asks a question that most would have found obvious at the time. Who would the Messiah be? Everyone knew that the coming Messiah would be a descendant of David’s. Simple. Or, so they thought.

Truth was, they only had a limited knowledge concerning the Messiah. The revelation they had was incomplete, and they were missing subtle clues in the information they did have. Jesus points them to a passage about the Messiah, where David refers to Him as his “Lord.” Not something David would do to an offspring of his. Jesus knew (and demonstrated that He knew) more than those studied religious leaders.

Jesus warns the crowds to not be taken in by religious know-it-alls who use their knowledge and power to control others and carve out special places for themselves. That is never the intention of revelation. People who understand God’s word should use their understanding to help others, not improve their own standing.

Finally, Jesus turns the Jewish interpretation regarding giving to God on its head. (And, if we were honest, He demolishes our own contemporary understanding and teaching on the subject as well.) Jesus compares all of the “big givers” to a simple, poor widow who barely gives at all and concludes that she is the better giver. The reason is that she gives 100% while they give small surpluses in comparison to their great wealth. Jesus’ point? We should give and manage all of our possessions for God. It is all His. We do not get off with a simple 10% temple tax.
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