Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Well, Lenise will probably be mad, but I went and saw Royal Tennenbaums this afternoon. I was in the area of the theater and had finished my work, and seeing a movie sounded more fun than going to the gym. Plus I've been feeling a little under the weather (though I guess it would be a LOT under the weather as it was 77 degrees outside, but I digress).

Royal Tennenbaums, the way I read it, was a film about what one might want their tombstone to say when one is dead. The film's eponymous main character, played quite well by Gene Hackman, is father to three genius children, but does not take an active interest in any of them until he becomes old and his situation forces him to make some changes. I don't want to give the plot away for those who have not seen the movie, so I'll try to speak generally. The interaction between both parents, the mother being played by Angelica Huston, the three children, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow, and the other intersecting characters is complex. While their relationships are dynamic through the film the director, Wes Anderson, chose to keep the characters in "costume" so to speak; the actors seem to be wearing the same clothing throughout the film. Like his earlier film, Rushmore, all of the scenes are framed, in this case by the device of book chapters. Alec Baldwin narrates the film in a way that gives a "story time" feeling.

Also like Rushmore there is a lot to look at. Just about every shot in the film has something interesting in the background. The overall mood comes out a bit darker than the earlier film though. While the Jonathan Schwartzman character in Rushmore had serious problems, it was somewhat easy for the audience to dismiss them as childish, simply because the character was a teenager. RT is something of a sequal, but the geniuses here are grown up, have all failed in their aspirations, and have serious, adult problems. But the film's focus is not on the children, but, as I mentioned earlier, on the father and how he wants to finish out his life.

I should say that Mr Hackman is somewhat successful in changing the direction of his life, so the ending, which involves his death, is still a hopeful one. I think I would need a video copy to do more detailed analysis. This was a very carefully made movie, and I'm only giving a very cursory review. I would recommend the movie, though it has its small moments of just about everything offensive (cursing, drug use, illicit sex), but is not gratuitous.

Friday, January 25, 2002

It's late on Thursday. Been a pretty good week. Lenise and I just finished leading discussion on Psalm 88 for our small group. Both of us were suprised at how well it went. I figured, just based on the text, that it would be tough, but our group was certainly up to it. We were the second in a series of what you might call "present your own Psalm" studies. All the couples are taking turns leading discussion on a Psalm of their choosing. Not sure who (or which) is up next week.

On a happier note than Ps 88, I've gotten most of our taxes done, and we look to be getting a pretty good refund. Still waiting to hear from the bank about mortgage interest and taxes payments. The refund is due primarily to two factors:

1 Lenise has been paying ungodly amounts of taxes through payroll deductions, and,

2 My business income last year was pathetic.

So two wrongs now make a right financially speaking.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Haven't gotten around to blogging in the last week, so I apologize to all those who've been checking in on me.

Just wanted to say a word about a couple of recent concerts Lenise and I were able to attend. The first was actually before Christmas, but it wasn't a Christmas concert. It was an organ recital by David Arcus, the court organist at Duke chapel. He played a Bach piece (an new one to me), a very late work of Cesar Franck with a very dramatic ending, and his own "organ symphony". If this last piece were fresher in my mind I would say more about it. I'll just note that towards the end there was a single repeated note on a very buzzy reedy pipe setting that sounded, if anything, like a fire alarm. This was followed by a slow and peaceful ending. In his program notes Mr Arcus stated that the work was finished up around Sept 9th or 10th, and that the ending had seemed even more appropriate afterwards.

The second concert was this past Sunday afternoon. We went to the NC museum of Art in Raleigh to here the McIver ensemble playing Faure`'s piano quartet #1 and Brahms piano quartet in G minor (you know, the one with the rondo alla zingaresa). Lenise was a bit bored with the Faure`, though I found it quite lovely. We both rather enjoyed the Brahms, with I consider my very favorite chamber piece.

One word about the concert settings. The chapel at Duke University, as I learned, was thoroughly prepared for the installation of its Flentrop organ. All of the porous surfaces were treated to create more of a gothic cathedral acoustic. This process took the reverb time from 2 seconds to 7. Though the seating is a bit uncomfortable, it is a wonderful place to hear music. On the other hand, the theater at the museum has a ceiling made of deeply recessed concrete squares, effectively dozens of sound traps above. The walls have curtains on them, the floor is carpeted and the seats are padded. While it is certainly more comfortable, it is just completely dead acousticaly speaking. We sat in the third row, about 15-20 feet from the musicians, and in some places we still has trouble hearing them. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

What an extraordinary article: Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire by N.T. Wright

In my own bible readings over a very long time it seemed to me that the church didn't pay much attention to the whole idea of the nature of "kingship". Now someone argues that this very thing is not only present in, but central to, the "gospel" of the New Testament.

Friday, January 04, 2002

SNOW DAYS! We got about 8-10 inches of snow here on Wed. night and Thursday. Everybody's off work. I actually was hoping to get back to work a bit more. My wife is enjoying it though.

Perhaps some who are familiar with my reading habits know that I won't start a new book until I've finished one. I keep three books going at any given time: one fiction, one non-fiction, and one of either to keep in my car for travels (lunch stops, etc.). I only make exceptions for two reasons. Either there is some urgency to get done with a book (it's borrowed or something), or I just find the book unreadable. I invoked the second exception yesterday. I read the first hundred pages of Jurgen Moltmann's Theology of Hope, and I'm still not convinced it was actually translated into English. Either that or the subject matter was unable to penetrate my thick skull.

More on my level is The Man Who was Chesterton, a collection of essays, excerpts, short stories and poems. Here's a "taste" ;)


My forthcoming work in five volumes, "The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature," is a work of such unprecednted and laborious detail that it is doubtful if I shall live to finish it. . . . Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. The only other poet I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: "If all the trees were bread and cheese" --which is, indeed, a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation on any part of England where I was living...