– the chaplain
Monthly Archives: October 2008
Several nights ago, the deacon and I were hanging out in our living room when we heard a loud POP! and the lights flashed off. Great. Another power outage. After I finished cooking supper to the glow of a couple of flashlights, and after we consumed that supper, the deacon and I decided to go see a movie. When we got to the theater, we checked our options and decided to see the new Oliver Stone flick, W.
If you want the short review, here it is: either rent (or borrow) the DVD, or don’t bother watching the movie at all. You won’t know the difference either way.
If you want a slightly longer review, here it is:
W is, by far, the worst of Stone’s “American presidents” films. JFK was the best, and Nixon falls somewhere in the middle. The film opens with George W. Bush’s fraternity initiation at Yale University, then bounces back and forth to tell four stories:
1. the first story recounts W’s irresponsible, alcohol-soaked youth, his failed business career, his conversion to evangelical Christianity and his rise in the political arena;
2. the second story documents the process that led to the Iraq War and W’s premature (to say the least) declaration of Mission Accomplished;
3. the third story examines W’s stormy relationship with his father;
4. the fourth story explores the love story of W. & Laura.
The events portrayed throughout the film have been well documented by journalists and authors, so I can’t fault the film’s accuracy. My problem is that Stone didn’t bring anything fresh to the theater – no unique psychological or political insights, not even any visible point of view – just more of the same stuff that has saturated the American media for several years. The film felt more like a documentary than a drama.
The acting was, to be charitable, uneven. Richard Dreyfuss did well in his role as Dick Cheney. He had the teeth-gritting and the snarl down perfectly, and his soft-spoken manner was appropriately chilling. James Cromwell also did well as W’s father, whom he portrayed as continually disappointed in, yet struggling to support, his mediocre son. Dreyfuss and Cromwell are two of the most talented actors on the silver screen today and, not surprisingly, they delivered again in this movie. Josh Brolin did not do quite as well in the title role. He successfully mimicked W’s gestures and accent, but he did not capture W’s personality.
And the women! Oh, man, this is painful to write. I think maybe Ellyn Burstyn did okay as Barbara Bush, but it’s hard to tell because she only got about five minutes (I’m being generous) of screen time. Elizabeth Banks presented a pretty Laura Bush with the personality of an empty beer bottle. There’s nothing to admire about her performance, period. But, brace yourselves, the worst is yet to come: Thandie Newton’s portrayal of Condoleeza Rice was outrageously, pathetically and maddeningly cartoonish. Her performance was so bad that I wondered if she thought she was performing in a Saturday Night Live parody rather than a drama that is supposed to be taken, you know, seriously! If I’d had a gun, I would have shot the screen full of holes every time she opened her mouth. The real Condoleeza Rice must be livid at being portrayed this way. I would be.
As the movie ends, the image freezes on W. wearing a perplexed expression on his face. His expression mirrored my own as I left the theater. As the deacon and I walked back to our car, I couldn’t help wondering, “What was Stone’s point?” I still don’t know the answer to that question.
The good news is, by the time we got back home, the power was back on. The even better news is, now that we’ve seen W, we won’t ever have to do so again.
– the chaplain
1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively
2. link back to the person who tagged you
3. link back to this parent post
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules – or just have fun breaking them.
Having established the rules, I will now move on to the post:
1. Blogging has given me an outlet for examining questions that I can’t discuss with most of the people I know. Most of my friends and family are Christians who either don’t care about, or don’t dare to think about, the things I write about here. Raising the questions I raise here, and taking the positions I take, would undoubtedly lead to intense discomfort, if not outright conflict, if I discussed them with people I know.
2. Blogging has given me a voice in a community that cares as much as I do about the issues I write about. More importantly, blogging has been a means for establishing friendships with people I first met in the atheosphere.
3. Blogging has allowed me to learn more about other religions than I ever knew before I became an atheist. I’ve learned about Mormonism from C.L. Hanson, Islam from Kafir Girl, and Anglicanism from A Thinking Man, to cite just a few examples.
4. Blogging has given me the opportunity to participate in a weekly podcast with several other atheist bloggers. The opportunity to chat live with an intelligent, articulate group of atheists is a great balance to the written interaction that blogging facilitates.
5. Blogging has given me lots of material to read, but the price I’ve paid for this has been the reading of fewer books. I’m currently in the process of finding a more appropriate balance between these two activities. It would be much easier to find that balance if I didn’t have to work, but then I wouldn’t be able to pay for either books or an Internet connection.
I’m not going to tag anyone. Instead, I’ll just invite anyone who wants to participate in this meme to do so.
– the chaplain
Some of you may recall a post I wrote several months ago about two Christian friends of mine, Sylvia and Frank. I wrote that post two days before Sylvia’s funeral and about ten days before Frank’s major surgery. Frank survived his surgery and has spent the intervening months in a nursing home, where he has been receiving physical therapy. In a recent meeting with his therapist, Frank and his wife were informed that he will likely be an invalid for the rest of his life.
My emotional response throughout Frank’s illness and rehab has been sorrow. Every time I visit Frank and see him in his wheelchair (or bed), I can’t help contrasting that man with the younger man who cheered as I played softball, the man who joyfully wandered around a zoo with my young children, the man who drove 4,000 miles across North America to visit my family. I feel overwhelming sorrow that most of Frank’s days will now be spent in the confines of a nursing home. A man who has traveled around the world now finds that a wheelchair journey down the hall is a major event that draws upon all of his physical resources. How can that thought not make me sad?
The emotion that I have not felt throughout Frank’s ordeal is anger. At what or whom would I be angry? There is no god to blame for not intervening in Frank’s life and healing him. There is no god to implore for mercy, no god to whom I may inquire what Frank could possibly have done to deserve this fate after 83 years of faithful, loving service to his god. This is a sharp contrast to the anguish and anger I felt 25 years ago when I was a Christian and my Christian father was dying of cancer. My siblings and I were called to my father’s bedside about three weeks before he died. We spent two days visiting with him and my mother in the hospital in which he later died. When we said goodbye, we knew it was the last time we would ever say those words to each other. A couple of days later, I woke up on a Sunday morning and thought, “I don’t want to go to church today. I’m not in the mood to worship.” Since I was the pianist, however, there was no way that my absence from the service would have gone unnoticed (and playing for the services was part of my job). So, I went to church. Since the band accompanied the first song, I was able expected to sing with the congregation. The song was entitled, God is Love. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I literally could not sing those words. At that moment, I didn’t believe that God was love. I didn’t want to worship him. I was livid with God for allowing my father, who was only 57 years old, to suffer the pain and indignity of death from cancer. I was angry at him for not answering our prayers.
I eventually got over my anger and continued living and believing as a Christian for another 24 years after Dad died. But, I never forgot that my belief in God did not provide consolation in my time of greatest grief. Now, 25 years later, as someone I love is facing the torment of a protracted illness, I don’t look to God for solace. My knowledge that the god of Christianity is false enables me to face Frank’s illness with, in addition to sorrow, a determination to do whatever lies within my power to help him and his wife. My knowledge that the god of Christianity is false allows me not to waste time and energy praying for healing that, if it comes at all, will only come by human agency. My knowledge that the god of Christianity is false frees me from the confusion and anger that arise from unanswered prayers, from the concern that the god that Frank worships has elected, for mysterious reasons that are beyond human understanding, not to intervene in his life and perform a miracle of healing. I just know that Frank’s illness is an aspect of life that must be endured, just as many aspects of life are enjoyed to their fullest extent. There is no one to blame for what has happened to Frank, and there is no one to beseech for his healing. Knowing these things has given me greater solace in a time of sorrow than Christian faith did.
– the chaplain
In the past two days, nineteen people have found my blog through Google searches. Twelve of them have been searching for vaginas:
- mo vagina
- woman vagina system picture
- health class vagina
- bloody vagina
- vagina shot
- outline of a vagina
- shape vagina
- inside a real person’s vagina
- wide open vagina
- vagina torture
- high contrast vagina
I don’t know about you, but a couple of those searches worry me. Who the hell wants to look at a bloody vagina? Women get to do that once a month. Trust me, the novelty wears off very quickly. And vagina torture? Ugh! Someone out there is a sick, sick, puppy. I think the rest of you are probably just horny.
– the chaplain