Wednesday, May 30, 2007

p.s. Unless you have kids that are dying to see it, don't bother with Shrek 3. It's a yawn. Some cute moments but I can't even remember it less than a week later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OK, I'm adding this in June, but I'll put it back here with the other post that has my list of the my favorite five movies of the last five years. I can't believe I left out Howl's Moving Castle. Those of you who were around for the Original Aunt BeaN's blog may remember how I went on and on about how much I loved that movie. Still do. It's been cool and rainy here, and the kids are out of school, so we've watched quite a few movies this past week-- including Incredibles, Nemo, and Howl. I was going to bump Incredibles for Howl, but I just checked and officially speaking, the Fellowship of the Ring came out more than five years ago, so I can bump that one instead.

Also watched The Queen and the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. Both get two thumbs up, though the new P&P doesn't even come close to the Colin Firth version, let alone the book. (though you have to admit, as my daughter says in that tone of "Hello, stupid," that only a teenager can manage: "But it's FOUR HOURS shorter, Mom.") She is sure that's a good thing, but I'm not sure you can ever get too much of Colin Firth.

Ah, the things I can waste time on................

Monday, May 21, 2007

A couple of months ago, after the Oscars that nobody cared about, I posted a fairly lame objection to the grisly, depressing content of most "important" films these days. I couldn't come up with a reason to feel that way other than I just don't want to be depressed when I go to the movies. Sure you can get a certain kind of bleak joy out of a beautifully made film no matter what its content, art from despair and all that. But I just don't like them.

So you can imagine my delight today when I read not one but TWO opinions that said much of the same thing. one at click here that is commentary by Andrew O'Hehir about the current crop of films at the Cannes festival, and one that I found at Arts and Letters Daily that is actually about literary novels but says something along the same lines click here. They express my general idea far more gracefully and elegantly and make it sound like a real opinion. I've actually thought about this a fair amount lately (there's a surprise) because there haven't been any movies I wanted to see for a long time. What kind of movies do I like? I can't stand brainless romantic comedies, it's been years since I saw one that I enjoyed (which was "While You Were Sleeping" because I love Bill Pullman-- with possible honorable mention to "You've Got Mail" which I mainly enjoyed because of all the references to great kids' books). So I was trying to think what are the five movies I've seen in the last five years that I enjoyed the most. So, (don't laugh) here's the list: the three Lord of the Rings movies, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. I'm hopeless.

But Shrek 3 is out and the new Pirates movie starts this weekend-- suddenly fluff movies abound.

fluffily yours,
Aunt BeaN

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some quotations that have been making me think recently, commentary to follow:

Sam Harris, in a column that appeared a couple of months ago in our local paper, you can read it here : these are where I agree with him, disagreements to be discussed later--

"People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?"

Harris again, in the same column: "Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know. "

E.J. Graff in a column that appeared in our local paper last Sunday, it looks like it was originally published in the Washington Post, about "The Mommy Wars" (the purported tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms) (which is not what interests me so much as the idea that you can manipulate women by inducing anxiety) :
"...middle- and upper-class women are a demographic that responds well to anxiety, says Caryl Rivers, author of "Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women." ... Tell women that working will damage their marriages, health and children and they will buy your magazine, click on your website, blog about your episode and write letters to the editor."

Giles Harvey, in a review (click here) of Christopher Hitchens' book God is Not Great:
"Although I am an unbeliever, this doesn't prevent me from recognizing that what led humans to create gods was not simply fear but a desire to harness and account for those sustaining moments when we receive our lives most abundantly. Iris Murdoch gives a far more persuasive and imaginatively generous account of religion when she writes, "God does not and cannot exist. But what led us to conceive of him does exist and is constantly pictured. That is, it is real as an Idea, and also incarnate in knowledge and work and love." "

more later
In the midst of the current set of posts, it would seem appropriate to be more specific about what I actually do believe right now. Which is something of a moving target, but I'm OK with that. I spent quite a bit of time in the Original Aunt BeaN's Blog typing about this, probably way more time than the topic deserved. There were a whole series of posts which I even numbered. When I was moving things over from the original blog to this one, I decided not to move those because already there were some things that had changed. I figured I would edit them and re-post them another time. But after reading them over again recently, I 've decided to start from scratch. I did move two of them over, very slightly edited, and if you're interested, you can find them in this blog in August 2006-- scroll down (or up, as the case may be) the right hand side and click on August 2006 and there you are. But I'm working on the new version, which I promise will be far less wordy and (I hope) only one post instead of a half dozen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

So here's a bit of what's happened over the last several weeks that I haven't been posting. It isn't that I haven't been thinking about things -- far from it, my brain has been doing its nonstop hamster-wheel-churning as usual. It's just that I haven't sifted through it long enough to have formulated an opinion, which has felt like I have nothing to say. Or at least nothing worth the bandwidth required to say it. But here's a start.

Several months ago, I first heard prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in an interview on NPR. It was fascinating, but he's so over the top (in my opinion) it was hard to take seriously. As I've said before, a part of my litmus test for any belief system -- as silly as it may seem, but at least I'm being honest-- is whether or not I'd be willing to be associated with the people who believe it. And there is no way I would want anyone to think I was rowing merrily out to sea in the same boat as Richard Dawkins. He's just irritating-- I've never met the man, of course, but he comes across as someone who is getting a little too much enjoyment out of his 15 minutes of fame. And I've never appreciated people who enjoy being controversial and stirring things up. It seems like such a waste of energy to argue with them since a big part of why they're doing it is just because they think it's fun.

But then I heard Sam Harris, and read a couple of articles by him (though I still haven't read his book, the End of Faith). And then I read an article by Christopher Hitchens and some thoughtful reviews of his new book, God is Not Great. So I started mapping out how I would respond as a person of faith, although no particular faith at the moment. I was trying to come up with an intellectual basis for being a person of faith (as opposed to an intellectual basis for faith-- a small but important difference). Part of my response was going to be making the case that they completely misunderstand what most "people of faith" are like.

So I went out on the web to do a little research to support my thesis. And honestly, after several hours of poking around some Christian websites (I ended up in the homeschooling world), the only response I have at the moment is a somewhat stunned, glazed look in my eye as I realize OHMYGOSH. THEY ARE RIGHT. The Christian Right has become ridiculous. No wonder Sam Harris, et. al. think the world would be a better place without religion. I honestly could not believe some of the utter nonsense that is out there with page after page of positive, supportive responses. People who believe that the founding fathers were 21st-century-style fundamentalist Christians and are willing to re-write history and publish their own history books to prove it. People objecting to math textbooks because the story problems have fairies and elves in them. People who are determined to see conservative Christians as a persecuted minority even though they are the most powerful demographic in the most powerful country on the planet.

This stuff is not even remotely connected to reality, and you know, it's not even really connected to the kind of conservative Christianity in which I was raised. Oddly enough, even though I don't believe it anymore, I find myself wanting to defend intelligent conservative Christianity, because there is such a thing, even if you'd never know it from these websites. I may have left it behind for other reasons (see previous posts on this topic), but it wasn't as nutty as these websites would have one believe.

But then, I'm not sure if the kind of conservative Christianity I was raised on even exists anymore. Have all conservatives migrated over to this far-right nonsense? how many people actually believe this stuff? and it makes me wonder about my dearly beloved family members who are still Evangelical Christians. Would they agree? I try to avoid discussing religion with them because it makes us all uncomfortable. And honestly, if my parents believe that Thomas Jefferson was really a closet Evangelical, I'm not sure I want to know. But just for the record: among the Christians I knew growing up, "loving your neighbor" was still more important than starting a letter-writing campaign over story problems in math textbooks. If you disagreed with what your children were being taught in school, it was an opportunity to teach them yourself about how Christians believe differently than "the world." The separation of church and state was seen as a logical corollary to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (the words of Jesus to Pharisees who ask him if they should pay taxes to the Roman government)-- not an evil doctrine of liberals determined to undermine the authority of Scripture.

Well, I could go on and on here but I guess I already have. but more will be forthcoming, the hamster is still busy.

Aunt BeaN


So here is what I thought I did this week. I spent quite a bit of time early this week writing a post, which was published on Tuesday. After it was up for the better part of a day, I thought better of it and I thought I deleted it until I could re-word some parts of it to be less obnoxious and (possibly) less hurtful to some people I dearly love. I thought I figured out how to do that today, but when I went back to work on it, I realized that the offending post has been up all week. SO. I would just like to say that I'm a spacehead, and a somewhat inconsiderate one, as well. I know this blog doesn't get much traffic, so I'm hoping no one actually saw it and I will post the less heavy-handed version sometime in the near future.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

spring in the northern rockies

In the southern towns where I grew up, spring begins in mid-February. You put out pansies and the crocuses and daffodils come up and then in March, the dogwoods and redbuds start to bloom. By the end of March, the azaleas are out in force, and there are masses of color everywhere. Everything seems to burst back to life overnight. You don't even notice when the grass turns green or the trees leaf out.

The place where I live now is in the northern rockies, and spring is an entirely different affair. It is raw and slow and cold, just not as cold as February. When I first moved here, it seemed to me that the natives decided it was spring in March just because it was March--it had nothing to do with the weather. People start wearing sandals and capris in March just because the sun is out, even though the high for the day will only be 45. You sit watching your child participate in various sports wrapped in a blanket and prepared for wind, rain, sleet and even outright snow. It's nuts.

Of course after nearly 15 years, I've adapted. I find myself wearing capris when it is sunny and 55. But the thing I've come to appreciate about the slow progress of spring up here is how you notice every little thing. Two weeks ago, the grass turned green. This past week, the trees began to leaf out. They seemed dusted with that spring green that is so new it is practically yellow. On Wednesday, the first tulip bloomed in our yard. My internal Southern self still throws up her hands with impatience and says, "It's MAY, for god's sake," but my growing Northern self knows that we're right on schedule for another glorious summer. We get our payback in July when it's sunny and 80 here and the South is sweltering in the dog days.

I can't wait.

Aunt BeaN
reporting from the Northern Rockies, where it is a balmy 58 and sunny at the moment