Tag Archives: arts

The other war on Christmas

When I was a kid, my friends and I would occasionally hear adults talk about the pagan origins of Christmas trees. In our Christian homes, churches, and schools, such talk was not merely chat. It was actionable language. Within those overheard snippets was an implicit threat: possibly an end to the Christmas tree at home, and by extension,  possibly an end to all those great things kids love about Christmas.

The anti-Christmas tree mentality never took root in my home or many other homes (although if memory serves, there were rumors some classmates’ parents had forbidden having a tree).

And I think I know why, at least in a broader sense: holiness movements and purity movements and other moralistic movements seem concerned with things the members should not-be and things they should not-do. Rarely is there a concrete, image-based sense of what is being substituted for the not-ness. (By image, here I mean anything that appeals to the perceptions of the five senses.)

The calling in those holiness, purity, and otherwise moralistic movements seems to be to achieve something more or less invisible and essentially unmodeled. Even the word “holiness,” an abstract concept, is hard to experience. But as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum.

So people remain under control of the images and symbols to which they attach (on varying levels, within community as much as within an individual) significance and meaning.

In most areas of life, abstract ideas cannot drive culture out of a community.

Culture is embodied in things and in relationships.

Indeed, a family Christmas tree, with its handed-down ornaments, can be both an embodiment of the holiday and a symbol for the way a particular family joins together at the same time, year after year.

To change the culture, create new, concrete images with subversive intent, and find ways to embody whatever you might be teaching or communicating.

‘What the arts are concerned with’

English: *Works of Hugh of St-Victor *Form/tec...

“This, then, is what the arts are concerned with, this is what they intend, namely, to restore within us the divine likeness.” — Hugh of St. Victor

Hugh of St. Victor is not exactly a household name. Then again, name-recognition is a gauge of only a single, narrow value. As New Advent’s article says, ‘A careful examination of his works has led to a truer appreciation of one whom Harnack (History of Dogma, tr. London, 1899, VI, 44) terms “the most influential theologian of the twelfth century”.’

Andy Warhol’s semi-Stoic psychology — plus 40 more quotations from Thought Catalog

‘Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, “So what.” That’s one of my favorite things to say. “So what.” “My mother didn’t love me.” So what. “My husband won’t ball me.” So what. “I’m a success but I’m still alone.” So what. I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.’ — Andy Warhol

Perhaps that’s similar to stoicism, or maybe that’s just a forerunner of F***-it Spirituality (it’s a real movement, folks).

Anyway, read 40 more Andy Warhol quotations — some interesting, some heart-breaking, some just plain Warholian — courtesy of this post on Thought Catalog.

Movies as insight into mass fears and desires

“[Gene] Siskel described his job as ‘covering the national dream beat,’ because if you pay attention to the movies they will tell you what people desire and fear. Movies are hardly ever about what they seem to be about. Look at a movie that a lot of people love, and you will find something profound, no matter how silly the film may be.” – Roger Ebert, from an enriching gallery on the Atlantic’s site

Helen Mirren on how songs and paintings differ from acting

“As an actor I’m always jealous painters and indeed of singers because a song can travel straight into the heart the way a painting can. What I do has to be processed by the brain. People have to follow the story. It has to make sense. A song, just a note of a song, can make you feel something. I think likewise a painting can do the same thing.” — Helen Mirren in this video clip

HT to OpenCulture.com

‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ — the human condition and the carnival

In Ray Bradbury’s 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, a mysterious, dark carnival has come to town. Charles Halloway, father and library janitor, tries to understand the human condition in relation to the carnival:

“So, in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do both, depending on the season and the need. Somehow, I feel the carnival watches, to see which we’re doing and how and why, and moves in on us when it feels we’re ripe.”

Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ at the National Theatre — broadcast live from the Olivier Theatre


Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to my in-laws, who are working in London, tonight I had the great privilege of seeing Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard performed at the Olivier Theatre inside the National Theatre.

This particular show was broadcast live to five continents.

Five camera guys, two with assistants, were stationed roughly in a crescent around the stage (at one point, immediately following the intermission, a cameraman got on stage with a camera on his shoulder to get closer to the action for a few minutes).

My wife Kristi, my father-in-law Tom, and I sat five rows back from the stage, on the far right of the center section (the stalls in the Olivier Theater). On our end, and on the far left, the cameras were on tracks level to the stage. Those were the cameras with assistants.

The first row was unoccupied, except for a crew member.  About a 15-foot section of track allowed the camera in front of us to move back and forth during the play. The crew member seated on the front row helped guide the chord to the camera as it moved back on forth along the tracks. At one point, the chord briefly caught on something as the camera quietly rolled right.

Throughout the play, we could tell when the camera in front of us was the one broadcasting live. Red lights around the camera’s viewing screen would light up.

This was the only downside: Sometimes the camera, camera guy, and his assistant were directly between us and the action on stage.

I had never seen The Cherry Orchard. By most accounts — Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Financial Times, The Independent, The Times, The Stage, Mail on Sunday — this was a four-star or five-star way to see it.

Each actor gave a strong, consistent, thorough performance. Andrew Upton’s version of Chekhov’s play, as directed by Howard Davies, told a story of change and class differences, with a balance of humor and bitter loss.

I hope I’m not too far off base to say the “old money” characters lost out in the story, while the middle-class, hard-working entrepreneur and the young idealistic student seemed — equally — to hold the promise of the future.