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Idol Chatter

Narnian End Times

posted by burb

The “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” has gone wide without a cultural apocalypse. Narnia, it turns out, is pretty ambiguous theologically, and the next few books in Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series are vaguer still. Two sequels hence, in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Eustace’s transformation into and from a dragon rates mention in sermons, while in “The Silver Chair” we spend a lot of time in a hellish (or purgatorial?) netherworld. But in the final book of the series, “The Last Battle,” the politics of the apocalypse get downright hairy. Lewis’s End Times scenario plays out as a nasty face-off between Aslan, the good lion who rules over Narnia, and Tash, the god of the Calormenes, who are a desert people “smelling of garlic and onions, their white eyes flashing dreadfully in their brown faces.” As this site explains, Lewis argues for justification by works in the end, but let’s hope that we’re not still trying to patch things up with our Middle Eastern bretheren by the time the movie comes out sometime next decade.

Forbidden Love that Lasts a Lifetime

posted by donna freitas

It was the buzz about Oscar-worthy performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal and a likely Best Picture nomination that got me in the door to see Brokeback Mountain, latest film by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“). Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, I was curious to see how these two young Hollywood heartthrobs would pull off a gay romance between two cowboys in the wilderness of Wyoming.

I had also heard the film was beyond sad, an experience I try to avoid at the movies. But this one sounded too good to miss. And it is.

Everything about this story is spare, reserved, understated: the characters of Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Delmar (Ledger), their dialogue, the window we have into the state of their marriages and lives as parents. Everything, that is, except for the love they have for each other. As Jack and Ennis first meet and work together herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain and later return to life as married men trying to make a living and support their families, I found myself watching as if from a safe emotional distance. It is only when the love between them passionately emerges onto the screen, punctuating the mendacity that begins to haunt their ordinary lives, that I found myself riveted by what is a heart-rending and timeless love story. That it’s a gay love story will no doubt leave some viewers upset, but it is a story that desperately needs telling nonetheless–and needs its viewers to grasp the tragedy that these men face because of the simple fact that they are two men in love with each other.

The love affair between Ennis and Jack–tender in some moments, rough in others–is patently forbidden in their world. They are two cowboys living and working in a time and place where love between men is considered inexcusable and virtually unthinkable (and also, not so incidentally, in the same state as the real-life tragedy of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in more recent times). Adding to the drama, and the heartbreak, is the fact that both men embark on marriages they are destined to betray–their way of maintaining some semblance of what the status quo considers a “normal life.”

Shortly before their love affair begins, the “stain” that is brought upon Jack and Ennis is foreshadowed by Ennis’s comment that he is too inexperienced in life to have sinned yet. That’s followed up by a scene, which takes place after their first night together, in which Ennis discovers the graphic (and symbolic) remains of the first lamb to die on their watch on the mountain. The forbidden nature of their love, so obvious at first glance, grows increasingly senseless and tragic over the course of the story. Their love affair lasts 20 years, and they can only maintain it through two annual trips, precious and secluded–trips that get more painful and filled with yearning with each passing year.

I will stop there with storyline, and end by saying that “Brokeback Mountain,” despite the betrayal of marriage that runs throughout, is a difficult film to leave without a sense of forgiveness for these two men who are at once lovers and adulterers. I also can’t imagine watching the “Brokeback Mountain” credits roll without feeling a sense of hope that someday our society will stop legislating about who is allowed to fall in love–and that there will come a time when we stop pretending to know that God’s will is for love to happen only between a man and a woman.

Thank a Solider Week

posted by dena ross

While most of us will enjoy a nice, safe, holiday season with our family and friends, many of the men and women in the armed forces won’t be, especially those serving abroad. With this in mind, has started Thank a Solider Week (December 19-25), which encourages Americans to “stop for a moment and give thanks to the men and women risking everything for us.”

Their website challenges us to do four things: send an email to a solider (the site provides an email form); tell a friend about the site so he or she may do the same; say “thank you” to at least one member of the armed forces as you pass him or her on the street; and lastly, make a donation to a charitable organization providing comfort to the troops and their families. The site also provides video of various country music stars–including George Strait, members of Lonestar, Keith Anderson, Brad Paisely, and Miranda Lambert–giving thanks. My personal favorite is a message from Fred “Two Foot Fred” Gill, of the band Big and Rich, which sings “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” my vote for song title of the decade.

Richard Pryor, Profane But Profound

posted by doug howe

I was saddened to hear that Richard Pryor died. Most moral leaders would hardly say that the comedian lived an exemplary life, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have inspiring moments. He made me laugh and had a way about him that made him pleasant to watch. He seemed authentic, whether in a live stage show or in movie roles, my favorite of which was as Grover T. Muldoon in “Silver Streak.” His on-screen friendship with Gene Wilder–and the fun they had with the differences between white and African-American men–was fun, funny, and refreshing.

On a recent Tonight Show, Jay Leno broke from his traditional monologue to pay an honest and heartfelt tribute to the late comedian. Jay told of how he and other comics would play The Comedy Club in Hollywood, learning to hone their acts and tightening them up over time to get them right. “We’d do the same act each night,” he said, “working to find that little adjustment that would make it that much better.”

“But Richard,” Leno continued, “he would do a brand new act every night. He would ad lib and just make it up live, not only being funny but also commenting about the most important issues of the day, including race.”

“It may have been profane,” he added, “but it was also profound.”

“Rest in peace, Richard,” Leno closed. “We’ll miss you.” And then he blew a kiss to Richard Pryor in a way that was as manly as it was authentic.

It was a nice tribute, a rare moment on live-for-re-broadcast television from a guy at the top of his game, with no comic soundbite to lessen the intimacy.

Regardless of how you felt about Richard Pryor, I was reminded of how winsome it is to see someone being authentic–even intimate–as Leno was and as Pryor made a habit of being. I made a choice to work on it harder myself, regardless of the risk. It was inspiring.

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