Via Media

For this longish short (or shortish long) trip, I decided to try to ease the pain of the little ones by checking out some audiobooks from the library. Joseph has been listening to this recording of Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey  this past week as he tinkers with his Legos, and has been totally absorbed, so it seemed like something with the potential for easing some of the pain of sitting in the-car-of-the-Mom-who-never-stops-driving.
A quick trip to the library produced three choices:
This collection of several William Steig stories, including Shrek, read by Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep.
This was pretty good, although it presupposes you like Steig, which not everyone does. I do – most of the time.  As odd as he is, the strong current of parent-child love and devotion that runs through most of his work is rather pure, I think. Tucci’s readings were adequate, but, you won’t be surprised to hear, Streep really shines – I’m not a huge fan of Streep onscreen, myself, but given that her gifts are primarily vocal, she owns it here.  I’ve read Brave Irene before, but blast you Meryl Streep, just stop it. No, I’ve just got something in my eye, okay?
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Not that I think Dahl quite deserves the accolades he get – having a spirit that is quite the opposite of what’s appealing in Steig, at times – this seemed as if it might have possibilities, given that it is read by Eric Idle.
It’s awful, and I’m hoping Joseph forgets that we have it. Not that he will, of course.
I suppose Idle is all right, although his accents are slippery and he can’t do the rapid shift in tone and accent between characters’ words and the “he saids.” But the book – or at least the three chapters we listened to before I made it stop today – is something dreadful.  It’s just hideously boring. We begin where the previous book ended, with Charlie, family and Willy Wonka blasting off into space in, well, the great glass elevator. Also floating out there is a brand-new space hotel put up there by the US of A, and long sections of what we heard were given over to amazingly tedious conversations between the President and three astronauts who happen to be out there about this mysterious glass elevator. Worst of all is when the dialogue broadens to include various foreign leaders, including the Chinese – and seriously – insert lame, offensive Asian stereotypes and jokes here. Wow. 
Finally, what could go wrong with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe read by Michael York? Answer: Not a thing.  
(Although I will say, not having read any of the Chronicles in ages – probably for at least ten years or so – the apologetics function of it really jumped out at me, particularly in the professor’s first conversation with Peter and Susan. I mean…even the Lord, Liar or Lunatic argument is in there, rather veiled, but it’s there. Interesting.)
In other pop culture musings:
I’ve had several people ask me about the Twilight series – given that it involves vampires and all. Some of you will probably be able to comment more authoritatively than I, given that I’ve not read it, but two points:
1) The author, Stephanie Meyer, is devout LDS and, I have read, is determined not to have anything untoward or inappropriate for teen readers in her books. I have no idea if there’s some coded Mormon cosmology embedded in the books – joke – but I think fears of occultism or whatever are probably unfounded.
2) Hounded by her friends into submission, Katie finally read them. She said she didn’t like them – found them tedious, repetitive and the characters missing important and usually helpful brain cells.
So, for what that’s worth.
Michael is taking the little boys to see Wall-e tomorrow, a movie in which I have zero  – 0 – zilch – interest. So thank goodness for him.
Reactions I’ve read to the film have been mixed. Some love it, it’s Oscar-worthy… but also say it might be really too boring for a younger child.
There’s also the question of theme. Is it really just anti-human environmentalist agitprop? Is it, further, ironic and hypocritical agitprop because the theme of overburdening the planet with junk is being helpfully spread through all kinds of Wall-e…junk?
Peter Chattaway has thoughts and links to what people are saying on that latter point and then follows up with a post containing some words from director Andrew Stanton:

WORLD: How does WALL•E represent your singular vision?
STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world’s programming. You’ve got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.
With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we’re not really making connections to the people next to us. We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.

Thoughts on any and all of the above welcome and sought…

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