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August 2012

Our first encounter with death

Martin Copenhaver wrote a powerful devotional for the UCC today about his daughter's first encounter with death (in a frog crushed on the road).  It leads him to reflect:

When we get older we sometimes speak of death in sanguine ways.  We might say, for instance, "It's a part of life," or, "She will always be with us in spirit."

My children, however, seemed to know from the start that death is serious business.  Death is an enemy, and a greedy one at that.

The victory we have over death in resurrection is not a victory over some trifle.  No, it is an enormous victory to be celebrated as only victory over an ominous enemy can be celebrated - with joyous echoes in every cell of our being.

GOP and women

Kathleen Parker analyzes the anti-woman positions of the GOP and bemoans them, as they are distracting from what she considers to be the GOP advantage when it comes to ecomonic issues.

How tragically ironic that the party of small government and individual liberty may have orchestrated its own defeat by insisting on some of the most invasive state policies in the history of man. Perhaps it is time for a new kind of history.

Which Cicero? Any advice?

I next intend to read some Cicero.  I've had three Penguin volumes of his for almost twenty years, but never read them.  I'll likely only read one this passage through the Western canon.  Any advice?  I'm particularly interested in either "The Nature of the Gods" or "On the Good Life."

August: Osage County

A week and a half ago, Michael and I went with friends to see August: Osage County at the Omaha Playhouse.  Intense is the briefest summary of my response.

The play is also very, very funny.  I laughed lots and heartily, as I am wont to do.  Despite its skillful comedy, it is a very intense drama ripe with themes and subplots that actually reach a level of being over-the-top and absurd.  Which seems to be intentional.  While masking as realism, I wasn't so sure.  It was very like O'Neil and Williams, in fact drew directly from them, but also seemed, in a way, to mock their overly intense realism.  Doesn't the mom almost caricature the mom in A Long Day's Journey Into Night?  

All leaving one with a mysterious ending, held by the Cheyenne woman.  Why Cheyenne, I kept puzzling, as they aren't typically in northeast Oklahoma?  Why not the local Osage instead?

At two points characters talk about "having the plains," which is akin to having the blues, but different.  I really liked this, as it seems to be a genuine emotional experience of those of us who live in the heartland.

The play was filled with lines I enjoyed and intended on remembering to quote often.  Seems many have now slipped my memory (a few haven't).  I'll probably see it again sometime, I'm sure (and there is a movie on its way).

The playhouse staged this in the black box, which was very effective.  We were on the front row, so it was like sitting in the house with the characters.  When they fought, you could see the spit flying.  The lead actors were impeccable, particularly the woman who played the daughter, Barbara.  Some of the other actors were not so strong, but didn't detract too much from the well-written piece.  It does drag, however, in the third act.

Is it ultimately a statement of cynicism, maybe even nihilism?  Is it apocalyptic?  Is this really what the end of the world looks like?  Has it already arrived?

Caught between this vision and that of Angels in America, to compare to masterworks of theatre in our generation, I would rather hope for and choose the "More Life" and "Blessing" of Prior Walter.


PoeticsPoetics by Aristotle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I first read the Poetics when I was a freshman in college, I believe, and I re-read them today, while enjoying this rainy, lazy Saturday.

In my memory the Poetics were significant for understanding the structure of all subsequent Western literature (including those who acted against Aristotle's strictures). In rereading today, I didn't find as much of that as I remembered. Much seemed very boring. And Aristotle comes off, as he regularly does, as a stiff who wouldn't be very pleasant to be around. "If he has all these rules for drama and poetry, then he can't be much fun," sort of thing.

I'm glad I read this book back in the day, but it didn't do anything for me to read it again.

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Aristotle for Everybody or Difficult Thought Made Easy

Aristotle For Everybody: Difficult Thought Made EasyAristotle For Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy by Mortimer Jerome Adler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a good introductory survey of the key points of Aristotle's philosophy. I read it simply because it had been in my collection for years, and I wanted a quick refresher as part of my reading through the philosophical canon again. I had also recently re-read the Posterior Analytics and read De Anima for the first time. I think I'll re-read the Poetics next.

The key element of Adler's argument is that Aristotle's thought is reasoned reflection upon common sense experience. And he does a really good job of demonstrating that to be so.

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GOP's historic diversity firsts

One of the reasons I was proud to be a Republican, when I was one, was its long tradition of inclusivity, that was radically altered after the seismic changes of the 1960's and the turn to the "Southern Strategy" of Strom Thurmond.  This article recounts those firsts, including the election of the first popularly elected African-American, female, Asian-American, Native American, and Hispanic senators.  The mostly-white nature of the current GOP is an anomoly in the party's long history.