Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bigness

The recent-ish news that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods seems as good a prompt as any for us to pose over again the old, old question -- the same one that Pippin asked on the battlements of the citadel, with face innocently upturned: "Is there any hope, Gandalf?" That is, is there any chance that the little Shires of the world will survive the onslaught of the great Molochs and Mordors of the retail conglomerates? To which the latter replied -- unhelpful as always -- "there never was much hope." We may be able to do little better. None of which is to shed too many tears over the lost innocence of Whole Foods, by the way, which is hardly Bag End, but one is certainly justified in worrying that if even they are being bought out by Amazon, what hope can there be left for Mom and Pop?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hamilton and Dr. Johnson: A July 4 Special

My 11th grade history teacher -- a key mentor figure for me in high school and later -- was, among other things, a prolific aspiring dramatist, and among his many creations was a play of some considerable length about, of all people, Alexander Hamilton. Who? The proposal was clearly far too far ahead of its time to be appreciated by the slack-jawed philistines, like me, of our Florida town. Alexander Hamilton? We said. The guy from the Treasury? None of us could have foreseen that this minor and oft-maligned footnote in our history textbook would come roaring into his own as a pop culture idol, of all things, in 2015-2016, of all times!

To the extent I knew or thought anything at all about Alexander Hamilton before all this, it was to assume, due to some unexamined and indirect hangover of Beard and Parrington, that he was the root of all evil in American life. Beyond that I just thought he was another dull and insipid schoolbook figure. It was only my teacher -- and, apparently, Lin-Manuel Miranda -- who had the good sense to see past all that -- to appreciate that here, at least in the hands of Ron Chernow, was the stuff of real drama -- the amorous blackmail; the intellectual ménage à trois with the two sisters. My teacher may have missed the hip hop ingredient, but otherwise, he saw something coming that we all missed. When I started to hear, two years ago, that there was something sensational happening on Broadway called Hamilton, I had a moment of pause. You mean, Alexander Hamilton? For an instant, I thought that perhaps my mentor's opus had made it all the way to the big leagues.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Tour Through the Childhood Archives

Spending a week at home after being away for four years of your mid-twenties is a bit like slipping into a tropical fever -- an effect that is magnified if that home happens to be located in coastal Florida. I am here now amidst the mangroves and mosquitoes, and for the first few days back I am still fighting the current; clutching at driftwood and débris left over from what has already become a dimly-recollected adulthood. No wait, I was working on something... a project... I was reading something... something was happening at work... already they are lost to me, these links in a chain of thought. The years slip off me like a Dance of the Seven Veils. I am a teenager again. A decade of experience has vanished. I am that boy whose plans are made without respect to fulfilling them, since the time ahead is limitless. I am the would-be reader who is continually defeated by the size and number of unfinished tomes next to his bed -- where to begin? The possibilities are endless, and therefore actually starting on anything is impossible. I even slept in until 11 o'clock yesterday -- something I have not done in any recent year I can recall. I am praying for work emails as for a lifeline, to remind me that my twenty-seven year-old existence still continues on somewhere, even if it involves a different self.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

In Quotes: Talking Turkey After Four Years

"Twas just this time, last year, I died," quoth the bird, accusatorially (citing Dickinson -- more on this practice below) -- for indeed, the third anniversary of Six Foot Turkey came the previous June and went, I fear, unremarked by me, such that it feels almost as if it might never have happened. And it seems in some way that its spirit did evacuate this mortal realm on that occasion, and hasn't been with us since. The blog has ceased, especially in recent months, to be the primary creative outlet in my life and has become a kind of mausoleum of poems and repostings that didn't have a logical -- or decorous -- home in the pulpit but that I wanted to stick somewhere, since I'd gone to the trouble to write them.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cross-Postings

My final column in the church newsletter:

Memories

This past Christmas I embarked on a project that has been on our family’s bucket list for years, and that I don't think any of us ever actually expected to see get done: namely, transcribing all of our old home VHS videos on to DVDs. Although I've heard there are professional places that do this, I was afflicted with a D.I.Y. bug when I contemplated all the unknown mortifying childhood antics I might be handing over for a stranger to record. I figured I’d get the equipment myself – pretty cheap and portable in this day and age, especially if you are fortunate enough (as I was) to drop in at Target and find what must be the world’s last known VCR on sale at the way back of the shelves – and transcribe the tapes on my own.

Five Poems


I.

The moment I knew
In my strange youth
That I was sure to come
To no good
Was the day I was left
In the presence of
An item known
As Bass Clef.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

God's Army 2: States of Grace (2005): A Review

From the morass of products of most questionable quality that is LDS cinema, the work of Richard Dutcher juts upward like a monumental rock face. Here at last is sublimity. Here is art. I believe this statement is uncontroversial, even among Mormons, for whom their distinct film industry, such as it is, is not to my knowledge a point of especial pride. In a field that is otherwise made up, near as my fellow investigator and I can tell, of student-produced shorts from BYU in the 1960s and '70s, largely intended for seminary audiences (who in LDS contexts, recall, are mostly teenagers) and with vague P.S.A. overtones (in one of them, a student actually does awake at the end to learn that the terrible warning conveyed by the film about the importance of temple marriage was "all a dream" -- à la "Come back, Zinc! Come back!"), along with a handful of godawful "comedies" made in the last two decades in which some mildly rebellious Mormon twenty-something learns that it's actually worth it to follow church rules because it is the only way to win back his gorgeous future Mormon spouse. Among this sallow competition, Richard Dutcher is, indisputably, the best. And the uncomfortable part? He left the church in 2007 in a high-profile way, announcing he was no longer a Mormon.