So. 19 days later, I'm back. Why was I gone? The usual. When real-life gets too hectic, the blog is the first casualty. I don't feel good about it. But I don't feel too bad about it either. Does the fact that I can (and periodically do) let this site lie fallow mean I should just abandon it? Or does it simply mean I need to be content with the very small-size audience and operation I've got here? Well, it definitely means the latter. I hope it doesn't mean the former.
So, here are the things in each grand pop culture category that have been keeping me entertained for these past 19 days.
Book: Under the Banner of Heaven. Jon Krakauer. A wonderful, if a little too shaggy, history of the violence that has been perpetuated by Mormons since the religion's founding, wrapped in a look at how and why extreme religious belief often leads to horrific violence. A very hard book to read, as the sheer violence can get overwhelming - this is, after all, a book that is framed by a 1984 murder and near-beheading of a woman and her baby girl by fundamentalist Mormons. Rough stuff. But fascinating. The most compelling question Krakauer raises is why we make what seem like allowances for religion. He parallels the Elisabeth Smart case with another case of a Mormon girl trying to escape a fundamentalist, polygamous family where she was undergoing sexual abuse. The Smart case was a national big deal. The other case ended with the little girl being sent back to the family. Religion shouldn't get a pass.
Movie: Bridge on the River Kwai. What a glorious, exciting, and moving film. This is, to my shame, only the third Alec Guinness role I've seen. He is remarkable as the noble-to-a-fault British officer. And I, not knowing much about the film save the fact that a bridge is built and detonated, was surprised at the very finely wrought moral questions raised. I had expected a much more straightforward story. What I got was better. Also - David Lean makes gorgeous films. I know that's not new news, but it was a revelation for me, especially having finally seen Lawrence of Arabia relatively recently. The scene in the jungle when the British officer hunt down the one Japanese soldier was remarkable. The scene starts with the British exchanging fire with the Japanese scouts. The gunfire startles hundreds of massive bats, who take to the skies ahead. And for the rest of the scene, the landscape on the ground is constantly mottling and shifting as the shadows of the hundreds of bats criss and cross. Stunning.
TV: Fringe. I have only seen the pilot so far, and liked-but-did-not-love it. The whole sequence of the boyfriend's betrayal was a bit too murky for my tastes. What did he do? Who was he working for? I assume these aren't answers I'm supposed to yet know, and yet I still feel a little more clarity could have been afforded.
Music: Life, Death, Love, and Freedom. John Mellencamp. Mellencamp's best album since Big Daddy. And coming from me, that's high praise indeed. I am delighted that he still had an album like this in him. Take that, Hall of Fame naysayers!