Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some Tangential Topics

Just got back from a week in Chicago and I feel inspired to spout off on a few subjects not entirely related to the stated purpose of this blog. What? It's free. Sue me.

You know, it seems in Chicago they have this lake. Apparently they call those suckers the Great Lakes for a reason. For us benighted Easterners, "lake" calls up an entirely different picture; Michigan is really more like what you might call an "inland sea." And they have beaches, golden sandy beaches, downtown. Crazy!

Chicago cabbies seem to have an inappropriate fascination with sex lives. One told me WAY more than I wanted to know about his; another asked me about mine. Dude, buy me a drink first.

My last night in town, I went to a performance of Troilus and Cressida by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I can't say I enjoyed it, but it was an experience. I have no problems with people who update Shakespeare to make it more meaningful. My favorite work, filmed or staged, is Ian McKellen's Richard III, which ruthlessly lopped off scenes and characters in presenting the play as a parable of 1930s fascism. But when the director takes out lines that explicate actions and motivations, and adds in "arty" touches (dead soldiers wearing the helmets of all the wars there ever were) designed to beat the audience over the head with "the message," that's just bard abuse. And casting busty blondes with no stage presence or ability to project should also be discouraged (Chaon Cross, I'm talking about you).

Mies van der Rohe said some snappy things I've always believed in, such as "less is more" and "form follows function." Yet somehow I never quite understood that he was the originator and leading proponent of the sterile, repellent International style. Once I learned that, I thought perhaps his own buildings might have been bold, revolutionary, beautiful, and his style degraded by cheap imitators. But now, having seen his IBM Building and twin apartment towers, I can only say: Mies has a lot to answer for.

Recently, I heard Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, interviewed by Terry Gross on her show Fresh Air, followed the next night by Francis S. Collins, author of The Language of God. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and an atheist, who thinks that science and religion are utterly incompatible; Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian, thinks that science supports his faith. The funny thing is that, on the belief scale, I'm a lot closer to Dawkins than to Collins. But Dawkins was an obnoxious, pretentious little git that I wanted to backhand across the room, whereas Collins came off as a thoughtful, reasonable guy I would be happy to hang out with. Guess which one represented his point of view better?

Speaking of thoughtful and reasonable evangelical Christians, I just discovered this blog by Fred Clark, in which he is conducting a nearly page-by-page deconstruction of the Left Behind series (he's been doing it since 2003 and he's still not through the first volume). His wonderful posts, which criticize the books for their theology as well as their literary merit, are both devastating and devastatingly funny. I'd like to hang out with Fred, too.

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