Friday, September 14, 2007

In The Valley of Elah (review)

Elegiac Indeed
1. Of, relating to, or involving elegy or mourning or expressing sorrow for that which is irrecoverably past: an elegiac lament for youthful ideals.

For some reason, as I was watching this movie, this word 'elegiac' stuck in my mind. Actually, I was misspelling it in my mind as 'elegaic' but so much for my lost glory as the winner of the 3rd grade spelling bee.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but kept wondering how many people would be bored to death, looking at the heavy lines in Tommy Lee Jones' face, and not having any exciting action scenes (well there was one cops-chasing-AWOL-suspect interlude) involving Mini Coopers or martial arts. I even imagine it could be booed in certain parts of the country just for having Susan Sarandon play a soldier's mother. It's bad enough that Tommy Lee Jones used to be Al Gore's roommate!

But here we are, reaping what George W. hath wrought, with Saddam Hussein's blustery words echoing in my mind. Before the invasion, Saddam said something like 'the Americans will drown in sand' or words to that effect. Perhaps he was right. As we pressed on towards Bagdad, the Republican Guard melted away, and we were moving too quickly to even secure a huge warehouse of ammo and explosives we found. Later on, we returned to find the warehouse empty. I often wonder how many IED's and car bombs have been powered by what we callously left unguarded. While Saddam himself may be gone, I think one could make a good case for the analogy that the US has become stuck to the tar baby in the briar patch.

If you liked Paul Haggis' Crash, you'll probably like this film. I have a soft spot for anyone involved in the production of my favorite TV series, Due South, of which Haggis was a frequent writer, director and/or executive producer.

I'm not really in the mood to list all the spoilers that illustrate the damage the war in Iraq had wreaked on the US. Some of the scenes in the film make this point in an obvious, maybe even clichéd manner, but many resonated with me hours after the film was over.

I think I've warned off those that may not like it, but I still recommend it to the rest of you. If you see it, let's discuss some of the details in the comments area below, OK?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fear No Weevil

Yes Virginia, there is a silver lining!

Down South, in the town of Enterprise, Alabama, a statue was dedicated in 1919 to the the Boll Weevil, the scourge of the cotton farmer. Back in the beginning of the 20th century, many areas relied solely on the cultivation of cotton. When the Boll Weevil came up from Mexico via Texas, it destroyed much of those cotton crops. It forced farmers away from the monoculture of King Cotton, and they diversified and prospered. The city fathers of Enterprise honored the Boll Weevil, and the statue itself has a long, bizarre history. But I'm not here to talk about the Boll Weevil.

For the last 15 years, I have played bass in a small intimate worship community, we've referred to as "The Early Service." Early, because we started at the ungodly hour of 8:30 AM! During that time I have been fortunate enough to evolve and improve my skills, and have shared music making with a long revolving list of wonderful, talented people. But, one doesn't have to walk very far down the road of old clichés to find "All good things must end someday."

For a variety of reasons (we won't go into it, remember the 'silver lining' focus here?) we've been on hiatus the last three summers, and I don't think I'll be rejoining whatever it is that's scheduled in the Early Service's place later this month. Certainly there's lots of pain, sadness, and sometimes anger, but let's get back to that silver lining, OK?

With some time on our hands during the last few summers, we have played in other churches on Sundays, and also at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. Laguna Honda is the hospital of last resort for many people, and we have been honored to play there. Sometimes there are 50 or more residents, most in wheelchairs, and they really appreciate what we do. It really puts things in perspective for us. Sometimes when we play John Lennon's "Imagine," it really hits me when we do the last verse:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Usually when you hear the first line of that verse, it resonates in some sort of intellectual way, but here we are, playing for the residents, many of whom literally have nothing. It's been an honor to play there.

Another thing we didn't used to do 'in the good old days' was play with Martha. Martha has always been an excellent piano player and musician, who can actually read those funny little black dots and staff lines, as well as work off the 'cheat sheets,' and helps me figure out the 'idiot chords' for songs, but hasn't been asked to help out in the past at church. Now we get to rehearse and play together, and that's what I call a silver lining.

So, what do I usually do in a case like this? What else; quote some T. S. Eliot that seems appropriate to the occasion:

Fare forward, travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you;
And on the deck of the drumming liner
Watching the furrow that widens behind you,
You shall not think 'the past is finished'
Or 'the future is before us'.