Saturday, May 17, 2008

Haven't Forgotten About Y'all

Nope, haven't forgotten about y'all one bit.

I just haven't been in the mood to get on the computer and lay my thoughts bear for the whole world out there to read. Sorry.

Anyway, just to let everyone know that I'm thinking of you, I'll put up a few items from the last few days that struck me.


Item: Have any of you seen this news story? I just about freaked out when I did. The kid is three years old, and due to a "rare brain condition" has never slept!? That he never went down to sleep, ever, until he had a surgical procedure done on his brain?

Speaking as a Daddy with three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1: Those. Poor. Parents. God bless them, I have no idea how they made it this far. My wife and I have difficulty making it through an afternoon without getting our brood down to sleep, let alone three years...

Although I have to admit, that is one cute-looking kid. I wish him sweet dreams.


Item: the columnist Mary Eberstadt, over at National Review Online, has decided to write a series of columns similar in character to C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

For those of you who aren't familiar with The Screwtape Letters, they present some practical theology in a very interesting and original format. The Letters are all written by an experienced, world-wise demon named Screwtape, and are addressed to his "nephew" Wormwood, who has been assigned to corrupt the soul of a particular young man. The letters are all filled with good advice about how to go about distracting the man from the important questions about existence; how to keep him from doing worthwhile things--or if he does do worthwhile things, how to turn the good intentions and deeds into something less than wholesome; how to disguise those things that are trivial (or less-than-worthy) as important, and how to disguise those things that are worthy as trivial, and so forth.

(Interestingly, C.S. Lewis didn't particularly enjoy the act of writing The Screwtape Letters. It's not that it was hard to do, he explained; it's that it required him to get into a frame of mind that was so counter to his own personality, that was so opposite of who he was and what he was trying to do with his life's work, that he felt practically dirty as he was writing it.)

Anyway, Mary Eberstadt has undertaken to write a similar series of letters, entitled The Loser Letters, to be published one per week at National Review Online. Here's the setting of these letters: they are written by a hypothetical convert from Christianity to Atheism, and are addressed to the numerous authors of the atheist manifestos that have been published in this country in the last year (the arguments in which were what convinced the hypothetical convert to leave Christianity). The purpose of the letters is to warn these atheist authors that their approaches to arguing against Christianity are not likely to make much headway within the Christian community, and to explain why.

The first letter is up this week, and deals with issues of sexual morality. The one for next week, interestingly enough, involves the role of Reason with respect to religion and irreligion.


Item: My kids are always doing things that surprise me.

(I'm sure anyone who's a parent is now thinking, "so what else is new?")

Readers of this blog know that I've been debating taking the Pillowfight Fairy to see Prince Caspian in the theaters, or whether it would be better to wait until it comes out on DVD so we can watch it safe comfort of our home. The concern is that the movie Prince Caspian appears (from all the reviews I've seen) to be a war movie; and while it's not particularly heavy on the blood and gore, it does have a fair amount of tension and it has a fair amount of violence. It features a single combat, for instance, in which one of the combatants is killed. That could be scary to a five-year-old. The Pillowfight Fairy may do just fine with it; or it could freak her out in the theater, which would not be good for anyone. I just don't know.

Readers of this blog also know that I've been thinking a lot lately about musical plays and about operas. Especially since commenter B. Durbin jumped in and tried to recruit me for next year's production at the Light Opera Theater of Sacramento, I've been thinking to myself: "Could I do this without disrupting my family too much? Is it a good company? Am I up to their standards? Are they up to my standards?"

So I started thinking about what music I would use to audition, if I were to audition, which I'm not saying I will. (And everyone who knows me is sitting around going, "Yeah, yeah. We see exactly where this is heading.) And so I started pulling out all my old opera scores and anthologies, and I came across this aria (which I've never performed before, but could if I wanted to):

This aria is O wie will ich triumphieren, from Mozart's opera The Abduction From the Seraglio, sung in this clip by bass Kurt Moll. In this scene the Major-Domo Osmin has caught the two young heroes trying to sneak the two young heroines out of the Pasha's harem. He explains to them, in this fun little song, that he's going to take them to the plaza to have them hanged, at which he will be so joyful that he'll be hopping, skipping, and singing a little Song of Joy. (Of course, at the end of the opera the Pasha actually decides to let them all go, which Osmin doesn't particularly like.)

So I was looking at this clip when the Fairy walked into the room and saw it. She came over to the computer to watch it, and was entranced. I showed her the sheet music to the Aria, and explained what it was that Osmin was saying. A few minutes into the aria she blithely asked, "Are they being hung yet?"

And when it was done, she said, "More, more!" So, I started looking on youtube for other bass arias with Kurt Moll or with Samuel Ramey (who I've always liked).

I came across one that actually has both Kurt Moll and Samuel Ramey in it! Ooh, this'll be good, I thought. So I pulled it up and played it. Almost immediately I thought to myself: Hmmm... maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

The scene is the one from Don Giovanni where the ghost of the Commendatore (killed early in the opera in a duel with Don Giovanni, who had just finished trying to force himself on the Commendatore's daughter) shows up at Don Giovanni's palace to offer him one last chance to repent of his evil ways. Don Giovanni refuses, and so the Commendatore drags him down to hell. Properly staged, this can be one of the creepiest scenes in all of opera (before the twentieth century, that is; a lot of stuff written in the last hundred years is much creepier).

Take a look and see how they did.

So I warned my five-year-old that this would be pretty scary. And she watched the whole thing without batting an eyelid. When it was done, she announced that she wasn't the least bit scared.

Go figure. Maybe she is ready for Prince Caspian.

Oh, and a footnote: the Adrenaline Junkie overheard me say that this one is really scary, and must have decided that I was talking about opera in general.

Thereafter, every time I started to sing anything in a foreign language (loudly), she would say something like: "Stop! That's too scary."

(Now, I've been told this before by other family members--mainly by snarky siblings during my formative years. Am I the only one? I don't think I'm the only one. Rather, I hope I'm not the only one....)


Wendy Power said...

We saw Prince Caspian last night. It's PG for a reason. The battle scenes compose the majority of the movie. There were lots of dead bad guys and Narnians. Maybe go see it yourself first?

B. Durbin said...

I've started transferring over my video clips of Gondoliers and I'm rather distressed to find out that my tripod was making clicks and pings...

... right in front of the microphone.

So one of the songs I taped, a beautiful solo piece sung by the higher tenor role, has this annoying turning spring sound every time the camera moves. Gah! I wanted something perfect he could send as a link to his students, and instead I get the "Don't buy the cheap tripod" video.

Maybe graphite will help?

Anonymous said...

I went with my 6-year-old niece this weekend to see it. She LOVED it. There were several times that I looked over at her to make sure she was alright because some of the good guys get killed in battle. But she seemed okay with it.

She's kinda morbid and bloodthirsty in general, though. YMMV

Amy K.

Chris said...

For all of us southerners out here, thanks for the "ya'll" in the title. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy!

We haven't made it to Prince Caspian yet. My wife has an aversion to movies that don't stick to the original book, so I may have to see it myself on a business trip.

Theocentrica said...

the Pillowfight Fairy sounds exactly the way I was when I was a little tyke. I used to play "martyr the early Christians" with my barbie dolls. It was fun. *grin*

Timothy Power said...

Hmm. I would have been playing, "Martyr the Barbie Dolls!"