Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Are You Man Enough to be Neutered?" * A Review of the Jim Gaffigan Show

As a Catholic father of seven children, I was cautiously optimistic when The Jim Gaffigan Show was announced--particularly as the promotional materials suggested he would be drawing from his real life as a Catholic father of five. Now I don't watch a whole lot of contemporary comedy, but if Gaffigan is on and I'm flipping by, there's a certain protocol, a bit of a "stop, drop, and roll," which I endorse:

1) Press "Pause" on U-verse.
2) Visit bathroom to prevent Comedy Related Accident.
3) Stretch stomach muscles to avoid Comedy Related Injury.
4) Move sharp edged furniture.
5) Press "Play."

Any man who can transform the term 'Hot Pockets' from a culinary abomination into three syllables of permanent comedic value is a flat out genius. Let's not kid around here: I don't wish to tarnish a great man in a blog review.

Letters to Malcolm and the Trouble with Narnia

Letters to Malcolm
and the Trouble with Narnia:
C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their 1949 crisis

Eric Seddon


N the early spring of 1949, C.S. Lewis read part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, still in manuscript, to J.R.R. Tolkien. Expecting enthusiasm from his longtime friend and colleague, he received instead what would remain Tolkien’s permanent dismissal of the work. The assessment was blunt and unequivocal: Tolkien deemed the book almost worthless—a carelessly written jumble of unrelated mythologies. He simply detested it (Sayer 312, 313). Although shaken by this terse and unexpected verdict, Lewis later sought the opinion of Roger Lancelyn Green, whose encouragement lead to the ultimate decision to finish the book (Green & Hooper, 241). It went on to become one of Lewis’s best sellers. The first of what eventually became The Chronicles of Narnia, it has been continuously in print ever since. Now half a century from its first publication, the place of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe seems increasingly remarkable. Like The Lord of the Rings it remains embraced and even celebrated by a society steadily annexed by secular values. Its success both in book sales and, more recently, at the box office have even resulted in the somewhat bizarre spectacle of secular critics writing polemical tracts attempting to marginalize, if not deny, the Christian elements of the plot.[1] Thus Narnia’s success has remained somewhat oddly stunning—the greatest testimony to its place in literature being this steady endurance in the public imagination, despite the societal shifts since its first publication.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Treat It Gentle * The Autobiography of Sidney Bechet

[ The following was originally published on my other blog, The Jazz Clarinet, but I have always felt the aural poetic of music was essential to understanding American culture, and therefore that there is a certain cross over quality between the two blogs. Sidney Bechet is an essential figure in jazz history. Along with Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, he is one of the founders of jazz in the recorded era. An argument can be made that his solo style has influenced, directly or indirectly, nearly every reed player since his day. Yet even if he hadn't influenced players by his musical brilliance, the observations of a lifetime spent in music which were collected for his autobiography would remain an essential text in American literature. 

As a jazz musician, I've had the privilege to learn a history that few white kids of my generation got to know--a history of America as seen through the eyes and lives of the great African-American musicians who created, pioneered, and developed the music we refer to as jazz. That history can be confrontational, as it calls into question many of the egalitarian myths that have propped up our national self-esteem for so long. But it is also deeply beautiful--a true story of the most terrible of hardships overcome by faith, hope, and love. Such is the story of the great Sidney Bechet, who recounts the history of his family from slavery through his artistic achievements as a major figure in world art history.

Bechet's insights regarding the Blues are essential for our understanding of the most important indigenous musical system of America, and his penetrating discussion of commercialism remains one of the finest tonics to a perpetual American disease.The following provides just a few quotes of a book that I think ought to be read in full by every American high school student. E.S. 7/13/2015 ]