Questions & Answers: Hearts and Bones and Carrie Fisher

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Carrie Fisher and Paul Simon

Many have commented that 2016 was thicker than usual in celebrity deaths. But some of those deaths have felt crueler and more poignant than others. (I for one couldn’t care less whether Prince lived or died. Sue me.) The comparatively young death of Carrie Fisher has come as a particularly sad shock to cap the year off. Tributes from various friends and associates have poured in, all emphasizing her sharp wit, humor, and honesty. It’s struck me that Fisher’s distinct un-sappiness as a person has rendered this outpouring less syrupy than the usual “dead celebrity tributes” fare. She was a complicated personality with lots of hard edges and dark corners, and she spoke about those hard, dark parts of herself with disarming candor.

Some fans are just now learning that Carrie Fisher was married: once only, to rock legend Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel fame. Their stormy, whirlwind romance gets extensive treatment in Peter Ames Carlin’s new Simon bio Homeward Bound, from which some pertinent excerpts are provided here. It’s painfully sad reading. Carlin paints a vivid picture of two people who had extraordinary sympatico, yet were so deeply dysfunctional that neither one could handle the other’s pain. They shared a fierce intelligence and a melancholy bent that inevitably drew them together. There are stories of titanic fights between them that would dissolve all of a sudden because they began to laugh helplessly at each other and themselves.

However, there’s no denying that their marriage was spectacularly ill-advised. Fisher’s bipolar disorder and drug abuse weren’t things that could be pushed under the rug. They were an ever-present ball and chain. Coupled with Simon’s own ongoing depression, and topped off by a tragic miscarriage, they inexorably dragged the marriage down to its doom, a mere year later. Interestingly, it was Fisher, not Simon, who made the final decision to cut it short, no doubt believing it was best for both of them.

As is typical with such things, this wasn’t the end of the story. Simon and Fisher maintained an on-again, off-again relationship for a number of years thereafter, before Fisher once again decided to break it off for good.

Musically, some of Simon’s best work came out of this relationship, most famously the song “Graceland.” Fisher is the “she” who “comes back to tell me she’s gone, as if I didn’t know that, as if I didn’t know my own bed.” However, Simon wrote another song about their relationship that slipped through the cracks at the time: the title track for a flop project called Hearts and Bones, which has been revived as something of a cult classic in recent years. While the stature of “Graceland” is undeniable, and the track understandably more ear-catching, “Hearts and Bones” is, for my money, the deeper and more poignant lyric of the two. It traces “the arc of a love affair” between “one and one half wandering Jews” (Fisher was half-Jewish), from marriage to divorce. One might mistakenly think it was written in the wake of their separation, but eerily, it was actually written on the cusp of their marriage.

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Two Sisters Review… Dr. Strange (Part 2 of 2)

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Little Sis and I pick up where we left off. We begin by discussing the film’s implicit pacifism, then really go at it over Marvel’s morality of magic and healing. We tackle the question of whether parallels can be drawn from Marvel world to our world, or to the world C. S. Lewis creates in Narnia. Finally, I wrap it up with a little discussion of new Harry Potter universe blockbuster Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, whose sympathetic portrayal of persecuted witches has been explicitly criticized by Catholic critic Steven Greydanus.

Enjoy! (And, as before, apologies for all the places where we say “Mordu” instead of “Mordo.” We forgot, okay?)

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Two Sisters Review… Dr. Strange (Part 1 of 2)

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Courtesy of Thanksgiving Break, Little Sis and I bring you our SPOILERIFIC deep dive into Dr. Strange. We discuss favorite moments and funny bits, as well as how the film handles mind/body dualism, death, and (of course!) magic. It got a little long, as LS observed towards the end, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. In Part II, we will discuss the film’s philosophy of suffering and hash out some differences of opinion on the last Easter Egg and whether we agree with its perspective on magical healing, while expanding on some compare and contrast with C. S. Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew. For now, enjoy Part I, and stay tuned! (Note: I apologize in advance for our erroneous and repeated reference to the character of Mordo as “Mordu.” As you might be able to tell, we’re not exactly die-hard comic book fans, we just watch the movies!)

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2016: The Year White America Broke Bad

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[Note: I’ve had to delete some inflammatory comments on this post. I did so without apology and will continue to do so. However, in the course of one rant, a person did ask why I am making an analogy to a “horrific” show that “no Christian should be watching.” In response to this, I do offer the caveat that much of it is horrific, and I personally stopped watching after Season 1. I would recommend similar discernment in other Christian viewers. However, my attention was recently drawn to a specific couple of tragically poignant, well-written scenes from the show past the point at which I stopped watching, and this was why it happened to be on my mind at the time of the election.]

Half of America woke up yesterday morning feeling despair. The other half woke up feeling drunk elation.

I woke up feeling nothing.

A few of my friends are mourning Hillary Clinton’s national humiliation, but I cannot muster the sympathy to comfort them. I shed no tears for the fall of the Clinton dynasty. She got nothing. She lost. Good day, ma’am.

More of my friends are celebrating Donald Trump’s poll-defying, media-shaming win. Yet I cannot muster the enthusiasm to join them.

I read post-mortems dissecting the demographic breakdown. I surveyed bar graphs and maps showing in stark red and blue how the sleeping giant of underclass America had been roused to cast their ballots, like a wretched dog that’s been slapped across the nose one too many times. I read anecdotal reports of people physically bringing their mail-in ballots to the polls, just to be sure.

But amidst all the cheering, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth and quaking of stock markets, all I could think of was Jesse Pinkman’s wooden box.

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Ben Zobrist and the Inflation of Christian Celebrity

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So here I was, grimly resigned to the fact that I should probably write something or other about the election but really wishing I could write about something else instead. Something timely that wasn’t soul-crushingly depressing, about which I could muster the time and energy to say something moderately original and intelligent.

Enter Ben Zobrist and the Chicago Cubs. I don’t care if you’re the nerdiest of nerds to walk the earth. I don’t care if you wander around with 15 pens in your pocket, or if you think the SuperBowl is a moderately important tennis tournament. If you were breathing air and had red American blood in your veins early last Thursday morning, you were in front of some screen, somewhere, just to see if they would really do it this time. Yes, you. You know who you are.

I’ll leave the gloriously sentimental victory songs to Chicago sports journalism’s finest. Meanwhile, I took great interest in another story that emerged this weekend about Ben Zobrist, the Cubs’ freshly minted MVP. While this was known before, many people are just now discovering that Zobrist is a devout evangelical Christian. (And just for those of you who do not have red American blood in your veins and therefore are oblivious as to what Zobrist’s contributions were this series, he scored multiple key runs, including a clutch RB in Game 7’s nail-biting 10th inning that paved the way for Cubs defense to shut it down.)

Now, I know what some of you may have thought when you first saw the headline: “Oh great, another celebrity who said something positive about Jesus once and is now being hyped as a CHRISTIAAAAAAAN celebrity because everyone happens to be talking about him right now.” I can understand why that thought might have crossed your mind. It crossed my mind as well, I confess, cynical kill-joy that I am. But I’m glad I didn’t stop at the headline, because it appears that I drastically underestimated Mr. Ben Zobrist.

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Guest Writing Roundup: The Stream, More Than One Lesson

I may have lapsed in updating this little space, but if you follow me on FaceBook, you know I have not been idle in writing. Here is a quick run-down of what I’ve been up to.

First, I shared some thoughts in the aftermath of Phyllis Schlafly’s death for The Stream, which you can read here. In particular, I fondly recall getting to meet her in person at the age of 10.

Secondly, Tyler Smith’s podcast More Than One Lesson is one of my favorite places to soak up good film criticism with a Christian slant. Not all his tastes correspond with mine, but I frequently glean interesting insights from him on the films I do like. Recently, he approached me and asked if I’d be interested in throwing my hat in the contributors’ ring for the More Than One Lesson website. My first piece debuted a new film editing project I worked on over the summer, combining a beautiful song called “One Thing of Beauty” with the film The Soloist. In the piece, I reflect on the significance of beauty and how both the song and the film reflect mankind’s search for it. Die-hard readers may recognize echoes of some thoughts I jotted down here a while back.

Finally, last week Tyler posted another piece of mine about a stunning new documentary film called A German Life, about the woman who served as the personal stenographer for Nazi war criminal Joseph Goebbels. It looks like a gripping work, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing myself. In this piece, I take a sober look at what we can learn from this woman’s actions and how we can show mercy towards her. Here’s the trailer:

That’s all for the moment! I hope to check in here from time to time despite yet another demanding year of coursework for my graduate degree. While I’ve been blessed with a lot of freelancing opportunities this year and will keep you posted on those, I’m sure I will continue to have many thoughts that don’t fit neatly anywhere else but here, in this little space where it all started.

LGBT Activists Have Left No Middle Ground in the Culture War (The Stream cross-post)

When progressive David Gushee sent out his warning to Christian higher ed that no bargains could be struck with the gay agenda, I couldn’t help noticing the ironic timing of the piece, because The Atlantic had just published something arguing exactly that. In my latest for The Stream, I analyze Professor Alan Noble’s proposition for a compromise and explain why its flimsiness cannot hold up under the coming onslaught that Gushee accurately predicts. Click here to read more.

Seven Things I Hate About the New Ben-Hur Movie

[Note: If you were genuinely moved by the new Ben-Hur movie, chances are good you’ll be offended by this post. I wish to offend no man needlessly, so if you fit this description, you’ve been warned.]

“Why do they need to re-make Ben-Hur?” My sister asked this question the other day. It’s a good question. I’ll let you decide the answer.

Me, I wasn’t even going to bother seeing if it was as bad as I’d heard. But then, I got this idea that I could sell a free-lance piece including some discussion of the Jesus scenes, which had been very hyped up in the movie’s marketing. Supposedly, this re-make was going to improve on the Heston classic by giving Jesus top billing. That seemed interesting, but then early reviews started coming in. If they were to be trusted, Ben-Hur 2016 Jesus was about as deep as Joel Osteen’s Twitter feed. But, understandably, I couldn’t get paid to write anything about it unless I could say I’d seen the movie.

So, I saw it, only to discover that this new and improved, ostensibly beefed-up Jesus was so over-hyped, every single scene of his had already been put on YouTube or mentioned in the two reviews I saw. There was literally nothing else there. Fortune-cookie Joel Osteen Jesus was it.

But hey, I thought, at least I can have a little fun panning the whole thing for my blog, and that will make me feel like my $6.50 wasn’t entirely wasted. So, herewith, seven things I hated about the new Ben-Hur movie.

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Why I Can’t Be Politically Correct Anymore (The Stream cross-post)

I’m back, with a vengeance! Well, actually, I’m just back with a new article, which the folks at The Stream are graciously hosting. In it, I discuss the ways in which Trump and Co. have hijacked the phrase “politically incorrect,” and I propose that as conservatives, we collectively put it to bed as a phrase that has lost its meaning. Click here to read it.

Republican National Convention Roundup

If we can’t make the case to the American people that voting for our party’s nominee is consistent with voting your conscience, is consistent with defending freedom and being faithful to the Constitution, then we are not going to win, and we don’t deserve to win. — Ted Cruz

As balloons fell after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump accepted his party nomination last night, the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want' rang through the arena.

I am uncharacteristically left speechless after the sad, sad events in Cleveland this past week. As Matt Walsh said, “not my circus, not my elephants,” but it’s still hard not to cry a little cry over the final bullet in the head of the Republican party. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to all that social/fiscal conservatism… stuff, I guess. I mean, minor details really. Not like we’re gutting the soul of the party or anything. Move along folks.

The only bright spot, of course, was Ted Cruz’s perfect balance of principle and savvy, reminding us of what Republicanism used to stand for and reminding us that far more hangs in the balance this election than the presidency. One of the most devastating potential consequences of Trump’s nomination is that discouraged Never Trumpers will not mobilize to keep Congress in the red, as dozens of seats are up for grabs. Cruz’s reminder to vote our consciences “up and down the ballot” was not just a subtle dig at Trump. It was a useful word of advice to real conservatives that there are still worthy senators and representatives out there who need their vote. By the way, I’ve seen a number of people condescendingly wag their fingers at Cruz for “breaking his pledge” by not explicitly endorsing Trump. (And how interesting that even Trump’s own supporters know good and well that “vote your conscience” doesn’t mean their guy.) What a lot of sanctimonious hoo-ha. I won’t even try to respond to all that better than the man himself.

But anyway, I thought about writing a little eulogy, until I read around and realized it’s all been said more eloquently than I can match. So, I refer my gentle readers to the following gems of wisdom. Take up and read:

Jonah Goldberg chooses Ted, ’nuff said

Maggie Gallagher on where the Republican party is going from here (spoiler, it’s leftward ho!)

Ben Shapiro adding his thoughts

Matt Walsh on what true conservative unity should look like (and why uniting around Trump isn’t it)

David French on how we lost the Republic in Republicanism