25 December 2012

God Bless Us, Everyone

"As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and things the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see."

19 December 2012

It's December. List time. So here we go: the most interesting people of 2012, not the crap celebrities that Barbara Walters wanted to discuss. I present to you a pop musician-free list of the ten most intresting people this year. No Honey-Boo-Boo (that's a thing?), no boy bands. Enjoy.

10. George Lucas -- Proving that fans will never, ever respect him again after the prequels, Lucas raised all sorts of hell after selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney. With promises of Episode VII in a few years' time, we will see whether or not this was a good idea.

9. Peter Jackson -- First, he took Tolkien from the realm of the nerds into cinematic history. Three times. Now, he's going to try to do it again, but with one little difference: instead of watching a movie per book, we're going to pay to see three movies -- for one book.

8. Donald Trump -- He's still going on about Obama's birth certificate, but don't let his Tea-Party level crazy fool you. The Man with the Ferret Hair has proved that he is not above holding a charitable donation for ransom just to get a look at Obama's college applications and test scores just to get his name in the headlines. A serious contender for much of anything, let alone the White House? No, not really. Interesting enough to become a laughing stock? You bet.

7. General Dave Petraeus -- War hero, spy chief, and all-around interesting person. Then became embroiled in a soap-opera level affair with his biographer and apparently socialites, generals, and FBI agents. Coming soon as a Lifetime movie.

6. Kim Jung-Un -- When his dad left him the decrepit throne that is Pyongyang, many wondered what this meant for the future of the Korean peninsula. More of the same, unfortunately. But hey, this chubbier version of Kim Jung-Il has apparently led his country to discover a unicorn cave, so there's that. In keeping with North Korea's policy of ruining everything that is good and pure in the world, the unicorns were promptly ground up to be served as Big Macs.

5. President Obama -- The economy is just barely crawling out of the toilet and he has proved to be the most controversial moderate ever (which is totaly not his fault, but let's not point that out to Fox News), but he managed to hold off Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency. And all it took was the 47% of America made up of entitled moochers and 4% "other natural flavors".By the way, did you hear that he ordered a hit on Osama bin Laden?

4. Mitt Romney -- What is it with politicians from Massachusetts and not being able to win the White House? Mitt Romney was basically the Republican's slightly-wealthier version of John Kerry: stuck up, decidedly undecided, and awkwardly stiff. After four years of "Anybody but Obama" rhetoric, the Republican party's tepid reaction to their candidate proved that Mitt Romney is apparently not anybody. For those in mourning over the election, think of it this way: in a time of spending cuts, keeping Romney out of the White House means we don't have to use tax-payer dollars to install a car elevator.

...This list is harder to write than usual. Has anyone actually done anything of positive, truly ground-breaking note this year? What about last year's recipients? Princess Kate is with child, but that's not really worth exploring. What are the CERN folks up to? Oh...turns out, that "faster than light" thing really was just faulty wiring. Never mind. But, on the other hand...

3. CERN -- Repeating last year's optimism, but this time on a more sure footing, results from this summer suggest that the Higgs boson may have been discovered. If true, new fields of research are open that I will not even pretend to understand. And somehow this also explains why gravity does that thing with the pull-ey-ness.

2. The team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover -- Two science posts in a row. Um, guys -- we launched a rocket into space, used it to drop a second rocket at a planet, used that second rocket to lower a robot via crane down to the Martian surface, and did it succesfully. HOW COOL IS THAT? And that little robot? Has a laser and all sorts of awesome science equipment for science! (The future is going to be awesome.)

1. The fine folks at The Daily Show and The Colbert Report -- Not only do these extremely hard working writers, hosts, correspondents, and set crews put on hilarious and insightful programs four nights a week, but they also (once again) showed just how screwed up our election system is, from the two-year cycle to SuperPACs.

See you in 2013! (Unless, you know, the Mayans.)

Rock on.

06 December 2012

Eschatology in Les Mis

Some time ago, I was fortunate enough to see Les Misérables at the Fox Theater. As wonderful as the theater (an old movie palace done up in a breath-taking Arabesque style) is, as amazing as the set design was, and as moving as the performance itself was, there is one thing that I cannot shake: the finale.

As the story draws to a close, we are shown a dying Jean ValJean as he is led to Heaven by Fantine and Éponine as all of the characters who died over the course of the narrative return to the stage to sing once more, "Do you hear the people sing?

This time, though, the lyrics are not about a political revolution. Instead, they sing of a world "beyond the barricade" where "the wretched of the earth" will find a "flame that never dies." It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever seen on stage.

Taken in and of itself, this scene is a unique presentation of the eschatological hope in the Peaceable Kingdom. What makes the scene so moving, though, is just how awful the events leading up to it had been; Les Mis follows only behind the works of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedians in killing off as many characters in as many heart-wrenching ways as possible. Much like the early Church's expectation of Christ's imminent parousia in the context of Roman persecution, the events of the student revolution leave little hope for a happy ending. And yet we hear the people sing, though they are lost in the valley of the night. Their voices ascend as they are climbing to the light.

The darkest night will end.

Rock on.