Thursday, July 27, 2006

An Update, Two Reviews and a Promised Picture

I’m spending this week with the family at a friend’s cottage on a nearby lake. As there is no internet access, I haven’t been online as much, only when I’ve been into the office. Since it’s a slow week, and a 25 minute drive to the office, I’m not around much. Actually, I’m not going to be around a lot for the next month, as I’ll be back at home for a week, then we’ll take off for two weeks down south. Anyway, it’s beautiful here. This evening I set out on the patio watching the sun sink, wondering if the winds might calm down enough for me to take the canoe and fly rod out. The winds never did calm that much, but in order to get a better view, I paddled to the lee side of an island where I watched the sun sink behind distant clouds as I cast out a “spider” upon the waters. For a few minutes, the bluegills couldn’t leave it alone and I caught six. But once the sun was completely gone and darkness began to descend, they stopped biting and I paddled back.

I’ve read an interesting book and a watched an interesting movie this week. They couldn’t be more dissimilar. Back in May I wrote about hearing Tom Mullen, a Quaker pastor, writer and professor, speak at a conference at Calvin College. His presentation was wonderful as he kept us all in stitches. Shortly after that event, I found a copy of his book Where Two or Three are Gathered Together, Someone Spills the Milk. This was published back in the 70s and is a little dated and a little silly, but it was light reading and the chapters short which made it perfect to read right before bed (a short chapter a night). Although that first book was so-so, I highly recommend the second book I read by him. It’s titled A Very Good Marriage and tells the story of his 41 year marriage to his wife who died in December 1998. Mullen breaks apart the traditional marriage vows and devotes a chapter to each (I take thee Nancy…, From this day forward…, For better or worse…, etc).

This book is, at times, humorous, but not in a silly sense. It’s joyous and sad. I found myself admiring the great love Tom and Nancy shared. He still loves her. The two of them shared a “humbleness” that strengthened their bond. “My wife was beautiful, and she thought I as wonderful,” he wrote. “From an outside perspective, we both may have been wrong. Never mind. We formed our own say of saying, ‘I love you.” (page 28) Making the book even more poignant is the fact that both of them have had medical difficulties throughout their lives. She had diabetes from childhood and he later developed the disease. But they didn’t let this get them down; they took care of each other. I’m glad I’ve read this book, although I could have read it decades ago and perhaps learned a few less lessons that I had to learn the hard way. I’m also glad to have read this book because now I have a perfect wedding gift for the couple that already has everything.

This past weekend I watched on DVD the “silent film,” The Battleship Potemkin. The movie was filmed in the Soviet Union in 1925. Most of the silent films I’ve watched have been comedies, but there was nothing funny in this one. This is a serious movie telling the story of the mutiny of a crew of a battleship at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The cause of the mutiny is bad rations. There’s obvious propaganda here. The officers are made to look like elitist fools. The Russian Orthodox priest, who looked old enough to have been a disciple of Jesus, reminds the crew that God is watching and then when the battle between the officers and sailors begins, he pretends to be dead in order to save himself. When the town in which the ship is harbored here of the mutiny, they march in protest and are attacked by Russian soldiers and Cossacks who have complete disregard for life. The movie casts a number of martyrs: the leader of the mutiny who gets shot in the back, the mother whose young boy is shot and then she too is shot when she asks the soldiers for help, and another mother who is killed and whose child in a carriage rolls down steps. There are also some tense moments in which the filming is excellent. The scene in which the battleship charges into a Russian squadron of ships holds your attention. Even without words, the scene builds suspense with the rise in music and showing the sailors at their battle stations. Everyone waits in anticipation of the battle, which is averted when the rest of the ships decide to join the revolution. One of the most interesting scenes came then the town, upon learning of the mutiny, was debating what they should do. There was a mass meeting and everyone was offering suggestions. Then one man yelled out, “Kill the Jews.” The crowd turns on the man and beat him. The film-maker used this scene to show a traditional Czarist way of dealing with problems, create a scapegoat out of the Jews. But when this guy cries out for a pogrom, the people reject the idea in a call for solidarity. Jews supported the revolution in the beginning, as a way to end the pogroms that had been so frequent in Russia; however, under Stalin’s rule just a few years after this film was produced, Jews were again being killed as enemies of the people. It seems to be a human tendency to seek the easy way of having a scapegoat than to deal with real problems. This is a short film (75 minutes long). As a silent film, there is no need for dubbing. For those of us who don’t read Russian, there’s an English translation to the Russian words printed on the screen.

And finally, for those of you who have been wanting to see the house that I participated in building, here it is! The kids did a great job, didn’t they?


  1. Because of your Two Hearted blogs, I have dug back into my journals for a canoe trip to the BWCA that I will probably blog about while you are gone. You can catch up on them when you get back.

    In case you won't get a chance to read my old comments, Herman Melville's Moby Dick was based off the true story written in The Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex by Owen Chase, a survivor or In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick. I would read either of the latter two first before the former. The Heart of the Sea is the better one in my opinion.

  2. That's a prudy fine looking house there. Can't believe yall finished it in a matter of days. Once again, way to go!

    And great book and film recommendations. The book you mentioned seems like a spectacular read.

    As someone who is really into film I've seen BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and it is one of the classical masterworks of world cinema. POTEMKIN's director, Sergei Eisenstein, basically created dialetical editing for the film. This type of editing is basically editing together two separate shots or images that work as a great metaphor. One of the most memorable is during a protest scene. As the public is going about its normal routine, Eisenstein cuts to a statue of a sleeping or lying lion. However, as the public begins to protest, Eisenstein cuts to a statue of a rising lion. I believe the protest sequence is cut with the shot of a roaring lion. It's a very clever way of commenting on the action, especially of a silent film. The great artistic auteurs that followed Eisenstein built upon this visual achievement.

    Also, for those that have seen Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES, De Palma "borrows" the baby carriage scene from POTEMKIN.

    Great post!

  3. That house looks very sturdy, Sage and you should be proud of your involvement in it.

    I will look for that book to read - and then give as a gift.

  4. The place you are spending the week sounds like a very beautiful setting. The book sounds excellent though not so relevant for me seeing I'm single quite possibly for life. The movie sounds like it would be worth seeing.

  5. Cute house! Who was the one that got to pick out the yellow siding? (I dig yellow houses) A deck doesn't come with it? ;-)

  6. That book sounds SO interesting! I think I might go out and purchase it. We've been married 22+ years, but I think it's never too late to learn new lessons about love. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Michele sent me today and I'm so glad! Hope you're having a great weekend!

  7. Ed, I've been enjoying your boundary water journals--we'll have to do a trip someday!

    V, thanks for the additional insight into the "Battleship" movie. The DVD I watched didn' have any of the interesting tid-bits, which I found disappointing and which could have been helpful. But it is a classic

    Kenju, the sturdiness of the house has nothing to do with my skills! I'm glad there were people who know what they're doing leading this project. I have done some construction, but did learn a lot.

    Tim, it was beautiful. There's stuff in the book that can be applied by even a committed lifelong bachelor

    Murf, I assure you that I had nothing to do with the color selection! You had to wear sunglasses when putting on the siding!

    Karen, enjoy the book!

  8. I want to be a fly on the river to see you and Ed take such a trip, Sage. :-)

  9. Heck, I would just like to drag you along too Murf just to see what you did when having to use a bathroom for the first time.

  10. #1 I feel fairly confident about. Anything other than that and you probably would have a great story to re-read in your journal for many, many years after.

  11. good job! house looks great. well done those kids. and you of course.

    i saw that film when i was university. brilliant. but yes amazing how things get used for propaganda and then the same things or worse are often done without any sense of guilt or irony. sad but true very often.

  12. The house looks great!

    Thanks for the recommendations. Propaganda is difficult for my students to grasp, which is truly scary considering how much is used!