Defending America

Gingrich

In 1993 Newt Gingrich produced a wonderful video course called Renewing American Civilization. My wife and I had the privilege to serve as local representatives of the course, persuading two local public TV stations to broadcast it (one of them re-broadcast it six times). We felt this was quite an accomplishment, especially in liberal Portland, Oregon. The course is still available from Amazon and well worth reviewing:

https://www.amazon.com/Renewing-American-Civilization-Newt-Gingrich/dp/155927462X

Now Professor Gingrich has created a new online course, Defending America. I have not worked through the course yet, but it promises to be a thoughtful, timely, and useful update on the state of our beloved country, the “culture wars”, and how best to preserve all that is true, good, and beautiful in our civilization. The six lessons are titled “Poisoning The Melting Pot”, “Faith Under Attack”, “Destruction of Opportunity”, “Thought Police Run Amok”, “Defending the 2nd Amendment”, and “Draining the Swamp”. The titles alone say, “This is going to be good!” Find out more here:

https://www.defendingamericacourse.com/p/defending-america

 

Best Wishes!

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Utah Shakespeare Festival 2018

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Another great season of theater in southern Utah is approaching. Offerings this year include perennial favorites The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor as well as Henry VI Part One and Othello. No doubt the latter will be great; I, alas, cannot go to it. Othello for me is too tragic, Iago too evil, the pathos too deep. It is, as it were, a tear too far for me. The others, though, “Bravo!” in advance, especially The Merry Wives, a downright rollicking play.

Other offerings include Roger Miller’s Big River, a musical depiction of Huckleberry FinnThe Foreigner, about a visitor who pretends to not speak English and so overhears what he shouldn’t (reminiscent of What The Deaf Man Heard); The Liar, about a master who cannot tell the truth and a servant who cannot lie (oh, the possibilities!); An Iliad, about, well that’s obvious; and Pearl’s In The House, a musical about the great Pearl Bailey.

The award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is reliably excellent, so start making plans now for a week, or long weekend, of great theater starting June 28 and lasting through September 8, with an abbreviated Fall schedule from September 11 through October 13. Please visit the following site for more details and to reserve your tickets:

https://www.bard.org/

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Best Wishes!

Hoaka Delos Reyes, Master Stone Carver

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The interaction of great artists with their chosen medium is the stuff of lore and not a little mystical. Michelangelo spoke of seeing the figure in a block and carving away stone to free it. Similarly, Hawaiian artist Hoaka Delos Reyes is quoted  as saying about his learning of the craft, “The stone started to shape me, not the other way around.” It all started many years ago when his son asked him to make a stone poi pounder for him, an easy request for a man who was a builder in stone and cement. Then came the condition, his son wanted it to be genuine, made the old way, no modern tools. What followed is related in the article, “The Stone Caller” by Shannon Wianecki in the February/March issue of Hana Hou!, the inflight magazine of Hawaiian Airlines.

It is the story of a man responding to a calling, for Hoaka soon found there was only one man who knew the old way of working stone, George Fujinaga, a crusty old  stone carver who looked askance at young men who naively wished to learn the art in a weekend. It proved to be a schooling of many years. That meant learning the types of stones, learning to recognize their spirits, learning how to work them and with them, how to “listen to them”, how to call to them and hear their answer. In the process the artist comes to know himself as well.

The day came when the apprentice’s skill exceeded his master’s. Not long after that, George passed away, but not before asking his wife to tell Hoaka that “he had been waiting for you all his life. Now he can go to sleep, knowing that you will carry on the work.” It is an inspiring story of diligence, faith, and hard work. Read more at the following links:

http://maui.hawaii.edu/hooulu/2015/11/23/hoaka-delos-reyes-master-stone-carver

https://mauimagazine.net/making-it-maoli/3

 

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Best Wishes!

Synopsis of FBI Corruption

Joseph DiGenova is one of the nation’s premier lawyers. One of his recent speeches was published in the February issue of Hillsdale College’s Imprimis. This is an excellent review of the sorry state of the modern FBI leadership, not to be confused with the rank and file agents, most of whom must be pulling their hair at recent events. Well worth the read:

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/the-politicization-of-the-fbi/

 

Rules For Writers

It is generally good for a laugh to say that a professional writer has no rules. It’s not true, of course, and a number of great writers have made lists of rules which they follow with varying degrees of faithfulness. The lists might be summed up by saying that the One Great Rule of Writing is to communicate clearly. Therein lies the rub, for communication involves much more than conveying data from one brain to another; a laundry list can do that. Writers, especially fiction writers, have a host of associations connected to those data, ranging from subtle or not so subtle implications to the deepest emotions, and conveying those is a real challenge.

Available tools for that deeper and broader communication vary with the language, which partially accounts for the difficulty of translation. English has an especially wide vocabulary and variety of idioms to aid in the task (and to confuse the foreign learner). This is reflected in differences in style and usage from one English speaking country to another, American versus British for instance, and in changes over time; the writing of Hawthorne is strikingly different from Hemingway, or even Twain, though all worked in American English. Quite different products, each well communicated.

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I recently ran across an excellent discussion of the uses and abuses of language, specifically referencing political writing, authored by none other than George Orwell, one of the best writers of the 20th century. He includes some egregious examples which may evoke great groans of laughter. A link to his essay is below, but first, his list of rules:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Good rules. Let us pledge to follow them more fully. And here’s that link:

http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/

 

Best Wishes!

Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

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We had occasion recently to see Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. They have several shows at different venues; we went to “O” at the Bellagio. I had expected to see acrobats and dancers, not realizing that this show is water-based. Not only were the performers excellent acrobats and dancers, contortionists and mimes, gymnasts and actors,  they were world class divers, swimmers, and water-dancers as well. What a show!

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No doubt there was a greater feeling of mystery for those seated below us; we were in the balcony, but in the front so there was nothing but a large amount of air between us and the performance. When an acrobat descended from the ceiling on a chandelier at the beginning of the show, she was right in front of us. Wow!

The minor disadvantage of being high enough for spotlights to sometimes shine in our eyes was balanced by the ability to look down into the pool and see scuba divers directing traffic and supplying oxygen beneath the surface.

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Which brings me to another topic–engineering. This is a remarkable stage which one minute is deep enough to accommodate very high divers and the next is a solid surface for dancers and gymnasts to glide, twirl, or roll across. It is one thing to have a mobile stage which goes up and down, with portions that move this way and that, but quite another to move thousands of gallons of water at the same time. Bravo to the engineers, builders, and stage managers.

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Ticket prices were expensive for a little farm boy like me, though very much in line with other Vegas shows. Our balcony tickets were over $100 apiece. Nevertheless, it was well worth it to see this incredible show, a once in a lifetime experience. “O” is supposed to have a plot, by the way, all about the cycle of life and human history or something like that. Feel free to try to figure it out–the souvenir program may help. The story is very continental European, that is to say, French, hence subtle. It doesn’t really matter. The show is fantastic whatever the plot may be.

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How is that even possible? Really?

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The Lantern Light Festival

 

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We decided to celebrate the New Year by attending the Lantern Light Festival at the Puyallup State Fair Grounds on the evening of January first. It was a gorgeous display, mixing Chinese and Western themes in a beautiful blend of color and light.

The only problem was the temperature. It is an outdoor program and we were freezing the whole time, literally, except for a brief reprieve from the weather indoors at the Fair Scone stand. (Yes, yes, I know our 31 degrees is nothing compared to what is happening in the Midwest and East Coast, but still . . . ) We only caught a few minutes of the acrobat/dance performances; we simply could not stay outside that long. Our hearts go out to the performers.

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The Lantern Light Festival was scheduled to run from 24 November 2017 through 7 January 2018, but has been extended through 14 January. All in all, a most memorable evening and well worth the time to see it. Be sure to bundle up. Maybe next time they could do this in summer.

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For more details, click here.