Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Possibly the two best (and scariest) works of satire of the Bush Years have been Stephen Colbert's bravura performance at the Washington Correspondent's Dinner and this piece from the The Onion in 2001, which is so difficult to read simply because you want to laugh, but you are struck with horror as nearly every one of its tongue-in-cheek predictions for a Bush administration have come to pass.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

I saw Connor McPherson’s (The Weir, The Shining City) newest play The Seafarer on Tuesday night, in its third performance after the strike ended last week. The play is mostly good, though it ends with a too-neat narrative trick. The story centers around Sharky (David Morse), who has returned just a few days ago to this rundown Dublin suburb to care for his brother, Richard (Jim Norton, having the time of his life), recently blinded after a drunken fall into a dumpster. Also featuring prominently is Ivan (Conleth Hill, in a brilliant turn), Richard’s longtime friend and drinking buddy. It is Christmas Eve, and the gentlemen make a run for supplies (whiskey and beer, and as an afterthought, some mincemeat pies). While they’re out, we learn, Richard invites Nicky (Sean Mahon) to stop by for a game of cards, which annoys Sharky as Nicky is now serious with Eileen, his former flame. And Nicky shows up as promised with a guest, Mr. Lockhart (Ciaran Hinds, dark as ever). Long story short, without any spoilers: they drink heavily, secrets are revealed and they play a game of high (ultimate) stakes poker, wrapping up with the weak ending mentioned above.

Love (and the memory of love), even from afar, can be redemptive; the devil is bitter and lonely and hates to lose; the past is lurking just behind the veneer of the present; family is paramount, even though they can be a pain in the ass—these ideas live in this play, and all have treaded the boards in similar forms before. The true delight was watching Jim Norton—even if a bit too broad at times—and especially Conleth Hill’s performances as old friends. There is a touch of Waiting for Godot in their characters, playing sad clowns with wonderfully developed physicality, there is a whole history of the Irish dramatic tradition in them.

UPDATE: A superb review from the New York Times. Why trust my word when you can read the superlative Ben Brantley?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cui bono?

An interesting op-ed in today’s New York Times advocates for the (re)introduction of Latin courses in American high schools and universities, coming fairly close on the heels of Pope Benedict XVI’s easing of guidelines for the use of the Tridentine Mass, which further raises the point that a traditional Roman Catholic Church is one of the few places in the world where you can hear spoken Latin for a sustained period of time.

I don’t think it’s such a bad idea for kids to study Latin today, especially as it is the basis for many European languages, as well as a large proportion of English. Furthermore, I agree with the author of the op-ed that Latin offers an excellent foundation, inter alia, in rhetoric, a skill sorely lacking in today’s political realm (not to mention academia). Latin is concise, precise, and does not lend itself to verbosity (though students of Cicero may disagree). This post might have been three words in Latin.

Plus, what better way for kids to communicate on the sly and dupe the parents than with a dead language that no one knows?