At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Telegraph: India aims to sparkle as leading wine producer.


Hutchinson, William R. Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal. Yale, $29.95.

Library Journal: “Hutchinson, the leading historian of religion in America today, has written a very informative book on religious pluralism in America from Colonial days to the present…Hutchison brilliantly documents the vast experience of religion in the United States…Highly recommended." Church History: “Important…While he does not account for every moment in the history of American religious pluralism, readers will be amazed at how many different groups, events, and individuals he does include…[Hutchinson has] an enormous knowledge of primary and secondary sources…cunningly and amusingly written…” Christian Century: “overall, this is a highly informative and readable account.” Choice: “A very interesting and thoughtful book, suitable for a wide range of readers. Recommended.” Booklist: “A balanced and informative narrative.” Political Science Quarterly: “This lively and synthetic discussion has the historical sweep and telling detail that mark Hutchison’s earlier studies of theological modernism and the missionary impulse in American Protestantism.”

Monday, August 30, 2004

Went to the Reformed church yesterday. There was an interesting visitor, an Anglican vicar from the west of England who is spending a three month sabbatical here to research Christian youth ministry. (It's surprising that he would choose such an out of the way place for his studies, but apparently he met one of our high school students on foreign exchange and for some reason liked what he heard about Plainview.) Being a lapsed Episcopalian, I asked him how things were going in the C of E. He predicted, based on the current demographic trends in the Anglican Communion, the election of an African Archbishop of Canterbury within twenty years. A bit optimistic in my opinion, but it would be nice since the Africans are much more conservative than western Anglicans.

I borrowed Drinking with Calvin and Luther from the church library. It's a chatty, anecdotal book intended to show that historically Protestantism has had no objections to moderate alcohol consumption until the American temperance movement. Even the Puritans, who most people perceive as dour killjoys, enjoyed healthy doses of booze; as C. S. Lewis said, "They were not teetotallers; bishops, not beer, were their special aversion."

I didn't see anything in the theater this weekend. I was excited about Hero until I realized that I saw it many months ago on a pirated DVD that J.E. picked up in China during his missionary work. (I'd recommend it, by the way.) Last week's home screenings:

  • La Cérémonie--[Moderate spoiler] I liked seeing Sandrine Bonnaire, Isabelle Huppert, and Virginie Ledoyen in the same film, but I was a bit puzzled about director Claude Chabrol's intentions. Bonnaire plays a strongly introverted woman who gets a job as a live-in maid at a country manor. Her solitude is relieved by a developing friendship with the local postal officer (Huppert), an artistic free spirit with a long-standing animus towards Bonnaire's employers. Bonnaire and Huppert are a likeable odd couple until about 3/4 of the way into the film, when they suddenly turn nasty and the movie becomes a sort of French New Wave Thelma and Louise. I reckon Chabrol is trying to make a Marxist point about the inevitability of class conflict, but I can't sympathize--the rich family treated Bonnaire very well, giving her free room and board, paying her more than her previous employers, offering to loan her their car, to pay for driving lessons and prescription glasses, etc. The Marxist answer to envy, abolishing all the occasions thereof in a levelling process, is too unrealistic; Christianity gets to the root of the problem by diagnosing Pride as the capital sin.
  • Un Air de Famille--I thought I would give Klapisch (L'auberge espagnole) another try, but I stopped this one after only thirty minutes. A French family engages in incessant and unpleasant bickering.
  • What Time is it There--Ultraslow but very nicely photographed Taiwanese movie about three lonely souls looking for love. Definitely not for everyone, but I liked Ming Liang Tsai's deadpan humor.
  • Oscar and Lucinda--I've been a fan of Cate Blanchett since seeing her in Elizabeth--talented, beautiful, and the daughter of a Texan! Too bad she's been slumming it lately with stuff like Pushing Tin or The Missing, but this one was made back in her costume drama days. Set largely in Victorian Australia, it's about an unlikely love affair between a meek Anglican priest (Ralph Fiennes) and a feisty heiress (Blanchett) who are drawn together by a shared addiction to gambling. The movie lacks that certain something which distinguishes the great from the merely good movies, but it's still worth seeing.
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders--I was quite surprised to find this at our local Hastings. Being a collection development librarian, I naturally wonder what the store manager was thinking when he or she ordered a 1970s Czech cult classic for a small town video store. I watched this one twice (it's only 77 minutes long) and still didn't quite get it. A pubescent girl in a nineteenth-century town is in love with a traveling musician, meanwhile avoiding the pursuit of a lecherous priest and a literally vampiric missionary. Yeah, good old-fashioned commie anti-clericalism--the over-the-top spooky music accompanying the procession of priests and nuns reminds me of similar scenes in Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, and the preacher is as creepy-looking as the Phantom of the Opera. Visually the attractively quaint decor makes it look like a fairy-tale picture book come to life; in this respect it's similar to Svankmajer's stuff in its combination of innocence and perversion.
  • Eat Drink Man Woman--My fifth or sixth viewing of this one. Ang Lee used to be good.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Mommsen, Hans. Alternatives to Hitler: German Resistance Under the Third Reich. Tauris, 29.95.

Library Journal: “well-researched…a highly sophisticated work from a mature historian at the top of his game. For all history collections." History: Review of New Books: “Undergraduates with some basic knowledge of the German resistance will find this book informative. Unfortunately the lack of the original scholarly research notes in the English translation diminishes the book’s value for graduate students.” Choice: “This book supersedes Hans Rothfels’s The German Opposition to Hitler and supplements Peter Hoffman’s The History of the German Resistance.” First Things: “Especially helpful in depicting the kind of Germany and Europe that the conspirators envisioned after Hitler.” Political Science Quarterly: “The last chapter of the book is excellent in its balanced and honest acknowledgement of the long distance traveled by the greater part of the conspirators: from a traditional anti-Semitism to an understanding of the criminality of a genocidal regime. Mommsen’s study is important for an understanding of modern Germany as well as of the bedeviling features of modern totalitarianism.”