Showing 101 - 110 of 376 annotations tagged with the keyword "Religion"

The Syringa Tree

Gien, Pamela; Moss, Larry

Last Updated: Aug-22-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This video is the film of the staged one-woman play written and acted by white South African Pamela Gien. The play begins in 1963, in a white suburb of Johannesburg, in the fenced yard of the Grace family and their black servants. Gien starts as six-year-old Lizzie Grace. Gien then fluidly shifts roles to enact twenty-eight different characters from newborn to age eighty-two, black and white, male and female--who talk, gesture, sing and dance in this tour-de-force performance.

The set contains only a large, plain swing; even the berry-bearing syringa tree to which the swing is attached is left to the imagination. Gien’s costume is similarly muted--she is barefoot and wears a beige jumper over a simple tee shirt. A sound system provides music of ethnically diverse origins at appropriate moments.

The play opens with Gien swinging and talking in a girlish voice and using exaggerated childlike gestures. Lizzie exclaims that she is "a very lucky fish": she proceeds to explain to the audience the meaning of her favorable white nailbed spots. Lizzie is, by self-definition, a "hyperactive," outspoken child with great imagination and energy. She is cared for by Salamina, a loving nanny and servant.

Lizzie’s father is Dr. Isaac Grace, who delivers Salamina’s baby in the home. The child, Moliseng, "has no papers" and is harbored illegally by the Grace family--a constant source of worry for all, including Lizzie. Isaac is a Jewish atheist, and Lizzie’s mother, Eugenie, is Catholic and of English descent. Their neighbors, however, are bigoted Afrikaners and create great tension for the Grace household. "Don’t ever make this place your home," advises Dr. Gien to his daughter after dealing with racist clients who do not want to be in the same examining room after a black patient.

Lizzie’s liberal, generous grandfather is brutally murdered by a Rhodesian freedom fighter shortly after the resolution of another crisis: Moliseng, suffering from malnutrition, is missing from the overcrowded hospital. The play then fast forwards through Lizzie’s college years, when Moliseng, at age fourteen, is murdered in youth riots. Lizzie leaves for America, land of the (she pounds her chest) "free and brave." She returns years later, with her infant son named for her grandfather, to visit her father, her demented mother, and, above all, her beloved Salamina.

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Summary:

This is a gripping and poignant account of newsman Bob Woodruff’s brain injury and recovery. He was injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb on January 29, 2006, shortly after being named co-anchor for ABC’s World News Tonight. A public figure—even a celebrity—his injury and recovery were well publicized, bringing to light the injuries of many kinds suffered by soldiers (not to mention civilians) in war-torn Iraq. Woodruff received every benefit American military medicine could offer and had impressive support of ABC and various luminaries. He made a spectacular recovery against all odds.

The book is mostly told by Lee Woodruff, Bob’s wife, who flew to Germany on a moment’s notice to see him at the Landstuhl Military Hospital, who waited 36 days for him to wake up, who saw the CT scan with rocks embedded in his head, who managed their four children and household during the long recovery time, and who writes vividly and personably. There are also flashbacks about the lives of Lee and Bob, truly a remarkable couple: their courtship, their time in China and London, their decision to use a surrogate mother to have their second two children.

Bob himself contributes pages, before and long after the accident. Thirty-one photos, both black and white and in color, enliven the text. One photo shows the interior of a critical Care Air Transport Team, a C-17 cargo plane outfitted like an ICU to transport wounded soldiers.  Throughout, the costs of warfare on people, society, materials, and land (not to mention dollars) is dramatically evident.

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The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

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Summary:

This painting comes from a panel in the predella of Duccio's Maestà, his famous altarpiece; it would originally have been one part of an enormous collage of images from the Bible. Today, the Maestà has been largely dismantled. Most of the pieces remain in Siena, but some have been distributed far afield. This piece is housed in the National Gallery in London, England.

At the centre of the painting, Jesus stoops slightly to touch the eyes of a blind man. A cluster of twelve men look on from behind Jesus. To the right, the blind man appears a second time, with a fountain at his feet. He is dropping his stick and looking up to the heavens in appreciation. According to the story, Jesus had placed mud in his eyes and told him to wash it off at the fountain of Siloam for his sight to be restored.

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Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Engraving

Summary:

This engraving shows Adam and Eve at the moment in which Eve accepts the fruit from the serpent. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil bisects the plate, separating the figures of idealized male and female. At the bottom of the picture a cat and a mouse crouch. They are in harmony with each other, but the tension in the poses suggests their future enmity: once Adam and Eve eat the fruit, the harmony of nature will be lost. Other animals (a hare, a goat, an ox) act both as subjects of the animal kingdom and symbols of the balance of humors.

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Memoirs of Hadrian

Yourcenar, Marguerite

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Memoirs of Hadrian is a historical novel in the form of a long letter written by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his young friend and eventual successor, Marcus Aurelius. Alas, Hadrian is "growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart." The Emperor begins by describing his recent visit with his physician Hermogenes, who "was alarmed, in spite of himself, at the rapid progress of the disease" (3). In light of his physical deterioration, Hadrian begins to reflect on his life and work, and to share his wisdom with his young correspondent.

Hadrian tells of his early life as the protégé of the Emperor Trajan, his military and political victories, and his eventual adoption by Trajan, a move that guaranteed the succession when his adoptive father died. While Trajan, whose victories brought the Roman Empire to its greatest size, was a military man to the core, Hadrian considers himself essentially peace loving--his personal life devoted to simplicity and harmony; and his public life to prosperity and justice. Nonetheless, he has always recognized that, in order to govern effectively, ruthless action is sometimes required.

Hadrian's marriage to the Empress Sabina was simply a matter of convenience. The love of his life was a beautiful young man named Antinous. The two men were deeply committed to one another, but at the same time the middle-aged emperor had "a certain dread of bondage" ( 177) that kept him from fully giving himself to Antinous with the abandon of youth. They were visiting Alexandria when the despondent Antinous committed suicide in a way that mimicked a religious ritual, essentially sacrificing himself to the deified Emperor.

Hadrian was crushed with grief and descended into a long period of depression. However, he eventually overcame his depression through his love of literature and ideas, as well as his sense of duty to the Empire (no SSRIs being available at the time), although not before attempting to enlist his physician in assisted suicide. Unable to refuse his emperor's request, the physician himself commits suicide rather than violating his Hippocratic Oath.

Hadrian's final military engagements involve crushing Jewish insurgents in Palestine, completing the destruction of Jerusalem, and founding a new Roman city on its site. The aged Emperor reflects frequently on his tolerance for all religions, except for politically disruptive fanatics like the followers of a Jewish prophet called Christ. As to the Jews in Palestine, he cannot understand why they continue to engage in self-destructive rebellion, most recently with Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva as their leaders.

In his final years Hadrian adopts Lucius, one of his former lovers (in this account), as his son and heir, but Lucius soon dies, presumably from tuberculosis. Eventually, the Emperor adopts Antinous Pius as his heir and further arranges for Marcus Aurelius to succeed Antinous Pius. At the end of his letter, Hadrian writes, "I could now return to Tibur, going back to that retreat which is called illness, to experiment with my suffering, to taste fully what delights are left to me, and to resume in peace my interrupted dialogue with a shade." [i.e. Antinous, his lost love (271)].

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The Fisherman's Son

Köepf, Michael

Last Updated: May-22-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel of a commercial fisherman's family centers on the son, Neil Kruger, as he struggles to survive on a life raft after a comber, a huge wave, sinks his boat. The book combines his memories of growing up at Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco--the harsh lessons of the sea, his laconic father Ernie, and a disintegrating family--with the story of the illegal activities that led to this last run and his efforts to live.

Death is ever-present for fishermen. Throughout the book, the intimate killing of fish caught one by one is juxtaposed with the constant threat of human loss due to wind, storm, fog, rock, cold and waves. It is a hard-scrabble existence, as over-fishing, pollution, and price control by a few influential merchants combine to depress the fishing business.

As a boy, Neil is told by his mother not to become a fisherman. But then it is she who commands him to join his father one night. This conflict of loyalties, to the land and the sea, to his mother and his father, to religion with its hope of divine intervention and nature with its insensate brutality, cause a tension in Neil that leads him to reflect on his roles as dutiful son, eldest brother and future fisherman.

Neil's memories contain many traumatic events: the rescue of survivors from a hospital ship sunk in a collision with a tanker, the immigration tales of the tightly knit group of Half Moon Bay fishermen, the attempted rescue of one of these men during a storm, and the misadventure during a fishing escapade with his friends, including a wheelchair bound boy with polio. In addition, Neil recalls his father's worsening debility and subsequent post-operative and post-anesthetic problems. By the end of the book, the time frame of Neil's memories converges with his current crisis and time itself becomes as vast and unknowable as the sea.

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Summary:

Tracy Kidder met Paul Farmer in 1994 when the former was writing an article about Haiti. They next met again in 1999 but it was only when Kidder expressed an interest in Farmer and his oeuvre that Farmer emailed him back, writing "To see my oeuvre you have to come to Haiti" (17). Kidder did just that, following the peripatetic workaholic Farmer to Peru, Russia, Boston, and wherever Farmer flew, which is anywhere there is poverty and disease, especially infectious disease.

In Mountains Beyond Mountains (MBM), Kidder chronicles Farmer’s childhood, medical school years (almost a correspondence course with Farmer’s frequent trips to Haiti), his founding of Partners in Health (PIH) and the construction of the medical center in Cange, Haiti, where "Partners in Health" becomes Zanmi Lasante in Creole.

The story of Farmer’s crusade for a more rational anti-tuberculosis regimen for resistant TB; his political struggles to wrestle with drug manufacturers to lower the price of these and medicines for HIV; his charismatic establishment of a larger and larger cadre, then foundation of co-workers; the story of Jim Kim, a fellow Harvard infectious disease specialist; Farmer’s marathon house calls on foot in Haiti; endless global trips punctuated by massive email consultations from all over the world; and gift-buying in airports for family, friends and patients--these are fascinating reading. In the end one is as amazed and puzzled by the whirlwind that is Paul Farmer--surely a future Nobel Peace Prize laureate like Mother Teresa--as Tracy Kidder was and grateful to have the opportunity to read about it by such an intelligent writer.

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The Fundamental Pictures

Gilbert and George

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Sculpture

Genre: Sculpture

Summary:

Gilbert and George's work over the past three decades has largely consisted of grid-like photomontages - note, they consider their work to be "sculpture". These often massive works are at once easily identifiable as part of Gilbert and George's oeuvre (in part because they often have Gilbert and George in them) and unflinchingly referential: to the manufactured sheen and unnaturally bright neons of Warhol, to the confrontational exposure of Mapplethorpe's photography, and, of course, to cathedral stained glass. They draw upon these same influences in their creative self-creation, their transgressive aesthetics, and their repetition and reworking of religious and secular motifs intertwined with abstractions. Gilbert and George are insistently doubles: original and derivative, repetitive and evolving, reactionary and visionary.

The Fundamental Pictures consists of a series of some 39 scultptures, most involving juxtapositions of bodily execretia - sputum, tears, urine, semen, feces - in monumental close-up; the tears, urine and semen are captured through a microscope, dessicated and crystalized. The sensational titles of the individual works, such as 'Piss Faith' and 'Spit on Shit', are fairly accurate in describing the central themes of each work. In some of the montages, Gilbert and George appear, pink and naked, against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of bright, magnified bodily fluids; in others, they are dressed in their familiar suits. They were exhibited at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, in 1997.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks) is in charge of death row in a 1935 Louisiana penitentiary. The cell block is nicknamed "The Green Mile?due to its green linoleum floor--the path that an inmate must walk from his cell to the room with the electric chair. Paul, a decent, moral man, treats each prisoner with respect. His life changes, however, with the admission of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a huge African-American man convicted of the rape and murder of two young sisters. Despite his powerful build, Coffey is gentle--and possesses a miraculous, mysterious power to heal.

Coffey heals Paul's bladder infection, resurrects a dead mouse, Mr. Jingles, that is the treasure of another inmate, "Del,?and cures the warden's wife of her inoperable brain cancer. Each healing requires direct contact between Coffey and the "patient,?and is accompanied by much electric and mystical effects. Coffey takes the infection, brokenness, disease into his body and is able to expel it, though it exhausts him.

Coffey's powers extend to visions and he directly feels the pain of others. He transmits his visions of the death of the two girls to Paul--who realizes that Coffey is innocent (indeed he had been trying to "heal?the children when he was apprehended) and that another inmate on the green mile is guilty of the crime. Paul, counseled by his supportive wife (Bonnie Hunt), asks Coffey what to do. Coffey, exhausted from suffering the knowledge of the evil of the world and cognizant of his lowly position as a poor black man, asks to have the execution proceed. His only request is to watch a "flicker show.?Paul arranges for him to see a Fred Astaire movie.

The executions are graphically depicted. One is particularly gruesome because of the evilness of the whiny, rookie guard, Percy, who deliberately causes a prisoner (Del) to suffer in the extreme. After giving the orders for Coffey's execution and watching him die, Paul quits his job.

The story is framed by Paul as an old man in a nursing home. Paul "tells?his story to another elderly "inmate?as an explanation for why he was overcome when watching the Fred Astaire movie in the common room. Paul reveals that he is far older than thought possible--as is Mr. Jingles who is still alive six decades later. Paul and the mouse were "infected with life?when touched by Coffey.

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