Saturday, November 20, 2004

Index: Squidoo Lenses

What be Squidoo, you say? It is a new way of accessing information on the Web. Consider when you do a search on google -- you'll return millions of hits that you have to filter through.

Squidoo is an easy platform that lets experts take you to the most helpful resources quickly. All you have to do is find the right lens, and you've got an instant key to lots of good information.

I've been making lenses for my own benefit and I'm glad to share them with readers of the Eagle and Child:

Christian Worldview Thinking
C.S. Lewis - His Life and Writings
The DaVinci Code -answered
Shakespeare and Christian Themes

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Kitty Carlisle sings a song of myself

We had a special program at rotary this week. Kitty Carlisle Hart came to perform and tell us stories from her life. For most people of my generation, Mrs. Hart is an unknown. At age 93, she is a relic from the bygone era of the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, and the golden age of Musical Theatre (she was married to Moss Hart, the famed playwright and director – author of “The man who came to dinner” and “you can’t take it with you”).

However, for older generations (Boomers and Builders), she is an icon of entertainment. She received a warm welcome from a loving audience. She flashed her dazzling smile and radiated charm as she began her program of songs and anecdotes. At 93, she still can hold an audience in the palm of her hand – she was humorous and positive and charming. Her voice is still strong and grips you with the heart of a song right away. An outstanding example was her closing number, “Here’s to life”, a wistful and poignant remembrance of lifes up and downs that for me has been defined by the energetic baritone of Joe Williams. And yet, here, Mrs. Hart pulled us in and tugged at our hearts.

But something tugged at the back of my mind – and this happens almost every time I hear a celebrity start spinning anecdotes. Invariably, the show becomes “I’ve lived a rich life – and here are all the interesting people that I’ve met.” No doubt, Mrs. Hart has accomplished much in her distinguished career; and I certainly believe that we of a younger generation have much to benefit from the stories of older generations. However, what I heard were more amusing tales – it was a famous person talking about how nice other famous people were. Who was fun to work with and who was charming and who was funny.

What I missed was wisdom. Where were the life lessons. Where were the challenges to the audience. Where was the deep reflection. You may say “come on, Russ, it was just a performance – just a show. Have fun and live a little.” I understand.

But we were not at the theatre, we were at a Rotary meeting – this is a civic organization devoted to service above self. The programs are supposed to be meaty and thought inspiring. Confection has a place in entertainment and society, but surely a Rotary meeting is supposed to offer something a little meatier. Also, there was the sense of adoration that disturbs me about the celebrity culture – must we always speak in breathless tones about every entertainer we enjoy. Must we credit them with the status of being royalty in our midst?

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about – in the question and answer, one audience member asked in gushing tones “How do you do what you do? How do you keep performing and stay young and still look beautiful at your age?” the answer “If I knew, I’d be the richest woman in the world. I don’t know. I’m lucky. And I work very hard.” I wanted to hear “I’ve been blessed.” I wanted to hear gratitude for something beyond herself for her God-given talents. Yes, hard work is important for developing your skills, but I wanted to hear gratitude for what had come her way.

I guess the semi-cavalier attitude to life that the celebrity culture promulgates is best summed up in her closing song: “Here’s to Life”

No complaints and no regrets.
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But I have learned that all you give is all you get so you give it all you got.
I had my share. I drank my fill, and even though I’m satisfied I’m hungry still
to see what’s down another road, beyond a hill and do it all again.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life the dreamers and their dreams.
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
and leave you with the memories you’ve memorized to keep your winters warm.
There’s no yes in yesterday.
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away.
As long as I’m still in the game I want to play
for laughs, for life, for love.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life.
The dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered.
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life.
Here’s to love.
And here’s to you.

Kind of like Sinatra’s “My Way”, this song celebrate the “Me” of life – rather than the wonder of life given from a divine Creator. It celebrates the self, rather than marvels at that which is beyond the self. And it packages it with a kind of warm “here’s to you” to make you feel good too. Perhaps I’m a young curmudgeon, but can we not get beyond the celebration of celebrities. Doesn’t art at its best point to the eternal and transcendent?