Thursday, June 29, 2006

Shushi and Such

I don't believe I've ever posted about this, but I am what Elliot refers to as a "foodie".

I like food. I like to eat it, and I like to cook it. I like to watch the Food Network on television. Particularly, I like Good Eats, the Surreal Gourmet, Chef at Home, and I have just discovered Food Jammers.

I'm not a particularly artistic guy. I can't draw, I can't sculpt, my design skills are seriously lacking. But I can make pretty food sometimes, and tasty food even more often. It's fun to be actually good at something.

Look at the pretty sushi I made!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Life Decisions

I think I may have mentioned my unhappiness with the Faculty of Education.

It's been a hard year for me—educationally. My personal life has been great, and my work this year with the youth at church has been wonderful, but school has been difficult.

The really sad thing is that I loved teaching English during my practicum (although I struggled with what I see as the watering-down of the curriculum). The part where I got to be a teacher was great. The part where I was a student was like being kicked repeatedly in the crotch. I felt actually sick to my stomach when I thought about going back.

So I'm not.

I've applied to the U of M's pre-Master's of English program. It is a one year program that will prepare me to enter a Master's program next year. When I've got my Master's degree, I'm going to get a Ph.D. After that, we'll see. Maybe by then CMU will be hiring another English prof. Maybe I'll just work as a full time youth pastor. Either way, it will be worth it.

I'm excited about school again.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

War, what is it good for?

Diedre made a few comments recently about the Iraq war, and the callousness toward human life that seems to be accompanying it.

Al-Zarqawi, a powerful al-Qaeda member and "prince of terror" was killed recently by American forces. Diedre is uncomfortable with what she calls "100% jubilant 0% remorseful" murder. Now it seems that it is worse than we thought. Al-Zarqawi was not killed immediately, as originally reported, but bloodied and tried to run. American forces claim that he died of his injuries soon afterward, but some witnesses claim that the Americans beat him to death. His face was cleaned off before a picture was taken.

This war is vile. Maybe all wars are. I'm not an absolute pacifist in theory, but so far I am a pacifist in practice. I keep hearing stories about this war, about atrocities committed. It makes me sick.

I don't think Americans are somehow worse than other people. I don't think that soldiers are inherently evil. But I do wonder what killing people does to you. I wonder how you can kill people still respect their humanity. And I wonder how you can devalue and dehumanize your opponents without leading directly to atrocities. Maybe it's possible. I'm not sure.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Songs about Superman

It supports my earlier contention that Superman is the greatest of all heroes that there are an awful lot of songs about Superman. No other hero has pervaded the collective conscious to the degree that Superman has. There are many excellent songs about Superman, and far more that aren't strictly about him, but do reference him. A few of my favourites:

Crash Test Dummies: Superman: "Sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him"

The Flaming Lips: Waitin' for a Superman: "Tell everybody waitin' for Superman that they should try to hold on as best they can. He hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything. It's just to heavy for Superman to lift."

Johnny "Guitar" Watson: Superman Lover: "I got X-ray vision, and I can see see through steel too babe,I know that something wrong with me, cuz I can't see through you. But they call me the Superman Lover..."

The Kinks: (Wish I could Fly Like) Superman: "I'm too weak, I'm so thin, I'd like to fly but I can't even swim. Superman, Superman, I want to fly like Superman"

And others:
Five For Fighting: Superman
Three Doors Down: Kryptonite
Spin Doctors: Jimmy Olsen's Blues
Eminem: Superman (and references in about ten other songs)
Donovan: Sunshine Superman
Genesis: Land of Confusion

What do you think is the best song about Superman? How many can you add to my list?

A Winnipeg School with some... unorthodox practices

It's just too heavy for Superman to lift

Superman isn't invincible. He has his weaknesses. In fact, Superman's great weakness is probably about as well known as Achilles'.

But when Superman died, it wasn't Kryptonite that did it. When Superman died, it wasn't his tragic flaw, or his great weakness that did him in. Superman died when his strength failed. He just met someone stronger.

There's a lot about the Death of Superman storyline that I didn't like (particularly his re-incarnation as an energy being), but the means of his death is exactly right. Kryptonite may make Superman weak, but to actually kill him with it would seriously impovrish the story. From a mythic standpoint, Superman can't die because of his weakness or because he fails somehow. Superman is not a literary tragic hero. When he dies, it is simply because he finds something too strong for him—too heavy for him to lift.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Look, up in the sky!

Soon there will be a new movie about Superman. The trailers give me shivers.

Partly, it is the use of the original John Williams music—and Superman (along with Star Wars) is John Williams at his very best, emotionally evocative almost to the degree of being propoganda, but just short of being manipulative (as Williams tends toward at his worst). Even with my eyes closed, the sounds of the Superman Returns teaser trailer gives me goose bumps.

But there's more to it than that. Superheros play an important role in our mythic landscape. And of all the comic book superheros, Superman is undoubtedly the greatest.

I don't want to get into one of those Superman vs Batman vs Spiderman vs Wolverine vs Green Lantern vs Plastic Man vs Ghost Rider vs Silver Surfer who is the best superhero ever debates. Although I do find that kind of thing fun sometimes, what I'm trying to get at now is not that Superman is the best superhero in the sense of who would win in a fight, or even of who is the most fun to read stories about.

Superman is almost certainly the most iconic and culturally the richest of superheros, with the most depth of influence upon culture as a whole, who resonates most deeply and fully with the human condition and with our yearning for salvation. And Superman fills a cultural, narrative, mythic niche which is not filled by any of the other major1 superheros.

Batman and Spiderman are both examples (in very different ways) of humanity saving itself. They are models for us, who demonstrate the heights to which humanity can rise. They give us hope in ourselves. Superman, at the heart of his story, exemplifies something quite different. Superman is not one of us. Clark Kent is the costume, and Superman is the real him. He is alien, not merely in the sense that he is from another planet (and I think the best presentations of Superman downplay the sci-fi little-green-man extraterrestrial alien connection) but in that he is outside our experience2.

Superman is help from beyond. And as such he is a Christ-figure in a very different way than, say, Spiderman is. Spiderman is a Christ-figure in that he is a man who suffers for his fellow men. Superman is more closely analagous to a God who descends to dwell among us for our salvation. Neither, clearly, is a full metephor for Christ (and I would suggest that the only story that adequately captures the complexity of Christ's function is the story found in the Gospels), but each represents different aspects of a human need for salvation3.

It's been five years since the United States experienced an attack which shook it to its foundations and fundamentally altered dominant worldview of its culture. In the second trailer for Superman Returns, there is a clip of Superman saving a plane. Superman flies out of the blue and keeps an airplane from crashing. It occurs to me that the past five years have seen a re-emergence of the superhero movie. It occurs to me that it is about time Superman returned.

1 I know that there are examples (like J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter) of superheroes who are, like Superman, alien in one sense or another, but as I have said I'm mostly concerned here with the level of cultural impact. I've never heard any songs about the Martian Manhunter.

2 Yes, a guy who can stick to walls, a guy with blades that come out of his hands, a woman who can control the weather are also outside our experience, but what I'm talking about is not the power but the origin. Other superheros (including mutants) are fundamentally human, however altered. Superman is not one of us.

3 This need is shown in all of human storytelling, in all myth. So why do we call it "Christ-figure", when clearly some of the stories predate Jesus of Nazareth? C.S. Lewis once said that in Christ myth was made fact, just as God was made flesh. Only in Christ do we find the myth fully realized and also made fact.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New Apartment

Well, we've moved.

We have left our big sunny corner apartment in the heart of Osborne Village for a slightly smaller sunny corner apartment a short walk from downtown.

Our new place is a little smaller than our old place, but it feels bigger to me.

Hardwood floors, new appliances, a buzzer at the door, and a fake fireplace all add up to sweet sweet digs.