Monday, September 16, 2019

Sentimental tripe passing as biblical exegesis

I wake up this morning to find a guy I know, a nice guy, shared the following.
Jesus told the story of the prodigal son to make a simple point: Never mind what you’ve done, just come home.
This is attributed to Scott Hahn. 

Now that message is not antithetical to the message Jesus meant to convey but it’s not the reason he told the story. 

The story of the prodigal son is framed by two parallel stories. The first story is built on this conflict,
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.
The second story is built on a very similar conflict,
But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 
But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him.
Here is why he told the story—to convey to us that he came to love and celebrate people that we’d rather not be loved and celebrated by him. The key line is when the elder tells refers to his brother as “this son of yours” when talking to his father. The point is not that Jesus will welcome back repentant sinners, although he will, but that we should welcome back repentant sinners for they are our brothers.

Notice how different this sentiment is from the self-serving sentimental tripe the quote attributed to Scott Hahn above peddles. (I’m holding out hope that Hahn, whom I respect, didn’t actually say this.)

BTW: Facebook, where this quote was originally shared, tends to bring this sort of sentimental tripe out in us. It doesn’t create. It’s our fault but Facebook definitely facilitates it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

“Got this black narcissist off my back ...”

“ ...
She couldn't care less, and I never cared more
So there's no more to say about that
Except hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have
Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman with my past.”
There’s a question lingering here that is near and dear to my heart. Lana Del Rey is a persona created by Elizabeth Woolridge Grant. Does “woman with my past” refer to Lana or Elizabeth? Which past is it? The imagined one dripping in Americana or Elizabeth the recovering alcoholic. I put it to you that you could listen to this album a thousand times, analyze the lyrics for hours and listen to hundreds of interviews looking for clues and still not be entirely certain how to answer that question.

I lost interest in Lana Del Rey fairly early. “Video games” was a revelation but the rest of Born to Die was gimmicky crap. Then there was a brief flurry of hope with the Paradise EP. I loved “Ride” and “Cola”, the latter, alas, she disavowed after the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I mean, I can see why. If anything proved that everyone knew it was that Lana Del Rey was able to write a song in which she imagined what it was like to be one of Weinstein’s willing accomplices 5 years!!! before the scandal broke. Everyone knew and no one did anything about until it seemed like it might be a useful political weapon. Worse, “Cola” reminds us that Weinstein had lots of willing female accomplices and that doesn’t fit the narrative.

But Lana knows when and how to play ball with the Hollywood establishment. Case in point, the American flag. Here is the first sentence of a glowing review of her latest album at a site called Pitchfork:
In 2017, Lana Del Rey stopped performing in front of the American flag. Where the singer-songwriter born Elizabeth Grant had once stood onstage before a wavering projection of stars and stripes, charged by a brash apple-pie and blue-jeans patriotism, she now deemed the flag “inappropriate,” preferring a screen of static instead.
What makes this kind of funny is that the sentence is right underneath an image of the cover of the album they are praising. Blogger won’t let me post graphics using iPad so I can’t show you the album cover but go look it up and you’ll get the joke.

Why, there she is—performing in front of the American flag. Could they really be that stupid? Why, yes, they could. “Screen of static” indeed.

Here’s a couple of verses from the song “Venice Bitch” for your consideration,
You're in the yard, I light the fire
And as the summer fades away
Nothing gold can stay
You write, I tour, we make it work
You're beautiful and I'm insane
We're American-made

Give me Hallmark
One dream, one life, one lover
Paint me happy and blue
Norman Rockwell
No hype under our covers
It's just me and you
I suspect a lot of people comfort themselves with the thought that she is being ironic. But is she?

The only thing we can say for certain is that the reference to the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Our House”—“I Light a Fire” is genuine. We know that because the album is littered with references to Crosby, Stills and Nash. But even there we find some subtle trickery. In the CSN original it is the man who promises something, “I’ll light the fire” whereas LDR simply declares that she delivers. And that’s important because the man sure isn’t.
Here are the very first words of the very first track on the album. “God Damn, man child.” Later in the same song, she sings, “You act like a kid even though you stand six foot two.”

The second best song on the album is “Mariner’s Apartment Complex”. Here’s a fun little quote (courtesy of Wikipedia about why she wrote it:
The song is about this time I took a walk late at night with a guy I was seeing, and we stopped in front his friend's apartment complex, and he put his hand around my shoulder, and he said "I think we are together because we're both similar, like we're both really messed up" and I thought it was the saddest thing I'd ever heard. And I said, "I'm not sad, I didn't know that's why you thought you were relating to me on that level, I'm actually doing pretty good". And he was upset, and that's when I wrote the song. I thought, I had to do so many times, where you know like I had to sort of step on that role where I was showing the way and I was sort of being the brighter light.
We spend a lot of time wrapped up in our own problems—so much so that it doesn’t occur to us that other people have their own problems. Here’s the surprising thing: the simple act of pulling your head out of your own ass will make you one of the strongest people in the room.

Okay, Lana/Elizabeth. I’m interested again.