In 2004, about a year into Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the insurgency was gathering steam, journalist Deborah Scranton was offered a chance to embed herself with a military company that included members of the New Hampshire National Guard. She declined but made an intriguing counterproposal. She offered to give the soldiers light, mobile video cameras so they could record their experiences.
Following in the tradition of Spellbound (about kids participating in a national spelling bee) and Word Wars (about Scrabble players), the charming small-scale documentary Wordplay captures the fervor with which many Americans approach the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.
“Each time that we have some pain to go through, we can say to ourselves quite truly that it is the universe, the order and beauty of the world, and the obedience of creation to God that are entering our body. After that, how can we fail to bless with tenderest gratitude the Love that sends us this gift?” —Simone Weil
The pathology report an icon; the tissue staining the slide, God’s kaleidoscope. And those cells, obeying their DNA, cosmic dust as they whirl and split. Why not praise cancer, relentless, blind, that seeks and finds the lymph and blood? Because I am unthankful, rude. Because if I linger over this gift, I will change, I will vanish from the earth. In Russia, an icon of Mary has wept for twenty years. Mary, do you see my nuclei mutating, like words in “whisper down the lane”? This same God took your son away. Help me disobey.
Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion is such a deconstructionist’s dream that you almost expect the late Jacques Derrida to make a cameo appearance. Talk about reality’s insubstantiality: here we have the cinematic version of a beloved radio program, now over three decades old, whose sly conceits play on a homespun America that barely existed.
“Root is what I am, rootpoet here at home among the worms, finding here the poem’s terms.” —Miklos Radnoti, August 8, 1944
If, as it seems, art is nothing, nothing at all— some sleep only that lulls us toward trees, what to make of these poems, Miklos, where you ordered a life into lines? That brutal stumble through the mountains might have said enough. Or those curses sneered by villagers, one pausing near the water well to dust and dust his sleeves. Finally, you with the rest, worn through, too settled for another step, were forced to dig and dig your graves, then
kneel at last on the uncalmed earth there. What is that light against the fields? Why, after all that had been done? They sought to sever tongues from thoughts—those soldiers, certain in their silence, who carved from hurt this tender fruit words could have grown and given seed. Miklos, these hidden poems, found folded in your pocket. . . . Prove, history, how the world speaks deeper than decay: this murmur pulled from underground, with its challenge of a purer sound and song.
Be present with your want of a Deity and you shall be present with the Deity. Thomas Traherne
Sometimes I lose you. Say you are a puppy and I’ve left the door ajar. Or I’m due someplace and can’t remember where. In my sticky-uppy hair and ripped work shirt, I ransack the place to find my datebook. Gone. Or I’ve dropped my glasses and I’m crawling on all fours to swab the floor with outstretched hands. I mop blindly, my heart stuttering with fear.
Don’t tell me you are not a puppy. I know. You’re not some destination. But I want to tell you what it’s like to hunt, although the words are clumsy. Vapor. What it comes to: You are the sky, the boat, the oars, the water. You are the soul that longs to row and you’re the rower.
The Annenberg Foundation has paid $530,000 for 24 sacred Native American artifacts for the sole purpose of returning them to the two tribes that tried but failed to keep them from being auctioned off at a Paris auction house. A lawyer for the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes had argued before a French court that as sacred objects, used in religious ceremonies, the artifacts should not be sold. A U.S. law that limits trafficking in Native American items holds no force abroad (RNS).