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.
There are a priori reasons to dislike Superman Returns. Superman is always a little campy in his tights and red Underoos. And how can the film measure up to such cool and thoughtful superfare as X-Men or Spider-Man? Improved computer graphics and younger, handsomer heroes do not a great superhero film make.
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.
I praise the necklace so long it drapes, loops, and circles the neck of a grieving dowager back to her girlhood play.
Yet, I praise the darkening urine of amber beads and the fears engendered by bloodstone;
I praise red coral—millions of gifts piled by sea creatures’ lives. Under the hard western sky, I praise grimy hands, fashioning turquoise squash blossoms for the necks of tourists. I praise the poor woman’s subterfuge, Zircon, and the queen’s throngs of golden chains.
I praise Nancy Pelosi’s pearls,
the sound-taste of chrysoprase, citrine’s juiciness, opal’s sparks, amethyst’s rumored temperance.
I praise the jeweler’s loupe, peeking down from its glass copula into jasper’s chocolate smear purloined from Heaven’s walls.
For 20 years, José Gutierrez, a garbage truck driver in Bogotá, Colombia, has been rescuing books from upper class neighborhoods. He turned his own modest house in a poor neighborhood into a community library, which by now has some 20,000 volumes stacked from floor to ceiling. Known in Colombia as “Lord of the Books,” he attributes his own love of reading to his mother, who read stories to him every night when he was a child. Gutierrez’s favorite books include One Hundred Years of Solitude by his Nobel Prize–winning fellow countryman Gabriel García Márquez (AP).