Rogue Laughter in a Flippant Society

10/27/2015 Comments (11)

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939), "Farce"

 The Boston Globe notes a new phenomenon: some people in the audience at live theater performances laugh loudly when they should be weeping, or gasping, or holding their breaths in horror. 

“Rogue laughter,” as Boston-area actress Marianna Bassham calls it, has become an occupational hazard for actors, an annoyance for audiences, and an increasingly common phenomenon on stages from Boston to Broadway and from “A Streetcar Named Desire” to last year’s New York revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Denzel Washington.

Now, there is nothing funnier than a scene that aims for tragedy and misses wildly. As Oscar Wilde said, 'One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little...READ MORE

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Who's Your Monster?

10/20/2015 Comments (29)

David R. Tribble, "Gargoyle and Girl" (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Want to learn something about a society? Then take a look at what sort of fictional monsters are currently in vogue. What we fear tells us what kind of people we are.

Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein (subtitled The Modern Prometheus) expressed, among other things, the early 19th-century concern over how far man should go in trying to tame and manipulate the natural world. It was the dawn of the industrial revolution in England, and it was not at all clear that this was a good thing.  According to Anna North in a NYT op-ed, Shelley's book

came out at a time when experiments like Galvani’s with electricity were challenging previous ideas about the basis of life. “People were really nervous...READ MORE

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An Uninvited Pope and the Power of Words

10/15/2015 Comments (16)

Pope Francis walking to the hall of the Synod of Bishops on October 12, 2015. (© L'Osservatore Romano)

There was some head-scratching after Pope Francis offered an apology at his general audience on Wednesday. According to the BBC, the Pope said

Before I begin the Catechism, in the name of the Church, I want to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican. I ask you for forgiveness."

He most likely meant the scandal, and the resulting eruption of anti-Catholic sentiment in the popular media, that came when Msgr. Krysztof  Charamsa, a Vatican official, announced on the eve of the Synod that he had been flouting his vow of chastity and was "happy and proud" of his gay identity. Charamsa called the Church "backward" and "inhuman"...READ MORE

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Worth Watching Again: The Edge

10/13/2015 Comments (8)

Looking for a tight, brisk adventure movie with some moral heft? We re-watched The Edge (1997, screenplay by David Mamet), and it was even better than I remembered. I can't think why it's not better known.

Anthony Hopkins plays Charlie Morse, a quiet, aging billionaire with a freakish penchant for collecting theoretical knowledge. He and his supermodel wife (Elle Macpherson) are visiting the wilds of Alaska for a photo shoot. He loves her, but suddenly realizes that she's carrying on with her photographer, the dissipated and cynical Bob (Alec Baldwin). Just as suddenly, he realizes that Bob plans to kill him for his wife and money -- and Bob knows that he knows. As Charlie says in another...READ MORE

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"Something needs to be done," Said the Princess

10/08/2015 Comments (2)

Are we done fretting about princess culture yet? Because I think I've found the final word on what it really means to be a princess.

Abzeita Djigma is a real live princess from the Western African country of Burkina Faso.  She is "a direct descendant of the famous warrior and legendary Princess Yennenga," she has a message for us: "Go where people need you." She wants to enlighten the lives of her people -- literally. 

Djigma is an engineer and the mother of four grown children, and she is using her education, her title, and her beautiful self to spread the word about an initiative by her company, AbzeSolar, whose mission is to bring basic, sustainable solar products into African...READ MORE

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Shush, Your Mother Is Trying to Listen

10/06/2015 Comments (12)

When a fight breaks out between my kids, and they can't solve it on their own, here's what I do.

I gather them all and make everyone except one kid shut up. He gets to explain his point of view thoroughly, giving all the details he thinks are relevant, and nobody else is allowed to interrupt. Then the other kid gets to explain his point of view: everything the other kid left out, why the other kid's argument is a gross exaggeration, why we forgot to take into account all the history and extenuating circumstances that led up to the current crisis, and so on -- and no one else is allowed to interrupt. I listen to everything that everyone thinks is relevant; and while each kid is talking,...READ MORE

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Can American Writers Write Happy Endings?

10/01/2015 Comments (33)

The British get Tom Jones and Dickens and Shakespeare's comedies, but what do we Americans get? Death and sadness, that's what -- at least in literature. 

Are there American novels with happy endings? This is what my daughter needed to know, since her high school English teacher is letting her choose her own author to research. Like many sensible people, my daughter understands that life is hard, that ambiguity abounds in our time, and that believable, compelling stories aren't going to end up with a rainbow and a unicorn and a tidy bow; however, like many sensible people, she was pretty tired of reading dystopian holocaust suicide apocalypse eating disorder stories, too.

So I asked the...READ MORE

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Your Family Is Not Your Brand

09/29/2015 Comments (37)

By VinnieRattolle [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

The Pope's emphasis on family has got me thinking. It seemed, at first, like his message was mainly things I already know: the family is the seat of earthly love, it was through the family that God brought His Son into the world, the strength of society depends on the strength of families, and so on. 

But he is the  pope, so I listened carefully anyway, and I realized that he's telling us more than what families in general are supposed to be like. He's telling us about our specific families. He's reminding us to focus on the actual people in front of us. This is why he's always urging us to do simple things like to say "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry," and to try to make peace before...READ MORE

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About Simcha Fisher

Simcha Fisher
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Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.