I’m tempted to feel like the cheerful novelty of pseudo-lockdown is beginning to lose its sheen. To be sure, my family and I are suffering nothing but inconvenience, but inconvenience must still be met with grace to avoid it becoming more difficult then necessary.
I went downtown this week for the first time in a while, which was an odd experience. I needed to buy something for my daughter’s upcoming birthday, and there are still a few places out there that are open, and we are still allowed to go and buy things at those places. But the local walking mall in my city of Perth was quiet. Not so much empty–there were people there, though not many–but still. As in, relatively noiseless. Less people, no street musicians, less business doing their thing, and very little conversation. It highlighted how strange a time this is.
Into the midst of this tiring week and my potential to start feeling sorry for myself comes several good reminders of what really matters.
One of the big ones was Jesus, an elaborate musical stage show put on by the Sight & Sound Theatres out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was being streamed for free over Easter weekend by Trinity Broadcasting Network, and so we tuned in. And what an impressive and heartfelt production it was.
The story skips through highlights of Jesus’ public ministry, starting with the calling of the first disciples, and going all the way through his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. Along the way, there are also some brief flashbacks to his birth and to the one biblical story of his childhood, when he disappeared from his parents on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and wound up teaching a thing or two to the priests. Much of it is told with dialogue, but there are also some impressive musical performances along the way.
There is some clever remixing of the biblical timeline in order to help the story to flow, and also to draw out certain connections that might not have been obvious. There is a brilliant bit, for example, between Jesus’ mother Mary and others wrapping Jesus in his burial clothes, paralleled with the younger Mary wrapping baby Jesus in his swaddling cloths. Indeed, Mary and the other women of the Bible get a lot of attention in this presentation, which is cool to see. The story also focuses a lot on Nicodemus, Peter, John, and Judas (of course), while characters like Pilate barely are included, and I think Herod isn’t there at all.
Overall, it’s clearly an American evangelical presentation of the gospel–something I notice with my feelings more than via empirical observation (and something I’d not have noticed at all if it weren’t for decades of living in Australia). But it’s an incredibly earnest presentation of the message, designed to inspire faith, worship and a yearning for relationship with the Father in Heaven, and it definitely helped to reset my whole weekend.
The other thing that I found time to look at this week is a new web-series from John Krasinski (from The Office, Jack Ryan, and A Quiet Place) called SGN, or SomeGoodNews. There are three episodes so far, each about 15 minutes long, all featuring John Krasinski doing a low-budget newscast (from his home-office, it seems) focusing on good news stories from around the country and around the world, all in response to the current global health crisis related to COVID-19.
John Krasinksi has got a well-meaning and good-natured screen persona which serves him well here, making him easy and fun to watch, even the whole thing is slightly awkward. And some of the stories he shares are legitimately inspiring. With each episode he’s also involved some big celebrity guests or he’s pulled off an impressive stunt to bless someone.
One of them, for example, features an interview with Krasinski’s co-star Steve Carrell, and another has Lin-Manual Miranda and the cast of Hamilton, all split up in about 20 remote locations, singing together one of the show’s signature numbers to a delighted young fan (and to all of us). An Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt shows up a couple of times as well, which is nice.
It’s well worth the time checking out. The link to the Youtube channel is here.
With my kids, we pushed ahead on a episodes watching Season 8 of Doctor Who—Flatline (an episode I’ve always liked a lot) and In the Forest of the Night (an episode I’ve always hated). The family also watched some films. Notably this includes Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, a movie I have no love for. Indeed, the first Princess Diaries movie has made me forever somewhat prejudiced Anne Hathaway, even though I acknowledge she’s done good work since then.
In this movies, Mia has to get engaged or risk losing the throne of Genovia, a strange fictional country that seems to be made up of refugees from all over Europe, because some of them seem Irish, some seem French, some seem Greek, and so on. Beyond that quirk and the pleasantry of seeing Julie Andrews in anything, the film is relatively charmless from the get-go, and the sequel is not an improvement. For reasons that defy my understanding, all my children still like it, as down my lockdown-adopted daughter (my daughter’s friend, aka my friends’ daughter, who got trapped with us when the walls came down).
Following on The Dish from last week, we also watched The Castle, which is Rob Sitch’s earlier movie, and a downright hilarious Australian film about a lower-middle class Australian family and their legal battle when the government wants to buy their home compulsorily to expand the airport.
It’s an iconic film with lots of classic Australian jokes, but which I’ve never found hard to understand as a foreigner (I first saw it within my first year in Australia). Some Americans have disagreed, saying it was a bit inaccessible for them, but I find that hard to understand. The jokes are so broad and so clear–even though they are grounded in another culture, it was no difficulty for me to enter into the fun of it all. On top of that, even though the characters are largely presented as being quite extreme and quite uneducated and dumb, they are also very sweet and have a lots of very obvious positive qualities. So it’s a funny movie and you easily laugh at the characters, but it’s got heart as well.
We also watched JoJo Rabbit, which is a movie I love but couldn’t focus on for its duration, which goes to show how wiped out I’ve been. Instead, I put together this little thing, made up of clips from my audio series The Adventures of Captain Strong, to celebrate my friend Matt’s birthday.
To be clear, that’s all Matt you are hearing, except for me at the start saying his name, and me joining him in singing the song at the end, in our very best falsettos.
Last but not least, another friend of my daughters (and a daughter of another friend) spent some of her semi-lockdown time practicing her art. Her name is Mikayla Little, and she is 15 years old. This past week, she made this piece:
Pretty neat, right? Anyway, her mother shared it on Facebook, and then set out a contest amongst their friends for people to add a head or face to the piece. Mikayla would choose her favorite as the “winner”. I am not an artist, but undaunted, I put my best foot forward and submitted the following.
Well, I didn’t win, but someone commented that Manga artist Akira Toriyama approves.
I guess that makes me feel better. Happy Easter, everyone!