In true evangelical fashion, I beg your forgiveness after the last couple of weeks of absentee blogmeistering. Suffice to say, sometimes life happens.
Hope to be back up and running soon and get our blog back on at least a near-daily schedule. In the meantime, In the meantime, here's a pairing too ironically juxtaposed to resist.
First, the musical group Green Day's recording a few years ago, "American Idiot," is being adapted for the stage. I saw Green Day back in the day -- I mean, back in the day, in the early 90s at Gilman Street in Berkeley, on a blind date with somebody from Japan who was in the U.S. to write articles for a Japanese biker-enthusiast magazine. (She couldn't really speak English, which saved me the trouble of all that "usual gettin' to know you chit chat," as Uma Thurman put it in Pulp Fiction). Weird night, unforgettably entertaining band, which I've followed off-and-on ever since.
The album American Idiot follows (in punk rock opera style, sort of an updated Tommy), the character Jimmy, aka Jesus of Suburbia, from his pointless life living off soda pop and Ritalin and hanging out at convenience stores, through his move to the city, excitement at its possibilities, and eventual disillusionment on the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Just a bit from this piece:
For now the creative team is tight lipped about how, exactly, it will translate the libretto of “American Idiot” into a narrative. As Mr. Armstrong admitted, “It’s not the most linear story in the world.”
But Mr. Mayer said, “If you read it a certain way, you can pull out a multiplicity of voices.” He hinted that a triumvirate of characters referred to elliptically in the album’s lyrics, with names like Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy and Whatshername, would likely emerge as the central characters.
The show will premiere at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, where I saw my favorite ever production of Waiting for Godot. This may call for a special trip back to the Bay Area just to see.
Speaking of (far less interesting) American idiots, Glenn Beck is shooting up the pop charts at Fox News, with a dystopian fervor that would make Father Coughlin blush. I had a student recently recommend him, in response to an offhand comment that Sean Hannity was too interminably dull and machine-gun-like in his delivery to tolerate for more than a minute or two. The same cannot be said for Beck, and perhaps he's the latest contender for the Father Couglin Media Chair for Unctuous Paranoia:
While Mr. O’Reilly, the 8 p.m. host, paints himself as the outsider and Mr. Hannity, at 9, is more consistently ideological, Mr. Beck presents himself as a revivalist in a troubled land. He preaches against politicians, hosts regular segments titled “Constitution Under Attack” and “Economic Apocalypse,” and occasionally breaks into tears. . . . Tapping into fear about the future, Mr. Beck also lingers over doomsday situations; in a series called “The War Room” last month he talked to experts about the possibility of global financial panic and widespread outbreaks of violence. He challenged viewers to “think the unthinkable” so that they would be prepared in case of emergency.
He says that America is “on the road to socialism” and that “God and religion are under attack in the U.S.” He recently wondered aloud whether FEMA was setting up concentration camps, calling it a rumor that he was unable to debunk.
To the suggestion that he sounds like a preacher, Beck responded:
When it was suggested in an interview that he sometimes sounds like a preacher, he responded, “No. You’ve never met a more flawed guy than me.” He added later: “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’ ”
I'm just saying. Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland.
Addendum: Christopher from Juvenile Instructor adds the following helpful context in the comments section:
An adult convert to Mormonism, Beck seems to be heavily influenced by the libertarian strand of Mormon political thought popularized by now-deceased Mormon apostle and church president (and former secretary of agriculture) Ezra Taft Benson and the now-deceased conservative commentator Cleon Skousen back in the mid twentieth century. Topics like "the constitution under attack" were favorites of both men, and their anti-communist rhetoric sometimes made its way into official church publications and over the pulpit in worldwide broadcasts to the church membership.Beck's own popularity (at least within conservative Mormon circles, where's he quite popular) seems to be in part a result of his playing upon Mormon millenarian thought/fears--tying world events to apocalyptic scenarios and signs of the times--and in part the related approach of constructing U.S. history as a story of a Christian nation slowly disintegrating under the constant threats of secularism and socialism.That he's immensely popular in Mormon circles in the U.S., where most Mormons are quite conservative, is not too surprising. That he's found such a cult following among the larger conservative crowd is much more so. For all of the attention Romney's religion received in the Republican primaries, Beck has managed to largely avoid conflict with the sometimes antagonistic evangelical crowd, and many of them seem to quite like him. There was a recent episode that caused a bit of a stir in which Focus on the Family pulled an article authored by Beck from its website, but that seems to be about it). And its not that Beck isn't open about his faith. His conversion story is a best seller at Mormon bookstores, and he's spoken about his church on various occasions on his show.