what i’ve been reading & watching lately: religious stuff edition

Introduction to Quakerism by Pink Dandelion

(When I first saw the cover of this book, I thought Pink Dandelion was an independent press or something. Turns out it’s actually the author’s name, and he — yes, he — is a very distinguished and well-known in his field Quaker historian and scholar.)

Disclosure: I still have a couple chapters to go on this. But so far it’s been a very informative and interesting book. Turns out Quakerism covers quite a wide spectrum of beliefs. There are Evangelical Quakers who are against mixed-gender dancing and women cutting thier hair; on the opposite end there are Liberal Quakers who advocate for social justice and don’t give much thought to whether God exists or not. (Actually, Pink Dandelion puts non-theist Quakers in a subcategory he calls liberal-Liberal Quakers.)

Turns out the group in Lafayette that I was thinking of sitting in on is probably not active anymore, as their website appears to be defunct. Sadface. There is a group in New Orleans that looks good; they have unprogrammed worship — the practice of sitting in silence without clergy until a Friend is moved to speak — and welcome visitors. Still, that’s a long drive to make every Sunday morning. I’ll have to consider it. In the meantime, I am still interested enough to have bought A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith and Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings for further study.

The Tudors

I’ve watched the first 2 seasons; I just got the first disc of season 3 from Netflix today. I knew going in that it wasn’t a documentary, and as Tudor history is kind of a hobby of mine, I vowed to look at it like a soap opera and not harp on what’s wrong. That’s actually only the first season though, I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy of the second.

The costumes and sets are gorgeous, there’s lots of hot nasty sex, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers does great Crazy Eyes. What’s not to love? Although there are serious moments that are really devastating as well, like when Anne Boleyn sees her brother and friends executed. (Or when Thomas Wyatt, upon being told there’s no evidence he had an affair with her and is free to go, chokes out “But I’m the only one who’s guilty!”)

I’m looking forward to season 3, because Anne of Cleves was always my favorite wife. Kept her head, made out like a bandit. She was a smart cookie.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Yes, I decided to read this because of The Tudors, although it’s been on my list. It’s one of the few books by Alison Weir I hadn’t already read. What can I even say about her books by now? It was awesome, as always. Meticulously researched, lots of first-hand quotes and letters. It’s a real doorstop of a book, but it goes fast because it’s so fascinating. I stayed up too late many nights getting through it. And it’s not as if I haven’t read lots of books about Henry and his wives before, but Weir is such a good writer that I didn’t consider it a waste of time to read her book about them, too.

Breaking Bad, Season 2

***CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Season 1 presented Walter White as a mild-mannered, underpaid public servant who was only driven to do a very bad thing by good intentions and desperation. Season 2 raised the question: Is “Heisenberg” — Walt’s meth-cooking alter ego — really who he is, and did lung cancer simply give him carte blanche to inflict him upon the world? This seems to me to be answered in the affirmative, when Walt goes into remision and has made more money than he can spend; but he still gives a bunch of tweakers buying acetone and match boxes in the local big box home improvement store a steely glare, and growls “Stay out of my territory”.

However, I am all for anti-heros in television, and Bryan Cranston is a fucking awesome actor. He’s one of those guys who just disappears into every role and plays it with every molecule of his being. Before this show I knew him primarily from Seinfeld, where he played the recurring character of Tim Watley, DDS, the somewhat perverse dentist that Elaine had the hots for and who converted to Judaism for the jokes. But there is not one iota of Dr. Watley in Walter White. Even the way Cranston holds his face when he isn’t speaking or doing anything in particular is totally different.

I’m caught up with the show now and can watch the new season as it airs (the ‘rents have a DVR), which I am very happy about.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

I’ve been meaning to read this for forever, basically. It’s funny because on the surface it’s about two things which I have very little patience for: Catholic apologism (Waugh was an adult convert to the RCC) and nostalgia for the English gentility. Or as I call it, “snobbery”. Still, Waugh is one of those great, sad, between-the-wars English writers. I liked the book, even if there was very little in it that I related to.

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