The Great Gatsby

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I've mentioned before the "Humiliation" game invented by David Lodge, where people name some great work of literature they've never read. (It works better if you, like Lodge, are a Literature Professor, and attend parties with your peers.)

But I've never read The Great Gatsby. But I have seen the 1974 movie, and now this one. So I don't think I need to, do you?

This movie was directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, and it is a spectacle. The PG-13 rating from the MPAA notes (I am not making this up) "some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language". Partying? Yes, there are definitely parties depicted here that you do not want your 13-year-old attending. In fact, if you're invited to one of these shindigs, I'd advise you to maybe take in the view for fifteen minutes or so while nursing a soft drink, then go home and catch up with Big Bang Theory reruns on the TiVo. If some of these people had taken this advice, they would have wound up far better off.

Anyway: Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby, and he's just about perfect. Everyone else is fine too, especially Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man Nick. Would it be a spoiler to give away plot elements of a nearly-ninety-year-old book? Probably. Suffice it to say that Gatsby learns, too late, the folly of social climbing in pursuit of shallow women.

It's very good, maybe worth watching just for the amazing extravaganza Luhrmann puts together.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 12:30 PM EDT


Paul One of the more amusing items generated by the Great Government Shutdown is from Jim Wallis, semi-famous left-wing religious nutball. And before you object to my strong language, click over and read his essay: "Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical".

Unbiblical! Yes, Mr. Wallis means to prove that the GOP meanies are not just mistaken, or wrong-headed. They are acting counter to the Will of God!

The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good -- protect and promote. Government is meant to protect its people's safety, security, and peace, and promote the common good of a society -- and even collect taxes for those purposes. Read Romans 13 by the apostle Paul and other similar texts. […]

Well, it's Sunday, so let's take a look at Romans 13. The relevant verses are 1-7 (and let's use the ESV):

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Most accounts of Paul's life say he was decapitated by Roman government officials during Nero's reign. I can't help but wonder if he had any second thoughts about writing that.

There are a great many possible responses to Romans 13:1-7; I'll just make one: if early Americans had taken it seriously, we'd have remained British subjects. Most modern American Christians either ignore Paul's paean to authoritarian subservience, or attempt to explain (not very credibly) what Paul "really must have meant."

For me, it's one of the reasons I'm not a very good Christian.

For Wallis, of course, the verse is only a tool to attempt to browbeat any heretics who dare dissent from the True Faith of Progressivism.

Last Modified 2013-10-13 10:22 AM EDT