Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Long live gravity

March 27, 2009

By Matthew Ralph

“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary
some in the wrong direction
Practice resurrection”

When I heard these familiar lines of poetry recited in the opening moments of a play celebrating the farmer, author, poet and activist Wendell Berry on Thursday, I felt a chill come over me like I have seldom experienced watching a stage production.

Practice resurrection. Two words of the 1973 poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” that, repeated while a hammer dulcimer played softly in the background, nearly moved me to tears as I pondered the deep meaning behind a simple, yet insightful turn of a phrase.

The poetry of Wendell Berry is full of moving moments like that, times where a simple phrase, a humorous anecdote or an observation of the natural world triggers the so-called light bulb of our minds to ever so gracefully turn on.

Wild Blessings, a new play based on Berry’s poetic works, is billed as a celebration of a faithful steward, a friendly neighbor, a loving husband and a kind of modern day prophet claimed by environmentalists, literature enthusiasts, Christians and conservatives alike. But the 75-minute play is as much a celebration of the things Berry has inspired readers for decades to appreciate, enjoy and protect. 

Aided by the lurid sounds of a hammer dulcimer and the striking photographic and video images visible through a large wall resembling a bay window in the middle of the stage and an even larger screen behind it, the play features four actors – an older couple and a younger one – dramatically reading Berry’s words. The actors march in circles, dance, play violin, guitar and percussion and sing. The hammer dulcimer player also sings, but the music mostly provides the soothing backdrop for the words that indirectly weave (using only words from Berry’s pen) a narrative of a slightly mad farmer, out of place in the city who falls in love, returns to the fields, raises a family and fights to hold onto the simple, beautiful things in life like family, friends and God’s creation.

Following along, even for someone familiar with many of his works, was somewhat dizzying at times. Unlike reading the words on a page, the combination of stunning visuals, soothing music and dramatic acting gives little time for you to completely digest. Breaks in the action do occur and the topically connected transitions are generally well played (he titles of poems flash on the screen as the images change), but as the play inches intermission-less toward the finish it does make you wish you could hit pause or maybe rewind on a few of the scenes.

An outline in the playbook might have been helpful as a guide, but in the end Wild Blessings succeeds in maintaining a lot of the subtlety, humor and vivid description that make reading Wendell Berry’s poetry such an enriching and life-giving experience. It doesn’t tell you how to think or lecture about why mountain top removal, conspicuous consumption or infidelity should be avoided. It shows you what you are missing when you trade in natural beauty, elegance and grace for artificial comfort, perceived safety and reckless convenience.

In other words, it shows you what it means to practice resurrection.

Wild Blessings is appearing until April 26 at The Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Click HERE for more information.


Detroit’s beautiful, horrible decline

March 18, 2009

French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre took this and other harrowing photos of the motor city collected in a TIME photo essay.

The haircut’s in charge here

February 21, 2009

Photo by Sara M. Ralph


February 15, 2009

Photo by Matthew Ralph, taken a block away from headquarters

Slumdog bus

January 19, 2009

As gaudy as some of the graphic design has been for some of the promotion of Slumdog Millionaire, this photo of a London bus the fine folks over at /Film posted last week charts new territory in questionable movie marketing.

Would this bus ad make you want to see Slumdog Millionaire or want to avoid it completely?

Laughing out loud at pastors

January 15, 2009

Following in the footsteps of Stuff Christians Like (see Stuff White People Like), our friends over at Burnside Writers Collective have launched a blatant Christianized blog spoof of their own: LOLPastors (see I Can Has Cheezburger).

Surprisingly, there are no entries for Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Bakker or John Wesley yet. We might just have to do something to change that.

What Christianized blog spoof is next? Our money is on someone starting up CCM Face (see Sleeveface).

High standards

January 4, 2009

From Nothing To Do With Arbroath

LEGO album covers

January 3, 2009

A group of Flickr users that appear to be pretty partial to British music has started a photo pool of album covers reimagined Lego style.

Click HERE to see a lot more from where the above Lego-fied Belle and Sebastian and The Smiths album covers came.

Sewing thread

December 22, 2008

Photo by Debbie Garrett

Giant soda bottle

November 17, 2008

This 35-foot Vess soda bottle is visible from the highway in downtown St. Louis. It was originally erected in a different part of town in 1953. Photo by Matthew Ralph.