The Zeitgeist

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Christopher Hitchens's packed appearance at Town Hall last week for his new book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, was supposed to be a debate, but organizers at University Book Store were apparently unable to find someone willing to take up the pro-religion argument, so Hitchens debated himself. He asked himself the questions he's been asked most frequently, like, "But, surely, Mr. Hitchens, without religion, how would we know the difference between right and wrong?" And then he shifted his weight and answered: Religion gets its moral cues from people; morality is rooted in humankind's "innate solidarity and decency." He added, "If you want good people to do evil things, you need them to be religious."

He talked history (the Crusaders, the Inquisition, the Nazis' ties to the Vatican). He compared living a religious life, born in subservience to an all-powerful god, to living in "a celestial North Korea." He told stories from his book tour, including an event in North Carolina that was so mobbed it had to be moved out of the bookstore and into a church. The church's pastor said to Hitchens, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but this church has never been this full." Hitchens is drawing huge crowds across the country, and God Is Not Great is one of a spate of antireligion best-sellers this year. "I think the zeitgeist is changing, ladies and gentlemen," he told Seattle. "I really do think it's happening."

Stein Thanked

Theater-makers Implied Violence had a piece in last weekend's Northwest New Works festival at On the Boards, and in the program they thanked their friends, a coffee shop, an arts-funding organization, and Gertrude Stein. This turned out to be not as pretentious as it sounded; it was a clue to understanding the piece. The Implied Violence gang is obsessed with Stein's lesser-liked experimental stuff, in particular a prose piece titled "Business in Baltimore." (Representative sentence: "He had held him he had held her he had held it for him he had held it for her, he had hold of it, and he had had days.") Their piece, the air is peopled with cruel and fearsome birds, originally began with text by Stein—some of which is tattooed on the arm of Implied Violence's Mandie O'Connell—but none of Stein's text survives in the current version. What has survived: vivid, emphatic scenarios that repeat with slight variations, each variation giving you a slightly fuller idea of the scenario while yielding little of the overall story. Very Stein. Plus, pies, cakes, a bullhorn, toys, an orchestra, and other random objects. Also very Stein. And then it just sort of ends. I loved it.

Brangien Spoke

Let it be known: Swivel editor and freelance Seattle Times dance critic Brangien Davis (who also liked the Implied Violence piece: "Yeah, weird, good, good") does a mind-blowing karaoke version of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy." Seriously. It's amazing. recommended

frizzelle@thestranger.com

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