Monday, December 26, 2005

Dawn's early light - on my way

A handy airport wireless connection allows me a connection to you all. I'm just short of 45 minutes away from boarding from SeaTac to an eventual touchdown in Buffalo, NY. That's after hitting up Atlanta in-between (a natural path?). It's just like me to be thinking about the weather patterns I will progress through. Here in Seattle, it's a little chilly, very wet (duh), but more important, very average.

Atlanta is currently 41 degrees (F)...I'm sure with the usual dose of humidity.

For Buffalo, I'm looking at 34 degrees and light snow.

Of course, once I'm across that magical line and into Canada, who knows what it will be. I mean, I might as well be going to the North Pole right? :)

But I digress. I can feel the curiosity of those who are wondering what I'm doing going to Ontario the day after Christmas. Most of my friends know, but for those who don't, it's a simple matter (or not) of visiting a good friend of mine, and her family. Perhaps you will all meet her soon.

And before I let sign off...a Merry Christmas to you all, even though it is a number of hours since I should have already covered that ground. I have been pretty busy these couple weeks--that dictated the unfortunate uninspiring content (or at least lack thereof) on this humble corner of the Net.

I'll see if I can write soon during my visit. No guarantees mind you, considering I plan to be much preoccupied.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Narnia continued

NOTE: My good friend Jackie has written her highly anticipated critique of my review in the last post's comment string. Since I am set to leave town the day after Christmas, I found it needful to post my reply as quickly as possible. Thanks to all who have continued to share their thoughts on this landmark movie.

Jackie: You're going to think me supremely redundant after reading this through. To be honest, it's hard to know if you are sane when so many people disagree with you. But sane I am, for all I have tried to do is maintain my argument from the text of the book.
You say the movie did not "deliver in one essential area"- specifically, remain true to the original work. How so? Because you failed to see the Aslan of your own mental image? The book, "The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe" did not get any more in depth of Aslan's character than was portrayed in the movie. Lewis did leave further development for his character to extend over the other books.
The LWW isn’t all about Aslan’s character development. Agreed. If I failed to see Aslan according to my mental image, I would hope my mental image was from the book—or was your point that I shouldn’t have a mental image?
Lewis DID, I repeat DID, write the Narnia books as simply a child's fairy-tale. I believe you are looking for something profound and deep. Read Lewis' "Till we have faces" or "Mere Christianity" or even the Space Trilogy for that. Lewis had no intention of being profound in the Narnia books. He even said, in a letter to his friend J.R.R.Tolkien that the LWW story is simply a child's fantasy. He didn’t even seriously mean to write an allegory.
I’m sorry, but your belief that I am looking for something pretty “deep” (whatever that means) is just that: a belief. If you want to continue thinking thus, that’s cool. But for now, you're telling me that I think something and not addressing what I said. I don’t claim to be a scholar of Lewis’ and I’m only comparing a book and a movie.

One of your critisms I found quite contradictory. "He even goes so far as to ask Peter the rhetorical question, “You don’t believe in the prophecy?” as if that was a valid question." Right. That's why it was a RHETORICAL QUESTION. The point of the question was informing Peter that there's something bigger out there than his own plans or knowledge of his own existence.

The point of my criticism was more inline with a frustration with the over-blown idea of a “prophecy.” It struck me as being watered down. It staged a “Dune” kind of scenario in my mind, where the local people assume some foreigner has come to fulfill their prophecy and it takes some convincing for the person to accept his role in the story. Whether anyone else saw that or not (and I know you may have laughed at this point), it runs contrary to the spirit of the work. Aslan doesn’t need to do any convincing because the children come to KNOW what they are there for just by meeting Aslan. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice in the movie how there was a lot of emphasis on the “let’s just get Edmund, save Tumnus and go home” lines, even after meeting Aslan and going to battle!
You know what Lewis' basis of Aslan's character is. That is what you went to the movie looking to be obviously represented. But Lewis didnt write Aslan so clearly or obviously. The movie did not develop Aslan's character any less or more than this particular book did.

YES, and no. This is getting a little tricky because it seems like you are mixing the allegory and allusion to the gospel (something that’s just part of the plot) with the basic impression that I gleaned from the Aslan in the movie: this was my point. I most certainly did NOT go looking for Aslan to be “obvious” and easy to understand. Lewis didn’t make Aslan’s character explicit nor should he have. That’s just the problem with the movie. What you saw was what you had. Lewis was implicit and subtle. Aslan was someone you couldn’t probe fully except in the specific way HE chose to reveal himself.

Here’s where the dialogue before meeting him was so vitally important. It showed the animals’ incredible anticipation--which rubbed off on the children. Paradoxically, they had trouble articulating Aslan’s character so that the children could understand their anticipation. But that anticipation still hung with the children nonetheless and the movie completely missed that.
Lewis said himself in that letter to Tolkien. Those who understand any kind of allegorical reference that might be there, will 'get it.' Those who don’t, won’t. No more, no less. I believe the movie did just that. No more, no less. I believe you went looking for more, hoping that those
who didn’t 'get it' would. Since you understand the fullness of the Aslan's character, you were hoping to see the movie portray that. Yes, it would have been neat if they had, but in NOT doing that, they HAVE remained true to the book.
This is again, building up a lot of speculation about what I was hoping to see. Since I don't agree, I can only reiterate what I was looking for: the kind of reaction, effect, and anticipation I saw in the book, coming to life on the screen. There’s more to portraying Aslan by the book than what’s immediate—what he said, what he did--and those extras (see the quote at the end) are in the book and ARE needed. I'm not trying to impose a "complete picture" of Aslan on a story that doesn't reveal it. I didn't say that, so I'm intrigued to know what makes you think that? Are we speculating about my thought process or discussing what I wrote. I hate to say it, Jackie, but your critique of my review is more or less attempting to critique what you think I think. That’s perfectly fine if that’s what you want to do, but you may, as a result, grow tired of my equally persistent denials.
I also have to make a minor note on your critique of the soundtrack. Admit it, you were hoping for an epic soundtrack like that of LOTR. In actuality, Narnia is NOT an "epic" story like LOTR. It IS a children's fairy tale and the soundtrack, I thought, did MUCH to hold to that very idea. It was a soundtrack that matched perfectly with any children's fairy tale. Think Brothers Grimm here. I know Lewis did.
No, I will not admit anything of the kind about the music--and I'm thoroughly tired of having to talk about LOTR as though I am somehow too much a Tolkien fan to differentiate his work from Lewis. I have never entered a theater expecting any kind of music. Why bother watching a movie if you think there is only one right musical score or style, one right way of putting the dialogue together, etc.? A movie director is an artist with a tough job and that should be recognized. It would be arrogant to blow off a director’s choice of music without trying to understand it. I do understand your “Brothers Grimm” recommendation, but respectfully disagree that it ended up being of that caliber—mainly because “Brothers Grimm” tends to carry a different meaning for different people, all of whom have little to go on.

However, I know music can grow on the listener so I’m looking forward to watching it again soon with that in mind.

Thanks for putting the time into pursuing this. You can be sure I'm anticipating another response. I'm going to finish with a paragraph from the book that drives a lot of what you just read.
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels like it has some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and you are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Narnia review: Aslan the absent

Some in my acquaintance who will remember that, upon first viewing any of The Lord of the Rings movies, I did not support the idea of a movie about Narnia. I remember while reading the books once, thinking that I couldn’t imagine how someone could adapt it for a movie. Then I heard someone was seriously considering doing just that and I didn’t know what to think. I resolved to reserve judgment. Well, friends, the time for reservation is past.

What book?

Poor professor Lewis.

While it should be understood by all moviegoers that comparing the two would be like apples and oranges, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, failed to deliver in one essential area where The Lord of the Rings succeeded: It did not remain true to the venerable author’s original work.

Exhibit one is unfortunately the tragedy that is Aslan’s portrayal. Compared to the books, the movie makes him into a tame lion. Most readers who saw it might be puzzled by my assertion because of the way the movie ended with Mr. Tumnus’ statement about tame lions and how Aslan was no such thing. Its presence was gratifying but unfortunately seems to replace the lines that should have been said in the beaver lodge. In the book, the question is posed: “Is he safe?” The emphatic “no…but he is good,” in answer is enough to make readers extremely eager to understand Aslan, to meet him, to probe his character. Peter voices this in the book at that point, carrying the reader with him in his excitement: “I’m longing to see him, even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”

In the movie, the Tumnus line is just simply, “he’s not a tame lion, you know…” It didn’t really have any impact except to put a definition on what you already saw, which, quite frankly, was just a talking lion king who killed the witch.

Driven to distraction

It’s quite possible that my negative impression of the movie goes beyond what I consider inadequacies. I’m sure I was more than a little distracted by trivial things like the horrific soundtrack. I was thankful for the times I didn’t notice it. Otherwise I felt like plugging my ears when this or that voice in the music kept trying to take center stage over the visuals.

The good stuff

On the bright side, the animals were awesome. Honestly, if special effects can contribute to the over-all success of a movie, this is the case study. The casting and acting was well done too. The children were just as they should look and feel—although poorly directed many times, causing them too much awkwardness at important moments…like the stone table for example.

Another bright note was the battle scene. More specifically, I appreciated the centaur’s breathtaking moves when he killed the enemy general and challenged Jadis. The children are green at that point and not a little awkward (as it should be), which makes it a little hard to watch sometimes—I expected that, though.

What is left to the imagination in the book tended to find good rendering throughout the movie. All the different fighting styles of so many animals were beautifully choreographed. The witch’s house was dazzling, dark and gave me the creeps—you are left wondering how Edmond can be such a dunce as to think he has a friend in this place.

So that’s a skimming of my thoughts. Yes, I cannot emphasize enough my disappointment over Aslan’s shallow portrayal. One of the most striking evidences is the first conversation he has with Peter. Aslan does nothing to indicate he has any kind of omniscience—you get the idea that He doesn’t know Peter well at all—not where he came from, not what he needs to hear. He even goes so far as to ask Peter the rhetorical question, “You don’t believe in the prophecy?” as if that was a valid question. In the book, Aslan tells Peter that he and his siblings will rule in Cair Paravel and the matter is settled. Peter didn’t respond in protest.

I’m so sorry Professor Lewis. I had hoped people would grow closer to your masterpiece through this movie. I think they will only find themselves more confused. So what is the movie’s point now? If you are looking for a vague allegory of a biblical story as you would in a Veggietales parody, then by all means, this movie is for you—a childish story and nothing more.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Acrostic politics

Too funny. I really wish I knew whom the author was who wrote this anonymous poem titled The Leader. Discovered in a Pakistan curriculum, it was struck out of course, when it was discovered to be an acrostic spelling PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH.

See the story in the UK Telegraph.

Help say 'THANK YOU' to Joshua Sparling

This is way too important to pass by in my quest to prepare for tomorrow's final.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for getting the word out. This was also on Fox & Friends yesterday morning.

Some sick person sent a Christmas card to a wounded soldier...with an interesting inside message: "P.S. DIE" And yes, this was apparently the only card Joshua Sparling recieved.

Please send him a real card right away:

Joshua Sparling
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

Monday, December 05, 2005

Western Unraveled update

The Western blog is almost starting to move into another level of debate. Some of the journalism students have caught onto the criticism of The Western Front taking place on the blog. Check out the latest post for some active discussion links.

Happy reading. Feel free to throw in a comment or two over there even if you aren't a student. The more, the merrier.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Score notes

I've been immersing myself in musical presentations of one type or another, just as I do for every Christmas. The only difference is the sad fact that my participation is only marginal at best. I had to pass completely on this year's rendition of Handel's Messiah--which I usually sing with the rest of my family in the Lynden Choral Society. It was a love/hate type of anticipation leading up to the concert I attended last night. Knowing I would get the chance to hear it from the audience again was interesting and unique...but I still didn't like the idea so I tried to focus on listening more carefully to the content and music as a whole than the technicalities that accompany singing such a beautiful piece. I was pleasantly surprised.

There were some interesting differences and shakeups in the selection from the work as a whole so I got to hear some live that I'd only heard on a recordings up till then. While I didn't care for the stilted, slow approach to some of the choruses, I understand why they were done that way. The important ones were excellent. “Hallelujah”...and my personal favorite: “Worthy is the Lamb.” We have messed up the Amen chorus the last couple years. This year was enough to make me cry (well, almost) that I didn't get to do it with them the one time it was spot on.

Just before that chorus, when Aunt Marilyn sang "I know that my Redeemer liveth," I was struck by the words like I've never been struck before. Hearing that song just after the “Hallelujah” is always extra thought provoking.

And though worms destroy this body,
Yet in my flesh shall I see God.
So I've heard it a thousand times it seems, but sitting there this time was interesting. The shear insanity of the concept hit me like a ton of bricks. I've missed it all my life: just what does it mean to see the flesh? When I think of heaven, it is only by imagining the visuals afforded us in Daniel and Revelation. The bare fact we can't imagine how incredible it will be to see it ignores the rest of the picture. What about the other four senses which we will also have as humans in God's presence.

What will I hear? What will I feel? What will I smell? Indeed, what will I taste? Just think! Look down at this shadow of a body and realize that warm and cold, sweetness and feeling, all those things we were created to respond to will be present. The idea of perfection is perhaps so hard to by that I tend to abstract it. But no. Indeed, with perfected senses, what could be more real than what we will experience in the presence of God?

More music…

I also just left Michelle’s senior piano recital at Western. I have only one word that describes it: inspired! Congratulations to Michelle for going out with a bang.


Sucking on lemons

I am tired of hearing from establishment media--and even unwitting conservative bloggers--about the GOP 2008 presidential lineup. It makes me depressed. The first two mentioned are always McCain and Guiliani.

So let's talk about other people, even if they are known so little that it would make presidential possibilities a little "out there." Let's talk about real, tangible and inspiring stories of conservative...

...which is all just a long way of saying read this article in World Magazine about Mike Pence and Mark Sanford entitled Good-mood conservatives