Monday, June 23, 2008

9 Reasons Why Lord of the Rings Clobbers Narnia

From Why Narnia Will Never Match Up to LOTR

I couldn't resist these tongue-in-cheek yet thoughtful and accurate reasons why Lord of the Rings (at least in a back-to-back movie comparison) clubs Narnia. (Edited for content)

1. Lord of the Rings = Old Testament = vicious deities, exciting plagues and turmoil, rains of fire, etc. Narnia = New Testament = hippie lovefest, turning the other cheek, etc. (What works in real life doesn't always make for super-cool fantasy action.)

2. There's no way someone as cool as Guillermo del Toro would agree to direct The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I mean, unless he could get Lucy Pevensie eaten by a troll or pushed down a well or something horrible like that.

3. Prince Caspian/Peter Pevensie slash fan fiction is kinda dull compared to Legolas/Gimli slash.

4. Hearty hobbit grub of mushroom pies and mugs of ale way better than enchanted Turkish delight -- what is that stuff, anyway?

5. Even Pippin could take Mr. Tumnus in a bare-knuckle brawl.

6. Huge dearth in Narnia of evil fiery volcanoes.

8. Giant masked demigod in black robes versus pretty white ice queen? What do you think?

9. Narnia is just a made-up place invented by an imaginative author. Middle-Earth is real. Everyone knows that.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scientific American's Big Climate "Oopsie!"

On June 13, Scientific American posted an article entitled Environmental Catch-22?: Mending Ozone Hole May Worsen Climate Change that recapped a study about the effects of the ozone hole and whether or not its closing would affect wind patterns and ultimately, climate change. Don't bother clicking on the above link, it is defunct. However, the original edition is (temporarily) preserved on Google's website cache here.

The original text of the article, taken directly from Google's cache, appears below.
Decades of chemical pollution have damaged the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere that shields Earth from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays, each summer eating a hole over the South Pole that expands to nearly the size of Antarctica. But since 1996, when an international treaty banned the culprit chemical refrigerants and propellants (known as CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons), the size of the seasonal tear has been shrinking—and scientists predict it may stop forming by the end of this century.

You would think that was good news. But atmospheric scientists caution in a new study published in Science that sewing up the rift in the ozone (a type of oxygen) layer may exacerbate another environmental woe: climate change.

The reason: closing the gash may affect the flow of winds known as the westerlies around Antarctica, which impact everything from the extent of sea ice to the location of deserts in the Southern Hemisphere. According to scientific studies and mathematical models developed for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—which last year determined that the changing climate is largely a man-made danger—global warming has shifted these winds toward the poles, altering weather patterns throughout the Southern Hemisphere. The new research shows that mending the ozone could speed warming in Antarctica and, potentially, the globe.

"The winds drive everything," says study author Lorenzo Polvani, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University, "locations of storms, dry zones and deserts, the ice and the ocean circulation as well as the carbon uptake of the oceans." For decades, these winds have been speeding up near Antarctica; repairing the ozone would weaken the winds, he says, and shift them back toward the equator, affecting weather in the entire Southern Hemisphere, including Antarctica as well as Australia, parts of Africa and South America.

This also means Earth's southernmost continent might experience even more warming in future as the winds continue to shift and allow relatively warmer air to cover it, potentially speeding the melting of ice shelves. In addition, if there were no hole, the replenished ozone would trap even more heat as greenhouse gas concentrations also rise, according to Polvani.

Atmospheric scientist Judith Perlwitz of the University of Colorado at Boulder and her colleagues reached a similar conclusion, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. But she notes that none of the models on which scientists base these predictions tell the whole story, because they have yet to include all possible variables in their calculations. For instance, she says, no one has factored in the role that the ocean—critical to the regulation of Earth's temperature—would play if the ozone hole is closed.

Perlwitz says that computer simulations including ocean impacts are now being run, and could help scientists better predict the potential consequences of global warming and the changing ozone—and what must be done to limit the damage.

Someone quickly hit the panic button, however, and within hours, the article changed to its current state, Mending Ozone Hole May Benefit Climate Change which states the exact opposite of the former article, and more closely resembling Science Magazine's version. The new version contains a note on the bottom stating
"*Erratum (6/16/08): We regret the misunderstanding created by the original headline and wording of this article, which stated that mending the ozone layer could speed climate change."

Now how do you get to be an author at Scientific American and make a mistake that big? Especially in defiance of the established belief on anthropogenic climate change? I wouldn't have wanted to be in that author's cubicle when The Editors came calling.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Michael Ward: Narnian Books Allegory for Seven Medieval Planets

Scholar Claims Secret Link Between 'Narnia' Books Lies in Astrology
The Rev. Dr. Michael Ward, chaplain of Peterhouse, the oldest college in the University of Cambridge, contends in his new book Planet Narnia that C.S. Lewis secretly constructed the seven Narnia books to reflect the temperaments and qualities of the seven medieval planets – Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn.
Reverend Ward was actually a guest speaker for a Narnia event at Wheaton College in Illinois a couple of years ago, and I was able to ask him in an open forum how much of this idea he derived from the strong planetary/astrological symbolism found in Lewis's space trilogy, to which he replied "entirely."

Lewis was known for "redeeming" concepts that were stereotyped as evil (IE, the land of Bism in The Silver Chair resembling stereotypical images of hell, or the appearance of Mr. Tumnus resembling classic conceptions of the devil, other "pagan" mythology, etc.) but I tend to agree with Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, who said in an interview that:
"We seem to be a species that loves conspiracy theories: "There has to be a hidden meaning, there has to be a hidden structure." A very nice man and a friend of mine, Michael Ward, has recently written and published a book all about how Narnian Chronicles are all based on the seven planets of the medieval astronomical system. I like Michael enormously, but I think his book is nonsense."


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hope for the Unborn in New Zealand?

From What's next for abortion in New Zealand?

It seems that abortion in New Zealand has been following the adage "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission". Thanks to the slowness with which the wheels of government turn, the excuse of "mental health" has passed as an excuse since 1982, according to the article. (Ignoring the mental health consequences of abortions, of course!)

Public pressure has apparently kept most MPs from speaking up about it of late.

Now, thanks to a ruling by a Judge, this may change:

The judgment by Justice Forrest Miller found that:

* The Abortion Supervisory Committee had "misinterpreted its functions and powers under the abortion law".

* "There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions".

* NZ law says abortion must be authorised by two certifying consultants using a limited number of grounds.

* Some certifying consultants decline few or no abortions.

* Justice Miller said the committee was wrong to interpret the law as meaning it had no power to review or scrutinise consultants' decisions.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our Daily Bread Gets It Wrong!

Created by novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes was an investigative genius who could routinely assess seemingly random clues and solve the mystery.

Baffled by Holmes’ uncanny brilliance, his sidekick, Dr. Watson, would ask for an explanation—to which Holmes would glibly respond, “Elementary!” and then proceed to unfold the solution.

- From Our Daily Bread by RBC Ministries, for June 12, 2008

Having read all 60 Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle (my favorite is the Valley of Fear) it bugs me every time this error is made. While Holmes does make the popular exclamation "The game's afoot!" in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, he never once uttered the "famous" words "Elementary, my dear Watson."

Monday, June 09, 2008

What They Didn't Know Didn't Hurt Them

Bar Owners Surprised That Guns Now Allowed in Taverns

Bar owners in Kansas are spewing their beverages in surprise to discover that for the past year, their customers have been able to exercise their right to carry concealed weapons into bars. Mind you, the law is not absolute. In the spirit of protecting private property rights, owners are able to ban licensed armed citizens (the ones who obey the rules!) by posting a sign.

It would seem that if armed civilians have been able to carry for the past year without incident, there is no need for shock and awe now.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Review of Disney/Walden's Prince Caspian

The long-awaited Narnia sequel is here, and as promised, delivers a far more “savage” journey into C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. The two-and-a-half hour film doesn’t stop for long, featuring two heavy battle sequences and one intense duel. (As opposed to the one battle for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)

And as you might expect for someone who, like many, has lived with part of his heart in Narnia since childhood, there are things to cheer for and things to wince at as Shrek director Andrew Adamson once again seeks to bring his vision of the story – not the story itself – to the screen. There are times where changes add immeasurably to the story, and others where one wonders what Adamson and the writers were thinking (smoking?) anyway. It seems producers enjoyed breaking parts of the story just to hear the snapping sounds. And just as when you break a mirror, the picture becomes fragmented. Though showing you a different side of what you were looking at, you still have a broken mirror. The first fault line was the large section of the film devoted to Peter’s attempts and failures to prove himself TO himself, reaping costly benefits in the process. His faith in Aslan has all but extinguished, and he resolves to lead Narnia on his own. His weaknesses and doubts about how Aslan could have allowed the devastation and sack of Narnia may strike a more poignant chord with modern day thinkers, but at cost to the actual character.

The film doesn’t really get off-kilter from the book until Lucy wakes up to find that meeting Aslan (as she was scheduled to in the book) was a dream. After this appearance, which DOESN’T count, it takes another hour before the stately sovereign arrives in earnest – reducing the central character of all seven Narnia books to a bit part towards the end. The completely new castle raid is another invention of Peter’s pride, but the tearful impact it has on audience members (plus the cool action sequences) is worth it.


Edmund – For being a steadfast hero in the fight. The character grew along with the actor, and now both create a winning return. One looks to his more prominent role in Voyage of the Dawn Treader; he’s earned it.

Trumpkin – For being a “brick” with a dry sense of humor and bleak outlook on life, but a heart of pure gold.

Asterius – The secret of the aged minotaur’s noble sacrifice was public long before the film was, but there’s something about such honorable selfless surrender coupled with vicious determination that brings a lump to my throat. (So also for other movies, such as Boromir’s end in Lord of the Rings, or Doc Ock’s in Spider-Man II.)

Glenstorm – That gi-normous sword and stature coupled with imposing presence transform this character – a supporting role at best – to a highlight of the film, reminding us once again why we love these high and noble centaurs so well.

Editing – As a movie, the film flows much better cinematically. In particular, the beginning kicks off properly shrouded in mystery, and we find ourselves catapulted back into Narnia with nostalgia, intrigue and style.

Aslan’s roar and physical size – Too small in the first film, the stature of our favorite messianic lion more befits the highest of all kings in this second installment – as do his roars, few though they be.


Peter’s stubbornness and pride – Reflective of some realism (would these four children really be satisfied with returning to the life of 1940’s English school children after being kings and queens of Narnia?) but still painful to watch, and a dramatic departure from the character. Does this reflect the learning and personal growth Aslan brought the Pevensies to Narnia for? And as failures mount, how can Aslan pronounce their learning from Narnia to be finished, even successful?

Prince Caspian’s accent – It takes more than watching clips of Inigo Montoya to perfect a Spaniard’s accent (no joking, folks), and alas, Barnes’ on-again-off-again rendition doesn’t pass muster.

Caspian/Peter rivalry – Directly conflicting with the book ( “I haven't come to take your place, you know,” Peter tells Caspian “but to put you into it.”) this lame attempt to manufacture interpersonal conflict between the junior monarchs stands out like a sore cliché. Again, like the broken mirror, it provides an interesting *alternative* perspective, but at cost of unifying the story.

Susan/Caspian romance – Designed mostly to stir up controversy, the looked-for “chemistry” fails utterly, and the unwarranted addition made even the actors uncomfortable .

Harry Gregson-Williams – For recycling music from the first film, whether or not it fit the sequence being scored. Gregon-Williams failed to give Aslan a fitting theme in the first film (particularly letting us down when Aslan resurrect) and makes no restitution in the second film. Ironically, he gets a second chance to introduce the lion in proper fashion, and blows it.

Aslan’s utterly diminished role and glory – To me, this is the central and defining failure of the film. As already mentioned, the defining character Lewis created, the only One to appear in all seven books, is not only limited to the latter twenty minutes or so of the film, but his sovereignty is also significantly and confusingly reduced. The best example is changing Aslan’s “no one is ever told what would have happened” to “we can never know what would have happened.”

I saw the film once on opening day, and the thrill and experience of it all brushed aside my concerns about alterations. Post-viewing ruminations left me more and more dissatisfied. A second viewing reconciled the two sides, leaving me irritated with some of the changes, but an overall positive vibe about the film – and eagerly anticipating Michael Apted’s vision for the third film.

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