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August 2009

Zombie Update - New Research Findings

Outbreaks of zombieism modelled as an infectious disease, with rather dire outcomes a real possibility. (Warning: there’s a rather gruesome photo with that story.) The gratitude of an anxious world goes to Dr. Robert Smith? of the University of Ottawa for bringing attention to this menace. (The question mark is part of his name.) The question now, of course, is whether the proper authorities will act. You can read the entire paper here. (Hat tip to Jesse Canterbury.)

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Zombie Update - New Research Findings

Outbreaks of zombieism modelled as an infectious disease, with rather dire outcomes a real possibility. (Warning: there’s a rather gruesome photo with that story.) The gratitude of an anxious world goes to Dr. Robert Smith? of the University of Ottawa for bringing attention to this menace. (The question mark is part of his name.) The question now, of course, is whether the proper authorities will act. You can read the entire paper here. (Hat tip to Jesse Canterbury.)


A Glimpse

It seems almost as if there were some equality among things, some balance in all possible contingencies which we are not permitted to know lest we should learn indifference to good and evil, but which is sometimes shown to us for an instant as a last aid in our last agony.

—Chesterton

This is an intuition I’ve had a number of times, without having to wait for my last agony. It’s an idea I’ve been uneasy about entertaining. It’s an implication that can be drawn from many Christian sources, beginning with Genesis 50:20: “...you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good...” I don’t dare say it to someone who is suffering deeply, because of its suggestion that this had to happen, or that it’s really ok that it happened, and because it can seem so cheap when offered by the one who is not suffering. But I silently hope it will come to them.

Taken wrongly when offered to another, it could seem callous; taken wrongly in one’s own heart it could lead, as Chesterton says, to a loss of the sense that good and evil really matter—if God is going to bring it all right anyway, why should we trouble ourselves? But that’s the trap of the superficially logical. “It must be that offenses come, but woe to him by whom they come.”

It may be the same thing Julian of Norwich heard, and Eliot quoted in Four Quartets, and on which I lean very heavily: “And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Pre-TypePad

A Glimpse

It seems almost as if there were some equality among things, some balance in all possible contingencies which we are not permitted to know lest we should learn indifference to good and evil, but which is sometimes shown to us for an instant as a last aid in our last agony.

—Chesterton

This is an intuition I’ve had a number of times, without having to wait for my last agony. It’s an idea I’ve been uneasy about entertaining. It’s an implication that can be drawn from many Christian sources, beginning with Genesis 50:20: “...you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good...” I don’t dare say it to someone who is suffering deeply, because of its suggestion that this had to happen, or that it’s really ok that it happened, and because it can seem so cheap when offered by the one who is not suffering. But I silently hope it will come to them.

Taken wrongly when offered to another, it could seem callous; taken wrongly in one’s own heart it could lead, as Chesterton says, to a loss of the sense that good and evil really matter—if God is going to bring it all right anyway, why should we trouble ourselves? But that’s the trap of the superficially logical. “It must be that offenses come, but woe to him by whom they come.”

It may be the same thing Julian of Norwich heard, and Eliot quoted in Four Quartets, and on which I lean very heavily: “And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”


As I was saying about Woodstock...

It just wasn’t that big a deal in itself. The real story is the power of the myth. And as for a connection between Woodstock and Obama being elected: well, there really isn’t one. The civil rights movement and late ‘60s pop festivals had nothing much to do with each other, except perhaps that both were part of a broad social upheaval. Sure, there are plenty of ex-hippies who would like to think that their self-indulgence gains moral stature from the fact that they were also pro-civil-rights, but, apart from the very few who were active in it, that hardly entitles them to claim any sort of active responsibility for the movement. Most were too young, anyway, and very far from the action. (Thanks to Will for pointing me to this story.)


As I was saying about Woodstock...

It just wasn’t that big a deal in itself. The real story is the power of the myth. And as for a connection between Woodstock and Obama being elected: well, there really isn’t one. The civil rights movement and late ‘60s pop festivals had nothing much to do with each other, except perhaps that both were part of a broad social upheaval. Sure, there are plenty of ex-hippies who would like to think that their self-indulgence gains moral stature from the fact that they were also pro-civil-rights, but, apart from the very few who were active in it, that hardly entitles them to claim any sort of active responsibility for the movement. Most were too young, anyway, and very far from the action. (Thanks to Will for pointing me to this story.)

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Vignette

Exasperated 180-pound man to defiant 12-pound dog straining at leash, with all four legs locked in resistance:

“Look, you are not the alpha male here. I am.”

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Vignette

Exasperated 180-pound man to defiant 12-pound dog straining at leash, with all four legs locked in resistance:

“Look, you are not the alpha male here. I am.”


Five Movies

Bella

U.S. Catholics, at least, will recall a lot of fuss about this film when it came out in 2007. It was adopted and pushed by pro-life groups who may have done it some harm: they pushed it so hard, buying up whole showings of it etc., that they gave people the impression that it was just a message film. And of course some mainstream reviewers disliked it because of that pro-life slant, and probably many of them reacted to the pro-life push; outside of neo-Nazis and the like, there is no political group more hated by the liberal media.

Anyway, I certainly ended up with the impression that it was a well-intentioned message movie and probably not very good. My wife saw it and said it was pretty good, though she didn’t seem overly enthusiastic. But either she wanted to see it again or she wanted me to see it, because she put it on our Netflix list.

My verdict: it’s not a great movie, but it’s worth seeing. Yes, it’s sentimental, but it’s not shallow, which is the same way I would describe It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s not in that class, but as with Wonderful Life, you could say it’s a heartwarming feel-good movie that yet is willing to look into the abyss.

Here are two reviews from Catholic critics: Barb Nicolosi, who didn’t like it, and Steven Greydanus, who did. I think Nicolosi is overly harsh, by the way.

Becoming Jane & The Jane Austen Book Club

I was not especially enthusiastic about either of these, but I mention them because serious Jane Austen fans might find them interesting. But then they probably didn’t need me to tell them about them. The first is a heavily fictionalized biography of Austen herself. It’s not bad, but I doubt it has that much to do with Jane Austen, either. Anne Hathaway is a good actress but she’s the wrong person to play Jane Austen. I question whether any American actress under 40 can play any role without at least occasionally falling into Huffy American Girl mannerisms. I’ve talked to at least one serious JA fan who couldn’t stand it.

The other one is about a group of women who form a Jane Austen reading group and read all her novels, which are juxtaposed with their personal (i.e. romantic) lives. I don’t think it’s anything special, but I was not bored, as I had feared I might be. Many or most women would probably find it very enjoyable, and it manages not to completely twist Austen into contemporary positions that would have appalled and repulsed her. In fact Austen rescues one of the women from a tempting disaster.

A Simple Plan

One winter day in rural Minnesota, three men chase a dog into the woods and find a wrecked airplane, its dead pilot, and a large amount of money. They decide to keep the money. Things go downhill. This is as compelling a portrait of the power of evil as I’ve ever seen. You should see it, but I should warn you that it’s painful to watch, not because of the violence, of which there is some, but because of the tension. It’s brilliant, but it’s not a movie to relax with.

The Road Home

Apparently one can assume that Zhang Yimou’s name on a film means that it is, if nothing else, visually beautiful. This is a very simple story, told with heartbreaking beauty (visually and dramatically). Really, I’m getting slightly teary-eyed just thinking about it. A young man is called home to his rural Chinese village upon the sudden death of his father. He tells the story of his parents’ courtship in a series of flashbacks. That’s it. I could probably watch it a dozen times.


Five Movies

Bella

U.S. Catholics, at least, will recall a lot of fuss about this film when it came out in 2007. It was adopted and pushed by pro-life groups who may have done it some harm: they pushed it so hard, buying up whole showings of it etc., that they gave people the impression that it was just a message film. And of course some mainstream reviewers disliked it because of that pro-life slant, and probably many of them reacted to the pro-life push; outside of neo-Nazis and the like, there is no political group more hated by the liberal media.

Anyway, I certainly ended up with the impression that it was a well-intentioned message movie and probably not very good. My wife saw it and said it was pretty good, though she didn’t seem overly enthusiastic. But either she wanted to see it again or she wanted me to see it, because she put it on our Netflix list.

My verdict: it’s not a great movie, but it’s worth seeing. Yes, it’s sentimental, but it’s not shallow, which is the same way I would describe It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s not in that class, but as with Wonderful Life, you could say it’s a heartwarming feel-good movie that yet is willing to look into the abyss.

Here are two reviews from Catholic critics: Barb Nicolosi, who didn’t like it, and Steven Greydanus, who did. I think Nicolosi is overly harsh, by the way.

Becoming Jane & The Jane Austen Book Club

I was not especially enthusiastic about either of these, but I mention them because serious Jane Austen fans might find them interesting. But then they probably didn’t need me to tell them about them. The first is a heavily fictionalized biography of Austen herself. It’s not bad, but I doubt it has that much to do with Jane Austen, either. Anne Hathaway is a good actress but she’s the wrong person to play Jane Austen. I question whether any American actress under 40 can play any role without at least occasionally falling into Huffy American Girl mannerisms. I’ve talked to at least one serious JA fan who couldn’t stand it.

The other one is about a group of women who form a Jane Austen reading group and read all her novels, which are juxtaposed with their personal (i.e. romantic) lives. I don’t think it’s anything special, but I was not bored, as I had feared I might be. Many or most women would probably find it very enjoyable, and it manages not to completely twist Austen into contemporary positions that would have appalled and repulsed her. In fact Austen rescues one of the women from a tempting disaster.

A Simple Plan

One winter day in rural Minnesota, three men chase a dog into the woods and find a wrecked airplane, its dead pilot, and a large amount of money. They decide to keep the money. Things go downhill. This is as compelling a portrait of the power of evil as I’ve ever seen. You should see it, but I should warn you that it’s painful to watch, not because of the violence, of which there is some, but because of the tension. It’s brilliant, but it’s not a movie to relax with.

The Road Home

Apparently one can assume that Zhang Yimou’s name on a film means that it is, if nothing else, visually beautiful. This is a very simple story, told with heartbreaking beauty (visually and dramatically). Really, I’m getting slightly teary-eyed just thinking about it. A young man is called home to his rural Chinese village upon the sudden death of his father. He tells the story of his parents’ courtship in a series of flashbacks. That’s it. I could probably watch it a dozen times.

Pre-TypePad