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keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

Dave's Exegesis is my eclectic site of exegesis on pretty much everything I can think of, whether biblical studies, theology, music, movies, culture, food, drink, sports, or the internet.

Narnia vs. Lord of the Rings

08.17.10

I am partial to both the books and movies of Lord of the Rings as more compelling, imaginative, and integrative than the Chronicles of Narnia. Thus, I found the following intriguing.

‘Narnia’ vs. ‘Lord of the Rings’: Competing Visions

By Alyssa Rosenberg

As a child, I made it all the way through The Chronicles of Narnia, and read a couple of the books repeatedly, but I never managed to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As an adult, though, I’ve rewatched each of the Lord of the Rings movies more times than I like to admit (if TNT airs a weekend marathon of them, I’m a slave to the couch), but I was unmoved by The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and have no interest whatsoever in the inert subsequent movies, the next of which is forthcoming shortly:

I wonder if the answer to why Tolkien’s movies are working while Lewis’s aren’t lies in this somewhat abstracted paragraph from Adam Gopnik’s 2005 essay on Lewis:

Tolkien hated the Narnia books, despite Lewis’s avid sponsorship of Tolkien’s own mythology, because he hated to see an imagination constrained by the allegorical impulse. Though Tolkien was certainly a devout Catholic, there is no way in which “The Lord of the Rings” is a Christian book, much less a Catholic allegory. The Blessed Land across the sea is a retreat for the already immortal, not, except for Frodo, a reward for the afflicted; dead is dead. The pathos of Aragorn and Arwen’s marriage is that, after Aragorn’s death, they will never meet again, in Valinor or elsewhere. It is the modernity of the existential arrangement, in tension with the archaicism of the material culture, that makes Tolkien’s myth haunting. In the final Narnia book, “The Last Battle,” the effort to key the fantasy to the Biblical themes of the Apocalypse is genuinely creepy, with an Aslan Antichrist. The best of the books are the ones, like “The Horse and His Boy,” where the allegory is at a minimum and the images just flow.

It seems to me that those writerly sensibilities are matched by those of the filmmakers who took on those competing universes. Peter Jackson was deeply committed to building a complete, coherent world that we could enter entirely, leaving points of reference to our own universe behind because we didn’t need them. By contrast, we always enter Narnia through an earlier version of our own world, and Narnia’s full of references to it, whether religious metaphor, or tea in a faun’s hidey-hole. And the special effects in the movies seem determined to convince us of their miraculousness, not of their reality, it’s about refracting our world back to us with new possibilities, rather than about letting us escape into another one.This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/narnia-vs-lord-of-the-rings-competing-visions/61551/

JJ Abrams at TED

08.16.10

This is a fascinating talk by the popular creator of ABC’s Alias and Lost and director/producer of Mission Impossible III and the latest Star Trek.

Link for TED: http://www.ted.com/

Link for video: http://www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box.html

Inception: Go See It

07.19.10

This movie has the gravity of a black hole and you will be absorbed into it if you see it in an IMAX theater.  I had very few expectations for it other than some trailors and commercials that I had seen that really didn’t tell what the movie was about.  However, my brother-in-law was so enthralled by the film that he wanted to see it the next night with me and my wife – so we did.  It is a mental mind-job movie that wastes little time but allows you to follow the progression.  I really don’t want to say much more, but I think if people have the opportunity, they should go see it.

Here are some reviews (spoilers included), but read after you watch:

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/17388/180225

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20401172,00.html

http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/movies/16inception.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/07/inception-summers-best-most-disappointing-blockbuster/59855/

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2010/07/26/100726crci_cinema_denby

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128493953

Nature and Nurture

11.18.07

Just got finished watching a fascinating NOVA program entitled, “Ghost in Your Genes” which was about epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of genetic modifiers called “epigenomes” that are instrumental in turning on and off the varied features of any given genome. The Human Genome Project of the early 90’s was monumental as it mainly purposed to identify all of the genomes or “genes” in the DNA make-up of humans. In 2000 they reported that they had found 22,000-23,000 genomes, which was surprisingly less than they had anticipated. That’s roughly the same that can be found in worms, rats, and frogs. Since it has been thought that humans are more genetically complex, it left many questions about what causes some genes to appear and others not to appear. The salient example of this question is how identical twins which have the exact same DNA structure can develop differently. The answer that has been found in the past few years is the discovery of “epigenomes” which can attach themselves to certain genes or gene sequences and turn them on or off depending on the circumstances. Moreover, they are finding that epigenomes can be influenced early in development, showing that although we inherit genes and epigenomes naturally through our parents, it is how we are nurtured that can determine which traits develop in us. That is certainly a simplification of very complex research, but nonetheless very compelling. They have now launched the Human Epigenome Project to try to identify what could be millions of epigenomes influencing genetic development. This is very exciting, and they have already benefited from this kind of research in cancer treatment.

Here is the TV Program Description
Here is the Program Manuscript
Here is the Program Preview
Here are some links and resources
Here is the Wikipedia entry for Epigenetics