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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

General McChrystal Interview on 60 Minutes

09.28.09

This is a very informative look at the approach toward Afghanistan that is being taken by General McChrystal. He is a very disciplined man and is taking great personal sacrifice to serve our country.


Sick Around the World

07.24.09

I am a very big fan of the PBS program FRONTLINE which usually airs each Tuesday evening at 8 PM.  As I was researching for this past presidential election and the issues we are all facing as a country, I found FRONTLINE to be an invaluable resource.  In April 2008, they did a wonderful piece on the leading “national” health care programs in 5 wealthy and modern countries: UK, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, & Taiwan.  As the House and Senate are now focusing their efforts on putting bills forward in this direction, I thought it was appropriate to dust this piece off to revisit and educate us in how the rest of the world advanced ahead of the US in successful health programs.  Below are the necessary links, and the whole episode can be viewed for free online.

Here is the site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/

Here is the transcript: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/etc/script.html

Here is the introduction:

In Sick Around the World, FRONTLINE teams up with veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent T.R. Reid to find out how five other capitalist democracies — the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland — deliver health care, and what the United States might learn from their successes and their failures.

Reid’s first stop is the U.K., where the government-run National Health Service (NHS) is funded through taxes. “Every single person who’s born in the U.K. will use the NHS,” says Whittington Hospital CEO David Sloman, “and none of them will be presented a bill at any point during that time.” Often dismissed in America as “socialized medicine,” the NHS is now trying some free-market tactics like “pay-for-performance,” where doctors are paid more if they get good results controlling chronic diseases like diabetes. And now patients can choose where they go for medical procedures, forcing hospitals to compete head to head.

While such initiatives have helped reduce waiting times for elective surgeries, Times of London health editor Nigel Hawkes thinks the NHS hasn’t made enough progress. “We’re now in a world in which people are much more demanding, and I think that the NHS is not very effective at delivering in that modern, market-orientated world.”

Reid reports next from Japan, which boasts the second largest economy and the best health statistics in the world. The Japanese go to the doctor three times as often as Americans, have more than twice as many MRI scans, use more drugs, and spend more days in the hospital. Yet Japan spends about half as much on health care per capita as the United States.

One secret to Japan’s success? By law, everyone must buy health insurance — either through an employer or a community plan — and, unlike in the U.S., insurers cannot turn down a patient for a pre-existing illness, nor are they allowed to make a profit.

Reid’s journey then takes him to Germany, the country that invented the concept of a national health care system. For its 80 million people, Germany offers universal health care, including medical, dental, mental health, homeopathy and spa treatment. Professor Karl Lauterbach, a member of the German parliament, describes it as “a system where the rich pay for the poor and where the ill are covered by the healthy.” As they do in Japan, medical providers must charge standard prices. This keeps costs down, but it also means physicians in Germany earn between half and two-thirds as much as their U.S. counterparts.

In the 1990s, Taiwan researched many health care systems before settling on one where the government collects the money and pays providers. But the delivery of health care is left to the market. Every person in Taiwan has a “smart card” containing all of his or her relevant health information, and bills are paid automatically. But the Taiwanese are spending too little to sustain their health care system, according to Princeton’s Tsung-mei Cheng, who advised the Taiwanese government. “As we speak, the government is borrowing from banks to pay what there isn’t enough to pay the providers,” she told FRONTLINE.

Reid’s last stop is Switzerland, a country which, like Taiwan, set out to reform a system that did not cover all its citizens. In 1994, a national referendum approved a law called LAMal (“the sickness”), which set up a universal health care system that, among other things, restricted insurance companies from making a profit on basic medical care. The Swiss example shows health care reform is possible, even in a highly capitalist country with powerful insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Today, Swiss politicians from the right and left enthusiastically support universal health care. “Everybody has a right to health care,” says Pascal Couchepin, the current president of Switzerland. “It is a profound need for people to be sure that if they are struck by destiny … they can have a good health system.”