Tuesday, February 26, 2008

this time, a serious quiz...i think

Somebody sent me this link, so I thought I'd share it here: The Hermeneutics Quiz.

This quiz is designed to help you identify what patterns of thought etc. you use when interpreting Bible scripture. The designers of the quiz mean it seriously--and fortunately, they add a caveat emptor (I seem to be using that phrase a lot, lately.) by acknowledging that one little quiz isn't going to identify all the nuances of an individual's method of interpretation.

That aside, it *is* an interesting quiz, and it will lead you into a little bit of self-examination if you allow it.

I "scored" a 52, which, according to the quiz, places me in the "conservative hermeneutic" group. According to the quiz, the opposite end of the scale is "progressive."

I recently told someone recently, I no longer know what the labels "conservative" and "liberal" mean. The main cause of my confusion is the reactions of other people to my expressions of certain beliefs: The Conservatives label me "liberal," and the Liberals label me "conservative." As a result, for me, those two appellations no longer have definition and have become wholly meaningless bywords.

So when this quiz labels me "conservative," it perplexes me. Like I said, it's definitely thought-provoking...but it's also annoying--which, I suppose, means that it does have meaning to me, after all...and not a good one. The fact that the opposite end of the scale is "progressive" gives me the impression that "conservative" means "lack of progress."

I take umbrage at that. True, I have my hard times of spiritual stagnation (which, I believe, we all of us have)...but I certainly do categorize the general state of my spiritual life as one of "moving forward" or "making progress."

I've thought for a long time that I'd like to write out a sort of "belief statement" for myself. As in, a collection of beliefs that I hold. I feel the need to do this for me, if for no other reason than to gain a little clarity (not the "Minority Report" versionof clarity, don't worry). This would be for my own benefit, so I might or might not post it here. Dunno. Hafta think about that one.

Anyway...like I said: The Hermenutics Quiz = a bit annoying, but also thought-provoking. And since the two (annoying and thought-provoking) so often go hand-in-hand (those two *really* need to quit with the PDA), I'd say taking the quiz is worth one's time. It swings my verge, anyway. ;o)

Friday, February 22, 2008

movie review: "The Golden Compass"

So. It seems to me that the societal furor over this movie has died down somewhat. Or perhaps I’m just insulated and isolated from it and blind to current controversy. (Feel free to correct me on that. ;o) Anyway…as the walrus said, “the time has come,” and I will try to arrange my thoughts about “The Golden Compass” in some semblance of order.

As I told one of my aunts recently, I almost wish I had heard nothing about this film before watching it. It would have been nice for someone to have said, “Courtney, here’s a newly-released movie. Please watch it and tell me what you think,” and left it at that. Unfortunately, life is rarely so simple, and I spent the entire movie trying to push other people’s opinions out of my head while attempting to formulate my own.

I think I achieved a degree of success in this endeavor. So now I’m going to state my opinion so other people will have the same difficulty in forming theirs that I had in forming my own. Ha! Take that! *grin*

Wikipedia provides a great synopsis of the plot, so I’m not going to regurgitate it here. In brief, what I saw was a fast-paced, action-packed, well-made, creative, inventive, interesting, original, special-effects-laced fantasy film.

For adults.

Not for kids.

If you know me, or if you peruse my blog with anything like regularity, you know that the sci-fi and high fantasy genres are my thing. I read them, I watch them, I write them. “Compass” fits very nicely into both, so from that vantage point, I enjoyed the movie immensely. (If you enjoy those genres and watch/have watched the movie, you’ll know where I’m coming from. If you don’t care for those genres, I won’t bore you with the details.)

So, if I’m a proponent of sci-fi and fantasy, why wouldn’t I show this film to kids?

Well, I think my main glitch (thank you, “Reality Bites”) is with the main character, Lyra Belacqua. I don’t know how Lyra is written in the books, but in the movie, she frankly comes across as an obnoxious brat. She lies to anyone she must in order to get her way (including to her closest friends); she shows little respect for anyone around her; and she spends most of the film with a spiteful frown on her face. Everything she does is for her own self-interest. As a heroine, her only redeeming features are her protectiveness of her dæmon, Pantalaimon (“Pan”), and her determination to rescue her friends from the Gobblers.

Some might claim that the protectiveness and the determination are more than redeeming of her negative characteristics. However, keep in mind that taking care of Pan is also in Lyra’s best interest, as she suffers any pain that is inflicted on him and becomes captive herself if he is imprisoned.

A side note on the film’s concept of dæmons, which includes what is, in my opinion, a major plot hole: Early on, the film shows that human souls appear in the form of dæmons, animals which can talk and accompany their humans everywhere they go. What pain the dæmon feels, the human feels, and vice versa. However, when one of the antagonists, Mrs. Coulter, becomes frustrated with her dæmon, she slaps him…and feels no pain herself. I think consistency should have demanded that Mrs. Coulter flinch as a result of the slap she delivered. Also on a conceptual point: If a dæmon is a physical representation of a human soul, then (a) how can that dæmon have a personality distinct and different from the human’s? how could the “soul” every do anything that the human didn’t want it to do? and (b) how could a female human have a male soul? or vice versa?

Anyway…I’m sure there must be answers to these questions, but they certainly aren’t to be found in the film.

(A final note on the dæmons: This isn’t the first time for the sentient-animal-inextricably-linked-with-human idea. Ages of myth and folklore have given us this concept in witches’ familiars. More recently in the fantasy genre, Jennifer Roberson made use of it in her “Cheysuli” novels, starting with “Shapechangers” in 1984. And she did a better job of it.)

Back to Lyra. Main characters should definitely always have some major flaw about them, perhaps even a tragic flaw. If that is what the filmwriters were trying to achieve through Lyra’s obnoxiousness, they failed. They succeeded only in making her annoying and nearly impossible to empathize with. She is the major reason I wouldn’t show this film to a child: I would want no child of mine to identify with her as a main character and imitate her. Main characters automatically function as role models for children. I certainly wouldn’t want my children to consider such an obnoxious, anti-authority personality a role model for behavior.

Furthermore, the film generally encompasses themes that I consider too adult for children. There’s the drunken bear whom Lyra recruits as one of her closest allies. There’s the sexual undertone as she (a child herself) manipulates the bear king into following her plan. There’s the violence of the bears themselves. (In a fight between two bears, one tears the other’s lower jaw off. I imagine a child would find this scary. But perhaps I’m being too biased here; ever since Three-Toes of “The Wilderness Family,” I have been terrified of bears, gentle Samson notwithstanding; so perhaps I’m just projecting a childhood fear in this case. {But I think not.}) There’s the concept of the kidnapping of children for nefarious purposes. There’s the idea that all authority is dangerous and to be thwarted.

I don’t think young children need exposure to such themes.

Older children, on the other hand, might benefit from watching the movie with parents and following up with in-depth discussion. I believe firmly that if parents are teaching the values and concepts they should be teaching in the first place, then they have nothing to fear from older children’s exposure to other beliefs and values. That’s all I’ll say about that for now, though, as that’s a whole ‘nother soapbox. ;o)

Now for the film’s theological implications.

I didn’t see any.


Okay, here’s the deal: Society in the world of “Compass” is controlled by a religious entity known as the Magisterium. Another glitch I have with the film is that the nature of this Magisterium wasn’t presented very clearly. It was nearly impossible to catch the names of the leaders, figure out their specific functions (for instance, I knew Christopher Lee's character was there, but I never really knew why), or even discover their actual motivations. This aspect of the film felt very loose-end and hasty to me: Scenes passed quickly, unclearly, and confusingly. I came away with the sense that the Magisterium is designed to represent the Catholic Church, or at least organized religion, but I can’t say if that’s an idea I formed based on the film itself or on the opinions of others that biased me beforehand (see 2nd paragraph). :oP

What was clear was that the Magisterium is heavy-handed, has its fingers in all the pies, and carries itself with a general Orwellian air of everyone-is-equal-except-the-ones-that-aren’t.

To me, this is not a theological implication, even if “Golden Compass” author Phillip Pullman and the film’s scriptwriters meant it to be a theological implication. There was no “killing of God” in this film, as the hype would have us believe. If there was a veiled attack on “Christianity” in the film, then it came in the form of a subtle criticism of Catholicism, which would only be problematic if one equates Catholicism with Christianity, which I don’t.

I have also heard, though, that the “killing of God” doesn’t take place until the third part of the trilogy…but I am writing now of “Compass” and not of some as-yet-unmade film I haven’t seen. I have also heard that the theological implications are more blatant in the book…but I’m reviewing the film, here, not the book.

Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware—with “The Golden Compass” and with everything else in life. If I started boycotting everything connected with the proponents of atheism, I would eventually have to seek out a lonely cave somewhere and isolate myself from the rest of the world. History’s ascetics did the same, and that’s not the will of God for any human, I believe. His will is that we “test everything and keep the good.”

“The Golden Compass” is a film for adults, not for children, unless parents are willing to take the time and put in the effort required for serious, patient discussion. Those who practice discernment need have no fear of this film. If Pullman and the filmwriters have an agenda, the best defense against it is to examine it and combat it with knowledge, not with the kind of reactionary sensationalism that inspires fear and intractability. (I once posted thoughts in a similar vein on the so-called “Gospel of Judas” here)

By itself, this film is no more “good” (morally speaking) or “evil” than any other run-of-the-mill fantasy film. If the book’s author or the filmwriters intended it to have a moral message beyond the confines of its own fantasy-world-boundaries (aside from the idea of let-us-have-no-oppressive-bodies-of-government), that message doesn’t come across.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

P.S. I took a big chunk out of my novel-writing day to get all this down, so I want to hear no complaints that I wrote too much or didn’t address something somebody else considers vital. ;oD

Thursday, February 21, 2008

i crack me up

While messaging Isaac earlier, I realized that if Ed and I put our names together the way it's done with celebrities nowadays (as in Bennifer; Tomkat; Jendra, or Kennifer, as I like to call them) ;o) our options would be as follows:

Edney (This one is acutally in use, thanks to Enrico, who once called us "Court and Edney".)

or, my personal favorite:



Monday, February 18, 2008

book comments 4

I coulda sworn I already had a post entitled "book comments 4," but after searching and not finding, I conclude that I haven't such. So, I guess I'll just get on with "4" and not worry about whether or not I'm duplicating something.

I've been reading A LOT lately (for what, prithee, would a writer be who never perused the written word?), and I don't have time to do in-depth reviews of every book. However, here's my Recently Read list, along with brief comments:

"Auralia's Colors" by Jeffrey Overstreet
--entertaining, mysterious, well-written
--fantasy with a refreshing, original twist
The "color" aspect reminds me vaguely of Lois Lowry's "The Giver," but the plots are wholly different from each other.
--highly recommend

"Karavans" by Jennifer Roberson
--excellent character development, lots of "painting" of "word pictures"
I devoured this one and am itching to get the sequel, "Deepwood."
--highly recommend

"A Man in Full" by Tom Wolfe
--have been trying to get through this one since October
--every single character irritates me
--don't recommend

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte (with the little dots over the 'e', but I'm on Ed's Mac and can't figure out how to get that letter--sorry!)
--positively brilliant
--engages heart, mind--and, dare I say, soul?--from beginning to end
Why had I never read this book before?!?!!!!?!?!?
Bronte made me feel as though my own well-being were inextricably linked to Jane's.
I was nearly as much in love with Mr. Rochester as Jane herself! ;o)
--highly, highly recommend!

"Lisey's Story" by Stephen King
--weirdly entertaining, highly imaginative, excellent character development (as always, with King)
--possible, though, that only another writer could understand the Scott Landon character
In spite of my aversions to many of King's word choices, I'm glad I broke my "no-more-Stephen-King" vow for this one.
--recommend, but caveat emptor

"The House of the Seven Gables" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
--fascinating plot, lots of painting of word pictures
--too much description of a great number of things
Hawthorne irritated me because he made fun of one of his own characters, Hepzibah, encouraging the reader to laugh at her. The author comes across as a chauvinist, which made me less interested in his story. Yes, I am biased. ;o)
Much of my interest in this novel came from my own visit to the House of the Seven Gables when I was a kid. I'll never forget the secret passageway!
--recommend (but only because it's a classic)

"Evelina" by Fanny Burney
--fun characters, engaging heroine, excellent portrait of 18th century London
I enjoyed Burney's method of telling the story via letters which the characters wrote to each other. Ah, voyeurism! ;o)
I couldn't help but compare this novel to "Jane Eyre" (and, subsequently, Lord Orville to Mr. Rochester) and conclude that Burney's doesn't quite equal Bronte's (as the Lord doesn't quite measure up to the Mr.). But I still enjoyed "Evelina" thoroughly, couldn't put it down, and finished it in two days!
--definitely recommend

"Brother Odd" by Dean Koontz
--third in a...series? trilogy?
--fascinatingly weird, very descriptive, funny
I always enjoy reading Odd Thomas, though I think the first two books about him were better than this one.
I did love the nuns, though.
--recommend, but only if you've read the first two ("Odd Thomas" and "Forever Odd")


Up next: "Velocity" by Dean Koontz and "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller

Thursday, February 14, 2008

i'm going to try to answer all comments soon

I know I don't have to, nobody's making me, yadda yadda, but I want to. I just haven't done it yet.

You get multiple chocolate chip cookies if you know why all the tags below are relevant. ;o)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

conversations with a sleeping ed

A few nights ago, I went to bed just a little while after Ed, as usual. I read for awhile, then put the book away, took off my glasses, and switched off my bedside lamp.

As I was rolling over to get comfortable, Ed leaned up on one elbow, peering blearily up at me. I was getting ready to tell him good night again, when suddenly, he said, "Why are you all green?"

Thinking I'd misunderstood, I replied, "What?"

"Why are you all green?"

"What are you talking about?"

Then came the coup de grâce. He blinked and squinted and frowned as though unable to find the right words. Finally, he asked, "Are you the Incredible Hulk?"


Saturday, February 09, 2008

one of the reasons i like living on the north american continent

Ed and I now live within easy driving distance of both sets of parents.

This means that the six of us can get together. Tonight, we did just that, as Ed's folks are in town for the weekend. I know I've mentioned before how much I am enjoying being around family...

...but have I mentioned before how much I am enjoying being around family? ;o)

It's just neat to sit in my parents' living room, look around, and see my parents and his parents, chatting together, laughing together, and getting to know each other better. They've been a part of each other's lives for ten years. I feel all cozy and pleased to think that they're finally able to spend time together, and Ed and I can be part of that and get to know our parents as they relate to each other.

My grandparents never really had that. My grandmas corresponded with each other for forty years, but the four of them never got together simply for the pleasure of getting to know one another. I'm very thankful that in this next generation, my parents and Ed's are taking a different path--and a more heart-oriented one, I believe.

Culture shock and missing Germany aside...this is nice.

a few items of randomness

The title says it. No further introduction.

--Tonight, Ed and I dropped by Buy-For-Less (not Best Buy! I'm getting it right this time!) after our dinner date. We strayed into the international foods aisle and pored over some of the items. This time, I didn't cry! And we bought Spätzle (Swabian egg noodles)!

--This week, I spent two days babysitting the Antwines' great-grandson, Ethan, since Clyde had surgery on Tuesday and Queenie couldn't take care of husband and toddler at the same time. (Imagine that!) Let me preface my following remarks with this: Ethan is adorable; an incurable flirt; and the best-behaved one-year-old I have ever met. The second day, he didn't feel well, and even then, he was still easier to take care of than nine out of ten other kids. He and I had great fun together, and when he came to me and wanted to be cuddled....well, to say my insides melted would be an understatement.

However, I also must say that I'm thankful that babies come in much smaller, less mobile packages at first. Going from no-kid straight to take-care-of-toddler absolutely wore me out. I can't remember when I was last as tired as I was at the end of those two days. And the fact that he needed my near-constant attention...well, I'll put it this way: I wouldn't be able to be a writer and take care of a baby at the same time. It just wouldn't happen.

So, for now, I am perfectly content to be the writer. Nothing against anybody or anybody's babies. It's not you, it's not them, it's me. So many of my friends and family have had babies over the last few weeks, this subject has been on my mind quite bit. My conclusion is that I am wholly selfish in this: I'm not willing to give up my time and energy for a child right now. That being the case, I have no business having one, and I currently have no problem with being selfish in this way. Yes, I would like to have a baby at some point...but not now.

Just in case anybody was wondering. ;o) Maybe this will forestall any comments such as, "Courtney, you need to have a baby." I haven't heard a lot of those since the miscarriage (thankfully, people do have a sense of tact!), but the number of such comments has been increasing of late. It hasn't gotten to the point of severe irritation yet...but I have found myself replying mentally with fairly snarky remarks that I'm not going to repeat here.

I didn't want this to turn into a baby-thoughts post, so that's all I'm gonna say about that for now.

--By the way, I whacked my head on the corner of the bathroom cabinet almost two weeks ago. The huge knot has disappeared, but it still hurts a little. I don't think I've ever hit my head that hard before. I actually saw spots, went to my knees, and thought I might pass out on the edge of the tub and probably hit my head a second time. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and I didn't even throw up (in which case I would definitely have passed out), but still.... God knew what he was doing when he designed that skull, lemme tell ya.

--Our email didn't work properly for a month, and I am still catching up on the piled-up inbox. There were over 250 emails to sort! I narrowed the must-answer ones down to about 70, and I'm slowly working my way through them. I'm down to 23. Of course, that's not counting the ones that have come in since I started sorting.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, I am seriously tempted to boycott email and tell everyone that if they want me to write them, they'd better send something through snail mail, 'cause I ain't doin' this no more. I am tempted, mind you. I'm still resisting.

(Resistance is futile; I will be assimilated? Hmmm....)

Okay, enough with the random. Ich gehe jetzt ins Bett, und damit basta!

(English-only speakers, make of that last what you will, but I truly didn't say anything indelicate!) ;oD

Friday, February 08, 2008

purging the soul of negative thoughts that won't change anything

It is an unfortunate and frustrating thing not to be forgiven one's inefficiency.

But if someone refuses to forgive me for mine, it is not my problem.

Friday, February 01, 2008

excerpt from Pippin's thoughts

"Hey, look! A _____________! I wonder if I could jump on that?"