Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Books of 2016

The new year is wrapping up, and it's time to recap my favorite books I read for the first time in 2016.  These are books I read 2016, not necessarily books published in 2016.  I don't think I read a single book published this year...what can I say?  I like old books and I cannot lie.

Let's jump right in.

#10: The Philosophy of Tolkien

By: Peter J. Kreeft

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#9: The Divine Comedy

By: Dante Alighieri



#8: Witness to Hope

By: George Weigel 

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#7: Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

By: Humphrey Carpenter

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#6: The History of the Medieval World

By: Susan Wise Bauer

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#5: Le Fantome de l'Opera

By: Gaston Leroux

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#4: Screwtape Letters

By: C.S. Lewis

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#3: Les Miserables

By: Victor Hugo

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#2: War and Peace

By: Leo Tolstoy

Image result for war and peace book anthony briggs

#1: The Once and Future King

By: T.H. White

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My reviews of all the books I read over the course of 2016 are available in the Book Nook.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Utopia

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

“A pretty face may be enough to catch a man, but it takes character and good nature to hold him.” 

“[how can anyone] be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer woolen thread than theirs. After all, those fine clothes were once worn by a sheep, and they never turned it into anything better than a sheep.” 

“You wouldn't abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn't control the winds.” 

“Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody's under the frightful necessity of becoming first a thief and then a corpse.” 

“Pride thinks it's own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.” 

“Kindness and good nature unite men more effectually and with greater strength than any agreements whatsoever, since thereby the engagements of men's hearts become stronger than the bond and obligation of words.” 

“Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich - for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety?” 

“Why do you suppose they made you king in the first place?' I ask him. 'Not for your benefit, but for theirs. They meant you to devote your energies to making their lives more comfortable, and protecting them from injustice. So your job is to see that they're all right, not that you are - just as a shepherd's job, strictly speaking, is to feed his sheep, not himself.” 

“It is only natural, of course, that each man should think his own opinions best: the crow loves his fledgling, and the ape his cub.” 

“Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all.” 

“Nor can they understand why a totally useless substance like gold should now, all over the world, be considered far more important than human beings, who gave it such value as it has, purely for their own convenience.” 

“We did not ask if he had seen any monsters, for monsters have ceased to be news. There is never any shortage of horrible creatures who prey on human beings, snatch away their food, or devour whole populations; but examples of wise social planning are not so easy to find.” 

“there is nothing more inglorious than that glory that is gained by war” 

“If a king should fall under such contempt or envy that he could not keep his subjects in their duty but by oppression and ill usage, and by rendering them poor and miserable, it were certainly better for him to quit his kingdom than to retain it by such methods as make him, while he keeps the name of authority, lose the majesty due to it.” 

“(...) personal prejudice and financial greed are the two great evils that threaten courts of law, and once they get the upper hand they immediately hamstring society, by destroying all justice.” 

“In the first place, most princes apply themselves to the arts of war, in which I have neither ability nor interest, instead of to the good arts of peace. They are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms by hook or by crook than on governing well those that they already have.” 

“Most people know nothing about learning; many despise it. Dummies reject as too hard whatever is not dumb.” 

“The way to heaven out of all places is of length and distance.” 

“To tell you the truth, though, I still haven't made up my mind whether I shall publish at all. Tastes differ so widely, and some people are so humourless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one's efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them.” 

“No living creature is naturally greedy, except from fear of want - or in the case of human beings, from vanity, the notion that you're better than people if you can display more superfluous property than they can.” 

“for what justice is there in this: that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, that either does nothing at all, or, at best, is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendour upon what is so ill acquired, and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a ploughman, that works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labours so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? ” 

“Some men may be snared by beauty alone, but none can be held except by virtue and compliance.” 

“Then, too, the senate has a rule that no point is discussed on the same day it is brought up, but rather it is put off till the next meeting; they do this so that someone who blurts out the first thing that occurs to him will not proceed to think up arguments to defend his position instead of looking for what is of use to the commonwealth, being willing to damage the public welfare rather than his own reputation, ashamed, as it were, in a perverse and wrong-headed way, to admit that his first view was short-sighted. From the start such a person should have taken care to speak with deliberation rather than haste.” 

“No, do the best you can to make the present production a success - don't spoil the entire play just because you happen to think of another one that you'd enjoy rather more.” 

“But what they find most amazing and despicable is the insanity of those who all but worship the rich, to whom they owe nothing and who can do them no harm; they do so for no other reason except that they are rich, knowing full well that they are so mean and tightfisted that they will certainly never give them one red cent during their whole lives.” 

“The folly of men has enhanced the value of gold and silver because of their scarcity; whereas, on the contrary, it is their opinion that Nature, as an indulgent parent, has freely given us all the best things in great abundance, such as water and earth, but has laid up and hid from us the things that are vain and useless.” 

“The Utopians call those nations that come and ask magistrates from them Neighbours; but those to whom they have been of more particular service, Friends; and as all other nations are perpetually either making leagues or breaking them, they never enter into an alliance with any state. They think leagues are useless things, and believe that if the common ties of humanity do not knit men together, the faith of promises will have no great effect; and they are the more confirmed in this by what they see among the nations round about them, who are no strict observers of leagues and treaties.”  

“Pride thinks its own happiness shines the brighter, by comparing it with the misfortunes of other persons; that by displaying its own wealth they may feel their poverty the more sensibly.” 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Sacrifice Tag

I stole the Book Sacrifice Tag mwahahaha.  I've actually seen this around for awhile, notable on the PolandbananasBOOKS YouTube channel and now Erudessa Anduriel recently did it which reminded me of how I've always intended to do it at some point.



1) An Over-Hyped book: Let's start this off with a Zombie Apocalypse! Let's say you're in a book store, just browsing, when BAM! ZOMBIE ATTACK! An announcement comes over the PA System saying that the military has discovered that the zombies' only weakness is over-hyped books. What book that everyone else says is amazing but you really hated do you start chucking at the zombies knowing that it will count as an over-hyped book and successfully wipe them out?!


Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant.  Look, they were okay books, but they weren't fantastic by any means.  Simply, they weren't as good as everyone made them out to be.

They were hailed as the new Hunger Games trilogy, but to be honest, it can't even compare to HG in terms of character development and originality.

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Rachael's Site


2) A Sequel: Let's say you've just left the salon with a SMASHING new haircut and BOOM: Torrential downpour. What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?

Easy peasy. Crossed is the worst sequel I have ever read. Matched was a fantastic book with great characters, motivation, and an intriguing setting. Crossed failed to incorporate any suspense or conflict into this book, the character remained stagnant and uninteresting, and the setting was a boring canyon for the duration of the book. 

 A waste of time to read, and sadly a huge disappointment since Matched was so awesome. Crossed is to Matched as The Phantom Menace is to Star Wars.

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Amazon.com

3) A Classic: Let's say you're in a lecture and your English teacher is going on and on about how this classic changed the world, how it revolutionized literature and you get so sick of it that you chuck the classic right at his face because you know what? This classic is stupid and it's worth detention just to show everyone how you feel! What Classic did you chuck?

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  Literally my least favorite book.  Not the worst book (that's Crossed, just because it is written terribly) but my least favorite because (though it's written well) I hate pretty much everything about it.

Wow, I'm getting mad just thinking about it.  It my least favorite book ever and certainly does not deserve to be a classic.

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Amazon.com


4) Your least favourite book of life!: Let's say that you're hanging out at the library when BAM global warming explodes and the world outside becomes a frozen wasteland. You're trapped and your only chance for survival is to burn a book. What is the book you first run to, your least favourite book of all life, what book do you not fully regret lighting?


Oh easy!!  It's still A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  I would gleefully burn that book if it came to it.

It's full of complete Americanism and looks down upon every aspect of the Middle Ages with complete, unbridled (and in some cases unmerited) superiority.  This is literally the most pretentious and distasteful book I have ever had the displeasure of reading.  Golly it's terrible.

*deep breath of calming*

I tag anyone who has ever closed a book and said to themselves "wow, that was awful."  This challenge is for you!

Les Questions:

1) An Over-Hyped book: Let's start this off with a Zombie Apocalypse! Let's say you're in a book store, just browsing, when BAM! ZOMBIE ATTACK! An announcement comes over the PA System saying that the military has discovered that the zombies' only weakness is over-hyped books. What book that everyone else says is amazing but you really hated do you start chucking at the zombies knowing that it will count as an over-hyped book and successfully wipe them out?!


2) A Sequel: Let's say you've just left the salon with a SMASHING new haircut and BOOM: Torrential downpour. What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?


3) A Classic: Let's say you're in a lecture and your English teacher is going on and on about how this classic changed the world, how it revolutionized literature and you get so sick of it that you chuck the classic right at his face because you know what? This classic is stupid and it's worth detention just to show everyone how you feel! What Classic did you chuck?


4) Your least favourite book of life! Let's say that you're hanging out at the library when BAM global warming explodes and the world outside becomes a frozen wasteland. You're trapped and your only chance for survival is to burn a book. What is the book you first run to, your least favourite book of all life, what book do you not fully regret lighting?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Everlasting Man

Image result for everlasting manG.K. Chesterton
1925

The Everlasting Man is essentially a very long essay that seeks to prove one thesis: that there is something special about Christianity which sets it apart from many other religions and mythologies through the years.

G.K. Chesterton is a master of analogy and clear wording.  No word in this book is trivial, and you can tell they were all carefully chosen.

Everything is very organized and succinct which makes for an enjoyable read.

I strongly recommend this book!

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

“There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.”

“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”

“The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one.

He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.”

“Nobody understands the nature of the Church, or the ringing note of the creed descending from antiquity, who does not realize that the whole world once very nearly died of broadmindedness and the brotherhood of all religions.”

“Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless.”

“Classic literature is still something that hangs in the air like a song.”

“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.” 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher

In Memoriam


You may know that Carrie Fisher passed away from a heart attack this morning at the age of 60.  She suffered the heart attack aboard a plane from London to LAX.

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The Inquisitr

Now my dad knows practically every actor in every movie, particularly older films.  Periodically he will call to me to inform me an actor he knows of has passed away.  Every time he does this, I usually just think, "oh, that's too bad," maybe say a quick prayer and get back to whatever I'm doing.

But every once in a while an actor I actually am familiar with and know a bit about will pass away, and things are a bit different.  

Today has a strange feeling about it because on the one hand, I have never met this actress, and I am not a huge super-fan or anything.  But on the other hand, I still feel sad that I won't be able to watch anymore funny interviews with her or anything like that.

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Deadline

Just last month I saw her appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new book, and yeah, she aged, but she was still up and at 'em.  It's surprising how suddenly and how relatively young she was when she passed away.

It will be impossible to go back and watch the Star Wars trilogy without being reminded that one of the main character's likeness only exists in a few hours of space, and outside of that, we can't see her or hear her speak.  It's sad, really.  Episode VIII next year (which she finished filming recently) will be very different now that she's passed away.

Carrie Fisher wasn't a great role model in some cases, I would say, and she did some questionable things as a young person.  But she was charismatic and charming, beautiful, and very funny and I respect her for having these qualities.

I hope Carrie Fisher rests in peace and that in her last moments she looked back on her life and was happy with what she accomplished.  I hope she understands that she profoundly impacted many people and won't be forgotten for a long time.

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Dork Side of the Force

Friday, December 23, 2016

Music of the Night

A piano solo performed by me!

Sorry for the piano being out of tune!  Getting it tuned is on my Christmas wishlist so we'll see what happens.

Also, if you're wondering why my fingerings are so terrible, it's because I was never formally trained.  Okay, I took like two weeks worth of lessons in the fourth grade, but all I learned to do was scales.

This video may not appear on mobile devices--sorry!!

Also, I now have a YouTube channel (in an effort to fix the mobile device problem) so please head over there and subscribe if you're interested in receiving my videos.  Enjoy!!


My channel






Lyrics
Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness wakes and stirs imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses
Helpless to resist the notes I write
For I compose the music of the night

Slowly, gently night unfurls it's splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Hearing is believing, music is deceiving
Hard as lightening, soft as candlelight
Dare you trust the music of the night

Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth
and the truth isn't what you want to see
In the dark it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
hear it, fear it, secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night

Close your eyes, start a journey to a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before
Close your eyes and let music set you free
Only then can you belong to me

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savour each sensation
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

You alone can make the song take flight
Help me make the music of the night

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dance of the Knights

Okay this song is amazing and has been stuck in my head forever.

This needs to become the background music of my life.



From good ol' Wikipedia:

The work is in loose ternary form, with an abridged da capo section. The introduction has no thematic content and is only intended to create a dark atmosphere. It begins very loud, then drops to pianissimo, which is played by the strings. The horns and woodwinds then layer on top of the strings and the dynamics return to fortissimo. It then drops to piano again. Prokofiev creates the dark and foreboding mood through the extreme dynamic range and very dissonant harmonies.

The A section begins with a strong pulsating beat from the brass section. This shows motoric rhythm, one of Prokofiev's signatures. The texture of this opening is almost metronomic, and provides a strong foundation for the dramatic string theme that comes out on top of it. Later on, the brass also takes up a soaring counter theme, and also punctuates the original string theme. In the ballet, this section would show the Capulets dancing in a very slow and dignified way, as this is the music for the Capulet Ball.

The B section provides a stark contrast, as it is in the pianissimo dynamic range and is played by the flutes. It is marked adagio, and is very calm and serene. Prokofiev also utilizes touches of celesta in this section, which was highly unusual in orchestral works. In the middle of this section, there is an oboe solo accompanied by pizzicato strings. This section is meant to represent Juliet's entrance to the ball, as she flits about and meets various people.  She eventually dances with the Count Paris until the close of this section.

When the A section comes back, it is when Juliet has laid eyes on Romeo. It is much abridged, and the first re-presentation of the theme is done as a tenor saxophone solo, which was highly unusual for the time period. Eventually, the strings join in, and the piece ends with a very strong cadence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Screwtape Letters

Image result for the screwtape lettersWoahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

This book was eximious!

I just finished C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, and to be honest, I was getting a little sick of his writing and just wanting to plow through that section on my reading list and just move on to something else I actually wanted to read.  You may have noticed it took me ages to read The Chronicles of Narnia and the Space Trilogy, and now you know why.

It's not that I necessarily hated them, I just didn't care that much about them and subsequently spent as little time as possible reading them.  Which caused me to forget what I had read earlier.  Which made me confused.  And made me not want to read.

But this.  This book is exceptional in pretty much every sense of the word.  In some ways, I feel that Lewis can come off as a bit too preachy in his books, and yes, he is kind of preachy in this book, but it's in a unique and unpretentious style.

Ah, but wait, first I must summarize!!

This book is like nothing I have ever read before.  It is told from the extremely unique perspective of a demon sending letters to a fellow demon with tips on how to corrupt the demon's charge in order to succeed in bringing him to Hell at the end of his life.
Man in Blue Shirt Reading Book
The main reasons I love the book are because:

  1. It isn't too preachy
  2. It is insightful
  3. It is written in a fantastic style
  4. It is inspiring
  5. It is a quick read

So the reason this book is not as pretentious as I feel some of Lewis' work can be is because Lewis knows just as well as anybody (and maybe better than other people) that he is susceptible to the same kind of temptation as the demon's charge in the story.

This book is scarily insightful.  Half the things in this book I've never really articulated to myself, but somehow I've always known them.  They didn't really occur or matter to me until Lewis said them.  As I read them they struck me as completely original and yet something completely correct.

My thoughts: "Of course I knew that!...but I've never really confronted it or thought of the implications..."

This book covers...so many things!  It tackles human weakness, the problem of suffering, intellectual study, and the list goes on and on.

One of my favorite tidbits from this book which I've never even heard mentioned before is in Chapter 29.  I was honestly shocked when I read this.  With all the podcasts and books I've read about the problem of evil, I've never encountered this idea before and it's honestly revolutionary.  Lewis slides it in so casually though!

"We [demons] have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice.  Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame."

Fire Fighter Wearing Black and Yellow Uniform Pointing for SomethingYikes!  Am I the only one that's never had that explained to them?  I've heard a million explanations for the problem of evil (why does God allow evil to happen if he is all powerful and all good?), and never once has someone presented it this way.

But he's so right!  Disasters and tragedies offer humans a chance to step up and be virtuous we otherwise might not have.  Wow.

I also love the ending of Screwtape Proposes a Toast, an essay by Lewis included separately in my copy of the Screwtape Letters.

"All said and done, my friends, it will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by 'religion' ever vanishes from the Earth.  It can still send us the truly delicious sins...nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar."

This sends a strong reminder that just going to church or being upright is not enough to certainly keep you safe from the Devil.

This book also reminds people that the Devil is a real and prominent threat.  This little demon, Wormwood is his name, is constantly looking for ways to corrupt his charge.  He is always doing little things to get at him.  This is an affirmation that, as Jesus says, if you're not with him, you're against him.

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The New York Review of Books

In everything you do, there are two sides.  No matter what you are doing, you are choosing a side.

This book tackles not only vague instances of human nature, but also looks at contemporary events very closely, like WWII, and the French Revolution (in the afterword).  This is a really helpful concrete expression of how evil manifests itself in the world.

This book is a super quick read, another reason I love it.  It's not wordy, but it is heavy stuff.  I like that it is short so it gives the reader an opportunity to digest what they are taking in.  I think it would be great to read this book once a year or so to remind yourself of the truth of evil in the world and the need to pay attention.  The short length allows even the busiest person to reflect on it.

Woman on Rock Platform Viewing City

I could go on and on, but honestly, you might as well just pick up the book!  It's so quick and effortless to read that you can finish in a day and be super happy with what you've read, and challenged at the same time.

Have you ever read this?  You absolutely must!  Come back and tell me what you think :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That Hideous Strength

Image result for that hideous strength book cover
Amazon.com
C.S. Lewis
Space Trilogy
The Bodley Head, 1945

“There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one.”

“Don't you like a rather foggy a in a wood in autumn? You'll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car."
Jane said she'd never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn't mind trying. All three got in.
"That's why Camilla and I got married, "said Denniston as they drove off. "We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It's a useful taste if one lives in England."
"How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?" said Jane. "I don't think I should ever learn to like rain and snow."
"It's the other way round," said Denniston. "Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children - and the dogs? They know what snow's made for."
"I'm sure I hated wet days as a child," said Jane.
"That's because the grown-ups kept you in," said Camilla. "Any child loves rain if it's allowed to go out and paddle about in it.”

“Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something, together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not.”

“The universe is so very complicated," said Dr Dimble.
"So you have said rather often before, dear," replied Mrs Dimble
"Have I?" he said with a smile. "How often, I wonder? As often as you've told the story of the pony and trap at Dawlish?"
"Cecil! I haven't told it for years."
"My dear, I heard you telling it to Camilla the night before last."
"Oh, Camilla! That was quite different. She'd never heard it before."
"I don't know if we can even be certain about that...the universe being so complicated and all." For a few minutes there was silence between them.
"But about Merlin?" asked Mrs Dimble presently.
"Have you ever noticed," said Dimble," that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?"
His wife waited as those wait who know by long experience the mental processes of the person who is talking to them.
"I mean this," said Dimble, answering the question she had not asked. "If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family—anything you like—at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there's going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing.”

“Why you fool, it's the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right
“Isn't it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That's how we get things done.”

“They would say,” he answered, “that you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.”

“The laws of the universe are never broken. Your mistake is to think that the little regularities we have observed on one planet for a few hundred years are the real unbreakable laws; whereas they are only the remote results which the true laws bring about more often than not; as a kind of accident.”

“They have pulled down deep heaven on their heads.”

“Be thou glad sleeper and thy sorrow offcast. I am the gate to all good adventure.”

“Materialism is in fact no protection. Those who seek it in that hope (they are not a negligible class) will be disappointed. The thing you fear is impossible. Well and good. Can you therefore cease to fear it? Not here and now. And what then? If you must see ghosts, it is better not to disbelieve in them.”

“His education had been neither scientific nor classical—merely “Modern.” The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling.”

“And Dimble, who had been sitting with his face drawn, and rather white, between the white faces of the two women, and his eyes on the table, raised his head, and great syllables of words that sounded like castles came out of his mouth. Jane felt her hear leap and quiver at them. Everything else in the room seemed to have been intensely quiet; even the bird, and the bear, and the cat, were still, staring at the speaker. The voice did not sound like Dimble's own: it was as if the words spoke themselves through him from some strong place at a distance--or as if they were not words at all but present operations of God, the planets, and the Pendragon. For this was the language spoken before the Fall and beyond the Moon and the meanings were not given to the syllables by chance, or skill, or long tradition, but truly inherent in them as the shape of the great Sun is inherent in the little waterdrop. This was Language herself, as she first sprang at Maleldil's bidding out of the molten quicksilver of the first star called Mercury on Earth, but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven.”

“We all have different languages; but we all really mean the same thing.”

“We want you to write it down--to camouflage it. Only for the present, of course. Once the thing gets going we shan't have to bother about the great heart of the British public. We'll make the great heart what we want it to be. But in the meantime, it does make a difference how things are put. For instance, if it were even whispered that the N.I.C.E. wanted powers to experiment on criminals, you'd have all the old women of both sexes up in arms and yapping about humanity. Call it re-education of the mal-adjusted, and you have them all slobbering with delight that the brutal era of retributive punishment has at last come to and end. Odd thing it is--the word 'experiment' is unpopular, but not the word 'experimental.' You must'nt experiment on children; but offer the dear little kiddies free education in an experimental school attached to the N.I.C.E. and it's all correct!”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review - No Spoilers

Here's my non-spoiler review of Rogue One which I saw today in theaters with my friend Hailley.  I will have a spoiler review up shortly, but if you haven't seen Rogue One yet, this review will not spoil you.

I also am going to go back and review Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and Force Awakens properly in the coming days because I ran out of time this week.  I am reviewing them out of order because I'm a rebel (get it?).

You can see my other Star Wars Reviews here:  The Phantom Menace - A New Hope - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi

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The Verge

So Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance acquired the plans to the Death Star.  These are the same plans that Princess Leia gives to R2D2 and sends to Obi-wan at the beginning of A New Hope.  The events of Rogue One take place about six months in advance of the beginning of A New Hope.

The name Rogue One refers to the squad of rebels who is responsible for ascertaining the plans.

The main character is Jyn, and her father is sort of forced to help the Empire against his will in constructing the Death Star.  He secretly creates weak points in the Death Star since he still sympathizes with the Rebels.  Eventually it becomes Jyn's responsibility to locate the plans in order to stop the Empire.

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MovieWeb

First off, this film is based around a really creative idea.  In A New Hope it appears super easy to destroy the Death Star, but once you know the backstory of how the plans were taken in the first place (and the reason the Death Star has a weakness in the first place) it becomes clear that it wasn't as easy as it appeared.  I would say this reason alone warrants a watch of Rogue One.  It's worth it to know the backstory.

Even though the idea is great, some of the plot isn't the best fleshed out and it seems rushed in some parts and extremely lagging in others.  The pacing problem I'm guessing is due to production problems and multiple re-shoots, and you can tell the movie doesn't quite flow precisely.  One example of this is at the ending.  Without spoiling too much, let's just say that certain characters were meant to die because they were not in the original trilogy.  The film did not really give a super compelling reason for them to die, but just kind of rushed them out the door within the last few minutes of the reason.  This seemed really poorly planned out.

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Engadget

With that said, the lighting is really beautiful, in my opinion.  I particularly liked the ending when things were tied in with A New Hope because the lighting used aboard Leia's ship was really similar to what it looked like in the original film and it tied things together well.  Even though this movie comes before A New Hope, it obviously has better effects and looks great, but those ending scenes recalled what the original film looked like without trying to show off.  I feel that this was a smooth transition.

Additionally, this film has some stunning visual effects.  I can't give away what my favorite visual effect is without spoiling things, but just be prepared to be blown away.

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YouTube

One thing I felt this film really lacked was compelling characters.  I found myself disinterested when certain things would happen to characters because I simply didn't care about their fate that much. When Han was frozen in carbonite in the Empire Strikes Back, I was beside myself.  When characters in this film are completely obliterated--and this is going to sound bad--I didn't really...care??

I think too much of this film was devoted to action sequences rather than character development.

So what's my conclusion?  I say go see the film because it does add to the original story.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than Force Awakens?  Nope.  But is it worth two hours?  Sure, if you want the whole Star Wars story.

So let me know what you thought of Rogue One, and I'll be back with a spoiler review shortly.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

PP: Rey Skywalker Confirmed (Almost)

Palantir Podcast


My theory is that Luke Skywalker is Rey's father, and in this episode I explain why I believe that with evidence from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

I will have a more precise transcript of this podcast shortly (assuming the impending snowstorm doesn't completely bury my house and cut me off from the internet ;)

The podcast may not appear on mobile devices.

See the archive for more Palantir Podcasts!

video

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Phantom Menace

The rest of this week is dedicated to my review of the Star Wars prequels, then the Force Awakens on Friday, and finally Rogue One on Saturday.  See my reviews for A New Hope and Empire as well as Return of the Jedi.  Let's jump in right away with The Phantom Menace!

Going into Phantom Menace, I knew that it wasn't going to be as good as the original trilogy.  I had heard the title muttered a few times and it was always met with disapproving head-shakes or mocking chuckles.  I didn't necessarily think I was going to hate it since there are some movies that a lot of people I know hate but I like and movies that I hate but lots of people love (*cough cough* Hobbit movies *cough cough* Phantom of the Opera 2004).

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Wikipedia

I can safely say, however, that I share the mainstream opinion when it comes to Phantom Menace.

Ay yai yai, this movie is terrible!  I will try not to hate too much on it because I know there are some people who do like the prequels and are probably sick of people constantly ripping on them.

But honestly, here are some of the things that I found wrong with the film.

Characters


It wasn't the lack of Leia, Luke, and Han that disappointed me necessarily (I knew that it was going to happen).  It was the lack of any character that I even remotely cared about.  This problem got better in the second two prequels, and was mainly a Phantom Menace issue.

Chris Stuckmann, a movie reviewer I really look up to, challenged his viewers to identify the main character of the movie.  It's basically impossible, when you consider it!

Is it Qui-Gon?  He's only in this film and has really zero character arc, so why would the filmmakers do that?  Was it Obi-wan?  He basically acts as Qui-Gon's sidekick the entire time (which makes sense since he is his apprentice).  It can't be Anakin, who doesn't come in until forty-five minutes in and who has basically zero control over things happening to him.

WHO IS IT, THEN???

Can you figure it out?

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Quickmeme

Not only is there no identifiable protagonist, but the existing characters have little to no personality and therefore they get "one-quarter portion" of my sympathy.  

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Pinterest

The problem I grappled with as I watched was: all these actors are great, yet there characters have no personality and practically no emotion!  Why??

Acting


Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Liam Neeson are all pretty good actors.  But in this movie all of the performances fall completely flat.  Everyone seems kind of expressionless and disinterested.  Why though?  I think it was because a lot of the filming was actually just done in front of green or blue screens and without actual sets.  I blame this on the filmmakers and not the actors since they did not provide their employees with a reasonable way to actually express emotion.

Additionally, since green and blue screen weren't usually used so extensively at the time, many actors would be caught off guard by the strange method and consequently the performances struggled.

The other reason the performances are not great is because of the horrible, horrible dialogue.  

Things like Anakin's "are you an angel?" to Padme is just weird and...like really, who on earth would say that in real life?  No one!  What kind of shady screenwriting is that?  *calms down because she promised she wouldn't hate on the movie*


Can anyone deliver that line convincingly?

I mean, could Yoda even believe in any of the dialogue being said??  I think I'm with Luke on this one.

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Fly With Me Productions

Plot


This movie was duller than a sphere.

An hour and a half of squabbling over trade agreements and peace treaties?

Hmm, that's what I call entertainment.

Jar Jar Binks


Words can't describe.  I...just...no.

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Imgflip

Darth Maul


I think Darth Maul was a pretty interesting character.  He had a great look and seemed really powerful.  He seems way cooler than Count Dooku and it's really too bad that he got out of the trilogy so early on.

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Den of Geek

Music


The music at the ending was really great, and Duel of Fates is a fantastic track.  Another plus about the movie is that the light saber battles look great.  However, because there is no emotional stakes (unlike Luke and Vader's battle in Jedi) they fall flat.

-__-

What else can I even say?  Not even the number of action figures sold off this movie is greater than the times this movie has been picked apart and prodded.  

So what did you think of Phantom Menace?  Is it really as horrible as people say, in your opinion?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Perelandra

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C.S. Lewis
Space Trilogy
1943 


“Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.”

“Be confident small immortals. You are not the only voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come.”

“The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths--but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.”

“I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that?”

“It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom,” said the Voice...

The whole distinction between things accidental and things designed, like the distinction between fact and myth, was purely terrestrial. The pattern is so large that within the little frame of earthly experience there appear pieces of it between which we can see no connection, and other pieces between which we can. Hence we rightly, for our sue, distinguish the accidental from the essential. But step outside that frame and the distinction drops down into the void, fluttering useless wings. He had been forced out of the frame, caught up into the larger pattern… “My name also is Ransom,” said the Voice.”

White Pink Rose on Brown Wicker Basket Near White Wall

“you had nothing to say about it and yet made the nothing up into words.”

“In the name of the Fathers, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, here goes-I mean Amen.”

“Where Maleldil is, there is the centre. He is in every place. Not some of Him in one place and some in another, but in each place the whole Maleldil, even in the smallness beyond though. There is no way out of the centre save into the Bent Will which casts itself into the Nowhere. Blessed be He! Each thing was made for Him. He is the centre. Because we are with Him, each of us is at the centre...In His city all things are made for each. When He died in the Wonded World He died not for men, but for each man. If each mad had been the only man made, He would have done no less. Each thing, from the single grain of Dust to the strongest eldil, is the end and the final cause of all creation and the mirror in which the beam of His brightness comes to rest and so returns to Him. Blessed be He!”

“As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it is also dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable. Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.”

Women's Black Zip Up Hooded Jacket

“I thought ... that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of [Earth] where men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is a delight with terror in it! One's own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths--but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.”

“Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be vulgarity - like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.”

“Well,' said Ransom, 'if it is a delusion, it's a pretty stubborn one.”

Brown Firewood

“The whole struggle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of victory. You might say, if you liked, that the power of choice had been simply set aside and an inflexible destiny substituted for it. On the other hand, you might say he had delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged in unassailable freedom. Ransom could not for the life of him, see any difference between these two statements. Predestination and freedom were apparently identical. He could no longer see any meaning in the many arguments he had heart on the subject.”

“When they told him this, Ransom at last understood why mythology was what it was -- gleams of celestial strength and beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.”

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I enjoyed this book and wanted to share some quotes with you.

In other blog news, I have recently viewed the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the reviews will be up soon.  Keep checking back here--I have lots to say about these three movies... :)

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CinemaBlend

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fun with Socks

It's a timeless complaint that socks are the worst Christmas present (next to coal).  Recently I randomly acquired a gift of socks for answering a question correctly in CCD class (basically a class people take in the years prior to being confirmed in the Catholic church).  

But as soon as the socks were in my hand I knew what I was going to do with them...

Extreme Makeover Sock Version

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Cut the tip off your sock (try to get socks with the longest
heel-top length possible).

You basically get a boot cover that works in multiple ways:

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You can wear the covers over regular socks and you instantly get
taller socks which means you can show off the pattern or colors.  Plus
it's much warmer that way!

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Pardon the blurry photo, but the covers also work as cute boot covers.

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Since the length of the sock is completely adjustable once the tip is cut
off, you can also pull them down and wear them with flats.

So if you happen to get socks this Christmas, be happy about it!  Always think of things creatively :)

Créer c'est vivre deux fois

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Out of the Silent Planet

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Amazon.com

C.S. Lewis
1938


C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both agreed that Lewis would write a story about space travel and Tolkien would write about time travel.  Unfortunately, Tolkien's story wasn't completed (he was busy with a few other small books...) and only exists in part in the Lost Road and Other Writings.

The story of Out of the Silent Planet follows a man named Ransom (or at least called Ransom in the story) as he is kidnapped by his old school chum Weston and sent to a planet called Malacandra.  

Ransom overhears Weston and his friend chatting about how they are going to sacrifice Ransom to the mysterious Malacandrian creatures known as sorns.  Ransom takes a knife and runs away--only to fall himself lost on a planet he's never encountered.

He meets a creature called a hross who teaches him the language of his people and helps Ransom along.  Eventually Ransom is freed from the planet and returns home.

The beginning of this book was super well-written and I found it really entertaining.  Towards the middle I felt that some of the explanation of different creatures and scenery dragged just a bit and though there was a nagging sense of tension in the back of my mind, for a few chapters not much was happening other than Ransom was getting acquainted with the planet.

I do enjoy C.S. Lewis writing for the most part, this book more so than the Chronicles of Narnia (in writing style only pretty much).  

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One part I particularly liked was when Ransom asked Weston what was going on and Weston kind of refused to explain what was happening:

"I suppose it will save you trouble if I deal with these questions at once, instead of leaving you to pester us with them every hour for the next month.  As to how we do it--I suppose you mean how the space-ship works--there's no good your asking that.  Unless you were one of the four or five real physicists now living you couldn't understand: and if there were any chance of your understanding you certainly wouldn't be told.  If it makes you happy to repeat words that don't mean anything--which is in fact, what unscientific people want when they ask for an explanation--you may say we work by exploiting the less observable properties of solar radiation.  As to why we are here , we are on our way to Malacandra..." (pg. 28)

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AndromedaRoach - DeviantArt

A couple things I like about this passage is that first of all, it kind of confronts the annoying idea that the only way of knowing things is through science and that the rest is "words that don't mean anything".  I mean, really if you think about it, is it possible to scientifically prove that the only way to know things is through science?  Of course not--it's an epistemological idea which is philosophical. The very idea contradicts itself.

I also like how Lewis cleverly kept the exact idea of how the trip was managed relatively vague.  This is something I am trying really hard to do in les livre because I am certainly not a physicist, and even if I was, science is changing and expanding all the time.  Any explanation I (or Lewis) could give would likely be outdated in short order.

Plus, it's not really the how that counts, it's the why in this story.

Another one of my favorite passages shows just how great Lewis is at describing things and creating surreal images in a reader's mind.  Take a read of this:

"The Earth's disk was nowhere to be seen; the stars, thick as daisies on an uncut lawn, reigned perpetually with no cloud, no moon, no sunrise to dispute their sway. There were planets of unbelievable majesty, and constellations undreamed of: there were celestial sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and pin-pricks of burning gold; far out on the left of the picture hung a comet, tiny and remote: and between all and behind all, far more emphatic and palpable than it showed on Earth, the undimensioned, enigmatic blackness." (pg. 33)

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Story Warren

I've been trying to think of creative ways to describe space for my own story, and this is a prime example of how to do it.  What metaphors!

In Chapter 22 Lewis explains how he acquired all this information from Ransom, and reveals that Ransom is not actually the professor's real name.  I found this pretty fascinating because I always love when authors give a reason for their books' existence.  The Lord of the Rings, for instance, supposedly exists because the Hobbits wrote down their adventures.  I did like how C.S. Lewis tied this in.

The other thing that struck me about this book was how similar to Tolkien it was.  First of all, the character of Ransom reminds me greatly of Tolkien.  He's a philologist, older, a don at the university, and sort of booky.  The other Tolkien-esque element of this book is the idea of rediscovery.

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TheWrap

Tolkien wrote extensively on the idea of using fantasy to rediscover elements of our own world that we've forgotten about.  He commented on this in Mythopoeia and other writings, and I've always found it fascinating.  I've have written on this topic multiple times.  In this story, Lewis shows the same idea because Ransom comes to appreciate everything on Earth much more when he returns and to look at it with renewed interest.

In summary, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick but thoughtful and deep read.  Let me know what you think of C.S. Lewis' attempt to write about space travel.

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The Space Review