Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The story of King David, which is the story of Jesus Christ, which is the story of the salvation of all humanity, begins with the story of Samuel; and the story of Samuel begins with the story of one unhappy, unlucky person named Hannah, who prayed to the Lord for her dearest desire; and, when she finally got it, gave it up out of gratitude for the God who heard her heart's wordless cry.
God? I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25, 2012

Stayed up later than I have in Quite Some Time, finishing one last present. Slept in my clothes like a little kid. Headache like somebody's driving a stake between my temples.
Happy Christmas, my dears; and I hope everyone has a marvelous, blessed, happy, and issue-free day.
More to follow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

Note: This is not a play on words, for once, I am actually talking about the Hobbit.

Firstly, I've discovered that I never want to go to another movie I actually care about at any showing BESIDES the midnight premier. Ever again. Because for years, I've been damaging my blood pressure over the fact that people sit stoically and unaffected in a theater, mindlessly consuming a masterpiece as if it was the world's job to entertain them, and leave without so much as putting their hands together a few times in honor of cast, writer, director, producer, or whatever a 'best boy' is. These people spent years of their lives and long, agonizing, sleepless nights into making the movie you just spent two hours watching, the least you could do is clap, right? (Can you tell I've got a pet peeve?). The midnight premier, however, is an entirely different story. People, like, care. Not only did they clap AFTER the movie, they clapped when the lights went down and the commercials started. They clapped at the opening credits. And they clapped, lo and behold, during the movie too. And cheered. And hooted. And so on. Whenever there was a particularly great scene. So, no more. If I don't make it opening night, I might just wait for the DVD from now on.

On the topic of the movie itself, I was completely blown away. It's difficult to find anything else to say. Peter Jackson and the lot have done it again, as far as I'm concerned. It was well imagined, well cast, and so on. Visually, it lived up to the expectations of viewers looking for the same level of excellence as the previous films. The writing was tight, picking up and cutting off (oh, that cliff hanger) at exactly the right points. The first film fills the role of setting the scene for the trilogy. Major characters, major conflict, enough character development to get things rolling. For readers of the book, it left off just before one would expect the introduction of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). I'm a little befuddled, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, over the decision to make three movies of one book. With that kind of pacing, The Lord of the Rings series could've taken up about ten movies (maybe then Tom Bombadil would've been welcome. Yes, I'm still sore about that.). I've heard it said that they wanted to give themselves the space to work artistically. Whether it was that or money, I guess, depends on how good the other two turn out.
"brighter, fresher color"
As an old (and third-generation) fan of Tolkein's works, and having read The Hobbit three times, I'd say it made the cut as far as faithfulness to the original. There were deviations from the original, but they were nice deviations. Sylvester McCoy's Radagast the Brown (nipped from Fellowship of the Ring, unless I'm mistaken) had heart and humor (though that might just be my love of hedgehogs talking). It's hard to say, after the first movie of a trilogy, whether the addition of Azog the white orc and the Necromancer was a good decision in the long run, but it was an understandable one, at least. It was a simple book, a kids' book. And as much as I would've loved to see this movie be simple and kid-friendly (and maybe with something less than a PG-13 rating), in order to be on caliber with the first three movies, it needed more conflict.
And there was some of the innocence and simplicity of the book, at least in comparison with the Lord of the Rings movie. A brighter, fresher color scheme, a lighter musical score, and altogether more light; plus everybody looked younger. Not sure how they managed it, when it's been ten years since Fellowship, but all the returning characters looked believably younger. Even Gollum (Andy Serkis) was a lighter, more likable character, as evidenced by the scattered bouts of laughter during the Riddles in the Dark scene, which may or may not've been the best part of the entire movie; and Ian McKellan returning as Gandalf made it all worth while.
As for dwarves, there were an awful lot of them. Far too many for each one to get a memorable character. There were moments when one would show up in a scene, and my thought was, "Alright, now they're just making this up, 'cause I know he wasn't there before." As for the ones that did get developed, you've got Thorin. Thorin has to be taller than the lot, and more intense. I'm not sold on Richard Armitage's performance yet (maybe I just need to watch it again), because in my mind, he was less tall and intense, more eye-candy and irritable. On the topic of eye candy, one wonders if he and Kili (Aiden Turner) exist to satisfy the Aragorn-and-Legolas corner of the market. Then you've got Bombur, who's usually stuffing something in his mouth. When he's not breaking furniture. It's okay, though. They've got two more movies to work on Dwarves. And then there's Bofur. Bofur, top, third-from-the-left, pretty blue eyes, funny hat, big smile. Just in that picture, he stands out, doesn't he? He stood out in the movie, too, just about stole the show. He was a little more down-to-earth, a little more complex. He had a scene, one-on-one with Bilbo, that I won't go into detail on for the sake of spoilers, but it was a spectacular performance. My favorite dwarf, hands down, and maybe my favorite character. And I swear to you, I didn't notice for a second that it was James Nesbitt. If I'd ever known he was in the movie, which I'm sure I must've, I'd forgotten it entirely, and I didn't notice it. I loved him in the dual title role of Steven Moffet's Jekyll miniseries. Jekyll stole your heart and Hyde was utterly despicable. It's got to say something about his acting (or maybe just the make-up department) that I've loved his work before, but didn't recognize him.
When I say he almost stole the show, I do only mean almost. Because it was almost impossible to watch anybody else when Bilbo was on the screen. And not in the way of the gaggle of girls who sat in front of us (and I quote, "I don't even really want to see this movie. I'm just here for Martin Freeman." Further eavesdropping confirmed that they were Sherlock fans.) I'm with Peter Jackson in the opinion that he was the only choice for Bilbo. The slightly bumbling, big-hearted everyman who's yet do discover his real strength. It's Freeman's niche, but that didn't make it repetive or predictable. It was an absolutely gorgeous performance. I've still got goosebumps.
There's much to look forward to, with this series. Characters and relationships, conflicts, villains. It'll be a treat to see more of the Necromancer than a growling shadow and more of Smaug than a tail, an eye, or a nostril (Benedict Cumberbatch, in both cases). I'm a little worried, of course; will it feel anything but belaboured by the third movie? But I'm on my toes for next Christmas, nonetheless.

My Classics Club List

Official list, subject to change/grow (hey, you never know).
Start Date: 12/21/12 (Yes, intentionally. I'm being ironic.)
End Date: 12/21/17, I guess. We'll see. May introduce some sort of positive/negative reinforcement system on myself.
Okay, so, as I worked, this list went from fifty to fifty-four, which is, I guess, okay. Gives me some wiggle room. This is going to be a useful project, let me clear away some major goals. Hit everything I managed to skip in high school (a lot of Dickens, came into my love for his work a bit late). Work through a few books I've never liked, finish some books I've started (and loved) but never managed to finish. Sample some authors I've never actually sat down and read. Some of it, old favorites and stuff I know I'll love, is on here mostly as an indulgent treat for myself. To those ends, this is a pretty varied list, I'll try to mix it up. There are some books here I'm ashamed to admit I've never read, but one might as well be honest when one can, I guess.

Books (re-reads indicated with an *, partial reads with **):

High School Clearing-up:
1. Oliver Twist**, Charles Dickens
2. Great Expectations**, Charles Dickens
3. A Christmas Carol**, Charles Dickens
4. The Grapes of Wrath**, John Steinbeck
5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
6. Walden and Civil Disobedience (mostly slept through those)*, Thoreau
7. Macbeth, Shakespeare
8. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Things I'd Maybe Ought to Have Read Already
9. Animal Farm, George Orwell
10. 1984, George Orwell
11. Farenheit 451**, Ray Bradbury
12The Lord of the Rings**, J. R. R. Tolkein
13. Dracula, Bram Stoker
14. Le Morte d'Arthur**, Thomas Mallory
15. The Call of the Wild**, Jack London
16. Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut
17. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
18. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
19. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
20. Little Women**, Louisa May Alcott
21. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
22. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
23. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
24. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
25. Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane
26: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
27. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

"Indulgent Treats"
28. The Complete Sherlock Holmes**, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
29. A Tale of Two Cities*, Charles Dickens
30. The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde
31. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters AND Seymour: An Introduction, J. D. Salinger
32. Nine Stories, J. D. Salinger
33. Love's Labours Lost, Shakespeare
34. The Silmarilion, J. R. R. Tolkein
35. Sanditon**, Jane Austen
36. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
37. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
38. The Poems of John Keats, John Keats
39. Lust for Life**, Irving Stone
40. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
41. Three Men on the Bummel, Jerome K. Jerome

Just Because/Possibly a Little Optomistic/Other
42. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
43. To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
44. A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
45. Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte
46. Shirley, Charlotte Bronte
47. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
48. Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
49. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
50. Middlemarch, George Eliot
51. The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
52. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
53. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone
54. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

The Classics Club

I've been meaning to do this for a while, never seem to have the time. But I'm leaving in three weeks, and I want to have it done by then.
For anybody who doesn't know, The Classics Club is, well, here's a handy little quote from their blog: "The Classics Club is a club created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. There’s no time limit to join and you’re most welcome, as long as you’re willing to sign up to read and write on your blog about 50+ classic books in at most five years. The perk is that, not only will you have read 50+ incredible (or at the very least thought-provoking) works in five years, you’ll get to do it along with all of these people."
So, essentially, five years, fifty books, with reviews posted here, my personal blog. I think I can do that. Five years is a really freaking long time from now, and I have no idea at all where I'll be or what I'll be doing in five years, but I'm game for trying.
I'm mostly doing this to make sure I keep reading. Because the next nine months are going to be really busy for me, and it might be easy to let things like that, things that are so important to me, die away. I want to keep me, and the things I do in in my me time. I want to keep my eyes on the eventual college-bound, "High School English Teacher" goal. This'll be good for that.
Technically speaking, I should do about ten books this year. I might not have that kind of time. I'm gonna shoot for a minimum of three, and if I have to play catch-up when I finally come home (wherever home is by then), so be it. Que sera sera.
I like the idea of signing up to be a part of something bigger than just me (didn't mean for that to sound deep); it'll keep me accountable, to a degree. Make sure I ACTUALLY do this reading thing. That sounds nice. Better than just posting a reading list here all by my onesie and trying to keep up with it. My one hesitation, though, about joining the official Classics Club is that it's a community. Lots of bloggers talking to each other, sharing a love of the classics. This sounds awesome. However, I'm already not sure I'm even going to have time to keep up with my personal blogs, social networking, etc. I don't know how often I'll have access to the internet. Or a computer. It's all a little unpredictable. So, as much fun as featured posts and weekly group round-ups and read-a-thons sound, I really don't think I'll be able to be an active, participating member of this community. I feel really bad about that. But I think I'd rather go for it and try my best rather than not try at all. Hopefully my efforts will be met with understanding. Don't know how it'll go, but worth a shot, right?
Here's hoping! Official entry post/list to follow. :)