Nothing left but sex and ennui

Great quotation and embedded quotations from novelist Andrew Klavan, as part of his review of the founder-of-Scientology movie The Master:

There’s a reason modernism collapsed into the ruinous and stupid-making morass of post-modernism. Ultimately, modernist reality was smaller and seedier than human life as it is lived. As the novelist and critic Gabriel Josipovici points out in critiquing one modernist novel, “describing the smell of sweat and semen during the act of sex no more anchors the novel to ‘reality’ than writing about stars in the eyes of the beloved.”

Myself, I attribute the unrealistic smallness of modernism to its secular nature. Without God, as Tolstoy explained, there’s nothing left to write about but sex and ennui.

via PJ Lifestyle » Why The Master Is No Master-Piece.

What a stunning insight from Tolstoy!   That was back in the 19th century, but he predicted the major subject matter of 20th and 21st century literary art.  I would just add that one can also write about–or make movies about or make music about–attempts to mask the ennui, the boredom, with sensationalistic distractions.  Thus, the explosions, car chases, murders, gore, escapism, and psychological fantasies that make up much of our pop culture.  (Not that there isn’t much of value and even greatness in 20th and 21st century literature–I am by no means dismissing or even criticizing it–but there sure is a lot of sex and ennui.)

Hobbit update

Titles and release dates have been released for the upcoming movie trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit.

As announced last month, The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s long awaited adaptation of the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, will be made into a trilogy rather than the two-parter originally announced. Yesterday, the new title of the second instalment was announced, with the intended title going to the final instalment, and the expected release date of the final instalment also being announced.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be released on December 13th, 2013; whilst the third and final instalment in the series, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, following on July 18th, 2014. The first of the trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released at the end of this year, on December 14th.

Jackson, who directed the LOTR trilogy, announced the news that the series will be extended into a trilogy through his Facebook page early last month. On The Hobbit Jackson will be rejoined by LOTR cast members such as Sir Ian Mckellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood, who will be reclaiming their former roles. Meanwhile, stars such as Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch will join the cast, taking on the roles of Bilbo Baggins and the voice of The Necromancer respectively.

via Second The Hobbit Instalment Title Changed, Thrid Movie Release Date Announced | Contactmusic.

The Hobbit as another trilogy?

The Hobbit movie will be released on December 14.  That is to say, the first installment will be released.  The plans have been for the story to be told in two parts, with the second movie coming out in the following year. But recently it  has been reported that director Peter Jackson, who gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film, wants to turn the Hobbit into a trilogy also.

Tolkien fans have been worried that stretching the rather slender plot of a pretty short novel over three motion pictures would distort the tale.  Lord of the Rings consisted of three separate novels, so three separate movies did them justice and corresponded to the trilogy’s epic scope.  The Hobbit, though, is in a lighter key, a simple story, in the words of the sub-title, of “there and back again” that could be ruined by an overblown Hollywood treatment.

But it appears that the third movie will not involve slicing the Hobbit novel into three pieces.  Rather, Jackson is thinking about making a third movie about the back story to the rest of them based on Tolkien’s extensive notes and appendicies, which are included in the movie rights that Jackson holds.

I say go for it, and also get the rights to the Silmarillion.  There is material for lots of movies there.  We need one on Beren and Luthien.  The Children of Hurin.  That road goes ever on.

Peter Jackson Clarifies ‘Hobbit’ Trilogy Talk; Third Movie Based on Tolkien’s Notes.

William Tell and Chick-fil-A

An overwhelming number of chicken sandwiches were served on Wednesday as vast numbers of Americans from all over the country turned out to support Chick-fil-A, under fire for its CEO taking the highly controversial and shocking position that people of the same sex can’t marry each other.  Could that be a catalyst for a popular revolt against gay marriage?

Richard Fernandez observes that “Great fires start from small sparks, as often happens when there is enough dry tinder on the ground.”  He points out that the Arab Spring started with the harassment of a street vendor, that the public got behind the American revolution when the British raised the tax on tea.  He then brings up a great story about what precipitated the Swiss rising up to throw off the Hapsburg empire:

The legend as told by Tschudi (ca. 1570) goes as follows: “William Tell, who originally came from Bürglen, was known as a strong man and an expert shot with the crossbow. In his time, the Habsburg emperors of Austria were seeking to dominate Uri. Albrecht (or Hermann) Gessler, the newly appointed Austrian Vogt of Altdorf, raised a pole in the village’s central square, hung his hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townsfolk bow before the hat. On 18 November 1307, Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed by the hat, publicly refusing to bow to it, and so was arrested. Gessler — intrigued by Tell’s famed marksmanship, yet resentful of his defiance — devised a cruel punishment: Tell and his son would be executed, but he could redeem his life by shooting an apple off the head of his son, Walter, in a single attempt. Tell split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. What is remarkable about Gessler’s Hat is that it was about anything except the hat. It’s very insignificance as an object of forced respect showed that it was all about arbitrary domination. Gessler had made his hat holy, as Caligula had made his horse a consul, and everyone was expected to acknowledge it. Thus it was above all about power, made all the more manifest by its exercise in the most capricious and petty ways, for most any king can command a respect for his person. But only a tyrant can demand the veneration of his underwear.

Rahm Emanuel’s insistence that Chick-fil-A bow to the icon of gay marriage had that effect, at least upon some. Chick-fil-A is not about gay marriage or Christianity at all, any more than the incident of William Tell was about a hat. It’s about power. It is morphing into an overt test of whether the cultural elite can have its way. The problem with National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day is that it constitutes an act of open defiance by manifesting all too publicly the contempt that a fairly large segment of the population has for shibboleths of political correctness.

via Belmont Club » The Chicken Disses the Hat.

The St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest

Who says conservative Lutherans don’t like contemporary Christian music in church?  We do.  It’s just that we want the contemporary Christian music to be, you know, hymns, as opposed to pop ditties.  And we do need new hymns.  Towards addressing that need, I am happy to announce that some twenty-somethings in our congregation, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia, have organized a major hymn-writing competition.  They have raised a $1,000 prize and have arranged for publication.  For details and for just learning about what the big deal is about hymns, check out the website:  St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest.

Here are the parameters of the contest:

The Challenge:

Many of the Gospel readings throughout the historic Church Year lack hymns which properly exposit their true sense. It is the purpose of this contest to provide profound and artistic hymns for such unaddressed pericopes (that is, a set of readings given for a certain day). Therefore, the challange of this contest is as follows: to compose a hymn which discerns and declares the meaning of the chosen lectionary texts and properly expresses the congregational response to the work of our Lord in the Word.

The Texts:

The hymn should concern itself with the following texts, with a focus on the gospel reading:

Zephaniah 1:7-16
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

The Prize:

The winner of the contest shall be awarded $1,000. The winning hymn will be publised by Liturgy Solutions, which will be granted first right-of-refusal to the hymn upon acceptance of the prize money.   The author/composer royalty to be paid by Liturgy Solutions will be 50% of all receipts from sales and any other profitable uses of the hymn (public performance for profit, radio broadcast, etc.).”

So the texts the hymn is supposed to elucidate deal with the Day of the Lord, Jesus coming back like a thief in the night, and the Parable of the Talents.

Yes, I have been asked to be one of the judges, but I will show no favoritism to the tunes of Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, or other artists that I can go on and on about on this blog.  (Well, if Bob Dylan enters the contest with a lectionary hymn, he might have an edge with me.)

But, seriously, you can use an existing hymn tune, if you like, or you can compose your own.  The words will be key.  You know those numbers at the bottom of each page in a hymnbook?  7.7.7., 8.6.8.6, 10.10.10.10.  Those are the number of syllables in each line.  That’s important to know in writing words to go with a particular tune.

Anyway, enter!  Try it.  You need not be Lutheran to win.  There is a thousand dollar prize!  The deadline is December 1.  Maybe your hymn too will be sung in future centuries.

A summer reading project

About one of my students:

Evan Johnson boarded the Washington, D.C. metro train at 5:15 a.m., surrounded by sleepy, somber commuters. One girl on his left read The Hunger Games on her Kindle, while the girl in front of him read the same novel in paperback.

Ear buds in, rocking with the speeding metro, they were oblivious to the fact that “they were both entering the same fantasy world, while only a few feet apart,” Johnson said. “I often wondered what might happen if people simply looked around at other readers and discussed what they were reading.”

Anyone discussing books with Johnson might feel a little inadequate. When he stepped on that commuter train last year, Johnson, 20, was speeding his way through his 40th book of the summer.

Between May 16 and August 12, 2011, Johnson read one book a day – 94 books and 19,276 pages, an average of 217 pages per day. On some days he finished two books.

As a sophomore at Patrick Henry College, Johnson’s professors constantly gave him reading suggestions. His classmates often rolled their eyes and ignored similar suggestions, too busy with homework and essays to imagine recreational reading. But Johnson began to compile a reading list, jotting down dozens of titles during the semester. He vowed he would read them when he had an opportunity.

That summer, Johnson accepted an internship in Washington and moved to a new apartment in Falls Church, Va. Away from the distractions and requirements of school, he had the time he needed to start working through his list.

After counting the number of books he wanted to read, Johnson realized he would have to finish a book a day in order to make a good dent in the list. He set a goal, and committed his summer to reaching it.

Throughout the summer, the local library provided Johnson with 20 books via inter-library loan. The librarian’s eyes widened with surprise when he returned an 800-page, two-volume set of The Count of Monte Cristo after only three days. Johnson’s titles were rather eclectic, with authors ranging from Chinese Christian Watchman Nee to U.S. Marine David J. Danelo.

Every day, Johnson woke at 4 a.m. He ate a ham and cheese omelet, walked two miles to the metro, and caught the 5:15 a.m. train. He would set his laptop bag across his knees, pull out a book and read.

People at the bus stop often asked Johnson how he had time to read. He wondered how they could spend their commute doing nothing or playing “Angry Birds.”

“Reading taught me just how much time is often wasted everyday,” Johnson said. “People talk about how wasteful Americans are with stuff, water, money, et cetera. I also would add that we are incredibly wasteful with time.”

via The summer of books | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..

The full article at the link (free registration required) gives his book list, an eclectic–that is to say, a liberal arts–assortment of titles on all kinds of topics.  (He even included one by me!)