Hobbit update

In an interview with Empire, producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo del Toro divulged their plans for splitting “The Hobbit” into two movies:

“We’ve decided to have The Hobbit span the two movies, including the White Council and the comings and goings of Gandalf to Dol Guldur,” says Del Toro.

“We decided it would be a mistake to try to cram everything into one movie,” adds Jackson. “The essential brief was to do The Hobbit, and it allows us to make The Hobbit in a little more style, if you like, of the [LOTR] trilogy.”

It was earlier reported that the second Hobbit movie would cover the 60 years between what happened in “The Hobbit” and what happened in “The Lord of the Rings.” That would have meant lots of non-Tolkien filler. So I think this is a much better idea. I’m also intrigued by del Toro being the director. As he showed in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hell Boy II,” he is a master of making up evocative monsters and strangely effective hybrids of realism and fantasy. Though “Pan’s” was way too dark for a Tolkien tale, “Hell Boy” suggested that del Toro could handle less heavy-handed fare.

HT: One Eternal Day

A Reformation Comedy

I posted about a play coming to my neck of the woods, “Wittenberg,” about that academic community that included–if you extend membership to characters from the Great Books–Dr. Luther, Dr. Faustus, and that indecisive undergraduate Hamlet. We were discussing it in the comments and who should show up in the comments but the playwright, David Davolos! I continue to be gobsmacked by the people who show up on this blog.

He provided a link to the
Philadelphia production. Here are snippets from the reviews that make me want to see the play even more (Wood plays Luther, and Greer plays Faustus):

“Finally – a decent Protestant Reformation comedy! [David] Davalos’ wordplay, plus his riffs on religion vs. philosophy, made me hanker for a script. The dialogue sometimes flies by, given director J. R. Sullivan’s effective lickety-split pacing in several scenes, and it’s obvious that Wittenberg would be as much fun to read as this production is to see.” –Philadelphia Inquirer  [Review]

“If you’re looking for something different, I strongly recommend this comedy. Who would have thought Wittenberg could find laughter in the Protestant Reformation? The cast couldn’t be better.” –KYW Newsradio

“Brilliant! Smart, funny, wise and accessible, the theatrical equivalent of a jam session. The Arden’s production is about as good as it gets. Greg Wood is occasionally angry and always searching and Scott Greer captures both Faustus’ hedonistic and philosophical sides. Wood and Greer are two of Philadelphia’s best actors. Get thee to Wittenberg.” –Chestnut Hill Local

“Rarely has the perennial debate on faith versus reason been so much fun. Greg Wood creates a likeable and sympathetic character, admirably conveying the humanity of this man of God.” –The Evening Bulletin

“Everything that shapes our lives today all stems from the central conflict between faith and science that launched the Protestant Reformation… a pair of acting tour-de-forces add vigor and humor. Both actors keep the play intriguing… Wood’s muted comedy in his fiery natures vs. Greer’s animal exuberance throughout adds a wondefurlly enjoyable layer of depth.” –EDGE Philadelphia

Now I’ve really got to see it! (On May 22, it will open in Baltimore.

A play I have to see

The University of Wittenberg was Luther’s school, of course. In literature, it was also where Dr. Faustus–an anti-Luther who sold his soul to the devil–taught and where young Hamlet was a student. A Washington theater company is putting on a play that will apparently explore the possibilities if all three were together on one campus. From Rep Stage’s 2009-10 Theater Season: :

“Wittenberg” (Aug. 26-Sept. 13) — David Davalos’s comedy, set in 1517, imagines university professors Dr. Faustus and Martin Luther grappling for the soul of their student, Hamlet. Tony Tsendeas will direct. Michael Feldsher will play Hamlet, and Stebbins will play Luther. The play bowed at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre last year.

Christ replacing sex as the taboo subject

I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of this:

The White House asked Georgetown to cover a monogram symbolizing Jesus’ name in Gaston Hall, which Obama used for his speech, according to CNSNews.com.

The gold “IHS” monogram inscribed on a pediment in the hall was covered over by a piece of black-painted plywood, and remained covered over the next day, CNSNews.com reported.

But remember how the press and sophisticated folk laughed when Attorney General John Ashcroft had a statue of a naked woman covered so that it wouldn’t be in the background of one of his speeches?

This reminds me of a line from Flannery O’Connor, in her unforgettable short story “The Displaced Person”: “Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex had her mother.”

Aesthetic apologetics

More from ex-atheist A. N. Wilson, in an interview in which he was asked, “What’s the worst thing about being faithless?”

When I thought I was an atheist I would listen to the music of Bach and realize that his perception of life was deeper, wiser, more rounded than my own. Ditto when I read the lives of great men and women who were religious.

Reading Northrop Frye and Blake made me realize that their world-view (above all their ability to see the world in mythological terms) is so much more INTERESTING than some of the alternative ways of looking at life.

Notice the impact on Wilson of music and literature–including Northrop Frye’s literary criticism, no less (works I heartily recommend, especially for those who don’t get the Bible). There is an apologetics of philosophical argumentation, but there is also an apologetics of aesthetics and the imagination.

UPDATE: See Strange Herring for some more provocative quotations from Wilson.

Another atheist returns to belief

A. N. Wilson at one time was a promising Christian writer, penning essays and novels that constituted an odd, though not quite orthodox, apologetics. Then the British author, in his own words, converted to atheism. He became notable for his incredibly hostile biographies of C. S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul. But now he has written an essay entitled Why I believe again. Excerpts:

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits. . . .

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.” And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words.”

HT: Cyberbrethren (bookmark the new address)