Raising the Stakes in Stories

white witch

In her memoir The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, Laura Miller talks about why she strongly preferred the Narnia books to the Elsie Dinsmore series an aunt pressed on her:  The morality of Elsie Dinsmore was the morality of childhood, where the choice was between obedience and naughtiness. The morality of Narnia was grown-up, a matter of good and evil. A childhood friend echoed her feelings, contrasting Narnia to Oz: There was a certain weightiness to Narnia which really app … [Read more...]

The Drunk and the Madmen

arden twelfth

I never get tired of Twelfth Night.  Last night, I got to see a boisterous production in NYC that my brother's been working on.  (Runs through this weekend, details and tickets here).   The show began with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek teaching the audience the lyrics for some of their drinking songs, so we can join in during the show proper.  ("Go ahead and take a wife / you still will drink away your life / So drink up! Cause what you really want is more /MORE BEER!").Perhaps because of … [Read more...]

Must Pity be Hierarchical?

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In Laura Miller's quasi-memoir The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia, she talks about her intellectual development in the context of the books she read as a child, with a particular emphasis on Narnia.  But my attention was caught by a later passage, after she's read Orwell's Animal Farm. I don't mean to suggest that Animal Farm isn't moving. Even as an adult, I found the novel terribly sad. I pitied poor Boxer the draft horse, who dies serving a regime he can't even see has b … [Read more...]

It’s Hard to Do Vocabulary Drills in Personal Languages

language blobs

  I read Douglas Hofstadter's Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking a few months ago, and, although I wouldn't recommend it as enthusiastically as Gödel Escher Bach, there was one section I was delighted to read.  It felt like Hofstadter had crystallized a very important part of my thinking process and set it down on paper. We would like to offer a simple visual metaphor for thinking about the words of a language and the concepts they represent. We begin by suggesting … [Read more...]

The Selfishness of Playing to Your Strengths

brave

Calah Alexander has a post up about her frustrations with Disney storylines, where plot can warp around the characters to make sure they get whatever they wanted at the beginning of the movie.  Ariel's father is portrayed as tyrannical, not prudent, when he tries to forbid her from chasing after Prince Eric, even though her choice puts her entire kingdom at risk.  Magic abounds to help characters realize they've been special all along, and that they deserve their happy ending.  She writes: See, … [Read more...]

Peeta Already Kicks Ass, No Blood Needed

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In the run up to the release of Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie, the director sat down with io9 to discuss some of the changes they made to the second film.  For instance, they bowed to fan outcry and swapped Prim's cat so it looks more like the book one.  An exchange at the end of the interview caught my eye.  (Spoilers if you're unclear on the premise of the new movie, I guess):One of the things I really enjoyed about Catching Fire was a change you made. In the first movie Pe … [Read more...]

Disenchanting the Villain

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First Things has a review up that I liked very much of a Macbeth that the reviewer did not like very much.  Kate Havard watched a Macbeth that took all the tragedy out of the Scottish King, reducing the title character (played by Ethan Hawke) to a stumbling, unpleasant man.  She writes: Yet there’s something right about making the Scottish tyrant so vulgar and unromantic. It reminds us Macbeth is ultimately a butcher, not a hero. True, in a more nuanced Macbeth, we’d see him as both: a fallen he … [Read more...]


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