Tolkien on Screen

When Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings were released in theatre, I attended each installation multiple times. I knew I wouldn't regret seeing the retelling of Tolkien's magnificent myth of redemption, loss, heroism, immortality, reclamation and friendship on the big screen as many times as I could. When The Return of the King was released, Amber and I called in subs for the afternoon and watched the entire trilogy (extended editions for parts 1 and 2) in the theatre. Every attendee, hardcore fans each one, received a figurine complete with one film frame of each movie in it.

When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was released last month, I attended the IMAX 3D trilogy of The Hobbit realizing about halfway through how fit one must be to endure a 9 hour film. No souvenir this time though.

The battles, dialogues, locations, and myriad of characters draw me in without fail. I become a child again each time I see the circle door at Bag End. I am smitten by the elven architecture at Rivendell. I'm terrified along with the hobbits at the Dark Riders and along with the Riders of Rohan as they face the oliphants. I'm heartbroken with Pippin as Denethor sends Faramir to sure death. I'm stirred by Theoden's speech to the Rohirrim before sending them into battle and Aragorn's final words at the Black Gate. I giggle at Gollum's jabs at Sam and Gimli's reaction to almost everything. I slow down in Lothlorien and Fangorn Forest. I get excited as the camera plunges into the mountain to find Gandalf facing off with the Balrog again in the opening scene of The Two Towers. I can barely hold it together when Sam laments on the side of Mount Doom "Rosie Cotton dancing. She had ribbons in her hair. If ever I were to marry someone, it would have been her. It would have been her." I could go on and on.

I am watching The Hobbit again this week, this time with the extended scenes. I am thoroughly enjoying everything that is added. There is far more context with the dwarves and their quest and even with the necromancer. I particularly enjoyed seeing a child Bilbo at a party of Old Took's meeting Gandalf for the first time and the added scenes with Beorn, the Goblin King, Bombur sleeping from the enchanted waters of Mirkwood, and the flashback of the burial of the witch king of Angmar are just gems! I found it fascinating how they completely left out the Dwarf rings in the theatrical version and included discussion of them in both extended editions.

I am still disappointed that they never included Gandalf tracking down Gollum and interviewing him. The absence of Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil or the substitution of Arwen for Glorfindel didn't bother me very much as it would have compromised the film narrative, but having rangers catching Gollum and Gandalf prying info out of him would have been dramatic delight.

The complaints I've heard and what I've read in the poor reviews of The Hobbit do not ring true for me. It's an adaptation of a children's book and it's made for fans of The Lord of the Rings. I think of that lovely scene in Finding Neverland at the opening of the play Peter Pan and they have added children to the audience among all the adults. I think that you must have a child's heart to enjoy Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. The one recommendation I would have made would have been to make the fighting a little more believable. Bilbo knocking over a 7 foot, fully armoured Gundabad orc by throwing a rock... That said, I did enjoy all of Legolas's activities for the pure unbelievability of it.

And I have to say, I love these figurines from Weta Workshop. If I had lots of money... and lots of shelf space...


Doll Bed for a Little Mama

My daughter Acadia drew her cousin's name in the Christmas gift draw. We decided that we (I) would build her a little bed for a doll and we could paint it together. I bought and cut the wood necessary for two little cribs and kept one set for Acadia as a gift. We assembled the first one for my niece and immediately Acadia began using it with her doll, Emma. We found her one afternoon curled up next to her doll with just the lights from the Christmas tree.

Acadia chose pink to paint her cousin's bed and she did a great job painting it. We painted some purple stars on the head and foot boards.

Christmas morning, my niece put her doll right into the new bed. Acadia got 5 pieces of cut wood tied together with a bow. I could see she was glad to have her own now that she was giving up the one she used most of December.

Together we assembled, puttied, sanded, then painted hers pink too. Acadia chose a font for the word LOVE and requested a couple hearts for the footboard. I painted the words and hearts with a tiny paintbrush.

This project/gift reminded me of a Christmas gift my father made for me when I was 5 or 6. He made a couple wooden trucks. Sadly, these burned in a house fire a year or two later. They were really quite nice as he is a real craftsman.


Book Review: God and the Gay Christian (Vines)

This is the second book I've read on gay theology, along with countless blog posts and articles. The issue of homosexuality within the Christian sphere has been so hyper-politicized that it is difficult for anyone to have a thoughtful conversation on the topic when it challenges the most conservative prevailing view that homosexuality is explicitly condemned in the Bible and that being gay is a choice (and if it isn't a choice, then gays still don't have a choice as they must remain celibate). This book by Matthew Vines is meant to introduce Christians to alternate readings of Scripture and promote an affirming view of gay marriage and homosexuals in general within the Church.

Vines discusses the mandatory 6 biblical references to homosexuality (Genesis 19:5Leviticus 18:22Leviticus 20:13Romans 1:26-27I Corinthians 6:9I Timothy 1:10) and attempts to place each passage in its historical context - a highly patriarchal society where women had very legal recourse and where the Greeks thought of women as deformed men. Vines also focuses on the relevant issues of mandatory celibacy for gay Christians, how homosexuals have been treated within the Church (a demonstration of the fruit of the spirit?), homosexuals being made in the image of God, marriage as a covenant and grace.

All the statements are footnoted with sources and it is clear that Vines has done his research. What is disappointing is that he does not grant any points to his opposition. The issue from my perspective is very grey and both sides of the debate are able to defend their position either through a literal interpretation of the English Bible and church tradition or through a reinterpretation of the Bible through the lens of modern science, historical context, progressive revelation, and a desire to extend communion to a hurting community of believers.

From my perspective, the way Christians have dealt with homosexuals in their midst has been tragic and indefensible. A conversation is necessary and it must be framed with respect and love for the other - not fear and loathing.

Anger; Control; Pride; Humility; Peace.

Anger is an area of my life where I have always struggled and sensed the Holy Spirit continually with Her finger twisting in my side. As a child I would become enraged at my unfair sisters. As a teacher I have directed my anger at disrespectful students. As a commuter I have fumed at ungracious drivers. As a father I have unleashed my wrath towards my slothful children. As a husband I have been cross with my indifferent wife. As a professional I have expressed my outrage when my coworkers are unprofessional. Etc. . .

I have had many occasions to reflect on this emotion and I have come to several conclusions:
When I was in Guatemala I led the distribution of efficient wood cooking stoves that were donated by some Canadians. These stoves reduced the amount of wood you would need and remove the smoke from homes where people were cooking over open fires. The first distribution was to about 30 families and these families were selected by another member of our team, a Guatemalan. I ensured that the recipients attended the training, I helped with the installation, I collected the money the families contributed to the stoves, and finally I sent thank you notes and photos to the donors. Through out this process I was struck by the fact that half of the recipients were close friends of the person selecting the families and that many of these families were not going to be using the stoves as their primary stove, but rather as an outdoor bbq - in other words, they were families with enough means to have gas stoves in their homes. I was incensed that we were dishonouring the donors and preventing people who really needed a stove from getting one. Unfortunately, once my dismay was expressed, I was told that I was being insubordinate. I wonder if I would have been labelled that if I had been able to contain my anger.
I remember becoming quite enraged at a couple grade 8 boys during my first year teaching. It was one of the last days of class and I was showing a fun movie during a multi-media options class. These boys weren't interested in the movie so they were talking to each other quite loudly making it difficult for their classmates to even hear the film. I asked the nicely several times to stop talking and finally yelled at them and kicked them out of the class... prompting a meeting with their parents where I was the one apologizing.
My children are wonderful, patient, kindhearted and sometimes absentminded kids. When they are sent to bed, they know what to do: brush their teeth, go to the bathroom, get their PJs on and then they are tucked in with a prayer. My daughter has a really hard time focusing on getting her PJs on sometimes. She will go to her room and just sit on her bed for five minutes. This can cast a cloud of ire over me and I have a very hard time asking her pick up the pace, especially when she denies that she isn't going at a fair pace. 
I get angry when I don't have control over a situation or over people. The problem is that in many instances, I don't really have the right to have control over those people. One of my favourite sermons is one by my current pastor on the very subject of anger. He related a story from the previous week where he became very impatient with his wife while he was writing his sermon on anger. Of course he was immediately convicted by the arrogance the he was demonstrating towards his wife - what right did he have to cast judgement on the actions of his wife? This stuck with me.

When I consider how Christ has dealt with our ineptitudes through humility, patience and sacrifice, I am convicted at how slow I am to be humble, patient and inconvenienced by others ineptitudes.

Oh, and my principal's name is Mr. Anger. An ever present reminder of possibility.