Saturday, July 14, 2007

You say Goodbye I say Hello

I've come to the decision that I am not going to post on this blog any longer. Instead, I have created a more theme specific blog called "At the Study" I do plan to continue my photos blog. There is a description below of my new blog, but first I want to describe more specifically where I want to go with this blog.

Since not all my readers will be Christians, I will be sensitive to their needs and post more than Christian thoughts. Much of this blog will be mere commentary on current events, media, and modern moral. On Sundays, however, I do hope to post devotionals or Christian specific posts. Mondays will be about my own personal shelf life (in other words my personal weekly blog post that more often than not will have to do with my efforts to become healthier and lose weight). Tuesdays will be random. Wednesdays will be Bookmobile book review days. Thursdays and Fridays will also be random and Saturdays will be for movie reviews on new movies. Random days will include anything from politics to TV shows to movies I already own or check out to music I listen to, to commentaries on news and all of the above.

I've barely started, but please support me. Here's a more general description:

In the Study...At the Library...This is where you will find movie, book, music, and show reviews. In my own little corner of the world I review various things and comment on current events (mostly events having to do with Hollywood, Broadway, and Opera worlds). Please join me in a venture to look at all the movies and books in my library as well as shows (I have programs to) that I've gone to and music I listen to. Let us explore this world together and examine it as it changes. How do those changes show up in the media? Let us not let these things merely go up on the shelf. Let us explore these things, even to the extent of children's books and movies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Resisting the Night

Radio host Jerry Klein recently proposed “all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band.” Shockingly, many callers agreed. At the end of the show, Klein unveiled his hoax, commenting that his callers demonstrated "how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen.” He’s right. We need reminders of what the Holocaust involved and what allowed it to happen. Elie Wiesel attempts such a reminder in his novel, Night.
The book, which follows Wiesel’s teen years in German concentration camps, calls readers out of the darkness. People should learn from the past, keep informed, and resist the night, or ignorance. The Holocaust caused an entire people group to change for the worse, obfuscating and challenging everything they believed. Night doesn’t just deal with what happened; it deals with who let it happen.
Was it really such a shock that the Germans permitted the Holocaust? Nietzsche, Darwin, Spencer, and Materialism all supported the idea of the survival of the fittest, intellectual pride, and separation from God. Nobody thought it humanly possible to wipe out an entire people, especially in such a cultured nation as Germany. What was putatively thought of as a good thing (intellectual excellence) turned out for the worse. Wiesel tried to encourage his father, stating that humanity was their ally.
I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it.
“Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is allowed, even these crematories….” (30)
Wiesel soon lost his own faith in humanity when he became a number: A-7713. Man’s sinful nature had vanquished humanity as a standard of morality. The Germans thought themselves superior and condemned all others, redefining “humanity.”
The Jews denied the danger. They forfeited their chance: the elders kept the younger from rebelling. If they tolerated God’s test, they thought, He would deliver them. Besides, it couldn’t get any worse. The point of no return came for Wiesel and his companions when their deportation train stopped at the Czechoslovak frontier. “We realized then that we were not going to stay in Hungary. Our eyes were open, but too late (21).” What chance of escape remained in revolt disappeared.
Since the Jews clung to such false hopes, did they bring this upon themselves? They hadn’t thought anything of the rumors of German violence; the Germans acted kindly when they quartered in Jews’ homes.
Our first impressions of the Germans were reassuring…. They never demanded the impossible, made no unpleasant comments, and even smiled occasionally at the mistress of the house. One German… brought Madame Kahn a box of chocolates. The optimists rejoiced. (7)
Even corralled into ghettos, the Jews were content.
We were entirely self-contained. A little Jewish republic…. We appointed a… whole government machinery. Everyone marveled at it.... Our fear and anguish were at an end. We were living among Jews, among brothers…. (9)
After the Nazis expelled Moshe the Beadle with all the foreign Jews, “people were saying that they had arrived in Galicia, were working there, and were even satisfied with their lot (4).” Moshe had a different story. He managed to escape death and warn his fellow Jews of the coming Holocaust, but no one believed him.
Wiesel doesn’t blame the Jews, however. Wiesel blames God and never forgives him. His works question how God would let something like this happen. He wrote his first version of Night in Yiddish, but as he began to interpret his memories and they evolved in his mind, he began to bash Jewishness. He did not bash the Jews themselves; it was more about his own faith. Before the Holocaust, Wiesel studied and prayed regularly. By the end, he had lost his faith and did not know what to believe.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the faces if the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. (32)
When a young boy is hung, Wiesel comments that God is there hanging with him (62).
Night is as theological as historical. As Gary Henry says in his analytical essay, Story and Silence: Transcendence in the Work of Elie Wiesel,
He has assumed the role of messenger…. But he does not continue to retell the tales of the dead only to make life miserable for the living, or even to insure that such an atrocity will not happen again. Rather, Elie Wiesel is motivated by a need to wrestle theologically with the Holocaust. (1)
Wiesel proclaims himself a messenger for victims of the Holocaust. Many survivors disagree. Although memories torture most, some have healed. Peter Wood, who worked with Wiesel at Boston University as Associate Provost, says survivors he knows dislike talking about Wiesel.
Some survivors do not think their lives are about the past. My friend Sam loves people. That’s what you’re supposed to take away from these terrible times. Sam pours himself out to others and to his family.
Wiesel mirrors the opposite of this. He never forgives.
As his interest in theology grew, Wiesel’s memories evolved. As his memories turned into one, solid account in his mind, they became stereotypes. Primo Levi discusses how a memory can become a stereotype in his book, The Drowned and the Saved.
[A] memory evoked too often, and expressed in the form of a story, tends to become fixed in a stereotype, in a form tested by experience, crystallized, perfected, adorned, installing itself in the place of a raw memory and growing at its expense. (23-24)
The perfecting of Wiesel’s story accounted for the increasing number of translations of his books and his increasing popularity. As Wiesel tailored his books to what the audience wants and what the author now wants, they evolved into the very picture and representation of the Holocaust. Wiesel’s image has advanced to where few question him. Wiesel has published 16 books; Oprah Winfrey interviewed him for both her magazine and her TV show; and PBS and History Channel documentaries have used him.
Wood questions Wiesel, saying he has done much for Boston University, but with few scruples.
He sold papers to the university archives and never delivered them. Also, after winning the Nobel Prize, he didn’t have to teach as much. He flew in once a week for a hand selected class of five students. Yet the university continued to use his name as a ploy to get new students, and it worked.
Henry suggests that the “drive to justify every second of his existence (3)” motivates Wiesel, but Wood suggests that part of Weisel’s motivation might be the desire to win the Nobel Prize. Both are right. As his stories developed and Wiesel began to question how he, of all the Jews, managed to survive, he gained a proclivity for questioning God and humanity even more. This motivated him to insert more theological background into his works and to promote his own work. Since he wondered how he of all people survived, he felt his life needed to have worth. He climbed to the top, preserving himself and his message just as he preserved himself during the holocaust. At the camps, Wiesel struggled with whether or not he wanted his father to die. He felt he would have a better chance of survival without his father, but knew that thinking this was wrong. Today, it is Wiesel's message that is left behind to die. He's allowed the stereotyped story to take over and kill the original, factual story. While he may have started out with good intentions, everything he appears to be about has become just a perfected story. Wood said he sees only the performer in Wiesel. “His story became what he was about. Who knows what’s underneath the performer.”
Readers can forgive Wiesel’s doubts, knowing what the Holocaust did to him. Furthermore, Wiesel will doesn’t want the holocaust to happen again. According to Night, a number of things contributed, to the holocaust, including Germany’s pride and the Jew’s ignorance; all revolving around God and whether He is just. If Wiesel believes that he is the voice of the Holocaust victim, let him. He may not represent all his fellows, but he remains a messenger to the world. We need someone to remind us. In a day of Muslim threats and invading immigrants, we should apply the lessons of history. Looking at what caused past holocausts, we can help prevent future ones.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Blog

I've been thinking. I've decided to make this blog for all my writings, but I'm going to start more theme specific blogs as well. My first try at this is There is a description below. I've barely started, but please support me.

In the Study...
At the Library...
This is where you will find movie, book, music, and show reviews. In my own little corner of the world I review various things and comment on current events (mostly events having to do with Hollywood, Broadway, and Opera worlds). Please join me in a venture to look at all the movies and books in my library as well as shows (I have programs to) that I've gone to and music I listen to. Let us explore this world together and examine it as it changes. How do those changes show up in the media? Let us not let these things merely go up on the shelf. Let us explore these things, even to the extent of children's books and movies.

“The Cobra King of Kathmandu” book review

The “Children of the Lamp” series, written by P.B. Kerr, finds itself in line with a long list of well known children’s books. In fact, it’s making its way to the top, right behind Harry Potter. I started reading the series when the first book, “Akhenaten Adventure,” came out. Ever since, I’ve been watching book stores for the following books. I’ve just finished reading the third in the series, “Cobra King of Kathmandu,” and a fourth is scheduled to come out in September. I’ll make a few short predictions for the fourth book later. The series follows the Potter books in more than one way. It’s magical, it’s creative, and it’s a good series for both children and adults. The plots get better in each book. Before I get on with my short review of the third book, here’s a review of the plots in each book, in case you haven’t read them. I copied them out of the description on the books.

Book 1:
A one armed chauffer? Plus two djinn? Plus three wishes? Qwertuiop! What does it all add up to? An amazing adventure, for sure (and that’s not counting the Rottweilers. Alan and Neil, who are not exactly the pets they seem to be. Meet John and Philippa Gaunt, twelve-year old twins who one day discover themselves to be descended from a long line of djinn. All of a sudden, they have the power to grant wishes, travel to extraordinary places (and not necessarily on public transportation), and make people and objects disappear. Luckily (and luck does have something to do with it), the twins are introduced to their eccentric djinn-uncle Nimrod, who will teach them how to harness their newly found power. And not a moment too soon! Because John and Philippa are about to embark on a search to locate a monstrous looking (but supposed to be dead) pharaoh named Akhenaten, and his tomb, which may be holding seventy lost djinn. Will the twins be strong and skilled and clever enough to outwit Ilbis, the most evil djinn in the universe and live to see another say – another city – another adventure?

Book 2:
John and Philippa Gaunt, twelve year old twins who recently discovered themselves to be descended from a long line of djinn (which are commonly called genies) and who are now in possession of great magical powers, have only just returned from their adventures battling an evil djinn in Cairo and London. Now the mystery surrounding a powerful book of djinn magic lures the twins straight into their next extraordinary adventure. When the Solomon Grimoire is reported missing, John and Philippa are called upon to retrieve it. They travel across the globe, from New York to Istanbul, but, little do they know, a trap has been set and the djinn twins are about to walk right into it. Soon, John must embark on an epic journey to save his sister… before it’s too late.

Book 3:
Break-ins, a mysterious talisman, murder… too many bizarre events that just don’t add up. In the third book of the bestselling Children of the Lamp Series, the djinn twins, John and Philippa Gaunt, are on the trail of another magical mystery. As they travel from New York to London to Nepal to India on a whirlwind adventure, the twins try to help their friend and fellow djinn Dybbuk find out who murdered his best friend, using the venomous snakebite of the king cobra. All too soon, John and Philippa find themselves caught up in the lethal world of the cult of the Nine Cobras, only to discover that they themselves are a target of the creepy cobra cult. Now, the twins must find the invaluable Cobra King talisman, and stop the cobra leader’s deadly plan!

“The Cobra King of Kathmandu”

Rating: four out of five stars

Analysis: Out of the three books released so far, the third is by far the best. While the plots in the first two are entertaining and well written, the third book’s plot comes in as the most big screen worthy. Actually, following the example of the hit “Harry Potter” movies and other films based on children’s books, Dreamworks studios plans to make a movie based on the first book. The first and second book come together in the third book. Cliffhangers from the second book and enemies from the first book come back and new enemies are raised. “Cobra” starts out slower than the first two books and takes longer to capture your attention, but once you are deep into the book you can’t put it down. All the characters are separated and each holds a piece of the mystery. You don’t know the solution to the mystery until everything comes together in an unpredictable way. The book opens with a prologue taking place long before the first book. The opening seems pointless and irrelevant to the rest of the book. At the end of the book the opening prologue makes sense. New cliffhangers are created, as well. Kerr makes it obvious what forthcoming plots might include, but there’s no way to predict how they will unfold. Ilbis, the villain in the first book who is present in the background of the third book, has yet to get his chance at revenge against the twins. We are also introduced to the character of Faustina, the sister of Dybbuk, a friend of the twins. She has been missing for years and there is a chance that someone will find her in a future book. The twin’s mother leaves them to take on the ultimate djinn job in the third book. Kerr implies that Faustina could take her place. We also learn that Ilbis is Dybbuk’s father, so there is potential conflict there. Whatever happens, we can expect great things from this series.

Christian Content: Reference to stories from the Bible appear here and there in the books. Raised a Baptist, Kerr does have a Christian background, although he professes to believe in no particular religion. The djinn element in general plays more on the Islamic side of things, although even there it is not completely in tune with Muslim beliefs. Angels are also present in the third book to reward those who help them. Still, the series contains the classic battles of good versus evil, which I expect will show itself even more in future installments. Kerr’s books are no worse than stories of Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. As long as you don’t take the non-Christian elements as truth they make a good read.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Potential Aida Movie

I love the music in Disney's version of Aida (even if the opera is better), but I never actually saw the musical on stage. I've only listened to the recording. I think I'd be open to a movie version of it. I guess disney is considering making their own musical movies. Musical movies has been a trend lately. Hairspray and Mamma Mia are on their way to the bigscreen. I'm glad to see how musical movies have progressed since "Moulin Rouge" came out, which was a total laugh, but the musicals today lack the classic, clean humor and light heart aspect of older musical films, but it's still nice to see them appreciated again. It does seem strange to me that Disney would choose to do a movie version of Aida, however. If I remember right, it was not out for very long and did not get very good reviews. I'm not too keen on Beyonce playing the title role, either. She has an ok voice, but she's a terrible actress. Plus, I hate how she dresses: just like all teenage girls today she refuses to dress modestly. I can only hope.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Harry Potter Week

In honor of Harry Potter week, I thought I would post something about the upcoming movie and book. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I'm also a Christian. No, that's not redundant. If you'd like a good read, check out the book "Looking for God in Harry Potter" by John Granger. I give it five stars! Actually, I've only been a fan since the first movie came out. Recently, my uncle told me it was blasphemous, so I went out and bought Granger's book and am now totally convinced that there is nothing wrong with Harry Potter.

To tell the truth, the fifth book was my least favorite book. Then again, the fourth book was my favorite book, but the fourth movie was my least favorite movie. I have a feeling that the fifth movie is going to be really good. So far, my favorite movie is the third one. I'm hoping to see this next installment on IMAX. It should be good. I'll post a review once it comes out.

I'm also anxious for the last book to come out. Any predictions?

By the way, the link at the top of this post takes you to a short article on the upcoming movie that is accompanied by an extra movie clip.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A laugh for any dog lover

I have two dogs. One is a mutt and the other is half pit half lab. Freckles and Tucker are great dogs, but they love to rest on our beds and couches. We only "allow" them up on the bed when we invite them, but even then they take up all the space. Often, my dad will have to yell (in a kind way) "get off of my bed!" The dogs do fairly well with instructions, but still climb up when we're not looking every once in a while. What I really hate is when they lick your sheets and get them soaked with dog slobber! LOL! Anyway, I thought I would post these pics/comics on here because I think anyone with a dog can relate to them, and anyone in general can enjoy them.
(From the "Bed Hog" collector plate series by Gary Patterson, marketed by Danbury Mint.)

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