Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tag Answers for A Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence!

Hooray!! Hosted by Hamlette (at her exciting and hospitable blog The Edge of the Precipice) the magnificent and eagerly-looked-forward-to Tolkien blog party has arrived! 

Here are my answers to her fun tag:

1. Who introduced you to Tolkien's stories? ~ My parents! Daddy read them when he was growing up, and he’s since read The Hobbit and the LOTR aloud regularly every three or four years. (We’re due for another one soon!)

2. How old were you when you first ventured into Middle Earth? ~ Hmmmm. My next sister was born and named Éowyn exactly one week after my eighth birthday, so that’s probably my first cognitive memory associated with it. :-)

3. Did you read the books first, or see movie versions first? ~ The books. (I actually haven’t yet seen the movies—but I’m more open to the idea than I used to be, so maybe sometime in the near future.)

4. A dragon or a balrog -- which would you rather fight? ~ A dragon. Highly unpleasant, of course…but a balrog is about the most horrible thing I can imagine.

5. Who are three of your favorite characters? (Feel free to elaborate on why.) ~ Faramir (and here’s a bit of why ;-)). Aragorn (who actually always used to seem a bit more “unapproachable” to me—till the last time I read it, when I started vividly realizing how incredibly amazing and relatable he is)! And then—Gandalf? Merry…Pippin…Eomer?? Oh, no Sam—definitely Sam!

6. Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character? ~ No, I haven’t.

7. If someone asks you to go on adventure, how do you respond? ~ I’m actually probably a bit hobbit-like in my approach to adventures, but when it comes to falling water and fountains and trees, I go quite elvish. :-)

8. Have you read any of the "history of Middle Earth" books? ~ No, but The Silmarillion is on my “to read soon” list.

9. Would you rather drink a bowl of Ent Draught or a glass of Old Winyards? ~ A bowl of Ent Draught! At times hearty and sustaining, at others like liquid sunlight—an almost unimaginable fullness and refreshment.

10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies. ~ Oh, my Hamlette…ten??? Ah, yes... Well, (refraining from transcribing all of "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" and "A Window on the West" :-)) here’s for an initial selection:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
PPPS. I hope Butterbur sends this promptly. A worthy man, but his memory is like a lumber-room: thing wanted always buried. If he forgets, I shall roast him. Fare well!”

“‘I had forgotten that,’ said Éomer. ‘It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.’

“The old man was too quick for him. He sprang to his feet and leaped to the top of a large rock. There he stood, grown suddenly tall, towering above them. His hood and his grey rags were flung away. His white garments shone. He lifted up his staff, and Gimli’s axe leaped from his grasp and fell ringing on the ground. The sword of Aragorn, stiff in his motionless hand, blazed with a sudden fire. Legolas gave a great shout and shot an arrow high into the air: it vanished in a flash of flame.

‘Mithrandir!’ he cried. ‘Mithrandir!’

‘Well met, I say to you again, Legolas!’ said the old man.

They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine; and gleaming white was his robe; the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; power was in his hand. Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say.”

“They stood on a wet floor of polished stone, the doorstep, as it were, of a rough-hewn gate of rock opening dark behind them. But in front a thin veil of water was hung, so near that Frodo could have put an outstretched arm into it. It faced westward. The level shafts of the setting sun behind beat upon it, and the red light was broken into many flickering beams of ever-changing colour. It was as if they stood at the window of some elven-tower, curtained with threaded jewels of silver and gold, and ruby, sapphire and amethyst, all kindled with an unconsuming fire.” (And later): “As he went by the cave-mouth he saw that the Curtain was now become a dazzling veil of silk and pearls and silver thread: melting icicles of moonlight.”

“Pippin glanced in some wonder at the face now close beside his own, for the sound of that laugh had been gay and merry. Yet in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.”

“He sat for a moment half dreaming, listening to the noise of water, the whisper of dark trees, the crack of stone, and the vast waiting silence that brooded behind all sound.”

“Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

“Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’”

“And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

“He looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart. And she looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the mark would outmatch in battle.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Sea Hawk (1940) with Errol Flynn

With court intrigues, desperate ventures, a roistering sea fight, and a good dose of sweet romance—this is one splendid high seas adventure!

Described as being one of Errol Flynn’s “best roles”, the stage for The Sea Hawk is set when Spain is preparing to launch her great Armada on the seas and the privateers (aka the Queen’s pirates) are the only ones standing between the mighty Spanish Empire and an unsuspecting England…

Amazingly enough, I first saw Sea Hawk way back last spring within a week of first viewing Rob Roy (talk about writing inspiration overdose!) and for that reason always tend to think of them together. (In fact, I’ve always felt a little badly that I didn’t have a review up for this one yet, though Rob Roy’s been up for several months)—so a big thank you to Hamlette for hosting her Piratical Blogathon, agreeing to my selection, and giving me a deadline to get it
up! :-)

First off, Errol Flynn as Captain Thorpe. Due to the piratical setting, I really can’t help comparing him here and in Captain Blood, and—in case you can’t tell—I’m quite absolutely and entirely thrilled! In fact, he acts like I always kept wanting him to in Captain B!! (And merely a personal preference here, no offense to the latter.)

Teasing and daring (I mean, he couldn’t be anything but, of course), but also serious-minded, level-headed, and in most deadly earnest.

(He goes through some pretty drastic personal and physical difficulties, too, and I…um…like daring and suffering heroes in extremely tight situations…)

There are a number of other jollily familiar faces, including “Prince John” from the 1939 Robin Hood as the heroine’s uncle. *spoiler* He’s still bad, but it’s not so slimy of a role, so that’s quite fun to see *end of spoiler* and he has real feeling for his niece.

And his niece Maria…I like Maria sooo much!! A lovely, soft-spoken yet determined Spanish beauty, she’s probably actually a big part of bringing the serious-minded tone to the story or rather—bringing it out so to speak—in the Captain’s role. 

Dark-eyed and dark-haired, she wears some gorgeous Spanish lace gowns…and veils!

And her hair… Ah yes...her hair. (Yes, very).

The court shots are quite impressive.

And for a few production particulars: the grand, flourishing musical score was done by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who also did the score for Robin Hood),

and the film was made on the—at the time—magnificent scale of $1.7-million, including the construction of two full-size ships!

There’s also an entire middling section done in sepia rather than black and white while *spoiler* they’re traveling down to and in Panama. And it’s very striking. You can almost feel all their heat and thirst and despair—it’s so heart-wrenching! *end of spoiler*

Intensity-wise, I think it’s a bit heavier than Robin Hood and possibly Captain Blood as well. The battles are pretty dramatic and there are lots of shots in the galleys and of the slaves, etc.

(Here I just have to add an editorial note: if this shows how gripping Sea Hawk is—I’ve been able to concentrate on this review while listening out of one ear to the opening episodes of P&P playing in the next room…wow! But then maybe switching between genres helped the entire process?? I did mention Austen’s merit in the writing inspiration category on another recent post, didn’t I? ;-))

But let us jump back two centuries again!

With Spain on the move piratical activities abound. Royal intrigue is conspiring to disband the Sea Hawks—leaving the country open to its fate. The future of an entire nation is riding in the balance and the one man who can save the day is most hopelessly immured… And Spain’s hand is extending to grasp the little country lying on the border of her mighty empire—yet she’s reckoning without the cool-headed planning and brilliant, sure-handed action of one of the Queen’s own pirates!

Monday, September 15, 2014

On a Giving of Thanks

Thankfulness…wholehearted gratitude for blessings bestowed. I’m still quite positive I don’t have it completely figured out, because properly figured out means it’s fully lived. (And I’m still laboring along trying to figure out why I had to come down with a trifling cold this last week—unless it was pushing me to ponder all this again—this giving of thanks.)

Thanksgiving: it’s closely connected with discernment and sanctification (Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, etc). And requiring discipline, it’s often as hard to remember when things are going well as when not. Yet God commands us to take joy and give thanks to Him in all things. And what’s more—somehow—He’s using our thanksgiving to change the world as He’s taking it apart and putting it back together again in most new and glorious fashion.

The gifting and calling to thanksgiving is intricately woven into the very fabric of His world, stretching back to the beginning—into all the careful, patterned placement of gold threads and dark highlighting shadows. 

It’s one of the primary evidences of our faith. The Israelites in the desert were cut off in their disbelief…they grumbled

It’s a sowing and a dying in thanks. It’s a daily resurrection and a springing forth of new life—in joy and thanks. It lies at the very center of our weekly worship—in the breaking and the giving of thanks and the taking and eating. 

Giving thanks is not a sugar coating over life. Giving thanks does not preclude wrestling and grappling and pleading. But giving thanks orients our hearts and minds and souls—training us in how to do it properly. It trains us to step back and see. It trains us to live in faith.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Movie Review: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) with John Wayne

I just saw this for the first time recently and as it’s definitely and deservedly a classic—and already on my heartily enjoyed/to be re-watched list—I couldn’t wait to do a review for Emma Jane’s Legends of Western Cinema Week!

So, you already have my conclusion…shall I proceed with any particulars? Yes, I shall—but no spoilers!

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is part of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy (the others being Fort Apache and Rio Grande). I haven’t seen the other two, but my brother has and says you can really watch them in any order. (As a note, there are multiple actors who are in all three, but—so far as I know—only one has the same name and role, which can be a little confusing.)

It’s filmed in Monument Valley, of course—and the musical score is positively thrilling…

…and the character development even more so! Part of why it’s so great, is because you really learn who each character is (and what they’re about) as the story progresses and as the character development itself is happening. 

And though the entire story as a whole is tremendously character-driven, it’s yet done with an incredibly understated amount of description.

There are quite a few unexpected twists and turns—including the entire weight of conflict being in a different place than I expected (which was itself one of the twists)!

I can’t say much more without totally giving it away, but I will say it’s about older men having to pass the reins to the next generation—and about younger men maturing to fill their role—and about leadership and trust and responsibility.

And all done with a classic (and again, understated) rough-and-ready, shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie.

Love this picture!

I really honestly can’t say any more without spoilers…so in ending I shall just conclude by saying that (...ever since watching it my sister Arwen and I have been having periodic ecstatic-sister sessions about it...)—ahem!—by reiterating in short that I most heartily and thoroughly enjoyed it, and can and do most highly and thoroughly recommend it!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

50th Post & Announcing...An Emma Party!!!

This is rather exciting in how it happened…but (number one)—this is my 50th post!!! And (number two) what makes it doubly exciting is that it fell at the exact time I’m announcing my “Emma” Party! The party is scheduled for October 20-27 and I do so hope you can all join me! There will be a tag, reviews, posts on history and themes, and also a give-away!

I wanted to let you know in plenty of time so you can decide if you’re able to do it, plan anything extra you might like, and/or read the book (Emma by Jane Austen).

Here are the party buttons!

If you’re putting one up and/or planning to participate, I’d love to have you leave a quick comment! (And if you could put a link back here with the buttons that would be great, too.) I’m so looking forward to sharing the time with you all!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Writing Tag

Anne-girl has just started a new writing blog at A Half-Baked Plot so here are my answers to her tag:

What is your favorite kind of cake? If you don't eat cake {because of gluten issues or allergies or diet or whatever} what is your favorite dessert? ~ Ice cream cake with either Oreos or crumbled brownies!

How long have you been writing? ~ I’ve been telling stories ever since I can remember, but I think my earliest typed up tales date to when I was about seven or eight. ;-)

Do you read books and blogs about writing? If so what are some of your favorites? ~ I do (very selectively!), and my favorite books are The Christian Imagination edited by Leland Ryken (beautifully covering the entire creative reading and writing process as a whole), The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White (quite pertinent and indispensable), and Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (striking a perfect balance between structure and flexibility). My favorite writing blog is Weiland’s: Helping Writers Become Authors.

Do you believe it's important to study writing as an art form? Why or why not? ~ I heartily concur in that I think good writing is art, so—yes—it most definitely merits study into all its wonderful depths and complexities! As to a particular level of study: everyone’s learning process is different. Some writers seem to be tremendously helped by in-depth “how-to courses”, etc.—while others prefer to “do their own thing”. Both can do excellent work.

Who's writing has influenced yours the most? ~ It would be hard to pick a single author, but looking at my current WIP: I think Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, G.K. Chesterton, Caroline Dale Snedeker, Margaret Leighton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Joseph Conrad are all playing a part. Quite a mix!

Do you consider writing more important than food? Why or why not? ~ When I first read this question I actually got thinking about it along rather deep lines… Because, Biblically speaking, I think there’s actually a strong connection between the two—that is, between word and food. So I’m not sure I could pick. :-)

Tell us the thing you are most excited about with your writing. ~ Metaphor. I love crafting with metaphor and studying its incredible ability to tie different plot threads together while adding depth and meaning to a story.

What are you dreading most in your writing? ~ Starting new chapters! Story openings haven’t been tremendously hard thus far, but I have a dreadful procrastination habit when it comes to figuring out the opening scene of a chapter.

Would you rather have people love your book now or be considered a genius after you are dead? ~ I would be thrilled if people loved my writing now (it’s such an encouragement!), but then—again—there’s the long term perspective. Part of what makes something worthwhile and classic is having it stand the test of time.

Thank you, Anne-girl! Good questions!

Sisters in Austen Guest Post

Last week I was honored to do a guest post on "Sisters in Austen" for Rose's lovely Jane Austen Week at Best of Classics. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out!

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