Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book Review: The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

As is the case with most Sherlock Holmes stories/novels, this was very fun to read.

The story is in two parts, and starts with the murder of a seemingly very likeable, upright, and resourceful man who does not appear to have any enemies. The man's name is Mr. Douglas of Birlstone Manor House. However, there is a period of time in his life of which he did not speak, and it is that period which Sherlock Holmes delves into in order to solve the mystery, in addition to the usual clues the police always seem inclined to ignore or downplay.

The second part gives background to the first part by taking the reader back in time about 20 years, to a period of time the relevance of which is at first uncertain to the reader. However, the relevance becomes more and more apparent as the second part unfolds, eventually leading to a delightful revelation that Susan, for once, did not anticipate in the least. She has this habit of correctly predicting Sherlock Holmes story outcomes, but this one completely took her by surprise. I think it might take you by surprise as well, should you choose to read this fun read.

In Christ.

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Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Rating: PG-13

Degree to which what sins there are in the movie (as defined biblically) are condemned (0 = sin is always winked at, 10 = sin is always condemned): 8

Degree to which the story has redemptive value (0 = no one saves anyone, 10 = practically the story of Christ's redemption of His people): 5

Artistry of movie (0 = completely inartistic, 10 = stunning work of art): 7

Originality (0 = copies everything from somewhere else, 10 = unique): 9

Synopsis: Harvey Dent is the new District Attorney in Gotham, and he appears to be as incorruptible as Gotham is not. He is also dating Bruce Wayne/Batman's girl, Rachel Dawes (almost hilariously miscast in this movie), a fact which complicates matters tremendously. Enter the Joker, a villain with very few rules except do everything he can to create chaos and mayhem. Without giving away too much, I'll say that the trajectory of this movie is dark in the extreme.

Critical Review: The most disorienting thing about this movie is that the viewer really has no idea whatsoever what the Joker wants to do, or what his goal is until near the end of the movie. He kills with apparently no conscience whatsoever, burns large piles of money he has just earned, etc. I should also point out that it is extremely improbable that anyone could be so far ahead of justice as the Joker appears to be. That, of course, is of no concern to the story. The story simply assumes the existence of such a man.

The theme of Dark Knight is actually very similar to the theme of Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein, though I would say the ending is quite different. That theme is that corruption can happen to anyone, even someone like Harvey Dent.

Overall: This was a depressing movie, though exciting; it was gory, though it definitely told some truth. It is definitely worth watching at least once, though I'm not sure all the hype was well-placed. Both Susan and I liked Batman Begins better.

In Christ.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Yesterday/Today is Beethoven's Birthday! That's right. Beethoven's family celebrated his birthday on the 16th, but Beethoven himself, if I remember correctly, preferred to think of his birthday on the 17th. According to records, he was at least baptized on the 17th. In any case, my favorite composer was born in the year 1770 in Bonn, Germany (a fact that Bonn, apparently, is fond of reminding the world), and died March 26, 1827.

My favorite work of all is his Fifth Piano Concerto (Emperor), Op. 73. Listen to it some time, if you have the chance. It is truly magnificent. The first movement is royal, the second movement lush, and the third movement exhilirating.

In Christ.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Plug

I just finished listening to almost all (not all are posted) of the 2008 ACCS Conference talks. They were, for the most part, terrific. You can download all of them for free from here. Some highlights for me:

Any talks by George Grant.
19 Matt Whitling - Boys and Classical Education
30 Douglas Wilson - Defending Sayers' Insight
50 Ken Myers - With Choirs of Angels: Music and Transcendent Order

The last I mentioned, Ken Myers on music, was unbelievably good. It would be good medicine for many Christians these days who think that beauty in music is relative (it isn't relative in truth or goodness; why beauty?). Ken Myers is one of those (only slightly) annoying people who are never cliched, quote mostly authors I've never heard of, and issue profound truths almost as asides. I have a time of it to keep my mind up to what he's talking about! It's worth the effort, though.

In Christ.

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