Monday, August 18, 2014

"The Best Kind of Friends We Could Find"

"Now friendship in those days was a bit different from what it is today; friends did not have to agree on everything and often agreed on practically nothing. They were people with whom you could argue all day and yet never get irritated or angry at all. In today's world we seem to have lost the real meaning of friendship. If someone disagrees with us, it is fashionable today to dislike them for it. This is silly and robs us of the best kind of friends we could find, for if we are always agreed with, we can never have a really serious conversation; we cannot learn from someone who agrees with what we say."

--Douglas Gresham, Jack's Life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Adventure Time" Quote Sighting

The Magician's Land is the third book in Lev Grossman's New York Times bestselling books about the young magician Quentin Coldwater's adventures in the magical land of Fillory, an alternate world reported on Earth as a series of beloved children's books. As well as references to Narnia, Middle Earth, the Harry Potter books ("Dumb-Bell-Door!"), and Alice in Wonderland, you can find this bit, where a character named Josh is trying to catch the ram-god Umber:

She was still standing there, arms crossed, glaring at it, when Josh came heaving up the top step like he was trying to get himself out of a swimming pool.

"I'm gonna sack that guy's nutcastle," he croaked.

This is surely a specific reference to this exchange in the Adventure Time Season One episode "Henchman":

Lisby: Yeeees? Duke and Duchess of Nuts' residence!
Finn: My boss is gonna sack your castle!
Lisby: Oh! Well, that's certainly bad news for us!
Duke of Nuts: Lisby! Who's at the door?
Lisby: Someone who wishes to sack the nut castle!
Duke of Nuts: Why would you want to sack my nut castle on my second son's first birthday?!

A lovely little example of the Easter eggs Grossman habitually leaves for all lovers of Fantasy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The "Natural Law" Philosophical Basis of Human Rights

To take one example, the traditional understanding of the idea that there is a "natural law" that determines what is objectively right and wrong is inextricably tied to classical realism. For "human nature," as understood by the traditional natural law theorist, is defined in terms of the form that every human being participates in simply by virtue of being a human being. And that means it is something known ultimately and most fully only through the intellect and via philosophical reasoning, not (or at least not entirely or most deeply) through the senses and empirical biology. Moreover, this nature defines certain natural ends and purposes for human beings and their capacities, the realization of which constitutes what is good for them: good objectively, simply by virtue of their participation in the form, and regardless of whether this or that particular human being realizes or (because of intellectual error, habitual vice, psychological or genetic anomaly or whatever) fails to realize it.

To take another, and related, example, a person, being on the view in question a composite of soul (or form) and body (or matter), cannot be identified with either his psychological characteristics alone or his bodily characteristics alone. Moreover, since the soul is just the form of a living human body, for a living human body to exist at all is for it to have a soul, so that there can be no such thing as a living human body -- whether that of a fetus, an infant, a normal human adult or a severely brain damaged adult -- which does not have a soul, and which does not count as a person. For while even a human being who is damaged or not fully formed might not perfectly exhibit the form of the human body (any more than a hastily drawn triangle perfectly manifests the form of triangularity), he nevertheless does exhibit it, otherwise his body wouldn't count as a living human body at all (just as a hastily drawn triangle is still a triangle, however imperfect). One corollary of this is that every single living human body, within the womb or without, severely damaged or not, counts as the body of a person and as a being having all the rights of a person, including the right to life.

--Edward Feser, “The Metaphysics of Conservatism”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Narnian Goes To Oz

"Our Christmas dinner went off very well, and since then Jack [C. S. Lewis] took us to the Wizard of Oz (being revived again) and went book shopping with Davy, so there's been some fun for the boys."

--Joy Davidman, from Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman, p. 271.

I'm always rather curious about what my favorite authors have read or seen of my other favorite things, and here we have C. S. Lewis taking his soon-to-be wife and stepsons to see MGM's The Wizard of Oz over the Christmas holidays in 1955 (after all the Narnia Chronicles have been written, if not yet published). No record of his opinion of the film, though.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Third Time Pays For All?

The first teaser trailer for the third Hobbit movie by Peter Jackson, The Battle of the Five Armies, has been released, and we have been given our first glimpses of what to expect come December. To me, the portents are not good.

The title alone is off-putting. The Battle of the Five Armies? Where did that clunky second the come from? In Tolkien's work, it has always been The Battle of Five Armies. It seems that, as in the film content, Jackson has to add his unnecessary bit of festooning to make the work more his own, to mark his territory.

Next, the trailer seems to be all snippets of action sequences. Totally understandable, as it has to grab the attention of movie-goers, but where are the dramatic emotional accents that (surely, hopefully) must be there? Is it all sound and fury? This is, however, only a short teaser trailer; perhaps there was no room, just yet, for these.

All of this action is set to Pippin's song from The Return of the King. I get that it sets the mood for the desperate, poignant feel of an almost hopeless final battle. It is a call back to everyone who remembers the success of Jackson's previous journey in Middle Earth. One can almost hear his plaintive voice: "We've had some good times, haven't we? Will you follow me, one last time?"

The poster touts this as "The Defining Chapter" of the Hobbit movie trilogy. I'm sure they mean that not only is it the last bit that pulls the story together, but that also it is the hinge that leads into "The Lord of the Rings" movies. But in that line I hear some special pleading. The first two films have not been as bull-dozingly popular as might have been hoped. We have endured wizard-sledding and giant-gold-dwarf-statue-smelting. But this chapter will make it all worthwhile, fellas! You'll see!

I certainly hope that Jackson can pull out this cellphone he's dropped among the turds, wipe it off, and salvage some of the quality of the sterling work he's done before with Tolkien. If not: "Give me your third terrible gift and be on your way!"