New Look, New Narnia Featurette, and Pauline Baynes

Well, over the past few days I have been exploring some of the features of Moveable Type. It is like monkey working on a BMW engine. But I have gotten results to my liking, though I am uncertain how the page looks in different resolutions, and Firefox doesn’t like it much. Thanks to my boss Dennis for the Dassler sphere and other technical and creative consulting. Thanks to Ron at Stlblogs for patience with my queries.
narnia_poster.jpg Another Narnia featurette is available. It has a lot of technical info regarding the visual effects which are pretty amazing. Also, there are glimpses of Aslan. The director, Andrew Adamson, who by all I have seen so far, seems to be doing a good job of this says that he wanted people to be terrified as they would be if they saw a real lion when they first see Aslan and also at the same time want to pet him. It looks like Aslan is going to be well done as well as the Mr. and Mrs. Beaver.
In talking about the desired effect he wants Aslan to have, Andrew Adamson seems to be on the right track to capturing the meekness and majesty which are rolled into the descriptions of Aslan in the Chronicles, “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly.”
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I am taking this quote out of Zondervan’s The Complete Chronicles of Narnia, which is ordered in chronological order with The Magician’s Nephew first, which makes sense for a one volume tome. This is not my preferred order of reading, though, largely I suppose because I was first read them in their publication order, but also because the serendipity of discovering in The Magician’s Nephew, orginally volume 6, where the lampost in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came from is delightful. Alas, in a letter to a young reader, Lewis settled an argument between him (it may have been a girl) and his mother that he agreed with the boy that they should be read in chronological order.
This edition is lovely, with all of Pauline Baynes orignal drawings and in color too. Lewis liked Pauline Baynes illustrations the best and they helped constitute a good chunk of the imaginative framework of my childhood. Click here to have a brief peek inside.
When I was young, I used to worry because I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus (I used to also worry because I loved my parents even more strongly than both of them). However, as I have grown I have come to know and love Jesus. And hope to even more, for it is still a poor and feeble love. Reading about Aslan, though, puts into words for me what I imagine the emotions will be like to see the Lord Jesus face to face. The imagining of Goodness, and Glory, and Heaven is perhaps the strongest and most unique features of Lewis’ writings.
Before the children even meet Aslan, at the mere mention of his name, they have have this reaction:
“And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do, but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream if feels as if it has some enourmous meaning–either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

When the subversion brings life-Sufjan Stevens

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if I was crying
in the van, with my friend
it was for freedom
from myself and from the land
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go
-from “Chicago” from the album Illinois
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In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window
In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing
Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window
Oh the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes
-from “Casimir Pulaski Day” from the album Illinois
__________________________
The live show of one Mr. Sufjan Stevens is surreal enough, but to hear these lyrics reverberating through the smoky, sweaty air of the Mississippi Nights club on the landing in St. Louis adds to the effect. And if it is subversion, it is the happiest, most playful subversion you have ever heard, though sincerely serious at its heart. Talking to a fellow concert goer in line for tickets, I said I heard that Sufjan’s second major album Seven Swans had some pretty spiritual themes. “Yeah, it was a little weird at first,” he agreed, before professing how much he liked it, despite, I think, and not because of its spiritual content, mentioning something about “14 years of Catholic school” as he walked up to get his ticket.
In truth, Sufjan is not subversive, in effect perhaps he may be, but not in his art. He simply makes intelligent, quirky folk music with lyrics that reflect his life, and in as much as his life is touched by Christian spirituality, no touched by God and his Christ, this seeps through. He is not akin to the youth pastor who gets the tattoo so he can relate. At least this is the sense I get. Nor is his art a type of Christian propaganda. Instead it is the best sort, excellent artistry flowing organically from his soul and spirit.
As for last night’s concert itself, I must be honest, I would have enjoyed it far more if I had more listens to his latest CD and any listens to his previous efforts. Also, his music is complicated and sometimes can seem cacophonous to these untrained and unintiated ears. I intend to correct this ear problem sometimes soon. One gets the idea, though,even if one is untrained like me, that Sufjan is pretty much able do whatever he wants with music and employs a plethora of insturments to effect just the purposes and affects he intends. It seems like play, whimsical and full of energy, but still with that aforementioned seriousness, both in reflecting the joy and the brokenness of life. In a song about the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr., an example of the classic folk murder song tradition, which I don’t believe he performed last night, he compares himself to Gacy:
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
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Last night the six or so band members, “the Illinoisemakers,” dressed for most of the concert in old school Illinois cheerleader outfits, performed a series of faux cheers for various cities as they introduced the songs, and even constructed the human pyramid. And they and Sufjan played an assortment of instruments. In addition to the usual suspects, there were the triangle and the chimes and what looked like a keyboard operated by blowing into it and, yes, the banjo.
Ah, the banjo, one of the first things that attracted me to Sufjan’s music, which I first heard on some Christmas music I got from links on a blog, and which I hope and pray is legal for me to have, because I would be loathe to give it up if I found out otherwise. It is lovely. He sings Christmas folk songs of his own penning which alternately rejoice in the season or sadly reflect on its propensity to accentuate loneliness and pain, all the while looking to Christ amidst it all. He also sings and plays some hymns that you are more likely to hear in England (or Pakistan, in my case): “Once in Royal David’s City” and “The Friendly Beasts,” which I can still remember practicing and singing with my brother and mother at about age 12. And I desperately want to make, direct, inspire, storyboard, whatever, a video for his take on “Bring a Torch Jeannette Isabella.”
Last winter, on long nighttime drives, I smiled, I wept, and, yes, worshiped as I travelled through the darkness.

Sappy Music Confessional-Ms. Armstrong-Codependency-“Mary’s in India”

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Over the past 5 years my musical palette has broadened and taken on room for more colors. In many ways this music buying spree (and it has been a buying spree) is part of a larger renaissance, actually it is really more like an adolescence, an adolescence which is either a sequel or has just shown up properly for the first time. More interesting than which of these two types of adolescence it is, are the reasons (not all of which I am sure I am aware) that it is occurring at all at this point in my life. But that is not the point of this post. Even so, at this rate, I will be having my mid-life crisis in my sixties.

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Digital Tampering

The blog veered a bit philosophical yesterday and continues so today. At one point in time I rather vocally objected to digital manipulation. When Photography Today’s tag line went from “the world’s largest photography magazine” to “the world’s largest photography and digital imaging magazine” (or some change to that effect), I was chuffed. In a fundamental way, I saw such changes as the latest assault on truth. How could one be sure of what the real image was? And the question was not completely without merit.
This question has severl components. First, on a technical level my brother Virgil and I considered how digital manipulation allows one to correct for poor photographic technique, as did sundry darkroom techniques in analog, tangible, get-woozy-from-the-chemicals, hope-to-share-a-dark-room-with-a-lassie-and-see-what-develops photography (mind you the last descriptor in that sentence I have not experienced). If one is a film purist, then this is a legitimate objection. Digital effects, though, are somewhat democratizing, in that they allow lesser photographers to capture images and then correct them later. There is, of course, something lost in the knowledge department, which is lamentable (as I lament as librarian that people no longer understand where their periodical articles come from and how to use an index), but the results are often stunning. Advances in digital camera technology truly allow anyone to take what might be a very good eye for creativity and composition etc. and easily capture/create the vision that they see.
On an artistic level, digital manipulation allows one to easily abstract from a basic representation of reality into something that is more of a piece of creative art. Of course, one could do this to some degree with the aforementioned anlog, tangible, etc. etc. photography as well, but, again, it took skill. Now amateurs can do some pretty amazing things.
There are other philosophical aspects to the entire question of perception and representation including its degree of objectivity vs. subjectivity, which involves photons and rods and cones and how we see and memory etc. which I really don’t know a whole lot about. For now I leave you with two pictures one uncorrected and the other corrected. The latter, corrected one, seems to me how the scence actually looked and which I was unable to capture with my disposable. Still I am pleased with both and particularly like the rays of sunlight filtering through the dust and the light glowing around the people. I need to work on my scanner resolution issues unfortunately. Sorry.
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Messy Lines, Fine Line

I am teaching a non-Western literature class in which we are currently discussing Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which, if you have not read it, is a classic of post-colonial African literature. Achebe paints a vivid picture of pre-colonial society in the Igbo region of Nigeria, detailing its religious and social structures. In the midst of this he places his central character, Okonkwo, who in many ways functions much in the same way as a tragic hero in Shakespeare. He is a noble leader of his people, his fall is momentous, and he has a fatal flaw which leads to his downfall. With Okonkwo it is his skewed view of masculinity and work, which is an attempt to compensate for having a lazy, infeffectual father, which is his fatal flaw. He is also proud and has no means to access any emotion except anger, which he cannot control. The story also details the arrival of the missio-colonial complex in the area and how it alters loyalties through enticement and outright coercion, completely ignoring settled religious and cultural traditions.
As a Christian, this is a difficult story to process.

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The Misfit Finds His Calling

“She would of been a good woman,”
The Misfit said,
“If it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
And so too do I
So need his wonderful ministry.
Those violent slugs to the chest
Boring clean through smugness,
Making holes to ooze out self pity,
To tear light into the darkness.
He should start a radio show.
Come into my home.
Not be so hard to find.
So that it would not just be
Down lonely, indulgent roads
That I meet by
ACCIDENT
His ministry of violence.
His violent mercy.