Feb 12

P&P

Pride and Prejudice, BBC Production starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle  ★★★★ for production, ★ for storyline

I typically don’t watch girly films. By girly films, I don’t intend to imply the lewd films of the present day that don’t allow for public display. Both the present day sexually overt “girly” films and what I am referring to have sex as their primary subject and thus much similarity. The Jane Austen books and associated films have been the subject of popular opinion and frequent enjoyment by many close to me, and even the subject of an entire class offered at schools connected with my church denomination, and thus have I decided to break down and watch the most popular of the Austen series, P&P.

BBC does a marvelous production, with superb acting and excellent cinematography. One cannot fault the scene settings, as they are reflective of a most lavish production. I will limit my comments to the Austen story itself. Since I have not heard complaints about the screenwriters taking liberties with the text that offend what Austen wrote, I will presume that the BBC production is faithful to Austen’s script, as I have no intention of ever reading her book.

The Pride and Prejudice story is quite simple. The Bennett family are near broke aristocrats, struggling to keep the family alive with their five children, all marriageable females. The focus of the story is on the two oldest daughters Jane and Elizabeth,  with the primary focus put on the second oldest, Elizabeth, known as Lizzy. A very wealthy suitor comes to town, and immediately falls in love with Jane. A Mr. Darcy accompanies him, who happens to be even wealthier, but is interpreted by the Bennett family as being quite arrogant though he is interested in Elizabeth. After much wrangling and misreadings of various people’s intentions through the course of the novel, Jane and Elizabeth eventually marry their respective suitors and everything ends happily ever after. There are a few side stories, such as when the youngest Bennett daughter elopes with a soldier who presents himself well, but secretly has the reputation of a sleazy character: this event suggests a besmirching of Bennett family reputation.

There are three major problems that I have with the entire thesis of this story. First is the faithfulness to the historical context. Second is the nature of the individual characters in the story. Third are other underlying implications of the Pride and Prejudice narrative.

Factuality? Austen presents a plethora of idle wealthy landowners with nothing to do but to read books, throw dance parties, visit surrounding neighborhoods, or ride horses. Is this how England was in the early 1800’s when Austen wrote her novels? Scarcely not. England was rapidly depleting its wealth by fighting foreign wars and overtaxing its citizens. It is VERY odd that few normal classed people are ever presented in the story: there are the servants of the wealthy, but that is about it. Secondly, the story shows military personnel behaving quite leisurely and undisciplined, which assuredly was NOT occurring in England during Austen’s time. The entire story is a fanciful fairytale that draws young ladies into a fairytale world of courtship, romance, and marriage that never existed in England or anywhere else in history. Is it any wonder that so many Austen devotees of the female gender have ended in tragic romances and marriages?

And the characters, what about them? The most unendurable character was Mrs. Bennett with her histrionics that exceeded all reality. It was torture whenever she came on the scene. Mr. Bennett was a do-nothing milksop husband who lacks any real character at leading the family. The two oldest daughters Jane and Elizabeth really do not have character development. The movie doesn’t leave one feeling like one knows either of these girls better as they have no character development. Elizabeth continues her blank supercilious smirk throughout, Jane is nothing but a needlepoint preoccupied airhead or picking flowers with Lizzy, and both girls display an arrogance unbefitting of marriageable maidens. The only daughter of interest is the snarly piano-playing middle daughter, who at least has some inclination toward having enjoyments that are not rigidly defined by the family. The entire Bennett family has their own pathology as for example if a suitable mate doesn’t dance well, they are not suitable for marriage. In this regard, society has not changed much, but has just changed the symbolism of dance to that of if one is not good “under the covers” then they are not suitable for marriage. The preacher in the story we shall call Reverend Sniveling Creep, because that is precisely who he is. I hope that Austen wasn’t suggesting Rev SC as prototypical of all reverends; I’ll leave that to the reader to decide. Like nearly every character in Austen’s novel, money and wealth above anything seems to be the prime motive for decisions and actions. The only person with a character worthy of emulation is Mr. Darcy, though he is also not well developed in the story.

Perhaps a better (and more modern) name for this book should have been “Young horny aristocrats chased by young lovesick maidens in heat”, or, “Keeping up illusions”, because that is ALL that this story is about. Any modern retelling of the story would change the dance scenes to wild sex-party scenes, and you would still maintain the moral (though more overt) meaning to the story. P & P is often sold as a glimpse back on when society had a true moral base: if that is really true, it sure wasn’t obvious in the movie!

What about the religious sense in this movie? Does P & P show an honorable Christian moral society? I don’t think so. The character of the reverend best suits that of a cheap used car salesman. Religion is not spoken of save at the very end when the officiating reverend appeals to god’s name while intoning the wedding vows. The motivating spirit was to maintain artificial societal norms, maintain an appearance of goodness, while seeking the easy gain of as much wealth as possible. Religion is nothing but a vacuous means of surviving the prevailing societal norms. This book should be an embarrassment to the church, and definitely never taught without extreme caution in church schools. It is no wonder that England (and America) has so quickly lost faith, since (if the movie is true to public society) it had been lost long before overt behaviors reflected that.

Many interpreters of the Pride and Prejudice story focus on the maturation and change of the character of Mr. Darcy from a cold, distant, arrogant person, to that of a warm, caring individual. In fact, Mr. Darcy’s character remains the most stable of the entire story. The only other stable character (and much to their shame) was that of Mrs. Bennett, whom you pray would just fall over dead of a heart attack early in the novel. The prevailing pompous arrogance of the public, and most notably the Bennett family, did not allow them to see Mr. Darcy for who he really was. When Elizabeth finally had a change of heart and fell in love with Dr. Darcy, she seemed as much affected by the grandeur and elegance of the Darcy estate as by the discovery that Mr. Darcy was perhaps a really nice person, even though he would not always consent to a dance at the whim of  females in heat.

I am surprised that Pride and Prejudice has received favorable acclaim. There is wonderful use of the English language, but the story itself presents a very shallow minded society, with poor definitions of goals, direction and faith. I cannot recommend this book/movie as a worthy read/watch for anybody.

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Nov 30

trump

Trump: The Art of the Deal, by Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwartz ★★★★

I received this autographed hardback copy before Donald was elected president, and read it in spurts after that. The book’s value is in giving one an insight into how Trump thinks.  The book was written in 1987, and starts with a review of one week in his life, ending with a follow-up of what became of the decisions of that week. The intervening chapters are a limited autobiography of the man, starting from childhood, through his schooling, and then summarizing his early big deals up to 1987. The details of his wheeling-dealing is not terribly interesting save for realizing a few things. 1. Seeing how Trump makes decisions. He always looks for people that he could trust, and who are the best in the business. His biggest admiration is for people of integrity. 2. Seeing how politics affects the most mundane things in life, and how Trump was able to use as well as was hindered by politics. 3. Seeing how bumbling so many other business executives were. There were many examples of very poor decision making, not just in government real estate projects, but also in private interest projects that should never have gone wrong, but did.

This book is of value to read in order to understand the way in which Trump makes decisions. He is neither conservative nor liberal. He is not Republican or Democrat, his religious leaning is toward Christian predominance, and he is not an extreme moralist (or immoralist–he neither smokes nor drinks). Donald is very much a pragmatist, that tends to set goals and hold to those goals. He is not an ideologue, though tends to have guiding principles. He is a great negotiator who is used to holding his cards close to himself, which might irk the ever-snooping main stream media and liberals. He has a strong tendency toward honest success, which we will probably see in the next four years.

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Oct 24

seekingallah

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi ★★★★

This is an autobiography of the conversion of Nabeel Qureshi from a devout Muslim faith to Christianity. Nabeel was born in the USA, but grew up in a Pakistani Muslim family belonging to a sect called the Ahmadi. Living in Virginia, he was challenged in his faith by a close Christian friend David Wood. David and Nabeel met in high school, and continued on together in college, until Nabeel eventually applied to and was accepted into medical school. Through a number of years and Nabeel seeking inconsistencies in his faith, he finally had a series of dreams which led him to become a Christian. The book is written in multiple very short chapters, and so is somewhat spasmodic or convulsive  in the way it is read. There is a lengthy appendage to the book. I appreciated this book as a means of describing the challenges of bringing a Muslim person to faith in Christ. Nabeel has written several other books, one on Jihad and another on the distinctives of Muslim versus Christian theology.

Because Nabeel grew up in the USA and to a small sect of the Muslim faith, he is somewhat lacking in seeing the result of a large community of regular Sunni or Shiite Muslims. I am not challenging Nabeel of deficits in knowledge of the Muslim faith, but note that having lived for a while in two Muslim countries (Bangladesh and Extrem Nord Cameroon), my picture of the Muslim faith in those countries (as can be found in most Muslim countries) is less romantic than his views. The people appear bound by an ugly task-master of an intolerant god, with joyless worship of this uncaring and merciless otherworld being. Nabeel shows a kinder, gentler Muslim faith more closely related to its Christian roots, explaining why it is dangerous to categorize all Muslims as dangerous jihadists. Note that I view the Muslim faith as a Christian heresy (which it is!). This kinder, gentler subset of Muslims probably represents a small minority of Muslims just as most “Christians” are Christian in name only. The only problem is in being able to sort out one from the other.

Qureshi shows the reader the formidable challenge of witnessing to the Muslim. The most important aspect is not in having an encyclopedic knowledge of Muslim faith and doctrine, but in simply being able to share clearly the Christian faith, including the resurrection of Christ, the doctrine of the trinity, the formation of the canon of Scripture, etc., and to know why these doctrines are important.

Qureshi continues to write. He has appended this book to fill in 10 years of time since he first became a Christian. He frankly discusses the problems of his family rejecting him for his faith. He discusses finishing medical school, but deciding upon going into the ministry instead, and now works with Ravi Zacharias. Only recently in the news is it known that Nabeel has an advanced gastric cancer and probably will not live too much longer. It will be sad to see the loss of such an interesting person.

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Sep 05


IMG_0884

Labor Day 05SEPT2016 Hike with Flanagan Boys

The Flanagan kids were under Betsy and my care for Labor Day since Sarah was involved and Andrew had to work. We decided that they needed some excitement, so took them for a hike. The hike started at Sunrise, and we took one false turn onto the Huckleberry Creek trail, which led us about a mile and quite a few 100 feet elevation loss, which we had to retrace. The kids were very reluctant to pursue our goal, but the promise of Snicker bars at the Fremont Lookout Tower spurred them on. We did achieve the Fremont Lookout, as can be seen from the above photo. They were rather tired on return to the car, so we awarded them with a trip (at their choosing) to McDonalds.

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

Here are the Garmin hiking stats and route we traveled, just in case you are curious.

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Sep 03

IMG_0863

Rampart Ridge on Mt. Rainier up to vanTrump Park 03SEPT2016

Jonny and I did this hike today with the cooler weather. The mid-mountain remained engulfed in clouds throughout the day, so that most of our hiking was done in mist. Though I would have loved the grand views of the mountain that can be seen on this set of trails, there was a different spectacular beauty to be seen, including looking through the mist to see a very large herd of mountain goats on the ridge adjacent to the one we were ascending.

This trail rarely was ever flat, most of it being either fairly steep climbing or descending. The route started at Longmire, and the trail quickly ascending from Longmire up to Rampart Ridge. The trail then followed the ridge, most the time ascending until a lookout is reached overlooking Longmire. From there, the trail either descends or is flat until the Wonderland Trail is achieved at 3 miles. After descending 0.2 miles on the Wonderland Trail, it again takes off on a fairly steep ascent up the ridge to VanTrump Park. You can see the herd of goats above that we saw in VanTrump Park. We continued on for a distance further on an unmaintained trail further up the ridge, but realized that we would not get out of the clouds until we moved onto glacier, not a smart idea. The descent went much quicker than the ascension. We were freezing at the top of VanTrump Park, so were glad to get down to warmer climate. Everything was quite wet, and there was extensive plant life growing over the trail making our shoes and pants soaking wet. It was also tricky, since there were abundant tree roots on the trail, and one knows how slippery they could be. By the time we got most of the way down, we encountered the hoi polloi struggling up the trail, most hoping to achieve a fraction of the distance that we accomplish, and sadly missing the spectacular views that we were able to see.

Jon fresh in eager to hike mode

Jon fresh in eager to hike mode

Blode Ziegen in die Wolken

Another view of VanTrump Park looking up toward the mountain.

Jon having lunch at the summit of our excursion

Jon having lunch at the summit of our excursion

VanTrump Park. Looked for Trump but he wasn't there...he was in Detroit

VanTrump Park. Looked for Trump but he wasn’t there…he was in Detroit.You can see the blöde Ziegen in the distance in die Wolken.

Nisqually River view from Longmire viewpoint on Rampart Ridge. It was not be possible to see this at the start of our hike since the valley was engulfed in clouds.

Nisqually River view from Longmire viewpoint on Rampart Ridge. It was not be possible to see this at the start of our hike since the valley was engulfed in clouds.

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