Category Archives: Lantern Hollow Press

THANKSGIVING

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moPilgrims2ment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

 

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

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Human Again: A Review of Beauty and the Beast

BeautyBeast

photo by Disney UK

This summer I had the opportunity to visit Egypt, specifically Cairo. It was magical, a place I only read about in books but felt like I would never actually experience myself. I crawled into the only surviving Ancient Wonder of the World; viewed at least two dozen mummies, many of them the remains of people I learned about in history class; and explored various mosques and churches I had never heard of. I even got to view the Sahara, a vast, bright, brown wasteland stretching beyond the horizon.

When I returned to the States, I saw at least two films set completely or partly in Cairo. I could not help but be distracted by how very un-Cairo-like the movies were. The chaotic streets, the dirty alleyways, the lingering smog were all gone, replaced by a cleaner, shiner version of the historic city I visited and slightly admire.

I felt a similar feeling as I left Disney’s newest release in their live-action remake line-up. When I was a child, 1991’s animated Beauty and the Beast captured and inspired my imagination. I remember my father and I building re-creating the Beast’s castle out of Legos, and I would wonder sometimes about what household object I would be if I were turned into one. (I pose this question to my students when we read the actual French fairy tale in class. Every year, the vote is the same: a coffee mug.) To this day, it remains one of my favorite stories and one of my favorite films. So it was not with a bit of nostalgia that I walked into the theater hoping that the 2017 version would be just as magical.

It was, to some degree. It was brighter, flashier, and wittier than the original. But it was not really the same, though I still enjoyed my time.

The film was a decent remake that honored the old story we loved watching as children while deviating enough to create a new tale. The plot remains the same as the animated version, though it develops the old characters more and introduces new ones for us to enjoy. The film presents the backstory of the Beast’s parentage and reveals what happened to Belle’s mother. Maurice is an artist and toymaker, rather than an inventor, and Belle seems more assertive and independent. Almost all of the old songs are there as well as few new ones. (I did not care for the newer songs. Disney would have done well to incorporate the songs from their Broadway adaptation, which has better songs than the new ones written for this production, mostly notably the ballad “If I Can’t Love Her” sung by the Beast. Chills.) However, it is the movie’s human characters (well as one beast) that carry the movie.

The casting and acting was nearly perfect. Dan Stevens was a perfect choice for the Beast, showing emotional range in both human and beast forms. Kevin Kline was another solid casting decision as Belle’s artistic and protective father, Maurice. However, it is Josh Gad’s performance as Gaston’s sidekick LaFou that outshines in the film. Contrary to the animated film source, Gad’s character initially admires the excessively vain Gaston but slowly develops a sympathetic disposition toward Belle and Maurice as Gaston increasingly mistreats them. I did not really care for Emma Watson’s Belle. She was cute and she could sing. But that was about it. Luke Evans’ take on Gaston was confusing. I had trouble deciding if he was going for goofy (like the animated version) or terrifyingly evil–or should I say beastly (something the new version overtly stated at one point).

The chemistry between the titular characters was another highlight of the film. The story takes its time here, as the two characters interact and develop true genuine feelings for each other. Something normal people in a normal world would do. They start off bickering and hating each other, as they do in the original film. But after the Beast saves Belle’s life and she in turn heals his injuries sustained in rescuing her, they begin an honest conversation about books and learning that eventually leads to their close friendship. They eventually reveal the secrets about their past relationships with their parents, bringing them closer together. The interplay is a great set-up for the most rememberable part of both the animated and live-action versions: the ballroom dance. (Brilliantly done!) And I would have to acknowledge here the only part of Emma Watson’s performance that I think deserves the most praise. Acting against a CGI character is not easy, let alone pretending to fall in love with one.

And the effects are where the film falls apart for me. The sets and costumes were lavish and glamorous, much like the country in which the story takes place–France. And their is defintely something French about the atmosphere. But the film becomes way too glitzy at times, especially with the CGI effects. The household servants’ witty banter kept me engaged, but I did not care for their animation in this version. (I had no problems with the Beast–the Beast was fantastic.) Disney seems to have taken the success of 2016’s The Jungle Book a little too well and thought that candlesticks and clocks could translate from animation to live-action as well as panthers, tigers, and bears. The story also dragged here a bit by going into the lives and relationships of the servants, though I appreciated their response when Belle asked them if the Enchantress was right in cursing them as well–something the original movie glosses over but we were all thinking upon reflection. Their answer–which I will not reveal in this article–is deep and powerful.

But I understand what the movie was trying to do. It was trying to get to the humanity of the Beast and his servants, showing us that the relationships we develop with others and the kindness in which we treat other people make us human. And it reminds us that our choices have repercussions on others as well as others. And here, the movie could have used a song cut from the original that made it into the Broadway version: “Human Again.” In this song the servants sing about what they would do when the curse is lifted and they transform back into their normal forms. But in a small way it shows that the Beast himself must find his own humanity before he can literally turn back into a man. He must find companionship and kindness and joy and laughter that only comes when he develops a true relationship with another. And Belle is there to help him become human again.

THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eyebrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Also, check out his newest work from Square Halo Books: Deeper Magic: The theological Framework behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

CXXVI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”`

What do people who are not poets do to mark, and ensure they remember, significant events in their lives?  The attempt to preserve such moments does not necessarily make a good poem.  But I think this one did.  When this one shifts from blank verse to rhymed iambic tetrameter toward the end to signify moving on to a less heavy time, it works (at least for me).  But what works even better is the shift back to one lone unrhymed line of iambic pentameter at the very end.  A stronger final statement I don’t think I have ever made.

yggdrasil-2

Commentary, I Cor.  15:17-19

It was two years ago the lightning struck

The oak tree in Great Grandma Lee’s front yard

Whose branches were like tree trunks in their own right.

It seemed a fitting time to learn of it:

Great Grandma’s daughter could not even leave

The car and hobble over to the gravesite

The day we buried Pa’pa Jones.  They rolled

The window down so she could hear the service

Shouted over wind that made the young

And sturdy shake.  It took two men to help her

From the car to the house.  What little aid

Her limp legs gave was more than they could notice.

They finally got her propped up in a chair

Where she sat passive, still herself as death

Amidst the flux of relatives and friends

Bringing their plies and cakes and plates of chicken,

Conserving strength until someone should speak.

“Miss Grace, your husband was my Daddy’s boss

At Silvercraft.”  She came alive and smiled:

“After he retired he tried to get

Bossy with me at home, and so I said,

‘You want someone to boss, go back to work!’”

She could not keep it up, and soon retired

Back deep inside the skull, where, lithe and supple,

Her mind still lived and listened, thought, and waited

For the next voice to separate itself

Out from the general buzz.  Meanwhile the crowd

Spilled out into the yard and hunched their backs

Up in their overcoats against the cold,

Noting how bare the place looked since the maples

Had lost their crowns to let the power lines

Get past unhindered.  So then Cousin Baron,

Up from the old home-place in the country,

Spoke with pride and sadness of the Tree

Whose limbs had shaded Grace when her’s were graceful:

“It was the oldest tree in Lincoln County.

We know Aunt Laney had a swing in it

When she was just a little girl, and if

She were alive she’d be a hundred-ninety.

It took the men two weeks to take it down.

The stump was nineteen feet across the base,

But hollow and rotten.  When the lightning struck

We had no choice.”

“That hurts,” somebody said.

They seemed appropriate words for such a day,

Black and desolate in the dead of winter.

They say Time soothes old wounds, but do not mention

That it inflicts as many as it heals.

The wind blew ‘til another season came.

'Nature had never such a grace/ To forge a werk of such compace'

The world stood on the verge of Spring:

The lightest mist or haze of green

O’er lines of limbs was glimmering

To blur the starker structures seen

For half the year, now glistening

With white of snow and sun, now dark

Against the sky, enveloping

With folded arms the moon or spark

Of  blazing star.  So, lingering,

They wait another week’s increase

Of leaves, whose subtle softening

Of sight and sound will sigh, “Release

Your vigilance against the cold!”

And yet beneath their whispering

I sense the limbs remembering

The fate of every former Spring,

And feel them growing old.

 

We must await a stronger Spring than this.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Stars Through the Clouds