Monday, December 31, 2007

Ainulindale vs The Magician's Nephew

I have recently read both the Ainulindale[A] and The Magicians Nephew[MN] and thought I would do a comparison between the two. Now the Ainulindale is part of The Silmarillion if you actually want to find it. This can also be seen as a comparison between J. R. R. Tolkien (author of the Ainulindale) and C. S. Lewis (author of The Magicians Nephew). These two were part of a literary group known as the Inklings and probably shared each of these stories with the group. Therefore I think that these two accounts probably have some each person interwoven into them even though they reflect the author in the end.

First off, both of these stories are most likely elaborations on the the biblical genesis story. Both of the authors were Christians and no doubt had interesting views of how it all began. The theme of music is shared by both is used as the method of creation. No doubt both men had visited cathedrals and heard choirs of voices resounding throughout the massive buildings. The view of creation as a beautiful harmony seems almost natural if you have heard certain masterpieces. The instrument of the music is different in each. In [A] the Ainur are created by Iluvatar (represents God) and they in turn sing the part of the song that was put in them. In [MN] the singer is a singular person in the lion Aslan (represents the Christ, son of God). The Lewis version of having the Son involved in creation reflects thoughts presented at the beginning of the gospel John. John chapter 1 verse 3 states
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Aslan therefore is the personification of this scripture. Tolkien's presentation could be best described as God creating angels and giving them a purpose. Those angels then fulfill their purpose in creating.

The literary style in [A] is much closer to the actual biblical account of creation than [MN]. Tolkien himself was a linguistics professor and wrote many languages for his books. This knowledge of the origins of many languages most likely caused him to write a structured and believable account of creation. For his writing style can easily be seen to closely mimic ancient stories from almost all origins. This style can be perceived as distant or detached to some people, but it is nonetheless accurate from a historical standpoint. Lewis on the other hand uses [MN] to take the reader to the date of creation and makes them an observer. The creator seems much more personable. He even laughs with creation. Most people tend to prefer this version because it seems more personable and fits better with modern times.

The timeline presented by Tolkien is somewhat vague. For an unknown amount of time creation was occurring being designed. The actual creation process in his account takes many centuries to complete. Lewis has the account occur in a singular day and would fit more literally with the Genesis account. I think that you also have to take into account the intended audience. While Lewis's audience was explicitly stated to be children, Tolkien's book takes on a much more scholarly take. This take presents a much more serious and intricate look at things than a mere children's book would.

Taking all things into consideration, it is hard for me to choose a favorite. Although from a personal standpoint, [MN] gives me a much better feeling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This film has been trashed by more than its fair share of critics of late. But you just can not deny that it is fun to watch. If you liked the first film, you will definitely like the second. I had the pleasure of viewing this with my family on Christmas afternoon and it was a great way to end the day.

Just like its predecessor, this film is rooted in history. I put that in italics because it of course pads the truth for the sake of the plot. However, as a guy who loves history, I think that they do quite a good job of drawing people into the field. This (like the DaVinci Code) has lit a fire in people who would otherwise be bored by the subject. The history is accurate enough for my take.

As for the constant conspiracy theories and the like, put me down in the not buying it category. Its either that or the don't care enough about it to worry category. I just don't buy that there are vast hidden conspiracies out there all the time. I know I know, that is what they want me to believe. But I figure that I have enough to worry about without having to worry about what I don't know.

A big plus to me in the film was the character of Riley Poole, played by Justin Bartha. The humor that he constantly added to the film was much needed and provided the main (if not only) humor in the film. Without his character, this movie would not flow well.

Nearly everyone is raving about the must-see portion of the movie... the Goofy short. Disney pulled a Pixar on us and showed a 5-10 minute short film that was quite witty and unexpected. I was quite impressed at how well the animators and writers developed the skit. It was very true to the Goofy namesake, and it was very good.

There were 2 downsides to this movie, and only 1 was correctable. First, the ending was a bit slow paced after such a roller coaster ride of a film. It just did not seem to have the bite that the rest of the script had. The quest for historical significance has been overplayed in many films before (i.e. Troy) and I just didn't buy it. Next, and this is my pet peeve, the security of high international installations was way too easy to bypass. The Buckingham Palace, White House, and Mount Vernon scenes were laughable in that respect. They movies always feature a hacker who can bypass any security. As a computer person, I know that this is not the case. If you are in the oval office and getting into the president's desk (below), the secret service will stop you faster than anything. I can guarantee that.

Overall this movie was fun to watch, not at all realistic, and a great way to relax at the theater. I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The Rangers over the holidays dealt another piece of the coveted DVD trio (Danks, Volquez, Diamond). This time Volquez was sent to Cincinnati for outfielder Josh Hamilton. This feels like a slight upgrade, just like the previous trade did. We trade the promising future for a more tangible now.

I have been hearing about the promised land of DVD for maybe 4+ years. I had heard of Danks (major / minor) prior to his Ranger draft in 2003 for a bit on the high school circuit. He graduated the same year as my brother. I am not sure yet how his trade for McCarthy (major / minor) will be looked upon in the end. But for now, I don't think we got taken in the deal.

The same thing applies to this Volquez (major / minor) trade. We rushed him to the majors too early. For the past 3 years we have brought him up during the garbage time of the season to see what he was made of. This year, we had to send him all the way to A ball because his head got messed up. His stuff has become better, but I am not sure what his ceiling will be. Watch for Hamilton (major / minor) this year. We brought him over to fill our depleted outfield. He, like our vaunted DVD trio, came in with much promise and is now resurrecting after several lackluster years and a drug issue. He hit 292/368/554 last year and looks to be on the upswing. Of note is also the fact that we brought his coach over as well. Our outfield has been full of platoon players for some time and hopefully he can fill and thrive in center. His major league portfolio is a bit more extensive than Volquez and hopefully he can adjust and improve on American League pitchers.

We still have the last piece of our future here in Thomas Diamond. He spent the entire last season recovering from surgery. So for me, this will be the year we find out if he is the real deal. Thankfully the Rangers have beefed up the farm system and so we have several backups. But it would be nice to see at least 1 of the 3 become successful on our major league team.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Too Good To Be True

I have often been told that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I mainly got that lecture after signing my father up to win cars at the mall when I was younger. Well, this phrase can certainly apply to business and investments. I have been told a couple times to get in on the ground floor of the next Google and both times rejected it. This isn't to say that I will never accept risk, but some things are too risky or far fetched for me.

This brings me to the recent banking meltdown. I read a recent article in Fortune magazine that really shed some light onto how banks were caught. Carol J Loomis did an interesting piece on part of the issue that is plaguing Citigroup. Citi used solid safe investments (is there such a thing?) to get some easy cash. This process came back to bite them:
Citi started then to have ominous dealings with CDO's [Collateralized Debt Obligations] that carried a "liquidity put." What Citi did a couple of years ago was insert a put type of option into otherwise conventional CDOs that were backed by subprime mortgages and sold to such entities as funds set up by Wall Street firms. The put allowed any buyer of these CDOs who ran into financing problems to sell them back - at original value - to Citi. Last summer, with the whole world suddenly unwilling to finance CDOs, the holders of the liquidity-put CDOs began to return them to Citi. And that's where they now reside - $25 billion of them
Now CDOs were considered very safe and Citi did some creative accounting to get them off their balance sheet. Well now it is coming back to bite them. Selling puts on safe items will never come back to haunt you...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

He Said She Said

  • Like many Americans, I feel like I am getting polled out. I think every day they shuffle the deck of politicians and see who is currently winning. I paid attention for a couple days and was thoroughly underwhelmed. So from now on, until someone actually wins or loses, I don't care what the polls say. That attitude really frees me up to choose the candidate that I like best.

  • Mud is being slung in all directions at this point. I know too much about various candidates 3rd grade aspirations at this point. I know that all sides seem to do this, but I am not voting based upon the latest National Enquirer report. What about voting on actual political records or stances on core issues? Now there is a unique idea.

  • I ran across this video series featuring Victor Davis Hanson and it is excellent. I really appreciate his ability to take a broad historical look at the current times.

  • Is anyone else tired of Iowa and New Hampshire deciding who gets to be president? I know I am. March 4th, 2008 is when my state holds its primary. I hope that the candidate I like the most is still around by then. From what some tell me, if you don't do well in Iowa, you might as well drop out. Give me a break!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Nearly everyone that I know who has seen The Shawshank Redemption has considered it a good movie. Well it seems that 2 guys in New Jersey escaped using the same method. They hung a poster over the hole that they carved out. From the AP article
They hung photographs of bikini-clad women to hide the holes in the walls.
According to police, Blunt, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, squeezed into Espinosa's cell through an approximately 16- to 18-inch hole.
The two inmates wiggled through another 18-inch hole in the outer wall. From a roof landing, the two men "took a running jump or they were standing and they jumped approximately 15 feet out and about 30 feet down," Romankow said.
Then they jumped a razor-wire fence onto a New Jersey transit railroad bed to freedom
The best part for me is that they taunted the guards by saying:
"Thank you officer -------- for the tools needed, you're a real pal, Happy Holidays," the note read, with a smiley face drawn next to it.
I guess this means that they won't be showing that movie in the prison anymore...