Monday, October 19, 2009

HENRY V - Movie Review

Although I've never been a devoted fan of Shakespeare, I really appreciated Hamlet. The storyline was interesting and philosophical and the movie with Mel Gibson was tolerably good too. However, it was nothing when compared to Kenneth Branagh's film rendition of Henry V. I think this film may possibly be as good as Shakespearean histories can get.

Henry V details the exploits of the young English king, Henry V, in the early fifteenth century. Carrying on a traditional war over the succession of the French throne, Henry V launches an invasion of France. The play is a story about his hopes, decisions and emotions during this time, but also about the actual historical battles that took place. Shakespeare even managed to insert a little love story as a subplot.

I've always thought of Harfleur and Agincourt as inexcusable wars of aggression on the part of the English. It is difficult for our culture to even consider this kind of violent attack as acceptable for any civilized monarch. However, in order to enjoy the story at all, we do have to understand the times and the national sentiments going around in an age where no one felt safe, even in days of relative peace. France was the traditional enemy of

England and both sides were apprehensive that as soon as the other should find it convenient, they would attack.

I really liked the balance in the movie. Even though the script for the movie is taken word-for-word from the play, the director shapes the attitude of the audience towards the story with the sets and actors he uses. While giving Henry a very fair chance to appear noble and showing his misgivings and his desire to please God, Branagh also paints the horrors of war vividly. He makes no attempt to glorify the battles, but instead makes them far worse than Shakespeare probably intended. I think that in a way he short-circuits some of Shakespeare's obvious intentions of romanticizing the war, and I do appreciate this.

I've heard Shakespeare's version of Henry hailed as a Christ-figure, but I must say that this analogy really doesn't bear any examination. Rather, the Henry in Shakespeare's play is a noble and heroic but severely misguided and violent man. (I can't speak for the historical Henry V. I'm only talking about Henry V as depicted in the play.) Although there are good aspects of his character and he is a generous and good-hearted king to his own people, his standards are far too low for me to even come close to considering that he could represent Christ.

The most famous portion of the movie and the play is the St. Crispin's Day speech. Indeed, the whole thing would lose most of its appeal without this scene that ties off all of the loose ends of both Henry's character and the motivation for the war. I was very impacted by this speech. When the King launches into these immortal lines:

He which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart. His passport shall be made,

And crowns for convoy put into his purse.

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.


And gentlemen in England now abed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!

it made me think what a privilege it is to be living now, in the time and place that God has set for us. You can watch that scene here:

The movie reaches a climax of tragedy when the victorious English army returns to their camp to find all of their boys slaughtered by the angry and desperate French army. Boys too young to fight had been left behind when the army went to battle and it was illegal by the rules of honorable war to strike them. The unutterable rage and horror incited by the sight of the bleeding children provokes the king to cry, "I was not angry since I came to France until this instant!" As the triumphant but miserable and outraged English army sets out to bury the dead boys, this lovely scene wraps up the battle of Agincourt:

Kenneth Branagh's Henry V is an excellent way to watch Shakespeare's play. While retaining the original text, it brings the story to life on screen, preserving the Shakespearian regard for the man, but not without raising questions as to the ethical basis for the war.

Seize The Day!


Thursday, September 24, 2009


OK. :) I'm back. I've committed to try to post more frequently now that summer is over and the school term has started again.

Here is a sonnet I wrote last week. (I still think I like Sonnet II better- what do you think?) As always, suggestions are more than welcome!


Considering the present sufferings

Not worthy to be thought of or compared

To glory that shall burn away these things

And leave our souls and hearts and senses bared,

Some of the ransomed lovely ones in Christ

Refused the dying world's attentions

And named the named of Jesus at a price,

To obtain the better resurrection.

These ones held true and loyal to one Love

And watched their other loves die all around,

The ones for whom the world was not enough,

Of whom the world has been unworthy found,

O Church, are you to be the Bride of GOD?

You have not yet resisted unto blood!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I believe that every painting, book, or movie reveals in some measure the worldview of its creator. This may not be intentional, but it's inevitable. This is why it’s so important to be aware when we expose our eyes or minds to these things. Although literature and art are just as full of ideas, I think that our generation needs to be especially careful with movies.

The entertainment business has one simple and foolproof tactic for changing the culture. They realize that people watch movies for entertainment and therefore don’t generally tend to think when they are watching movies. Therefore, they know that they can get away with a lot in movies that they might not be able to get away with otherwise. They also know that the ideas they put into movies are going to influence our culture, even if we aren’t aware of what these ideas are. And even if we think that we won’t be affected by these ideas, we can’t help it when we watch so much television. Thus, it’s imperative that we recognize and identify the ideas behind the movies we watch.

I think that the movie Transformers (2007) is a perfect example of this concept. The movie revolves around the life of a highschool kid in a “typical” American home. He’s a dork and doesn’t make good grades in school. He has no character. He does not work hard and his life is obviously full of impurity. One day he sees the school football captain’s girlfriend (a cheerleader) walking down the street in very provocative clothing and is immediately smitten. He spends most of the rest of the movie trying to impress this girl and spite the football captain. In the end he becomes a “hero” through no merit of his own, saves the world, and gets her. The movie ends with the girl lying in his arms on the hood of his car in a very inappropriate position for an unmarried couple.

I was very disappointed with this movie. It struck me as being a blatant glorification of pre-marital sex and mediocrity. I just kept wondering, “What’s the point?” I feel like this generation’s standards are too low. Why are we accepting films that are gradually chipping away at our values? Why aren’t we saying, “This isn’t good enough. It has to be better.” The trouble with us is that we are far too easily pleased, too easily satisfied. I just LOVE what C.S. Lewis says about this in “The Weight Of Glory”:

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased”.

A lot of people have told me that they like this movie because of the special effects which, I will acknowledge, were awesome. And I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with being intrigued by the astonishingly realistic cinematography displayed in so many modern movies. Modern movies thrill me with their special effects and pristine film quality. It’s amazing to me that humans can make such incredible works of art. However, I think we need to start holding our artists to higher standards. If we, as a nation and a culture, continue to just accept whatever Hollywood sees fit to give us, we are going to drop our standards and lose our values.

Seize The Day!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Answers to the "Cultural Literacy and Goats" Quiz

Sorry this is a little overdue, folks. I've been sick with the flu and had visitors over this week. But here are the answers to the quiz....and our winner is..........Miss Eyebright! Congratulations! You take up the lead with 20 correct answers out of 28.

MarthaH605 came in 2nd place with 17 correct answers.

Good job and thank you to everyone who took a guess!

1 Carmen - from the opera, "Carmen"
2 Princess Leia - from Star Wars
3 Kızıl Ok - Turkish for "Red Arrow"
4 Jason Argonaut - The mythological character Jason who went after the golden fleece
5 Rosie Cotton - from "The Lord Of The Rings"
6 Catriona - From the book of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson (it's the sequel to "Kidnapped" and the character Catriona is portrayed in the BBC version of the movie. Awesome version, by the way)
7 Torfrida - from the book "Hereward The Wake" by Charles Kingsley
8 Good Queen Bess - nickname of Queen Elizabeth I of England
9 Boudicca (Boadicea) - from British history
10 Brunhilde - one of the Valkyries (portrayed in Wagner's Ring Opera)
11 Gazelle - just named after the animal
12 Marie Antoinette - Former Queen of France (a person I have great sympathy for)
13 Myrtle Hardbottle - from "The Lord Of The Rings"
14 Wendy Moira Angela Darling - from "Peter Pan" by James Barrie
15 Rose Salterne - from "Westward Ho!" by Charles Kingsley
16 Jerusha - a name from the Bible. Also an unsavory character from "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew"
17 Sassafras - named after the plant
18 Thing One - from Dr. Seuss' "The Cat In The Hat"
19 Thing Two - from Dr. Seuss' "The Cat In The Hat"
20 Bambi - from the book "Bambi"
21 Luthien - from "The Silmarillion"
22 Tinuviel - Luthien's other name
23 Padme Amidala - from Star Wars
24 Freya - Norse goddess
25 Odin - Norse god
26 Emrys - Welsh for "immortal," Merlin from the Arthurian legend is referred to as "Merlin Emrys"
27 Castor - a constellation, one of two mythological Greek twins
28 Pollux - a constellation, the other of the two mythological Greek twins

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Amazing Grace" Like You've Never Heard It Before

Check out this beautiful video. You've got to watch it all the way through.

Imagine what the music is going to be like in Heaven! :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Favorite Art and Why

I can’t imagine my life without art. I think it is sad that so many people go through life without ever really enjoying any art other than cartoons when there are so many beautiful paintings to enjoy!

Currently, I am a sophomore in highschool. Having studied around 45 artists since first grade and having a collection of around 200 prints, today I went through my album and picked out my three favorite artists and three favorite prints and I thought I’d share them with you. Picking out the artists was easy. I knew right away that John William Waterhouse, William Bougereau and Frederick Leighton would be my favorites. (I would have replaced Leighton with Thomas Kinkade in a heartbeat, but I haven’t collected his paintings, or really studied them, so he doesn’t count.) If you quickly scan a few of their paintings, you’ll realize rather quickly that all three of these artists have very similar styles. They are all three realists, and all three paint lots of figures from mythology/poetry/literature, and mostly young girls and children.Most of Waterhouse’s paintings are figures from mythology or poetry. His favorite subjects seem to be Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and The Lady Of Shallot. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I accidentally stumbled upon his painting called, “‘I am half sick of shadows’, said the Lady Of Shallot.” This is a line from Tennyson’s poem The Lady Of Shallot, and one that has always stood out to me. Waterhouse’s other subjects include: Jason and Medea, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Penelope, Danae, Pandora, Thisbe, Circe and Ulysses.

Bougereau’s paintings make me think of silk. The faces in his paintings are so smooth that they make you want to stroke them. He has a way of making skin look like light. He especially paints beautiful pictures of children. I think he was probably the most skilled of all the painters I have ever studied, with the possible exception of Thomas Cole. Unfortunately most of his paintings seem to have been attempts to glorify the human body rather than the Creator.

Leighton was, perhaps, the most sensuous of the Pre-Raphealite painters. He struggled all his life to find meaning and perhaps to make an absolute out of sensuality. (He failed, by the way) Why would I choose him as a favorite artist? His paintings are beautiful. To me, art is about beauty. Contrast the wretch Leighton with the wretch Gauguin and notice that although both of them were desperately lost and searching for meaning in all the wrong places, one of them made beautiful paintings and the other did not. An ugly painting with a good meaning is nothing to me, because art is not just about meaning. AND a beautiful painting with “no meaning” is still beautiful to me. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as art without a meaning. I think that every artist, whether he likes it or not, is putting down meanings with every stroke of his brush, even if he is only saying, “look how fearfully and wonderfully made I am! I can look at this thing that I see before me and put it down on paper…God is incredible.”

Out of all the many artists I have studied, I like these ones the best because of the skill and beauty in their paintings. It’s amazing to me what they are able to do with paint. I love artists who can capture moods and expressions in people’s faces and I think that the human face is the most intriguing subject for art. I find that I also like surrealistic and/or idealistic landscape paintings but these seem to be a relatively modern interest in art and I have not actually studied any particular artist who painted works of this type, so I cannot list them.

It was quite a bit harder to choose my favorite paintings, but I eventually managed to narrow them down to three.

The first is Jacques Louis David’s Napoleon. I cannot think of any other painting that evokes such feelings in me as Napoleon. I like it because I think it is a beautiful illustration of mankind. Although this may sound odd, it makes me feel a greater capacity to love. I think how hated the historical Napoleon is (and perhaps rightly so) and then see this “romanticized” version and think that it shows him looking rather like a frightened child, pointing vaguely up the mountain towards the “great things” he wants to do. To me he looks like he is giving one of those parting glances we leave with people we love dearly and may never see again. “Think well of me. I did my best.” This is no defense of or excuse for the historical Napoleon, obviously – it’s just the way the painting makes me feel.

Another of my favorite paintings, Forget Me Not is by Arthur Hughes, I think the most admirable of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Rather than only dreaming about the heroism and perfection that most of the other Pre-Raphaelites failed to live out, Hughes was more devoted to his principles in real every-day life.

Although I greatly appreciate Waterhouse’s paintings of mythological and literary characters that I recognize and enjoy, I cannot imagine choosing any of them to be my favorites paintings. They lack the significance that I look for in anything that I choose to be my “favorite.” Although it is not as skillfully done, perhaps, as many of his other works, I chose The Annunciation as my favorite of Waterhouse’s paintings. It has incredible significance. I love the purplish-blue combination and the way the colors compliment each other so well. I also love the humble way in which he portrays Mary here. Unlike most of his female subjects, she looks completely pure.

So, anyway, those are a few of my favorites when it comes to art. What about you?

Seize The Day!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cultural Literacy Contest and Goats

We have a herd of Boer goats, 35 in all. Each time a kid is born, we spend a good deal of time discussing, disagreeing, debating and deciding what to name it. I thought it would be fun if I listed some of their names and see if you can figure out who they are named after. All names are well known in history, art, movies or literature. One is in the foreign language I speak (You will know which one if you read my blog regularly) but it should be easy to find out its meaning. That one is extra credit. : ) Most of the names are females, since most are nannies. But we have some males as well. Leave you answers in the comments section and in a week we will announce the winner (the one who named the most original sources correctly) and we will also post the answers. Here are their names:

1 Carmen
2 Princess Leia
3 Kızıl Ok
4 Jason Argonaut
5 Rosie Cotton
6 Catriona
7 Torfrida
8 Good Queen Bess
9 Boudicca (Boadicea)
10 Brunhilde
11 Gazelle
12 Marie Antoinette
13 Myrtle Hardbottle
14 Wendy Moira Angela Darling
15 Rose Salterne
16 Jerusha
17 Sassafras
18 Thing One
19 Thing Two
20 Bambi
21 Luthien
22 Tinuviel
23 Padme Amidala
24 Freya
25 Odin
26 Emrys
27 Castor
28 Pollux

Ready, set, GO.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Viva La Republique!

I wrote this poem a couple weeks ago. It deals with the young men who fought in the emeute (rebellion) in Les Miserables. They called themselves the Friends of the ABC ("abaisse" - French for abased, poor) Hugo apparently put a lot of effort into making these men express certain views. The Friends of The ABC were an utterly miserable set of young men whose utmost goal was death. They truly did care about the poor class of France but they had nothing to give to them. Even giving up their lives did absolutely no good to help their cause. They succeeded only in killing themselves and others with them. However, Hugo feels infinitely sorry for them and tries to show their wretched condition. In fact, when the book was published, many people were offended by the sympathy with which he portrayed these rebels.

The poem is meant to discuss both the bitter facade of apathy and the hopeless desperation that characterizes these men.

(I finally finished the book by the way!)


Somebody said suicide

And then could we refuse?

There are many ways to die

And nothing left to lose.

So the fray is making noise,

It rains sometimes, what then?

And all of us are little boys

Pretending to be men.

We don’t think of surrendering

We die for liberty

The fact is, we are wandering

And so seem to be free.

To wander and to seem free

That is to be lost

And lost is bad enough in life

But worse when you’re a ghost.

Live in Hell, die in Hell

Tell me someone cared

We're so used to Hell by now

But GOD, we are so scared!

-B.J.J. aka StrongJoy

Seize The Day!


Monday, February 2, 2009

"Les Miserables" - Why Gavroche Is My Favorite Character and What Grantaire Believes In (Warning: Spoiler)

I have not actually finished reading Les Miserables, but after my favorite character died I took a long break. I have read 822 pages of the 981 pages in the book and so I guess you could say I am making progress :) (If you haven't read Les Miserables, let me just warn you: I am not going to summarize the storyline for you in this post, or explain anything, because the story is way too long and too complicated)

I actually surprised myself when I decided that Gavroche was my favorite character. For one, I have no idea how to pronounce his name, and then, of course, in the long run, he barely even enters into the story:) There are a lot of reasons why I like him. To be honest, the first reason is probably just because I like street-kids. Gavroche seems to be Victor Hugo's "average" street-kid. Even though Les Miserables is a rough book, Hugo is a gentle author and he wants very badly to redeem certain undesirable people-groups. Of course, the average street-kid isn't like Gavroche, but it makes a good story.

Gavroche is a rough little boy with a good heart. He hangs out with the worst and most despicable criminals but doesn't lose his "character" if you could even call it that. (The author apparently holds to the belief that humans are born with good hearts and that children are innocent. And, of course, that is not true- but it makes a good story.) Despite having a good heart, Gavroche is wild, rebellious, and disrespectful. But perhaps Hugo wanted us to wonder, "Does he owe the world anything? What has anyone ever done for him?" And if that is so, it is something to think about.

The thing that made me love Gavroche the most, though, was the scene in volume two, when he takes charge of two lost little boys he finds abandoned in the street. He never finds out that they are his little brothers. He did it just because. Just because. This is a boy who has probably never in his life heard anything but threats and hard words and never felt anything but the cold and hard hands. But he knew. In this pathetic situation, he knew right from wrong like light from dark. You can't take that away from people. You can't delete the knowledge of good and evil.

Another thing about the book that really caught my attention was Grantaire's relationship with Enjolras. Grantaire and Enjolras are both members of the group, "Friends of The ABC." Enjolras is the leader, a visionary, an absolute champion, the perfect symbol of chastity, purity, honesty and perfection. But he is cold. He abhors impurity and apparently has no concept of love. Grantaire is a decided agnostic (if that's possible:). His only interests are alcohol and girls. Enjolras greatly dislikes Grantaire, and this, again, is such beautiful writing, I think. The author has created a "perfect" character (Enjolras) but he "has not love," and so he is nothing.

At one point in the story, Enjolras is appointing different people to act as spokesmen for the group - to rouse the young men of Paris and invite them to join in the rebellion against tyranny. He runs out of volunteers and is looking around for someone else when,

' "I," said Grantaire, "am here."


"You to indoctrinate republicans! You, to warm up, in the name of principles, hearts that have gone cold!"

Why not?"
"Is it possible that you can be good for anything?"

"Yes. I have a vague ambition for it," said Grantaire.

"You don't believe in anything."

"I believe in you."

That line blew me away. "I believe in you." Because he knew. He knew right from wrong like light from dark. Of course he knew! From the middle of his empty, dark, destructive lifestyle, he caught a glimpse of light, and knew it was good. If Enjolras perhaps had known the least thing about love, he might have saved Grantaire, but there is such a thing as empty morality. I don't know how far it goes and, naturally, these are fictional characters so it's pretty irrelevant to them, but the way Victor Hugo delves into these things and creates these fantastic, thought-provoking situations just gets me excited :) The way Enjolras and Grantaire die together was just an extension of an already fascinating and intricate relationship.

To conclude, Victor Hugo seems to have caught a glimpse of part of the big picture. I'm afraid he missed most of it, and that's what makes Les Miserables such a sad book. However, one of the things Hugo captured VERY well is the concept of radical love. It's all throughout the book, from the bishop at the very beginning of the story to the street-kid Gavroche, to the convict JeanValjean. In a nutshell, this book is well worth the time it takes to read it. It's thought-provoking, educational, well-written and full of surprises.

Seize The Day!