Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What have I got in my pocket?

The news is all over the 'net today--I got the word from E! Online

The acclaimed British thespian, [Sir Ian McKellen,] who, as the wizard Gandalf the Grey, helped shepherd Frodo Baggins through a perilous journey in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has announced he will reprise his Academy Award-nominated role for the hugely anticipated Hobbit prequels.
I can breathe a sigh of relief now. NO-ONE could play Gandalf other than Sir Ian.

Word is, Andy Serkis has also signed up to reprise his role as Gollum.

Now...they just have to make sure and get Sir Ian Holm to once again don his waistcoat and come back as Bilbo Baggins. Like Sir Ian M. and Gandalf, I'm not convinced that any one else could pull off Bilbo.

While I'm glad that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will once again be involved, I certainly wish they were directing, rather than simply Executive Producers. I have heard rumors that they have negotiated EXTENSIVE control over script, etc., but until I see it, I won't believe it. It would take a special director to relinquish that kind of control to a producer, I think. Without that control--in fact, without Jackson at the helm--I'm not at all convinced that the Lord of the Rings magic can be repeated.

Now, Guillermo del Toro has agreed to direct. I haven't seen enough of his work to know whether or not I approve. I enjoyed Hellboy, but that's the only thing I've seen. I don't like subtitles, so I haven't seen Pan's Labyrinth and I do not think I've seen any of the other projects listed on his IMDB page. I WILL say that it couldn't be worse than the previously-rumored "Sam Raimi as director" potential.

Gaaak. Wouldn't that have been horrible?

I'll hold my breath and hope that del Toro and the Jackson/Walsh team can work some literary/cinematic magic. It would help to get the same visual effects and supporting crew from the Lord of the Rings movies. That's doubtful, however, because of the sour taste they're sure to have from prior dealings with New Line Cinema.

Which brings me to the riddle:
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers:
Gnaws iron, bites steel:
Grinds hard stones to meal:
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountains down!

[The answer: New Line Cinema's accounting department!]

Thank you, thank you...I'll be here all week. Try the veal and remember to tip the waitress.

There are all sorts of other jokes and one-liners sure to crop up now... "The marketing roads go ever ever on...."

We're also sure to see (another) re-issuing of the Rankin-Bass cartoons from the 1970s.

I didn't really enjoy those movies, but I KNOW for a fact that I'm not the only one humming the "Goblin Town" tune right now....

Admit it....

It could be worse.

You're welcome. THAT ear-worm will be with you for a while.

Bilbo... Bilbo Baggins... Bravest little Hobbit of them all...."

But if I could make two suggestions to the Producers and Director.

First, in re: casting:

There is one man out there that could fill Thorin Oakenshield's sky-blue hood with its long silver tassel:

Brian Blessed.

Yes, he of Blackadder fame. Yes, the same Brian Blessed that was in Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing.

He was also the voice of Boss Nass from Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace.

And yes, also Prince Vultan from Flash Gordon.


We'll just ignore that last one, shall we?

Why Brian Blessed, you ask? Well... Mr. Blessed has a nice, booming voice, a morbidly-wicked sense of humor (at least, on screen), and I believe just the right temperament for the King Under the Mountain. I have long been a fan of Mr. Blessed's. His filmography (courtesy of is quite impressive and varied: Dr. Who; Blake 7; The Avengers; I, Claudius; Henry V; MacGyver; Macbeth; King Lear; Waiting for Godot.


So why not add Tolkien to that list?

His bio says: "Boisterous Brit Brian Blessed is known for his hearty, king-sized portrayals on film and TV. A giant of a man accompanied by an eloquent wit and booming, operatic voice[.]" There you have it: Hearty; king-sized; eloquent wit; booming operatic voice. (We'll ignore the "giant" part, as that can be addressed through visual effects.)

One last argument in favor: he's 4 inches shorter than John Rhys-Davies (a.k.a. Gimli).

My second recommendation: you simply MUST begin the movie with an introductory narrative as Jackson did in The Fellowship of the Ring. The Hobbit just would not be The Hobbit without

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs.

This narrative could easily be matched with a visual tour of the hobbit-hole, as well as Hobbiton and various hobbits, much like Fellowship.

O.K. I'm getting too excited.

I'm going to stop here and go back to work.

Just as soon as I finish this next chapter of The Hobbit. Let's see...where was I?

Ah yes...
Bilbo had sniffed more than once at what he called 'all this dwarvish racket,' as they went along, though I don't suppose you or I would have noticed anything at all on a windy night, not if the whole cavalcade had passed two feet off.

Ahhhh...My precioussss....

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...


That was a fun little hiatus.

I apologize to all of my readers. I did not intend to be gone quite so long. I don't/can't really go into it in depth here, but suffice it to say that at the first of the month I received another knife in the back from my supervisor at the office. Apparently...[AHEM]... 'nuff said.

So, following the excellent previously-referenced advice of a good friend, rather than get all up-in-arms about it (and doing something paycheck-threatening) I decided to go on vacation.

And I did.

It was nice.

Heavenly, in fact.

Choirs of angels, and all that.

I was able to get completely away from the office (didn't even take my cell phone) and for the first time in who-knows-how-long, was able to go the ENTIRE time without thinking of the office even once!

I've only just been back a short time and have finally excavated my desk from the rampant piles of paperwork. (And yes, I know that paperwork is seldom referred to as "rampant" but believe me--in this case the adjective is completely warranted in this instance.)

So.... I hope you'll forgive the little lapse. I've got several blog entries in the works, upstairs in the ol' noggin, that I hope to post in the next few hours (or days--I can't promise hours, but it might be....) to try and make up for the lost time.

Thanks for understanding.

It's good to be back.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Sustaining the Prophet

Yesterday in General Conference the family, with the rest of the worldwide Church, had the opportunity to take part in a solemn assembly.

“A solemn assembly, as the name implies, denotes a sacred, sober, and reverent occasion when the Saints assemble under the direction of the First Presidency. Solemn assemblies are used for three purposes: the dedication of temples, special instruction to priesthood leaders, and sustaining a new President of the Church.” (David B. Haight, Solemn Assemblies, Ensign, Nov. 1994 at 14.)

Such a solemn assembly--for the purpose of sustaining a newly called Church President and other officers of the Church--is a rare opportunity, one that has happened only a couple handfuls of times in the history of the modern Church of Jesus Christ. As a part of the process, the different priesthood quorums--starting with the First Presidency--stand and indicate their willingness to sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Then all the members of the Church stand and do the same. The other leaders of the Church are then sustained in their various offices and callings.

This got me to thinking about the word sustain.

[Aside: I have to admit to a certain preference to using a copy of Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Webster, a master linguist, understood the power of words, understood their definitions, and understood the need for precise word usage in day-to-day communication. He understood that this was necessary for continued independence. Over time, the English language has changed repeatedly and, in many instances, has become corrupt. Many words don’t mean what they originally meant so it is possible to become completely confused when reading the classics.
Yeah, so, I’m weird.]

The 1828 Webster’s defines “sustain” in this way:

1. To bear; to uphold; to support; as, a foundation sustains the superstructure; pillars sustain an edifice; a beast sustains a load.
2. To hold; to keep from falling; as, a rope sustains a weight.
3. To support; to keep from sinking in despondence.
4. To maintain; to keep alive; to support; to subsist; as provisions to sustain a family or an army.
5. To support in any condition by aid; to assist or relieve.

When we sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer, and revelator, we are not “casting our vote” or showing our approval at the Lord’s choice. By definition we are promising to uphold and support him, to keep him from falling, to maintain him, and to support in any condition with our aid.

“[I]t not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it also means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that come through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant.” (Id.) Part of this covenant is a promise to uphold the prophet by our confidence, our faith, and our prayers. THIS is how we maintain him, how we support him in any condition, how we bear him up and keep him from “sinking in despondence.”

It is a sacred responsibility; I found myself thinking as I raised my right arm: “Do I know that he is a prophet of God? Do I KNOW it? Can I support him, pray for him? Can I follow his direction and do I know that God’s word will be spoken through him?"

Again, it is not simply a vote of support, a vote of confidence, or a vote of popularity. It is a promise--a covenant--with God to follow His word through His prophet.

When we raise our hands, it is because we are willing to accept and bear witness about “the knowledge we have and the testimony we have [of] our prophet and our leader. We not only raise our hands in saying we sustain but that we follow his direction, that we listen, that we counsel, that we pray about it, that we’re mindful of what comes from the lips of the prophet.” (David B. Haight, Sustaining the Prophets, Ensign, Nov. 1998 at 35.)

Members of the Church have been taught that such sustaining may appear to some as a somewhat perfunctory exercise. It is, however, “an act of grave and serious importance, an act required under the revelation of the Lord. . . . ‘[W]hen we lift up our hands in this way, it is in token to God that we are sincere in what we do, and that we will sustain the parties we vote for. . . . If we agree to do a thing and do not do it, we become covenant breakers and violators of our obligations, which are, perhaps, as solemn and binding as anything we can enter into.’” (Gordon B. Hinckley, God Is At the Helm, Ensign, May 1994 at 53. (Citations omitted.))

Two of the Church’s thirteen Articles of Faith come to mind, specifically numbers five and six.

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

President Thomas S. Monson has been called of God, by prophecy, and has received the laying on of hands by the Lord’s apostles, those who are in authority to do so.

We also have the same organization in these days as existed in the Church at the time of Christ. We are led by a prophet. A modern-day prophet of God. His mouthpiece. Through him the world receives continuing revelation. We have apostles who are witnesses of the Living Christ.

I am grateful for this knowledge, and grateful that we have these offices restored upon the Earth. What a marvelous idea it is that we have a Prophet who receives revelation directly from our Heavenly Father regarding our day. We have a Prophet who, as in days of old, calls the world to repentance and proclaims the Gospel without fear, without coercion, and stands to show us the way to return to our Heavenly Father and our eternal reward.

And how marvelous is it that this choice is not foisted upon us, but that we can each have a chance to raise our hands, pledging our support, and promising to do our part to hold him up. To bear witness of him and his role.

To sustain him.

I did.

I do.

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