QUADRIVIUM

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for August 2006

So tell us a little about yourself…

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The “About” page is finally up and ready, and you’ll find the link at the right. 

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Written by taj

August 31, 2006 at 10:46 pm

Posted in General

A Look at Studio 60

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There’s a line in the movie Network that goes, “Is dehumanization such a bad word?  Because good or bad, that’s what’s so.  The world is becoming humanoid, creatures that look human but aren’t.” 

The story of Howard Beale’s evolving madness in the film achieves a clear perspective on the state of the culture after television.  It says that the people of the world are becoming programmed groupies, incapable of individuality, and lumps people and groups into stereotypes and labels.  Though there are magnanimous efforts to rage against this current, it is what’s so much of the time. 

As Network begins with the rant of a man whose finally had enough of this, so too does Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsh) finally has enough after seeing his late night comedy sketch show devolve to an inoffensive effort that, in the end, just isn’t funny anymore.  “Free speech,” he says, “means sometimes you’re gonna get offended.” 

Thank God, somebody said it. 

And so begins a show that, though it starts slowly, builds to satisfying, intelligent response to programmatic, stereotyped television.  Creator Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing) has delivered a strong, curious mixture of wit, intelligence and poise in the world behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-esque program. 

Among the aspects of talent that I admire about Sorkin is his ability to deftly handle both sides of an issue without resorting to clichéd talking points rehashed over banal dialog.  Sorkin introduced Ainsley Hayes—a Republican lawyer—into the liberal pool of the Bartlett administration early in The West Wing’s second season.  Here was a conservative who could articulate her convictions without sounding like a vengeful banshee.  Through her character, Sorkin would put two sides into conflict and let them tussle, not once doing his audience the dishonor of not allowing us to decide things for ourselves.

Therefore, it comes as a pleasant surprise that Sorkin has written into Studio 60 a Christian.  Like Ainsley Hayes before, stereotype is thrown right out the window.  This character carries her faith without beating it over people’s heads, and, in her short amount of screen time, appears to have developed a professional and respectful working relationship with the people around her.  She is courageous, and stands up for herself with admirable dignity.  And I look forward to seeing where Sorkin takes us from here. 

Instead of giving you a synopsis, I’ll just direct you to NBC’s site for the show here, and tell you that Studio 60 premieres Monday, September 18.

Written by taj

August 26, 2006 at 4:28 pm

Posted in General, Television

The Changing Face of the Blog

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For the final time, I have reverted back to the green theme I had used for a week or so back in June.  I’ve been growing weary of the bland gray of the previous theme, and this one allows me options to give it a more personal touch.  So the green is here to stay for a while, at least until wordpress offers a theme more to my liking. 

Also, drawing upon inspiration from a comment in the previous post, I’m hammering out a small “about” page.  A link is already visible in the sidebar, though for now it lacks any content.  I expect to have it up by the weekend. 

Quick aside, for those who do not already know, I have finally entered the realm of an honest freelance writer.  (!)  I was able to score a small assignment last month that may not earn me a byline, but it at least adds material to my resume. 

And finally, a quick plug for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  Hollywood Jesus has a great review of the pilot, which is currently available for Netflix subscribers.  I got to see it over the weekend, and I hope to write a little more about it here in the coming days. 

Written by taj

August 23, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Posted in General, Television, Writing

The Spoils of Story

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Before you read this, please note that in this post, I give away significant plot details on a number of stories that, if you have not read or seen them, then first, shame on you, and second, be aware. 

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Still with me?

The other night, friends of my wife’s had dropped in for a spell, and talk turned to Harry Potter as one of them saw my copy of the Half-Blood Prince sitting beside me on the sofa.  One friend then popped the question—do you think Dumbledore’s really dead? 

Well, Potter author J. K. Rowling answered that for us nearly two weeks ago.  The answer is a decisive yes.  Personally, I hadn’t ever bothered to question the matter—Rowling went through significant lengths to cement this fact into the narrative.  Still, some “fans” have cried betrayal and now threaten a boycott of the next book.  No doubt Roddenberry met with similar vitriol when Spock died at the end of Star Trek II.   

My real concern, however, was that my wife, sitting not three feet away and who has not read the books, was spoiled the outcome of the series’ sixth volume.  I’m just happy to have been able to keep her in the dark as long as I had.  Last year, someone in line with us waiting to get into see the Goblet of Fire let this detail slip, and thankfully my wife had missed it. 

So I’ve found myself thinking.  Does knowing the ending really spoil the fun?  Well, yes—but only to a point, and even then it depends on the story.  I doubt I’d find any argument in regard to, say, The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, The Shawshank Redemption, or even Life is Beautiful.

But consider something like Star Wars.  I was little when I first experienced the original, so it came as a mild shock to see Obi Wan sacrifice himself at the hands of Vader.  Much later, upon first viewing the bloated phenomenon that was Episode I, I had a feeling that Qui Gon’s graceful presence would not last for very long either.     

Many stories follow some kind of archetypal formula, and Harry Potter is no different.  Many writers and critics had stated from very early on that Dumbledore would have to fade away at some point in order to allow Harry to go the last leg of the journey alone.  We see similar events in The Hobbit, as well as The Lord of the Rings.  When I think of Gethsemane, I can sort of find this kind of formula at work in the Gospel. 

The heroes of myth usually grow along a defined trajectory.  Joseph Campbell articulated these for us in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a model which George Lucas used to create Star Wars, and which Rowling appears to use for Harry as well.  You read enough and you can begin to see these elements play out, and for me, it never ruins the experience.  The true test of an author’s ingenuity, I believe, is in the color he or she uses to paint the journey. 

So when my wife does sit down to read the Half-Blood Prince, I believe she will find that her knowledge of the end did not tarnish the pleasure of the story.  After all, the story isn’t finished.  (Some of these “fans” need to get a grip)

(Hat Tips to: Fantasy Fiction for Christians and The Leaky Cauldron)

Written by taj

August 16, 2006 at 2:03 pm

Posted in stories, Writing

Movie Small Group Project – part 3

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In addition to the six films previously listed, I’ve added two more, both of which have been gnawing away at me since I decided to try and put this project together…

Signs

The Incredibles 

Signs is the least solid of the two—its placement only came after I read a short blurb comparing the themes of the movie to the story of Job.  I haven’t spent enough time with this one to discern if it really captures the paradox of suffering in relation to the love and grace of God.  Many of the story’s terrible events serve the resolution.  I suppose this could illustrate the purpose of suffering, but I don’t think it worked out quite this way for Job.  So this is a tentative addition. 

The Incredibles finds a place more out of instinct.  I’ve tried to articulate what I love about this movie and usually end up succeeding more in frustrating myself.  The story touches on themes of purpose, as well as the problem of, as CalvinDude put it, “exceptionalism” as opposed to striving for the lowest common denominator. 

The struggle I face at this point is where to draw the line.  Some of the films I’d love to discuss in a small group setting automatically find themselves on a sort of blacklist simply because of their content.  My selections are tame compared to others out there that offer spiritual introspection—The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club. 

Surrender to a movie (or any work of art), coupled with discernment that is, at the same time, aware of what’s put on screen, helps us to look beyond initial provocations.  Christian audiences hear Harry Potter and immediately cry witchcraft.  Meanwhile, those of us who’ve read the books and fallen in love with them have learned to take a closer look.  The challenge lies in finding the right chord—a secret chord—that when played will please the Lord. 

Written by taj

August 10, 2006 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Evangelism, Movies

A word on the masthead

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I’ve received some hits recently from people searching for the meaning of “quadrivium,” and after two years of blogging, it occurs to me that I should write a little about the name and why I chose it over something else. 

Put simply, quadrivium is Latin for “the four ways.”  At the time I chose it, I was unaware of the word’s connotations, and Wikipedia has an insightful entry on the matter.  In short, the quadrivium makes up the last four of the seven liberal arts, namely arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. 

Originally, I had intended to use the word “crossroads” somewhere in the title, mainly because I felt drawn to Jeremiah 6:16 as a kind of theme.  The word, however, was already in use elsewhere, so I looked up the Latin equivalent.  I am no musician.  My grasp of arithmetic and geometry is uninspiring, and my talents in astronomy only reach as far as my telescope. 

So the relevance of the name is rather relative, I guess, but there’s the scoop in case you’re curious.  This is my own virtual crossroads—my tiny attempt to “separate the stuff from the stuff,” as Aaron Sorkin once wrote.  So welcome to my world.    

Written by taj

August 8, 2006 at 2:50 pm

Posted in General

And now for some nonsense

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My “housekeeping” efforts, when you really add it up, led to absolutely nowhere.  None of the other wordpress templates really do it for me but this one.  I’m not so much into flashy as I am functional, you see, which is why the Millennium Falcon will always be the sweetest ride among the stars. 

Why am I writing this post?  That’s more directed to me than it is to you.  I’ve written so much about the movies lately that I wanted to put something else up here.  The problem is I’m a little short on material.  If I told you about the book I’m reading, it’d only lead to another movie post.  (The film comes out next month.)  I’ll share something about that some time later, I’m sure. 

On impulse, I did sit down last week and hammer out a rough chapter for the dormant novel.  I’ve never really written about the plot here yet, have I?  The reason for that is because, at this stage in its development, it’s still being shaped.  I’m writing with the door closed, as Stephen King would say, and it’s just not ready for public sight.  I could tell you what it’s about, but then that could change next week, just like it did last week when I sat down to write that chapter. 

Sigh. 

Just have faith—I promise there’s a work in progress.  On the third week of September, it’ll be one year old.  In the grand scheme of things, this is not that big a deal.  Tolstoy, after all, wrote five drafts of War and Peace before he was happy with it.  Hugo took—what?—a couple decades to finish Les Miserables, right? 

Besides, I’m no Tolstoy.  And not all of my writing is in the novel.  So again, more on that another time. 

Until then, I’ve got a number of scrunts hiding out in my lawn that need to be dealt with before I sit down to write again.  Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Written by taj

August 4, 2006 at 10:14 pm

Posted in General, Writing