The Desolation of Tolkien’s Text

When politics inevitably drives me to the brink of insanity, I retreat into the faraway realms created by good writers and filmmakers. For almost thirty years, my favorite getaway has been the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien in his The Hobbit and its follow-up, The Lord of the Rings. One can imagine my sense of joy and anticipation when I heard of a full length, live action trilogy of movies depicting LOTR and coming to the screen in the first year of this century.

I tempered my excitement with the knowledge that fully rendering Tolkien’s text in three movies was an impossible task; there is just too much ground to cover. I knew going in that my favorite chapter (The Scouring of the Shire), for example, lay after one of many possible cinematic endings and was thus unlikely to make the final script. I knew also that many characters would find their way into the film only in the form of composites. In other words, I embraced realistic expectations as a guide to viewing these films.

And initially I was not disappointed. Peter Jackson’s work on The Lord of the Rings was visually stunning, gifted with an impressive score, and captured many of the grand scenes of the text in ways that matched or satisfied the visions of my mind’s eye. But as I watched the films and thought about what I had seen, I became ever more angry at a number of the choices made by Jackson and his team; choices I felt were the result of hubris rather than necessity.

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Obama: The Evil Genius Of Comic Book Land

Whiplash is a common effect of collisions and, apparently, after listening to conservative media types and their minions in government explain current events. Based on current news bits floating in the mainstream and touching the shores of social media, President Obama is precisely like a super-villain found in comic books and the James Bond series. He is Loki without the magic, Dr. No without the plastic hands, Lex Luthor without Gene Hackman’s charm. Come to think of it, one of the first posters to show up at Tea Party protests was a mash-up of Obama and the Joker (the creepy one from the last series of movies.)

After all, super-villains must fit a very particular pattern; they have the brilliance and financial backing to rule the world, but are always hopelessly incompetent when it comes to fleshing out the details (or just too stupid to simply shoot Bond in the face before telling him their plans.) And if the current crop of credulous, lazy, and cowardly reporters active in today’s sham media are to be believed, President Obama is just that sort. To wit:

President Obama is a tyrant who wants your guns, but on his watch, the rights of gun owners (and cowards who think owning a gun will alleviate their tiny penis problems) have been expanded.

President Obama rose to the top post in the United States of America in a sham series of elections driven by one of the great conspiracies of all time, and has now set about using extra-constitutional means to get his evil agenda passed. But he can’t seem to get anything on his evil agenda passed, even when he had a majority in both chambers.

Government is terrible at running things, and so can’t be trusted to be in charge of anything…unless it is health care (in which case, and if Obama is in charge, it will apparently run all of the private firms out of business.) You see, Obama is simultaneously unaware of how to make business succeed, but absolutely brilliant at making bad things happen (a statement that captures in full all that is Donald Trump.)

The healthcare law had to be stopped before it started (even though it started three years ago with many of the senior citizens now convinced Obama is the anti-Christ getting massive relief in their prescription drug bills.) But once there were major flaws found in the IT supporting the bill, the powers that wanted it stopped wanted to know why it wasn’t fixed. (If this notion really confuses you, you aren’t lonely tonight.)

President Obama is incompetent in matters of foreign policy, and his advisers seem to have no real clue how to work in the world. At the same time he convinced six world powers and Iran to agree to a deal stopping Iran’s nuclear program…just in time to distract America from problems with the healthcare website (problems which are largely fixed…go visit today.)

That last point is probably the funniest/most sad/most repulsive/craziest…Senator John Cornyn of Texas was the first to directly state that the President did the deal to distract the nation from ObamaCare. And he is also one of the individuals who has directly stated that this President is incompetent on foreign policy. These two ideas are mutually exclusive, but that has rarely stopped this crowd from playing with our minds. Simply crazy.

 

The Rational Middle is listening…

(published here for your indulgence is the link to the full text of the Iran deal: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/politics/iran-nuclear-deal/615/?hpid=z2&wpisrc=nl_wonk

Random Bits Of Pseudo-Wisdom

As I know you consider me a world-class writer, it may surprise you to learn that I occasionally let my brain steep in the acrid broth of modern media. In other words, rather than engaging in the pursuit of knowledge this weekend, I have watched TV and browsed on Facebook; today’s column is the result.

On the willingness of Americans to believe anything posted by a friend on Facebook

It is highly doubtful that Bill Gates gave high school students a list of 11 rules that they did not learn in their four years; Snopes, Urban Legends, and Truth or Fiction being just three outfits that have debunked the notion. As Mr. Gates has not responded directly to any of these outfits (if it were from a commencement speech he would almost certainly have defended the idea), we can dismiss the notion as a fabrication.

This is not the only instance of what is almost certainly an individual with an agenda using the name of a public figure to lend credibility to their own beliefs. Another popular meme has Warren Buffett signing off on a proposed amendment to the Constitution “reforming” Congress. The RM has addressed the substance of the meme twice in the last two years, with posts on Myths and Realities and Misplaced Anger (see the end of the post for links.) Buffett never signed off on the idea because he is someone who, unlike the original author of the notion, actually looks at reality before commenting on how to “reform” reality.

Various pieces of outright libel fill out the bulk of the memes in circulation, with every lightning rod in politics granted their own piece of stinky fiction to wear. I know that Michelle Bachman is objectively stupid (forget the science or business we all know she doesn’t know, I would bet a grand that she would fail a test given on the Constitution and the Bible); I also know that there is no way that she went on Fox News and stated that “we treat the President the same way we would treat any colored president…how can they call us racists”.

On Fathead

Life-sized wall stickers of athletes and comic book superheroes…what a revolutionary notion! Well not really, unless my Mom used a DeLorean to go get Tigger, Kanga, Pooh, and the gang and then stuck them on my wall 40ish years ago.

On the hyperbole of movie critics and the short memory of the movie-viewing public

I just saw a trailer for a new movie that contained a critic’s label that the film was “this generation’s Forest Gump” or some other such nonsense. The movie is a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which made me wonder…was Forest Gump last generation’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Every movie cannot possibly be “the greatest” anything. Am I the only American who never reads a critic’s review and never pays attention to the review snippets cut and pasted into advertisements? I don’t suppose many parents are reading their children the story of the boy who cried wolf…

On Marketing, Advertising, and Promotion…and why the difference really matters

These words are not, in any way, interchangeable…but those who benefit from a culture focused on advertising are happy for the conflation. Marketing is what happens when an entity identifies a need or want in a market, and matches it to something the entity can deliver within a given cost-structure. The concept, in and for itself, has nothing to do with greed, exploitation, or even financial profit. People are cold and hungry in my community, the local Salvation Army helps those people no questions asked. The local Salvation Army needs help ringing bells every Christmas to support this mission…ringing bells for free fits my cost-structure…so I ring. I derive emotional profit from this arrangement.

Promotion is the communication element of marketing, and the paid sub-component of promotion, advertising, is the notion that has grown like a business tumor. When a large profit-seeking entity (like a major corporation or political party) looks first to advertising, they ignore the important components of marketing. Our society, led by our business culture, focuses on how profits can be made via manipulation rather than how profits can be earned by satisfying real need/wants. When small business looks to advertising, it does so as a bandage that usually sucks the last remaining resources from the dying firm prior to bankruptcy. Big business or Mom and Pop, it is better to understand the real definitions of marketing and advertising, and understand the nature of the Marketing Concept…a company-wide customer (not profit) orientation.

Thanks for checking in and don’t forget to speak.

The Rational Middle is listening…

 

(today’s links can be found at these addresses; http://therationalmiddle.com/2012/01/30/myths-and-reality-congressional-reform/ and http://therationalmiddle.com/2011/07/10/misplaced-anger-and-populism/ )

On Gettysburg, God, And Obama

Apparently we are in the midst of a new version of “Obama is a… (insert your favorite reference to birthplace, religion, etc.)”; this version seems to revolve around the President’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address for filmmaker Ken Burns. Burns asked the President to read Lincoln’s first draft of the speech given by our 16th President, a draft known as the Nicolay Copy. On this score I must thank the conservative media for their twin hallmarks, tunnel-visioned persistence and a total rejection of detail; before this flap, I had no idea that more than one copy existed.

An important aside though, before we move swiftly on to Lincoln…which is it, conservative friends; is President Obama a closet Muslim or an atheist? Because were he a closet Muslim, as many in conservative media have so often insisted, he would not have removed “under God” from the Gettysburg Address. Muslims worship God…as the President was speaking English (Allah is God in Arabic), there would be no conflict within him to read “under God” in that speech.

With that addressed, we can move on to the speech that Abraham Lincoln called “a flat failure.”

There are five copies of the Address written by Lincoln; two were draft copies in preparation for the speech, and three were penned by Lincoln at the request of three men who intended they be used to raise money for the troops. The first draft of the speech is called the Nicolay Copy, and was started by Lincoln in Washington before being finished at Gettysburg. The second draft, now called the Hay Copy, was written in Gettysburg…both of these are housed at the Library of Congress. Neither of these drafts include the phrase “under God”, indicating that Lincoln added it off the cuff. The final three copies, produced by Lincoln for George Bancroft, Edward Everett (the headline speaker at the event), and George Bliss, include the full text we know today. It is the Bliss Copy that adorns the Lincoln Memorial and is held in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House.

The Nicolay Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow, this ground – The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Hay Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Bliss Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Bancroft Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Everett Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In any case, it is always a good time to read Lincoln.

 

The Rational Middle is listening…