Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hobbit: My Perspective.

(Please heed warning if you have not yet seen the film and do not wish to know what happens in it).

As you might have guessed from my first blog post, I went into The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with a few misgivings.  I came out thinking that my misgivings were justified.  I enjoyed the film as an action movie; it was fast-paced, fun, and witty in places.  If you go into it without certain expectations, you might really enjoy the film.  I had certain expectations.  Personally, I didn't think that the film stayed true to the spirit of The Hobbit.

My main complaint about the story overall was the addition of an unnecessary antagonist.  Azog the Defiler, the Pale Orc, did die in the battle at Moria.  He did not come back to revenge himself on Thorin Oakenshield.  Yes, Jackson did weave in this addition with the original story line, but that only makes me think that Jackson might be developing a bit of an ego and thinking himself a better storyteller than Tolkien, and...well... he just isn't.  In Tolkien's novel, evil does not have to be personified in order to be, and including Azog is a bit of a Hollywood "our audience needs a bad guy to root against" cop-out.

My second complaint: why, oh why, Peter Jackson, did you have to do what I truly hoped you wouldn't?  You turned most of your characters into caricatures.  Radagast is described as "simple" and "a fool," but he is described so by Saruman, who obviously believes that nature and little creatures are beneath the concerns of wizards.  Because Radagast does not appear in the novel, and the turning of Mirkwood happened well before the events of The Hobbit, the inclusion seems like a mere excuse to make fun of him.  And the Dwarves?  I understand that in the novel, they did basically take over Bilbo's house and deplete his larder-- perhaps even took advantage of his hospitality a bit--but they were not so rude, silly, filthy, and disgusting as you portrayed them.

Friend and fellow blogger Brittany Jencks mentioned something about the scene in Bilbo's home that I hadn't thought of; Bilbo's desire to keep a clean Hobbit-hole and his concern for his property are unfairly mocked. She pointed out that Bilbo is "sensitive, introverted, intelligent, gentle, kind"- in short has the markers of an INF personality- so of course he is going to care if a bunch of hooligans wreck his own home, get mud all over the carpet, and use his doilies as dishtowels.  It's a perfectly natural response and yet was treated like a disease.  I think that the novel gets across the point much better: even if you enjoy creating a neat and orderly existence for yourself, you can still have a desire for adventure. In the novel, the Dwarves did not march in and defile every single surface.  In the film, Jackson drew out the scene to an almost absurd length, showing the Dwarves wrecking everything in their path.  I think he attempted to excuse his Dwarves' behavior by including the cleaning of the plates scene and showing that they left his house clean the next morning, but he asks a lot more of Bilbo than even Tolkien did if he's asking him both to go on a quest and join a group whose behavior toward him the previous night was actually repulsive.

Please, Peter Jackson, and I do mean this sincerely, try to make more than one or two characters have some dimension!  Bombur might have been the butt of some jokes in the novel, but you unwittingly (I hope unwittingly) put all the Dwarves on the same intellectual level as your Trolls, and that makes it difficult for me to appreciate them as a stalwart band loyally following their King.  Don't even get me started on William, Tom and Bert.  Comic relief characters they were, but not that comic.  I felt like Jackson's humor was actually too childish throughout the film, which is saying something for an adaptation of a children's novel.  Perhaps I am unfairly blaming Jackson in this instance.  After all, humorous is the equivalent of gross throughout Hollywood.

As I mentioned above, this was an action film, as evidenced by all of the extended fighting/battle scenes (and the addition of the Company getting tossed around by Stone Giants (?)).  It was what I expected after seeing Jackson's Lord of the Rings.  The book was an adventure.  The two are not actually one and the same.

**To finish on a few positive notes (or try to, at least)**

The scenery in the film was, as usual, gorgeous.  I know that seems like a small concession, but I think the landscape does Middle Earth justice.  You can probably tell that I wouldn't say that lightly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Riddles in the Dark scene, and I thought Jackson did a brilliant job portraying Bilbo's mercy in sparing Gollum's life.  He didn't even need the voice over of Gandalf saying, "True courage is not about knowing when to take a life but when to spare one" to evoke it.  This actually makes me somewhat sadder about the rest of the film.  I think Jackson has a gift for magnificent subtlety when he so chooses, and that he could put it to great effect when adapting Tolkien's work, but he chooses the big-budget special effects route instead.


If you like high-energy non-stop action and don't really mind film adaptations of novels that might not be exactly what the original author intended, you might enjoy the movie.  If you aren't that sort of person and just like a bit of a romp, you might enjoy the movie.

But if you're looking for that essence of the "real thing" that isn't there, you might want to try the 1977 animated Rankin/Bass film.  It's more... fun... and who doesn't want to have fun when going on an adventure?

P.S. to Peter Jackson: So how many times can 13 dwarves and a hobbit fall over 50 feet and not even get scratched?  Just asking.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Troll Supporter: A Worse Kind of Hate?

Trolling is part of a larger trend of people feeling more at ease saying things online that they would not say in person.  There are various reasons given for this "disinhibition effect."  This effect can be fairly harmless, with people simply sharing more about themselves than they normally would, but it can also be taken to an extreme: No one knows me here, so I can say anything.  Anything at all. Even if it is mean, false, rude, or crazy.  It'll be fun!  

"Dance, puppets, dance!"

In my opinion, for trolls, the internet is like an invisible shield between them and consequences.  I've gotten to the point that I no longer want to smash my computer to bits when reading trolls' comments, because I've accepted that such behavior is often a plea for attention or a manifestation of personal problems on the part of the person and therefore should be ignored. Remember, if you respond, the troll wins.  Not responding can be difficult, though, and I think I've realized why.


"Whatever you think or believe should be able to stand up to mockery if you truly believe in it."

"You do not have the inalienable right not to be offended."

"The fact that you are getting so worked up about this only means that you are insecure."

What these three statements have in common: while they might have a grain of truth in them, they are almost always used by people trying to justify their or others' mean-spirited remarks, bullying, or prejudice.  I do think that we have become too politically correct and a bit too sensitive about many things; for example, if someone cheerfully wishes me a happy Chanukah, I am not going to get angry because they didn't use the generic "Happy Holidays" instead to include my own holiday.  I think that the truthful part of these statements would be best summed up: carefully try to ascertain if what was said was meant to offend before taking offense, otherwise you might indeed seem overly sensitive. When it gets ridiculous, though, is when someone says something that is obviously not meant kindly- often far from it- and then tries to blame everyone else for getting upset.

Think of this scenario: Jimmy is crying on the playground because Tommy broke his nose.  Jimmy is the elder, bigger and taller of the two, but he also has a mental handicap.  Jimmy's mother tells Tommy's father about it.  Tommy's father says that it was her son's fault for being "too slow to stand up for himself and use his own physical advantage."  She gets angry at the father's lack of compassion.  He tells her that she has no right to be angry at him for telling her "the truth."

"I don't know why I was fired.  I only told HR the truth when
 I said that our boss is dumb because she's blonde."

Is this fair?  Of course not.  It's horrible (and I would not want to see how Tommy turns out).  But it's a similar situation to one that we see played out in online conversations every day.  A troll will say something cruel or ridiculous and get tons of angry responses, but then the troll supporters will come out of the woodwork with the sentences listed above.  I have much less patience with troll supporters than trolls and dislike their comments more, because they truly seem to want their arguments validated more than they desire reactions, even though, when examined closely, their arguments are utterly narcissistic.  Translations of the the three sentences:

"I enjoy making fun of people, so I'm going to do my best to make it seem OK."

"My ability to say anything I want is more important than your little 'feelings.'"

"Obviously, because I am the one staying calm during this conversation on a hot-button issue, my thoughts are right and yours are wrong."

Inevitably, the 1st amendment will be referenced when the second argument is used in the first rendition's prettier language. Yes, we get it; we have freedom of speech.  And yes, nowhere in the Constitution or its amendments does it specifically give us the "inalienable right not to be offended."  But when did it become anything other than common human decency to at least try not to offend?  I truly want to know; when did the Golden Rule go out of fashion?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thesaurus Thursday: "Finnimbrun."

Hello all!  Today's word is "finnimbrun" (n.), an obsolete word for trinket or knick-knack.  Even though it's outdated, I thought it was a good word for after the holidays.

She received a few very nice Christmas presents and many small finnimbruns in her stocking.

"What is this?" She asked.

I apologize for not doing a post last weekend.  Mr. Nerd and I hosted the family Christmas Eve dinner this year, so we had a busy weekend getting ready.  A new "real" post will be forthcoming!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thesaurus Thursday: "Presage."

We're back on schedule!

Today's word is "presage," a noun meaning "prediction" or "indication."  It comes from the Latin praesagus, which means "having a foreboding."

Because the world has not ended or suffered a disaster on a predicted date yet, I have a presage that nothing will occur tomorrow.  

(image from

A frightening presage of the world tomorrow.  Oh, wait.  That's just part of Detroit.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

About Me/A Break from Thesaurus Thursday.

Hi everyone.  I didn't have any words that really inspired me to put them in Thesaurus Thursday today, so I thought today's post might let you get to know a little bit more about a facet of myself that I don't often talk about publicly.  I could even get a bit of flak for it, considering the climate of the internet (universally troll-ish).  All I ask is that you read it with the intent of learning about another individual, and not with the intent to deride, degrade, or insult.

I am a Christian, and I don't hate you.

This is, unfortunately, a message that people don't get very often from those associating themselves with an organized religion.  Of course, it doesn't help that the people who naturally enter the spotlight are doing or saying something supremely controversial; your average Christian certainly doesn't wind up on the 6 o' clock news.  I think everyone has the right to his or her own opinion, and I don't think that any part of the Bible can be interpreted only one way (Jesus spoke in parables, after all, didn't he?).  I believe the New Testament trumps the Old Testament because Christ died to save us for our sins, and thus the Bible sends a message that every single person on this Earth is loved by a God of mercy and grace, not a message of "an eye for an eye" or "stone the adulterer."  In my personal view, you don't even have to believe to be loved by God.  You don't have to go to a certain church; you don't have to hold certain political views; you don't have to be or act a certain way.  You are loved.  And if Christ loves you, then I will do so as well.  The one thing Christ made clear when he spoke was that the first and foremost commandment was, "Love thy neighbors as thyself."  Oh, how sad He must be to see our world today.

I am a Christian, and I believe in modern science and history.

No, I don't believe the world is 6000 or 7000 years old.  I believe it has indeed existed for millenia.  Yes, the Bible says the Earth was created in seven days, but it also says that a day is as a thousand years to Him.  It gives the distinct impression that time as we know it is something humans care much more about than God.  Who can truly say how long seven days is to God without seeing through God's eyes?  I also don't think that the Big Bang theory rules out God's existence any more than saying we have a common ancestor with monkeys means that we are monkeys and thus He didn't create us.  I don't really find the idea that we are "related" insulting or extreme.  If He is omnipotent, He could have created a common ancestor just as easily as anything else, right?

No, I am not "shocked and disturbed" that Christmas was deliberately scheduled on an old pagan holiday to garner interest.  This is something people like to point out and always seem to say "Christians HATE it when you tell them this, because it shows that their religion is a fraud."  I don't really understand this logic.  I don't hate it, and I don't know many other Christians who particularly care either, besides the ones that like to roam the internet riling up people (and there might be some doubt as to the true beliefs of many of these...).  If you do not believe, that is up to you, but I would hope that it was a very personal choice and not one made just to feel superior to "the ignorant religious people." Do people really think that Jesus will believe that we are celebrating the solstice instead of His birthday?  I cannot be 100% certain, but my heart says no; if I am thanking Him in my heart for coming down and being born to rescue me, I don't think it really matters if we celebrate on the "real" date.

I am a Christian, and sometimes I am afraid to admit it.

I do not think that Christians have been nearly as persecuted throughout history as other groups, although there has been quite enough of it.  I do think that Christians nowadays are automatically at a disadvantage, not economically or politically, but as people who want to live freely, because we live in a culture that implies that simply stating our beliefs to others is "pushy" and "insensitive to the multicultural world in which we live."  So we cannot very easily do what we are told to do, which is simply to share the good news.  Nowhere does it say "Thou shalt convert everyone to whom thou speakest or thou shalt goeth to Hell."  Just share the good news, that's all.  If others don't want or choose not to believe it, again, we love them and move on.  But that is rather difficult if we can't speak up in the first place, or if people do not listen to us without jumping immediately to the conditioned response- and I believe it is conditioned- "this person is forcing me to believe his/her opinion."

I think that we should all- religious or atheist or otherwise- be able not only to practice our religions or spirituality in peace, but also to share and explain them in peace.  This is becoming increasingly difficult.  And peaceful interaction between a lot of people, especially groups of people, is often in short supply.

I can only hope that kindness and love will triumph in the end.  No matter what you believe, I hope you can agree with that.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser.

Here is the new Star Trek teaser.

I will be a bit disappointed if it's not Khan, it's true.  At lease one other actor in the franchise says it's not, but other sites are all but screaming "Khaaaan!"  IMDB now has Benedict Cumberbatch as "Khan (rumored)."  I'm actually more tempted to believe Simon Pegg, considering Cumberbatch doesn't seem like Khan in the --albeit brief-- trailer.  I do hope I'm wrong, though.

Khan or not Khan aside, the teaser trailer is a bit disappointing.  It seems like a bit of a rip off of The Avengers to me.  That is not to say that I think the movie will be disappointing; there isn't enough footage for me to be able to tell that.  Many people watching the 1 minute 6 second montage, though, insist that "THIS ISNT STAR TREK.  J. J. ABRAMS YOUR RUINING IT" (in typical YouTube comment style).  The first film was great, so I would think that Into Darkness at least has the potential to be great. I know that's not often Hollywood's style when making second films in franchises, but it does happen.

I'm not exactly a Trekkie, but I'm not even sure what these kinds of comments mean.  Why isn't it Star Trek?  And how is he ruining it?  How can you tell from a minute-long teaser?  I'm actually very curious to know the answer to these questions, if anyone can enlighten me.  Is Abrams truly ruining a classic series, or are people taking their die-hard fandom to unrealistic/unreasonable extremes?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Belated Thesaurus Thursday: "Zugzwang."

Unfortunately I was not feeling too well yesterday and forgot to post.  So here is Thesaurus Thursday today instead.

Today's word is "zugzwang," a noun meaning "a situation in which any move or decision results in a disadvantage."  It originated as and is typically used as a chess term but can be applied to other games as well as to situations in everyday life.

Whenever Mr. Nerd finds himself in a zugzwang when playing chess with me, he decides that he does not want to play anymore; he therefore thinks he can still say that I have never beat him at chess.

The next post will be up Saturday or Sunday!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

There's Only One Kind of Fake Woman.

When I was 16, I saw the movie "Real Women Have Curves."  I thought it was inspiring and beautiful.  At that tender age, though, I did not see any dichotomy between the film's message and its title.  I still remember a scene in which all the women strip down to their underwear and show off every lump, bump and freckle.  That particular scene was indeed inspiring.  Women of all ages, shapes and sizes participated.  What should not have been so inspiring was the phrase "real women."  Yes, all women have curves to some degree; however, this phrase usually implies curves in a certain socially agreed upon abundance.  This undertone makes its use hurtful.  As many women have pointed out, unless you're a mannequin, you are a real woman.  Even if you have had implants or other surgical procedures to change your appearance, you are still a real woman.  Whether you have the voluptuous figure of Christina Hendricks or the lithe slenderness of Kiera Knightley, you are a living, breathing, real woman.

Yet printed media has persisted in showing only type of woman who does not actually exist: the airbrushed one with no skin discoloration, no birthmarks, no freckles, no cellulite, no pores, no defining body features at all.  I have noticed that they try to mask this by including models with a variety of facial features.  If you have ever flipped through a magazine, you probably have not stopped to notice how many different faces are perched atop what look like identical bodies with different skin shades.  When magazines do not Photoshop the models' bodies, you can be sure that it will be in the headline, probably written in bright, bold colors with attention-grabbing words like "Groundbreaking!" or "Body Image Special!" Do they not see the irony in asking us to celebrate the unique qualities of different women for one "groundbreaking" issue whilst they turn the majority of women into carbon copies the rest of the year?  

I don't like to admit it, but I have a magazine addiction.  I love making collages and usually purchase magazines for that purpose, but I end up reading through them and feeling horrible after seeing endless pages of an "ideal" body that I can't live up to, because, like you, I am not airbrushed in real life.  We are real women.  So I am going to do something that will be very difficult for me and swear off fashion magazines for a year.  It might sound like a short time, but it will be hard for me.  Hopefully I can continue on after that, though.  Will you join me?