Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Silent Speaker" by Rex Stout

So what do you do when the murder victim would not want you to solve the crime? At least, not right away? Is there a case where withholding evidence is the right thing to do?

In the case of “The Silent Speaker” it causes someone their life, this attempt to do the right thing. And, Nero Wolff being Nero Wolff, he does not simply go about assembling the puzzle.

This is another case where Wolff and Goodwin solve a crime in spectacular, stylish fashion, but not in the way anyone would normally do. It isn’t enough for Wolff to expose a killer. His ethical standards are too large and too personal. So, in addition to exposing the wrongdoer, Wolff allows the murder to have the unintended side effects that suit his sense of right and wrong.

In the little game where we pretend that Rex Stout was writing a metaphor of the church in the world, this raises the question: how sly should we be? Is there ever an instance where calling out wrongs in the world is self-defeating? Do we fight every battle—political, social, and artistic—in a black and white position of judgement as the standard of right? Or do we at times let the systems of the world destroy themselves?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three Eleven

Beautifully befitting
is the festering realization
that we are trapped in time
without the capacity to see the ends.
Eternity is the splinter that pricks the heart.
Wisdom the acceptance
that our drive to understand
is bordered by our nature.
Created as intended
and caught in a current
guided by a hand.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Avengers :Age of Ultron" (2015) a brief, non-spoilery look

I keep waiting for Marvel to stumble in their movie line. Not even a true dud, but at least a step down in quality. I was pretty sure, however, that this latest entry would not be that misstep. I have too much confidence in the writer/director.

One would think that an action film with ten or eleven super-powered-beings fighting an artificial intelligence that inhabits an army of robots and the internet itself would be nonstop mindless set-pieces. And there are some amazing set-pieces here, to be sure. Some of the best yet. But that is not the movie we get. This is a story with depth of meaning and issues, and lots of character development. For some maybe too much even.

And there are some complaints. I was forced to watch this in 3D. There is no reason for this movie to be in 3D, and it only serves as a distraction at best. Also, some of the sub-plots left me a bit dry. Not that they were bad, but simply unnecessary and maybe forced. (Hawkeye, I’m looking at you.) None of these are big enough to keep me from giving this movie my top rating, and, if you want to be technical about it, my highest rating for a Marvel film yet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Deliver Us from Evil" (2014)

As a horror film, “Deliver” is too tame. It doesn’t induce much fear in spite of the gore and the evil on display. As a mystery, cop story, it is a little slim on plot and motivation driving the action forward. However, all of that is due to the true motivation behind the movie. It wants to be a thoughtful piece about good and evil and the reality of the supernatural in the world.

I have followed Scott Derrickson’s career with interest, catching all of his films in spite of the fact that I am often dissatisfied with the results. That is due to the fact that he is a believer who takes seriously the idea of using his art to share his worldview. Never in a preachy way, but always consciously and seriously.

A quote I read in another article about this movie had Derrickson saying the following:

“There’s a misconception people have—that people only believe in the supernatural because they have a religious dogma that says it exists,” says Derrickson. “Actually, the opposite is true—people believe in the supernatural because of what they’ve seen and experienced. It’s people with the hard skeptical belief that there’s only the material world that have the dogma. They hear all these stories and dismiss every single one of them based on their beliefs.”

Unfortunately, Derrickson’s approach through the horror genre takes the typical approach of discussing the reality of the supernatural by focusing on evil. Here, he expands away from that with the character of Mendoza, the priest. He has Mendoza talking about goodness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and the need to acknowledge sin. It just doesn’t quite ever make it to Christ. In the end, the Catholicism—and the faith worldview—on display here is a religious one. Symbolism and words are emphasized in a ritualistic/formulaic way more than the relational, dependence on the person of Jesus Christ way. But it is a step in a good direction.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 2a)

Season 1d—Season 2b

Season two starts out pretty strong. Two if these episodes are generally considered among the best of the whole series:

Episode 1 “Amok Time”

Summary: Spock gets grumpy because he “isn’t getting any” and must force the Enterprise back to Vulcan to fulfill his arranged marriage. Only, his fiancĂ© has fallen in love with another and schemes to get Spock and Kirk to fight to the death.

Struggle: Vulcan biology/cultural customs feel like something made up for 1960s television.


This is one of the more well-known and well-loved episodes of Trek. This is mostly due to the iconic nature of the episode, but also for the loss of control Spock exhibits when he discovers that he has not killed Kirk after all. As far as deep thoughts or philosophical meaning, it is a bit weak.

Episode 2 “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

Summary: The Enterpise encounters yet another super powerful being, who happens to be one of the aliens that inspired Greek mythology and worship. He tries to force the crew to be his new adherents, but humanity doesn’t need religion and kills the god.

Struggle: Apollo is a bit over the top and theatrical for an almighty, god-like being.


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