Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

The animated version of Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991. I saw it first on video, and it quickly became one of my favorite Disney movies. It was Disney's first musical to be converted to a Broadway format, and I further fell in love with the tweaks to the plot and the additional songs. So I was especially excited when I found out that they were making a movie live action remake of it.

I am happy to report that the new version is every bit as amazing as the original Disney movie, even making the occasional reference to Jean Cocteau's 1946 movie:

The new movie also answered plenty of questions that the 1991 version raised. I was wondering about some of them, and others hadn't occurred to me:

  • What happened to Belle's mother?
  • Why did Maurice and Belle move to "this poor provincial town"?
  • What is the name of this poor provincial town?
  • Where did they live prior to that?
  • Does Belle invent anything?
  • Does Gaston have any other reasons for wanting Belle, aside from her beauty?
  • Is LeFou the least bit concerned about Gaston's villainy?
  • Did any villagers besides Belle object to Gaston's war march against the Beast?
  • What was Gaston's occupation prior to the events of our story?
  • Were ALL of the Prince's servants turned into objects?
  • Was everyone in the castle at the time of the spell either the Prince or one of his servants?
  • What was the dog's name (who was turned into a footstool)? Who were her owners?
  • What happened to Mr. Potts?
  • How did the Prince get so cruel that the enchantress has to take such extreme measures to teach him a lesson?
  • What about the Prince's parents?
  • What happens to the enchantress after she casts the spell?
  • How does Belle get the heavy Beast onto Philippe after he's been wounded by the wolves?
  • Why do the Beast's servants care so much for him? Do they blame themselves at all for the Beast's condition?
  • Are all of the books in the Beast's library in English (or French)?
  • How does a moment last forever?
  • What is Cogsworth's first name?
  • Does M. D'Arque have children? (This is not actually answered.)
  • Was Gandalf ever transformed into a clock?
  • Did Gandalf ever meet Hermione Granger?
  • Did Obi-Wan enlighten anyone who didn't have "Skywalker" in their name? (Pun intended)
  • For that matter, did Obi-Wan ever meet Hermione Granger?

  • How does it look to have a snowball, dishes, rubble, mud, rubble and a falling villain thrown at you? (This is answered in the 3D version.)

  • Could there be more to the poor than meets the eye? Maybe they deserve more respect than we often give them? Are they sometimes the best of us?
  • Is everyone's hero necessarily heroic? What happens when our heroes disappoint us?
  • Both the Prince and Gaston start out as spoiled, selfish and unkind. How can their repentance or lack thereof inspire us to become kinder and unselfish?

  • What happens when the theater is almost empty because most people think there's nothing left to see, and Josh Groban starts singing your big brother's favorite song in the movie, and said big brother likes to sing, and is sitting next to you? (Hint: Josh Groban is suddenly a background singer.)

Beauty and the Beast is an amazingly well-done remake. Pro tip: stay to the end of the credits. There is no post-credits scene, but they save Josh Groban for last.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Overblown Controversy

Following are two recent posts that I shared on Facebook considering the controversy surrounding the announcement that LeFou is gay in the new remake of Beauty and the Beast.

For me, the most heartbreaking part of the furor over the rumors surrounding the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake is Christians abandoning one of the most basic tenets of Christianity, to love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn't take more than a few clicks to discover that the rumors are way overblown, and more or less on par with the original animated movie. You know, the family-friendly movie you loved where LeFou is head over heels for Gaston, and (it sounds like this is reproduced in the new version) the wardrobe cross-dresses men in the battle. I've seen some people pledging to watch this movie as an alternative:

Expressing overblown contempt for something so minor goes against what Jesus taught, and is more on par with the actions of the Pharisees that He fought so hard against.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. When asked who our neighbor was, Jesus used an example of a Samaritan, one of the groups most hated by the people He was teaching.

I'm not saying you need to go see Beauty and the Beast. Go or don't go. But if you refuse to watch it, don't tell people about the evils you think it contains that it doesn't.

As Christians, we are supposed to be a light to a dark, lost world. Instead, we're chasing away the people who need Jesus most because they disgust us. This is exactly what the Pharisees did. Jesus hung out and associated with these people. How many people that Jesus died for will spend eternity in torment because we chased them away by our scornful attitude?


I later realized that the recent overreactions and increasingly fantastical rumors about Beauty and the Beast are exactly what Gaston does in the story. He makes up a bunch of lies based on one bit of information and his fears, and stirs up vicious, destructive rage among the people of the village.

This is is an excellent blog post from someone who saw a preview of the new movie. She addresses the controversy and goes more in depth into the scenes referenced in the announcement.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Proposed Laws of Nature

Have you ever wished you could lobby for a new law of nature? Not just a legal law that can be broken, but a natural law that is impossible to break. Things like the laws of gravity (though, granted, I propose exceptions to that below) and physics. I've been pondering this lately, and these are my proposals so far:

  • Snow may fall and ice may form anywhere except on roads, driveways, sidewalks and vehicles.
  • Rain must cut it out before floods accumulate. If it must continue to rain at that point, the rain must relocate to locations more in need of water.
  • Natural disasters must confine themselves to locations uninhabited by people or animals. I would suggest Mars.
  • Hailstones must be no larger than your average pea.
  • Tsunamis must always crash out to sea, never inland. If there are boats or surfers in the proposed path, the tsunami must wait until they are out of the way.
  • There needs to be a limit on how thick fog can get. I would suggest a minimum visibility of 75 feet.
  • Wind must be considerate and not destructive.
  • Clouds must block the sun over the horizon at sunrise and sunset, at least during March and September.
  • Skin must be unburnable.
  • Wounds and maladies of all sorts must heal as fast as they do for Wolverine. However, replacing bones with adamantium would not be necessary.
  • Vision may diminish to a point where glasses are needed for minor correction, but it must never progress to the point of blindness. The other senses must never diminish.
  • Teleportation and human flight must be achievable and normal modes of transportation.
  • Food, water and coffee must always be available to those who need them.
  • Smoke and exhaust must be odorless and harmless.
  • Fire must not stray from its intended location, provided it is intended for use in cooking, keeping warm, and campfires (and other beneficial uses, as needed). If set with malicious intent, it must be impossible to set.
  • Meteors must avoid crashing on planets and spacecraft.
  • The Northern and Southern Lights must be visible to more of Earth, more often. When forecast, it must be visible. It is all right for it to be somewhat rare, though, as that would preserve the novelty. Just less rare than it currently is.
  • Science, healthcare, sports and the arts must always be held in high regard, and never repressed or under funded. They must be easily affordable both to provide and to patronize.
  • Food must always be beneficial to a person's health. An excess of food must not lead to an excess of weight.
  • Pimples must disappear, never to return, the instant a person turns 16.
  • Back orders on products, especially if they are essential, must be impossible. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Romans 13 and Civil Disobedience

I've heard several people cite the following verses to say we shouldn't be criticizing Trump:

Romans 13:1-2
Let every person be subject to governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

What if those governing authorities are clearly sinning and commanding others to sin?

What if, say, God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh to stop enslaving the Israelites and release them? (Exodus 3-12)

What if God commanded Samuel to criticize King Saul multiple times, and at times Samuel had to carry out the orders that God had commanded Saul to do, because Saul refused? (1 Samuel, 1 Chronicles)

What if God commanded Nathan to tell King David that having an affair and committing murder were terrible sins, leading to a very eloquent prayer of repentance? (2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51)

What if God commanded Elijah to prove to Queen Jezebel and the prophets of Baal that their idolatry was evil, causing Elijah to run for his life? (1 Kings 18)

What if God commanded Jeremiah to send a messenger to King Jehoiakim with a scroll full of the King's evil deeds, and Jehoiakim cut up the scroll and threw it in the fire, leading to God sending their kingdom into captivity? (Jeremiah 36)

What if God commanded Esther to talk to King Xerxes to inform him that the order he had rubber stamped to stamp out an entire people group was evil and murderous? (The book of Esther)

What if God commanded Jonah to tell the King of Nineveh that they were evil and destined for destruction - and God had to use extreme measures to get Jonah to obey and criticize the governing authorities? (The book of Jonah)

What if Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego engaged in civil disobedience by refusing to bow to the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into a blazing furnace for it, but miraculously survived? (Daniel 3)

What if Daniel had to tell King Belshazzar that the mysterious writing that had just been written on the wall meant the following? "God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. ... You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. ... Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:26‭-‬28) Belshazzar didn't survive the day.

What if Daniel directly defied orders to worship only King Darius, and got thrown into the lion's den, and miraculously survived? (Daniel 6)

What if Jesus - God in flesh - blasted the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, over and over and over? (The Gospels)

What if Peter and John told the governing authorities that they would not obey their command to stop spreading Jesus' message, saying, "Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him?" (Acts 4:19)

What if Stephen told the governing authorities that Jesus was right, they had murdered Jesus and Jesus had defeated death, causing them to stone him? (Acts 7)

What if Paul - who wrote Romans 13:1-2 - criticized the Roman authorities for breaking Roman law by beating him and Silas, leading to them apologizing? (Acts 16)

There are so many more examples, but those are the ones that come to mind. We are commanded to submit to authorities. We are commanded to pray for them. We are not commanded to refrain from criticism when they are wrong. Paul said to expose wrongdoing (Ephesians 5:11). Paul wrote Romans under the rule of the evil emperor Nero, known for his brutal treatment of Christians.

Now, what if many (though not all) of the people currently citing Romans 13 were some of President Obama's sharpest critics? What if they so recently defied what they themselves are now preaching? Is this hypocrisy not exactly what Jesus repeatedly accused the Pharisees of doing?

What if our current president claims to follow Christ, but claims never to have needed to repent of anything?

What if he repeatedly ordered his supporters to violently throw people out of his rallies while campaigning?

What if he has had multiple affairs and bragged about rape, later trying to pass it off as "bathroom talk"?

What if he openly mocked a man with special needs, and has repeatedly denied it despite video evidence to the contrary?

What if he has passed a temporary ban on thousands of people in mortal danger from fleeing to safety?

What if he is working to dismantle needed healthcare policies without first proposing a replacement?

What if he represses the freedoms of speech and of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment, by telling the media, National Parks, scientists and others to shut up?

What if he fired the acting Attorney General because she chose to follow the orders in the Constitution rather than the President?

What if he has inspired (intentionally or not) violent acts of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, Christophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and several other phobias, throughout the US and even as far away as Quebec?

Again, there are so many more examples of how this man has been "weighed in the scales and been found wanting."


So what are we to do?

We are to respect the office of President.

We are to submit and obey what he tells us to do, provided that doing so would not go against the commands in the Bible and the Constitution.

We are to be upright, following God first, then the law, then the president.

We are to fight for the less fortunate.

We are to stay informed and fact check what we hear. Let's not automatically support or oppose what we hear based solely on the fact that Trump said or did it.

We are to pray fervently that God will give wisdom to President Trump, and lead him to repentance. We need to pray that Trump will become the wise and compassionate president that we need.

We are to hold out hope and not despair.

We are to remember that God is bigger and greater than Trump, and God will prevail.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Snoke Theories, Episode III

"I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

He was separated at birth from his sister, who he didn't even know he had, and raised by an aunt and uncle who struggled to keep their moisture farm afloat in a sea of sand, while dealing with a moody and whiny teenager who would rather be getting power converters at Tosche Station. The area was plagued with murderous sand people (who he is likely unaware that their compatriots killed his grandmother), Jawas with dubious motivation, and slug-like gangster Hutts. Oh, and let's not forget Greedo, who may or may not have shot first.

He came upon a droid on a mission, with a message from the sister he didn't know he had. This led him to find out that his whole life was a lie, the old man he thought was just a lonely old hermit was actually a famous Jedi who had fought in the legendary Clone Wars, his farm would be decimated, he had a twin sister with a much cooler title, and his father was the very person the old hermit told him killed his father. The man he had always admired and wished he'd known. Talk about disillusionment! 

At first, he trained hard to fight the evil that brought his father to a fraction of the man he had once been. But after triumphing over the Sith and actually losing his father in the process, his new role of training a new generation of Jedi ended in disaster, with his own nephew going on a murdering rampage. Like Yoda and Obi-Wan before him, Luke went into hiding. The years passed, and Luke waited on a far away island on a lonely planet.

Or did he?

What if all the tragedy in his life led him on a darker path than we realized? What if he became a dark lord himself? He once said he was a Jedi like his father before him. What if he decided to become a Sith like his father before him as well? Maybe one who would continue his instruction of his nephew in the ways of the Force. But now in holographic form, from a distance. The giant hologram would add to his air of mystery, and he could instruct people all over the galaxy from the comfort of his throne on a remote island.

But wait, you say. He doesn't look like Snoke! Ah, but he has had years to figure out and study the ways of the Force. Who knows how much the Force can do? I'm sure the movies don't even scratch the surface. Maybe people with enough midichlorians can change their appearance at will.

You may object that we see Luke and Snoke in two different places. First of all, he isn't actually present in the room where he talks to Kylo Ren and Hux. He is there in holographic form. Secondly, in the prequels, we get to know Senator Palpatine pretending to fight for good, and we also see Darth Sidious guiding the bad guys in the dark side of the Force. They don't reveal until later that they are the same person. Maybe this is another case of that. Perhaps they will reveal that Luke and Snoke are the same person.

Lastly, both names are one syllable and end with "ke"... Highly suspicious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Snoke Theories, Episode II

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

He watched his protégé and best friend, whom he loved like a brother, slowly turn bad. He fought his friend through lava flows that would burn away said friend's limbs and severely maim him in other ways, causing him to need a mask to breathe. I ask you, is this the action of a friend?

Then, Anakin out of the way for the moment, he contrived to separate Anakin's children and not tell his "dear friend" the joyful news that he was a father. He would spend the next few years as a hermit on a desolate island, only starting to be helpful when Anakin's daughter asked for help, and Anakin's son came to him with a droid with a message. Then he handed the whiny brat of a Luke a deadly weapon before telling him what it was. What if Luke had pressed the wrong button with the lightsaber pointed at himself? When that scheme didn't work, he made up some harebrained story about Darth Vader killing Luke's father - which he would later explain away by claiming it was true "from a certain point of view." Whatever.

Then, next time he saw old Anakin, he declared pompously, "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." So, always willing to help a friend, Anakin took Obi-Wan's advice.

Like Yoda, Obi-Wan just disappeared. Like Yoda, I didn't see a body. Did he die? Like Yoda, he would show up later as a force ghost. He spoke in a creepy voice to Luke telling him to use the force. But were his actions as a ghost particularly powerful? Unless you consider spooky apparitions and voices powerful, not especially.

The last we see him as Obi-Wan, he is a holographic ghost smiling at the pawn he trained to defeat his old friend.

Fast forward about 30 years. A new generation has arisen, and now we see a powerful holographic ghost who is commanding his friend's grandson to commit horrible atrocities.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Snoke Theories, Episode I

"When 930 years old you reach, be as good you will not."

He has lived his very long life as a small being. He grew up green, with big ears. Though he didn't make a big deal of it that we know of, there is a hint that he was self conscious of his tiny stature:

"Judge me by my size, do you?"

"Size matters not."

It sounds to me like he was trying to convince himself.

The last time we see Yoda, he is lying in bed, dying. But is he dying? He just disappears. I didn't see a body. Oh sure, he shows up later as a force ghost. That just proves that he isn't completely gone. He has become another kind of being. Transparent, but visible to Luke.

Fast forward about 30 years. A new leader has risen. He is holographic and huge. (Remember, Yoda was holographic and tiny last we saw him.) He is transparent at times, and visible to Luke's nephew. Snoke is just as bald as Yoda, but he does not look as good. Clearly, he has aged in that time. His study of the Force has clearly taught him to overcome his tiny size and long poiny ears. He is now HUGE! Even seated, he towers over his underlings. Perhaps it's the memory of Darth Vader that turned him bad and made him talk forward. Or maybe it's the influence of General Hux (who looks suspiciously like Bill Weasley ... coincidence? I think not.) and/or Kylo Ren. Snoke seems to be just as respected by the First Order as Yoda was by the Jedi.

Yep. Supreme Leader Snoke is clearly Yoda.