Category Archives: Reviews

Meet the Austins…

Dear reader, check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This is one of her books I just read for the first time…I’d met the Austin family previously in books that come later in the Austin family series.  I really enjoyed this story, and it did serve as a good introduction to the Austins, which in turn, sets up the rest of the books in the series.  It is a very quick read, and “easy” reading.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Standing rib roast with roast potatoes and carrots, spaghetti with carrots and garlic bread, Spanish rice, Shepherd’s pie, strawberry mousse, pork roast with applesauce and carrots, pot roast with deep-dish apple pie, bread pudding with raisins, tapioca, jell-o, raisin bread, steaks with baked potatoes and salad, baked beans with hot dogs chopped up in them, and the ever present beverages of coffee and hot cocoa.

What did they listen to while preparing all of this?  Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, Rosenkavalier, Schonberg’s Verklarte Nacht, Handel’s the Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Handel’s Royal Fireworks, and John liked to listen to “The Gambler.”  The crew liked to sing; Cockles and Mussels, The Eddystone Light, You take the High Road, Oh, Susannah, Ash Grove, and Tallis’ Cannon.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, The Sword in the Stone, and Doctor Dolittle.  Also, a book on Albert Einstein’s spiritual views was quoted and talked about, but no title was ever given.

Their furry companions that curled up at their feet?  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and at least three cats; Prunewhip, Hamlet, and Creamy.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Skywatching as usual, including star gazing.

Good prayers and quotes included?

St. Francis’ Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

A quote from Hildevert of Lavardin;

God is over all things, under all things; outside all;
within, but not enclosed; without but not excluded;
above, but not raised up; below, but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding; wholly without, embracing;
wholly within, filling.

A poem from Thomas Browne;

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`

Fun book to read, the themes of childhood, change and death were interesting.  This book, more than L’Engle’s others that I’ve read, seemed geared toward “younger” readers, but adults who like her style and characters will enjoy this book as well.  On to read the second in this series…

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Madeleine L’Engle…

I have a real love for a good book.  Nothing has to be spectacular, it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, or even Twain…just good writing telling a good story.  I was first introduced to Madeleine L’Engle’s writings in school, where most kids are, A Wrinkle in Time was the first of her books I enjoyed.  At the time, I remember being slightly bewildered at L’Engle’s ability to tell a science fiction story while at the same time weaving it in with a character centered family style tale.  Since then, I’ve enjoyed many of her books, and am still happy to read some of them for the first time.

This being “The Christian Scribbler” I do indeed take an interest in the fact that L’Engle is often designated a Christian writer.  I always loved the spiritual aspects of her books, and the prayers, music, and religious discussion she always found a spot for.  That being said, I don’t always agree with her personal, or private, theology.  She tends toward universalism, which includes the idea that everyone will wind up being saved in the end.  For many Christians this would be a deal breaker, and you wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy her writings…for me, not so much.

I believe L’Engle’s style, and the content of her writings are fascinating, enlightening, and should spur anyone with an intellect to seek out information, music, and in fact, knowledge of all kinds.  I also like food.  And family.  And friends.  Reading her books reminds me of another of my favorite authors; Jan Karon and her Mitford series.  As I read L’Engle’s books I can’t help but be drawn into the families she writes about…caring what they are listening to, what they are fixing for supper (in a regular oven, or over a Bunsen burner), what books they are reading or subjects they are studying.  I was so interested in this kind of thing that I looked to see if they had ever put out a cookbook as a companion to L’Engle’s writings as they had with other popular books or series.  They hadn’t.

So, I decided to make my own lists of interesting bits from L’Engle’s works….I’ll be starting with Meet the Austins and going on from there.  Every time I make a new entry here on my blog, I’ll update this page with a new link to the new article.  I love the fact that L’Engle’s characters are smart, intelligent, thoughtful, talented, compassionate, etc…  The family scenes and discussions are fascinating, and remind me of some of the more thoughtful people in my life, including family and friends.

My “lists” for each book will include things like, “What’s for supper?”  Also, books a member of the family are reading, subjects they are studying, what music they are listening to, their Pets (which are key members of family life), and miscellaneous things, like prayers and quotes that feature in the storylines.   This is just meant to be fun way of sharing my enjoyment of these books with other fans, and perhaps get others to join in the fun by reading her works; the books that are hyperlinked will take you to my reviews and lists…

Austin Family books in order:

  • The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas (short story)
  • A Full-House: An Austin Family Christmas (short story)
  • Meet The Austins (Full-length book; first in the series)
  • The Anti-Muffins (short story, but included as a chapter in the newest editions of Meet the Austins)
  • The Moon by Night (Full-length book; second in the series)
  • The Young Unicorns (Full-length book; third in the series)
  • A Ring of Endless Light (Full-length book; fourth in the series)
  • Troubling a Star (Full-length book; fifth in the series)
  • A Severed Wasp (Full-length book; it overlaps with a different series, not “technically” an Austin family book)

Books about the Murray Family; AKA The Time Quartet, or Time Quintet

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • A Wind in the Door
  • Many Waters
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  • An Acceptable Time (Overlaps with the O’Keefe Family series)

Books about the O’Keefe Family

  • The Arm of the Starfish
  • Dragons in the Waters
  • A House Like a Lotus
  • An Acceptable Time (Overlaps with the Murray Family series)

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Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

I finally managed to see the new Chronicles of Narnia movie: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (VotDT).  There are many fans of the CS Lewis books that despise the movies, but I’ve enjoyed each of them for different reasons, VotDT is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment and recommend it to movie goers, Christian and non-Christian alike.  There will be SPOILERS for both the book and the movie, if you’d rather wait to see it yourself, please stop reading now. ;)

One of the first questions people want to know, esp. Christians, is; Does the Movie follow the book?  I would honestly have to say yes in general, and no in specifics.  Yes, in that the main characters are intact, as are the main interactions.  No in the specific plot devices and details.  Extra additions to the plot include a dreaded greenish mist that whisks people off to the Island of darkness, and the seven lords of Narnia being given seven swords by Aslan that all must be found and placed on Aslan’s table in order to break the spell of the green mist. I’m assuming some of the changes are actually inspired by, or sets up, The Silver Chair.

The next questions always include; Did they leave in Aslan changing Eustace back from a dragon, and did they leave in the, “In your world I have another Name,” speech by Aslan? These are two key Christian parts of the book and they did leave them in, though changing Eustace back into a boy was much less hands-on (or paws-on) and less graphic (which is why I assume they changed it), plus the “baptism” aspect of it was missing, as Eustace did not go into a body of water.  Also missing was the element of Eustace trying to change himself back, but failing, and Aslan stepping in to do the work.

The Aslan speech at the end was left largely intact and was pulled off well. It was clearly communicated that the children must learn to know Aslan by His Name here in our world.  My main gripe with this scene; they left out the Lamb that turns into a Lion.  It would have been a little detail that spelled out things so much more for the audience; Aslan represents Christ Who is the Lion and the Lamb.

Will Poulter’s Eustace Scrubb brings a lot of comedy into the movie and the actor did very well with it; the transformation of snotty little Eustace into a true Narnian at heart was pulled off well.  However, one of the things in the book that always stood out to me was that Eustace was never cut any slack on The Dawn Treader, and his crime of stealing water was treated seriously by Reep.  In the movie version, the serious nature is pointed out when Eustace nabs an orange, but Reepicheep lightens the tone of the repercussions.

The only bit in the movie that may be too scary for some of the younger fans is the sea serpent scene (a nice homage to The Ghost Busters is there, if anyone is paying attention to the dialogue).  The serpent was done really well, IMO, and may frighten younglings a bit too much.  The Dawn Treader itself was far less cheesy than I’d feared.  Oh, BTW, this review does not include a review of the 3D, because I did not see that version.

Long review short, I liked this movie, and believe it is a movie for the whole family, except the youngest members.  The movie, along with the book, teaches many important lessons including fighting temptation, our inability to change ourselves without help, friendship, family, humility with biblical self-respect, etc…  I enjoyed it, and look forward to the DVD, as well as the next installment that will hopefully be greenlit soon.

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Doctor Who; Big Bang Review…

SPOILERS ahead, don’t read if you haven’t seen the last episode of Doctor Who.  Ok, so I’m going to skip straight to editorializing the last episode from my Christian POV.  As many of my readers already know, I’m fascinated by atheists writing storylines that actually support certain contentions of Christianity, especially when it is not the writer’s intentional, conscious aim.

As I’ve said before, I do believe many atheist writers show the internal “knowledge” of God by what they write about even though they very publicly state they are against the idea of there being a God.  This episode wasn’t an exception.  Moffat was indeed the writer for this season ender, BTW.

The name of the episode catches the attention right off the bat; the big bang…modern science’s label of the declaration that the universe did indeed have a beginning.  Why that title?  Because during the course of the episode we discover the Doctor’s answer to resetting the universe is to create Big Bang Two (or Too would work I suppose ;) ) Why do I find that particularly interesting?

Well, apologists will recognize that one of the main arguments for God is the Cosmological argument which I have blogged on previously.  With the recognition that the universe had a beginning, one should be ready to admit that it had to have a Creator.  Something transcendent, something un-caused and ultimate…that is God.  Atheists attempt to deny this and to dance around the issue.

Well…in the show we have a set up for Big Bang 2.  Ok.  Big Bang 2 is set up and executed…it is designed.  It would not come about unless it had a designer.  Isn’t that interesting?  So Moffat can conceive of a second big bang, but that big bang has a creator…isn’t it possible for him to admit that the first big band also had to have a Creator as well?  Add another layer on.  I’ve already discussed the Messiah-like attributes of The Doctor (and it’s linked above)…who designs and executes the second big bang?  The Doctor, the Messiah-like figure on the show.  Hmmm…..

As far as a review; I enjoyed the finale…but the ending was a bit anti-climactic, and I do mean the very end.  I got used to the series setting up an exciting hook and catch for the next season…Big Bang didn’t really do that for me.  I am indeed looking forward to next year, but it is because of the show in general, not just because of the ending of this eppy.  Big Bang was fast and fun, and of course we got to see a side of the new Doctor in his new style of dancing and his interactions with the kidlings.  Downside to the eppy?  The presence of River Song…boo.  I really hope I’m right in that she is not who the writers want us to think she is!  I suppose we’ll see…

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Lost; The End Review

I haven’t talked about Lost much on here, but it is a show that I’ve watched since the very first episode, and now that it ended the way that it did, I have to comment on it. SPOILERS abound; if you haven’t seen it, don’t read on!

Ok, the main thing everyone is asking is, “Did you like the ending?” Well…that is an odd question for me. I can honestly say that I give it a 4/10…but that score requires some explaining.

First, the writers did a good job with the character arcs. They wrote a scenario that gave the audience a sense of closure without putting in much detail. So, all of our Losties wind up dead one way or another, surprise surprise, and in our world we are not sure when or where the off screen deaths took place. Take Hurley for example; we know he was the Protector for a bit, but did indeed pass away at some unspecified time and place in our future.

We know that their souls (the essence of who they were) all wound up together in what is now popularly labeled “Purgatory.”  I have to say, I think the writers kind of went PC overboard on the Universalist style church…how many religious symbols, statues, books, artwork, etc… can one crew put into one set dressing?  I would point out that to do that, but then have Christ prominently displayed outside the church in many shots, “Christian Shepherd” being the one to open the door to the “next step,” and the Christian faith of several of the Characters throughout the seasons, is an odd choice, since that is enough to get all those against the Christian faith riled up without fully committing.

Now, here’s the thing about a story…it has a plot and it has characters.  The characters are there to further a plot and to enrich it.  They are not the plot, they are a part of the plot, they are part of the story.  That is what I think the creators of the show either neglected to remember, or deliberately ignored in the finale.  So, the second part of this review is about the plot in general, not the characters.  The plot was, for all intents and purposes, completely ignored.  Think about it; we know absolutely nothing about the island or the surrounding mysteries.

We don’t know what the light is, energy of some sort, perhaps tied to spirituality, perhaps not.  We don’t know who first populated the island, who the “mother” of Jacob and “Esau” was and why we should believe anything she’d say (or her nutty sons), who built the “plug” that keeps the energy in, why certain people can see dead people, why Walt could control the island off and on the island, why did Kate see a black horse, why did the smoke beastie peer into people’s souls for no ultimate apparent reason, and on and on and on…  The island was the main setting, and the main plot device, and it was completely neglected during the finale.

Look, I like good books, movies, and tv shows that make people think and ask questions…so a lot of people really liked the ending.  But, here’s the thing…I know about the afterlife, I know about spirituality, I know about the love of a group of people, and friendship, and adventure.  I don’t need some vague reference to what happens after someone dies.  I was hooked on the show because of the mystery of the island, not the mystery of the humans on the island except as it pertained to the island itself.  I love character driven shows too; but the plot is what needs to be advanced through the advancement of the characters.  To me, the writers did a fine job on the characters, and a bad job on the plot.

Could this be for future profits and storytelling?  I do hope for future storytelling, or answers.  The writers did a bang-up job setting a scene and a world full of possibility as far as the island is concerned, they just didn’t give any answers in this series.

To be fair, I’ve seen many criticisms of the show, or aspects of the show, that are based on people just not thinking things through (surprise surprise).  For example; no, Jack did not just dream the whole island and all the people up; it really happened.  The rules put in place that people are nitpicking; who could and could not leave the island, who could come to the island, were set in place by Jacob (remember the game Jake and his brother were playing, and the brother told him someday Jake could make up his own rules for his own game?  Jake used the island to do just that). Purgatory was transcendent, and that is why they could all be there at the same time.  Jake picked who he did because they had issues to deal with and needed a life change anyway, so he brought ‘em there for his own ends, but also to try to get them to change, etc… etc…

So, there ya have it.  I’m glad I watched the show, didn’t love the ending but have my reasons why.

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Doctor Who; Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

Okay, spoilers everywhere, so if you haven’t seen it don’ t read any of this.  I talked a bit before about Time of Angels…it did indeed contain bits that were very interesting to me pertaining to matters of faith/religion.  I have to say that Flesh & Stone took it up a notch…and I was pleasantly surprised.

Some of the themes brought up were faith and fear…how they are related and the limits of both.  The discussions back and forth betwixt The Doctor and Angel Bob were very interesting.  Bob did have some good points about the fact that the Doctor keeps making promises that he might not be able to keep; he gets people to put their trust in him, then does indeed let some of them down.  Sometimes being afraid is the most intelligent position,as Bob kind of alludes to…and of course, one can’t truly be brave without fear.

The military nature of the church wasn’t explored much further than in the first part.  In Time of Angels it is said that the church has “moved on,” whatever that might mean (kind of an odd comment seeing as how the church did have a military nature in the past (rightly or wrongly)).  The Bishop, Father Octavian (BTW, the real St. Octavian was martyred by the Vandals) was one of the most interesting characters Who has had on it in a long time.  A solid military man of moral character with strong faith in God, and a willingness to help the side of good even unto death.  No bones were made about his belief, it was pretty straightforward in the phrases he used.

I have to admit I was caught off guard by the way Moffat handled Octavian and The Doctor’s relationship.  When Octavian was caught by an Angel, he faced death with extreme courage, saying that The Doctor was seeing him at his best, “For that I thank God, and bless the path that takes you to safety.”  Eleven had actual tears in his eyes, with no witty comebacks.

It’s always interesting to speculate how many things I can spot in plots that line up with scripture are there intentionally or just by coincidence.  Two examples; the first is Octavian reply about giving up his life, he said he was content…when we look at what Paul tells us in scripture: Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

The second was the idea that the angels needed Eleven to sacrifice himself to save them…and he didn’t do it.  Again, perhaps a messiah-like allusion that actually matches the biblical idea pretty closely.  Christ, the true Messiah, did not die to redeem the fallen angels; His sacrifice was not for them, nor efficacious for them, but rather His sacrifice was for humanity.

A difference that I noted between the Doctor and Christ; a big deal was made out of the fact that the Doctor doesn’t always tell the truth, yet he expects to be trusted despite that.  God’s nature is such that He does indeed always tell the truth, and that is one of the reasons why we know He can be trusted.  It is an interesting juxtaposition.

I really enjoyed these episodes…as far as plot, Blink was better, but as far as characters, I preferred these (that is, if I leave Dr. Song out of the equation, I despise her character, not the actor, but the character).  Who else out there doesn’t believe that Song is the Doctor’s future wife?  Maybe that’s just me hoping…

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Doctor Who review; The Eleventh Hour…

This is the latest eppy of Doctor Who to air (in the US, that is), and also the first to feature the new Doctor.  This is the Eleventh Doctor (and we won’t mention Ten… *sob*), and he is played by Matt Smith.  Other “firsts” in this eppy?  The unveiling of the new TARDIS, both the outside and inside got a bit of renovation, a new companion (Amy Pond), a new sonic screwdriver, and this ep is also the first with Steven Moffat at the helm instead of RTD.

As always on the Christian Scribbler, I look into any religious implications, or discussions that arise from the actors, the writers, the script, the directors, etc… This new incarnation of Doctor Who seems it will also set up nicely for me to comment upon from time to time.  With Moffat as the showrunner, will we see as much of the Doctor’s Messiah complex?  I dunno, but we already have religious/spiritual implications creeping into the show.

A quick summary of the ep follows, with mild spoilers, and then I’d touch upon the religious bit.  Ok, Eleventh Hour sets up a plot line to introduce us to all the new stuff in Doctor Who, so we have a basic episode with a basic alien baddie.  We meet Amy Pond as a young girl who has a suspicious crack in her bedroom wall.  It is a creepy crack to be sure, and we are left to no other conclusion than the Doctor is directly involved.  Said Doctor, in his newly regenerated body, crashes the TARDIS in Amy’s back yard.

One of the funniest moments in the show ensues as Eleven tries to figure out his favorite food…MAJOR SPOILER…fish fingers and custard. hahaha…Anywho, we also find out the alien baddie of the week is; “prisoner zero.”  The Doc has to take off for a bit and promises to return in five minutes in the TARDIS…twelve years later he does manage a return and we get to meet Amy again.  Teaming up with various extras results in Eleven and his human helpers saving the day in a basic Who plot carried out very well.  Another standout scene was a montage of all the previous Doctors (including Ten…*sob*) leading up to Eleven.

So, my opinion?  Matt Smith did the role proud and I will happily tune in every week.  I really enjoyed Amy’s character  as well (played by Karen Gillan), and she seems like the perfect companion for The Doctor.  The new control room for the TARDIS is going to take some getting used to; I liked the organic feel to Nine and Ten’s TARDIS a bit better.  I also realized after watching all the Tennant specials and this episode, that the changes to the show were needed to advance the storyline past the Rose/Nine&Ten romance subplot.  I’m a fan who really enjoyed the romance aspect, and am also glad they found a way to move the story on now.

Anything really negative?  No, I just hope that Smith relaxes into the role and makes it his own…I don’t know his acting well enough to tell if the manic edge to Eleven was a deliberate overlap in the transition from Ten to Eleven, or he’s trying too hard to match Tennant, or that’s simply his acting style.  I hope that there is unifying storyline through the season, as in seasons past, and that all the writers are on the same page as to where to take the Doctor as far as character goes.  And I would absolutely love a TARDIS centered episode or two…or three..or…

As to the religious aspect, once more, it can’t be helped: the theme of the Doctor arriving in the nick of time, as if it was arranged and orchestrated by a higher power was definitely there.  In fact, attention was drawn to it by having the child-version of Amy Pond praying at the very beginning of the show for help with the crack in her wall; and what a blatant prayer it was with kneeling and prayerful hands and everything ;).  The perhaps (atheist) dig of having her pray to Santa instead of God is easily overlooked by the underlying point; her prayer was answered regardless (she was a little kid too, and these misunderstandings do happen)…perhaps she’s Roman Catholic and was indeed seeking Saint Nick’s aid?

For readers just joining in on my Doctor Who discussions, I’ve blogged about the interesting themes I see in Doctor Who, esp. when those themes that are religious in nature are coming from atheist writers; for those blogs that will help explain my interest and where I’m coming from in my reviews go here:  Doctor Who, Atheism and God pt. 1 and Doctor Who, Atheism and God pt. 2

Overall?  Two thumbs up; like the new Doc and companion and am looking forward to all the new episodes!

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