Early Running with the Doctor

2019 was supposed to be the year that I revisited some of my favorite British television.  Doctor Who.  Spaced.  Downton Abbey.  Sherlock.  The movies of Edgar Wright.  Simon Pegg movies not directed by Edgar Wright.  The claymation of Nick Park.   That kind of thing.  But January kind of got away from me, and February has been its own beast, too.  I did just start the first “new” series of the rebooted Doctor Who from 2005.  I wasn’t a big fan of the series when it first aired . . . on Sci-Fi, I believe.  It was hit or miss for me.  And it’s been a while since I’d seen any of the series one episodes, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

What a great series!  True, it’s no where near as “polished” as successive seasons.  And there are some small plot holes that I think of as evidence that they were still “making it up.”  But it’s really nice to see a Doctor not question every. single. move. he. makes. in any given episode.  Beyond that, it’s cool to see the show through the eyes of having been in England a few times since.  For instance, I had totally forgotten about this scene from “Rose.”

The show really does feel “stripped down.”  The sets and shots are simple.  The effects aren’t all that great (but maybe weren’t intended to be).  And the cast is appropriately small: pretty much the Doctor and Rose.  None of the bloat of some of the more recent stories.

I’m not sure how far I’ll get with my British “re-invasion” in 2019.  But it’s been a nice start.  (I watched the second episode last night, a very “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” episode.  Surprisingly touching, really.  Not sure how I’ll feel after revisiting the Charles Dickens episode, though.)

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Sunday’s Best: A Flying Fair Trade?

Something about today’s Sunday-sized WuMo captures a sentiment many of us probably feel at certain moments while traveling.

Fair Trade of Flying(image from gocomics.com)

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Sunday’s Best: What the Postmaster General Knew

Hands down, Bill Watterson did an amazing job balancing words and pictures.  This week’s classic Sunday Calvin and Hobbes is a perfect picture of it.  You get lots of words that fit the facial expressions perfectly.  It’s amazing the amount of drama that can go on in Calvin’s head, particularly when it comes to Susie Derkins.

Calvin and Valentine's Day(image from gocomics.com)

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Sunday’s Best: Secret Empire

Because it’s been a while since Star Wars felt funny.

Star Wars Facebook(image from gocomics.com)

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Faring Well

smith finaleNear the end of 2018, James K. A. Smith announced his departure from Comment Magazine as its editor. Each quarter, Smith would write about his perspective on some in-the-moment issues using his “World View” column, something he called “an annotated reading for your world.”

His final column, which came with the journal’s December issue, reflected on his time as an editor, tracing out some of the reasons why he took the position and relating some of the benefits of the task (which was beyond his role as teacher and writer).

That he would take an editorial position at a journal is cool in its own right.  But when he agreed to step into the role, he did so out of a passion for the genre (he describes himself as a “magazine junkie”), knowing the good work periodicals can do to create a kind of community. Smith says,

As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, I never tired of meeting Comment readers face to face. It has been humbling to have readers thank me in person for what our team does. Their faces and names provided a tangible sense that this “community” of Comment readers was an actual thing. And for many of them, Comment stemmed a certain loneliness they often felt in their contexts, giving them a sense of being hooked up to something bigger—that they had friends they’d never seen but who “got” them.

Beyond that, Smith acknowledges that the journal has been a kind of education, both for the readers and for the contributors, who often were tasked with working specific themes.  And as much as it was about education, it was also ultimately about friendship.

But it’s when Smith gets to the change that has happened to the public arena since he started with the journal that you get the sense of something deeper going on, something that Smith perceives as a step in the right direction.  From the end of the essay:

There were times when I couldn’t imagine not editing Comment. The work came naturally to me; I was energized by the range and variety of the work; and I believed in what we were doing (and still do). But over the past couple of years, I have found the space that Comment needs to speak into—the realm of politics and civil society—is more toxic than when I started. At some point over the past couple of years, I’ve realized I don’t have the stomach for being a pundit. Some might say it’s a lack of courage. Perhaps. In any case, it’s important work that has to continue. As for me, I feel my tour of duty in these trenches of public debate is up.

There is something prescient in this, I think.  Even the last two weeks of public discourse have revealed how quickly we are to jump to “precluded possibilities” that line up with our own narratives.  And that’s caused at least some reflection amongst those who “write about the moment in the moment.”  Which makes Smith’s next move all the more interesting:

In the new year I will assume a new role as editor in chief of Image journal, a quarterly devoted to art, mystery, and faith. Curating such a space resonates with the outcome of a period of discernment over the past year and my sense that God is calling me, in the next season of my career, to work at the intersection of the arts, imagination, and culture.

+ + + + + + +

I’ve written a few times about my “temporary vocational stretch.”  And while it’s gone on at least twice as long as I’d hoped or expected, what I have learned in the process continues to accumulate.  This about myself, sure.  But also things about a larger culture, a larger moment, an understanding of what it looks like for God to work and an understanding of what it looks and feels like when He seems silent.  It makes you wonder about what has become the common approach and if there are other and better ways of faithful engagement.

+ + + + + + +

Smith has already posted his first full article for Image.  I’ll get to it here soon.  For now, it is enough to remember that you can take a vocational stretch and that it can be used by God to change us and continue making us.  He can teach us and shape us through friendships.  And He can prepare us for other things.

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Sunday’s Best: Snoopy Begins?

I’m not sure I’ve even thought much about the events that precipitated Charlie Brown becoming Snoopy’s owner.  But here’s the story as best as good ol’ Chuck can remember it.  Yesterday’s classic Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz:

snoopy's origin?The post I had hoped to upload for today (Monday) will see the light of day tomorrow.  Sunday afternoon and evening time kind of got away from me.

(image from gocomics.com)

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New King on the Block

newkingontheblockI should start by going on record as saying that one of my favorite moments in Aquaman was at the end when someone says “Hail, King Arthur!” While the world of Middle Earth is key for me, the world of Arthur’s England isn’t too far behind.

Joe Cornish’s The Kid Who Would Be King really is one of the best movies you might see these days.  It is smart, simple, and practices a kind of restraint that you don’t often experience with contemporary fantasy cinema.  From the moment the movie begins with an animated retelling of the King Arthur legend to a closing moment that echoes it, the movie wastes no time in telling a medieval tale with an appropriately modern twist.

One of the best things the movie has going for it is that it’s the closest we’ve gotten to The Lord of the Rings in many a-year.  Some of that is a matter of cinematography: the movie’s beautiful vista shots are part of the reason why I love traveling to broad, green places.  This movie does that wonderfully.  Beyond that, there are some story moments that resemble some great LOTR moments. But those LOTR moments are great because they are almost-primal moments handled well (mostly moments of fear and being afraid in dark places, really).  This movie is also closer to LOTR in the handling of relationships, particularly with comradery and friendship.

Something else that sets the movie apart from much of the herd these days is that it does a great job earning its ending.  I don’t want to give anything away here, but it does its own kind of Never-ending Story ending (only moreso).  Things play out almost seamlessly in a way that doesn’t just feel like a “boss level” confrontation at the end has to play out. It’s actually a tricky move, one that requires the restraint that I mentioned earlier.

There is a political dimension to the movie that is almost part-and-parcel of any ideological undertaking these days.  You can’t talk King Arthur without talking about hope and loss and leadership.  This is another place where the movie’s restraint works well.  It tries to settle on something like a universal “truth” about leading well . . . and the things that leading well requires.  For young Alexander, the movie’s protagonist, leading well first and foremost involves living by the chivalric code.  And so even though Merlin might think that “his time is done,” that’s not quite true.  In fact, even the overly-used trope of “everything you need you already have” doesn’t quite ring true because of the book that Alexander keeps in his bag and holds in his hands.

Speaking of Merlin . . . or Merton . . . the cast is quite good.  It’s not easy casting young actors, I imagine.  But the key quartet of the show blend together nicely.  It’s good to watch a movie where character can actually develop (and without requiring a sequel).  Plus there’s one pleasant surprise in the casting . . . at least it was a surprise to me, as I hadn’t actually seen any trailers for the movie before going in.

The Kid Who Would Be King is the first movie in a good while that kind of makes me want to see it a second time in the theater, if only for the good handling of people traversing beautiful landscapes.  There are also a few gags that just work out really well.  I highly recommend the movie to people who enjoy children’s movies, and movies in general, done well.

(image from polygon.com)

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