Let Us Be Elegant Or Die! My Thoughts on Little Women

Little Women is a story that somehow transcended time and its characters are relatable now as they were back when they were first written. There has been a lot of analysis over the years and let me tell you I found some doozies as I was researching information about this novel. But as this is “A Few of my Favorite Things” I will mostly stick to my own experience and personal opinion with just a dash of interesting tibits of information about the book and its author.

Best place to start is the first time I was introduced to the story of Little Women. I was not introduced through reading the book (I did read it later though) nor was I introduced through its multiple film adaptions. Rather it through an audio drama production that I first heard the story. Any guesses who made that audio? That’s right Focus on the Family Radio Theatre.

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2004 audio adaption.

Within the same year my 5th grade class read and studied the novel and I remember bringing in the audio drama for the class to hear. It was only the following years that I became more aware of some of the film adaptions of this literary classic which can be seen below.

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1933 Version.
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1949 Version.
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1978 Version.
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1994 Version.

While I have not seen the entirety of these films other than the 1978 version, I have seen some clips online and have read about other people’s opinions about them. However Focus on the Family’s audio adaption stands well on its own merits and will always hold a place in my heart. A huge plus that the audio version has is that it provides the voices and sounds allowing your imagination to fill in the visuals from a character’s appearance to the layout of a house.

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Orchard House, the Alcott family home.
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Josephine March, great American authoress in the making.

Of all the characters I loved the character of Jo March because she was the creative free spirit that many women, young and old, desire to be. While every sister stands out in their own right, it can be said that the story Little Women is Jo’s story since it follows her a majority of the time. Since Jo is a reflection of author Louisa May Alcott this is hardly surprising.

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Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Little Women one of the few stories that I have personally encountered that has relatable female characters. The reason why they are so relatable is because the characters based on the women in Alcott’s own life, her sisters. I can believe in Meg’s prudence, Jo’s candidness, Beth’s congeniality, and Amy’s exuberance. This is the reason why this book has remained in the public consciousness for all this time because the audience can see themselves in one or more of the March sisters. I can only hope that some day I might come across an author or filmmaker who can produce the same kind of effect that Little Women had starting in 1868.

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Who Do You Call? Rebooted Franchise…Rebooted Gender

With the recent release of the Ghostbusters reboot starring an all female cast, the internet lite up with critiques and rants, some of them thought out and others…not so much. While there are those who denounce any and all criticism as being misogynic, the real problem for many is that they believe the idea of any reboot is just plain lazy, an excuse for film companies to make a quick buck on an already existing franchise. It is understandable; the movie market has been saturated with reboots as of late.

However that is not only problem I see; I dislike the idea of this movie not only for its unoriginal plot elements, but also for its unoriginal female characters. Granted they have different names and tweaks in personalities, but the female cast of the Ghostbusters reboot serves to replace the original male cast of characters from the original Ghostbusters. Now before I go any further I must explain that I have not watched the original or rebooted Ghostbusters and I have no plans to do so in the near future, although I might breakdown and change my mind.

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Cast of Ghostbusters (2016)

To me the rebooted Ghostbusters is nothing more than a glorified gender-bender fanfiction. I am not downplaying all fanfiction; it is fun to read some of those crazy or not so crazy scenarios from time to time especially if it is written well. But we should recognize it for what it is…fanfiction. Changing the main cast of an existing franchise from three white guys and a black guy to three white girls and a black girl is not innovative film material.

I am concerned that this Ghostbusters reboot will be setting yet another precedent of taking characters from any work of fiction and change them from men to women for the reboots. In the short term it would save the film companies time but in the process prevents them from seeking out original female leads from unadapted stories or making up new female leads for new stories themselves. For all the problems I have with The Force Awakens even I have to admit they came up with their own female character in Rey; I have my problems with her but she was not replacing Luke Skywalker like the female cast of the Ghostbusters (2016) are doing with the male cast of Ghostbusters (1984).

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Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program

I am not denying that there is a sore lack of media with leading female characters, and I do wish that there more fictional women I could relate to. But we need both male and female characters and taking male characters from existing franchises and making them female is not the answer. Instead this should be an opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to tell stories with relatable female characters that exist not to replace men, but to work alongside them and to be respected in their own right.

First Thoughts – Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 Trailer

Needless to say I was very excited to see the trailer for the new season of Star Wars Rebels. It was nice to finally have more substance to speculate about since the cliffhanger ending of the season 2 finale. I am sure Dave Filoni and the team will knock this out of the park just like they did in the previous two seasons and that there’ll be even more engaging stories to tell.

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Don’t you dare, Ezra Bridger!

I am anxious to see how things have changed since the events of “Twilight of the Apprentice” and how they have impacted Ezra and Kanan in particular. We do see is that Ezra taking the stance that he will do anything to destroy the Sith especially after what happened to Kanan as well as Ahsoka. It is not his motive of protecting his rebel crew family but how he is going about it that concerns me, and I only hope he can avoid going further down the wrong path before it is too late. Oh and another big change was that he also cut his hair. It was weird at first but I think I am used to it and he does not look like Aladdin anymore which is a plus.

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Focus…get the Meiloorun fruit.
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Time to scrap some tinnies.

Kanan seems hold his own despite having lost his sight so I think he has honed his ability in the force allowing him function and fight even though he is not able to see with his own eyes. This is evident when we see him, Ezra and Rex on a mission together which involves Separatist droids from the Clone Wars. However it seems like Kanan is going to come in contact with some green ethereal being and from the looks of it he is going to be possessed by it. Let’s just say I have a bad feeling about this.

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Where’s Ghostbusters when you need them?
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You take the guys on the ground. The one in the air is mine.

Sabine appears to have a major part to play in this season as well and with her involvement we also involve Mandalorians, those who fight with the Rebels and those side with the Empire. From the looks of it there is going to be an episode that involves Ezra. I can see the shipping memes and fan videos even now. Also Sabine has gotten her hands on a darksaber. Is it same one that Pre Vizsla had in the Clone Wars? A question that will be answered I am sure.

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Just try and face me. I dare you.
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Here’s the Chiss himself…Thrawn or Mitth’raw’nuruodo if you will.

The introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn has gotten many in the EU Star Wars fandom excited. I have heard nothing but good things about him and it is going to be so much fun for me to get learn more about this character as I watch this season. In one clip it seems Cham Syndulla and his people have crossed paths with Thrawn before and Cham states that they were not prepared to face him demonstrating he is a force to be reckoned with. It also appears that Hera herself will come face to face with Thrawn according to another clip that is close to end of the trailer. We’ll just have to wait and see what that is all about.

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Well this is problematic.
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I seek your counsel wise Tom Baker…I mean Bendu.

We also have Tom Baker voicing a character named Bendu which is a nod to the name George Lucas considered using instead of Jedi. I am glad they can pay homage to history of Star Wars and to Doctor Who having the iconic 4th Doctor voicing the character. This will make 2 Doctors that Filoni was able to snag to voice characters for Star Wars, previous one being David Tennant for the Clone Wars Series.

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Let the humor commence 🙂

Along with newer characters we also have some old ones from last season, Hondo. Honestly Filoni and crew really like this character, and I do as well but I hoped to see some other outlaws say one certain smuggler…cough…Han Solo….cough. But who knows maybe they will surprise us and throw Lando in for good measure, since we haven’t seen him since the beginning of season 2.

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Here’s Maulie!

Also Maul rears his ugly head and he is up to his old tricks again and it appears to involve the blending of the Jedi and Sith holocorns which may have devastating consequences. I am not a huge fan of Maul, but I will be interested to see what the future has in store for this fan favorite dark side user.

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NOOOO!! IT’S A TRAP!!!!
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Let’s do this!

A great trailer that makes me eager about what is to come. I am debating doing reviews when the new episodes come out, since I enjoy this series so much and I like to share my thoughts. But for now I’m signing off.

Sit Down John – What I Like About the 1776 Musical

Last week on July the Fourth my mom and I sat down to watch 1776, a film adaption of the successful Broadway musical by the same name. It is has become a bit of a tradition for my mom and I to watch this film on or around America’s Independence Day. It is also is one of my top favorite musicals which is why I am talking about it on “A Few of my Favorite Things.”

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1776 DVD cover (2002).

For those who are not familiar with this musical let me give a brief plot summary. The story focuses on John Adams as tries to get the Continental Congress to pass a resolution on independence in light of the state of war between the colonies and Great Britain. But Adams is rather “obnoxious and disliked” by many of his fellow members of Congress and quickly learns that only way to succeed in this goal is through the help of others, among them being Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. This ultimately leads to the creation of the most influential documents in U.S. and arguably World History; The Declaration of Independence.

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Good God! What in Hell are you waiting for?

I will be the first to admit that not everything in 1776 is historically accurate and I am sure some the founding fathers if they were alive to see it may take offense with how they were interpreted. However that is what you get when there two centuries separating these men from the script and song writers for this musical. Despite this Sherman Edwards did great adapting the writing of Peter Stone into an engaging musical that could be hilarious and serious at the same time. The actors, most of whom were from the original Broadway show run, were amazing and the actor that played John Adams is none other than William Daniels who would later be known for playing Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World.

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So this guy…
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…is also this guy?

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most well known songs of the musical and probably the most entertaining is “The Lees of Old Virginia” where we formerly introduced to Richard Henry Lee who was responsible to proposing the resolution for independence. It is funny to see how may adjectives that ole Richard can add “Lee” to along with Benjamin Franklin’s encouragement and John Adams’ unamused countenance.

But my one of my favorite songs in the entire production would have to be “Molasses to Rum” which vividly portrays the concept of the Triangle Trade which those of us in the U.S. probably learned in history class. In this song South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge points out the hypocrisy of the North over their opposition to slavery when they was just as responsible for the existence of the salve trade as much as the South. Actor John Cullum delivered such an amazing and haunting performance that has to be seen and heard in order to be appreciated. Because I am unable to find a video of that particular performance, I am only able to post the audio soundtrack from the film in order to give a taste of what it is like.

This film has seen it fair share of edits, including the original theatrical version from 1972, a laser disc version from 1991 and finally making its transition to DVD in 2002. The most complete version is from the 1991 laser disc which first included the song “Cool, Considerate Men” that was cut from the theatrical release as well as additional music and film sequences which made it run a total of 180 minutes or 3 hours. However Director’s Cut for the DVD shortened the length by 20 minutes which included cropping the song “Pwiddle, Twiddle and Resolve” to its original length from the 1972 release, which is a shame because it is a rather enjoyable sequence and it can be seen in its entirety down below.

Oh and another scene that was cropped was a reprise of “The Lees of Old Virginia that involve John Adams “falling” into a water fountain. Needless to say it is amusing.

Despite of the changes to its content over the years 1776 is one of the best musicals out there and it handles one the most important events in American history with depth as well as humor. Nowhere is this displayed more than with the songs between John Adams and his wife Abigail. The lyrics were inspired by actual letters that the couple wrote to each other around the time the musical is taking place adds a degree of authenticity to both characters.

By the way for those following my Facebook page here is an answer to the role of saltpeter in this movie.

In conclusion I would recommend this to anyone who would like to see a film that can make history fun as well as relatable, of course don’t take this musical interpretation of history as gospel. By all means look up the history for yourself and learn something new about the people who made the formation of the United States possible.

UPDATE (7/15/2016)

After posting this blog post I realized that “The Lees of Old Virginia” youtube video I had used included the extended reprise sequence in full glory. I did some digging and found out that they had release a Blu-ray edition in 2015 where there is an option to watch an extended cut of the movie. There is also extra audio commentary featuring William Daniels who played John Adams and the late Ken Howard who played Thomas Jefferson. Needless to say I know what to ask for Christmas now, that’s if I don’t purchase it myself sooner 🙂

Sources:

“1776: The Movie – 1776 Pioneer Special Edition Laserdisc”

“1776: The Movie – VHS vs. DVD”

July 4 Special Reissue Theory: “1776: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

God & Country – Presenting Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom

On this day 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence was adopted after long weeks of deliberation within Continental Congress. On such an historic occasion I bet you thought I might look at something that honors the history of the United States. But that’s not what I am going to be looking at that today. Instead I will looking at the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he was presented in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s production, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom.

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Revised Cover circa 2007

Now I know what some might be thinking, why am I talking about a German theologian on America’s Independence Day. Why I am not talking about George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson? That will be revealed in time, but first a little personal history of how I was introduced to this audio drama.

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Original Cover circa 1999

My family had purchased audios from Focus on the Family  before, mainly The Chronicles of Narnia which were being produced around the same time and I remember listening to The Cost of Freedom was when very young. I say that because I recall listening to it on cassette tapes, and that was a long…long…long time ago (sarcasm is hard to express via text). I don’t remember exactly how old was anymore, but looking at the release dates of the productions I was younger than 10. While it was not the norm for children our age and generation to be listening to audio drama, my brother and I were the exception. And it was thanks to the people at Focus on the Family that I was able to learn about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

For those don’t know Bonhoeffer was German theologian and pastor, known for his resistance against Hitler and the Nazis regime. He paid the ultimate price and being executed only a month before Germany’s surrender to the Allies. The Cost of Freedom starts off with the allusion of the theologian’s death in which a military officer is heard stating the charges of Bonhoeffer’s treason and that the penalty for such an offense was death by hanging. After the pounding of a gavel, the sound the rope straining against the weight of suspended body can be heard. It is a sobering mental image to start off, and this knowledge remains in the back of the mind of the listener as they learn about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and how the events and influences of his life, both as boy and as an adult made him into the man he would become. All in all Focus on Family demonstrated excellent storytelling and the Peabody Award it received for this audio drama was well deserved.

One thing that remained with me till this day was conversation that occurred within the story between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the fictional character Philippe who was based off of French pacifist pastor Jean Lasserre whom Bonhoeffer interacted with in 1930-31 while he was at Union Theological Seminary in New York. It starts when Philippe calls into question Dietrich’s view of following both Christ and his Country, asking what he would do if his government were to condone something that would be contrary to Christianity.

“Imagine a situation where you have to choose between your government or your faith? Which do you choose? Are you a German first, or a Christian?”

Later after experiencing racial prejudice through being refused service at diner because his African American companion, he and Philippe continue their discussion. In this conversation Bonhoeffer expresses that if the situation he witnessed happened in Germany with blessing of the government, he as follower of Christ would have to speak out against such actions. He goes on to say,

“Our allegiance must be to the eternal, to Christ himself over and above all things. I am a Christian first and foremost, a German second. And I can only hope to God that the two will never oppose each other.”

While the conversation itself fictional, it does reflect events that took place as well as the beliefs of Bonhoeffer that can be found in his writings as well as actions.

Two days after Adolf Hilter was elected as Chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address entitled “The Young Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” In it he introduced the idea of the Führer Principle which described the younger generation’s desire for a leader who could provide the authority to solve the problems their country was facing in the aftermath of the Great War aka WWI. But the authority was not derived by God but rather was derived from the leader which made him a messianic-like figure. As a result Bonhoeffer explains,

Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stand alone before him, and must perish. (Metaxas p. 142)

It can be said the Führer Principle is around even today, although it would have to be renamed the President Principle. Many in the U.S. look to the individual and the office of President to be the savior of the country’s problems. However no can fully put their faith into one person, because they have the potential to lead people astray. The people of Germany put their faith in Hitler and it led to the greatest atrocities the world had ever seen up until that time. As Christians we should respect authority, but we should also remember there is a heavenly authority that takes precedence. The greatest service anyone can do for one’s country is stand up for what’s right even if their country opposes them.

Dr. Karl-Hermann Muehlhaus summed it up best in his paper “True Patriotism- Aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life and Theology” saying,

…(Dietrich Bonhoeffer) was truly German and loved his country very much, but even more he was a Christian, and his love to his country was qualified by his even greater love to God who has revealed himself in Christ, and by his belonging to the universal church, the body of Christ, which comprises all nations, peoples and races. (p. 1)

Know that that true hope of those who profess faith in Christ is not found in political leaders, but in the God of the universe.

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” (I Timothy 4:9-10)

Sources:

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

“Patriotism and the Führer Principle” by Walker Wright

http://presentdaypatriot.blogspot.com/2012/01/patriotism-and-fuhrer-principle.html

“True Patriotism- Aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life and Theology” by Dr. Karl-Hermann Muehlhaus

https://www.academia.edu/13105152/True_Patriotism_-_Aspects_of_Dietrich_Bonhoeffer_s_Life_and_Theology