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The Hobbit: 75 years of Tolkien

With an $84.8 million debut last weekend, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tells the story of a hobbit who goes on an adventure with thirteen dwarves and a wizard to reclaim a mountain and its treasure from a fire-breathing dragon.  Based on a book initially written for his children, The Hobbit is the prequel which shaped Tolkien’s signature style in The Lord of the Rings epic. Though obviously prolonged to three separate movies in order to gain maximum profit from fans, the movie is a mixture of storylines from The Hobbit and the Unfinished Tales, a posthumous collection of incomplete stories which try to fill in the unexplained gaps of Middle Earth’s history. The movie has a rocky start, where Jackson tries to clumsily link the movie back to his original Fellowship of the Ring movie with a cameo appearance by Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins inquiring after his Uncle Bilbo’s book. Similar to the first movie, Jackson ensures that the old hobbit begins by recounting the history behind The Hobbit, beginning with the desolation of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, and how the dwarves were driven from their mountain stronghold by the dragon, Smaug the Terrible. The scene then cuts into “A Unexpected Party”, the first chapter of The Hobbit, where Bilbo is recruited as the burglar of the company of dwarves and must find the inner courage to brave new dangers with his fellow warriors. The movie dips in and out of the Unfinished Tales, which becomes varyingly delightful and irksome to Tolkien fans. While many appreciate that Peter Jackson decided to include the gaps in the story supplied by other books, Fran Walsh’s interpretation of them puts many loyal fans off. For instance, the wizard Radagast is portrayed as a David Suzuki-like hippie bordering on senile and allegedly hopped up… Read More

A Lincoln at the End of his Tether

Abraham Lincoln is for Americans, something like a demigod. One or two other Presidents have achieved their own mythic status, but never anything like that of Lincoln. From his own time to the present, he has been an incarnation of the American Union, a new and singular Founding Father, four score and seven years after the earlier ones. For the America that is as much a religion as a nation, he is a Christ-like figure, full of courage, wisdom, and humour; a suffering penitent who took on his shoulders the Original Sin of slavery, entrenched in the country's founding document, and redeemed the nation from it; a writer and orator who captured the meaning of the moral struggle and bloody conflict of his time in poetic and Biblical language; at the Civil War's end, the assassinated martyr. His Presidential years alone, coinciding exactly with the 1861-65 War, could scarcely be fitted into anything like a conventional cinematic biography.Steven Spielberg's Lincoln tries to cope with this challenge with a compressed character portrait covering only the last four months in Lincoln's life, and the intimate and sometimes squalid details of his last political struggle. This was his fight to achieve a broader and more enduring fulfillment of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, to be accomplished by ramming through the House of Representatives the 13th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, permanently abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude throughout the United States. While the North had clearly won the war by then, Lincoln saw the task as both urgent and difficult. A Confederate delegation was approaching Washington with a peace offer. They might be unwilling to negotiate if finding slavery permanently outlawed, while if Congress became fully aware that a peace offer was at hand, its unpredictable mixture of conservative and Radical Republicans with wavering… Read More

The Black Swan of Synthetic Biology

Confident rationalism is often allied with deficient imagination, and is consequently undermined repeatedly by 'black swans'; events thought improbable or even fantastic, which turn up a great deal more often than the narrowly rational expect. Just such a bird, a big one, now appears to be taking flight. First, consider this: the London Review of Books recently carried one of the more fair-minded discussions of the politics of climate change, by the philosopher Malcolm Bull ('What is the rational response?', LRB, 5/24/12). Bull is a 'warming' believer, but a qualified and not wildly alarmist one. He begins with a summary of the debate, giving a little weight to the sceptics, and then observes:...The possibility that climate change is not anthropogenic, or that it will not get much worse, or that some as yet unknown technological development will mitigate its effects, cannot be wholly discounted [my emphasis; N.C.].Some fascinating scientific research of the last three years in 'synthetic biology', an outcome of the transformation of biochemistry that has been continuing ever since the discovery by Watson and Crick of the DNA double helix in the early 1950s, has made 'cannot be wholly discounted' now appear a large understatement. An early example of what is now a growing literature can be found in an article in the 2009 Nature Biotechnology, intimidatingly entitled 'Direct photosynthetic recycling of carbon dioxide to isobutyraldehyde' (Nat. Biotech. online pub., 15/11/09). The wider world has started to become aware of this research in the last few months, and it is now being talked about everywhere from investment seminars to popular science shows like CBC radio's 'Quirks and Quarks'. Understanding something of what it means suggests some broader reflections on modern notions about natural science and political policy.It has been, first of all, a vindication of one major aspect… Read More

Must haves this season from L’Oréal

Unlike the weather, we have control over our look. L’Oréal, the leader in the cosmetic industry in Canada, offers many components to keep our look fresh and beautiful. With its Canadian headquarter in Montreal, L’Oréal operates in areas such as cosmetics, skin care, sun protection, hair care and fragrance. Let’s explore this season’s must have products from L’Oréal to keep our look innovative.According to the VOGUE November 2012 issue, this season it’s all about colour and comfort. Lancôme, a brand of L’Oréal in the luxury division, is focusing on endless perfection and divine comfort. For Lancôme, “the essence of true beauty is in the awakening of the senses; a harmonious unity between the mind, body and soul.”  A must have product from Lancôme this season is the “TEINT IDOLE ULTRA 24H.”Maybelline New York, a consumer brand of L’Oréal, is emphasizing colour this season. The must haves from Maybelline are the new “COLORSENSATIONAL HIGH SHINE” gloss, available in 12 colours, new “COLORSHOW” nail polish and new “COLOR TATTOO” 24HR eye shadow available in 10 shades.L’Oréal Paris, another consumer brand of L’Oréal, focuses on illumination. Don’t let your color fade out this Fall. The must have L’Oréal Paris product is the “Superior Preference” hair dye.According to the ELLE Quebec November 2012 issue, an important aspect to consider this season, especially with the rapid change of temperature, is skin care. “Biotherm”, a luxury brand of L’Oréal, focuses on protecting and revitalizing natural, radiant healthy-looking skin. The must have product from Biotherm this season is “ Blue Therapy “ repairing dark spots and firmness.Garnier, yet another consumer brand of L’Oréal which believes that maintaining a healthy body is the key of enjoying a longer and beautiful life has released the “Garnier body Intensive 7” lotion which offers long-lasting hydration.Elle Quebec is also promoting a… Read More

Interview: Conrad Black on Duplessis

This week, the Prince Arthur Herald is proud to present an interview with Conrad (Lord) Black as part of a series on Hydro-Québec and the Québec state.This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jean Lesage’s famous “Maîtres chez-nous” election victory in 1962, which led to the nationalization of Québec’s hydro-electric sector and ushered in a period of unprecedented government intervention. Fifty years later, the role of Québec’s increasingly sclerotic and inefficient public sector is increasingly coming into question. The Prince Arthur Herald is pleased to present a series of articles discussing both the past and present of the so called “modèle québécois”. Yesterday, we featured a ground breaking study by economist Vincent Geloso, which demonstrates that Québec’s pre Hydro hydro-electric sector was surprisingly successful, efficient and beneficial to Québec consumers. Today, we present an interview with Conrad (Lord) Black on Hydro-Québec and the Québec state under the leadership of premier Maurice Duplessis, on whom Lord Black is the leading authority. Tomorrow we will feature an article by former CFCF President and potential provincial Liberal leadership candidate Adrien Pouliot on the SGF, the powerful state investment agency established by the Lesage Liberals in 1962, whose legacy of mismanagement affects us still. On Friday, Claude Garcia, former President of Standard Life Canada and an outspoken critic of Hydro-Québec, will discuss the performance of the state utility in more recent years. The Prince Arthur Herald: What is your view of the performance of the privately run hydro-electric power companies in Quebec prior to Duplessis’ first election victory in 1936 and during his latter terms in government?Conrad Black: They were scapegoats in the Great Depression and subjects of simplistic demagogic demonization. They may have been guilty of moderate over-charging, and were probably under-indulgent of delinquent accounts, but I have never seen anything that would justify… Read More
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