As all Tolkein fans will know, the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films is due to be released in December, and what a happy Christmas that will make for all concerned. Every now and again Television New Zealand gives us a glimpse of what’s going on in the Hobbit industrial complex. Last night it was a brief look at the 3D printing technology being used by Weta Workshop to create props like helmets, sword hilts and axes -- evidently for the many stoushes that will accompany Bilbo Baggins’ adventures. Weta is also well on the way to printing larger objects (a car has already been “printed out”) and foresees the day when it can create whole sets with the technology.
For a handful of guys using cutting edge technology to create fantastical and charming worlds is very impressive. Not as impressive as Tolkien’s genius in imagining them in the first place, but still awesome. And yet, by accident, a little later in the evening I saw something that put Weta’s works completely in the shade, even though it was only on an old TV screen.
It was the Cathedral of Our Lady in Strasbourg, starring in a Deutsche Welle programme about the city. Its spire soars 142 metres into the sky, a marvel of delicacy, lightness and grace. Close-up views of the sandstone church revealed superb workmanship everywhere, even in high and hidden places. And most of this was done centuries ago, by men with simple tools in their hands --with what dangers attending them one can barely imagine, but obviously inspired by an ideal of beauty.
And, after all, it’s that kind of inspiration rather than just cleverness that we are looking for in works of art, whether a church or a film. Peter Jackson’s crowd are lucky to be working on Tolkien’s stories, bringing his imaginative world to life, because in the end it’s one that defends great ideals. It seems Jackson wants to spin three films out of this current effort, and good luck to him. But there are more great and beautiful stories to be translated into film, and let’s hope he keeps finding them.
I think there was some kind of link between the above and one or two of our new articles, but I seem to have lost the plot. So, to be brief: Meg McDonnell writes about what teens are saying they want when it comes to advice about sex; Michael Cook’s article -- first published in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday and attracting a lot of attention -- looks at the emerging link between gay marriage and surrogacy; Francis Phillips reviews a must-read book on ecology by Roger Scruton; Archil Kobakhidze reveals that the Higgs boson has its own music; and Australian writer R. J. Stove offers amusing reminiscences on journalism before the internet.
Finally, I am sure you will join with the MercatorNet team in congratulating our demography bloggers, Shannon and Marcus Roberts, who have announced that they are expecting a baby in October. They say: "We are of course very excited to be adding to the world’s population by one and will be delighted to do some hands-on demographic investigations. Finally, we’ll be able to tell other people to up their birth rate without being accused of a “do as I say only” approach."