Monday, March 31, 2014

Still on Deadline

So, no posts here the last few days because I've been on a monster deadline, cutting a 400,000 word book by about 40%. And it's absorbed all my brainpower for days on end, to the point that I haven't even done any reading (a rarity for me) -- or, rather, I've started books, read a bit, skimmed some more, put it down, and wandered away, my mind too absorbed in the ongoing project to focus on anything else.* Thank goodness there's plenty of anime for those times when I need a mindless end-of-day distraction in order to avoid the dreaded edit-in-my-sleep phenomenon. And tonight as an extra added bonus I'm taking a night off for a D-and-D Next session.

The good news is that the work is almost done: I'm now deep into the final pass, checking cross-references and smoothing over the reworked text. Which means postings will soon resume --among other things, I have a new Errata list for the one-volume edition, setting right various details I noticed during this recasting of the commentary.

So, in haste for now; back soon.

*Think Edward Gorey's Mr. Earbrass

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf postscript

Just noticed that the Kindle edition of TOLKIEN'S BEOWULF is their "#1 Best Seller in epic poetry".
That was quick.

amusing to see that it tops an eclectic list:
#2 Milton's PARADISE LOST "in Plain English" (the mind boggles)
#3 Tolkien's THE FALL OF ARTHUR (!)
#4 Dante's INFERNO
#5 Homer's THE ODYSSEY
#6 Spenser's FAERIE QUEENE
#7 a different translation of BEOWULF
#8 another version of Dante's INFERNO
#9 Homer's THE ILLIAD
#10 Vergil's AENEID (the only one of these I've never been able to make myself read all the way through)

--Tolkien makes another appearance a little further down, SIGURD AND GUDRUN coming in at #17

Here's the link:



So, now that there's an official announcement for TOLKIEN'S BEOWULF (, things quickly come into sharper focus. There's no mention of whether both translations will be included, the partial alliterative verse one and the complete prose one. I certainly hope it'll include both; in any case, we'll soon see. As a commenter on my previous post pointed out (thanks, Nelson), there's actually no mention from an official source of Tolkien's BEOWULF: THE MONSTERS AND THE CRITICS being reprinted herein. True enough; in any case, it's readily available in the essay collection THE MONSTERS AND THE CRITICS AND OTHER ESSAYS [1983]. And, even better, if true it means there'll be all the more original, never-before-seen material. So this is pretty much a win-win situation, whichever turns out to be the case.

The biggest news from the official announcement is that SELLIC SPELL is definitely being published, for the first time ever, as part of this book. While quite short, it's an interesting work, atypical for Tolkien, and I'm glad we'll finally have it in print.

And, as an extra added bonus, it sounds as if Christopher Tolkien's introduction definitely dates the translation, which fills in one more date in the framework of dating all Tolkien's works and how they relate to each other --a particular interest of mine.

Too bad it comes out a week and a half after Kalamazoo: I'm sure there's many a medievalist there who'll be interested.

And now, two months + one day and counting

--John R.

P.S.: The listing for the book is now up, and includes such interesting information as the page count (surprisingly high at 448 pages, making this a substantial book): by contrast doesn't yet seem to have a page for the book but does have two for the Kindle edition, which on a quick glance seem to differ only by having two different prices ($23.99 and $15.40, espectively; see the two respective links below). No doubt this all soon be sorted out.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tolkien's BEOWULF

Today is a good day to be a Tolkien scholar.

They just announced today that Tolkien's long-awaited translation of BEOWULF is coming out later this year -- in fact, just a little over two months from now, on May 22nd.

This edition includes the complete translation, which the news articles date to 1926 (I'd always thought it was a little later, in the early thirties), plus Tolkien's seminal essay "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics", which shifted Beowulf studies from a search for historical sources to an appreciation of the poem as literature, as well as some never-before-seen material drawn from Tolkien's OE lecture notes (given how good the comparable material was in the SIGURD book, I'm really looking forward to this part of the new edition). Here's the (one of many) link(s) re. the news:

This brief account seems to conflate Tolkien's two separate translations of BEOWULF: the (complete) prose translation and the earlier (incomplete) one in alliterative verse; I assume both will be included in this new edition. The part about a "2,000 page manuscript" I'm dismissing as usual journalistic hyperbole: certainly the texts deposited in the Bodleian are nowhere near that lengthy --BEOWULF itself being only a little over 3,000 lines.

No preorder page for it has shown up yet on amazon, the English amazon, or HarperCollins' Tolkien page, but I'm assuming that will follow in short order.

Here's a second link, which includes a brief quotation from Christopher Tolkien, presumably from his introduction:

Huzzah, and Hooray, and Hallelujah.

--John R.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shippey Lectures

So, I just order another lecture series from The Great Courses, to go with the Bart Erhman one from several years ago. This one is called HEROES AND LEGENDS: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL CHARACTERS OF LITERATURE, and my attention was drawn to it by noticing that the first lecture was devoted to "Frodo Baggins -- A Reluctant Hero" and the last two to Lisbeth Salander ("Avenging Female Fury") and Harry Potter (Whistle-Blower Hero"), while most of the other twenty-one come from more traditional literature (the Wife of Bath, Elizabeth Bennett, Sherlock Holmes).

What entirely escaped me, until my attention was drawn to the fact by a posting over on the MythSoc list, is that the lecturer is none other than Tolkien scholar and distinguished medievalist Tom Shippey. Here's the link:

I've ordered the audiobook version of the course, so more on this one when it's arrived and I've had a chance to listen to it. Shippey is a great lecturer, charismatic of presence and memorable of phrase, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Oh, and we've just heard that the Shippey festschrift,* of which I'm one of the editors, is either in typesetting or about to enter that stage, so we're getting close to the release date, which shd be late spring/early summer. I've also been told that it's appeared in McFarland ads in LIBRARY JOURNAL (Feb 15 2014 issue, p. 52) and BOOKLIST (ibid, p. 13). And now it's available for preorder on Amazon as well, which estimates the release date as May 15th -- just a hair too late for Kalamazoo, but if we're lucky they might have an advance copy or two on display there. We'll see. It's nice for this project, which took far longer than any of us thought it would, to finally be coming to fruition.

--John R.
currrent audiobook: DREAMS OF TERROR AND DEATH: THE DREAM CYCLE OF H. P. LOVECRAFT (which turns out to actually not be 'the dream cycle' of HPL but his dreamland stories mixed with a lot of other things, like CHARLES DEXTER WARD, "Pickman's Model", and "From Beyond")
current reading: AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND by Geo. MacDonald (just finished, thank God); I AM A BARBARIAN by E. R. Burroughs (just started; the story of Caligula's bodyguard)


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And Then There's John Bellairs

So, while I think Lovecraft is interesting as a mythmaker but not a v. good writer, and Clark Ashton Smith brilliant but admittedly an acquired taste,* I think the late John Bellairs, at his best (i.e., THE FACE IN THE FROST) can best even C.A.S.  Bellairs' vocabulary is much simpler, but he was a master of using detail to evoke a sense of nightmares. And I mean that literally: I've had nightmares after reading Bellairs, which has never been the case with HPL or even CAS. Here's a particularly good example of how he draws on common experience to build sinister effect:

It did not look haunted, especially at noon,
this crowded, textured, interwoven wood. 
[He] saw every shade of green, from light,
bleached, papery, yellow-green to a dark, wet, 
inky green that was almost black. Willows,
poplars, maples, oaks, and stubby kinked
mulberry trees. As he crossed the little clearing,
he noticed that the wood -- at least the part of
it that he saw -- was surrounded by a loose
fence of closely planted wooden poles
tipped with spear blades and linked by three
tiers of reddish iron chains. Nothing that a man
might not break down in a few minutes, but 
it might keep something in . . . 

Once he was actually inside the forest and 
the oiled gate was shut behind him, [he]
knew what was wrong. There are times 
when you feel you hear doors slamming 
in the distance, voices calling your name;
you see blurred things, far away or very 
close up, that look like people until you 
focus on them. That was the trouble. The
whole place seemed slightly out of focus,
very slightly off. It was as if you were half
asleep. There was a buzzing in [his] ears,
and he had to stare at a tree for several seconds
before it looked like a tree and not a leaning
furry shadow. . . A glass bell was ringing
somewhere deep, deep in the forest. An icy
green glass bell ridged with frost, trembling
on a green willow branch.

--John Bellairs, THE FACE IN THE FROST (1969), Chapter Five [The Empty Forest].

currently reading: THE WALKER IN THE WASTE [Pagan P. CoC campaign], AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND (the only Geo. MacDonald fantasy I've not read)

*anyone who cd write a play called THE DEAD WILL CUCKOLD YOU is definitely not for everyone

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Clark Ashton Smith in all his glory

So, speaking of Lovecraft reminded me of  the weird and wondrous work of Clark Ashton Smith. My introduction to Smith's work came not through Lovecraft but through a D-and-D module, X2. CASTLE AMBER [1981] by the brilliant and perennially underestimated Tom Moldvay. Moldvay adapted several of the Averoigne stories, Smith's best work, into an intriguing adventure that left me wanting more.

Unlike many, I found Smith's distinctive style and his cold-blooded point of view remarkable and refreshing. While a Lovecraft story would dissolve into incoherence meant to represent the narrator's cracking up, and frequently fell back on the cliche that whatever was happening was too horrible to describe, Smith wd simply go ahead and describe it in precise, almost clinical detail.

Also, whereas Lovecraft liked to use and re-use a few favorite adjectives ("eldritch", "hideous", "unspeakable"), Smith chose his words with great care and specificity. Take, for example, the following tour-de-force passage, where Smith both creates a vivid word-picture and amuses himself (and, hopefully, the reader) with the controlled extravagance of it all:

"Beginning with late spring, the Cistercian monks 
were compelled to take cognizance of sundry odd 
phenomena in the old, long-deserted ruins of Ylourgne, 
which were visible from their windows. They had 
beheld flaring lights, where lights should not have been:
 flames of uncanny blue and crimson that shuddered 
behind the broken, weed-grown embrasures or rose 
starward above the jagged crenelations. Hideous noises 
had issued from the ruin by night . . . and the monks 
had heard a clangor as of hellish anvils and hammers . . . 
and had deemed that Ylourgne was become a mustering
-ground of devils. Mephitic odors as of brimstone and 
burning flesh had floated across the valley; and even 
by day . . . a thin haze of hell-blue vapor hung upon 
the battlements . . . Observing these signs of the Arch
-foe's activity in their neighborhood, they crossed 
themselves with new fervor and frequency, and 
said their Paters and Aves more interminably 
than before. Their toils and austerities, also, 
they redoubled."

--Clark Ashton Smith, "The Colossus of Ylourgne" [1934], 
(Arkham House, 1948), pages 123-124

--John R

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dunsany's Butler's Book

So I was amused to see that the book by the man whom I like to think of as 'Dunsany's Butler',* Stanley Ager, is back in print again and prominently displayed on the 'Downton Abbey' table in the local Barnes and Nobles, alongside Downton Abbey tie-in books such as scripts for Season One, scripts for Season Two, two books by the Countess of Carnarvon about two of her predecessors, et al.

by Stanley Ager and Fiona St. Aubyn [19080]
"Foreword by Alaistair Bruce OBE/ Historical Advisor to Downton Abbey"

This is one of the books I inherited from Taum, who as a professional bartender himself probably was able to put to use some of the tips therein. I've found it useful myself when running CALL OF CTHLUHU scenarios set in the 1890s, like my FORDYCE HALL campaign from a few years back. Originally the book interested me because I was trying to find out everything I could about Lord Dunsany back in the days when I was working on the dissertation, and Ager had worked for the Dunsanys early on in his career, as a footman; he even includes several amusing stories of surreptitious moonlighting from those days (apparently it was hard to put anything over on Lady Dunsany, who never gave away that she was on to them). 

And now Ager's book is resurrected again, in a new context, to take advantage of the current DOWNTON ABBEY craze. Good for him. I suspect this book will eventually gain permanent status as a record of a vanished world.

--John R.

*actually, he was a footman when he worked for the Dunsany's, mainly out of their London townhouse in Cadogan Square, but by that time I learned those details, years after originally getting a copy of the book, the label 'Dunsany's Butler' was indelibly associated with it in my mind

**the title has shifted a little; my copy [from 1981] is THE BUTLER'S GUIDE TO CLOTHES CARE, MANAGING THE TABLE, RUNNING THE HOME AND OTHER GRACES; the original title was apparently AGER'S WAY TO EASY ELEGANCE [1980]

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mr. Grahame's Bad Day

So, the most recent issue of THE FORTEAN TIMES (or most recent I've seen) includes a section of "Stories from THE ILLUSTRATED POLICE NEWS", apparently an ongoing series of which this twenty-seventh installment features a long-forgotten incident in the life of a great writer.

As the ILLUSTRATED POLICE TIMES tells the story, on November the 24th 1903 a man entered the Bank of England, presented his card, and demanded to see the bank's Governor. Said official being busy, he was shown in to see the Secretary of the Bank, Mr. Grahame, handing him a paper on which were written the words All are concerned. What Mr. Grahame didn't know was that the paper was a test: if Grahame took it by one end, his visitor would know he was in the presence of one of the Good Bankers who looked out for the country. If he took it by the other end, it signified that Grahame was a Bad Banker who, as the article puts it, "hoarded the money of the poor in his bottomless vaults" [F.T. p. 78]. Unluckily for Grahame, he took the paper by the wrong end, whereupon his visitor pulled out a revolver and shot at him. It turned out the visitor was a man named G. F. Robinson, an anarchist and Boer War veteran who'd become unhinged during his time in Africa by the vast inequalities of what we'd today call "the 1%". His goal had apparently been to force the Bank of England to open its vaults and distribute the vast wealth within among those in need.

The rest of the story recounts how Grahame, who'd miraculously escaped injury (although an army vet of a brutal war, Robinson was apparently a bad shot), and his fellow employees fled, how Robinson wandered about shooting up the place for a bit, and how he was finally subdued with a fire hose, followed by a rush of men who restrained him; in the end, the only one hurt was poor Robinson himself, who was pistol-whipped during his capture. The ILLUSTRATED POLICE NEWS naturally focuses on the high drama of events: THE FORTEAN TIMES reproduces several dramatic drawings re-creating the episode.

The whole thing sounds all too familiar to present-day news stories -- traumatized war vet, shots fired in a public building at people completely unknown to their assailant, the whole sparked by some quixotic lunatic theory that values things over people.

But the reason this long-ago event is of interest to us today is that Mr. Grahame is best known to us today for having written one of the great classics of children's literature,  THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS.

What's generally forgotten, given that achievement, is that Grahame was not an author by profession but a banker; writing was his vocation. Most also forget nowadays that he was already a major author in the field when the book he's now remembered for came out in 1908, near the end of his relatively brief career* -- in fact, so ground-breaking and admired were his THE GOLDEN AGE [1895] and its follow-up book DREAM DAYS [1898] that the initial response to WIND IN THE WILLOWS was that it was a bit of a let-down in comparison. But that's not the verdict of history, and over time his final book has come to eclipse all the rest, with justice in some cases (e.g. such poor stuff as THE HEADSWOMAN, about a cute executioner, and PAGAN PAPERS, a collection of mannered little essays some of which first appeared in THE YELLOW BOOK, of all places, that scandalous journal that helped create the image of the 1890s as decadent) and not in others (DREAM DAYS and especially THE GOLDEN AGE).

So, while it's not true, as the FORTEAN TIMES pieces says, that Grahame "lost interest in banking and began writing stories for children" as a result of this incident (he already at the time of the incident being one of the best-known children's writers of his day), it does seem likely that having risen to high-level position as Secretary of the Bank of London, his early retirement was probably precipitated by this traumatic experience.

And so, in the end, we lucked out. Grahame only wrote one book in his retirement, but that one book was a masterpiece. Grahame cd easily have been killed by that maniac, and we'd never have had THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS.

No Mole of Mole End, no Ratty messing about with boats, no ever-dependable Badger, no excitable Mr. Toad.

Sometimes you have to be grateful for the ineptitude of lunatics. But that's not much of a moral; perhaps a better one wd be, let's be grateful for people who put their second chances to good use.

--John R.

*Grahame's active career as a writer lasted only about fifteen years; he wrote nothing the last twenty-four years of his life.

The Cat Report (W.3/5-14)

So, Mr. RAMSES' adoption* means we're back down to just four cats -- though I understand a fifth cat, whom I've not yet met, arrived later in the day: my pal KABOODLE, Mr. SCRUFFS, shy FAYE, and BONFILIA (Bouillabasse).

Being mindful of Laurie's warning that the cats were stressed,** I was careful today and am glad to report there were no incidents. The cats spread themselves out and I was able to deal with them one-on-one, which went much better. All four had walks: Faye went into the men's room and explored, Kaboodle was talky as usual but also went the furthest afield, all the way over to the cat-stand by the far corner; Scruffs got carried around more than actually walked, and Bouillabasse after some initial nervousness calmed down and explored the near horizons; she did v. well. Got to burn some of that restless energy off somehow.

Scruffs went into the box with catnip in the bottom and claimed it for his own. Bouillabasse investigated the catnip in a big paper bag, but it turned out she had no interest in the bag, only the catnip. Kaboodle went high and stayed there till late in the morning. I tried playing a feathers-on-a-string game with him up there, but it upset him badly so I stopped. I put the steps in place and Bouillabasse used them to go up and explore, but she didn't mess with Kaboodle, luckily. Scruffs stayed in his cage some, then came out and went high, spending the rest of the morning atop the cabinet. I had no trouble getting any of them down at noon, for which I'm grateful. Faye devoted herself to staying out of everybody's way, first squeezing herself under the cat-stand by the cabinet. Later she came out and I put her atop that cat-stand, where she stayed the rest of the morning. At one point I gave her a good grooming, which made her purr extravagantly. Bouillabasse was watching, a bit enviously I thought, from atop the other cat-stand (by the door), so I went over and gave her the same treatment, which pleased her mightily. She was pretty much affectionate and wanting attention all morning.

I switched over all the dirt boxes to the now clumping litter. Some of them used it at once. One side effect that I noticed folks shd be aware of: it's heavier. 

no health concerns, aside from the usual attention to little things like Kaboodle's ears, Faye's eyes and chin (both of which she let me clean), and the like. Bouillabasse let me do her ears, which are a little dirty but seem fine. B's bottom was a bit messy (probably too rolly-polly to reach it properly herself), but she let me clean it some without much fuss.

A bit odd that both Mr. Scruffs' and Bouillabasse's food dishes were entirely empty. Faye and Kaboodle remain more moderate in their eating.

I was late in arriving (9.30) and stayed until 12.15.  Among the visitors was one who's a fellow volunteer at another of the Purrfect Pals cat room, this one up in north Seattle.

And that's about it for this morning. It did me good, I think, to take last week off in the wake of Rigby's passing, but I was ready to get back in there.

--John R.

*and to what sound like dream adopters as well. Hope he has many happy years with them.

**sorry I'd arrived for a visit to the cat-room the day before, after doing a little shopping for our own cats,  just a little too late to have helped out with that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lovecraft was easily scared

So, I've been listening to an audiobook collection of four Lovecraft stories: "The Call of Cthluhu" and "The Dunwich Horror" plus two short pieces, "Dagon" and "The Hound". I enjoy Lovecraft, but that's because I read him as a fantasist. As a horror writer, I think he's a dud for the simple reason that his stories aren't frightening. I have an active imagination and hence am easily spooked, including by writers like John Bellairs, and Clark Ashton Smith, and M. R. James, but not by Lovecraft.

Listening to the opening paragraphs of "The Dunwich Horror" helped clarify why. The simple truth is that Lovecraft found lots of things frightening that most of the rest of us just don't get scared by. Like fish. And if you don't share his assumptions, then the triggers he puts into his stories don't go off.

To  highlighting just how many things Lovecraft found frightening, here are the first four paragraphs from that famous story, interleaved with some observations by me:

When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.

--to a city dweller, the countryside is a strange and somewhat disturbing place

      The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. 
--roads are a little unsettling in themselves, esp. narrow ones

The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, 

--trees are scary, especially when they're large

and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. 
--plants are scary when they grow well

At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; 

--plants are also scary when they don't grow

while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation.

--run-down farms are scary

      Without knowing why, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows. 

--farmers sitting on porches? scary

Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do. 

--locals who keep to themselves? better not risk it

When a rise in the road brings the mountains in view above the deep woods, the feeling of strange uneasiness is increased. 

--mountains? scary

The summits are too rounded and symmetrical to give a sense of comfort and naturalness, 

--round mountains? that's just crazy talk

and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especial clearness the queer circles of tall stone pillars with which most of them are crowned.

--stone circles: scary

      Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, 

--gorges and ravines: yup. scary

and the crude wooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. 

--bridges? scary. 
(actually, as an acrophobiac, I'm with him on this one)

When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, 

--marshes? scary

and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter 

--birdsong? at night? scary!

and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance 

--fireflies: scary
(is Lovecraft the only person who ever lived
who's afraid of lightning bugs?)

to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. 

--frogs: scary

The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic's upper reaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises.

--rivers are scary, especially when they meander

      As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their wooded sides more than their stone-crowned tops. Those sides loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep their distance, 

--hills are better the further away they keep

but there is no road by which to escape them. 

--don't want to get too close to those round hills
(I hear they rise wild)

Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, 

--small towns: creepy

and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region.

--old buildings: scary

 It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, 

--collapsing buildings: okay, that can be scary

and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. 

--God given way to Mammon? 
some find that scary, others just kinda sad

One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. 

--again, I'm with him on the bridge thing

Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, 

--"that good fresh country air", as my father-in-law used to call it

as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. 

--really old stuff is scary, the older the scarier
(for an antiquarian, HPL was spooked by age)

It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base of the hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. 

--getting back on track after an unintended detour: definitely a good feeling

Afterwards one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.

--i.e., that creepy place with the farms and falling-down buildings
and a bridge and trees and hills.
And fireflies. Don't forget the fireflies.

--Luckily, I shd soon have an audiobook of his dreamland stories, Lovecraft's best work, so there's that to look forward to.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Peter S. Beagle and Sir Terry Pratchett

So, recently I re-read THE LAST UNICORN again for the first time in decades (say, about thirty years). I don't think it's aged well, but there was a time when this was widely considered one of the major works in post-Tolkien fantasy, the one that carried on the gentle, wistful tradition of Nathan into a new era.

Reading it now, after all these years, I was struck by the following passage

"Let me tell you a story," said Schmendrick. 
"As a child I was apprenticed to the mightiest magician of all, 
the great Nikos . . . But even Nikos . . . could not change me 
into so much as a carnival cardsharp. At last he said to me, 
'My son, your ineptitude is so vast, your incompetence 
so profound, that I am certain you are inhabited by a greater 
power than I have ever known. Unfortunately, it seems to be 
working backward at the moment, and even I can find
no way to set it right. It must be that you are meant to find
your own way to reach your power in time; but frankly,
you should live so long as that will take you. Therefore
I grant it that you shall not age from this day forth, but will 
travel the / world round and round, eternally inefficient, 
until at last you come to yourself and know what you are.
Don't thank me. I tremble at your doom.' "

--This suddenly sounded to me rather like Pratchett's description of Rincewind, his haplessly inept wizard in THE COLOUR OF MAGIC and THE LIGHT FANTASTIC -- a wizard who cdn't do any magic because as an apprentice he'd looked into the world's most powerful spellbook and one of the Eight spells that make reality jumped from the book into his head, scaring off any other spells from ever entering it. Coincidence, perhaps, but it did make me wonder if a little bit of Pratchett's inspiration might have come from the older book.

We also watched the Rankin-Bass animated film of THE LAST UNICORN for the first time. It was all too horribly familiar with the Rankin-Bass HOBBIT, right down to sharing some of the voice actors --except here that THE HOBBIT got the better deal on the voices (John Huston, Richard Boone) and THE LAST UNICORN on the theme songs (America rather than ever-warbly Glenn Yarborough). Some time capsules shd stay closed.

--John R.
audiobook: HPL's DAGON, Agatha Christie's THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD

Monday, March 3, 2014

Voynich, Round Three

So, it was only a little over a month ago that I made a post about the latest confident pronouncement from someone who's 'solved' the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript.* And now, thanks to Janice, I can share another one. This time it's claimed to have Near East affinities (as opposed to Mesoamerican, like last time) and the purported decipherment involves identifying constellations; both claim to have identified plants, but they come from wholly different biospheres (New World and West Asian, respectively).  I haven't yet watched the embedded video in the following link, but it's amusing to note that this confident announcement makes no mention of the wholly difference 'decipherment' of a month before.

Here's the link. Enjoy!

--John R.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Coming Soon to a DVD Player Near You

So, they've now announced when THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG will be released on dvd: Tuesday, April 8th -- a little over five weeks away.

Here's the link (the main bizarreness in which is their listing Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead actor, rather than Martin Freeman):

In the meantime,  I'm taking some badly needed down time from the deadline and heading over this afternoon to watch one more time it in a theatre (it having been more than a month, I think).

--John R.