Thursday, October 27, 2016

John Oliver re. Third Parties

I've been meaning to add this as an addendum to my earlier political post, but have decided it's too good to bury.

Here's John Oliver giving the minor party candidates, Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stern, the same kind of treatment usually reserved for the major party nominees.

His conclusion: things are just as weird at that end of the spectrum. No, really.

Here's the clip, with the usual warnings about (a) language and (b) politics, either of which might offend.

Thanks to Alex W. for letting me know this was out there.

--John R.

Cat Walking Wednesday (10/26-16)

After the weekend Kitten Event, we’re now at five cats in the Cat Room: bonded pair BABY KITTY and ELEANOR MANYTOES, wide-eyed VACA, and newcomers YUKI (kitten mom) and FUJI (kitten).

It was nice to make the latter two’s acquaintance. They definitely seem to be unbonded: Yuki hissed at little Fuji when I held him up to her, and he backed away as soon as he could. Mostly they ignored each other, and neither seemed to distinguish the other from all the other cats in the room.

It was a good day for walking: everyone but Yuki had an outing. Fiirst came little FUJI, who got carried all around the story, taking it all in with big eyes. He rode on my shoulder the whole time, not feeling safe when I occasionally put him down to see if he wanted to do any exploring on his own four feet (the answer each time was no). He was petted for a while by a man in a wheelchair over by the dog-grooming room, and while wary of dogs didn’t seem particularly afraid of them. Think he’ll be leading us on the leash all around the store in another week or two, if he’s not adopted by then.

The next walk was ELEANOR Manytoes, who also got carried around. She gave voice a time or two but on the whole think the change of pace was good for her. Mostly she likes to be atop the higher of the two cat-stands, happy to be petted and happy to be out of her cage for a while, snoozing in her favorite spot.

VACA is by far our best walker of all the cats we have right now. She knew where she wanted to go (towards the back of the store) but didn’t want to get too close to the dogs at Banfield. Showing that she’s pretty smart, she worked out a route around the dogs, then explored the center of the store. She was out a long time and I think thoroughly enjoyed it.

The last walk of the day was BABY KITTY, who clung to me the whole time she was out. I petted and reassured her while carrying her about, but she was still alert to the possibility that something might pounce if she didn’t keep a sharp look-out. Still think the being out and about did her good; she was alert and playful when back in the room. 

I thought about walking newcomer YUKI but didn’t think I’d gained her confidence enough yet to trust me if there were anything that suddenly startled or frightened her. Did pet her and found that while very shy she’s also in need of attention; she rubbed her head against my hand and cuddled up against my arm while being petted. I did lift her out of her cage so I could hold her and pet her, letting her look out the big window in the smaller room (the one with the bench and cat-stands). Two really big dogs came up and Yuki was wary of them but not frightened.

Games: little Fuji wanted to play every game there was, but Vaca also joined in on the action quite a lot. The two of them went wild over the laser pointer, but they thought the feathers and string game were well worth their while too. All the cats wanted petting, some while awake and some while asleep and some both.

The Cricket: at one point Fuji spotted a cricket that’d somehow escaped the fate of crickets and found its way into the cat room. He got very excited and slipped immediately into little predator mode. I helped the cricket get away, but had much to-do to keep him distracted from live prey.

Health concerns: Yuki’s eyes seemed fine but her ears needed some cleaning; we shd keep an eye on them. 

We had several visitors, some in or just outside the cat-room, some encountered around the store while walking. 

—John R.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The New Arrival (2017 Tolkien Calendar)

So, I've known for a while that this coming year's Tolkien calendar would be one of the good ones, featuring Tolkien's own art. Now that it's arrived, it lives up to all expectations -- beautiful reproductions of all nine of his full-page black and white drawings for THE HOBBIT, plus the half-page Mirkwood halftone. I was surprised to see a piece I was pretty sure I'd never seen before (and I've seen a lot of Hobbit art): a black-and-white drawing version of the November image, "Conversation with Smaug".

Turns out I was only surprised because I skipped right to the art and jumped over the v. nice introduction by Alan Lee,* who explains that two of the illustrations are 'new pen-and-ink renditions' of two of Tolkien's watercolors, redrawn by one Nicolette Caven esp. for this calendar. I don't know Caven's work otherwise, but she did a fine job here.**

All in all, an excellent calendar, and one I'm looking forward to hanging up up in my office come the new year.

Also newly arrived is the latest of the C. S. Lewis-as-detective books from Kel Richards. The fourth so far, THE SINISTER STUDENT, which I find I've taken to calling in my head 'Murder at the Inklings'. It repeats the pattern of the first three: from what little I've read of it so far it's notable mainly for including a fictional meeting of the Inklings early on: Lewis, Warnie, Tolkien, Coghill, Fox, and latecomer Dyson, as well as series character Tom Morris and the student of the title, one Auberon Willesden (a modernist who's come so he can feel superior). Tolkien reads them the last chapter of THE HOBBIT. It's rather surprising that Havard isn't there, but then the real-life Inklings and Inklings-as-chacters in Richard's books has always been a casual fit (for example, he calls Warnie 'The Major' throughout, though he was still Captain Lewis before his WW II service).

More on this one when I've had a chance to read it, if more seems merited.

--John R.

current reading
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF CABAL by Jonathan Howard (having now reached about the mid-point)

*Lee traces influence on Tolkien as an artist from Jennie Harbour, Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham, Wm Morris, other Pre-Raphaelites, and, rather surprisingly, Rudyard Kipling (one of those many English writers deft with little drawings, like GKG and CSL).

** the other redrawn piece is "Rivendell" (for March).
All five of Tolkien's watercolors for THE HOBBIT are included, but four of them are shrunk down to quarter-page size, leaving only one (Conversation w. Smaug) for full-page full-color glory.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Voter Pamphlet Arrives . . .

So, our Voter's Pamphlet arrived a few days ago, a sure sign the election really is coming at last. Here's hoping it spells the end of Crazy Season, which has been going on for a year and more by this time.

The initiatives I haven't been paying any attention to up to this point, so I have some catching up to do there. Most of them seems to have the 'argument against' mantra of 'we can't afford that; we need all that money for education' -- a good argument but at first glance of dubious relevance. We'll see.

On the other hand, the statewide offices and Senate/Congress ones are all down to just two contestants each, thanks to the primary having weeded out the plethora of minor candidates (the judicial candidates are always tricky but hopefully Grubbstreet will do his usual good job there).

The most important election, the presidential one, by contrast has seven contenders: the only place the minor parties make an appearance. There are the two major parties (Democrat & Republican), two minor parties (Libertarian and Green), and three fringe parties (The Constitution Party, the Socialist Workers' Party, and the Socialism & Liberation Party -- the latter two of whom shd really have combined efforts, so similar are their write-ups).

To tackle the small parties first: the Constitution Party is all about 'sovereignty', as they wd define it. They want an end to foreign wars (something I cd get behind). And foreign aid (which is where we part company). And for us to pull out of the U.N. And abolish the Federal Reserve. And go back on the gold standard. And not only put a stop to abortion but to get Congress to pass laws to prevent the Supreme Court from ever being able to rule on that issue again. Which only goes to show that for all that they call themselves the 'Constitution' party, they don't seem to have much of a grasp of what our Constitution actually is.

As for the two Socialist parties, they really shd have co-ordinated better and made some kind of common cause instead of splitting their micro-share of the electorate. Both want to bring an end to Capitalism, they both want the same three political prisoners freed (none of whom I'd ever heard of). One has a more quirky approach, embracing the cause of Lavoy Finicum (the guy who was shot dead during the Bundy-led Oregon standoff a few months back when he pulled a gun on federal agents) and wants recognition for the good work Cuban 'volunteers' did in Angola back in 1974 or '75 (I forget which; back in the Jerry Ford era anyway). The other includes concern for environmentalism as well as a wide array of specific points, such as shutting down all our overseas bases, cutting Israel loose, and a call for Puerto Rican independence (something the Puerto Ricans don't actually want).

Of the two minor parties, I have sympathies with the Greens and would consider voting for them if I thought they stood the ghost of a chance, which they don't. I don't have any sympathy for the Libertarians, though I must admit their write-up of Gary Johnson makes it sound as if the man could walk on water. good job whoever wrote that up.  Though his boast about being incapable of working with his state legislature (he brags that he cast more vetoes than all the other governors of his state put together) is unsettling. And a few minutes' look at Wikipedia shows that he's a booster of school vouchers (which I view as a way to loot public schools for private ones, making an end run around integration laws in the process) and, what's even worse, private prisons (quite aside from the fact that essential public services shd not be lobbed off to the lowest bidder, private prisons have a nasty record all their own).

That just leaves the two major party candidates, Trump and Clinton. shows Mrs. Clinton with a massive lead, barring some 'October surprise'. We'll soon know which one becomes president.

--John R.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I am licked by a hummingbird

So, file this in the once-in-a-lifetime, here-and-gone moments.

A few days ago I noticed the hummingbird feeder was empty. It'd been low the evening before but I'd decided there was enough to see them through till the next day.* Besides, I didn't want to disturb the two hummingbirds who were sparing over it at the time.

So late the next morniing when I went out and took the little tube feeder down, I opened it up and shook out what little was still in it, making my approximation of the hummingbirds' little tsk sound as I did so.

Almost immediately, a hummingbird appeared and hovered, disapprovingly, a few feet in front of me. Then it darted forward and lapped at the last little dregs of sugar-water still in now-open, uncapped tube I was holding horizontally. Then it lapped the little red cap in my other hand, then the hand itself where a little sugar-water had spilled on it. Then it withdrew back into the nearest tree to observe.

I went back in, cleaned the feeder and refilled it, and took it back outside and hung it in its usual place. I waited a few seconds but didn't see my recent visitor in the trees so I came back inside and looked out the kitchen window.  Sure enough, in about thirty seconds it was back, enjoying as much fresh sugar-water as it wanted, and without any unwelcome crowding. Things the way they shd be, at least so far as it was concerned. A happy ending all round, and for me a memorable experience.

--John R.
current reading: THE LAST APPRENTICE, Book Four.

*Note: it's important to keep hummingbird feeders with at least some hummingbird juice in them this time of year, when the hummingbirds who have decided not to migrate are entirely dependent upon their feeders till spring.

The Cat Report (W.10/19-16)

With the adoptions of Ghostly, Karma, and Juliette,* and leaving their cages free for this weekend’s kitten event, we currently have just three cats: VACA and bounded pair BABY KITTY & ELEANOR. Both the latter came out at once as soon as I arrived and made themselves comfortable atop the taller cat-stand (BK) and bench (E), respectively. Vaca also wanted out but was hesitant, so I put her on the smaller cat-stand and moved it a litle ways off, but still in the same little (front) room. All three wanted attention, and games, and lots and lots of petting. I’d brought in a peacock feather, which Eleanor decapitated within a few seconds; they then played with its dismembered remains, esp. Vaca. All very much at home, which was good to see.

Once they’d settled down came the walks. Vaca went first and also did the best. On her own initiative she explored all the way over to Banfield, wanting to enter each and every room with an open door. Baby Kitty opted for exploring around the bases of the various cat-stands all up and down the row outside the cat-room. Eleanor was very vocal as she got carried all over the store; the one place she got down and explored on her own was inside the little dog-training corral up near the front of the store, which she thought intriguing but a bit alarming too. 

Betty came by with some supplies, whereupon Eleanor starting drawing my attention to the fact that her food dish was empty. That’s when I noticed her food dish and B.Kitty's were completely empty, her litter box (shared with B.K.) was full, and their water dish had a two cat-blankets floating in it. So I cleaned out their litter box and also Vaca’s, put out fresh water for them all, and gave the bonded pair a little nom. Eleanor ate like she was really hungry but did leave a little food in the bowl. Vaca still had some food in her dish.

A few people came in to pet the cats but no potential adopters.

—John R. 

*that makes eight cats so far this month

Looking forward to meeting new cat Chiffon and hoping that the kitten event goes well, for the newly arriving kittens and the current residents as well.

I don't have a picture of Eleanor, Baby Kitty, or Vaca, but here's one of newcomer Tibel Chiffon, looking like she's deciding what she's going to get into next:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Reading Order for CSL's Ransom Books

So, I got a request in the comments for a previous post that I wanted to address in a post of its own, rather than leave it hidden in the comments to a post on a different topic.

The question, which came from 'Falconer', is as follows:

Can you suggest a practical order for reading the Lewis-Tolkien Space-Time stories (for enjoyment)?

It's an interesting question, because the order in which I actually read them isn't the order that I would now read them in if I were coming to them fresh.

My own experience was to read the Ransom trilogy in order of their composition and publication: OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (which remains my favorite of all Lewis's novels), then PERELANDRA (Tolkien's favorite of Lewis's series, but while I think it more ambitious than OSP I find it far inferior in achievement), then THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH (which I privately call 'That Hideous Novel', which pretty much sums up my opinion of that book). Several years later I learned of the publication a year or two earlier of THE DARK TOWER, which I then hunted down in the Fayetteville public library and read. And of course I read THE LOST ROAD (which I think is underrated) and THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS (another underrated work) as soon as possible -- one of which I actually got to see slightly before publication.

This is of course, partly by happenstance, simply the order of publication. If you were to read then in internal chronological order, it'd go more like this: start with THE LOST ROAD, including the notes and outlines. Next would come OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, then move on to THE DARK TOWER (placing it by its internal chronology). Then I'd revert back to order of composition with PERELANDRA. Then comes THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, followed by THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS, again with the later's associated outlines and notes and ancillary material.

All this presupposes that THE DARK TOWER is a genuine Lewis work, which I believe has been established beyond any reasonable doubt, and also that it was written circa 1944-45 (as I've argued in print), not circa 1938 (as Walter Hooper believed).

My own preferred order to re-read it now, I think, wd be along the lines of LOST ROAD, then OSP, then PERELANDRA and THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, then THE DARK TOWER, ending up with THE NOTION CLUB --that is, pretty much the order of composition, so far as we can determine it.

One thing that might help you decide which order might be best for you: in what order do you read the Narnia books? Publication order? Internal chronology? I hope to never have to read them again, but if I do I'm pretty sure I'll go by publication order again, because that's my default when reading a series: I like to see an author's mind at work as he or she explores possibilities that come to light over the course of a series.

And of course I've long been an advocate of the school of thought that you should be able to read the books in a series in any order,* so in my heart of hearts I'd say the sequence doesn't matter.

Hope this helps.

--John R.
current reading:
--the latest Flavia de Luce novel (just finished);
--The Last Apprentice bk four (resumed)

*I'll often start a book in the middle, read to the end, then go back to the beginning and read to my starting point. I find this works especially well with biographies and not v. well with mysteries.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

That Nobel

So, when on Thursday I heard two disc jockeys discussing Bob Dylan's winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, God as my witness I thought they were joking.

They weren't.

And so the world just got a little weirder, but in a good way.

Though, mind you, if going that route I'd have opted for Lennon-McCartney.

--John R.
(who actually doesn't own a single Dylan record --single, album, or cd. -- but find I have quite a few covers of Dylan songs by other artists)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chinese Gandalf

So, one of the nice incidentals about being back in Milwaukee again earlier this month was that I had the chance to pick up a copy of THE SHEPHERD EXPRESS, the radical free newspaper formerly known as THE CRAZY SHEPHERD. It was interesting to leaf through it again after a long time. Don't know if they've mellowed or I've become much more progressive, but I found it much more moderate than I remembered. Maybe it's just that Seattle progressive is a bit edgier than Milwaukee progressive.

In any case, one feature I was glad to see was NEWS OF THE WEIRD by Chuck Shepherd. I used to enjoy this back when we took THE FUNNY TIMES, and was amused to find a Tolkien reference therein. Here's the clip:

Leading Economic Indicators
News Corporation Australia reported in 
September the enviable success of a 16-year-
old British entrepreneur, Beau Jessup, who
has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple
online app to help rich Chinese parents select
prosperous-sounding English names for their
babies. Users choose among 12 personality
traits they hope their baby to have, then
received three suggestions (including a list of
famous people with those names). Jessup got
the idea when living in China and noticing
that some babies of the rich were given lame
names, such as "Gandalf" and "Cinderella".

[Sept. 22 2016 issue, p. 37]

I'd be interested to learn if this is for real or some reporter's idea of a joke that made it into print during a slow news days.

--John R.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cat Report (W. Oct. 12th)

Having been away for two weeks, it’s like coming back to a whole new room!  While I was away three cats came and went (Beni the grey, Gabby the tabby, and Felix Panther), while Oscar & Dolly got adopted, as did Princess Matilda (hooray!) and Mr. Bellamy (finally had his turn!) and RAGGEDY ANNE. I’m especially happy about these last three — senior cat Matilda seemed to be getting weary of waiting, Bellamy had been passed over so many times, and I’d been worried about how R.Anne was doing since her near-adoption fell through.

[photo of Mr. Bellamy]

The only cats still with us that I’d met before were our bonded pair, BABY KITTY and ELEANOR, who have gained a lot of confidence: they came out and made themselves at home in the outer room (one on the cat-stand, the other on the bench). Neither wanted a walk; they just wanted to hang out and enjoy being out of their cages.  

Finally got to meet GHOSTLY, who I’d read about a lot. With three adoptions pending I got to see him just in time before he headed out to one of those new homes (which happened that same evening). He’s a great cat: friendly, playful, gentle;  gets along well with the other cats when they’ll let him, and is full of curiousity and a willingness to try something new (whether a walk or exploring out-of-the-way places in the room). He had his first walk — he got the idea at once but we differed about strategy: he thought that the obvious thing to do was to find a safe place behind or under somthing from which to peer out and take stock, and didn’t see why I kept preventing him from doing so. Once back in the room he went exploring, stealing a bite of nom from all the food dishes on the lower level.

[photo of Ghostly]

Of the three new cats, KARMA (a big grey torbie) was talkative and affectionate until I pulled her out of the cage and put her atop the taller cat-stand, whereupon she became a hiss machine. Eleanor jumped up on the level beneath her and got hissed at repeatedly but after a bit decided to just ignore it and settled herself down. Later in my shift Karma calmed down enough that I got the leash on her and took her out for a carry-around walk. She was pretty vocal (except when listening to the birds) and was glad when it was time to get back in the nice safe room. Once she was back in her cage again at the end of my shift, she went back to talking and purring when petted (rather than hissing and swatting). Clearly she really likes people and just as clearly the proximity of other cats winds her up. Once she settles into the room I suspect she’ll declare herself Boss Cat.

JULIETTE (white w. grey) was the shyest of the three newcomers (who I think had all arrived earlier that same morning): she liked being petted inside her cage but from time to time would get spooked and retreat into the other side (w. the litter box). Games within her cage she thought a good thing but again got spooked easily. When lifted out she got back in her own cage as soon as she could. Sweet little cat in need a lot of one-on-one time.

Finally, VACA (white w. black) seemed shy but when lifted out slept quite happily on the blankets in the back corner of the room (atop the litter-containers). She loves being petted and getting attention but for now at least kept her distance from the other cats.

No health concerns that I noted.  

It’s good to be back.

—John R. 

Not All Who Wander . . . (2017 calendar)

So, I've noticed lately that Tolkien's phrase "not all those who wander are lost" has escaped the original context of his book and can now be found on inspirational posters (and, more oddly, souvenir mugs from Yosemite). The latest example I spotted today during a visit to one of the friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble bookstores. I was looking for the 2017 Tolkien calendar (which looks to be one of the good ones, w. Tolkien's own art) and while I didn't find that, and passed on the HOBBIT movie calendar I did find, I found something I hadn't known about: a poster-calendar featuring the art/calligraphy of Becca Cahan, in which Tolkien's quote was given prominence as the cover-art. To give a sense of context, another month's inspirational message is "Whatever You Are, Try to Be a Good One" and yet another's "Time You Enjoy Wasting is Not Time Wasted".

Nice to see JRRT getting into the general culture in an unexpected way. I think he'd be rather pleased.

--John R.
current reading: Poe's tales.
current song: "Somebody that I Used to Know", backed by the Jayhawk's "Leaving the Monsters Behind" and McCartney's "Mr. Bellamy".

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


So, last week I posted about having gone to see a new film about Tolkien and Lewis called, appropriately enough, "TOLKIEN AND LEWIS".  I'd been unsure whether this was to be a biopic, as some things I saw online suggested, or instead a documentary. As the subtitle makes clear -- "MYTH, IMAGINATION, AND THE QUEST FOR MEANING" -- it's a documentary, not a dramatization.

What's more, it's a ten-year-old documentary: most of the interviews seem to have been filmed at the Aston conference nr Birmingham back in 2005. * The most notable figures are Verlyn Flieger and Tom Shippey; others Tolkien and Lewis (mostly Lewis) experts who took part include Ward, Duriez, Hein, Reza Aslan, along with others whose names I didn't know and so can't pass along now. The biggest shock, by far, was seeing my friend Chris Mitchell. I'd assumed the interviews were recent, and so didn't expect to see a friend who died more than two years ago prominently featured. It was unsettling in ways I can't quite describe.

As for the film itself, the subtitle shows how ambitious its goal is: to look at the Inklings' beliefs that imagination could be a vehicle for truth. At least that was part of their intention, I think: while the piece focused on Lewis's conversion and the rule his long walk and talk with Tolkien and Dyson had on it, I found it a little unfocused and had a little trouble following how each specific part fit into the whole.

I give them praise for making a point to include Hugo Dyson, the third of the three who took that long walk on that memorable night. I'd made a private bet with myself that they'd drop Dyson -- most dramatizations of  that event do -- and I'm glad to say they didn't. Too bad we don't have any record of what Dyson said, since he's the only one of the three who so far as I know left behind no account of the evening.

Naturally there were a few things I wish they'd done differently. For one thing, it opens with a quote from Joseph Campbell -- perhaps unfortunately, since he belonged to a school of myth-theorists with whom Tolkien was profoundly at odds. Then too you'd think a documentary that explored such subjects would bring in Barfield, whose work is directly apropos  to several points they raised. But the biggest omission was "Mythopoeia".

After all, we know of that evening's discussion partly through C. S. Lewis's v. brief mention in a letter, and far more through Tolkien, who wrote up his side of the conversation as a sort of dramatic monologue, better known as the poem "Mythopoeia". However it might differ from Tolkien's actual words that evening in the give-and-take of conversation, it's the closest we can get to the actual words of their conversation. So I'd have expected them to have read it towards the end of their film as an encapsulation of the theme of their entire movie. Maybe they cdn't get permission to quote it, or just didn't know about it.

All in all, I'm glad I got to see this -- particularly for the parts with Verlyn, Chris Mitchell, and Shippey -- but found myself wishing it had been the dramatization I'd been half-expecting.

This being a showing at the MILW. FILM FESTIVAL, there was a question-and-answer session afterwards, but since the writer/director cdn't be there and the person substituting for him, the film's editor, cheerfully admitted not knowing a thing about Lewis or Tolkien ("other than that Tolkien was a life-long Catholic, born into the faith" [a more or less direct quote]), there didn't seem to be much point in asking him questions he cdn't answer.

Here's a link to the film's listing from the film festival's website

and here's a description of the film by its editor:

I might point out, though, that virtually nothing of what the director says in this interview about Tolkien's and Lewis's life appears in his film.

--I was going to include in this post a write-up about another recent film on Tolkien, TOLKIEN'S ROAD, and also something about an in-the-works play about the two men, but given how long this post is already I think I'll save those for another day.

--John R.
current slow, careful (re) reading: THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW
current light reading: THE CASE WITH NINE SOLUTIONS by J. J. Connington (1929): a G. Fay book.

*I was sorry not to be able to go to this at the time, but simply cdn't tear myself away from MR. BAGGINS, which was finally nearing completion after so many years of working on it.

Free to a Good Home (Tolkien Book)

So, as I've said before, sometimes I end up with two copies of the same book. In this case, I think I'd pre-ordered a book when I first heard about it, then come across it for sale later on and picked it up, not remembering that I was already supposed to be getting one, at least eventually. Or maybe I bought it at Kalamazoo one year and then, forgetting that, bought it again the next.

Be that as it may, when straightening up my shelves and starting to make room for Tolkien-related purchases from over the last year or two on the shelves in my office (which are all Tolkien, D&D, or CoC), I found that I had two copies of a recent book about Tolkien's role in the creation of modern fantasy, a topic I've been deeply interested in since about 1984.

The book in question is J. R. R. TOLKIEN, ROBERT E. HOWARD, AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN FANTASY by Deke Parsons (McFarland, 2014). So far as I can tell from a quick glance it looks at the contribution made by LotR, Conan, and Superman to modern fantasy. I've long held that Tolkien and Howard contributed in roughly equal amounts to the creation of D&D.* Superman and superhero comic books are the odd-man-out here. Haven't had  chance to read it yet, though when I do I'll probably post again.

More to the point, I don't need two identical copies. It's not like I'm going to read it twice and need the extra copy for that second time around. I've sounded out several of my D&D friends and Tolkien friends, and nobody particularly wanted it. So I've decided to give it away here through the blog. If you want a copy of this book, drop me a line via comments (which now that I think of it will be a good test whether Comments is up and running again as it shd).  I'm currently on a research trip here at Marquette but can get it off in the mail after I get back home.

So, if you're interested, let me know.

--John R.
current reading: RETURN OF THE SHADOW and THE CASE WITH NINE SOLUTIONS by J. J. Connington.

*in fact one copy was with the books on the history of D&D and the other with the recent books of Tolkien, so that probably explains that.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dwarven Calendrics

So, while on the subject of Casemate Books, I shd mention another of their recent releases that while not on Tolkien looks to be relevant re. one thorny recurring problem in Tolkien studies: Durin's Day.

The book in question is  LIVING THE LUNAR CALENDAR, ed. Ben-Dov, Horowitz, & Steele

The description of the book itself sounds like it deals directly with the thorny issue that the Dwarves apparently shared with several real-world cultures:  not knowing when their own New Year occurred:

Lunar calendars suffer from an inherent uncertainty in the length of each month and the number of months in the year. Variable atmospheric conditions, weather and the acuity of the eye of an observer mean that the first sighting of the new moon crescent can never be known in advance. Calendars which rely on such observations to define the beginning of a new month therefore suffer from this lack of certainty as to whether a month will begin on a given day or the next. The papers in this volume address the question of how ancient and medieval societies lived with the uncertainties of a lunar calendar. How did lack of foreknowledge of the beginning of the month impact upon administration, the planning of festivals, and historical record keeping?

So, it might be worthwhile for those interested in such topics (hi Gary!) to see if the pieces in this book shed any useful light on the topic. In any case, I'd be interested to hear their opinion thereon.

--John R.

Tolkien Spotting, Perhaps (butter over bread)

So, somehow my name got added to the Casemate Books mailing list --probably from my having bought the CELTIC FROM THE WEST volumes from them at several past Kalamazoos (the most recent volume, III, arrived just a few weeks ago).

Anyhow, this means I get regular messages (about once a week) tempting me with a bunch of books that look interesting but which I doubt I'd ever read, given that they're well off my beaten track. But they're still worth a glance, just to get an idea of some of the interesting things people are working on out there. And occasionally I give in to temptation and buy one of their books (this is especially the case at their booth at Kalamazoo itself).

Recently there have been one or two that had Tolkienian applications, so I thought I'd share.

First off, there was the collection PREHISTORIC JOURNEYS, edited by Vicki Cummings.

The second essay therein has a v. Tolkienian title:
'Stretched thin, like butter on too much bread…': some thoughts about journeying in the unfamiliar landscapes of late Palaeolithic Southern Scandinavia,    by Felix Riede

Now, this is very similar to Bilbo's remark, trying to describe the effects of the Ring: 

'like butter that has been scraped over too much bread' (one volume LotR.32)

So, the question wd be: is this another example of Tolkien going mainstream -- so much so that apt titles for essay on Tolkien taken from quote in his books* is now being augmented by said titles being applied to essays which have nothing to do with Tolkien or his works? Or simply someone else using the same metaphor, with no implied connection to Tolkien at all?

--John R.
--still at Marquette.
--current reading: still THE QUEST FOR CORVO, with its slightly too-small print.

*I've done this quite a few times myself -- e.g. 'A Kind of Elvish Craft', 'And All The Days Of Her Life Are Forgotten', 'That Seems to Me Fatal' &c.

UPDATE:I've corrected 'Casement' to 'Casemate'.
SECOND UPDATE: I've also corrected 'break' to 'bread' in the title. Thanks to Robert for pointing that one out. --JDR