Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What's up with that?

So, the song that kept running through my head tonight was "Cabaret".

At least it was the Louis Armstrong version and not Liza Minelli.

Late in the evening I purged it with a playing of TARKUS. There is a god.


current reading: LATE REVIEWS by Douglas A. Anderson (Nodens Books, 2018)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

D&D Podcast (Ben Riggs)

So, I rarely appear in podcasts, but it was pleasant to get a namecheck in Ben Riggs' recent piece delving into the sad history that was DRAGONSTRIKE, TSR's doomed attempt to recast D&D by shifting its target audience to eight-year-olds. *  My contribution falls in the first two or three minutes.

A lot of interesting behind-the-scenes information here, though I hope he'll supplement it with another piece placing it into context with the New Intro Game of the year sequence that TSR sunk money into every year throughout the mid-nineties.

Plus, the even-handedness of this piece is admirable, but doesn't fully convey what a money hole TSR-West, the Hollywood side of the company, was.

Recommended. Here's the link.


V. much looking forward to the book version of the story of TSR's collapse that's coming out of all this research.

---John R.

*and I don't even think he mentions the follow up, filmed but not released, that came a year later: WILDSPACE. Or was it WILDSTRIKE? There used to be a copy in the Games Library but I don't remember what we eventually did with it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Boorman's LotR movie remembered

So, thanks to Janice for the link to a GUARDIAN story re. five weird movies that never got made:
Orson Welles' HEART OF DARKNESS, Jn Boorman's LotR, Le Guin's WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, the original version of ALIEN III, and a mooted sequel to Russell Crowe's GLADIATOR. Here's what the writer of this piece, Tom Huddleston, had to say about the Tolkien film:

John Boorman’s Lord of the Rings

In 1970, The Lord of the Rings was everywhere, its eco-friendly escapism dovetailing neatly with the communal mindset of the post-Woodstock era. A film was inevitable, and rights-holder United Artists turned to John Boorman, a British director with a passion for Arthurian fantasy and – more importantly – a moderate hit under his belt in Point Blank. Joining forces with the young screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, Boorman turned out a script that covers all three books, runs to 178 pages and is, without question, one of the weirdest documents in existence.
It’s hard to pick a favourite scene. Is it the one where the wizard Gandalf beats Gimli viciously with his staff in an effort to help the dwarf recover his ancestral memories? Or the one where Frodo is invited into Galadriel’s bed, much to the grumbling dissatisfaction of Boromir and Aragorn, both of whom planned to seduce her? Perhaps it’s the 11-page expositional kabuki play in which a small dog representing fate pursues a ball representing the ring, while Sauron (described as “a combination of Mick Jagger and Punch”) looks on.
There are undoubted highlights – the hobbits’ journey out of the Shire is a mushroom-fuelled voyage climaxing in a tornado of whirling petals, an idea Boorman would revisit in Excalibur. But it’s hard to imagine the finished film being anything other than a freaky – if fascinating – failure.

I disagree about a film of Tolkien's work being 'inevitable' -- as subsequent events wd show, it was a long time coming. Having read Boorman's script, which is preserved at Marquette along with several other attempts, I can say that Huddleston does not exaggerate but if anything downplays the deep-rooted weirdness of Boorman's vision; we're lucky this project fell through.

As for the EARTHSEA, I shd note that this is neither the disappointing Studio Ghibli effort nor the horrible tv miniseries but a third, earlier effort with Le Guin herself co-author of the screenplay. I hope that screenplay survives and sees publication someday.

Here's the link to the full story:

current viewing: RE.LIFE (anime)
current reading: Sayers reviews of detective stories; also a revamping of an early D&D module (THE BOTTLE CITY).

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Return of The Cat Report (Halloween 2018)

Back from my trip, I finally got to meet two cats I’d heard so much about: ORLY and EMILIA (especially Orly). Tiffany had both cats out, Orly atop the cat stand and Emilia curled up sleeping beneath it. Having heard that they’re fond of catnip, I gave both some, which pleased them v. much. So I decided to take advantage off their good mood to give walking a try, starting with Orly, so seemed less nippy than expected.

Orly didn’t object to the leash, but being out of the cat-room unsettled her, and there was mewing as I carried her over to the safe (training) room. She was anxious in there too, so after a while we set out exploring. Back in that corner of the store there were a bunch of boxes of merchandise waiting to be put up, and since she seems to like getting up high (as with the cat-stand) I put her up on the boxes. That turned out to be her favorite thing ever. She explored and then inserted herself into a narrow space between boxes where you’d think a cat wdn’t fit. She not only fit but cd turn around in it. She set there, perfectly happy, till I eventually made her go back into the cat-room after about an hour that cdn’t rightly be called a ‘ walk’ so much as an outing.

Once I’d gotten Orly settled back on her cat-stand it was Emilia’s turn. She didn’t protest about the leash but didn’t like being out in the great big store. The mewing started after just a few minutes outside the cat-room, and became loud and insistant before I got her half-way to the training room, so we reversed course and with the help of an employee soon had her safely back in the cat-room. I gave her cat nip again, to help calm her distress, and some to Orly too to avoid jealousies. Then sat on the bench for a good while with Emilia on my lap, purring. She’s a gentle cat who loves lap-time. 

Towards the end of my time there were games for Orly (Emilia’s wasn’t interested). A few visitors but geneally a quiet day (except for the out-of-the-cat-room mewing). Have to say settling in and getting lots of attention seems to be mellowing Orly: she even let me rub the inside of her ears. Orly is clearly the boss cat and Emilia seems to accept that. Hope things stay peaceful in the cat room when the new cat (Miss Miss) arrives.

health concerns: none for Orly, who I thought looked younger than five; without the paperwork I would have guessed more like a three-year-old from her alertness and activity level.

Emilia, on the other hand, although only eight acted like a senior cat. Her nose looks like a cat-scratch that’s now scabbing over. Looks bad but don’t think it’s infected, and she didn’t seem to be in distress over it. Here’s hoping she heals up soon.

—John R.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Gollum Needs Glasses

So, now that I've wrapped up my current research trip among the Tolkien papers in the Marquette Archives, I'm amazed as always by how fluid and flexible the story-line of LotRs was when Tolkien was drafting the book. What really strikes me this time are the small details that seem so out of place, when their spurious sense of inevitability only comes from the fact that Tolkien did in the end pick A instead of B  at a given spot. Like the statement that Bombadil cd have destroyed the Ring, had Frodo but asked --shades of PARZIVAL, perhaps? Or his idea of making the Stone of Erech Aragorn's palantir? Or the mention of Fingon in the Shelob chapter, along with Beren and Turin. Beren and Turin were kept while Fingon was removed --why? Or, to turn the question the other way around, why was Turin kept? Beren and Earendel were famous spider-slayers; Turin seems included as the mightiest of all human warriors.

Or my current favorite, the oddly endearing statement by Frodo that Gollum is night-eyed but near-sighted. I now have a mental image of poor Smeagol with spectacles that I don't think is going away anytime soon.

And in other news, Mr. Mousey, one of my favorites of all the cats to have passed through the cat-room, finally got adopted. Here's hoping he's finally found his happy ending after many months of waiting.

--John R.

--today's song fragment stuck in my head --'in the lobby of a downtown hotel'--eventually expanded itself out to be recognizable as "The Ballad of Danny Bailey". go figure.

current reading (kindle): Evangeline Walton's novelizing of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, which I expect to get me through a good section of my plane ride home tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

East Island disappears

So, here's what climate change looks like.

Up until a few days ago East Island, an outlier on the northwest fringe of Hawaii, in a group known as the French Frigate Shoals, was mainly known as a wildlife refuge.

That was before it disappeared, submerged after the battering it took from a recent typhoon.

Before the storm it was about half a mile long and 400ft wide; all that is now underwater.

Anyone else reminded of Verne's Lincoln Island?

Here's a link.


current reading: Tolkien manuscripts, R. H. Benson's THE NECROMANCERS (a Charles Williams novel before there was Charles Williams, except rather better).

Monday, October 22, 2018

Last Chance to See

So, today begins the last week for the TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-EARTH exhibit at the Bodleian. So if you're able to go and hadn't made up yr mind, it's now or never. The splendid Exhibit closes on Sunday the 28th.  Even at this point all is not lost, since a slightly trimmed down version of the exhibit opens at the Morgan in New York on January 25th, allowing those in the New England to DC area a in-the-vicinity chance.

And of course for continental types the third and final staging of the exhibit will follow at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, but I don't yet have the dates on that.

--John R.
--current reading: COME ALONG WITH ME by Shirley Jackson and "The Summer People" ibid.