Friday, March 27, 2015

new HOBBIT dvd

So, Tuesday was release day for the dvd of the third HOBBIT movie: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES.* I had my copy by noon and had watched it through (first the documentaries, then the film itself) that night.

This is the theatrical release, presumably with an expanded edition** to follow in November, so it's the same version seen in theatres (by some of us many times), with relatively few extras for now (more, probably much more, will follow in the extended ed.). Having already commented on the film when it came out, I just wanted to note the documentaries for now.

-- a brief piece on how beautiful New Zealand is (no argument there),

-- a short piece on life as an extra

-- a piece pitching the idea that all six films make up one movie, which shd be watched in internal chronological order (that is, starting with UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE, not THE FELLOWSHIP, and ending with RETURN, not FIVE ARMIES). This is by far the most interesting of the extras; it was particularly enjoyable to watch all the short pieces they'd excerpted from the different films and juxtaposed, but I'm not sure they make their case. Accordingly, I've decided I need to watch the whole set all the way through, in that order, to see how it works. Should take a while, but I'll report back how it goes.

-- a piece on how close cast and crew grew over the long months of shooting (lots of hugs in this one)

-- and finally one on the recording of the closing song (630 takes? what is this, Tiffany?)

The thing I'm most undecided about at this point is the end of this film, which seems to pull in two ways: towards concluding Bilbo's story but also trying to set up Frodo's. I think the latter got in the way of the former, but that's something I want to mull over and then revisit.

It will be hard, though, knowing that December will come around and bring no new Tolkien movie with it.

--John R.

*that's Thranduil's elves, Bard's men, Dain's dwarves, Azog's orcs of Dol Guldor, and Bolg's orcs of Gundabad, for those who are counting. Tolkien's five are the dwarves, elves, men, goblins, and wargs (who oddly enough vanish out of the film version).

**though I'm not sure what there is to add at this point. The only loose ends I can see are (1) the removal of the axe from Bifur's head, (2) what happens to Dwalin in the fight on Ravenhill, and (3) the death of Alfrid

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Cat Report (W.3/25-15)

WIth poor SEVILLE still sick up at the clinic (hope she's doing better after two weeks), we were still at six cats yesterday morning: EMMA, PRINCESS, SALEM, LEO, MIMI, and DOUGAL. Last week I'd definitively established that Mimi and Leo do not like walks, though not quite to the epic panic level of poor Mr. Dougal's Great Escape the week before. Princess, on the other hand, likes walks, and Emma positively demands them; she's never happier than when she has someone's undivided attention and the other cats receding in her taillights, so to speak. Salem can take them or leave them, but since she's been in a put-upon mood for several weeks now I made sure she got the one-on-one time outside the cat room as well.

This week being all about giving SALEM some one-on-one attention, I crouched down half-in and half-out of her cage and gave her a long petting session. She purred enthusiastically. After a while she started some behavior I'd heard described but not seen before: she went over to her food dish and started eating and growling at the same time. It was a kind of growl-yeow-yeow, growl-yeow-yeow. Maybe she had to compete with other cats at her last home and this is trash-talk meant to make them back off and let her eat? Quite an odd, but somehow endearing, habit. After her long one-on-one I let the other cats out one at a time. Salem elected to stay in her (open) cage, but up front with her paws out and paying attention to everything, not withdrawn into the back trying to tune everything out. So she's doing better, but she'll need a lot of one-on-one to get over her funk. 

Little PRINCESS was her usual adorable sweet self. I made a lap for Emma and Princess promptly took it, purring and snuggling in. What a gentle, loving cat. Last week I'd made the discovery that she's cold all the time, given her shaven fur and the temperature in the cat-room.  So I put her on the cat-stand and covered her over with a blanket (the soft green one in her cage that looks like a baby blanket), all but just the face. She loved it, and we did it again this week, though this time she pulled her head back under covers as well and slept, snug as a bug in a rug. All you had to do was touch the blanket over her and the purr started up from below. 

Mr. LEO was in an affable mood -- all twenty-one pounds of him! Now that I know how big he is, no wonder he didn't want to be lifted down from on-high last week; my largest cat (Mr. Feanor, formerly twenty pounds but now down to sixteen) also dislikes being picked up. What Leo does like, most definitely, is the two-handed petting maneuver: one hand under the chin and the other towards the back just before the tail. He also likes catnip, a lot. He wasn't interested in the box this week, though, preferring to go back and forth between his open cage and the floor in front of it. At one point Emma came into his cage, while he was in it, to raid his nom, completely ignoring him (which takes a good deal of ignoring); he just watched and she came and went peaceably. 

Sweet EMMA was playful and affectionate, and spent her time divided between snoozing atop the cat-stand by the door and exploring the ground tier of cages (Salem's, Leo's, and Dougal's). Leo and Dougal just watched her and she came and went from theirs without incident, but Salem gave her a warning growl to back off, which she did. We played a little of the gopher game, but mostly today was about petting not playing. She's doing much better about the other cats -- or maybe they're all just learned enough about the others to tolerate at a certain distance. The most surprising thing she did today was put her paw in my mouth. Didn't see that coming. 

MIMI and DOUGAL had a quiet morning. The two were snuggling, as usual, when I arrived, and she groomed him a little while waiting for the cage door to open. Mimi came out and about, as usual, exploring here there and beyond, eventually settling atop the cat-stand by the cabinet. She set her eye on that shelf of blankets and I helped make a space for her there, whereupon she leapt over and settled herself down. Dougal stayed inside but was much calmer, letting me clean his cage around him. Later I lifted him out and put him in the basket on the bench, which he seemed to like -- at any rate, he stayed there, able to look out without being seen. 

The main event of the morning was a young couple who dropped by. They were thinking of adopting and wanted to meet all our cats after watching them a while through the window. Princess immediately sat down in her lap and purred, and Leo came over and got in his lap as well. Little Mimi came down and wanted some loving, and to my surprise Dougal came out of the basket and sat down next to the guy (she called him a cat whisperer, and the evidence bore her out on this). They interacted with everybody except Salem (who stayed inside and watched); even Emma enjoyed some petting (though she didn't go over to ask for it). I gathered they were thinking of getting two cats and needed a little time to make up their minds, and said they'd be back this evening. 

health concerns: Princess had a wheezing fit, but it immediately followed upon one of the other cats (Mimi, I think, or possibly Emma) having used the spot Princess was sleeping on as a stepping stone down from the cage-tops, so I think it was from distress over the unpleasant surprise, not anything actually wrong with her.  Last week Emma had blood in her stool but no sore on her bottom and no signs of distress when using her own (or, in this case, Salem's) dirt box. 
   Discovered last week that Emma has cat acne on her chin (just a bit; not too bad). Detected what I thought was more on Salem's chin, but it turned out to be a scab -- anyone know when she got that sore there? 
   Princess and one of the other cats (I forget which) needs some ear-swabbing.


UPDATE: Glad to learn this morning that they did indeed come back last night and adopted MIMI NADINE and DOUGAL NATHAN. It's so hard for a cat as shy as Mr. Dougal to find a home, but I think he'll be a really loyal affectionate cat once he's settled into a new home and gotten used to his new owners. And little Mima is a sweetheart. I've rarely seen a bonded pair so deeply bonded as these two, and I'm so glad they're going together.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tolkien on the menu

Been away for a few days without an internet connection, So bear with me while I do some catching up.

Friday in Langley on Whidbey Island Janice spotted a JRRT quotation on the back of the menu at the semi-fancy Bistro we were having supper in PRIMA BISTRO. It read:

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world"

--these of course being among the last words of Thorin Oakenshield, but I've never seen them put to this application before, though I do find it apt.

--John R.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tackiest Museum Store gift ever

So, as we were leaving the Pompeii exhibit* down at the Seattle Center last Thursday we went directly from the room with the body-casts of the people who died horribly in the eruption into the exhibit gift shop, where I spotted what I think marks the tackiest museum store gift ever: a little snow-globe of Vesuvius and Pompeii that when shaken re-inacts the eruption by burying the city in ash.


current reading: "The Authority of Old English Poetical Manuscripts" by Kenneth Sisam [1946] and re-reading (after thirty-plus years) a section of BEOWULF AND THE BEOWULF MANUSCRIPT by Kevin Kiernan [1981]

*which is v. good: recommended

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett, Rest In Peace

So today one of my favorite authors died. Peacefully at home, with his loved ones around him and his cat sleeping at his side. Not unexpected, but still sad.
More later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

KALAMAZOO! (Tolkien at Kalamazoo)

Having now booked my tickets (for plane AND train) for the trip out, I'm now switching into get-ready-for-Kalamazoo mode -- most importantly by working on my presentations, but also going through the schedule to see what Tolkien events are being offered this year, with the results given below.

As you can see, things are clustered on Thursday (four events) and Sunday (two events filling the final half-day of the conf.). Friday is wide open: a good time to visit with people and explore the book room. Saturday is tricky: the only two times where there's double-tracking are the two C. S. Lewis events opposite the 'Tales After Tolkien' events. In the past I've found both well worth going to, and there are specific papers on each I want to see this year -- Kristine Larsen's papers always tell me things I didn't know (and this time it looks to be based on what's probably my favorite CSL book), and both the medieval detectives and animal pain presentations sound intriguing. So, Saturday afternoon will be the tricky part of my schedule.

My own contributions come early (Th. 1.30; the Christopher Tolkien roundtable) and late (Sun. 8.30 am!; the Tolkien as Linguist and Medievalist panel), and I'll be in good company for both. And of course I'll be at as many of the other events as I can manage.

If you're going to be there, be sure to say hi; if I'm not at a panel I'll probably be somewhere around the NODENS BOOKS table in the Book Room. And if I met you last year, forgive me if I walk right by without recognizing you; my mild form of face-blindness means I'm likely to remember our conversation from a few years ago but not what you look like. Sorry about that; just give me a reminder.

--John R

Tolkien as Translator and Translated
Session 33 Bernhard 204
Sponsor: History Dept., Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Organizer: Judy Ann Ford, Texas A&M Univ.–Commerce
Presider: Judy Ann Ford
Tolkien’s Beowulf and the “Correcting Style” Dean Easton, Independent Scholar
Sir Orfeo, the Classical Sources, and the Story of Beren and LĂșthien Sandra Hartl, Otto-Friedrich-Univ. Bamberg
Translator and Language Change: On J. R. R. Tolkien’s Translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Maria Volkonskaya, Higher School of Economics, National Research Univ.

Christopher Tolkien as Medieval Scholar (A Roundtable)
Session 49  Valley II Eicher 202
Organizer:  Douglas A. Anderson, Independent Scholar
Presider:  John Wm. Houghton, Hill School
A roundtable discussion with Douglas A. Anderson; John D. Rateliff, Independent Scholar; and Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.

Tolkien and Victorian Medievalism
Session 127 Schneider 2355
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Amy Amendt-Raduege, Whatcom Community College
J. R. R. Tolkien on the Origin of Stories: The Pardoner’s Tale Lectures and Nineteenth-Century Folklore Scholarship
Sharin Schroeder, National Taipei Univ. of Technology
Maps and Landscape in William Morris and J. R. R. Tolkien
Amanda Giebfried, St. Louis Univ.
Tolkien’s Victorian Fairy-Story Beowulf
Jane Chance, Rice Univ.

Tolkien’s Beowulf (A Readers’ Theater Performance)
and Maidens of Middle-earth V, “Turin’s Women”
Session 155 Fetzer 1045
Organizer:  Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider:  Thom Foy, Univ. of Michigan-Dearborn
Tolkien’s Beowulf Thom Foy; Andrew Higgins, Cardiff Metropolitan Univ.; Jewell Morow, Independent Scholar; Deidre Dawson, Independent Scholar; Mark Lachniet, Independent Scholar; Richard West, Independent Scholar; Jane Beal,; Brad Eden
Maidens of Middle-earth V: “Turin’s Women”
Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ.

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Business Meeting
Bernhard 158

Session 442 Bernhard 158
From Frodo to Fidelma: Medievalisms in Popular Genres (A Roundtable)
Sponsor:    Tales after Tolkien Society
Organizer:   Helen Young, Univ. of Sydney
Presider:     Geoffrey B. Elliott, Oklahoma State Univ.–Stillwater
Black in Sherwood: Race and Ethnicity in Robin Hood Media
Kris Swank, Pima Community College
Hedgehogs and Tomb Raiders in King Arthur’s Court: The Influence of Malory in Adventure Games
Serina Patterson, Univ. of British Columbia
The Zombie Apocalypse in the Classroom and Medieval Plague
John Marino, Maryville Univ.
Crimes and Conspiracies in Town and Court: Embodying Late Medieval Life
Candace Robb, Independent Scholar
Found Footage: The Popular Credibility of the Grimms’ Tales
Thomas R. Leek, Univ. of Wisconsin–Stevens Point
Arthuriana for Children: Narrative Integrity and the Medieval in Gerald Morris’s Squires Tales
Alexandra Garner, Bowling Green State Univ.
Medievalism and the Popular Romance Novel
Geneva Diamond, Albany State Univ.

also SATUDAY 1:30 PM
Session 402 Valley I Shilling Lounge
Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: Sources, Influences, Revisions, Scholarship
Sponsor: C. S. Lewis Society, Purdue Univ.; Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis and Friends, Taylor Univ.
Organizer: Joe Ricke, Taylor Univ.
Presider: Joe Ricke
Ransom as Pilgrim: A Reflection of Dante’s Commedia in Out of the Silent Planet Marsha Daigle-Williamson, Spring Arbor Univ.
Walking beneath Medieval Skies: C. S. Lewis’s Challenge to Modern Minds
Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
The Medieval Sources and Inspiration for C. S. Lewis’s Understanding of Self and Society
Hannah Oliver Depp, Politics and Prose Bookstore/American Univ.
Bridging the Gap between Medieval and Modern Science: The Middle Way of C. S. Lewis
Dennis Fisher, Independent Scholar

Session 501 Bernhard 158
Martin and More: Genre Medievalisms
Sponsor: Tales after Tolkien Society
Organizer: Helen Young, Univ. of Sydney
Presider: Stephanie Amsel, Southern Methodist Univ.
Medievalism, Feminism, and “Realism” in Game of Thrones
Kavita Mudan Finn, Southern New Hampshire Univ.
Save the Cheerleader, Save the World: Yesterday’s Heroism Today
Valerie Dawn Hampton, Western Michigan Univ./Univ. of Florida
Detectives in the Middle Ages? The (Exceptionally) Popular Genre of Medievalist Crime Fiction
Anne McKendry, Univ. of Melbourne
White Hats for White Plumes: The Western as Arthurian Romance Reimagined
Geoffrey B. Elliott, Oklahoma State Univ.–Stillwater

also SATURDAY 3:30 PM
Session 461 Valley I Shilling Lounge
Phantom Limb: The Presence of the Problem of Pain in the Works of C. S. Lewis
Sponsor: C. S. Lewis Society, Purdue Univ.; Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis and Friends, Taylor Univ.
Organizer: Joe Ricke, Taylor Univ.
Presider: Grace Tiffany, Western Michigan Univ.
The Problem of Pain in Perelandra Audrey Schaffner, Abilene Christian Univ.
“A Brutal Surgery from Without”: Freud, Healing, and The Pilgrim’s Regress Chris Jensen, Florida State Univ.
“O Felix Culpa”: C. S. Lewis’s Understanding of the Fall into Sin in The Problem of Pain and Perelandra, with Special Reference to His Medieval Sources
Laura Smit, Calvin College
The Problem of Animal Pain in C. S. Lewis
Edwin Woodruff-Tait, Independent Scholar

Session 525 Schneider 1120
Tolkien as Linguist and Medievalist
Sponsor: Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer: Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider: Brad Eden
The First Red Book: An Exploration of Tolkien’s Exeter College Essay Book
Andrew Higgins, Cardiff Metropolitan Univ.
Inter-Elvish Miscommunication and the Fall of Gondolin
Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ.
A Scholar of the Old School: Tolkien’s Editing of Medieval Manuscripts
John D. Rateliff, Independent Scholar
Immram Roverandom
Kris Swank, Pima Community College

Session 549 Fetzer 1055
Tolkien’s Beowulf
Sponsor:    Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Organizer:    Brad Eden, Valparaiso Univ.
Presider:   Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont
“That does not attract me”: Lang./Lit. and the Structure of Tolkien’s Beowulf Commentary
John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville
Can a Geat Be a Knight? Tolkien’s Use of Chivalric Terminology in His Translation of Beowulf
Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ.
The Weird Word Wyrd Amy Amendt-Raduege, Whatcom Community College
Beowulf Reimagined: Coming of Age in Tolkien’s Sellic spell Amber Dunai, Texas A&M Univ.

The Cat Report (W.3/11-15)

With poor Seville being transferred back to the shelter for medical attention (hope she's okay),* we're back at six cats: EMMA JEMIMA, SALEM, DOUGAL & MIMA, LEO, and The PRINCESS.

Started off the day by taking shy Dougal out of his cage and holding and petting him. He stayed stiff as a board but didn't squirm or try to get away, so thought I'd try him with a walk. Won't make that mistake again. He hadn't been out long when he got spooked, and then immediately shifted over into full-scale panic. He slipped off the leash as I was trying to get him back in the room and took off running as fast as I've ever seen a cat move. He ran straight across the store, which brought him right up against the dog-room, whereupon there was much barking and unfortunately he turned to the right. And even more unfortunately, someone had left the doors to the warehouse area open, and he went right in. By the time I got to the doors, he'd gone to ground -- a solid black cat hiding in a large area full of dozens of hidey-holes. To make it worse, there was a truck with its cargo area open to the warehouse, and while he cdn't get outside he might have gone in the back of the semi- as well. Fortunately after a few minutes' looking I found him under a bunch of stuff not too far from the door. I asked a PetsMart employee for help, and she (the hero of this story) moved great big bins on rollers while I waited to grab him if he bolted. Luckily he was frozen and made no resistance when I reached back and pulled him out, carrying him immediately back to the cat-room and back into his cage, where little Mimi helped comfort him.
   So, much drama, considerable excitement, a cat-vs.-volunteer race which the cat won, hands down, but in the end no harm done.
   Note to self: no more walks for Dougal. Rather than a pleasant distraction from the cat-room it holds only terror for him, poor fellow.

After that, decided on no more walks for now and instead invited everybody out from their cages. 

PRINCESS MERIDA sat in my lap and enjoyed much petting, after which she shifted over to the mid-level of a cat-stand by the bench. Thinking she might be chilly with her shaved fur I put a blanket over her with just her head sticking out, and she loved it, staying there most of the rest of the morning. She came out towards noontime to demand more petting, and I was happy to oblige.  She had a short walk just after noon and did very well; clearly she knows all about walking on a leash. Either Princess or Emma, I forget which, was out when two smallish dogs came by in rapid succession and neither was bothered by it. Did notice, towards the end of the day, that Princess likes men: she got up and gave a little chirp when a guy came in to look at the cats.

LEO came out all growly and suspicious of the other cats, but he was completely won over by my offer of a box with catnip in it. He climbed inside, I put the box up on the cagetops, and he stayed there the rest of the morning, secure in his bliss. Hadn't realized just how big and how heavy a cat he is till picked him up and boosted him up high; my cat Feanor used to weigh twenty pounds and he was easier to pick up than this. We moved his digs from the middle of the upper row to the middle of the lower row, which should make it easier for him to get in and out when he wants to. His little cat-stand had already been removed and replaced with a soft pad for a cat-bed. Maybe he'd like a little cat-bed/cushion like Boogieman once had?

EMMA JEMIMA was in a good mood. The last out and the longest to stay out, she was very affectionate. She spent most of the morning in explorer mode, having now claimed the whole bottom row (completely ignoring the top row) as hers to explore and graze whenever and wherever she feels like it. She went in all the open cages, sampled their nom,used their litter boxes, and generally made herself at home, mostly ignoring the other cats if present. At one point she sat down next to me and gave herself a good long bath; think that was the happiest I've seen her in weeks.
   Emma had a walk at the end of my shift (stayed a little extra for her, since she'd been so good today and deserved come kind of treat). But what she liked best today, even more than the petting and attention, was crinkly paper. I brought some in and spread it out, and she loved it -- whether being pulled along while riding on it, or pouncing on things swishing back and forth under it, or having it folded over her to make a paper-cat-paper sandwich, she loved it all. I left the paper folded up under the bench for her, though don't know how many more play sessions like that it has in it before it gives out. 

   Health alert: Emma had blood in her stool this morning -- enough to look alarming, but it didn't seem to hurt or distress her at all. Something we need to keep an eye on.

MIMA the perfectly normal cat in a room full of Cats With Issues. She was out and about and playing and exploring and generally being a delightful little cat, as usual. She particularly likes the laser pointer, though she doesn't chase it so much as watch it and pounce when it comes near. I've rarely seen a bonded pair as bonded as she and Dougal; she I first come in in the morning she and he will be side-by-side towards the front of their cage; he only slips into hiding in the back when there are people around (or other cats he thinks might get him). She played with catnip bubbles a bit, but they didn't really do much for her. The bug-on-a-stick was better, but in general she just seemed to want to explore, coming up for attention every now and then.

SALEM is out of sorts, and unlike her more outgoing self of up until just last week. She stayed inside most of the morning and didn't seem to want much attention (petting, playing) in her cage -- although she did join in a game of bug-on-a-stick with Princess (atop a cat-stand), Leo (Up High), and Mimi (near the cabinet), Anytime that little bug came inside her cage she deftly caught it in one paw and held it down while she bit it (quite the predator, she). Have to let her out first next week and give her more one-on-one attention (for example, brushing her back, which she'd really liked before). 
   Dougal took refuge inside her cage while his was being cleaned, and she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she ignored him, just as Seville did last week. Perhaps his passive mode sends a 'no-threat' signal cats pick up on.

--and that's about it for Wednesday morning.

--John R.

*The report later today, now that they've had a chance to check her out up at the clinic, is that she has Calici, poor thing. Know they'll do everything they can to help her. Poor Seville! Now we know why she was acting so different.