Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Thanks to Johan, I've now learned of another review of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT back in September 2007 that I'd missed. It appeared on the Tolk Lang list, which evolved out of Julian Bradfield's legended Elven language journal of the early 80s, QUETTAR. The full review (or rather the fullest of his series of posts*) can be found at http://tolklang.quettar.org/messages/Vol46/46.95 . For those who aren't interested in the minutia of Elvish -- a fascinating topic, but v. much an acquired taste -- I excerpt some of "Lalaith" (Andreas Moehn)'s comments below.
Although 'Lalaith' starts by saying that "I think we have to be thankful to him for publishing Tolkien's material", she finds my efforts sorely lacking:
"For the linguistically minded, Rateliff . . . has not much to offer: His tentative glosses . . . reveal rather his ignorance of Elvish languages than actual insights."
regarding my comments on the dating of Durin's Day, she says
"Rateliff . . . further blurs the issue by reading English manuscripts through American glasses . . . he critisizes Tolkien for calling the solar solstice "Midsummer's Eve" though in fact it was the beginning of summer - but actually, the only problem here is Rateliff's profoundly American ignorance"
Nor does Tolkien himself escape her censure:
"Tolkien . . . at his worst: Despite his acclaimed romantic love for nature and his mental fatherhood to the Green party, he reveals himself here as a city-person who has hardly even LOOKED at the Moon, not to mention understood its celestial motions"
". . . This is not the only one of Rateliff's wrong accusations. Also he blames Karen Fonstad for silently shifting the Unexpected Party from 27th to 26th, overlooking that the latter date is established by Tolkien himself in "The Quest of Erebor"."
"Rateliff may have had honest intentions, but the results fall dramatically short against Christopher Tolkien's HoMe volumes and do neither Tolkien nor Taum Sandoski justice who was originally determined to publish "The History of the Hobbit"."
". . . Vol. II at last provides the Index that I direly missed in Vol. I. Alas, its level is sadly reminiscent of the original "Letters" Index."
"the whole corpus thus deteriorates into a sad but fitting postscriptum to a well-intended but occasionally too sloppy editing. As a read, the two volumes of Hobbit History are certainly worthwhile, as a reference, they are too often a failure."
Of all these, I'm glad to have the point about Fonstad drawn to my attention, and will craft a piece of errata to address the issue. The point about the disjunction between astronomical autumn (Sept 21st to Dec 21st) and colloquial British usage (August, September, October), which Christina Scull had earlier suggested to me, is more complex and needs to be written up as a separate post. I can bear up to the charge that my Index is as good as the one prepared by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien for the original edition of LETTERS with equanimity, but I do object to her sneers at Tolkien for knowing nothing about astronomy and calendars -- a simple glance at the appendices of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the draft material at Marquette shows that's nonsense.**
As for Moehn's other charges, it's a little late in the day to set the record straight on all points. The one line that I find really stings is her invocation of Taum Santoski. I don't suppose that 'Lalaith' ever met Taum (given that she misspells his name), but he was my closest friend, and the thought that I failed the task he entrusted me with is bitter indeed.
Other than that, I'm sorry she didn't enjoy my book, but frankly it's hard to get worked up over a negative review almost two years after the fact -- it's kind of like finding out that someone you don't remember from high school wrote something dismissive about you in a classmate's copy of your yearbook. Somehow, life goes on.
current reading: THE PLEASURES OF A FUTUROSCOPE by Lord Dunsany [written 1955; published 2003]
*see also her posts of July 21st (#46.82; Bladorthin), July 22nd (#46.83; Fang), July 26th (#46.87; Radagast), July 31st (#46.88; Dorwinion), & Sept. 3rd (#46.94; Bladorthin again).
**For my own thoughts of what's going on with Tolkien's ultimately unsuccessful struggle to reconcile the events in THE HOBBIT to a real-world calendar, and what it reveals about the pictorial element in Tolkien's drafting of scenes, see my piece "A Kind of Elvish Craft" in the current issue of TOLKIEN STUDIES.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
So, while we're being told on the one hand that flooding is really, really, really unlikely, on the other hand we're being told to learn the evacuation routes and be ready to head out at a few hours' notice. Mixed messaging, methinks.
That same day I came across the name again in a totally unrelated context. I was returning some cds of old music from the 1920s and 1930s to the local library when I saw an album devoted to the work of composer Howard Hanson, recorded by the Seattle Symphony. What's more, one of the works featured on the cd was "Lament for Beowulf". So I checked it out. After a few listenings and having read through the liner notes, I don't think Hanson had any connection with this area and think his piece being recorded locally might just be coincidence. Still, I wonder if the dam could have been named after him, or if it was some other Howard Hanson. As for the music itself, one piece here (Symphony No. 4, "Requiem") sounds in places very like THE RITE OF SPRING, while "THE LAMENT FOR BEOWULF" (Opus 25, 1925) turns out to be a nineteen minute piece for orchestra and chorus based on the Wm Morris translation, part of which is reproduced in the liner notes, complete with glosses explaining what the archaic words Morris made up for his "translation" mean.
In any case, juxtaposition of the two Howard Hansons, or the two v. different tributes to the same Howard Hanson, amused me, so I thought I'd share.
current reading: THROWN TO THE WOOLFS by John Lehmann [1978/1979]
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This little spell of rain has been a long time coming and is thus all the more welcome. Yesterday's sprinkles, at one point late in the day accompanied by a truncated double rainbow, I think marked only the third time it's rained here this summer. And of those the middle time (the only thunderstorm and good heavy rain) came when we were on Whidbey Island and apparently didn't hit Kent at all, or at least not our part of it. The creek than runs past our place ran dry weeks ago, reduced to a few hollows. The nameless lake that gives 'The Lakes' development its name is so low that I've discovered for the first time that it's what the Clampetts would call a cement pond -- that is, the lake-bottom, or at least the parts I can see of it, is rough poured cement, like the smaller nearby pond they emptied a few months back for some fountain repair.
I've started to see trees up and down the streets shedding all their leaves as if it were an early fall, but it's actually established trees dying from the drought. We've been lucky: I've been able to keep the plants on the deck and the little mimosa* in the yard alive, and the wysteria that got cut down last year has made a comeback. The birds can fly to where there are still shrunken ponds, but what the little rabbits and the like have been doing to get by during this drought I can't imagine.
So,here's hoping that the current bit of wet is not an anomaly but presages the onset of autumn weather. Normally I like summer to hang around, although autumn is my favorite time of year, but this year the sooner the drought ends and the record-setting high temperatures with it (hello, global warming), the better.
On a more positive note, yesterday we stopped to snack off a few blackberries while walking home from Janice's office. When I reached to pick one, I disturbed something small and green that hopped onto another leaf. I thought at first it was a grasshopper, which for whatever reason you don't see too many of around here (as opposed to the other side of the mountains, where they're at every rest stop), but a closer look revealed that it was a little green frog. In fact, there were a lot of them, leaping from leaf to leaf. Clearly they did not feel the need to keep a wary distance, just moved just out of reach when we got too near. Unlike the Puerto Rico tree frog we'd seen in Hilo, these were absolutely silent. I don't know if they'd been brought out by that rain or if I just hadn't noticed them before the other times we've been at that particular patch of blackberries. Nor am I sure whether they were eating blackberries or, perhaps, waiting to eat the things that came along and were attracted to the blackberries. In which case, D&Der that I am,** I'm glad we're the size we are and they're the size they are.
*I now have a nice photo of the little tree which I'll try to post here, as soon as I figure out how to post photos. Bear with me on this; there are also some good ones of the standing stones and dolmen on Whidbey Island I'd like to share.
**I'm looking at you, VILLAGE OF HOMMLET's moathouse.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First there was the news that they'd decided on a temporary repair (a 'grout curtain'), costing eight million dollars, that they felt might help with the leak that's undermining the dam's earthen abutment. It won't fix the problem, but with luck it might slow down the rate at which things are getting worse.
Then, the Army Core of Engineers makes a surprise announcement that they're planning to spend two hundred million dollars on a fish tower -- essentially a big fish trap where fish swim in and not be able to swim out. Once collected, they'll load the fish onto a truck and drive them around the dam and dump them back in several miles downriver.*
And now today a warning was sent out about "higher risk of flooding" in the Green River Valley, particularly in Auburn "north of 22nd Street NE and those areas immediately bordering the Green River and Mill Creek."
My favorite part is that along with this warning came the reassurance: "It is important to note the Army Corps assures us there is no risk of the dam failing. Renters, homeowners, and businesses are advised to review their insurance policies to ensure they are covered for flooding, landslides, sinkholes, and other issues commonly associated with significant rain events."
So, the official word is no worries, but get that flood insurance right away. How reassuring. Almost as reassuring as discovering that the Army Core of Engineers, who have done untold damage to the whole river system in the Puget Sound region, is more focused on a fish tower than halting the ongoing damage to the dam holding back a considerable reservoir upriver of us. I'm glad Kent is repairing its levees rather than trusting that All Will Be Well.
P.S.: By the way, there's a pretty good picture of the dam here:
*or so the article said. I suspect they'll actually be trucking them UPriver to get them past the dam, since the stated goal is to restore salmon spawning grounds cut off a half-century ago by the dam.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'm sure I must have seen one before, as I've been to several of their award banquets before -- e.g., at the Barfield/Lewis centenary in Wheaton -- and also visited and stayed with various MythSoc Award winners over the years, but if so I still couldn't remember what they actually look like. It is indeed a model of one of the famous lions in front of the New York Public Library, and is (a little on-line research tells me) made of marble dust and high-quality resin. But the question arises: which lion? Apparently the two in front of the Library are called "Patience" and "Fortitude", though whether these are official names or merely nicknames I have no idea. Mine seems to be looking very slightly to his right, so I assume he's a model of the one on the right as you go in.
Given how long it took me to finish the book, I suppose 'Patience' wd be the more appropriate original. Plus of course the Middle-English poem PATIENCE, the Gawain-poet's hilarious take on the Jonah legend, wd be a nice indirect Tolkien tie-in. But I truthfully have no idea.
In any case, I'll try to have a photo of it up on the website as soon as I can manage it.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The first was that Manson Family member and would-be presidential assassin Squeaky Fromme is being released soon after serving thirty-four years of a life sentence. Vincent Bugliosi, in HELTER SKELTER, indicated that he believed Fromme had taken part in several more murders, but there was never enough evidence to charge her.
So far as I can tell, there's no outrage that Manson's successor as the leader of The Family will soon be out again.
The second was that the mastermind of The Great Train Robbery from forty-six years ago is about to be released from prison,* over the strong objections of the train driver's union. Apparently a member of his gang knocked a person out during the course of the robbery. The criminal in question is bedridden and terminally ill, not to mention eighty years old.
I think the disparity of the response says a lot about the relative violence levels between our two countries.
current reading: the 'Science' chapter from BLACK ATHENA REVISITED, ed. Lefkowitz & Rogers 
*I shd point out that he hasn't been in prison all these years, having escaped early on and fled the country, only returning a decade or so ago to voluntarily be re-imprisoned.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I was particularly fascinated by the arguments that, despite much evidence to the contrary, the Flores People couldn't have used the stone tools found in their cave home alongside their remains because their heads were too small; only large-brained hominids could make tools and use fire. It reminded me strongly of my favorite Steven Jay Gould book, THE MISMEASURE OF MAN, a large part of which is devoted to 19th and 20th century obsessions with brain size and false equivalences of brain-size to Intelligence.
But what impressed me even more, as a Tolkien scholar, was to realize that what had begun as a nickname of calling these little people 'hobbits' has now stuck -- not only does the article use Hobbit as the colloquial equivalent of the technical H. florensiensis, but so do several of the papers cited in the bibliography -- or so at least I wd judge from their titles. And these are not newspaper articles but pieces in journals such as SCIENCE and the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, not to mention three books, one of which I'm definitely going to have to get: THE DISCOVERY OF THE HOBBIT: THE SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH THAT CHANGED THE FACE OF HUMAN HISTORY by Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee .*
What would Tolkien have made of all this, I wonder?
*I admit I rather like the idea of putting "The Discovery of the Hobbit" on the same shelf with "The History of The Hobbit"