Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Cat Report (W.2/27-13)

I never did get a Cat Report written up last week, because things started changing so quickly day by day. Then I was going to congratulate Katniss and Kelvis on their cleverly getting themselves adopted, but in rapid succession after that Sunny Sam, General Grant, and sweet little Genesis all did likewise, while Thistle arrived and departed so quickly I never even saw her. 

The main event of last week (2/20) were the walks and their aftermath. Tattoo declined a walk, emphatically. Sam had a good long one, all the way over to the fishes; turned out he tolerates dogs but is not fond of them. Then General Grant got carried around until he felt comfortable, whereupon he had a long walk, exploring the back half of the store. The trouble came when I tried to walk Pascale (No! NO! NOOOO!). She panicked and leapt about like a wild thing; it was all I cd do to get her back into the room, where she hid under the cat-stand by the cabinet and refused to let me take the leash off. Eventually she calmed down, and when a PetsMart employee dropped by about an hour later to visit the cats Pascale let her take both collar and leash off with no fuss. Memo to self: never try to walk Pascale again. Last of all I offered Genesis a walk, which annoyed her no end; till then she'd been v. loving and demanding of attention. Glad to know she's now in a new home of her own.

As for this week (2/27), we're down to just six cats: Edna JaneLemuraButterscotch, newcomer Heidi Klumlittle Pascale, and Tattoo. Turns out ALL of them love catnip, and will happily roll in the stuff with abandon.

EDNA went high, eventually working her way via a succession of cat-stands, navigating hissily through territory occupied by other cats, to the cabinet top and hence Cagetop Land. She loved it up there, and even tried at one point to burrow her way under an upside-down cat-bed. She was so busy lording it up there that she didn't seem to mind if other cats were at the far end of the cagetops (Heidi) or atop the cabinet (Tattoo). Getting her back in was a challenge, but a combination of making sure everyone else was inside and out of the way, having her cage door open, showing her I'd moved a cat-stand over for her to jump down on and into her home base, and standing atop the stepladder shooing her along with a big piece of cardboard all worked. All in all think she had a good morning.

LEMURA made her way to the top tier of the cat-stand by the cabinet and, after a good round of catnip, snoozed away the morning. In a good mood but not v. active.

BUTTERSCOTCH refused to come out but rolled in her cage in catnip, played the string game with great zest, and several times came to the front of her cage. I put a short cat-stand in front of her open door, but she declined to come out. Since she usually won't let me clean her cage fully (i.e., replace the blankets and get them all smoothed down), tried something new. Put the wicker basket in her cage where the litter box wd usually go. She came out of her cat-stand cubby and examined the stand with great attention before climbing inside. Then I removed her little stand and the blankets and moved the wicker-basket to where it'd been, returned the dirt-box and put out food and water. She was so pleased I left it there at end of my shift, thinking that if it needs to come out it'll be pretty easy to remove, and that she might as well enjoy it in the meantime.

HEIDI , our new semi-tuxedo cat, is a purrbox who loves to hike up her tail when being petted. She loves attention so much that at one point she went into a corner and cried because she wasn't getting petted. A beautiful, charming, and affectionate cat. Tried her on a short walk at end of morning; think for her part the jury is out on whether this is something she likes or not.

PASCALE was shy but active, prowling about here and there, in and out of cages, mostly hanging out around the bottom of the cat-stand near the door. She still flinches if I try to pet her; don't know what bad experience in the past has made her so wary. Pretty little thing; hope she finds a home where they want an independent cat rather than a clingy one (some do).

And then there's TATTOO, our dark tabby senior cat, who was sweet today, welcoming attention and purring mightily in response. 

Ended the morning with wet catfood all round, which was greeted with enthusiasm. 

And that was about it; left a little early, everybody settling back down in their respective cages. I'll be out next week (in the Midwest, experiencing more Winter Weather than I'd planned on), so best wishes to all (including the cats) till the 13th -- by which time I hope a few more of them will have been adopted.

--John R.

Health Concerns: part of the right side of Lemura's face is red and puffy -- above the eye (which is closed or half-closed) all the way into the ear. It doesn't seem to distress her, but may need a vet to look at. Last week she'd had some sort of sore by the side of her mouth (the left side, I think); didn't see it this week. 
   Also, there was throw-up (digested food) in Lemura's cage, and her food dish was entirely empty. She acts normally, but something's going on that's not good, poor cat.
   One of the cats had spilled her water (Heidi, I think), but this was probably just accident.

Note: no donation box this week or last. I assume one will arrive the next time new cats appear.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And Fifth Makes Five (Beatles dvds)

So, found out yesterday* wd have been George Harrison's 70th birthday. When the youngest Beatle passes the seventy year mark you know Beatlemania and its aftermath was a long time ago.

Appropriately enough, I've been on something of a Beatles kick lately (as opposed to usually listening to them in the general mix). A few weeks back I bought the MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, knowing full well that it was gosh-awful from having seen it once, years before, when in grad school at Fayetteville.** But (some of) the music is good, and I had a curiosity to see if it was really as bad as I remembered (it was).

I knew YELLOW SUBMARINE had been released a few years ago in an expanded version, adding some new sequences, which I'd rented at the time. And I have both A HARD DAYS NIGHT and HELP on VHS (a gift from my mother back around the time of the Marquette Mythcon) but now that we're newly without a VHS player they're less assessible. I remarked to Janice how it was a shame you cdn't get either on dvd -- Imagine my surprise, then, when dvds of both arrived not long after, Janice having gone on line, found out I'd been wrong about their not being available, and having ordered me both as presents. Horray!

Watching HELP made me want to see YELLOW SUBMARINE again (it'd been a while), and I found that while I thought I had a copy I was wrong about that. Luckily this was soon remedied, and I found myself in possession of four of the five Beatles movies, leaving out only LET IT BE. I knew this was unavailable -- but then I'd 'known' that HELP and HARD DAYS NIGHT were too, so if I was wrong about them I might be wrong about that. Sure enough, amazon provided a solution. LET IT BE arrived yesterday, and I watched it (for what will be the first of no doubt many times) last night.

Of them, I find enjoy HELP the most; something about its sense of humor resonates --"Jolly, with a knife" "They have to paint you red before they kill you. It's a different religion than ours. (pause)  I think" "I'm going to miss the sacrifice!" and that final silent appearance of that Channel swimmer.*** HARD DAYS NIGHT is good too, but I find myself drawn back to rewatch it much less often. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is hopeless; better to stick with the album there, which is half-soundtrack and half-compilation of some singles from around that period. YELLOW SUBMARINE is weird in a kind of pre-Python way (the animation style is obviously a big influence on Gilliam's work, but also just as obviously indebted to Peter Max****); I've stolen from it in various DandD scenarios over the years, to the general bafflement of players ("there's got to be someone with a Bigby's Hand wand hiding around here somewhere, I just know it!").

And then there's LET IT BE, which is both depressing and uplifting at the same time. On the one hand it de-mythologizes with a vengeance, showing Paul trying to get the others to take the whole thing seriously (and annoying them no end in the process), a glowering and resentful George, detached John, and unhappy Ringo slouching about. Yoko haunts the set like a prefiguration of  THE RING, and the whole is weighed down by too many middling songs ("Two of Us", "I've Got a Feeling", "Dig a Pony"*****) among what would become classics ("Get Back", "Don't Let Me Down", maybe "I Me Mine", "Let It Be" itself). And yet it starts to come together when they switch to the Abbey Road studio and bring in Billy Preston; even the second-rate songs  start to transcend their limitations through spirited performances. Last of all comes the rooftop concert, their last performance before an audience. And all of the sudden, it's over, brought to a premature end by the police. If the whole film had been as good as the final twenty minutes, it'd be remembered as a classic. As it is, a mixed bag, but one I'm glad to see again.

I suppose I'll have to see about getting THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY from Netflix for my next Beatles fix . . .

--John R.

*thanks Stan!

**where they had an eclectic film program I occasionally went to; remember seeing "Bambi vs. Godzilla" and a live-action Wiley Coyote short there, as well as the Star Trek blooper reel, alongside less memorable fare.

***and the cameo appearance of Stonehenge in one scene is an added bonus

****does anybody else out there remember PETER MAX'S PAPER AIRPLANE BOOK?

*****A good example of this being "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window", one of several songs they rehearsed that made it onto ABBEY ROAD instead of LET IT BE (or GET BACK, as it was originally to be called); this one didn't make it into the final film (as did early versions of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Oh! Darling", and "Octopus's Garden"), but endless retakes made their way onto various old bootlegs in the late 70s/early 80s (and, I assume, today as well).

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Taking the Part of Trees" (Post Number One Thousand)

So, in the five or six years I've been blogging, it turns out I've written a thousand posts, or about a post every other day. Sometimes I go through droughts where a week or two will pass without a post, either because inspiration failed or because I'm very, very busy and/or under the weather (or both).

Of course, not all those posts got posted. Some I drafted but never hit "Send" on, not being satisfied with how it came out. Others were left unfinished, till the pot went off the boil; it might be interesting to revisit some of these one day, though many no doubt wd now be moot. And a few were finished and ready to go but I thought better of sending them; most of these were snippy bits about politics, so it's probably just as well.

This being mainly a Tolkien blog, I thought #1000 shd be Tolkien themed. I was recently reminded by something I was reading of one of the best Tolkien discussions I've ever taken part in, way back in Milwaukee days at a session of the Burrahobbits (the local fantasy discussion book group, dating all the way back to 1984 and still going strong). One of the times we did THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the question came up of what was each of our's favorite part. The result was a real eye-opener. I'd always just kinda assumed my response to the book was the same as everybody else's, and that folks who really, really like Tolkien like him for the same reasons and so would have the same favorite scenes. Such did not prove to be the case. Pretty much each of us had a different favorite scene or thing in the book that had first moved us, that kept drawing us back to re-read it again and again. I know of one friend for whom it's the arrival of the Rohirrim at the Siege of Minas Tirith. I suspect for many it must be the scene of Eowyn against the Nazgul, given how many artists have illustrated the confrontation (it must be hundreds by now). For myself, it's two chapters from THE TWO TOWERS: "Treebeard" (Bk III. Ch iv) and "The King of the Golden Hall (Bk III. Ch vi); when I feel drawn to re-read the book, it's often to read these two chapters, after which I get drawn in and start from the beginning and read all the way through.

But the one thing that first and immediately attracted me to Tolkien was the trees. I'd never met anyone, aside from my mother, who felt about trees the way I did; Tolkien was the first writer in which I had what C. S. Lewis described as that "What! You too?" moment.  When he described a tree being cut down and then just left laying there, I'd seen and felt just the same thing with a tree a few blocks from my junior high. When he described mourning for individual trees after they were gone, there too I knew exactly what he was talking about.

It's not unusual to have an interest or feeling no one around you shares, or to conclude that no one else anywhere feels the way you do. But to suddenly discover that yes, there's someone who agrees, and who can express that point of view far better than you ever could, is one of the things that can make reading a book a life-changing event.

So, thanks to the Professor for that.

--John R.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A very minor spoiler

So, I'm sometimes bemused or amused but often interested in what puts in my 'Recommendations'. The logic of their algorithm sometimes escapes me, and other times it's all too obvious though wildly wrong.  Yet their system also lets me know about some interesting things I wdn't come across otherwise.

As a rule, I only check the Recommendations in Books, but a week or so ago I accidently hit a button that made it show All Recommendations, which included lots of little action figures from the newest Peter Jackson/Tolkien movie. And one among these caught my eye, since it's of a character not appearing in the first movie (nor, I suspect, the second): Bolg, son of Azog. Given the context (he appears in a two-pack with 'battle-damaged' Gandalf) and Tolkien's original, I suspect he'll be making his appearance in the third movie, just in time for The Battle of Five Armies.*

In any case, if (like me) you didn't know Bolg was scheduled to make an appearance in Peter Jackson's version of HOBBIT-world but find evidence that he will interesting, and if (unlike me) you like to collect four-inch figures,** you might want to check it out. Here's the link:

--John R.

*The text accompanying the figure on the amazon site says he appears in the first movie, which is not the case; either they've got which installment in the three-film set wrong or he'll actually be in some extended version of this first one down the line.

**I'm oldschool enough that I prefer little lead miniatures you can paint and use in yr DandD game. I still have some of these from the Bakshi LotR film. Of them, one of their hobbits, the Saruman (or 'Aruman' as Baskhi sometimes called him), the Gandalf and Strider figures were all pretty good, though best of all was Gollum (and worst was horned-hat Boromir, though that was not the miniature-maker's fault)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

TSR documentary

So, I'm back.

Which is ironic, since I'm about to go away (on a trip, to a Tolkien conference), though at least I shd be on line for the duration.

The recent lack of posts has been due to my being on deadline, drafting my plenary paper for the upcoming Valparaiso conference. And no sooner had I gotten the draft done (me, early for a deadline; there was much rejoicing at the early Dance of Doneness) than I had a review due (or a little past due). That now being off as well, barring any requested revisions, it's high time I started dealing with the backlog of blog topics I've been wanting to get to.

First and foremost there's this documentary of TSR, filmed back in 1997, which has been making the rounds online lately. It's great fun seeing familiar faces from my co-workers--in some cases with more hair and less grey--back in the Lake Geneva days, this having been filmed in the final days of TSR as an independent company (just before the buyout by Wizards of the Coast and the move from Wisconsin to Renton).

Here's the link:

Particularly impressive are the bits from Gygax: this is the best interview I've seen, heard, or read of his, esp. where he's straightforwardly discussing his and Arneson's respective contributions to the game. Gygax had a tendency from the mid-80s onward to engage in revisionist history,* but not here. Good for him, and good for them for getting it down and preserving it. It captures him at his most outgoing, good-humored, and appealing self.

Since they don't identify who most of the TSR employees shown in the film are, thought I'd name-check a few. Those who were identified include Lorraine Williams (owner and boss), plus group leaders Steve Winter, Harold Johnson, and Thomas Reid.  We see Bill Slavicsek running an ALTERNITY game for Rich Baker (who co-created that game with Bill), Dale Donovan, Michele Carter, Dave Eckleberry, and Sean Reynolds. We also see the DUNGEON boardgame being run with great gusto by Jeff Grubb for a trio which includes Dori Watry, Dawn Murin, and I think Bruce Nesmith. We don't actually see anyone playing D&D, oddly enough, aside from Bill Conners running a demo at GenCon.

We see artists (Diesel, Todd, I think Rob, and esp. Jeff Easley), who they keep coming back to (it being more visually appealing to show artists painting than to show writers writing or, God knows, editors editing). I suspect this is why the piece is short on editors: I didn't see Anne or Andrea or Sue or Julia or Keith or Miranda or Stan. Some of those I'd love to see are absent for another reason: like me, they'd been let go in the Great Christmas Layoff of December 1996, just before this was filmed. Some of us were hired back as soon as WotC bought the company that summer; others who'd survived the lay-off decided not to make the move out to Seattle. So for both its virtues (it handles the Egbert flap with even-handed dispatch) and vices (they keep showing video from that horrible DRAGONSTRIKE game, and its even worse never-released sequel WILDSPACE), it serves as a neat little time capsule of a lost world.*

I guess nostalgia is all about remembering the good parts version of events and not the other side (which wd make a great story all on its own). If there's time, I'll have to swing by the old 221 Sheridan Springs Road when I'm in the area week after next.

--John R.
current reading: FROST by Donald Wandrei, and THE COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBES TREASURY by Bill Watterson, Vol. III

*e.g., when he claimed Tolkien had no influence on DandD

**including the little bit of footage from GenCon, and the (since discarded) TSR Castle dominating the Dealer's Room/Exhibit Hall in MECCA (since destroyed by Milwaukee and replaced by a newer conference center with less room, a prime factor in GenCon's leaving Milwaukee altogether)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Cat Report (W.2/13-13)

With the transfer of Mr. Niko (hope he's settling in well in his new room), the adoption of Stache (yay, Stache. a great mellow cat who deserved a great home), and a bunch of new arrivals, we're back up to a full house: ten cats. Our two veterans are Edna and Lemura, and maybe Pascale (she's been here about a month or so). Genesis (black/orange mix) and Katniss (orange/black w. white face, bib, and paws) are pretty new. And five more are brand new: Tattoo (a dark tabby) and Kelvis (solid black tomcat), both of whom I think arrived the day Niko left, plus three more since then (I think just within the last day or two: Silly Sam (a big old yellow tomcat, very mellow), Grant (a sleek grey fellow who demands much attention), and Butterscoth (a beautiful fluffy orange cat with huge wide-open eyes).

Our demographics now skew older than they did last week, with two senior cats (Sam and Tattoo, both 13) and two more middle-aged cats (Genesis and Grant, both 8); the rest are relatively young (between 1 and 5). 

We also have another survivor cat whose owner passed away (Grant), like Genesis, and a cat whose owner had an accident and cd no longer take care of him (Sam). And then there's Butterscotch whose owner thought she'd been eaten by a predator before bringing her to the shelter (some backstory there I cdnt quite follow). 

Pretty much everybody came out, except Butterscotch, who only did so briefly and reluctantly when I needed to clean her cage and was desperately grateful to go back in again. We'll have to make sure she doesn't become another Mr. Niko. Very gentle, though, and enjoys being petted. Otherwise stares out at you with those big worried eyes. 

Edna is coming out of her shell: she came out on her own, later shifted to what's become her new favorite place (atop the cat-stand by the cabinet). She likes best being (1) out of her cage, (2) atop a cat-stand, and (3) burrowed under a blanket (though apt to swat at me if I try to help with the blanket). She's emphatic about not wanted to be touched or petted, but otherwise much improved over just a few weeks ago. Now if we can just get her to accept being petted, a cat this beautiful shd be able to find a home in no time -- though that may be a pretty big if.

Lemura was mellow: spent much of the morning atop the cages, then came down and enjoyed the cat-stands. Didn't need an intervention today, for which we were both no doubt grateful. 

Pascale spent almost the whole morning out of her cage, which is great. The place she liked best was inside one of the baskets atop the bench. She pretty much stays out of everyone's way but doesn't let the occasional hiss scare her off for long. Slow but steady progress.

Katniss and Tattoo both went up high along with Lemura. Tattoo shared the cage-tops with Lemura, peaceably enough, while Katniss claimed the cabinet top. Didn't pet Tattoo much but she enjoyed the occasional attention. Katniss likewise, though I got to pet her more since it's easier to reach the cabinet-top than the cage-tops. I'd been afraid Jane might want to go up there and wondered how I'd ever get her down, but she didn't express any interest in that at all, which is just as well.

Little Genesis loves attention -- she settled atop the cat-stand nearest the door -- and objects to sharing it with any other cat. Sweet, but demanding of her rights. And altogether adorable: one of her favorite tricks is to sit atop a cat-stand and leave an arm dangling down. The General (Grant) similarly wanted much attention and took it ill when any of it got diverted to someone else. He made a tour of inspection of the room, never quite settling in any one spot. He simply cdn't understand why I'd want to pet any other cat when I had him. Oddly enough, he'd buried a toy mouse in his litter-box -- don't know what that was all about.  Sam found a spot he liked -- inside the other basket on the bench, facing towards Pascale's -- and stayed there: happy to be petted, happy to just hang out. Think maybe his name shd have been Sunny Sam, he's such a mellow cat. 

Kelvis got atop one or the other of the baskets (think it was the one Sam was in). He also had a short walk, just to see if he really wanted out or was just interested in the door, and a longer one after the others had all gone in. A charismatic fellow, very friendly, quite vocal. Be careful when walking him, though: something spooked him at one point and he suddenly took off, got away from me, and led me on a merry chase for about ten seconds, until he got curious and stopped to examine something. After that he had to go back inside. Didn't hold it against me, though. At one point put him up in the cabinet on the shelf with the blankets, and he loved it: rather than burrowing in he laid out stretched to full length with his head against one; wd have made quite a picture. He also explored a bit and avoided confrontations.

Health concerns: none, really: no throw-up or sneezes or wheezes while I was there. All ate their little spoonful of wet catfood at the end of the morning. Some of the newer cats didn't seem to have eaten or drunk yet, but don't think that's unusual for the first day or so.

We do have a vocal group of cats right now: the cries 'let me out, let me out' when I first came to the cat-room were many and beseeching. 

A few visitors, all of whom stayed outside the room. We did have someone come by who said she used to volunteer here several years back, before moving to Olympia, but I forgot to ask for a name. 

Note: the contributions box is getting full; we need it exchanged for an empty.

--John R.

UPDATE (2/14-12)
It occurred to me, belatedly, that folks might want to see pictures of the cats mentioned herein. Here's the link to Purrfect Pal's website and the Tukwila cat room; click on each cat's name to get a mini-bio of whats known about him or her, and then on the mini-photoes to get a larger picture.

The Pope

By far the best comment I've heard about the pope's stepping down  came from Mike Foster, on the MythSoc list. Slightly paraphrased, it ran something like this:

"Benedict is giving up the papacy for Lent"

Have to say, his reasons for doing so seem quite sensible. Years from now, I suspect the thing that'll be most remembered about his papacy will be the manner of his leaving it.
--John R.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dragon Dances

So, Sunday we saw the dragon dance. Also, lions eat cabbage. And started the New Year for the third time in two months.

I refer of course to the Chinese New Year celebrations to mark the beginning of the Year of the Snake. In years past we've seen some pretty spectacular celebrations down in the International District, including drumming on giant drums and plenty of strings of little red firecrackers. No time for that this year, but did find out they were having a scaled-down event at Uwajimaya's in Renton, so we made time to drop by. The Lions (who look more like foo-dogs) were two-person costumes; they had about a half-dozen, some of whose dancers were v. young (say eight to ten) -- so much so that at the end one team cdn't reach the traditional cabbage hung over the store's entrance their 'lion' was supposed to gulp down and scatter about. The dragon (red: my favorite color for dragons) was a nine-person team, who were v. good.

All in all, a memorable event. And in the course of looking for a good parking place, we discovered that the Renton 8 movie theatre, which closed down a while back, has now re-opened and showing Indian films. I've long thought that there shd be a Bollywood theatre in the area; now that we've discovered there is one, we'll have to put together a movie night outing with friends sometime.* We'll see.

--John R.

*not that I know anything about Bollywood, other than seeing snatches of elaborate dance routines while waiting to pick up carry-out orders (and chai!) from my favorite Indian (actually Pakistani) restaurant, in downtown Renton.

Monday, February 11, 2013

wren and pigeon and snow geese

So, we had an unusual visitor to the birdfeeder a few days ago (Friday morning I think): a little bird that I think was a wren, out on the deck beneath the table, doing a little clean-up on fallen sunflower seed fragments. Certainly not a finch, nor a chickadee (no cap) nor junco (no hood), nor hummingbird (small, but not that small). Rolly-polly body and long straight cocked tail. Don't know if it'll prove a new regular (like the little woodpecker who's showing up recently in the tree from which the suet-feeder hangs) or just passing through.

Speaking of passing through, once in a long while we see a hawk nearby, eying the feeder (or, as Janice calls it, 'checking out the buffet'). Recently one must have availed itself of an opportunity, because there were pigeon feathers on the ground beneath the feeder, and some more under the nearest tree. Think a hawk must have swooped down on an unfortunate pigeon (who can't use the finch-feeder but enjoy the ground-bird seed I toss over the rail for the ground birds below). Easy to forget that 'hawk' and 'dove' mean a lot more than loose descriptions of politicians.

But, not to end on a downer note, a few weeks ago Janice spotted and shared with me an unusual and striking sight: snow geese! Sometimes geese land in the grassy field between us and the elementary school. Sometimes a lot of geese. This was one of those occasions: maybe a hundred geese scattered about feeding on grass and enjoying themselves, among whom were three with strikingly different coloration. At first she thought they were seagulls (gulls can get pretty big in these parts), but the binoculars proved otherwise. We watched them for quite a while thr. the monocular and binoculars, and it was clear that the other ('Canadian') geese accepted them as among their own: sometimes they wd mingle and sometimes gather together among the larger flock.

--John R.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tolkien Computer Art

So, I'm on deadline. Hence though I have a number of thing I've been wanting to write up and post about, they'll have to wait until I get done what I have to get done. In the meantime, expect some shorter, lighter pieces.

One such is that I recently picked up the January issue (#91) of IMAGINE FX (subtitled FANTASY AND SCI-FI DIGITAL ART). This is entirely outside my field of expertise and wd normally be outside my field of interest as well, but this issue's theme is illustrating Tolkien's work through digital art.

In addition to the cover art of Gollum and Bilbo (by Woonyoung Jung, an artist I'm not familiar with) there's  (1) an accompanying article about lighting such a scene,  (2) a review-article on Howe and Lee's work for the films (esp. the new film) -- good, but I already knew much of this from other sources, like the recent Weta Workshop book,  (3) a heavily illustrated article about Ilya Nazarov's work for one of the computer games (LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR IN THE NORTH),  (4) a piece by Donato Giancola (whose work I do know, having been impressed by his pieces for the ME:TW collectable card game) showing the steps by which he created a picture of JRRT at work in his study (he gets points for producing an image that Dr. Blackwelder wd be glad to add to his portraiture portfolio; his Tolkien is younger than in the familiar post-LotR photos),  (5) a piece by one Noah Bradley analyzing his sweeping landscape of The White City (Minas Tirith),  (6) a portrait of a Tolkienian elf by Corrado Vanelli,   there's (7) Nacho Molina's wonderful picture of Eowyn and the Witch-King and his step-by-step reconstruction of how he made the image.

Molina's Eowyn, an impressive addition to the already crowded gallery of illustrations of this favorite scene, get my nod for the best piece in the magazine. His Eowyn is both fully clothed and sensibly armored, two basics a surprising number of artists who illustrate the scene fall down on. I hope this image gets wider circulation than just this issue of this magazine; it's more deserving of becoming a poster than many I've seen.

Here's a link to the image (in somewhat sharper focus than the version appearing in the magazine):

--John R.
current reading: LORD HALIFAX'S GHOST BOOK [1936], with an egregious introduction by Colin Wilson.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zelazny's dwarves

So, while skimming through another of the books that's made its way onto the 'out' pile, I came across an unexpected Tolkienian usage I thought worth recording here.

The book in question is CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS, by Roger Zelazny [1969], which I finally got around to reading about a year and a half ago. I've had this copy since 1995, the main reason I've kept it till now being it was a gift from Dave Sutherland, the late AND great TSR mapper (cf. I6. Ravenloft), early D and D artist (one of the three responsible for the original MM, PH, and DMG), and memory repository of many a story from TSR's early days (he having been Employee #6).

While I'd rank Zelazny second only to Ray Bradbury as his century's premier science fiction writer, I wd have said he showed no influence from Tolkien whatsoever, either in his fantasy (Amber, Jack of Shadows) or in his science fiction -- so much so that I was puzzled by a tribute to Zelazny one artist put in her art for a MIDDLE-EARTH: THE WIZARDS ccg card.

 And yet there it is, a throwaway reference in a passing line as a character walks through a crowd of weird beings, tentacular and otherwise: ". . . she pushes past a horde of pimply green dwarves, turns up an alleyway . . ." (p. 91, paragraph six in the chapter "Wrath of the Red Lady").

'Elves' he might have gotten from old tradition (or from Dunsany, who influenced everyone who came after), but 'Dwarves' is Tolkien's own invention. 

So, Zelazny knew his Tolkien, well enough to pick up a coinage from his work. Who knew?

--John R.

current reading: THE DEVIL WIVES OF LI FONG by E. Hoffmann Price [1979]

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Channeling Their Inner Nixon

So, here's a story that made my head spin: turns out the NRA (national rifle association) has an enemies' list. Just like the one Richard Nixon had during Watergate. Those on it range from organizations like the AARP and YWCA to individuals like Michael Moore (no surprise there) and Dick Van Dyke. Not to mention some churches, like the Methodists and Episcopals and Evangelical Lutherans and Catholics and the Mennonites.

Seriously, the NRA considers Mennonites a threat?*

Or Peter Bonerz (Jerry the Dentist from the Bob Newhart show)? Pam Dawber (Mindy from Mork and Mindy)? Barry Manilow?

Sean Connery I can see (the man only shoots people in the movies), but Art Garfunkel? Jimmy Carter? Hallmark? Sara Lee?


Here's the link.

*clearly, we Presbyterians are doing something wrong if we're not on such a list. Let's hope our omission was just an oversight.

UPDATE, Monday February 11th
--A piece in today's Huffington Post reports that the NRA has pulled the 494-member 'enemies' list' from their website. Here's the link:

Mr. Niko's Last Day (W.2/6-13)

Seven cats only on this, Mr.Niko's last day with us. Just since last week we've seen Stig adopted to a home all his own, newcomer Aura and little Tayla adopted together (horray for both, esp. sweet little Tayla), Atlanta head up to Woodinville to be reunited with mother Georgia (and hopefully soon to be adopted together), and Minniehaha arrive and almost immediately depart, so that most of us never got the chance to see her (way to go, Minnie). 

The seven are EDNA JANE, LEMURA, Mr. NIKO, new cat KATNISS, (a calico tabby, orange and grey)next-newest GENESIS (black and orange, a calico without the white), PASCALE, and STACHE.

A quiet day with no walks (at one point Stache was by the door so I put the leash on her, but she was no sooner out than wanted back in again). Everyone came out except Mr. Niko, who reigned supreme in his cage. Edna came out on her own, and later moved herself from the cat-stand near the door to the one on the bench (her new favorite spot), walking past a mellow Stache to get there. She came out at noon with considerable reluctance (with me lifting the whole thing, carrying it to her cube, and upending it before she'd get out). And she wanted to come back out again after that and was much displeased with me for not letting her.

Lemura and Stache between them seem the current bosses; luckily each is a fairly relaxed and benign despot, mostly interested in snoozing. They found spots they liked (on or under cat-stands near the door), from which they napped and enjoyed being petted, with the occasional treat and string game to liven up the morning.  

I enjoyed making the acquaintance of Genesis and young Katniss both of whom have literary names. I put Katniss atop cat-stand #2, from which she made her own way to the cage-tops via the cabinet, which pleased her mightily. She stayed up there most of the morning, till she decided she needed to come down and prowl about. Meanwhile Genesis, our current senior cat, proved to be v. vocal -- she definitely lets you know when she likes how you're petting her. 

Pascale, our resident hider, I placed among the blankets in the cabinet's top shelf, which she seemed to enjoy.

And of course Mr. Niko was In Residence for a string of visitors to see Mr. Niko: Bonnie (with whom I had a nice chat catching up on Mr. Brothers), 'Tim' (a.k.a. Niko's Favorite Person), and Cher. I brought in some high-quality cat treats my own cats had declared Most Excellent treats and gave him some as a going-away treat; he didn't know yet about the going-away part but was pleased to accept the treats. Also played some with the string game, and let me pet him a bit. 

We had few visitors, and those just browsers outside the glass. This was just the opposite of last week, when there was a flood of people, many of whom wanted to chat. Between that and the fewer cats, finished up earlier than usual.

Health concerns: Jane only gave one little sneeze and there was a little residue of a sneeze on the back wall of her cage, but otherwise she seemed fine. She certainly looks healthy, and acted as if she felt well, so maybe we've been lucky this time on the cat-colds. 
   One of the cats had missed her little box; forgot to make a note which but think it was Stache.
   Lemura needed some clean up, which I provided, to her dismay. Took it better than last time, though, so maybe she'll get used to it as a routine she puts up with.

Here's hoping the chance is good for Mr. Niko, that he soon settles in to the new place, and that he doesn't fall into the only-safe-inside-cube routine again. I'll miss him; while he was trouble to deal with, when in a good mood he was a most charming fellow.

--John R.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Beatles' 'RAIN'

So, Saturday we went with friends (Stan, Anne, Sigf.) to see a Beatles tribute band, RAIN, perform at the Moore Theatre downtown.

It was great.

I had my doubts; tribute bands are not really my thing. I'd rather see the real thing* (as in the two times I've seen McCartney perform live) or stay home and enjoy the original recordings (it's rare a day goes by without my playing music, and Beatles records figure prominently into that). But I was born about a decade too late to have ever had a chance to see the real thing here, so it was this or nothing. And they put on quite a show: a note-by-note, gesture-by-gesture re-enactment of the Ed Sullivan show performance, the Shea Stadium show, et al.

I'd thought, from something I'd seen online, that several different people wd be playing each Beatle.** I was wrong about that: it was the same four performers throughout, taking breaks to change clothes and looks as they moved through the various eras of the group's history (British invasion, Rubber Soul/Revolver, Sgt Pepper, post-Pepper, Abbey Road). The guy playing Paul I thought did the best: he really nailed the look and feel of early Paul (and, oddly enough, his bass was the dominant instrument in much of the early part of the show) and did a pretty good job of later Paul as well. By contrast, early John was pretty stiff, but he really came into his own later on: he really looked a lot like late John. Whereas the guy playing George really didn't look much like George whatever they did, but did really get into playing the 'Abbey Road' gravedigger George near the end. Ringo didn't get much of a chance to be Ringo (it's easy to forget now that he was the most popular member of the group), but don't see how they really cd have avoided that, given their approach.

One place where they departed from films of actual performances was in their unplugged session, where Paul, George, and John sat down in a row with guitars and did Blackbird and several others I've now forgotten. It was v. effective, and a good projection of something the Beatles might well have done, had they continued touring and performing live on a regular basis after the mid-point in their career (Paul famously did just such a set that included several Beatles songs in his 1976 'Wings Over America' tour).

Of course, two hours or so isn't nearly enough to do all the Beatles' hits (So little time, so much music). Among the songs they didn't find time for were "Ticket to Ride", "Norwegian Wood", "Nowhere Man", "Lady Madonna", "Something" and, oddly enough, "Rain" itself (this last was broadcast over the loudspeakers at the end as we filed out). They did include one post-Beatles song: Give Peace a Chance, which set me to wondering and thinking what song they might add by each of the others to indicate their post-Beatles career,*** but turned out that one John song was it.

Of course, you have to accept some suspension of disbelief for a show like this to work. I suppose it'd be asking too much to have a left-handed bass player play Paul, but it was jarring to hear they perform "Please Please Me" with no-one playing the harmonica (it was either played backstage by a music ninja or played as a recording). And the great three-person dueling guitar solos of "The End" were all played by 'George' (no easy way for 'Paul' to swap out his bass, for one thing).

In the end, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and found it oddly moving. I'd gladly go see this, or a similar show, again. Though I do wish I cd hear "Hey Jude" actually performed by the band on stage, rather than turned into a sing-along. McCartney himself does this, but it's still annoying. I've never attended a ballet, but I'm pretty sure they don't have a point in the show when they encourage the audience to rise and twirl in place. As that, so this.

As for the song "Rain" itself, it's an old favorite of mine, both for the message (take what comes, enjoy!) and the music. It's on the Beatles' next-to-last album, THE BEATLES AGAIN, a compilation long out of print but full of good music, some of it from the HARD DAYS NIGHT period ("Can't Buy Me Love", "Should Have Known Better"), some mid-period ("Lady Madonna", "Revolution", "Hey Jude" itself), some late, like the underappreciated gem "Don't Let Me Down" (from the LET IT BE sessions) and "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (the last song the Beatles recorded; only John and Paul showed up, recording all the parts between them).

Good music. Good show. Recommended.

--John R.

*groups I have been lucky enough to see include Captain and Tennille, Little River Band, Leon Russell, McCartney, Clapton, Paul Simon, Alan Parsons Project, Tears for Fears, Heart, Three Dog Night (only they were down to Two Dog Night by then), Blood, Sweat, and Tears, et al.

**(I now think there are three or four such groups touring at any given time, but that each is a coherent, cohesive unit)

***the ones I picked were "My Sweet Lord" (George), "It Don't Come Easy" (Ringo), and probably "Maybe I'm Amazed" (Paul), all from 1970/71.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Cat Report (W.1/30-13)

With the adoption of the Sisters (sounds like Lilly and Lou have found a great home) and addition of ATLANTA, GENESIS, and (as of about 10.30 this morning) little AURA, we how have a full house: ten cats in ten cages.

Started the morning with some walks. Atlanta is a very vocal floor-roller who loves nothing more than to roll over and over on a smooth concrete floor (reminded me of Jazz -- or was it Kaia?--except that Atlanta is svelte compared with them). Her vocalizing alarmed the little birds behind the door by the coke machine, and all the twittering from behind that door interested her. Little Tayla was also vocal on her short walk but did a good job with the actual walking. Stache disliked the collar but did some exploring outside the room, especially in the rest room. Have to be careful with all three that they don't dive under the aisles. We had some potential excitement in that PetsMart had an escaped bird (one of their little finches) who was flying about. It landed not far from one of the cats (Stache I think it was), who luckily just watched with interest but didn't go dashing after it. 

((Later I saw it perched atop an aisle trying to peck open a bag of birdseed; they still hadn't caught it by the time I left, though they had a cage with seed in it all set up as a lure.))

Once the walks were over, the cats divided themselves into The Ins and The Outs. The Outs were Atlanta, little Tayla, Stig, Stache, little Aura, and (surprisingly) Jane; the Ins were Genesis, Pascale (who was not only in but buried beneath and behind her blankets), Lemura, and of course Mr. Niko. 

EDNA JANE, the most beautiful of all our cats, came out on her own when I moved the short cat-stand she likes near; stayed atop it for a good while, then later walked along the bench and made her way into the lower level inside the small stand on the bench. There she settled down peaceably until well after noon; when it was time to go inside I lifted the whole thing up and tilted her into her cube.

GENESIS, our new dark calico, I thought wanted some quiet time and to be left alone; only discovered late in the morning that she actually wanted attention and was just waiting for it to be offered on her own terms, without having to come out of her cage. I'll need to do better with her next time and give her lots of petting and making much of. Feel sorry for her as a survivor kitty whose owner passed away. Has an unusual mew -- almost a mew-bark.

LEMURA stayed in until lifted out, then stayed out (atop cat-stand #1) until much later put back in. She was pretty passive overall today; friendly enough but unmotivated.  I'll have to see if I can't get her involved in a game next time.

PASCALE stayed in all morning, rather than come out and explore as she's been doing. Maybe the full room has caused her to withdraw a bit? Sweet but still not trusting. 

MR. NIKO was in a good mood: not at all interested in coming out but welcoming attention (petting, head-butt, game) within his little domain. 

STACHE was her usual relaxed, agreeable self. She came out, she ignored other cats' hissing (whether Atlanta or Jane), she found a spot she liked (top of cat-stand #2), she stayed there. Mellow, welcoming attention from visitors, and just plain chilling out. Probably the most mellow of all our current crop of cats. 

Mr. STIG was easygoing and quiet as usual. I put him up high, which he loved, settling down in the box far away from the other cats. 

ATLANTA is a beautiful cat with a strong personality; think she may well dominate the room. Her philosophy is simple: purr for the people, hiss at the other cats. Loves attention and demands it. Very friendly with visitors -- particularly with one couple that she really bonded with (rubbing legs, purring, following them around); when they left without her she was so upset she hissed at everybody for several minutes. Poor Atlanta -- v. jealous of any attention to other cats; several times I saw her purr when I petted her and then hiss when I petted someone else. 

Little TAYLA loves the steps and enjoyed going up and down. She was out and about, exploring the whole time and amusing hersel, until she eventually went into Stache's cube. Stache was okay with that, even with the two of them in there with the door closed at one point. Not fond of being cuddled or held, but loves games and okay with being petted. Friendly but independent. Note: she loves the string game but kept trying to eat the string she was playing with.

Little AURA the newcomer got hissed at by Atlanta (who took a dislike to her) and decided the best response would be to go hide back in the corner by the laundry hamper. Whenever she tried to come out, she got hissed at again, so eventually decided to say there. I'll try to make some one-on-one time with her next week.

--LOTS of visitors, including a fellow volunteer from the adoption room in Renton's The Landing (nice to meet). Most just wanted to pet cats; a few insisted on sharing stories about how their cats died (which made me glad those weren't seeking to adopt). Eventually had to stop inviting folks in so I cd finish up the cages.

--The string game was popular (Tayla, Stache, Pascale, Jane, Atlanta), as was the 'bug' Cher had provided (Mr. Niko). I'll had to see about getting one of those for my cats at home.

--health concerns: none, really, other than ongoing worry re. Lemura's growing passivity. Atlanta had spilled her water-dish, but that was probably just accident (new cube, new place). 

And that's about it for another Wednesday.

--JOhn R.

UPDATE (2/3-13)
And, in the delay before I got this written up and then posted, Mr. STIG got adopted (2/2/) and both little AURA AND little TAYLA together. It turns out ATLANTA came to the shelter along with her mother, GEORGIA, who's currently up at Woodinville, and they've decided to re-unite them. Not clear yet whether they'll be together at the Tukwila room or the Woodinville one, but sounds like a great development for them both.