Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lewis's Memory

So, I've now finished reading Leslie Baynes's article "C. S. Lewis's Use of Scripture in the 'Liar, Lunatic, Lord' Argument" in THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (Vol 4 No. 2 p. 27& ff), and I think it probably has to be ranked as one of the major essays in Lewis studies. Not for its specific topic and thesis, which are very narrowly focused, but for its larger ramifications.

In brief, Baynes is writing about Lewis's argument, in MERE XIANITY and elsewhere, that it's impossible for anyone to view Jesus as a great moral teacher but a fellow mortal. Instead, Lewis argues, anyone who made the claims about himself that Jesus did could only be a villain, a madman, or God himself. I've never taken this argument very seriously, given that it's self-evidently false: millions of people, from Gandhi to Thomas Jefferson,  HAVE taken Jesus to be a great man but not divine.

Rather than address the question of Jesus's divinity, about which he seems fully in agreement, Baynes's concern is with Lewis's citations from scripture in support in his dictum. He reaches the surprising conclusion that Lewis's argument fails because Lewis quotes inaccurately, conflating the various gospel accounts. And, more seriously, Lewis takes words that appear in the gospels not in their original meaning but as they were defined by church councils in the 4th century. This is startling, because one of the things Lewis is known for as a literary scholar is his insistence that a modern day reader must be aware of the historical meanings of words. That is, if I read Shakespeare or Spenser, I need to be mindful that some words they used have changed meaning over the past five centuries. For me to read those words in the modern sense is to misunderstand what the author from an earlier time is saying. And yet Baynes demonstrates that Lewis does just that when he puts on his theological hat, particularly when it comes to terms like "Son of Man" and "Son of God", which had different meanings in Jesus's time than they did at the time of the church councils that established Catholic orthodoxy.

So, Baynes shoots a hole in Lewis's 'lunatic/liar/lord' theory through the backdoor method of showing that Jesus didn't make the claims Lewis claims he did, and that what Jesus did say meant something quite different from what Lewis thought it did. That's interesting in and of itself, but relatively minor so far as I wd be concerned, since it only applies to one argument Lewis made that I thought floundered under its own incoherence even as he was making it. But to extrapolate from Baynes is to raise a far larger point, with consequences for CSL's literary work: just how reliable was CSL's memory, and how accurate or otherwise are his citations?

Anyone who reads much C. S. Lewis biography comes to be familiar with the claims that CSL had an enormously retentive memory for books.* Yet there's reason to think his memory was less photographic than legend makes it. For example, we know of one case when he was asked about a book he'd read just a few months before about which he could not remember the author, nor the title, and had only a distorted memory of its contents.** What if his memory for literary quotes is no better than Baynes had demonstrated his theological citations to be? Hence, I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has ever checked Lewis's citations against the originals in his scholarly articles, to hear how accurate they turned out to be. I suspect that CSL's literary citations will turn out to be more accurate than his theological ones, but it'd be nice to know.

--John R.
current anime: GOLDEN TIME
current reading: THE SIMON IFF STORIES [1917-1918] by Aleister Crowley

 *In part this may just have been a side-effect of his fondness for re-reading favorite books over and over again; thanks to Janice for that thought.

**This occurred in his first (1942) letter to E. R. Eddison.  I was surprised, a while back, having always read that Charles Williams was venerated by the Oxford undergrads he lectured to, to find he was a figure of fun among the undergrads for his habit of always misquoting poetry. I don't think anything of the sort is true of CSL; merely that he might have been a little less superhuman than is generally believed.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

We have a door!

As of tonight, we now have a newly installed door, the sturdiest we could find, in place of the damaged door from the break-in almost three weeks ago. Now we've cleared out all the boxes we had stacked against the inside of the door, completely filling that section of the stairwell and preventing anyone from getting in (even if they tried kicking the door in, it simply couldn't move with all that stuff filling the space behind it, between it and the wall). The cats have celebrated in their typical fashion: Feanor by going down and wanting in the garage, Hastur by keeping her distance.

--John R.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Profile of Wayne

So, thanks to Jason for sharing the link to a piece on Wayne Hammond that appeared recently in the local college paper. Aside from the first paragraph, in which the student journalist describes his (or her?) dressing up as Bombadil for Halloween, it's a pretty decent profile, and includes a nice description of Wayne & Christina's current project, THE ART OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS. 


--John R.
current reading: A SLIP OF THE KEYBOARD by Terry Pratchett [2014]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


So, yesterday I was surprised by the arrival of a package from England, which turned out to contain an advance copy of my newest publication: an abridged and updated one-volume edition of my massive (thousand-page) HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT. This trimmed down version contains the entire draft manuscript of THE HOBBIT (1930-1932/33), plus the rewritten Gollum chapter (1944 & '47), plus the '1960 Hobbit'. Having heard that some found the size of the full version intimidating, I've been able to shorten the book by cutting back on my commentary, focusing on the most important points rather than exploring all the related by-ways. And of course as always with each new edition I've made corrections and added important new information where possible -- e.g., to the discussion over whether Sinclair Lewis's BABBIT influenced Tolkien's creation of the word 'hobbit' I've added proof that Tolkien was familiar with Lewis's work. I also spent a lot of time improving the index, which is now much shorter. Here's a link to the book's description as it appears on the publisher's website

and here's another to its entry on

N.B. Both these entries give the book as being 592 pages long; actually it's somewhat shorter than that, coming in 542 pages (not counting the index).

The official released date is January 15th.  I'm really looking forward to it -- I'm hoping this new, slimmer edition helps introduce more people to Tolkien's original draft version of the book, and shows them how he put the book together. And, in short, to follow the footsteps of a great writer and see how he created a masterpiece.

--John R.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cat Report (Fr.11/21-14)

Sp, here's a brief report on how the cats were doing Friday morning (11/21); sorry for the delay in posting, but it's been a busy week.

With the arrival first of the kittens AVALONEA and HAGRYPHUS, and then of bonded pair Siamese-ish TOULOUSE and MONET (whom I keep wanting to call LAUTREC*), we were up to nine cats Friday morning -- close to a full room, but they distributed themselves out harmoniously so that it didn't seem as crowded as it really was. Visitors could stand out side and look through the glass and play a 'Find-the-Cats' game. 

BUXTER looked up and started doing her paws up and down and purring when she saw me through the glass when I arrived. Thereafter she took to her favorite spot, the top of the cat-stand by the door, where she welcomed attention (petting) and games (esp. the string game, and feathers). MAEBE, our other veteran, was up and down: sometimes atop the cat-stand by the cabinet, sometimes up on the cage-tops. She also enjoyed the string game and esp. the feathers. 

Of our Three Shy Cats, little CLOUD made her way, in that quiet, determined way she has, to her safe spot underneath the cat-stand by the cabinet, where she sometimes joined in the feathers game -- a little yellow paw darting out now and then when the feathers went swishing by. I wd say she's the best hider we've got, but on second thought ANUBUS AUGUSTUS (great name!) is probably her match.  After a little petting in his cage, Anubus chose the cubbyhole on the bench, where he blends into the shadows with that solid black coat of his. He's certainly shy, but very alert and welcomes petting -- unlike MONET (LAUTREC), poor thing, who's very shy and withdrawn. Lautrec refused to come out of his cage, shrank back when being petted, and generally showed every sign of being miserable at being in a strange new place. Hope Toulouse's sunny disposition and attention from us help his partner relax and gain some confidence that we're not all cat-eating fiends.
As for Lautrec's brother, TOULOUSE played with kittens, and even groomed them a bit by the end of the morning. Very gentle, very playful, very affectiate. What a great cat; a couple came in and were very taken with him, and he was so happy at the attention he purred for several minutes after they left.  it was fun to see the photo taken since of Toulouse and little Hagryphus sleeping together in the cubbyhole (thanks for sharing), or to hear that he's been grooming both kittens, and even trying to carry them around by the scruff. Is he bonding with the kittens, or is he just that outgoing a cat ('sociable' doesn't seem to do it justice)?

TIZZY, our other mellow-fellow, also played with the kittens, particularly with the ball-in-a-circle toy. Tizzy enjoys attention, but what I think he likes most is to go into the other cats' cages;  at one point he was hanging out with Lautrec in the double-wide on the left, at another in the kittens' double-wide cage on the left. Maybe he just likes the space, being a good-sized cat himself. I took either Toulouse or TIzzy out for a walk at the end of my shift, but I've since forgotten which (and apparently didn't make a note). Whichever one it was, he did really well, paying a visit to the bird side of the store and staying calm when spotting a dog a good way off. 

As for The KittensHAGRY (Hagryphus), the boy, is the one with the tail doubled back at the end. AVALONEA, the girl, has a more subtle distinction:  her tail is longer than usual, as if she had an extra joint or two in her tail-vertebrae. Both love just about every kind of game there is (pity I didn't think to try the laser pointer), and happily played with anyone who'd play with them (i.e., Toulouse and TIzzy). They also were interested in supervising the cleaning of the cages, especially their own and the other bonded pair's. 

There was great interest all around when I got out Anubus's special food, which apparently has a v. appealing aroma for cats. Toulouse was especially interested.  It was good to see each cat's weight added to the file; hadn't realized that Miss Buxter weighs exactly twice what little Cloud does.

Speaking of which, the big news over the weekend was that little Cloud has now been adopted and is now in a home of her own. A happy ending for a shy, sweet little cat. 

--John R.

*and I'm not the only one; a visitor made the same connection.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tolkien's Jonah

So, the current issue of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (Vol. 4 No. 2) finally arrived a week ago Monday, and it was well worth the wait.

First and foremost, it provides us with a new Tolkien text: his translation of THE BOOK OF JONAH for the England-language version of THE JERUSALEM BIBLE -- not the version published back in 1966, which it turns out was reworked by another hand (one Alan Neame, responsible for imposing a consistent style on the Old Testament section), but the text as Tolkien himself submitted it to Alexander Jones, the project's editor. In addition, an accompanying essay by Brendon N. Wolfe (the J.I.S.'s Tolkien editor) provides background and context to Tolkien's involvement in the project. There are plenty of quotes from Jones's letters to Tolkien, but unfortunately not of Tolkien's side of the correspondence (which wd have figured largely into the previous, unsuccessful attempt to publish Tolkien's JONAH). We learn that Tolkien did a translation of the first chapter of ISAIAH as a sample, though only two verses from this are included in Wolfe's essay. Also, and rather surprisingly, that Tolkien was against using "thee" and "thou" in this project, given that he skews towards the archaic in his own translations. As Jason Fisher has pointed out, Tolkien does use an unusual word at one point, describing the vine that grows to shade the prophet as a "colocynth", a word few readers of his text would have recognized (it's a plant better known as a bitter apple or, most colorfully, the vine of Sodom, a sort of desert melon). Here's the link to Jason's piece (the comments to which are also interesting):

All I have to add to this is that the translation/adaptation of JONAH Tolkien was probably most familiar with, the Gawain-poet's PATIENCE, opts for the familiar and homey over the exotic and strange, calling it a wodbynde (woodbine, a kind of honeysuckle)

Finally, it was news to me that the poet Roy Campbell would probably have been one of the translators but died before beginning work on his section (the 'Song of Songs') --though given Campbell's reputation it might be just as well that his name was not associated with the project.

As for the rest of the issue, it includes what must be one of the final pieces by the late Stratford Caldecott as well as a lengthy piece on CSL's weird claim that Jesus can't be viewed as a great but non-divine teacher; it's interesting to see how Baynes, the author, places Lewis within a tradition that was skeptical of claims for Biblical inerrancy but accepting of the miracles at the core of the Xian story --v. much 'mere Christianity' as Lewis understood it.

Best of all, perhaps,*  is the announcement in the editorial of this issue of a new venture by the folks behind THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES, a series publishing for the first time major works by various Inklings such as Warnie Lewis's MEMOIR of his brother (extracts of which served as a Foreword to the 1966 edition of CSL's LETTERS), the complete GREAT WAR philosophical papers by Barfield and Lewis (presently known only through Lioney Adey's excellent summary and explication), and Barfield's long poem RIDERS ON PEGASUS (a.k.a. 'The Mother of Pegasus'). Here's hoping this series gets established and thrives: not only are all these projects eminently worthwhile but any Inklings scholar or serious fan of their works can easily think of other titles worthy to be added to that list.

--John R.
current reading: THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (comics)

*(aside from the publication of Tolkien's JONAH itself, of course)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Week

So, Monday afternoon (a week ago yesterday) I returned home after a good session working on my FALL OF ARTHUR paper on the laptop at the local Starbucks to find a window smashed, a door twisted out of shape, two other doors standing open, and the apartment burgled. My first thought was, is the thief or thieves still inside? My second was, what if the cats got out? With that in mind, I went inside and had a quick look-around: lots of stuff disturbed, some things missing, no sign of the cats or the intruders. So I called 911,* had another quick look inside, and then waited for the police.** The officer arrived within just a few minutes, and after a quick question we went through the townhouse room by room. I mentioned being worried about the cats, who might have been so spooked they bolted through the open doors and, being housecats, didn't know how to take care of themselves once they were outside. The policewoman said, 'well, there's one of them now'. And indeed it was: Feanor came out of wherever he was hiding, probably upon hearing my voice. I still didn't want him to get out, so I put him on the balcony on the other side of the sliding door as a temporary measure. Didn't find Hastur, but suspected she was probably well-hidden, given that she goes to ground whenever friends come over; turned out she was under the bed, so I put Feanor in with her, along with some food and water, on the other side of a secure door.

The officer dusted for fingerprints but said the intruder seems to have worn gloves. We lost a laptop, some binoculars, and a set of silverware still in its original presentation box, none of which we expect to see again. No large items were taken -- nothing that wd have taken two people to carry, or that wd have been conspicuous if someone had been seen carrying it. The officer concluded it was likely a single person with a backpack. I was tasked with writing up a report of everything that was missing, to be submitted by the police along with a case number: brand names and serial numbers are apparently a big help. After the officer left I tried comforting the cats a little, made a hasty start on the list, did a slightly more thorough look-through from room to room, and then went to get Janice.

And now, over a week later, we're still dealing with the aftermath, and will be for weeks to come: getting the broken window fixed, exploring options about making the downstairs more secure, replacing the damaged door, thinking of ways to prevent a recurrence. The folks at the Apple store told Janice how to remotely delete everything on her vanished laptop, which she's done (and just in time too; someone tried to access it the next day). Lots of passwords have been changed, just to be on the safe side.

The week's weirdness didn't stop there. Wednesday afternoon I spent babysitting for the daughter of a friend; we watched anime together (RANMA 1/2) and generally had a good time, but it did mean a hard drive home afterwards in the dark (my night-vision seems to have declined a few more notches since the last time I was up that way at night). Thursday I watched cats at the cat-room, filling in for someone else who'd taken my usual Wednesday shift the day before (thus having enabled me to do the babysitting); Friday we had one of our 'Work-at-John's day'. And through it all the cats were unusually sociable, staying with us and settling in whichever room we were in.

Saturday after a busy week we got together with friends and watched the last Japanese-made GODZILLA movie, which was simply bizarre, an attempt to throw in every monster they cd from every previous such movie, topped off with a soundtrack by Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer fame). Sunday we visited a friend in the hospital; first time I've ever visited a psychiatric ward, which was a strange experience (lots of rules and regulations, some of which you'd expect and others you wdn't). Yesterday and today things have been getting back on track: good progress on the Tolkien paper (which I need to wrap up by the end of the year) and in general things slipping out of on-edge, waiting-for-the-shoe-to-drop mode back into daily life. Monday evening we even had our usual D&D game (we were short a player so our characters ran away a lot).

And yet today, when I thought things really were back to normal they cut down my favorite trees in all of Kent. So there may still be more weirdness in the offing.

In the end, though, we only lost stuff: the only thing that's irreplaceable being the silverware, which had belonged to Janice's parents. The burglar cd have trashed the place, which he didn't. Various small things, of no particular value but irreplaceable because of the memories associated with them, were passed by, for which we're grateful.  Janice and I and the cats are all safe. And we've seen friends going through rough times that makes us realize we're still among the lucky ones. But it'll still be a long time before we altogether get over it.

--John R.
current reading: A HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT and an unpublished dissertation on JRRT.

*I've since been instructed in no uncertain terms that I shd have done this in the opposite order, calling 911 first. Live and learn.

**having been burgled once before, back in my Marquette days, I know that there's a difference between a robbery, which involves a threat of violence, and a burglary, which is simply theft. There's nothing like being on the receiving end of a burglary to make one sympathize with Smaug's point of view.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Cat Report (Th. 11/13-14)

So, with new arrivals we're up to five (soon to be seven) cats: BUXTER and MAEBE, little CLOUD, and newcomers TIZZY and ANUBUS AUGUSTUS; two kittens will join us as soon as they recover from their spay/neutering.

Have to say things were remarkably peaceful. The cats distributed themselves around the room, divvying up favorite spots, then settling down to enjoy a good snooze, all without a hiss or growl among them.

MAEBE (our dark calico) and BUXTER (our tuxedo cat)  were in good form today. Maebe showed off her leaping skills: up atop the cat-stand by the cabinet, a quick walk along the cagetops, and then back across to the top of the cat-stand by the door, which she claimed for her own. Buxter originally chose the top of the other cat-stands but then moved to share the same cat-stand as sister Maebe.  Haven't seen them look so much like a bonded pair since they moved into separate cages. Both were playful as well: Buxter enjoyed the string game and Maebe did as well, but what really got Maeve excited was the gopher game, which she played with enthusiasm.  Buxter had a walk a little before noon: she went bird-watching. I made sure she stayed well back, but her attention was certainly riveted.

Little CLOUD (our little pale yellow mama cat) explored a lot around the cabinet end of the room, having first established a base camp in the rondel under the cat-stand by the cabinet. She was very friendly, even downright gregarious at times, and mewed for attention quite a lot. While still a natural-born burrower (she's going to spend lots of time exploring the backs of closets in whatever home she winds up in) she's really come out of her shell. She doesn't like walks, though; too scary she thinks.

TIZZY (grey and white, with light and dark shades in the grey), whom I think I'll call 'Talker', is one of our two new males: a very vocal cat who talks back if you talk to him. He's on the shy side but does well so long as he has his cage door open to allow for a hasty retreat if something spooks him (which happens a lot). He decided, very reasonably, that he preferred Anubus's larger cage to his own and spent a good time hanging out in there. Loves being petted and talked to (not necessarily in that order).

ANUBUS AUGUSTUS (sleek and solid black, our other new male cat -- and what a great name) was playing with Maebe early on, before even coming out of his cage: she was up high peering down at him and he was reaching up with his paw trying to locate her above him. Once out he took himself up high, staked his claim to the box up there, and stayed in his perch all morning. Very self-possessed cat who knows what he wants and takes the most direct route to get it.

Be interesting to see how the addition of two kittens affects the current harmony.

A fair number of viewers and visitors admiring the cats.

No health concerns: everyone seemed okay.

--John R.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Turtles showing Alligators who's Boss

So, today's post wd have been about Tolkien's JONAH, which finally arrived. But that was before I came home at 2.30 and discovered the break-in; the rest of the day's been spent blocking up the burglar's entry route, making a list of what's missing, and changing a whole lot of passwords.

Have to say, burglars are a lot more fun to read about, in stories by Tolkien and Dunsany, than to experience first-hand.

So, instead here's a picture of turtles.*  Look closely: those are not logs the turtles are sunning themselves on.

I know my own mental image of turtles changed a lot after I saw a clip on the BBC of turtles in an African watering hole chasing down waterfowl that landed there. Clearly the turtles in this picture either think themselves lords of their domain or are certain a life-and-let-live pact exists with their fellow reptiles. Let's hope they're right about that.

--John R.

*thanks to Janice for the picture

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The 2015 Tolkien Calendar

So, this past month or so has been a good month for interesting books arriving, some but by no means all Tolkien related. One of the more interesting non-book but Tolkien-related items is this coming year's Tolkien Calendar. I've been trying to find this at my local bookstores for weeks, ever since the 2015 calendars started to arrive in August/September. I finally gave up on the Tukwila B&N a few days after we got back from our trip, and bought it at the B&N down in Federal Way instead (Th. Oct. 23rd) -- only to see it finally arrive at my local store (which had still not had it as late as W. the 22nd) the next day (Fr. the 24th). So it goes.

The illustrator is Mary Fairburn, whom Tolkien himself observed had a rather hobbitish name, and the story of how she came to illustrate Tolkien is an interesting one -- perhaps rather more interesting than the art itself.

As a young artist, Fairburn sent her work directly to Tolkien back in 1968 in hopes that she might be able to do an illustrated edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Tolkien was much impressed by her work and even purchased some of it for himself when plans for the proposed illustrated edition fell through (not to be realized until many years later with the Folio Society and, later, Alan Lee editions). Fairburn herself didn't keep any of the art, but a number of pieces survive because she gave them to a friend who kept them all these years. This calendar collects together the surviving original pieces, most of which Tolkien saw and approved, plus her re-creation of some of the missing ones.

The best piece by far is the one used as the calendar's cover and again as the image for the month of April: the bottom half is Tolkienesque in its use of contour lines, while the top half is distinctly Sime-ish,* esp about the clouds and sky.

In general I much prefer the older pieces, which are more distinctive in style, as well as more surreal and slightly creepy: the Inn at Bree, the Old Forest, the Bridge of Khazad-dum, the Nazgul over Dead Marshes,** and an unusual Treebeard. Tolkien's favorite was the Mirror of Galadriel, perhaps due to its simplicity and her attention to background.

The more recent ones -- of Rivendell, of the Fellowship climbing the lower tree-covered slopes of Caradhras, of Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith -- look fairy-taleish, more like they're intended for a children's book, and have a lighter, greener pallet. The exception is the Cracks of Doom, which is downright Art Deco-ish.

As an added bonus, the calendar also comes with an interesting essay by Paul Tankard giving a brief bio of Fairburn and a history of the project, quoting from her correspondence with Tolkien, and describing how it faltered under the complications and difficulties of both Tolkien's and Fairburn's lives. A more detailed version of this essay appeared in the TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT at the time of the artwork's re-discovery and can be found at the following link:

All in all, it's good to have Fairburn's story, and the previously unpublished passages from Tolkien's letters. It's nice that Fairburn, now 82 and living in Australia, gets recognition and a little glory for her work. And it's good to see the art, which stands up v. well by comparison with what Tolkien art there was in the late Sixties -- this is even earlier, I think, than Tim Kirk, and of course both earlier and far better than The Hildebrandts.


*I'm thinking about the late Sime here, after he'd retired from illustrating and worked away in his studio at Worplesdon on whatever image pleased him, most strikingly a portrait of John on Patmos.

**this picture is accompanied by a rather defensive note to the effect that "Gollum is painted black, in accordance with at least seven references in The Lord of the Rings" --presumably whoever wrote this note had become aware of Tolkien insistence, in his comments on Pauline Baynes' disastrous attempt to portray Gollum, that Gollum is pale-skinned.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tolkien's Shopping List (and a new poem)

So, thanks to Jason Fisher for sharing the news that a London auctionhouse is about to auction off a previously unknown poem by JRRT ("Aredhel went forth in blossom white"). It's a fascinating little piece which retells part of the story of The White Lady, sister of Turgon and Fingon. From the promising and evocative opening reproduced on the auction-house's website, I hope Tolkien continued the poem elsewhere and that this quick draft of the first stanza and a bit more isn't all we have of it.  Still, even if that's the case, we now have more of it that we did before, and its very existence draws attention to a free-spirited figure who unfortunately plays only a small role in the events of THE SILMARILLION.

And, on the back, we get a quick to-do list. Tolkien-bashers have facetiously been talking about "Tolkien's shopping list" for years: now they'll finally get to see how much we Tolkien fans (who are legion) will pay for it. Plus, of course, an unpublished and previously unknown poem. I know I'd love to own it if I had that kind of money.

And if you do have that kind of money, the auction is scheduled for next Thursday, at one o'clock, in Bloomsbury (London); their estimate is that it'll go for between four thousand and six thousand pounds.

Here's the link:

--John R.
Today's song: "Where is the Walrus?" (Alan Parsons Project)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Cat Report (W. 11/5-14)

Tuesday night's adoption of DIVA/Gracie (go, Diva!), plus Wednesday night's adoption of the kittens FUCHSIA and WYSTERIA, leaves us with just three cats left unadopted in the cat-room: BUXTERMAEBE, and little CLOUD.

The kittens were still very much in evidence, though, when I was there yesterday morning: their motto was we're kittens and we're out, and the older cats all coped with this flurry of activity by going high (Maebe, Buxter) or laying low (Cloud). The later strategy, of Cloud's hiding back in the corner in a nice little nest she made by the laundry hamper, particularly intrigued the kittens, who kept going back time after time to check on her and see if she was still there. Maebe started out on the cat-stand by the cabinet but later shifted herself up to the cagetops, where she did some serious snoozing in the cat-box up there; not even the kittens tearing back and forth up there disturbed her.  Buxter settled in her favorite spot atop the cat-stand by the door, where she luxuriated in my giving her a good, long, deep backscratch. She also enjoyed the string game, and showed a real enthusiasm for the soft pink blanket, coming down from her perch to stand on it and do her paws up and down, purring all the while.

Maebe was also interested in the string game while still on the cat-stand; she put such things behind her when she went up high to settle down to some serious sleeping.

Little Cloud showed real progress since last week: a week ago (10/29) she'd been cowering at the back of her cage. Two days later she let me pet her but really, really didn't want to have to come out of her safe territory (the cage). And now this Wednesday (11/5) she came up to the front of her cage and paraded before I even opened the door, let me pick up and carry her, welcomed being petted, and even went for a short walk (beware her wanting to go under shelves, and the speed with which she makes a dash with that goal in mind). She even cried when I put her back in her cage at noon and had to leave for the day. Think she'll quickly become a very sociable cat, at least with people. I'm surprised sometime at how small she is: she and the kittens are about the same length.

As for the kittens, they played with each other all morning. I forgot to bring their favorite mouse-on-a-stick game, but they made do nicely playing with the little plastic eggs, which went skittering as well as any ping-pong balls could have done. Their favorite, though, was the old yarn-and-chain game, which they pursued with vigor. At one point they found and ate some wet catfood that'd been left up on the cagetops, presumably since the night before; by the time I noticed what they were up to it was too late to stop them. And as before they had no interest in being picked up or petted until they crashed around 11, then welcomed being petted while they slept like only tired kittens can. 

Lots of visitors, some of whom said they'd adopted from Purrfect Pals in the past, and at least one who shares my love of small black cats. One woman had forgotten her cat's pre-adoption name but mistook a photo of Kaspar for him, so that's what he looks like (aside from having a notch out of one ear). Before my time, I think: sound familiar to anybody?  Another had a bonded pair named Tig and Tag, but I'm not sure if those were their original names or not. We also had lots of visitors, cat people who wanted to pet and make much of our cats (which the cats enjoyed), plus a fair number of families that viewed the cats from outside. One woman had a blind cat who's twenty-one and a deaf cat who's seventeen, so clearly she's doing something right.

Forgot one thing I forgot to include in the last (composite) Cat Report: when I was in Friday last week I decided to mix things up and so moved the cat-stands around. This interested and pleased the cats greatly, though it made it hard for me to get around in the room (so I put them all back in their usual places before I left at noon). Gracie/Diva was particularly fond of the cave I made for her by draping a blanket over part of the cat-stand closer to the cabinet, turning the middle-sections into a blanket-cave from which she could see out but others cdn't easily see in.

It's been such an amazing month for adoptions. Here's hoping Buxter and Maebe's turns come soon.

--John R.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


So, yesterday the extended edition of THE HOBBIT movie two, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, came out. I had some trouble finding a copy, having to make two stops and eventually to settle for BlueRay rather than the DVD I'd have preferred. I was not only eager to watch the extended edition itself, particularly the new and expanded (and, in at least one case, re-edited) scenes, but I was curious to see the extras.

You see, I'd been flown down to L.A. (my first time ever visiting that vast city) this summer, where I'd been interviewed about THE HOBBIT by the folks making a documentary to go on the dvd as one of the extras. I was much impressed with their professionalism, and the degree to which they'd done their homework, and in general found it an interesting and enjoyable experience.

Still, that didn't mean any of the resulting footage wd necessarily be included in the final piece. They have a lot of Tolkien scholars to choose from, and any bits from me might well end up on the cutting room floor.

Turns out, though, that quite a lot of it made the final cut. Here's a shot Janice took last night of it playing on our tv.

My contribution is mostly in the dragon piece; I'm impressed how they've woven together lines by Shippey, myself, and John Howe to form a coherent narrative. So far I've only caught one gaff, where I say 'the saga of Bothvar Bjarki' where I shd have said 'the story of Bothvar Bjarki, part of the saga of Hrolf Kraki'. As gaffs go, I can live with it; much less embarrassing than Langland/Gower. 

More later, when I've had a chance to watch the whole extended edition all the way through, as well as all the documentaries and extras.

--John R.
today's song: "I'll Be Your Shelter"
current reading: extended edition of ATB, prehistory of Egypt book.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Cat Report (10/22, 10/24; 10/29, 10/31)

So, while I was away in the Midwest, there was plenty of activity in the cat room. The bonded pair CASTLE and WINDSOR came and went and are now happily settled in their new home. The other new arrivals were Cher's four (mostly black) kittens: WYSTERIA, FUSCHIA, LILAC, and ZENNIA, two of which (Lilac and Zennia) were adopted right away, before my return. The other new arrival was DIVA (who, as a fellow volunteer observed to me, really out to be called Gracie): a smooth-furred grey cat who gives the impression of bulging at the seams.

So the cat population when I got back was good girl MOLLINI, the sisters BUXTER and MAEBE, plus the kittens FUSCHIA and WYSTERIA, plus DIVA-Gracie. I was particularly glad to see Mollini again, who I think I finally figured out: she hated being picked up, and much preferred if I made a path for her to leap from small stand to big stand to her own cage (or vice-versa). She'd become the one cat who really likes to hang out near the door, so she got that territory all to herself (aside from encroachment by the kittens). Buxter and Maebe went to their usual spots (atop the cat-stand by the door and to the cagetops, respectively); Gracie was much worried at being surrounded by all these cats and gravitated towards the middle-levels of the cat-stand by the cabinet. At one point she became interested in going into the cabinet herself, but her leap (not v. far) fell short, and she wentcrashing to the floor. Didn't seem hurt, but also didn't try leaping again. Poor Diva.

And of course there was much activity by Wysteria and Fushia, chasing balls, tearing up rolls of paper towels, chasing feathers, stalking that little red light from the laser pointer, chasing ping-pong balls, pouncing on string,and of course chasing each other. Their favorite toy, bar none, seemed to be the mouse-on-a-stick, which they would catch, bite down on, and then drag away to a spot where they could concentrate on biting it properly. They're natural-born mousers, I'd say -- one of them even figured out how to unhook the 'mouse' from the line, making it easier for them to carry their trophy around.  Cute as they are, they don't seem to want to be picked up or cuddled, but when they finally crash around noontime they welcome being petted, stretching and purring with approval.

The bad news from this week was that the man who adopted BOOGIEMAN last year (Sept. 2013 I think it was) came by in great distress, saying that Boogieman (or 'Bugle Boy' as he'd renamed him) was in failing health, losing weight rapidly and beginning to have trouble walking with the back legs. Sad to say that the vets Cher put him in touch with were unable to help and he died on Tuesday (the 28th). Poor Boogieman. He was one of our most memorable cats, along with his partner in belly-up snoozing outside the room Mr. Moreo. I'm glad he had that year and more of a home of his own before the end.

The next week, the week of Halloween, brought good news to our longest-serving-cat, Mollini, who finally got adopted (the evening of October 24th), after having been here in the cat-room since May.  I'll really miss her, but I'm so glad she's got a home now. I'm sure she's already sitting on the couch next to her new people, teaching them The Rules.

The other great good news was that my pal KABOODLE has also been adopted (as of I think Monday the 27th). He was one of my favorites of all the cats who've passed through the cat-room in the past five years or so; I'd gladly have adopted him if we weren't already at our limit. I felt bad for him when he had to go back to the main clinic for health problems and have been checking the website from time to time to see if he'd gone back on the adoptable list but not seen his name appear. Turns out there was someone else who'd made a connection with him, who'd been checking for his name weekly, and who went and promptly adopted him as soon as he was pronounced good to go. I'm sorry not to have had the chance to see him again, but I'm so glad he finally has that long-awaited home (having waited the better part of a year; according to my notes, he arrived at the Tukwila cat room in early January, and has been up at the main shelter since April).

The main event of this week was the new arrival, CLOUD, a young (maybe a year old, maybe less) pale orange mama cat with an injured eye. I don't think she can see anything out of the left eye, and I think that makes her skittish -- certainly she hisses at the other cats when she notices them, but somethings doesn't seem to know they're there, or how close they are.  The first day (W. 10/29) she cowered in her cage so I didn't force thing, straightened up around her, and generally tried to put her on her ease. By Friday (Halloween) she clearly felt safer and came up requesting attention, ate a little, and actually came out on her own and explored a little. She's still definitely no fan of the other cats, but perhaps she'll reach a live-and-let-live agreement with them soon.

As for the others, BUXTER and MAEBE had  a quiet day in their respective spots. Gracie explored the steps but decided that rather than stepping off onto the cagetops she'd go back down, backwards. As usual when a cat decides to climb down backwards, it didn't work for her as well as she'd hoped. Luckily I intervened and got her down safely. The kittens did better, and one of them quite liked having a route up to new and interesting territory.

No walks for anyone, since Buxter no longer seems to enjoy them and she was the only cat among our current crop I could persuade to go on walks -- Gracie makes a concerted dive to hide under the shelving, the kittens think the leash is a diabolically clever plot of some sort, Maebe yowls despairingly, and Cloud has seemed too spooked already to risk it.

It was good to hear that Moanie and Joanie, who I remember as kittens, are doing well and to see pictures of them as full-grown (and rather beautiful) cats. The only other news of note was that Ginsu's owner came by; said she'd adopted him about five years ago and he's doing fine.

--John R.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bombadil arrives!

So, my copy of the new extended edition of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL has now arrived*, and I'm glad to say it's an appealing little book. It's a small-sized hardcover, a little shorter and a little wider than a standard mass market paperback (or, to put it another way, about the same size as a cd jewelcase, only a little taller).  There's a lot of material here -- new editorial introduction giving the history of the volume, a reprinting of the entire contents of the 1962 book, an extensive section of commentary reprinting earlier versions of the poems, three pages in tengwar, the all-too-brief fragment of the Bombadil story, and the third, previously uncollected Bombadil poem, along with another (non-Bombadil) poem they suggest might be a precursor to it.

I haven't had time to read carefully all the way through it yet, so here are some first impressions

(1) I was wrong is saying this was a Hammond & Scull volume, like ARTIST & ILLUSTRATOR, THE ART OF THE HOBBIT, and the LotR READER'S COMPANION. Instead, it's a Scull & Hammond volume, like ROVERANDOM, the FARMER GILES OF HAM extended edition, and the two volume JRRT COMPANION & GUIDE.

(2) The Story of Tom Bombadil is indeed very short, only three paragraphs long, a mere 262 words -- most of which is devoted to setting the scene in the days of King Bonhedig, long before the days of Arthur. What little we do have is interesting because of its unexpected parallels to the opening of FARMER GILES, and for its contribution of another of Tolkien's invasion sequences; it'll be interesting to compare the one here with that in Tolkien's notes for THE LOST ROAD and also those glimpsed in notes and outlines to THE BOOK OF LOST TALES (esp. in the story of Eriol/AElfwine).

(3)  "The Dragon's Visit" is indeed unfortunately omitted from this expanded edition (as well as "Kortirion among the Trees", which is much less of a loss). The good news is that "Once Upon a Time", the third and final Bombadil poem, is indeed included, along with another (non-Bombadil) poem they suggest might be a precusor to it. I'm dubious both on the merits of the latter and its connection between the two, but still it's good to have another Tolkien poem reprinted where it'll be more accessible to more people.

(4) In the matter of "Fastitocalon" and "Cat", they do indeed preserve the second (revised) sequence but fix two references in Tolkien's Preface so that they now each refer to the correct poem respectively. They were not able to restore the flames to the picture of Fastitocalon, but this is because they reprint all the incidental art within the body of the original book here in black and white.

(5) They describe [p. 20] the original dustjacket as having depicted the mariner from "Errantry"; I have always assumed this is the narrator of "The Sea-Bell". Not only does he and his ship lack any of the panoply so prominently featured in "Errantry" but he actually holds in his hand the sea-shell that awakens the sea-longing in "The Sea-Bell" (he's also incidently sailing past a bell in the sea, ringing on a buoy).

(6) One minor piece of errata: they say [p. 24] that three of the poems Tolkien recorded in 1967 were not used on the Caedmon record POEMS AND SONGS OF MIDDLE EARTH and "were issued only in 2001" as part of the JRRT AUDIO COLLECTION. In fact, "The Sea-Bell" is included on the 1967 Caedmon record. It's omitted from the track listing on the back of the album cover, but does appear on the label of the record itself. I only caught this because I've had this record for years, and sometimes still dig it out and play it (I'm not part of the 'vinyl revival; I just kept all my old records and still listen to them on occasion); this recording has long been a great favorite of mine: one of Tolkien's best readings of what I consider to be his best poem.

More to come: I'll try to do a quick wrap-up final impression piece once I've read all the way through the highly informative treasure trove that is the commentary and notes.

--John R.
yesterday's song: "Cool Night" by Paul Davis
currently reading: THE SHADOW OF REICHENBACH FALLS and ATB expanded edition

* I was going to say, fresh from England, but actually it was mailed from Fife -- and took less time to get here than many of the books I order from the US branch,