Wednesday, April 29, 2020

My Favorite Crustacean

So, for a while there on our daily walks I've spotted at least one, and sometimes as many as three, roly-polies. I've always liked roly-polies: if I had a terrarium, that's what I'd have it in.

I recently found that (1) they're terrestrial crustaceans and (2) despite their similarity in appearance are not related to trilobites.

A close second would be crawdads, which wd require an aquarium, they being aquatic but freshwater crustaceans who mostly inhabited big, persistent puddles. I don't think they live in these parts --at least I don't see the little mudball towers they build to retreat to in dry weather.  I remember them best from our time at Fordyce (when I was in third grade).

It's be nice to have some around, but it wd be just asking for trouble to introduce an aquarium or terrarium into a household with two young, energetic, resourceful small predators (the cats).

--John R
current reading: LAVONDYSS by Rbt Holdstock (1988)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Literary Faces (III)

So, here's someone with a famous name but not a famous face.

--John R.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Literary Faces (II)

So, here's another photo of a famous writer. The last one got identified right away; I'm curious to see how long it'll take for this one.

--John R.

UPDATE (April 28th 2020)
Here's another clue, in the form of an earlier photo, taken almost thirty years earlier: his mug shot taken in 1945 when he was committed to the asylum:


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The New Arrivals (Vaninskaya and Doyle)

So, the newest Tolkien-related books to arrive are UTOPIAN AND DYSTOPIAN THEMES IN TOLKIEN'S LEGENDARIUM by Mark Doyle (on Th 4/15) and FANTASIES OF TIME AND DEATH: DUNSANY, EDDISON, TOLKIEN by Anna Vaninskaya (on Friday the 24th). Both are moderately pricey hardcovers, the Doyle from Lexington Books --their first Tolkien-themed title so far as I know, though they do have a call for papers out for a collection of essays on TOLKIEN AND THEOLOGY* --the Vaninskaya from Palgrave, which has what is by now a well-established line of Tolkien titles (Fimi, Chance, Rosebury, Coutras, Lee & Solopova).

I'm reading the Doyle now, after which comes the Eddison/Dunsany/Tolkien book. I found out not long ago that there's never been a book on Eddison, astonishing as that is; not even one of those little Borgo Press booklets. So here's hoping this volume may help fill that sizable gap in fantasy studies. And as a self-proclaimed Dunsany scholar (one of the few out there) I'm particularly interested in seeing what the TIME AND DEATH book has to say about Dunsany's work. Also, a quick glance at the Tolkien chapter --seventy-five pages pages of text of which fifteen are notes--suggests that she may be a kindred spirit to my own heavily noted style of scholarship.

ADDENDUM: While I was drafting this piece the Tupelo honey we'd ordered arrived --twenty pounds' worth, or about a year's supply.  So make that three new arrivals, not just two:

It joins the ten pounds' worth we still had in the cupboard left over from last year's stockpile. Pity it doesn't grow around here but it can only be found on and around the Florida panhandle.**

--today's music: ELO's "Suite for a Rainy Day"
--current reading: NET EFFECT (Wells), TREASURE ISLAND (Stevenson)

**for a little more about Tupelo honey, check out the L. L. Lanier website

Friday, April 24, 2020

Literary Faces (I)

Back in my Marquette days as a TA (Teaching Assistant) I used to enjoy putting pictures of famous writers up on my office door. I found it interesting to contrast my preconception of what the writer of some significant work looked like with what he or she really looked like.

So I thought it might be fun to post a series of photographs or portraits of famous writers to see if folks cd recognize who they were. Some will be obvious, others less so.

Here's writer #1:

I'll post the answer in a few days in the comments.

--current reading: NETWORK EFFECT by Martha Wells (2020), UTOPIAN AND DYSTOPIAN THEMES IN TOLKIEN'S LEGENDARIUM by Mark Doyle (2020)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Vignettes of Christopher

So, my newest publication is just out: a short memorial of Christopher Tolkien that appears as a Note in the newest issue of MYTHLORE.* It's paired with a piece by Bill Fliss, the Tolkien archivist at Marquette, which gives a brief but fact-filled account of Marquette's interactions with Christopher over the years. I had not known, for example, that Christopher had been in touch with Marquette as long ago as 1974, when he wrote to them seeking a copy of the unpublished EPILOGUE to LotR. As part of his due diligence he needed to consult the Epilogue in case it contained any link or allusion to THE SILMARILLION, upon which he had just embarked.

My own piece, I now see in retrospect, is a series of glimpses of Christopher in different settings, some wholly in keeping with the persona or image we all had of him and others very much at variance thereto. Christopher in an I-Hop the morning the 1987 MythCon ended. Christopher at the Wade in Wheaton. Christopher in the quad at Keble College. Christopher at the Eagle and Child. I wasn't able to marshal my thoughts to write a proper memoir, but it seemed right to share a few memories that so far as I know weren't written down anywhere, or at least not from my perspective.

--John R.

*MYTHLORE #136 (Spring/Summer 2020) pages 125-127; Bill's piece immediately precedes it, on pages 123-125. The two pieces go well together and read as if we'd planned them as complementary pieces, but this is more from good fortune than design.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Thirteen)

Wednesday April 22nd 2020

And with that, our seeing of sights wd have been over and our attention wd have turned to the trip home. The day wd have started with checking out of the hotel, getting to the airport, checking in for our doubly foreign flight (first to Germany and then on to the US). It wd be a long trip, all the way to the US west coast. Once home we shd be greeted by the cats, who no doubt wd have been baffled by the length of our absence. We'd be left with a lot of memories of having been at some amazing places and seen in person things I've  read about since at  least junior high days.

That, at least, was the plan.

And then along came the pandemic.

The tour was cancelled.

We're among the lucky ones: we're well, and safe at home, and about as socially distant as you can get in a densely populated area. But I can't help regretting that the trip didn't come off.

There may wind up being more to the story. We've rescheduled the tour for sometime next year. So if all goes well --i.e., if the pandemic is over and foreign travel safe again--then we may find ourselves amid the Pyramids and Sphinx after all.

We'll see.

--John R.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Twelve)

Tuesday April 21st

So, this wd have been it: the highlight of the trip. If we'd only been able to make a short trip to Egypt, three or four days, this is where we wd have spent it: seeing as much as we cd of the Pyramids at Giza, Saqqara, and Dashur.
And, of course, the Sphinx.

As it is, the tour planned to pack the visit to Giza all into one day.

First would have come The Sphinx. Then the Great Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.

This being Egypt there wd have to be temples: specifically the Sphinx Temple and Valley Temple. -- which wd have been a great way to wrap up our temple tour.

And near at hand, alongside the Great Pyramid, is the boat-pit, where they uncovered Pharaoh's boat and then left it in place.

Since we were not able to be there in person, I consoled myself with the two following video walks, which between them show close views of the entire Sphinx and all three of the Great Pyramids, including a complete walk-around of the Great Pyramid. They're long but highly recommended.

There are two walking tours around the Sphinx, the first at 8 am:

If you want to see the same route but this time with tourists, try the Sphinx at 2.30:

For the pyramids, see them up close and personal here:

You can also go into the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops to the Greeks), but I don't know if our tour wd have allowed enough time for that or not. I hope so.

Then was to come a side-trip to SAQQARA, about seven miles to the south, to see the Step Pyramid of Djoser.

And, about four miles further south at DASHUR stand the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. Further south still at MEIDUM is the Collapsed Pyramid, one of the most interesting of the whole sequence since it shows what pyramids look like inside. I suspect the trip wd not have ranged far enough to take it in. A pity, since all three were built by the same pharaoh, Sneferu, clearly a man determined to have his own way despite any setbacks.

Visiting as much as we cd of the above was the plan, and I'm sure if we'd had time and our energy levels held out we'd have done more, so long as we were there.

And with that our sight-seeing wd have been over and we wd have begun to turn our attentions to getting back home again.

--John R.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Eleven)

Monday April 20th

So, this day we wd have said goodbye to our ship, the S. S. Sphinx, and flown from Luxor to Cairo and checked back into a hotel near the Giza plateau. I suspect, from what I can make out from the maps, that the hotel actually overlooked the Pyramids and Sphinx, which wd have been great.

If we had gotten in early enough there might even have been a chance for a quick run over to the Pyramids that afternoon/early evening. Or we might have rested up to make sure we were as ready as possible for the Big Event: the next day's visit getting up close and personal with the Sphinx and Pyramids.

In the words of Sgt Pepper, getting very near the end, with the best still to come.

--John R.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Ten)

Sunday April 19th

So, more temples.

The planned trip wd have had us start the day at Edfu, touring the Temple of Edfu, another of the late (Ptolemaic) temples, this one dedicated to Horus.

From there it'd be downriver to Esna and the Temple of Esna. Then it wd have been downriver a little more, bringing us back to Luxor. There's Luxor light show that night, but I suspect it'll be hard for a modern light show to match the splendor of the ancient temples themselves. In any case, I suspect we'll probably be saving up our strength for the big event to come: Giza.

--John R.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Sometimes You Don't Get the Book You Wanted

So, a few years back* I picked up a book by Humphrey Carpenter I only now finally took time to have a look at: A GREAT SILLY GRIN: THE BRITISH SATIRE BOOM OF THE 1960s --a group biography of the type Carpenter did so well.**

I thought that since I like Peter Sellers (a brilliant but troubled man) on the one hand and Monty Python on the other this wd be a good way to bridge the gap, to see how the talent of the 1950s segued into that of the '60s and the legacy they left behind on the 70s. In particularly I wanted to learn how the Goon Show (whom I had heard much about but seen or heard v. little of their actual work) inspired those who followed.

To my disappointment, that's not what this book is about. Carpenter is primarily concerned with Alan Bennett, who I'd not even heard of, with some attention to Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and David Frost, none of whom I'm especially interested in. There are only passing references to Peter Sellers and his Goon Show partner Spike Milligan, about whom I know only enough to convince me of his importance.*** The Pythons come in only as respectful admirers of a generation later; Douglas Adams, a generation after that, escapes Carpenter's purview altogether.

So, I'll have to come back to this one at sometime down the line when I've gotten over the disappointment that's entirely my own fault: having imagined a book was one thing when it was really another.

Oh well. Even such cursory searching as I did on the internet to get a sense of what Milligan and the Goons were like, coincidently juxtaposed with my watching a documentary about the making of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, made me appreciate just how much of the famous Beatles' humour was their own take on Milligan et al. And I now see that Milligan's trademark was to take a situation, any situation, and within a few steps reduce it to anarchy. It's as if the world were constantly offering him straight lines and he cd never resist delivering the punchline that just popped into his head.

--John R.
--current reading: PAPAL LIES by Wills (finishing up); MYTHAGO WOOD (re-reading); two others.

*Kalamazoo 2012, it turns out


***for a sample of Milligan at work, give a listen to his short skit ("8 o'clock") with the third Goon, Harry Secombe:

The Trip to Egypt (Day Nine)

Saturday April 18th 2020

The trip-that-wasn't wd have continued with an optional side-trip I wdn't have wanted to miss.

Leaving the First Cataract and heading upriver to Abu Simbel on Egypt's southern border wd have brought us to the colossal images of Ramses once carved into a cliff but removed and moved to higher ground when the construction of the Aswan High Dam created Lake Nasser and flooded the original site.

In addition to the row of huge figures, the Temples of Abu Simbel are also the site of the famous carvings depicting the Battle of Kadesh.

After a day seeing Ramses-style huge and impressive, it wd have been back to Aswan and the S. S. Sphinx. Still a lot to see, but I suspect it wd have been at about this point that we'd start thinking of home.

--John R.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Eight)

Friday April 17th 2020

Another day, another temple.

Today the planned trip wd have brought us to Philae Temple, on an island in the Nile, and the Unfinished Obelesk.

Just for a complete change of pace, also on the agenda had been a ride in a felucca (the traditional Nile sailboats).

And with my love of tea I'd been looking forward to Afternoon Tea at the Old Cataract Hotel at Aswan, featured in Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE NILE (both the book and the movie).

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Seven)

Thursday April 16th

So, by now our planned trip wd be reaching the mid-point of the Nile cruise part of the tour. 

As usual, another day wd have brought another temple: in this case, Kom Ombo Temple, which dates from Ptolemaic times.

While we'd have no doubt visited its crocodile museum, temples aside, two highlights of the day wd have been a Nubian tea and an optional bird watching side-trip, by boat, to see birds of the Nile.

--John R.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Six)

Wednesday April 15th

So, this day we would have gone to the Valley of the Kings. While there, we wd have visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, one of the few women in Egypt's long history to have ruled as pharaoh in her own right.

If that's not enough, we were also due for a trip to the Colossus of Memnon: two colossal statues that once, back in Roman times, made an eerie moaning noise around dawn. Unfortunately the phenomenon has long since ceased.

Any spare time this day wd most definitely been spent on visiting as much of the Valley of the Kings as we cd managed.

--John R.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Five)

Tuesday April 14th

So, our schedule for this day of the trip, had all gone according to plan, would have found us starting the day at Dendara with a visit to the Temple of Hathor (previously home to the famous Zodiac of Dendara). The zodiac is now in the Louvre but here below is an image of it on a piece of papyrus I bought years ago (I think in a little shop tucked in a corner on the bottom level of the Pike Place Market) -- partly because I wanted to see what a real, if modern, piece of papyrus looked like and partly because it was a striking image of an interesting piece.

Even with such damage the Temple of Hathor is in much better shape than the Temple of Karnak we'd visited the day before, being more than a thousand years newer. Apparently it even has a large image of Cleopatra VIIth carved into one wall.

That afternoon then it wd have been back down the Nile to Luxor, where the afternoon was to be devoted to a visit of the Temple of Luxor. It's a huge and impressive place but I cdn't find a good walk-through of this one, so instead here's a nice twenty-minute sequence of Egyptian antiquity highlights:

Then after Luxor Temple it'd be time to rest up for the next day's big event: The Valley of the Kings.

--John R.
--current reading: Garry Wills PAPAL SINS (resumed)

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Four)

Monday April 13th

So today according to the plan we wd have left Cairo in northern (Lower) Egypt to fly down to Luxor in central (Upper) Egypt, where our ship wd have waiting for us.

Originally this was to be the inaugural voyage of the S. S. Sphinx, then this got switched to the larger S. S. Tosca; now it's back to the S. S. Sphinx. Fine by me. Note that these are riverboats and as such much smaller than the enormous ocean-going cruise ships that keep getting in the news (and not in a good way).

Here in Luxor we were scheduled to stop for a visit to the Temple at Karnak, the iconic Egyptian temple. So much so that when you hear the words 'Egyptian Temple', what come to your mind are probably images of this temple.

Afterwards wd come a start to the actual cruising on the Nile part of our trip, ending up the day at Dendara, home of the famous Zodiac.*

Then in the evening there was to be a 'Folkloric Group Performance', whatever that might be.

Then our first night on the boat, to rest up for the next day's visit to more temples.

--John R.

*which alas turns out to no longer be there, having been looted long ago by the French. Who no doubt can offer up excellent reasons why it was perfectly all right for them to have blasted it out of the temple ceiling and carried it away.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Three)

Sunday April 12th

So, today would have been our first full day in Cairo, staying in a nice hotel and seeing some of the city sights. But as impressive as the Citadel of Salah al-Din and Alabaster Mosque sound, I didn't come to   the site of one of the world's most ancient civilizations to see medieval (the famous fortress) or relatively modern (nineteenth century mosque) sights. That's why the afternoon event is the one I was eager to see on this first day of acting like a tourist: two hours in the great Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (aka the Egyptian Museum).  Just to get an idea of how jam-packed with one-of-a-kind treasures the place is, watch or skim through videos of walk-throughs available on YouTube like the ones linked to below. As you can see, there's so much to see they've split it into two videos:

Ground Floor Level:

Upstairs Level

They not only have most of King Tut's belongings but also a lot of Akhenaten's art and much, much more. There's so much here that even on the video tour there were things I'd have liked to linger over --for example, I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of the Narmer Palette.

In short, two hours or so may seem too short a time to take in all the things I'll want to see up close and personal.  not to mention that I'd really like a quick look in the museum book shop just inside the entry doors.

And just one day seems too short a time in Cairo too: with the Sphinx and Pyramids so near (they shd be visible from our hotel), it'll be hard to wait till the end of the tour to see them up close.

That evening there's a dinner cruise on the Nile, so we'll get a good look at one of the world's greatest rivers.

And then the next day it's time to venture further afield.

--John R.
--current reading: various
--current viewing: the National Theatre Company's adaptation of JANE EYRE (streaming)

Sad News about Lady Dunsany

So, thanks to Doug A. for sharing the sad news that Lady Dunsany, who was married to the grandson
of the famous writer,* has died from the corona virus.

Here's a link to the story.

My sympathies go out to the family.

--John R.

*she was married to the late Edward Carlos, 20th baron; the son of Randle, 19th baron (the Lord Dunsany I met); son of Edward, 18th baron (and our writer). The title is currently held by the 21st baron (this Lady Dunsany's son and 21st baron)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day Two)

Saturday April 12th

So, today we were scheduled to arrive in Cairo and check into our hotel. There was an optional evening side-trip to Alexandria, which we wound up giving a pass. It wd have been interesting to see the site (more or less) of the great lost Library, see the famous harbor (once site of the famous lighthouse), or wander through their antiquities museum. But given that we'd have just come off a long set of flights, it seemed better to devote the rest of that first day in Egypt to resting up for all the activity to come, which was due to start  up the next morning.

(to be continued)

--John R.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Trip to Egypt (Day One)

So, today's the day when we wd have left on our long-awaited trip to Egypt to see the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and so much more.

That, of course, is before the pandemic struck.

We're grateful not to have fallen ill, or gotten over there and been stranded, with no place to stay and no way to get back. But we're rueful to have so much planning just fade away. So since it was already so much on my mind I thought I'd make a series of posts of where we were going to be and what we were going to be doing on the ten days of our trip.

And who knows? We've rescheduled the trip for next year, and if things calm down and stay calm we may yet make it over there. But for now, we'll console ourselves with tracing our steps and best we can with what we were

April 11th.
DAY ONE: Travel

Today  wd have been our big travel day -- first a long flight to Frankfurt, then on to Cairo. Though we leave home the early afternoon of Friday the 11th, with the long flights and time change and moderate layover it'd be mid-afternoon Saturday when we'd arrive -- just over twenty-four hours.

Next Up: we're in Egypt!

--John R.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Auburn Crow

So, all those years of feeding crows has finally paid off.

Thanks to Janice for the photo. We headed down to Enumclaw today to help support a great little local shop, The Pie Goddess, only to unfortunately find it closed. So we walked around the mostly empty streets of Enumclaw, something we've been meaning to do for quite a while now and just never gotten around to. In addition to a variety of local shops (all currently closed, of course) we saw some interesting green spaces and public sculpture, including a Purple Heart park,* a bronze pony, and two huge bronze bulls pulling a log.  Worthy additions to the appealing public sculpture like the Kirkland Crows, the Renton Reader, and the Kent gumballs.**

A monument in the park was a memorial to a planeful of Marines who went down on Mt. Rainer not long after the end of World War II and whose bodies were apparently never recovered: I was surprised to see that one of them was from Texarkana, the town I was born in, though the private was from Texarkana Texas, whereas I'm from Texarkana Arkansas (across the street).

All the time we kept being reminded of how much noticeably larger The Mountain is from Enumclaw, which is not that far a drive from Kent (maybe thirty miles).

On the drive out while passing through Auburn we'd sadly noticed that Proper British Bacon, the shop where I got all my English cheeses, has indeed shut down -- for good, not just the duration of the present crisis. But we also spotted the giant statue of a crow, which we made a point of pulling over on the way back to get a closer look at it. I really liked it. The sculptor's name is Peter Reiquam, and I liked how he not only made an eye-catching and appealing image but clearly knows his stuff. Not only are crows fond of french fries (their favorite scavenged fast food) but they've been proven to have brand loyalty. Given a choice, they go after McDonald's over other brands of fast food french fries --and while the logo is discreetly missing the coloring makes it clear it is indeed McDonald's.

--John R.
---current reading: PAPAL SINS by Garry Wills (which is unintentionally turning into my Easter book)
--current viewing: JESUS CHRIST SUPTERSTAR (tonight)

*Which made me wonder: did Uncle Trig have a purple heart? He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, a disfiguring but not life-threatening injury.

**the kind that fall from trees, not the confectionary.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Reorganizing My Library

So, one thing about staying home and practicing social distancing is that it's helped me concentrate on my current project, as well as provided an impetus to learn some about various online virtual meeting programs.

It's also made for a good time to straighten up my Tolkien shelves. By clearing other things away I managed to add a shelf to those dedicated to books on Tolkien, so that I now have eleven shelves of books about Tolkien in my office. At a rough average of about thirty to thirty-five books per shelf, that's a lot of books (somewhere between three hundred and four hundred books). There's a twelfth of my own Tolkien publications (i.e. MR. BAGGINS, WILDERNESS OF DRAGONS, TOLKIEN'S LEGENARDIUM, &c). And this is not counting the shelves of books by Tolkien, shelves for Tolkien journals, a shelf for Tolkien-audio, and a shelf for current projects.*

The main problem with books on Tolkien --and it's a good problem to have-- is that they keep writing new ones. And while I reluctantly gave up trying to get everything a few years ago, there are still interesting and original works coming out that I want to read. So every once in a while I need to integrate the new-ish books into their proper places. I also do some re-arranging to keep essential books, those I frequently consult, ready at hand.

Here's a list of recently added (within the last year or two) or recently moved books:






Christopher Vaccaro & Yvette Kisor, ed. TOLKIEN AND ALTERITY   [festschrift for Jane Chance].



Leslie A. Donovan, ed APPROACHES TO TEACHING TOLKIEN'S THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND OTHER WORKS     [MLA]   [two copies, one hc one tp]





[here I'm reserving a spot on John Garth's new book, due out the month after next, so I won't have to redo the shelving when it does arrive]

Catherine McIlwaine. TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-EARTH  [Bodley catalogue]

Vincent Ferre & Frederic Manfrin, ed. TOLKIEN: VOYAGE EN TERRE DU MILIEU





--John R.
current reading: Trilobite book.

*Note that this is also the room that's home to most of my rpgs, with two and a half bookcases filled with D&D rulebooks, boxed sets, and modules, plus another bookcase filled with CALL OF CTHULHU