Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Card Carrying Member

 So, yesterday my new card from the Tolkien Society arrived (thanks, Jessica), showing that my membership has been renewed for another year. This membership includes a subscription to the journal MALLORN as well as the newsletter AMON HEN, as well as advance notice of events (online and the old fashioned way, in-person). Such as the diversity in Tolkien seminar scheduled for the 4th of July weekend.*

At this point it's looking like I may be able to drop in at some sessions but not the whole event -- though I'll be looking forward to hearing how it goes.

---John R.

--current reading: THE LATE SCHOLAR by Paton Walsh & Savers (re-read) and THE THIRD INKLING by Lindop (which I'm finally getting to, seven years or so since I put it on the shelf)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

War of the Rohirrim

So, it looks like the forthcoming SECOND AGE Tolkien project that's been in the works at Amazon for a while now may not be the next film based on Tolkien's works to see light of day. Yesterday I learned (thanks D) about an anime version of the Helm Hammerhand story that's in the works.

That seems an odd choice, with all of Middle-earth to choose from. And if they were going to do a Rohirrim story why not go for the big epic, the story of Eorl? Perhaps Helm's reign was the most Games-of-Thronish reasonably self-contained part of the Eorlings legend/history. In any case, without investing too much in this I'll still be interested in seeing how it comes out. And I'm curious what other sidelines they might explore aside from the big story: NUMENOR.

--John R.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Diversity and Counter-Diversity in Tolkien Scholarship

So, I'd been going back and forth over whether to attend this year's Tolkien Seminar hosted by the Tolkien Society. It's a time intensive event, as I found out when I tried to attend the full array of presentations last year (who knew sitting and watching a screen cd be so tiring as the hours drag on?). Plus, the focus of this year's event is outside the range of my work on Tolkien.

But on the theory that it's good to get out of yr comfort zone once in a while, I finally went ahead and signed up this morning.

 Which turned out to be good timing, because this afternoon a friend (hi J.) sent me a link about people who are staging, or trying to stage, a counter-conference, to be held (virtually) concurrently with the long-planned Tolkien Society event. Some information (not much) can be found on the insurgent group's website:

Much more, including discussion, appears on Mike Glyer's site, FILE 770, including that the group organizing the counter-event that has only been in existence for about a week,* making it sound more like a flash mob than a conference:

--John R.

*just to clarify: The Tolkien Society has been around since 1969 or so, and is a registered charity in the U.K. 'Society of Tolkien' is a new group who have formed specifically to protest the Tolkien Society's seminar.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Washington State Initiative: Universal Health Care

So, today we went to the farmer's market (the one down in Auburn, by the giant statue of the giant crow with the giant french fries) for the first time this year. In addition to the biggest beets I've ever seen we also got some peaches from our favorite booth (who used to be over at the Kent market before the latter shut down due to the covid crisis).

The most interesting thing about our trip to Auburn though was the person just outside the entrance to the market asking people to sign a petition. The initiatives and propositions in these parts are sometimes iffy, using deceptive phrasing to trick the voter. But from what I cd tell with a little quick research, this one seems to be pretty straightforward in its goal: do for Washington State what Obama failed to do with health care reform and create a system of universal health care. That's an ambitious goal but very worthwhile. So if the petitioner is still there next week I'll be glad to sign my name as supporting that goal.

The initiative in question is I-1362; Universal Healthcare for Washington State; its backers are using the phrase 'Whole Washington' to designate their movement, as in their website address:

If you're in Washington, you might want to acquaint yrself with what is sure to be a big battle later this year. If you're in another state, you might want to be aware of how health care reform plays out this time and in this place.

--John R..

Saturday, June 19, 2021


So, as of today we have a new national holiday: Juneteenth.

This celebrates an event that I first learned about by a circuitous path. 

Back when I was doing some research into unfinished novels where the author had produced too much material, not to little -- like DOCTOR GRIMSHAW'S SECRET and of course THE SILMARILLION* -- I was intrigued to find that Ralph Ellison, about whose work I knew (and know) very little, after his death in 1994 had left behind a two thousand page draft from which was extracted a 368 page novel called JUNETEENTH (2000).

But as is sometimes the case with posthumously published work, there was criticism of the edited version, and it was replaced a decade later by a much longer, fuller text: THREE DAYS BEORE THE SHOOTING (2010). Being in doubt about which of these two published versions I shd read (because I didn't want to read both) I've wound up reading neither, though I have dipped into the later text and found it uncongenial.

 It was thus by a roundabout way of trying to find out about a novel constructed from remains left behind by an author with writer's block, as a way to better understand JRRT,  that I learned about the historical event celebrated in our new holiday.

--John R.

--current reading: "The Lost Letter", my 2014 piece suggesting a new way to read Charles Williams.

*This also forms the core plot of WONDER BOYS, both the film and novel versions.

Capote's ANSWERED PRAYERS is a good example of the more usual case, where the author claims to have written far more than is found to actually exist after his death. Which, come to think of it, is also like Tolkien.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Cat Report (Fr. June 18th 2021)

So, back in the cat-room after missing just a week, and I find only one cat I knew, all the rest having been adopted. I’m particularly glad that Tika (?Tina) and Kinda (?Kinta) found their new home at last.  And it’s good to hear, if I understood the messages right, there’s a potential adopter due in tomorrow for little Rocky Road, with another standing by to follow if the first adoptor doesn’t work out. Hope tomorrow is his big lucky day.

It’s hard for a kitten to spend so much time in a cage, so I let little ROCKY ROAD out first thing. He bounded about playing with all sorts of toys and generally having fun. He loved the feather duster, which he carried around as a trophy, and the swishy bug-on-a-stick, and the string game. But his favorite was the litter box that’s usually in the big cage. For some reason, I assume to better accommodate such large cats as Sophie and Sunshine, this had been removed, cleaned, and set upside down on the floor in the inner room. ROCKY discovered he could squeeze under it and had fun for the rest of that first half-hour dragging various toy under or out from under his little turtle shell. 

After about half an hour I made him go back in his cage, reluctantly on his part, and let out the bonded kitten pair, BUTTERFINGERS (the little yellow tabby) and SNICKERS (the little brown tabby). After that it was ‘we’re kittens and we’re out’ as they played together, and separately, with me and on their own. They too loved the on-a-stick game, the pingpong games, the claw sharpening cardboards, the string, and the ’turtle’ as a lair. They’re squirmy when picked up but don’t mind a quick pet so long as it doesn’t interfer with their current game. 

Then it was the turn of our two solitaires. Both are dilute torbies, both shy about coming out, but both purrmonsters when petted in their cages.  MARLEY is the one who looks like she’s been splattered with black ink about the face ; TIFFANY is a little greyer about the face, front, and paw. Marley let me pet her some, but Tiffany just melted. 

Finally came the majestic super-sized SOPHIE and SUNSHINE. Sunshine is the shyer of the two and took longer to warm to me; I had to sit inside her cage and pet her from in there. Sophie by contrast was happy to come out and loved the attention of being petted. Think she’s a good candidate for walking but didn’t get to it this time.

Here’s hoping this roomful of cats quickly find new homes.

—John R.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

"The Lost Road as Faerian Drama" (My Newest Publication)

So, it's been a long time in the making, but I'm happy to announce that my essay "The Lost Road as Faerian Drama" (working title: "Valinor in America") has just been published earlier today by THE JOURNAL OF TOLKIEN RESEARCH:

I call it a "speculative look at some of Tolkien's later speculative writings". Part of it I presented at last month's Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo, but it was good to get the whole thing over and done and out there.


--John R.


Monday, June 14, 2021


So, the past week or so I've been in Arkansas (and nearby parts of Louisiana and Texas) enjoying a string of get-togethers with family.

And as usual these visits south also include connecting with touchtones like visiting my father's grave and going by the vacant lot where the family home used to be. 

I met some wary but ultimately friendly cats, including at last making the acquaintance of my sister's cat Kashmir (which just goes to show that I'm not the only one in this family to give a cat a name from classic rock, in this case Led Zeppelin). 

Among things I was on the lookout for were mimosas (one of my favorite trees) and magnolias (which do); I saw these but I had forgotten how beautiful the pecan trees were.

I was on the lookout for locusts (cicadas) but was there a bit too early. Didn't see any June bugs, or lightning bugs, though my mother saw one of the latter.

Birds were in fine feather: mockingbirds, blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, of course. But also buzzards (I'd forgotten how big they are, any they're much less shy than they used to be, calmly sitting by the side of the road doing their scavenging while a foot or two away the cars whiz by). And once again I noted but failed to identify those loquacious birds who hang out at the Love's truckstop at Prescott: blackbirds, certainly, but too large and agile for grackles and too small for a crow; not red-winged blackbirds or startlings. 

And then there was the unexpected, like the Dallas Model A car fanciers who happened to be holding their convention at our hotel. It was great fun walking around the parking lot and taking in the labor-of-love restoration on twenty to thirty antique cars (All Model As). 

We missed the hot air balloons we heard about (suspect their launches had been early in the morning, on a day we didn't do early morning). 

And I can report that the Longview, Texas frozen custard stand we visited one night had the authentic Leon's  machines (most of Leon's revenue stream came from their supplying the machines other frozen custard stands use).

And finally home, to be welcomed by two cats who had been well cared for in our absence but had clearly been lonely. It was a good trip, but it's good to be back in our own place with our own stuff.

--John R.

reading on the trip: DOROTHY & JACK, Steinbeck (restarted), THE LONG WEEKEND (but not the one I was looking for). 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Narnia in Glasgow

So, not surprisingly, a family visit turns out not to be the time for some researched blogging (unless the blogging is about the visit). So I have't had the time to write up the Lewis/Anscombe piece, which is still pending. Instead, here's a bit of C. S. Lewis news for those who might have missed it. 

The University of Glasgow's CENTRE FOR FANTASTY is hosting an event later this month: 

From Spare Oom to War Drobe: A Journey to Narnia with Katherine Langrish

This event is scheduled for Thursday June 17th (about two weeks from now) at 5pm to 6.30 BST (which I make out to be about nine in the morning, Seattle time --a great improvement over the middle of night timing of some transatlantic events).

I haven't read Languish's book, which contrasts the experience of reading Narnia as a child vs. revisiting it as an adult. Perhaps her approach will lift some of my antipathy to the Narnia series. 

Here's the link:

--John R.

--current reading: DOROTHY AND JACk; also a light novel.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Warnie Lewis, ditchcrawler

So, a while ago the new issue of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES arrived --always a welcome event. The two articles that stood out for me this time around were a piece on Warnie Lewis's experiences as a ditchcrawler -- that is, the owner of a narrow canal boat he used to take little holidays exploring various spots all around Oxford -- and an insightful well-sourced look at the famous Lewis-Anscombe debate.

The canalboat piece is by Don King, who I hope will expand his researches into Captain Lewis (as he was at the time) into a book one of these days. While Warnie's boat sometimes gets a passing mention in his brother's biographies, I had no idea that Warnie wrote several essays about his experiences,* including advice to help others better enjoy their shared hobby and how to cope when things go wrong.

King's article quotes generously from eight essays, which are very much in the voice of W.H.L. as we know it from his journals. The Bosporus, which he had built to order, emerges as a leisurely alternative to the Lewis brothers' walking tours. Unfortunately Warnie only got to enjoy the boat from 1936 through 1939, when wartime restrictions and rationing made it too hard for him to carry on.

The other piece is more complex and I think deserves a separate post of its own (though it'll take me a day or two to get it drafted).

current reading: LETTER OF JOSEPH CONRAD (the bookmark dropped out and had trouble finding my place, so decided to take a hiatus) and a light novel (more portable)

*published in THE MOTOR BOAT AND YACHTING magazine.

The Cat Room Has Kittens


Quite a crowd in the cat room today, even with the two sisters/bonded mother cats pair (Willow and Maple) having already been adopted. We had senior pair TIKA and KINDA, young LEO DECATI,  little ROCKY ROAD (the solitaire kitten, off in a cage of his own), and eight little grey kittens — some light grey, some dark as black; some smooth, some with a bit of fluff; all adorable.

So, a dozen cats in all. First things first, so I got the leash on TIKA and took her out. She didn’t seem to enjoy herself much, but still think the change will do her good in the long run. She mostly sat on the half-high cat stand outside the room and watched everything go by. I also carried her about some. Next came KINDA, who did his usual explorations all over. He got some good comments by staff and customers alike. When he (reluctantly) went back in I put him and his sister back in their cage. Whoever recommended the blanket blocking their vision from the rest of the room was right: both settled down and didn’t do any hissing or growling aimed at the other cats that I heard.

LEO DUCATI had his turn next, and explored even more than Kinda. He turned on the charm and made a big impression on folks he encountered during his explorations. I wanted the kittens to have a turn, so eventually he had to go in and I put him back in his cage, where he settled down.

Then it was Kitten Time. I took them out of their cages one at a time and gave them the run of the place. After that it was kittens everywhere. I liked how they have distinct personalities already in what toy each likes, favorite spots to hide in, tolerance at being petted, and the like. Little Road kept to himself, except when one or two of the grey kittens sought him out to see what game he was playing. He likes to seek out interesting places —say, beneath the cushion atop the bins.

I hope both kittens and senior cats find new homes soon. 

Reminder: Next Friday (the 11th) I won’t be able to come in that day for my usual shift.

—John R.