Friday, July 30, 2021

The Cat Report (Friday July 30th)

We have an especially engaging group of cats in the cat-room right now. In addition to our Two Grey Gentlemen (JEREMIAH and JESSE) we have our calico solitaire KATHERINE, three-month old bundle of energy REMY, and two two-month-old kittens CALLIE and ARIZONA.

I started by giving JESSE* his walk while Jeremiah got to roam around the floor and cat-stand areas inside the room. He did very well, having now mastered the essentials of being out on a walk. He even stayed claim when he had not one but incidents of dogs coming fairly close. It helped that the dogs were small and well-mannered. Then it was JEREMIAH’s turn, and while shy he too showed that he knew the rules and enjoyed the outing —even when in his case at one point he cd see a large (but again well-behaved) dog at the other end of an aisle. Both of our not-quite senior cats got a lot of attention from shoppers. One woman said she’d adopted her cat from Purrfect Pals eight years ago; his name was Silver.

I hadn’t been able to see it last week, but this time I did notice that Jeremiah’s right foreleg trembled when he was out on his walk. Didn’t seem to bother him, but might explain why he’s so cautious in unfamiliar territory. 

Having had about twenty minutes each being the only cat roaming around in the cat room while the other was out on his walk, then reversing that, at the end of about forty minutes Jeremiah and Jesse went back into their cages (a little grudgingly, but that’s not a surprise). 

Time to let the kittens out! Callie and Arizona don’t like being picked up but they love games. The string game was a favorite, though little Arizona came up with a new way  to play it — he pounced on it, bit down on the chain end, and pawed at the string end, all at the same time. Then he’d drag it off to his lair. Callie liked the string game as well but wd happily switch to something else rather than fight him over it. The feather duster, the bee on a wand, and the laser light all got thoroughly pounced on in turn. I experimented with catnip bubbles, which sent one scurrying (Callie?) and the other (Arizona?) interested but wary.

Finally it seemed high time I answered those piteous mews little REMY kept up. He was delighted to be out and playing and pouncy. He doesn’t like to be picked up but he really wants attention — not surprising, given how recently he was with siblings and mother. I split up the room so the two-month olds had the outer room to tear around in, which they did, and the three-month old had the inner room for his fun. He wd mew, purr, play a game, and pounce with apparently endless energy. He’s not so sure about catnip bubbles either. But his motto seems to be ’try every toy at least once’.

Think he and the younger/smaller kittens will find homes quickly.**

Katherine got some petting but didn’t come out. Think starting with her wd have worked better; I’ll give that a try next time around.

There was much mewing again when little Remy finally had to go back in.

—John R. 

*unless I’ve got mixed up who is who among the bonded pair, in which case swop out everything I said about Jesse with everything I say about Jeremiah and vice-versa.
**as did Oscarina, Grayson, Hudson, and Imogen

  UPDATE Saturday July 31st

This morning little REMI got adopted and away to his new home.

SECOND UPDATE: Sunday the 1st

The Two two-month old kittens got adopted together, leaving just three cats in the room: boned pair Jeremiah and Jesse, and Katherine, who apparently is pleased by this and has been coming out of her cage to ask for attention and play games.

Here's hoping that without the competition from kittens the full-grown cats will now have their turn coming up soon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wilding the Dunsany Estate

So thanks to Doug A. for the news that the current Lord Dunsany (the twenty-first baron, great-grandson of the great writer) is  'rewilding' a sizable chunk of Dunsany Castle's extensive grounds. Hence 700 acres of the 1700 acre pasturage is now growing up with trees and native grasses, providing habitat for a wide range of wildlife, from birds to rare Irish bees to badgers. While the baron has banned not just pesticides but also fertilizer and even paths within the Dunsany Natural Preserve, he has allowed a film shoot for a film he has directed, THE GREEN SEA.

The part of the article that interested me most was the bit about his planting trees:


 “I walk around today and see large trees planted by someone who never got to see them grow. And in turn, I’m planting trees today that I will never see grow.

“But these trees are not for me, these trees are for the young people around us. 

Partly this moved me because if I had land that's what I'd do with it (mimosa, magnolias, and willows), and partly because the time I got to visit Dunsany Castle back in 1987 the road or drive up to the house was lined with beautiful old trees.* When I praised them, Lord Dunsany (Captain Randal, the nineteenth baron), who was driving, commented that they'd been planted two hundred years before, I think it was, and wd be fully grown in about another twenty years. Americans just don't think in those terms.

Here's the link:

--John R.

P.S.: One minor correction: while Sir Horace Plunkett is as important as they say, and probably more so, he was not an ancestor of the current baron but his great-grandfather's uncle. 

*my memory says chestnuts, but I don't think that's possible, unless Irish chectnuts survived the blight that wiped out the American chestnut.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Do Wolves Eat People? revisited

 So, in the mini-essay on wargs (wolves) in MR. BAGGINS, part one of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (2007), I did a little mythbusting:

"Wolves do not, of course, eat people. But legend and folk-belief has maintained otherwise from time immemorial, from Aesop's fable of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' [sixth century BC] through fairy-stories like 'Little Red Riding Hood' [seventeenth century French] and 'Peter & the Wolf' to the modern day (Saki's 'Esme' and 'The Intruders', Willa Cather's My Antonia , Bram Stoker's Dracula, and any number of Jack London stories). Perhaps the most famous literary account of a wolf-attack prior to Tolkien's occurs in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe [1719] . . ."       page 216

". . . unlike wolves and eagles, bears really DO eat people -- a fact of which Shakespeare was well aware, hence his famous stage direction for one doomed character: 'Exit, pursued by a bear' (A Winter's Tale, Act III scene iii), followed by a gruesome off=stage mauling as the character is torn limb from limb. The largest land predators, bears maul people every year even today."   page 256

I have recently heard that I may well be in error. According to French Tolkien linguist Damien Bador, and quoted from a recent email with his permission:

There is one point where I need to mention that I believe you’re clearly mistaken. On several occasions, you take pains to stress that wolves only attack people in fairy tales, not in reality. As far as I’m aware, this is quite true for the American wolf, but not so much for the European (and Asian) one. Wolf attacks have been rather well documented in Western Europe since the XVIIth century at least and up to the early XXth century (in fact, France is probably the country with the best historical records, stretching from the 1300s up to 1920 and involving nearly 7600 fatal attacks, according to Wikipedia). In a large number of cases, this was linked to the wolf being rabid (which entirely removes its fear of humans), but there were also a large number of non-rabid wolf attacks recorded. Most victims were isolated children and women, especially during the summer, when people encroached upon the wolves’ territories during their pastoral or agricultural activities. What is probably the most well-known series of attacks involved the “Beast of Gévaudan” in mountains in Central France, which involved roughly a hundred fatal attacks from June 1764 to June 1767. While they might have been caused by several animals, most specialists still consider they were performed by wolves, or possibly wolf-dog hybrids (see the very detailed WP page in French on this topic:  

So, it seems that I may have overstated the case. 

Unless Americans are just less tasty than Europeans. 

Thanks to Damien for the corrective.

--John R.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

My Favorite Writers Who Aren't Tolkien

So, last week David Bratman had an interesting post on his blog:

The two questions being asked are

(1) who is your second-favorite fantasy writer after Tolkien? * 

(2) who are your two or three favorites among fantasy writers who came after Tolkien ( post-LotR)?

My answer to Question Number One is LORD DUNSANY, without a doubt.

My answers to Question Number Two wd be THE FACE IN THE FROST by John Bellairs, WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, and I think THE BRIDGE OF BIRDS by Barry Hughart.

If you'd pick a different author or book, feel free to share in the comments

--John R.

current viewing: McCARTNEY 3 2 1

current reading TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE

   *this assumes your next-favorite is fantasy, which is not necess. the case. It also assumes Tolkien is yr favorite, which again may not be the case.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Ice Cream War

So, I wdn't have guessed that the latest bone of contention to play a part in the slow-motion war in Israel-Palestine would be . . . ice cream?

--John R.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Brown C-crown Fedoras

So, last week I gave away eleven hats, eight of them brown c-crown fedoras, the other three straw hats (two being fedora-style, the third a wide-brim 'plantation hat*'). I've worn hats for as long as I can remember, and my hat of choice has long been the fedora. I remember being glad when the Indiana Jones movies came out, because they made it easier to find the kind of hat I like (though his are wider of brim than my preferred style). The reason I had so many is that when a hat wears out I retire it and get a new one. Over the years I had built up a considerable stack of old hats atop a row of bookcases down in the boxroom; hats I no longer wear but cdn't bring myself to get rid of.  Janice had suggested donating them to one of the area's theatrical troups for use as props in plays, but then the pandemic hit, complicating everything. In the end, a friend volunteered to take them for use as props in a party game for an end-of-fiscal-year organization. I hope they contribute to an enjoyable event.

It has been interesting just looking over these old hats. The boxes that each hat was stored in bear witness, from the names on the sides, to the sad fact that like a favorite restaurant, a hat shop is not a permanent thing. I had a hat from Donge in Milwaukee's on Old World Third street,** hats from Sacred Feather on State Street in Madison. And I had quite a few hats from Bernie Utze, my favorite of them all, here in Seattle downtown near the Pike Place Market.  

When the last of these went out of business a few years ago I planned ahead and bought three hats, which I thought shd last me a long long time: a hat I wear as my daily hat, a hat to wear when it's raining, and a back-up pristine hat I put aside to take the place of my everyday hat when it wore out somewhere down the line. Beyond that it seems likely that any future hats will probably be selected on-line --not a preferred method but hopefully workable.

Even though I gave away eleven hats, all in one fell swoop, I'm not exactly bereft of hats. In addition to the three Bernie Utz hats described above,  there's my fedora-style straw hat, which is getting a lot of use in this hot, dry summer. There's the straw hat I bought in Hawaii when we visited the rainy part of the Big Island, which endured trips to a volcano, a mountain top, and turtle beaches; one of my most durable hats. There's the handmade crafted hat bought on impulse during a visit to Trout Lake, which looks more like a Shire Hobbit hat and which we haven't actually worn in the year or so since we got them. And finally there's the old brown fedora, one of my all-time favorites, which during all this recent sorting out I decided I'd retired too soon and brought back into service. So that's seven hats I'm keeping.***

Janice, by the way, prefers collapsable hats: easy to carry and put on if the weather changes.

--John R. 

current reading:: Lindop

current viewing: McCartney 3 2 1


*a great hat, but not a style I can really pull off.

**where I had the worst shopping experience of my life, after which I quit going there. Janice, who witnessed it as a kind of innocent bystander, said it was funny.

***there's also the Fez, but it's more a roleplaying game prop than a hat I'd actually wear outside, where people might see me.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Andy Serkis's LotR audiobook

So, I was pleased to hear that Andy Serkis, Smeagol extraordinaire, has recorded an unabridged audiobook of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in three parts (FR, TT, RK), due out September 16th. This is welcome news in that the old Rob Inglis recordings have been long overdue for replacement and also that I expect Serkis to do a bang-up job of it. Here's a sample Smeagol vs. Gollum track:

I hadn't realized until checking some links in connection with this story that Serkis has already released a complete recording of THE HOBBIT almost a year ago. Clearly it's time to update my JRRT audiobooks, my current holdings being a melange of cassettes, cds, audiofiles, and records. I also see there's now an audiobook of UNFINISHED TALES which I hadn't known about. So there's some new to discover and much older material to renew my acquaintance with. More later.

--John R.

--current reading: THE THIRD INKLING (up to 1936, when Williams and Lewis made contact)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Tolkienian Petition

 So, thanks to JC for the link to news about a petition asking Amazon Studios not to give their forthcoming Tolkien series the Game of Thrones treatment, with intimacy counselors and the like.

Given that this pits 50,000 fans against $250,000,000 dollars, I'd call that Quixotic.

 What's more interesting is that the journalist who wrote this piece, Collin Garbaring, clearly put some time in, down to researching the correct titles of papers from the recent Tolkien Society's seminar, and even seems to have watched some of the audience chat and Q&A from that event. He knows who Shippey is, and his significance, and located a credible Inklings scholar (Louis Markos) for a relevant quote. 

For the curious, here's what seems to be the original petition, or two versions thereof, or perhaps two similar petitions, with widely divergent numbers given for sign-ees:

--John R.

--current reading: Lindop's THE THIRD INKLING

--current viewing: THE ROOK 

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Cat Report (Fr. July 9th 2021)


So, all four cats who were in the cat-room (SophiaSunshineTiffany, and Marley) got adopted, switching out our yellow cats and torbie/calicos with black and grey: tuxedo cat TEE, black cat bonded pair TABITHA and TOMMY, and grey cat pair JEREMIAH BULFROG* and JESSE.

TEE is an amazingly friendly and sociable cat. Within five minutes of my meeting her for the first time she was outside on the leash taking a walk. She did well, too, exploring the side of the store centered on the cat room without trying to make any sudden breaks. She liked climbing up on my shoulders, so that sometimes it looked like she was the one walking me. Without wanting strangers to pet her she nonetheless attracted a lot of attention while getting a chance to get out of the cat room for a while. Back in the room she wanted more attention and petting and games (the feather duster was a particular favorite) and went back in her cage reluctantly. 

It was TABITHA and TOMMY’s turn next. He elected to stay in the big cage but came up to the front and welcomed being petted so long as he didn’t have to leave his safe space. He basically cuddled in the cage. His sister Tabitha (the fluffy one) by contrast came out gladly and stayed out. She loved games, esp the string game, but loved being petted even more. She too was displeased to have to go back in her cage, and several times made it clear she’d like to come back out for another round.

This week’s shy cats award goes to JEREMIAH BULFROG and JESSE, neither of whom wd come out, though they purred when petted in their cage. They’re truly bonded: with four cage-sections  (the whole bottom row)  to choose from they slept cuddled together in the same section. I cdn’t tell them apart but they know their names and each will respond to being called by his or her name.

I think as the new cats get used to the cat room they’ll be out and exploring more, at first cautiously and then with more confidence. Don’t think it’ll take too long either.

No health issues that I noted.

One person who admired Tee’s walking said he’d adopted a cat from this cat-room once, named Nikky (just guessing at the spelling). I gathered Nikky is no longer among us but got distracted by the cat-walking and didn’t get any more information.

—John R.

*somebody out there besides me remembers Three Dog Night

Monday, July 5, 2021

Bernard Acworth

So, here's a comment that shd have gotten posted long ago: my apologies to Larry Gilman for the delay.

Since it has been so long, I include here a link back to the original piece on which it was commenting:

And for the record, I think Gilman's piece is an excellent treatment of the subject.

--John R.


Sayers on Tolkien (elliptically)

 So, thanks to David B. for pointing out to me that the full letter I quoted from in my post on Dalfonzo's book DOROTHY AND JACK can be found in Lewis's COLLECTED LETTERS (Vol III p. 689-690). The letter was written on 22/12/55 (that is, December 12th 1955). The bulk of the letter contrasts 'clerks' (who I take him to mean the literati, self-appointed judges) with those who create popular art; he much prefers the latter.

The line that interests me comes in the paragraph that reads in full:

"I hadn't really thought about it before, but of course Tolkien's females are as you describe them. And one couldn't, from internal evidence, diagnose the cause, because so many causes are equally possible."

Hooper's note reads simply "It is not known how Savers described them."

So that adds to the context without, unfortunately, providing the information we most wanted.

The one takeaway for me is that from this we definitely know that D.L.S. read Tolkien -- which might have been well known to Sayers scholars but was news to me, and welcome news at that.

--John R.

--current reading; another volume of the same light novel, more on Lindop's Wms*

*C.W. has just met the love of his life. His wife doesn't know about her yet.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

"Tolkien's females are as you describe them"

So, I found out about a book on C. S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers last year and got a copy to send my friend Richard West, a great fan of both Sayers and Lewis, thinking it might make good hospital reading for him while he was struggling with kidney failure. In the end Richard caught the Covid virus and passed away. I never did get the chance to ask if he ever read this book or enjoyed it, but he was very much on my mind as I was reading it. 

DOROTHY AND JACK: THE TRANSFORMING FRIENDSHIP OF DOROTHY L. SAYERS AND C. S. LEWIS by Gina Dalfonzo is a fairly quick read and relatively light in tone (e.g., a two hundred page book like this wd usually have an index). Here are a few of its more striking points.

First is a long quote in which Sayers states that she felt an affinity with Dante because they shared the same faith, whereas this was not true of herself and Milton (p.41). That struck me as bizarre.

Second, Dalfonzo is willing to consider that CSL had sex with Janie Moore (p.56) but asserts -- on the basis of no evidence at all that I can see -- that CSL cut off all carnal relations at the time of his conversion and henceforth was strictly celibate, from that time till his marriage with Joy Davidman (p.57). She repeats the claim ("a clean break") on p.111, again without citing any evidence.

At one point Dalfonzo has a discussion about Lewis and Sayer's disagreement about CSL taking on the role of 'Everyman's Theologian': "She felt that Jack . . . was a little too prone to step outside his area of expertise" (p.73). Since this was one of the key objections Tolkien had to Lewis's apologetics, it's interesting to see that Lewis himself had struggled with the issue, and at a much earlier date.

Dalfonzo's discussion of Charles Williams (p.109-115) makes it clear she considers him a predator, and it's hard not to agree. I was surprised to be reminded of how short a time Sayers knew Wms (just three years). I'll have to get a look at the appropriate volume of her Collected Letters sometime to read through their correspondence.

Here's a quote I wish we had more context for: 

"I hadn't really thought about it before, 

but of course Tolkien's females

are as you describe them

—(p.118; emphasis mine)

This comes from CSL's reply in a 1955 letter to Sayer, but since Sayer's letter does not survive we have no way of knowing what was her critique, just that Lewis agreed. 

Finally, it's interesting to note that while Sayers and Lewis corresponded for about fifteen years, they only met four times that we're sure of (there may be a few more unrecorded visits). By the end of that time they had grown close enough to confide in each other about the alcoholism of CSL's brother and of Sayers' husband.

--John R.

--current reading: a light novel (=Japanese young adult fiction), and THE THIRD INKLING

Reading Lindop

 So, I've now made some progress on Grevel Lindop's biography of Charles Williams, and the first thing I've noticed is that Lindop makes him sound much more normal, less of an oddball, than previous accounts. He's so far not made much progress on his stated goal of establishing Williams as a major poet, but it's early days yet.

A minor point: I was rather surprised by his descriptions of Wms as 'tall' (twice) and 'lanky'; for some reason I'd had the impression C.W. was slight in build and underaverage in height.

The most interesting content is his suggestion that Wms was not only in Waite's offshoot of the Golden Dawn (the Independent and Rectified Rite*), which focused on Xian mysticism --this has been well  established for a long time-- but probably also belonged to the surviving branch of the core Golden Dawn (Stella Matutina) that continued the original group's interest in ceremonial magic as well (p.66).

Even his Acknowledgments contain bits of interest, such as showing that he drew upon interviews with many people who knew Wms. And then there's his thanks to 'the owners of Charles Williams' tarot cards . . . [who] wish to remain anonymous' (page x). It wd be interesting to see these --I assume these must have been a set of Waite's devising (the so-called Rider Waite Tarot). 

More later, once I've made my way through another good chunk.

--John R.

*later (1915) succeeded by The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross