Wednesday, December 28, 2022

'A Solemn Thought': JRRT & The Canon

So, here's a quote I was looking for, as it turned out in the wrong place, which I thought I'd share. 

Writing of the author of SIR GAWAIN & THE GREEN KNIGHT, Tolkien says

Of this author, nothing is now known.*  But he was a major poet of his day; and it is a solemn thought that his name is now forgotten, a reminder of the great gaps of ignorance over which we now weave the thick webs of our literary history. But something to the purpose may still be learned of this writer from his works.

I thought this came from the Tolkien/Gordon edition of SGGK (1925).

Turns out it appears in JRRT's SGGK translation (1975), Introduction p.13.

  *except that he probably wrote three other works: PEARL, PATIENCE, and PURITY.

Of these three, I strongly recommend PATIENCE, a hilarious retelling of the Jonah story.

--John R.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Shades of Svalbard


So, I was reminded of Philip Pullman's Svalbard, home of his armoured bears who have their own city, by these photos of an old abandoned outpost up in the arctic.* Who knew that polar bears wd gather into a bear colony, given the right conditions? I suppose the buildings serve all the functions of a cave: roof, walls, and so forth.

Anyway, the piece has such striking photography that I thought I'd share. 

--John R.


Catch, Neuter, Release

 So, thanks to Janice for sharing with me the link to the story about the two women arrested for removing strays from a city part:

This story is appalling on multiple levels

--the arrest of an eighty-four year old woman and her sixties-ish companion

--sending out three prowl cars to handle what shd have been a minor dispute, which sends the signal that the police were looking for a fight and deliberately escalated the encounter

--it's a bad sign to hear the arresting officer lying about the encounter as he reports in at the end of the tape

--that what the women were doing is actually the best way to cut down on feral cat colonies; it's at the heart of the startling decline in stray cat populations, which in turn has helped make possible the rise of no-kill shelters. 

--it's alarming to see police who are so bad at their job. The work they do is important, and they need to do it well.

--John R.


 So, the current issue of the Chaosium newsletter ends with the sad news that their excellent little boardgame MISKATONIC LIBRARY: THE RESTRICTED COLLECTION will only be available through January 31st. Apparently their license agreement with the game's designer, renowned designer Reiner Knizia, has expired. 

If you like the Cthulhu Mythos in general and Chaosium's take on Lovecraft's work, you really shd think about picking this one up. I know I'm glad to have it on my gaming shelf, even after said shelf has been cut way back in recent months. 

--John R.



Remember, Khan of Khans and Miskatonic University games to be withdrawn from sale on Dec 31!

Your last chance to order these ENNIE award-winning games, and for only $9.99each! (US warehouse only - now sold out everywhere else)

Khan of Khans and Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection must be withdrawn from sale at 11.59pm PT on December 31st, 2022 due to the end of the license with Dr Reiner Knizia.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Deed of Gift (The First Emancipator)





Robert Carter, whose example is enough to remind us that there existed men and woman during the Revolutionary War who knew what was right and did not lack the personal will to act upon that belief.(Levy, p. 194)


—Gary B. Nash, professor emeritus, UCLA, author of Red, White & Black: The Peoples of Early North America


So, I've finally made my way through THE FIRST EMANCIPATOR by Andrew Levy, a book I picked up as an impulse buy on Sunday April 6th 2007 and only now, over the past few weeks, gotten around to. It was worth the wait. Levy deliberately avoids presenting the story with anything resembling a narrative arc (the better to reflect his protagonist's erratic career). It is a major part of his thesis that Robert Carter was not just forgotten but deliberately obscured because he had achieved what conventional wisdom among the slave-owning Founding Fathers held as an article of faith to be impossible: that gradual manumission could free slaves and integrate them into the community without overly disrupting the local economy or overall society. 


Instead of the deathbed manumission fashionable at the time*  Carter worked out a schedule that essentially transformed his slaves into indentured servants and then to freemen. Through a document known as the Deed of Gift(which shd rank as one of the great documents in American history on display in D.C.) he freed four hundred and fifty slaves, taking pains to keep families together and seeing to it that they had help if needed to establish themselves. 



Why did he do it? The answer is both simple and complex. 

The simple part is that he decided slavery was wrong, largely on religious  grounds. This formed a constant from the time he abandoned his initial Episcopalian/Deist roots from a more radical Baptist faith (he was an important figure in the early history of Baptists in Virginia). As the Baptists established themselves and became more like other churches (e.g., segregating services) he left them behind for Swedenborgism, only in time to leave that behind in turn for a highly personalized faith that owed something to the Quakers but was really a faith of his own. 


Having decided that segregation and slavery were wrong, he spent years trying to work out a system that would replace it with something better.  There are hints that he paid a price for this. For one thing he became estranged from his family, who considered he had disinherited them. More ominously, not long after making his Deed of Gift he suddenly abandoned Virginia, sneaking away by night and relocating to Baltimore, where he spent the last fifteen years of his life, refusing even to visit Virginia to visit family; his library he sent for piecemeal over the years. No one knows why he left his home state, but there are hints that he got threats from his peers: in one page of his journal/estate records he wrote the words 'TAR AND FEATHER' three times in large, ragged letters. I suspect he got a visitation from his fellow plantation owners similar to what the Klu Klux Klan wd have done a century later. 


Despite the removal of Carter, the process he had set in motion continued its work for years to come, even after Carter's death. A good legacy to leave behind, and an achievement worth celebrating.


Here's a good note to end on: 

"eighteenth-century Anglo-American society put a premium on certain traits of character—on circumspection, caution, and calculation; on the control and suppression of one's real feelings"

        (Gordon S. Wood, 1992; quoted in Note 51 page 240)

--John R.

--current reading: THE DRAGON GRIAULE by Lucius Shepherd.



*as in the case of Washington. contrast Jefferson, who was far less generous to his slaves


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

D&D in The Guardian

 So, a few days ago the British newspaper THE GUARDIAN ran a piece on playing D&D from the point of view of a first time Dungon Master.

It's nice to see mainstream media stories on D&D that have moved on beyond the 'here's this weird scary thing' to 'maybe it's time you shd give this hobby a try'.

One point I particularly noted was the author's observation about the slow pace of the game, much more than had been the case when he'd played the game, not run it --i.e., it'd gone faster when he'd been a player, much slower than as a DM. 

D&D has always been notorious in that the game slows down when combat begins, so that a single combat can take up an entire gaming session. But as a longtime player and DM* I have to say that the game has slowed overall, beginning with the advent of 3e. From 3e onward so many factors come into play in combat that it simply takes longer to figure out what happens. In recent years this hesitation to make decisions, to commit to a course of action, seems to have spread to all decision-making within the game. Thus a simple decision --say, which of several cave entrances the PCs should explore first-- can take a surprising amount of time. 

The reason is probably that PCs are precious. In the early days of D&D it was relatively quick and easy to roll up a PC;  generating a replacement character in mid-session** was not at all unusual.*** Now there are  so many factors involved that this is no longer the case.

And I have to say games where the PCs overthink everything tend at some point to generate their own solution in the form of the least patient person adopting a kick-in-the-door policy. 

--John R.

--current reading: just finished THE FIRST EMANCIPATOR 

*I started in early 1980, though it took me until around late 1982 to find a stable group (through the expedient of starting one myself).

**I've even known of cases when a character was killed, a replacement rolled up and join the PC group, only to be killed in turn and replaced in turn, all in the same session, though this was counted a display of serious bad luck.

***In some games, losing your magic items/special equipment was a more serious blow than the death of the character.

Cat Report Dec. 16th 2022


So, today we had seven cats:  three pairs and one solitaire, with an empty set of cages.


Great to hear about the adoption of LUCY-LOU, who was both beautiful and winsome.  Hope that his pending appointment for BOLT also turns out well.


Between us my fellow volunteer K and I got four cats out on walks.  I started off with BINGO, who was low-key but seemed to enjoy himself. He mostly sat on the small cat-stands lined up outside the room, giving them his personal seal of approval while he watched the world go by. He also did some window shopping, wanting to claim some scratching boards for his own (as did Irwin later).

 Meanwhile K took BONGO further afield. 


Next it was IRWIN and ELENOR’s turn. I walked him while K walked her. As in previous weeks it was nice to see how much Irwin enjoyed going up and greeting the store employee, many of whom not only stop and pet him but know his name. They both had long walks — surprisingly long given how the store was fairly crowded with people and several dogs (mostly well behaved). Irwin kept asking for doors to be opened; the only time I obliged was to let him briefly inspect the men's room.


ONYX and SEVERUS came out and played in the Cat Room.  They enjoyed the attention, games, and being groomed by K. They’re two smart cats —I haven’t seen them open their cages, as others report, but I have seen them open the cupboards with almost casual ease. 


BOLT asked to come out. This was such a change from a week ago (when he had just arrived) that I petted in his cage a good while first. Once he did come out he played games, rolled in catnip smell, and generally enjoyed himself.  A word of warning: beware the belly rub.


Still didn’t think our two black panthers wd be calm enough to be walkers; maybe next week. And to try to walk a cat named Bolt just seemed like asking for trouble.


—John R.




I loved this part out of another volunteer's report: 

There was a spider that walked in.   

That was a great toy for the cats.   

He didn't last long. 



Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Cat Report (Friday Dec 9th, 12 to 2)

Note: this report is slow to be posted because I wanted it to include some photos Janice took of the cats, but Explorer has proved unhelpful, so after some delay I'm going ahead and just posting the report itself.


 It was a good day in the cat room, with three bonded pairs (Bingo and BongoEleanor and IrwinSeverus and Onyx) carried over from last time. The adoption since last week of Blossom and Buttercup, as well as Siamese-ish George and Paco, along with the arrival just this morning of two new cats, Lucy Lou and Bolts (both solitaries) left us with a full house: eight cats.

Thanks once again to fellow volunteer K.’s taking on taking care of the cages, plus plenty of games and attention for all the cats in turn, I was able to walk Bingo, Bongo, and Irwin, while K. made sure Eleanor had a turn. I offered Severus one but he exercised his whole veto power on the idea of the leash. We had a close call when Bingo slipped the leash, but fortunately he ran right back to the cat-room and asked to be let back in.

It’s hard to tell Severus and Onyx apart, but one of them (I think Severus) has learned how to open the cupboard doors (especially the door to the clean clothes). The other one watches and tries to open a door himself but hasn’t quite figured out the trick of it.  Much later in the shift I spotted one of these two (again I think Severus, but it cd have been Onyx) playing with Bingo. The much smaller black cat wd sit down beside Bingo and Bongo’s cage and very slowly slip his paw up into Bongo’s space until Bongo wd notice and swat at it. They might have been kids sharing a back seat on a long car ride.

Of our two newcomers, Lucy Lou is truly beautiful: a grey-orange attention-loving fluff-puff. Don’t think it’ll take long for her to be out and about exploring.

Bolts, by contrast, is very shy, so much so that he was hiding under the blankets. Rather than force him to come out so soon after he’d settled in, I reached in under the blanket to pet him. This seemed to help: he was only half-hidden by the end of our shift. The person who reported that he has a striking difference in his eyes was right: one is yellow and the other darker golden color.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t take the newcomers long to fill at ease.

—John R

Americans as seen by (some) Europeans, 1754

 So, while continuing to make my way through Andrew Levy's THE LAST EMANCIPATOR I'm finding various interesting bits to follow up on somewhere down the line. High on that list is a 1754 novel that sounds like a forerunner of the mystery novel mingled with the melodramatic / Gothic and the picaresque. Here's Levy's description of Kimber's book (p. 15):

in 1754, Edward Kimber, the editor of London's Gentleman's Magazine, published a novel entitled History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson: Containing his Strange Varieties of Fortune in Europe and America, Compiled from his Own Papers. The novel featured as its antagonist a wealthy, corrupt young American slaveholder, 'the richest heir' in the colony, but 'a lad of bad principles, unlettered, and of coarse manners,' who is murdered, in the novel's crowd-pleasing ending, by his own slaves


I consider myself pretty well versed in nineteenth century literature, but I confess to have not come across that one before. Now to see if I can find a copy that is both easy of access and inexpensive to acquire.

--John R

Friday, December 9, 2022

Wednesday's Cello

So, I was a big fan of THE ADDAMS FAMILY when I was a kid, watching it during its original run. I was particularly fond of Thing, Gomez, Lurch, and especially Uncle Fester.*

So when I heard of WEDNESDAY, the new spin-off of the Addams' story focusing on rebellious teen daughter Wednesday ("Wednesday's child is full of woe"), I definitely wanted to try it out. We have not been disappointed.

Having enjoyed it myself, I wanted to share two of the more interesting bits: (1) Wednesday playing the early Rolling Stones song "Paint It Black" on the cello in what sounds to me like a virtuoso solo

and (2) a very striking dance scene set to an almost rockabilly number called "Goo Goo Muc". This one was new to me but a high point of the episode.

We plan to watch the last episode this evening tonight. Short of any unexpected jump-the-shark moments I think this series as a whole proves itself a worthy expansion of its excellent progenitor(s).

--John R.
current reading: THE FIRST EMANCIPATOR

*it was not until years later that I learned the backstory of Jackie Coogan, who played Fester, which made him something of a hero of mine; I admire the actor independently of enjoying the character.

I also in recent years came to know and admire the work of Charles Addams, the cartoonist who created the 'Family' . More like Gorey than anyone else, but with his own distinct voice.  Highly recommended. 

When I'm Sixty-Four

So, you listen to a song for years, till comes a day when it applies directly to you.

As in this case,  when I seem to be catching up with SGT PEPPER.

So here's a thank you to Paul McCartney (1942 and counting) circa 1967.

Though prophecy is imperfect in that the song failed to mention anything about the lemon cupcakes.

--John R, (1958 and counting)


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Selim the Algerine

So, I'm currently reading a book I picked up as an impulse buy fifteen years ago. It's moved from shelf to shelf over the years without my ever actually getting around to reading it. The current sort-out of my books and realization that I know someone who I think wd find it interesting make this seems a good time to re-home it.

I'll probably be making a separate post about the book in question*, but before I forget I wanted to share an odd little piece of Colonial-era history.

When John Craig, a frontier Presbyterian minister from Augusta County, was given charge of an emaciated, homesick Muslim prisoner-of-war who had escaped Mohawk custody at the end of the French and Indian War, he wrote Carter, appealed to the latter's reputation for 'beneficence to the poor and afflicted,' and asked the councillor to help 'Selim the Algerine' return to Algiers --a task Carter undertook with such generosity that Selim, upon returning to America several years later, traveled directly to Nomony** to seek Carter's renewed assistance, (p. 26)

I knew that was an international war but I confess I had no idea the combatants were so far-ranging. If I'd seen a book or movie which depicted someone from the Barbary States held captive by the Mohawks I wd have been skeptical. Live and learn. Sometime I'll have to see if I can find out more of Selim's story.***

--John R


**the chief of Carter's many plantations. 

***Andrew Levy, the author of THE FIRST EMANCIPATOR, gives as one source a 1924 book by an Andrew Price (SELIM THE ALGERIN) and another by Wm Meade (OLD CHURCHES, MINISTERS, AND FAMILIES OF VIRGINIA) which a quick search seems to indicate goes back to as far as 1861.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Christine McVie

So, I was sorry to hear the news about Christine McVie's passing. She was my favorite of the many talented singer/songwriters who were part of that protean group Fleeetwood Mac over its many years. If I had to pick a single song of hers as my favorite, it'd be "Homeward Bound", from BARE TREES (1972) -- which, not coincidentally, is my favorite of their albums.

Second place wd probably go to "Brown Eyes" from TUSK (1979). The album is a self-indulgent mess* but this song, where she was backed up by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green, stands out along with a few others.

 I got to see her once (this wd have been around 1984), when she was performing in small venues in places like Milwaukee in support of her solo album, which stays in the memory as pleasant. In those days I was deeply interested in rock music's version of the phenomenon that I have since learned is called Theseus's ship. If something is in continual use, and is repaired and maintained  throughout that time, so that at what point it consist entirely of replacement parts, is it still Theseus's ship at that point? Or, in the rock n roll version, in rare cases, a group would be stable, with the same line-up of the same personal). More often a long-lasting group will be ever-evolving, so that the line up would change over time: Fleetwood Mac and Jefferson Starship were typlical examples.  In some cases an old group continue to tour without a single remaining original member (there was a point in the early seventies in which there were two rival versions of Fleetwood Mac on tour). 

In any case, McVie's passing has put me in the mood to, in the words of Bob Seger, "take those old records off the shelf; I'll sit and listen to them by myself". I think over the next few days I'll be listening to all the Fleetwood Mac albums I have on vinyl (plus one on cassette and two I only have on cd):


THEN PLAY ON (the standout tune here is the blistering "Oh Well").** when they sounded like Santana before there was a Santana.

KILN HOUSE (for which McVie did the cover art). back in the day when they did Buddy Holly covers.

FUTURE GAMES (a transition album; an uneasy combination of Danny Kirwan and Bob Welsh)

BARE TREES (dominated by Danny Kirwan; their best album of them all)

MYSTERY TO ME (dominated by Bob Welsh)

HEROES ARE HARD TO FIND (still v. much Welsh's band)

FLEETWOOD MAC (the first of the albums made by the classic line-up most people think of when they hear the name 'Fleetwood Mac: Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, & Stevie Nicks. second in sales and reputation only to the follow-up, Rumours)

RUMOURS (one of the best-selling albums of all time and the high-water mark of their career)

TUSK (Buckingham's folly: a rambling hodge-podge that proved Rumours was a hard act to follow.)

LIVE (essentially a live album of the concert tour to support Rumours, plus a few others, like Beach Boys cover "Farmer's Daughter")

MIRAGE (going through the motions)

TANGO IN THE NIGHT (more of the same)

SAY YOU WILL (something of a comeback for the group: Buckingham/Nicks without Christine McVie)

--So there it is: not a complete discography, but a lot of music on a dozen albums, plus a few solo efforts (two by Kirwan and two by Nicks, in addition). I'm grateful the Christine McVie for the songs we have thanks to her that we wdn't have otherwise.

--John R.

*It's one of those albums that proves just how hard it is to do a worthy follow-up to a best0selling career-defining album; the Eagle's THE LONG RUN is another example.

**Here are the lyrics to Green's little ditty:

Can't help about the shape I'm inCan't sing, I ain't pretty, and my legs are thinDon't ask me what I think of youMight not give the answer that you want me to
Now when I talk to God I knew he'd understandHe said "stick by me I'll be your guiding handDon't ask me what I think of youI might not give the answer that you want me to"
Oh well.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

the Day After Thanksgiving cat report


It was a very busy day within the store, with a fair number of customers (and dogs) that increased throughout the shift. I’m glad to report that our cats who encountered dogs when out walking went on alert but held their ground. We even had one dog make a stress-mess  on the floor outside the cat room, much to the cats’ incredulity.

We currently have eight cats, in four bonded pairs, mostly black:





Of these BONGO had the first walk. Last week he didn’t go far, doing the step-step-plop, step-step-plop, and so forth. This week he went all over the store, walking up to everyone and rubbing against their legs, wanting attention. 

By contrast, BINGO refused to leave the room, much preferring the cat-cave. I meant to go back at the end of shift and give her another try but ran out of time, so it’s be great if someone cd give her some extra attention.

ELANOR and IRWIN outdid themselves in being goodwill ambassadors, venturing all over the store, walking up to people and asking to be petted. Be warned that Irwin is showing great interest in doors, particularly the store’s front door to outside. Clearly he remembers doors from his earlier days as something you walk up to, sit down, and wait for a human to open. As for toys, I think the laser pointer was their favorite. It was a hoot watching them slipsliding around in pursuit.

As for the four kittens (SEVERUS & ONYX, BLOSSOM & BUTTERCUP), we didn’t have any walks here but the gray and black pair had a grand time chasing each other and sampling all sorts of toys (she finds a toy and he claims it). As someone observed, they don’t mind being picked up but don’t like being held. It was hard getting the Onyx/Severus pair to come out, and when they did they at once began exploring and looking for interesting hiding places.

That’s about it, but I have to add how glad I was to see the people who work at PetSmart being so attentive of our cats. At one point when Bongo was walking away from the checkout line where he’d been laying on the charm, I heard the person at the register explaining to the customer in line about bonded pairs. It’s nice to know they’re rooting for the cats too.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.
—John R.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Kuang's Dilemma


So, I was queried in the comments (Hi Paul W) to the effect that using a header like 'Something Kuang got right' implies there are other things she got wrong. It seems like my response to that is better treated in a post of its own (hence this) than in a comment.  --John R.


re. 'Something Kuang Got Right'

It wd be more fair to say I disagree with her than that she got it wrong.


A key fulcrum in the book is the hero's dilemma: if you find yourself part of a repressive regime, one that you've come to feel is a force for evil in the world --such as the British Empire during the Opium War of the 1830s, is it 


(1) better to stay in the organization and work to change it from within




(2) rebel against the group, acknowledging "the necessity of violence".


In Kuang's book the hero vacillates between these two poles for the first half of the book before committing himself absolutely to one of these options  throughout the second half.


A secondary point I wd have expected her to make more of was the issue of collateral damage, but it's a relatively minor concern.



As a pacifist, I'm not sympathetic to "the necessity of evil".  I think violence shd not be our starting point but our last resort. Hence I struggled with this book.


--John R. 

--current reading: THE ROOK

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Something Kuang got right

So, I found a lot of things about R. F. Kuang's BABEL problematic. In retrospect, I shd have kept the book's subtitle, THE NECESSITY OF VIOLENCE, front and center when reading the novel. But one thing I whole heartedly find myself in agreement with are the closing words in her introduction:

"Some may be puzzled by the precise placement of the 

Royal Institute of Translation, also known as Babel. 

This is because I've warped geography to make space 

or it. Imagine a green between the Bodleian Libraries,

 the Sheldonian, and the Radclilffe Camera. Now make

 it much bigger, and put Babel right in the centre.

If you find any other inconsistencies, feel free to 

remind yourself this is a work of fiction." (emphasis mine)

In short, she has followed Pullman's example of basing a story in Oxford but changing some things so that the Oxford described in her book does not correspond in every particular with its real-world counterpart: she alters things as needed for purposes of the story.

--John R.

--Happy Thanksgiving, all

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Lembas is Cornbread

 So, about a week ago I picked up RECIPES FROM THE WORLD OF TOLKIEN by Rbt Tuesley Anderson (Thunder Bay Press, 2020). Tolkien cookbooks and Middle-earth recipes have been around for a long time; I was curious to see how this one handled the balancing act of what to leave out and what to put in, given that Tolkien includes some New World ingredients in his Middle-earth works. Despite the examples in LotR and H (potatoes, tomatoes),  it's disconcerting to see Anderson's claim that lembas is a kind of cornbread.  This he justifies as follows:

According to The Silmarillion, Lembas is first made by Yavanna,

 the Valarian queen responsible for all things that grow on the earth, 

using a special corn that grows in Aman. It is therefore likely that 

Lembas would have been similar in texture and appearance to a 

deliciously comforting cornbread (.54)

This they back up by listing a cup of cornmeal alongside a cup of flour in the list of ingredients (.55).

--It seems pretty obvious here that the folks who put this book together didn't know that in UK usage, which we have no reason to doubt Tolkien follows,  'corn' refers not to New World corn (maize) but is a generic term for grain in general (e.g. wheat).  

As for the claim that maize grows in Valinor, my memory has a vague recollection of a line about 'corn-lands of Numenor' but a quick search of THE SILMARILLION failed to turn it up. 

Cram, by the way, is mainly made of oats (.52).

'Dragon Eggs' (their version of deviled eggs) is described as having 'Chinese-inspired flavors' (.35), which seems to me rather to break the book's premise.

I think they're on much more solid ground when they ascribe Gollum a sushi dish ( .90-91), though I'm doubtful re. Smeagol's access to vinegar and wasabi.

So far as I cd tell, there are no ent-draughts nor any orcish cuisine, which is perhaps just as well.

--John R.

Charles Williams' biographical dilemma

So, while I was thinking about Williams (cf. my last post), I came across a passage by Wms himself that sums up nicely the difficulties faced by Wms and his designated biographer:

When the devoted Raymond Hunt proposed writing his biography,

 Williams sent a brief outline of his life, centering on a paradox: 

his love for Phillis was of immeasurable value, yet it must never

be mentioned. 

'If I were to choose now, I should, I fear, still say: 

"Never, never that. Let all the work go; let us lose Taliessin & the

Dove and the E. P. M. & all—only never that." But 'for god Almighty's

 sake never mention it to anyone unless I say they are safe. And 

especially never to my wife.' And he stipulated, 'no word like

Celia or Celian or Phillida or Phillidan should appear in your MS.

and any reference to the Masques should be small. I don't like 

saying so for myself; I would write it over the earth & sky.

But there are others.'  

Lindop, THE THIRD INKLING, page 324)

The core difficulty here was that Wms wanted his biographer to omit any mention of what he considered the most important event of his life -- the Beatrician moment in which he experienced the love of his life --because he didn't want his wife to find out.

--John R.

Monday, November 21, 2022


 So, recently my attention was drawn to a piece of mine published as far back as 1996: an essay on what I consider to be Charles Williams's best play, a Pentecost piece called TERROR OF LIGHT.* It's an unusual play, in a much more colloquial idiom than most of C.W.'s drama. In fact, it's his only play in prose, which I argued was one reason for its success. Success, that is, as a work of art: it's generally been dismissed by Wms scholars --unfairly, I think.

 I hadn't looked at my essay for years and found the experience of going back and reading it now an interesting one. I think my critique of the play and my arguing that it merits praise stand up well pretty well, thought I think I've improved a good deal as a writer and cd do a better job of it today.**  

This being the first of three pieces I've written about Wms has made me want to go back and reread the other two: 

The second, delivered at the Wheaton Mythcon in 1985 and collected into the informal proceedings from that conference, was my piece arguing that Tolkien and Williams were friends -- which is generally agreed upon today but was going against the consensus at the time.

The third was my Mythcon Guest of Honor speech for the Colorado Springs Mythcon in 2015 where I really went out on a limb, suggesting a whole new way to read Williams that I thought solved a lot of difficulties and contradictions in his life and works.

The first of these three essentially disappeared like a pebble thrown into a puddle.

The second was favorably mentioned in a number of places and helped Inklings scholars get a better understanding of Tolkien's and Williams' relationship.

The third, the most radical and I think most important, had the misfortune to come out right about the time two major books on Ch.Wms. came out, which more or less buried it. But it wd have been a hard sell in any case, since it goes against the current.

Still, it's been interesting to go back and look again at old work. 

--John R.

--current reading: THE ROOK by O'Malley (re-reading), BABEL (just finished), PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE (just started).

*this appears in the volume THE RHETORIC OF VISION, edited by Charles A. Huttar and Peter J. Schakel; my piece was originally titled "TERROR OF LIGHT: Williams' Prose Play", changed by the editor to "Rhetorical Strategies in Charles Williams's Prose Play"

**I had the same experience when I went back and revised "SHE and Tolkien", my first essay of Tolkien criticism (1981 & 2011)

Wednesday, November 9, 2022


So, earlier this week I came across a video on PBS about woodpeckers. It's something my mother wd have loved. Since I can no longer share it with her I thought I'd shared it here. Not only is the content interesting and the nature photography stunning but it confirms that I'd been pronouncing the name of the pileated woodpecker right all these years: 


We've had a resident pair of woodpeckers, a male and female flicker, come up on a regular basis outside our place for as long as we've lived here, over twenty years now. I know they can't very well be the original birds, but they do show how a family of birds can persist so long as their habitat survives.

Here's the link:

--John R.

--current reading: still BABEL

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Doctor Whos

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous.

So, along with watching an excellent live performance of MACBETH, I've been poking around on the net looking at a slew of postings about DOCTOR WHO. This was my favorite show for a long time, but I drifted away in recent years, watching it in spurts. The last episodes I watched came about mid-way through Whittaker's first season. I'm trying to stir up my enthusiasm for another plunge. 

Anyway, in the course of looking at a lot of overviews and best of's and compilation clips hoping to remind myself why I liked this show so much, I came across the following twelve-Doctors-together one-off.

I'd always liked the episodes that included multiple Doctors, so this was very much my cup of tea. Here's the clip:

Have to say I thought they had some good voice imitations, esp Tom Baker, Pertwee, and Troughton (certain others, like Davidson, not as good).  And the figures appearing as companions was a fun touch (e.g. Beatles Paul and Ringo with Troughton, Laurel and Hardy with Smith)

Surprisingly, of all the Doctors Colin Baker, whose tenure marked the bottom of the barrel, came out best here, closely followed by John Hurt's so-called 'War Doctor'.

My favorite Doctors, just so everyone knows where I stand: 

Tom Baker, of course, by a country mile.

Christopher Eccleston, who relaunched the show after it'd died a lingering humiliating death.

John Hurt, who may have had the shortest tenure but made the most of it.

Honorable Mention:  Patrick Troughton, who was better than his scripts.

--John R.

--current reading: BABEL (about a third of the way through, and still don't know where he's going with this).

Sunday, November 6, 2022


 So, today Janice and  I and friend Jeff made our way down to the Armory in the Seattle Center* to see MacBeth, perhaps my favorite Shakespeare.* I'd seen it three times before, I think, and this was by far the best performance. It's a matter of deep personal satisfaction that I finally got to see the ghost. The other stagings all dropped Banquo's appearance at the banquet, instead having MacBest react to various blank spots on the stage. Several film versions make the same cuts, unfortunately. I'd always thought from reading the play that having the audience see what MacBeth sees wd be more effective, and I now feel I was right.  Indeed, they added a new ghost: that of Lady MacBeth, who puts in a silent, chilling appearance before her husband, just as he is receiving word of her (offstage) death.

As for the performances, Banquo was outstanding. Lady MacBeth was very, very good. A standout performance in a second tier role was Lord Ross, who comes across as a reasonable man in a time of tyranny. The witches were a little low-key. The one performance among the major characters that I thought a bit lacking was MacBeth himself.

As an added bonus, we ran into our friend Allan (a former Mithlonder***) at the interval and again after the performance.

Aside from having to wear a mask, a good experience, and one that encourages us to take in more of their plays this year as opportunity offers. 


--current reading: BABEL

*the old 1962 World's Fair ground.

**though AS YOU LIKE IT is a competitor, and Hamlet close behind.

***from back when Mithlond was still meeting on a semi-regular basis.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Cat Photo from the Cat Room

 So,  here are two photos by Janice of one of our new arrivals in the Cat Room, who arrived on Wednesday and got adopted today, along with his partner. 

I barely got to know Spirit Bear and Angus --the one all white, the other all black-- but I'm glad they so quickly found a new home. And it makes more room for the ten other cats and kittens currently in the adoption room:

Tuxedo cat near-senior brother-sister pair BINGO and BONGO, who got their usual walk around the store and lots of attention, which they love.

ELEANOR and ERWIN, the Wobblies (one a bright torbie, the other pastel), who have motor-control problems but don't let that let them down; they too went out for walks.

SEVERUS and ONYX, a pair of deeply shy all-black cats who are still in the hide-under-their-blankets stage, not at all convinced there might not be Cat Eating Fiends about.

There's also the little family group of OLYMPIA (the mother, a year old and just a big kitten herself) and her three kittens, SAN JUAN, ORCA, and BLAKELY, who all came out and played with all kinds of toys and especially each other: Olympia revealed a great love of catnip.

Many thanks to K, my fellow volunteer, for taking care of cat necessities and freeing me up to get the leash on and get the cats out for a stroll to explore the big building, get lots of petting from by-standers, spreading the word of cats in need of new homes.

--John R

I Voted

 So, on Tuesday I filled out my ballot, and Wednesday took it down and dropped it in the drop box down by the Regional Justice Center (a sort of courthouse annex). Election Day itself won't be till next week, but Washington state encourages early voting, which spreads the work of ballot-collecting and counting across several days. 

We're lucky that a lot of the folks on the ballot here are incumbents who've done a good job and deserved re-election. And there were relatively few cranks opposing them: most of these got weeded out in the primary. Instead, the challengers who made it to finalist tended to be of the 'never held elective office'/ 'I-have-no-governing-experience' school of candidates. I've never understood why some people feel that boasting of their inexperience and incompetence is a selling point, but so it goes. 

Now to wait and see what the results will be, here and across the nation.

--John R.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022


 So, Sunday I picked up the new Tolkien Calendar for 2023. I was a bit surprised (and pleased) to see it on the shelves at the Federal Way Barnes and Noble, since for several years now it's been hard to pick up any way other than special-ordering it.

To my surprise, rather than a single-artist themed collection such as we've seen most years, it features a variety of artists, most of whose work I'm not familiar with: 

Kip Rasmussen

Emily Austin

Spiros Gelekas

Jenny Dolfen

Justin Gerard

*Donato Giancola 

Ted Nasmith provides the introductory  essay, which includes this succinct description:

"depictions of scenes from Middle-earth by a growing international collection of artists have never slowed down, and this year's calendar is devoted to celebrating a selection of them."

He also notes that, like Naismith himself, Rasmussen

"believes The Silmarillion can be made more accessible by way of illustrations"

The art itself is a mixed bag, as might be expected from a gathering put together by a group ranging from professionals to semiprofessionals to fan artists. 

I think my favorites are Donato's cover art: the avalanche on Caradhras  (a very well done depiction of a familiar scene) and Dolfen's Fingon vs. Glaurung (March), with a pleasing lighter pallet than I'd expect from that event. I'm still undecided re. Gerard's Morgoth (November): I like the bottom half of the picture (the burning trees) but not the top half (swirly smoke). We'll see if it grows on me.

One final element that struck me came in the artists' mini-bios in the back, which show that two out of six contributors (Gerard and Donato) have worked in the gaming industry. Donato even singles out KEEP ON THE BORDERLINE as one of his influences.**

In addition to the coming year's Tolkien calendar, I also picked up a write-things-down-on calendar for the kitchen. For this I went with the Van Gogh: full of artwork I've mostly seen before in calendars past, but (a) I like Van Gogh --in fact I'd have to say he's one of my favorite artists -- and (b) he's been having a hard time of it lately --is it possible to bully a dead man?

--John R.

current reading: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD (finished re-reading), BABEL by R. F. Kuang (still in early stages).

*Of these, I know I have at least one of Donato's art books; I think I've seen a good deal of his work on collectable card games as well

**I assume he means it in the original classic form, not the Return to sequel

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A Bear Who Eats Pear (Trout Lake)

So, I'm currently in one of my favorite places, visiting our friend Bijee at the Strange High House near Trout Lake, atop the little gorge of the White Salmon River, about midway between Mt. Adams and the Columbia River Gorge.

The big excitement this year has been the recent sighting of a bear who has raided the little orchard besides the house. I'm rooting for the bear (whom Bijee has nicknamed Gunther), as in hoping it vanishes back into the wilderness that surrounds us, in which it must have been resident all its years, before the local bear-hunters organize a pursuit.

As if a wandering bear with a taste for pears were not enough, I only found out this trip that Mt. Adams is considered  a hotbed of alien activity by those who go into such things:

The ECETI Ranch (which stands for Enlightened Contact with ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) and the Self-Mastery Earth Institute apparently attract people from all over. Their medicine wheel looks interesting but I admit I have no idea what a Pleiadian Circle is or what it supposedly does.

For those interested in seeing how to monetize UFOs, connected with the site there's Liongate, whose icon is a surprisingly Narnian lion ( and an array of offerings. 

Within the last year or two there's even been a movie based on the Aliens-inside Mt. Adam trope --though not having seen this yet I'm not quite certain whether it's more mockumentory or sci-fi/horror fare.

--More on this one when I've had a chance to see (or at least skim) it.

--And now back to on-vacation relaxing. 

--John R. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2022


 So, today the supplement to TOLKIEN STUDIES volume XIX arrived -- in rather battered condition, I'm sorry to say: the cover looks like it's been crumpled then flattened out again. Anyone else have this problem?

Glad to say the book is intact; in this case, condition does not affect contents.

And the content is impressive, and shd be welcome to all serious fans of the book. It's long been known that when the narrative of THE LORD OF THE RINGS split into multiple threads, Tolkien drew up charts so he cd keep track of who was doing what an when. Wm Cloud Hicklin has now edited these columns as THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and it is being released as a stand-alone addendum to the latest volume of TS (XIX).  

I haven't had a chance yet to look over this, but I'm impressed by the clarity of his presentation. I made several stabs towards transcribing this material for my own research in the early 2000s and cdn't arrive at a satisfactory way of transcription among the multiple, oft-altered material. It's good to see Hicklin succeed.

And it's always a good day in my book when we get some new, never-before-published Tolkien mss.

Speaking of which, my copy of Volume XIX itself has not yet arrived. Anyone else having this problem, or am I just impatient?

--John R.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

People Say Nice Things About Me

 So, I've been looking at the catalogue for the currently ongoing Marquette Tolkien exhibition, I was very pleased to see the following description of my contribution to the reprocessing process, in Wm M Fliss's essay "A Journey Down the Great River of Wilderland: Mapping the Manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings". 

The complete collection was digitally photographed in 2016; and a herculean effort commenced to map the drafts and isolated fragments, establishing connections between these manuscript pieces, in terms of both their emergence during the long gestation of The Lord of the Rings and their place within the evolution of individual chapters. The Tolkien scholar and Marquette alumnus John Rateliff has been instrumental in this maping process. Once upon a time, John worked with Taum Santoski to assist Christopher Tolkien in understanding Marquette's manuscripts so that Christopher could write The History of Middle-earth. John, aided by his own long history with the manuscripts as well as by access to the rich body of notes and correspondence between Christopher and Taum, has performed the yeoman's work of fitting these pieces together, work that will be continuously fine-tuned in coming years as other scholars interact with the digital system.   (page 28)

Earlier in the same piece (page 27) appears an image of what the schematic map looks like; a description of its function appears on a few pages later:

The mapping process has identified the various drafts for each chapter and a timeline of their approximate creation. Once all the metadata is inserted into the system, researchers will be able to move from page to page within a draft, from draft to draft, and from chapter to chapter across the entire history of Tolkien's masterpiece. (page 30)

 It's a good feeling to see the result of years of work (about six years by my estimation) be so favorably described. 

My ego is well and truly boo'd.

--John R.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode 8

As an adaptation of Tolkien: Appalling.

As a fantasy film, difficult for me to judge. In any case the final episode was by far the best.

Best characters: Adar and Celebrimbor. They're straightforward about what they want and move towards their goal without undue angst.

Worst characters: the wee twee folk,

Special Penalty: to Galadriel, from  the librarians and cryptkeepers of Eregion.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Quote of the Day: Annwn

 The river was broad and shallow at that place, and singing over innumerable stones; and with many alders on either bank, and great oak-trees beyond the alders, The road ran down through the river between the trees; the sunlight dappled the shallow water there, gleaming down on it  through the leafage.  The two arnies wee on the plain facing each other, one on this side of the river, one on that.

--Kenneth Morris,


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Laconic Review of THE RINGS OF POWER Episode 7

All kinds of darkness.

Enter the Norns (wait, what?).

First major discontinuity looking forward: offstage death of Celeborn.

bonus: Celeborn the Wise as a silver crab. 

Friday, October 7, 2022


So, we got together Sunday for one of our rare meetings of Mithlond, the former Seattle area fantasy book discussion group. The weather being nice, we sat outside and enjoyed seeing what they'd done with their back yard and also got a quick tour of the Tiny House they'd built there ---the first time I'd seen one of these. Don't know how they do it, but they managed to make it look bigger on the inside.

Amid our sipping tea while discussing books and films and plays and a myriad of other things, we got into  a desultory discussion of various birds that came up to their yard, including whether the woodpecker they said they occasionally see was a flicker or a pileated woodpecker. Not long after I made a good case that it was probably a flicker, a pileated woodpecker flew in, circled the yard, and flew off again. 


This marks the first tine I've ever seen a real, live pileated woodpecker.* I've seen a dead one in a parking lot (alas), and I've looked the wrong direction when people I'm with have seen one, including one time back in my Scouting days, when I used to go out on pre-dawn birding with Mr. Stirling Lacy and Dr. Charles Rogers, both of whom I knew from the church.  So I can tell a scissor-tailed flycatcher from a shrike, but birdwatching makes no promises. You just put yourself at a likely spot at a likely time and hope for the best.

Which is why most of my birdwatching these days is v. low-key: watching the hummingbird wars off the balcony, admiring the chickadees and goldfinches and juncos and sometimes a pair of flickers,** keeping an eye out for everything from red wing blackbirds to great blue herons and once in a long while a bald eagle (a pair nests just a mile or so from our townhouse).  And of course I used to feed the crows when I went out but I've scaled back on that a lot in recent years.

Might be a good time to dig out that copy of THE GRAIL BIRD which I bought several years ago but have never read.

--John R.

*It looks just like an ivory-billed woodpecker, except for the color of its bill and not being extinct.

**They've been coming up for as long as we've lived here, so it must be a long line of descendents.

C. S. Lewis is Opaque

So, yesterday I spent hours looking through the third volume of CSL's COLLECTER ESSAYS. And, as has often proved the case,  I didn't find what I was looking for but came across a number of interesting things in the search. For example, I'm not quite sure how to take the following passage from a 1959 letter to the great Arthurian scholar Eugene Vinaver.  (III.1083-1084)

Have you read Tolkien's lecture on Fairy Stories in the volume Essays presented to Charles Williams?  Part of my case against the Celticists wd. be his mixim that 'motifs are a product of analysis' -- not bricks out of which stories are put together but entia rationis ['mental fiction'] into which we analyse them -- rather like the metrical feet or grammatical conjunctions and declensions.

I thought I knew ON FAIRY STORIES pretty well, but this 'maxim' doesn't ring a bell. Could this be an example of what JRRT called 'Lewisification'?**

--John R

--current viewing: RINGS OF POWER

*Hooper's note explains that by Celticist Lewis meant figures like Loomis who explained everything in Arthurian legend as derived from Celtic soures.

**For Tolkien's description of being 'Lewisified', see  LETTERS p.89.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Quote of the Day

It would be an ill thing

if wonders were for the seeing

and we without the seeing them

--Kenneth Morris

"The Story of Pwyll and Rhianon" 

A More Laconic Review of Rings of Power episode 6

 Orcs fight for orcs' rights

Mount Doom Go Boom.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode Six

Laconic Review:


Less Laconic:

The least Tolkien content of any episode yet. 

Adar's backstory.

The orcs go to war. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dave Arneson sees the future

So, yesterday I found the old Dave Arneson piece I'd been looking for (right where I thought it'd be, and where I thought I'd looked three times already. Apparently not),    A bit disappointing on a quick skim, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to reading it through.

Nearby, also on the JUDGES GUILD shelf, I found a copy of PEGASUS magazine --the Summer 1999 issue. As it turns out, this issue includes an interview with Dave Arneson, in which he makes the memorable pronouncement

Oh, the future's here.  

It turned out to be a lot dumber 

than I thought it was going to be.

I wonder what he'd make of the current D&D boom, as testified to in different ways in these two links,* one about D&D's acceptance in popular culture,  the other about WotC's opening moves in what looks to be the start of work on the next (sixth) edition of D&D.

--John R.

--current reading

*thanks to Janice for the links)


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Less Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode 5 (JDR)

Plots in THE RINGS OF POWER so far: harfoots and Gandalf (if it is Gandalf) and Galadriel the obsessed virago and Numenor and Elrond the accommodating and Gil-galad the not-to-be-trusted and Celebrimbor and the Hadrian's Wall elf and Adar who's probably Sauron and more Numenor and the Aragorn impersonator and Durin and yet more Numenor. 

--John R


Laconic Review of THE RINGS OF POWER, Episode 5 (JC)

 THE WIFE SAYS: The Plot Holes Thicken

Friday, September 23, 2022

Bilbo's Birthday (More Events at Marquette)

 So, more and more people are celebrating September 22nd as Bilbo's Birthday,  joining March 25th (Tolkien Reading Day, pegged to The Downfall of Sauron) and January 3rd (JRRT's birthday).  Which makes this a good time to remind those who can get to Milwaukee that the JRRT: ART OF THE MANUSCRIPT is still ongoing and will continue to do so through most of the rest of the year. A few samples will give an idea:

September 22nd: CARL HOSTETTER's presentation on 'EDITING THE TOLKIENIAN MANUSCRIPT, which I assume will be more or less the piece appearing as his contribution to the Bodley's Christopher Tolkien festschrift, THE GREAT TALES NEVER END.  This was originally scheduled as an in-person event but changed over into a Zoom.

This is followed less than a week later by TOLKIEN: THE PRESENCE OF LAW by Kali Murray of Marquette's Law Department --a subject I don't recall having come across anyone covering before; to come across something new and different makes me sorry I'll miss it.

Speaking of Banquets, just two days later comes a fundraising banquet, THE FALL DINNER.  Bilbo wd certainly have approved.

Another major presentation comes on October 13th: Holly Ordway's TOLKIEN'S FAITH AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF MIDDLE-EARTH.

Then on October 25th comes another presentation by someone at Marquette: this time TOLKIEN AND THE BIBLE by Michael Cover of the Theology Department.

November 5th comes another one I'm sorry to have to miss, a presentation of WORLD-BUILDING: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, overseen by Marquette alumnus and TSR veteran Jim Lowder.

November 17th comes a piece by John Garth whose title sounds interesting but uninformative: WHISPERING LEAVES: HOW TOLKIEN'S MANUSCRIPTS REVEAL THE SECRETS OF HIS CREATIVITY.

Finally, near the end of the semester brings Garry Canavan of Marquette's English Department --the person at Marquette who teaches the courses I wd have loved to have taken had that only been an option back in my day-- discussing TOLKIEN IN POPULAR CULTURE.

And above and beyond, most important of them all, is the exhibit of the Tolkien manuscripts. I know that if I still lived in Milwaukee I'd be making multiple visits this fall to take advantage of this big event.

--John R.

--finally wrapping up reading the Christopher festschrift; only two essays (Shippey's and Sibley's) to go now.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Meeting Dave Arneson

 So, recently TSR/RPG researcher Ben Riggs published an interesting piece of TSR history: Dave Arneson's proposal to Peter Adkison asking to be hired back at TSR and put in charge of D&D.


"Why D&D's Co-Creator

Didn't Get Hired by

Wizards of the Coast"



Riggs states that this was the last of Arneson's many efforts over the years trying to regain control of the game, all unsuccessful, though Arneson did manage to extract a good deal of cash from TSR over the years. The Great War between Gygax and Arneson is now the stuff of legend, recently set down by RPG scholar Jon Peterson in well-documented glory in his book GAME WIZARDS.


Riggs says this April 1997 gambit was Arneson's last effort along these lines.  As it turns out, I think I can add to this account.  I only met Arneson once that I remember,*  when he dropped by the RPG department at WotC. I don't know who was showing him around, but he came over from the direction of Peter's office, so I assumed he'd been meeting Peter Adkison himself. Arneson was in a good mood, v. pleased as he told us the news that he would be contributing to the new edition of D&D (what came to be known as 3e). This surprised me, because Julia and I were already well into the editing of the PLAyER'S HANDBOOK (working on the skills and spells, I think;  Julia or Jonathan might remember more), and any contribution Arneson might want to make wd have to be in hand pretty soon.  I did not however share this reservation with Arneson; it seemed inappropriate to rain on his parade, put the kibosh on his happy mood, however you want to put it. 


What strikes me as curious about this is that it wd definitely have been after the April 1997 period Ben Rigg's letters date from. Among other considerations, I was laid off from TSR in Lake Geneva at the end of December 1996 and hired back at Gen Con 1997, reporting to work in Ranton in early September 1997.  Arneson's visit was definitely to the Renton building, so it cdn't have been earlier than that.  Working from the other end, my copy of the Third Edition PLAYER'S HANDBOOK is dated Monday June 19th 2000. I know that 3e had an unusually long creation period but can't now remember specific signposts. At a guess, the encounter I'm remembering is likeliest to have fallen about a year before the book's release date --which wd make it circa mid-1999, or about two years after the April 1997 letters.



In the end Arneson contributed nothing to 3e D&D, but Peter's meeting with him clearly made him happy. And it's of a piece with Adkison's making a goodwill gesture to Gygax as well, which resulted in his writing a brief Foreword to RETURN TO THE TOMB OF HORRORS (1998).






*While drafting this post I discovered that I may have met him one other time, at the 1995 Origins in Philadelphia (the only time I've ever been to Origins. Or Philadelphia). Inspired by Petersen's account of Arneson's career in his THE GAME WIZARDS, I did some recent sorting of the remaining rpg collection.  I remembered that somewhere down there I have a copy of THE FIRST FANTASY CAMPAIGN, Arneson's post-D&D Judge's Guild release. I haven't unearthed that  (yet) but I did find a copy of the boxed set ADVENTURES IN FANTASY (Adventures UnlimitedExcalibre), signed by both Arneson and his cowriter, Richard Snider.** 


**not sure how he connects with the Snider who authored the early TSR STAR EMPIRES/STAR PROBE digest-sized games (John M. Snider), nor the one who illustrated the former (Paul G. Snider).


According to my note on the inside box cover this was a gift from Lester Smith ("cJuly '95"), one of TSR's top talents in the mid-90s.


And with this I found THE ADVENTURE OF THE PACIFIC CLIPPER, by Arneson (Flying Buffalo); this one is autographed 


"to John

Dave Arneson



  I remember the con well, but somehow this event has disappeared from my memory, alas.


Friday, September 16, 2022

Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode 4

 Not so much Interlace as Hopscotch.

'Amazon Content Services LLC'

 So, recently I saw a new one-volume LotR with a beautiful golden cover illustrating some scene that I didn't recognize —some ceremony involving an elf, probably in some great underground cavern, was all that I cd make out.


When I turned to the credits page to see whose work this is, I was surprised and  distressed to find there's no artist credited. Instead this striking piece is credited (on the outside of the book, in the bottom left corner, half-buried in the art) to 'Amazon Content Services LLC'. Is this a well-known entity I shd have heard about before now? Or some corporate department within Amazon? For my part, I feel strongly, after all my years as an editor, freelancer, and independent scholar, that it's important that credits accurately reflect who was responsible for what: writing or painting or composing or whatever. Otherwise it's hard to track who actually did what. But the example given here doesn't give me enough information.


Here's the cover:


And here's a close-up of the actual credit (courtesy of Janice).


--John R.

--current reading: THE GREAT TALES NEVER END (John Garth's essay)