Monday, January 24, 2022

Quote of the Day: Thurber

 "We all have flaws," he said, "and mine is being wicked."

—the evil Duke


Runner Up: 
. . . creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream,
in which swift and sippery snakes 
slid and sithered silkily,
whispering sinful secrets.


Friday, January 21, 2022

The Cat Report (Fr 1/21-22)

Just two cats in the cat room today, but they’re great cats. The Two Brothers (or cousins; I never did get which)  PISCES (our little black tuxedo cat) and SIRIUS (the little tabby with the nibbled whiskers) between them took up all the energy in the room.

Found out they love catnip three ways: catnip sachet, catnip spray, and catnip bubbles. They seem to love any game offered them. And they’re not shy about finding a game on their own.

Wanted to see if I cd walk them, so I took it in stages, first with Pisces, then Sirius. Started by getting the leash on Pisces and walking around inside the room.  He seemed to adjust to it better than I expected so I took the plunge and took him out. He was worried at first, but about five minutes in seemed to decide he was missing an opportunity and set out exploring. 

Then it was Sirius’s turn. It helped that he’d been watching his brother and wanted whatever his brother was getting. Both did very well, both in stretching their legs and as good will ambassadors, attracting a lot of attention (including at one point being petted very gently by a woman in a wheelchair who wdn’t have been able to get into the room). One of them (I think Pisces) was calm around a well-behaved dog that got fairly close (probably helped that it was riding in a shopping cart and kept silent). The only problem came when Sirius got spooked. I didn’t see what alarmed him but managed both to keep hold of my end of the leash when he bolted and got him safely back inside, whereupon he was fine.

Other activities: 
— several times a cricket came into the room (had there been some Great Escape over near the fish?) and immediately regretted it.
— Pisces at one point began to bite the bag of food atop the bin, ocasionally racing the length of the room and pouncing on it
— Sirius loves to roll in the sandbox, which he treats like a toy. I expect that behavior will go away once he has a home and box of his own.
— an Ex-Volunteer came by with a bag of cat-blankets; I put these by the bench.
— Pisces has a distinctive chirp when he talks.

No health problems. The dirt boxes showed plenty of activity but their pooposity looked normal, like what I’d expect from two half-grown cats with healthy appetites and active digestions. No doubt helped that we have three boxes for two cats: two in their cages and the communal box as their third option.

—John R.

P.S.: Thanks to Janice for the picture of Sirius

UPDATE: And now word has come that the two of them have just been adopted and are off to their new home together --John R., Saturday the 22nd



Thursday, January 20, 2022

A Kent Event

 So, I have been asked to be part of an Event in downtown Kent: the Meeker Steet Nerd Day, sponsored in part by The Page Turner bookstore. Here's a link to the main website describing the event, which takes place on February 26th:

I'm to be part of either a panel or Q&A about The Old Days at TSR. Looking over the website, I think this is probably the event in question:

PTB Comics & Manga will be hosting a Dungeons & Dragons panel with guests from the early days of TSR.  More to come!

So, if you like D&D, and fantasy literature, and hanging out with folks who share these interests, drop by on the day and join the fun.

More updates as the event nears.

--John R.


 So, last Friday I finally made if back in to the cat room after several weeks away, during which time a lot of cats came and went. I wrote up this report at the time but have been remiss about posting it; decided to go ahead and post this now, following it up with an update tomorrow.

Little LIBRA
The only resident cat when I arrived was little LIBRA, the four month old black and white (mostly black) Zodiac kitten. As the only cat there, he got lots of attention for the first half of the shift. I can report that he’s a great kitten, who loves the string game and the laser pointer. He’s not so fond of being held but will tolerate it for the time it takes to be picked up here and set down there. I wanted to see if he was a prospect for walking but he wdn’t accept a collar, much less a harness, and did a sort of backwards flip to get out of it. He talks —not chatter but when trying to get your attention, as when he wanted out of his cage.

A fellow volunteer came in and was a great help, filling out the cat information cards that go on the outside of the glass. Having two of us there was especially helpful when the rest of the cats arrived. Their fosterer brought in four more, all part of the same litter (or possibly two), as indeed is Libra. The newcomers are

GEMINI (torbie)
AQUARIUS (calico)
SIRIUS (tabby)
PISCES (black & white, v. like Libra). like him, a talker.

We put Libra back in his big cage, while the foursome got the entire bottom row (all four sections connected together). I’d sprayed these with Bliss Mist for newcomers, thinking it might help them adjust. 

They all wanted out, so I had Libra stay in his cage for now and let all four of the others out. They proceeded to explore and play like only kittens can. I was glad to see that Libra sometimes joined in and played some by reaching down through the bars. Favorite games included string, the little red dot, a feather duster, and a catnip sachet. I thought they might enjoy the sachet but had to take it away: they set to playing with it with such enthusiasm that I was afraid they might rip it open.

There were lamentations when it was time to go back in their cage but I’d have to say this is a really great bunch of kittens, winsome and well-behaved. I can’t imagine they’ll be with us long.

—John R.

P.S. In the photo above that’s Aquarius to the left, Gemini to the right, and Sirius in the middle

UPDATE: Little Libra got adopted the very next day. And a few days longer saw Gemini and Aquarius (two sisters) go to their new home together. The two brothers, Sirius and Pisces, are still with us, but the way things are going I suspect  it won't be for long.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

And So It Begins

 So, I see they've now announced the name of the upcoming Amazon Tolkien project: THE RINGS OF POWER. As is often the case with Tolkien, names mean a lot, and in this case the official name tells us quite a lot about the show-in-progress. 

Most importantly, it's a Tolkien title (or more accurately a modified Tolkien title), a clipped form of OF THE RINGS OF POWER AND THE THIRD AGE, the fifth of the five constitute parts that make up the 1977 SILMARILLION  (pages 285-304). This fits in well with everything the filmmakers have told us about the project during the long process of making it: particularly that it will be set in the Second Age (= . 285-.294), that it would at some point present Sauron in his 'Lord of Gifts' mode (Annatar, .286), and that Numenor would feature largely in it (.289ff) -- though the greater part of the Numenor story appeared not in OF THE RINGS OF POWER, the fifth part of the SILMARILLION, but in the fourth part: THE AKALLABETH (Silm. 259-282).

The newly released trailer itself is a bit underwhelming, but it's good to see things moving again on this after months of silence. Here's a link to one of many similar announcements that went out today: 

--John R.

--current reading: LITTLE, BIG (halfway there)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Greece Gets a Foot

So, the Greeks have just taken a small but significant step towards their longtime goal of regaining the Elgin Marbles. While the British have stood firm on their refusal to return the pieces of the Parthenon they made off with more than two hundred years ago, the Sicilians have stepped up and are willing to loan, probably on a permanent basis, what little they have from the site: a single foot from the statue of a goddess (possibly Artemis).

I was reminded of another foot, this one from Haggard's SHE, which at one point lovingly describes a beautiful woman's foot, the only part of her mummy to have survived.

And then of course there's Dunsany, who wrote so eloquently of loss in so many of his tales, who first describes a Nebuchadnezzer-like city of long ago, then ends his little tale

And only the other day

 I found a stone that had undoubtedly

been a part of Zaccarath, 

it was three inches long and an inch broad;

I saw the edge of it uncovered by the sand. 

I believe that only three other pieces 

have been found like it.

—"In Zaccarath" A DREAMER'S TALES (1910)


--John R.

--current reading: LITTLE, BIG (like speed-reading in slow motion)

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Number Two Is Pretty Good!

So, thanks to Janice for sharing with me the results of another 'best books' poll, this one looking for the best book written in the last one hundred and twenty-five years.

Here's their list:

Harper Lee




George Orwell


Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Toni Morrison


I feel a bit shy confessing that I've only read two of their top five, plus two of their subsidiary books: DRACULA (best horror) and WATERSHIP DOWN (misplaced, I wd say, in the best children's book section).

The big news is of course THE LORD OF THE RINGS' appearance in the #2 position. Significant, I think, that Tolkien and Orwell are both writers who gave the dominant contemporary mode, Modernism, a pass.

--John R.
--current reading: Kipling's KIM, and wondering if I shd do a little reading up on the Sepoy Rebellion.


Monday, January 3, 2022

Tolkien's Birthday

 So, Happy Tolkien Day, everyone.

It's been a weekend of a  lot of reading* punctuated by cold medicine.

I no sooner finished reading the entire LotR than we finished up watching all three Peter Jackson LotR movies (the theatrical releases, not the expanded versions). I've now embarked on the Serkis audiobook. A bit disappointed by his Gandalf, but on the whole a credible adaptation.

Today's music was Beatles-themed; yesterday's was THE FIREBIRD by Stavinsky. I'd had this for years but not paid much attention to it: it fills out the space left at the end of an album following THE RITE OF SPRING, the work I got the album for. I'd been working on Cabell lately and only now noticed that  'King Kashchei',  a major character in THE FIREBIRD (1919), is Starvinsky's version of the folklore villain who inspired Cabell's Kashchei the Deathles, who appears in Cabell's JURGEN (1919).

These occasional bouts of intense reading do me good (I just finished reading book #3671). I wish I cd say it does my deadline(s) good as well

--John R.

*not only Tolkien but John Crowley and Kipling. I'd only ever read STRANGE DEVICES OF THE SUN AND MOON of Crowley's works, while Kipling I find harder and harder to read as time goes by. Then I've also resumed the Edith Bratt book

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Re-reading My Favorite Book

 So, 2022.  And true to form 2021 had one more surprise waiting for us on its way out (more on that in a later post).

I did manage to complete my project of re-reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS straight through from title page to the endnotes on the final Appendix, omitting only the Index.

Have to say, I enjoyed it immensely. Over the years I've become so familiar with this book that when I sit down to read it my memory of the book gets in the way of my actual reading (do Shakespeare scholars and Austenians have the same problem?). I come across a favorite passage that reminds of something, so I turn to elsewhere in the book, then on to another spot, then to a section in another of JRRT's many other books (e.g. HME and LETTERS), then to something in one of the many books about Tolkien (such as Wayne & Christina's CHRONOLOGY), and so forth.  It's like trying to listen to all the Beatles' albums in order: I keep wanting to skip around, repeat favorites, get distracted in the lesser bits, and so forth.  Reading it slowly also had the effect of letting me notice passages I must have a tendency to skip over when I get caught up in the narrative. 

And then there's the sheer achievement. Instead of  'it took him fourteen years to write', with the implication that he shd have gotten through it with less dilly-dally,  it's now more like 'all this in only fourteen years?' Or to put it another way: How long does it take a genius to write a masterpiece? Answer: fourteen years, more or less, it turns out.

One result I was not expecting is that taking in all the Appendices had the effect of normalizing the material in THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH and I suspect will make it much easier to re-read Carl H's book.  In any case, it makes plain how fringe a lot of the material that made its way in was, not so very different from the slightly later material that didn't.

I know I'm already looking forward to the next time, which will probably take the form of listening to Andy Serkis' recent unabridged audiobook*

So, so far as reading goes, 2022 is off to a very good start.

--John R.

*I know listening to an unabridged Bible on audiobook a good many years back was a revelation: first in that it prevented me from skimming through all the begats, second in the revelation of how carefully the average church service edits scripture, and third just where important ideas first make their appearance.