Friday, March 31, 2023

The Cat Report (Fri.3/31-23)






The seven cats were in a lazy mood when we arrived but did not stay that way. 

The first to go out were the lively pair of yearlings TOPAZ (orange stripped) and Black TIGER (black patterned stripes). After they’d played a bit on went the leashes and we ventured out into the main room of the store. I walked the one while Janice walked the other. Topaz started out skittish but warmed up to walking as he got further afield. He particularly loved getting attention from folks.  His favorite bit turned out to be a little office opposite the drinking fountains; he went right in and wanted to get up on the chair at the desk. Good memories of a previous owner’s work room, perhaps?
   While I was walking Topaz, Janice walked Tiger, who seemed to attract an even larger crowd and to be our current champion walker.

Next up were our resident guests LUNA and LILY, who were happy to come out into the room with the bench but made clear their distress at the idea of putting on the leash and going out. So both got petting, and play, and some holding, but not a walk.

The two kittens, CALLY (the yellow and white kitten) and MARLEY (the pastel kitten and dominant of the pair) were too squirmy for the leash*  but made up for it by playing pretty much every game we had for the to play.   

Last out was our senior-ish cat CINNABON, who seemed to enjoy having the place all to themselves. I was unable to make her into a cat burrito or enchillada: my efforts turned out more along the line of a cat taco. She stayed with me holding her surprisingly long (see photo) but did not altogether forgive me till I let her play with a catnip sachet, which she seemed to think the Best Thing Ever. 

I have to ask: What’s up with the crowd? About the time Tiger came in we had a dozen or more people gather outside the glass. They seemed to be a tour group, since they all left together, but I didn’t find out who they were or why they were here.

—John & Janice

*to wear it, that is. He thought it made a great chew-toy.


Then to Little Rock

To make a long story short, as my uncle wd say:

After east Texas it was up to the western edge of Little Rock for a gathering that brought together the Smiths, Philpots, and Rateliffs (me). I think I was the youngest person in the room, my ninety year old Smith uncle the most senior.

The next day we went up in Sherwood, on the north side of the River, to visit my Rateliff aunt, my father's sister-in-law, whom I'd not seen in a good many years; good to catch up on the doings of cousins.

The next few days involved getting ready for the trip back, which was thankfully uneventful. It was a good trip, and served as 'proof of concept' that I shd be able to make trips in the future so long as I don't overdo it. Kalamazoo 2023 here we come.

--John R

--current reading : Le Guin ALWAYS COMING HOME, which I'm finally within reach of the end of (have now read 84% of the expanded edition).  It'll be a good day to re-shelve this ponderous work.


The news today out of Little Rock --six hundred people hurt by a huge tornado-- thankfully did not include any of the family I'd just been to see. Thankful for that.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

And off to Longfield

 After an unsatisfactory night in Shreveport (waterleaking from the ceiling was only one of that hotel room's failings), we went back over to Waskom for more visiting. 

We had to cancel the trip to Magnolia to visit the graves, since heading that direction at that time wd have brought us into the storm front: thunderstorms and a tornado. 

Instead me went by Jonesville,  a small town near Waskom that reminded me of Washington, Arkansas, which we got to visit some years back. Its main feature is the T. C. Lindsey & Co. General Store, which has been in business continually since 1847 (a record in the state, they tell me, and only a few years after statehood). The original building burned down in 1922, so the current structure is only one hundred and one years old.

Inside is half museum and half store, with current for-sale items at eye level or below and antiques in glass cases further up. Among my favorite items was the Remington typewriter (I asked if they'd sell me a ribbon spool for my Remington Oldstyle Portable, but they declined). A bale of cotton (marked as the last one ginned and baled in the area.  An array of craft rootbeers. And much, much more. My brother-in-law, who was with us, remembered when the store was still someplace you'd go to do practical shopping (such as the time his older brother brought him there to buy shoes). Well worth the visit.

Today it was over to Longview for an enjoyable family gathering. Tonight we're back in Shreveport, in a new room in a different hotel. Tomorrow it's up to Little Rock for a visit with the Smiths.

--John R. 

. . . And in Shreveport

So, the family visit is off to a good start, with a good long visit with my sister yesterday. We even got to see Kashmir the cat, who was deposed to be accommodating. The only sour note was the restaurant. I'd picked, the Shreveport Cracker Barrel, my favorite restaurant in these part, only to find it's not what it was. Service was bad (for example the food came but the knife fork spoon didn't follow till ten minutes later). The soup wasn't hot but instead slightly under room temperature. A pity; it's been a fun stop when passing through the area for years, but I doubt we'll stop there again.

Still, we got more family visit time in, and I bought a Chunky, one of my favorite candy bars in my youth. And the shortcomings of the restaurant turned out to be middling compared to the hotel room, which (to make a long story short) culminated in our currently waiting to be switched to a new room. On without a leaking roof. 

After which our plan is to drive to Magnolia. If the tornado they're predicting for today manifests we'll need to make some adjustments.

--John R.

--current reading: ALWAYS COMING HOME. Easier to read, it turns out, on the Kindle --easier to hold and 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

I'm in Dallas

So, you know you're not looking your best nearing the end of a long day of travel when fellow travellers offer to help you with your luggage. Or insist you take their seat on the shuttle. Or hold the door open for you -- this last from a woman with a walker. Never let it be said that Parkinson's isn't a disease with a sense of humor.

A good night's sleep here in Dallas and we shd be in good shape to start the family visits tomorrow.

--John R.

--current reading: the Dunsany/Clarke letter (finished, as book #II.363)

--resumed Le Guin's ALWAYS COMING HOME, reading almost 10% of it on the flight.

Marketplace covers D&D

So, here's another sign, if any were needed, of how D&D is Big Business. 

The recent turmoil over Hasbro's decision to revoke, by fiat,* the open license under which other game publishers release D&D-compatible products caused a big enough stir that it got covered by national radio:

The show in question is MARKETPLACE, hosted by Kai Ryssdal; the D&D piece is the final segment. 

It takes up roughly the last five or six minutes of that week's show.

The battle for the Dungeons & Dragons economy,


It's good to see one thing hasn't changed: The enduring truism that D&D is, always has been, and remains a license to print money.  This piece also divides the industry into (a) D&D and (b) non-WotC D&D compatibles. That there's a third category, independent RPGs, seems to fall below their radar. Still, it's interesting to see national-wide coverage of what was once our little hobby.  It'll be interesting what effect the release of the D&D Movie this week will have. 

--John R.

--current reading: the Dunsany/Clarke letters

*since rescinded 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


So, the latest volume of TOLKIEN STUDIES* is now out; my copy arrived today. Haven't had a chance to look through it yet, but it looks to be primary material by JRRT, Wm Cloud Hicklin's edition, sorting out and editing Tolkien's time-charts keeping track of who was where when in LotR. It's a nice bonus to have the "Lorien Time" drawing nicely reproduced on the cover.

As so often with Tolkien, we sometimes have to wait for it; this looks like one of those times when it was definitely worth the wait.

---John R

*officially Volume XIX Supplement (2022)

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sessions at Kalamazoo

So, the program book for Kalamazoo has arrived. I was worried that its offerings might be scant in thes postpandemic days, but a look through shows there's plenty to keep a medievalist busy (462 sessions). Here's a listing I put together of the scheduled Tolkien events.  This doesn't necessarily cover everything --sometimes there is a stray paper on Tolkien that makes up part of a panel that's non-Tolkienish in theme -- but it's a good place to start. And of course there are all sorts of treasures in the form of presentations on a vast array of medieval authors and themes.

  sessions at Kalamazoo, 2023

   Thursday May 11th

   Friday May 12th

   Saturday May 13th

13  Bernhard Center 210    Thursday 10am

Medieval Elements in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (A Roundtable) 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Yvette Kisor
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 

A roundtable discussion with Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.; Lydia H. Hayes, Catawba College; Jennifer Fast, Newman Theological College; Christopher Vaccaro; and Valerie Dawn Hampton, Univ. of Florida 


204  Virtual    Friday 10am

Religion along the Tolkienian Fantasy Tradition: New Medievalist Narratives 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tales after Tolkien Society
Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow Geoffrey B. Elliott, Independent Scholar 
Friday 10:00 a.m. 

Do You Even Pray Though? Examining the Worship of the Great Mother Goddess in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe 

Rachel Sikorski, Independent Scholar 

Playing with Medieval(ist?) Religion in Forum-Based Play-by-Post Roleplaying Games: A Case Study 

Geoffrey B. Elliott 



255 Virtual    Friday  1.30 pm

Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race (A Roundtable) 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Univ. of Glasgow Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow
Mariana Rios Maldonado, Univ. of Glasgow 

A roundtable discussion with Robin Anne Reid, Independent Scholar; Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow; Mercury Natis, Signum Univ.; Toni DiNardo, Univ. of North Carolina–Chapel Hill; and Lars Olaf Johnson, Cornell Univ.
Respondent: Mariana Rios Maldonado 


278   Schneider Hall 1155     Friday 3.30pm

Tolkien and the Middle Ages: Tolkien and the Scholastics 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

D. B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership, Viterbo Univ. Michael A. Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.
Michael A. Wodzak 

Thomistic Evil in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
Mitchell B. Simpson, Univ. of Arkansas–Fayetteville 

Tolkien and Aquinas: The Body, Wonder, and Aesthetics 

Paul L. Fortunato, Univ. of Houston–Downtown 

Was Tolkien a Franciscan? Bonaventurian Themes in the Legendarium 

Craig A. Boyd, St. Louis Univ. 

“What your folk would call magic”: Thomas Aquinas and Natural Power in Tolkien’s Works 

Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ. 


340  Schneider Hall 1330 (hybrid)    Saturday 10am

Climate Change II: Social, Ecological, Political, and Spiritual Shifts in J. R. R. Tolkien and Medieval Poets 

Sponsors: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo; International Pearl-Poet Society Deidre Dawson, Michigan State Univ.
Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Jane Beal, Univ. of La Verne 

Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 

Tolkien’s Old English Exodus and Philosophy of Translation 

Perry Neil Harrison, Fort Hays State Univ. 

Elements of the Bel Inconnu Tradition in Tolkien’s Legendarium Yvette Kisor 

Deep in the Earth: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Transformation of a Motif from the Works of the Pearl-Poet

Jane Beal 

The Fall of Númenor: A Political and Natural Catastrophe 

Gaëlle Abaléa, Univ. de Paris–Sorbonne 


LUNCH     12:00–1:00 p.m.

Tolkien at Kalamazoo  Business Meeting 

Bernhard Center 242 


374  Bernhard Center 210   Saturday 1.30pm

Christopher Tolkien: Medievalist Editor of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium I: The Works 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College Christopher Vaccaro 

The Sun, the Son, and the Silmarillion: Christopher Tolkien and the Copernican Revolution of Morgoth’s Ring 

Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ. 138 

She Put a Spell on the Man U Script: Tolkien’s Edits on BeowulfSellic Spell, and the Foundations of the Ogress 

Annie Brust, Kent State Univ. 

Competing Silmarillions in a Post-Tolkien World Stephen Yandell, Xavier Univ. 


423  Bernhard Center 210   Saturday 3.30pm

Christopher Tolkien: Medievalist Editor of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium II: The Interactions 

Sponsor: Presider: Organizer: 

Tolkien at Kalamazoo
Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ. Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
Christopher Vaccaro, Univ. of Vermont 


The Legacy of Tolkien’s Love for and of Nature in His Children: The Evidence from Michael H. R. Tolkien’s Library 

Brad Eden, Drexel Univ. 

“I have written with you most in mind”: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Letters to Christopher Tolkien 

Deidre Dawson, Michigan State Univ. 

Christopher Tolkien and the Legacy of the Father of Middle-earth 

Iona McPeake, New York Univ. 


Tales after Tolkien Society 204

Tolkien at Kalamazoo 13, 340, p. 133, 374, 423 



Song of the Week

So, the song that's been the theme song playing in my head the past few days is "Top of the Pops" by The Kinks. A classic from the same album as "Lola", this was part of their comeback --their first comeback, that is, from a band who had a string of comebacks, never staying on top for more than a song or two but hanging in there, never quite going away. 

Thanks to my friend Franklin for having introduced me to this song (and several other gems from the same album) back in Fayetteville days.

--John R. 

current reading: Arthur C. Clarke and Lord Dunsany's collected correspondence.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


 So, today Janice pointed out to me that the new edition of my HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT is the #1 best seller, by some definitions of #1. Specifically, if you go to

and go to the category IN CRITICISM ON NOVELS & NOVELISTS, you'll find it in the #1 spot.

by  J.R. R. Tolkien  (Author), John D. Rateliff  (Author)

Have to say I'm really happy about that.
Thanks to all who bought the book. 
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
(but that it takes you less time than it did me)

--John R.

Friday, March 17, 2023

The Cat Report (3/17-23)



It was good to be back in the cat room today. Gemini and Aquarius having gone to their new home, we’re now down to just two cats: boned pair Luna and Lily, who gloried in having the whole place all to themselves, especially the big tall cage and the floor of the outer and inner rooms. They came out and prowled and played and asked for attention —amazing to see how much happier they act now that they’re settled into their surroundings and more trusting of the people who come in and interact with them.

Janice and Lily made a cat burrito, though when I tried to follow up with Luna she froze until she cd make her escape. There weren’t any walks today, though we came close. Janice was putting the harness on Lily, who got spooked about halfway through the process and bolted, tearing around the room until we cd catch her and take the half-attached harness off.

Both cats were out most of the shift (the better part of two hours), mostly on the cat-stand in the outer room (esp. Luna) or on the floor in both rooms (esp. Lily). They liked being petted best, with some combing. Then came playing with the various cat-toys.

Some admirers from outside, but I got the impression there were not that many people in the store today (at least during those hours).

Janice noticed that one  of the hinges on the lid of the bench in the outer room is detached: someone with the tools, skill, and time shd come down and fix it.

All in all a quiet shift with well-behaved cats.

—John & Janice

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Kalamazoo 2023

 So, today the program book for this year's Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo arrived. This year I plan on attending but won't be presenting. There'll be plenty of Tolkien content, so there will be lots to hear and see. I'm particularly looking forward to a session on Tolkien as an editor of medieval texts* and a roundtable on Christopher as an editor. Now to look through more carefully over the next few days and draw up a schedule of the panels and sessions I'd like to attend.

And of course there are people I enjoy seeing whom I only see here, once a year; it'll be good to hear what they've been working on.

--John R.

--current reading: ALWAYS GOING HOME by Le Guin (1985)

*This one interests me because I presented on this topic a few years back but afterwards never went back and finished the piece.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Cat Report (3/10-23)




Cat report

Friday March 10th 2023




It was good to be back in the cat room after a few weeks away, and to meet the new crop of cats: Gemini and Aquarius, Luna and Lilly. We missed meeting Zero, who'd already gone to her new home by the time we got there for our shift at noon.


This was the first time of the new arrangement whereby Janice and I share a shift. The cats were certainly pleased at getting more attention, and it made it easier to let cats in or out for the walking.


Gemini and Aquarius, the calico sisters, were the first to come out. The one with white (Gemini?) asserted herself right away when they started playing the string game: she kept dragging the chain away towards her lair while the one with black (Aquarius?) kept swatting it as it got away. Later  they did much the same when back in their cages. I let them play with two little catnip sachets. The first kitten-cat wanted them all for herself while the other wanted a fair distribution. The upshot of which was that they reached back and forth through the little sliding door between cubes.


Both Gemini and Aquarius got brief walks. I got Gemini saddled up early on, only to have a sudden change of plans: I had no sooner opened the door and carried her outside than a group of folks came up with a large dog (a boxer I think). The dog was well-behaved, but the cat wanted nothing to do with it and asked to come right back in, which only seemed fair. Later I tried again with both the calicos. I could get them on the leash but each just crouched down on the cart just outside the door. Neither would explore so I let each back in after a few minutes.


All in all the calicos behaved like big friendly kittens: playful, full of energy, and fond of attention (offering up nose-boopery in return).


Luna and Lilly, the two black cats (Lilly being the one with a little white) took a while, but came out on their own towards the end of our shift. Once they'd decided it was safe they came in and out and in and out. They were affectionate but easily spooked, switching back and forth from huddling together at the back of their cage to rolling over and letting me give one a belly rub. Be warned that with these two easily startled cats it seems better not to try to restrain them when in panic mode but to let them retreat to safety; they seemed to have a quicker recovery time. The smell of Catnip was highly esteemed by them both.


Lots of visitors, including one who wanted to know the pricing of adoption; I couldn't find which price went with which age.


--John & Janice


Friday, March 3, 2023


So, Wednesday came a ring at the doorbell that sent the cats scurrying, as usual. Checking the front porch revealed a stack of four boxes. Picking one up and finding it moderately heavy, I said half-jokingly they might at least in part be a shipment of honey, then added that some might be an order of bulk tea instead. Then Janice pointed to the Harper Collins labels on the side, and All Was Clear.


I'd been waiting for the arrival of my author's copies for the new editions

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of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT, both the one-volume hardcover with the Ted Nesmith cover and the deluxe slipcase edition. It's great to have this available again, in my preferred edition: the expanded one-volume edition with the fifth appendix and Addendum. They even included all the artwork with high-quality reproduction, with the frontispieces to both of the original volumes (Fimbulfambi's Map and both sides, front and back, of Bilbo's Contract).

Now that I've had a chance to look this over, it was definitely worth the wait; Harper Collins did a bang-up job.

The only problem (and it's a good kind of problem to have) is that I no longer know how many copies of THE HOBBIT I have.

--John R.