Thursday, June 29, 2023


 So, while sorting through more Judges Guild stuff I came across an issue of THE DUNGEONEER (issue #17, May/June 1980) that contained an interview with Greg Stafford (founder of Chaosium, author of one of the greatest of rpgs, PENDRAGON). The most interesting part, for me, was Stafford's offhand comment on the game, then in the works, that became CALL OF CTHULHU (another of the best rpgs ever):

"We're . . . working on a new introductory role-playing system 

based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft.  It is going to be very simple 

and is not intended for the very sophisticated player. 

It's called Dark Shadows. 

It's being authored by Kurt Lortz and 

we'll have the usual amount of Chaosium 

support material to add local color so that

the game will be easier for the Judge and

the players to get into. By local color I mean

that it will include items such as timetables

for getting around the world in the late 19th

century (which is where much of the 

Lovecraft material takes place). Like most

Chaosium books, we want to make it 

entertaining to read or browse. 

I'm not familiar with Lortz's work (in fact, I'd never heard of him before), though a quick search on the internet provides an outline of how DARK SHADOWS by Lortz morphed into CALL OF CTHULU by Peterson. 

What's perhaps more surprising is that nobody seems to have thought about copyright over using the DARK SHADOWS name. Given the hugely popular gothic soap opera of the same name, starring anti-hero vampire Barnabas Collins, one suspects licensing (or the lack of it) may have played a role as well in the project's floundering.

Still, it'd be interesting to know more about this project's earlier stages.

--John R.

--current reading: THE GAUDY by J. I. M. Stewart

--today's song: "Twenty-five or -six to Four" by Chicago (remixed version)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Is That Tolkien's Ring Inscription in THE FLASH?

 So, I've now seen the new FLASH movie, and think I spotted a Tolkien reference that went by so quickly I can't be sure. 

In the scene where young Barry receives his iconic ring --the one that holds his superhero costume-- he grins and mutters to himself in what sounded v. much like Black Speech. I think it's the inscription from the ring-verse. Can anyone more conversant with Tolkien's invented languages give this a listen and confirm/deny its identity?

--John R.


Cat Report (Friday June3rd)

A little belatedly, but better late than never, here's last week's Cat Report: 

Thanks to the deep clean this morning, Janice and I cd spend the whole early-afternoon time socializing cats. There’s been a fair amount of changes just since last week: the adoption of MYKA (to one of our fellow volunteers), the return of Mr. OTIS, and  the arrival of gentle tabby-Siamese BRIOCHE. These joined our resident bouncy bonded pair MABEL & ASHER and shy bonded pair VERA & WILLOW, for a total of six cats.

There are not many walkers among our current bunch, but good-tempered Mr. Otis spent some time poking about; it felt like he was trying to relearn his mental map of the store. Doesn’t like dogs but held his ground when one went by. We tried various things on the other cats: putting the collar on a cat inside the room, employing the cat wrap on the bench, and walking around outside the room, but with little success. We were able to get Willow (the pastel one) out of her cage, with difficulty, then sit with her all wrapped up on the bench. Somewhat to my surprise she stayed out on the cat-stand a goodish while after being released.

The last two to come out were Mabel and Asher, who had great fun tearing around in the cat-room. Catnip-sented sachets were involved. I’d brought in a peacock feather last week that was a big hit. The rather bedraggled feather was a favorite again this week, but there’s not enough of it left to make an encore. 

There were a lot of visitors admiring the cats today, and two potential adopters, one of whom filled out and sent in an adoption form, but the application form didn’t go through for some reason.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Washington Post review of my book

So, today I'm chuffed up by the news that Michael Dirda, book reviewer for the Washington Post, has just published a brief review of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT. Here's his succinct review of an expansive book:

Just reissued in one huge volume, John D. Rateliff’s “The History of the Hobbit” (Houghton Mifflin) is one of the foundational works of Tolkien scholarship. Here, in 938 pages, you’ll find the original draft version of “The Hobbit” as well as Rateliff’s voluminous notes, which are scholarly, meticulous and, above all, fascinating to anyone who wants to know more than just an inkling about this great children’s classic.

Obviously I cdn't be more pleased.
More to come.

--John R. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Doing a Double Take

So, of the three universities I attended during my long pursuit of my Ph.D (1977-1990), one has lost track of me, or so I conclude from the fact that their alumni folks never contact me. For which I'm grateful.

The other two send me their alumni journals. These I confess I skim rather than read. I'm occasionally rewarded by some news of interest. The latest examples of which are various pieces from Marquette about the recent Tolkien exhibit, which I enjoyed v. much, and a reference to the establishment of a Marine Biology Program at S.A.U. (Southern Arkansas University). This latter surprised me, because the campus is in Magnolia, Arkansas. And while I don't expect the average reader of this blog to know the whereabouts of Arkansas's county seats, suffice it to say that Magnolia is in the south-west corner of the state (the ArkLaTex). A long way away from the sea.

In fact, so far away that the closest ocean to my home town is distant in time rather than space. This land was once all underwater as part of the Western Interior Seaway --which is the locally excavated fossil proudly on display on the SAU campus is an ichthyosaur ('Elmer').

This new program turns out to be piggy-backed on an established program run by the University of Southern Mississippi. That all makes a lot more sense.

So now SAU students can join forces with the Mississippians, on projects such as  monitoring baby sharks and baby rays.

--John R.

--current reading: catching up on Internet deprivation from the roughly twenty-four hours our internet was out yesterday/today.   

otherwise, betwixt and between

Friday, June 16, 2023

The Return of Cat Report


Just as last week, five cats, and the same five cats at that.

Since it sounds from the reports that VERA and esp WILLOW rarely come out, we made sure we focused on her first. I made Willow come down, then Janice made a cat burrito out of her. She was trembling at first but soon stopped. When released from the wrapping she stayed in the outer room on her own. She certainly loves height, whether atop the cat-stand or on a high shelf in her cage.  So, small steps in hopes in time she’ll let us actually walk her.

Her partner Vera (the more torbie of the two, her sister being more pastel) came out promptly on her own. She enjoyed games, the cat-tree, and being petted. No walk, but not shy about asking for attention. 

Myka was next, having been patient when Vera came and hissed at her through the bars.  She got the first walk. Janice got the harness on, then I carried her  in a loop all the way around the store, twice. If past cats are anything to go by, this may open her up to the possibility of a walk on her own little cat feet next week.

Mabel got the second walk. Again Janice put the harness on her and I carried little cat Mabel all around. She has a distinct pattern of leash-walking. I pick her up, carry her to a safe spot, then put her down. She at once makes a bee-line back to the cat-room. I carry her off to a different spot, she walks straight back to the room. Over and over. At least this got her out and about more than last week, when she made a cave out of the bottom area of the cat-tree and made her whatever’s the opposite of ‘king of the mountain’.

Finally Asher had no walk (too squirmy for the leash) but ruled the room. He and his mom are back on good terms again; had just spent too much time together I suspect.

Cat Toys: Thinking it wd do them good to have a few new toys to play, I brought in a paper bag, whichshe loved (even better with a catnip sachet dropped into it), a peacock feather, and string. She eyed a spider but it never came far enough down for her to pounce, so it lived to sneak away another day.

Health Issues:  Asher had a cough twice —not a sneezy cough nor a hairball cough but a croupy cough. Seemed okay otherwise, but we shd continue to keep an eye on her.

—John R.


Thursday, June 15, 2023

How Much of Gygax is Gygax

 So, alongside a box of Mayfair ROLE-AIDS and another of old JUDGES GUILD modules, I recently came across a boxful of non-TSR D&D generics. 

It's been interesting sorting through these old adventures, some of which I've had for years without reading or playing. Occasionally they raise questions that are a little hard to answer so long after the fact.

One example is of interest because it involves some of the final products to go out with Gygax's name on them. I'm thinking here of A CHALLENGE OF ARM'S [sic] and THE RITUAL OF THE GOLDEN EYES, the first two adventures in the projected five-module 'WOLFMOON ADVENTURE series'. These were published by Inner City Games Designs (dated 1998 and 1999, respectively). More importantly, both have on the cover the statement "Developed with the assistance of Gary Gygax!"

The inside credits expand upon this slightly, reading first "Author  Christopher Clark" (the owner/operator of Inner City Games) and then below this "Creative Consultant & Design Editor   Gary Gygax".*

The problem is that consultant covers a lot of territory, and Gygax had a habit of overcrediting works he contributed to.**  So my question is this: how much of these books did EGG write?

My guess is, very little if any. But I'd like to be proven wrong.

--John R.

*the second module, on its title page, has the following tribute to Gygax:

"This book is dedicated to Gary Gygax, the man who started it all. Thanks for ALL the good times, the memories, and the hobby that just never quits. Vive role-playing!"

**Especially in his latter days, when his name on a product was its chief selling point.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Pratchett Play

So, today we didn't go to a play. But we probably wd have, given more advanced warning. We only learned that MONSTROUS REGIMENT, based on Terry Pratchett's book of the same name, was playing at the Taproot through seeing a brief ad for it in the Program Book for JEEVES TAKES A BOW on June 3rd. Unfortunately its last day was Sunday June 4th.

Even though we didn't make it to this one, I take it as a good sign that Pratchett's work remains popular several years after his death. I've seen the half-dozen or so film adaptations (some live action, some animated) released so far. I must say that out of the forty-some books Pratchett wrote, most of them as part of his Discworld series, MONSTROUS REGIMENT --the tale of women disguising themselves as men in order to join the army -- strikes me as a somewhat odd choice. I've read almost all of Pratchett, and this belongs to the category of  what I'd consider minor Pratchett: those books I read once when they first came out but never re-read.

Still, minor Pratchett is better than a good many others' best, so I'll keep my eye out for another chance.

--John R.

--currrent reading: YELLOWFACE by Kuang

Saturday, June 3, 2023


So, today Janice and I went with friends Jeff and Kate to see JEEVES TAKES A BOW at the Taproot theatre. I'm a big admirer of P. G. Wodehouse and have read all his Bertie and Jeeves novels, as well as all the short story collections (written over a sixty-year period --something of a record for the same author with the same pair of characters). I've even read the one book that features Jeeves  without Bertie; there's a book with Bertie without Jeeves but I've never been able to find that one.

This play did not adapt any of the Wodehouse books but spun up its own story out of Wodehousian characters and motifs. These bits and pieces make good use of the era's Art Deco setting to form a screwball comedy. I'd prefer to see one of P.G.W.'s masterpieces adapted, but if you like this kind of thing --and I confess I do -- then it's well worth seeing.  

Certainly it captures the spirit of Wodehouse better than does the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which gets the main character wrong (Webber portrays Bertie as surly when he shd be at most a bit querulous --and under considerable provocation, I might add). They did get the other main character, Jeeves, right.

So, while I enjoyed seeing it live, the best performance of the stories I've seen are the Hugh Laurie / Stephen Frye adaptations from the early nineties. 

Or, better yet, I cd re-read the books.

--John R.

--current reading: MONSTER (just finished), YELLOWFACE (just started)

Friday, June 2, 2023

UKL: The Ursula K. Le Guin Journal

 So, now that I'm wrapping up and filing away odds and ends from Kalamazoo, I didn't want to miss sharing the news (new to me, anyway) announcing a new journal devoted to Ursula K. Le Guin. It's called UKL. A call for papers has also gone out for a planned volume of essays devoted to Le Guin's work, but I have less information on that project. Here's some pertinent excerpts taken from their website describing the journal's "Aims & Scope":

We argue that as a major figure in modern literature, an academic journal dedicated to discussing Le Guin’s work is long overdue, and this journal fills that scholarly vacuum

The mission of UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies is to create a scholarly forum for exploring various facets of Le Guin’s writing, including her fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, and blog posts . . . 

[UKL will be] a professional, peer-reviewed, annual publication . . . Individuals without previous publishing experience are especially invited to submit. For questions and inquiries about UKL: The Journal of Ursula K. Le Guin Studies, contact the current journal editors at or .

For those who might be interested, either as a reader or potential contributor, here's the link.

--John R.

current reading: MONSTER: A Fan's Dilemma by Claire Dederer (weighty questions, lightweight answers).