January 19, 2005
Why couldn't they just build a massive catapult?
First there was this:
Then there was this:
And now we have more at this thread:
December 13, 2004
Rings of (Nerd) Power
September 15, 2004
I just received this link from my friend spidey:
My response was:
Is this for real? It seems somehow twice removed from nature, like what would happen if a movie character, subject to the relaxed laws of movie physics, decided to make a movie and relaxed the laws even more. It has that constant nagging doubt, like The Thirteenth Floor, that all you're seeing is really a put on. I mean any chance of knowing whether or not you're dreaming is right out the window. In fact, I'm no longer sure whether or not I'm a character in this movie. I suppose this is what happens when you read too many comic books. They start coming true.
April 18, 2004
This week's episode has been filmed entirely on location in NYC.
Coming to ya straight out of the Upper West side. Welcome to the humble abode of the rare, reclusive Dressler.
In the spirit of ALD's enourmous nerdom I bring you some funny meta-geek. Video game characters playing Dungeons and Dragons.
With thanks to Chhavi for finding this clip.
It is just too funny not to record here and send again.
March 01, 2004
As I expressed here I am jonesin' to get my booklists up on the site and browsable (searchable?) by you, the interested public.
As the author of the dijalog lifestyle article at xml.com so eloquently pointed out, our books and media collections are neither entirely digital nor entirely analog. Appropriately, neither are the various and sundry lists of these collections entirely one or the other.
I present to you the first of my many lists. This is my circulation report from the MIT SFS Library. It's a dijalog list. Originally analog, presented to you in convenient digital form. You can find it in the identifier section of my website. Note the repeated borrowings of a few select books. This pattern represents my attempts to get The Kenj to read these books. I think she only actually finished The Once and Future King.
Well, I'm all geeked out for the day.
February 29, 2004
I have no idea what this movie is, or what it's doing, but you have to go check out the trailer.
February 10, 2004
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
This fact is not so important to this log except as background. In the fifth book, The Courts of Chaos, I came across this passage:
I finished my wine. She moved to pour me more and I stayed her hand.
She looked up at me. I smiled.
"You almost persuaded me," I said.
Then I closed her eyes with kisses four, so as not to break the charm, and I went and mounted Star. The sedge was not withered, but he was right about the no birds. Hell of a way to run a railroad, though.
This is an allusion to the poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats. In making this allusion Zelazny is not drawing any comparison between the characters in the two works, not by allegory or simile. Rather he is intimating that they are one and the same person, who happened to enter into the experiences, and therefore stories, of both authors.
This device falls squarely into the Tolkein tradition of adding depth to a myth by having a character make reference to even older myths. Of course Tolkien wrote his own older myths, Zelazny here borrows one. Keats borrowed this myth from older sources when he sat to write his poem. Even Tolkein did some borrowing of his own, basing material for both his oldest and his youngest layers on existing Scandanavian and Germanic folklore.
I like this device because it either, allows me to feel smart becuase I know what he's talking about, or it gives me a new avenue of research. Tolkein would do a better job because he wouldn't rely on his reader being well-read to understand the paragraph, rather he would adapt the bit of folklore to make sense within his story and allow his audience to decide whether or not they thought there was some real bit of myth behind it and were interested in further research (you bet your sweet bippy I am!).
I happen to know about La Belle Dame Sans Merci through my expereince working at the Houghton Library.
Le Belle Dame Sans Merci is a ballad Keats wrote based on a medieval song about a femme fatale. A reworking/remaking of an old myth the way Tolkien would have done it. Follow the link to a very good introduction.
Keats left two finished versions of the poem. Naturally, critics differ about which one is better.
You can decide for yourself:
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering? Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake, The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing. And no birds sing.
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
So haggard and so woe-begone? So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full, The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done. And the harvest's done.
I see a lily on thy brow, I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew, With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheeks a fading rose And on thy cheek a fading rose
Fast withereth too. Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads, I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child, Full beautiful - a faery's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light, Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild. And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head, I set her on my pacing steed,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone; And nothing else saw all day long,
She looked at me as she did love, For sideways would she lean, and sing
And made sweet moan. A faery's song.
I set her on my pacing steed, I made a garland for her head,
And nothing else saw all day long, And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
For sidelong would she bend, and sin She look'd at me as she did love,
A faery's song. And made sweet moan.
She found me roots of relish sweet, She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew, And honey wild, and manna dew;
And sure in language strange she said - And sure in language strange she said -
'I love thee true'. 'I love thee true.'
She took me to her elfin grot, She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore, And there she gazed, and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four. So kiss'd to sleep.
And there she lulled me asleep And there we slumber'd on the moss,
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! - And there I dream'd - Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dreamt The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill side. On the cold hill side.
I saw pale kings and princes too, I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they al Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!' Hath thee in thrall!'
I saw their starved lips in the gloam, I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide, With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here, And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill's side. On the cold hill side.
And this is why I sojourn here And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering, Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake, Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing. And no birds sing.
What makes the manuscript version of this poem special for me is that he wrote it out in a letter to his brother George (who was living in St. Louis, Missouri). In the letter he pokes fun at himself saying:
Why four kisses -- you will way -- why four? Because I wish to restrain the headlong impetuosity of my Muse -- she would have fain said "score" without hurting the rhyme -- but we must temper the imagination as the critics say with judgment. I was obliged to choose an even number that both eyes might have fair play: and to speak truly I think two apiece quite sufficient. Suppose I had said seven; there would have been three and a half apiece -- a very awkward affair -- and well got out of on my side --
Now, the Houghton Library has the largest collection of Keats material in the world, and has dedicated one room in its building to the collection. There you can find, as I have, the very letter mentioned above. Reading this as an undergraduate and enjoying the ballad in Keats' own hand was one of the main joys of my Harvard experience. It is no wonder that I became a librarian.
And if you're all interested I can arrange a tour of the library, including the Keats collection, through the Keeper of the Printed Book at the Houghton Library (Imagine that's the title of your job, Keeper of the Printed Book, as if you had all of the output of the western intellectual tradition in your care).
If you want, you too can see these words in Keats' own hand with your own eyes.
And, if you really want to know why I became a librarian its so I can one day be called Keeper of something.
January 13, 2004
On Reading the Preface and Introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth
So enough with the Tolkien posts already, but here's another one, and more good stuff on the website proper. I was in Pandemonium Books and Games today obtaining a copy of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay when I came across the book by Bradley J. Birzer named above. Naturally, it was added to the purchase.
This is the sort of exegesis that makes the LotR special to me. Tolkien had two ultimate purposes in crafting the world of Middle-Earth. 1. To provide the United Kingdom with a myth cycle to rival its germanic and scandanavian neighbors. 2. To provide a blueprint and a "hope for a renewal of Christendom and an end to the ideologically inspired terror of the twentieth century." (Birzer, xxv)
Tolkien was a Christian Humanist.
If you really want to understand how Tolkien reconciles myth and Christianity, and puts forth his vision of a humanistic world, read Birzer's book. For those disinclined to scholarship, you can find the same thing straight from the horses mouth, the way J.R.R. Tolkien knew to say it best, in legend. Just read the last story of his to be published before his death, Smith of Wootton Major.
For the non-christians who can't find an easy entrance into the bible, just look to the five major heroes of the LotR as exemplars of Western Christendom. Each of the five show how one answers the Christian Humanists two questions, "(1) What is the role of the human person within God's creation? and (2) how does man order himself within God's creation?" (Birzer, xxv) The heroes are Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, Frodo and Sam, for those of you scoring at home.
I am not willing to follow Tolkien all the way back to his Catholicism, but I do follow him in rejecting the direction of modern thought. I am going to paraphrase and sometimes downright copy Bircher's words in providing that direction and Tolkien's rejection.
Myth is treated historically as a way (often the best way) to interpret, explain and provide meaning to a world that is immediately experienced by the community that makes the myth.
Secular modernity has removed itself from this immediate interaction with a "richly felt and imagined reality." (Birzer, xxiii) Paradoxically, pragmatism takes us further from an understanding of and an existence in the world than myth. When we disallow as "real" all knowledge not gained through the operation of the senses, we're not left with enough to produce a viable interpretation. Birzer quotes Romano Guardini's, Letters from Lake Como: Explorations in Technology and the Human Race, page 20: "In this new sphere things are no longer directly detected, seen, grasped, formed or enjoyed; rather they are mediated by signs and substitutes."
This leads the modernist to reject myth (and religion) as a lie. The postmodernist looks on myth as one subjective narrative among many with no inherent truth. Both relationships reject that myth contains anything that might help us transcend our limited data and make right sense of the world. This seems to many folks a wrong or false interaction with the world.
Neither viewpoint is ready to answer the question that seems an appropriate end of human inquiry to most of us, which of the many narratives we have to choose from are true(transcendent)? This question, is in my eyes, the dilemma of the postpostmodernist. How does one sift throught the nuggets and find out what's really going on? Evidence of a continuing human need to find these truths might be found in recognition that the fact that we have rejected so many of our past belief structures is a likely causal culprit for the sudden explosion of UFO cults in our communities.
Tolkien's sieve was Christianity, hence the need to sanctify the myths he wrote, to make them acceptably christian in message and method. In this pursuit he follows a long tradition of monks and priests incorporating pagan rituals and beliefs into the Christian Ideology to make the religion more palatable.
The rest of us who don't agree with the full message of Christianity are left to our own devices, but we can still appreciate the effort and the artistry, the genius of Tolkien's project and his product.
I've added some other nice quotes I culled from Birzer to the <language> section of the website. Check 'em out.
January 12, 2004
Where is Tom Bombadill?
So Peter Jackson, the esteemed Director of the recent movie version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when asked why he cut out completely Tom Bombadill, the most important character in the trilogy, "Well, because I've always found Tom Bombadill fans to be very boring."
I'm sorry, but this is inexcusable, call me boring if you must. And all of my friends out there who haven't read the books, you must read these five articles immediately. If you got a notification of this post, you know who you are! If you want a notification, I'll soon be putting in some script so you can add yourself to the list. I'm not messing around, read!
- Michael Martinez, "If I Only had a Bombadil..."
- Gene Hargrove's essay "Who is Tom Bombadil"
- What is Tom Bombadil? by Steuard Jensen.
- The discussion of Tom Bombadil at The Encyclopedia of Arda
- J.R.R. Tolkien's Tom Bombadil, an essay by Blake Bolinger
Now you must comment on this post and pledge your acceptance to a weekly story hour during which I will read the books to you if I must.
And at the result of getting brickbats tossed my way, I think Guy Gavriel Kay outdid Tolkein on Tolkein's own ground with his Fionavar tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Longest Road).
So guess what's next on my reading list.
January 08, 2004
One day I too will be counted among the wise
I don't think that you could pay anyone a nicer compliment than these words, which Tom Bombadil had to say of Farmer Maggot:
There's earth under his old feet, and clay on his fingers; wisdoms in his bones, and both his eyes are open.