labingi: (Default)
Better late than never, happy Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!

I have been reading my son The Lord of the Rings. Alas, we are making very slow progress because I only read it once a week (the rest of the time his dad reads other books), and since school started, he's been so tired with his own evening reading to himself that he falls asleep after about one section.

"When will we reach the Black Riders again?" he asks.
"If we never reach the Prancing Pony, it will be a while," say I.

Other than that, my mind has not had much room for LotR this season. It is filled with many things, but the love is perpetual.
labingi: (inu)
I have been reading my son The Lord of the Rings while rereading Mirage of Blaze myself, and this has led me to the thought experiment of how Mirage of Blaze would be received as a story in Middle-earth. The answer, I believe, is not as badly as you might think.

(In case you have been residing under a rock, SPOILERS follow for The Lord of the Rings. General Mirage spoilers, nothing too plotty.)Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
Happy Downfall of Sauron Day! I'm off to California (sans kids), so I will have 9 hours in the car to think about the downfall of Sauron but no time to write about it. Wishing you a fannishly happy day!
labingi: (Default)
It is a measure of my complete scatteredness that I completely missed Downfall of Sauron Day this year. I attribute that to three things:

1) It's usually closely associated in my mind with my spring trip home to California, which got cancelled this year for my adoption, then put back on at the last minute due to adoption delays, so I did get to Cali, but not for DS Day and in a last-minute rush.

2) The adoption: pretty much everything in my life since January has been measured in adoption timelines and bureaucratic delays. I've been on about 3-week watch to travel to Haiti for about 3 months now, and it does drive out most else.

3) Film scheduling: this has been taking up a lot of my brain power and has driven out other dates.

Anyway, I have nothing brilliant to say to DS Day this year. I really need to reread The Lord of the Rings. It's been way too long. And going into my second full year of intense reading frustration, it's probably a good time to go back and revisit a dependably good book.
labingi: (Default)
Happy Bilbo and Frodo's Birthday! In the LOTR-verse in my head, Frodo is 84 today. (Bilbo is no longer with us, except in spirit.)

Have some dessert. It's the hobbitish thing to do!
labingi: (Default)
Happy Downfall of Sauron Day once again!

Once again, I have managed to make it back to California for the day, and (unlike the past couple of years) the weather has been lovely. It gives me a profound sense of spring, and I have been lucky to spend a great deal of time outside, as I hope to today. I think Middle-earth folk would approve. With the possible exception of Dwarves, they pretty much all like it outside on a nice day. I don't have anything in particular to say about LOTR this year. I should reread it.
labingi: (Default)
I liked the Hobbit movie a lot more than I expected to, which, I suspect, has everything to do with not having read (or fully reread) the book since I was a kid and having little investment in canonicity. I also went in expecting the film to feel bloated and self-indulgent, so I was psychologically set up to be pleasantly surprised. All in all, the almost three hours went by very fast, and I look forward to seeing it again and to seeing the next film.

Below, a good/bad review and some personal reflections. Light spoilers.

The Good
* The acting and casting overall. Some highlights...

Martin Freeman: Perfect as Bilbo. An excellent casting choice and an excellent actor. He didn’t put a furry foot wrong ever.

Ian McKellen as usual.

Ian Holm and Elijah Wood -- not too much to do but good reprises of their characters and a nice bridge between films.

Hugo Weaving! He was too old to play Elrond circa 2000, and as far as I can tell, they air-brushed him for this, which was necessary, but damn... I was never fond of his Elrond in LotR. I found him too dour and disapproving and too limited in emotional range. He undid all that here, striking a really nice balance between impressive and authoritative, but also personable and, well, deep--not in the sense of philosophically deep but in the sense of having deep roots in a long life, of being at ease with himself.

Dwarves: they were all good and nicely differentiated. And nice accents.

Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
As I feared, I very nearly forgot. I've been completely out of a Middle-earth space for a long time now and should revisit it; it's been too long since I've deeply explored that world.

I had a strange flash of Finrod while walking along a rural road in Japan, but it was so incongruous and hard to pull any plausible plot out of that I ended up quashing it. Sorry, Finrod.

I do, however, look forward to the Hobbit movie.
labingi: (Default)
Happy Downfall of Sauron Day, 2012 (or SR 1451 in the great LotR-verse in my mind).

I have watched again the Epic Rap Battle between Gandalf and Dumbledore and fixed clearly on why I don't find it very funny, despite some cuteness: the Gandalf the Grey vs. White antics, for example. It has a couple of superficial failings: too much reliance on gay jokes, as [personal profile] louderandlouder observed to me, and likewise, the virtual lack of any attempt at English accents.

But the primary thing that undercuts the humor for me is the line in which Gandalf refers to himself as something like, "the one rapper to rule them all." Now, this is not a criticism of the Nicepeter team. It's a purely idiosyncratic response on my part. But it's painful for me in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason that it's painful when, in LotR, Pippin refers to Frodo as "the lord of the Ring." Both are references, though the rap reference more oblique, to someone other than Sauron commanding the Ring.

And this, to me, isn't funny. You see, I take the Ring very seriously. Yes, I know it's a work of fiction. And I do generally adhere to the position that most anything can be funny in the right context. But the Ring is a very important symbol. It speaks to the same principle that has enshrined checks and balances in the Constitution of the United States. It represents for me the idea that there are forces in existence no one can control. There are attempts at a kind of power that can only lead to one's corruption, regardless of one's motives or one's native goodness. The Ring tells us that trying to master the Earth will backfire, that fascism is not a good system of government, nor totalitarianism. It's why Dr. Haber ended up insane. It's Donald Worster's explanation of why the most stable and sustainable peoples are those whose social codes strongly limit their sphere of action in the world. It recalls us to the necessity of humility.

The Ring is profoundly frightening. And for all that I tend to poke fun at the say-it-not-even-in-jestiness of so many in Middle-earth, this I do not jest about. Gandalf knows better--this is fundamental to his character--and to invoke the idea that he doesn't, even in farce, just isn't all that funny.
labingi: (Default)
Happy Bilbo and Frodo's birthday once again. This year belongs to Bilbo, since he has a movie in production.

In the LotR-verse in my mind, Bilbo would be 160 years old this year, which is a rather nice, round number of which I think he would approve. Of course, in the LotR-verse in my mind, he passed away 18 years ago, so he is not with us to celebrate, but Frodo and company will assuredly celebrate on his behalf.
labingi: (Default)
Wanting both to support activity on [community profile] asexual_fandom and celebrate Downfall of Sauron Day (March 25), I'm going to write a bit about culture and asexuality in Middle-earth.

The language of sexual orientation codifies (a)sexual feelings and practices shaped by a combination of biological drives and cultural construction. For example, men have always slept with men, but the prevalence and expression of this drive is strongly culturally conditioned, and it is somewhat misleading to refer to the relationship between two male lovers in Sparta as "gay."

Middle-earth is fictional space, constructed (in its original literary form) by rather a devout and quite heterosexual Catholic, who was raised among the trappings of late-Victorian morality. So we might argue that the reason Middle-earth presents as a strongly heterosexual culture in which everyone is a virgin until married (even if it takes millennia) is that it's shaped to the moral fantasies of its staid author and, thus, is simply unrealistic.

Fair enough, but we don't need to stop there, because Tolkien created a civilization whose inner coherence transcends its author's specific perspectives.

Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
It's that time again. My LOTR thought for the day:

Frodo (for a hobbit) is quite socially isolated. He's unusual in being an only child and was orphaned, I believe, at twelve. Aside from Lotho, to whom he is not close, he is far the youngest of his genealogical generation and is several years older than the following generation (Merry and Pippin's). He grew up in Brandy Hall with many relatives but may have felt like a bit of an outsider as the only Baggins in a warren of Brandybucks. He, then, had a close family unit with Bilbo for about twelve years, which is the nearest thing he ever has to a day-to-day life partnership. Then Bilbo left, and Frodo lived on his own for seventeen years.

Now, throughout all of this, he always surrounded by family and friends and generally well liked if viewed as slightly queer (you know what I mean). He lived in close-knit neighborhoods, certainly saw the Gamgees frequently (via gardening at Bag End if nothing else) and hung out with Merry, Pippin, and Fatty Bolger when they grew up a bit. Still, compared to most hobbits' primary relationships with parents, siblings, spouses, children, he is a little peripheral to his friends' and family's lives.

I wonder how much this contributes to his decision to leave the Shire at the end of the book. Certainly, the War/the Ring is the principal motivator, but I find it interesting that he chooses to go with Bilbo, the relative he has lived with most closely. With Sam, Merry, and Pippin integrating back into the Shire with families/adult responsibilities of their own, Frodo might easily become unmoored. Socially, not much holds him there.

(But hopefully he and Bilbo had many happy birthdays in the Undying Lands.)
labingi: (Default)
Happy Downfall of Sauron Day, 2010, or in the Middle-earth in my mind, 1449 S.R. or the 30th anniversary, a red-letter day, which makes it especially ironic that RL has clobbered me with events and obligations that have made commemoration of fictional holidays all but impossible.

But here it is, such as it is. Weird little mega-drabble...

Thirty Years On )
labingi: (Default)
Happy Bilbo and Frodo's birthday to all. I am doing nothing special for it except eating cake. (Any excuse.) That seems a hobbitish thing to do. In the LOTR-verse in my head, this is Frodo's 80th, which is a bit momentous really.


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