Monday, December 25, 2006

A Very Tolkien Christmas

Ná merye i turuhalmeri! (Merry Christmas!)

I am very pleased with my two LotR-related Christmas gifts: A Gateway To Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings by David Salo and The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull.

A Gateway To Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is by David Salo, one of the language consultant for Jackson's films and moderator of Elfling (the Elvish Linguistics mailing list, dedicated to the study of Tolkien's languages). I am thrilled with this book because it puts everything I want to know about Sindarin in one place. (I don't yet own all of the HoMe books, so this is really handy.) In addition to all the linguistic history and analysis, which are sometimes over my head, the book has lots of practical info: pronunciation, syntax, extant texts, a glossary, a list of Sindarin names, etc. It's expensive but a valuable source to scholars who want to better understand this language which influence so many words in LotR.

The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion won the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies for 2006 and I've been dying to read it ever since! The authors claim their goal was to keep this book shorter than LotR and the manage to do so, but just barely. I haven't read much yet, but it looks very informative. The first thing I did was look up passages that relate to my paper on Frodo's Elvish air but they didn't mention any of the things I noticed. As all scholars know, it's simultaneously thrilling and terrifying to discover that no one has published anything on your topic! Even so, this book looks like a great resource!

I'm just disappointed that the new semester starts Jan. 8, giving much less time off than I'd like to spend with my new books!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tolkien Audio Collection

I bought myself a Christmas present: The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection. I have it on cassette and was going to put this CD version on my Christmas wish list when I realized it was easier to buy it for myself than to try to explain it my family! ("No, not the audio books, the audio collection...")

This collection features J. R. R. T. reading bits from LotR and Christopher reading selections from Silm. If you follow the link to Amazon, this work is described as abridged but it includes more than my old cassette version! The quality of some of the recordings (made in the 50s) isn't great but that's a minor complaint. It's worth the inconvenience to hear J. R. R. T. himself reading. A bonus: the set includes the unpublished poem "The Mirror of Galadriel," which was edited out of LotR.

I highly recommend this CD for anyone who like the audio books or is interested hearing J. R. R. T.'s interpretation and pronunciation.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Builder Tries to Evoke Middle Earth

This article was in our Sunday paper: Builder tries to evoke Middle Earth.

I want to live in this subdivision! The hardest part would be deciding what I'd want my house to look like: Bag End, Rivendell, Edoras, or Minas Tirith. OK, Minas Tirith wouldn't work, but it would still be a tough decision.

This is the first subdivision I've ever heard of that has its own web site: The Shire Subdivision in Bend, Oregon. Cool, eh? Just image what it must cost though!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tolkien Audio Books in iTunes

Just found this on the Tolkien Library web site: J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Book Catalogue just added to iTunes (28.09.06).

If you've never listened to these, you are in for a treat. I can't recommend them highly enough!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pre-Order The Children of Hurin

Tolkien News and the Tolkien Library have more info about The Children of Hurin and you can pre-order it on Amazon (UK only, so far). No news on when you can pre-order it on US Amazon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Children of Hurin

More news on Children of Hurin from the Mythsoc Yahoo Group:

Tolkien News has announced that the Tolkien Estate has launched it own official website. Although the site is still under construction it does confirm the 2007 publication date for The Children of Hurin. It will contain artwork by Alan Lee, and a map and editorial notes by Christopher Tolkien.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

(Another) Unfinished Tolkien Work to Be Published

I found this on the Mythopoeic Society Yahoo! Group today:
Unfinished Tolkien Work to Be Published

The Associated Press
Monday, September 18, 2006; 12:17 PM

NEW YORK -- An unfinished tale by J.R.R. Tolkien has been edited by his son into a completed work and will be released next spring, the U.S. and British publishers announced Monday.

Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on "The Children of Hurin," an epic tale his father began in 1918 and later abandoned. Excerpts of The Children of Hurin, which includes the elves and dwarves of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and other works, have been published before.

"It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of the 'Children of Hurin' as an independent work, between its own covers," Christopher Tolkien said in a statement.

The new book will be published by Houghton Mifflin in the United States and HarperCollins in England.

J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings Trilogy" has sold more than 50 million copies and was also adapted into a blockbuster, Academy Award-winning trio of films. A stage version is scheduled to open next year.

Michael Drout discusses The Children of Hurin on his blog, Wormtalk and Slugspeak. He says it will have a new map and artwork by Alan Lee.

This AP article has also led to a debate about how many copies of LotR have really been sold. 50 million does seem low.

I must say, I am impressed. Christopher must be in his 80s now and has already published 12 volumes of his father's unpublished drafts with Christopher's commentary and explanation. I figured he deserved to rest after all that, and yet he has another book for us. Thank you, Christopher!

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Lord of the Rings DVDs?

Tomorrow the Lord of the Rings Limited Edition DVDs go on sale. They've already released the theatrical edition and extended edition, so why a limited edition? According to the official movie web site the main appeal is new documentaries on each film. The sets also include the movies because "releasing these documentaries unaccompanied by the film would be nearly impossible because of agreements that are in place with the cast and crew."

Each film is a two-disk set. Disk 1 contains the theatrical and extended edition of the film. Disk 2 is all the new behind-the-scenes documentaries. Each set is $20 on the movie web site, so they'll be somewhat cheaper at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

LotR and DVD geek that I am, I'm tempted. I bought both the theatrical edition and extended edition of each film so I'd have all the documentaries. Curse you, Peter Jackson, for tempting me with even more...

UPDATE Aug. 30: Read reviews on Tolkien News. General consensus: the new documentaries are enjoyable but it's not worth it if you already own the previous verisons. That might be why I couldn't find them at Wal-Mart!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terror in the Sky

The first thing I heard when I got up this morning was that New Scotland Yard and MI-5 had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up at least six planes en route from the UK to the US. You can read the latest news on Fox News.

Apparently the plan was to make bombs from innocent-looking liquids that could be carried aboard in carry-on luggage and mixed on the plane. Maximum security is preventing all carry-on luggage except insulin and baby formula. I feel sorry for the innocent passengers who have to check their electronics (including laptops, iPods, and handheld games) into checked luggage.

I'm so proud of the Intelligence folks who stopped what could have been "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" (as Fox News is calling it) and I'm so glad I'm not in the UK trying to get home. (Last year's Mythcon was in England, so that could be us Mythies on those planes!) The passengers must range from nervous, to terrified, to annoyed. I wonder which I'd be? Probably all three.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mythcon Day 4 (Monday): The Last Day

The only events schedule for today were breakfast, the annual Mythopoeic Society Meeting, and Closing Ceremonies.

I tried to be virtuous at breakfast and limited myself to eggs and cereal. After breakfast we packed and checked out. I decided to wear shorts and did manage to stuff everything in my suitcase (a carry-on wheely bag), though zipping it was quite a struggle. :)

The Mythopoeic Society Meeting was brief and ended with an auction of the remaining three ducks. The lady who made them numbered and signed them for us and I'll just bet these silly ducks show up at Mythcon next year.

Closing Ceremonies involved singing a couple of songs about the Inklings (J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams) and "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Hobbit?" The latter was hysterical with folks making up their own lyrics about things that happened at this year's Mythcon. Here's a sample (to the tune of "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor" of course):

What shall we do with a drunken hobbit?
What shall we do with a drunken hobbit?
What shall we do with a drunken hobbit,
Early in the morning?

Way-hey the Mythcon's over
Way-hey the Mythcon's over
Way-hey the Mythcon's over
Early in the morning.

Ask him if a duck was involved,
Ask him if a duck was involved,
Ask him if a duck was involved,
Early in the morning.

Way-hey the Mythcon's over

You get the idea, I'm sure. Other lyrics were things like "Make him eat dessert twice a day" and "Make him dinner with a T-Rex." I wish I could remember all the lyrics because they were all very funny.

After four interesting and fun-filled days, I was sad to leave my new friends, but also glad to be heading home.

Our flight didn't leave until 4:45 p.m., so we stopped by The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for an hour. There's a recreation of a western town, a rodeo hall of fame, Great Performers section (John Wayne is their most popular attraction), exhibits of the art of Frederick Remington and Charles Russell, lots of Native American art, a gallery of American firearms, and lots more. Most surprising to me was the statue of Abraham Lincoln (for his contributions to the settlement of the west). If you are ever in OK City, plan to visit the Cowboy Museum. I could easily have spend a whole day there!

We got to Will Rogers Airport in plenty of time to check in for our flight. Two years ago, the first time I'd flown since Sept. 11, 2001, everyone told me not to wear my cowboy boots when flying because Security would make me take them off. I wore my tennis shoes and on that trip Security only randomly asked people to remove their shoes. This trip, everyone removed their shoes. I was impressed that Security at Will Rogers Airport provided a bootjack (only in Oklahoma, right?). Of course, I was wearing tennis shoes so I didn't need the bootjack, but I appreciated it anyway.

Once we got through security and we started looking for someplace to eat lunch. As luck would have it, we ran into a couple of other folks on their way home from Mythcon and were able to make conference last a bit longer by having one last meal together.

Our flights home were all on time, uneventful, and air conditioned. :)

I’m glad I went to Mythcon. I had a lot of fun, made some new friends, and got some really good feedback on my paper. I’m excited about continuing my paper and looking for new scholarly books I heard about here. I’m also be very glad to be home with my husband and kitties. Now if I could just get that drunken Hobbit song out of my head...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mythcon Day 3 (Sunday): Ducks and Sue the T-Rex!

First things first: my presentation went well and my paper was very well-received. I got lots of good feedback and was encouraged to expand my paper. I also got some very nice comments regarding my scholarship, things like:
  • Your paper was inspirational
  • Wow, I’ve read The Lord of The Rings many times and I never made the same connections you did.
  • When I expressed surprise that no one has written anything on my particular topic a couple people suggested that probably meant that just as Frodo was meant to have the ring, I was meant to write on this topic, and that perhaps the big guy himself (J. R. R. Tolkien, not God :) was trying to tell me something. I doubt that, but it’s nice to know other Tolkien scholars are so impressed with my work. I know some of my readers are not familiar with The Lord of the Rings so they might not get the context, but this is high praise indeed and I am pleased.
The banquet tonight was in the Natural History Museum and we did indeed get to eat in the same room at Sue the T-Rex. In fact, we all got buttons that say “I ate with Sue.” The food was fabulous, like all our other meals: roast beef, a chicken dish, vegetarian lasagna, salad, veggies, three desserts, and wine. I’m just glad the hotel room does not have a bathroom scale because I’m sure I’ve gained weight.

A joke I made last night in the hospitality room has become a running joke. Sarah, who writes for Jeopardy and attended the same U as Berke Breathed, was telling us that Breathed’s Bloom County comic strip started in the college paper. She was describing one particular strip where he lampooned an administrator. It sounded much like a later joke in Bloom County, where Milo’s grandpa was always hunting ducks because he was sure they were communists. In fact, the comic from the college papers sounded so much like Milo’s grandpa I asked Sarah “Was there a duck involved?”. This question struck us all as very funny (we were so tired everything was funny) and we laughed about it all day today.

Tonight’s entertainment included a skit by the Not Ready for Mythcon Players. Ducks featured prominently. Duck props (made of duct tape, of course) were involved. As the source of the joke, I asked for one of the ducks.

Isn't that clever? (In case you can't tell: it's made of styrofoam, duct tape, and a popsicle stick.) It was taped to an upside down plastic cup so it would stand up.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mythcon Day 2 (Saturday): So Much To Do, So Little Time

According to our conference schedule, the hotel provides free breakfast. I skipped that since I paid for the conference meal plan and, like dinner, breakfast was a Hobbit-approved assortment of comfort food (biscuits and gravy, eggs, sausage, bacon, French Toast, and cereal).

Opening ceremonies were this morning after breakfast. They are usually done in full academic regalia but since it was 103F today most people wore shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. What a casual, fun conference!

I heard several interesting papers today, including an afternoon-long session of four papers on Tolkien and Shakespeare. Look for three of them in an essay collection of the same name early next year.

Nathan, you will be glad to know I turned the AC off (briefly) in my room this morning. LOL. It has two settings: on and off. I wore shorts again today. The sessions and vendors are in one building, meals in another, and the hotel another. The buildings are nice and cool, but the few steps outside between buildings are like stepping into an oven.

Dinner tonight was another Hobbit-approved meal (where it snowed food and rained drink). We had Chicken Kiev and Salmon for dinner with the usual salad, potatoes, bread, and choice of three desserts. (I had key lime pie.) This was after a similar lunch featuring pasta. I'm sure I've already gained weight!

At dinner I learned that the banquet Sun is at the Natural History Museum we visited Fri! Judy and I are glad because we liked it so much we were talking about going back. I forgot to mention that the museum has a replica of Sue the T-Rex from Chicago's field museum. We are hoping the banquet will be in a room with dinosaurs!

I feel like a real author now. Tonight when I was hanging out in the hospitality room Wendell Wagner handed me a copy of Tolkien on Film and asked me to sign my essay. I was quite flattered! I wrote "thank you" in Elvish and signed my name. (Don't be impressed. It's only two words and most of my Elvish vocabulary.)

My presentation is tomorrow, in the last time slot before the banquet. I figure that means I'll have no one or everyone. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mythcon Day 1 (Friday): Dinosaurs and Hobbits

Today's plans were to drive from OK City to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, check in to the Sooner Hotel on campus, check in to the conference, and find out what activities they had planned for us.

Norman is very close to OK City so it only took a few minutes to get here. We couldn't check in until this afternoon so we spent much of the day in the campus Natural History Museum -- lots of Dinosaurs and American Indian stuff. :)

We checked in to the The Sooner Hotel and Suites in the later afternoon. My room is very nice, with two beds (a queen-size and a single), a desk for the TV, and a larger desk with a 'fridge and microwave but also room for a computer. The free wireless works well, so I can stay in touch with family and friends via e-mail -- and get my daily weather, comic, and news fix every morning.

After checking in to the conference I stopped by vendor's room where I purchased a t-shirt (everyone is wearing shorts and t-shirts!) and a tote bag for the stupid jeans and polo shirt I wore Thurs., don't plan to wear again, and don't have room for in my suitcase. (Mental note: Kill Nathan for advice about "dressing warm" to compensate for extremely cold air conditioning.)

Dinner was excellent: catfish, bbq ribs, coleslaw, corn fritters, bread, salad, and a choice of deserts (chocolate chip cheesecake, double fudge cake, and strawberry Bavarian cream cake; I had the latter). The ice tea was really good (brewed and still hot)!

There was a book signing tonight at a nearby bookstore followed by fun in the hospitality room (just a few steps from our rooms), but after two nights of much less than adequate sleep I decided to go to bed early.

Before you ask: yes, I examined my bed layer by layer before getting into it and am pleased to report that the Sooner hotel is spider-free. :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mythcon Day 0 (Thursday): From MI to OK

Our travels plans for today were to fly out of Flint at 3:30 p.m. and end up in Oklahoma City at 10:30 p.m. We eventually arrived in OK City, but things didn't quite go as planned.

Our flight from Flint to Detroit was good but the plane was very warm. Our first clue that it would be a warm flight was when the pilot welcomed us to "Northwest Sauna." I was glad I had tossed a battery-operated hand-held fan in my flight bag at the last minute (in case of air conditioner- or power-failure). I was really annoyed that decided to wear jeans and a medium-weight silk polo shirt. My friend Nathan convinced me that the air conditioning would be so cold (to compensate for the extreme Oklahoma heat) that I'd want jeans and probably a sweater. I about died of heat stroke on the plane! I was ready to mug someone for a pair of shorts and a tank top -- and there were lots of potential victims. Everyone else I saw all day was dressed much more sensibly than I!

When we got to Detroit they rolled out the covered walk to the plane and the darn thing broke. It wouldn't open or move. We sat around in a hot plane while they tried to fix it. We offered to exit the plane via the emergency slides but the stewardess thought we were kidding. Just as they decided to move the covered hallway and use the open air stairs to the ground, a huge rainstorm broke. Fortunately, at that point they fixed the covered hallway and we were able to deplane.

Judy and I enjoyed walking around Detroit Metro a bit, then took the people mover to the end of Concourse A and had a nice dinner at Quiznos. I'd never been through the tunnel that leads to Concourse A: its sides are lighted with panels of multi-colored lights which change to the accompanying music. It was beautiful, sort of like the northern lights.

After dinner we found our gate a settled down to wait... and wait ... and wait for our flight. It was delayed twice and the gate was changed twice. We left nearly four hours late (almost 10 p.m.). I'm so glad I was traveling with Judy! Having someone to visit with made the wait much nicer.

The flight to OK City was good. I don't think I've ever flown at night. I could see the nearly-full moon and the cities under light cloud cover looked like Christmas lights shining through snow. I even got to see what a t-storm looks like from above! Very cool. The only down side (besides being exhausted) is that Judy and I were very crowded in seats obviously not made for tall or large people. I was so glad when we finally landed so I could stretch my legs! Unfortunately, when we did we were delayed again because another plane was at our gate. And they turned off the air at first so the plane was very warm.

By the time we finally deplaned, got our rental car, and got to the hotel (the Red Roof Inn near the OK City airport) it was 3 a.m. I hadn't slept well Wed. night due to the lightning so I was more than ready drop into bed.

Warning: Arachnophobes stop reading now.

When I flipped back the bedcovers I developed a whole new sympathy for my acrophobic husband: I found the biggest spider I've ever seen in my life. It was nearly the size of a quarter!

After nearly having a heart attack I called Judy to ask for advice. Then I called the desk and asked the nice young man who checked us in to come kill the big nasty spider. He had to dismantle the bed down to the floor to get it but I didn't care. That just assured me that Mr. Humungous Garden Spider wasn't living with all his family and friends under my bed. The nice guy not only put my bed back together (with military corners), he shook out each layer of bedding (including taking the pillows out of the pillowcases) so I'd know there were no more spiders -- and he wouldn't let me tip him! I told everyone at the desk this morning how impressed I was and got a business card so I can write a letter to his manager. His name is Ryan and he just got out of the Army and he didn't make feel like a whimp!

Despite exhaustion and knowing the room was spiderless, I had trouble falling asleep. All I could think about was spiders. First, I tried to relax and picture something pleasant, like my cats (who would have killed the spider for me...). Crap.

Next, I tried to meditate using a guided meditation on my iPod. "Imagine you are sitting on a cliff looking over the ocean..." (where there are no spiders). "Now imagine the sunrise..." (now I can see that there are no spiders). Crap.

Third, I scrolled through my iPod for something else to listen to. I lamented loading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the one with the spiders!) on my iPod. Crap.

Finally, I decided to listen to The Fellowship of the Ring. I chose the "Lothlorien" chapter because our characters find a safe -- and spiderless -- haven there. Finally feel asleep. Woke up repeatedly because the bed was too hard. Kept listening to "Lothlorien" to keep away the spiders. Thank God for audio books!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mythcon 37

For the second time ever, I will be attending Mythcon, the annual conference of The Mythopoeic Society.

The Mythopoeic Society is a non-profit international literary and educational organization for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythic literature, especially the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams (aka The Inklings). Mythlore is the Society's peer-reviewed journal that publishes scholarly articles on mythic and fantastic literature. Mythlore is part of the MLA database available in UMF's library via FirstSearch (in case you want to look it up).

The Society gives out four awards each year at Mythcon:
  • The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature
  • The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature
  • The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inkling Studies
  • The Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies
This year's Mythcon is at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. It's about 20 degrees hotter than Michigan. My first Mythcon was Mythcon 35 in Ann Arbor two years ago. Since it was close to home, I drove home each night and missed all the evening fun and entertainment, so I'm excited about attending and presenting a paper.

The theme of this year's Mythcon is "The Map & The Territory: Maps and Landscapes in Fantasy with a track on Native American Fantasy/Native Americans in Fantasy." I'm very interested in the Native American aspect because we will be in Cherokee country. My grandmother was part Cherokee and I know very little about that part of my heritage. I'm hoping to find good info on the Cherokee while we are there.

My paper, "The Light of Stars: Frodo's Elvish Air," has nothing to do with maps or Native Americans but Tolkien papers are always appropriate. I'm pretty happy with the draft I'll be reading and looking forward to lots of good feedback from Tolkien scholars who are even geekier than I.

I'll be traveling with Judy Kollmann. I'm a little nervous about flying (terrorists, actually, not flying itself) but I'm sure having a friend to travel with will make me more relaxed. We leave tomorrow (Thurs., Aug. 3) and get home Monday (Aug. 7). Mythcon itself is Aug. 4-7. I'll try to post daily so you can share our Mythcon adventures, even if I have to post them all after we get back home.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A New Blog

I created this blog in August 2005 when I also created my first blog, Citadel of Stars. I love the name of this one and I think I've finally decided what to do with it. Given the title, I wanted to do something special with it, so it will be about my Tolkien research and writing, and any news related to J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, and their works.

I haven't found a template I like that works in blogger and fits my Tolkien theme. I guess you can pretend the graphics are Elvish or Numenorean ruins, perhaps at the Grey Havens or Osgiliath.