Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Read this year.

Yup, I know the year's not over yet, but it will be by the time I finish the last couple that I'm working on, so I thought I'd post the obligatory list for everything I've read this year, I'll mark them in bold if I read them for school.

1. Gardens of the Moon - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #1 - Steven Erikson *****

2. Tree of Smoke - Denis Johnson ****
3. Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Neitzsche ***
4. The Maker of Universes - World of Tiers #1 - Phillip Jose Farmer ***
5. The King and the Cowboy - David Fromkin **
6. The Gates of Creation - World of Tiers #2 -Phillip Jose Farmer ***
7. Pigeon Feathers - John Updike ***
8. Quag Keep - Andre Norton ***
9. A Private Cosmos - World of Tiers #3 - Phillip Jose Farmer ***
10. Deadhouse Gates - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #2 - Steven Erikson ***
11. The Things they Carried - Tim O'brien ***
12. Beyond the Walls of Terra - World of Tiers #4 - Phillip Jose Farmer **
13. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan **
14. The Rise of the West - William Hardy Mcneil ****
15. The lavalite World - World of Tiers #5 -Phillip Jose Farmer **
16. In Love and Trouble - Alice Walker **
17. The Oracle Betrayed - Oracle #1 - Catherine Fisher ****
18. World War One British Poets - Candace Ward ***
19. 1421: The Year China Discovered America - Gavin Menzies *
20. A Vocation and a Voice - Kate Chopin ***

21. Magician: Apprentice - Riftwar #1 - Raymond E. Feist ****
22. Red Orc's Rage - World of Tiers #6 - Phillip Jose Farmer *
23. Memories of Ice - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #3 - Steven Erikson ****
24. More than Fire - World of Tiers #7 - Phillip Jose Farmer **
25. Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones ****
26. Tolkien and the Great War - John Garth ****
27. House of Chains - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #4 - Steven Erikson ***
28. Landscape and Memory - Simon Schama *****
29. Carnage and Culture - Victor Hansen ***
30. Conan the Relentless - Roland Green **
31. Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower - Horatio Hornblower #1 - C.S. Forester ****
32. Midnight Tides - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #5 - Steven Erikson ***
33. Magician: Master - Riftwar #2 - Raymond E. Feist **
34. Cannibal Culture - Deborah Root **
35. Blood Follows - Bauchulain and Korbel Broach #1 - Steven Erikson **
36. The Lees of Laughter's End - Bauchulain and Korbel Broach #2 - Steven Erikson **
37. The Healthy Dead - Bauchulain and Korbel Broach #3 - Steven Erikson **
38. Crack'd Pot Trail - Bauchulain and Korbel Broach #4 - Steven Erikson **
39. Night of Knives - Tales of the Malazan Empire #1 - Ian Cameron Esselmont ****
40. Youth in Revolt - C.D. Payne ***
41. Lieutenant Hornblower - Horatio Hornblower #2 - C.S. Forester ****
42. The House of the Wolfings - William Morris ****
43. The Bonehunters - Malazan: Book of the Fallen #6 - Steven Erikson ****
44. Conan the Savage - Leonard Carpenter **
45. Hornblower and the Hotspur - Horatio Hornblower #3 - C.S. Forester ****
46. Imaro - Imaro #1 - Charles Saunders ****
47. Hornblower during the Crisis - Horatio Hornblower #4 - C.S. Forester ****
48. Hornblower and the Atropos - Horatio Hornblower #5 - C.S. Forester ****
49. Conan the Defender - Robert Jordan ***
50. Beat to Quarters - Horatio Hornblower #6 - C.S. Forester ****
51. Conan the Triumphant - Robert Jordan ***
52. Ship of the Line - Horatio Hornblower #7 - C.S. Forester ****
53. Return of the Crimson Guard - Tales of the Malazan Empire #2 - Ian Cameron Esslemont ****
54. Flying Colours - Horatio Hornblower #8 - C.S. Forester ****
55. The Polysylabic Spree - Nick Hornby ***
56. A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan ***
57. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional life of boys - Dan Kindlon ****
58. Conan the Gaurdian - Roland Green **
59. Shadowdale - Avatar #1 - Richard Awlinson **
60. Conan at the Demon's Gate - Roland Green **
61. Manhood for Amatuers - Michael Chabon ****
62. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Steven Chobsky (See Insert)
63. Maps and Legends - Michael Chabon ****
64. King Dork - Frank Portman ***
65. Reaper's Gale - malazan Book of the Fallen #7 - Steven Erikson ***
66. The Passion of the Western Mind - Richard Tarnas ****
67. Albert of Adelaide - Robert L. Anderson ****
68. Me: The People - Kevin Bleyer ***
69. The Essential Rumi - Rumi ***
70. Bongwater - Michael Hornburg ***
71. The Persian Book of Kings - Ferdewsi ****
72. A History of the Ostrogoths - thomas S. Burns ****
73. Tantras - Avatar #2 - Richard Awlinson **
74. Doctor Faustus - Christoper Marlowe ***
75. I'm Proud of You - Tim Madigan ***
76. The Mother Tongue - Bill Bryson ***
77. Conan The Gladiator - Leonard Carpenter **

Still in Progress
78. Waterdeep - Avatar #3 - Richard Awlinson
79. Cosmos - Carl Sagan
80. Toll The Hounds - Malazan Book of the Fallen #8 - Steven Erikson

This year I didn't get nearly as many books finished as I would have liked. This is due to it being my first "Full" year of school, taking classes all 3 semesters, and 2 of those being English Classes. My World Lit class during Fall had far more than just The Essential Rumi, but basically I had already read all the rest of them and didn't see any reason to include them. Among those that I re-read during my World Lit class were:

The Enuma Elish
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Orestia by Asychleus
Plato's The Apology and Allegory of the Cave
The Song of Roland
Einhard's Life of Charlegemage
Dante's Divine Comedy
Machievelli's The Prince

As you can see I nearly made it to the end of the Malazan series, but the later books in the series have simply gotten so bogged down in Minutae as the series crawls to a conclusion that it's taking me longer and longer to get through it, I also started and nearly finished the Hornblower series, the only thing holding me back is that I just don't have the money to buy the remaining few in the series since they are 15$ a piece. I need to check my local Library. I read the first Imaro book, which I bought when Night Shade was having a sale, but haven't yet gotten the remaining 3 in the series from Mr. Saunders. I also started reading the Riftwar Series by Raymond E. Feist, and as interesting as Samurais riding giant insects are as villains.. I'm just not sure I will be continuing to read the series.. It didn't grab hold of me the way it does some people.. i didn't even finish the first "Trilogy" of 4 volumes. And lastly I've now made it to just shy of the halfway point in my massive Conan Read. Next year I plan to finish up Malazan, and get a start on two big series, Michael Moorcock's The Eternal Champion (Which I've read a few of, so will include some re-reads) and Arnold J. Toynbee's " A Study of History" which clocks in at about 11 or 12 volumes.. but which I found my local Library had copies of just recently, Once I've finished that I can safely say i will have read both the Pesimistic view of Historical Theory (Spengler) and the Optimistic View of Historical Theory (Toynbee). Between Moorcock and Toynbee and the remains of Erickson, it works out to be nearly 60 books just there.. add in I don't know how many I will have to read for school, and it sounds as if I have a busy year ahead of me.

Insert: Essentially I cannot rate this book due to the fact that it is so tied up in my current problems revolving around a person who had become an extremely important part of my life and then chose to extricate herself from it entirely. She had me read the book, and we went to see the film together, and the book was massively important to both of us as a result due to our similar experiences growing up, and due to the fact that we used it as something of a letter back and forth, both taking turns underlining passages before giving it back to the other. The Book itself is phenomenal, and if you want to actually taste what it is like to be alienated and alone in your most formative period, and see what it's like to absolutely hit rock bottom due to emotional trauma, regardless of the fact that you have friends and family to help you through it.. then the book is for you. I absolutely am glad I read it, I just don't think it would be fair on my part to rate the book in my current mental state. If you have children, I cannot recommend reading it enough because it hits all the warning signs of what to look out for to make sure your child doesn't hit the lows that Charlie does in the book.

Friday, November 30, 2012

They still refuse to see it!

Yet again, yet another writer has hacked out yet more words trying to claim that Tolkien & Fantasy in general, hate Technology.

The article starts out all right I suppose, but it quickly falls apart as soon as it mentions "The last Ringbearer".. Simply put, they keep missing the point of Lord of the Rings (and truth be told, so do a lot of fantasy writers who seek to emulate it).. These writers are too literal with their approach to technology for one thing, they see Technology only as industrial machinery, be that steam trains or Abrams tanks. These writers are overlooking the fact that Crop Rotation is a Technology, Charcoal making, black smithing, brewing, the gunpowder in Gandalfs fireworks, and the walls of Minus Tirith are all TECHNOLOGY.

Tolkien isn't against Technology, he's simply against the soulless INDUSTRIALIZATION of the world.  If you want to see representations of Mordor, look at London in the 1900's, look at Detroit in the 70's, look at the hole in the O-Zone layer thanks to CFC's Look at the slag dumps outside of African, South American and Chinese mineral mines, look at the clear cut, blasted, hell landscape of the former mountains of the Appalachian chain which have been completely removed.

Tolkien isn't arguing against technology, he's arguing against the fact that we don't use it responsibly. The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep, They awakened the methane gas explosion that is the balroq. Sauron and later Sauruman sought to dominate life, and they are rewarded with the dim, selfish, spiteful and malformed Orc. The Dragon Smaug's greed lead him to take by force two entire kingdoms, Esgaroth and Erebor, simply so he could horde gold to retire to Boca.. err I mean sleep on.

Think of it this way, the act of inventing the automobile was in itself not particularly bad. But once you factor in the marketization of the automobile, selling them, thus needing a constant supply of them, not to mention the oil drilling, road building, and ugh.. Suburbia.. who doesn't begin to feel a little put upon by them? Especially when you read stories about what happened in the US and Britain to their already firmly built, though no less ecologically problematic, (remember, even the attempt to use the weapon of the enemy for good, can still cause evil) public transit systems. In the 40's and 50's it was not uncommon for US automakers and oil companies to collude with cities to purchase vital segments of the public transit system and then dismantle them.. thus forcing people to have no choice but to buy a car and pay for gas. That's Mordor thinking. One car to bring them all, and in the ring-road bind them.

Everyone has been stuck in a traffic jam, you cannot tell me that if just a little be more civic responsibility had been in evidence during the planning phases that that problem couldn't have been conceived of and dealt with? The South-East US is littered with middle turn lanes, called morbidly "Suicide lanes", which account for a vast number of traffic fatalities.. there are entire towns where there are no sidewalks and no crosswalks, let alone bike lanes or any attempt at providing some alternative to the automobile. They see no reason to build any of that because everyone (who counts anyway) lives too far away from town, secluded in the suburbs and exoburbs and planned communities and gated communities to warrent building anything except more roads to bring in yet more traffic to yet more big box stores and strip malls and fast food joints to pour yet more money into the never satisfied gaping maw of corporate greed.

The US didn't crack the atom to provide clean, cheap power to the masses of the world, it cracked the atom to kill people, and for 60 years afterwards Nuclear Energy was a distant second place to the never ending quest to a bigger and better bomb. Eventually the Soviet Union, what more of a Mordor could you want than a country ruled by technocrats and engineers, crafted the Ultimate in the enormous Tzar Bomba. I'll excuse you while you go and chant GROND! GROND! GROND!.. okay, back? good.

Gandalf could have used his gunpowder to make rockets to fire at the Orcs, but he didn't he used it to make beautiful displays of light and colour to amuse and entertain a bunch of fat drunk hobbits. The Dwarves used their knowledge to make toys and jewelry and the Elves.. well now that's an interesting viewpoint as you can see the same impulses which Sauron and Sauruman had.. in Feanor and the Silmarils.

No, the Elves I think are the one example in which Tolkien may have created a group of beings who either nearly did or entirely did abstain from most technology.. and guess what.. they are declining and slipping away into the past to be replaced by those pesky humans who aren't afraid to harness the weapon of the enemy, hopefully to try and use it for good.  To build solar panels and sea walls and hospitals and high speed electric rail to connect all the little villages and hamlets to magnificently planned urban centers groaning with parks and industry which sequesters it's emmisions and appropriately sources it's raw materials.

Tolkien was a man who had seen the absolute worst of what human ingenuity could concoct. Poison Gas, The Tank, Machine Guns, Grenades, Artillery capable of turning a human into a fine red particulate from a hundred miles away, there is a reason why that war lead to the Geneva Convention.. which itself, in it's attempt to restrain the insanity, simply made humans more ingenuitive  If they can't use poison gas, lets just use cluster bombs, lets coat our bullets with white phosphorus, anti-coagulants, or make them out of depleted uranium.  Let's do all these horrible things because it's easier than finding common ground and working together, sharing a bite and sup and a song and then going for a walk along the hedgerows, or through the park.

Tolkien wasn't saying not to use technology, he was simply saying to advance technology responsibly and with as little negative impact to the surrounding world, and preferably without killing anyone or destroying anyone's home. Tolkien wasn't telling us to become neo-Luddites huddling around tallow candles or to become subsistence farmers.. He was simply telling us that there are better things in life to strive for than greed and death.

An Attempt at Organization. Mark 1.

To preface; I own a LOT of books. Somewhere in the realm of 5000+ individual volumes in a variety of formats, not including about another 1500 E-Books. For the Fiction books, finding what I want is simplicity itself, Anthologies come first, alpha by editor, and all the rest are alpha by author. Art books are the same way, alpha by artist. The Non-Fiction books however are a trickier proposition. Though they are mostly Social Sciences (History, Anthropology, Archeaology, Biography, Sociology, Comparative religion, Political theory) I also have Geology, Geography, Natural history, theoretical physics, and lastly and I'm not ashamed to say, a sizable metaphysics section on Ancient astronauts and the like (it's bogus, but fun!).

There are a few paths one can go by, but in the long run, you can only choose one road which to walk upon. (Led Zeppelin, yeah!) Primarily you have three main choices in the United States.

First, the Library of Congress system which organizes book not by strict subject categories but rather by Publication and Publisher data, since it is primarily a repository of works published in the United States, thus making it rather oddly laid out since you will wind up with books about automobiles next to books about birds. On the plus side, it's easy to find out the LOC# for your specific book.

Second, the Dewey Decimal system, which is extremely easy to navigate and easy to find out where your books go, with one caveat. It's proprietary, and expensive. You have to purchase a silence to the catalog in order to find the multi-digit code for your specific books.

Neither of these options was really that good, for one, I didn't want a book on the Migration Age to be sitting next to a book on Alestair Crowley, and for two, I didn't have the money to buy a lisence and a hand scanner to put my books into the DD system, and three, I simply don't have enough books to make all those extra categories necessary. Since in the grand scheme of things, I have so few areas of interest I opted to simply make my own.

It has 22 Categories, each with a number of Sub Categories and Sub-Sub Categories depending on the scope and depth of my collection.

       I.        Antiquity
    II.            Classical Age
 III.            Late Classical Age
 IV.            Migration Age
    V.            Early Middle Ages
 VI.            High Middle Ages
VII.            Late Middle Ages
VIII.            Renaissance
 IX.            Historical Outlines
    X.            Anthropology
 XI.            Comparative Religion
XII.            Psychology
XIII.            Sociology
XIV.            Archeology
XV.            Geology & Geography
XVI.            The late Victorian & early Edwardian Age
XVII.            World War I
XVIII.            World War II
XIX.            The post war world
XX.            Science
XXI.            Language
XXII.            Metaphysical 

I'm hoping to start actually putting the books into order, making citation/abstract pages for each one, over the winter break from school. Hopefully pictures of the final product will also be included. 

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Scott-i-verse.

Recently there have been a number of articles floating around on the internet revolving around some Easter eggs off of the new Prometheus DVD. Specifically the a journal entry where Weyland relates a conversation with Tyrell from Blade Runner. Their conversation is related to whether Tyrell's Replicants or Weyland's Androids are the wave of the future in terms of artificial humanoids.

This is to me, precisely the sort of thing that makes me get excited.. I love stuff like the Wold Newton Universe and Comic Book Crossovers.. I felt that what Marvel pulled off with the Avengers films, and is likely to amplify with future releases, was really cool. I love it when a plan comes together.

So, to see Ridley Scott at least playing around with the idea of his movies tying into one another at least in a thematic way is rather exciting.

When taken together, Scott's films tend to deal with common themes, especially dreams and what it means to be human, and what i means to have faith in something. Prometheus, Alien, Blade Runner, but also Legend deal with the major themes of Humaneness and Dreams..

 Certainly if we consider the theory presented that the reason the Engineers were planning to destroy humanity with the black slime was related to an engineer, supposed savior of humanity, being nailed to some planks of wood and then fought over for 2000 years, Really changes the view of the historical epics that Scott made.. though I'm not saying that his historical epics should be included.. but I could certainly see an argument for it...

What if all of his movies, mainly just his Sci-fi/Fantasy films, are actually connected? What if Legend is just a dream in the mind of a replicant? What if Tyrell corporation was an early competitor with Weyland industries...

I suppose we might eventually find out if the proposed sequel to blade runner gets off the ground..

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm afraid I have made a grave error.

Following my spring missteps in picking professors I seem to have struck out yet again. This time instead of picking a history professor who allows his political biases to color his attitudes, I picked a Literature professor who is obsessed with minutiae and trying to promulgate the idea that pederasty just isn't really all that bad.

I opted to take World Literature because British Literature didn't fit the time I had in my schedule.. I should have waited and taken the class I really wanted.. but unfortunately I didn't. Instead I am stuck with a professor who openly criticizes the bulk of western writing, disregards the entirety of non western or Islamic writing.. and fixates on greco-roman stories and poems which extol the virtues of man on boy love. If questioned about this, she will repeatedly state "It just was".

"It Just was" is of course an acceptable if not entirely fulfilling answer as to WHY it was practiced at all in greco-roman and islamic world.. but it doesn't even begin to explain WHY we need to read so damn many stories about it.

Which, the very fact that so many greco-roman writings deal with the subject is itself very telling. Either that the act was some what abhorrent and in need of defense in Rome and Greece itself.. or that the christian and islamic leaders who chose to save the stories were looking for historical justifications for acts which had become taboo by their times. This of course was an unacceptable question to pose in class, I was asked to stop speaking, and yet again told "It just was".

Plato, Ovid, perfumed garden.. the whole thing just keeps reminding me of a line from "The Perks of being a wallflower" when the main character Charlie is given a copy of the Fountainhead by his english teacher and told to be a Filter, not a Sponge, of the ideas presented within it..

I realize that these writers are vastly important to western culture, but so was the Jewish old testement and the Christian new testement and neither of them are being studied in class.. and in my opinion the choice of texts from the greco-roman world are far to fixated on works seeking to justify deviant behavior. To be honest, her class is making me miss the days of bowdlerization.

Simply put, my confusion is growing to preposterous levels due simply to the fact that, Plato, Ovid, and the Islamic caliphs have actual important and mind expanding things to speak of.. if the answer "It just was" is the be all end all answer.. then we need to swiftly move past the perniciously out of date material and stick to reading and discussing the works which are actually important to western culture as a whole today, rather than simply to perverts and child abusers.

I further more resent the idea that nothing of any value came out of the Middle Ages except for from the Islamic world.. unless you are Dante.

I really cannot wait till December 12th when I'm rid of this class.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Show of Shannara.

Yup, after Warner Brothers let their option to make a film out of the first of Terry Brook's fantasy trilogies lapse, I kind of thought that we had seen the last of the attempts to adapt them. Apparently I was incorrect.

This is interesting news, and one that doesn't particularly inspire me nor fill me with dread. I presume they will be sticking with the same format they had looked at for the films, adapting Elfstones and Wishsong straight, but using Sword for copious flashback sequences in order to make it's similarities to Lord of the Rings a little more subtle. By no means a bad plan, but one which still rankles my chronology obsessed brain. Still, I hope they manage to make a serious go of it, Brook's series is some what uniquely well suited to a long form TV series since most of his books don't feature the same characters, or they feature the children of previous characters, nephews and neices with occasional cameos from earlier characters.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually really like Terry Brooks as a person, and despite what Lin Carter wrote about Sword, I even enjoyed it for what it was. Mr. Brooks has an undeservedly poor reputation mostly stemming from some very unfavourable reviews of his first book. A book which Lester Del Rey had a tremendous amount of input into, and we really don't know, and likely won't know just how many editorial changes were made due to that input. Though, with the upcoming publication of the Annotated 35th Anniversary edition of Sword, we may get some insight.

Besides, as Frank Herbert said:

 Don't fault Brooks for entering the world of letters through the Tolkien door. Every writer owes a similar debt to those who have come before. Some will admit it. Tolkien's debt was equally obvious. The classical myth structure is deeply embedded in Western society.
That's why you should not be surprised at finding these elements in The Sword of Shannara. Yes, you will find here the young prince in search of his grail; the secret (and not always benign) powers of nature; the magician; the wise old man; the witch mother; the malignant threat from a sorcerer; the holy talisman; the virgin queen; the fool (in the ancient tarot sense of the one who asks the disturbing questions) and all of the other Arthurian trappings.
What Brooks has done is to present a marvelous exposition of why the idea is not the story. Because of the popular assumption (which assumes mythic proportions of its own) that ideas form 99 percent of a story, writers are plagued by that foolish question, "Where do you get your ideas?" Brooks demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you get the idea; what matters is that you tell a rousing story.
My main hope is, that since Shannara takes place in a post apocalyptic Pacific Northwest, they film in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii, and that they limit the non American Accents on the show. At it's heart Shannara is one of the first attempts at American High Fantasy vs. English or British High Fantasy. It needs to feel that way. It can be bucolic and pastoral, but it takes place in North America and that should be obvious. Especially when the characters find ruins or half functioning machines..  Maybe a ruined Boeing Plant.. or a half eroded Space Needle. The setting of Shannara is what makes it unique and what makes it stand apart from Tolkien.. I hope they play it up. Other than that, it would be nice if the filmmakers and tv studios stay away from the trap they laid for themselves when adapting that other Terry a few years ago with Legend of the Seeker. That is, water down a book series which you have no fear of running out of material to mine for ages.. to the point where it becomes blander and less inspired than the original book it is based on.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Steven Erikson Quote

"Authors will subvert that, and many do, and we are left (usually) with unease, with dissatisfaction: we are also left wondering, what was the author’s point here? That we’re all fucked: that life is shit; that the bad guys win; that we exist in a nihilistic nightmare? At which point, isn’t it fair to ask: ”why did you bother telling me that? I mean, what’s the fucking point, asshole?“ And you know what, you’d have a point..." - Steven Erikson

This is a great example of an author of books, which some classify in the "Grimdark" sub genre.. explaining how he feels about those sorts of attitudes. I've maintained since first cracking open "Gardens of the Moon" back in January.. that there is no way that the Malazan series, despite it's huge death toll and sometimes lurid and disturbing imagery.. fits into that sub genre classification.. The cast of characters is simply to varied and there are to many good people, who are often just as successful as the bad people.. for it to be compared to the likes of Abercrombie, Morgan and Bakker. I'd even argue that the Malazan series is marginally less hopeless feeling than Game of Thrones is.

Friday, August 3, 2012

New perspective.

"Richard Dawkins, Wheen recalls, once pointed out that if an alternative remedy proves to be effacious-- that is to say, if it is shown to have curative properties in rigorous medical trials-- then ' it ceases to be an alternative; and just becomes medicine'. In other words, it's only alternative so long as it's been shown not to be any bloody good. I found it impossible not to apply this helpful observation to other areas of life. Maybe a literary novel is just a novel that doesn't really work, and an art film, merely a film people don't want to see." - Nick Hornby

Underlined section being the most relevant.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's still not a "Trilogy".

Okay, so, I'm sure we are all very aware by now in the bowels of the geek dome that a choice has been made via Warner Brothers, Paramount and Peter Jackson to go ahead and give The Hobbit a 3rd film. This may seem strange, thinking, well, Lord of the Rings is nearly 3 times as long as The Hobbit and it only has 3 films.. that's true.. but those three films are also all enormous films, and the extended editions routinely run past 3+ hours. From a logistical standpoint, the reason why we got the two different versions of Lord of the Rings, or didn't get more than 3 films, is simply because the film making world was different then. Lord of the Rings is what clued Hollywood into the fact that people would pay to see a multi-part film and would happily come back year after year with no significant drop off. They've seen repeated it with Harry Potter and Twilight, each splitting their respective finales into extra pieces.

Another reason they've likely chosen to do this is, that it's the bottom of the barrel for Tolkien films. Once this is done, all they can do is Re-Make the Lord of the Rings, which I've already read rumours online that they are planning a 3D conversion (in reality they still have so much unused footage, they could theoretically turn the Lord of the Rings into six, 2+ hour long films, and thats sort of what the Extended Editions did anyway) of the films to follow the release of the Hobbit.. meaning that for the next 6-7 years you might just have a Hobbit on the big screen come Christmas time.

The fact they've chosen to do this, probably in lieu of releasing 'Extended' cuts of the Two Hobbit films later, and cutting down on the amount of money they could make in the process, instead having been decided to simply make three films. This isn't a big deal. The Hobbit does have enough set pieces to make this into a third film, especially when you start to add in material from the Appendices of Lord of the Rings. Which, by the way, I've got no problem with them doing. I just wish they had access to the abandoned chapters of Return of the King which are found in "Unfinished Tales".. as they really tie The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together in a way which makes it obvious, not only how sneaky and dangerous Gandalf really is, but also how long he's be aware of the threat posed and has been trying to stop it. They alas, do not have access to that material and so we will simply have to make do with what they can manage without it.

Now for the not as good bit. My biggest problem with The Lord of the Rings, were the unneeded changes to characters, such as Faramir, Aragorn, Denethor and Theoden.  Effectively, if they were a male with power in the book, presented as noble, uncorruptable, or otherwise wise.. two of the three film makers went out of their way to make sure the audiences didn't see that. Fran Walsh and Phillapa Boyens, whatever their status to Peter Jackson, are, in my opinion, hacks. They have a political angle they wanted to push, and did so at the expense of someone elses characters. Aragorn had to be shown as dithering and weak, Faramir as covetous and jealous of his brother Boromir, Denethor shown, not as despairing but as cowardly, and Theoden as spiteful. In other words, the script writers took issue with the idea of males exhibiting only noble qualities and as such sought to drag them down a bit. Even Elrond and Frodo weren't immune from this selective personality re-writing.

They also bolstered the female characters in ways which don't really always make sense. Eowyn cooking soup is, kind of preposterous.. and she was about as strong and willful a character as you could ever want. There's a reason all those feminist bra burning hippies in the 60's named their daughters after her. In a word, Eowyn kicks 10 kinds of ass, and nothing the film makers could add could make her any better. Arwen is a totally different story though.. They not only made her into something she wasn't meant to be, but did it in a completely slipshod manner. The whole bit in Fellowship of Arwen rescuing Frodo from the ringwraiths is groan inducing. Thank goodness saner heads prevailed and we weren't treated to Arwen leading the charge to relieve Helms Deep! Yet again, poor Glorfindel gets the axe.

Beyond a few other very small things, these character changes I found to be the most grating. The look of the films was pitch perfect, (though I'll admit I've always been an Alan Lee and John Howe fan.. so for fans of the Hildebrandts or Nasmith I can see where the films wouldn't work for you, and I'm sorry) the scenery was great, the sets, locations, and 90% of the pacing made the films work for me.. but theres always that little niggling worm in my head that pulls me out of the picture when one of these character assassinations rears it's head.

With the news of a third Hobbit film, I'm more worried than ever that the extra length provided by this format will simply allow Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens to give more screen time to their Mary Sue Fanfic character Taurial. This will be the first time they've actually gone all the way and simply created a new named character out of whole cloth, the only reason for it is, the film makers felt, the movie "Needed a Vagina". This is delicate territory, since, I'll readily admit that Tolkien didn't have very many female characters, but the idea that an adaption of his work needed to have one is a bit preposterous. Yes, The Hobbit, is a kids book, but the story it tells isn't a kids story. It's an adult's story. It's a war story. That's what made Eowyn's choice so spectacular. This is like, if Ridley Scott had decided when he got down to brass tacks on filming Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" (And it is based on the book, since it continues some of the inconsistencies that the book has) that they just really needed one of the Army Rangers or Delta Operators to be female... No logical reason for it.. just cause.

Just because we have different sensibilities today than the author did 60 years ago, doesn't give us the right to change his artistic vision, and on this note I'll not beat around the bush, in my opinion, the Author's art, is more important than the Filmmaker's art. The Filmmaker's are simply ADAPTING, some one elses art, and therefore have no rights in regards what can be changed.

So, that rant out of my system I can get down to the other thing that is bugging me.

The Hobbit, is not a Trilogy. It doesn't matter that there are 3 films. 3-films-in-1. Just like the thing that used to be on the old Transformers boxes.. 2 toys in 1! It is 3 pieces of a single film, exactly the same way that The Lord of the Rings is, by the directors own admission, he views them as a SINGLE FILM. ( I still hold out hope one day we will get a cut which reflects that, a single opening and closing credits sequence, and several intermissions) When it all finishes up, Peter Jackson will have adapted 2 books, into 2 films, each split into 3 parts.

The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, is a DUOLOGY. They are a Book, and a Sequel to that book.

If you have 3 courses in a meal, it's still just 1 meal, it's not a Trilogy of meals. It doesn't matter how many "Volumes" are present in the box set.. it's not a Quadrilogy, Trilogy, Quintology, or any thing else. Only by adding in the Silmarillion do you then get a 'Trilogy'. I realize that this is me beating a dead horse, people will never stop calling these books/films a Trilogy.. because they can't get it through their head that simply having 3 of something doesn't make it a Trilogy.

Even with all that being said, I still can't wait to see the adaption, I will probably like it more than I dislike it, and I will happily pay to go and see it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Malazan Roadmap.

Now, before anyone jumps me.. I apologize if I've made any errors.. and will happily fix them.. but from what I can gather and from what I've read this is more or less how the series lays out or is projected to lay out.. once the last of Ian Cameron Esselmont's "Malazan Empire" novels are finished..

Red: Steven Erikson
Blue: Ian Cameron Esslemont

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Spectacle Stupor.

Caution: There may be spoilers.

This year, is a truly epic year for summer spectacle movies. This is the aftermath of the Hollywood writers strike from a few years ago, which provided us with such gems as "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen".. projects which were rushed into production with half finished scripts or re-purposed scripts from unrelated projects in an effort to not have to work out a deal with the screen writers guild, and an effort not to delay releases. TV suffered, Movies Suffered, it all suffered..and it's effected lingered.

Now though, that's far enough behind us that we are back to where we were before, except, now, with a bigger budget. A much bigger budget.

I'm writing now after having just viewed a screening of the entire Nolan-Verse Batman Trilogy, and with this 3rd installment there is no second guessing that nomenclature. It is a trilogy, parts 1 and 3 feed of of each other as much as part two fed off part 1 and part 3 fed off part 2. If it weren't for the 8 year time gap between 2 & 3, I'd almost say they could be 3 acts of a single film. A truly epic Batman going from Das Rheingold to Gotterdammerung.

In reality it still feels that way. The Dark Knight rises is so bleak, so disheartening, so soul crushing in so many scenes, that it begins to wear the audience down and make you wish for the psychopathic Joker since at least he did all these things to try and make a point about humanity.. Bane just does it, well he does it for a different reason but if I told you the reason it would be a spoiler...but at the end.. you feel a little beaten down. Making the Dark Knight Rises something of a great counterpoint to the summers other big comic book movie, The Avengers.

This comparison is unavoidable, rival comic book companies competing for decades not withstanding, the penultimate action of both films billionaire playboy philanthropists with fancy toys practically mirror each other. Both films finale involves these characters trying to get rid of a nuclear weapon and nearly being killed in the process. Where as Tony Stark/ Iron Man survives, with a little assistance from the Hulk's vocal chords.. Bruce Wayne/Batman doesn't.  In a way the two characters are already something of a mirror verse version of each other. Both are brilliantly minded, insanely wealthy, ostentatious and don't always manage to do the right thing. The key difference is, Iron Man is always subordinate to Tony Stark.. as he asserts multiple times "I am Iron Man", But Batman.. is the obverse of that. Bruce Wayne is a mask which Batman wears.

The other difference is, where as Batman relentlessly beats you down, taking a perverse glee in letting you know that everything could in fact be a lot worse than it is.. Avengers spends its entire length trying to build you up. Even when things look the most hopeless, the characters never throw their hands up and hide inside. I wonder if maybe Mathew Modine's character in the TDKR didn't watch the Avengers before putting on his dress blues and going back out into the face of uncertainty. In other words, TDKR is a film which explains why films such as the Avengers need to exist.

They aren't in opposition to one another. They are actually complimentary. The Avengers uhh.. whatever it is.. , The Dark Knight Trilogy.. They compliment each other.  Batman shows us how a hero is created, crafted, built, falls, is redeemed, and is eventually killed. The Avengers shows us why Heros are so important.


After having written this post last night and set it up to autopost today, I thought I needed to come back and at least touch on the events which occurred at a theater in Colorado.  200+ people calmly watching the Dark Knight Rises were violently attacked by a deranged man. 12 died and 70 were wounded. I'll leave the pontificating on what caused this or the shooters motivations to other more interested parties, all I want to say is that he has yet again shown how badly the world needs heroes, how badly the world needs good people who are not willing to be silent and allow bad things to happen. But he's also proven how fragile our society is, how easy it is to manipulate, and bring to great harm. He is a coward for attacking a theatre full of people just trying to enjoy their movie, and I hope the state of Colorado swiftly finds him guilty of these heinous crimes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

...I've got myself a plan!

So, since all of my other plans for the summer fell through. My plans to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my plan to go to a LARP in Raleigh.. all of it.. It just got sucked down the drain. Who cares.

I've got something better now.

Being born in 85, scant months before they performed a single set at Live Aid, and 5 years after the band had broken up, I only have experienced Led Zeppelin through CD's and videos. Sure I've heard my mom and dad talk about how fantastic they were live.. but that doesn't do me a lot of good.

If you've ever seen the film "Almost Famous", I'm kind of like the kid that Jay Baruchael plays in that..

While it's not the real deal, there is a world renowned LZ cover band known as Zoso. They perform about 100+ shows a year all over the world. They do a HUGE set, spanning the entire catalog of the band.

This year, there are 3 shows all within 2 hours of me.

Wednesday, 8/15
Athens, GA
Friday, 8/17
Greenville, SC
Saturday, 8/18
Buford, GA

Since all my other summer plans got shot down.. I'm going to go to all three of these shows.

Sure, it won't be the same, But it's the closest I'm going to get to experiencing the real band.

I can't wait. And it's going to be a heck of a last weekend before classes start on the 20th! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

A King has his reign..

Dwight Allen may be aiming to be the Jaimie Lannister of Salon magazine with his recent admission that he just doesn't "Get" why Stephen King is so gosh darn popular (READ WHAT I LIKE, DAMMIT!). This rambling essay, mainly feeling like something you'd get out of a highschool kid who really really wanted to make sure you knew how smart he was, doesn't do anything for the author to prove his point, except illustrate he went into reading King already knowing he wasn't going to like him. Fair enough. King isn't for everyone, but he is for most people, a producer of great reads. After about a thousand words of self aggrandizing, name dropping, and constantly reffering to just how high brow and litterary his tastes are.. Allen does eventually get to the point where he feels he can quit writing about just how much more intelligent his tastes in books makes him feel.

I like to think that maybe, he was doing it to be ironic, since he just accused King of writing bloated and meandering works.. that he chose consciously to do the same with his little story.. still more kind to King than Harold Bloom has ever been.

The bit that really got me though, was this line at the end,

"After you’ve read Roberto Bolaño and Denis Johnson and David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, [...] why would you return to Stephen King? " 

Well, gee whiz Dwight, I have no idea. Oh, here's one, just to try on for size.. maybe it's because, unlike Wallace (Seriously, read this dudes Syllabus for his students.. talk about pedantry) and Johnson and Pynchon (All writers I've read, some of which I even enjoyed, I'm not going to talk about Bolano as I've not read him) aren't really all that much fun. Reading Johnson, Pynchon, or Wallace is to much like work, and unlike Dwight, I don't get paid for reading and writing.  Johnson, to his credit, does write some entertaining stuff, but Wallace and Pynchon are mostly incoherent and are seemingly more obsessed with stringing together obtuse, but technically correct sentences than they are about telling a story. For me, Books are an alternative form of entertainment, and King is entertaining. 

But, really, none of this is surprising, a litterari snubs a popular author, the world turns, stars go nova, and the Higgs-Boson gives them all mass. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jeff, Who lives at home.

A film starring Jason Segel (I love you man, How I met your Mother, Freaks And Geeks), Ed Helms (The Hangover) and Susan Sarandon (do I really need to tell you?) which while advertized as a comedy, is actually probably one of the most curiously life affirming films I've seen.

Jeff (Segel), is a 30+ year old stoner, lay about, loser, who litterally does live in his mother's (Sarandon) basement. His older brother, Pat (Helms) manages a paint store and his marriage is on the rocks. The film starts with Jeff explaining how deep he finds the M. Night Shamalyan film "Signs", and how it exemplifies his philosophy of interconnectedness, how the fact the little girl is incapable of finishing a glass of water and leaves them all over the house ultimately saves the family. This may at first seem like typical stoner blithering.. the sort of thing we've seen Segel do a dozen times before. It's not. And Jeff is really as earnest as he comes across as.

The story begins with him getting high, and then receiving a wrong number from some one looking for a man named Kevin. Jeff, who is supposed to go to Home Depot to buy some wood glue, keeps seeing a young man in a jersey with Kevin emblazoned on the back, while on his trip to the DIY store. He eventually gets into an alteraction with the young man, and gets kicked off the bus.. where he runs into his older brother Pat who is at Hooter's trying to convince himself that his marriage isn't falling apart.

All sorts of mis-adventures occur, eventually culminating in them being on a bridge stuck in traffic.  He makes the comment "Do you ever the have the feeling that you've been waiting for your destiny.. but when it gets here it isn't really all that exciting?".. and then, sensing something is amiss, Jeff notices a life flight helicopter coming in to land. He gets out of the car and runs down the bridge, finding there has been an accident and a car has plunged into the water under the bridge with kids trapped inside he jumps in. Rescuing two children and their father and nearly dieing in the process.

In the end the film almost hits the same notes that "It's a wonderful life" hits. where the main character is shown what the world would be like to those who know him if he didn't exist. But the film hits these notes with a different tone. Instead of having a character who is ready to commit suicide out of unhappiness, this film features a character who is content with his lay about lifestyle.. because he knows that deep down everyone is important and everyone has some part to play.. he's content to simply wait for his cue to come on stage, and then retire once it's been played. The movie wants us to come away realizing that, yes, for all intents and purposes Jeff is a loser. He smokes dope and eats crackers in his boxers and has absolutely no ambition, but without him, 3 people would have died. It might seem preposterous, but things like this do happen in real life.

Curiously it reminded me of this passage from the Elder Edda poem Havamal.

Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends,
some with riches,
Some with worthy works.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Things & Stuff.

Here you can see part of my library/collection.. The shelves aren't finished yet.. cause well.. lumber is expensive. As you can notice, the books only continue up to the early H's.. the rest continues in the hallway. That's also only about a fifth of my total Transformers collection.. but I got tired of dusting them and put the rest in storage.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What If?: The Sunbow-DIC Universe.

Following a recent joke on David J. West's blog about the name of a Cobra fronted Rock band, Cold Slither, I got to thinking about the Sunbow cartoons of the 80's and 90's and how they connect.

It's no secret that, Transformers, GIJOE, Jem and the Holograms, The Inhumanoids, and even My little Pony*, take place in the same universe. There are canonical connections that link the series together, albeit loosely,  But there are other shows from a second company known as DIC which also clearly have connections beyond the 3rd and 4th seasons of G.I.Joe. Some of these shows have shared connections for a very long time, some of them have only recently been reconnected into the universe. An example of these sorts of shows, from DiC, which find themselves in this universe now are C.O.P.S. which takes place roughly contemporaneous with Transformers: Victory (one of the Japanese only series, and is connected to G.I.JOE due to one of the characters being a descendent of the G.I.Joe, Beachhead) and M.A.S.K.. which in itself was something of a hybrid G.I.Joe & Transformers show.. even with vaguely snake themed villain, V.E.N.O.M. 

The most interesting one, which I'm particularly curious about, but have not quite gotten around to buying and watching, would be 1992's Animated Conan the Adventurer/Conan and the Young Warriors. Which, features the doughty Cimmerian striking down a snake cult which bears quite a few similarities to the villains of the G.I.Joe Movie, Cobra La.. the last vestige of a once globe spanning bio-organic insectoid-reptoid empire which was destroyed initially by the Ice age.. and then, you guessed it.. by hordes of Barbarian Humans.  We already have pseudo Old Ones in the series courtesy of the Inhumanoids.. in the form of Tendril.

Conan the Adventurer was produced by Christy Marx, the same person who produced and wrote a great number of the other series in this continuity.. and it adds a great sense of depth to a world in which there are so damn many snake cults. COBRA, V.E.N.O.M, and if you want to stretch it to include bug themes, obviously more popular in the 2020's, you have the various insect villains of C.O.P.S and the Stingers of Jem and the Holograms.

There is of course other precedent for this. Conan was a licensed property with an extensive comic series from Marvel Comics, who also created the comics for G.I.Joe and The Transformers.. both of which are at least superficially in the Marvel Comics universe, and all of which have designators in the current Multiverse Scheme.. To really throw your head out of whack, consider that not only did the Marvel Conan cross over with Moorcock's Elric, thus bringing in all of HIS multiverse.. but the Marvel Multiverse has also crossed over repeatedly with the DC Comics Multiverse.. and has been visited by The Doctor on numerous occasions. I promise, if you think about this too hard your head will start to hurt and your nose will probably bleed.

So here is my, prototype timeline for the Marvel/Hasbro/Sunbow/DiC universe. Some of these dates are in the shows themselves, and others are the result of some creativity. Jem is never specifically mentioned as to when it takes place, however, due to characters from Transformers Masterforce meeting with some characters from JEM, and News reports of Inhumanoid Attacks being show in various episodes.. it's pretty obvious it takes place AFTER Transformers is over.. The truly curious thing is, that by this point in the sunbow/DiC universe.. not only do we have the Earth Defense Command.. but the Soviet Union still exists.. as late as the 2020's. I suppose on a world with Snake themed Terrorist organizations, ancient evils spawning from the ground and Giant Robots from outer space waging civil war in our backyards.. quite a lot of things would be different.

Edit: #1 these dates are the dates the shows Occurred, not the dates the shows Aired.

Flashbacks from G.I.Joe The Movie         - 40,000bce    Sunbow/Toei
Conan - The Adventurer             -         Sunbow/Graz
Conan - And the Young Warriors         -         Sunbow/Graz
G.I.Joe - The Mass Device              - 1983        Sunbow/Toei
G.I.Joe - The Revenge of Cobra         - 1984        Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - More than Meets the Eye            Sunbow/Toei
G.I.Joe - Season 1                 - 1985        Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - Season 1                     Sunbow/Toei
G.I.Joe - Season 2                - 1986        Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - Season 2                    Sunbow/Toei
G.I.Joe - The Movie                 - 1987         Sunbow/Toei
G.I.Joe - Season 3                 - 1988        DiC
G.I,Joe - Season 4                 - 1989        DiC
M.A.S.K - Season 1                         DiC
G.I.Joe - Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles    - 1994        Sunbow
M.A.S.K - Season 2                         DiC
G.I.Joe Extreme                 - 1995        Sunbow
The Transformers - The Movie             - 2005        Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - Season 3             - 2006         Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - Season 4             - 2007         Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - The Headmasters         - 2010        Toei
The Transformers - Masterforce         - 2019        Toei
Jem and the Holograms - Season 1                Sunbow/Toei
Jem and the Holograms - Season 2         - 2020         Sunbow/Toei
Inhumanoids - Season 1             - 2021        Sunbow/Toei
Jem and the Holograms - Season 3                Sunbow/Toei
The Transformers - Victory             - 2025        Toei
C.O.P.S. - Season 1                         DiC
Robotix - The Movie                         Sunbow/Toei

* this is the result of a throw-away gag in one episode of my little pony.. where a sailor who looks suspiciously like Shipwreck from G.I.Joe is seen drinking out of a brown paper bag, which he then smashes upon seeing the ponies fly across the evening sky.. vowing to swear off drinking forever.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tolkien and Wilfred Owen

 Since fellow blogger Brian Murphy asked, and encouraged, I thought the least I could do is follow through and post this. Granted, I realize it is not perhaps a great paper, and will likely do nothing to further Tolkien studies (or Owen Studies for that matter) it did get me a 91.. there are a few errors, but I don't happen to have access to the graded paper on any longer now that the class is over. So, Tolkien aficionados and masters, please go easy on me.. I'm sure I made mistakes.. but I am after all only an enthusiast.. and desperately was trying to find a way to tie something I enjoyed into yet another boring freshman paper.. so if you have any constructive criticisms to offer I am of course all ears, as I will be writing many, many more papers over the remaining years of my college career, and am always looking for ways to improve.

Eng 1102
18th April 2012 
“Tears Unnumbered”
                War is a grand undertaking, perhaps even the grandest, but it is also the most futile. The desire to wage armed conflict, to willingly distress and demolish another’s country is to confess a uniquely selfish worldview. Wars tend to begin not on the front lines, but in offices in national capitols. The people who start the war, do not fight the war, and thus do not truly understand the nature of war. However, the people who fight the war are left with a great deal of time to pontificate on their situation. They wonder why they are there, what the people fighting on the other side are really like, and if perhaps it is not more likely that their alleged foes are just people like them. The soldier has time to write letters, though censored, to their loved ones at home. Anthony Fletcher asks the poignant question, “What did men confess and what did they conceal, how far did they relate life as it really was? Tones of reassurance were crafted, omissions were adopted in response to degrees of anxiety at home.” (1)Ultimately, historians cannot know exactly what the individual thoughts of a soldier were, but a level of certainty can be gleaned by carefully reading the letters, poems, and stories produced by soldiers. If one is judicious in their reading of soldiers poetry, stories and letters, a common theme begins to emerge. The overriding theme is that of futility. This theme is of the loss and futility of armed conflict as seen by those who witness it at its basest level, quite literally in this case by the people in the trenches, and is brought home repeatedly in a myriad of disparate genres, by a veritable cornucopia of writers.

                One of the most spectacular battles of World War 1 was the Somme offensive, “Opening on 1 July 1916, the Battle of the Somme was the Anglo-French attempt to break through the German lines by means of a massive infantry assault” (Gilbert, 258), its legend has grown due to its grotesque casualty rate, “20,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme” (Gilbert, 541). But its horror and callous lack of humanity caused writers and poets to spring up with great alacrity. It was during this battle or others like it that Soldier-writers created art in the midst of this chaos and death. These writers created under horrendous conditions, during stolen seconds of peace, or in the wards of convalescent hospitals while recovering from illness or injury. Heather Lusty, in her paper, Shaping the National Voice, pontificates on the nature of the soldier poet,
Their poetry became a way for these soldiers to refashion their war experiences and express them via a new medium, allowing each of them to reconnect with the world and reconstruct their personal identities in a different world. These poets also reveal their own anxieties about their own participation in the war, the responsibility each bore for the lives and losses of their men, and the pressures of class and rank, all of which contributed to the specific manifestations of their psychological and traumatic reactions to the war. ( 7)
It is always worth keeping in mind just what conditioned these writers worked under. This essential context can bring tremendous insight to the reader, turning them from passive consumers, into critical thinkers.

Wilfred Owen is one such writer. In his poem “Dulce et Decorum est”, often considered one of the greatest poems to emerge from World War 1, Owen writes a graphic and chilling description of a poison gas attack. Providing the reader a grotesquely detailed glimpse of what happened when a soldier was unable to secure his protective gear in time. It is not the gas attack, or the soldier’s death, which makes the poem so moving, but the anger that Owen seethes with and directs at the warmongers at home, which truly makes the poem great. Here is a man who is willing to buck the demanded patriotism to write down his true feelings about the waste of war. Owen writes in the final stanza a bitter renunciation of this callow call for duty and glory,
“My Friend you would not tell with such high zest
To Children desperate for some ardent glory,
The old lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.” (1)

When this Latin phrase is translated, it reads: “it is a sweet and fitting thing to die for your country” (Ward, 18). In Owen’s capable hands this exultation to duty and sacrifice for the homeland drips with cynicism and irony. John Hughes writes in his own analysis of the poem, “the undeflectable intensity and antiwar intent of “Dulce et Decorum Est,” and Owen’s concern, as he said, with unconsoling truthfulness” (1) and I cannot help but agree with this summation of the poem. Further echoes of this understanding are provided by writer Max Saunders when he writes “Like much First World War writing, the poem is not only about the horror of war; the need to represent that horror with unflinching realism, so that what Owen called ‘the pity of war’ can be weighed, and rendered without euphemism or sentimentality.” (62) This leaves one conclusion, Owen is writing this heart-wrenching tale in order to provide the audience with as accurate a picture as possible, to convey the event as closely to the truth as he is able, in an effort to show how pointless this death was.

This leads us to Owen as a writer. Candace Ward writes in her introduction to a short collection of Owen’s poetry that, “Owen’s poetic skills were honed by the nature of his war experiences”. (18) Owing to the realism  it truthfully seems as if he has poured a great quantity of experience and anguish into his work, but due to the lack of any sentiment except anger his poem nearly comes across as callous during his blunt and straight forward rendering of a man’s death, and the non chalant way in which his comrades react to it.

                In contrast to Owen’s starkly unsentimental realism, a very different sort of writer emerged from the same conflict, indeed separated from Owen by scant miles, the two men, both commissioned second lieutenants, and both sharing a fondness for the language of their Anglo-Saxon ancestors, this writer was J.R.R. Tolkien. Whereas Owen wrote with a realist’s pen, Tolkien wrote with stylus of Fantasy. Tolkien, who, after the war went on to create the world of Middle-Earth as described in his books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings among others, was not immune from the seeping influence of his experiences in the trenches. Tolkien’s painful memories of the war are particularly present when his characters cross the region known as “The Dead Marshes” in The Lord of the Rings,
“’I don’t know, ‘ said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. ‘But I have seen them too. In the pools when the candles were lit. They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water. I saw them: grim faces and eil, and noble faces and sad. Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair. But all foul, all rotting, all dead. A fell light is in them.’ Frodo hid his eyes in his hands.” (627)

Following this line of thought that what Tolkien is describing is a memory of his experiences in the Somme it is useful to look at other sources. One such source is John Garth, who writes in his book Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle Earth, “Tolkien’s description of the Dead Marshes, a scene of morbid desolation that has become, in effect, a short hand symbol for the trenches”. (311) In this short passage the reader can catch a glimpse of the horror which the men on the western front encountered on a daily basis. Even though the book is a fantasy and it tells the story of invented characters experiencing this horror while inhabiting an invented world, the overwhelming grotesqueness that is present is equal to the stark realism present in Owen’s poem. Ultimately, as Tolkien winds down his story and his characters, returned from the war, now diminished are unable to escape their experiences the reader is left wondering what it must have been like for the real life men whom the author based his characters upon. Even though one is written as Fantasy with a dash of sentimentalism and the other an unsentimental injection of Realism, the sense of loss and the futile nature of war is equally present if the reader cares to look.

This complex frustration and anger at loss and senseless violence that is present in both Owen and Tolkien, and many other writers who have lived through war, is, while not always consistently apparent always seems to be just below the surface if you know where to look. I believe that author and Doctor Mark J. Stillman, in his analysis of war writers, sums up the situation best, “If we listen carefully and ignore the incessant drone of ever beating drums, we might catch wind of distant voices from the past, sometimes speaking foreign tongues, but relating the same elegiac tale. Each distinct voice belongs to a chorus echoing the ageless anger of Achilles.” (485) Though subtle, especially in works that are not presented as realistic, this anger is present. It tends to be directed at the needless loss of compatriots at the whims of politicians who sit safe behind the lines, and order men to their deaths. Nevertheless, like so many others, the war claimed Owen’s life scant days before the armistice was signed. Tolkien narrowly escaped that fate due to illness. Both Wilfred Owen and J.R.R. Tolkien experienced similar situations during their own private experience in war. These two writer’s stories and experiences have been preserved for posterity, and every year thousands of people read them and they perhaps enrich some. The writers have shown us the truth, fantastically or realistically, that war is a dirty, messy business in which lives are ruined, typically for naught, and the lot of the common soldier to cope with this reality is their greatest strength. These writers beseech the reader  not, not to listen to the drums of war, and certainly not to feel patriotism towards one’s country, But to be circumspect in your desire, either to take up arms against another or seen someone else to do it in their stead. It is up to the readers to come to terms with this idea and make the most of it in their own lives, while not succumbing to the incessantly beating drums of those who are ever ready to send soldiers to die on some far away field, be it for a few yards of ground or a few pennies off the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Works Cited.
Fletcher, Anthony. "Between The Lines." History Today 59.11 (2009): 45-51.                                        Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle Earth. 1st edition. New York: Mariner Books, 2005. 310-311. Print 

Gilbert, Martin. The First World War: A Complete History. 1st edition. New York: Henry Holt and                Company, 1997. Print    
Hughes, John. "Owen's DULCE ET DECORUM EST." Explicator 64.3 (2006): 164. MasterFILE Premier.          Web. 6 Apr. 2012.

Lusty, Heather. “Shaping the National Voice: Poetry of WWI” Journal of Modern Literature30.1 (2006): 199-209. Project Muse. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.

Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce et Decorum est”  Literature: an introduction to reading and writing. 5th compact edition. Edgar V. Roberts, Robert Zweig. New York: Longman an imprint of Pearson, 2012. 625. Print. 

Saunders, Max. "Friendship And Enmity In First World War Literature." Literature & History 17.1                (2008): 62-77. History Reference Center. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Stillman, Mark J. "War Poets And The Ageless Anger Of Achilles." Military Medicine 176.5 (2011): 484-     485. Consumer Health Complete - EBSCOhost. Web. 6 Apr. 2012.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. 1954. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. 620-635. Print.   

Ward, Candace. ed. World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others. 1st edition. New York: Dover, 1997. 18. Print.