Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Cat Report (W.10/19-16)

With the adoptions of Ghostly, Karma, and Juliette,* and leaving their cages free for this weekend’s kitten event, we currently have just three cats: VACA and bounded pair BABY KITTY & ELEANOR. Both the latter came out at once as soon as I arrived and made themselves comfortable atop the taller cat-stand (BK) and bench (E), respectively. Vaca also wanted out but was hesitant, so I put her on the smaller cat-stand and moved it a litle ways off, but still in the same little (front) room. All three wanted attention, and games, and lots and lots of petting. I’d brought in a peacock feather, which Eleanor decapitated within a few seconds; they then played with its dismembered remains, esp. Vaca. All very much at home, which was good to see.

Once they’d settled down came the walks. Vaca went first and also did the best. On her own initiative she explored all the way over to Banfield, wanting to enter each and every room with an open door. Baby Kitty opted for exploring around the bases of the various cat-stands all up and down the row outside the cat-room. Eleanor was very vocal as she got carried all over the store; the one place she got down and explored on her own was inside the little dog-training corral up near the front of the store, which she thought intriguing but a bit alarming too. 

Betty came by with some supplies, whereupon Eleanor starting drawing my attention to the fact that her food dish was empty. That’s when I noticed her food dish and B.Kitty's were completely empty, her litter box (shared with B.K.) was full, and their water dish had a two cat-blankets floating in it. So I cleaned out their litter box and also Vaca’s, put out fresh water for them all, and gave the bonded pair a little nom. Eleanor ate like she was really hungry but did leave a little food in the bowl. Vaca still had some food in her dish.

A few people came in to pet the cats but no potential adopters.

—John R. 

*that makes eight cats so far this month

Looking forward to meeting new cat Chiffon and hoping that the kitten event goes well, for the newly arriving kittens and the current residents as well.

I don't have a picture of Eleanor, Baby Kitty, or Vaca, but here's one of newcomer Tibel Chiffon, looking like she's deciding what she's going to get into next:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Reading Order for CSL's Ransom Books

So, I got a request in the comments for a previous post that I wanted to address in a post of its own, rather than leave it hidden in the comments to a post on a different topic.

The question, which came from 'Falconer', is as follows:

Can you suggest a practical order for reading the Lewis-Tolkien Space-Time stories (for enjoyment)?

It's an interesting question, because the order in which I actually read them isn't the order that I would now read them in if I were coming to them fresh.

My own experience was to read the Ransom trilogy in order of their composition and publication: OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (which remains my favorite of all Lewis's novels), then PERELANDRA (Tolkien's favorite of Lewis's series, but while I think it more ambitious than OSP I find it far inferior in achievement), then THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH (which I privately call 'That Hideous Novel', which pretty much sums up my opinion of that book). Several years later I learned of the publication a year or two earlier of THE DARK TOWER, which I then hunted down in the Fayetteville public library and read. And of course I read THE LOST ROAD (which I think is underrated) and THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS (another underrated work) as soon as possible -- one of which I actually got to see slightly before publication.

This is of course, partly by happenstance, simply the order of publication. If you were to read then in internal chronological order, it'd go more like this: start with THE LOST ROAD, including the notes and outlines. Next would come OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, then move on to THE DARK TOWER (placing it by its internal chronology). Then I'd revert back to order of composition with PERELANDRA. Then comes THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, followed by THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS, again with the later's associated outlines and notes and ancillary material.

All this presupposes that THE DARK TOWER is a genuine Lewis work, which I believe has been established beyond any reasonable doubt, and also that it was written circa 1944-45 (as I've argued in print), not circa 1938 (as Walter Hooper believed).

My own preferred order to re-read it now, I think, wd be along the lines of LOST ROAD, then OSP, then PERELANDRA and THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, then THE DARK TOWER, ending up with THE NOTION CLUB --that is, pretty much the order of composition, so far as we can determine it.

One thing that might help you decide which order might be best for you: in what order do you read the Narnia books? Publication order? Internal chronology? I hope to never have to read them again, but if I do I'm pretty sure I'll go by publication order again, because that's my default when reading a series: I like to see an author's mind at work as he or she explores possibilities that come to light over the course of a series.

And of course I've long been an advocate of the school of thought that you should be able to read the books in a series in any order,* so in my heart of hearts I'd say the sequence doesn't matter.

Hope this helps.

--John R.
current reading:
--the latest Flavia de Luce novel (just finished);
--The Last Apprentice bk four (resumed)

*I'll often start a book in the middle, read to the end, then go back to the beginning and read to my starting point. I find this works especially well with biographies and not v. well with mysteries.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

That Nobel

So, when on Thursday I heard two disc jockeys discussing Bob Dylan's winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, God as my witness I thought they were joking.

They weren't.

And so the world just got a little weirder, but in a good way.

Though, mind you, if going that route I'd have opted for Lennon-McCartney.

--John R.
(who actually doesn't own a single Dylan record --single, album, or cd. -- but find I have quite a few covers of Dylan songs by other artists)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chinese Gandalf

So, one of the nice incidentals about being back in Milwaukee again earlier this month was that I had the chance to pick up a copy of THE SHEPHERD EXPRESS, the radical free newspaper formerly known as THE CRAZY SHEPHERD. It was interesting to leaf through it again after a long time. Don't know if they've mellowed or I've become much more progressive, but I found it much more moderate than I remembered. Maybe it's just that Seattle progressive is a bit edgier than Milwaukee progressive.

In any case, one feature I was glad to see was NEWS OF THE WEIRD by Chuck Shepherd. I used to enjoy this back when we took THE FUNNY TIMES, and was amused to find a Tolkien reference therein. Here's the clip:

Leading Economic Indicators
News Corporation Australia reported in 
September the enviable success of a 16-year-
old British entrepreneur, Beau Jessup, who
has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple
online app to help rich Chinese parents select
prosperous-sounding English names for their
babies. Users choose among 12 personality
traits they hope their baby to have, then
received three suggestions (including a list of
famous people with those names). Jessup got
the idea when living in China and noticing
that some babies of the rich were given lame
names, such as "Gandalf" and "Cinderella".

[Sept. 22 2016 issue, p. 37]

I'd be interested to learn if this is for real or some reporter's idea of a joke that made it into print during a slow news days.

--John R.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cat Report (W. Oct. 12th)

Having been away for two weeks, it’s like coming back to a whole new room!  While I was away three cats came and went (Beni the grey, Gabby the tabby, and Felix Panther), while Oscar & Dolly got adopted, as did Princess Matilda (hooray!) and Mr. Bellamy (finally had his turn!) and RAGGEDY ANNE. I’m especially happy about these last three — senior cat Matilda seemed to be getting weary of waiting, Bellamy had been passed over so many times, and I’d been worried about how R.Anne was doing since her near-adoption fell through.

[photo of Mr. Bellamy]

The only cats still with us that I’d met before were our bonded pair, BABY KITTY and ELEANOR, who have gained a lot of confidence: they came out and made themselves at home in the outer room (one on the cat-stand, the other on the bench). Neither wanted a walk; they just wanted to hang out and enjoy being out of their cages.  

Finally got to meet GHOSTLY, who I’d read about a lot. With three adoptions pending I got to see him just in time before he headed out to one of those new homes (which happened that same evening). He’s a great cat: friendly, playful, gentle;  gets along well with the other cats when they’ll let him, and is full of curiousity and a willingness to try something new (whether a walk or exploring out-of-the-way places in the room). He had his first walk — he got the idea at once but we differed about strategy: he thought that the obvious thing to do was to find a safe place behind or under somthing from which to peer out and take stock, and didn’t see why I kept preventing him from doing so. Once back in the room he went exploring, stealing a bite of nom from all the food dishes on the lower level.

[photo of Ghostly]

Of the three new cats, KARMA (a big grey torbie) was talkative and affectionate until I pulled her out of the cage and put her atop the taller cat-stand, whereupon she became a hiss machine. Eleanor jumped up on the level beneath her and got hissed at repeatedly but after a bit decided to just ignore it and settled herself down. Later in my shift Karma calmed down enough that I got the leash on her and took her out for a carry-around walk. She was pretty vocal (except when listening to the birds) and was glad when it was time to get back in the nice safe room. Once she was back in her cage again at the end of my shift, she went back to talking and purring when petted (rather than hissing and swatting). Clearly she really likes people and just as clearly the proximity of other cats winds her up. Once she settles into the room I suspect she’ll declare herself Boss Cat.

JULIETTE (white w. grey) was the shyest of the three newcomers (who I think had all arrived earlier that same morning): she liked being petted inside her cage but from time to time would get spooked and retreat into the other side (w. the litter box). Games within her cage she thought a good thing but again got spooked easily. When lifted out she got back in her own cage as soon as she could. Sweet little cat in need a lot of one-on-one time.

Finally, VACA (white w. black) seemed shy but when lifted out slept quite happily on the blankets in the back corner of the room (atop the litter-containers). She loves being petted and getting attention but for now at least kept her distance from the other cats.

No health concerns that I noted.  

It’s good to be back.

—John R. 

Not All Who Wander . . . (2017 calendar)

So, I've noticed lately that Tolkien's phrase "not all those who wander are lost" has escaped the original context of his book and can now be found on inspirational posters (and, more oddly, souvenir mugs from Yosemite). The latest example I spotted today during a visit to one of the friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble bookstores. I was looking for the 2017 Tolkien calendar (which looks to be one of the good ones, w. Tolkien's own art) and while I didn't find that, and passed on the HOBBIT movie calendar I did find, I found something I hadn't known about: a poster-calendar featuring the art/calligraphy of Becca Cahan, in which Tolkien's quote was given prominence as the cover-art. To give a sense of context, another month's inspirational message is "Whatever You Are, Try to Be a Good One" and yet another's "Time You Enjoy Wasting is Not Time Wasted".

Nice to see JRRT getting into the general culture in an unexpected way. I think he'd be rather pleased.

--John R.
current reading: Poe's tales.
current song: "Somebody that I Used to Know", backed by the Jayhawk's "Leaving the Monsters Behind" and McCartney's "Mr. Bellamy".

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


So, last week I posted about having gone to see a new film about Tolkien and Lewis called, appropriately enough, "TOLKIEN AND LEWIS".  I'd been unsure whether this was to be a biopic, as some things I saw online suggested, or instead a documentary. As the subtitle makes clear -- "MYTH, IMAGINATION, AND THE QUEST FOR MEANING" -- it's a documentary, not a dramatization.

What's more, it's a ten-year-old documentary: most of the interviews seem to have been filmed at the Aston conference nr Birmingham back in 2005. * The most notable figures are Verlyn Flieger and Tom Shippey; others Tolkien and Lewis (mostly Lewis) experts who took part include Ward, Duriez, Hein, Reza Aslan, along with others whose names I didn't know and so can't pass along now. The biggest shock, by far, was seeing my friend Chris Mitchell. I'd assumed the interviews were recent, and so didn't expect to see a friend who died more than two years ago prominently featured. It was unsettling in ways I can't quite describe.

As for the film itself, the subtitle shows how ambitious its goal is: to look at the Inklings' beliefs that imagination could be a vehicle for truth. At least that was part of their intention, I think: while the piece focused on Lewis's conversion and the rule his long walk and talk with Tolkien and Dyson had on it, I found it a little unfocused and had a little trouble following how each specific part fit into the whole.

I give them praise for making a point to include Hugo Dyson, the third of the three who took that long walk on that memorable night. I'd made a private bet with myself that they'd drop Dyson -- most dramatizations of  that event do -- and I'm glad to say they didn't. Too bad we don't have any record of what Dyson said, since he's the only one of the three who so far as I know left behind no account of the evening.

Naturally there were a few things I wish they'd done differently. For one thing, it opens with a quote from Joseph Campbell -- perhaps unfortunately, since he belonged to a school of myth-theorists with whom Tolkien was profoundly at odds. Then too you'd think a documentary that explored such subjects would bring in Barfield, whose work is directly apropos  to several points they raised. But the biggest omission was "Mythopoeia".

After all, we know of that evening's discussion partly through C. S. Lewis's v. brief mention in a letter, and far more through Tolkien, who wrote up his side of the conversation as a sort of dramatic monologue, better known as the poem "Mythopoeia". However it might differ from Tolkien's actual words that evening in the give-and-take of conversation, it's the closest we can get to the actual words of their conversation. So I'd have expected them to have read it towards the end of their film as an encapsulation of the theme of their entire movie. Maybe they cdn't get permission to quote it, or just didn't know about it.

All in all, I'm glad I got to see this -- particularly for the parts with Verlyn, Chris Mitchell, and Shippey -- but found myself wishing it had been the dramatization I'd been half-expecting.

This being a showing at the MILW. FILM FESTIVAL, there was a question-and-answer session afterwards, but since the writer/director cdn't be there and the person substituting for him, the film's editor, cheerfully admitted not knowing a thing about Lewis or Tolkien ("other than that Tolkien was a life-long Catholic, born into the faith" [a more or less direct quote]), there didn't seem to be much point in asking him questions he cdn't answer.

Here's a link to the film's listing from the film festival's website

and here's a description of the film by its editor:

I might point out, though, that virtually nothing of what the director says in this interview about Tolkien's and Lewis's life appears in his film.

--I was going to include in this post a write-up about another recent film on Tolkien, TOLKIEN'S ROAD, and also something about an in-the-works play about the two men, but given how long this post is already I think I'll save those for another day.

--John R.
current slow, careful (re) reading: THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW
current light reading: THE CASE WITH NINE SOLUTIONS by J. J. Connington (1929): a G. Fay book.

*I was sorry not to be able to go to this at the time, but simply cdn't tear myself away from MR. BAGGINS, which was finally nearing completion after so many years of working on it.