- February 2016
- January 2016
- September 2015
- June 2015
- December 2013
- November 2013
- June 2013
- April 2013
- January 2013
- October 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- December 2011
- October 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
If you can call a gap of a year and a half a friggin, frackin, fking delay.
I publish this to prove to a disinterested aether that I still exist. My non-posting is not the outcome of nothing to say but of too much, so I guess that means I’m still alive and here. I just discovered that the full Descartes quote, by the way, is “I doubt, therefore I think; I think, therefore I am.” That first part is essential – how come it’s never included!?
The Sibling and I sat down and re-watched An Unexpected Journey a few days ago, in preparation for seeing the new Peter Jackson film, we hope this week.
I’ve read The Hobbit at least half a dozen times, as has my sister. Tolkien made a practice of creating stories for his young children — and I believe I’m right that he read The Hobbit aloud to them as he was writing it. It often has a quiet parent-to-child voice, the author addressing the reader (listener) directly… as if all concerned are snuggled together on a Chesterfield before the fire of a winter evening, with the kids (us) freshly bathed and already in our pjs.
That’s a tone that couldn’t be transferred to the great big screen, and there’s no indication that any one involved in the movie(s) thought of attempting to try. What does come across is intimate humanity, or hobbitishness (hobbits being stand-ins for just plain people in Middle Earth,) in Bilbo’s relationship with Gandalf and the Dwarves, and it shows more clearly than it did in the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Peter Jackson plays things for comedy (as did JRRT) at the beginning, and later too, but simple, deep things like self-doubt, facing challenges, and being accepted as a member of the group, come up and are portrayed in a natural way that is very affecting.
Sibling said, as we watched, that part of it was the acting chops of Martin Freeman compared to Elijah Wood, with which I agreed. MF is older and more experienced, and his talent may be greater. But she added that EW was cast partly because the player of Frodo had to have something of an “otherhobbit” quality; the cosmic moral scope and weight of LOTR zeroes in on him uniquely. His youth (FOTR had to compress the 20 years or so that pass in the book between Bilbo’s Birthday Party and Frodo’s leaving home) and elvish appearance reflect, symbolize and foretell that.
Bilbo, on the other hand, is Everyhobbit. Tolkien scholars have said that the young Oxford student’s wartime experience showed him that ordinary working-class men had reserves of strength and courage when faced with grave danger and suffering. Bilbo has these, plus moral solidity, kindness, and resourcefulness… the virtues of a good, ordinary human being. The rarefied air of the Chosen One doesn’t shimmer around him in the book or in the movie.
Maybe this was at least partly because The Hobbit was meant for children. After fame and critical attention came Tolkien’s way, he said he detested allegory; and given a late Victorian middle-class childhood with a strong churchly slant, he probably was exposed to a lot of moralistic allegory when young. He definitely wasn’t going to inflict that on his own kids, and in a way that may have freed him to create an earthy, comfort-loving character who slowly manifests heroism simply by being loyal, sympathetic, stubborn, and practical.
One of the neatest bits that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh et al added to the tale is the depiction of Gandalf’s instinct that Bilbo is crucial to the Lonely Mountain quest, an instinct the wizard can’t explain when Galadriel asks him about it. That tethering of the Unexpected Journey to a coming struggle that Gandalf doesn’t yet foresee is the kind of thing that Tolkien would have approved, I’m pretty sure: delicately done, but enough to send a thrill up the spine.
The Sibling and I were at Wightman’s, a local old-and-posh farm market the other day, buying the traditional Autumn Food of Olympus (freshly baked doughnuts and farm-pressed home-orchard apple cider). Before going into the store, we gazed in awe at the monumental Blue Hubbard squashes displayed for sale in the outside bins. I know about them from reading Ruth Stout’s praises of their flavor and texture (only old organic types are likely to know about RS, but we bow at her name). They are great big knobbly winter gourds, and do actually have a bluish cast to their skins.
They are the monarchs of winter squashes, more delicious than all the others. They are also a backwards illustration of the economies of scale. UNLESS you have either enough people in your household to cook for (we don’t) OR an extra freezer (ditto), the Hubbards’ economies are not for you. They speak of a more expansive era, when people like my maternal grandma and great-aunts grew up in a big farming family, acquired the skills to feed a crowd, and were like as not in a situation where they had space to grow big vegetables and/or lots of vegetables. In an overpopulated urban-suburban world of too many electronics and not enough clean air or unpaved ground, you have to make many special arrangements, some of them downright socialistic, to do something as simple as bring a dish of steaming, fragrant baked Hubbard squash to the table,
This next year I’m going to see what I can do about joining a CSA group. There are several good ones around here. I hope things will have settled down, economically and otherwise, for a while.
… but, according to the old witticism, you can’t make her think. (Wit supposedly sprang from the lips of a wiseguy high school kid asked to use the word horticulture in a sentence.)
Humor aside! I am no horticulturalist. I can’t bear to chop innocent weeds, especially this far along in a plentifully rainy season, when they’re glorying in life, green and lusty, enjoying the embrace of the solsticial sun, each plant all full of individuality. Also, I’m lazy as an old shoe slumbering in a corner. Also (this is not a contradiction, really), I’m busy.
The result is that them weeds have gotten the better of me, with little trouble. They sense weakness. I am pushed to action mainly by sudden realizations that they’re sending high-frequency messages to a Triffid management team in polar orbit.
Our late father, as I’ve mentioned before, went through an Oriental gardening stage back in the 80s, and planted a patch of bamboo – a majestic giant species – near an ell of the house. I did not realize, until lawn care devolved on me after he died, that one of his springtime tasks was to chop back the big shoots this bamboo sends up through the adjacent soil. This is easy when they’re in the lawn – big, obvious spears, crisp but tender, easy to cut at soil level, and probably good to eat – but the ones that this year emerged in a waist-high thicket of prostrate juniper were big by the time they became visible, and hard to get at. But those messages were being beamed, without doubt. They were damn near audible. So this AM, I grabbed choppers and waded in. It wasn’t easy, but it was either that or humbly welcome our botanical overlords.
With a headline like that, a tomato must be honored. It is fitting, since where we are, New Jersey, is a notable vegetable growing state, and the farmer’s markets round here proudly proclaim “Jersey Tomatoes Are Here”. More of a non-veg nature later today.