setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)

This is the famous Wall Drug Dinosaur in Wall, South Dakota, and it features in "THE DINOSAUR TOURIST", a lovely new Caitlin R. Kiernan story in the Sirenia Digest. It may be the story in the Digest to feature the least amount of weirdness, being a simple tale of a man who picks up a guileless young hitch-hiker who's on his way to meet his internet boyfriend. A subtle chemistry develops between the driver and the hitch-hiker with interesting exchanges based on differences in breadth and kind of experience. It showcases Caitlin's fine ability to create the sensory elements of an experience and has the slow, nice pace of all good road stories, which this one is.

I've been reading a lot lately, maybe because I'm in a Japanese class now I suddenly have a contrary urge to read a lot of English. I'm still re-reading The Lord of the Rings and on Saturday or Sunday I reached chapter 4 from Book Four, or the second book in The Two Towers, "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit". And speaking of a slow and easy atmosphere, this is a wonderful chapter which Peter Jackson's film version really doesn't attempt to capture. Most of the basic elements of the chapter are present in the extended version of the film--Gollum fetches some rabbits and Sam decides to cook them, much to Gollum's indignation, who prefers raw meat. Gollum's "What's taters. precious?" line is even reproduced in the film. But there are many differences that completely change the tone and purpose of the scene.

Because Jackson was so focused on creating a film with constant momentum, it's easy to see why he reinterpreted it. But in the book, it's one of the moments that most clearly reminded me that Tolkien was a World War I veteran. After the Dead Marshes and grey, featureless lands of Mordor, the Hobbits and Gollum come to a place that's strangely beautiful.

So they passed into the northern marches of that land that Men once called Ithilien, a fair country of climbing woods and swift-falling streams.

It's easy to imagine soldiers, accustomed to the hellish landscape surrounding trenches, suddenly coming across areas not yet spoiled by the war.

Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tanmarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green . . .

It's after Frodo has fallen asleep that Sam slowly starts to remember the cookware and formulates his plan to make a decent meal for his master. The wonderful thing about the scene, and the reason Sam quickly takes over the narrative, is that we see him, much more than simply cooking a meal, single-handedly creating a familiar domestic atmosphere, motived both for himself and for the love he feels for Frodo watching him sleep.

Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiselling of the sharping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face had not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: 'I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.'

After all the time Tolkien spends describing their slow, grim, and hopeless journey, it's wonderful that Sam instinctively wants to spend a lot of time and energy cooking and in the process he even turns Gollum into a familiar domestic figure, the lazy and surly servant lad.

'Smeagol'll get into real true hot water, when this water boils, if he don't do as he's asked,' growled Sam. 'Sam'll put his head in it, yes precious. And I'd make him look for turnips and carrots, and taters too, if it was the time o' the year. I'll bet there's all sorts of good things running wild in this country. I'd give a lot for half a dozen taters.'

The beauty in this scene is an interesting contrast to the impatience Frodo expresses regarding Hobbit culture at the beginning. It's easy to think again of men itching for glorious and worthy battle and then finding something horribly different in the first World War and suddenly foolish homebodies don't seem so foolish after all.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Last night I read "Fairy Tale of Wood Street", one of the best Caitlin R. Kiernan stories I've read, featured in the new Sirenia Digest. The story of two lovers who go to see a movie, it's very simple on the surface but tells something much bigger with a kind of magical restraint. There's a sweetness to the understated rapport between the two protagonists, the narrator and her girlfriend, Hana, that culminates in a wonderfully sensual sympathy between a supernatural creature and a human, or the delicate nature of learning to live a life where perceptions are inevitably uncertain. It's also a much better hulda story than Thale.

Yesterday I also listened to a 2011 Sixth Doctor Doctor Who audioplay called "Industrial Evolution", an entertaining sci-fi perspective on the Industrial Revolution, featuring an alien robot who hates machines. The story starts with the POV of Thomas Brewster (John Pickard), a recurring audio play character--a Victorian urchin--whom the Doctor (Colin Baker) has set up with a job in a brass mill in the 19th century. The story complicates the usual narrative of exploitative industrial tycoons and desperate labour forces by introducing a secret alien. Not one of the greatest audio plays, but perfectly serviceable, especially since it feature's Six's best companion, Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables).
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)
While eating lunch to-day, I read the new Sirenia Digest, a new story by Caitlin R. Kiernan called "IN THE FLAT FIELD", a nice, low key witch detective story. It centres on a young woman examining some photographs for a client who, from the description, sounds like he looks a lot like David Jason as Jack Frost. The story's effectively eerie. I feel like I remember Caitlin posting on Facebook a photograph that may have inspired the ones in the story, but I'm not sure if I really do remember that or if it's my imagination, which is sort of perfect.

I've been seeing a lot of ravens at school lately so I'm glad Odin's keeping an eye on me. Last night I saw this one on an arch outside one of the stadiums at school where there was a rock concert going on.

The big fellow was gwoking in the direct of the concert being given by some Christian performer named Chris Tomlin. I didn't know who it was at the time, it sounded like a generic brand version of U2. I was there last night for the quickest final exam I've ever taken. It was for a nice film class I took this past semester. It took me about fifteen minutes to answer all the questions, it took me an hour and a half to get to school due to rush hour traffic and then the roads around the school being jammed with assholes who like Christian rock. I have a final project for another class that's been consuming all my time since Saturday so I was a little grouchy about having to come into class for this one little test but, well, it was a final. I remember once I missed a final exam for an astronomy class over a decade ago. I somehow still passed the class, which makes me think I would've gotten a really good grade if I'd managed to remember the correct day and time of the final--just recently I showed up for a language proficiency exam to find the doors locked and discover the thing wasn't in the room the web site said it was in. It was much later I found out I was supposed to go to a room labelled on the ticket for the exam instead of the one on the web site. But that's a whole other kettle of fish. My ditziness is by far my worst enemy.

Twitter Sonnet #991

A double tab amends toupees for lice.
Accordion ablutions shade the stretch.
In single grains the king was stacks of rice.
It's only gods who teach us how to fetch.
A running voice returns the faucet leak.
Calamity concealed in clouds reclines.
A vision split a second snowy peak.
A coach arrived to jump the steep inclines.
A steady rain of jelly beans ignites.
In passing cars the lamps're shutting eyes.
On query screens the cursor just recites.
A neon spike has broken rail road ties.
Exams are shifting 'neath a violet light.
The faintest echoes steal just out of sight.


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