December 24, 2001



Lileks and Jacobs have already done a number on our unfortunate San Francisco Chronicle columnist, who is clearly deep in dementia. Suffice it to say if she'd tried that with Mohammed's God, I'd be urging all my friends to evacuate San Francisco. Quickly. Why our culture should be any less tolerant when it's the Christian God she's claiming to be channelling escapes me right now.

The greater sin of blasphemy eclipses the lesser sin of her having an idiotic thesis: the old canard that violence doesn't solve anything. I'll just let one of Heinlein's greater literary creations, Prof. Dubois of Starship Troopers, answer that one:

One girl told him bluntly: "My mother says that violence never settles anything."
"So? Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't your mother tell them so? Or why don't you?..
She said shrilly, "You're making fun of me! Everybody knows that Carthage was destroyed!"
"You seemed to be unaware of it," he said grimly. "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say that violence had settled their destinies rather thoroughly?".. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue -- and thoroughly immoral -- doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.

Posted by BruceR at 11:27 PM



Oh, I've got all kinds of quibbles about the screenplay, art direction, etc.: we'll get into those shortly. But my overall conclusion? Best. Screen treatment. Ever.

Why? Because millions of non-Tolkienists want to know how it will end now. My date, who has not read the books, turned to me afterwards and said, "you mean I have to wait for two years until I find out what happens?" To which I replied, "well, you can always read the books." Her being an English lit major and all, I have no doubt she will. Bang! New audience.

Even if you completely disagree with many of the choices Peter Jackson and his team made (I'd say you're quibbling, too, but that's just me), even if to you Tolkien is akin to Holy Writ, even if the movie version of the book could have been so much better if you'd been involved, it's undeniable that in terms of attracting new readers to an old classic there has NEVER been a movie with this kind of potential. Most movies are over in 2 hours, and leave you not only completely unwilling to pick up the book, but happy that you "waited until the movie came out." Not this time. Even a beautiful and true-to the-text miniseries like Pride and Prejudice is over in a matter of nights, or at best weeks... this time you have to wait two years for the payoff... or go read the book yourself. And that means a whole lot of new people are exposed to the original, with all its strengths and flaws, and can judge it on its merits... maybe even fall in love with it, the way I once did. For all those new readers, even if Jackson's flaws were legion, it won't matter... they'll have read the Tolkien. Whether the movie is true or not, its success in no way takes away from the Tolkien vision... it promotes it.

It was a monumental gamble to release the movie this way, no doubt, from a producers' point of view. But, from their point of view, it's also the greatest homage ever paid a serious author by Hollywood. Because it brings new readers to the original in vast numbers, and not only doesn't shy away from comparisons like some movies, but by its very method of release, encourages them. Anyone who loves Tolkien, or who wants to ensure his place in the pantheon of authors with another generation or two, even if they don't like movies, even if they don't like Peter Jackson, or New Zealand, or computerized special effects, must see this movie... repeatedly. Because financial success now (and so far, it's doing quite well on its own) means cultural penetration of Tolkien himself , not just the Hollywood product, to a degree unprecedented by any other novel made into a movie. I saw it the first time for enjoyment. I'll be seeing it the second time out of clear-eyed devotion to the Great Man himself... and bringing along a few other non-readers when I do so.

Posted by BruceR at 03:33 PM



In case anyone's wondering (and no one, so far as I can tell, actually is), this site took its new name from my computer game-playing avatar. "Bruce" never really worked as a character name in Baldur's Gate type settings, and I could never take myself seriously if I called my hero "Aragorn" or "Fafhrd" or "Roland." (and even less seriously if I made up a corny name that wasn't in literature). For bad guys, I was happy stealing something catchy out of the Vedics, mind, but heroes in fantasy games (Everquest, what have you) start off so puny that even if the game did allow you to call yourself "Gandalf" you wouldn't be able to stifle a giggle when the paraplegic deer fawn killed him for the eleventy-seventh time... at least I found I couldn't.

Fortunately, I had a fallback: the Harvard Lampoon Bored of the Rings which I knew nearly as well as I knew the Tolkien original (and that's saying something). No, I didn't call myself "Arrowroot" or "Tim Benzedrino" (that would also be too derivative) but there was one passage (that I smiled at once again, rereading post-movie yesterday night) which in addition to accurately skewering the demihuman races of Tolkien quite nicely, includes the line that launched a thousand game heroes...

As with most mythical creatures who live in enchanted forests with no visible means of support, the elves ate rather frugally, and Frito was a little disappointed to find heaped on his plate a small mound of ground nuts, bark, and dirt. Nevertheless, like all boggies, he was capable of eating anything he could Indian-wrestle down his throat and rather preferred dishes that didn't struggle too much, since even a half-cooked mouse can usually beat a boggie two falls out of three. No sooner had he finished eating than the dwarf sitting to his right turned to him and proffered an extremely scaly hand in greeting. It's at the end of his arm, thought Frito, nervously shaking it, it's got to be a hand.
"Gimlet, son of Groin, your obedient servant," said the dwarf, bowing to reveal a hunchback. "May you always buy cheap and sell dear."
"Frito, son of Dildo, yours," said Frito in some confusion, racking his brains for the correct reply. "May your hemorrhoids shrink without surgery."
The dwarf looked puzzled but not displeased. "Then you are the boogie of whom Goodgulf spoke, the Ringer?"
Frito nodded.
"Do you have it with you?"
"Would you like to see it?" asked Frito politely.
"Oh, no thanks," said Gimlet, "I have an uncle who had a magic tieclip and one time he sneezed and his nose fell off."
Frito nervously touched a nostril.
"Excuse the interruption," said the elf on his left, spitting accurately into the dwarf's left eye, "but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation with Gabby Hayes. Are you in fact the boggie with the bijou?"
"I am," said Frito and sneezed violently.
"Allow me," said the elf, proffering Gimlet's beard to Frito, who was by now sneezing uncontrollably. "I am Legolam, of the Elves of Northern Weldwood."
"Elf-dog," hissed Gimlet, retrieving his beard.
"Pig of a dwarf," suggested Legolam.

The current incarnation of Flit Hand-and-a-Half, the elf with a hang-up about his height, is currently somewhere in Durlag's Tower fighting mustard jellies. Badly.

What's that? Lord of the Rings, the movie? You must see it. It's precious. More on that, once the shards of my teenage internal monologue reassemble themselves. But don't miss it if you love the same things I do.

Posted by BruceR at 02:39 PM