Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Profile of Wayne

So, thanks to Jason for sharing the link to a piece on Wayne Hammond that appeared recently in the local college paper. Aside from the first paragraph, in which the student journalist describes his (or her?) dressing up as Bombadil for Halloween, it's a pretty decent profile, and includes a nice description of Wayne & Christina's current project, THE ART OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS. 


--John R.
current reading: A SLIP OF THE KEYBOARD by Terry Pratchett [2014]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


So, yesterday I was surprised by the arrival of a package from England, which turned out to contain an advance copy of my newest publication: an abridged and updated one-volume edition of my massive (thousand-page) HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT. This trimmed down version contains the entire draft manuscript of THE HOBBIT (1930-1932/33), plus the rewritten Gollum chapter (1944 & '47), plus the '1960 Hobbit'. Having heard that some found the size of the full version intimidating, I've been able to shorten the book by cutting back on my commentary, focusing on the most important points rather than exploring all the related by-ways. And of course as always with each new edition I've made corrections and added important new information where possible -- e.g., to the discussion over whether Sinclair Lewis's BABBIT influenced Tolkien's creation of the word 'hobbit' I've added proof that Tolkien was familiar with Lewis's work. I also spent a lot of time improving the index, which is now much shorter. Here's a link to the book's description as it appears on the publisher's website

and here's another to its entry on

N.B. Both these entries give the book as being 592 pages long; actually it's somewhat shorter than that, coming in 542 pages (not counting the index).

The official released date is January 15th.  I'm really looking forward to it -- I'm hoping this new, slimmer edition helps introduce more people to Tolkien's original draft version of the book, and shows them how he put the book together. And, in short, to follow the footsteps of a great writer and see how he created a masterpiece.

--John R.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cat Report (Fr.11/21-14)

Sp, here's a brief report on how the cats were doing Friday morning (11/21); sorry for the delay in posting, but it's been a busy week.

With the arrival first of the kittens AVALONEA and HAGRYPHUS, and then of bonded pair Siamese-ish TOULOUSE and MONET (whom I keep wanting to call LAUTREC*), we were up to nine cats Friday morning -- close to a full room, but they distributed themselves out harmoniously so that it didn't seem as crowded as it really was. Visitors could stand out side and look through the glass and play a 'Find-the-Cats' game. 

BUXTER looked up and started doing her paws up and down and purring when she saw me through the glass when I arrived. Thereafter she took to her favorite spot, the top of the cat-stand by the door, where she welcomed attention (petting) and games (esp. the string game, and feathers). MAEBE, our other veteran, was up and down: sometimes atop the cat-stand by the cabinet, sometimes up on the cage-tops. She also enjoyed the string game and esp. the feathers. 

Of our Three Shy Cats, little CLOUD made her way, in that quiet, determined way she has, to her safe spot underneath the cat-stand by the cabinet, where she sometimes joined in the feathers game -- a little yellow paw darting out now and then when the feathers went swishing by. I wd say she's the best hider we've got, but on second thought ANUBUS AUGUSTUS (great name!) is probably her match.  After a little petting in his cage, Anubus chose the cubbyhole on the bench, where he blends into the shadows with that solid black coat of his. He's certainly shy, but very alert and welcomes petting -- unlike MONET (LAUTREC), poor thing, who's very shy and withdrawn. Lautrec refused to come out of his cage, shrank back when being petted, and generally showed every sign of being miserable at being in a strange new place. Hope Toulouse's sunny disposition and attention from us help his partner relax and gain some confidence that we're not all cat-eating fiends.
As for Lautrec's brother, TOULOUSE played with kittens, and even groomed them a bit by the end of the morning. Very gentle, very playful, very affectiate. What a great cat; a couple came in and were very taken with him, and he was so happy at the attention he purred for several minutes after they left.  it was fun to see the photo taken since of Toulouse and little Hagryphus sleeping together in the cubbyhole (thanks for sharing), or to hear that he's been grooming both kittens, and even trying to carry them around by the scruff. Is he bonding with the kittens, or is he just that outgoing a cat ('sociable' doesn't seem to do it justice)?

TIZZY, our other mellow-fellow, also played with the kittens, particularly with the ball-in-a-circle toy. Tizzy enjoys attention, but what I think he likes most is to go into the other cats' cages;  at one point he was hanging out with Lautrec in the double-wide on the left, at another in the kittens' double-wide cage on the left. Maybe he just likes the space, being a good-sized cat himself. I took either Toulouse or TIzzy out for a walk at the end of my shift, but I've since forgotten which (and apparently didn't make a note). Whichever one it was, he did really well, paying a visit to the bird side of the store and staying calm when spotting a dog a good way off. 

As for The KittensHAGRY (Hagryphus), the boy, is the one with the tail doubled back at the end. AVALONEA, the girl, has a more subtle distinction:  her tail is longer than usual, as if she had an extra joint or two in her tail-vertebrae. Both love just about every kind of game there is (pity I didn't think to try the laser pointer), and happily played with anyone who'd play with them (i.e., Toulouse and TIzzy). They also were interested in supervising the cleaning of the cages, especially their own and the other bonded pair's. 

There was great interest all around when I got out Anubus's special food, which apparently has a v. appealing aroma for cats. Toulouse was especially interested.  It was good to see each cat's weight added to the file; hadn't realized that Miss Buxter weighs exactly twice what little Cloud does.

Speaking of which, the big news over the weekend was that little Cloud has now been adopted and is now in a home of her own. A happy ending for a shy, sweet little cat. 

--John R.

*and I'm not the only one; a visitor made the same connection.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tolkien's Jonah

So, the current issue of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (Vol. 4 No. 2) finally arrived a week ago Monday, and it was well worth the wait.

First and foremost, it provides us with a new Tolkien text: his translation of THE BOOK OF JONAH for the England-language version of THE JERUSALEM BIBLE -- not the version published back in 1966, which it turns out was reworked by another hand (one Alan Neame, responsible for imposing a consistent style on the Old Testament section), but the text as Tolkien himself submitted it to Alexander Jones, the project's editor. In addition, an accompanying essay by Brendon N. Wolfe (the J.I.S.'s Tolkien editor) provides background and context to Tolkien's involvement in the project. There are plenty of quotes from Jones's letters to Tolkien, but unfortunately not of Tolkien's side of the correspondence (which wd have figured largely into the previous, unsuccessful attempt to publish Tolkien's JONAH). We learn that Tolkien did a translation of the first chapter of ISAIAH as a sample, though only two verses from this are included in Wolfe's essay. Also, and rather surprisingly, that Tolkien was against using "thee" and "thou" in this project, given that he skews towards the archaic in his own translations. As Jason Fisher has pointed out, Tolkien does use an unusual word at one point, describing the vine that grows to shade the prophet as a "colocynth", a word few readers of his text would have recognized (it's a plant better known as a bitter apple or, most colorfully, the vine of Sodom, a sort of desert melon). Here's the link to Jason's piece (the comments to which are also interesting):

All I have to add to this is that the translation/adaptation of JONAH Tolkien was probably most familiar with, the Gawain-poet's PATIENCE, opts for the familiar and homey over the exotic and strange, calling it a wodbynde (woodbine, a kind of honeysuckle)

Finally, it was news to me that the poet Roy Campbell would probably have been one of the translators but died before beginning work on his section (the 'Song of Songs') --though given Campbell's reputation it might be just as well that his name was not associated with the project.

As for the rest of the issue, it includes what must be one of the final pieces by the late Stratford Caldecott as well as a lengthy piece on CSL's weird claim that Jesus can't be viewed as a great but non-divine teacher; it's interesting to see how Baynes, the author, places Lewis within a tradition that was skeptical of claims for Biblical inerrancy but accepting of the miracles at the core of the Xian story --v. much 'mere Christianity' as Lewis understood it.

Best of all, perhaps,*  is the announcement in the editorial of this issue of a new venture by the folks behind THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES, a series publishing for the first time major works by various Inklings such as Warnie Lewis's MEMOIR of his brother (extracts of which served as a Foreword to the 1966 edition of CSL's LETTERS), the complete GREAT WAR philosophical papers by Barfield and Lewis (presently known only through Lioney Adey's excellent summary and explication), and Barfield's long poem RIDERS ON PEGASUS (a.k.a. 'The Mother of Pegasus'). Here's hoping this series gets established and thrives: not only are all these projects eminently worthwhile but any Inklings scholar or serious fan of their works can easily think of other titles worthy to be added to that list.

--John R.
current reading: THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (comics)

*(aside from the publication of Tolkien's JONAH itself, of course)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Week

So, Monday afternoon (a week ago yesterday) I returned home after a good session working on my FALL OF ARTHUR paper on the laptop at the local Starbucks to find a window smashed, a door twisted out of shape, two other doors standing open, and the apartment burgled. My first thought was, is the thief or thieves still inside? My second was, what if the cats got out? With that in mind, I went inside and had a quick look-around: lots of stuff disturbed, some things missing, no sign of the cats or the intruders. So I called 911,* had another quick look inside, and then waited for the police.** The officer arrived within just a few minutes, and after a quick question we went through the townhouse room by room. I mentioned being worried about the cats, who might have been so spooked they bolted through the open doors and, being housecats, didn't know how to take care of themselves once they were outside. The policewoman said, 'well, there's one of them now'. And indeed it was: Feanor came out of wherever he was hiding, probably upon hearing my voice. I still didn't want him to get out, so I put him on the balcony on the other side of the sliding door as a temporary measure. Didn't find Hastur, but suspected she was probably well-hidden, given that she goes to ground whenever friends come over; turned out she was under the bed, so I put Feanor in with her, along with some food and water, on the other side of a secure door.

The officer dusted for fingerprints but said the intruder seems to have worn gloves. We lost a laptop, some binoculars, and a set of silverware still in its original presentation box, none of which we expect to see again. No large items were taken -- nothing that wd have taken two people to carry, or that wd have been conspicuous if someone had been seen carrying it. The officer concluded it was likely a single person with a backpack. I was tasked with writing up a report of everything that was missing, to be submitted by the police along with a case number: brand names and serial numbers are apparently a big help. After the officer left I tried comforting the cats a little, made a hasty start on the list, did a slightly more thorough look-through from room to room, and then went to get Janice.

And now, over a week later, we're still dealing with the aftermath, and will be for weeks to come: getting the broken window fixed, exploring options about making the downstairs more secure, replacing the damaged door, thinking of ways to prevent a recurrence. The folks at the Apple store told Janice how to remotely delete everything on her vanished laptop, which she's done (and just in time too; someone tried to access it the next day). Lots of passwords have been changed, just to be on the safe side.

The week's weirdness didn't stop there. Wednesday afternoon I spent babysitting for the daughter of a friend; we watched anime together (RANMA 1/2) and generally had a good time, but it did mean a hard drive home afterwards in the dark (my night-vision seems to have declined a few more notches since the last time I was up that way at night). Thursday I watched cats at the cat-room, filling in for someone else who'd taken my usual Wednesday shift the day before (thus having enabled me to do the babysitting); Friday we had one of our 'Work-at-John's day'. And through it all the cats were unusually sociable, staying with us and settling in whichever room we were in.

Saturday after a busy week we got together with friends and watched the last Japanese-made GODZILLA movie, which was simply bizarre, an attempt to throw in every monster they cd from every previous such movie, topped off with a soundtrack by Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer fame). Sunday we visited a friend in the hospital; first time I've ever visited a psychiatric ward, which was a strange experience (lots of rules and regulations, some of which you'd expect and others you wdn't). Yesterday and today things have been getting back on track: good progress on the Tolkien paper (which I need to wrap up by the end of the year) and in general things slipping out of on-edge, waiting-for-the-shoe-to-drop mode back into daily life. Monday evening we even had our usual D&D game (we were short a player so our characters ran away a lot).

And yet today, when I thought things really were back to normal they cut down my favorite trees in all of Kent. So there may still be more weirdness in the offing.

In the end, though, we only lost stuff: the only thing that's irreplaceable being the silverware, which had belonged to Janice's parents. The burglar cd have trashed the place, which he didn't. Various small things, of no particular value but irreplaceable because of the memories associated with them, were passed by, for which we're grateful.  Janice and I and the cats are all safe. And we've seen friends going through rough times that makes us realize we're still among the lucky ones. But it'll still be a long time before we altogether get over it.

--John R.
current reading: A HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT and an unpublished dissertation on JRRT.

*I've since been instructed in no uncertain terms that I shd have done this in the opposite order, calling 911 first. Live and learn.

**having been burgled once before, back in my Marquette days, I know that there's a difference between a robbery, which involves a threat of violence, and a burglary, which is simply theft. There's nothing like being on the receiving end of a burglary to make one sympathize with Smaug's point of view.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Cat Report (Th. 11/13-14)

So, with new arrivals we're up to five (soon to be seven) cats: BUXTER and MAEBE, little CLOUD, and newcomers TIZZY and ANUBUS AUGUSTUS; two kittens will join us as soon as they recover from their spay/neutering.

Have to say things were remarkably peaceful. The cats distributed themselves around the room, divvying up favorite spots, then settling down to enjoy a good snooze, all without a hiss or growl among them.

MAEBE (our dark calico) and BUXTER (our tuxedo cat)  were in good form today. Maebe showed off her leaping skills: up atop the cat-stand by the cabinet, a quick walk along the cagetops, and then back across to the top of the cat-stand by the door, which she claimed for her own. Buxter originally chose the top of the other cat-stands but then moved to share the same cat-stand as sister Maebe.  Haven't seen them look so much like a bonded pair since they moved into separate cages. Both were playful as well: Buxter enjoyed the string game and Maebe did as well, but what really got Maeve excited was the gopher game, which she played with enthusiasm.  Buxter had a walk a little before noon: she went bird-watching. I made sure she stayed well back, but her attention was certainly riveted.

Little CLOUD (our little pale yellow mama cat) explored a lot around the cabinet end of the room, having first established a base camp in the rondel under the cat-stand by the cabinet. She was very friendly, even downright gregarious at times, and mewed for attention quite a lot. While still a natural-born burrower (she's going to spend lots of time exploring the backs of closets in whatever home she winds up in) she's really come out of her shell. She doesn't like walks, though; too scary she thinks.

TIZZY (grey and white, with light and dark shades in the grey), whom I think I'll call 'Talker', is one of our two new males: a very vocal cat who talks back if you talk to him. He's on the shy side but does well so long as he has his cage door open to allow for a hasty retreat if something spooks him (which happens a lot). He decided, very reasonably, that he preferred Anubus's larger cage to his own and spent a good time hanging out in there. Loves being petted and talked to (not necessarily in that order).

ANUBUS AUGUSTUS (sleek and solid black, our other new male cat -- and what a great name) was playing with Maebe early on, before even coming out of his cage: she was up high peering down at him and he was reaching up with his paw trying to locate her above him. Once out he took himself up high, staked his claim to the box up there, and stayed in his perch all morning. Very self-possessed cat who knows what he wants and takes the most direct route to get it.

Be interesting to see how the addition of two kittens affects the current harmony.

A fair number of viewers and visitors admiring the cats.

No health concerns: everyone seemed okay.

--John R.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Turtles showing Alligators who's Boss

So, today's post wd have been about Tolkien's JONAH, which finally arrived. But that was before I came home at 2.30 and discovered the break-in; the rest of the day's been spent blocking up the burglar's entry route, making a list of what's missing, and changing a whole lot of passwords.

Have to say, burglars are a lot more fun to read about, in stories by Tolkien and Dunsany, than to experience first-hand.

So, instead here's a picture of turtles.*  Look closely: those are not logs the turtles are sunning themselves on.

I know my own mental image of turtles changed a lot after I saw a clip on the BBC of turtles in an African watering hole chasing down waterfowl that landed there. Clearly the turtles in this picture either think themselves lords of their domain or are certain a life-and-let-live pact exists with their fellow reptiles. Let's hope they're right about that.

--John R.

*thanks to Janice for the picture