mandag 20. desember 2010

The Fellowship of Pain and Suffering

When we're talking about pain and suffering and cruelty and stuff ... This really can't be avoided during a Tolkien month:

lørdag 18. desember 2010

Christopher Lee and the sound of death

So, well, it's like Tolkien month here, and, well, this clip is obviously Tolkien related. It's, like, the movie and stuff. So ... well ... I really don't need any excuses to show it. Just when you thought Christopher Lee couldn't get any cooler ...

tirsdag 14. desember 2010

The Father Tolkien Letters

After a short interval ... Tolkien month resumes. Witn none other than John Tolkien talking about The Father Christmas Letters.

fredag 3. desember 2010

No way to treat an ent

Yesterday, the second day of our Tolkien month, we introduced Christopher Lee as Treebeard. So it seems fitting to dedicate today's posting to the wooden one himself. This is a piece I originally published elsewhere November 23 last year. And though I've come to Rohan since then, and though autumn is only a distant memory by now, it is still more or less fitting:

It's autumn. Late autumn, actually. And, as it’s autumn, I have gotten the urge to return to Middle Earth. I picked up where I left off – as Merry and Pippin enters Fangorn forest.

I read Tolkien like that: Read a few chapters, then stay away for a long time, sometimes a year, then pick up again from wherever I left. I know the story, after all.

And Tolkien himself left the company outside the gates of Moria for more than a year. Now, that’s a bleak place to spend twelve months or more. (There was a war coming in Europe.)

Though Merry and Pippin doesn’t know, entering Fangorn is the start of great things – for them personally and for Middle Earth. It rouses the ents, as Treebeard realizes he can no longer stay out of worldly things. Which spells the end for Saruman’s dreams of power. Which again means that Gondor is not threatened from two sides at once – and that the forces of Rohan are free to ride to Gondor’s support.

All this because of two hobbits that only want to get away from their orc(ish) captors.

We can none of us know the whole story of our times. We are all part of the great narrative that is history, but we have no way of knowing what – if any – influence we will have on it. An ethics that focuses on consequences only is pointless. Because we have no way of knowing the consequences. And sometimes our actions are of importance for entirely unintended reasons. For good – or for bad.

Merry and Pippins actions are of pivotal importance for the victory over Sauron, but they cannot know that as they enter Fangorn – or as they meet Treebeard.

Neither can we know the ultimate consequences of any single action.

All of this just to state my annoyance at Peter Jackson's movie. There are three things in the movie that still annoy me. One is the compressing of time at the beginning, where 17 years turns into a few months. Which means that a lot of things go slightly unfocused in the story.

Like Saruman, who uses those 17 years to go from bad to worse. Or the ring wraiths, which must already be at the gates of The Shire as Bilbo gives Frodo the ring (by way of Gandalf). Or Gandalf himself, who should have spent some of those years to uncover the secret of the ring – and now has to do it in mere months.

It simply doesn’t add up. And all that Jackson had to do was put up a poster that said “17 years later”. He could even have kept Frodo looking like a German disco kid, as he doesn’t age much in those 17 years – thanks to the power of the ring.

The two other tings that really rile me about the movie, is the treatment of two of its heroes: Faramir and Treebeard.

Faramir, who in the book is a noble man – one of the few that instantly sees the dangers of using the ring – in the movie becomes a silly, scared kid. And all because they needed a cliffhanger to end the second movie.

It is an ending alien to the book – that also gives us the unbearably stupid scene were Frodo actually waves the ring in front of one of the ring wraiths. So much for a secret mission.

And poor Treebeard. He is the tree herd. OK, we have to repeat that: He is the tree herd of Fangorn. He knows what goes on in his own forest.

Instead of deciding to go to war at the entthing, they decide to stay away. And Treebeard only changes his mind after Pippin (all of this is done simply to make it seem like Pippin is getting smarter) lures him to follow them towards Isengard. Only when he comes to the edge of Fangorn does he see the destruction which has been done to his forest.

He roars with anger, and seconds later a whole gang of ents (that have no reason whatsoever to be there) come out from Fangorn and they march towards Isengard.

His anger tells us one thing: That he didn’t know of the destruction until this moment.

Once again: He is the tree herd. And he doesn’t know that thousands of trees have been cut down to fuel Saruman’s war machine? That is utter nonsense.

I can forgive the compression of time at the beginning. I dislike it, but I realize that it was important for creating the urgency that drives Jacksons’s version of the story. I can almost forgive what is done to Faramir. It is a disgrace, but I understand the need for a cliffhanger at the end of the second movie – even if it is a stupid one.

But I really can’t forgive what is done to Treebeard. Ents have been in Middle Earth almost since the world began. They are a proud race and a truly original one – together with hobbits one of Tolkien’s great feats of true sub creation.

To imply that Treebeard doesn’t know what is happening in his own forest – he has, after all, known some of the cut down trees since they were acorns – isn’t merely to change the plot a bit. It is to fundamentally change one of the races in Tolkien’s world.

It’s an insult to Treebeard, an insult to ents and an insult to Tolkien. It is, in truth, quite unforgiveable, Mr. Jackson.

torsdag 2. desember 2010

Christopher Lee as Treebeard

Yesterday, JRR himself was singing here on Flotsam & Jetsam, to kick off our Tolkien month. And there is no reason not to follow that up with more singing. None other than Christopher Lee himself, singing In the willow-meads of Tasarinan, the poem Treebeard chants to Merry and Pippin on their way to his dwelling, on the  day they first met in Fangorn.

The song is form the cycle The Road Goes Ever On, and the music is by Donald Swann. Lee is accompanied by The Tolkien Ensamble.

Here is the poem:

In the willow-meads of Tasarinan I walked in the Spring.
Ah! the sight and the smell of the Spring  in Nan-tasarion!
And I said that was good.
I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.
Ah! the light and the music in the Summer by the Seven Rivers of Ossir!
And I thought that was best.
To the beeches of Neldoreth I came in the Autumn.
Ah! the gold and the red and the sighing leaves in the Autumn in Taur-na-neldor!
It was more than my desire.
To the pine-trees upon the highland of Dorthonion I climbed in the Winter.
Ah! the wind and the whiteness and the black branches of Winter upon Orod-na-Thôn!
My voice went up and sang in the sky.
And now all those lands lie under the wave,
And I walk in Ambaróna, in Tauremorna, in Aldalómë,
In my own land, in the country of Fangorn,
Where the roots are long,
And the years lie thicker than the leaves
In Tauremornalómë.

onsdag 1. desember 2010

Tolkien singing

It's December, and December is Tolkien month here at Flotsam & Jetsam. We kick off with a real gem, JRR himself singing Troll sat alone on his seat of stone, the song Sam sings after they stumble across the three trolls that turn to stone in The Hobbit.

Storywise, their travel to Rivendell is coming to an end. Just pages later they meet Glorfindel and he and Frodo rides off towards the Ford of Bruinen, chased by the nine.

"Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone,
And meat was hard to come by.

Up came Tom with his big boots on.
Said he to Troll: 'Pray, what is yon?
For it looks like the shin o' my nuncle Tim,
As should be a-lyin' in graveyard.
Caveyard! Paveyard!
This many a year has Tim been gone,
And I thought he were lyin' in graveyard.'

'My lad,' said Troll, 'this bone I stole.
But what be bones that lie in a hole?
Thy nuncle was dead as a lump o' lead,
Afore I found his shinbone.
Tinbone! Thinbone!
He can spare a share for a poor old troll,
For he don't need his shinbone.'

Said Tom: 'I don't see why the likes o' thee
Without axin' leave should go makin' free
With the shank or the shin o' my father's kin;
So hand the old bone over!
Rover! Trover!
Though dead he be, it belongs to he;
So hand the old bone over!'

'For a couple o' pins,' says Troll, and grins,
'I'll eat thee too, and gnaw thy shins.
A bit o' fresh meat will go down sweet!
I'll try my teeth on thee now.
Hee now! See now!
I'm tired o' gnawing old bones and skins;
I've a mind to dine on thee now.'

But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.
Before he could mind, Tom slipped behind
And gave him the boot to larn him.
Warn him! Darn him!
A bump o' the boot on the seat, Tom thought,
Would be the way to larn him.

But harder than stone is the flesh and bone
Of a troll that sits in the hills alone.
As well set your boot to the mountain's root,
For the seat of a troll don't feel it.
Peel it! Heal it!
Old Troll laughed, when he heard Tom groan,
And he knew his toes could feel it.

Tom's leg is game, since home he came,
And his bootless foot is lasting lame;
But Troll don't care, and he's still there
With the bone he boned from its owner.
Doner! Boner!
Troll's old seat is still the same,
And the bone he boned from its owner!"

tirsdag 30. november 2010

I'm getting out of here!

Sometimes, trying to photoshop my way to the essence of a photo, takes me to extremes. I didn't plan to go that far with this one, but when I had started, I simply couldn't stop until I had cut it down to the core. I like it. At least I think so right now.

mandag 29. november 2010

Don't call him Shirley!

The death yesterday of Leslie Nielsen, at the ripe old age of 84, is one of those that reminds one (that is me) of pleasures had but, if not forgotten, then ... not thought about in a while.

Nielsen was a great actor. His very prescence was funny. Often funnier than the lines he was given, to tell the truth. The clip above starts with eighteen seconds of fantastic comedy. The rest is ... OK. You may skip that.

As a vampirologist, I find Nielsen's performance a special a special joy, though. He actually was a really good Dracula. He should have been cast for a straight Dracula movie.

What I, as an ex-curler and curling fan, really wanted to show you, was a clip from the Canadian curling comedy Men With Brooms, which shows a slightly different side to Nielsen. But YouTube won't let me embed that, so you must watch it in situ.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen. Seriously ... Shirley!

lørdag 27. november 2010

Children's song

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.

_____ R.S. Thomas

"Be quiet, Peter"

And now he is. Now they are.

mandag 22. november 2010

Cuteness from beyond

There is cute. And there is CUTE. And then there are children drawing the monsters of H.P. Lovecraft. And that's beyond cute.

To quote the article from which the pic was stolen:

"Since their original publication in the 1920s, the stories of H.P. Lovecraft have endured and grown into an entire subset of the horror genre unto themselves, with themes of the unavoidable insanity that comes with knowledge and cosmic insignificance that are far more subtle and ultimately terrifying than the average ghost story.

Which makes them
great entertainment for eight year-olds"

Thought David Milano, who told his children's choir Lovecraft-stories and had the draw the monsters of H.P. You can see some of them by following the link above, or see them all if you follow the links to the galleries from Milano's own blog post about the project.


(Via Bodil at Facebook.)

torsdag 18. november 2010

A grey day

Photo: Mr. P

It was a grey day in October. Really, really grey. The picture is in full colour. There just aren't any.

onsdag 17. november 2010

I. Wanna be. Anarchy

By/via/whatever Георги Петков on Facebook. Thanks to The Wakefordian, that paragon of a true punk lifestyle.

fredag 12. november 2010

Nice leg!

Photo: Mr. P.

This is obviously pure, damn luck. Snapped five or six shots of these guys. In one of them the pose was perfect and the leg flew by.

torsdag 11. november 2010

Today goes to eleven!

In one year from today, 11/11/11, is the official Nigel Tufnel Day. Which is more than reason enough to remind ourselves of the genius of The Nigel. It does, after all, go to eleven ...

They Shall Not Pass!

Sunday, October 4th, 1936, The British Union of Fascists (BUF) had called a march through the East End of London, at that time home to the largest Jewish population in England. It was a blatant declaration of BUF's virulent anti-semitism.

In the battle of Cable Street, a rather nondescript street i Whitechapel, protesters clashed with police. The result was many injured, 150 arrested and that BUF had to move their march elsewhere. It is considered one of the highlights of British anti fascist history.

It is estimated that at least a quarter of a million people took to the streets to protest the march. "They Shall Not Pass!" they chanted, quoting Spanish anti-fascists. And the blackshirts did not.

What was it good for? To quote Wikipedia: "The Battle of Cable Street was a major factor leading to the passage of the Public Order Act 1936, which required police consent for political marches and forbade the wearing of political uniforms in public. This is widely considered to be a significant factor in the BUF's political decline prior to World War II."

The video above is one of my favourite bands, The Men They Couldn't Hang, hailing the battle fifty years later, in a song from their second record, How Green Is The Valley. Here is some of the footage with contemporary comments:

onsdag 10. november 2010

Death, decay and a cup of tea, second edition

Photo: Mr. P

It's autumn in Oslo. Actually, it's winter soon. But this was a week ago. The sun was shining, even though it's botannical cousin was setting. Tonight, snow fell. And though it's gone by now, winter is a coming and death is in the air.

It's definitely time for a cup of tea.

tirsdag 9. november 2010

The Goat at the top of Oslo

Photo: Mr. P

This is just me bullshitting. Taken this summer with my iPhone (using GorillaCam). The face was just a blur and to save any details, it had to be photoshopped into ridiculousness. Unsaveable as a proper photo, all that was left was to photoshop it even more. I kind of like the result. It was taken at Ekeberg, at the top of Oslo.

mandag 8. november 2010

Seagulls and cranes

Photo: Mr. P

It's a while since I did any serious photography. I spent a morning taking pictures last week, and will do my best to stay bitten by the bug. Some of my best new work will show up here.

This has been cropped, but that's all. Click pic for a larger version.

Update: The more I looked at this post, the more the cropping annoyed me. So I've re-cropped it. This is way better. Now the movement is in the birds, not in the cranes.

fredag 5. november 2010

Take me to ... Shangri-la

Shangri-las was in my humble opinion the best girl group of the sixties. Or any other decade. They didn't record much, but more or less every song is a classic. Here are a few:

torsdag 4. november 2010

The Awakening Conscience

A lot can be said about William Holman Hunt´s painting The Awakening Conscience from 1853. And most of it has been said. It is a strange mix of religious piety and social liberation, which makes it hard to accept for many of todays viewers.

I like it. I like most things Holman Hunt made in the early years of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. And I like that strong moral sense.

She is a held woman. And sitting on the lap of her "gentleman", they have been singing "Oft In The Stilly Night". It reminds her of home. Of another, a better life than this. Of how things could have been. Her conscience awakes. She hears the knocking on the door of her soul by the one holding the light of the world. All that stuff.

What I really like about it, though, is the trick of the window. At a casual glance, it seems like they are sitting in front of a window. Actually it is a mirror. Which means she is looking out of the window – towards the light.

Not only do we see her. We see what, or at least some of what, she sees. We too see the light. If only as a painting of a reflection of one.

tirsdag 2. november 2010

Death, decay and a cup of tea

It's raining in Oslo. And the wind is literally whipping the last of the leaves off the birch outside my office. It's November and sweet melcancholy is in the air.

It's time for the last tunes from a dying man, Schubert's late sonatas. Schubert finished them in Sepbember 1828. By the end of November he was dead.

In my book the one to play these sonatas is Sviatoslav Richter. I first heard them in a recording with Andras Schiff. And they left me cold. Or rather, I simply stopped listening after a few minutes.

The first time I heard Richter play them, I fell into the music from the very first note. Richter is perhaps my favourite pianist, and nowhere is he better than here.

It's time for a cup of tea, methinks.

søndag 31. oktober 2010

The bumbling badger of mediocrity

"Welcome to Hufflepuff! Long live the bumbling badger of mediocrity!", to quote the head of house. And Hufflepuff is "for the rest", as he points out. Not the brave or the wise or the cunning. The rest.

But the thing is, I like badgers. I like badgers a lot. It's a Wind In The Willows kind of thing, I suppose. But mostly it's because they're cool. The Wife and me once met four, right in the middle of Oslo.

It was midnight and they were, I suspect, heading for the sanctuary of St Hanshaugen. A mother and three fairly large children. They had to cross a big street and one of the kids paniced, turned back and hid under a car. We stood back and pressed the pedestrian traffic lights like crazy, to give the passing cars red lights. It worked. They got away.

All I can say is bugger the brave, the wise and the cunning. I take the bumbling badger any day. In fact, I think I need to order a Hufflepuff cardigan pronto.

(Thanks to Frøydis F. Labowsky for the fashion tip.)

onsdag 27. oktober 2010

Porn Star Ctuhlhu

It's shocking, I say. Shocking.

Heaven Must Have Sent You

It's very much autumn in Oslo. Rain is knocking the last of the leaves down from the trees. With good help from the wind. It's a melancholic time of the year.

And the same thing has happened to me which happens every year about this time: I quite suddenly want to listen to some upbeat pary music. It used to be ska. Proper ska. For the last few years it's been soul. Northern soul, to be precise.

And this is a Northern soul classic, if ever there was one. To the extent that anything can be a classic in a scene where obscurity was the mark of distinction.

tirsdag 26. oktober 2010

Do you see the light?

Photo: Mr. P

Another picture in the Subway series.

fredag 22. oktober 2010

Subway tentacles

Photo: Mr. P

Taken from the window of the subway at night, with Hipstamatic on my iPhone. It's not really a "Hipstamatic picture" though, as the settings are optimized for a "regular" picture. The trick is to put the camera straight against the window, not to catch any reflections from inside.

tirsdag 12. oktober 2010

The Eater of ... fences?

Photo: Mr. P

Out of the very earth it came; a horrendous botanical heresy; an æons old abomination; an eldritch monstrosity; a creature whos tentacles went deep into the earth, sucking the very juices out of the planet; a threat to life, sanity and ... fences. The horror. THE HORROR!

søndag 10. oktober 2010

Them guests delicious

Photo: Mr. P

From one of Oslo's more ... exotic restaurants. Them Package Photographical Are Contain Chopsticks.

fredag 8. oktober 2010

Mad men

"If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908 

The spiders in our basement

Photo: Mr. P

The spiders in our basement are back.

They are young males, I hear, gone astray in their search for a mate. And they are, at least for Norwegian spiders, big fellows. This one has a body length of about 2 cm.

They show up every year, signalling the end of summer. And they are dying.

Often, it must be said, they are dying through unfortunate run ins with The Wife. But even if they manage to steer clear of her – and whatever she may happen to, ehr, drop upon them – they are dying.

We find them crouched up, with their legs pulled up underneath; very, very dead.

And when they are gone, autum has come to an end too. But for now the leaves are red and yellow. And the spiders await death in our basement.

I like this time of year, even if I’m not all that fond of the spiders. It’s a time of beauty, death and decay. But it’s also a time of hibernating indoors, with a pot of tea and good books. It’s a good time.

Unless you’re a spider of course.

A Very Short Song

Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad–
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.

Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.

_____ Dorothy Parker

onsdag 6. oktober 2010

Grey life

It's autumn. It's raining. I'm listening to Tor Lundvall. So should you.

tirsdag 5. oktober 2010

About a cat

"The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908