What is a Bad Movie?

Campy films aren’t necessarily bad and cult classics really can’t be deemed good. There have been more than a couple of posts on Facebook (maybe as many as ten) asking me to pick films that I liked but I thought were bad films. I picked two movies (Joe Vs. the Volcano and Buckaroo Banzai) because I love them and I really can’t defend them. They don’t hold together and/or loose their audience halfway through. They didn’t make enough money in the box office and they haven’t gotten beyond a core cult following as time progresses. As an additional condition of love/bad I should add that I’ve seen both of these movies more than 10 times each and I never tire of watching them. I never tire of watching them while people who watch movies with me regularly object if I propose watching them again. The Wife’s film is ID4. I’ll scream if I have to watch that one again. But then she has about ten films that she cycles through, as well as two or three series that she has on repeat in the room while she’s constructing some art project or other, just as background noise, and I run screaming from all of them. That is the hallmark of a bad movie (or bad TV) that you love. You end up watching it by yourself.

Plot. Theme. Characterizations & cinematography. All of those bases have to be covered if you are going to make a good movie. Carpenter is the king of camp, and I consider Prince of Darkness one of his best films of all time. Big Trouble is another one. I wouldn’t put a Carpenter film in a list of bad films. His films (even his bad ones) are campy enough to be watchable. I’ve sat down and watched any one of a dozen Carpenter films with family more times than I’ve sat down to watch the two I’ve listed, and I still get takers to watch them (especially The Thing) I could go on for several more paragraphs but I’ve been a lifelong movie buff and I’m married to a woman who has been involved in more productions than a good number of professionals in the business. I know whereof I speak, even if I don’t have degrees to back my critical opinions up with.

Visual and written media are different, this is an understood fact.  The adaptation of a written work to film is an important subject of discussion, not just a pedestrian piece of entertainment. Why a film adaptation of a written work is perceived to be better or worse than it’s inspiration is a subject of high importance to the funders of film ventures.  The buy-in of the author of the written work, and their involvement in the making of the film does indeed seem to be key to a successful adaptation.

Let me offer a few examples.

The Harry Potter films all had the direct involvement of the author from the beginning of the film franchise.  I find the study of J. K. Rowling’s evolving talent fascinating.  I read the books myself, and read them out loud twice to my children. We then all went to see the movies. Now, while my daughter lamented at some of the parts left out of the story in question, I could see Rowling’s growing understanding of the film medium evolve from movie to movie, just as I watched her understanding of the written work evolve over the course of the several books she has authored. The films, just like the books, get tighter and more interesting as her understanding of the two different mediums grows. I would offer them as some of the best examples of book to film adaptation.

It can also be a good idea for the author to know his or her own limitations. I’ve read the Hunger Games series and watched all four movies. I find the movies far more interesting than the books were, and more believable.  The characters are far more sympathetic on screen and the actors that were chosen have all performed admirably.  I don’t know the level of the author’s involvement with those films, but I haven’t encountered her promoting them like Rowling did. Yet the films do seem to capture the essence of what was compelling about the Hunger Games novels. A worthy effort.

Fight Club is another instance where the film retains the essence of the book, and yet is actually better as a movie than the book was as a book. Very few adaptations not only don’t insult the original work, but mange to improve on it. It’s also one of the few internal stories that works on the screen, largely because the internal is external (as it is in the book) without the viewer knowing this. If you don’t understand the reference, then you haven’t seen the film. Stop reading and go watch it now.

On the other end of the scale we have every attempt to adapt Dune to the movie screen. I’m not convinced that any of the parties involved (much like the 007 movies and Ready Player One) ever read the books. Frank Herbert was still alive at the time of the filming, but never seemed to have taken an interest in the first movie produced. If Alejandro Jodorowsky is to be believed, then Frank Herbert was very much involved in the project when he was developing it. The final product of the effort taken over by Hollywood bore almost no resemblance to the book that I’ve read, and I’ve read it (and Dune Messiah and Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune) more times that I’ve read the Lord of the Rings. The mini-series from SciFi comes close to capturing the essence of the novels, but still manages to fumble capturing the theme. The subtleties of the realpolitik have never been captured by any movie that I’ve seen. Most books that I’ve read also fail at giving it life (Hunger Games being the latest to attempt it that I’ve read) unless they are biographies of real historical figures. Even some of those fail at being interesting and real at the same time.

I, Robot remains the epitome of failed adaptations. Rather than simply destroying one character, as Peter Jackson did with Faramir in the Lord of the Rings adaptations, the entirety of Asimov’s work on the robot series was completely thrown out the door. None of the characters share more than a name with their counterparts in the books (a series of short works and novels) the tone of the film is luddite in nature, with all technology representing a fearful threat. This is a framing for the film that Asimov would have rejected out of hand. The plot hinges on a point that contradicts all of Asimov’s writing on the subject (the ability for a robot to kill a human) only to be countered at the last minute with a physics defying descent to an inexplicably located central computer system that isn’t even in Asimov’s works. The continued existence of the film serves as firm proof that there is no afterlife, because I can’t imagine Isaac Asimov not returning from the dead to correct this blasphemy enacted in his name.

The people who complain about minor character details being missed, or sections of the work, like Tom Bombadil (again, in Lord of the Rings) that don’t lend themselves to plot progression, simply don’t understand the constraints of the visual storytelling medium. However, it is clearly important that the filmmaker not only be a fan of the written work, but has to understand how to pull the plot, theme, and narrative out of one medium and place it in another in such a way as to be recognized by the literary fan, so that the people who paid to read the written work will also pay to see the movie. If the producer, director, writer and actors all don’t agree on this and make their best efforts to pull this feat off, you end up with just another blockbuster that you hope makes it’s exorbitant production costs back in the first few weeks of it’s public release. Because you won’t have fans buying it and talking about it years later.

Understanding the limitations of the medium that the story is told in can be key to being more forgiving. For example: A keycard is familiar and its purpose is understood by the viewing audience. Using a keycard to bypass security serves to advance the plot more easily than how you might describe the problem and its solution in a book. You don’t have to spend time explaining how to transfer fingerprints or the knowledge needed to understand bypassing security through the software, if you just have the protagonist steal a keycard. This simplification of the storyline removes at least 10 minutes of film time and who knows how many dollars from the budget. Most of the changes that are made to a literary work being adapted to the screen are done for just these kinds of reasons.

Putting Tom Bombadil into the Fellowship of the Ring movie introduces relationships and characters into the story that really don’t advance the plot and don’t increase the viewers engagement in the story itself. In the book, the brief aside of Tom Bombadil between Buckland and Bree serves to draw the reader into the story, into the world of Middle Earth. Bilbo never encountered any of the problems that Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin did because he stayed on the Great Eastern Road when he traveled from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in the Hobbit. Tom Bombadil, for the reader, serves to illustrate the problems of leaving the road unsheparded. This makes the Hobbit’s willingness to follow Aragorn more believable when they meet him at Bree. They’ve just survived death at the hands of ghosts and magic because Tom Bombadil was there to save them. The screenwriters rightly decided that shortening the narrative there was without any real cost to the overall storyline. The only people who object to going straight from Buckland (mentioned as the ferry in the movie) to Bree with a single scene cut are the people who are anchored in the literary narrative, incapable of appreciating the different demands a viewing audience brings to the theater with them.

I loved Fellowship of the Ring when it came out as a movie. It remains a testament to what Peter Jackson thought he could sell to a bunch of rabid fans ready to tear the heart out of his three-movie project before the first movie was even cold in the film canisters.

The Two Towers is a completely different matter. The Two Towers is a bad movie in pretty much the same way every second movie is, plus a few other insults thrown in. I’ve already mentioned Peter Jackson’s treatment of Faramir as one of my objections. Dragging the Hobbits to Osgiliath served the purpose of having a crisis moment for Faramir where he and the audience see the danger of the ring for themselves. In my estimation it is unnecessary.

As a film editor I would have sliced off all hints that they ever left Ithilien, had the Witch King show up, have Faramir renounce the ring (he does anyway) and send Frodo and Sam on their way. No need to draw out the crisis moment. No need to have Sam utter that heartfelt speech about not being here that always makes me laugh and agree with him. No. You shoudn’t be in Osgiliath. Now you have to come up with a device to get the Hobbits back onto the borders of Mordor. Oh, look! A tunnel! Just what we needed.

The less said about Treebeard and the ents as they appear in the movie, the better. I don’t think that Jackson had all those sequences worked out in advance. They have a hurried quality to them, which (bararum) Treebeard himself would not have appreciated. The second movie was always going to be the connector between the grand achievement of Fellowship of the Ring, and the closing moments of Return of the King. The book The Two Towers is a long slog, too. That the series of movies were completed at all is a tribute to Peter Jackson and his crew.

…and then he went on to destroy the Hobbit. Peter Jackson’s the Hobbit is J.R.R. Tolkien in name only, just like I, Robot having the name Asimov’s in front of it makes it his movie in name only. I haven’t watched the third Hobbit movie, but I will eventually. The elf/dwarf river dance in the second movie combined with the liquid gold surfing was more than I could take. You strip out Jackson’s love of overly-long action sequences and you might have a set of movies worth watching (see Jackson’s King Kong) his weaving of the various themes that predate Tolkien’s writing Lord of the Rings, themes that aren’t in the Hobbit, was clever if not at all like the book itself.  The first movie announced Jackson’s intentions to not follow the book so I wasn’t too upset when he didn’t follow it in the second movie.

Since they weren’t really J.R.R. Tolkien and they were definitively Peter Jackson, warts and all, I saw no need to rush out and watch the last movie in the movie theater. Now that I am longing to see movies in a theater again it may be time to dust off some of the movies I’ve put off watching and try them out. See if I think differently about them now.

So what is a bad movie? It is up to the moviegoer at large to determine this, just as it is up to the reader to determine whether any given book represents good writing or not. Let me put it this way. On my laserdisc copy of Star Wars Han Solo is the only one who fires a weapon in the Cantina scene. That is the way it was supposed to be before George Lucas screwed up all the original movies re-editing them. It is because of the re-edits that I have said for awhile now that neither Disney nor the Abramanator could screw up Star Wars. George Lucas already did that.

…But then the Abramanator said “hold my beer” and proved me wrong. That is also why I won’t buy Star Wars on any of the new formats that are available. Not unless I get an original version of the movie to view. A New Hope is a bad movie. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were great movies. It’s just too bad you can’t buy them anymore.

Or you could just ignore the critics and go see the movie.

Stonekettle Station

Galadriel

The most underrated of all the characters in Tolkien’s created universe.

Galadriel was born into the glory of the Two Trees, in Valinor. she was born when the Noldor were at the height of their power and knowledge, sitting at the feet of the Valar. She was descended from both the Noldor and the Vanyar through the blood of her grandmother Indris. She was also descended from the Telari through her mother, the daughter of Olwe, high king of the Telari.

The Vanyar elves were the favored of the Valar, who sang Arda into existence at the direction of Eru Iluvatar, the creator of all things. The Vanyar responded first to the summoning of the huntsman Orome. Orome, alone of the Valar to seek combat with the creatures of Melkor in the dark times. Orome, who brought a message from the Valar who hoped to shield the firstborn of Eru Iluvatar from the perils of the world that Melkor had secretly seeded into his song of Arda.

The world lived in darkness when the firstborn came into being. Melkor had destroyed the works that the other Valar had sang into the world as part of their songs, including the towers of light used by the Valar to illuminate their work. All the works that Melkor could not destroy, he perverted.

The only light in Arda when the firstborn awoke came from the stars that Varda set alight before time began. Varda understood Melkor’s intentions before all the other Valar, and contrived to put her creations beyond his reach so that the world would not live in complete darkness after he destroyed the sources of light that were within his reach. Melkor hated the light, and especially hated the stars of Varda that spied down upon him.

Varda alone provided revelation to the elves in their time of birth. This is why all elves revere her, even the dark elves, the Sindar, who never set foot on Valinor where Varda dwells, or saw the light of the two trees. The light that lives on in the Eldar and can be seen by the keen-eyed and those that are near to death. This is what separates the Sindar from the Eldar, the living light of the two trees that resides in the bodies of the Eldar.

The Noldor followed the Vanyar to Valinor. The Noldor were the most powerful of all of the elves, and spent their eons of time in Valinor learning all that the Valar would teach them of the making of things. After the Noldor followed the hosts of the Telari elves. The Telari loved the night and the stars and did not want to go to Valinor, even though they would be safe from the creatures of Melkor there. They stopped short of entering Valinor and lived on the edge of the light, on an island in the great outer sea of Arda.

King Olwe’s daughter Eärwen was the mother of Galadriel. Her father was Finarfin, son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. She carried the blood of all three of the tribes of the Eldar, and was born in the presence of the Two Trees, whose living light was captured by Feanor in his greatest creation, the Silmarils. This was in the first age. This was the beginning that Galadriel knew.

When Melkor became Morgoth, stealing the Silmarils, killing Finwe and escaping from the other Valar, renouncing kinship with those who kept him captive in Valinor, the stage was set for the tragedy that was told in the Silmarillion. The Noldor left Valinor in pursuit of Morgoth, even though they knew that they had no hope of defeating him, whose power was equal to that of the Valar in the beginning. But they refused to sit idle at the feet of the creators of the world, who appeared to do nothing to right the wrongs that Morgoth enacted upon their creations.

What the Noldor did not understand was that the song had been sung already. The Valar could do only what they had woven into the song of the world before time began. They had agreed to be constrained by the limits of time when they entered into the world of Arda and made it what it was. But they were not powerless, as they soon demonstrated.

It was then that the sun and the moon were created and set in the sky, and Galadriel was there on the beach in Beleriand to witness the first dawning of the moon and then the sun, along with the rest of the Noldor that had pursued Morgoth. She stayed with her brother, Finrod Felagund, as he established one of the longest lasting and largest kingdoms that vied with Morgoth for control of Beleriand. But her desires led her away from the Noldor and their hopeless pursuit of vengeance. She stayed for a time with her Sindarin kin in the realm of King Thingol. But staying safely hidden from the threats of Morgoth’s creatures was what chafed on her in Valinor. So she left Menegroth and passed beyond the girdle of Melian in search of places that were not safe. Challenges that were not hopeless.

At the Telerin port of Alqualondë before the betrayal and the leaving of Valinor, Galadriel met Celeborn, who would become her husband. Her companion and fellow traveller through the ages of Middle Earth. Together they passed beyond the Ered Luin, and so were not present when Finrod fell into darkness. Did not die in the sacking of Nargothrond or Menegroth. Could not be drowned with the rest of the inhabitants of Beleriand when it was destroyed at the ending of the first age. Destroyed in the War of Wrath that saw Morgoth defeated by the Valar and thrust, bound, into the outer darkness.

She and Celeborn lived on through the long millenia of the Second age. She gave birth to a daughter who became the wife of Elrond half-elven, who in turn gave birth to Arwen Undomiel. They witnessed the pinnacle of Noldorian achievements in the harnessing of power within the great rings by Celebrimbor, a grandson of Feanor. Celebrimbor who was betrayed by Sauron when he created the One Ring to rule over all the others, and thereby gain control of Elves, Dwarves and Men. A feat that was denied to his former master, Morgoth. Sauron,who we met first as a mere lackey in service to Morgoth, beaten in battle by the hound Huan who, with Luthien Tinuviel, rescued Beren from Sauron’s dungeons.

Sauron who had been defeated by a dog of the first age, was in turn defeated by the Numenoreans when they came against him in their quests for empire in the latter part of the second age. Galadriel witnessed all of this from her kingdom in Lorien.

Likewise she witnessed the beginning of the third age, when the world was changed, curved, so that Valinor would always be beyond the reach of mere mortals. Changed when the king of Numenor, the descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother, grew so bold that they challenged the Valar for dominance of Valinor. Sauron had bided his time, worked his magics, had been made a counselor of the king of Numenor. Had put the idea of invading Valinor into the head of the king, hoping to be rid of the Numenoreans so that he could continue his own personal conquest of Middle Earth.

…Only to be caught up in the change that Eru Iluvatar inflicted on the world, his physical form destroyed in the drowning of Numenor. Forced to flee back to Mordor as a mist, where he had to lay quietly reconstructing himself before he could take up the one ring once again. This too, Galadriel saw.

She saw it, because she was the keeper of one of the three Elven rings.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The Lord of the Rings

..and so she knew when Sauron had returned. As did the holders of all of the other rings of power. They waged war on Sauron when it was known that he had survived the destruction of Numenor, many thousands of bright elves slain in the course of war. Galadriel witnessed all of this. The fall of Gil-Galad. The betrayal of Isildur. The loss of the one ring to time.

She knew it would re-emerge one day. That story is told in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and I won’t duplicate it here. I’m telling this story simply to say that when Frodo sees Arwen glow with the light of the Two Trees in Fellowship of the Ring, I knew immediately that Peter Jackson really didn’t understand the story he was telling. When I watched The Two Towers, I knew that Peter Jackson was no J.R.R. Tolkien. But that is also another tale for another day. I will say only this. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter, Mr. Jackson. A mere wisp of a girl compared to her. She does not glow the way that Galadriel glows, having been in the presence of the two trees. Galadriel who knew true power, in the form of Melkor and the Valar. You should have paid more attention to the lore, sir.

…And I also tell this story to observe that of course Galadriel left Middle Earth after the destruction of the one ring and the banishment of Sauron, the retiring of the last of the Ainur back to Valinor. The Ainur being present in Middle Earth in the form of the great wizards. She left because there was no real power left in Middle Earth now that wasn’t transitory. Mortal. Impermanent. The immortal that is surrounded by the mortal can either retire into obscurity, or rise to power at the expense of mortal men. We saw what she thought of that kind of power.

Galadriel, the Great and Terrible.

The Wife said, on reading this “So you finally got to finish that argument, ten years later.” Yes. Yes I have. That’s what happens when you become a writer.

Patch 8.3 Visions of N'Zoth

This is something I’ve never done before, set out to learn about the content of a patch before the patch drops. Today is patch day. When the servers go live after morning maintenance today (Tuesday January 14, 2019) World of Warcraft patch 8.3 Visions of N’Zoth will be the version of the game that we all will be playing.

If you are like me, you have no idea what is in that patch. Never fear, Wowhead is here. Wowhead.com: Patch 8.3 Visions of N’Zoth Battle for Azeroth (BFA) Content Overview. I’ve been relying on Wowhead for about a decade now. I’ve been a contributor for about that long as well, which means I upload my data to Wowhead’s servers so that they can crunch all the numbers and tell us all where the things we want will be dropping most frequently. When I have a quick question that needs to be answered about World of Warcraft, Wowhead.com is where I go to get that general question answered. So what is in Patch 8.3?

Features of Patch 8.3 include the Mechagnomes and Vulpera as new Allied Races, a new raid Ny’alotha the Waking City, new world activities in Titan Assaults and Horrific Visions, heritage armor sets for Worgen and Goblins, and Auction House improvements!

Wowhead.com

The new raid will not be available until next Tuesday (January 21) but all the rest of the patch’s content will start being available to the player base when maintenance ends this afternoon, scheduled for 3:00 pm PST.


I had hoped to get back to this post before server time today. I had hoped that the patch had pre-loaded like most patches do for World of Warcraft. But, alas, the patch is loading now (7:30 pm) so I’m not raiding. The guild also isn’t raiding. They aren’t raiding because they are busily grinding on the new content trying to upgrade their new legendary cloaks.

Leveling the cloaks is important because leveling the cloak will allow you to equip more of the new corruption gear as it drops. This is the mechanic that insures that people cannot just buy into gear upgrades. They will have to play the game on their main toons in order to equip new gear.


I didn’t even have a main toon until the Legion expansion of the game. I played all my toons according to what mood I was in. If I was in a killing mood, I played Eieloris or one of my other Rogue toons. Stunning, pickpocketing and shanking players and NPC’s repeatedly. Nothing relieves the desire to strangle somebody more than garroting somebody. Or just strangulating somebody, a Death Knight talent. Death Knights were also for dark mood days.

If I was depressed and feeling like playing alone I would get on either my Warlocks if it was a dark depression, or on my hunters if it was just me wanting to be alone. These days I don’t play World of Warcraft if I don’t want to socialize, I play one of the dozens of mobile games that I have downloaded on my phone. So I’m down to one Warlock and no Hunters these days. I just don’t ever feel like playing them. Creavishop is the only Warlock I need since you can only have one Dark Lord at a time. He wants to rule the universe with an iron fist, like Sargeras and Gul’dan. An unquenchable lust for power marks Warlocks as a class.

My mains are both Druids. Tharthurm on Nordrassil and Tarashal on Muradin. I have alts but I rarely play any of them. I even have Druid alts for all the races that can be Druids in World of Warcraft, but I don’t play those much either. I picked Druid as my class because Druid is the most versatile class. They are most versatile because they can tank, heal or deal damage in equal measure given the demands of a fight or the vagaries of my moods. Like playing alts in previous expansions, roles in multiplayer battles are a matter of mood and current ability. Sometimes I’m just not up to tanking or healing.

Playing alts is something that Blizzard has chosen to punish us for doing. Working on an alt is discouraged through restricting key components of the gearing system to specific toons and not applying these components account wide. If you gain faction reputation on one toon in the game, only that toon has that reputation. In previous expansions this was mostly a minor annoyance, but in Battle for Azeroth it is a restriction on leveling alts because enhancements for the Heart of Azeroth, the power item in this expansion like weapons were in Legion, are gotten through reputation gains and repetitive play of specific content. If you want to play an alt then you have to grind reputations on that alt, and then you have to grind content on the alt. This requires that you spend as much time gearing your alts as you spend gearing your main. This makes alts only playable when you really don’t have anything else to do in game, and I have plenty to do just trying to keep my two mains (one for each faction) up to speed.

I haven’t even leveled Creavishop‘s enchanting skills to max. He’s not feeling like much of a Dark Lord these days. I could play more, but I already spend between six and twelve hours a week raiding on two toons. If I need to play more than that to keep my other toons maxxed out, Blizzard should pay me to play the game, not the other way ’round.


The patch took an hour to download. I really wish I had seen the prompt to download in advance. Downloading in advance always makes patch days easier to deal with. Horrific visions appear to be dominating my immediate gaming future, because they are key to leveling the legendary cloak that you get from Prince Wrathion. Before I can get the cloak I will have to get through the quest chains introducing the new assault areas for Visions of N’Zoth. You are given the first breadcrumb quest when you log on after installing the patch.

After being reintroduced to Prince Wrathion, following Magni back to the Chamber of Heart, and working through the dialogs, you are sent to Uldum. At least it’s close to Silithus and the Chamber of Heart. I would have preferred the area to have been Ulduar. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in that raid when it was new because I wasn’t quite up to raiding level before it was superseded by the next raid in Wrath of the Lich King. Uldum I remember quite well.

They’ve updated the areas where the assaults take place. Uldum looks pretty much the same as before. The other area that is part of the assault mechanic is the Eternal Vale in Pandaria. I really liked that area before Garrosh defiled it at the end of the Pandaria expansion. It will be nice to see it again the way it was originally, or at least repaired.


My progress in the content has been achingly slow. I’ve had little spare time to play. This, for once, might have been a good thing. Google’s news feed put this story at the top of the feed yesterday.

massivelyop.com

In it is a video from BellularGaming describing the current work arounds for problems in the game that he brought up in UH BLIZZ… How’d 8.3 Launch In This State?

BellularGamingUH BLIZZ… How’d 8.3 Launch In This State? – Jan 16, 2020

What are the work arounds? Not playing parts of the game before Blizzard patches the errors that went out with the first patch. Good. I think I have that procedure covered. Mastered it, even.


So I’ve finally gotten the cloak for my two Druids (1/24/20) I’m only two weeks late. Now it is time to level the things; because, like all legendary items in the last few expansions, just having the thing isn’t good enough. You have to work to level it as well. I’m reading up on how that is done. I still don’t think a user’s manual should be required to figure out how to play a game. But, I want to do this right. So I’m studying the problem. The confusion stems from that less-than-polished programming mentioned previously.

Horrific Visions

This is the first point of confusion. They named two completely different activities in the game with identical names. You should not confuse the horrific visions that you do in Uldum and/or the Eternal Vale with the ones that occur in Stormwind and Orgrimmar. Wowhead separates them into lesser and greater visions so as to establish some clarity; but really, not naming different things by the same name would have been the way to avoid confusion. I spent a half-hour on the first quest in the chain just trying to figure out what the fuck I was supposed to be doing there.

It would have helped if I had read the quest text or even just taken the time to look at the quest tracker on the right of the screen (which probably showed I needed to drink a potion) under the minimap, but it was 5:00 am and I was just killing time waiting for the dishes to finish washing so I could start a second load of dishes and then stumble off to bed, so I fumbled around for thirty minutes and only managed to die. When I finally logged back on this evening the daily quest tied to the lesser horrific vision for this part of the week had changed to Preventative Measures which was not a mystery to complete, and that allowed me to complete the chain quest Descending Into Madness. I could then move on to opening the tenebrious gateway and starting the greater vision that allows completion of the quest Into the Darkest Depths.

Side note. The quests are shown to be given in Stormwind on the images for the quests on Wowhead. However, all of the quests that I am getting are given and turned in at the Chamber of Heart. It is also worth noting that most of the quest chains show you opening the tenebrious gateway with the quest Opening the Gateway before you get the quest Descending Into Madness. You have to do Descending before you can get the gateway quest in the current build of the game. Just one more minor confusion in a whole host of confusions in this patch. I would never have noticed that confusion had I not needed to consult Wowhead (and text fellow guildies who have already muddled through the quests) because the quest instructions given in the game are so vague as to mean just about anything.

Going into the tenebrious gateway can be done without consuming the Vessel of Horrific Visions. If you are like me you already have one, but you still have to buy a second one in order to complete the quest. Entering the gateway costs nothing, though. I’m told this is like the Mage Tower events that were a part of Legion.

I wouldn’t know. I skipped most of Legion in protest of the restrictions placed on flight in Warlords of Draenor and planned for Legion. It was only the fact that I missed my raiding guild family that brought me back to the game towards the end of Legion, long after the Mage Tower events were a thing that you spent time doing. I may have to go back and do some of them now. Depends on if I find a Legion artifact weapon appearance that I have to unlock there.

The Vessel of Horrific Visions is only consumed when you talk to Wrathion and go into Stormwind/Orgrimmar. I won’t be attempting a greater horrific vision (GHV) right now. Today I’m going to gather up as much Coalescing Visions as I can. You should do that every day that you can until you hit the maximum capacity that you can carry. Those will get you more Vessels of Horrific Visions which are the only way into the GHV, one of the limiting factors put in place to slow down leveling the legendary cloak.

SignsOfKelaniEverything You NEED TO KNOW About Horrific Visions – Jan 14, 2020

Do not listen to other players when they tell you to solo the first GHV. Get a wingman each time you go in, if you can. Especially the first one. When you get back from killing either corrupted Thrall or corrupted Alleria for the first time, be sure to do the the next few quests. You want to get the quest Accessing the Archives from Wrathion, which tells you to talk to MOTHER. Then talk to MOTHER and access the Titan Research Archive. Be sure to research the Sanity Restoration Orb at the Titan Research Archive before attempting to re-enter the GHV for the second time. You will likely run out of sanity before you can kill Thrall or Alleria unless you have the sanity restoration orb to restore your sanity during the encounter. Going with a buddy the first time ensures you have enough sanity (because they will likely already have done the first GHV, or at least will double the DPS) to successfully complete the horrific vision.

Once you have the Sanity Restoration Orbs available you can complete the the instance solo for the first 5 levels of your cloak, so long as you have sufficient health and damage (DPS) to kill the boss before they kill you. I could solo the instance as a balance druid using stealth to get to the boss, killing the two guards to open the room with the boss in it, then killing the boss before running out of sanity, but it was a very close race achieving this. With the orbs it was no sweat to restore my sanity while flasking, eating and pre-potting before the boss fight.

Getting the sixth level of the cloak requires you to go into a second area of the map for a quest item. The medium difficulty areas can be soloed now (March 10th, 2020) if you have the ability to do moderate damage and if you have selected the right research in the talent tree for your cloak. Specifically you want Emergency Cranial Defibrillation and Elite Extermination as soon as you can get them if you run the GHV’s solo, and the ability to get a PUG together to run them as a group can be maddening. If you can pull it off on your own, I suggest you do that and not worry overly much about failing the occasional vision until you get to the cloak level that that requires you to enter the hard areas of the vision. More on that when I get there.

Sailing

Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Christopher Cross, Sailing

I had a love of old wooden vessels powered by nothing but the wind like most young boys did. Treasure Island was one of the many books I read in grammas collection of old reader’s digest condensed books, on one of my many nights spent sleeping in my dad’s old room.

The idea of something called an ocean was nearly inconceivable to a young child trapped in the middle of the high plains of North America. Much less a story of a deadly life upon the sea. After reading Treasure Island I was young Jim Hawkins evading the pirates in most of the fantasies that I created, if I wasn’t Huck Finn floating his raft on the Mississippi, that is.

I read the full version of Huckleberry Finn when I read it the first time. Mark Twain’s love of travel infected me from the very beginning, and I’ve picked up and read pretty much everything of his that I could get my hands on since then. The beauty of Treasure Island as it was originally written had to wait until I bought a copy for myself back when the Son was hitting reading age and I thought I’d sneak him a copy. But even in its condensed version Treasure Island was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea.

But when it comes to songs, few songs of the sea can stand up to Christopher Cross’s Sailing. Styx’s Come Sail Away was made and probably heard first, but Sailing expresses the sea-longing that Tolkien ascribes to Legolas and all the Elvish peoples in the Lord of the Rings. Ascribes to them but is really to be felt in the breasts of all people who hear the calling of the sea. Perhaps even in J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.

Wikiquote – The Silmarillion

Sailing will make me weep with longing for the freedom of the waves.

When I became a young man, with the weight of the responsibility of the years before me, I sought freedom in the music of pirates like Jimmy Buffett. His freewheeling style, refusing to be categorized by anyone as country or rock or pop or whatever, was my inspiration. I dreamed of taking a trip to the coast and liberating the yacht of some wealthy family or other, and with my friend Wade we would become pirates and drug smugglers. It would be a short life, but a merry one, and the cares and responsibilities of modern life could be someone else’s burden to bear.

But even Jimmy Buffett knew that it was too late to make that fantasy a reality.

Yes I am a pirate, born two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

A Pirate Looks at Forty

When it became clear that I was never going to get to sail on the ocean itself, I settled for sailing on the waters of Twin Buttes reservoir near San Angelo. I bought myself a fourteen foot sliver of fiberglass with a nineteen foot mast and tried my best to drown friends and family while mastering the handing of that finicky little boat of mine. The water was a short ten-minute drive from where we lived in San Angelo, and my experiences there were an almost acceptable substitute for real sailing experience. The canvas can do miracles, just like the song says.

But then times got rougher in San Angelo and we had to move to Austin. In Austin the lakes were much farther away. An hour in snarled traffic wasn’t the carefree ten minute drive that made sailing something I could easily engage in anymore. Boat maintenance became a chore that I soon shirked on, and I ended up selling my beloved sailboat to someone with more time and money. Someone who could afford to keep her.

From the North to the South, Ebudæ into Khartoum
From the deep sea of Clouds to the island of the moon
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never been
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen
We can sail, we can sail with the Orinoco Flow

Enya – Orinoco Flow

The longing for the sea still calls to me. It called to me today, with a casual reference to my sailboat themed comforter that I gifted to the Daughter ages ago. Calls to me, even though just basic swimming is something I can’t indulge in anymore. I refuse to wear nose and ear plugs to the pool, and when I swim without them I end up with infections that have to be treated with antibiotics. I can only imagine what swimming in the ocean would do to my sinuses.

Just getting on a boat causes vertigo. If I travel and need to take a ferry ride, I have to stay on deck the entire time so that I can see the horizon move and not get nauseous. A cabin cruise would be strictly verboten from a vestibular perspective.

Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friends
If I knew I might toss out my anchor

Son of a Son of a Sailor

What is it about the sea that calls to me? Is it the lulling sound of waves lapping on the sand? Is it that I’m descended from fisher-folk who have always been near the oceans, lived on the oceans? Or is it something more than that?

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away

Dennis De Young

A Major Improvement

The Children of Hurin (2007)

I picked up The Silmarillion after reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings on a suggestion from a fellow reader that I was sweet on during my senior year in high school. The other works of J.R.R. Tolkien that I read had been a wonder to experience, but I wanted desperately to know more of the Elves, and to dig into the rich history of Middle Earth that was hinted at in them. The Silmarillion satisfied that curiosity, but left me wondering what the notes that Christopher Tolkien had used to create the compilation that was The Silmarillion had looked like before he had tried to arrange them into a cohesive narrative after his father’s death in 1973. I can only imagine the size of that herculean task, given the scattering of notes that every writer generates over the course of their lifetime.

Many people have complained over the years about the heavy slog that The Silmarillion was for them to read. That was not my experience of the book, but I could tell that The Silmarillion was not the direct works of J.R.R. Tolkien, or rather that the work it represented was not as refined as his later published works had been. I don’t place blame on Christopher Tolkien for this lack of refinement. He had nothing but notes to work from, a loose framework of tales written over several decades, as J.R.R. Tolkien pursued his passion for telling fantastic tales of Elves, Dwarves and Men. Tales that publishers of the time refused to publish for fear that the works simply would not sell.

I wonder what would have happened to his best-loved works, had his earlier passions not be frustrated by recalcitrant publishers? Would we even have the stories of Hobbits, the creation of Hobbiton as a location in Middle Earth, if Tolkien had been satisfied to see his earlier labors rewarded? We’ll never know.

I have wanted to get my hands on the twelve volume set of The History of Middle Earth, what was promised to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, published serially from the years 1983 to 1996, since I first heard rumor of its existence. I was desperately trying to stay in the business of architecture by that time, trying to raise two children to boot, and I had little time for reading for fun during those years. But I kept my eye out on the rare occasion that I made it into libraries and bookstores, hoping that I might run across them so that I could at least touch them on a shelf somewhere. I never have had the chance to find all twelve of them at a bargain price, and when I looked on Amazon.com today there are several sets of books listed that promise to be the definitive collection of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, some of them even calling themselves The History of Middle Earth, but aren’t the originally published twelve separate books. All of them requiring more cash than I’m willing to spend just to set them on a shelf in my library.

The back and forth eye motion of reading text on a printed page has gotten difficult, sometimes even producing minor bouts of vertigo when I have tried to push myself to read for any lengthy amount of time. I doubt that I could ever bring myself to go through all twelve volumes of the set all on my own, if I had to read them directly. The last few times I tried reading anything on the printed page I became fatigued so quickly that I had to resort to buying the works on audiobook just to be able to finish them.

When The Wife and I ran across the Children of Hurin on Audible recently, read by Christopher Lee, we both agreed that we needed to get it. She loves Christopher Lee having grown up watching him play Dracula in all the old Hammer films. His narration of Children of Hurin was beautiful to listen to. I couldn’t have asked for a better voice to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s words to life. The story itself is a major improvement on the rough draft of the story that is preserved in The Silmarillion. There is more depth to the work in this form, the story of Turin Turambar and his sister made all the more tragic by the voice of Christopher Lee. It is a credit to both of the authors who have worked on these stories over the course of their lives that this version flows so well from beginning to end. I can’t recommend it highly enough to any Tolkien fan.

TÚRIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA

Tolkien Villains

I can drive the entire family out of the room just trying to establish exactly why Galadriel is the most fascinating character in the entirety Lord of the Rings, or the blood ties between Aragorn and Elrond, and how their family line includes a demigod.

The five villains as Tickld sets them out are as follows,

  1. Morgoth, the first Dark Lord
  2. Ungoliant
  3. Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs
  4. Glaurung, Father of Dragons
  5. Ancalagon the Black

If I trot out this list of baddies I’m betting they’ll run screaming.


Yes, they did.

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The Hobbit is Seventy-Five

Published on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit was born into critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Carnegie Medal, and won a prize for best juvenile fiction from the New York Herald Tribune. Here’s the dust cover for that first edition, apparently based on a design by Tolkien himself.

Smithsonian

I’ve loved everything J.R.R. Tolkien has written that I’ve read so far. The movies, on the other hand… The movies have been definitively a mixed bag. I need to write reviews for all of them one of these days.

The middle movie of the trilogy that Jackson made for The Hobbit, just like his version of The Two Towers, has been the weakest. I’m hoping the trilogy wraps up well. One of these days I’d love to re-edit the films to take out all the Jackson excesses. Too bad I’ll never be able to show them to anyone. Officially.

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Editor’s note 2019. I still have yet to see the third in the trilogy of movies made for The Hobbit. I may or may not ever take the time to watch it.

Ideally There Would be no Idealists or Why That Guy Isn’t a Guy.

Learn to read emoticons. Or perhaps, take someone literally when they include them. Learn that just because you find something fucking hysterical, other people will not; and some will find it mildly amusing to riff off the ridiculous with some ridiculous of their own.

Learn that “pedant” is not an insult but a way of life. Learn to embrace it.

…H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Canon Doyle, Jules Verne; the creators of the modern heroic image. I’d be more inclined to target Siegel & Shuster though, since Superman is what women expect of their men. NO. I will not explain the context.

I was simply attempting to communicate a complex idea using humor; that the problem of comparing a visual communication medium, like film, with a textual communication medium, like a book, is an essentially flawed comparison. the characters established in the visual medium are largely external, based on appearances controlled by a crew of people working behind the scenes making sure that you see what they want you to see, and interpret it the way they want you to interpret it.

Whereas a book, or a text message, is interpreted entirely within the brain of the reader. Consequently the characters you perceive in a novel (like Lord of the Rings to pick a novel at random) are almost entirely created by the reader, shaped by the reader’s perceptions and expectations. The characters belong to the reader in a much more personal way, and those characters mean more to the reader than the movie image means to the viewer.

Consequently, contrasting movie characters (like a Disney hero, as another completely random example) with literary characters (like Aragorn, also a random choice) the individual will likely identify more readily with the literary character, even when the example given to represent that character is one captured in a film interpretation (this is why producers buy movie rights for books. Just FYI) because the character has more depth for the reader, has more meaning established in the reading public.

Someone who understands just how unfair the comparison is might find it amusing to point out that the depth of understanding given to the literary character (as exampled by observing minor facts about the characters actual established history) lends an unfair advantage in favoritism compared to a cartoon fairytale crafted to be briefly viewed on a movie screen.

…that someone would be wrong in thinking that others would find that amusing. Apparently.

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Editor’s note. She said that Aragorn was an ideal man, the kind of guy that every girl was looking for, unlike the Disney fairy princesses. She thought she was being funny. I thought I was being funny. I pointed out that Aragorn wasn’t a man. Aragorn was half-elven, descended from a line of kings that were older than the hills of the Middle Earth that he walked. Consequently he wasn’t anymore attainable as a male icon than the ink on paper princes of Disney’s fairy tales. She probably should set her sights a little lower still if she wanted to keep a boyfriend.

She knew she was funny, and she knew I wasn’t funny. Consequently she blocked me. There. Now you know the rest of the story.

Elfquest

I’ve been a comic book junkie for as long as I can remember. If I had a nickel for each time I heard “this isn’t a library” while reading comic books at the local grocers, I’d be a rich man (if I’d taken better care of the comic books I did buy, I’d also be a rich man) back in my youth I would lay down right under the rack and read as many of the books as I could before they would kick me out.

The Marvel stories were my favorites, with the occasional venture into DC and Batman (I never will understand the attraction of reading stories about an invulnerable flying alien. The Wife is a Superman fan, so I can’t be too critical of the guy. Don’t blame me if I root for Luthor) I could never get enough of X-Men, Fantastic 4, Iron Man, etcetera. Stan Lee presents was pretty much all I had to see, and I was off.

I kicked the addiction when I was about thirty, newly married and with a child on the way, but not before discovering the specialty comics shop, and the wider assortment of stories that could be found there. Stories like Elfquest.

Marvel published what came to be known as The Grand Quest story arc a few years before I stopped collecting, and I picked up the original bound collections for that series as one of the last comic purchases I ever made.

I was almost instantly hooked. Beautiful flowing artwork, engaging characters, an original storyline, what wasn’t to like about it? Maybe it was the Tolkien fan in me, or maybe I just have always had a weakness for elves; whatever it was, my attraction to the stories has outlasted all of my other comic book habits, including the X-Men.

The Daughter stole the collections from me for awhile, and she bugged me for years to get Kings of the Broken Wheel (which I finally did get) only to discover there was even more story that I hadn’t even heard of.

Consequently I was overjoyed to hear from Richard Pini recently, that all of the past issues of Elfquest will be made available online over the course of the next year.

Welcome to the Complete Elfquest Online project. There’s over 6000 pages coming throughout 2008, so if you’re new to the Elfquest universe, or if you want a refresher course on the overall story timeline, go here first. Then check out a comprehensive guide to all the different Elfquest print publications. (A number of the collected print volumes are still available too.)

Check back every Friday, or better yet, join the Elfquest forum and Yahoo’s Elfquest news group for news and announcements.

Original Quest #1-5 has been posted today, as well as a whole host of other storylines I’ve never heard of.

So I can direct the Son to the website when he wants to take down the now rare original bound and colored collections to read them. Which is good. Children are hard on books. They don’t understand the treasures hidden within are quite perishable. I may have to buy hard copies of some of the newer Elfquest stories just so I can have them on hand when the web is down.

Tolkien's War on Science

This time around, I could see where Feanor was coming from, and that he was roundly screwed on all sides by Morgoth and by the Valar. Even though I realized it before, and just didn’t want to face it years ago, it was obvious that JRRT really did not think well of scientists and technologists.

Science Blogs: Dr. Joan Bushwell, “The Tolkienian War on Science” (Wayback Machine link)

Strangely, I saw this attitude while reading Tolkien’s (JRRT) work, but I never made note of it or gave it much credit. Magic is the language of fantasy work, and magic is how all of the creations of Middle Earth are framed. Magic is the technology of fantasy writing. My disagreements concerning global warming, the bugaboo of the left, I will set aside since she gives the Bush administration a few well deserved jabs during the process of revealing her thoughts on the subject. Her insights do put the entire series of stories in a different light than the one that I read them in. Food for thought.

My advice to Feanor: next time, get yourself a phalanx of good patent attorneys. Morgoth will wither in fear at the prospect of litigation.

Joan Bushwell