I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me โ€” that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter โ€” except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

February 07, 2013 - 8:01 p.m.

A Creature of Hobbit

This is a special The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey edition of Wise Madness. The motivation for me getting glasses was being able to see the Hobbit It is such a long film that I had trouble finding a time to see it. Today I did. It was a 3:30 show. My class ends at 3:20. I actually finish the lecture at 3:15 but I had to go back to the other building, get my coat, then walk to the theater six blocks away, then make my way up to the top floor where the Imax is. I missed the start by about a minute. There were no previews. So I missed the opening credits, which I'm not sure existed and a tiny bit of the film. Not enough to make a difference.

My basic reaction to the film was ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH! Going in I knew there would be padding. Why one short, simple children's book was made into a 3 hour film is beyond me. Notice I said children's book; that's what it is. Peter Jackson didn't seem to notice it. If you are one of those people that preferred The Hobbit to LOTR you are going to be very disappointed. The tone is deliberately abandoned.

I'll start with the arbitrary changes then move on to the sins that would bother me if I didn't have the book memorized.

There is a needless nemesis framework to the film that harkens back to the Dwarf and Goblin wars and changes the entire history as given by Tolkien. In Tolkien's universe Azog the Goblin King was killed at the gates of Moria by a young Dain Ironfoot. Azog had killed Thror earlier which is what started the war. Thrain was still the leaders of Durin's Folk. All this happened well before the events of the Hobbit. Bolg Azog's son appears off-stage as the leader of the Goblin in the Battle of the Five Armies but it is not a developed character.

In the film Azog had his hand cut off by Thorin in the Battle of Moria and is now his nemesis. He is a force out to kill Thorin from the Start with far too much power and intelligence (in the spying sense) for an Orc.

In the book the Necromancer has been in control of Southern Mirkwood for generations. His taking over Dol Goldur isn't recent. In fact Thrain dies in the dungeons of Dol Goldur which is where Gandalf found him and got the key to the secret door of Erebor. That whole important plot element is missing.

Gandalf seems to suspect Saruman but that can't be as he totally trusted him in LOTR. I expected a lot in the film about the White Council as that is a way to fill the missing time but there was only a short scene.

The Dwarves do not sneak out of Rivendell. There is no mention of anyone stopping them. Elrond is totally trusted.

At the end of the film they can see the Lonely Mountain and it looks pretty close, it is huge. They should be on the far side of Mirkwood from it, hundreds of miles away. I don't remember if they could see it in the book but if they could it would be vaguely and in the distance, not dominating the landscape. They seem to be right on it. The thrush flies from where they are too the mountain in no time. With all this extra time to fill is he going to cut out the entire Mirkwood section of the story which is so pivotal? That is where Bilbo comes into his own as a hero.

Which brings up another sore point. His first time using a sword he defeats warrior orcs,. That's insane and Tolkien knew that. The first parts of the Hobbit and LOTR are the hobbits being trained to be heroes. They are passive at first and rescued by other characters.

Where did this notion of giant orc kings come from? The Great Goblins was a big goblin but he was a goblin. In the film he is a totally different kind of creature, the same for Azog. Azog was killed by Dain in the book who could reach his neck with his axe. They were about the same size.

Where does the distrust of Thorin for Bilbo come from? Not the book. Why? Why must all the characters be morally worse than in the books.

Now for my harsher objections. The film suffers from the Avatar and Star Wars defects. The Avatar defect is the characters suffer things that should kill them and don't even hurt them. It doesn't make a difference how far you fall or how hard you are hit. You won't get hurt no matter what. You don't fall hundreds of feet and live, I'm sorry, that is simply ridiculous. All the dwarves and Bilbo did that and none were even hurt. Standing on something doesn't make the fall less dangerous when that falls too. It looked so phony. It isn't like I'm thinking to hard about it. When that sort of thing happens I lose all feeling of suspense because obviously nothing can hurt the hero.

The Star Wars defect is the heroes survive because the enemy are totally incompetent soldiers. If the Imperials storm troopers were American Civil War era soldiers Luke and Company would have been dead early in the first film. How many times did every single stormtrooper miss them? They survived not because of their skill but the enemy's incompetence. In the Hobbit 13 dwarves and an untrained hobbit get in swordfights with hundreds of goblins without getting a wound. Again how can you have suspense when that happens?

And yet I enjoyed the film. Not great and I wanted to throw thing at Peter Jackson but I had fun. I loved the 3-D and cinematography. For now on I see all 3-D films in Imax. You are simply in the action when you do. I'll see the other two when they come out. I'm sure I'll be infuriated but I hope I still like them.

One last thing that I forgot to put in my entry from this morning. I'm reading The Travels of Marco Polo. Messer Marco Polo has just reached Xanadu and that made me think of the poem Kubla Khan by Coleridge. It is perhaps my favorite. I'm going to do what I did years ago and start posting my favorite poems. Most of you weren't reading Wise Madness back then. I will warn you that most of these poems became my favorites by high school so they reflect the tastes of an adolescent or child. I still stand by them of course or I wouldn't post them. I'm also going to post videos of people reading them instead of simply giving the poem for you to read. I will post the preface.

The following fragment is here published at the request of a poet of pt and deserved celebrity, and, as far as the author's own opinions are concerned, rather as a psychological curiosity, than on the grounds of any supposed poetic merits.
In the summer of the year 1797, the author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas's Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall." The author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unforunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!
Then all the charm
Is broken — all that phantom world so fair
Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread,
And each misshape[s] the other. Stay awhile,
Poor youth! who scarcely dar'st lift up thine eyes —
The stream will soon renew its smoothness, soon
The visions will return! And lo, he stays,
And soon the fragments dim of lovely forms
Come trembling back, unite, and now once more
The pool becomes a mirror.

Yet from the still surviving recollections in his mind, the author has frequently purposed to finish for himself what had been originally, as were, given to him. [I shall sing a sweeter song today]: but the tomorrow is yet to come. As a contrast to this vision, I have annexed a fragment of a very different character, describing with equal fidelity the dream of pain and disease.

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Horvendile February 07, 2013
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