Remember back when I used to (try to) write an AEL about almost every art I experienced? I used to start the AEL and add stuff as I went along. But then I wouldn’t finish writing up my thoughts on all those things, and then I’d start another AEL and do the same thing XD So I have all these unfinished entries in my Drafts folder. Since it’s been years on most of them, I’m obviously never going to finish them… so here I’m importing all the thoughts that were in a couple of them, whether they’re finished or not. To reiterate: this was all a long-ass time ago.

The Lord of the Rings book 2 by J.R.R. Tolkien — Quick documentation of a story my mom likes to tell. Once upon a time, long, long ago, she was reading this book aloud to one of her brothers. She reached the beginning of book 2, and amended the opening narration slightly so that Frodo was at home in Bag End instead of at Rivendell. She had him say something like, “What a dream I’ve had!” And her brother went ballistic. I believe this was her youngest brother, so he might have been 8 or 9 at the time… and if adults loathe the concept of “it was all a dream,” to a child of that age it was devastating. It was quite a cruel trick, really XD

I love the physical descriptions of elves, not just because they’re beautiful and I get a Disney princess thrill thinking of them, but because they’re fascinatingly impossible.

Young she was and yet not so. The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring.

I was musing on how one would cast a character like that if one were inclined to commit the unforgivable sin of trying to translate Tolkien’s work to another medium. I thought maybe it would work well to choose an actor in their early twenties with a perfect face to play the role physically, but a much older actor with a smooth, mature voice to do the dialogue. There would undoubtedly be a few other tricks you could play to get the combination of apparent youth with maturity, but that was the only one I came up with.

I love Bilbo at this point in the story. “I didn’t come to the feast because I was busy thinking and writing” is the most relatable idea I’ve ever heard. And I also love how, in spite of that, Bilbo manages to tease Aragorn about not being there either.

And you know what else I love? An author making up a bunch of awesome legends, and then writing lyrics about his own legends. What a wonderful world! And it’s so fascinating to read the epic history in The Silmarillion and then move on to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when many such events happened literally thousands of years ago… yet realize at the same time that Eärendil, for example, was only the previous generation for Elrond, and an important character in what I may call current events. Immortal characters completely change the nature of history, and I love it.

As such, the Council of Elrond has a different feel to it than so many other similar scenes in other works. Anyone that’s read MLM knows I have a bit of a weakness for characters sitting around and talking, and this is a perfect example of such a meeting. It’s so very interesting. Oh, and I feel the need to mention that the chapter is called in German, “Der Rat von Elrond,” and that made me giggle all the way through.

It’s been so long since I learned that Tolkien had retconned Riddles in the Dark that I don’t even remember when I found out; it’s something I feel like I’ve always known and never even needed to be told. But it occurred to me that if you didn’t know this had happened, Frodo’s comment, “You mean all that nonsense about its having been a present etc.,” and Bilbo’s remark at the Council, “If others have heard me tell it otherwise etc.,” might come across as a little strange. Tolkien changing his own work and then referring to the change in-universe was so meta of him!

Gandalf, of course, loves Shadowfax quite a bit, and brags about him all the time… but only recently did it occur to me that he actually starts bragging about him extensively even earlier than I’d realized. During his tale of Saruman’s betrayal, once he’s mentioned Shadowfax, he starts documenting how far he traveled and how long it took him. It’s subtle, but it’s still like he’s saying, “And then my INCREDIBLY FAST HORSE got me to my next destination INCREDIBLY FAST; can you believe the time we made?”

I’m interested in the prominence of Legolas. Several other named elves appear, of course, and some of them have very important scenes, but Legolas as the main elf of this story seems significant. After The Silmarillion focuses so heavily on the Eldar, to have a Sindarin elf as the primary representative of the species against Sauron really seems to emphasize how much we’re now focusing on Middle-Earth with only hints of influence from the West. Legolas is really little more than flavor in story terms, but in this I think he’s also a symbol that the Elder Days truly are over.

Time to express frustrated and unnecessary curiosity again. So what’s the deal with Caradras? According to Gimli, it “had an evil name long before etc.,” so why, exactly, is this mountain such a jerk? Is it inhabited by an actual conscious spirit of some sort? If Ungolient could take the form of a giant spider, perhaps some other Maia could settle in a mountain and make life difficult for anyone and everyone in the area thereafter.

Or else, perhaps the mountain itself, without any real consciousness, has absorbed certain attitudes from other, more conscious beings. Dwarves, by their nature (having been created with endurance against and rejection of the Enemy specifically in mind), are a private, closed-off, unwelcoming people… it seems possible to me that a mountain that stands above the greatest dwarven city in the world might absorb some of that inherent prickliness and, being a high, snowy mountain, render it in time even colder and harsher than it ever was before.

This time around I got bitten bad by the Khazad-dûm bug. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deep fascination with underground cities. Not the hollow-earth type, with buildings similar to what you’d find on the surface clustered in a stone-domed cavity — those are the stupid kind — but really sprawling, corridors-for-streets, grand-stairways-to-other-levels, houses-built-into-the-rock, only-lit-by-torches-or-magic complex-style cities. I mean, they can have bigger open spaces with smaller buildings in them, but that always seems like a rejection of the true underground; I like the buildings truly integrated with the stone they’re made of.

Aaaaanyway. [Here I planned to go on about Moria and how cool it is.]

It’s interesting how many underground dwellings there are throughout the history of Middle-Earth, and interesting too to note that they generally come to a bad end. Nargothrond, Menegroth, Khazad-dûm… I don’t know that Tolkien was deliberately trying to send the message, “People should not live underground,” but one does kinda get that from it…

Emma by Jane Austen — This has always been my least favorite Jane Austen book. Of course that makes my feelings toward it sound negative, but they’re really not; a least favorite Jane Austen is like a least favorite cherry pie. But I like Emma Woodhouse least of Jane Austen’s leads, and find some of the awkward moments in this book more unpleasant than in any of her others.

It still is pretty funny to watch her stumble around convincing herself of things and getting everything wrong, though. And this bit — “A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and underbred finery. Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman! I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady.” — dissolves me with laughter every time. Mr. Knightly is himself a delightful character.

I’m so far behind that I don’t remember any other specific thoughts about this book, so I’ll move on.

Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire — Since I recently reread the Oz series, I thought it was about time to give this book/series a try as well. My sister had told me some years before that it was weird and full of Oz politics, but that… that did not prepare me. I adored this book, but in many ways I can’t begin to make head or tails of it.

To start out with, the relentless vulgarity of the language was something I didn’t understand the need of. I’m pretty easygoing about things like that, but at times it made even me wince. So much bodily fluid and needless discussion of genitalia… and why? I never could figure that out, since, though it certainly created a unique feeling, I didn’t think it was a unique feeling that contributed anything but a kind of disgusting novelty. It reminded me a little of the profanity in The Casual Vacancy — maybe it was so over the top simply to prove that this isn’t a book for children.

Then, I had a hard time determining whether this book is intended solely as an entertaining piece of revisionist history and drama, or whether it’s trying to make some more profound statement about humanity. It consistently felt like the latter, but I would be hard pressed to come up with a statement of theme. Elphaba is a wonderfully realistic character that goes through a lot of very understandable experiences and reacts to them in ways that really hit home, but whether or not I’m supposed to take some great point from her life and times, I can’t parse.

I think it’s a sign of realistic characterization that I don’t know what, if anything, the author wants my impression of the characters to be. Dorothy, Glinda, even Elphie herself, I just can’t decide either how I feel about or how Mr. Maguire wishes I would. If the book is intended purely as revisionist history, it does a damn good job at that. The different perspective on these characters is endlessly fascinating.

What I consider the framework of Elphaba’s life — the tale of her parents at the beginning and a lot of the stuff in the last part of the book, from when she goes to Munchkinland ’til the end — felt eerie and disturbing and emphasized the futility of much of life in Oz… and presented a very interesting picture of Oz as a kingdom full of societies much deeper (and more horrible) than Baum ever envisioned. It also sure makes the reader loathes the Wizard, though, given the version of him from The Marvelous Land of Oz before Baum retconned him, that, at least, is not unprecedented.

I mentioned the feeling of futility… the whole thing really mirrors the similar feeling I often have when I look at certain aspects of our society that need to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, and never will but are still so broken it’s painful just considering them. Maybe that was really the overall point of the book: to mirror the futility in the real world of trying to make large-scale change when the powerful and rich have all the influence and use it only for their own ends. Or maybe to contrast between the supposedly soulless Elphaba, who would rather have made a difference, with the supposedly blessed Wizard and his ilk that terrorize society and only ever make things worse. I just don’t know.

Anyway it was a really fantastic book despite any of my personal issues with it, and I’m definitely moving on to the rest of the series.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen — My third-favorite by this author. Funny when someone wrote so little that you can actually put their works in a precise numeric order, isn’t it? Anyway, I love the snarkiness of this book that’s aimed at anyone and everyone in it, including the main character.

John Thorpe is remarkably irritating, and Isabella is little better. But I find Henry Tilney lovable and hilarious, and I think that, if I had to choose a Jane Austen dude to marry, he’d be it. (For a lady, I’d go with Elizabeth Bennet.) And the sweet, funny, delicious dynamic among Catherine, Henry, and Eleanor is one of the best friendship groups Ms. Austen ever came up with.

I do love Catherine, particularly her sense of morality, but I have to say that, unlike Henry, I would not much enjoy a wife so easily guided by a stronger will. I’ve had too many friends like that in my lifetime, and it gets tedious and exhausting. But they’re both such good people that I have faith they’ll be happy together. They’ll have Eleanor and her husband over all the time, and they’ll all be merry and adorable together.

It occurred to me while reading this book this time around that there’s no good reason in the world I’ve never read The Mysteries of Udolpho. So I grabbed that, and have been reading it since, but my thoughts on it (even the ones relating specifically to Northanger Abbey) will have to wait until later AEL’s.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle — This book is very silly and I enjoy it mostly. As I was reading it this time, I daydreamed about rewriting it as a High School AU but keeping the language the same. It made me giggle uncontrollably.

Anyway. There are far too many stories in a row that go like this: “A Merry Man is going along when he meets someone!! They fight, and someone wins. Then that someone joins the Merry Men.” Like, a few of these are fine to give us the idea, but then maybe branch out a little? Still, some of these individual stories are pretty funny, and I get through that whole section well enough. There’s even a touch of characterization here and there.

I’m interested in the exclusion of Marian from this version of the story. She’s mentioned once, but never appears, and I wonder why. The character existed in Robin Hood legends prior to this, as far as I can tell, and this book was written before the time period during which it was widely believed that having female characters in a story would alienate the male audience… and also I care far less about all the characters besides Marian, so where is she??

So the book tells a fairly fun story and reminds you of all the better versions of Robin Hood you’ve read or watched over the years, and that’s great. It gets a little tedious at times, mostly because of too many similar chapters in a row as I mentioned above, but then it’s also pretty gay and that’s great. Only then at the end it takes a turn into the dark and deathy, and I’ve always kinda wondered why. Why change everyone into butchers and then kill most of them off? When did believability enter into this folktale? It contributes very little to the Robin Hood story to end with Robin Hood’s death unless it’s “peacefully in his sleep with his and Marian’s children and grandchildren gathered respectfully around.”

Still, the ending always does make me think of this Oglaf comic, and that’s worth something.

Some manner of Barbie movie — Yeah, sorry, I forgot the title and I’m too lazy to, like, glance at the image in the next compartment and find out what it is.

So there have been a number of Barbie movies I’ve enjoyed; brother and I watch them from time to time. This one looked kinda cool because of, like, space-surfing and shit, and it was on Netflix so I didn’t have to pay any extra to watch it. Unfortunately, the writers of this one overreached for a movie they were just going to do by the numbers: too epic and worldbuilt a setting for such a short story; cardboard relationships that later asked for unearned emotional investment; a confused and underdeveloped moral message; a trait in the main character not quite established enough to support what might otherwise have been a kinda cool ending; and so on.

So yeah. Bit of an hour’s waste.

The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild — Geez, what a game. Brother and I went halves on a Nintendo Switch, and my reason for doing so was to be able to play this. And I’m so glad I did. This is everything I’ve always wanted from a Zelda game. It’s like Skyrim (my other favorite video game) reskinned, only better in so many respects. If only I were allowed to marry Sidon and adopt some childs to fill my empty house.

And Zelda’s got a personality (an adorable one), and Link has more history than just Some Random Dude That Got Involved Somehow, and the Champions are real characters with interesting stories, and the scenery is gorgeous, and I can faff about and find random shit and pursue the main plot when I want to, and the mechanics are fun and not too difficult for my bad-at-video-games ass, and… it’s just a spectacular experience.

And the soundtrack!! The subtle reworking of various Zelda themes is enchanting, and of course I bought the 5-disc soundtrack right away. I’m annoyed I can’t add it to my Amazon playlist “Video Games,” though, because they don’t let you upload your own music anymore and it’s not available in their boasted thirty-six bazillion songs.

Aquaman — We got to the end of this movie and I remarked, “Well, that was OK.” And brother said, “Yeah, too bad it was written by a 5-year-old.” And that about sums up my opinion. It wasn’t terrible, but it was full of incredibly awkward dialogue often poorly delivered. The story was pedestrian, and the touted humor mediocre. I’ll stick to the comics.

Oh, one specific thing I will mention: in this movie, as well as in many other visual stories where large parts are set underwater, those scenes didn’t really feel like they were underwater. The whole undersea business, in fact, felt like oversea business with a filter. There’s so much potential, visually speaking, in an underwater world, and it’s so often wasted as it was here.


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