Thursday, November 14, 2002

You may not always agree with what he has to say but R. Robot is surely one of the most intelligent and insightful voices in the Blogosphere at the moment. Rising from virtual obscurity after September 11, he quickly achieved recognition and admiration for his amusing, well researched and erudite demolitions of some of the more fluorescent personalities of the antiwar Left.

His famous taking to task of the self-loathing Robert Fisk at the start of this year was so widely linked to and quoted that the verb "fisk" quickly entered the warblogger's lexicon along with other R. Robot coinages such as "pilger", "chomsky", "tariqali", "root-causers", "idiotarian" and "transnational progressivism".

Of course such fearless notoriety often attracts enmity but this lunatic fringe is certainly greatly outweighed by the huge following that's behind the one who honed "fact-checking" (as in "your ass") into a new and especially destructive weapon of war.

Speaking of fact-checking, while I was researching this post I was surprised to discover that in another life R. Robot is also an accomplished writer of rock music reviews and has conducted numerous interviews with rock's most famous celebrities.
But when is Kilgore Trout's b-day?

Happy 80th Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut. This article lists some highlights and lowlights of Mr. Vonnegut's career. What are your favorite Vonnegut novels, scenes, or characters? Don't dig Kurt? Why not?

(initial article via aldaily).

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Artist Ted Nasmith, who is particularly notable for his Tolkien-related illustrations, now has an official website. I love Nasmith's work, but the website -- in its initial launch -- is in dire need of some tweaking. The thing extends off the edge of the browser window, with no way to scroll that I can discern. But what can be seen of Nasmith's paintings are beautiful.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Major Matt Mason

In 1967, with the race to the moon in full swing, kids across America dreamed of becoming Gemini astronauts when they grew up. Walking on the moon was no longer a distant fantasy, but a scant two years away. It was then that Mattel Toys, hoping to cash in on the craze, released what was to become one of their most popular and best remembered toy lines of all time: Major Matt Mason, Mattel's very own Man In Space.

Though lasting only about four years, from 1967 until its demise in 1970, Major Matt Mason comprised one of the most inventive and memorable toy lines ever. Standing only 6" tall, the white-suited Matt Mason figure was fully poseable with his wire-reinforced rubber body. His space suit and helmet were supposedly based on real NASA designs, but even if they weren't exactly accurate, they looked right for the part, mixing realism with plenty of futuristic fantasy.

The Toy Encyclopedia: can you find your favourite toy here?
Just in the last week, two people called me on alleged errors in usage. First, someone jumped me for writing first annual, saying that if it is the first year of an event, there is no basis for saying annual. Thanks for the optimism, pal, but there’s nothing wrong with that phrase. Then, I was nabbed for saying innocent victim; objections to this one bother me less, as I have never had cause to say guilty victim, so the distinction is probably superfluous. Still, it is not the logical impossibility my opponent claimed it is.

I don’t make a habit of criticizing others’ grammar and usage; English majors have a reputation for doing that, but I don’t see the point. (If I did, gems like ink pen and dethaw and where did you get that at would be on high on my hit list. What else is in your pen? Gravy? Tobacco juice?)

Anyway, my favorite online source for questions of grammar, usage, etc. is the Chicago Manual of Style. I don’t think they deal with the matters I cited above, but they’re fun to read if you’re minded to care about these things.

Questions: have you ever been called on the grammar carpet? What can you just barely resist responding to?
In honor of today's release of the Expanded Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, I thought it might help to have this Abridged Version, which I filched from another message board. (Author credit wasn't given there, so I can't give it here, either.) Enjoy!


Frodo: Hi, Gandalf!
Gandalf: Bilbo, give him your ring.
Bilbo: Okay. Bye!
Gandalf: See you at the pub, Frodo.

Frodo: Doo-de-do.
Nazgul: Boo!
Frodo: Eeeek!
Merry: (pops up out of nowhere) Eeeek!
Pippin: (ditto) Eeeek!
Sam: Ha ha, can't catch us now!

Tom Bombadil: Hello little friends!
Frodo: No time for you, weirdo.
Tom Bombadil: (disappears)

Saruman: See, all I had to do was cross out "Good" on my business
cards and write "Bad," and I'm all set.
Gandalf: I never saw /that/ coming.
Saruman: Excuse me while I tend to my vast army of evil orcs and
war machinery which were in plain sight.
Gandalf: Alas, if only he had imprisoned me at the top of a high
tower without walls or ceiling so that he could not prevent a giant
eagle from rescuing me, instead of in the canonical dungeon deep
underground. Oh, wait.

Frodo: (whispering) Keep a low profile.
Pippin: (loudly) And don't mention your real name, right?
Merry: (loudly) Or the ring either, right?
Strider: Right. Don't mention the ring. (laughs) It's okay, I'll save

Pippin: (whining) Are we there yet?

Nazgul: Bwa ha ha ha. Give us the ring, little worm.
Frodo: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names-
Sam: Hmm, looks like swords work too.
Strider: Go away, bad men!
Nazgul: The five of us must flee, for we are outnumbered by this one

Frodo: Wow, we're in Rivendell!
Merry: That was easy.
Pippin: Don't knock it.
Sam: Elves are cool!
Elrond: Get the hell out of my place, I don't
need trouble.
Gimli: You can't throw them out while I'm here!
Legolas: Same for me!
Elrond: Right, all of you wankers leave now.
Gandalf: But I just got here.
Boromir: I'll just invite myself along. No real reason. Certainly not
because I have larceny on my mind. Nope.
Strider: Look, they fixed my sword! (swish) Wheeeee!

Frodo: Such beautiful scenery. The green grass and leaves are so-
Pippin: Where the hell did all this snow come from?
Gandalf: Don't blame me. Who knew that mountains could be cold on
Gimli: Told you we should go through the mines.
Strider: Let the dwarf have his way.
Legolas: Fine, whatever, just open the door.
Gimli: Ummm, I have no idea how to get inside.
Boromir: What a bunch of dicks.
Gandalf: Of course! (applies C4 to the problem) [POOF]
Sam: Such magic.

Merry: Ooooo, dead dwarf over here!
Gimli: Boo hoo.
Gandalf: Twit.
Orcs: Oh good, we were getting hungry. Do you have any idea how
difficult it is to keep an army fed in these abandonded mines?
Boromir: (Slash)
Legolas: (Pfft)
Gimli: (Whack)
Orcs: This is definitely putting a damper on our relationship.
Frodo: Ouch!
Strider: Alas, the Ring-bearer has perished! Our quest has failed!
Frodo: Just kidding. I did the slide-blade-between-arm-and-chest
trick while I was standing in profile to y'all. Pretty funny, eh?
Balrog: Dammit, I was sound asleep. That really ticks me off.
Gandalf: We are so doomed.
Strider: Not if we run away! (does so)
Boromir: First good idea you've had. (follows)
Hobbits: (already in the lead)
Gandalf: (trailing) It matters not! You cannot outrun the demon!
Legolas: We don't have to . . .
Gimli: . . . we just have to outrun *you*.
Balrog: Your ass is mine, wizard. (drags Gandalf down with him)
Strider: Woe is upon our company, that Gandalf has fallen!
Frodo: I'm over it.
Sam: Yeah, let's go, there's no food here.

Legolas: Wondrous are these woods!
Gimli: And full of cutthroat elves.
Celeborn: We were told of your coming. Well, "warned" is more
Galadriel: I know you better than you know yourselves.
Sam: You've got nothing better to do with your time?
Galadriel: Wake up, Frodo, and look in the mirror.
Frodo: Geez, can't a guy get some sleep around here? What mirror
are you babbling about, there's just this birdbath full of water.
Galadriel: But it shows magic pictures of things that may or may not
Frodo: I'm guessing you're a day trader. Here, you take the ring.
Galadriel: I will not. (hangs her head) I lost the instructions.
Frodo: Great, I'm still stuck with it.
Celeborn: Check-out time!

Pippin: (singing) Row row row your boat, gently down-
Gimli: Shut the hell up. Seven hours of that is enough.
Strider: All this beautiful scenery is giving me a very bad feeling.

Boromir: Give me the ring.
Frodo: Notice as I put it on that it not only makes me invisible, it
also apparently teleports me away from your clutches.
Boromir: Arrrrrgghhh! I'm just trying to save my kingdom! Where is a
rake I can step on, that it might strike my head? Ah, this will do
nicely. (whack)
Frodo: Best thing for me to do now is head for the most dangerous
place in the world.
Sam: Works for me. (they leave)

SuperOrcs: Kill kill kill!
Merry: Help, help, Auntie Em! (waves his tiny sword pathetically)
Pippin: Christ, look at the size of these guys, we're dead meat.
Boromir: Fear not, little hobbits, I shall blow my special horn and we
shall be rescued by soldiers . . who are . . hundreds . . of . . miles . .
away . . guess we are pretty stuffed after all. (dies)
SuperOrcs: Kill kill kill!
Legolas: Look at my form. Damn, I'm good.
Gimli: I'm environmentally friendly --- blood makes the grass grow.
Strider: Looks like Frodo got away. Well, there's no chance in hell I'm
going to step one foot closer to Mordor, so let's go the exact
opposite direction.
Legolas: Okay.
Gimli: Sure.