Storytelling – J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson


Goodreads has a discussion strand with some 400+ comments addressing the following question: What do you think about Peter Jackson adding a new character in The Desolation of Smaug movie?

Peter Jackson is just continuing a storyteller’s tradition.

Oral storytelling predates the telling of stories by writing them in books and filming them in movies by millennia.

A Rose
A Rose

The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh all began their lives orally. And none of them sprang into being whole cloth, that is, complete in their modern form.

One can easily envision someone (Homer?) telling about a love affair. The lovers are given names, Paris and Helen. The following evening he tells of her husband’s revenge. On another evening, in front of another family’s fire, the author makes the characters royalty, one from a kingdom across the sea. And on still another, he adds a story he heard from someone else, a jealous competition among goddesses. Over a period of years, and maybe generations, you eventually get the version we read today.

The thing about oral storytelling is that the storyteller alters his/her story depending on the reaction of the audience. You embellish the parts the audience likes and dispense with, or alter, the parts they don’t like.

Neither writers nor filmmakers go from start to finished product without editing their work. J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t do so and neither did Jackson.

I would imagine that Tolkien added in and edited out a number of characters while writing his saga of Middle Earth. (Aside from creating it in the first place.) Peter Jackson is continuing the tradition—telling a story according to his personal vision to reach those he considers his audience using his chosen medium as he sees fit.

Should the tales of Middle Earth be re-made into movies again in another generation or two, the director will change interpretations of characters according to his, or her, personal vision. That director will also add or subtract characters and change emphasis according to the audience.

And, when Frodo returns to the Shire after his adventures, will it be the Shire of Jackson or Tolkien?

We may or may not like what he did, or how he did it, but by “voicing” our opinions we are continuing the age-old practice of criticism.

If you don’t like Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien, aren’t you still happy he made the film rather than not? Would we be better off having no film version of Middle Earth, other than the animated tales? Or, think about it this way, if not Jackson then who? Woody Allen? Martin Scorsese? Oliver Stone? Kevin Costner? Ridley Scott? David Lynch? Quentin Tarantino? Lynne Ramsay? Ang Lee? Who?

Personally, I like the addition. A bright, good-looking, kick-ass redhead is an asset to any action movie.

Floaters – Not the Trollenberg Terror

Floaters – never heard of them.

Last Friday evening I noticed a spot just to the left of where I was looking. When I looked at that spot, it moved to the left and so on. I had not been looking at a bright light and I hadn’t seen any flashes and there was no pain. OK, so what was it? I had no idea.

Saturday – spot still there.

Sunday – spot still there.

Today – spot still there.

This morning, after driving my wife to work, I stopped in at my optometrist’s office. He immediately sent me to an ophthalmologist (Clarity Eye Group). Got in at about 2 o’clock. Quick check – dilate the eyes – exam – wait – take a picture of each eye. Hmmmmm . . . hmmmmmm . . . hmmmmm . . .  can’t find anything wrong. You’ve got a floater.

What’s a floater? Is it serious? What do I do about it?

“I’ll show you a video.”

Waiting room TV – to one of the assistants – “Show this gentleman the video on Floaters and Flashes.”

Ten minutes later, still no video.

Bye, bye. Have to pick up the wife from work.

Looked up floaters on WebMD.

Nothing to  worry about – yet. Whew!!!!!

This evening – spot still there.

I feel like Lady Macbeth.

Vacation Travels 2014 – Part 3

Time to come home.

Alas, a week and a half before Charlie was due back at work it was time for us to head for home. Having done most of our packing the day before, it would seem that we would have little to do. But we still didn’t leave before noon.

Sky-Vu Drive-In
Sky-Vu Drive-In

Those who never closed a residence for a Minnesota winter don’t know about draining water. Turn off the water supply, turn off the water heater, open all the faucets and then drain the water heater. You don’t want water in the pipes to freeze and burst. Leave the heaters on low to prevent freezing the pipes and put RV antifreeze in the drains (after all the power might fail and the house freeze).

Travels and Motels

We said goodbye to Warroad a few minutes after noon and began our journey west. Roseau, Greenbush, Karlstad and then south at Donaldson as the construction/repair detour was still in effect (still unknown to OnStar and Waze). When we reached Warren we turned west once more and stopped at the Sky-Vu Drive-In Theatre. The current film showing was Tammy. We stopped, took a few pictures and resumed our journey to Moorhead.

Sky Vu Admission
Sky Vu Admission

Again we stayed at the Moorhead Travelodge, second floor smoking, cats. Nice room, good soundproofing as the motel is backed up to a busy rail line.

The next day it was I-94 across North Dakota to Wibaux, Montana and the Beaver Creek Inn (same room we had before). This time Charlie went with me to have dinner at the Shamrock Club, excellent meal and great atmosphere. Of course, she had to buy a Shamrock Club hat as a souvenir.

On to Bozeman, Montana and the Holiday Inn. This time the room was downstairs next to the back exit and it was a lot easier to move our luggage. Good room service dinner. This time we ordered three appetizers between us and no entrees, just the perfect amount of food.

Elk at rest with birds.
Elk at rest with birds.

Stopped in Haugan, Montana at the Lincoln’s World Famous 50,000 Silver $ Bar for a break and souvenir shopping. Stayed the night at the West Spokane Super 8. They messed up our reservation for a smoking handicapped room and I ended up toting our luggage up to the third floor (dirty word, dirty word, dirty word).

The next day it was south through Washington and then west along the Columbia River to Portland and south to Albany. A nice, easy day without too much Portland traffic.

Our last motel day was south on the I-5 to the Umpqua River and viewing elk at Dean Creek, a stop at the Mill Casino for an hour of slots and shopping for Charlie and the on to Arcata. The Arcata Super 8 still had not correctly fixed the handicapped room shower, but, otherwise, the room was fine.

Friday, it was south to Gilroy, California and Bill & Artie’s place. Artie had a good rib dinner from Nob Hill waiting

Elk at rest.
Elk at rest.

for us (and I, of course, ate too much of her macaroni salad) and we had a good talk and rest.

Saturday, it was south on the I-5 to L.A., with some stop and go traffic and home a little after six, a Subway sandwich for dinner and a sigh. It was good to be home.

Three days to get the house organized and luggage unpacked and Charlie was back to work (and I embarked on my third year of retirement).

Aside from the Super 8 screw-up in West Spokane the only negative about the trip home was the condom wrapper. At one of the motels, whose name I will not mention, Mist found an open condom wrapper under a bed missed by housekeeping. I mentioned this to the desk when I turned in our keys the next morning and they halved our bill. Quite nice; we’ve stayed there before and will again.

Vacation Travels 2014 – Part 2

Travels – We’re There

We arrived in Warroad, Minnesota late on a Friday afternoon and found the house in good order with the

A view of a Minnesota sunrise from our deck.
A view of a Minnesota sunrise from our deck.

exception of the water being turned off. I had thought that the water was on because the new garden was in and had been watered. My mistake. The gardener had put a pump in the golf course water hazard, with two long extension cords connected to our outside electrical outlets, and a long hose.

I made a phone call to the gentleman who owns the water system that brought him out to the house after 5 pm and made him late for a family dinner. With his aid and that of a neighbor my wife and I had running water and

Smoke and Mist dream of a walleye dinner.
Smoke and Mist dream of a walleye dinner.

did not have to spend the night in a motel.

I brought the outdoor furniture from the living room to the patio deck and we now had a little room to move in. I connected the various electrical appliances and lamps and fans as well as getting the wi-fi up and running. HUG, Inc. had put on new storm doors and a new kitchen before we got there and they looked good.

It took a couple of days to unpack the large containers of kitchen goods, foods, cleaners, tableware, etc. and get the upstairs livable. That and a trip to Doug’s Supermarket for milk and fresh food.

Smoke and Mist soon found they liked the house. Plenty of new nooks to explore, carpet on some of the floors and stairs to chase each other up and down.

Gas Price Warroad, MN
Gas Price Warroad, MN

Ahhh . . . summer vacation in a town with only two stoplights and non-California gas prices.

No golfing this summer but I drank coffee, ate breakfast, “worked” crossword and Sudoku puzzles, read books and watched the world go by on the golf course from our second story deck. Charlie read, played on her iPad, worked on lesson plans and spent a couple of hours in Seven Clans Casino most days. Pleasant and Relaxing.

We put in an air conditioner—yes, in the Summer it gets quite warm and muggy in northern Minnesota. G&B Carpet and Furniture put in new flooring in the kitchen and bathroom upstairs and in the office, laundry and entries downstairs. Charlie also bought a table and an electric recliner from G&B. (Next year we’ll get a new bed.)

Saint Peter’s is the Episcopal Church Charlie attends while in Warroad. The congregation is small so services are

St. Peter's Altar Window
St. Peter’s Altar Window

held on Wednesday evenings with a traveling vicar who is in charge of several like parishes. The people are friendly and a potluck dinner is served after services every couple of weeks. There is a large stained glass window behind the altar that Charlie likes and had me take pictures of. (As the window is in the east it really needs a morning sun to be seen at its best—ah, well, maybe next year.)

I’ve found a number of small churches in northern Minnesota with character and plan on doing a photo-essay of them in the next year or two.

Ate dinner at the Lakeview Restaurant one night and had a delicious plate of walleye (Walleyed Pike). Lots of sandbags around and streets closed as the lake (Lake of the Woods) was at near record levels (or setting new records).

Doug’s Supermarket is undergoing renovations and what used to be their video section is now a Caribou Coffee shop. Charlie has become addicted to their scones that are much like those from Starbucks. So far as I know, it is the only location that has an actual caribou head mounted inside.

Pelan Pioneer Chapel
Pelan Pioneer Chapel

Drove to Grand Forks one day to do some shopping and that same detour was in effect from Donaldson west. So we went south intending to catch the I-29 later. The drive took us through Warren, Minnesota which has an operating drive-in theater; I didn’t have one of my “good” cameras with me that day so I took pictures a couple of weeks later on our way back to California.

During the last week of our stay, I took a drive by myself. (Charlie was enjoying the casino that afternoon.) I took some pictures of the

Dewey Townhall
Dewey Townhall

Dewey Townhall and Pelan Pioneer Chapel.

Too soon it was time to come home.

Vacation Travels 2014 – Part 1

Travels with Smoke on Charlie's lap
Smoke on Charlie’s lap.

Our vacation got off to a late start this summer as both Charlie and I had dental issues with which to deal—mine was a cracked tooth into which I could insert a fingernail.

We loaded up our new Buick Enclave with a Thule carrier on top. Great car with a smooth and quiet ride. Gas mileage is 15-16 in town and 20-26 on the open road. We took the cats, Mist and Smoke, with us; they were quite noisy the first couple of days but eventually became good travelers and, for the most part, stayed out of the front seats.

We spent the first night in Gilroy (via I-5 and Cal 152) at a friend’s house; they were on vacation and out of town at the time but mailed us a key and we enjoyed a quiet evening there. The next day we drove to Arcata on US 101. A very nice drive although we went a bit slower than in the De Ville as the Enclave is both heavier and has a higher center of gravity.

Stayed the night at the Arcata Super 8 (on “motel road”), which has one smoking, handicapped room (and allows cats with fee). The original adjustable handicapped shower handle/head was broken and not properly replaced. (I informed management; the problem was not fixed by the time we returned several weeks later.) Otherwise the room was fine.

The next day we drove to Albany, Oregon via Coos Bay/North Bend and the Umpqua River route and I-5. We stopped for an hour at the Mill Casino and Hotel in North Bend but did not spend the night. (Charlie loves their casino and gift shop and we both like their restaurants.) They do not take cats although they do take dogs, some of them very large.

While Charlie was in the casino, I put the cats on their leashes and walked around the hotel and fell into conversation with a security guard. I explained why I was outside and why we were not staying at the hotel and he expressed surprise at the no cats policy. He told me he would speak with management about the issue and we exchanged email addresses.

After Charlie’s hour and a half were up, we resumed our travels and stopped and watched elk for a few minutes at the Dean Creek Elk viewing area on the Umpqua River. Then on to the Super 8 in Albany on the I-5. (Handicapped, smoking and cats with a Subway a half mile’s walk away.)

The next day it was the I-5 to Portland, east along the Columbia River and north to Spokane, actually the Super 8 in West Spokane. (Smoking, cats but not handicapped equipped—more about which later.)

On to Bozeman, Montana and the Holiday Inn. (Cats, smoking but not handicapped equipped.) We like their restaurant but it is too far a walk for Charlie and we didn’t feel like getting back into the car and driving around to the other side of the hotel. So, we had a room service dinner: two appetizers and two dinners—too much, but delicious.

Travels with Mist and Smoke asleep in hotel.
Mist and Smoke asleep in hotel.

The next day it was a “straight” shot east on I- 90/I-94 to Wibaux, Montana where we stayed at the Beaver Creek Inn and Suites. Cats, smoking but their only handicapped room is non-smoking. The room was comfortable and the staff (owner) friendly. Charlie did not feel like going out to dinner so, on the motel owner’s recommendation I called the Shamrock Club for a take-out dinner—delicious and, once again, too much food.

Then it was across North Dakota to Moorhead, Minnesota and the Travelodge. A very nice smoking, cats but not handicapped equipped room and a Subway sandwich dinner. (Charlie usually has a tuna with onions, tomatoes and avocado and I have a Subway Club with just about everything, including lots of jalapeños.

Last day of travel was north on the I-29 and the east on ND 66 and MN 11. (Neither OnStar nor Waze was aware of the too long detour on MN 11—dirty word, dirty word, dirty word. (Or bleep, bleep, bleep, if you prefer.)

Aside from this it was a nice, easy journey with no weather problems and very little delay for construction.

Travels: Postscript

I received an email from Suzann Anaya, Director of Operations for the Mill Casino Hotel on the reason for their no cats policy: “Our main concern with cats in the hotel rooms is the allergens they leave. We have many other hotel guests who have severe feline allergies.” I can quite understand this but still . . . Super 8, Motel 6, Travelodge and Holiday Inn allow cats.