Middle Earth Home for Retired Heroes is somewhere I’d like to hang out (draft)

Well it took me over a year to get here, but I finally made it. I finished the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I actually finished a couple of weeks ago (last week? time is beginning to be less linear and more muddled) thanks to the dramatic increase in driving time resulting from the start of September. And so, this in turn resulted in my eventually turning on my LOTR audio book (yes, I know it’s dangerous due to the lullabies, but sometimes we have to take risks to achieve our goals). This is how I finished Return of the King. I have no regrets.

Thoughts:

Return of the King had about 20 endings

This book could have ended SO MANY times before it actually did. It could have ended when the war ended. It could have ended after one of the tertiary character’s weddings. It could have ended after Frodo and Sam came-to like the movies did. It could have ended when the hobbits took back Hobbiton. To make things even better, Tolkien was ending all of his chapters as if they were actual endings. The last paragraphs, and especially the last sentence of each passage, had a closing tone to them – they suggested finality. But no, Tolkien was just pulling a fast one. Like the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (am I right? How many endings can one movie have?!)

Saruman is allowed to live so that he can have a hilarious death

The Good Side let Saruman go at least 3 times and then Wormtongue (who reminds me of Wormtail in HP) slits his throat in a totally awesome way. They kept letting him go and I was all “Noooo whyyyyy kill him! Idiots!” and then BOOM – throat slit. Moral of the story: don’t kick your minions in the face.

Hobbits are bad ass

Tiny people kicking ass and taking names, like we always have. There are a handful of moments throughout LOTR when a passage comes up and Tolkien writes something along of the lines of “…and then Merry/Pippin/Sam had had enough” – that’s how you know you’re about to get to a good part.

Frodo is okay too.

Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf basically go to a heroes’ retirement village

What’s up with that? Coolest retirement village ever? Yes, I want to hang out there and go lawn bowling.

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Admission: I’m not crazy about this post, so I reserve the right to review it later and make updates as I see fit. I’m publishing it now because I’m impatient and wanted to get this up immediately upon finishing Return of the King but for various reasons that didn’t happen. I’m posting it now with the intention of revising it (read: fix and make better) later.

Bonne nuit!!

The Two Towers

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The Two Towers was…okay. I read it over the course of about one year. I got through about half of it and then put it down for about 8 months, before I picked it up again on my honeymoon after reading Dune and finished it shortly thereafter.

Since I’ve already started reading Return of the King I’m finding this post on Two Towers to be a bit challenging to write. My brain has already moved on! But I will try.

I really enjoyed the Ents, though they sang a bit too much for my liking. This is a common occurrence throughout the series: everyone seems to sing or recite poetry. LOTR could easily be a musical. For serious. OH WAIT – IT WAS A MUSICAL. It played at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto and in London in 2006. According to the interwebs it is coming back for a world tour in 2015. The cast was made of up 65 actors and the whole thing played out in three acts over three and a half hours. Bad ass.

The second half of The Two Towers described Frodo, Sam and Gollum/Smeagol’s journey to Mordor. In my opinion, Gollum/Smeagol is an adorable sad little creature that you can’t help but love despite his murderous tendencies. Really it’s only Gollum that has murderous tendencies. Smeagol is like an abandoned puppy you see on those animal rights PSA’s that Sarah McLachlan sings in. Sam is a jerkface. He is so mean to Gollum and then wonders why Gollum is mean to him – you get what you give, Samwise Gamgee. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. If I was Gollum I would hate you too – just give the man an uncooked rabbit, you ass hat! He’s the one that caught them for you, after all. The least you could do is let the poor guy eat one the way he wants it. Isn’t it less work for you to just leave it uncooked anyway? And isn’t it super dangerous to start a fire right now too? You suck, Sam.

So they get to Mordor and they just have this one little bit left to go. At this point there are about 30 pages left in the book so you’re feeling pretty good about where you are. Like you’re going to get some payoff and satisfaction for all this reading you’ve done to get here. You figure you’ll do some more reading about Frodo and Sam walking, Sam will say something about having bad feelings and being in love with Frodo, Frodo will remain the ever-stoic and quiet hero and have some kind of inner thought about how he needs to just make it a little bit further to save the world. He might pass out once or twice more along the way. Maybe they’ll find some berries and make a soup or something…

Nope! J.R.R. Tolkien was a trickster, and the joke is on you! Because as soon as Sam and Frodo get close to Mordor, BOOM! GIANT SPIDER ATTACK!

I cannot even begin to explain how annoyed I was by Shelob’s appearance. Of course, why wouldn’t there be a giant spider guarding the cave? That makes perfect sense. I don’t know why I ever expected anything else. Thankfully this little altercation with the giant spider didn’t last long, and Sam and Frodo managed to evade her with the help of a flashlight and a tiny sword. Too bad Frodo gets captured by Orcs immediately after. Sam decides to put on the ring and completely give away their location to Sauron because he’s a jerk.

Final thought: Even though Gollum completely betrayed Frodo and Sam, I’m still rooting for the little guy.

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Who could say no to those baby blues?

Tolkien, Round 2: The Two Towers (and a few notes on Allegiant)

I started The Two Towers a couple of days ago after finishing Allegiant. I have to admit, even though I wrote in my last post that I would be able to finish Allegiant within a week’s time, I didn’t actually believe that I would.  And then I did! Awesome. I credit two things to the accomplishment of this goal:

1) telling myself (sternly) to buckle down and read
2) shaming myself into reading more to balance the insane number of hours I’ve recently spent watching back to back episodes of Raising Hope on Netflix.

SIDE BAR: Please note that Raising Hope is awesome and hilarious. Here is the trailer:

In the end, I decided not to write a post for Allegiant and instead jump right into The Two Towers. Before moving on, however, I do want to acknowledge that Veronica Roth managed to end that series in a way that I was not anticipating at all. In fact when the “Big Denouement” did occur, I thought she was twisting my arm. I kept reading because I was so convinced that in a few more pages or chapters, something would happen to the effect of a Literary Gotcha* but the Gotcha never came. I was bewildered, dazed, and, I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried. I soldiered on and read through my tears, and now I can put that pain behind me and move on to some good old fashioned fantasy lit.

When I last left the gang, Boromir had tried (and failed) to get the ring from Frodo, which didn’t work out too well for him as I recall. Then Frodo and Sam had stowed away on a boat together to face the rest of their journey alone. Such brave lil’ hobbits, aren’t they?

My goal now is to finish The Lord of the Rings series before the end of the month, which means I need step up my game. Wish me luck!

*Literary Gotcha: 1 to be led to believe one thing and to later discover that the opposite is true; 2 a term I just made up (dibs on copyright!); 3 a literary device

List? What List?

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been reading from The List for some time now. I warned you all that this would happen from time to time! Still, I feel that is a weak excuse, at best. In short, I’ve been a bad bad girl (get your heads out of the gutter now, we’re talking about reading here, not sexy time).

First, I diverged from the reading list to read The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, which I’ve documented in previous posts. No regrets!

Then my reading ran away with itself…

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Someone I greatly respect (and one of my superiors) at work recommended The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi. The last book recommended by this superior was Arlene Dickinson’s Persuasion, which I really enjoyed. As far as professional reading goes, it was very insightful and it made a lot of sense to me – it also ended up being some required reading for the company. So it follows that once I saw her recommendation for The Effortless Experience pop up, I used one of my Audible credits for the audiobook. I’m glad I did, too. Essentially, the authors posit that the new goal for companies should be to focus on making the customer experience easier. Apparently there has been too much of a focus over the years on providing an over-the-top amazing customer experience, when all people really want is for you to make their lives easier. You make their life easier, you win their business and potentially their loyalty. BAM! Eureka! But in all seriousness it has had a positive impact on the way I do my job. For that reason, I’m glad I took the time to listen to this audiobook. Also I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it pop up as required reading at work, or having some kind of influence on strategies for next year. So if you think about it that way, I’m one step ahead!

Next up, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. (SIDE BAR: that man has a lot of “L”s in his name, doesn’t he?) This was also acquired with Audible credits. Listen – I went into my account one day and saw that I had saved up 6 credits. That’s a lot of credits considering you only get one a month! I had no choice but to use them!! Right? Right. Of course. Let’s not be wasteful. For those of you out there still raising an incredulous eyebrow in my general direction, here was my justification: (1) I wanted to use my Audible credits, (2) I still wanted to finish Allegiant before returning to the Lord of The Rings series, and (3) I wanted an audiobook to listen to for my commute.

So after finishing Effortless Experience I moved on to David and Goliath. It was really interesting – I didn’t agree with all of the conclusions drawn by Gladwell in his discussion of our perceptions of advantages and disadvantages, but I still found the conversation to be thought provoking and intriguing. It’s the sort of thing I think a debate club or Toastmaster’s club could really have fun with. Actually, it might make for an interesting blog post of its own…maybe I’ll do a follow-up post on that one…we’ll see, no promises.

Now I’m reading Allegiant by Veronica Roth, which I think I should be able to finish up in the next week or so, and listening to Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. To be honest, I think I’m a bit premature in my listening of Dad is Fat. I think I might enjoy it more when kids start being a factor in my life.

After I finish Allegiant I PROMISE I’ll go back to Lord of the Rings. Pinky swear! I already have the audiobook and everything!

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LOTR: one down!

As it turns out, the wisdom of “the longest tasks to complete are the ones you never start” (did I say that right?) applies to reading as well — well, duh. That’s a little bit of an obvious reflection now isn’t it? The point I think I’m trying to make is that Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was really only long to read when I was dragging my feet through it. I did it to myself, really. Of course a story is going seem dull when you take it in five to ten pages at a time. Once I really got in to it and started making some significant progress, that increased to 30, 50, even 100 pages at a time, and then lo and behold the book got interesting.

What I learned is this: some books completely engross you and make it impossible for you to put them down. It’s like they have some hold over you to keep turning the page. You just HAVE to know what happens next; “I’m just going to read until I find out what happens to X with Y” or “just one more chapter, then I’ll go do the laundry.” All of a sudden you’re 8 chapters past what happened to X with Y and you have no clean underwear left.

Some books, like all great relationships, take a little bit more work. There are ups and downs in the denouement, and maybe the author has a penchant for tangents about lore for this realm he’s created. But you’ve committed to the book, dammit, so you sit your ass down and you read it! You owe it to yourself to finish what you started (unless it’s really bad – who amongst us hasn’t walked away from a terrible book before? Let them cast the first stone!). Also, once you finish the book, you feel proud and accomplished.

An observation: When I finish reading an engrossing book (like the kind I first described above), I feel spent and often left wanting. It’s not enough! This thing has just completely swept me away, taken over my thoughts, and now it’s just over? Just like that? I think the only one night stands I’ve ever had have been with books. Yup, that says something about me, doesn’t it? But I’m getting married now, so shush.

ANYWAYS – what I’ve found is that when I finish reading books that take work to get through (the ‘you gotta work, bitch’ books – shout out to Britney Spears and Ru Paul) I feel proud and accomplished, like I’ve passed some milestone. In my case, it might be more significant because in many instances it puts me one step closer to completing The List. I think that this theory has wider applications, though. If you work harder to finish something, you feel more accomplished when you finish.

Maybe? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills, people!

Moving on. Back to the point. Finished Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Yes. As you all know (if you read my last few posts) this really happened because The Republic of Thieves finally arrived and I want to read that like an insecure girl on a diet wants cake.

The first 300 pages or so of Fellowship took me a long time to read through. J.R.R. Tolkien sure does love his lore and fantasy! There are more foreign names in that book than in a (insert clever joke here). Thank God that they aren’t relevant to the plot because I don’t think I ever had a chance of remembering them all. Well, I guess I could have tried, but then it would have been more like studying than reading. If I wanted to do that I could just go to one of those colleges that offer classes on The Lord of the Rings. I could take the Harry Potter classes too – man that would be one freaking awesome semester.

Who would win in a fight: Gandalf vs. Dumbledore? Sauron vs. Voldemort? Harry vs. Frodo?

So, in conclusion, Fellowship wasn’t that bad. I’m actually looking forward to the next installment of that series. For the time being, however, I fully intend on ignoring everyone and everything (as much as I can while still maintain positive relationships in my life and not getting fired from my job) to read The Republic of Thieves.

Your order has shipped…

It’s finally happening! The Republic of Thieves is on its way to me! Right now, as we speak, it’s been put in a neat little shipping package with my name on it, and it’s making its way to me *squee*

So – This has lit a fire under my arse in terms of LOTR reading. On the one hand, I’m not about to put this book down after 3 months of slow progress, just when it started being interesting. EVEN THOUGH I would be putting it down for a good cause (I would pick it right back up right after, I swear!).

ON THE OTHER HAND, I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve built up. Also I don’t know if the library will let me renew it again – I’ve already done that twice, and I have found that I’m enjoying reading this book old school style, printed book, turning paper pages and all. It’s really working for me. Not to mention that I just can’t justify spending any more money on this book – I’ve already bought the Kindle eBook and the Audible audiobook – so I need to finish this puppy before the library demands it back, lest I hold it captive for ransom. By which I mean return it late and pay the fee…so you know, same thing.

The exciting and completely unexpected development here is that despite it being proclaimed NSFD, I’ve resurrected the LOTR audiobook since receiving that shipping notice. I can down a Red Bull or seven if it means finishing this pup faster. And they make zero calorie Red Bull now so REALLY why the HECK would I not jump on that? It’s basically free energy.

So now the question is: do I square away the Lord of the Rings series before jumping back in to the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, or do I put Frodo & Co. on hold while I indulge myself in the all-consuming awesome world of Locke Lamora? Decisions, decisions, decisions…

What will she do? Stay tuned to find out!

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Back in the saddle

After a very long absence from my blog, I’ve finally returned. The need to write a post and update my legions of followers on my progress on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has been growing over the past couple of months. I have had a pretty consistent nagging inner monologue reminding me that I had been neglecting my blog and the book and needed to get on that!

I had the greatest excuse not to write a blog post: “It’s been so long now, the best thing to do at this point is to wait until I’m finished reading LOTR and then write one post about it, and then move on to the next.” Perfect, right? Except I started saying that two and half months ago, and here we are and I am only about 60 pages further into the book, despite carrying it with me literally everywhere I go. My fiance’s brother was reading it as well this past summer – I noticed that we both had it with us as our beach reads. I’m sure he has long since finished, putting my snail’s pace reading to shame.

In my (albeit brittle) defence, the past couple of months have been eventful and busy for me, both with work and personally. It seems that I could benefit from a few more lessons in prioritization and time management. Of course, I could benefit just as much from not being a procrastinator…

So bugger to waiting until I’m done to update my blog! My update is this: I’ve picked up the book again and I’m forging on! Frodo & Co have now made it to Bree-land, have hooked up with Strider, and are about to leave for Rivendell. That is where I am in the book, which is just shy of half-way through. I seem to recall this part of the story being at the very beginning of the movie, which can only mean that I’m about to get into the really good stuff! Speaking of the movie, interesting that they didn’t include the character of Tom Bombadil as he was so critical to the gang making it through the Forest (or was he in the movie and I just don’t remember him?). Strider certainly has added an element of intrigue to the story.

Stay tuned! The next chapter is called “A Knife in the Dark” so that should be good.

My new husky puppy is distracting me from LOTR

The plan was to faithfully work my way through LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, then when my fiance brought home a 14 week old puppy. Suddenly my priorities shifted ever so slightly.  Meet Scout:

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So I dusted off my books about Siberian Huskies and puppy training, and left Frodo & Co. behind, to patiently await my return.

Instead, I have soaked up the wisdom of Cesar Milan and the For Dummies Siberian Husky edition (there’s a lot of good info in there! Don’t judge me). I’ve read these before, when we got our first dog a few years ago, but it’s proving useful to read through them again.

For one, it has somewhat given me the defacto title of ‘resident expert’ when it comes to anything dog. If there is a disagreement about how to handle a particular element of dog ownership, I need only begin my sentence with “I read that…” or “The book says…” and voila, disagreement over, point Moi (not that it’s a competition or anything)! I must admit – this is a nice byproduct of educating myself on dog rearing.

 On a related note, through my work I have recently become aware of the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. If you’ve studied psychology, or if you’re one of those academic types, or highly educated individuals, you likely are familiar with this theory. Prior to being exposed to it through work, I was not. For all us laymen out there, a brief explanation: the Ebbinghaus Curve applies fancy math learning to calculate the speed at which memory decays when no steps are taken to retain said memory.

But what does that have to do with the price of bananas in China?

This is relevant because although I read all these books two years ago, and we applied much of what I read to train and raise our older husky, Loki, it’s incredible how much of it I don’t remember. When reading these books, I am experiencing a sense of familiarity in some passages, but others are as if I am reading them for the first time. Collections of words, wisdom, and thoughts which have completely disappeared from my memory. Had I read even one book a year in the interim, many of the concepts I’m revisiting now would be old hat to me.

Huskies were originally developed by a badass Siberian people called the Chukchis. First of all, they domesticated the reindeer. Also they fought off the Russians and the Communists (who were after total world domination and had to eradicate any and all dissenters) and managed to survive even when hired militias were sent after them. In the event that these militias did capture some of them, rather than being taken prisoner, the women would kill their dogs, their children and themselves. BAD ASS! Eventually the Russians got tired of hunting down the Chukchis, who were not large in number, and instead of actually defeating them decided to arbitrarily declare victory and the land conquered (sound familiar to some recent world events?).

The Chukchis raised their dogs to be hard workers with a good temperament and to be family/community dogs. Huskies are pack animals through and through. I am of the (potentially biased) opinion that huskies are amongst the greatest breeds of dogs of all time. If you are not convinced, I recommend you watch Balto, he was a husky – then tell me the breed isn’t freaking awesome.

Balto is a true story about how, in the winter of 1925, huskies ran just under 700 miles to deliver desperately needed serum to a small Alaskan town, whose children would die without it. A dog named Togo lead the pack for the first half, then Balto did the second. It’s know as The Great Serum Run, if you want to look it up. The distance those dogs covered is also the origins of the massive sled race, the Iditarod.

I digress. Suffice it to say that Scout (the lil’un, and yes, she is named after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird, because I had just finished reading it and how could I resist) has introduced a new element of focus and chaos into our lives, one which has pulled me from J.R.R. Tolkien and pushed me towards Cesar Milan and his contemporaries.

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LOTR = NSFD*

*translation: The Lord of The Rings = Not Suitable For Driving

Some of you may have noticed (ha!) that I was considering reading The Poisonwood Bible or Sherlock Holmes next. Well, when it turned out that The Poisonwood Bible was on one of my other lists and not  The List I basically threw it out as an option, and then I got intimidated by the length of the complete works of Mr. Holmes. So naturally I decided to pick up the TLOR series instead – much less intimidating. After all, there are movies!

Also, I already had the audiobook downloaded, so it seemed like the clear choice.

Sometimes audiobooks can be riveting. They can be extremely entertaining and keep you going and interested on a long drive. What I am discovering is that there are really two different kinds of audiobooks: ones which are suitable for driving, and ones which are not. As you may recall, the audiobook for Catch 22, for example, was not suitable for driving. Neither is LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, it would seem.

The audiobook that I have for it is narrated by this lovely British man whose name escapes me right now (I will update later with this information) who likes to sing the songs in the book, and apparently there are a lot of songs in this book. I didn’t know this. Nobody told me. Were all these songs in the movie? I don’t think they were. The thing is, he sings the songs like lullabies, and the rest of his reading is also like this lyrical trance just lulling you off into a safe slumber. Except it’s not safe BECAUSE I’M DRIVING ON THE 401. So of the 16 hours of driving I have done since last Friday, only about 4 of those (combined, not consecutive) have been spent listening to LOTR.

The rest of the time I’ve been filling my car with very sophisticated and high society music such as Justin Timberlake, Drake, Lady Gaga, P!nk, and basically whatever the radio stations in the cities I have been driving through feel like playing. I went through a country music phase that lasted about an hour when I was driving through Napanee and Tweed this weekend, that was fun.

Something else I have to mention about this book. I have seen the movies, not recently, but I have seen them. The popular belief is that if you see a movie and then read the book after, your imagination will take its cues from what you saw on the screen to help guide the story as you see it in your mind. Assisted Imagination. Scripted Imagery. One would then naturally assume that I have Elijah Wood running through the Shire (aka New Zealand) in my head.

That theory does not account for the fact that my parents have two beautiful Old English Sheep dogs which they named Pippin and Gimly. Gimly hasn’t come into the story yet, but Pippin has. So do I picture a hobbit when I think of Pippin? No! I think of the adorable, bouncy, playful Pippin we have at home. So in my mind, Frodo is being accompanied by Merry (a hobbit), and Pippin (an Old English sheep dog who can talk). This is making the story much more fun for me 🙂

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this isn’t Pippin and Gimly. These are Google dogs, but you get the idea.

Work beckons, more updates to come!