The Great Book Sort, Part 3 (Robin McKinley)

August 1, 2022 at 12:04 am (Uncategorized)

Before I start, let us remember that authors are only human and never ever deserve the abuse that any famous person inevitably receives. This is a (mostly) negative review, and a warning to readers—it is not an invitation to harangue an elderly woman who happens to be particularly gifted with the written word and somewhat less gifted (in my opinion) at sticking to incomplete ideas and letting go of complete ideas.

Yes, I am attempting humour. Hopefully some people will like it.

I hereby declare a blood feud against Robin McKinley. She conceals great evil in her apparent innocence.

Observe the face of true evil! Note how she has clearly cut up two innocent dogs and laid one head and one body on her lap, never to be united.

(Photo from wikipedia.)

Twenty or so years ago, I read “The Blue Sword” and was enchanted. There was something about her lyrical style that grabbed me, and the moment in which the heroine is talking to someone who loves the desert like she does (passionately, irrationally) has stuck with me all this time.

The sequel wasn’t nearly as good. It felt a lot more generic (chosen one, prophecy, magical items, battle) and therefore less interesting. The main character who was interesting in the first book was effectively a different person.

But I read one of her other books, way back then, that I didn’t remember so clearly. I read it again, recently, and remembered as I read that I’d read it before, but couldn’t remember how it ended. Was it beautiful? Tragic? Mediocre?

So much worse, my friends. So. Much. Worse.

That book was “Pegasus”, a story about human-Pegasus relationships across a seemingly insurmountable cultural divide. Of course I loved it! Cultures reaching out to one another is my jam! But as I re-read it, long stretches of the book were incredibly dull. Conversations between characters that stopped the plot moving, and lots of political machinations that weren’t magical or fun at all. I kept going, telling myself to trust this author who sometimes had such a profound effect upon me.

Then I finished the book, which ends very abruptly. Or rather, it doesn’t end at all. Not even a cliffhanger, or a tragedy, or something badly written. It truly ruly doesn’t end. (Apparently it’s NOT “a book” put part one of a three-part “book”.) As I searched for the second part, not sure if I wanted to wade through more of this drab tale but hoping I could at least get a summary…. I found a deep well of rage, betrayal, and tragedy.

There is no sequel (or “Part 2” if you prefer). It’s been over a decade and there’s NO SEQUEL!?!??! To a book with one of the most frustrating non-endings of all time?

It’s not just me. You can read some of the chorus of rage on the Goodreads page for the second book, which has been live for over ten years and giving people false hope all that time.

And I have suffered more than all of them, because I journeyed through the boredom, frustration, and ultimate fury of reading “Pegasus” not once but twice.

*inarticulate screaming*

Whatever you do, DO NOT read this book! It is, quite literally, not finished.


But there’s more, even more damning horrors to lay at the feet of this best-selling villain.

Notice anything, my precious? Sorta similar covers, aren’t they? Both somewhat suggestive of “Beauty and the Beast”, yes?

Oh yes.

Not only are they both based on “Beauty and the Beast”, they are extremely similar. If anyone else had written the second, they would definitely lose millions in a plagiarism lawsuit.

Three daughters, and an elderly father. Poverty. Travel. Small town. Becoming better people through hardship. Dad lost in woods; mysterious castle; takes a rose for the daughter named “Beauty” and then the Beast gets angry and orders him to send his daughter to the castle; the daughter comes; the beast isn’t nearly as horrible as he looks; Beast lets her go due to family crisis and nearly dies as a result, which causes Beauty to declare her love; they marry and live happily ever after.

Many many scenes are almost identical: The Beast refusing to eat with Beauty because he can’t do it gracefully; the castle constantly changing shape and colour and size (I really hated that in both versions—it was mystical and lyrical, but also somewhat pointless and annoying); Beauty seeing visions of her sisters, etc. Even the sudden appearance of butterflies in the otherwise lifeless castle being an early portent of returning life.

For me, there are two main differences between the stories. In the first, the name “Beauty” is a sarcastic nickname for an ugly girl (which I liked, except the castle then made her prettier). In the second, the Beast does not transform back into a human at the end, which is cool in some ways and super weird in others.

It reads VERY much as if it has been written from the exact same notes as the first book. Not just the same inspiration. Very much the same scene by scene outline. In the author’s afterword, she says how disappointed she was to have written “Beauty” before she had spent a significant amount of time growing roses. An increase in horticultural knowledge has not improved the story; not one bit.

It is terribly annoying to read the exact same story by the same author, and to pay for both of them. It feels like reading two drafts of the same book, as if the author is lurking over my shoulder saying, “Should I write the scene this way or that way?” I didn’t sign up to be an editor.

But I am now going to express my rage in the most heinous manner possible—and it is all the more heinous because I am about to say something true, and one never knows what an author, even a nearly-70-year-old bestselling author, might somehow read:

Brace yourselves.

The second “Beauty and the Beast” book she wrote, with an extra ten years of writing experience (and gardening experience) under her belt….

is not as good.

Pow. The burning brand of true hatred falls without mercy.

The character development of the family is much weaker in the second book. It rushes through the change from ‘spoiled rich people’ to ‘good-hearted and loving country folk’, making it feel unrealistic (and calling attention to the fact that being poor and anxious is not usually a catalyst for becoming a better person). It also has a whole complicated magical backstory that serves only to confuse matters, spending several pages telling different versions of a story (which just feels repetitive, and slows down the actual story), and well as making a huge deal out of “three sisters living in Rose Cottage” with no payoff whatsoever (there’s a prophecy saying that when three sisters live in Rose Cottage, walls and towers will fall—but the sisters live there for many years with no issues… and there are no walls and towers in the book whatsoever).

I mean sure, feel free to read both. Compare and contrast, if you like. Make up your own mind. But just know that they are absolutely the same story (acknowledged by the author).

So yeah, “Rose Daughter” and “Pegasus” are going straight into the “Nope” pile, so I never sully my mind with their contents again.

Take that, McKinley.

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The Great Book Sort (Part 2)

July 27, 2022 at 10:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Since one of my three followers is in hospital and needs more book recs, here’s…. some more book recs!


“Clean Sweep” (and “Sweet in Peace”, “One Fell Sweep”, “Sweep of the Blade”, “Sweep with Me” and I haven’t read “Sweep of the Heart” yet) by Ilona Andrews (aka the Innkeeper series). Now here’s the interesting part: they’re not all THAT well written. They read like many many many mid-level paranormal romance authors (and, to be fair, a million billion times better than MANY error-riddled published books, especially self-published books). The plot is only more important than the inevitable love triangle (good), and the writing is fine and fundamentally flawless but not astonishing. I’ve read other books by the author and they went to the “Nah” pile—perfectly good books, which I might re-read if I run out of favourites. So why is this series a favourite? The heroine is an Innkeeper, with considerable powers… but she’s fundamentally an inter-species diplomat, and most of the books’ tensions come from two or more very different magical species coming into contact in or near her inn. So it’s all about making different cultures feel safe and comfortable and respected… and I LOVE THAT TO BITS.

Side note: The “Temeraire” series by Naomi Novik is absolutely brilliant but I can only re-read the first of the series (it’s all excellently written) because there are so many cases of cultural clashes where people are just awful at understanding each other. It’s too painful to ‘watch’ a second time.

“The City in the Middle of the Night” by Charlie Jane Anders is scifi that takes place on a planet where only a narrow band between the permanent day and permanent night is mild enough for human habitation. According to wikipedia it’s climate fiction, but I don’t see it that way. It is, amazingly (since I’m doing these reviews in alphabetical order by author, which is effectively random), another cross-cultural story.

“The Bear and the Nightingale”, “The Girl in the Tower”, and “The Winter of the Witch” by Katherine Arden (aka the Winternight Trilogy). If you want to know what I mean by “astonishing” writing—as opposed to Ilana Andrew’s “fundamentally flawless” writing—this is it. This is really, really it. The trilogy takes place in Northern Rus’/Russia. You will feel the deadly cold as you read. You will feel the corrosive hatred and unmet hope in the heart of the beautiful priest. You will feel the wild heart of our heroine, and the weight of an entire society that falls, always, on the shoulders of women. CONTENT WARNING: Women are constantly at risk of rape, and are also subject to arranged marriages against their will, which definitely includes spousal rape (the men are also married without always getting a choice over their partner, but they are clearly in a position of muuuuch more power than any woman). I am not against arranged marriage on the whole. There are several examples of happy arranged marriages in the book (and in real life). But there is at least one arranged marriage in this series that is incredibly awful, and a better man would have made different choices (yes, even in that historical setting—although there is room for interpretation on that score). The sexual violence is never explicitly described, and it is never used to break the spirit of a female character or to justify someone’s evil with a rape backstory. There are much more creative ways to break a person. . .

This series is magical, and it is unbelievably harsh, and it is exhilarating and tragic and more.

You, too, will weep for a nightingale.

Since I’ve already talked about the brilliant Naomi Novik AND I’ve talked about magical stories set in medieval Russia, I can’t stop there.

“Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik. This is so good you guys. So so good. It is just as good as the Winternight Trilogy, and when I describe them they sound similar, thanks to the rich and bone-chilling selling of a magical medieval Russia. They even both have a female heroine who attracts the interest of an immortal man (for better or worse—but usually much much worse). But although rape is still threatened in this book, it is only a very slight possibility that is quickly and relatively easily fended off. In this story, the heroine is Jewish. So there is a whole other complicated and historical layer. And almost everyone in the story becomes a better person, which I love. That reminds me: another thing this book has in common with the Winternight trilogy is a protagonist who is incredibly honorable. Even when someone treats them incredibly badly, they do what is right. Even when they absolutely deserve a break they refuse to leave people to their fate. I love that.

“Uprooted” also by Naomi Novik. Completely different world. You’ve got a medieval-ish valley with a nasty wizard who takes a girl from the village every ten years. It’s always someone a bit extraordinary, so the heroine has grown up knowing that her best friend (who is beautiful, and kind, and clever) will be the girl taken. Except the wizard takes her instead. Content warning: there is an attempted rape (that ends rather badly for the attacker, which amuses me more the more times I read it). Again, it’s brilliantly written, including delving into the complicated feelings of the characters. How would you feel if your mother had long since accepted that you would be taken against your will as a teenager? How would you feel if, after all that, you weren’t chosen after all? And how would you feel if you were the friend of that girl that everyone knew was so, so special (unlike you)? And how would you feel, knowing your best friend would be taken and not being able to do anything to stop it? And how would you feel when you were taken instead?

And that’s only the start. I don’t want to say too much, but this book is amazing.

“A Deadly Education” (and “The Final Graduate” which ends on a major cliffhanger, and “The Golden Enclaves” once it comes out later this year) by Naomi Novik. All of the above brilliance, but absolutely hilarious too. This is a “magical school” story, but the survival rate of this particular educational institution is incredibly low. Our heroine is prophesied to become an evil sorceress. People dislike her instinctively, and she is severely hampered in her magical school by the fact that the school is basically pushing her to destroy the world and everyone in it (because it will automatically feed you the magic you’re best at—which in her case is all the most destructive killer spells). Worse, she just had her life saved by everyone’s favourite hero RIGHT when she had a conveniently impressive monster to kill. It is so funny, and strangely sweet, and exciting, and surprising. Naomi Novik was an impressive author when she wrote “Temeraire”, but she just keeps getting better and I hope she lives forever so I can keep reading her books.

“Sing the Four Quarters” by Tanya Huff. The heroine is a princess who gave up the throne to follow the call of her magical gifts. Then she did the one thing that an abdicated princess must never, never do: she got pregnant. What is worse, the man she slept with is currently in a dungeon accused of treason. He’s mostly a pretty face to her (she has a healthy and open long-term relationship with another woman, which is beautifully realised) but he’s no traitor.

Nah (aka good books that I might re-read someday, but just not really my thing)

“Fifth Quarter”, “No Quarter” and “The Quartered Sea” by Tanya Huff. Interestingly, the first book in the series is “Sing the Four Quarters” and I love it, and it’s right above this entry in my favourites pile. But in Book 2 we get a pair of new characters: siblings, and an incestuous love that continues to play a part in the rest of the series. They’re still really good books, but I strongly dislike both of the sibling characters and don’t want to spend time with them.

“Over the Woodward Wall” by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan Macguire, who will show up on the “Favourites” pile soon enough). This is well written (Macguire is a master writer) and pretty good, but aimed at a younger audience. I just found the two child protagonists mildly annoying.

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. The midnight library is a place where you can go between life and death, and play out alternate possibilities. Sort of cool, but I want sentient books and mysteriously well-read monsters in my library setting, not a story about regret and life choices.


“The Dragon Lady” by Angelique S. Anderson. Magical steampunk, including dragons. Too many adjectives.

“Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard. I don’t remember much about the book (apparently a bestseller), but there’s a lot of clumsy exposition in the first two pages.

“The Tangled Lands” by Paolo Bacigalupi (who had a book in the “Nah” section of Part 1) and Tobias S. Buckell. Really well written but too dark for me.

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The Great Book Sort (Part 1)

July 26, 2022 at 12:18 am (Advanced/Publication, All Steampunk Fiction, book reviews)

I’ve been reading mainly ebooks for many years, and now have over 700. I only recently realised I could and should sort them. The main categories I am now using are “Favourites” (happy to re-read frequently for the rest of my life), “Nah” (books that are good, but I dislike them for one reason or another—but if I get desperate I could still potentially re-read them). I also have categories for research (mainly non-fiction), and for “People I’ve Met” (mainly so I can quickly glance at them when I’m on a panel with someone, to remind myself of their books—but also so that if I hate a book by a friend, I can put it there rather than in the “Nope” section).

Here are some samples from the main three.

Favourites (currently 249)

“Notes From A Small Island” by Bill Bryson. It’s very rare for non-fiction to be so entertaining that it’s worth a regular re-read, but Bryson’s travel books are brilliant (and hazardous, because if I try to read one before I go to sleep I laugh so much I end up feeling more awake than when I started). Other than his travel books, I also love “At Home”, his book about his house and by extension the history of the home in the Western World. Highly recommended for historical authors, even though I don’t own a digital copy. His book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” isn’t nearly as fun (although definitely more fun than a textbook).

“Minimum Wage Magic” by Rachel Aaron. An incredibly relatable heroine fighting seemingly impossible odds to make rent. I like it. Haven’t bought the next book in the series, but I think that has more to do with cashflow than anything else. Or possibly because it wasn’t quite good enough to make me want to keep going and risk the quality falling in the sequel.

“Mr Malcolm’s List” by Suzanne Allain. Delightful and witty Austen-esque romance. I’ve been recommending it for years and now it’s getting made into a movie.

Nah (currently 89)

“Nice Dragons Finish Last” and “One Good Dragon Deserves Another” by…. Rachel Aaron. It’s rare for a writer to fall into two categories, but clearly these books were “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me”. Maybe I won’t buy the second “Minimum Wage Magic” book after all. Sometimes it’s nice to take your reasonably-happy ending and pretend nothing of interest ever happened to the character again.

“Children of Blood and Bone” and “Children of Virtue and Vengeance” by Tomi Adeyemi. Really well written, but just a few shades too dark for my readerly palate.

“The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi

Really well written; very violent. It’s science fiction (my preferred reading genre is ‘YA fantasy that doesn’t go on and on excessively about how hot the romantic interest/s are’) and climate fiction, set in a very dry USA.

Nope (currently 116)

“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell. This was recommended to me by a friend, and I can definitely see why. It is heart-rending and has a lot of kindness in it, and a very interesting exploration of faith. But some really bad stuff happens—too dark for me to stomach. TW: rape.

Almost all stories with rape in them (including flashbacks, spousal rape, or statutory rape) will go in the “Nope” pile for me. This book definitely earned its rape scene, but even so…. way too many writers think, “What shall I put in this female character’s backstory?” and go straight to sexual violence. I’ve done it myself (once, out of hundreds of stories). As someone with a vivid imagination and strong empathy, it is often traumatising for me to read. I am extremely fond of trigger warnings for this reason, and wish all books with sexual violence had them.

“The Wandering Inn” by Pirateaba. Great cover, terrible writing. I never read past the opening few pages. (If you think publishers are harsh for rejecting books based on a few pages, you should try giving a book to actual readers. We’re not here to find your diamond in the rough. We want diamonds from page one, sentence one.)

“Brilliant Devices”, “Her Own Devices”, “Lady of Devices”, and “Magnificent Devices” by Shelley Adina. This is light-hearted steampunk, and I obviously liked it enough to buy all four books the first time around. But the second time around the author’s admiration for the heroine was too grating, and the way she won over a bunch of streetkids struck me as both unrealistic and patronising. And yes, I know books aren’t meant to be exactly like real life, but the mix of dark problems and comical solutions bugged me so much I don’t want to go back.

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Welcome to Australia

July 13, 2022 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the most recent version of “Welcome to Australia”, a book I started writing way back in 2018. It is designed to be read by immigrant and refugee children with their parents. 

Eventually (in some cases MAYBE by the end of 2022) there will be versions in Dari Persian, Mandarin, Indonesian, Arabic, and Spanish.

Update: The Indonesian translation is finished, checked, and being formatted. The Dari Persian version is finished but hasn’t had its final translator check yet. The Mandarin and Spanish versions are with volunteer translators.

Comment here or email to get your copy.

As you can see, the back cover isn’t fixed yet.

A lot of the illustrators/models donated their images (and there are a LOT of photos of my kids) but I made a point of paying refugees and Aboriginal people (both models and sensitivity readers).

The English version (almost identical to the above) is just about to go to print, and will cost $20. 

Comment here or email to get your copy.

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July 1, 2022 at 10:14 am (Uncategorized)

My daughter Lizzie was diagnosed with Autism earlier this year. They classified her as Level 2 which is largely meaningless (every autistic person is wildly different from every other autistic person) except it means she can mostly deal with mainstream school but also gets funding for therapy.

Sometimes ‘mild’ (again, a problematic term) autism is called Asperges. Lizzie and I quite like the term “Aspergirl” because it sounds like a superhero. It’s very likely that Tim and I are also autistic, although our lives are clearly much easier than hers.

Autism comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It’s much harder to diagnose in girls as they present differently. I saw this on FaceBook (with the original link long since broken) and was fascinated. I took screenshots, and have commented on the screenshots.

Uh yes, I don’t even wear long sleeves (unless it’s under about 5 degrees Celsius, and sometimes not even then) because they bother me.

I often don’t brush my hair and I almost never wear makeup.

Eccentric personality. Well, yes.

No, I wouldn’t say I’m youthful for my age (immature in some respects, sure), or more/less expressive than the mainstream, or androgynous at all. Lizzie and I are both hyper-feminine in style (I wear skirts and dresses all the time; she wears pink; we both maintain long hair despite finding it a hassle). I’ve read elsewhere that being really really into gender roles OR really not into them are both autistic traits.

I test as INFP/INFJ on Myers-Briggs tests (and yes I know they’re not scientific). INFPs in particular are famous for being a different person in different situations, and not being able to turn it off. I had a boyfriend that I broke up with because he expected me to be depressed and needy… so I was.

I think this blog and my entire life support the film/books addiction.

Ah yes, being hyper controlling in order to cope with stuff. Ask anyone who has ever tried to do anything with me, including the recent ZamZam Foundation launch. I can delegate, and I can handle having stuff delegated to me, but I have to be able to say no to stuff.

Home is my safe place—which is difficult when I don’t live alone.

Classic gifted kid.

I’m a writer with a double degree.

I’m not super great at being employed but I’m fantastic at being self-employed.

I’m intelligent but verbal instructions have always been a big weakness for me. People often accuse me of pretending to be stupid when I genuinely don’t ‘get’ what’s going on.

My obsessive writing is more or less socially acceptable.

Yes I’m emotionally sensitive. And I have an anxiety disorder and clinical depression, so… yes.

My computer deleted a draft of this blog entry and I don’t feel like re-writing, but I’ll leave the rest of the article here for you. And a pic of my cats.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 6

June 18, 2022 at 4:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

LOTR Trilogy Part 1 Part 2

Bonus links: A LOTR marathon I blogged back in 2010. (Focusing on getting through it in one day, rather than actually writing about the films.)

And, Signs you like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy a little too much. (2012)

And finally, featuring much of the cast, Stephen Colbert’s unique and delightful “The #1 Trilly“.

Every moment of this film is gasp-worthy. That opening scene, even without all the context of the other two (or the other five) films, is incredible: An idyllic scene of two brothers who stumble across the one ring and then attempt to murder one another. One of them succeeds, and we see him degenerate from a hobbit-like creature to the monster that is Gollum.

And then, pipeweed (extended version only).

I won’t list every brilliant scene, because I want to actually watch some.

Ooh, but Saruman accurately hits Gandalf right where it hurts the whole group most: Gandalf does sacrifice those he professes to love.

Grima’s final act of not-entirely-convenient mid-interrogation courage is worthy of a thousand essays on the topics of morality and ethics.

And Pippin, of course, falls for the shiny palantir ball.

Drinking game with Legolas and Gimli. Super dumb, super fun. Merry and Pippin singing and dancing again, ditto.

Super awkward Eowyn crush.

There are loads of really important things I should definitely be doing. But I’ll have an early lunch and then go to bed.

Aragorn and Eowyn are definitely sort of dating. Aragorn, you are nice, but you are a tease. I suppose you think you’ve broken up with Arwen, but in any case it’s too soon to move on.

Oh, poor dumb Pippin and delightfully terrifying Gandalf. Billy Boyd does a good job of being utterly terrified and clearly violated by the Palantir.

And THERE’s Figwit (Frodo Is Great, Who Is That?) Or more accurately, there are the lines he was given after fans become obsessed with him in the first LOTR film (he’s at the Council of Elrond).

Hi Denethor. I dunno how you came to power, but you’ve proved that even non-hereditary rulers can totally suck. Well done you.

Nice moment between Faramir and Pippin.


I didn’t quite make it through disc 1 but I’m awake and have a few minutes before another ZamZam person comes over for yet another delivery of stuff from the launch.

Arg! The friend showed up on time. Still, I have half an hour before I need to fetch the kids.

Time for Frodo to make Sam cry. Frodo, no!

Time for Denethor to send his men to die. Denethor, no!

Gandalf to Faramir: “Do not throw away your life so rashly!”

Faramir: “Where does my allegiance lie if not here?”

And Pippin sings, and breaks all our hearts.

And now we’re at the war camp with King Theodren, Aragorn, and Legolas. Gimli is, presumably, around somewhere. There is SO MUCH movie still to go.

Is this dream of Aragorn’s a premonition… or is it Eowyn getting back together with him by psychic text message?

Even better that either of those options, Daddy Elrond has been sent to play matchmaker. A well deserved opportunity for the vegan elf to eat crow.

Somewhere, unfilmed and unwritten, is a conversation in which Arwen says, “Daddy, you broke us up, and you are going to fix it.”

Aragorn, realising his hot new thing deserves a proper break-up, says, “It is but a shadow of a thought that you love. I cannot give you what you seek…. I wished you joy since first I saw you.”

Excellent break-up speech: Vague enough to let her keep her dignity, kind enough to show she meant something to you, and clear enough that there can be no doubt it’s over.

Little wonder she fell for Aragorn, when every other man she knows treats her like a puppy that just widdled on the floor.

Wait, I forgot to mention the beacons! World’s worst job combined with world’s prettiest office. The sheer unshaking faithfulness of the beacon keepers inspires me so very much.

Okay, five more minutes and I need to get going.

Aragorn and the ghosties. Someone is no longer in any doubt of his role as king.

Hello, comatose Faramir! Still alive!

Aand now it’s 7:30pm and I still haven’t finished the first disc! Although my kids are currently playing with “Sting” which is almost as fun as watching the films (at least until Chris catches them/me and we all get in trouble.

2:00pm the next day. Even with a nap I was too tired to stay awake and watch the rest. Luckily Chris takes the kids to his parents’ house every Saturday arvo. I had breakfast and then went back to bed.

Juuust in time for Gandalf to knock out a hysterical Denethor. I think we’ve all faced people that made the world worse by being awake. *sigh*

I’m glad I don’t have to face orcs or any kind of monster in my regular life. Or battle of any kind. But sometimes I wish life was less morally complex. On the up side, the worst people I know also have redeeming qualities, so that’s something good.

And the disc is done! Finally! At 2:06pm!

Hello, pirate Peter Jackson.

Oh no. Frodo and Gollum are still on that awful black cliff, about to meet Shelob. This is so stressful!

Last night I ate a freshly-roasted chicken salad with avocado, grated carrot, pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onion.

The chicken came from the food pantry, as did the pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onions. It was delicious, although it doesn’t look like much.

I wish I could hallucinate Cate Blanchett whenever I fell over.


And they say Tolkien didn’t write complex female characters. Hi, Shelob!

Thank you Pippin, for screaming, “He’s not dead!” over and over…. just like everyone else who watches Denethor deciding to burn Faramir’s “body”.

Thank you Denethor, for the line, “Go now and die in what way seems best to you.”

Thank you Eowyn, for the line, “Courage, Merry. Courage for our friends.”

Bye-bye, Denethor. A appropriate death for a flaming asshole. Now all of you is flaming.

Oh no, another army? What is this, The Hobbit?!

They do a really good good of highlighting small moments and big: confusion and one-on-one moments, and the times when the battle-tide turns, and turns again.

Legolas versus an ollyphaunt (I still don’t know how to spell that) is a most excellent moment.

Goodbye, King Theoden. I don’t know what poor decisions you made to end up possessed by Saruman, and not every decision you made was right even when you were yourself, but you deserve to feel pride in your actions at the end.

I like the romance that blooms between Eowyn and Faramir in the Halls of Healing. The two people with the most tragic backstories, united. All the best relationships, platonic or otherwise, have an element of healing to them.

The scars around Frodo’s neck, and on his very young chest, are heartbreaking.

Faramir: “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

An extraordinary claim (by a man who has recently lost his entire family, and who has been in indirect contact with the ring), and a beautiful one.

Meanwhile Sam, who brought a box of herbs through the black lands in case they happened upon a chicken, now knows that he and Frodo will not be coming back. Even his optimism fails, eventually.

The Mouth of Sauron character is perfectly done (from memory, he’s only in the extended version). *shudder*

Aragorn finally wears the livery of Gondor…. and his first act is to lead his people and others on a suicide mission.

Sam: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Aragorn: “For Frodo.”

Oh no! Gollum attack!

And we’re finally inside the volcano…. and Frodo fails to give up the ring.

And Gollum attacks again, and finally gets his precious back, and dies happy.

Bye bye, ring.

Bye bye, flaming eyeball.

Bye bye, despair.

And Frodo is himself again, even as lava surrounds him. #WorthIt

And Sam, the ultimate friend, says, “Yes Frodo, that’s very nice that you remember the taste of food again now” rather than making a fuss about the burning death they’ve both about to have.

And the screen fades to black in a fake-out ending that foreshadows the many endings yet to come.

Eagles, and Rivendell, and Frodo is okay! More or less!

Gandalf is okay! (Not surprising to us, but surprising to Frodo.)

Merry and Pippin are okay!

Gimli is okay (other than his severe allergy to his own prosthetic face)!

Legolas is okay!

Legolas’s hair is okay!

Aragorn is okay!

Sam is okay!

Aragorn is king!

Aragorn’s finally washed his hair!

Faramir and Eowyn are definitely together, and okay!

Eomer is okay! (And also his sister shall be queen of the Rohan, which might teach him a much-needed lesson about not being a patronising dick.)

Elrond is finally okay with Aragorn and Arwen officially getting it on!

Aragorn and Arwen officially get it on!

Frodo writes a book!

The Shire is okay!

The local pub is okay!

A large local pumpkin is okay!

The local ale is okay!

Rosie Cotton is a-okay!

Frodo’s psyche is not entirely okay!

Dementia Bilbo is “quite ready for another adventure”!

Galadriel’s delighted smile as she leaves is an absolute treat.

Gandalf is okay… with crying, fortunately. Because there’s a lot of it.

Bye bye Frodo—with another perfect smile, and the tiniest of manly nods.

The other hobbits are not okay.

Sam and Rosie’s kids are okay!

My blood sugar is okay!

I mean, that’s not actually part of the movie but it’s been two hours since I started lunch so it was time to test it.

My cats are also okay, you’ll be pleased to hear. Zipper prefers to glower from above and Zoom prefers to hide under things.

Cats are, of course, essential to all the best movie marathons.

And the full HoLOTR marathon of 2022 is done.

Yes, that’s our official Sting replica.

How do I feel?

I’m very surprised it took me a whole seven days. I underestimated my exhaustion and overestimated my supposed free time. But I still feel I’ve achieved something, which is all the more valuable for a disabled person. And the amount of work that went into these films always inspires me—along with the obvious inspiration of courage, hope, love, and faith despite incredible darkness and impossible odds.

There is always hope.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 5

June 16, 2022 at 11:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Lord of the Rings Part 1

An epic opening: the knife-edge of glacier-clad mountains, and then Gandalf and the balrog fighting, with just a teensy bit of flashback for context.

Ahhhhh… that’s the stuff.

And in just a few moments, we get to know Sam and Frodo very well.

It’s 10:30am and I’ve already been impressive today. (Feel free to cheer. I can take it.) It’s Thursday, which means shopping—but not just any shopping; food pantry shopping. On Thursdays I buy cheap (and often delightfully eccentric) food from the St Paul’s food pantry in Melba, then bring it home and unpack it into the West Belco Food Pantry that I run from my front porch. (Taking all the best stuff for myself, OF COURSE.) That’s why I was moving fridges yesterday—the fridge I had in the pantry is very small and it was hurting my back quite badly to try and put the fruit and vegetables in any kind of order, and someone was giving away a medium-sized fridge on Buy Nothing that means more room in the freezer (frozen meat makes all the difference to struggling families) and it’s easier to unpack things into it too.

Some food pantry items I’ve eaten during this marathon: sweet potato and pumpkin hamburger patties; beetroot and hummus dip (which I took partly because it amuses me to see Chris hiss and back away from anything beetrooty like a vampire from sunlight), Maple-Mustard-Apple Cider marinate;

So I’m hoping to watch the first disc during the day, then sleep. I’m getting “aura”—weird visual stuff that is the precursor to a migraine, but if I’m careful I can still fend it off. A nap will help. Then I’ll wake up, fetch kids, and do my arvo work (which, mercifully, has been halved today).

And in a few moments we understand uruk-hai, orcs, Merry, and Pippin—and the relationships between them.

And in a few moments we see Aragorn being skillful, Legolas’s pristine hair and skin even while running for days, and the news that Gimli is only here for comic relief (sorry again, dwarves).

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe tried to balance a cast with six main characters, Fellowship of the Ring did it with nine.

Although The Hobbit didn’t quite succeed in managing to truly differentiate all those dwarves, it did manage to distinguish a few of them: the king (Thorin), the pretty one (Kili), his brother (Fili; no personality otherwise), the old & wise one (Dwalin I think, or Balin his brother), the dumb but kind one (Bofur, who of course has an Irish accent instead of the traditional Scottish), the fat one (Bombur). Then there’s… the one with the ear trumpet. The one with an axe in his head. Uh… there’s one more. Even after watching this SO many times, I can’t name them all.

I thought I’d forgotten one, but I’d forgotten two (googles for a photo of them): The super young dumb one, and his much older brother. No idea what their names are. Oh wait, and Gimli’s dad Gloin. That’s thirteen I think. So I forgot three.

Googles a photo WITH names:

Okay, so the super dumb young one is Ori, and his brother is Dori. Also their brother Nori, who I’d utterly forgotten. Gloin’s brother Oin is the one with the ear trumpet maybe? And Bifur has the axe in his head. Is that everyone? It is, right? ……right??

Hello Eomyr, and the lands of Rohan. Hello Eowyn. Hi Wormtongue and King Theodren. Not sure I spelled those names correctly.

Hello, grumbly forest! The ents are famously based on CS Lewis, one of Tolkien’s best friends (incredibly boring, oblivious to the world around them, slow-moving, and have forgotten what women look like).

“Oh you’re a writer?” people say to me. “Would you ever base a character on me?”

You’d better hope not.

Bog! Bad bog! Bad battle bog with grabby ghosties! This also scared me half to death the first several times. I’m a sensitive soul.

Hello new, shinier, gently fuddled Gandalf.

“I cast down my enemy, and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.” Yeah! Go shiny Gandalf!


Thank you, extended version, for the gentle torture of ent poetry. Where’s some pipeweed when you need it? (Did you ent lads recite a lot of poetry at the ladies, pray tell? Sort of immediately before they left forever?)

Ah, everything is so beautiful about this movie. The landscapes, the costumes, the set design, the music.

Another extended scene, with Merry and Pippin and a peckish tree that’s sick of being teased about being vegan.

And one of my absolute favourite film scenes of all time: The freeing of King Theodren.

If one didn’t already have a crush on Aragorn, seeing him soothe a grieving horse will get you on board. It certainly worked for Aowyn, and can you blame her? And he’s multilingual, too!

I had a friend make me a dress based on the dress Eowyn wears in the scene when Aragon chats to her as she’s practising her swordplay. Still got it, although it most definitely doesn’t fit any more.

It sucks leaving your home, but at least it won’t be as windy inside Helm’s Deep. Legolas and Eowyn must both be quietly pleased that their hair won’t frizz up so much. (Aragorn hasn’t washed his hair since he was 50 so it’s too oily to misbehave; Gimli’s hair became independently sentient years ago.)

Arg, it’s almost 1pm. I should be asleep! I kept having to pause to take calls or deal with other life and/or ZamZam stuff. I’m determined to get to the end of this disc, though.

Smeagol versus Gollum. An echo of the freeing of King Theodren: a person casting off clinging awfulness despite incredible odds stacked against them.

Hello Oliphaunt (ollyfant?) Not that one:

And finally, hello Faramir.

Disc two: Dwarf women. Another moment that is made better by the Hobbit trilogy.

Suuper awkward to find out that the guy you like is definitely still obsessed with his immortal elf princess of an ex. Sorry Eowyn. Don’t worry, you’ll get together with a fully-human male soon enough.

The Rohirrim + Gimli/Aragorn/Legolas face another great, hilly battle with mountain views and a handy (or not-so-handy) cliff or two. Not so great for Gimli, who gets pinned under a warg for most of it and is repeatedly rescued. The movies did you wrong, Gimli.

Speaking of dwarves and problematic choices, I wonder how Scots feel about dwarves being Scottish? Because they’re ugly and violent and drunk? I suspect Scots feel the same swell of pride as Aussies feel at the line “peopled entirely by criminals” when our very nice nation is described in The Princess Bride. All the same, someone should object. Even if it’s hilarious. (And orcs of course are cockney, because they’re dirty, violent, and perpetually hungry? Ouch.)

And here we are at the cold, crowded block of rock that is Helm’s Deep.

But the two little kids on the pony do get to see their mother again, and that is a much-needed bit of brightness.

Hello Arwen and thanks for the magic kiss. Ditto that highly affectionate and open-minded horse.

Ooh, are we nearly at the FIGWOT scene?

Arwen: “There is still hope.” Yes indeedy. Even if Daddy gives the best “You’ll regret it when the relationship ends” speech of all time. Somewhat weightier when you know he sees the future.

Frodo: “And this is Samwise Gamgee.”

Faramir: “Your bodyguard?”

Sam: “His gardener.”—said with such delicious contempt.

A flashback to Boromir and Faramir in Osgiliath, happy. At least until Daddy Denethor comes along to be a total a-hole. Like Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, he’s not the most murderous evil, but he’s definitely the one the audience most wants to punch in the face.

Thank you ent council. Now I can get a snack. It’s 10:30pm and I don’t have a migraine but I gotta eat something to stay awake.

Aragorn: “There is always hope.”

Almost word for word was Arwen said, and I only just noticed the parallel on this watch.

Thank you for showing up, elf army. Did you bring a wagon of food again, or was that just for the Hobbit movies? Never mind, it was all salad anyway.

No matter what you say about dwarves, you’d far rather hang out with them than the elves. Better food, better drink, more fun. Although it’s clear both dwarves and elves love a good bit of violence.

Helm’s Deep, as the armies draw up facing one another in the rain.

Denethor is a great villain (although, again, clearly insane—it seems everyone turns insane at the drop of a hat, as far as Tolkien is concerned) but mostly we have a lot of orc and uruk-hai, who are clearly inhuman and inhumane. Not a bit of sympathy for the enemy there, which is usually a sign of poor writing. But if you’ve been in a real war with real humans I doubt you could ever stomach writing human-versus-human battle scenes ever again. Because otherwise the lovely mightiness of manly menfolk defending their home is just a waste of lives and an ugly thing. Like the “war to end all wars”, which… didn’t.

Sadly, way too many men (not all men…. but too many of them) walk away from films and fancy themselves the mighty weapon-toting warrior, rather than seeing the self-sacrifice and mutual affection between these heroes as the thing that truly matters.

Ents: so boring they fall asleep halfway through their own sentences.

But when they get moving, they’re great. Especially the one who bends over into the broken dam-water to put out the fire in his upper branches.

Oh, Frodo. When you nearly give the ring away to a wraith, and then nearly kill Sam.

Sam: “Even darkness must pass.”

And there’s one last flash of Smeagol, listening to Sam and desperately hoping Sam’s optimism isn’t as foolish as it sounds.

Sam: “There’s still some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Meanwhile, the uruk-hair retreat into the trees… and are never seen again. Om nom nom.

*switch to Merry and Pippin finding Saruman’s excellent larder, pipe weed and all*

Faramir: “The Shire must surely be a great realm, Mr Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honour.”

Yes, Faramir. It is.

And a bit of posturing to advertise the third film, and we’re done!

Not quite. We have Sam fantasizing about other people one day telling a story about the two hobbits and their big adventure, and once again we end the film overwhelmed with love for Frodo and Sam.

And then there’s the scene in which Smeagol is shoved deep, deep down into Gollum’s psyche. The tragedy is that, for a little while, Smeagol was dominant. If circumstances has been just a teensy bit different, Smeagol could have stayed redeemed. Or perhaps he could have re-recovered later, if he hadn’t taken a lava bath.

With that thought, I shall go to bed.

Not really. There’s a new episode of Ms Marvel that’s calling my name. No full reviews for y’all, but it’s really good. Joyful and fun and it’s so good to see a nuanced portrayal of various Muslim characters (and yes, the parents are super strict and basically the opening villain… but that’s how all teens see their parents, plus lots of immigrants have a similarly “unfair” upbringing compared to their peers).

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 4

June 15, 2022 at 9:51 pm (Uncategorized)

The Hobbit trilogy: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Opening voiceover by Galadriel, with epic battles.

It’s 9:30am on Wednesday, and I’m finally watching the Lord of the Rings.

Also, moving furniture today: a table, a couch, a big chair, and two fridges. Another task not entirely suited to someone with a disability, but it’s not like disabled people can afford to pay others to do stuff like this.

Huh. It’s amazing to see Ian Holm as young Bilbo, with a tiny section of the cave scene with Gollum, after seeing the full scene with Martin Freeman so recently.

And then Bilbo’s home, which is oh so familiar, and feels just the same even though the whole set had to be rebuilt for the Hobbit films.

Such a contrast from the ‘true’ opening, with Bilbo’s narration which is fantastic. It’s incredibly warm and lovely and funny.

The battle scene opening is grand, and gives much-needed perspective. But it’s the hobbits that win your heart.

These movies do fit together beautifully. “The incident with the dragon” indeed! That line is even better than it was before, which is a mighty feat. And Bilbo telling the story of the trolls—not quite accurate, but Bilbo’s obviously told this story so many times he knows exactly how it works best. And we care so deeply for Bilbo after the Hobbit trilogies that everything he does and says has a deeper impact.

Oh my goodness, little Elijah Wood and his giant blue eyes. He really is a bush baby. He was 17 for a good chunk of these movies, so I won’t talk about the crush I had on him any more (he’s a year older than me in real life so naturally as a teen I was obsessed with him, and I maintain an ongoing crush for the actor since he remains both incredibly pretty and incredibly talented). I expect Lizzie will fall for bush baby Frodo once she’s old enough to actually see these films.

So glad the extended version includes the hobbits getting drunk and singing on tables.

Gandalf definitely sent Sam with Frodo to be Frodo’s Bilbo—to be the antidote to the corruption of the ring. And a good thing too.

Oh, that scenery. Worth the price of admission all on its own.

Saruman’s part is also deeper because of the Hobbit trilogy. To see this great good turned evil hurts much more than meeting him pre-evilled. Speaking of pain, the wizard vs wizard fight really hurts to watch. The squeak of bare skin scraped along a polished floor…. *shudder*

Those ring-wraiths scared me so much the first few times I saw this.

Hello, Peter Jackson cameo. And a buuurp to you too.

Nice to see the (presumably) descendant of the same black bar-cat as in the Hobbit.

Hello, Aragorn. My teenage self will fall for your stubbly, unwashed, stinking-of-horse self soon enough. And with every rewatch my affection for you will grow. Including this one. Another actor with extraordinary subtleties of facial expression that I most definitely did not pick up at nineteen.

Love the inclusion of the bog/bugs/Aragorn hunting and singing scene.

I love that Saruman has to wrap up warmly after speaking to his eyeball friend.

This scene of the ring-wraiths attacking the hobbits on the tower is exquisite. And Aragorn takes an already-brilliant scene up a notch.

And I’m genuinely stressed out about Frodo’s safety right now. And so is Aragorn.

Aw, uruk-hai being born! Sweet little murder-babies.

Hello again stone trolls!

Elf flirting is highly dangerous. (But totally worth it. Just ask Aragorn.)

FINALLY a romantic couple in a movie who don’t waste time chatting each other up in the middle of an action scene—but we can still see their affection easily enough.

Oh my goodness. The horse chase scene is excellent too.

Hello, excellent moment at the river. Or three excellent moments, if you count them like so:


-Ta-ta for now, ring-wraiths!

-“What grace I have, let it pass to him.”

Oh, I just realised I know exactly where this disc ends: with the freshly-formed fellowship.

Hello again Bilbo. I too would quite like a writers’ retreat in Rivendell, although I imagine with all the water features I’d have to go to the bathroom every three seconds. Worth it.

Elrond: “Nine companions… you shall be the fellowship of the ring.”

Pippin: “Where are we going?”

*end disc 1*

Hello again, Sting. Chris owns a replica. I’ll post a photo sometime in this marathon.

SCARY BILBO! After watching the Hobbit trilogy, this moment of terror breaks your heart.

As the fellowship departs Rivendell, Arwen looks pissed and sulky. I’d be pissed too if I’d FINALLY managed to get my 80 year-old boy toy to get together with me and then he ran off to go and probably get himself killed.

Men! Amirite?!

Hello, Fellowship of the Ring musical theme. You will never fail to make my heart leap.

Good to see Boromir teaching the Hobbits to sword-fight.

Hello, tentacle monster.

Oh, that subtle moment when the monster shoves aside the other hobbits and takes Frodo—because we don’t attack Frodo just because he’s the main character of this film; we attack him because he has the ring. Clever writing.

“It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.” Yes, the exact moment when invisible, armed Bilbo chose not to kill Gollum was played out in the Hobbit films. Another moment that makes the world better because of its existence.

Other than the many one-liners, this advice by Gandalf to choose what one does with the time given to them is the most-quoted part of the whole film series. It shows up on facebook a lot.

But it’s not the most inspiring part, to me. The most inspiring part of both trilogies is that, over and over again, when there is no hope of either success or survival, the heroes of these films keep going.

As a clinically depressed person (and unlikely to ever recover fully) that means a great deal. Hope, even false or fatalistic hope, is extremely valuable. Or the afterglow of watching these films, which typically lasts a few days.

And hello, dead Balin. We grieve for you now along with Gimli, because we know you.

From grief and horror to Pippin’s accidental dumping of a body down a well oh so noisily, to a fantastic action scene, to the bridge of Khazad-Dûm, to the balrog and then a fresher, deeper grief. Every moment is perfection:

Gandalf: “Fool of a Took!”

Boromir: “They have a cave troll.”

Gimli: “Let them come! There is one dwarf in Moria who still draws breath.”

Hello again, mithril shirt.

And finally: “Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!”

I’m really not getting much of anything done today. This film is so good. Hopefully later, between moving fridges *sigh*.

Ah, somewhat creepy Galadriel. I fell in love with Cate Blanchett because of this film, even though I think she is much better in other films (not her fault! Just the nature of the part. Never speak against Cate Blanchett).

And here in her magic water we get the only glimpse we ever see of the scouring of the Shire. I do like the film ending better, with the strange sensation of heroes returning to a place that barely notices they left at all. Sorry Tolkien. Both endings are powerful in their own way.

Gifts from Galadriel and the elves; thank you extended version.

Hello, giant Argonath statues. You are cool.

Boromir’s madness is done well, I think. And Frodo’s full bush baby look is gone forever.

From this moment on, everything is perfect. Aragorn’s faithfulness; Aragorn’s fight; Pippin and Merry’s courage; Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn fighting; Boromir saving Pippin and Merry—nearly; Boromir fighting on when he should be dead; the ancient statue behind him; the hobbits’ faces…..

Aaaand I need to go pick up the kids from school.

It’s 9:30pm, and I finally get to watch the last little bit.

Boromir is dying. I do love the man-on-man, often very physical, affection shown throughout all these films. It is a beautiful thing.

Frodo, at the water’s edge.

Sam, running to catch up to him.

That moment that drags on just a little too long for hope to endure, as Frodo lets Sam drown—and then reaches down for him, and drags him coughing and choking into the boat.

I only just realised that it’s Boromir’s love for his city and his people that finally gets Aragorn to face becoming king. And he is immediately changed for the better.

“Let’s go hunt some orc.”


And the final line of the movie:

“I’m glad you’re with me Sam.”

You guys, this film is SO GOOD.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 3

June 14, 2022 at 2:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1

Part 2

That opening scene. . . wow.

“A little to your left.”

That is the mightiest line in all films, of all time.

Incidentally Luke Evans is gay. Always makes me happy to add another famous LGBTIQA+ person to the ever-increasing list.

The scene against the dead ringbearers is excellent too. Christopher Lee was 93 or so, too ill to travel, and still managed (along with several wigs and a stunt double) to convincingly beat up a bunch of potent enemies with panache to spare. And the affection between Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellan is real.

I genuinely forgot for a second I was watching the Hobbit. I thought it was LOTR. If that’s not the highest possible compliment, I don’t know what is.

The greatest tragedies come sooo close to ending happily, and when Bilbo hides the arkenstone the whole audience can’t help hoping that somehow, despite everything, this time it will end happily.

Oh, this moment between King Thorin and Bilbo, and Bilbo talks about gardening… and the king is sweet and good for a moment… but Bilbo has already betrayed him. For all the best reasons, but also in the worst possible way.

Today I’ll watch things in half-hour chunks, and write grant applications in between.

—1 grant application done, and it’s lunch time. In my defense, I had a big meeting as I continue to sort out the takings from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch.—

When King Thorin betrays Laketown, it still breaks my heart.

Ooh, hello BIlly Connolly! You and the worms are a much-needed bit of fun as the rest of the film has somewhere between 4 and 73 armies pummelling one another for stupid reasons. The next two hours of my life, with breaks for stupid deaths and a bit of painfully dumb love triangle dialogue here and there.

It’s all done very well, really, with great moments—like that troll as a battering ram, charging his head into the wall and then immediately passing out as the army that hired him runs through the hole.

After going through all the grants I wrote for the Afghan-Australian Community and Settlement Support Grants, I’ve decided to stop at two (specifically, tutoring work and free copies of my “Welcome to Australia” book for refugees & immigrants). So that’s that job done.

I can write a bazillion ZamZam Foundation invoices while I continue to watch. I may have to actually work a full day tomorrow (ugh—only if a friend can’t find anyone else to replace her usual babysitter) but I guess I’ll see.

Battle stag for the win!

Uh oh. When pretty music plays in a battle, you know some elves are going to die.

Lee Pace is great in this. And in “Pushing Daisies” (although be warned that “Pushing Daisies” ends badly due to poorly timed cancellation).

On to the second disc!

The thrill of being within sight of the end will carry me through the misery of the gold-floor-crazy-king scene.

When he comes to his senses and throws his crown away against the golden floor—that is good. Keep that bit.

*sigh* Physics, guys. PHYSICS. You can’t gain purchase on bricks as they’re falling through the air. Ain’t nothing to brace against.

The final fight between King Thorin and the pale orc is cool, with a bleached colour palette and ice cracking. Sadly I don’t care for Thorin any more.

Eagles and Bears and stuff, oh my!

Thanks again, eagles, for flying RIGHT over the king and choosing to go fight a bunch of minions instead of preserving the one remaining member of the line of Durin.

Pipeweed makes everything better. At least a little bit.

Oh no what now? Just more funerals, I hope.

Yup. Just more funerals.

The arkenstone: inspiring ambitious grave-diggers for the rest of time.

Bilbo at home is a perfect thing. As good an ending as a tragedy could hope for.

I do like that Tolkien recognises that a person who goes far from home and sees (and deals out) death is forever changed, and their soul will never recover. Having fought in World War 1 just before he began writing the books, he knows all too well.

Oh, that’s Billy Boyd singing! A voice that will always break the hearts of any Middle Earth film fans.

And that’s The Hobbit done until my next HoLOTR marathon! Because you know there’ll be more in future.

I DON’T have to work a full day tomorrow, fortunately, so things should progress at either the same pace or a little faster.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 2

June 14, 2022 at 9:39 am (Uncategorized)

Part 1

I should probably mentioning I’m assuming that anyone reading this has watched all of the movies at least three times. It’s possible that some people haven’t, but they ain’t no friends of mine*.

There’s quite a bit of exposition throughout these films, but as a rule it’s done well—for example, given by someone who might just attack you partway through the discussion.

Hello, spiders.

Hello, first sign of the ring’s corrupting influence on Bilbo.

Hello Legolas. Still so pretty, still so boring. My teenage self adored you.

Heh. In a million years, when my kids are old enough to watch this, they’re going to wonder what The Wasp is doing in this film.

Okay, I’ll be honest. Some elements of the romance are actually kind of cool. Especially overcoming cultural barriers (can you tell I like working with refugees?)

Barrel run! Dumb as anything, but/and fun.

Oh no! Something in my dodgy secondhand DVD player-only TV is not working!

Huh. A bunch of the barrel run got skipped. Odd.

Oh well…

Okay, so I was watching it on our super unreliable “TV” that can only play DVDs because today is a public holiday and the kids are home. Given that they consider “Mary Poppins” excessively violent, these movies are really not for them—yet.

The “TV” is on a pile of my clothing, on my desk, wedged into an old fridge drawer, with an extension cord plugging it into the bathroom.

Then Lizzie went to the bathroom, and I lost my place due to unplugging it so she could close the door. The “TV” can’t select scenes, so I threw the kids out of the living room and put it back on—starting from the barrel scene.

Which is super dumb in places, but also a GREAT scene. You clearly see their different fighting styles as well as their teamwork (chopping through a branch one by one as they pass by until it splits and the orcs can’t use it any more). And Legolas, just as freakishly coordinated as the dwarves, instead of fighting with them, uses them as props while he focuses on the orcs (literally standing on their heads).

So glad I didn’t miss this. And yeah, I don’t mind Legolas being inserted into the film. The woodland elves were legitimately important.

This marathon is going much slower than expected—it’s been almost 24 hours and I’m not even halfway through the first trilogy yet—but Chris and I both got migraines last night so it was clearly unwise to stay awake. Then I spent most of today doing the maths to figure out the profits from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch and Fundraiser—roughly $8000, after paying assorted costs (printing art, paying artists, registration of ZamZam Foundation as an association in the ACT, etc).

Given that, as the ZamZam Foundation Australia web site points out,

  • AU$35 feeds a family in Afghanistan for a week.
  • AU$150 feeds a family in Afghanistan for a month.
  • AU$280 pays for a semester of university fees.

that $8000 will dramatically change the lives of literally hundreds of families in Afghanistan.

Stephen Fry and his slimy offsider remind one of the film-makers’ love of gross-out humour.

Hello, Colbert.

Surely Bard and his son are super famous for other stuff? The opening scene of the third movie is possibly the greatest scene in this trilogy. They’re really really good.

Bard the Bowman is Luke Evans. He’s certainly still around, in several high-profile films. Here‘s his wiki page. His son Bain is played by the Scottish John Bell (not to be confused with the Australian actor of the same name), and his career is also doing just fine.

I need to write approximately ten grant applications by tomorrow. More “cut and paste and then edit” than truly writing, but still… a lot.

But right now I’m cooking dinner, so the grants will have to wait a bit longer. At least I’m in the second half of this movie now.

Oh, Thrain! I don’t remember your subplot at all. Perhaps you were only ever in the extended version, and I wasn’t super fascinated by dwarf genealogies at the time. But you matter too.

Richard Armitage does a great job of playing the exiled king, showing both the weight of his position and the seeds of the madness to come. Any billionaire goes through the same process, and calling it madness is cheap. Sorry Tolkien, but you could have done better.

Bilbo’s ability to defy the king, and to keep believing when the others give up, is certainly valuable, and the films do a good job of keeping him as the main character even in his position as the odd man out.

I’m eating dinner at present. When I make a roast (which I usually make with lamb chops) I eat it in stages. First I boil potatoes in their skins, and give them a good shake and some slashes with the side of a spoon so they have plenty of texture. Then I cover the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot in a mix of oil, salt, and herbs (usually basil, often garlic) and start cooking. After 20 minutes I take out any small pieces or potato skins that are perfectly crispy and would burn if left longer, and eat them. Plus some of the carrot and sweet potato. So although I did roast some zucchini today, it’s not in this photo since it’s already been eaten. Ditto the sweet potato.

Today the lamb was marinated in a maple-mustard-apple cider thingy. VERY nice.

This is not a healthy meal, as such, but it’s delicious, full of iron, and has pretty much all the vegetables I can tolerate without getting sick (low-FODMAP and low-salicylate diet, which covers most human food). I have it with sour cream and soy sauce rather than gravy, since I’m somewhat intolerant of gravy and only a bit intolerant of sour cream (dairy) and presumably soy sauce (beans? anything fermented? I’m sure there’s something). It tastes amazing, I assure you. (The potatoes are boiled at the start so they don’t dry out, and the skins splitting off and cooking in their own gloriousness is a pleasant side effect).

But now Bilbo is creeping into the dragon’s lair! Oh nose!

Oh, this is a GOOD scene. The clink and clatter of coins. . .

HELLO Bossy-boots Crankypants! Always nice to see you and Martin Freeman working together.

Here are my cats, who don’t usually pose so nicely.

Hello, gratuitous Legolas scene.

Using the dragon to light your furnace is cool, but fighting a dragon with heat is… not smart.

A mighty ending.

Whatever else they did, the team nailed Smaug. Which was vital.

And that song in the credits is seriously amazing. It holds up perfectly. Well done, Ed Sheeran. This is genuinely one of your best songs.

*I tolerate SOME non-nerds among my crew due to their other sterling qualities.

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