WHAT I’M READING: My weekend reads this weekend are mostly history, on the antebellum South and race and Texas and Tejanidad. More to come on that later. In the meantime though, also some reading on Tolkien and fantasy literature:
I just spent a couple hours on Facebook arguing about the relationships amongst Sauron and the Balrogs over the course of the First and Third Ages. This convinces me that it is time for a nerd contest. The contest for to-day is favorite Tolkien passages. So, what’s your favorite passage from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien? (Favorite in whatever sense you like.) Post it in the comments or on your own blog.
Note 1. Any work from the hand of J.R.R. Tolkien will do.
Note 2. It is perfectly O.K. to have more than one favorite. I sure do.
Note 3. Feel free to post it with, or without, anything you might want to say about why it’s your favorite.
Note 4. If you hate Tolkien, or just don’t care about Tolkien, or just aren’t feeling it today, post your favorite passage from something else at least equally nerdy.
Here’s one of mine. I’ll probably have more to post in the comments, but The Silmarillion is what was ready at hand, so there is this.
But Húrin did not look at the stone, for he knew what was written there; and his eyes had seen that he was not alone. Sitting in the shadow of the stone there was a woman, bent over her knees; and as Húrin stood there silent she cast back her tattered hood and lifted her face. Grey she was and old, but suddenly her eyes looked into his, and he knew her; for though they were wild and full of fear, that light still gleamed in them that long ago had earned her the name Eledhwen, proudest and most beautiful of mortal women in the days of old.
You come at last,she said.I have waited too long.
It was a dark road. I have come as I could,he answered.
But you are too late,said Morwen.They are lost.
I know it,he said.But you are not.
But Morwen said,Almost. I am spent. I shall go with the sun. Now little time is left: if you know, tell me! How did she find him?
But Húrin did not answer, and they sat beside the stone, and did not speak again; and when the sun went down Morwen sighed and clasped his hand, and was still; and Húrin knew that she had died.
–J.R.R. Tolkien (1977/1999), The Silmarillion, Ch. 22 Of the Ruin of Doriath, p. 229.
- Including the ones that were redacted by Christopher Tolkien; whether canonical, deuterocanonical, or apocryphal.↩
Over My Shoulder #46: On Frank Zappa (and Ayn Rand). From Richard Kostelanetz, Toward Secession: 156 More Political Essays From a Fairly Orthodox Anarchist-Libertarian (2008)
At the top of the post, make a list of the books you’ve read all or part of, in print, over the course of the past week, at least as far as you can remember them. (These should be books that you’ve actually read as a part of your normal life, and not just something that you picked up to
reada page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)
Pick one of those books from the list, and pick out a quote of one or more paragraphs, to post underneath the list.
Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, which should be more a matter of context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than they are a matter of discussing the material.
Quoting a passage does not entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.
Here’s the books:
- Richard Kostelanetz (2008), Toward Secession: 156 More Political Essays From a Fairly Orthodox Anarchist-Libertarian. (New York: Autonomedia. I picked up my copy last month at May Day Books in Minneapolis.)
- Sonia Johnson (1989). Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution. (Albuquerque: Wildfire Books. I picked it up some time ago through BookMooch.)
- J.R.R. Tolkien (1993). Morgoth’s Ring: The Later Silmarillion Part One: The History of Middle Earth, Volume X. (New York: Houghton Mifflin. I got this a while back over at Amazon.)
And here’s the quote. This is from a section of profiles in Richard Kostelanetz’s Toward Secession: 156 More Political Essays From a Fairly Orthodox Anarchist-Libertarian. This was home reading from earlier this week.
A radical from his professional beginnings to his premature end (on December 4, 1993, at the age of 52), Zappa won the respect of some, but not all, of his colleagues in both pop and highbrow composition. Indeed, his popular music had as many enemies as ans, but because of the loyalty of the latter he survived. Admirers of his extendedseriouscompositions included the French music mogul Pierre Boulez. Zappa was once invited to give the keynote address to the American Society of University Composers; the 1995 meeting of the American Musicological Society included an extended paper on Zappa’s work. My own opinion (as someone who has written more about classical music than pop) is that the best of his music appeared before 1973, as many of his later concerts and records disintegrated into extended vamping jams in the tradition of pointless jazz.
Though Zappa was often a vulgar pop musician, he could be courageously critical of pop music vulgarity, at times functioning as an acerbic critic of the music business and eventually of world politics. It was not for nothing that his dissonant records were particularly treasured by Eastern European dissidents. Having influenced the man who became president of a new Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, he thought about running for the American presidency, and might have done so, had he not been hit with terminal cancer.
He was present in some form or another for a quarter-century, if not as a performer, then as a record producer, sometimes as a cultural commentator. In contrast to other pop stars, he did not lapse into silence or absence; he did not, for instance, let putatively savvy managers ration the release of long-awaited albums. Indeed, in a courageous twist, he took several bootleg recordings of his own music, improved them technically, and released them under his own label. Nobody else involved in rock music, very much a business for the short-lived, could produce so much and such richly continuous cultural resonance.
Printed on the cover to his first album, Freak Out (1966), is an extraordinary list ofThese People Have Contributed Materially in Many Ways to Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them.With 162 names, the list reflects Zappa’s precious intelligence, polyartistic literacy, intellectual integrity, and various ambitions. Among the names are the writers James Joyce, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bram Stoker, and Theodore Sturgeon; the highbrow composers Arnold Schoenberg [by then dead only fifteen years], Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, Leo Ornstein, Alois Haba, Charles Ives, Anton Webern, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Roger Huntington Sessions, Vincent Persichetti, Mauricio Kagel; the music historian John Tasker Howard; the blues singers Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Little Walter, and Willie Mae Thornton; the record producers Tom Wilson and Phil Spector; the jazz improvisers Cecil Taylor, Roland Kirk, Eric Dolphy, and Charles Mingus; the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein [but not the Beatles], the off-shore disk-jockey Wolfman Jack, the perverse painters Salvador Dalí and Yves Tinguy; the pop singers Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Tiny Tim; the sexologist Eberhard Kronhausen; the earlier rock singers Elvis Presley and Johnny Otis; the Italian-American martyrs Sacco and Vanzetti; the comedian Lenny Bruce; he oversized actors Sonny Tufts and John Wayne, all of whom indicate not only that Zappa knew what he was doing professionally but that he also could credit the sources of his learning. Though Zappa could be an ironist, all of these acknowledgments were apparently serious (even Wayne and Tufts, whom I take to represent strong performers who could stand out from any group). While Zappa’s formal education ended at a local junior college, mine included college and then graduate school. Nonetheless, as a self-conscious intellectual born in the same year as Zappa (1940), I would have identified many of the same names on my short list at the time.
Even at a time when record albums (not to mention performing groups) began to have outrageous names, Zappa should still be credited with some of the most inventive coinages, beginning with the name of his group, but also including Freak Out, Absolutely Free, The Grand Wazoo, One Size Fits All, Joe’s Garbage Acts, Baby Snakes, Jazz from Hell, Freaks & Motherfu*%!!@#, ’Tis the Season To Be Jelly, Piquantique, Electric Aunt Jemima, Our Man in Nirvana, The Yellow Shark, etc. If inventive titling isn’t a measure of literary talent, I don’t know what is.
It seems curious in retrospect that a man who apparently had no loyal friends outside his family, who surrounded himself with paid retainers, who terminated most of his professional relationships with firings and law suits, hould still have an audience. Unlike most culture heroes who create the impression, however artificial, of someone you’d like beside you, Zappa was someone that most of us would sooner watch than know (or want to know). It is common to attribute his continuing success to his appeal to different audiences, some appreciative of his musical inventions, others of his taste for obscenity.
My sense is that his advanced pop has continuously attracted sophisticated teenagers who, even as they move beyond him, retain an affection for his work. Immediately after his death, the Columbia University radio station, WKCR, presented a marathon of his work, its regular disk-jockeys for jazz and avant-garde music speaking knowledgeably about his work. Many announcers at many other university radio stations elsewhere must have done likewise in December 1993. In this respect of influencing bright youth who grow up (e.g., the sort who become public radio disk-jockeys), he reminds me of the writer-philosopher Ayn Rand, whose commercial potential was likewise surprising. Just as her eccentric work has survived her death, so will Zappa’s.
What should not be forgotten is that Zappa lived dangerously, doing professionally what had not been done before and others would not do after him, at a time and in a country where such adventurousness was possible, even as he was continually warning that such possibility should never be taken for granted. For all the continuing admiration of his example, there has been no one like him since.
–Richard Kostelanetz (1997/2008), Frank Zappa (and Ayn Rand), Toward Secession: 156 More Political Essays From a Fairly Orthodox Anarchist-Libertarian. 300-302.
I’ve been putting in some tweaks to the page layout, as you may have noticed, and, while I was at it, the appearance of one too many animated ads for the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona in my sidebar finally inspired me to revise and expand my ad disclaimer. As you can see, if you scan over to the right, it now reads:
Views inscribed in the Rad Geek People’s Daily are mine, and may not be those of sponsors. Google ads are served algorithmically, without individual review, so contrariwise, an ad’s appearance does not imply my endorsement of the sponsor.
To be fair, the Adsense management interface does have a provision for screening out future appearances of particular ads, after-the-fact, if you catch one that you don’t want them to appear on your page. On the other hand, I should hope that most of my readership is not about to vote for Gothmog. And if I let the ads appear, then, should anyone happen to click on a McCain ad, that means a little more money is taken away from the McCain 2008 Presidential campaign, and given to me instead. Which seems like a particularly sweet sort of revenge.
Yes, yes. I know that, if you go by the depiction in the Peter Jackson movie, Gothmog is not one of the Uruk-Hai, but rather an Orc of Minas Morgul. I’m taking some liberties. If you don’t like it, take me to Nerd Court.
What is it that unnerves me so much about the media’s duly-appointed Presumptive Republican Front-Runner, Senator John McCain? Is it the rampaging militarism? The austerely fascist aesthetic of his campaign materials? The newsmedia’s idiotic enthusiasm for any politician who can, in some sense or another, be packaged as a
straight talker, without consideration for what the content of the
straight talk might be? (So he says, with some conviction, that we ought to bomb the world. Great.)
Well, yes, yes, and yes, but there’s something that runs deeper, too. Just something about him, a certain I-know-not-what about the way he holds himself, and the way he talks, and the way he rallies his troops, that I can’t quite put words to. Where have I seen this before? Oh, wait…
Yeah, that’s it.