Wednesday, November 12, 2014

reviews and previews

1. After years of tantalizing almost-appearances, the original text of Tolkien's translation of the Book of Jonah has been published, in a small venue called the Journal of Inklings Studies. Its differences from the edited version long available in the Jerusalem Bible are small but pervasive. Worth a little study time.

2. I have that, but what I don't have yet is the new annotated-and-drafts version of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by Scull and Hammond. This volume pretty much completes the multi-handed project of providing such editions of all the literary books Tolkien published in his lifetime.

3. From the sublime to the ridiculous: Symphony Silicon Valley's announcement that it will be playing live the score along with two showings of Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie made front page headlines in the local paper. And this won't even be until April. Usually the Symphony is lucky if it makes the inside of the back section. This is supposed to be a big money-maker, and SSV management usually knows what it's doing, but I won't be there, for three reasons: 1) Not to have to see those crappy movies again. I've had more than enough. 2) Not to have to listen to Howard Shore's uninspired score. I've seen other movies he's scored, including Hugo, and he's a competent hack: You want N yards' worth of music that sounds like [this], he'll churn it out reliably and it'll do the job. It just won't be any good. 3) I've heard live symphonies play with silent films before, but the whole idea of doing it with a sound film strikes me as futile. The movie already has the music! Are you going to compete with the soundtrack, or turn the sound off and have the actors yammer away silently?

4. I first learned that John Cleese has written a memoir, So, Anyway ..., from a grumpy review that called it cranky and egotistic, and claimed for good riddance that Python isn't funny anyway and never was. Well, that's manifestly false, and so is the review. Cleese can be grumpy in interviews lately, but this is a delightful and compulsively readable memoir by a man whose life goal is to figure out what he's good at and do it as well as possible. Once he gets out of his horrid childhood, which he blames for his lifetime in therapy ("They f you up, your mum and dad," a poem he does not quote but should), it's very warmhearted about his colleagues and even the two years he spent as an elementary school teacher. I learned a lot about the shards of At Last the 1948 Show that I have on DVD, and the memoir drifts to a close with the founding of Python, which is actually about when his life stops being so interesting.

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