Sad, Sad Truths

The Hobbit might be the most important book in my life.  It’s the book that introduced me to adult (more or less) fantasy fiction.  It opened the door to The Lord of the Rings.  It made me start my first novel (a horrible fanfic-y tangle of a book, started with my best friend in eighth grade, and the less said about that, the better.)

I recently re-read The Hobbit, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held up.  I laughed at bits of humor (the dwarves’ staged approach to Beorn’s house, for example), and I enjoyed Bilbo’s clever solutions (shutting the dwarves up in the barrels that were destined for Laketown).  The book was a picaresque (well, except for the last few chapters), and those types of episodic adventure stories can be pure candy.

Alas, I wasn’t a fan of the first Hobbit movie.  I thought it was over-long and under-storied, even though it brought in vast swaths of story that had nothing to do with The Hobbit.  At the time that I watched it, I hadn’t read the book in over 20 years, so I assumed that I’d forgotten some of the diversions (but I was wrong — they just weren’t there in Tolkien’s book.)

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When The Desolation of Smaug came out, I decided to save my pennies and rent the movie when it was available.  When it became available through Netflix, I wanted to watch other things first, so I waited a few months before getting to Smaug.

And that brings us to last night.

Last night was a perfect night for Hobbit-watching.  We had an open swath of time, with no other commitments.  We had popcorn popped.  We were looking forward to the film.

And that enthusiasm lasted for about 10 minutes.  Where was the funny staged approach of the dwarves to Beorn’s house?  Where were the magical animals who waited on the weary travelers?  Where was the eccentric host who taught vegetarian dining to his guests well before vegetarian was a trend?

Okay, so the movie decided to elide Beorn.  There was a lot of story to be told.  Including a half-hour (I think — maybe it only felt that long) river escape from orcs.  And a dwarf-elf maybe-love story, featuring Kate from Lost (who’d clearly wandered in from another movie, because she sure as hell wasn’t in the book.)  And, and, and…

We turned off the movie when we got to the Master.  I didn’t care about dwarves getting hit with fish.  I really didn’t care about Laketown politics, involving characters I’d never really met.  (It was like George Lucas’s interminable Senate scenes, all over again.)

We actually fast-forwarded to two scenes with Smaug.  Great CGI.  Great voicing, by Mr. Cumberbatch.  Of course, those furnaces and that molten gold and all, those belonged to a different movie.

So, yeah.  With regret, we won’t be watching the last of the Hobbit movies.  I once joked that I wanted to see the Director’s Cut of this one — all nine hours cut down to a two-hour film based on the book.  But I don’t know if I’d even watch that.

Sigh.  I know that movies are different from books.  I understand that changes need to be made, to make things film-able, to capture a traditional screenplay structure, to feed the movie-making beast.  But those challenges are different from writing an entirely different film, from creating a fanfic movie that happens to take place somewhere that resembles Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  And that’s the sad, sad truth.

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Take Me Out to the … Theater

Well, no one can accuse us of being one-track, here in Klaskyville!  Our weekend spliced together a bunch of our favorite things, including:

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  • On Friday, dinner at Rustico, a restaurant that is just a few blocks from the house.  We split appetizers (including the killer “Risotto Tots”, which are pretty much the perfect adult answer to Ore-Ida), I enjoyed the trout on a bed of farro, and then we split the S’more Cheesecake.  Splitting the dessert was probably a good idea, because I could have eaten about half a dozen of them.  I might never have walked again, but I would have rolled out of there a very happy woman.
  • On Saturday, a ball game at Nationals Park.  After a 1.25-hour rain delay, they finally took to the field.  Jordan Zimmermann gave up two runs in the top of first, and we settled in for a loooooong afternoon/evening, but the team came right back in the bottom of the first, and handily won the game.  My baseball cap’s record goes unsullied.
  • On Sunday, an incredible production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at Studio Theater.  The tickets were expensive and parking was a pain when we got to the theater.  The ushers were oddly off-kilter (sending us to our seats by way of some unmarked back stairs, then nearly losing us in the pitch black of the theater as they didn’t quite lead us to our seats.)  Some of the audience members were … not used to theater (talking out loud for large parts of the show), and one guy in the back had a constant cough.  In other words, it should have been a disastrous day at the theater.  But it wasn’t.  It was magical.  The production was incredible, the performers were superb, and I found myself getting really emotional at the end of the second act (which is all about the cost of being an artist, of creating a foundation to support an artistic career, and of having the courage to change artistic directions.)  So, it was worth it — all the hassles.  And then some.

In between, there was reading, and knitting and televisioning and scritching kitties.  So, really a lovely weekend.  Which makes it just that much harder to settle down and write today.

But write, I must.  I’m drafting the penultimate chapter of ALWAYS RIGHT!  Onwards!

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Business As Usual (Baseball Edition)

So, we went to see the Nats play last night.  And it was yet another boring, hum-drum baseball game.  (Insert boring, humdrum details about weird 5:00 start, wait to get Racing President Taft bobblehead, etc.)

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When we got to our seats, I became a subversive agent for good.  When one climbs the stairs in our section, rows A-D can *only* be reached by turning to the right.  Rows E-N can *only* be reached to the left.  There are no signs and no ushers, and we (in row G), spend a substantial part of each game redirecting people who climb up to row D and then look puzzled (while blocking our view of the game.)  Yesterday, I brought a small paper sign with directional arrows and taped it to the glass wall.  And not *one* person got confused for the entire course of the game.  (At least that I saw.  I was mostly watching the game, and not the crowd.)  I intend to bring signs to future games!

The game itself was a back and forth struggle, with the lead changing dramatically four times.  (Insert long discussion for baseball lovers.)  In the end, we won in extra innings.  Of course there were extra innings, because *I* was at the game.  The Nats play extra innings in the majority of games I attend, or so it seems.  (Sometimes, it’s just that Strasburg pitched, so it seems like extra innings with the slooooow play.)

The key feature of the game, though, was this:  I wore my  baseball cap, and they won.  Every time I wear my baseball cap and attend a game, they win.  If I attend a game and forget my cap, they lose.  (My cap is their old DC design, in traveling blue, with a blue bill — I never see anyone else with it.  That must be why it’s lucky!)  When Soriano blew the save, I thought the luck of my cap had been depleted, but no!  It held true!

(And yes, baseball fans are superstitious.  So are baseball players.  Those superstitions figure heavily into ALWAYS RIGHT, the Diamond Brides book I’m writing now.)

So, we ended up winning, and we were home 4.75 hours after the game started.  So maybe that 5:00 start wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

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The Deeply Personal

Yesterday was Errand Day here in Klaskyville. As I was walking back from the post office, I was held at a crosswalk, so that traffic could turn.  Given the caravan of 18-wheelers completing the turn and not yielding to oncoming traffic when they had the plain green light (no, I don’t know why they were there; they had *no* markings on any of the five trucks), the wait was a bit longer than expected, which gave me a chance to study the personalized license plates of the cars to my left and on the cross-street to my right.

imagesI mostly think that personalized plates are silly.  I don’t understand paying extra for them, and most of the time they seem to reflect inside jokes that just seem a bit absurd when shared with the outside world.  I’ve never owned a personalized plate (although I came close when my parents bought a silver Datsun station wagon and considered the plate “HI HO AG”.)  Mark once applied for a personalized plate with the names of his two cats, but the application was rejected as “vulgar” (the plate would have read “TED YAZ”, and no, we’ve never figured out what’s vulgar about that.)

So…  Yesterday’s plates.  (I didn’t get pictures of either.)

The first was on a white Toyota Corolla.  The driver was a crew-cut white guy, with a squint that rivaled Clint Eastwood’s best.  The plate was a specialty one, yellow with black letters, the “Don’t Tread on Me” plate, and the text was “NVA TP”.  For those who, like me, thought this was some sort of ad for toilet paper, the bottom half of the back window of the car was covered with helpful bumper stickers, all proclaiming Northern Virginia Tea Party.  (I seriously questioned whether he could see out the window, with all the paper glued to the glass.)

The second plate was on a gold Cadillac, one of the huge ones, maybe from the 1970s?  The woman driving was probably in her sixties.  She had a huge dyed-black bouffant hairdo.  In her bright-red talons, she held a cell phone with one hand, and a pink donut with sprinkles in the other.  She looked as if she’d enjoyed many donuts in the past — about 400 pounds worth.  And her license plate said “KUTYPY”.

I sort of wanted the cars to collide, just so I could see what happened when NVA TP and KUTYPY were mixed together.  KUTYPY could have sat on NVA TP, winning the battle before it began.

The caravan of trailers finally passed, and I went on my way.  But I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying a personalized license plate any time soon.

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