kottke.org posts about The Lord of the Rings
Here's a good explanation of what the One Ring from Lord of the Rings actually is and what it can do:
I transcribed a short passage from the video:
First, the ring tempts everyone (well, almost everyone) with promises that yes, this little ring can be a mighty weapon or a tool to reshape the world and gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it. Let's go vanquish the powerful demigod who lives over there to get started, shall we? This is why the hobbits made great ring bearers, because they're pretty happy with the way things are and don't aspire to greatness. Of course, there's Gollum, who started out as a hobbit, but all things considered, he held out pretty well for a couple hundred years. Set the ring on the desk of most men and they wouldn't be able to finish their coffee before heading to Mordor to rule the world and do it right this time.
What's interesting about hearing of The Ring in this focused way is how it becomes a part of Tolkien's criticism of technology. The Ring does what every mighty bit of tech can do to its owner/user: makes them feel powerful and righteous. Look what we can do with this thing! So much! So much good! We are good therefore whatever we do with this will be good!
The contemporary idea of the tech startup is arguably the most seductive and powerful technology of the present moment, the One Ring of our times. It's not difficult to modify a few words in the passage above to make it more current:
First, the startup tempts everyone (well, almost everyone) with promises that yes, this little company can be a mighty weapon or a tool to reshape the world and gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it. Let's go disrupt the powerful middleman who lives over there to get started, shall we? This is why the nerds made great ring bearers, because they're pretty happy with the way things are and don't aspire to greatness. Of course, there's Sergey and Larry, who started out as nerds, but all things considered, they held out pretty well for a decade. Set the ring on the desk of most men and they wouldn't be able to finish their mail-order espresso before heading to Silicon Valley to rule the world and do it right this time.
Ok, haha, LOL, and all that, but it's curious that nerds (and everyone else) shelled out billions of dollars to watch Peter Jackson's LOTR movies in the early 2000s in the aftermath of the dot com bust. Those were dark times...the power of the startup had just been lost after Kozmo's CEO Dave Isildur was slain by economists while delivering a single pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby to far reaches of the Outer Sunset and had not yet been rediscovered by Schachter, Butterfield, and Zuckerberg.
And these nerds, whose spines all tingled when Aragorn charged into the hordes of Mordor -- for Frodo! -- and whose eyes filled with tears when Frodo parted with Sam at the Grey Havens, came away from that movie experience siding with Boromir, Saruman, and Denethor, determined to seize that startup magic for themselves to disrupt all of the things, defeat the evil corporate middlemen, and reshape the world to be a better and more efficient place. And gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it?
If you've read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and/or watched the movies1) but didn't delve into the appendices or, shudder, The Silmarillion, this is the video for you. It explains about the Gods who created Middle Earth, what wizards are (not men, but angels), and the specialness of Men and Elves.
This is an old piece from McSweeney's, but it's absolute gold and I can't believe I've been missing it all these years. In it, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn record a DVD commentary for the first Lord of the Rings movie. So, so good.
Zinn: You've spoken to me before about Mordor's lack of access to the mineral wealth that the Dwarves control.
Chomsky: If we're going to get into the socio-economic reasons why certain structures develop in certain cultures... it's mainly geographical. We have Orcs in Mordor -- trapped, with no mineral resources -- hemmed in by the Ash Mountains, where the "free peoples" of Middle Earth can put a city, like Osgiliath, and effectively keep the border closed.
Zinn: Don't forget the Black Gate. The Black Gate, which, as Tolkien points out, was built by Gondor. And now we jump to the Orcs chopping down the trees in Isengard.
Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn't it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?
Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate.
Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.
Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.
Chomsky: Who really knows their motive? Maybe this is a means to an end. And while that might not be the best philosophy in the world, it makes the race of Man in no way superior. They're going to great lengths to hold onto their power. Two cultures locked in conflict over power, with one culture clearly suffering a great deal. I think sharing power and resources would have been the wisest approach, but Rohan and Gondor have shown no interest in doing so. Sometimes, revolution must be --
Zinn: Mistakes are often --
Chomsky: Blood must be shed. I forget what Thomas Jefferson --
Here's part two. And the same writers, Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, also did one for The Return of the King.
I really liked this bit from Rolling Stone's interview with Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin:
Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone -- they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?
In a profile this summer from Le Monde, Christopher Tolkien, the 88 year-old son of J.R.R. Tolkien blasted Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit movies. (If you can't speak French, you should see the translation of the profile.) Tolkien, who drew the maps for the Lord of the Rings books, has spent most of his life protecting the legacy of his father's works, and the movies are, apparently, a bridge too far.
Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? "They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25," Christopher says regretfully. "And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film."
This divorce has been systematically driven by the logic of Hollywood. "Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."
A bunch of theaters in NYC (and around the US I would assume) are showing the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring at 7pm tonight.
The event will include a personal introduction from director Peter Jackson captured from the set of his current film and "Lord of the Rings" prequel "The Hobbit," immediately followed by the feature presentation.
The same thing will happen with Two Towers on June 21 and Return of the King on June 28. Can't believe Fellowship came out 10 years ago already.
This thing is going to look amazing in full 1080p. Available for pre-order on Amazon for $84.
Possibly the worst idea in the world: a movie version of Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles (with Lennon as Gollum) and directed by Stanley Kubrick. According to Peter Jackson, this was a possibility but JRR said hells no.
According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the '60s -- and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.
A list of ten movies that weren't made...and a good thing they weren't. Including a Lord of the Rings adaptation with The Beatles.
According to Roy Carr's The Beatles at the Movies, talks were once in the works for a Beatle-zation -- with John Lennon wanting to play Gollum, Paul McCartney Frodo, George Harrison Gandalf, and Ringo Starr Sam. Collaborating with director John Boorman, screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg thought the Beatles should play the four hobbits (and agreed with McCartney that he would be the ideal Frodo).
The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is finally coming out on Blu-ray on April 6th, but more than 1800 angry Amazon commenters would like to remind you that these are the theatrical versions and not the extended versions that true LOTR fans have canonized.
Some confusion among other reviewers that somehow we're obligated to post a five star recommendation for the movie. This is an incorrect understanding of the review process. If I were reviewing the movie itself it would get a five. This review is for the product, as listed -- in other words, I DO NOT RECOMMEND BUYING THIS PRODUCT/DVD. This product is being created FOR NO OTHER REASON than to dupe people into buying this movie twice...again. Those of us who were huge fans bought the original DVDs of the theatrical releases. THEN the studio FINALLY released the extended editions, even though they could have released both at the same time. Now that Blu Ray has won the High Def battle, the studios are salivating at screwing us all again the same way! Please do not let them get away with holding the extended edition hostage until everyone buys the theatrical versions.
Or, to put it in a way that Gandalf would understand:
New Line/WB need to learn a lesson from the movies themselves and realize that evil never prevails. Greed has a grip on them stronger than the Ring itself.
Whatever you do, don't be fooled by the Blu-ray version of the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings feature that's up for release on the same day.
A wonderful character interaction map of the Lord of the Rings trilogy drawn by Randall Munroe. Here's just a little part of it:
Looks like there will indeed be a Hobbit film and Peter Jackson is in (although not as director, at least not yet). The deal includes another film to be made that takes place between the end of The Hobbit but before LOTR. (via crazymonk)
Update: The NY Times says that Jackson will not direct as he is already booked for the period in question.
Hilariously crude review of the third Lord of the Rings movie. "The ring is also evil but you keep thinking, while you watch it, that someone should put it on and check out some boobs. I have a feeling those scenes will be in the DVDs." (via clusterflock)
Ok, one last wrap-up post about Hong Kong and then we're focusing on the matter at hand in Bangkok (short summary: having a great time so far here). So, three things I really liked about/in Hong Kong and then some miscellaneous stuff.
1. Octopus cards. I really can't say enough about how cool these cards are. Wikipedia provides a quickie definition: "The Octopus card is a rechargeable contactless stored value smart card used for electronic payment in online or offline systems in Hong Kong." It's a pay-as-you go stored value card...you put $100 bucks on it and "recharge" the card when it's empty (or when it's even more than empty...as long as your balance is positive when you use it, you can go into a HK$35 deficit, which you pay when you recharge the card). You can use it on pratically any public transportation in the city: buses, trains, MTR, trams, ferries, etc. It works with vending machines, at 7-Eleven, McDonald's, Starbucks, and the supermarket. You don't need to take it out of your wallet or purse to use it, just hold it near the sensor. Your card is not tied to your identity...there's no PIN, you can pay cash, they don't need to know your credit card number, SS#, or anything like that. They even make watches and mobile phones that have Octopus built it, so your phone (or watch) becomes your wallet. Mayor Bloomberg, if you're listening, NYC needs this.
2. The on-train maps for the MTR. Here's a (sort of blurry) photo (taken with my cameraphone):
The current stop blinks red -- in this case, Tsim Sha Tsui (blinking not shown, obviously) -- with the subsequent stops lit in red. If the next stop connects to another line, that line blinks as well. A small green arrow indicates which direction you're traveling and there's an indictor (not shown) which lights up either "exit this side" or "exit other side" depending which way the doors are going to open. Great design.
3. Muji! We located one in Langham Place (an uber-story mall) in Mong Kok (for reference, the store in Silvercord in TST listed on their site has closed). Muji is kind of hard to describe if you've never been to one of their stores before (and if you live in the US, you probably haven't because they're aren't any, aside from a small outpost in the MoMA Store). Adam (see previous link) roughly translates the name as "No Brand, Good Product", so you can see why I like it so much. They sell a wide variety of products (take a look at their Japanese-only online store for an idea of what they carry); at the Monk Kok store, they had snacks & drinks, some furniture (made out of sturdy cardboard), their signature pens and notebooks (a display of the former was completely surrounded by a moat of teenaged girls, so much so that I didn't get a chance to test any of the super-thin pens), some clothes (including some great pants that they didn't have in anything approaching my size), dishes, cosmetics, bath products, and containers of all shapes, sizes, and uses. I wanted one of everything, but settled for a couple of shirts (with absolutely no logos or markings, inside or out, to indictate that they are Muji products).
m1. Big Buddha, worth the trip. It'll better when the tram from Tung Chung and back is built, although then you'll miss the boat ride (fun) and the bus ride (harrowing at times).
m2. The Peak Tram. Touristy, but also worth the trip. The weird/ugly anvil-shaped building at the top is currently under construction, so the views will be much better when its finished. Go at night for the best view.
m3. The view from the waterfront in Kowloon of the Hong Kong skyline at night is one of the best in the world.
m4. Speaking of, Hong Kong is a night-time city. All the buildings are lit up, there's a nightly light show at 8pm (think Laser Floyd without the music), and buildings that appear monolithic in the daytime transform at night, either by disappearing into the darkness while leaving a graceful trace of their outline or acting as huge screens for projected light shows. Reminded me of Vegas in this respect.
m5. We had tea in the lobby of the InterContinental Hotel (go for the view, it's incredible) and the live band played the theme song from The Lord of the Rings. I tried to get a recording of it with my phone (iPod was back in our hotel room), but it didn't turn out so well. Very weird; we were cracking up and expecting the theme from Superman or even 3's Company to follow.
m6. Oh, I'm sure there's more, so I'll add it here as I think of stuff.
"Lord of the Bings" cherry advertisement in supermarket. "One bing to rule them all" and in the parfait bind them?