Blog

August 2016

I had these transactions something like 80% done before going to Oxonmoot, but couldn’t get the last bit finished due to my other preparations. Now, however, I wish to get it out – to get it off my mind, so that I can work on other things (such as e.g. a report from my first Oxonmoot). This means that most entries will appear without commentary, and that there will be things I ignore simply because I haven’t the time to dig out all my notes (if anything important turns up later, I will of course include it in a later issue).

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We use trivia to prove our depth of knowledge in a given topic but also to introduce people to new ideas or to revive interest in old things.  How many people do trivia contests motivate to read books or perform Internet searches?  But what we choose to include in our trivia lists suggests our priorities or interests are biased, either toward the simplistic or the popular.  “Hard trivia” is almost a non sequitur.  Why is it “hard trivia”?  Is not all trivia hard for the untutored audience?

Why do people focus on the more well-known details of Tolkien’s stories rather than dredge up the hard-to-find facts?  Perhaps it is simply because we don’t want to humiliate ourselves, but maybe it’s a reflection of where reader interests lie.  The people who make up trivia contests are no different from the people who participate in them.  We all love the story and immerse ourselves in the details.   And yet we paint those details with expectations and assumptions. (more…)

July 2016

As you will see below, July has been a deliciously busy month with conferences and interesting papers coming up. And due to the summer holiday season in Denmark, I’ve been able to keep up better than usual.

As I can see that the end of August and start of September is going to be quite busy for me, I had better warn that the next transactions may end up being somewhat delayed. If I haven’t posted when I take off for Oxonmoot on the 8th, there is a good chance that I’ll merge the August and September issues …

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I don’t remember where or when I first heard that I was banned from participating in Tolkien trivia contests at conventions.  This has been a running joke for decades, now, but it was going strong when I handed the Tolkien fan programming track at Dragon*Con over to Jincey from TheOneRing.net.  She sent me an email one evening with an odd request.  “I need expert-level trivia questions that even you cannot answer,” she pleaded.

For my part I have always felt there were questions I cannot answer.  I just cannot think of them when people ask me for examples, but it’s hard to perform under pressure when you’re supposed to sift through millions (thousands?) of questions. (more…)

The Tolkien Society Seminar 2016 was held in Leeds on Sunday 3 July, a few days after the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

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In regard to my critique of an article on Tolkien, various posters in the comments section are trying to convince me that “fight” is a perfectly reasonable term to describe the ornate and scholarly word contest that Gandalf and Saruman have in Tolkien’s book.

Among them is the author of the article, who points out that “argument” is used to define “fight” in his dictionary. Leaving aside the fact that even “argument” is not really the best choice of word to describe the scene, it’s a fallacy to say that a word used to define another word in the dictionary must have exactly the same meaning. More likely, they overlap over parts of their meanings. It’s true that I can find “argument” used to define “fight” in a dictionary, but in the same dictionary I find “debate” used to define “argument” and “discussion” used to define “debate,” and by that point, I think, we’ve left “fight” far behind, so I don’t think much of the dictionary-definition shuffle as a method of shifting your word’s meaning.

“Fight” is especially ill-chosen to describe the scene in the book when it’s a perfect term to describe the absurd wizard-fu battle in the movie. It makes it look as if you’re remembering the movie instead of the book. And when, of all the possible words to describe that scene in the book, you choose this one, is leads inevitably to the conclusion that the movie has affected your memory of the book.

What do you think?