Chatter #72: December 31, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM

December 31, 2002

I didn't expect to write another installment of Chatter in 2002, but of course Fate would have it otherwise. I'm rather behind on my email—there are a number of people I really want to get back to ASAP—but I simply must write this quick installment first, and hope to catch up tomorrow, if I can.

I hope that everyone I owe mail to will understand.


Sebastian and Teri both have bad colds, and to cap things off Sebastian has the first real diaper rash of his life. That is, I think it's diaper rash. It could be a reaction to some cheap baby wipes we picked up at Mark Stevens; rather than take a chance, we've thrown them all away.

I suppose we're lucky, really; to have gone for almost 15 months without a case of diaper rash is pretty good. But the rash has been very hard on Sebastian; he cries and cries when we change his diaper, and to see his scrunched-up little red face all wet with tears breaks my heart. We've been using prescription ointment and giving him oatmeal baths, which has helped a lot, but there's still a good bit of irritation and pain for him. At the same time, his nose is running like crazy almost all the time; he has quite a nasty cold. Despite that he often smiles and is so lively and cheerful that I'm amazed. Certainly Teri and I don't cope with sickness that well!

But he woke up crying at 12:45 AM this morning, and didn't go back to sleep until 2:45 AM, so I'm pretty groggy. I don't know if I'll manage to stay awake until midnight.

Lord of the Ringers

This is why I had to write this today: the day before yesterday Teri and I went to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Now, I've read TLOTR at least 40 times; in the world of Fahrenheit 451, I would BE that novel. So of course I have a lot to say. I'm not masochistic enough to post this on usenet, where the usual swarm of assholes would doubtless pile insult on top of insult, but since I'm not smart enough to button my lip completely, here's my take on the movie.

If you're a fan of the books, there are parts that will definitely make you squirm. There were a number of bad and unnecessary changes to characters and dialogue...the character of Faramir, in particular, really took in on the chin (which is not the original phrase I was thinking of). The Ents and Gollum look and sound pretty much right, but overall I have to say that I couldn't really enjoy the movie because it really was TOO different from the books—unnecessarily so. In many cases wonderful dialogue from the book was replaced with inferior ersatz for no sane reason that I could see.

Basically, the movies aren't really movies of the book—they're big fantasy movies that share some of the same names and a portion of the themes with the novel, but not much of the essence of the book at all. And that's the key to my problem with it—it's like watching a good singer do a poor imitation of a really great singer.

To sum up, the movie suffers by comparison to the novel, while if it were considered on its own it would probably be a minor classic, at least.

And here's why. Below is a table with some of the changes that were made. Since these are spoilers, I've made the text the same color as the background; to read them, click on the upper left corner of the box and drag down, or alternatively just press Ctrl-A, which selects and highlights all text. Click anywhere to de-select.



Eomer was NOT banished, and did not flee with 2,000 men. He was present at the beginning of the battle of Helm's Deep.

There was no creepy scene between Grima and Eowyn.

Aragorn's sword Anduril/Narsil was a Big Deal, whereas it wasn't even mentioned in this movie. Likewise, Aragorn didn't just hand over Anduril to Theoden's doorward (he protested and had to be convinced in the book). Plus, in the book the blade flashed and shone and seemed clearly magical. Not so in the movie.

Saruman did not LITERALLY possess Theoden, but rather filled Theoden with despair via the counsel of Grima Wormtongue. The lifting of the spell on Theoden involved no huge Exorcist-like posturing and staff-bashing. Gandalf did not have a conversation with Saruman using Theoden as a magical telephone.

Aragorn revealed his true name and heritage publicly to Eomer. Which was different from BOTH movies—in the book, Aragorn wanted to be King, to fulfil his destiny, not to run from or renounce it.

Merry ran away from the orc-march to drop the leaf-broach, rather than just dropping it. Also, he managed to cut his bonds well before the final orc/Rohirrim battle, not during it.

Treebeard did not take Merry and Pippin to Gandalf, and they did not meet him (Gandalf) until after the fall of Orthanc.

The Ents decided to attack Sarumen on their own, rather than deciding that they didn't want to get involved (and then in the movie being subsequently tricked into it by Merry and Pippin). Likewise, of course Treebeard already knew about the burned and destroyed treesin the book.

Lembas were delicious, "better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings". But in the movie, "This Lembas-bread isn't bad"!? Please.

The Elves didn't have an ironbound schedule for leaving, and Elrond did not try to force Arwen to leave early in the War of the Ring.

Likewise, Elrond wasn't a total asshole in the book, and didn't rub the consequences of choosing mortality into Arwen's face.

Elrond did NOT imply to Arwen that she would not become mortal even if she chose to stay with Aragorn, and would be stranded in Middle Earth forever. This was a confusing point in the movie that may have simply been caused by bad writing.

Frodo was NOT careless with the Ring after the accident at The Prancing Pony (whereas in the movie he wears it on a chain practically out in the open, and talks about it freely—"Hi, I'm Frodo, and this is the One Ring").

Gollum's internal struggle was not so clear-cut—the movie's way of handling it was a bit patronizing and obviously dumbed-down. In the book he was never shown to have completely decided to reform.

A force of Elves did NOT appear at Helm's Deep to honor the old Alliance.

Theoden did NOT decide to give up and retreat to Helm's Deep—they went to Helm's Deep, but with the intention of fighting the orcs.

There was NO orc/warg attack on the way to Helm's Deep.

Aragorn did NOT ride a warg, and did not have a near-death experience.

Aragorn NEVER gave up Arwen, and never urged her to go over the sea. Nor was he hot for Eowyn, nor did he at any time think that Arwen had agreed to leave him.

Evenstar was Arwen's NAME, not a magic necklace she gave to Aragorn.

Gimli was NOT falling down all the time, and his main purpose was not comic relief.

Legolas did NOT doubt Aragorn and argue to leave Helm's Deep before the battle.

Legolas and Gimli actually FINISHED and DISCUSSED their orc-slaying competition—which incidentally was 42-41 for Gimli, not going up into the 90's.


Faramir was GOOD, not evil—and was not tempted by the Ring, or at least not for more than a moment.

SAM, not Gollum, let slip the existence of the Ring to Faramir.

Faramir released Frodo, Sam, and Gollum after only one night, and gave them gifts and his blessing—he did NOT force them to march to Minas Tirith and have them sent to his father (along with the Ring) as a "mighty gift". That phrase is taken from Denethor's speech in The Return of the King, in which he specifically refers to what Faramir did NOT do (i.e. "Boromir would have sent me a mighty gift").

Frodo did NOT run up to a wyvern-mounted Ringwraith and flash him the Ring, was NOT stopped by Sam, and did NOT try to kill Sam as a result.

Saruman did NOT stupidly overlook a giant dam which took only a bash or two from the Ents to destroy Isengard ("smashy smashy!"). There was no dam. The Ents destroyed Isengard by hand, and THEN flooded it by altering the course of the river.

Wormtongue got to Orthanc well AFTER it was flooded, not before the army even marched out. A great scene in the book, completely lost for moviegoers.

Theoden did NOT try to kill Wormtongue (only to be heroically stopped by Aragorn), but rather chose to spare his life on his own.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could have said, but this was the first batch of errors that stuck in my mind.

Incidentally, please note that I have not criticized the many omissions of elements from the book. I realize that cuts had to be made for the new medium. What I object to is the alteration of major plot elements, the addition of unnecessary plot "improvements", the perversion of some characters against their original portrayal, and the replacement of some of the beautiful original language from the book with far inferior dialogueparticularly when there was no good reason. For example, I can understand why they changed Gandalf's last line in the first movie from "Fly, you fools!" to "Run, you fools!"; I guess some idiots might not understand that usage of "fly". But in many cases the original dialogue was more clear and dramatic than the replacement. So why change it?

In terms of character diminishment and perversion, I must say that in particular Aragorn, Faramir, Treebeard and Theoden are all turned into far more flawed creatures in the movie. I don't agree that characters are not interesting if they don't have large flaws and doubts; if that was the case, why have the books remained so popular for so long? I see no sense in re-writing Aragorn to have renounced his royal heritage, for example. And Faramir was completely perverted from the original portrayal, the complete opposite of what he was in the books. Why?

Good points: Gollum and the Ents were very well done, more convincing than I expected, to tell the truth. I have some quibbles about the way in which Gollum and the Ents were re-written—I think they were unnecessarily dumbed-down, which is no surprise—but all in all the CGI and acting far exceeded my expectations.

I guess the good thing is that the movies will not contaminate my mental image of the book. The movie versions of the characters and the alteration of the plot are such that in my mind, the two are completely different. If I'd never read TLOTR, I'm sure I'd quite like the movies. So it goes.

Oh, a minor point of interest: the role of King Theoden was originally offered to Kevin Conway, who played Doctor Haber in the original PBS version of The Lathe of Heaven. He turned it down because he didn't want to move to New Zealand for such a long time. It's a pity, because he would have been great. Not that the guy who ended up playing the role was bad...and of course, I have issues with the changes Jackson made to the character, anyway.

Fasting From Fast Food

It has been a year now since I gave up fast food, which is actually pretty impressive even to me. And I've kept up quite well on working out; I can run off 500 calories quite easily now. I find myself running just for the fun of it sometimes, which is something I haven't done since I was a kid. I hope I can keep this up...I'll have to, if I want to have a chance to keep up with my active little toddler!


I made it into the Arisia program, it turns out, though I've only been assigned three panels—the fewest ever. Oh well! They have my new address now, so with any luck next year I'll get my package on time and will get more (and better) panels. Here's my schedule for this year:

Panel Location Day/Time
Is Cordwainer Smith Addictive? Stanhope Fri 8 PM
Gaming Without Tolkien Charles River Sat 11 AM
Reading and Eating Winthrop Sat 2 PM

My qualification to be on the Cordwainer Smith panel is probably the weakest; I merely have pretty much memorized the books and admire the hell out of him. Gaming Without Tolkien is far more up my alley, since although I love TLOTR (obviously) I also have decried the cookie-cutter approach that so many fantasy games took for so long in copying his archetypes (thereby turning them into cliches). Glorantha will almost certainly be mentioned (by me). Reading and Eating is a non-gaming panel, as I recall; it's about food as described in literature. As a fairly chubby guy who loves food I'm reasonably qualified to moderate that, I think.

If any of you are going to be at the con, please do look me up! I hope to have Teri and Sebastian there, too. I might bring material to do a fill-in panel on fan websites, by the way. In which case, this site will definitely be the major topic of discussion!

Happy New Year!

May you all have a wonderful 2003!

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: January 08, 2003. version 1.1