Chatter #73: January 8, 2003

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

January 8, 2003

.Hi, everyone—happy New Year!

Lord of the Ringers 2

Why am I writing another installation of Chatter so soon? Because I can't get over The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I've managed to stop myself from writing on Usenet, because the assholes there don't really need more ammunition and I don't need more abuse, but I did break down and made a couple of posts in the comments section of the blog of a Salon writer. That's a somewhat obscure corner of the web, though; well, actually it probably gets a thousand times more hits than this site, but as time goes by those particular entries are sure to be lost and forgotten, even by me.

That being the case, I decided to copy them here.


I'm a glutton for punishment, I know. Casting aspersions on the Jackson movies is pretty much asking to be flamed unmercifully by a righteous jihad of Jacksonites. But I have to say that these movies—The Two Towers in particular—are NOT actually movies of TLOTR, but simply fantasy blockbusters which share some of the characters, names, and some of the plot—but fail to capture the basic themes of the book. As such, they suffer from comparison. I for one couldn't watch the movies without noticing not the omissions and minor changes—I understood that such would be necessary—but three cardinal sins:

  1. The perversion of characters and themes, in some cases completely inverting their basic attributes—thereby negating their original point;
  2. The addition of completely unneccessary and thematically incompatible plots which were not in the original work, solely (I would argue) to enhance the movies' popular appeal—in other words, dumbing down the story for the sake of the lowest common denominator, which is really NOT necessary;
  3. Replacing some of the truly beautiful and poetic language of the original with cheap ersatz. Again, I recognize that it's necessary to take the limitations of the public into consideration; I'm not criticizing that. But much of the dialogue from TLOTR is incredibly dramatic and is still completely comprehensible even to the dimmest moviegoer. So why replace it with soap-opera lines instead?

I will admit that Gollum was very well handled, and the depiction of the Ents was actually better than I ever imagined. I wish I could say that about the movies as a whole. If I'd never read TLOTR, I'm reasonably sure that I would consider the movies to be minor classics, at least. But I have read the book, and personally I'm very glad that I did.

For criticism in more detail, you might read "Lord of the Ringers" at (, which is sort of my blog, I guess; although I started writing it in July 2000, before the word "blog" existed.

Peter Maranci [[email protected]] • 1/6/03; 7:32:48 AM

I can't agree that the changes to Faramir are minor; in the book he listens to the hobbits, judges them fairly, and on the next day sends them on their way with what help he can offer. In the movie, he KIDNAPS them, decides to send them and the Ring as a gift to his father—which is precisely what he did NOT do in the book—and after having them hauled all the way to Minas Tirith, only changes his mind because of some dumb-ass speech that Peter Jackson put in the mouth of Sam.

In other words, he chose evil and then later repented—which is VERY different from choosing good from the beginning, as he did in the book.

TLOTR has a strong moral compass. Aragorn and Faramir are examples of the best of human nature, throwbacks to the nobility of Numenor. They keep their words and utterly reject evil, and while Tolkien allowed a moment of suspense over whether or not Faramir would fall as his brother did, it was only a *moment*—and only in the perception of the hobbits and the reader. In contrast the movie has Faramir actually give in to temptation, and only change his mind after a quite a long time.

It only adds insult to injury that Jackson put Denethor's line from the book ("a mighty gift") into Faramir's mouth, because that *precisely* reverses the effect of the line—in the book, Denethor uses it to reproach Faramir for NOT sending him the Ring, saying that Boromir would have.

Beyond that, Tolkien wrote Faramir as a thoughtful, considerate, and compassionate man—and in many ways much like Gandalf, who Faramir much admired. There was no sign of any of those qualities in the movie version.

Heroes don't HAVE to have some huge angst-y internal conflict in order to be interesting—that's a mistake a high school student would make. Sometimes people know what is right and simply *do* it, without chewing through a football field of scenery in the process. That's what made Aragorn and Faramir so refreshing—they were truly good without being flat cardboard characters. Apparently Jackson felt that this couldn't be portrayed in a movie.

But he was wrong, and by forcing those characters into conventional internal contradictions he did a disservice to the novel.

Obviously Jackson must have read the book; did he not realize that he was completely up-ending Tolkien's intent? I hope he's not that stupid. But I just can't figure out why he did this. He seems to have either misunderstood the basic nature of a number of the themes and characters of the book, or else he was so afraid of going above the collective head of the moviegoing public that he went way overboard in dumbing things down.

"The Two Towers" would have been a great fantasy movie if only it didn't claim to be based on TLOTR...but it's a poor interpretation *of the book*.

Peter Maranci [[email protected]] • 1/7/03; 9:08:45 AM

Strange Forgotten Corners

Hmm, that's rather a Dunsanian phrase, isn't it? It refers to the huge amount of material online that is being lost, in this case. Stuff posted on Usenet is mostly archived for the ages, and is nicely centralized, but more and more discussion and conversation has been taking place on privately-owned web sites and forums—where the material can be taken down at any time by the owners.

Another way in which material gets lost is by simple irrelevance. For example, Yahoo provides discussion forums for articles posted in their news service. They can spark quite a bit of debate for a few days or weeks, but as time passes the interest of the participants flags—and the conversation is forsaken.

But some of those forums stay up for quite a long time after being abandoned, and that's something I find interesting. Does anyone look at them? Probably not many, because such forums are often not catalogued by search engines. They could disappear at any time, of course, but until they do they're like empty rooms. Somehow it seems that there should be some fun way to make use of odd little online places like that, do something fun with them.

Since I'm quirky, I've amused myself here. It's a forum about a Dear Abby column on 12/15/02 which I found interesting. I got into the conversation a bit, and after it was all over amused myself by chatting to the empty air for a bit. I still look in on the board once in a while to see if anyone has followed up on my ramblings.

Sebastian 11/7/2003

I'm not the writer I wish I was. If I were, I could express how my baby boy makes me feel. But the words I have simply aren't up to the task. And in any case I'd have to be a truly amazing writer to make that sort of thing enjoyable to most readers; parents can't help but being boring and monotonous when it comes to their children.

But a large part of why I write about him is not for you (sorry!), but for me, to help me remember every stage. Every day, it seems, Sebastian changes and grows; he's not the baby boy he was. He's better, mind you, and absolutely wonderful; but as I've said before, every stage in his development has been precious to me, and it's no slight to the sturdy little baby boy of today that I want to remember the adorable little infant of last year who nestled comfortably in the crook of my arm and gummed my fingertip.

So much can't be properly expressed. (Funny, I just visualized hundreds of readers stopping right there at that last sentence and moving quickly to another web site. ) For example, he has developed amazingly sophisticated expressions; even though he's still only using a few words, he expresses himself very clearly through the tilt of his head and the movements of his mouth and eyebrows. There are times when I really think I can see the man that he'll become.

Okay, enough of that.

Some recent changes:

To my surprise, his eyes have been changing color lately. They were hazel, sometimes almost green, like Teri's; but now they're light brown, and seem to be getting darker, more like mine. I only hope Teri doesn't mind!

He had a checkup on January 7th, and the results couldn't have been better—in fact, I'm told that the doctor said he was "perfect" and "amazing". Here are his statistics:

Age: 15 months and 2 days

Weight: 27 lbs 11 oz (12.55 kg)

Height: 2'8" (0.81m)

Head: 19.3 inches (49 cm)

He's in the 90th percentile for weight and head size, and in the 75th percentile for height, but the doctor assures us that he's not overweight at all. His two upper canine teeth have just broken through the gum, giving him a total of 14 of the 20 baby teeth he'll eventually have; all that remains are the two lower canines and the four back molars.

The best news of all was that the results of his blood tests for lead came back, and there was no increase—he's still at 5, which is not considered a dangerous level. Hmm. Have I talked about the lead situation here before?

I just Googled the site, and apparently I haven't—probably because I was pretty upset, and didn't want to talk about it.

Okay, so here's the story.

When we were in the process of buying the house, we were told by our agent that if we so much as MENTIONED lead testing, we'd lose the house. Since we'd already lost one house that we really liked, this really scared us. So we signed cards agreeing to waive our right to have lead testing done. Since the house was so old, the agent told us, it was sure to have some lead—but it was really nothing to worry about.

When Teri spoke to the owner, she said that since she had her grandchildren over often she'd refinished a lot of the house, and didn't believe that there was much lead left. During the second inspection, I made the "mistake" of mentioning the possibility of lead testing and the seller's agent hit the roof—told us that there were dozens of people lined up to buy the house if we didn't want it. So we panicked and hoped for the best.

But a few months after we'd moved in, I watched Sebastian crawl over to a doorframe which was slightly chipped, press his palm to it, turn around with a big smile and put his hand to his mouth. Yes, you guessed it—there were tiny flakes of paint on his hand. I knew that one of the signs of lead paint, and one of the reasons that it's such a problem for children, is that lead paint is sweet—and Sebastian's behavior was a clear warning sign.

So Teri called a lead testing company, who told us that there was, indeed a lot of lead in the house—not enough to qualify as a toxic waste dump or anything, but more than was safe for an infant. Removal could cost $10,000.00 or more; there were programs that give grants and loans to help with de-leading, but for one reason or another we weren't qualified for any of them. For example, I was making about $200 per year too much to qualify for a grant—that's two hundred dollars too much for the year. Bastards! And we hadn't been in the house long enough to build up any equity, which was a requirement for a loan. We were totally screwed.

Sebastian's central nervous system was potentially in real danger, by the way. Many of my overseas correspondents don't seem to have heard about the dangers of lead poisoning, here's some information.

Basically, lead damages the development of the growing central nervous system, resulting in reduced IQ and attention span, impaired growth, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and insomnia, among other things. What's more, lead builds up in the body over time and does not go away. Because Sebastian was growing up in a comparatively high-lead environment, he had to be taken to a hospital every three months to have large amount of blood taken and tested for lead levels. Teri and her mother took him for the first test, and he sobbed uncontrollably as they drew the blood.

The first test came back with a blood lead level of 5. 10 is the danger point, so this could have been worse—although recent studies indicate that any level of lead is bad. Still, things could have been worse. We simply didn't have the money to de-lead the house, so we did the next best thing and cleaned it like crazy. Lead gets into children in a number of ways, but the most common one is lead dust from flaking paint—and that lead can be removed by cleaning with a TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) solution. And that's what we did, on every surface we could reach. We also bought a cheap HEPA filter vacuum and vacuumed like crazy. We'll have to keep up with the cleaning, of course, but so far it seems to be working, since there was no increase in lead levels in the latest test. And the good news is that since the levels didn't go up, Sebastian won't have to have his next blood test until he's two.

I'm really pissed off about all this, though.

A Blog for All Seasons

My friend Epimetheus has changed blog providers—apparently the old one got really slow. The name Epimetheus was already taken on the new site, though, so now he's Charibdis—which again is a name I already knew, but perhaps not everyone knows?

Other Stuff

I've discovered that since is aliased to, links and email are also aliased. For example, will take you to the main page of Pete's RQ & Roleplaying!. And email sent to will reach me.

I'm slowly working up more NPC concepts, and hope to debut the NPC section of the Chaos Project soon. Lately I've been basing NPCs on some of the stranger people I've met. If you have any ideas for NPCs, please let me know!

Apart from that, I'm looking forward to a fun weekend at Arisia. I'll be distributing updated flyers for the site there, among other things. The odds are good that Teri and Sebastian will be at the hotel, although possibly not attending the con itself. If you're at the con, flag me down and say "hi"!

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[email protected] Copyright 2003 by Peter Maranci. Revised: January 20, 2003. version 1.1