Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.


Thursday, December 19, 2002  

Holy Hurl-A-Whirl, Batman Department: What do you get when you cross an amusement park ride with an industrial robot? The RoboCoaster!

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 1:31 PM
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I Will Make You Fiskers Of Men Department: Glenn Reynolds says:

DICKENS WROTE ABOUT A SCROOGE'S REDEMPTION. James Lileks, on the other hand, subjects a scrooge to a savage and altogether merciless Fisking.

I never did like Dickens all that much.


In an e-mail to Glenn, I said:
Actually, couldn't you say that the three ghosts in Dicken's story delivered a Fisking to Scrooge? Didn't they go back through his life and show him point by point how he erred? Thus, you could say that it was Fisking that led to Scrooge's repentance and redemption.


Fisking has been defined as "deconstructing an article on a point by point basis in a highly critical manner." (For a full definition, go here.) Seems to me that you could say that the writings of the prophets, the words of Christ, and a good portion of the epistles--in other words, much of the Bible--is proto-Fisking.

Update: Glenn responds (on his blog), "Yes, the golden cloak of redemption often comes after the Iron Fisk of Truth."

"The Iron Fisk of Truth" sounds a bit like a comic book character.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 1:13 PM
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Wednesday, December 18, 2002  

Good Reads Department: The Most Dangerous Baby.

Link via How Now Brown Pau.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:08 AM
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Tuesday, December 17, 2002  

Finding Stuff Where It Doesn't Exist Department: Judging by my referral logs, I'm getting a lot of traffic from people who are interested in the question of whether Lord of the Rings is racist, and whether Professor Tolkien was racist.

It isn't, and he wasn't. Yeah, yeah, there are some who hold the contrary view. They're entitled to their opinion. And I'm entitled to say they're full of balloon juice.

For example, in my last post, I pointed to a quote from the professor indicating that he thought the Nazi Party's views about the "Ayrian race" and Jews was a load of codswallop. So, if he thought that particular form of racism was bunk, why would he subscribe to any other form of racism?

I've been thinking about this some more, mostly because I ran across another article that made the same tired claim about LOTR and Tolkien.

Dr Stephen Shapiro, an expert in cultural studies, race and slavery, accused the author of using the novels to make racial prejudice innocent - by presenting bigotry through a fantasy world.

Speaking just days before the film of The Two Towers, the second part of the classic series, opens across the UK, Dr Shapiro said the books represented anxieties about immigration in mid-1950s Britain.

The academic claimed: "Put simply, Tolkien’s good guys are white and the bad guys are black, slant-eyed, unattractive, inarticulate and a psychologically undeveloped horde."


Some have tried to make the claim that in Tolkien's work, the goodness of the good guys and the badness of the bad guys is determined by their race, and of course, all the bad guys are dark skinned, while the good guys are white. Codswallop, I say. If you pay attention at all, you'll find there is plenty of "badness" among the light-skinned people: Boromir's fall to the influence of the ring, or Denethor's arrogant pride that led to his fall into despair and madness are two examples from LOTR. You can find much more in the Silmarillion, such as the Numenoreans coming under the evil influence of Sauron.

Then there's the orcs. If we look at the origins of the orcs, we find that they were elves who were captured and corrupted by Morgoth (an even more powerful dark lord; Sauron was his leutenant). Even Sauron, and Morgoth before him, were created good, but both chose to be evil. They weren't evil because it was "in their blood." In each case, we find that the "bad guys" were bad because they chose to be, or they were seduced by power, or they were corrupted by an evil force.

Very telling is this excerpt from The Two Towers, in which Sam sees a Southron warrior (one of the "bad guys," remember) fall dead at his feet:
It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace--all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.


Sounds like the writings of a racist, eh? Not!

For more reading on this subject, try this essay: The Shadow of Racism (from TheOneRing.net)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:04 AM
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