Saturday, July 10, 2004

Tom Bombadil Interview

(A Note to Readers: I recently had the opportunity to speak to Tom Bombadil, the enigmatic Dionysian figure written about by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Tom was gracious enough to agree to an interview about his (non-)involvement with the recent films by Peter Jackson, Entish health crises, and what he's been up to since the War of the Ring.)

MH: Tom Bombadil, thank you for talking with us.

TB: It's Tom's pleasure, Terry. Terry-tow, dairy-doe, Tom Bombadillo!

MH: My name isn't Terry.

TB: Sorry. I'm doing "Fresh Aire" later. Tom got confused.

MH: I see. Um. I forgot what I was going to ask.

TB: Ask away, dairy-day, Tom Bombadillo!

MH: Ha ha. So, I understand you did a screen test for Peter Jackson.

TB: That's true. I did the Judd Nelson monologue from "The Breakfast Club" for him. You know: "Fuck you! No, Dad, what about you?" Tom always thought that bit was genius. O.

MH: Could you relate to Judd Nelson's character?

TB: Well, Tom likes to wear earrings.

MH: Great. So, did Jackson give a reason for not casting you?

TB: He didn't talk to me. He talked to my agent, and he was pretty vague. He said Tom didn't mesh with the rest of the narrative, Tom was an enigma. But I think the real reason is that I wouldn't work with the Barrow-Wight. I told him that in the audition, because he was very enthusiastic about that sequence. But the Barrow-Wight and Tom haven't talked in ages. Tom doesn't want to get into it; it's basically a zoning dispute that's gotten out of hand. The homeowner's association took Tom's side, so that should be the end of it, right? Anyway, Tom told Jackson it was me or the Wight, and he chose the Wight. And then the Wight went off to work on a Swedish production of Beowulf, anyway, so he didn't have either one of us. Hussy-tuss, Mossy-mo, Tom Bombadillo.

MH: I don't remember any Wights in Beowulf.

TB: Sure, but nobody knows the difference, do they? That's what I was trying to tell Jackson--he could have casted any old ghoul, or even a grue, to replace the Wight. No one would have known. No one could tell that the Eye of Sauron was actually Lazy. It's called acting.

MH: Were you upset about not being in the films?

TB: Not upset, no. Tom was happy for Old Man Willow, because he made it in, for a cameo at least. He played a tree.

MH: Are you friends with Old Man Willow nowadays?

TB: We were never enemies, exactly. You know, he's a homeowner too, and property disputes get ugly. To tell you the truth, if those hobbits had trampled Tom's hydrangeas, Tom might have reacted in much the same way. Talladay, Earnie-hay, Tom Bombadillo.

MH: You know, you don't have to do that on my account.

TB: That's a relief.

MH: I understand that you did visit the set while they were filming the razing of Isengard. What did you think of the Ents?

TB: Well, they're nice guys. And I can understand the strain of losing a marriage. Goldberry and Tom, we've got something really special. But, you know, if she left me, I don't think I'd start starving myself.

MH: I'm sorry--are you implying that the Ents are suffering from eating disorders?

TB: Not all of them. Just the ones that Jackson cast, which is a sad comment on the state of filmmaking. But Tom's not one for blanket condemnations. Quickbeam, for example, it might just be his metabolism. But you should have seen Treebeard before the Entwives took off. We didn't call it obesity back in those days, but it wasn't pretty. And now he's swung back to the other extreme

MH: Are you saying that's why the Entwives disappeared?

TB: You'd have to ask them.

MH: No one knows where they are.

TB: Yeah, right.

MH: Could you elaborate?

TB: Tom really can't say. It's not Tom's place.

MH: OK. Well, I can't let you go without asking the question every fan of The Lord of the Rings wants to know; just who and what are you, exactly? Are you a god?

TB: Eldest, that's what I am. Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn. He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless--before the Dark Lord came--

MH: I hate to interrupt, but why is it that you sometimes refer to yourself in the third person?

TB: Eldest, you know. The rules of pronouns weren't around back then. Tom doesn't like rules very much.

MH: Well, Tom Bombadil, thank you for talking with us.

TB: Thanky-yo, Pleasure-poo, Tom Bombadillo!

Thursday, July 08, 2004


This is just beyond the pale. It's appalling, the lengths "security" people are going to in order to keep any dissent out of Dubya's sight. Is he some version of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal? Is he so mind-bogglingly stupid to think that if the protestors are kept six blocks away from him that we won't see what he's doing? Or is Cheney-bot afraid that if Dubya saw a different idea he might spout something other than his own personal riff on "Stay the Course?" Is a great leader one who can't be presented with opposing views, or challenged on his own? Thank god for Carole Coleman, at least. If only there was an American journalist with both access and balls. You know, I think the toughest interview I've ever seen Dubya have to do was with Dave Letterman, and that, my friends, is a sad commentary indeed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land by Yossi Klein Halevi

To begin with, let me say that this is no way to write a review.

Two Sundays past I went to church, of my own volition, for perhaps the first time in my life. Mass, to be specific, and it turned out to be a mistake. The priest used a reading about Elijah and Elisha as a launching point for an anti-abortion, anti-pre-marital sex homily, and halfway through the mass I walked out in disgust. Perhaps I should know better, but I was raised Catholic, and I thought I'd be most comfortable starting with something I knew.

I don't know what I believe, but I read a lot about faith, about myth, about different conceptions of the divine and the sacred. Most of the time I think that organized religion is something that divides us. This book didn't do much to alter that impression, but it did give me a lot to think about.

Halevi is a devout Jew and an Israeli journalist distressed by the divisions causing so much death and destruction in his country. In this book he recounts his attempts to build bridges with Christian and Islamic practitioners, and the frightening political, cultural and security barriers he encountered along the way. He tries to operate from the assumption that all faiths are pathways to the same divinity, but what is perhaps most engaging about his account is that he is honest about his own prejudices and preconceptions. He doesn't pretend that there is nothing the Muslims and Christians he encounters can say nothing to offend him. And I have to say, even taking into account the problems I have personally with Christian evangelicals, seeing them through Halevi's eyes brought me a new depth of understanding of their arrogance.

If this were a fictional account, a sort of picaresque of faith, it might be more satisfying. The loose ends might come together more neatly, the saints and the charlatans might be more distinct, and the answers might be more neatly packaged, if equally as difficult to draw conclusions from. But since it's a true story, it asks more questions than it answers. Maybe that's the nature of faith--I, for one, can't claim to know. I did find it a rewarding, if frustrating, read, one that offers up hope for the Middle East while at the same time casting a harsh light on the real difficulties of understanding there.

On Selling Textbooks

Rejection from GvG for "Screen." Took nearly six weeks, actually, and he says nice (if extremely general) things. Ah well. Not sure where to place that one next.

I'm reading my required textbook for the summer course, which is paperback, about 180 pages, and cost sixty bucks. Man, am I writing the wrong sorts of books.

I have determined that writing is going to be hit-or-miss at least until class actually starts. I'm as stressed about not writing as I am about not being prepared, because for me, Not Writing = Anxiety. So I am planning to mix two ounces of School Stress with two of Writing Anxiety in a cocktail shaker, add a dash of Continual Headache of Scraping By Financially, pour into a nervous glass, throw back and chase with the Lemon Wedge of Whining in Public. (You can find the full recipe in the Neurotic Bartender's Guide, with variants including Parental Issues, First-World Problems and all the various flavors of Sexual Guilt.)

I am having a lot of thoughts about politics and libraries and the internet and, well, baseball, but I am realizing that I am not good at Thinking Out Loud. There are people out there in BlogLand who write wonderful idea posts (and there are some who write idea posts that are not so wonderful), but I am probably not going to write a lot of posts like that. Most of my Big Ideas show up in my fiction. Which makes it all the more tragic for the world that I have so many stories as yet unsold. (Dramatic sigh, accompanied by grandly self-pitying hand gesture.)