Selfmade ‘Today in Middle-earth’ – Moleskine Journal

Several years ago, Moleskine release some beautiful Hobbit edition of its notebooks. As a lover of Moleskine notebooks and all things Tolkien, I had to get one too. While I loved every notebook in this Hobbit series, I settled for this notebook in pocket size.

Yet, until recently, I didn’t knew what to use it for. I wanted to use it for Middle-earth related stuff, but I was also too afraid to use it in case I ruin it. You know, the usual struggle every stationery lover has.

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A few days ago, as I was thinking of #middleearthmarch I somehow got THE IDEA: Why not use that Hobbit Moleskine notebook to write all Middle-earth dates down?

If you’re like me, March will make you wonder ‘What exactly happened that day in Middle-earth’? The entire year is filled with important days in Middle-earth, but March is, without a  doubt, one of the busiest months in Middle-earth. So whenever I wanted to know what was ‘going on’ in Middle-earth, I’d search the internet. Now, I don’t have to browse the world wide web, I can just grab my Middle-earth Calendar notebook and look up what is going on.

How I created my ‘Today in Middle-earth’ Moleskine Notebook

The most pressing question some of you now might have is ‘Where did you get all the dates from’? The best resouce on the internet is, by far, The One Ring.Net’s ‘Today in Middle-earth Calendar’. It is the most extensive and structured calender I’ve seen so far. No need to reference dozens of different hopepages anymore.

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Section 1: LOTR events month on two pages

For my own, analogue version, I created two sections. A ‘month on two pages’ featuring Lord of the Rings Events only and a ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section featuring all dates and events. The LOTR  events only section allows only for the most important event on each day. It serves me as a quick overview. My ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section is the one section I’ll use as a detailed account of events.

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Section 2

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My system of colour-coding events

In order to make things organized and clear, I’ve decided to colour-code the events in my ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section. Black stands for events  significant to LOTR, blue are events of importance to The Hobbit and purple encompasses miscellaneous events such as Tolkien’s birthday. All in all, I used up about two-thirds of my notebook. Depending on your handwriting or added decoration, it my be different for you if you decide to re-create it.

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Section 2: ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’

I’m not gonna lie, at times it felt tedious to write everything down. However, for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the process. I’d put on Middle-earth inspired music and pretend to be a Gondorian historian. Now that I’m finished I’m desperate to re-read LOTR again!

Have you done anything similar? If now, what do you think of my little project? Leave a comment down below!

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Disability & Pop Culture: An Amputee’s Point of View

Whenever you think of disabled characters in pop culture, you’ll probably think of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader from Star Wars, and maybe of Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. Disabled characters, whether they have a physical disability, an intellectual disability or have a chronic illness, are far and few inbetween in pop culture. There is a greater variety of vampires, ghosts, and aliens than disabled characters (or any other minorities for that matter).

I was born one-handed (don’t worry, I have no difficulties with typing this) and for the longest time, the only characters in film, tv, or books that looked like me, and by that I mean characters with missing limbs, were Luke Skywalker, Lieutenant Dan, and the occasional villian such as Darth Vader or Azog from The Hobbit. Naturally, most of them immediately became my favourite characters of that film or tv show regardless of whether they were good guys or even well-written characters. Seriously, no matter who the characters is, I’d get excited beyond words just to see someone ‘like me’ on screen, even if it was murderous Orc.

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Me, a few years back.

A statistic by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative from 2015 revealed that “just 2.4 percent of characters in the top 100 movies who spoke or had actual names had disabilities. That’s a significant gap between fiction and reality, since the Census Bureau has found in 2010 that 56.7 million people, or 18.7 percent of Americans, have disabilities. ” I’m sure the numbers will be the same for many other countries as well.

Here is a detailed breakdown of what this study uncovered:

Characters with disabilities appeared in 55 of those 100 movies. And of those characters, 61 percent had physical disabilities, 37.1 had mental or cognitive disabilities, and 18.1 percent had communicative disabilities. Characters with disabilities were overwhelmingly male; just 19 percent of characters with disabilities were female. Characters with disabilities were likely to be relatively marginalized in the movies in which they did appear: 10 of the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 featured characters with disabilities as leads or co-leads. Of the 11 movies that Smith and her colleagues classified as ensemble, two featured characters with disabilities as part of the core ensemble. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

The number of disabled actors on film and tv is similarly small. In fact, whenever I see a disabled character portrayed, I automatically roll my eyes thinking “ah yes another abled-bodied actor”. The exceptions to this are characters with dwarfism or down syndrome. These are the only examples that come to my mind where disabled actors are always chosen to portray a character that has the same disability as them. When it comes to other disabilities, more often than not, an able-bodied actor is chosen.

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Luke Skywalker

I can still remember, years and years ago, when CSI: Las Vegas came out how I reacted with cynicism upon seeing the Coroner Dr. Albert Robbins walking with a crutch. Even more so when it was revealed the character of Dr. Robbins is a double-amputee. Only later did I found out that the actor portraying Dr. Robbins, Robert David Hall was, in fact, a double-amputee himself! Over the years my interest in CSI: Las Vegas dwindled, especially after the departure of actor William Petersen, but I kept on watching it just for Dr. Robbins. Finally, I’ve found a character whose disability was just one aspect of his personality and not a walking-talking stereotype, nor a villain.

For most of my life, I didn’t really think about this issue in-depth. I just accepted the low numbers and sometimes terrible representation without question. However, as I get older and started my academic career in culture studies, with a focus on literary studies, I began to think critically and eventually began a Ph.D on disability in literature. For a year now, I’ve been reading and researching books and short stories in science fiction featuring disabled characters and let me tell you it wasn’t very easy. Not all summaries online will tell you that a book or short story deals with disability issues. Some books, I’ve stumbled upon by accident on amazon while browsing for another unrelated book.

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Lieutenant Dan

Initially, I intended this to be a brief “x amount of disabled characters in Science Fiction” – list. However, I realized very early that this is not an issue I can summarize in just a few sentences, hence, my Ph.D project. I could go on an on in this post, but it is too long and to “here and there” already. In other words, I want to write more blog-posts discussing disability in pop-culture. I don’t know, nor can I promise anything, how long this series will be or how frequent these type of posts will be. However, I will try, at the very least, to contribute a bit to the discussion of disability rights. I’m over 30 now and if a few random posts here and there end up helping a young person growing up with a disability to feel more confident and find characters that “look just like themselves” then I’ve succeeded.

So what’s next up? A short list of science fiction books and short-stories I’ve recently read that feature disabled characters. Moreover, there are numerous movies, tv shows, or books with disabled characters that I haven’t watched or read yet. So I think it’ll be nice to give brief reviews of my first thoughts on these characters.

It is your turn now. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you have a movie, tv-show, game, comic, or book featuring disabled characters that you absolutely love or hate? Leave a comment down below!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard

We already covered Fictional Foods That We Want To Try in an earlier post, but fantasy offers us even more interesting options when we look at potions. Let’s face it, if we had access to effects like these, we would keep them stocked at home for when we need them!

With that in mind, I’d like to share Five Magical Potions to Always Have in the Cupboard.

#1 – Lucy’s Cordial from Father Christmas

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Lucy’s Cordial from the Chronicles of Narnia requires only a few drops to restore health to someone on a battlefield, so even though it probably falls into the category of a standard health potion, it certainly lands on the powerful end of the scale. For me, the most important potion to have on hand is a healing potion, and I have always wanted this one after having The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe read to me as a child.

#2 – Felix Felicis

Harry Potter

Sometimes, you just need a little luck! Felix Felicis (aka Liquid Luck) can be toxic if used in high doses as it can cause extreme recklessness, but if you use it sparingly and only when needed, you are likely to be successful in all of your endeavors while under its influence.

Screen capture by @NWPlayer123

#3 – Energizing Elixir

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Imagine being in the middle of an exhausting task and suddenly regaining stamina as though you had just begun. The Energizing Elixir from Breath of the Wild comes in handy when you’re climbing a cliff or swimming, and having easy access to this potion in the real world could give you just what you need to finish what you started when fatigue sets in.

#4 – Draught of PEace

Harry Potter

The draught of peace can soothe anxiety and calm agitation. You could use it yourself when you feel stressed about public speaking or a frightening situation, or you could share it with your loved ones when they just need a moment of peace from their worries and cares.

#5 – Morgause’s Tracking Potion

Merlin

Technically, the tracking potion was used by the bad guys (namely, Morgause and Morgana), but you could use it for good! I get uneasy when someone wants me to follow them instead of giving me directions to our intended destination, and this would make it as simple as following their trail. Assuming it worked on animals, you could give one to your pet to see just what they are getting their little paws into.

Honorable Mention: Egg Shen’s Potion

Big Trouble in Little China

“Drink this, you will see things no one else can see. Do things no one else can do!”

 

These are just six potions from a handful of properties, and we’re sure that there are plenty more excellent choices. In the comments below, please share what you would always keep in stock!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!

My 7 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

The end of 2016 and the entire year of 2017 have been times filled with changes for me. I’ve graduated from uni with a Master’s, travelled to New Zealand, started a Ph.D and am currently on the job hunt, trying to build a career during my Ph.D. In other words, I found myself with more time on my hands than in the previous years and I did what I’ve always wanted to to in the past: read more books. Looking back at the quantity and quality of the books I’ve read, I can happily say that 2017 has been a good year.

However, 2017 was a year filled with an abundance of physical purchases. I’m trying to live my life as much under the principle of minimalism as possible. For me, minimalism means to only surround myself with things that serve a purpose (eg.: kitchen supplies) or things that I absolutely love. I’ll delve more into the struggle of trying to live a minimalist life while also loving to collect things in a future post. For now, I can summarize that whereas I’ve spend most of my money in the past on travel, I’ve spend all of my money on physical possessions in 2017.

I don’t regret my purchases for the most part, but a part of me wants to go back on the road at least once in 2018. In order to do that, and since I don’t have a steady job at the moment, I need to save money. Now, my desire to travel is not the only reason I want to spend less on books. For the most part of my adult life, I’ve fallen into the trap of collecting books, but never being able to read all the books I’ve purchased. There were times were I owned more unread books than read books. In 2017, I’ve noticed how I’ve fallen back into that trap. Now, there is nothing wrong with having unread books, but I want to own more read than unread books.

As a way to keep my bookish purchases more in control (& an attempt to save money), I came up with 7 bookish resolutions for 2018. So let’s take a look at them, shall we?

My 7 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

1.Buy less physical books
Rather self-explanatory, isn’t it?

2.Buy a physical book only after having read 3 physical books you already own.
I’m not trying to kid myself by putting myself on a complete book-buying-ban. I know I couldn’t stick to such a ban. However, I want to reduce the number of unread books. So I decided to allow myself to buy a book only after having read 3 existing physical books I’ve purchased in the past but never got around to reading. I hope this rule will inspire me to read more from my book collection.

3.Loan more books from the library.
My university library isn’t the biggest nor the best out there, but it has a decent collection of books published in the English language (my preferred language to read in). So if I really want to read a book, I’ll try to get it from my library before purchasing it.

4.Buy only a Tolkien related book after having read 5 physical books (Tolkien or non-Tolkien)
I think the sole reason I don’t call myself a minimalist is my ever growing Tolkien collection. I love Tolkien and his works and I love collecting books and other things related to Tolkien and Middle-earth. However, I want to be more conscientious about my collecting habit. So instead of completely banning myself from adding stuff to my collection, I’ll try to have it more controlled. Knowing that Funko will release another batch of LOTR Funkos, it’ll be a bit of a struggle. I don’t want to punish myself in any way if I fail a rule. However, I do want to re-evaluate my purchases and minimize my purchases as much as possible whatever that means.

5.You can repurchase an e-book as a physical book only when you gave it at least 4 out of 5 stars.
For the most part, I want to limit my bookish purchases to e-books. However, I do want to own my absolute favourite books as physical copies at some point. So with rule number 2 in mind, I’ll slowly repurchase some of my favourite e-books as physical books.

6.You can only buy an e-book after having read 2 existing e-books.
E-readers are a great thing. With only a click, you can read a book after a few seconds of waiting. The bad thing about e-readers is that with only a click, you can read a book after a few seconds of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more tempted to randomly buy a book as an e-book because it is so easy, fast and doesn’t really feel like I’ve spend money. Quickly, small sums here and there can accumulate to a greater sum. So in an attempt to keep my e-book purchases in check, I’ve came up with this rule. The exception to this rule a free e-books.

7.Read more out of your comfort zone.
I really want to widen my horizon and knowledge so I need to force myself to read more books out of my comfort zone. For fiction, this means that I’ll try to read more authors I haven’t read before. For non-fiction this means reading more books on science and history. Also, whether fiction or non-fiction, I’ll also try to read more books that were written authors from, or published in, countries outside of Europe and North-America (my preferred reading horizon).

This will be an interesting experiment, for it really feels as if the outcome is uncertain, for me. I want to have regular check-ups throughout the upcoming year and discuss how my progress is going. However, I’m not sure how often I want these check-ups to be. Maybe I’ll do them every 3 months, who knows.

What about you, how have your reading habits changed in the last 12 months? Do you have any bookish resolutions for 2018? Leave a comment down below!

5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Songs That We’ll Never Hear

As part of their world-building, many fiction authors, especially writers of fantasy and science fiction, pen songs that are sung by their characters. These can proclaim the great feats of heroes or simply be pub songs filled with nonsense. Fortunately, the lyrics to these pieces are written down for many a fan to set to music and create their own renditions.

But what about songs that have no lyrics? Some songs are so beyond words that the author might describe them for the reader, but because the moment is so bizarre or sublime, they could never be truly recreated.

We’d like to dedicate this Five Fandom Friday to Five Fictional Songs That We’ll Never Hear.

#5 – The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Last Dragonslayer Series by Jasper Fforde

Lily: Jennifer Strange is the main character in The Last Dragonslayer books, and she has an unusual pet, even for this universe. Well, “pet” might not be the correct term, because she couldn’t get rid of her Quarkbeast even if she wanted to. A Quarkbeast is a quantum type of being often described as: “One-tenth Labrador, six-tenths Velociraptor, and three-tenths kitchen food blender.” When two opposite Quarkbeasts meet, they start to sing their mating song. Oh, and when they touch, there is an explosion of enormous force.

If you were to hear the song of the Quarkbeast, it would likely be the last thing you ever heard:

“Others who have heard it are now little more than dust. But if I was about to die, then I was glad to have heard the song. It was lonely — one of lament, of unknown knowledge. A song of resignation, of poetry given and received. The small movements that the Quarkbeasts made as they padded around each other altered the hum so subtly that it sounded like an alto bassoon, but with one single note, infinitely variable.

“But it wasn’t a song of peace, love, or happiness. It was a requiem — for all of us.” (Chapter 24: Risk of Confluence, The Song of the Quarkbeast)

#4 – The Songs from the Alien Planet Rakhat

The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell

Maria: In Russell’s novel, the SETI program at Arecibo Observatory discovers radio broadcasts of music from an alien planet in a distant galaxy in 2019. This mesmerizing music then triggers events that lead to a group of humans travel to the planet Rakhat and the first human-alien contact.

Earlier this year, I finished this novel and it may or may not have entered my top 10 novels of all time. I’m not sure if I reeeally want to hear the music of the alien race Jana’ata knowing the full story (hooo boy hoo boy), but the very idea of hearing music from an alien race is too tempting. Maybe, during my lifetime this might come true… who knows.

#3 – Song of the Dragons

Dragon Age

Lily: When the darkspawn find an Old God and corrupt it, transforming it into an Archdemon, it leads them in an attack on the surface world. The darkspawn mostly dwell underground when they are not raiding Thedas, always searching for other Old Gods. They are drawn to their location by the song of the dragons.

Unlike the rest of our list, you would think that a video game would provide an opportunity for a player to hear this song, but at best, we only catch distorted fragments. These can be heard in the form of nightmares that grow more frequent as a Warden is tainted by the darkspawn blood they consumed at The Joining, their initiation ritual.

The Grey Wardens are not be envied, because when the song reaches its crescendo, they must participate in a ritual known as The Calling in which they descend underground to kill as many darkspawn as possible before being slain in battle. If not, they are ultimately doomed to join the ranks of the foes they fought so long and so hard against.

There was a stir within his blood
And the dreams lay thick upon him.
A call did beat within his heart.
One road was left before him.

(Codex entry: Shred of Blue)

#2 – The Song of Earth from the Campaign to Save the Humans

So Long, and THanks for All The Fish by douglas Adams

Lily: In the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the dolphins of earth sing “So Long and Thanks for All The Fish” before they bid the humans farewell prior to Earth’s demolition. The book So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish, however, describes a gift-wrapped fishbowl that turns up at Arthur Dent’s house with those famous words engraved on its beautiful silver-gray glass. When he is finally clued in by Wonko the Sane to hold it up to his ear, he hears a beautiful song of the Earth’s destruction and its ultimate restoration. And it goes a little something like this:

“The deep roar of the ocean.

The break of waves on farther shores that thought can find.

The silent thunders of the deep.

And from among it, voices calling, and yet not voices, humming trillings, wordlings, and half-articulated songs of thought.

Greetings, waves of greetings, sliding back down into the inarticulate, words breaking together.

A crash of sorrow on the shores of Earth.

Waves of joy on–where? A world indescribably found, indescribably arrived at, indescribably wet, a song of water.

A fugue of voices now, clamoring explanations, of a disaster unavertable, a world to be destroyed, a surge of helplessness, a spasm of despair, a dying fall, again the break of words.

And then the fling of hope, the finding of a shadow Earth in the implications of enfolded time, submerged dimensions, the pull of parallels, the deep pull, the spin of will, the hurl and split of it, the fight. A new Earth pulled into replacement, the dolphins gone.

Then stunningly a single voice, quite clear.

‘This bowl was brought to you by the Campaign to Save the Humans. We bid you farewell.'” (Chapter 31, So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish)

 

#1 – The Music of the Ainur

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. TOlkien

Lily: The Ainur are the first beings created by Ilúvatar (aka Eru), and they originally sang for him in solos or small groups. Eventually, Ilúvatar brought them all together, gave them a theme, and compelled them to sing Great Music in harmony together to create the world.

“Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.” (The Music of the Ainur, Ainulindalë, The Silmarillion)

Of course, Melkor just had to go off-key, creating discord and dissonance, bringing turbulence and violence and war. So, it might not exactly be your kind of jam.

 

Can you think of any other songs from fiction that would be impossible for us to actually listen to? Please share them in the comments below!

You can check out all of our past 5 Fandom Friday posts here, and we’d love to know if you have any suggestions for future topics!