Audiobooks – January 2024

Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) by Adam Fisher

Weaves around 500 interviews into stories of People and Companies. Well put together and a great read 4/5

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown

A review of scientifically prove learning techniques concentrating on what really works vs what feels good. Useful 3/5

The Downloaded by Robert J. Sawyer

Two very different groups of people are unfrozen into a post-apocalyptic Earth. A group of Astronauts and a group of Convicted Murderers. Good Sawyer story although a bit on the short side 3/5

How Infrastructure Works: Inside the Systems That Shape Our World by Deb Chachra

A tour of various pieces of Infrastructure that supports our everyday lives. Mostly an introduction but with some strong opinions on funding and sustainability. 3/5

Apollo 1: The Tragedy that put us on the Moon by Ryan S. Walters

Bios of the Astronauts and the US space programme leading up to the accident and various problems that made it inevitable. Good but not extremely detailed. 4/5

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon

The plan by two wayward youths to rob a Belgian nightclub goes awry but how does it connect to a murdered man? Interesting story that avoids Maigret’s point of view. 3/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Ozmoot 2024 – Day 3 – Afternoon

Arda Measured with Jackson Mitchell-Bolton

  • The Geocosmology of the Tolkien Legendarium
  • General – Cosmology of Arda
  • Overview
  • 1st and Much of 2nd age
    • Flat and Enclosed
    • Late 2nd Age
    • Changes to being a sphere
    • Valanor separated from the rest of the world
    • What the earth is now
  • What did Tolkien show us about the World?
  • 5 maps in Ambarkanta
  • Map 5 – Need to find out the scale
    • Start with main Lord of Rings map which has scale
    • Astronomy has a distance ladder
  • The First Map of the Lord of the rings
    • Extends much further especially to the North
    • Has some differences with Final Map though
    • Fitted with Published map over the First Map
    • Created Smallest, Largest and Best matches
    • 3 possible lengths of 300 miles. Length of “red line” is 400 +-7 miles.
  • The 2nd Silmirilion Map
    • Looking at features around the Blue Mountains
    • Able to get a size of Balariand
  • But the Gulf shows up on map 5 so can go direct
    • So Using map 5 the equator is 13, 15 or 17 times the reference distance.
    • Girdle of arda is 13.3 +2.5/-2.2 times the reference length
    • Length of Girdle is 6120 -+1000 miles
    • about 0.77x the size of the earth ( +0.14/-0.11 )
  • Compare to the Atlas of middle Earth.
    • 6400 falls in his estimates
  • Ambarkana Diagram III – The worth made round
    • The straight path is a little bit wobbly
    • But actual distance is only about 1% different
    • Estimated size of Ardar is about half of present day earth
  • This would imply greater there have been significant changes to the world some time between the books and the present day
Diagram III
Map 5


Oaths and Promises: A Path Through Darkness and Uncertainty with Stephen Vrettos

  • Oaths are used to obtain certainty
  • The Oath of Feanor
    • He cannot offer them safety in middle earth
    • Rallys the greater path to follow him
  • The Oath of Eorl, The Oath of Ciriom
    • Came to rescue of Gondor
    • Swore friendship with each other
    • Came to each other’s aid over the years
  • Smeagol’s promise
    • Serve the Master of the Precious
  • Why are Oaths so effective?
    • Certainty on how people will act
    • Certainty how other kingdoms will act
  • Oaths have the ability to propel their own fulfillment
    • Language in the Silmirilion – “The Oath drives them”
  • Iluvatar will enforce the Oaths are fulfilled
    • None can see how to get out of Oath of Feanor
    • Isildur’s Curse. How did a mortal man have the ability to bind the Oathbreakers beyond their deaths?
    • Seems unlikely he could do this himself even if he had magic. Even Valar could not make men immortal
    • Power of curse probably came from Iluvatar
    • Smeagol’s Oath – Frodo has no power, enforcement must have come from Iluvatar
    • Lots of discussion on this, hard to summarise
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Ozmoot 2024 – Day 3 – Morning

Keynote Address with Corey Olsen

  • What is Estel?
  • Two words in Sindarin for Hope. Estel and Amdir
  • Amdir
    • Believe things are going to work out
    • Can have significant grounding and fact, analysis and reason
    • Take Glorfindel rather than Pippin in fellowship
  • Estel
    • Elrond talking this up during council
    • Trust this is the right thing to do
    • “faith” is sometimes used but Corey is going to avoid using it. Has too many associations and different meanings.
    • “trust” might be a better word
  • Estel = Trust
    • Stubbon Hope – Sam’s song in the tower. “In western lands..”
    • “I will not say the day is done, or bid the stars farewell”
    • The “Stars Forever Dwell” .. “Sam saw a while star twinkle for a while”
    • It doesn’t matter if we both dies, the shadow can’t reach the high beauty so the shadow will eventually lose
    • Trust in the Really big picture
    • Concerning Heroes – On the stair – “But so our path is laid”
    • Sam previously believed Heroes in stories were the kind of people who went out looking for them. Now understands they found themselves on a path that was chosen for them.
    • “But the people in it don’t know”
    • If they had turned back they would have been forgotten. Implies there were many others that had
    • The Unknown – on Stair after the above passage
    • Frodo opines that the people in a story don’t and shouldn’t know that what sort of the story he’s in.
    • It will change the story if the protagonist if the hero knew who it will turn out when they made choices.
    • Hope dies in Sam – Star of Mt Doom chapter – “But even as hope died in Sam”
    • Sam picks up he is in a sad story, from which he won’t come back
    • Doesn’t really fully accept that, thinks of the Shire and how he wants to see them. But his Amdir dies and he no longer hopes he will see them
    • But his Estel remains. He is walking the path because it is the path that has been laid for him.
    • Trust, what should be, shall be
    • Gandalf has a Suggestion – Shadow of the Past – Gandalf tells Frodo about the Ring
    • “There is only one way…”
    • How do you move the Ring from the Shire to Mordor?
    • “My only candidate for Ringbearer has failed to throw the ring into a fire” … “under the most optimal circumstances possible”
    • Gandalf knows that Frodo will fail – Amdir is low
    • Encouragement – Shadow of the past – There was more than one power at work
    • “Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by it’s maker”
    • Gandalf tests Frodo to see how affected he is by the Ring. Results not encouraging
    • Follows Estel
    • Bedrock – “Shall prove but mine instrument”
    • You can choose what you role is in the story
    • Questions
    • Q: Hope vs Despair
    • A: Despair is for those who see the future 100% . But you can lose all your Amdir but still keep you Estel . But Denethor lost both while Sam above kept Estel
    • Q: Is Gandalf’s selection of Mary & Pippin in Fellowship same as selecting Frodo to take ring?
    • A: Yes. The signs have provided two candidates. “That probably is the path”
    • Missed a couple of questions cause I was googling for a comic someone mentioned.
    • Q: Tolkien is the master of Mindfulness
    • Q: The whole book we has readers we have to have hope all the way through
    • A: Trudi gave up FoTR because Gandalf died and not much book left. Didn’t want to read “That kind of book”. She had a failure of Hope.
    • “Is this a kissing book?”

“She was not conquered”: Morwen and Motherhood in Middle-earth with Ilana Mushin

  • Revisit 16-year old essay on Woemen in Tolkien
  • Mother of Turin, wife of Hurin, Daughter of Baragund
  • Sends Son Turin to Doriath but decides not to to accompany him
    • Long road, she is pregnant and safer with few in group
    • Hope Husband still alive
    • Would not take charity
  • Mother in Anguish, fingers bleeding as Turin leaves ( “Sorrows of Turin”)
  • Other scholars have noted that some of the problems of Turin are blamed on her
  • Often scholars are negative towards her
  • Tolkien and mothers
    • Tolkien lost mother early, often much read into this
    • Most left out of the story
    • Sometimes just genealogical
    • When acting as mothers sometimes they are sacrificing themselves
    • Later stories (and versions of stories) by Tolkien tend to have more women or expanded roles (eg Galadriel)
  • Morwen
    • She is present in the 1920 version, so not a product of later writing
  • Pride
    • More maternal desperation
    • Words and deeds rather than he imputed thoughts should be looked at.

To Enter the Perilous Realm or Not to Enter? That is the Question with Trudy Shannon

  • Our Tolkien heroes are always given hard choices and usually choose them
  • Aldarion and Erendis
  • Tolkien most explicit about Faery in “Smith of Wooten Major”
  • Aldarion
    • Think of Numenor has the land of humans and middle Earth as the Land of Faery
    • Aldarion goes to middle earth
    • After Aldarion returns he has grown in statue and his eyes look far away (similar to Smith). He cannot explain exactly what he saw (like Smith)
    • He keeps going back (Like Smith) and becomes a great fiend of the Faery King
    • Does not pass on his “passport” to faery directly
  • Erendis
    • Invited to middle Earth by Aldarion
    • She rejects the invitation immediately
    • Not open to possibility of adventure. No way she can walk this road
    • Remember Tolkien always gives his characters choices
    • Says she loves the Woods of Numenor. But late grows to hate their sight
  • Diamond
    • Given by Aldarion to Erendis
    • Taken as her Bethrothal gift
    • Not 100% obvious if it is magical
  • Not a happy ending
    • Withdraws from Kings count, moves away from trees, Stops wearing diamond
    • Unrecognised by other people
    • May have tried to reconcile with Aldaron or perhaps voyage to Middle Earth
    • Neither has a Fairy Story ending
  • Conclusion
    • Us here at Ozmoot may already be partially in Faery
  • Q: How does the star on the brown connect to Aragorn?
  • A: The Hobbits have a vision when they are with TomB, but it is a tradition that goes back to this story, but Tolkien is interested in how stories replay though the generations
  • Q: How autobiographical? Separate interests between Tolkien and his wife
  • A: More communication than seperate interests
  • Q: Are there more parallels to Aragon the Star wearer?
  • A: Perhaps some. Is it mainly a political sign.
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Ozmoot 2024 – Day 2 – Afternoon

Tolkien, Faith, and the Final Eucatastrophe with Elizabeth Lyon

  • Tolkien’s Catholic faith is well known to most of us
  • It is easy to look past through it’s familiarity
  • What is evidence it made it’s way into his fiction?
    • Often appears in his letters
    • Appeared in “On Fairy Stories” re subcreation
    • “I am a Christian which can be deduced from my stories”
  • In what way did his faith shape his fiction, especially LOTR
    • Where is the religious sensibility in the book?
    • The LOTR is infused with the same light that illuminates the man who wrote it
  • What of March 25th?
  • The date of the destruction of the Ring
    • The Catholic Annunciation. Date of the Conception of Christ
    • First day of the new age of middle earth
    • Annunciation day was the start of the New Year in most European countries in Medieval times. Celebrated as a new beginning
    • 25th March is sometimes also marked as the date of the crucifixion
  • The aftermath – On Mount Doom
    • Like a passion – A merging a triumph and tragedy, sorrow and joy
    • But the tale goes on
  • Resurrection
    • Still to come. Not until the end of each character’s journey
    • Renewal of the Shire
    • Hope for final healing for most of our characters, but offstage
  • The Mirror of Galadriel
    • His work is a mirror to the real world and a person’s view of it
    • Especially the quotes where she says what it may or may not show
  • Questions
    • Q: What did you think he didn’t duplicate the final battle?
    • A: Don’t really know. It was not complete when he died
    • Q: Do you like the generally positive and hopefully writing of Tolkien
    • A: I read widely but Tolkien helpped me at a difficult stage in my life. Reads other things though

Memories of Another Land with Peter Kenny

  • Galadriel
  • Three brothers who all perished in the first age. Touch by grief early
  • Denies Feanor tresses of hair but gives them to Gimli
  • Comes to Middle Earth
  • Comes into contact with Mellian and Celeborn
  • Video of the poem with various pictures added
  • 2nd version online

The Future of Creative Writing: Lessons From Tolkien with Julian Barr

  • Close reading of fiction engage the motor-cortex of the brain
  • How are things for authors these days?
    • Writing can feel like taking a vow of poverty
    • Most authors make also zero money
  • How does Tolkien’s literary career give lessons to today’s authors?
  • Creative angle
    • Your voice matters. His own perspective of philology was unique
    • But he wrote to be read. To his friends and family
    • So many people want to write a book but worry their perspective is too strange. But reads crave a different voices
    • ChatGPT creates fairly bland and generic words
  • Have good people around you
    • eg Inklings
    • Encouragement, educated feedback, Good reviews and recommendations to others
    • Writing is a lonely art. May be responsible for depression in authors.
    • The most productive authors lift each other up
    • rejection happens to everybody. Tolkien was rejected
  • Cultivate relationships with your readers
    • Tolkien did more so than most authors
    • Requests for details about Gandalf and the Necromancer feed into the LOTR
    • Probably mostly enjoyed others who liked Arda
    • Use social media. Connect with others. Give and don’t take. Don’t just do marketing
  • Build a portfolio with the eye to the commercial
    • Art need not exclude commerce
    • Tolkien created all sorts of works, no initial market for them
    • Tolkien knew that people liked Hobbits so he eventually did that
    • But danger of writing the same book or series and nothing else
    • Can you another name if other books are significantly different
  • Advances aren’t everything
    • A third of Australian authors reported not getting any advances. That might not be as bad as it sounds
    • A failure to earn out an advance can be a big black mark
    • The LOTR had no advance and got 50% of the profits instead
  • Patience and Persistence are a key
    • In 1937 Tolkien had the desire to write fiction full time
    • He didn’t achieve his desire until the last years of his life
    • He didn’t get serious money until the 1960s
    • Many budding authors disappointed with the life
    • The ones who make a living hold on through the dark times
  • Questions
    • Q: How do you find your own inklings
    • A: Join a writers group. Ads with writing societies. Very hit and miss. Signum lso has groups around it’s creative-writing classes
    • Q: What is you writing process?
    • A: Write every day, just a little bit
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Ozmoot 2024 – Day 2 – Morning

Corey’s Fun and Spontaneous Textual Discussion Exercise with Corey Olsen

  • Do a close comparison of some passages
  • Passages picked at random
  • Random 1/4 chance
    • theme, character, language usage, special topic
  • Review a LOTR Passage
  • Choose a LOTR passe – D20
    • roll 6 = Book 2
  • 10 Chapters in Book 2
    • Chapter 3 The Ring goes South
    • Paragraph 36
  • ” The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours. “
  • Elrond starts with the number, but only has 7 mapped out
  • Emphasis on Gandalf,
  • Shall, Shall, But Gandalf gets a “will”
  • 2 have chosen to go with you from the start. One is Faithful Servant Sam and the second is Gandalf who has been working on this great task for a long time
  • Gandalf is going in service
  • Speaking in a register
  • Not symmetrical description of the two groups
    • Walkers not riders
    • But still paired
    • “The Nine walkers” is not an epic name
  • “The end of his Labours” will go over Sam’s head, but links things to the longer story.
  • Callback to the Labours of Hercules and similar myths
  • “set against” but not a symmetrical group
  • Company vs Fellowship. The Fellowship bit evolves during Book 2.
  • “Faithful servant” rather then just servant. Lots of recent betrayals
  • Now compare two passages
  • Book 6, Chapter 5, Paragraph 12
  • “In this house, lady. He was sorely hurt, but is now set again on the way to health. But I do not know–“
  • Spoken by the Warden of the House of Healing to Eowyn
  • An unexpected turn for Eowyn. She is trying to get out of the house and going over the head of the Warden
  • He is pushing back and saying Faramir might not be available. She cuts right though that and demands to see him
  • He is unlikely to really not know his condition
  • She is using her ( foreigner, royalty, female) position to intimidate him and cut him off.
  • Passage 2 from the hobbit, chapter 18
  • “No!” said Thorin. “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!”
  • Thorin is living Eowyn’s dream
  • Thorin has gone back on his earlier bad actions. He knocks down the wall he has created and directly rallys his former enemies
  • It’s interesting that Eowyn is forbade a heroic death in the text where Theoden, Thorin, etc are granted it. Especially when so many of those seem redemptionary (theoden feels guilt for inaction under Wormtongue, Thorin for his greed in betreyal of the lake men)
  • “I honestly don’t think that we can really criticise her for being so reckless when Rohan and even broader society holds the heroic sacrifice to high in respect” – Cassidy Winter
  • The Battle has just been won, Bilbo did not participate in it. But Thorin is what you are has lasting and meaningful value
  • Eowyn is about to have a similar conversion after he conversation with Faramir
  • She embraces life and see a new way to make a contribution
  • Need to remember both are members of collectivist cultures. Less individualistic that modern western culture
  • “I think the big difference is that they had achieved their redemption and their death appears to be a reward of some kind. Her death is what she’s seeking as escape, rather than redemption”
  • Thorin’s death is part of he redemption arc, but if he had lived he would still have been redeemed. Although probably screwed up later
  • Contrast Boromir’s death is a important component of his arc
  • Thoeden’s death is at the end of his road, he would have died soon anyway. this is the death he would have chosen
  • Eowyn is still restless, whereas Thorin is at peace and has accepted what he has accomplished. But has moved away from what he originally wanted.
  • “Child of the kindly West” would not make any sense to original Hobbit readers
  • Exclamation mark at the end of “Farewell!” by Thorin could be read comically.
  • A benediction of a King on his deathbed
  • Especially since Bilbo had kinda Betrayed him just recently
  • Looking at the characters rather than the specific passages, both characters have long been pursuing a specific goal, and only find peace when they turn away from that goal. or rather, starting a new trajectory along the way that is very different to what they thought they wanted in the beginning
  • A Tolkien passage and compare to a non Tolkien passage
  • Leaf by Niggle
  • Passage about visitors and other duties preventing Niggle working hard enough his painting. Many Responsibilities that he must not neglect. eg his Garden
  • Tenson with all his friends and relatives coming to visit. Although he visited them during the Winter so it is reaonabily fair.
  • But he meets all his obligations. The Dilemma is all internal
  • All his friends see him as a good person (except maybe the garden) they don’t see that in his heart he just wants to do painting.
  • “Passages” is an interesting turn of phrase when describing a picture. It’s more typical for text.
  • Neglected Garden = Great Scholarship of Germanic Philology .
    Painting = LOTR
  • 2nd Passage is from Dune
  • Fewer people have read Dune than LEaf by Niggle, comparatively few rooms in which that would be true.
  • Scene at the end of the Feyd-Rautha’s fight in the Arena
  • He has arranged for a great spectacle but this didn’t happen because slave’s death was clean
  • Contrast been the attitude of Feyd and his opponent. The Atredies only has a single minimal chance to do something. Feyd doesn’t care about this person it’s just his small part of his plan
  • Social responsibility
  • Contrast Wants and desires
  • Parallel is between Niggle’s paining and Feyd’s ambition for brutal supremacy over the universe
  • Parallel they are both wasting time on fun projects rather than what they should be doing

The Little People and the Horn-Cry of Buckland with Lauren Brand

  • Dedicated this talk to her father
  • Climate change is not a comfortable topic
  • The Hobbits in LOTR is just getting on with their lives. But their world is in threat of change. And not in a good way. Lots of bad reports just in the Shire
  • Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief approach to seeing people’s “Climate Grief”
  • In the first Chapters of The Lord of the Rings
  • Denial
    • Sam and Ted’s discussion in the Green Dragon
    • “I won’t take Dragons now”
  • Anger
    • Frodo and Gandalf talk about the ring
    • I would have done away with it
  • Bargaining
    • Will you not take the Ring
  • Depression and Fear
    • This Ring, How on earth did it come to me
  • Acceptance
    • I cannot keep the right and stay here.
    • I should like to save the Ring if I could
    • as long as the Shire lies begind safe and comfortable
  • When the Hobbits get back to the Shire
  • Denial
    • Cottons hiding away
    • Hob Hayward going along with it
  • Anger
    • Criticise the system
    • Hob Hayward anger at the sneaks in the ranks
    • Bargaining
    • Robin Smallburrow tries to explain why he is a Shirrif
    • No way to resign position
  • Depression
    • Sam breaks down and cries at the sight of Hobbiton
  • Acceptance and Empowerment
    • Tooks shut off their borders and did Guerilla actions
    • Fredagar Bolgar join band of rebels
    • Will Whitford, Lobelia,
    • 4 Companions. Lots of things
  • Lessons from the Hobbits
    • Ignore they Nay sayers
    • Seek out information fom relaiable sources
    • Join with others
    • Share the burdon
    • Blow the horn and get angry
  • Recommended reading and viewing
    • The Lord of the Rings
    • The Big Switch by Saul Griffiths
    • The Fully Charged Show
  • Questions etc
    • ” Lobelia Sackville-Baggins as Gina Rineheart was not a comparison i expected to hear today “
    • Can grief make you stronger not weaker?
    • Nienna’s grieving
    • Peaceful vs Violent actions

Lamentations in a Troubled World with Trevor Bowen

  • The song of the Ents and Entwives
  • Growing apart by separate interests
  • Sadness for a lost relationship
  • Loss and separation without hope of reconciliation
  • The Lament for Boromir
  • People at movie screen booed at his first appearance
  • The heroic character is undone by his virtues
  • He escaped in the end in death. Died in state of grace
  • Aragorn composes a poem for him at the end
  • Technical details of Laments
  • Galadriel’s Lament corresponds to Catholic Lament
  • The Lament of the Roharim
  • Inspired by the “Lament of the Wanderer”
  • Theoden speaks some of the lines in the Movie. Contrasts himself with his great ancestor
  • Courage to do what is right even against unbeatable odds
  • Frodo’s Lament for Gandalf
  • an emotion mechanism to manage grief
  • A way to move forward and accept new challenges and responsibilities
  • List of various other Laments in Tolkien
  • Songs do lots within Tolkiens writing give the world a depth and history
  • List of Tolkien’s joys and sadness
  • Throughout the LOTR a profound melancholy pervades
  • Everything is worse than what came before
  • Lamenting the diminishment of the glorious past
  • The Long Defeat
  • How does Lament have meaning in our own lives?
  • Pandemic, Wars, instability, inflation, etc
  • Media brings it from places of war into our daily lives
  • Samwise “There is still some good in this world and it is worth fighting”
  • Question: What hope is there for Frodo and War Veterans?
  • Answer: Frodo had vision from the start (in house of Tom B) that he wouldn’t make it back fully.

Trust is Unbroken/Broken: A Troubador Struggle with Ilana Mushin and Phil Menzies

  • The Lay of Leithian
  • Finrod vs Sauron in songs of power
  • Just describes the song battle but doesn’t have any lyrics
  • Inspiration
  • Les Miserables – The confrontation
  • Pocahontas – Mine, Mine, Mine and Savages
  • Stray Gods (Role playing Musical)
  • Structure
    • Rythm 6/8 vs 4/4
    • Where to start/end
    • Mapping the songs
    • F# major vs G# minor
    • ebb and flow / tuf-o-war
    • Finrod – woodwinds
    • Sauron – brass and electric guitars
  • Listen for character themes and fall theme discussed yesterday
  • Song played here
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Ozmoot 2024 – Day 1

Note: These are my notes from the conference. Will contain poor spelling etc. Also my Elder Days knowledge is a little rough.

Greetings and Opening Remarks – Corey Olsen

  • 3 types of attendees. Onsite, remote and recorded. So must be disciplined with microphone usage
  • Use Microphones. Don’t forget they are always on.
  • Acknowledgement of country by Ilana
  • Around 70 attendees, including around 27 in person
  • If you are remote then please interact

Nothing is Evil in the Beginning – Panel Discussion with Corey Olen, Ilana Mushkin, Phil Menzines


  • This is a fairly central part of the legenderium.
  • See the Silm Film podcast. Who to do everything
    • Isn’t this just fan fiction?
    • Kinda of, but Tolkien sort of did the same thing. Eg addressing text from Beowulf via Hama in the LOTR
    • Sauron is kind of the protagonist
    • s1 – Valar
    • s2 – awakening of the Elves , arrival in Valinor
    • s3 – Fenor’s speech, kinslaying, rising of the Sun
    • s4 – Rescue of Midros
    • s5 – Arrival of Men
    • s6 – Beren , Sauron stiring up trouble in pre-Bree
    • Music being composed for it.
    • Castings including notifying actors they are cast
  • Why did Melkcor go bad?
    • Tolkien doesn’t really duplicate
    • Jilted lover an drawn towards the Simirils
    • Tried to duplicate with a bit of subtlety
    • Love something and desire to possess it is usually seen as bad
    • What Trajectory should we give to Melkor to show his journey
    • Going off on your own is often seen as a sign of going bad in Tolkien. Morgoth ticked that box too
    • Needs some more backstory than what we see in the book. Can’t make him evil right away, it must evolve
    • Halls of Mandos not very visual either.
    • Midpoint of season 1 is the destruction of the lamps. Melkor not being given enough credit for their creation
    • Story has to be parallel to what the music duplicates
    • Creating lamps and wating credit = Has own themes of the music and wants to manage them
    • Backstory of the Balrogs. Started with Glorious Angelic Wings. Melkor gets them to destroy the lamps and their wings get burt off. Now they only have shadow wings
    • “The Mythic Story of How Balrogs lost their Wings” is a highlight of Season 1
    • Melkor’s relationship with Sauron
    • Later we will echo Melkor’s fall with those the fall of other characters
      • What he tells himself vs what he tells other people.
    • Melkor Actor is Michael Fassbender. Has to be Hot
    • Mairon/Sauron is Simon Woods ( red hair is important)
  • Why did Mairon/Sauron go bad?
    • A Keen Student
    • When things get to a crisis in late Season 1 when wanted Manwai and Melkor’s split to feel big
    • Now Mairon has to cross a boundry to talk to Malkor, he has to really choose sides
    • Melkor understands and recruits him. Aula doesn’t see the problem
    • Early version when Ussay(s) goes over
  • Music by Phil Menzies
    • Themes for a “Fall”
    • Need themes for characters an also for things that would happen multiple times in the story. Used a little in the Oath of Feanor
    • Common in Tolkien: Someone thinks they are doing something that is good, but in reality is doing the opposite and are doing evil
    • Melkor Theme. Various versions as his character progresses
    • Corey says Phil’s music elevated Simfilm up a level and made it a bigger project
    • Mairon/Sauron theme is used for the Exploring the Rings podcast theme. Variation of Howard Shore’s Ring theme
  • Long time before the Valar work out the war needs to happen
  • “The War to Begin all Wars” episode title
  • Working through “how would we duplicate this” pushes us to answer a lot of the questions about what Tolkien sort of meant by things
  • “It is challenging casting mortal characters for a 20 year show”
  • Question. The show is a modern way of telling a story vs tolkien told the story in an old fashion way
    • There are a whole bunch of expectation on how modern miniseries work. Have been tempted to resist these expectations
    • Book of lost tales difference is even more. It is not something written by someone just like you
    • Tried to stay true to the essence of the story (although borrowed other versions of some parts that Tolkien wrote).
    • You couldn’t make a TV show is exactly the same as it’s is written. But making it work is part of the fun
  • Question: Is Melkors goal to create things fundimantally wrong?
    • The impulse to create is not evil in itself
    • Feanor is a good example (well at the start anyway)
    • Vardar’s rejection of Malkor. Duplicate as not liking his character (narcasis, bad vibes) not rejected due to fortelling
  • Question: Is redemption a thing?
    • Yes, some examples. Eg Boromir and Gandalf has hope for Saruman (he was in the first draft of LOTR). Ossay, Galadriel in some versions
  • Question: Character’s motivations fore they became evil. Is “Wants to make things easier, impatience” a thing. Other examples might be Gollum
    • Irony of that sort corruption. The thing they want isn’t a bad thing usually. But to get past obstacles in the say they do bad things and then fail to get their goal anyway.
    • Sharkey’s rule over the Shire has little order or even sold “rule”
    • Person who wants to be lord of light become lord of darkness
  • Question: Interaction between Gandalf’s ring Naria and the One ring
    • Going to be hard to do.
    • Elrond gets very defense that Sauron never touched them. But doesn’t mean they were a good idea
  • 12 season to get to the War of Wrath
  • One 3rd age problem to avoid. No palanteri
  • Question: Lots of feedback about Rings of Power. Has anthing in the rings of power inspired you vs those that you havn’t liked.
    • Obviously they stole from us. eg PTSD Galadriel
    • Must have Blood Splashed on her due the kinslaying
    • Various plans for Galadried in the future. He veres Saron but “No Rafts”
    • Can understand time compress and chronolgy shifting. Especially short-lived humans

Tengwar Calligraphy by Jenni Aldred

  • Much of LOTR writings are just english written in a different writing form. Transliterated not translated
  • Tengwar are based on phonetics doesn’t fit 100% with English. Can go either with pronunciation or actual spelling when you write them
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of each.
  • Workshop will use Orthographic or spelling mode
  • Table for characters
    • Lots of detail here that is too much to type. Explaining the tables of characters
    • Sindarin mode, Quenya mode or full mode. Exactly where Vowels are put
    • Sindarin mode works best for English
    • Examples to translate
    • “When you start being a tolkien expert, you get people emailing you for advice about their tattoos”
    • List of useful Tengwar resources
    • www.tecendil.com is a free online tool

Nature Relations of the Legendarium with Muhammed Alpaslan Tandirci

  • This area Heavily analysied in this past by other researchers
  • Wrote Masters Thesis (in Turkish) on this
  • Pre-history:
    • Divine intervention, Geological Transformation, Ecology of War
    • Melkor makes war on Nature as well as beings
  • Second Age
    • Deforestation and Ecology of Imperialism
    • Deforestation of Numenor reduced it’s power
  • The 3rd Age
    • Price of Enrichment and crafts – Dwarfs. Punished for disrupting the balance
    • The Great Plague and The Long Winter – Broke the power
    • Changes in Forests, Uncanny in the Waters
      • Both places are now associated with evil and Danger
      • In previous ages they were associated with Good
  • Conclusion
  • As the ages have progressed the impact on Nature has decreased
    • The laws of middle earth are less magical and more mortal as ages progress
  • Question – How would it work in the 4th age
    • A: Should improve due to Aragorn’s good policies. But things are less magical and getting close to our current world
  • Question: How are spiders represent
    • Answer: Spiders and wolves are seen as always
  • Question: How does forests being maintained vs natural affect things?
    • Answer: In most cases felling of trees does result in replanting.
  • Question: How popular is Tolkien in Turkey
    • Answer: Disappointed since the books nowhere near as popular as Harry Potter. Middle Earth seen as boring in comparison. People into history often like it. A very Niche interest.
    • Author is in Birmingham but hasn’t found as much Tolkien-related stuff as he had expect.
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Audiobooks – December 2023

The Grand Banks Café by Georges Simenon

After an ill-fated voyager a ship’s captain is killed and Maigret is asked by a friend of the accused to investigate. 3/5

How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation by E. D. Hirsch Jr

The author argues for better structured teaching to improve education and citizenship. Controversial but seems backed by evidence. 3/5

The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet by Jeff Goodell

A book about how Global Warming will make many areas unlivable & descriptions of recent heat events. Showing how the affects are here already. 4/5

How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt.

The books follows a Music Exec, A CD Pirate and The Inventors of the mp3 though the overturning of the Music industry as music went online. 4/5

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

The story of the January 1888 blizzard that killed 2-500 people on the US Great Planes. A mix of personal stories and overviews of the storm. 4/5

The Little Book of Exoplanets by Joshua N. Winn

A great book on histories of discoveries, various techniques, types of planets, planetary formation, etc. Great introduction to the field for interested armatures. 4/5

For We Are Many by Dennis E. Taylor

The 2nd Bobverse book. The Bobs try deal with Primitive Aliens, Hostile Advanced Aliens and Hostile humans. A fun listen 4/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Donations 2023

Each year I do the majority of my Charity donations in early December, timed to be around my birthday.

I do a blog post about it to hopefully inspire others. See previous years: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

All amounts are in $US unless otherwise stated.

General Charities

$800 to Givewell Top Charities fund . I’ve been donating to Givewell as my main “help the poor” charity since they have fairly low overheads and try and get the most impact from their donations. They also get good reviews for living up to these goals.

My employer matched this donation so total given to Givewell was $1600.

Software and Internet Infrastructure Projects

I was planning this year to donate $100 each to Software in the Public Interest and the Software Freedom Conservancy, unfortunately Paypal is currently blocking charity donations from Asia/Pacific so I was unable to donate to them. Adblockers on my browser might also be a factor.

Others content creators

Payments via Patreon

I signed up to Nebula in mid-2023 for $30/year and reduced my Patreon subscriptions a little. Below is current as of mid-December 2023

  • $2/month to The Prancing Pony Podcast who make a podcasts show about J R R Tolkien
  • $1/month to Zach Weinersmith who creates SMBC Comic and other stuff
  • $1/video to The Nerdwriter who does Youtube videos
  • $1/month to CGP Grey who does Youtube Videos
  • $1/month to City Beautiful who is creating videos about cities and city planning.
  • $1/month to Alt Shift X who creates Youtube videos
  • $1/month to RMTransit who does a Youtube channel on Transit.
  • $1/month to Quinn’s Ideas which is a Youtube Channel about Science Fiction (especially Dune)
  • $1/ month to Asianometry who creates Youtube videos, mainly on Economics and the semiconductor industry.
  • $1/month to CityNerd who Videos on Cities and Transportation
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AudioBooks – November 2023

Convoy escort commander by Sir Peter Gretton

A memoir of the author’s WW2 Naval service culminating commanding North Atlantic convey escort groups. Descriptions of shipboard life and battles. 3/5

Making It So: A Memoir by Patrick Stewart

A good autobiography of the actor’s personal and professional life. Lots of details of early life and career but more selective thereafter. Interesting throughout. 4/5

Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Apollo Moon Landings by Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton & Jay Barbree

A fairly standard account of Apollo but with Shepard and Slayton adding some extra first-person accounts and insights. Skip the tacked-on chapter from 2009. 3/5

Grinding It Out: The making of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc

Autobiography of the McDonalds founder. The earliest bits of the book are probably the best but even later there are still a good mix of stories and advice. 3/5

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor

A present-day nerd dies and is uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe. Feels a bit like Andy Weir. Recommended. 4/5

The Longest Minute: The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 by Matthew J. Davenport

A detail account of the earthquake and fire, following participants and drawing our 100 years of sources and science. Great read. 4/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – October 2023

Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World by Henry Grabar

Parking, it’s history and economics, land use and zoning. A fun, accessible book that might be good introduction to those new to the topic. 3/5

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

The source of the recent film. Comprehensive although not straying far from the subject and an easy read. 4/5

How 1954 changed History by Michael Flamm

A short series of lectures about major (mainly US) events during 1954 from medicine to politics to popular culture. A nice quick read. 3/5

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

A combination memoir, company history and management advice book. Works well for all 3. 4/5

My Rating System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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