Shorter Lord of the Rings

Scene: The Council of Elrond

Elrond: It is decided. The Ring shall be cast into Mount Doom. The Ringbearer and the Fellowship shall journey to Mordor.

Radagast the Brown: (arrives) Hellooo! So sorry I’m late. Had a terrible time of it, all sorts of things cropping up at the last minute and all. My advice is never try to drink a Beorning under the table. What’s all this, then?

Gandalf the Grey: The Fellowship is tasked with destroying the One Ring of Power.

Radagast: Ah, good idea, about bloody time if you ask me. How, exactly?

Elrond: The Ring shall be cast into Mount Doom. The Ringbearer and the Fellowship shall journey to Mordor.

Radagast: Journey? You mean on foot??

Elrond: Well, yes.

Radagast: I can have three Eagles here in 36 hours.

(eyebrows rise around the Circle)

TWO WEEKS LATER: THE SHIRE

Sam: Well, we’re back.

UPDATE: a similar argument.

sharing

I see that Shamus is offline for going above bandwidth 🙁 (UPDATE: he’s back!) The likely culprit is his brilliant “DM of the RIngs” parody which reinterprets The Lord of the Rings as a D&D gaming session. It’s a concern that all of us hobbyist bloggers, especially in the otakusphere, should share – we tend to put creative things online, be they motivational posters or site maps or videos of our kids or audio samples from our favorite science fiction. The assumption we make in putting them online is that only a small circle of readers will partake of our binary goodies, which is the essential opposite of the political blogsphere in which the only output is text and everyone wants to get the Big Link.

One way to reduce our vulnerability is to use thirdparty services. YouTube for video and Flickr for photos (or comics) are obvious solutions. But what about audio? Is there a Flickr/YouTube for pure sound? It would be pretty interesting. An obvious but utterly illegal use for such a service would be to put your music collection online so no one could access it. If you were able to password protect your audio links however then you could upload copyrighted content for your personal exclusive use. However, I doubt such a solution would satisfy the RIAA given that they took on mp3.com a few years ago for a similar scheme. Still, maybe the RIAA sees the benefits of YouTube’s collaboration with the MPAA and might be open to fresh thinking. Or maybe not.

But would an audio sharing site have any appeal without copyrighted content? Most would argue no, but I can see a lot of people using it for their own stuff. There’s an active MIDI community for example that would probably love a YouTube-like interface to simplify their filesharing. Brief excerpts from popular radio and TV are also probably justified under fair use, as well. And of course voice recorders are almost ubiquitous now on digital cameras and cell phones and mp3 players, so baby’s first words and ad-hoc skits and even random interviews might onstitute a large fraction of the content. I know that in college my friends and I experimented with WAV files and microphones for all sorts of things… Today’s computing environment affords exponentially more capability.

So, does such a service already exist? should it exist? what should it be called?

Update: an interesting blog post about audio sharing. And there’s already a service called Odeo which has some of the functionality that I am looking for, and seems tailored to podcasts in particular (which is an obvious application of such a audio-sharing site). Odeo seemed to have been founded by Evhead of Blogger fame, and there’s already a WordPress plugin. Seems promising. I’ll have to play with this thing further…

Update 2:


powered by ODEO

1/(Tolkien) || Tolkien*(-1)

I don’t have as much time to read fantasy and science fiction as I did when I was younger, but I would like to recommend two series which I stumbled upon over the past few years and which I just completed.

Jaqueline Carey’s Banewreaker and Godslayer comprise a slim duology which can be fairly characterized as LotR from the vantage-point of Mordor. The correspondences to Tolkien’s narrative are pretty clear and transparent, Carey hits you over the head with her themes. This would probably have been better as a singleton, there just isn’t that much material to work with, and the characterization doesn’t explore new directions in the second book. Nevertheless, it is a nice and satisfying corrective to the Fundamental Attribution Error which crops up in the work of Tolkien and his children, evil is essentialistic in a character, not a function of their circumstance. In some ways Carey’s work has a closer affinity with Greek mythology, with its Prometheus like Sauron equivalent. In contrast Tolkien might not have been totally delusional when he stated that LotR was “fundamentally a Catholic work” in that his cycle did not explore the messy shades of gray which comprise such a vast arc of human experience.

Where Carey’s work is a standard inversion of Tolkien’s narrative, R. Scott Baker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy takes the classic core of high fantasy and the Evil Lord and smokes it with some crack cocaine. If there was ever a sequence of books laced with the sensibility of the cognitive revolution, this is it. Baker is a philosopher by training so I am not totally convinced that the influence is coincidental. If you want a “hero” who brings you down to earth with his lack of idealism, then this is a good series. The last of Baker’s books in the trilogy has a 50 page glossary so he certainly hasn’t stinted on world creation. But with the sharp crispness of the backdrop and the overindulgent prose the many strands of each character can sometimes get knotted, and Baker’s inattention leaves you without a guide out of this undiscovered country. Unfortunately Baker’s “trilogy” is actually the first three acts in a longer cycle, with book 3 prefacing an intermission. The real action on the grand epic scale is clearly to come.