What's Up Chuck
I've been dreading this for years.
Thursday, December 13, 2001
And I'll stand in line this weekend to see the first installment of THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
I don''t remember when I first read J.R.R. Tolkien''s fantasy masterpiece, probably in ''74 or early ''75, but it immediately became my favorite book. I do remember coming to the Peninsula for the first time in ''75 and feeling like I had discovered Tolkien''s magical world--coming through the forest and around the bend on Highway 68 to discover Pacific Grove, the moss dripping from the trees far out on Carmel Valley Road, the dark and damp redwoods in Big Sur, the fairy-tale cottages nestled between pines in Carmel, the fog stretching fingers up Carmel Hill then grasping over the crest into Monterey...My discoveries of Middle Earth and the Peninsula were quite separate--but forever intertwined. By the time I read LOTR a second time, there were more concrete images that could be affixed to Tolkien''s descriptions. But they were my images.
So I have always feared the day when someone would steal half of this precious memory and impose their own vision onto the story. Partly, I''m sure, it''s because I''m a sucker for words. I love the way they roll around in my imagination, bumping up against one another, igniting images, some with photographic clarity, and others that are murky, more felt than seen. For me, reading is an act of deep intimacy and one that I jealously guard.
After next Wednesday, when the movie opens nationwide, no one will be able to read Tolkien''s works with an open mind. Already it''s difficult, with our senses blitzed by the schmaltzy Burger King commercials, the toy tie-ins and--even worse--the new editions of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings emblazoned with photographs from the movie.
Of course this isn''t the first time someone has tried to adapt Tolkien to the screen. There was an animated, made-for-TV version of The Hobbit and Ralph Bakshi''s animated take on Lord of the Rings, both of which came out in 1978. But the former was so treacly and the other was so garishly hideous that neither had any real power to unseat a reader''s own vision of Middle Earth and its residents. The bad/good news is that this new version, directed by Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures, Bad Taste), will be entirely memorable.
The pictures we paint in our mind are fragile, delicate things. After Wednesday, if this film is half as good as it appears to be, we''ll no more be able to read Tolkien without at least some vestiges of Jackson''s vision than we can now read Dashiell Hammett without hearing Humphrey Bogart''s drawling lisp.
PERSONAL SHOPPER, PT. 2... Here are some more gift suggestions for presents you wouldn''t think about giving to anyone in their right mind...
Got an up-and-coming alchemist on your list? Visit copernicustoys.com. Once you''re there, you can buy not only a BUBBLE GUM KIT ($11.99), which includes all the necessary ingredients (gum base, powdered sugar, gum flavoring, corn syrup, mixing container, mixing tool, waxed paper) to make "over a half pound of the most delicious bubble gum you ever tasted." And if you''re worried about rotted teeth, why not make it a double present? While you''re at copernicustoys, you can also buy their TOOTHPASTE KIT ($12.99), which includes all the ingredients to make "a large tube of minty fresh toothpaste" as well as "a brief history on toothpaste and instructions on the proper way to brush." Sure, the double gift will send a mixed message, but isn''t that what Christmas is all about?
What about gifting the Weekly''s snarkiest columnist, SQUID, with a few of Squid''s pals? At the venerable ARCHIE MCPHEE Web site, MCPHEE.COM, you can get 50--count ''em, f-i-f-t-y--one-and-a-half- inch rubber COCKTAIL SQUIDS for the bargain price of just $4.95. (Hell, at that price, you can give one cocktail squid to each person on your list and have plenty of money left over to buy your own cocktails.)
And, before you leave McPhee''s, don''t forget about that special computer freak on your list. You know how s/he loves to spend every waking hour glued to her/his terminal. Have you ever considered what a drag it is for that person to have to interrupt their surfing, their chatting, their emailing, their game playing, etc., just to go the bathroom? You can improve their lives this season by giving them the INTERNET URINAL. ("It holds 32 oz. of liquid--the same as a Big Gulp.") Yep, it looks pretty much like the portable urinals they use in the hospital, but it has "Internet Urinal" stamped on it so you know this is an official product. And yes, this is a gift you can give to anyone--included in its $5.95 price tag is a "handy female adapter."
--CHUCK THURMAN (CHUCK@COASTWEEKLY.COM)