With this entry I’m planning to take a long break from weblogs, possibly a permanent one. This past month I’ve been spending some time thinking about how I spend my time. Priorities have shifted as a result, and weblogs didn’t make the cut—too much effort spent on writing mine, too much time wasted in reading those written by others. I still plan to write, but I think it’ll be better for me and my readers if I set the bar higher—essays, articles, maybe even a book or two.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to follow the progress of our family over the past few years. I hope your reading was mostly enjoyable and occasionally edifying.

Return of the King

Last year it occurred to me that opening day would be a very good day to see The Two Towers, since it was midweek and school was still in session. Sure enough, the theater was only half-full for the noontime showing. I went to the first showing of Return of the King yesterday, and there were even fewer people this time.

When I’m outside the Southwest and eat at a Mexican restaurant, I don’t judge the meal for its authenticity. I’m only concerned that it is good food, and quite often it is. My attitude towards the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the same; I don’t care whether the movies are good or bad adaptations of the book, I only care if they are good movies. And I think they’ve all been pretty good movies. This last one has some of the most spectacular and imaginative sequences I’ve ever seen.

I’m glad the trilogy is done, though. Going to the movies once a year for the past three years has been grueling, and I’m looking forward to a long break.

Hank Williams

When we expanded our bluegrass curriculum by adding a stack of Larry Sparks CDs, my least favorite among them was Larry Sparks Sings Hank Williams; for some reason it didn’t hit me nearly as hard as the others, and so I only listened once or twice. Later we heard the first CD from Don Rigsby’s new band, Rock County, and fell in love with their version of “Since My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”, a Hank Williams song. So it was on our minds to find a good Hank Williams anthology–which we did; it’s called Hillbilly Hero, has four CDs and costs about twenty dollars.

Hank Williams was an awe-inspiring singer. Somewhere in the middle of listening to those CDs Chris says, “You sure can tell that Larry Sparks spent a lot of time studying this guy.” So I dug out the Sings Hank Williams CD, and now it’s one of my favorites. Go figure.

One special treat: the fiddler is Chubby Wise, who more or less invented bluegrass fiddling while in Bill Monroe’s band, and his playing thirty years on is pretty tasty.


Although we appreciate and enjoy the Suburban, it came with a couple of problems which made it mildly unpleasant to drive for long distances. Since we have a long drive coming up, I’m pleased to report that both problems have been corrected.

Eariler on I wrote about the problem with lingering cigarette smoke. Lots of suggestions came along, most of which were pretty helpful. We began by wiping down or shampooing every likely surface, which reduced but did not eliminate the smell. Next, we obtained a can of the stuff that motels use to spray down a room where smoking has transpired. For awhile I couldn’t tell if the fragrance was just masking the smoke smell, but finally the fragrance has begun to fade and the smoke smell seems to be history as well.

The unreported problem was that the Suburban noise levels were roughly on par with the space shuttle. Initially I thought this was just something that went along with driving a big truck, but then I took a ride in a friend’s Suburban and was shocked to find that it wasn’t any louder than our minivan. I asked him if he knew why ours was so much louder; he took a look underneath, and said that the previous owner had replaced the factory exhaust system with a performance model—more power, much louder.

This morning I stopped by Benny’s Muffler Shop in Bristol and had things put back to normal. I had no idea what size job it would be, and I was pleasantly surprised that it took only twenty minutes, and didn’t cost all that much. And now the Suburban is about as loud as the minivan. Blessed relief!

The Two Towers

It took Debbie and me four nights to watch the entire movie, but we made it and we’re glad we did. The small-screen experience was much paler than seeing it in a theater; it makes me regret all the more that I never saw Fellowship of the Ring in a theater, and that the closest theater hosting a re-relase of the first movie is two hours away. And I’m all the more determined to see this last one on a big screen. (That doesn’t sound like much, but I think it’ll be the only film I’ve see in a theater this year.)

At the end of the movie we still had energy enough to watch something else, so we watched the documentary about creating and filming the Gollum character. I was impressed beforehand, but now I’m astonished; it really was a major step forward in computer graphics. But at the same time it points out what a limited palette a filmmaker has at his disposal. The Gollum of the film was only impressive when you take into account the obstacles that had to be overcome; as a character in a story, he doesn’t begin to approach the Gollum of the book. But consider the contrast between the plethora of resources that Peter Jackson was able to bring to bear—time, money, people, technical equipment—and the meager resources available to J.R.R. Tolkien—paper, pen, his skill with words, and his imagination.