Wednesday 19 August 2015

Reading the Lord of The Rings, again.

They went in single file along hedgerows and the borders of coppices, and night fell dark about them. In their dark cloaks they were as invisible as if they all had magic rings. 
Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings

Frodo Sam and Pippin Set Out | Cor Blok

Actually it's Matthew Sullivans fault this time. He started a "read along with Lord of the Rings" on his blog, under the premise that it might shed light on the origins of some gaming things. But I expect  that's just an excuse. Matthew is an erudite host - anyone who name checks Umberto Eco whilst reviewing the classic 1980s Robert Harris / Gary Chalk fantasy board game Talisman is doing something right.

So I find myself once again re-reading The Lord of The Rings, something I seem to end up doing do every few years since the age of 10 when I first read it, and much like the work of Mark Rothko, who I saw probably at the age of 16, also seem to return to. The work changes every time. Not that the work really changes of course, discounting Vladimir Umanets and Peter Jacksons contributions -  it's really just the viewer's life experiences.

I'd already convinced myself that Tolkiens biography has far more influence on his text than he'd ever admit to and while I'm fully committed to la mort de l'auteur I'm also open to an intertextual reading of biography and fiction, and I think in this case with good reason, keeping in mind that both Tolkien and his wife have his fictional characters names on their gravestones - these stories held meaning to these people beyond what we as readers, standing on the outside of their lives can know.

Adding comments to Matthews blog as we go - on Tolkien as a proto-postmodernist, complete with metanarrative diversions around the folkloric figures of Black Riders (who will be transformed into Ring-Wraiths and Nazgûl at some point) and The Shire as politically progressing towards an Arts and Crafts Romantic Socialist Utopia - his faux historic framework and deconstruction of mythological themes being rather a rejection of modernity and movement towards increasing fragmentation, particularly of history and place, almost to an account of a ruralised psychogeography.   And we're only on Chapter 4.

Grab a copy, jump in.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

V&A War Games

Fascinating exhibition entitled full of wonderously interesting old school gaming stuff put on by @MuseumChildhood:

 19th C (?) Cutouts  on loan from the Nurenbug Spielzeugmuseum

Sci-fi War Toys

The Swiftian proportions of the diorama become clear!

Obviously the exhibitions curators are bound to contextualize play, and play about warfare as a socially meaningful activity rather than just "mucking about with toy soldiers" - producing discourse about attitudes to both childhood and conflict, a sensitive area.  The large 'sci-fi' diorama contains both references to Swiftian fantasy-satire in it's content and a more formal reference to the Chapman Bros, Hell, and perhaps tabletop miniatures wargaming makes it very interesting.

There are loads of other artefacts, toy guns, Action Man packaging, Daleks, running the whole gamut of 'I had one of those' to 'they don't make them like that any more!'. The Museum of Childhood has long been one of my favorite museums, speaking to the past through play and play-objects has an (I think) very special way of connecting to people, if the 'hands off' is a bit annoying for children. That it is only just round the corner from the E.Pellicci cafe makes it all the more enticing.

War Games at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood  also has as a fantastic collection of short essays, that accompany the exhibition which include such statements as:

"There is now an established academic literature that argues that much of our understanding about international politics comes via reference to popular culture." - Sean Carter

"The arrival of space age cultural narratives created a new space for popular geopolitical expression." - Tara Woodyer

" help to 'naturalise' certain ways of thinking about global politics." - Sean Carter

"...interest in toy soldiers was indeed far from restricted to boys and men." - Mary Guyatt

As well as featuring the hugely emotional War Toys Project work of photographer Brian McCarty, working with children in areas effected by war and conflict to express their experience through drawing and reconstructing those as toy dioramas.

Hope to catch it at some point.

All photos (c) Daniel Turner