Tag Archives: lord of the rings

True Life: Bilbo Baggins is my Fashion Icon

Bilbo Baggins in the shire

Photo courtesy of: geeksunleashed.me

There’s a certain jacket I like to wear. It was green once, but has since faded to some kind of grey. The elbows are getting holes in them, and the cuffs are slowly fraying back into balls of thread. I wear this jacket almost every day, regardless of what other clothes I’m wearing or even the temperature outside.

I purchased the jacket for the Hungarian equivalent of $4 on a chilly afternoon in Budapest in May 2010. Some of my closest friends and I had managed to convene partway around the world, and we were doing what we knew best: bumming around and thrift-shopping. The jacket wasn’t really my style – or hadn’t been, at least – but I tried it on and felt something special happen. I felt a transformation and knew that it was my glass slipper, my magic pair of jeans like the ones from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. My friend immediately confirmed the glass-slipper effect, and even though I was slightly broke, I put up the thousand forint required and walked away with an instant favorite piece of clothing.

Over the course of the next three years, it developed a host of memories and some magical powers, powers to tie me to the future and the past in the same moment, to render me both invisible and extremely conspicuous, and to allow me to speak freely and confidently on subjects I know nothing about. It’s been with me to a few different countries, through different stages of my life, various loves and crushes, and a couple career visions. As it’s taken on so many memories and supernatural abilities, it’s lost a bit of its color and the ability to hold itself together and put forward a sharp appearance.

But that’s okay, because we support each other. Where would the memories go, if they weren’t contained in this article of clothing. Where would they fly away to?

Towards the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, with the dark rising in the entire world, all fates rolling towards one impending doom, Bilbo sets out on another journey at last after disappearing from his 111st birthday party. Here’s what Tolkien has to say about those last moments.

He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion and to the sounds of merrymaking in other parts of the field. Then he went in. He took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. […] From a locked drawer, smelling of moth-balls, he took out an old cloak and hood. They had been locked up as if they were very precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark green. They were rather too large for him.”

This is the piece of tattered clothing that most people would be inclined to throw away, but it is Bilbo’s own personal suit of armour and the equivalent of my Hungary jacket, the one that ties me to past selves. I can remember every piece of clothing I wore on my journeys, and some of the stories that happened in them. These garments journey with us, to different countries or worlds or states of being, and for me at least they retain some of those journeys and become portals through which I expereince the past and imagine the future.

It’s not fashionable, but it’s meaningful, and I think that’s even better.

I pulled the quote from a full text version of The Lord of the Rings that can be found here. If you liked this article, you might also enjoy: Oh Travel, Why Are You So Magical?, wornstories.com, a website about clothing and memory, and Step Out of the Van and Into a Postcard

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Lord of the Blog

One blog to rule them all, one blog to find them. One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them, in the blogosphere where the shadows lie.

Beware of Mark.

Long ago, in an age that has been forgotten, evil covered the earth. Men struck each other down with their hands, teenagers used poor spelling in social media posts, and children dreamt nightly of living inside a television, in order to break the last barrier between them and the only thing they loved. Humans were slaves of chaos, fear, and greed. Art was rendered impossible, as was music. Only bare shrieks were heard in the never-ending nights.

Then hope came in the form of the Googles, a race sent from Outside to restore order to the earth, a daunting task. But the Googles were a wise race, emboldened with cutting-edge technology and neat glasses. They were strong, powerful, and benevolent. Through their kind words and endless tutorials, the people began to hear and see beyond themselves for the first time after years in the dark.

Decades of toil passed until music could be heard in the streets once again, spilling over from warm homes that were broken no longer. Art covered the walls of cities, and men and women greeted each other with a smile and a how-do-you-do as they went about their business.

But the peace was not to last, for living among the Googles and the earth peoples there lay a snake in the grass, a wolf in sheepskin, a polar bear in a baby seal suit, and its name was Mark. It gets a little complicated, but essentially Mark was a fallen archangel with some serious attitude problems and the overwhelming desire for everyone to worship him. Alas, through his aura of salivation-inducing coolness and his superior coding abilities, he fooled the Googles and earth peoples into giving him their trust, and they knew not that they spelled their own ruin.

Baiting them with honeyed words, Mark used the Googles to construct the ultimate weapon of all time: the blogosphere. He told them that it would be a massive art project, something of true beauty, where anyone who wanted to could write or post or share to their hearts content and thus enrich the lives of other earth dwellers. And thus it was a thing of true beauty, with one horrifying, deadly flaw.

He enlisted their help in building one Blog that was to guide the others and help them achieve their full potential. It was to be the most powerful Blog in the blogosphere, one that only Mark could use. And so it happened. He created a blog so compelling, so readable, that all others wanted to be like it and bent to its will. Each keystroke controlled an army and every post could incite millions to action or passivity. The world breathed only with the Blog’s permission.

With hearts and minds in sway, Mark soon used the one Blog to inspire the earth dwellers to war with the Googles, and the age of prosperity was no more, with darkness once again consuming the earth and cat pictures populating the blogosphere.

Ages later, the password to the Blog was lost and Mark was diminished and moved to Minneapolis. But still the Blog waits, for those who would find it and aspire to wield its power and become Lord of the Blog.

But there is only one. And he is in Minneapolis. Fellow bloggers, beware.

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We Are Middle Earth

A mythical building for an imaginary world

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a nerd. This means that I enjoy learning and fantasy fiction. After I finally read Lord of the Rings in eighth grade, I was hooked: Tolkien’s world seemed more real than my own. My fascination with Middle Earth formed a dangerously large portion of my personality, and I even ended up writing my college admissions essay on why I loved Lord of the Rings. A BU admissions counselor probably read it and thought I would add a unique, socially awkward aspect to the campus environment before being sent to a maximum security federal prison. At any rate, I’m thankful to have been admitted.

As I was considering the relationship of Middle Earth and the War of the Ring to my current experience in Cairo, I found that the characters I’ve met during my Arabic study adventures resemble the different races of creatures in Middle Earth. In order to make my life more comprehensible to the small portion of people out there who read Lord of the Rings annually or biannually and/or watch the films obsessively, I would like to present my findings. To these same people, I politely request that you don’t get your panties in a bunch if the comparisons aren’t perfect. To everyone else, I apologize for alienating you.

The subgroup of Arabic-interested persons that I would classify as hobbits are the average Arabic students. Though slightly dim-witted and occasionally reluctant to expend great effort on reading or writing, they are a tough breed and can surprise you with magnificent feats. These, however, are few and far between. For the most part, these students enjoy simple work, afternoon naps, and hearty meals instead of great Arabic adventures that might cause mental and physical discomfort.

There is a breed of student, however, that does take great pleasure in perusing ancient Arabic texts and spending hours composing non-obligatory essays, short stories, and poems. This species can also converse with you at length about the fascinating differences between dialects and other languages, of which they know many and can learn at great ease. These are the elves, who capture the fascination of most others and would earn their enmity were the elves not above the judgements of lesser beings.

Though hard workers that accomplish when focused, the group I consider the dwarves can be antagonistic towards others who are pursuing the same purpose and show little interest in learning about the culture behind the language they’re studying. These are the people studying Arabic for the money and are just waiting for a knock on their door from a defense contractor, intelligence organization, security consulting firm, or government agency.

The great Arabic scholars of old (and new) who have created linguistic masterpieces for the purpose of aiding those also studying Arabic I would classify as wizards, sent to help lesser beings in the field. Because of the effort of personalities such as Hans Wehr, Frederick Lane, Sayyed Badawi, and Kristen Brustad, who have spent countless hours deciphering this language, the great fight has been made more bearable.

Speaking slowly and clearly while avoiding hastiness or imprecision in language, Arabic teachers are best described as ents. Anyone who has studied a language knows the familiar frustration of leaving the classroom and realizing instantly you have no idea what anyone on the street is saying. Are you even studying the same language? The answer is no, since Arabic teachers actually speak Entish.

As skilled as earmuffs in social interaction and exhibiting no signs of living in a civilized society, the shabbab, or roving masses of teen-aged to mid-thirty year old Egyptian males, would have to be the orcs. Not only can they make foreigners’ stays in Egypt less pleasant, but they don’t even really like each other and internecine fighting is often the cause of much bloodshed and mutual annoyance.

I could go on, but I think this is enough nerding out for now. I’m not promising another LOTR themed post in the future, but it could happen.

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A rabbit goes home

When I was in first grade, I wrote a short story about a bunny named Snow that had fur that was white as snow. The story was a paragraph long and recounts the emotional journey of a young girl who loses and then finds her bunny: she was sad and the she was happy. Today, the story has a slightly different ending: Snow’s fur is stolen and he is cooked in a stew, devoured by the people who once loved him.

After our “Cultural Exchange” today, I went rabbit hunting with a fellow who hosts meat nights, when we eat different kinds of meats like camel or in this circumstance, rabbit. The hunting process turned out to be fairly simple, taking place in the old Bab al-Louq market downtown. Unlike forests where one must watch out for witches and outlaws, the main danger at this market is inhaling the noxious fumes emanating from various stalls and patches of earth, smells frightening in their strength and physical proximity to food. The market’s ceilings are bizarrely high since it used to have two stories, and a deep feeling of faded grandeur pervades the place. It feels a place half-forgotten with characters that defy being swept away by time, sticking around year after year in the dimness as the place becomes more dilapidated and the smells multiply on top of one another like flies on the vegetables. The venue is available for weddings and bar-mitzvahs, if you’re interested.

We entered the cavernous market with the goal of getting us a rabbit, and find one we did at a certain butcher stall. To the left of the front counter was a tall narrow cage with different levels, the top one holding all of our furry rabbit friends. After we asked for a kilo of rabbit meat (we as in the fellow I was with), an eight year old climbed up the side of the cage, reached in, and grabbed a fluffy white bunny. It was at this point that I remembered the short story I had written so many years ago, and stopped to ponder how it was my life had led me to this point. “Capitalism,” I concluded. But then things got interesting, kind of. The boy took the bunny to the back of the stall, a long knife in his hand. To make an obvious story shorter, moments later the white fur was streaked with blood, and a few minutes after that we left the market carrying a little over a kilo of chopped up rabbit meat neatly packaged in a Styrofoam container.

Later that evening we ate a rabbit stew that was actually quite tasty, though I have to admit one of the reasons I liked it was because it reminded me of the meal Sam cooked for Frodo when they were on their way to Mordor, except for they had two rabbits that Gollum had caught for them, and we just had the one that an 8 year old had killed and skinned for us.

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