Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Sherlock with a gun

I love the new series of Sherlock on the BBC, both series 1 and 2 were brilliant. The writing is sharp, the chemistry between the leads is excellent and while I feel some stories are dragged out a little to fit their feature length slot, I very rarely check my watch which is a very good sign in my book.

However, there are two things that continually bug me and in my humble opinion are major flaws with the show.

First of all, Guns. 

Watson with a gun
This is the UK, we do not have easy access to guns. No civilian would ever be given a licence to carry a handgun and if caught carrying one, would receive a relatively harsh prison sentence.

Lestrade with a gun
Further more, no police officer would be allowed to handle a gun unless trained as an armed police officer, in which case (aside from a rare few who guard high risk targets like nuclear facilities or diplomats)  his/her firearms must be carried in a safe within a locked boot of a specially designed and equipped police vehicle. They must obtain permission before even being allowed to get the guns out! There are around 150,000 police officers in the England and Wales but less than 7,000 have been trained to use a gun and there are not even ten incidents per year where the police have opened fire.

Joe Public with a gun
I can buy the criminal element having access weapons because they're on the wrong side of the law anyway and I can buy the good guys using their weapons against them but we are pro gun control in this country! When you show everyone from police officers to Sherlock and even members of the general public who aren't criminally minded touting a handgun and no one even batting an eyelid, it throws me right out of a story.

We are the UK, not the USA. Please to be learning the cultural differences.

Actually what really irks me is that the writers are English and if they engaged with current affairs in even the smallest way through out the past 20 years, they could not have failed to notice that guns=illegal.

Clearly they have chosen to ignore this rather massive and important piece of legislation but why?

John Watson with another gun
Sherlock with another gun

Are they trying to sell the show to American audiences? Because in my opinion, ignoring this huge cultural difference is as jarring as then the Americans doing a bad British accent or we Brits doing a bad American accent. It doesn't sit right, it doesn't feel right and it throws you out of the story because it draws your attention to something that is out of place.
Sherlock showing off with a gun

My other big bug bear, which upsets me even more than the lackadaisical use of firearms, is Cliffhangers.

Each movie told its own complete story
When I read a book, watch a film or a TV show, I like to know that I will be left with a satisfying conclusion. Even serialised films and books leave you with a conclusion to that chapter in the story. Some successful examples include the Godfather trilogy, the Harry Potter books and films, The Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings books and movies, the Southern Vampire Mysteries books and True Blood TV series, Dexter, the Alien films, James Bond books and films, Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and Lost World books and the Twilight books and films to name but a few.  Each manages to wrap up the story arc for that instalment and tempt the audience back for the next book/series/film without resorting to massive cliffhangers.

Each book told a complete story
When it comes to TV shows, I will tolerate an episode to episode cliffhanger sometimes but when they leave a series on a cliff hanger, I hate it.You don't have to tie up all the threads, just the major ones, you can leave small things unanswered or sew the seeds for the plots of the next book/film/series but when you leave me on a massive cliffhanger that I have to wait a year to see the conclusion to, I more than likley will not bother.

It's sloppy writing and to me it says "I'm really not confident that my writing is good enough to tempt the audience to tune in next season, so I have to leave them on a massive cliffhanger so that they will want to watch the next series to find out what happens".

The writing on Sherlock is strong enough to draw the audience back in next season without resorting to these silly and annoying theatrics.

The cliffhanger in season 1 wasn't too bad, they completed the arc of the series and episode leaving just one question unanswered, who would win the face off, Sherlock or Moriarty and to be perfectly honest, this ending felt like it was just tacked onto the end of the episode as an afterthought. I still thought that it was cheap and bad writing but on the whole season 1 left me satisfied.

No cliffhangers in sight!
This season the whole final episode is left unexplained. We can draw our own conclusions about some things but there are huge gaping questions left unanswered and while viewers can come up with their own theories, we will not get an answer for  another whole year. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating slightly. We wont get an answer for another 49 weeks, assuming the scheduling is the same for series 3.

Why can you not trust in your writing ability enough to give your loyal viewers a satisfying conclusion? Are you catering to the fan-boys/girls who love a good mystery and coming up with their own theories? Are you hoping that they will create an internet buzz? Because I have to tell you, doing that at the end of the series is the wrong time to get people interested.

95% or more of your viewing audience are not fan-boys/girls who will trawl the internet looking for answers and even if they were inclined to come up with their own theories, one week is ample time for anyone to do so.

To sum up my feelings on this, if you can't be bothered to give me a satisfying resolution, then I'm not sure I can be bothered to tune in next year.

Trust me, I have real life problems that last a year or more, I do not want my entertainment to be so problematic.


In the interests of fairness, this is Mark Gatiss's reply. Forgive the brevity, they're tweets.

Click to enlarge
"Re: guns. It's fiction and merely mirroring the accessibility of weapons in the original (Watson's revolver) Re: cliffhangers. As Wilkie Collins said "Make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em wait."

It's nice that he would take the trouble to reply to a viewer, even if we must agree to disagree!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Nineteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11

The complete Hobbit cast. Okay, the 15 main protagonists. Okay, the 15 protagonists who go to reclaim Erebor.
Bilbo and Gandalf make their way home, stopping to visit those who had taken them in on the way to the Lonley Mountain. If there were adventures (and we are assured there were) we do not get to hear of them.
Finally Bilbo arrives home to find his possessions being auctioned off as the villagers think he's dead. He's upset to find his stuff being sold and has to buy most of it back. I'm not sure what this detail adds to the story or why it was included. It's a bit like John McClane stopping the terrorists and arriving home to find his house had been knocked down by an earthquake. 
But he's happy and content. Years later, Galdalf and Balin visit Bilbo while he's writing his memoirs and they tell him that all is well in the Lonely Mountain too.
They fell to talking of their times together, of course, and Bilbo asked how things were going in the lands of the Mountain. It seemed they were going very well. Bard had rebuilt the town in Dale and men had gathered to him from the Lake and from South and West, and all the valley had become tilled again and rich, and the desolation was now filled with birds and blossoms in spring and fruit and feasting in autumn. And Lake-town was refounded and was more prosperous than ever, and much wealth went up and down the Running River; and there was friendship in those parts between elves and dwarves and men.”
So a happy ending for most.
Overall the book is badly paced and far too limited in it's point of view. Are we to assume the Narrator is Bilbo and this is why our perspective is so limited? Perhaps, though it is never stated. If Bilbo is the narrator, it explains why we learned so little about the final battle after Bilbo is knocked out, it doesn't explain though, how Bilbo knew such detail about the dragon's attack on Lake-town, since he also wasn't there for it. If he asked for that information to include it in such detail in his memoirs, then why didn't he ask about what happened in the battle? Why gloss over the biggest fight in the whole book?
And what of our questers; we still know next to nothing about them. A few lines of back story in a few cases, such as Thorin and Bilbo, but overall not much at all. They seem like stereotypes, all behaving as a dwarf, elf, hobbit etc. should, rather then becoming people in their own right. Even Bilbo. All we know is that his mothers family had an adventurous side, we learn very little of just how and why he is brave and cowardly in equal measure, he simply is and we must accept that.
The characters are little more than caricatures and I am still none the wiser as to their motivation on the whole.
I would like someone to explain to me how Thorin dying made him a good person. Many died that day and all his dying proves is that Thorin was not a coward (unlike Bilbo). I still do not know who Thorin was, nor any of the other dwarves. Even Bilbo; one might think he had been changed by his adventures, however it seems that he is now perfectly content to go back to the small, quiet little life that he had before.
I must also note that we have made it through the entire book with only two female characters even being mentioned in passing. Not an eagle, wolf, hobbit, dwarf, goblin, elf or man having a single woman feature among their number. I assume they exist since two have been mentioned but clearly they do not merit an acknowledgement.
Actually I'm glad for that.
JRR Tolken was raised during the women's suffrage movement and after much struggle, torture, imprisonment, assault and suffering, often for nothing more than standing up and daring to ask when women would get the vote, they finally succeeded in 1928, nine years before this book was written. He could not in any way shape or form have missed the suffrage movement and the courage and sacrifice of it's members.

While writing these blogs I have heard a lot of people excuse Tolken's weaknesses because he wrote The Hobbit as a story for his children, not for commercial success. Okay, fine, but he had a daughter born in 1929, making her 8 when this book was published. Did he write this story only for his sons? If not, why didn't he want to include a role model for his daughter, or even just a single female character that she could relate to?

I tend to believe that only the most ardent of misogynists would completely ignore an entire gender and it seems obvious to me that JRR Tolken had no use for women, beyond being a wife and mother. If you require more proof of this, the only two women mentioned were as mothers to the protagonists. One doesn't even merit a name, just sister of Thorin, mother of Fili and Kili. That poor nameless woman lost her brother and two sons in a single day!
Therefore I am glad that Tolkien chose to ignore women for had he included them, they would surely be pale, meek and most likely little more than slaves at worst or drudges at best. If that is to be our depiction, then I would rather have no depiction at all.
The great thing with fantasy is that anything is possible, even things that need no explanation, so why do so many fantasy writers want to ignore us or enslave us? In other words, go back to when we were repressed rather than looking forward to the day when true equality or even superiority (it is fantasy, after all) is possible?
This has been an interesting experience and the book is mildly entertaining, but I have no desire to ever read it again. I do have a desire to learn more about these two dimensional characters, to know why they act as they do, what their internal dialogue is, and I hope that the movie will fill in some of those gaping holes. The two and a half minute trailer certainly gives the characters more depth that this entire book has done so that gives me hope. 

 Will I watch the movie? Maybe. At least it can't be any worse than the book!
The Hobbit Trailer

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Eighteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11
Ch12 | Ch13 | Ch14 | Ch15 | Ch16 | Ch17

When Bilbo awakes after the battle is over and no goblins remain. Rather anticlimactic after the build up of our questers being in a hopeless situation. I guess we're going to be told how it ended rather than shown. *sigh*
Bilbo is taken to Thorin who is dying of his wounds and wants to make peace with the hobbit first. 
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!" [Thorins final words.]

Bilbo leaves and has a good cry. 

So the only dwarf  that we really got to know realises his wrongs for exactly two paragraphs, finally grows as a character, becomes a better person, only to die in the next paragraph.
The narrator then deigns to tell us some of what happened since Bilbo was knocked out. Considering what excruciating detail the first chapter was described in, I'm a little sore that the battle has simply been glossed over. I think I would have preferred to know less about a hobbit home and more about how the dwarves, elves and men united and finally won.
The eagles and Beorn (the shapeshifter) turned the tide. Gandalf seemingly was just sitting quietly since he doesn't seem to have figured in the victory at all, though a sling on his arm means that he wasn't totally idle but we don't know what he did or why his arm in injured.
Fili and Kili also died protecting their uncle but the other 10 dwarves survived. We learn nothing of the 10. Did they learn a lesson? Are they better people after the quest? Do they miss Thorin, Fili and Kili? Do they even care? We don't know because we aren't told. 

Dain, is the new king of the dwarves but all we know about him is that he is Thorin's kin and that he led the dwarf party from the Iron Hills to help the other dwarves. It would have been nice if whatever dwarf took over the kingdom was one that we knew a little something about, perhaps even someone who had been on the quest and who we could have seen grow and develop into the leader he would need to be. 

You're right, that probably is asking a lot.

So first we had the huge built up to the mountain and it's dragon, only for the dwarves to do nothing and the dragon to be killed with a single arrow from Bard. Now we have a second build up to an epic battle, only to be told about how it was won rather than seeing it for ourselves.
Right now the whole book feels like one giant anticlimax.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Seventeen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11
Ch12 | Ch13 | Ch14 | Ch15 | Ch16

The next day the lake-men and elves seek another audience with Thorin, but this time are perfectly happy to lay down their arms before approaching... Um, why didn't they just do that in the beginning?
The elf king is still there though and so Thorin refuses to talk. Well he did keep them prisoner for weeks when he had no right to, I'm not sure I'd be keen to open a dialogue with him.
Bard then shows Thorin that he has the arkenstone and asks what he will give for it. Thorin is floored and calls them thieves for stealing his heirloom. Bilbo admits he gave it to them as he took it to be his 14th share of the hoard. (yeah, cos Throin didn't repeatedly say that they can take what they want except the arkenstone!)
Gandalf reveals himself in time to stop Thorin tossing Bilbo off the mountain.
Disgusted, Thorin tells Bilbo to join the lake-men and elves and offers them a 14th of the gold and silver (what would have been Bilbo's share) in exchange for the arkenstone.
Gandalf tells Thorin that he is not making a good impression as the new King Under the Mountain but that things may change.
Everyone departs vowing to return tomorrow for their share of the treasure at which time they will hand over the arkenstone.
Some of the dwarves are sorry that Bilbo has been kicked out but Thorin is considering using his other kin who are on their way to recapture the arkenstone and double cross the elves and lake-people.
Not a very nice thing to do, a gentleman's word should be his bond. I think the gold has gone to his head. 

Actually the gold has gone to everyone's head and Bilbo and Gandalf are the only characters I can stand right now.  

Undeniably, Bard did something very heroic  in staying the dragon but his heroic image is seriously tarnished by then demanding gold as payment.  Did St George demand money after he slayed the dragon? I don't think so!

The men can ask, certainly, but to demand? And to demant that your friends, the elves, also get some when they did NOTHING to deserve it? Why are the elves even here, they have no claim on this gold. They offered no assistance to the dwarves or men and nor did they slay any bad-guys.

And not only are the dwarves steadfastly refusing said demands, they are now thinking of double-crossing the men and elves? 

It's all very childish, like kids fighting in the playground over a new toy! 

The first part of this chapter can be summed up very easily. "It's mine," "No, it's mine!" "No, it's MINE!" "Gimme!" "No!" "MINE!" "MINE!!!" It's not appealing in the slightest.

Anyway, back to the story. Thorin then sends a crow to tell his kin of what has happened. The other dwarves finally  arrive 2 days later but instead of picking a fight they only want to pass to the mountain (Yay!) their rightful home but Bard won't let them until he has his gold ("It's mine!" "No it's mine!"). He sends someone to the gate only to be met with arrows and while the bard and elven king are debating what to do, the dwarves attack!
Thorin unites the armies
Just as the battle begins Gandalf steps between the parties and cries for then to stop. A swarm of bats distracts them and they do stop, then Gandalf tells them that the Goblins and wolves are nearly here.
And so the elves, men and dwarves unite to fight against their universal foe, the goblins.
The good guys win for a while, then start to lose, then Thorin emerges from the mountain and nothing can touch him, apparently. He calls everyone to him and unites the three forces (really? Where did such powerful charisma come from exactly?) and for a time they win again. Finally though, outnumbered, they are surrounded by goblins and wolves.
Gandalf is sitting quietly so I think he must have something up his sleeve, then as the end is near, Bilbo (who has put his ring on and is safely hiding from the battle) spies eagles coming this way. At which point he is promptly knocked out.
I've got to say, the battle is fairly interesting, though so far not at all long.
With a big enough SFX budget, this battle could look epic on a big screen. I'm quietly confident that Peter Jackson has both the budget and the vision to pull it off.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Sixteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11 
Ch12 | Ch13 | Ch14 | Ch15

Bilbo Baggins
Still under siege inside the mountain, Thorin searches for the Arkenstone but Bilbo isn't telling that he has it. Thorin's dwarf kin is now but 2 days away from the mountain with an army of 500.
Tired of this whole business, Bilbo sneaks out of the mountain and seeks an audience with Bard and the elvish king at which time he offers them the arkenstone, telling them that Thorin values it above all else, even a river of gold. He then heads back to the dwarves.
Gandalf stops him on his return and praises his actions but says there is trouble brewing that no one else is aware of. Bilbo makes it back into the mountain unseen and goes to sleep (to dream of eggs and bacon). I GET IT ALREADY! HOBBITS AND DWARVES LIKE FOOD! Please, leave the food out of it now unless it actually has some relevance to the plot.
Thorin Oakenshield
I somehow don't think Thorin is going to be happy about losing such a gem, not only in terms of it's value but it has sentimental value for him too. Me thinks poor Bilbo is in for a roasting when Thorin discovers his treachery.
Now, Thorin said he would talk terms but not until those outside laid down their arms and personally, I wouldn't talk to armed people either. Before you talk peace, it's normal to call a truce and not bring weapons to the negotiating table. Who responds to threats with acquiescence? Well, hobbits apparently.
I know this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I wrote my piece on chapter one, but my prediction has come true and one of the party had betrayed them. I think that makes Thorin Jesus rather than Bilbo.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Fifteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11 
Ch12 | Ch13 | Ch14

Someone, a raven to be exact, bothers to tell the dwarves that the dragon is dead and that many people are marching on the mountain to claim the gold therein. Thorin asks the raven's to contact his people (dwarves that is) who are close by and ask them for assistance. The raven duly agrees.
Run, ponies, RUN!
Our questers are able to find three of their ponies who survived Smaug's attack and the ponies are still carrying enough food to last the dwarves for weeks. Thankfully they then set the wretched ponies free. Good; enough ponies have already been killed during this fools quest. 
The dwarves then set about fortifying the only remaining entrance leaving no doors and only holes to shoot through. They are preparing to hold the attackers off but as the raven pointed out, there are only 13 of them (plus one hobbit).
The marching armies see the bricked up entrance, realise that Thorin and at least some of his Co are alive and some simply give up and go home.
Gees, the Lakemen and elvish are worse than the French! At lest the French gave the impression of putting up a fight.
What would Thorin sing? I Will Survive? Kung Foo Fighting?
The remaining men and elves make camp nearby and start singing. Then the dwarves start singing. Everybody's singing. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of some really bad X-Factor auditions.
The next day Bard comes to speak with Thorin, explaining that some of his ancestors gold is among Smaug's hoard (for he comes from Dale, which used to be at the foot of the mountain) and asking for compensation for the Lake-men, who did after all aid the dwarves and slay the dragon.
Thorin says he will not discuss it while armed men camp outside and asks, had they arrived to find the dwarves dead, how much of the gold they would have sought to give to the dwarves kin, since most of it is rightfully theirs. Good point actually. Maybe these dwarves do have a brain cell or two.
Thorin wants the elves sent away as they have no claim at all on the gold, and arms laid down before he will discuss settlement. Bard says the elves are their friends, he won't send them away nor lay down his arms before approaching the gate. An impasse ensues with the Lake-men and elves hoping to starve Thorin and Co into submission.
Good thing they have a few weeks worth of food and help on the way, right? And hang on, wasn't Galdalf on his way back like 5 chapters ago?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The perils and pitfalls of being a fangirl

I don't usually comment on such issues but my broken toe seems to have dulled my muse and I'm bored. You're probably not interested on my views of the fangirl phenomenon but here they are anyway.

Gerard Butler. Anyone else think he looks scared?
Following Gerard Butler's appearance on Graham Norton on Friday night (complete with crazy stalker fan who follows him everywhere and can remember things about his life that even he can't) there had been a lot of talk in the blog sphere, on twitter and message boards about how far is too far when it comes to being a fan. One fan has even stopped writing her blog because of that fangirl.

When I was a teenager I dreamed of certain actors, meeting them, marrying them, living happily ever after etc.

Then when I was in my 20's I started going to fan conventions. Usually the actors and actresses there were not my favourites but the events were for the show, which I was also obsessed with.

At those events a learned an important lesson. The people that I liked on the show I often didn't like as much in real life, and the people or characters I wasn't that interested in sometimes turned out to be a riot!

Some of the actors weren't nice people (they were arrogant, self-important or used the female fans for easy sex etc) and that's why I disliked them but mostly it was just that they were perfectly good people, they just weren't “my” kind of people; I could talk to them for a while but they would never become a friend, if you know what I mean.

And that's when I learned an important lesson, I didn't love these people, I loved their characters. That's a lesson I have never forgotten.

Richard Armitage as Mr Thornton, my current obsession
Obviously liking or loving a character gives me an interest in the actor who plays them and often a desire to see other works that they have been in and to talk about what I enjoyed. Usually I discover that they have other characters that I like and want to talk about too but I don't ever lose sight of the fact that if I were to meet them, there is a very good chance that we would not be a match, personality wise.

As a result of this awakening, I found that my interest in their interviews and personal life was very much less than it had been when I was a teenager. If their opinions differ from mine I don't change my mind or try to rationalise their words. If they are shown to be less than perfect I don't jump in to defend them, we're all human and flawed after all, although I might feel sympathy for them for having their flaws laid out for all to see.

I continued to go to fan conventions until I moved abroad and now that I am back, if I became obsessed enough, there was an event that covered my obsession and had the funds to do so, I would go again to such an event.

I have some very happy memories of those conventions, including making out with a guest (no he's not likely to be someone you know but you have probably seen some things he's been in). I could have slept with him, he wanted to, I thought he was a lovely man but I didn't do it because he lived in America and I don't. I wasn't silly enough to think that he would fall madly in love and I didn't want to feel used the next day. As it is, I have very fond memories of our meeting and would be happy if I saw him again one day. But pleasant as that interlude was, that is far from my fondest memory of those events.

The very best thing about those events was not rubbing shoulders with actors, it was being surrounded by people like me who understood my obsession and could talk for hours about that scene in episode three, series four when this and that happened! I didn't have to explain why I found a character appealing, they understood. 

I do try and keep a sense of humour about my obsessions
And so, while I will not impose my personal views on what is too much when it comes to being a fan, I will say that for me the line stops at the actor. What he or she puts into the public domain I might watch or read but when it comes to their lives, I don't really want to know. I don't want to see paparazzi shots of them looking out of shape while on holiday. I don't care who they had lunch at The Ivy with. I thank them for creating or bringing to life a character that I love but that's where my admiration ends because the actor behind the character is just another person and believe me, there aren't many people that I meet in real life who I like enough to turn into a friend!

Do I feel guilty for becoming obsessed with a character or show? Why should I? So what if some people look down on me or think we weird. I am weird! There are many harmful interests and pastimes that I could take up but as it is, my interest harms no one. It doesn't take my time from people who need it and my jobs get done.

In fact my obsessions often inspire me and that can never be a bad thing.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Fourteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11 
Ch12 | Ch13 |

Bard, the man (not dwarf) who killed the dragon

So it seems that Smaug the dragon went to attack Laketown since the men there helped the dwarves out with supplies.  Bard, an archer from the town, fired into the unprotected patch on his belly as he flew over head and killed the beast.
So our dwarves are saved once again by others. It's a wonder the dwarves can remember their own names since they are clearly so inferior to every other creature in Middle Earth. 
This felt like a real let down. I thought that when we met the dragon, surely the dwarves would finally get a chance to prove their prowess and slay him. Alas I was to be sorely disappointed once more. 
At the moment I can't figure out a reason for the dwarves to even be on this quest, it almost feels like Tolkien actually dislikes them since he has given them no purpose but to be comedic fodder and appear cowardly so that Bilbo can learn to be brave. I honestly don't think that the plot would have been severely affected by there being only one dwarf on this mission. In fact they are so interchangeable that singular dwarves rarely speak, instead we are told things like "the dwarves said". 
No wonder Peter Jackson was worried about differentiating the dwarves on screen because the book does little to give them individual personalities. Only 3 of the 13 dwarves are distinguishable from the others, the leader, the fat one and the friendly one. They're not so much characters as caricatures.
Anyway, back to the chapter. Now word has spread to everyone that Smaug is dead (except for our dwarves of course, who are still blissfully ignorant) and elves, lake-men and others are discussing it and making plans to seize the fortune in the mountain for themselves. 
To be honest, I half think the Lake-men deserve the treasure. They did kill the dragon, after all.

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Thirteen

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11 | Ch12 |

The dwarves, waiting inside the mountain

After sitting around for a few days in pitch darkness (these dwarves do like sitting around a lot. Why didn't they bring some tea and cakes with them? At least they could sit around and mope in style then) when the dragon doesn't return for a while, the dwarves finally venture further down, inside the mountain, closer to the dragons lair. This might have been brave of them if the dragon hadn't blocked the way out and then disappeared, giving them little choice in the matter and little danger to face.
Anyway, they finally venture further into the mountain and into the dragon's lair and since Smaug is missing, they take their time rummaging through the gold and treasure. Thorin seems to be looking for something in particular, probably the Arkenstone, which Bilbo has already found and taken but decided to keep quiet about for some reason.
A depiction of the Arkenstone by Whitney Marie Travis
They venture to the main entrance of the mountain, then up to a hidey hole/lookout for... I'm not really sure why they went there to be honest.
Seriously, you guys are the worse treasure hunters ever! This book should be called “How Not To Steal A Fortune”. Better still, “How to Play Hide and Seek with a Dragon”.
I really wish something would happen, someone would come up with a plan, Gandalf might return and have some kind of idea for how to kill Smaug or smuggle the treasure out.
I think someone needs to ask!
Why don't they blow up or collapse the entrance to the mountain so that Smaug is cut off from his hoard and kept out of the mountain? Why don't they forage for something flammable to douse Smaug in, since it's doubtful he's completely fire proof, even if he is a dragon. And even supposing he is entirely flame proof, trick him into drinking the stuff then the first time he breaths fire, he'll cook from the inside out. Why don't they consider using poison or infection? Why did no one think to bring a flask of the black water in the forest that sends people (and hopefully dragons) to sleep? 

A truly heroic dwarf would at this point be eating something poisonous to dragons and getting himself eaten. Problem solved! 
Oh, and Bilbo is back to moaning about not having regular meals again. This food fixation is really starting to get on my nerves. On the one hand they have a big scary dragon who wants to eat them, on the other, they missed a second breakfast. I think their priorities are wrong.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Twelve

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 | Ch11 |

"You are familiar with Thorin's style on important occasions, so I will not give you any more of it, though he went on a good deal longer than this."
Oh the delicious irony of that statement!
They have opened the door in the mountain side and the cowardly dwarves sent Bilbo into the mountain. He encounters a sleeping dragon but rather than killing him while his guard is down, Bilbo just steals a gold cup. When the dragon awakes he notices it is missing and begins hunting for the thief but the dwarves take refuge inside the mountain and Smaug is left chasing their ponies for his tea since they are the only sign that anyone else was there.
One thing I notice again with this chapter is that Tolken kills a lot of ponies. While our hero's always manage to escape unharmed, it always seems to be the poor ponies who pay the price for their adventures. I make it 29 ponies now who have bitten the dust.
It seems that dragons are an over confident species and I am sure this will be Smaug's downfall. When Bilbo sneaks close to the dragons lair the next day (the cowardly dwarves sending him alone once again) after enjoying a little chat with Bilbo, Smaug doesn't seem in any hurry to capture the thieves.
It also turns out that the dwarves had no plan for what to do with the treasure once they had re-captured it. I always assumed they wanted the whole mountain back and planned to slay the dragon since it was once their kingdom, and move back into it. Alas no; they planned to steal the treasure and leave again, except that haven't given any thought to how they might leave without being seen by the dragon nor how they might transport such a large hoard of gold.
They have no plan A let alone a plan B.
I'm picturing something like Die Hard 3 where they used 14 truck to clear out the gold bullion reserves.

They take refuge in the entrance to the mountain tunnel once again as Smaug has another go at finding them and then as Smaug damages the entrance to the tunnel they find that they are trapped inside the mountain. Smaug then travels to Laketown to reap vengeance on the people who he believes sent the theives.
There is mention of a great gem under the mountain and I can't help but feel that this gem, the Arkenstone, will be their salvation.

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Eleven

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 | Ch10 |

Our questers arrive at the mountain in rather low spirits, though I can't really see why. Dwarves and hobbits seem to be rather pessimistic creatures by nature. 
I could understand if they were worried but to just be depressed seems weird, though completely in character since all they do is moan, whine, complain and bitch.
And wouldn't you know it, the arrive at the mountain just on the cusp of autumn/winter, when the map says that they keyhole in the secret door in the mountain will be visible. What luck! 
They don't seem to have given any thought to this fortuitous happening, being pessimists and all. At least they're not moaning about food for once.
They do indeed find the keyhole, open the door and head inside the mountain.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Ten

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 | Ch9 |

The plan worked and all dwarves survived the trip down the river and made it to Laketown. I'm assuming someone is going to bite the dust at some point but against all odds, all 13 dwarves and Bilbo still live.
Kili, who does indeed have an (unnamed) mother
Poor Bilbo had a cold from the water and is grumpy. The dwarves, upset at being in barrels for a day are also grumpy. Basically everyone is grumpy. The inhabitants of Laketown take them in however and feed them. They are thrilled that the king under the mountain has returned (save for a few doubters) and offer any assistance the dwarves need to help complete their quest. The end is in sight as the mountain is visible from Laketown. Two weeks later they are rested and recovered and ready to head off to the mountain.
Oh, there is mention of another woman, they do exist! Fili and Kili are the sons of Thorin's sister. Of course that's all we get, that she bore two male children; in fact she is such a non-entity that we're not even told her name. Still, at least now I know the dwarves aren't hermaphrodites! 

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Hobbit Read-Along, Chapter Nine

Previous chapters: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8 |

The remaining dwarves are captured by the wood-elves, with... well no fight at all (due to their immense hunger, in case you'd somehow managed to forget that they were starving!).
Now prisoners of the elf king until they tell him why they were in his forest, which they won't do because they don't want to have to split their treasure with him, at least they are well fed (cos that's what matters when you're wrongly imprisoned) and seemingly in no hurry to come up with an escape plan.
Thorin and all the dwarves are placing their hopes on Bilbo to rescue them. I despair of these dwarves. A warrior race? They surrender faster than the French!
Anyway, Bilbo does come up with a plan (after a good few weeks mind) and they travel out of the palace down a river where the empty barrels get sent onto the next town like an aquatic laundry chute but for empty beer and wine barrels.
Though some barrels are heavy for empty ones, the elves still haul them into the water. Though some sit lower in the water than they should, they still get passed on through the gates onto Laketown. It seems that Elves are none too bright either.
When the chapter finishes we do not know who is alive and who (if anyone) is dead. Right now I'd say they all deserve to be dead.
Thorin in the clink!
Just out of interest, I'm now about halfway through (chapter 9 of 19) and still have not encountered a female character. Worse still, there is only one single reference to a female character, Bilbo's mother. 
Since they are away from home for so long (they left in spring and it is now becoming autumn) you would have thought that the dwarves might mention missing a wife or loved one. But maybe there are no lady dwarves. Perhaps they are they hermaphrodites? Asexual, perhaps? Maybe they're all clones?
Is is making babies all Middle Earth women are good for? Yeah, I guess so. Not even the evil species like the goblins or the animal species, like the wolves and owls seem to have any females among their rank. Perhaps it is illegal for women of all species to do anything but raise children?
My preferred theory though, is that the women got so sick and tired of these dumb-as-a-rock men and have made their own communities in the North.