The Hobbit: The Desecration of Soul

It’s come to my attention that this blog is too frivolous. It’s time to tackle some meaty, important issues. So, here’s one: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an abomination.

(I know this is old news, but I had to see it again before launching an attack to make sure I was totally justified. And, because we weren’t willing to spend more than a dollar on it, I had to wait until it hit Redbox.)

First, you have to understand something about Mr. and Mrs. Tom Nysetvold: we really love Tolkien. In fact, Tom and I decided we were interested in each other based on a conversation in which we discovered that I had read more Tolkien than he had. The books are important. Neither of us care for Peter Jackson or a lot of the things he’s done to the LotR trilogy. Despite this, we went to see the second installment of The Hobbit on a cold December night, just after it came out.

My first reaction after the movie was over: “You took me away from studying for this?” (We’d gone on a reading day, and I was being somewhat facetious.)

Tom’s first reaction: “I am so, so sorry.”

It was cringe-inducing. It was so painfully obvious that Peter Jackson had dug himself into this hole with this three movies business and this weird orc subplot and was just trying to throw stuff together in a way that would maximize his money-made to time-spent-reading-the-book ratio. It was fanfiction–really bad fanfiction. Worse, since Howard Shore’s score work was way below his usual excellent standard, I can honestly say the movie did not have one redeeming quality.

Okay, the Bombur barrel sequence made me giggle a little bit...
Okay, the Bombur barrel sequence made me giggle a little bit…

If Peter Jackson is greedy enough to turn a 95,000-word children’s book into three movies, then I can be lazy enough to break my analysis into three parts: 1) Things that were terrible because they deviated from the book; 2) Things that were terrible because they could never conceivably happen in Middle-earth; and 3) Things that were terrible because they could never conceivably happen anywhere that obeys the laws of logic and/or physics. We’ll tackle number 1 today.

(Edit: I get the feeling that people are as tired of reading about this stuff as I am of writing about it. In addition, I discovered some major problems with the main argument I was using for part 3, so let’s put this on hold.)

Deviations From the Book: Worst Offenders

Now, I know I have friends who prefer to consider movie adaptations as separate entities from their novels, evaluating the movie on its own merits. That’s perfectly reasonable, and those people are welcome to throw everything I’m about to say out the window. I, however, think differently. I see the original medium as the “soul” of the story, and every subsequent adaptation as just an accurate or inaccurate representation. The only person allowed to make acceptable changes, no questions asked, is the original creator. Even if Desolation of Smaug was a brilliant piece of film (it’s not), I couldn’t appreciate it because it was a poor representation of a great book. (Additionally–and I may lose friends over this–this is the reason I just can’t appreciate the musical Wicked: the book is distasteful, and all the catchy music in the world can’t make up for that).

With that in mind, I’ll only target the most offensive moments in this blog post.

1. Beorn

Everything about the way Beorn was handled was disappointing. He is portrayed as this surly dwarf-hating PETA-enthusiast who completely loses his mind and goes on killing rampages, werewolf style, when he turns into this savage bear-beast. Gandalf and crew are on the run from the orcs and have no provisions and nowhere else to go, so they force their way into Beorn’s house and barricade themselves inside, hoping he’ll decide to help the intruders out. Sure enough, Beorn finds his second least favorite type of people sleeping in his house and decides to roll with it. After they’ve explained their story, Beorn criticizes the dwarves for not caring about mice and flies enough, but decides to aid them because he hates orcs more; the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

In the book, Beorn is more of a general introvert–antisocial, even. He just doesn’t want people in his house. He doesn’t make a habit of inviting friends over, and he certainly doesn’t indulge beggars (like Thorin and Co.). It’s true that he isn’t a huge dwarf fan; however, the reason is never specified, and he seems to recognize that some dwarves are more respectable than others (he even recognizes Thorin’s name and family).

Gandalf knows Beorn can be reasonable when coaxed into a good mood, so he comes up with a very clever plan to get on bear-man’s good side. He approaches Beorn with Bilbo and tells the dwarves to come in pairs, five minutes apart (“Bombur is fattest and will do for two, he had better come alone and last.” You’ve got to love Tolkien). Meanwhile, Gandalf is telling the story of their goblin adventure in the Misty Mountains. He gradually increases the implied number of their party at roughly the same rate at which the dwarves arrive at the house, and with each new arrival Beorn is increasingly intrigued by the story, so he impatiently welcomes the newcomers and urges Gandalf to continue. In the end, Beorn feeds them and puts them up not because he trusts them completely or he’s feeling particularly compassionate, but because Gandalf’s story was so entertaining.

Later, of course, Beorn does some investigating and verifies his guests’ claims, and is all the more willing to help them when he learns they killed the Great Goblin, admitting that his opinion of dwarves has greatly improved. Beorn gives them food and advice, and loans them ponies to get to the Mirkwood.

Why is Beorn’s portrayal a problem? Besides creating obvious inconsistencies–if Bear!Beorn is so unpredictable and dangerous, how does he have the presence of mind to follow them, only attacking if they try to take the ponies into Mirkwood?–Jackson discards a strategic, carefully-considered, diplomatic solution in favor of one in which our heroes push their way into a stranger’s house and presume upon his hospitality. The message Jackson is sending is that any problem that can be solved with a little bit of tact and cleverness is better off solved by brute force and an entitlement attitude. I don’t know about you, but that’s the exact opposite of the message I want my children to take from The Hobbit.

2. Encounter with the spiders

Like Beorn, the spider business was badly handled in the transition from book to movie, and for similar reasons; however, the problems here are greater, because Jackson’s alterations actually detract from Bilbo’s character development–and heaven knows there’s little enough of that in this movie, already. Seriously, the section of the book covered by this movie is supposed to be about Bilbo finally getting his act together and earning the dwarves’ respect through his quick thinking and unconventional skill set (not to mention a certain magic ring). But the movie focuses very little attention on Bilbo, and (to its detriment) gives Martin Freeman hardly any screen time at all.

In the book, after Bilbo kills the spider tying him up, names his sword, slips on the Ring,  and discovers more spiders salivating over his friends, he comes up with a clever and manageable rescue plan. Using a combination of expert rock-throwing and insulting songs made up on the spot, Bilbo (wisely INVISIBLE) enrages and draws off the spiders. He frees the dwarves, tells them to fight their way to safety, continues distracting the spiders, and drives them off himself with Sting.

The dwarves don’t only develop respect for Bilbo–they start looking to him for guidance and direction, in lieu of instruction from their missing leaders (Gandalf is off doing his thing, and Thorin has already been captured by the Elves at this point). Bilbo has gained authority by saving his friends and launching a successful attack on creatures much larger and more deadly than he is. Not a bad day’s work for a little hobbit.

Some of these elements are present in the movie (no mention of the word “attercop,” however), but it all starts to go downhill when Bilbo drops the Ring. The rest of the scene centers around Bilbo frantically trying to get the Ring back while his friends struggle outnumbered against the spiders, fighting with this freaky crab thing, and slowly coming out of this Ring-possession-induced haze.

Hold on a minute. The Ring is dormant at this point. The word “ring” is never even capitalized in this book, because it’s only important to the plot as a tool to help Bilbo accomplish his tasks. I’m not even sure Tolkien had conceptualized its nefarious past when he first wrote The Hobbit. I realize Jackson is trying to tie the two trilogies together, but Bilbo’s bizarre reluctance to keep the Ring on is nonsensical.

And then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, there are Elves.

Did anyone else groan audibly when this guy showed up?

Sure, let’s sacrifice Bilbo’s character development in favor of letting Orlando Bloom save the day and bring in the fangirls. Bad form, Peter Jackson. Bad form.

3. Just…this.

No.
No.

Note to random comment-er on IMDB: Don’t try to tell me this is Thranduil’s fëa influencing his body. I know Peter Jackson has no idea what a  fëa is.

 4. Lake-town

I was almost too intimidated by the sheer amount of wrong in the Lake-town sequence, but Tom requested a section on it. The best way to sum up what’s wrong with the sequence is that none of its content comes from the book; as a result, it’s disjointed, surreal, and agonizingly slow in the movie.

Tolkien spends very little time describing the most boring part of the story. In my copy, Thorin and Co. are in and out in less than six pages. They make their grand entrance, have a brief tense encounter with some Wood-elves (“Hey! These were our prisoners!” “So what? We’re not talking to you.”), get the people excited, party a bit, collect Lake-town swag, and leave. Bard (the Bowman!) is not mentioned, because he isn’t important at this point–he becomes important later, because of his status as the captain of the town archers and his impressive lineage, but none of that is relevant yet.

At this point, the movie had me simply asking, “Why?!”

Why is all this political garbage necessary? Why make Bard out to be this malcontent rabble-rouser? Why has he been demoted to “Bard the Bargeman”?

What could be a legitimate, plot-driven purpose for leaving four dwarves behind? Don’t you need all the manpower (dwarfpower) you can get against a fire-breathing dragon? Sure, leave the injured guy with the healer, but don’t you care more about your cause than to abandon your company because Thorin made a very reasonable decision? (And don’t get me started on Kili’s “Morgul-blade” injury. That’s a major subject of the next post.)

Why does Lake-town need to be attacked by orcs? Isn’t it going to be attacked by a dragon in just a few hours? Give the poor town a break!

Why are Legolas and Tauriel here? What legitimate, plot-driven purpose could they possibly serve (beyond muddling things up when the dragon finally appears)? (More on my dissatisfaction with Tauriel in the next post.)

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I don’t think Peter Jackson has the answers to these questions.

 …

Well, I think this post is quite long enough. In summary, the alterations Peter Jackson made were not only unnecessary, but simply bad. But worry not, Tolkien purists: more faithful adaptations of the professor’s works exist. In particular, I highly recommend Fellowship! The Musical (the soundtrack can be found on Amazon or on Spotify, if you’re into that) (also, who thinks “Dwarf, Elf, Mithrandir–everyone is welcome here!” would be a great tagline for this blog?). Tune in next time for Part 2.

 

Good Times in Zion!

Some of you know that right after graduation, Tom and I undertook the four-day, 37-mile Trans-Zion Trek in Zion National Park. It was a fantastic and well-timed adventure; after the good times extravaganza that was graduation, the introvert in me was ready to spend four days with no one but Tom for miles around!

This was my first backpacking trip, and Tom’s first time being in charge of one. We both learned a lot. Here is the account from my perspective.

Monday

We started out hiking (hieing?) through Kolob Canyon. As you can see, it was absolutely beautiful.

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After about seven miles, we stopped for the day. The next picture is the view from our campsite—it was pretty cool.

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Also, the stars were amazing.

Tuesday

The day started out much like Monday—nice weather, beautiful scenery, and optimistic hikers.

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“Hey, don’t take pictures of me! And no, I will NOT take my hat off!”
Tom always looks attractive. Sigh.
Tom always looks attractive. Sigh.

We walked through this pretty, wet, cow-infested place called Hop Valley. We didn’t actually see any cows, but there was definitely…evidence, and we were warned not to drink the water in the valley under any circumstances.

Here there be cattle.

Tuesday was supposed to be our hardest day at about 14 miles, mostly uphill. After we left the cows behind, we walked through a meadow and up into a forested area.

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The forest was pretty, but decidedly less Zion-esque. We did see some snow, however:

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We ran into a bit of a problem when one of the springs on the map was dry, but we found another that was unmarked, so we didn’t think much of it. Really, I wasn’t thinking much of anything at all toward the evening; I was distracting myself from the growing soreness in my feet by daydreaming about chicken wings (I was reaching the limit of my enjoyment of Peanut M&M’s, and besides—my mom’s chicken wings are darn good). I also told myself that according to the website, if we just made it through day 2, day 3 would be a short, leisurely 10-mile Elysium (keep reading to find out how hilariously wrong I was) (also, things I would never have considered leisurely a few years ago: 10-mile hikes).

We found a campsite near Wildcat Canyon, set up our tent, and huddled in our sleeping bags until it was dark enough to sleep. There I was faced with an unfortunate, first-world-problems-type choice: should I go to bed hungry, or climb out into the bitter cold to eat an energy bar? I stayed in the tent, a choice that was both very unlike me and probably unwise.

Wednesday

We woke up to find that the water in Tom’s Camelbak line had frozen (see? I told you it was cold!). Other than that, it was a very nice morning. The trail took us along the rim of the canyon, which was much more fun when it wasn’t windy.

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We were both hurting a bit, and Tom was feeling a little sick to his stomach (nothing dangerous, of course). At one point when we stopped to rest, he said, “I almost want to just finish the trip today.” It would add about 5 miles onto the lovely 10-mile day I’d been fantasizing about. I made a sound like this:

In the end, though, the decision was made for us. Around 1:00 we found another dry spring, one we’d been sort of counting on. The next one was more than a mile past our campsite and only five miles from the shuttle, and we had no idea if it would even have any water. We knew it would be a rough night without any water, and by taking a shorter route, we could probably make it to the shuttle with what we had. We decided to go for it.

We didn’t take a lot more pictures after that; we were too focused on making good time. It was crucial that we made it to the main canyon before the last shuttle left, and as we didn’t know when that would be, we were hoping to be at the trailhead by 5:00 (9 miles in about 4 hours). My pace had been slowing down a lot, so it was time to bust out my secret weapon.

Okay, confession time: when I get really fatigued while hiking, the song I play in my head to keep myself going is Call Me Maybe. This is a song I would never listen to under any normal circumstances, but the tempo is just about at my ideal hiking pace. Plus, I needed to get something else stuck in my head to drive out Fellowship! The Musical. Not that there’s anything wrong with Fellowship! (I’ll be raving about it more in my next post a future post), but after 2.5 days of “Happy Birthday Bilbo,” “One Ring,” “It’s a Hobbit Thing,” and “The Balrog Blues,” I needed a break.

As we approached the last spring, we started to see other hikers coming up from the main canyon. That was encouraging. More encouraging was the fact that the spring had barely a trickle of water (it was encouraging because it meant we were making the right decision, and that we would be in civilization that night. Chicken wings ahoy!).

Now came the hardest part of the hike: a 3000-foot descent down the canyon. It was gorgeous, and under any other circumstances, I would have taken tons of pictures. As it was, I just wanted to get to the bottom as fast as possible. Our descent made it all too clear that my hiking boots were too small. I was popping ibuprofen as frequently as Tom would let me. We were getting low on water. Carly Rae Jepsen was starting to let me down, and Tom was constantly having to stop and wait for me (telling passerby about our past few days, implicitly explaining why his wife looked like a decrepit zombie). It was not one of my finer hours. And here I thought I was in shape.

At one point a nice Indian couple out for an afternoon hike took pity on us and gave us a water bottle. Indian couple, you guys are our favorite people. We will love you forever.

We reached the end of the scenic/agonizing switchbacks and caught the shuttle (the last one left at 7:00, so we needn’t have worried), and everyone who had passed us on the way down gave us a cheer. Normally that might have been a little embarrassing, but hey—we’d just hiked 36 miles in three days! Yeah, we are pretty cool!

We didn’t get chicken wings that night, but I did get spaghetti squash enchiladas (ooh lala!) and Tom got what was apparently the best burger he had ever eaten. Overall, it was a pretty good day.

And so, we reached the end of our crazy, awesome, slightly thirsty adventure in Zion. Would I do it again? Heck yes!

But next time, I think I’ll wear size-8 boots and be sure not to listen to Fellowship! for at least a month beforehand. Now, where does one go about buying chicken wings in this town?

Hummus!

I promise this isn’t going to be a food blog. It’s not that I don’t like food blogs—I LOVE food blogs—it’s that I don’t cook well enough to sustain that kind of awesome in the long term

That said, it’s a busy time around the Nysetvold pad. Tom and I are graduating and moving and tying up all sorts of loose ends. Therefore, I’m doing a cop-out blog post about one of my favorite foods: hummus!

My dad has this wonderful tradition of making Sunday dinners for our family. Often he does some sort of Arabic or Indian dish, and he is the one who introduced us to hummus. Now we can’t let a Sunday pass without it, regardless of dinner’s ethnic origin.

Happy Easter from the Cardon family!
Happy Easter from the Cardon family!

Cardon family hummus is slightly different from the traditional stuff; no one in my family likes tahini, so we leave it out. Authentic or not, it’s delicious. But if you like tahini, it should be a simple matter of adding some. Hummus is versatile and wonderful. It’s also healthy—and with a glycemic index of 6, it shouldn’t spike anyone’s blood sugar at all.

And now, the recipe:

The Best Hummus Ever!

1 cup dried chickpeas (canned chickpeas also work, but I would advise reducing the garlic)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil

Soak the chickpeas overnight, and boil them for a half hour just before you make the hummus. Chop the garlic in a food processor, then add the chickpeas. Process. Add salt, lemon juice, olive oil, and enough water to reach your desired consistency, and process again. Serve on pita chips, pita bread, rice, apples, cookies, or just eat it straight with a spoon. Not that I’ve ever done any of those last few things…frequently…

 It’s a good day for garlic lovers! Happy hummus-ing!

Current word count: 33,225. It’s going slowly toward the end, but I’m going to make it!

Chemistry: A Meme-tastic Tribute

In just a few short weeks, I’ll be graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. It’s been a long, hard road, but filling out the senior exit survey brought back a lot of delightful memories. The past four years really have been filled with memorable (if not always strictly pleasant) experiences.

I’ve been wanting to do a little chemistry department tribute post, but I didn’t want to be sappy or overly sentimental. And then it hit me: memes! In my experience, it’s almost impossible to be sappy with memes.

And so, here it is: one chemistry major’s class-by-class experience, illustrated by memes. This will probably only be slightly amusing to other chemistry majors, but that’s okay. (Just to be clear, this should be my only meme post for a very long time.)

Chem 111:

chem111

Chem 112:
chem112forreal
(Yes, this was the topic of not one but two lectures, one of which was allegedly the final exam review. It was a fun class.)

Chem 113:
chem113

Chem 227:
chem227

Chem 351:
chem351real

Chem 352:
chem352
Chem 354:
chem354

Chem 455:
chem455

Chem 462:
chem462

Chem 391:
chem391
Chem 463:
chem463
Chem 464/5:
chem464

Chem 481:

chem481
Chem 514:
Rogelio
Image credit to Glen Thurston

Chem 521:
chem521

Chem 518:
chem518
Image credit to Glen Thurston

 

Chem 523:
chem523
Image credit to Glen Thurston

 

I have no intention of dumping all my chemistry knowledge after graduation, but that’s a subject for another post.

Writing update: 30,509/35,000 words! The end is in sight!

Green Smoothies?! Green Smoothies!

“Tom, what should my first real blog post be about?”

“Food. Talk about food.”

Who am I to ignore such great advice from my excellent husband? Today I’m going to unveil the food item I’ve been making more than any other the past few months:

Courtesy of: Kimberly Snyder. My smoothies never look like this.

Now wait a minute—don’t just brand me as some sort of hippy and leave, never to return. Hear me out.

Green smoothies have definitely improved my quality of life. This is the first time I’ve made it through an entire school year without getting sick, despite plenty of exposure and stress. I don’t crave chocolate as much, and I have more energy. I don’t have to worry about getting enough fruits and vegetables, because I can just drink them all in one fell swoop. Also, I may or may not have lost six pounds by replacing a meal or two a week with a smoothie, making no other changes to my lifestyle.

Now if I can just get Tom to join me, we’ll be all set.

In my opinion, the internet makes the whole smoothie experience way more complicated than it needs to be. “Use only organic produce.” “Make sure it’s a 70:30 vegetable:fruit ratio.” “Don’t eat anything less than 40 minutes before or after smoothie consumption.” “Sip it slowly through a straw and swish it around your mouth before you swallow it.” Ain’t nobody got time for that. Just play around with it until you’ve got something you’d look forward to drinking. You can hardly go wrong.

To start, here’s a simple smoothie recipe I’ve been enjoying lately. Be warned: the frozen berries will turn your “green” smoothie purple. It’s still awesome.

Citrus Berry Surprise [pronounced “soo-PREEZE”] Smoothie

2 cups spinach
1 cup water
1 apple
1 orange
0.5 cup frozen berries of choice

Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Happy smoothie-ing, friends!

 

P.S. On a writing-related note, I’m working on a 35,000-word novella for Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class. Right now I’m at 27,522 words. Good times!

 

 

An Introduction

“If you don’t have a blog, go home and start one tonight!”—A panelist at LTUE

(Sorry, ma’am, but I waited almost exactly a month).

After all these years, it’s finally happened. I started a blog. Here it is.

As an explanation, this blog is about good times. For me, good times include (but are not limited to) family, food, chemistry, books, and writing—especially writing. And now, a bit of an introduction:

My name is Elissa Cardon Nysetvold. I was born and raised in the sweet little town of Provo, Utah. Here I met and married Tom Nysetvold, the quintessential Good Guy. Here’s a picture of us:

Awww. Cute.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first understood the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a child, I thought it would be the perfect complement to a successful career as a high-power homemaker. I’ve written stories throughout my life, but for most of them, my only audience was my little sister (thanks, Rach!).

My original plan was to take a four-year break from writing to learn to be a chemist; during the first few years, I more or less abandoned any writerly aspirations. However, when Tom became aware of this, he applied the whip convinced me to “follow my dreams.”

So here I am, about to graduate from BYU and try to make that dream a reality. And because writers apparently need blogs, I’m hoping this will be a good way to con everyone I know into buying my books keep friends and family up to date on the good times to come.