Archive for the ‘International’ Category

The Time-Value of Tom Bombadil

March 15, 2017

Of all the second-tier characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy–and there are many–few perhaps raise as much discussion or garner as much criticism as Tom Bombadil, the mysterious figure whom the hobbits encounter in their first adventures outside the Shire.  Here is a short synopsis of his role in the book, hopefully without too many spoilers:

  • The hobbits leave the Shire and get into trouble.
  • Tom Bombadil bails them out.
  • The hobbits leave Tom Bombadil and get into trouble.
  • Tom Bombadil bails them out and escorts them to the next town.

Bombadil then disappears entirely from the story, having dragged the reader through two and a half chapters punctuated by childish poetry and nonsense words, in which nothing particularly momentous happens and the menace of the Black Riders is completely absent.  At least that’s the criticism.

Some might even go so far as to refer to Bombadil as the Jar Jar Binks of Middle-Earth:  annoying, hard to understand, and mostly pointless (though at least no one would label Bombadil as incompetent).

It is true that there are faster-moving portions of the story, and indeed for those very sensitive to time this episode may seem like a needless extravagance:  witness that the incidents are completely glossed over in the 1981 radio series, as well as the Peter Jackson movies.  (Interestingly, Bombadil was included in the now-lost 1955-6 radio series; but as that production was thoroughly panned by no less a critic than Prof. Tolkien himself, perhaps among producers Bombadil suffers from guilt by association.)  But to say that Bombadil contributes nothing positive to the story is unfair.  At any rate, one could make the argument that, if the Bombadil segment is redundant, so too is the interlude in Lothlorien… in which, again, nothing happens (nothing action-y, anyway) and the inhabitants don’t appear again until after the climax.

At the highest level, of course, one could suggest that the entire epic is unnecessary.  Countless lives were lived before the publication of The Lord of the Rings, and countless lives continue to be lived with little or no exposure to the books, or even the movies.  So perhaps necessity isn’t the best measure to use in this debate.

So what does the Bombadil section contribute to the story?

Even from the narrative perspective, there are contributions.  First, Bombadil fills the narrative space between the Shire and Bree.  While in the Peter Jackson movies it is apparently possible to make the trip from the Shire to Bree is a single evening marathon, the distance in the book is a little longer.  Gandalf is absent and they have yet to meet Strider, so Bombadil acts as a sort of temporary chaperone through the hobbits’ first foray into the wild.  Not wholly unrelated to that point, the adventure allows the hobbits to grow.  There is a distinct difference between the blind panic in their first Bombadil-bailout compared to Frodo’s more hands-on role (so to speak) in the Barrow-wight adventure.  He still needs rescuing, but at least he’s able to grapple with the problem and hold the fort until help arrives.  The hobbits’ growth is perhaps symbolized by the fact that, when they leave Bombadil, they are for the first time armed.  Third, the pause in the action allows time for introspection and a bit of foreshadowing (another similarity to the Lothlorien visit).

But perhaps the most significant contribution–and maybe the one that Bombadil’s critics fail to see as a contribution–is to what we might call “local color.”  Bombadil gives us a look at the sorts of characters that inhabit Tolkien’s world.  True, we’ve already met hobbits, elves, and a wizard; and other creatures are hinted at (did you notice the (presumed) Ent in the Shire in chapter 2 of Book I?).  But here’s a couple of people who are completely different.  In fact Bombadil is never completely explained, even by his (also-enigmatic) spouse Goldberry.  (Readers of The Silmarillion may reasonably peg them as Maiar, but that’s never explicitly stated).  We do learn that Bombadil is a great storyteller; unfortunately we aren’t given the stories themselves, which is a shame:  new material concerning what’s hinted at in the book might do better in the shops than trotting out the The Silmarillion’s grimmer bits in new packaging.

To be fair, I’m not a great fan of Tom Bombadil.  There are other characters who contribute more to the story, but it seems unfair to make him out as pure dead-weight.  After all, if nutrition were the only measure by which we judged our food supply, there are a lot of people in the spice-and-flavorings industry who might suddenly find themselves out of work.

News Flash: Increase in Alien Abduction Reports Tied to Video Game Fad

July 24, 2016

Game May Be Prelude to Invasion, Officials Fear

La Satira News Service

Astatine, NV–Officials at the Center for the Avoidance of Extra-Terestrial Intelligence (CAETI) are mulling the possible connection between the most recent video-game craze and a significant uptick in the number of reported alien abductions.

“In the four or five weeks since this game was released, we’ve seen a thousand percent increase in the number of people coming forward,” said Dr. Elliot Spielberg, director of statistical analysis at CAETI.  “Granted, the original numbers were pretty low, so a thousand percent increase doesn’t mean we’re talking about huge numbers yet, but the trend is frankly alarming.”

According to Dr. Spielberg, the abduction reports cover a variety of experiences, ranging from a simple close encounter to vivisection.  The alleged victims are returned in generally good health, apart from a tendency toward short-temper, neglect of responsibilities, and obsession with the game.  “Of course it’s difficult to tell whether these symptoms are indicative of an actual abduction experience, or merely video game addiction,” Dr. Spielberg admitted.

The game in question, Pachymen Grow, requires players to use their smartphones to travel to different locations in the physical world in search of Pachymen, cartoon-like creatures that can be collected and “grown” to compete in so-called Pachymen Jams.  Some areas turn into Pachymen hot-spots, areas were large numbers of Pachymen “hang out” and can be collected by players.  The peripatetic nature of the game, while supposedly promoting exercise and social interaction, can also lead players to explore in relative isolation, leaving them vulnerable.

One hot-spot was reported at a former storage facility for Caterpillar heavy equipment.  The isolated location continues to be a hot-spot but has waned in popularity since reports surfaced of the temporary abduction of Pachyman players from the site on three occasions.  The affected players did not respond to requests for interviews.

Meanwhile, many are left wondering, if a connection does exist, whether the abductions might be a prelude to a more serious action.  “Whoever they are, they’re taking a lot of effort to train people to move in the direction of the nearest Pachymen activity,” says Dr. Spielberg.  “At some point, all they’ll need to do to harvest a sizeable portion of humanity is to set up massive hot-spots near major population centers and pick ’em off as they come.  And we’re still no nearer to knowing who or why.”

CAETI investigators will continue to monitor the situation.  The organization recently received a government grant to cover the costs of a number of smartphones which Dr. Spielberg claims will be used by staff for “field research” on the subject.

Copyright 2016

News Flash: King’s Skeleton Found in Parking Lot–Again!

March 27, 2015

La Satira News Service

Leicester, England–25 March 2595.  A panel of prominent archaeologists announced at a news conference this morning that the skeleton found under a slab of tarmac at the Leicestershire Regional Spaceport last year is, indeed, the sadly-abused body of King Richard III, the last English monarch to die in battle.

The skeleton was located and dug up after researchers identified Landing Platform 83 as the site of the former Leicester Cathedral, which was demolished in the late 22nd century following an error at the regional zoning and planning office.  Richard’s body had been interred at the Cathedral in 2015, where it was laid to rest after being discovered under a parking lot.

“Richard’s skeleton was in remarkably good condition, considering it’s more than a thousand years old,” said Dr. Anne Teak, who discovered the body, “and considering how many vehicles of various descriptions have been parked on top of it over the years.”

Meanwhile, a fight is brewing over where to dispose of the body this time.  Officials with the Leicestershire Tourist Authority and other local government bodies insist that the ancient king should be reburied in the Leicester Generic Religious Purposes Building, the officially-recognized successor to the demolished Cathedral.  Authorities in York, however, claim Richard should be buried there, based on his family’s historic connections to the city and dukedom of York.

All parties are in agreement, however, that the burial should not take place at the business of local personal transport salesman G. M. Ford.  Mr. Ford has suggested that, as the poor fellow seemed to keep ending up under parking lots, a lot of trouble could be saved by reburying him under Mr. Ford’s vehicle showroom.  “We like to say that our transport vehicles are fit for a king,” Mr. Ford was quoted as saying.  “Why shouldn’t our showroom be as well?”

“There’s no doubt Richard III had a turbulent life and a short and unhappy reign,” said Dr. Teak at the news conference.  “Who could have guessed, though, that that turbulence would go into quite this many extra innings?”

Copyright 2015

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News Flash: Skara Brae Village to Maintain Historic Preservation District

December 30, 2014

Neolithic Times-Gazette

SKARA BRAE, ORKNEY–The Western Orkney Planning Commission voted at a tumultuous meeting last night to retain the Historic Preservation district in Skara Brae Village, over the protests of local residents and property owners.

“There’s no question that Old Skara Brae Village is a vital part of our national heritage,” said Oengus Adomnan, the president of the commission.  “The area’s architecture is unique in the world–all 400 square miles of it.  It would be a crime against the humanities to destroy it in the name of what one might laughingly call progress.”

Residents of the  600-year-old district had petitioned the commission for relief from some of the rules restricting development.  The petition arose after Western Orkney planning administrators declined residents’ applications to install new peat-burning hearths as being “incompatible with the character of the historic district.”

“I don’t mind historic preservation as such,” said Cinaed mac Fergusa, a long-time resident, “but who wants to live in a museum–especially one without modern conveniences?  They keep saying we need to get ahead of climate change but won’t give us the tools to do so.  If we don’t get some relief, property values are going to sink so low we’ll all have to get around by tunneling.  You won’t get anyone who wants to live here.”

The move follows an earlier controversy over the closure of the House Eight Flint Axe Factory, which was shut for environmental reasons two years ago in favor of a new location at Brodgar.  The project foundered due to cost overruns, however, and ran out of money with only the frame of the new building complete, forcing the community to become a net importer of flint tools.

Attempts to repurpose the original House Eight facility with a use compatible with a residential district have not yet met with success.

“When the time comes to evaluate the history of our village, the House Eight fiasco will be seen not as the failure of a project but a failure of vision,” said Adomnan, the commission president.  “We had a wonderful opportunity to improve the welfare of our citizens, but certain parties refused to do what was necessary to make it a success.  Maybe we can use the original House Eight site for affordable housing.”

Resident mac Fergusa recalled the incident differently.  “It was a bad idea from beginning to end,” he said.  “Sure, next door to a factory isn’t the best place to live.  On the other hand, considering that our community is carved out of a waste heap, the notion of living next to a flint axe factory rather pales in comparison.

“And now that we’ve successfully exported those jobs, I hear they want to use the House Eight site to bring in more people–and what are they going to be doing for work, I wonder.”

In other business, the Western Orkney Planning Commission agreed to put out bids for a potential conference center and time machine portal to be located at the currently-abandoned Brogdal site.  The commission also reviewed three bids on a proposed protective wall around Skara Brae, rejecting all three on the grounds that they had come in over the projected budget.

Copyright 2014

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News Flash: Warwick Commission Pins Blame on ‘Lone Henchman’

November 2, 2014

La Satira News Service

WESTMINSTER–In a tumultuous session of Parliament today, the Warwick Commission presented its final report on the disappearance of the young King Edward V and his brother, Richard Duke of York, from the Tower of London in A.D. 1483.

The Commission, headed by Edward, 17th Earl of Warwick, was appointed by Henry VII to investigate the disappearances and comment on its relationship, if any, to the usurpation of the throne by Edward V’s uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester.

According to the report:

“So make it known to those assembled here,
The fate that met our royal cousins dear,
And all that appertains thereto, anon
You shall perceive: It was a henchman lone
Who carried out this foul, unlawful deed.
Hence let us not on silly rumors feed.”

The report concludes that the princes were abducted and probably murdered by one Sir James Tyrrell, acting on his own initiative.  Further, the Commission supported the hypothesis that it would have been possible for Sir James to make his way into the princes’ quarters and carry out his operation without the aid of the two men-at-arms, Dighton and Forrest–the so-called “single bully” theory.

On the other hand, the Commission declined to look into evidence that suggested the vanished princes were ineligible for the throne.  Sir James is believed to be currently at large in France.

The Commission also declined to explain why it chose to deliver its report in iambic pentameter.  “Probably just showing off,” suggested William Long, MP for Old Sarum.  “Still, it might make good dramatic material, once all the furor has died down a bit.  But there’s no way iambic pentameter is going to become the dominant form of literature in England–not in a hundred years.”

Throughout the inquiry, the Commission heard from a number of witnesses who claim to have been in or around the Tower during the period of the Princes’ confinement.  The inquiry was complicated, though, by the fact that many sources whose testimony would have been invaluable, such as Robert Brackenbury, the erstwhile Constable of the Tower, perished during the Battle of Bosworth in A. D. 1485.

Critics of the Commission’s report claim–very quietly–that the young Earl of Warwick is not competent to chair such an important body.  “For one thing,” said one dissenter who referred to himself as Lambert the Unready, “he’s very young, and even if he were older, his upbringing can’t have prepared him for this kind of responsibility.  And then there’s the little detail that he’s related to most of the people involved.  This has conflict-of-interest written all over it.”

“This is a whitewash job if ever I’ve seen one,” said villager Martin Foote of Lower Phalanges, Bucks.  “It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the Ancient Brotherhood of Cement-Mixers weren’t involved.  I mean, who do you think built the staircase that the princes were supposedly buried under?  Of course they’d be involved!”

Depending on whom one asks, suspicion may also rest upon the late Duke of Buckingham, King Louis XII of France, the Pope, and the drivers of the flying carriages occasionally reported in the vicinity of Salisbury Plain.

Others, however, found reason to defend the report as it stands.  “It has the benefit of simplicity,” said clerk  Thomas Occam of Bickingford.  “It doesn’t rely on silly conspiracy theories.  Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t automatically cast blame on that convenient bogeyman, Richard III.  That may be telling.”

A spokesman for the Earl of Warwick brushed off the dissent.  “It is hard to understate the upheaval that these events have caused in the history of our country,” said Sir John Poole of Middleham.  “However, I’m confident that, upon study and reflection, this report will finally close the book on the whole unhappy episode and allow the country to get on with things.  It’s a comfort to know that we won’t have to spend the next five hundred years arguing over it.”

Parliament is expected to consider the full report and vote to accept it later on this month.

Copyright 2014–only 531 years late….

News Flash: Smeagol Estate Sues Otolaryngologist

October 18, 2014


Rhovanion Times-Observer

Lawyers for the estate of Smeagol the Stoor filed suit in Upper Anduin Superior Court this week, claiming that their misdiagnosis led to a life of misery and rejection on the part of their client.

According to the lawsuit, filed by the legal firm of Gridi, Smarmi, Snobi, and Rood on behalf of the estate, physicians at the Gladden Fields Otolaryngology Clinic failed to provide the proper treatment for the sinus condition that caused the plaintiff to begin gurgling in his throat.

According to medical records, Smeagol was diagnosed with acute sinus drainage due to his habit of fishing in marshes and skulking in dank caverns.  This condition gradually worsened to the point where he was constantly swallowing or clearing his throat.  This led to him being given an opprobrious nickname, “Gollum,” and suffering a number of related indignities in addition to the actual suffering caused by his condition.

For treatment, the clinic offered a few prescription herbs and advice to stay out of damp environments such as caves and swamps.

“Clearly, the treatment provided by the clinic was insufficient to the situation,” said Mr. Smarmi on behalf of the plantiff.  “If the condition had been properly dealt with at the outset, my client might never have been subjected to the humiliations that caused him to embark upon his career of murder and mayhem, leading to his eventual ruin.  And I do mean, eventual.”

When asked whom exactly the estate was acting for, since Smeagol himself had no obvious heirs, Mr. Smarmi indicated they were acting in the interests of the plaintiffs of the dozen or so damages cases filed against the estate by various parties over the years, including the Misty Mountains Speleological Society, the City and County of Esgaroth, the City of Dale, the Kingdom of Elvish Mirkwood, and the Ithilien Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.  Additional claims by the Domain of Mordor are held to have lapsed.  “You have to have grist before you can grind,” said Mr. Smarmi, “and you have to have assets before you can meaningfully allocate claims.”

A source close to the defendant suggested the lawsuit was frivolous.  “If the patient won’t follow the prescription provided by the clinic, what can we do?  And it’s not like there were a lot of treatment options to start with.  I mean, we’ve spent the last six thousand years locked into a preindustrial economy with a quasi-feudal political structure.  How do they expect us to produce medical miracles in this sort of milieu?”

Lawyers for the Gladden Fields Otolaryngology Clinic are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the deadline imposed by the Statute of Limitations has passed by more than 550 years.

Copyright 2014 to the extent applicable.  Smeagol and all other characters from Tolkien’s work are the property of the Tolkien estate.  Use of these names in this work is considered to represent Fair Use under applicable copyright laws.

News Flash: Smaug Ouster Weighs on Middle-Earth Economy

July 25, 2014


Rhovanion Times-Observer

A report published today by the Middle-Earth Economic Forecasting Bureau shows that the economy of Rhovanion shrank for a third consecutive quarter, threatening to pull the whole economy of Middle-Earth into recession.  The economic weakness in Rhovanion follows upheaval throughout the region in the wake of the sudden ouster and death of Smaug the Dragon in Esgaroth late last year.

The North Rhovanion Constabulary Force is continuing its investigation into Smaug’s death.  All that is known is that Smaug was shot by a lone bowman as he arrived in Esgaroth by air to consult with local leaders over a growing wave of anti-dragon sentiment.

The economic turbulence immediately following Smaug’s death has been somewhat better documented at this point.  Smaug’s mid-flight demise caused him to crash land on top of the town of Esgaroth, causing damage estimated at 9,435 gold pieces.  The town’s insurance firms have filed a claim against Smaug’s estate for that amount plus 5,000 for pain and suffering on the part of the residents.  Smaug’s demise also precipitated an orc invasion, requiring military involvement from the Dwarves of the Iron Hills and the Elves of Mirkwood to repel.  Both groups have submitted claims against Smaug’s estate to recoup the costs of the intervention.

Further complicating matters, a party of dwarves from the Blue Mountains have petitioned the court for ownership of Smaug’s estate, the bulk of which is represented by the Lonely Mountain and its contents.  The claim is based on the dwarves’ previous ownership of the estate and assertions that Smaug obtained the estate through dubious circumstances.

“The words of these dwarves stand on their heads,” said Ozaun, Smaug’s younger brother and next-of-kin.  “Their claims that Smaug somehow forced his way into ownership of the property are ridiculous.  The Dwarves of Erebor were in a state of financial ruin.  Their very successful extraction of gold and other valuables from the Mountain had caused runaway inflation in prices of commodities like food–particularly and especially food–as well as a significant uptick in criminal activity.  Smaug bought the place out of bankruptcy, reduced the local gold circulation, and through careful estate management has made the place a going proposition once again.  So naturally the dwarves want it back now.”

The extent of Smaug’s economic involvement in the economy of Rhovanion has been a lesson slowly and painfully learned over the last six months.  “Naturally Smaug was extremely interested in the economic well-being of the district,” said Karbomonauksyde, Smaug’s nephew and erstwhile property manager.  “It’s hard to grow your own wealth if all the lands around are economically stagnant.  Do you think dragons grow their hoard by piling it up in a great hall and sitting on it?  Of course not; it has to be invested.”

Much of that investment turned out to be in civic and infrastructure projects, especially in and around Esgaroth.  Projects undertaken by his corporate presence, Dino-Might LLC., included the extension of the pilings on the south side of the city to make room for three more city blocks, the western bridge, and the Great Marketplace.

Dino-Might LLC also provided start-up financing for a number of small businesses, including Forrester’s Blacksmith Shop of West Esgaroth, Iron Hills Savings and Loan, and the North-Lake Pony Farm and Supply Company.

“I don’t think most people quite realized just what place he had in things,” said a spokesman for the government of New Esgaroth.  “He was a major financial partner.  Of course if he caught you mishandling his money he’d eat you alive–so to speak–but he certainly had a claw in a lot that went on around here.  It might be too much to say he had a heart of gold; but he was, in his way, golden.”

Most market-watchers report confidence that a quick solution to the investigation and legal actions could prompt the beginnings of an economic recovery.

Meanwhile, markets were buoyed somewhat on news that redevelopment plans for the long-dilapidated Barad-dûr district in northern Mordor could move forward.  The plans had been held up by disagreements on the requirements for volcano insurance.

Copyright 2014–to the extent that fan fiction can be copyrighted.  Smaug, Middle-Earth, Rhovanion, Esgaroth, and all other entities appearing in “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” are of course properties of the Tolkien estate.  Usage of these entities is deemed to comply with relevant Fair Use provisions.

News Flash: Olympics Mull Change to All-CGI Opening, Closing Ceremonies

February 8, 2014

La Satira News Service

Beset by a series of high-profile problems during the increasingly elaborate opening ceremonies, members of the International Olympic Committee announced that they were considering a strategy to reduce the risk of malfunction by rendering the ceremonies in computer graphics.

The most recent embarrassment occurred in Sochi, when a plan to have five giant snowflakes transform into the five rings of the Olympic symbol failed, leaving four rings and a snowflake.

“Of course we cut away and used rehearsal footage, in which all five snowflakes opened properly,” said Jacques Bourdes, a member of the Ceremonies subcommittee of the IOC.  “The symbolism of the five rings is sacrosanct.  Can you imagine if we’d permitted footage to go out showing the four rings and a snowflake?  People would have spent the next four years talking about how this Olympics had a big asterisk beside it.”

The error followed incidents at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, in which television footage was supplemented with extra fireworks footage and a young girl was presented lip-synching a song actually sung by a girl deemed not “cute” enough by the organizers.

In order to avoid future problems of this sort, while still maintaining the “wow” factor that audiences have come to expect from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, organizers are suggesting that future hosts execute these important events as CGI movies.

“Let’s face it:  it’s awkward for everyone when things don’t go as planned, especially when national prestige is on the line,” said Hans Schnitzer, another member of the Ceremonies subcommittee.  “We’ve reached the point where having something done right is more important than having it done live.  Since computer-generated imagery has gained such a wide acceptance in the general audience, it makes sense that maybe some of the more extravagant effects ought to be done in CGI rather than attempted live.”  Mr. Schnitzer suggested that moving to CGI would also reduce the risk of life and limb from some of the acrobatics that have marked recent ceremonies.

“Even the introduction of the athletes could be rendered in CGI,” Mr. Schnitzer added, pointing out that attendance at the ceremonies can be unnecessarily tiring for athletes competing in the earlier events.  Mr. Schnitzer suggested that athletes might use something like a Wii profile to generate an avatar that could be used in their place.

Asked whether attendance at the Olympic ceremonies themselves might suffer, if most of the action was to take place on the screen rather than live and in person, Mr. Schnitzer demurred.  “I don’t see why:  there will be a large screen in the stadium, so they’ll be able to see everything that goes on.  And anyway, there are a lot more home-viewers than people there in person.  But if attendance does suffer, is it that big a deal?  That reduces the logistical problems and risks; and if people want to see a larger audience in person at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, thanks to CGI, we can always add one.”

Asked whether, if the goal of the organizing committee was to prevent unexpected things from happening, it might not be better to cancel the live events and give the medals to the top-seeded participant in each sport, Mr. Schnitzer replied, “Now there’s an idea.”

Rumors that movie directors George Lucas and James Cameron were each maneuvering for an opportunity to take creative control of the 2016 ceremonies were, at this time, unsubstantiated.

Copyright 2014

News Flash: Future Wiltshire Council Approves Salisbury Wood Convention Center

January 7, 2014

La Satira News Service

The Future Wiltshire Economic Development Corporation met this week and approved a plan to upgrade the convention center in Salisbury Wood, replacing the degraded wood structures with pillars of bluestone from the Preseli Hills, near the west coast.

“We believe this plan will really put this part of the countryside on the map,” said Corporation President Kenver ap Gowan.

The plan was not without its controversial side.  “If we’re going to build a convention center, at least we ought to build one with a roof,” said Talan ap Runan.  “So we’re going to have a ring of bluestones.  Whoop-de-do.  If people want to see bluestones, why wouldn’t they just go to the Preseli Hills instead, where they can see them in their native habitat, as it were?”

Several speakers during the public input phase of the meeting objected to the project over the existence of a burial ground in the area.  Mr. ap Gowan remained unconvinced.  “We feel this plan will show utmost respect to any remains in the area,” he said.  “After all, as long as people are in town for the conventions, they can pay their respects to their ancestors at the same time.”

In a similar vein, Corporation member Gerens ap Trevelyan, a long-time opponent of Mr. ap Gowan’s, brought into question the need for this project in the first place.  “There’s a perfectly serviceable convention center not too far away, over at Avebury,” he said. ” It would be redundant to have one here as well.” Mr. ap Trevelyan went on to suggest that the only reason the project was being seriously considered was its ability to provide income for the Sacred Order of Cement-Mixers, who would be contracted to perform the majority of the work.  Mr. ap Gowan has been accused of being a member of the secretive society.

“Certainly there’s a convention center at Avebury,” said Mr. ap Gowan in response.  “But that’s the point:  it’s over in Avebury.  We want people to come here.”  Mr. ap Gowen then indicated that the Corporation’s executive had already tentatively booked its first convention:  an international gathering of astonomers.  “We’ve even included a few design features specifically to reflect this auspicious occasion,” Mr. ap Gowan said.

The Corporation passed the plan to build the center by a margin of 4-1.

Copyright 2014.

Entries in the Stonehenge Saga:

News Flash: Excelsior Death Launches Inter-Agency Blame Game

August 3, 2013

La Satira News Service

The death of a lone mountaineer on the Excelsior Pass earlier this week left the many agencies that administer the pass bickering among each other over who should get the lion’s share of the blame.

“We had already published a Lowering Tempest Watch and a Raging Torrent Advisory,” said weather bureau spokesman Eric Schneestrum.  “We can’t force people to listen to the weather, much less act on our advisories.”  The spokesman argued that the Passes department should have closed the pass for the duration of the storm.

The Passes Department, for their part, also claimed to have fulfilled their obligations.  “We have one member of staff whose sole job it is to warn passersby to beware the pine tree’s withered branch and beware the awful avalanche,” said Karl Lawine, spokesman for the Passes Department.  “Our records indicate that he did his job.  But if some crazy kid wants to bear for a while ‘mid snow and ice a banner with a strange device, or anything else for that matter, there’s only so much we can do to stop them.  We’ve tried erecting barriers before, but inevitably people go around them.”

Authorities are still trying to identify the deceased, who by a faithful hound half-buried in the snow was found, still grasping with his hands of ice the banner with the strange device, “Excelsior.”  “We think maybe he was with a tour group.  In fact, judging from the banner, we think he was the tour leader but that the people he was leading abandoned him several villages ago.”

“Certainly we abandoned him,” said one tourist.  “We’d heard the warnings, but he insisted on going ever higher.  It’s a noble sentiment, but there are times when it’s carried to excess.  You might say in this case it wasn’t so much Excelsior as Excessior.”

Meanwhile, the persistent loss of life in the pass has spurred government studies for improving safety in the corridor. Proposals include widening the pass, providing well-stocked avalanche shelters at regular intervals, and removing the mountain altogether. Progress on the proposals has stalled, though, in the face of interdeparmental bickering and implementation costs that have proceeded to go ever higher.

Copyright 2013

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