News Flash: Debate Committee Adds Bursting Into Tears as Legitimate Line of Reasoning

Debaters needing to add that extra little oomph to their presentations now have an additional tool at their disposal, thanks to a decision by the International Committee on Rhetorical Standards.  They can always burst into tears.

The prolapsis ad lacrimas maneuver permits debaters to have a deeply emotional outburst near the end of the debating period, augmenting their argument by portraying their opponents as cruel and unreasoning monsters.

Long considered as a questionable if highly effective rhetorical device rather than a line of serious philosophical inquiry, the maneuver was approved in the proceedings of the Committee’s 82nd quadrennial conference as a legitimate method of reaching truth and general understanding.

“This is genuinely exciting,” said Professor Ernst Heltvildt of the College of Experimental Epistemology, who sponsored the resolution.  “It’s the first new logical approach we’ve endorsed in decades.  It’s vital for debaters to have this important tool in the new age of Emotional Intelligence.”

In the final debate on the resolution, opponents pointed out that prolapsis ad lacrimas is a close cousin (and frequent associate) of the ad hominem fallacy, which transforms debate about an issue into a debate about the debaters.  “Surely this is just legitimizing the playing of the ‘victim’ card,” said Dr. Dee Vernunft of the University of Pomme de Terre’s Advanced Philosophy faculty in closing arguments on the matter.  “Making your opponent look bad may change the flavor of the debate, but it doesn’t change the facts presented.  Endorsing the prolapsis ad lacrimas will reduce the search for truth to a question of who can throw the biggest hissy fit.”

The record of the debate then indicates that Prof. Heltvildt, who was arguing in support of the resolution, then burst into tears, explained how close to his heart the resolution was, and accused his opponent of “heartlessly perpetuating a strictly rational outlook with an irrational hatred of emotional influences.”

The resolution then passed by a 10-to-1 margin.

The move to adopt an emotional outburst as a legitimate tool of logical analysis has attracted some comment in epistemological circles.  “The relationship between emotion and logic has always been rather tenuous,” said Professor Mitt Kopfschmerzen of the University of Punxsutawney’s College of Applied Philosophy.  “While emotion can sometimes provide important insights on issues, it has certain limits as an analytical tool.  These days we seem to be observing a growing distrust of logic as such, and a growing emphasis on ’emotional truth,’ which seems to be interpreted in different ways.  Do they mean a) facts about one’s emotional state at a particular time or b) things that one believes to be true because one feels strongly about them?

“There’s a vast difference between the statements ‘It is true that I feel very strongly about this’ and ‘This must be true because I feel it to be’–or, for that matter, ‘You should be convinced of my opinion simply because I feel so strongly about it.’  I fear adopting the prolapsis ad lacrimas will only confuse the matter further.”

In other news, shares of companies that manufacture facial tissues and eye drops surged in late trading for no obvious reason.

Copyright 2018


News Flash: Mobs Riot to Celebrate Richard III Debate Contest Result

Oxford, England–Jubilant mobs streamed out of the Sheldonian Theatre this evening following an upset victory by the Buckingham debate team over the York team in this year’s annual debate finals.

Thames Valley Police forces were called out to help quell rioting in Broad Street and looting in the historic Covered Market as supporters of Team Buckingham celebrated this important win.

“This hooliganism is absolutely unwarranted,” police spokesman Inspector Robert Fuzz told the local newspaper.  “I don’t care if their team proved conclusively that the Princes in the Tower were murdered by the Duke of Buckingham; that doesn’t give them the right to go around smashing property.”

Team York, which in past years has often successfully argued for the guilt of Richard III in connection with the disappearance of the Princes, was widely considered the favorite in this contest, having easily knocked out Team Tyrrell in the semi-finals.   The Buckingham team only reached the finals after narrowly defeating Team Tudor in double overtime.

The finals match included a number of  tense moments.  At one point a member of Team Buckingham was ejected over a vicious ad hominem argument against the leader of Team York.  Then, in the final moments of the game, Team York failed to intercept a desperate reductio ad absurdum argument lobbed by Team Buckingham, allowing the latter to score and win the match.

Inspector Fuzz cited the dramatic finale as a contributing factor to the rioting.  “While the spectacular ending to the game certainly left the fans in an excited state,” he said, “it is in fact possible to be excited without wreaking havoc on your host city.”

According to Inspector Fuzz, the police are deploying standard crowd-control measures, such as tear gas, water cannons, and a series of public-address systems broadcasting lengthy lectures on modern macroeconomic theory.

Estimates of the damage have yet to be compiled, pending review by insurance adjusters.

Representatives of Team Buckingham issued a statement expressing dismay over the rioting as well as a ten-minute argument for why it wasn’t their fault.

Organizers of the annual debate over the fate of the princes say that they will investigate ways of reducing potential violence ahead of next year’s contest, possibly including a moratorium on dramatic finishes.

Copyright 2018

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

News Flash: Count of Monte Cristo Hospitalized; Sandwich Blamed

Marseilles, France–Sources close to the household of the Count of Monte Cristo report that the Count was taken to the Marseilles hospital late last night with symptoms resembling either severe gastric distress or a heart attack.

The Count, whose opulent lifestyle caused a splash in Paris society six years ago, recently returned to his native Marseilles for an extended visit following a world tour, ostensibly to pursue his researches into haute cuisine, specifically the croque-monsieur sandwich.

Authorities are exploring the possibility that the Count’s research into the sandwich, a deep-fried ham-and-cheese sandwich with jam and powdered sugar, may have been the cause of this week’s hospital visit.  The Count is said to have been on a regular diet of the confection since before his return to France.

“The Count once spoke of having fulfilled his lifelong mission when he left Paris six years ago,” said Dr. Avrigny (retired), a friend of the Morrel family, who are said to be close associates of the Count.  “It’s not unusual that a person in such conditions would experience a bit of ennui before finding a new interest in life.  And while culinary pursuits can certainly be worthwhile, we seem to have reached the point of obsession–consuming three of these sandwiches a day seems excessive.”

Rumors of the Count’s illness elicited a variety of responses.

Health Minister Lucien Dubray issued a statement warning against over-indulgence in rich foods.  “It’s all very well to try to achieve the perfect croque-monsieur,” the statement said, “but one should try to ensure that Monsieur doesn’t croak in the process.”

“To me a heart attack seems unlikely,” said Mme. Danglars, a nurse at the Marseilles hospital and the former wife of one of the Count’s business associates. “You have to have a heart first.  Still, it’s hardly a surprise that he’s in ill health; when you eat that kind of food, it’s bound to wreak some kind of vengeance; it’s just a question of when.  It would serve him right if he died of it and ended up getting the sandwich named after him.”

Neither the hospital nor the Countess of Monte Cristo has released an official statement on the Count’s prognosis.

Copyright 2017

The Time-Value of Tom Bombadil

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: Hacker Killed by Self-Driving Car

La Satira News Service

Police in Manhattan have identified the victim of an accident involving a self-driving car as Lars Gynt, 34, of Oslo, Norway.  Mr. Gynt, a computer systems integration consultant, was attempting to cross a street outside a crosswalk when he was struck by the vehicle, which apparently failed to register the presence of a pedestrian.

The human occupant of the vehicle, Nadia Driver of Lower Muttering, Vt., was not injured.  Ms. Driver reported that Mr. Gynt had stepped out in front of the car without looking.  The car, an electric-powered model, would have been inaudible in the busy street.

Some witnesses have suggested that the car, rather than braking, accelerated slightly as it hurtled toward Mr. Gynt.

The company responsible for developing the car, GGM, has declined to comment pending an investigation into the car’s control software, sensors, and telemetry.

The accident highlights continued concerns over the safety and reliability of self-driving cars in the chaotic road environment.  While proponents continue to point out the advantages of computer drivers–faster reaction time, the ability to “see” in multiple directions simultaneously–skeptics often counter with doubts about the computer’s ability to distinguish what it sees or make moral judgments about how to react, as well as the potential for the computer to fall under the malicious control of computer hackers.

In an ironic twist, the hacker category is one that includes Mr. Gynt himself.  Records indicate Mr. Gynt, operating under the handle 1G0Tch@10101010, had worked with a number of hacker organizations over the past decade.  He was also under investigation by the FBI for his suspected involvement in a previous cyber-attack on control systems developed by GGM.

Rumors that the police are considering the case as one of justifiable homicide by the computer on grounds of self-defense have been flatly denied by police spokespersons.

Copyright 2016

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

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!

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

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’

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


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.