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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2003 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Watching the movies, I was less struck by potential anti-semitism than by (no doubt unintentional) undertones of western ethnocentrism. Particularly with regard to the varying types of humans. It's hard for me not to notice that the "good humans" were distinctly European. They're even labeled as "men of the west." The "bad humans," on the other hand, are "Easterlings." They ride Elephant-like creatures (Oliphaunts, to be precise) and their costuming has a flavor that is distinctly non-western. A scene in the "Two Towers" extended cut with Faromir questioning whether or not a given dead Easterling is truly evil (which is taken in some from the books, I believe) helps to undermine this perception, but in the original cut of the movie, these undertones are kind of disturbing. I detect shades of Tolkien's dear friend C. S. Lewis's thinly veiled Muslims from the Narnia books.

Nevertheless, I tend to give all of those involved The Lord of the Rings the benefit of the doubt regarding undertones such as these. I think that this sort of mythology tends to naturally take on that kind of tone, whether intentionally or not.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2003 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i have heard about ethnocentricism in the books as well. i do agree when you say (paraphrasing) that in mythology it is hard to avoid, especially when dealing with representation through colors (white traditonally being "good", and black, or dark, traditionally being "bad"), and especially when those colors are associated with skin. i do think that rather than muslims, however, the orcs are, possisbly, "huns" which around this time were being portrayed none to kindly in WPA government posters. anyway, just a theory i heard. i'm sure others will disagree.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
i have heard about ethnocentricism in the books as well. i do agree when you say (paraphrasing) that in mythology it is hard to avoid, especially when dealing with representation through colors (white traditonally being "good", and black, or dark, traditionally being "bad"), and especially when those colors are associated with skin. i do think that rather than muslims, however, the orcs are, possisbly, "huns" which around this time were being portrayed none to kindly in WPA government posters. anyway, just a theory i heard. i'm sure others will disagree.


I think the accusations of ethnocentricism are just so much smoke. Best just to let it drift away. Sure the "men of the west" are the good guys and the "Easterlings" are the bad guys, but it is just a story.

I dunno, sometimes it's just best to not dissect too deeply when it comes to entertainment, especially in regard to stuff from earlier eras.

Birth of a Nation was based on a play called the Klansmen and was full of racial stereotypes, but it is still the first feature length film and a landmark of cinematography. Before his descent into insanity (and the later distortions of his works by the Nazis) Nietzche was an influential philosopher. Buck Rogers is a lot of fun, but the bad guys were all "evil yellow skinned Mongols." Same with Flash Gordon (evil Mongols from space no less!). Old cartoons like Merrie Melodies etc. are full of racial stereotypes, but they're still a lot of fun to watch. And so on and on...

I guess the point I'm making is do people really want to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

*shrug* Either way. I'm just rambling at this point. Personally, I find it kind of weird that no one has brought up Watto from SW yet in relation to the whole Gollum bit.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if tolkien, or anyone, is subversive in their art, being "just a story" and "entertainment" is even more dangerous than to come right out preach negativity. no one listens to idiots spewing from radical lefts or rights (okay SOME people do), but people will listen to hobbits. my point here is not to bring down tolkien, but just to use him to illustrate my point that writing political agendas into stories has been done since as long as there have been stories. again, i'm not accusing tolkien of being some white supremist or british enthnocentrist but to think that he had absoluetly no agenda in the trilogy might be far fetched.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cyborg Caveman wrote:

I dunno, sometimes it's just best to not dissect too deeply when it comes to entertainment, especially in regard to stuff from earlier eras.



Yes and no. I agree that we should be able to still enjoy and appreciate things in spite of them possibly expressing viewpoints we find offensive. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't read critically and be aware of this kind of subtext. History shows us that romantic fiction, uncritically received, can be dangerous. Mark Twain blamed Sir Walter Scott for causing the Civil War, and the man had a point. Someone mentioned the Orcs as potentially being "Huns," the (inaccurate) characterization of the Germans in WWI. Tolkien himself was present for the massive, useless destruction that sort of talk helped bring about.

I think, particularly in this day and age, we need to be very careful about the sort of literature and entertainment that influences us. With wars going on in the very east that is seemingly portrayed darkly in these films, and rhetoric coming out of the Presidency that reduces the world to black and white terms reminiscent of Middle Earth, we seem to be in the sort of position where this kind of thing can be dangerous once again. I fear the "people who are different from us are evil" mentality in film in a day when the real world seems to be moving more and more in that direction

I'm not saying don't see it, and I'm not saying don't like it. I'm certainly not saying that either Tolkien or Peter Jackson want us to destroy the infidels. But Sir Walter Scott didn't want the Civil War, and Wagner didn't want the holocaust, so I'm just saying be aware.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's really no way I can say this without being dismissive but - - what a load of crap. Wether or not fiction is written with an agenda (and more often than not what is seen as an "agenda" in modern eyes is usually just the prevailing belief of the period not some conspiracy) the only people that will get taken in by it are those who would get taken in by just about anything.

Face it - - the vast majority of the human race always have and always will be ignorant cattle. If it wasn't Nietzche or Wagner or the Bible galvanizing some violent pogrom straight out of the dark ages it would be Sun Tzu or Goethe or the Caballah or whatever else the demagogue of the week (who usually isn't intelligent enough to write his own "Book of Truth") decided to build his extremist platform upon.

Entertainment is entertainment and the intelligent man can discern whatever "agenda" is in it and still enjoy whatever there is to be enjoyed about it without "having to be careful" about romantic/popular fiction or what have you. Whenever I hear someone talking about that sort of thing I can't help but think they're just a Nazi of another stripe.

There are lazy black people in reality- - does this mean that they can't be depicted in books or movies because that happens to be a prevailing racial stereotype?

There are plenty of violent Irish radical activists - - hell, plenty of drunk micks for that matter - - does this mean they can't be depicted in popular media because it conforms to some kind of racial stereotype?

No more jokes about British people with bad teeth, because a percentage of the British people have gone to the dentist?

No more depicting Asians as pronouncing 'r' as 'l'?

No more Huey Long style southern politicians? No more inbred deviants a la deliverance?

Seriously, where does this shit end?
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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cyborg Caveman wrote:

Entertainment is entertainment and the intelligent man can discern whatever "agenda" is in it and still enjoy whatever there is to be enjoyed about it without "having to be careful" about romantic/popular fiction or what have you.


If you'd actually read my post instead of putting together some caricature of a PC argument, you'd realize that we actually agree on this. What I meant by "be careful" is to discern what subtext is in something and enjoy it anyway. Note that I didn't say "agenda" I said "subtext." I specifically said that these writers do not intend the sort of things we're finding

Cyborg Caveman wrote:

Whenever I hear someone talking about that sort of thing I can't help but think they're (sic) just a Nazi of another stripe.


What? I'm sorry....

What?

I think I should be offended at being called a Nazi....but this paragraph is just nonsense. I can't defend myself because I honestly don't understand what is supposed to make me a Nazi of any "stripe."


At any rate, neither I nor anyone else in this thread suggested that we expunge fiction in any of the ways mentioned. Nor would I. I have no problem with people making whatever they want. I'll probably watch/read it. If it's good, I'll enjoy it. But I'll keep my guard up.

At any rate, I offered historical examples of literature unintentionally sparking devastating mentalities in people. Given that Cyborg Caveman did not actually refute those examples, I don't feel bad about similarly dismissing his argument that mine is a "load of crap." It may be so, but at least it's crap with evidence to back it up.

Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion about gay Hobbits smoking marijuana.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a little too hung over to turn this into the tit for tat debate you seem to want this to be, but I'll respond as best I'm able...

Anonymous wrote:
If you'd actually read my post instead of putting together some caricature of a PC argument, you'd realize that we actually agree on this. What I meant by "be careful" is to discern what subtext is in something and enjoy it anyway.


Call me crazy, but when I'm reading fiction I like to enjoy what I'm reading, not have some self imposed watchdog sitting on my shoulder saying "now you can enjoy this, but this and this and this are all bad. And this is unenlightened. And this is an ignorant product of its time, etc." Can't I just possibly enjoy the story whole and entire? I read a book for the purposes of reading it - -not to write an English paper about its "subtext".

Anonymous wrote:
What? I'm sorry....

What?

I think I should be offended at being called a Nazi....but this paragraph is just nonsense. I can't defend myself because I honestly don't understand what is supposed to make me a Nazi of any "stripe."


Be offended if you like. It certainly wasn't my intention to offend you. Happily, we've got a lot of rights in America, but there is no right to not be offended. Nor do you need to defend yourself. You're not being attacked. My exact wording was "I can't help but think" therefor you can chalk it up to my own foolishness if you wish. It wasn't meant as namecalling or what have you.

Anonymous wrote:
At any rate, neither I nor anyone else in this thread suggested that we expunge fiction in any of the ways mentioned.


No, what you suggested was we police our own thoughts while we read something just to make sure none of that evil "subtext" creeps in. Wouldn't want to be guilty of thoughtcrime after all.

Anonymous wrote:
At any rate, I offered historical examples of literature unintentionally sparking devastating mentalities in people. Given that Cyborg Caveman did not actually refute those examples, I don't feel bad about similarly dismissing his argument that mine is a "load of crap." It may be so, but at least it's crap with evidence to back it up.


What's to refute? The inane idea that books make people kill people? That books make people resort to violence to get what they want? That books make people hate other people that are different from them? I have some bad news for you, my friend. Humans were doing that well before there were any books. Those devastating mentalities have been with us since the beginning of human consciousness. However, if it makes you more comfortable with the world we live in to think all that will go away if people would only more carefully screen the "subtext" of the books they read, well, go right ahead.

Wagner didn't want the Holocaust - - fine, I guess its lucky for him he didn't cause it, eh? How would we know what Wagner thought about it anyway? He died in the 19th century. You feel Mark Twain had a point when he blamed the Civil War on Sir Walter Scott. I don't. A difference of opinion. Sir Walter Scott didn't want the Civil War - - fine, it's a blot on America's history that her own people did want it.

Still, according to you, if I had taken the time to read your posts I'd see we actually agree. If that is so then we have both arrived at the same place from vastly different paths. Good enough for me I suppose.

Which brings us back to our dope smoking hobbits. Heh. If never fails to amaze me how far afield these threads can get. Worse, I'm always a willing participant in these little sidebars.

Anyway - - Happy New Year, chief.
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Connor Moran
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I wonder about the mind that "can't help but" equate the suggestion that we read critically with the massacre of 12 million innocents, I think I'm going to let this one go. I think I unintentionallly sparked a sort of argument that I didn't really want and that is probably terribly boring to the rest of the board (assuming anyone else is actually reading this). Mea Culpa.

A Happy New Year to all, and my your 2004 be filled with buckets of kittens, minor appliances, and dancing pipesmoking hobbits.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion about gay Hobbits smoking marijuana.



hobbits smoke bud? well, legolas isn't my favorite anymore.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of pot smokin' hobbits...or should I say Slobbits...check this out
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, I find the sorts of questions Connor Moran posed both interesting and valid. I don't think he was advocating some kind of "thought police"-style censorship, in fact he explicitly disavowed such things. There's no reason to jump all over him.

I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies immensely, while agreeing that they play into some of our most barbaric instincts (particularly the external demon archetype and the seductive myth of pure good and evil) despite some equally enlightened messages (such as the corrosive power of power itself). It's possible that they will, like Wagner's music, be very much in synch with the mood of those who could, in the long run, send us down the road to complete annihilation. They might even tip the balance in some small way. If we all agree that these visions need to be given free reign in a free society (and I'm pretty sure that we do, Connor included) than what's the harm in trying to understand them to the best of our abilities?

I used to be wary, like Greg O., of any attempts to look for political subtext in art. I was especially dubious of those that discounted the aesthetic values of a work once a perceived moral/political flaw had been found. But as an AUTHOR these discussions help me on the path to figuring out what kind of world view I want to offer in my own work. The fact that I CAN say whatever I want with my art makes me want to give something in return to the society that safeguards that right. So, the notion of moral fiction is interesting to me right now. It's one of the reasons I like Miyazaki's movies so much, especially Princess Mononoke, with it's treatment of evil as a disease of the spirit and a byproduct of ignorance and hatred.

I'll be seeing Return of the King again tomorrow and I expect to enjoy every minute of it. But I'm also going to be thinking about the kinds of stories I want to create next, and they'll be about a very different kind of world.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not opposed to viewing the world in black and white terms of good and evil, because I believe genuine evil exists. If you want proof, just watch the films taken during the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of WWII. The horrors that were perpetrated by the Nazi regime were the result of evil men setting up a Thugocracy, which put murderers in positions of power, and seduced an entire nation into abandoning all sense of morality. One might say the same about the Soviet Union under Stalin, to a certain extent. I think viewing the world as simply gray is dangerous, because it leads to an acceptance of evil, and a dismissal of qualities good.

I think LOTR teaches us a valuable lesson, if we are willing to learn it. The lesson is that evil exist, and there are times when good people must take up arms against it, lest they perish. Nobody wants war. But sometimes it is necessary if free people are to survive. There is very profound line in Two Towers, when Aragorn tells King Th?oden that war has come to Rohan, whether he wants it or not. He must either fight to defend his lands and his people, or be overrun and slaughtered.

I think peace and love are noble concepts to aspire to, but it's childish to think the bad people will go away if we just close our eyes and wish it. There can be no utopia of peace and love until we rid ourselves of evil. Sadly, I doubt this day will come anytime soon. Chamberlain's folly of 1938 proved that you can't negotiate with evil. Evil is pretty bold when it perceives weakness, but it's also pretty cowardly when it is faced by the strength of good.

It's just like the bully in the schoolyard. If you let him continue to pick on you, he'll continue to pick on you. If you stand up to him and knock him on his ass, he'll leave you alone. I know this first hand. I was always the shortest boy in class, and that always made me a target for bullies. But my father taught me how to fight, and stand up for my self. Thus, bullies never picked on me for long.

And like Scott, I'm planing to go see ROTK again on Saturday. This time I'm gonna wear Depends. Boy, won't that be a pleasant smell in the theater.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 5:55 pm    Post subject: Greg the Longwinded speaketh... Reply with quote

Scott McCloud wrote:
Personally, I find the sorts of questions Connor Moran posed both interesting and valid. I don't think he was advocating some kind of "thought police"-style censorship, in fact he explicitly disavowed such things. There's no reason to jump all over him.


My comments were not meant as an attack upon Connor in any way. He does raise interesting points. They just happen to be points I don't agree with. I have a brusque manner which sometimes makes a discussion more confrontational than I would like. However, that said, when I see scapegoating of any kind (be it Hitler's jews, Connor's devastating mentalities sparked by literary subtext, or Rip's belief in pure evil) used as a means to explain the ills man inflicts upon himself - - well, it makes me alternately grit my teeth or just roll my eyes. Whatever happened to personal accountability? The beast, the germ of destruction, "evil", whatever you want to call it, lives in each person.

Hell, for lack of a better analogy, remeber that episode of Star Trek where Kirk gets split in two? One violent and agressive, the other gentle and apathetic - - nothing could really be accomplished by the one without the other. Human nature is a balancing act between our brute instincts and our angelic aspirations. Giving in solely to one or the other is, to my mind, the fast track to destruction.

Scott McCloud wrote:
I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies immensely, while agreeing that they play into some of our most barbaric instincts (particularly the external demon archetype and the seductive myth of pure good and evil)


The vast majority of fantasy literature is lousy with this stuff. So much so that among my group of friends the "Big Disembodied Dark Guy" has become little more than a joke. I attribute this to fantasy literature being very much the mythology of the modern era, the outward embodiment of an inner struggle between the light and dark elements of ourselves, rather than an allegory to the rise and fall of real world societies. Man externalizing the barbarism inside himself in an effort to exorcize it. If evil is a disease (as you mentioned) then it is both hereditary and congenital.

Scott McCloud wrote:
I used to be wary, like Greg O., of any attempts to look for political subtext in art. I was especially dubious of those that discounted the aesthetic values of a work once a perceived moral/political flaw had been found. But as an AUTHOR these discussions help me on the path to figuring out what kind of world view I want to offer in my own work.


Oh, I read things into almost any form of entertainment I'm consuming. It's inevitable. Man looks for meaning in most everything. I just stop short of blaming entertainment for the ills of our (or indeed any) society and try to enjoy the movie, book, or what have you for what it is. I see popular entertainment as a sign of the times not the cause of them. Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and the Venus novels might all brim with hints of white superioty, neo colonial adventurism, and a belief in eugenics, etc. but damned if ERB isn't still one of the best adventure writers on the planet.

Scott McCloud wrote:
The fact that I CAN say whatever I want with my art makes me want to give something in return to the society that safeguards that right.


Whereas I see it as individuals must safeguard their right to express themselves as they please. It's not the "freedom hating terrorists" that can curtail my civil liberties on a whim, but the government that is "fighting" them. Society is merely a tool for organizing large groups of people and, like most other tools, its uses can be bent and twisted. The two edged sword as it were. Guns don't kill people, people kill people, etc. The same society that protects our rights can take them away. It is simply a matter of the quality of the people who are administrating it and, in a broader sense, the people composing the society.

Scott McCloud wrote:
I'll be seeing Return of the King again tomorrow and I expect to enjoy every minute of it. But I'm also going to be thinking about the kinds of stories I want to create next, and they'll be about a very different kind of world.


My own personal visions also tend to range pretty far afield from classic Tolkien-ish fantasy, which in no way detracts from enjoying his works, the movies based upon them, or the works of his numerous imitators. All in all I think it was a damn fine trilogy. Also I seem to recall hearing soemthing about the Hobbit being done as a stand alone prequel. Anyone know anything about this?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 11:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Greg the Longwinded speaketh... Reply with quote

Cyborg Caveman wrote:
Hell, for lack of a better analogy, remeber that episode of Star Trek where Kirk gets split in two?

I think SOMEbody was watching the Sci-Fi channel today.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2004 3:26 am    Post subject: The Enemy Within Reply with quote

Cyborg Caveman wrote:
Hell, for lack of a better analogy, remeber that episode of Star Trek where Kirk gets split in two?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think at the end of the movie Frodo and the elves set sail for America.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, they sail to the Undying Lands in the West.

Of course, if you look at a map of Arda (the world to which Middle-Earth belongs) one could interpret Middle-Earth as the Old World, and the Undying Lands as the New World. I guess that would mean that Elves are the ancestors of the American-Indians.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, Rip, the Undying Lands aren't on the surface of Arda. Arda was flat until the end of the Second Age, when the world changed and Numenor sunk into the ocean. The change in the world was that it was now round, however the Undying Lands are not West, over the horizon, but West, into the distance. Christopher Columbus would never have found them even if he'd sailed completely around the Earth three times with thirty ships. He still might have called the inhabitants "Elves" though.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess you must have read the Silmarillion, Greg.

I actually have a copy of it (complete with full color illustrations by Ted Naismith) but I never got around to reading it cover to cover. I started to read it a long time ago, but I got bored rather quickly. I also found the first few chapters a bit confusing. I felt it didn't have to same powerful prose style that The Hobbit, and the LOTR trilogy (both of which I've read twice) have. I guess that has to do with the fact the Silmarillion was published postumously.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I admit it- I'm a geek.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'll admit my own geekyness. Back when I was a freshman at Bronx High School of Science, I took part of in a Lord of the Rings game. The school was divided into the lands of Middle Earth; the gym was Mordor, the library was Gondor, etc (actually, I don't remember exactly what part of the school was what, but you get the idea). The players were each given a role in the story. I was given the role of Gimli. We even had a ring on a chain which represented the One Ring. I bore the ring myself for two periods on one day.

The real geeky thing of it was the way we did combat. Every player caried a ruler to subtitute for swords, and dice. If opposing players met each other in the hall, they would cross rulers, and roll dice to determine who won the battle. If I remeber correctly, I was killed in library by one of the Nazgul. After my character was killed, I lost the interest in the whole thing, so I don't remember who won.

So, Greg, you ain't the only Tolkien nerd around here.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm... Gimli, in the Library, by a Nazgul.

Sound like Tolkien version of Clue.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's only a matter of time when those Dark Lords at the Evil Hasbro Toy Empire come out with Middle-Earth Clue. If you want, I can go down to their offices on W23rd St. and pitch it to them (for a fee, of course)

Hmmm, I guess that makes Chelsea Mordor (which would make New Jersey Gondor)
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