WHY I LOVE THE HOBBIT

If you are a regular reader then I'm sure you are already aware, but I'm in the middle of writing my first fantasy novel called Then a Penguin Walked In.

You weren't aware? Well, good news, you can read it while I write it, just go HERE.

Anyway, I have great love for the fantasy genre. In fact, you could say that I cut my reading teeth on fantasy. I mean, from age twelve all the way up through my early thirties, fantasy books were pretty much the only thing I read (apart from Douglas Adams, Stephen King, and the occasional Star Wars book).Yet, to be honest, I don't read much of it anymore.

But then, last summer, I began to get the kernels of an idea for Then a Penguin Walked In, and it got me all nostalgic for the books of my youth. So I've been trying, since then, to go back and read all those old books I'd read many times before. But here's the thing, I'd gotten rid of most of those books long, long ago. So it took a bit of doing, and the local library, to track some of this stuff down . . . and I've barely touched the surface.

I'd begun to really start giving this whole reading books without pictures thing a serious go in the early 80's. I was about 12.

But my love for fantasy goes back to 1977 when Rankin/Bass put out an animated version of the Hobbit on TV.

Well, I was just simply entranced. Dwarves, a wizard, goblins, wargs, elves, a dragon. This movie spoke to me on so many levels, of which, as a lad of just single digits, I didn't have many. But dang did it press all my buttons.

And a hobbit? What was a hobbit?

I'd never heard of the Hobbit before, had no idea that it was a book, much less a classic.


Eventually, I did learn of the book once I'd hit double digits. I'd stumbled upon it at the library in grade school.

The Hobbit was my introduction into the fantasy genre, and what was, for me at the time, "big boy books".

I wore that book out.

I mentioned in my love for Dragonlance that it was those books that had gotten me into fantasy. And yes, that's true. The Dragonlance books got me into reading more and more fantasy books.

The Hobbit, on the other hand, introduced me to fantasy as a whole.

I'd read the Hobbit because of the TV movie. I'd read the Dragonlance Chronicles because of the Hobbit. I devoured as much fantasy as I could because of the Dragonlance Chronicles.

Once I started down that path I left the Hobbit in my dust and didn't look back.

Even when I read Lord of Rings, I left the Hobbit on the shelf, despite the fact that it came in the box set with the trilogy of the One Ring.

Enter Peter Jackson and the movies.


Well, even then I didn't crack open the book. It wasn't until I recently watched the Hobbit movies for the third time that I picked it back up.

See, in the movies, in an effort to tie them in even more to the Lord of the Rings movies, our heroes are perused throughout by orcs. Heck, in The Battle of Five Armies, one of those armies are orcs.

As I watched this, I smiled to myself over the change. In the book, it wasn't orcs, it was goblins. In fact, my memory conjured up scenes of goblins riding wargs. But then I paused. Was that in the book? Or the animated TV movie? It had been so long that the two were melding together. It was then that I'd decided it was time to read the book once more.


Okay, so real quick, if you've never read the book, watched the movies, and have no idea what the story is about . . .

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit.

Hobbits are small, a bit roundish in the belly, and have thick leathery soles on their fur-covered feet. But most importantly, hobbits have a love of home and no desire to go out and see the world, much less go on an adventure.

But Bilbo does just that. But only after being visited by the wandering wizard, Gandalf the Grey, and no less than thirteen dwarves.

Gandalf, it seems, had promised these dwarves that Bilbo would accompany them on their quest to liberate their ancient mountain home from the great dragon, Smaug.

Bilbo, with much needed convincing, goes along with them and they have themselves many adventures.

My first impression after all these years?

Well, I couldn't help but smile when I read the opening:
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
I did they same thing when I saw An Unexpected Journey for the first time.

That was the one thing about the book that really stuck with me over the years. That opening. And, like a hobbit-hole, it was comforting.

My second impression?

I forgot how fun the book was.

This wasn't what I'd remembered fantasy to be. I mean, I know it was considered a kid's book at the time (might still be, I don't know), but there were moments where I felt that J.R.R. Tolkien was doing Douglas Adams before Douglas Adams knew what to do with it.


The scene with the trolls was especially amusing. That's the stuff right there as far as I am concerned. I mean, you got three trolls, three monsters intent on eating our heroes, very scary stuff. Yet they go by Tom, Bert, and Bill. Not Slogoth Dwarfkiller, Flowgat the Skullcrusher, and Dazogran the Impaler of Anyone That Looks at Him Funny. Nope. Just plain old Tom, Bert, and Bill.

The movies were grim and serious with a few lighthearted moments. The book was lighthearted with a few grim and serious moments.

That's why I loved the book as a kid, and that's why I love the book still.

Grim and serious are never more grim and serious then when you drop them into a lighthearted story. It's something that I hope I can do with Then a Penguin Walked In, because it has to be done right. But when it's done right, those moments of grim seriousness are given more gravitas, they mean that much more. But it has to be done right, otherwise they feel out of place.

Tolkien does it right.

Thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien. Thank you for the Hobbit.

My youngest, who is so in love with the Harry Potter books that she would marry them if given the chance, recently read the Hobbit. She too enjoyed the book. Not so much with the first movie. We didn't get more than an hour in and she was done.

So yes, one more time, thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien.


Oh, and I was a bit surprised to discover that there were no orcs whatsoever in the book. Not one.

And the goblins riding wargs? That was from the animated TV movie, not the book.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DAD

A while back we got ourselves a new stove.

My Dad tells me that he wanted our old, broken, does not work stove, which I thought was a bit odd.

"I'm going to use it as yard art," he explains, which I thought was even more odd.

But then I see it sitting there in the back corner of my parent's fifteen acres.


When I tell people the story, and show them the picture they say:

"Ah, so that's where you get it from."

Thanks, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

I didn't write one of these for my Mom on Mother's Day.

Do I feel bad about that? Sure.

But then, I did get her a damn cute card about a little red-haired boy who loves his Mommy, so I think she's okay.

WHERE IDEAS COME FROM

Last night I had go out for a bag of ice.

I live in a very small town. We don't have a place to buy ice. Not at 9:30 PM anyway. We have to drive in to the next town to do that.

Trust me, I'm going somewhere.

There is construction being done on the one road that connects where I am, to where I'm going, so it's down to just one lane for a little less than a mile. This has been going on for weeks, and rather than have some poor couple of guys out there with those SLOW/STOP signs 24/7, they put up a portable traffic light at each end. Now, I don't know how it all works, but based on the wait time, the lights appear to run on a timer.

The light goes green on one end and stays green for a certain amount of time. Then it goes yellow, then red. The light on the opposite end doesn't go green automatically at that point. Instead, they both stay red for a good five minutes or so. About three times the length of time it would take for a line of cars to drive down that one lane stretch of road at the minimum speed limit.

That means that if you hit the light as it turns red, you're looking at about ten minutes of wait time. Which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're sitting at a red light, it feels like forever.

Keep in mind, these time-frames are just estimates, I've never actually sat there and timed it all. The OCD side of me really wants to, but in the end it sounds like a lot of work, so I've never gone that extra step.

So anyway, I'm heading back home with a bag of ice in the car and I hit that red light.

So I wait.

In the dark.

And the darkness was quite thick last night. This is, after all, out in the relative middle of nowhere.

The only light you have out there it what's coming from the moon and the stars, and of course, your headlights and that of the red traffic light. If there are other cars out there with you, that adds to the light, but it's all mostly ahead of you and behind. To the sides, stretching out into the farmland, is a deep blackness that your eyes cannot penetrate.

Me, I'm waiting at the light and looking out of the passenger window, watching the fireflies dance and flicker out in the dark. The radio had crap on, and I had nothing to plug my phone into the car stereo, so I just sat and stared out into the night.

It didn't take long for me to wonder what was out there in the dark, sitting out there just beyond the light, watching me.

As that thought hit me I began to imagine various scenarios, and soon I had a good idea for a short story.

Will I ever write it?

Maybe. Possibly. I'm not going to write it now, I can tell you that.

But the idea is there, it's on paper, just waiting for me to do something with it.

I have quite a few of those sitting around.

I'll do something with them at some point.

DEER SEASON!

The deer are trying to kill me.

It's because I know too much.

I don't have much time left, but before I go, before they take me, I need to warn you all.

See, one morning, just a few years ago now, as I made my daily morning drive to work, I spied a pair of deer off to my right grazing calmly in an open field misted with the early morning dew. I took a moment to take in their magnificent beauty, their splendor, their grace, and that’s when I noticed something that turned my insides to ice and made bile rise in my throat.

These deer were not afraid.

They were staring intently at me with cold, black, calculating eyes. Their calm demeanor filled me with such fear that I would not have been surprised had they rose to stand on their hind legs, threw a pair of defiant fists into the air, and called out to me: “We’re here! We’re deer! Get used to it!”

And so, as the dread took hold of me, I tried not to vomit as I sped away.

Though I now worry for my safety, and the safety of my family, I know that I have to tell my story. You need to know the truth, as scary as it might be. To put it simply, the deer community no longer fear the human race. If anything, they seem to hate us. What I felt that morning wasn’t just my own cold terror, I felt the contempt that came from those deer eyes. I felt the anger, and I knew at that moment that the deer were plotting our demise.

I can’t be sure when this happened. I can’t be sure what set of circumstances turned these placid creatures against us, but evidently our hunters aren’t out there doing what needs to be done each and every deer season. They aren’t out there striking fear into the hearts of deer everywhere. If our orange-clothed brethren were doing their jobs correctly, then deer would run screaming in terror at the site of us. Yet there they were. Two deer calmly watching as I drove by. They were fearless, almost ... arrogant.

Something needs to be done. We need to strike first while the deer are still planning their revolution. First and foremost, we need to put a stop to all those deer out there who feel that they have a right to just be out walking about on our public roads. Get those hunters out there, I say. Lets thin that deer population down a bit so that I don’t have to drive with my heart in my throat every time I get in my car.

Now, I’ve never really been a deer lover, but I’ve never really disliked them either. Live and let live, that’s my motto. However, after hitting two deer with my car within a year’s time, I’ve really become a deer hater, and God save any deer that puts itself in my path. I support the right to bear arms. I support the right to arm bears. I support anything and everything that we can do to kill off a couple thousand deer so I can feel safe driving those public back roads again.

Let me get something straight here real quick. Regardless of what I just said, I’m not really here to endorse a campaign to slaughter all the deer in the world just so that I can take my attention off the roadside searching for deer and put it where it should be, searching the road itself for all the stupid people out there behind the wheel. No, I think that there’s another answer. An alternative that will keep the deer alive and thriving, yet will keep them in their place. In the woods where they belong and as far away from humans as possible.

Here’s what I’m proposing. We should gather up a large group of deer, take them somewhere nice and secluded, strap them to tables, and make them watch Bambi.

That’s right, Bambi. The Disney movie about that cute little deer.

I think once the deer population gets a load of that movie we won’t have to worry about them anymore. You see, in Bambi the deer and other innocent woodland creatures encounter Man only twice during the entire flick. The first time is near the beginning of the film when a group of hunters kill Bambi’s mother and set fire to the forest. The second time Man enters the film is near the end when Bambi is all grown up. Man shows up again in the form of hunters, and after setting their dogs on Bambi ... they set fire to the forest.

Now if that doesn’t send a message to the deer community that Man is not a species to be trifled with, then I don’t know what will. Bambi teaches animals everywhere that Man is to be feared. Not only will we kill you and your loved ones, we will set fire to your home.

What’s that all about, anyway? In Bambi, human beings in general are portrayed as blood thirsty pyromaniacs whose only goal in life is the eradication of the forest and all that dwell within. Was this really what Walt Disney was trying to say? That Man is inherently evil, while all the woodland creatures are innocent and fluffy and cuddly and have never done anyone any harm?

Apparently old Walt never had the passenger side mirror ripped off his car by some “innocent” deer out to get his jollies by dodging cars on the freeway. Evidently Mr. Disney was a little too busy making plans to have his head frozen to go out and drive America’s back roads at night and flinch at every shadow that projects itself onto the road.

That’s the problem that arises from hitting not one, but two deer within the space of a year. You flinch and jerk every time something moves in your peripherals when you’re out driving. You choke on your heart each time a shadow moves in the ditch ahead of you. You swallow your own vomit whenever a dog runs out from the yard of a farmhouse. OK, maybe that’s just me, but driving used to be a fun activity for me. It was a way of escape. I could kick up the AC to near intolerable levels, light up a cigarette, throw a little hair metal or old school hip hop into the CD player and just cruise. Now however, I am in constant “Watch and Wait” mode. My eyes are perpetually swerving to the left and right, always watching, always knowing that the next mile could be my last. I curse at each car that dares to speed past me on one of those back country roads.

“I hope you hit a deer!” I scream at them, my mouth frothing and my eyes bulging as I shake my fist in anger at the receding tail lights.

No one should have to live like that, but I do. I do because I am now in the know. I know what’s really going on out there with the deer among the green. I know why they no longer seem afraid of Man. I know, because I looked into the eyes of those two deer that morning. I saw what was in those eyes, and what I saw wasn’t fear.

It was hate. Pure and simple hate for Man and everything we stand for. That's when I realized that the deer were plotting against us. I’m not sure why, but I could see from the look in those eyes that it was true. Maybe they’re sick of all the hunting we do? Maybe they just feel that they were here first and that we are the interlopers? Maybe, just maybe, the deer have seen Bambi.

I think that’s it. I think that one, lone deer out there crept up to a drive-in theater while the place was showing Bambi, and that solitary deer believed the propaganda that Disney was spewing. That deer saw the movie and came away with the feeling that Man had to be stopped. So it went forth, and told it’s tale to any and all deer it encountered. I can see it now. In my head it’s a cheesy television montage of deer in all parts of the country, spreading the hate for Man to the tune of We’re Not Gonna Take It, by Twisted Sister.

Soon a movement was formed in the deer community. A movement with no other purpose than the complete and total annihilation of the entire human race. Mass genocide carried out by deer.

I could see it in the eyes of those deer that morning. I saw that had they been standing closer to the highway that morning, they would have burst out in front of my car, sacrificing their own lives in an attempt to end mine. That’s the tactics being used by the deer currently. Hang out on the roadside, look for cars full of people, and take them out by any means necessary. It’s guerrilla warfare, deer style. Why do you think these “accidents” involving cars and deer only happen during the dusky hours? Because that’s when they are near invisible.

It’s not going to be long however, before the deer realize that this plan just isn’t working in the capacity that they need it to. It’s just too damn slow. It’s not going to be long before the deer decide to take it up a notch and soon we’ll have an army of pissed off deer, storming a nuclear missile silo in an attempt to get their hooves on a nuke. Once that happens, all Hell’s gonna break loose.

Take heed and prepare, good people. Arm yourselves. Stock up on canned goods and bottled water. Keep close to your loved ones my friends, because the deer are coming, and when they do, they’ll come on silent hooves.

I’m taking a big risk by telling everyone this. I know they’ve targeted me, they’ve tried twice already. But I’m a little too slippery for them.

I can feel them watching me now as I type this. But I cannot, will not, lie down! I must fight! The people need to be informed of this coming Armageddon.

The people must know.

The people must know.

Be wary. The deer are out there.

WHY STEEVEN ORR ELSE?


ACCORDING TO THE WEBSITE howmanyofme.com, there are 52,554 people in the U.S. with the last name Orr.

Furthermore, there are 1,269,455 people in the U.S. with the first name Steven, 879,852 people in the U.S. with the first name Stephen, and there are fewer than 1,623 people in the U.S. with the first name Steeven.

Stay with me, I’m building to something.

Of the 52,554 people with the last name Orr; 205 are named Steven, 142 are named Stephen, but only 1 is named Steeven.

That would be me.

Now, I don’t know how accurate these statistics are, the site itself claims that it is “More accurate than a Magic 8-ball. Less accurate than distributing and collecting 300 million surveys.” It also admits that while the information does come from the Census Bureau, it’s actually quite old. Not as old as me, but old all the same.

Still, it is interesting data.


I use it here for two reasons.

One: I always like to point out how unique my first name is. I mean when you think that out of the three hundred and some odd million people there are kicking it in the United States, less than two thousand spell their name the same as I do. Now, if I’ve done the math correctly, and there’s more than a good chance that I haven’t, I am part of the just 0.00051037735849057% of the population of these United States with that spelling.

But there is a downside to that uniqueness.

For example, when I’m at my second job and folks see my name tag, I am invariably asked:

“Are there really two e’s in your name?”

“Three, actually,” I would respond, and we’d both have a good laugh.

If pressed further on why my named is spelled the way it is, I would tell them the truth.

I am named after my Dad’s high school friend who never made it back from Viet Nam.

Why his parent’s chose to spell his name with three e’s, I have no idea.


Another disadvantage of having a name spelled as I do: Folks always feel the need to correct it for me. Meaning, I’ll fill out a form, I’ll put “Steeven” in the first name field and somewhere down the line someone sees that and says to themselves:

“Now surely that isn’t how he spells his name. I mean, sure, the form is filled out in pen, but it’s obvious this guy doesn’t know the first thing about how to spell his own name. I’ll take it upon myself to correct such an oversight. He’ll thank me for it later when he discovers his mistake.”

In fact, if I go to Google and type in: “Where does the name Steeven come from”, even Google corrects it for me as this is what I get back:

"Including results for Where does the name Steven come from"

Three pages in with nothing regarding the name Steeven, and the results switch to:

Including results for Where does the name Stephen come from

It’s twenty pages in before I finally give up, start over, and choose the Search only for Where does the name Steeven come from option.

From there all I can find is one site, behindthename.com, that tells me that Steeven is a variant of Steven and that it’s French.

That explains my love for french fries.

OK, terrible joke, but I make no apologies.


The second reason I began with the above statistics is to show that once I explain why I chose Steeven Orr Else as the name for my website, I know that there will be at least 52,554 people out in there in the States who will know exactly where I’m coming from.

See, when you have a name like Orr, growing up, you hear this a lot:

“What’s your name?”

“Steeven Orr.”

“Steeven Orr? Steeven or what?” This would inevitably be followed by brays of laughter. One-sided, of course.

I would like to think that if all 52,554 Orrs are reading this, that they would feel me.

Throughout the first few years of this sort of behavior, I’d pretend to laugh along with the original genius, or O.G., who came up with the creative jibe, but eventually I began to reply in a very simple sort of way.

THEM: What’s your name?

ME: Steeven Orr.

THEM: Steeven Orr? Steeven or what?

ME: Steeven or else.

I would typically follow it up with a grin.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to be intimidating. I mean, I am a very large and hairy man. But Intimidating I am not.

I just needed something to say. Some sort of reply. Something to throw back other than laughing uncomfortably along with them.

And to tell you the truth, it’s probably been twenty years since I’ve had to use the reply because people stopped asking.

So, back in October of 2011, when I was ready to buy my domain name, it just felt right to use SteevenOrrElse.com.

And now you know.

Even if you hadn’t wanted to.


APRIL IS AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH



When my son, Simon, was two-and-a-half years old, he was diagnosed with autism.

He's now 14.

He's high functioning and sensory seeking. Meaning we got lucky.

There are many others who were not as lucky.

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and every April my family and I Light It Up Blue.

What does that mean?

From Autims Speaks:
Light It Up Blue is a unique global initiative by Autism Speaks to help raise awareness about the growing public health concern that is autism. Iconic landmarks around the world will Light It Up Blue to show their support on April 2, 2012 - World Autism Awareness Day.
We do it all month long.

We got our blue light bulbs and Karen, my wife, has been passing them out to neighbors and friends.

I try to do my bit here on the site by changing the background to blue.

I've also posted, as you'll see above, one of the old strips from Our Adventure Continues, the comic strip that I used to write with my good artist friend, Harold C. Jennett III (and by "good" I mean both good artist, and good friend).

It's always been one of my favorite strips because it is, of course, so personal, and Harold captured the two of us perfectly.

That strip was put up in April of 2013. Back then, just four years ago, 1 in every 88 children were diagnosed with autism.

But as of 2016, per The Autism Society:
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.
So what can you do?

Well, you can Light It Up Blue for starters.

If you'd like to donate to the cause, I'll point you to the ABC of NC Child Development Center.

This is in North Carolina. I'm not in North Carolina, but I actually know some people involved with the ABC of NC and I like the idea of money going to a place that I am just a little bit connected to.

But hey, there are all sorts of local services out there near you. Find one and donate if you'd rather give closer to home.

Otherwise, I invite you to donate to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network at autisticadvocacy.org