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August 31, 2015

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:47 PM * 56 comments

So as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I’ve been on a four-day bike ride around the IJsselmeer, the great body of fresh water in the northwest of the Netherlands. I’ve blogged about it on (Day Zero, Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four) and put a bunch of photos on Flickr.

While I was gone, Martin was busy being sneaky. See, we have a new fence in the backyard, the previous one having blown over and been replaced by an epic bodge job. We also replaced the out-of-control evergreen hedge along the side of the yard with more fencing. It’s lovely, light, and clean, but now we have a corner that will never get any sun at all.

In passing one day, I suggested that a statue might go well in that corner. It was an idle thought.

So while I was gone, Martin swore the kids to secrecy, drove all the way across the country (not, admittedly, very far), loaded much heaviness into our dinky little car, and set something up for me to find.


Upon seeing it, I said what one says at that moment.

Comments on Look!:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:00 PM:

Before anyone feels called upon to point it out: it's not so much a copy of the original as a statue of the original. An interpretation.

Also, something that can fit into both a car and a garden.

I like it. I keep breaking into fits of giggles.

#2 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:03 PM:

Oh, what a delight. You've got a good pack there, abi.

#3 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:05 PM:

A welcome piece of delight today.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:07 PM:

Hola! I said the same thing when I saw it.

Your family is awesome.

#5 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:13 PM:

That's *wonderful!* Much giggling here, too.

Own sneakiness: a period of newly bought, unexpectedly fixer-upper house. Several months down the road and we're getting pretty settled. DH needs to be gone on a business trip for a few days.

When he got back, he got a demonstration that yes, one could indeed paint tiles. I de-aqua-fied the color with a base layer of tile paint, then gave them a color that provided a more interesting contrast with the toilet&bath fixtures.

The best part was the reaction when DH saw it. Made the intense, deadline-driven work entirely worth it.

Crazy(and very much admiring Martin's choice of statuary... as well as his choice to move on that idle thought of yours)Soph

#6 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:17 PM:

How tremendous! It took a copy of Ms Victory to convince me that sculpture was indeed both delightful and something that I could apprehend. So that's a particularly fine choice from my POV.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:27 PM:

crazysoph @5:

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is special for me. Martin picked it knowing that.

When Patrick, Teresa, and I went to Paris last year, it was the only thing we were willing to trek through the Louvre to look at. (The Louvre is a sophisticated form of torture for anyone with mobility issues.)

It is, in my opinion, one of the finest things that the human race has ever produced. Alongside the Pantheon.

#8 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:38 PM:

Abi @7

Ah, lovely. Not braining very well, so your further explanation is much appreciated.

Crazy(and continues looking at the pretty)Soph

#9 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:51 PM:

I concur with the fits of giggles.

Seems to be the season for such things. Spotted this on the way to work this morning. Seems to be cropping up elsewhere, too.

#10 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 03:54 PM:

A couple of weeks ago, I was in an online discussion of different kinds of soda, and someone with the handle "Haladir" was talking up Moxie. And they added,

(And, yes, I know that you have never heard of it unless you've lived in New England or are over 80 years of age.)

To which I replied,

Or have read "Bored of the Rings," and had the jokes explained to you.

And it occurred to me that a whole lot of people on that particular board might never have read "Bored of the Rings," and so would not know what one says at that moment.

(Also, hi crazysoph!)

#11 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:01 PM:

crazysoph #8: Considering this as far too old for spoilers: In the spoof book Bored of the Rings, a character distracts an enemy (IIRC, the Merry-analog vs. a Nazgul-analog) with: "Look! It's the Winged Victory of Samothrace!"

#12 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:08 PM:

Good man, Martin.

And now you can call it the Winged Victory of [Your Town], unless that would seem sacrilegious.

#13 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:09 PM:

_Bored of the Rings_ was republished a couple of years ago -- with added footnotes to explain the 1960s-era pop culture jokes. (The original joke footnotes are still there too.)

I can see the artistic decision there but it's still strange. It's become a translated text.

(I agree that this is a better decision than trying to update the jokes to the 2010s. That wouldn't sit right with anybody.)

#14 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:24 PM:

Oh, how lovely!

#15 ::: Jonathan Adams ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:55 PM:

Oh, very nice indeed!

#16 ::: David MB ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 04:57 PM:

I was pleased that my google query for "look the winged" supplied the completion "victory of samothrace" and gave the TV Tropes article on Bored of the Rings as the first hit. It may be been influenced by other MLers making the same query, of course.

#17 ::: Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 05:03 PM:

David MB, there are a number of folks involved with TV Tropes who are of a fannish nature, even if they are not actually fen in the sense that Harry Warner or even Ned Brooks would have recognized. And like Wikipedia, I think there are Some of Ours involved in it at the roots.

#18 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 05:11 PM:


#19 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 05:22 PM:

That's a lovely thing to return home to.

For a dear friend's significant natal anniversary, I obtained a shelf-sized reproduction of that statue. It was received with much glee.

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 05:38 PM:

David MB @16: TV Tropes article on Bored of the Rings as the first hit.

I have a habit of coming on these things when it's a reference to a reference of a reference. My first encounter with this particular one was back in the days of rec.arts.sf.fandom. I didn't actually realize it was from something until this discussion here.

#21 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 05:39 PM:

I followed your trip with much delight, since some years ago my wife and I made a similar trip through parts of the Netherlands. Even biked across the Afsluitdijk, and had the same good luck you did, although our tail-wind blew us from Den Oever up to Harlingen, i.e. we were going clock-wise rather than counter-clockwise.

I have a very fond memory of encountering a hand-cranked canal ferry that was just big enough for a few bikes and a few people. Very clever design--chains running to the boat from either shore.

You will treasure your trip. Thanks for writing it up.

#22 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 07:08 PM:

While I biked roads covered in grime
Martin made good use of his time
I got off my trike
And saw our new Nike
But the middle two lines didn't rhyme.

#23 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 07:40 PM:

I thought that very thing.

There were a few more things I was itching to see at the Louvre, The Venus de Milo, Ben Franklin, a Stele of Hammurabi.

But the Nike was (with the de Milo) at the top of the list. We also saw the Mona Lisa. It' bigger than I thought.

That is a splendid thing. Much better than a shrubbery.

#24 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 07:42 PM:

Jon Meltzer, I hadn't realized you were a tar pit!

#25 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 08:00 PM:

Suddenly recall a Benny Hill sketch, involving two actors in a car; one fumbles a line that runs across two cue cards:

Look! What's that in the road?

A head?

#26 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 09:48 PM:

Of course that's what you said.

Anybody got an Indian head penny?

#27 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 10:25 PM:

David MB @16: Interesting. When I put "look the winged" into Google, my top recommended completion options are:
* winged eyeliner look
* winged eye look
* winged eyeliner looks weird on me
* winged eyeliner looks bad on me

… and similar images.

That said, I may not be wired right for Bored of the Rings. I bought it cheap in high school and made myself slog through every chapter, but it basically seemed like a lot of word salad with a few poo-and-fart-level jokes that involved people whose names vaguely resembled folks from the Trilogy. I tried it again about ten years later when I found it in a box, repacking, and still didn't find basically anything in it funny.

This may be generational.

#28 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2015, 11:36 PM:

Thanks for posting about your trip, Abi. I really enjoyed spending time with your contemplation. I'd like to be able to do that sort of thing, the, "Here's a ridiculous ambition... wait, I can do that. So, Saturday then," kind of thing.

Someday I will visit the Netherlands.

#29 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 03:07 AM:

Just a big grin from me. Lovely.

#30 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 07:56 AM:

Jacque - I didn't actually realize it was from something until this discussion here.

The same for me - I knew it was fannish, but not the source (I tried to read Bored of the Rings and stopped).

#31 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 08:23 AM:

Honestly, I thought it had originated on Making Light.

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 09:02 AM:

I learned it from people I know who are fandom adjacent. Working the Faire in Agoura in the '80s. I tried to read Bored of the Rings, but bounced, hard.

Not my style of lampoon.

#33 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 09:38 AM:

I loved following the bicycle trip on Twitter! It's just the sort of thing I might find myself doing. My piece of dream garden statuary is the Three Graces (though I might settle for standing stones with Ogham inscriptions). I guess I'd never wondered about the origins of the "Look…!" thing.To make up for my habitual social out-of-the-loopness, I seem to have an over-developed ability to pick up on the essential functional core of this sort of meme such that I can roll with it without having to understand it. (I can manage that with a lot of tv and movie stuff that I've never watched but have listened to people talking about.) I recall bouncing off Bored of the Rings rather solidly. Not my kind of humor.

#34 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 10:21 AM:

I remember thoroughly enjoying Bored of the Rings, and my husband-to-be laughing uproariously at it. But we were undergrads at the time, and there's a reason some types of humor are called sophomoric. It's also the first thing I remember reading that made fun of the tropes of epic fantasy, and that wouldn't have been a novelty to readers who came to it later. I tried to reread it not too long ago - it surfaced in a move - and found that the suck fairy had been at it.

But I still have fond memories. I don't remember the Winged Victory in it, though I do remember Moxie and Pepsi and Arrowroot, son of Arrowshirt.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 12:39 PM:

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid @30: The same for me - I knew it was fannish, but not the source (I tried to read Bored of the Rings and stopped).

Satire and parody (with a very few exceptions) consistently fall flat for me, so I remember when Bored went around, but I didn't even bother picking it up. (Which is why I didn't recognize that that was a quote.)

(I often find things like that funnier when they've been disembodied from their origins. See also: Goon Show, Firesign Theater, and Monty Python references. I generally prefer them in their "random" form.)

#36 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 01:25 PM:

Anyone who bounced off "Bored of the Rings" and would like to see a satire of epic fantasy, might try "Grunts" by Mary Gentle.

#37 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 02:05 PM:

Re Alex@36:

Just be aware that the protags aren't very pleasant, and there are some potentially triggery bits.

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 02:17 PM:

Now that is a lovely surprise to come home to!

JBWoodford, #10: You may tell your online acquaintance that there's a specialty-sodas store in Pasadena, CA which sells Moxie, so a lot of people in that area will have heard of it or even tried it. I did. It wasn't half bad; I'd order it again.

Elliott, #27: Or maybe not. I took a look at Bored of the Rings on the shelf when it first came out and didn't find anything in it worth spending money on. But then, I wasn't much of a fan of National Lampoon in general; their idea of humor didn't align with mine.

Similarly, I was on a bawdy-songs mailing list for a while some 15 or 20 years ago, but unsubscribed when it became obvious that their definition of "bawdy" was primarily frat-house bodily-function gags, which I classify as "crude" or "vulgar" rather than bawdy.

HRJ, #33: I do that too, mostly with movie- and TV-related stuff. I don't consume much in that area myself, but I have so many friends who do that I end up picking it up by osmosis.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Secondary thought: Am I the only person who would be interested in seeing an "artist's conception" restored version of things like the Winged Victory or the Venus de Milo? I understand that they are valued for their antiquity, which includes all the various damaged bits; but their original audiences saw them whole, and I wish I could have at least an approximation of that as well.

#40 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 02:34 PM:

Lee @39:

It's not precisely the same, but you might find this article about attempts to recreate the (very bright) original colors of Greek sculpture.

#41 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 02:50 PM:

JBWoodford@37: Yes, I...appreciated Grunts, but I didn't actually enjoy it for that reason. I hit Bored of the Rings much earlier and laughed at the time, but it didn't stick with me.

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 05:36 PM:

abi: what a lovely surprise to come home to! And I've much enjoyed following your travels.

#43 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 09:20 PM:

The bulk of Bored of the Rings was forgettable and kind of stupid, in a late 60s/early 70s style. There were a few lines that stuck, though, and "Hola!...." was one of them.

The phenomenon is not limited to that time period; the actual "More cowbell!" sketch is, IMNSHO, also pretty stupid (though maybe that's because I find Will Farrell to be teeth-grindingly awful). OTOH, the one funny line that everyone remembers is kind of useful, in a Tamarian sort of way.

#44 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2015, 11:35 PM:

Lee @ 39

I've seen a reconstruction that posits that the Venus de Milo was originally spinning with a hand-spindle. I'm not particularly convinced (assuming that the "Venus" part is right), since spinning wasn't really one of her characteristics. More of a "not incompatible" judgement.

#45 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2015, 12:15 AM:

I've see pictures of people spinning with a hand spindle and I don't think that it's exactly compatible, either. (Wrong posture, I think.)

#46 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2015, 01:41 PM:

PJ @ 45 - re spinning Venus

Part of the presentation included a discussion of differences between ancient Greek hand-spinning techniques and the currently popular "drop-spinning" method, so your doubts may address a different aspect of the question.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2015, 01:46 PM:

I was thinking a distaff and any kind of spindle, although it's possible, I gather, with some of the methods of handspinning.

#48 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2015, 07:39 PM:

Lee: I've seen a reconstruction that posits that the Venus de Milo was originally spinning with a hand-spindle. I'm not particularly convinced (assuming that the "Venus" part is right), since spinning wasn't really one of her characteristics. More of a "not incompatible" judgement.

I'm not convinced. One, not the way one spins. One CAN spin that way, but it's a piss-poor way to do things if one wants to make a quantity of yarn. Yes, I admit artists play fast and loose with things, but... Spinning was a known function (a bedrock one), and it's one of those things which is more likely than not to be more accurately presented.

The other thing is the nature of mythic figures who spin. You have The fates (none of them young and lovely), Arachne, possibly presented in such a form. But that's pretty much it for spinning (Athena, Penelope, Helen, Philomena, etc. are presented as weavers: also women's work (though from at least the middle ages, perhaps in parallel with the rise of the spinning wheel women spun and men wove, but I digress). So Venus, not so much. Arachne, maybe; but she's not a really sympathetic figure in the mythology. Doesn't rule her out (after all, Adonis isn't either), but she's a minor figure.

Heather: I saw that piece, and while I like Barber's work, I've always had some quibbles with it*. Drop spinning is not new, and the imagery I've seen from Greek art looks a lot like the manner I use today. Standing, with the wool in front of me, and the spindle depending from the right hand, as the left controls the loose fiber being drafted through the right hand to the new yarn.

So I'd like to see the sources use to defend the idea this is based on "differences between ancient and modern uses of the drop spindle".

Yes, there are cultural differences in spinning methods, but there are limitations imposed by physics, the presented gap between the distaff hand and the drafting hand is huge. More to the point, with one arm broken flush to the shoulder there is no way to infer where that arm went. I've spun lots of places (subways, airplanes, ferries) and hipshot isn't comfortable for me. So if she was spinning, there was a huge amount of artistic license.

*in much of her writing I find leaps of logic which are plausible, but not completely supported by the evidence. That' fine, but she took many of those leaps and used them as support for other arguments, which she presented as concluded facts. A sort of circular reasoning. I don't impute intent to decieve. It feels a lot more like confirmation bias, of the sort the intel world gets when one source is talking to two people, each of whom is unaware the other is "confirming" something which only has one source.

I've re-read some of it since I started spinning more, and my quibbles are actually a bit greater than they were.

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2015, 07:42 PM:

P J: The reconstruction has a distaff: Here is an article on it.

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2015, 10:55 AM:

David Harmon @ 11: Actually, it was Frodo-and-Sam analogs tripping Gollum-analog (as Jon Meltzer @ 24 notes).

Clifton @ 26: that was my first reaction on following "Look!" to the picture. It didn't help that Return of the King was running on our cable recently enough to remind me just how overblown Jackson's filming of this scene was. Not that he didn't have encouragement from other examples of JRRT's prose....

OtterB @ 34: my wife and I were very amused some decades ago when picking through the result of a couple of fans merging their collections: two copies of BotR. No, we don't know whether they had a third to keep or just both tossed their separates.

The Lampoon when I was skimming it tended to the bludgeon rather than the scalpel. I remember them trying to satirize Mad and thinking the result looked like jealousy. OTOH, BotR did provide the name of a drink my gaming group came up with: "Hairy Toes", a glass of cranberry juice with a shot of "peach schnapps" (the DeKuyper liqueurish stuff, not real brandy).

on what the "Venus de Milo" was doing: can anyone cite an indication that the name is correct, rather than just an assumption made about a female statue not carrying the obvious attributes (shield/bow/sheaf) and/or dignity of all of the Greek goddesses who aren't Aphrodite? The Wikipedia article quotes early reports to dismiss them, but it doesn't give any indication that anyone ever did enough archaeology at the site to know what it was for. Why should it not be a mortal in a mortal activity (cf the many statues of athletes)?
      contra Terry, Wikipedia also suggests that a spindle would be an appropriate symbol for a goddess of human fertility -- but that's an argument I can't weigh.

#51 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2015, 11:13 AM:

Wikipedia also suggests that a spindle would be an appropriate symbol for a goddess of human fertility

Wikipedia being what it is, it's possible that that claim comes from the same source as the idea that she's spinning does in the first place, a book called Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It's a pretty interesting book, and has some fascinating stuff in it, but there are also a few things about it that make me want to take it with a grain of salt.

For example, Barber talks about weaving a reconstruction of an existing Iron Age textile fragment, and mentions how frustrating the warping was because she kept having to count, "OK, now 17 in green, now 15 in brown, 16 in green, 18 in brown..." Then she sat down to weave and it was nice, simple, 16 shots of each color. She says it didn't even occur to her until she was weaving that maybe in the original the nice even "16 threads of each color" had been the warp, and the weft had been done by eye to match stripe widths. I know this is a picky thing to worry about, but it makes me slightly less inclined to take other statements in the book at face value. :)

#52 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2015, 12:23 PM:

CHip @ 50,

Why should it not be a mortal in a mortal activity (cf the many statues of athletes)?

Um... because of the wings...?

#53 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2015, 12:38 PM:

Cassy B @52:

The statue that CHip is referring to in #50 is the decidedly wingless Venus de Milo, not the Winged Victory that the thread started out discussing.

#54 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2015, 04:38 PM:

Lorax @53, whoops; sorry. Lost the thread there. Apologies for my confusion...

#56 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2021, 07:13 PM:

James Nicoll likes to say, "Context is for the weak." But I am weak.

The Musée du Louvre launches online collection database and new website

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