Total Tolkien, What is Canon?

The first ever episode of our brand new Podcast.

 

Total Tolkien.

 

This week our pilot episode is on, what exactly is Canon? What books published by the Tolkien and his estate are part of the official Middle Earth Mythos and which are supplementary works?

 

Listen direct at our site or find us on iTunes.

 

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From the original version of the Hobbit to its latter revised edition, the publishing of the Lord of the Rings on to The Silmarilion, published by his son Christopher soon after his death. 

 

Along with Unfinished Tales, Lost Tails, the Letters of Tolkien and the 12 volume set of The History of Middle Earth.

 

What books fit in where, when were they published and when did Tolkien write them? His works cover a life time but were refined down to several rather small works.

 

And a sneak peak at our up coming episode on Magic in Middle Earth.

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Revenge or Rehabilitation?

This weeks post/episode takes a look at the always controversial topic of the justice system. With a massive prison population an a never ending war on drugs adding to the issue every day, soon 1 out of every 100 men in america will be in prison at some point in their life.

 

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Is prison to answer to all the crimes we use it for, does a white collar money launderer deserve to be in the same place as rapists and murderers

 

Does sating the need for revenge trump our social responsibility to people who quite often are a victim of circumstance?

 

Also on a related note Preston takes a shot at bad drivers who many think deserve prison as well. And Canadas new government sponsored nark app. 

Three Wise Guys #023 Guilty till proved innocent no more!

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode 023 – Guilty till proved innocent no more!

 

Soap Box: Constructive Feedback

 

Legend or Loser: Rolling Stones Magazine and the Boston Bomber cover

 

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This weeks show takes a look at the concept of innocent till proven guilty and the changing opinion to “well your probably guilty of something”

 

DNA databases, licence plate readers and random searches, what benefit do they bring, how much should we tolerate for safety, and whats next? Will we allow it so long as we keep the veneer of freedom?

 

Also a look at the controversial Rolling Stones cover and our first ever split vote on Legend or Loser!

 

Listen direct, or on iTunes, or subscribe!

Three Wise Guys #022

This weeks show takes a look at the established and growing trend of designer drugs, both legal pharmaceuticals and illegal highs. What are the legal, societal and political issues that we face when dealing with this trend in our societies.  

 

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The problems with trying to outlaws them, the issues with rapid addiction and the possible of home made drugs.

 

From their birth mid way through last century to their shift from the laboratory to peoples bathrooms and barns. 

 

Also our soap box looks at the worlds reaction to Edward Snowden and how countries that show support for him and contempt for the USA still dont offer him asylum. 

 

And this weeks Legend or Loser, Wimbledon Winner Andy Murray!

 

Listen at iTunes or Subscribe,  or listen direct online

Segregated Education

Most of us, hopefully, believe, everyone is born equal, but surely by the time they are 10 we know if they are idiots or not?

 

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It sounds harsh, it sounds very utilitarian, it sounds like a way to create a generation of emotionally crippled kids. But it seems to work. Listen Direct or on iTunes, the German education system seems harsh, but it really does work. Show 009 of Three Wise Guys.

 

I suppose I should explain this a little better first… Firstly, I’m originally from New Zealand, our education system is pretty similar to most of the western world, kids go to Kindergarder when they are 3 and 4 for a few hours a day, learn basic ABC’s 123’s, but mostly just developmental things, like playing and being social, leaving Kindergarder most kids can’t read or write or count past 10 unless their parents taught them individually. Then you have primary school from 5-12. There is no entry criteria for primary school, while it is expected most kids would know basic ABC’s and 123’s, they are still covered in the first year along with the foundations of reading and writing, each year getting progressively harder, by the time you leave, you should have decent literacy, Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the basics of algebra (More being aware of them more than being able to do them. Throw in some basic social sciences like history and geography and simmer. In primary school you have one teacher for the entire day who handles all the different classes. 

 

Some schools separate the last two years, when the child is 11-12, and have a intermediate school, kind of a practice highschool, but these are not terribly common. 

 

Then on to highschool, where for the first time, classes are taught by different teachers in different classrooms. You start having to do every class option for at least one term, then every year you get to drop those you dont want and pick up more specialized classes, for the first two years there is just basic, Math and Science, but after 15, they split into different disciplines like Statistics, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, ect 

 

Then on to university or a trade school at 18 if they wish. 

 

This by in large, is similar to how most of the western world handles education, with slight differences in testing and what year certain things are done. 

 

The Germans couldnt be more different if they tried.

 

When I first came to Germany 3 years ago I thought their system brutal, harsh, liable to destroy any student thrust into it. But after seeing the system in action for 3 years, I think we should hold it up as the ideal.

 

They have kindergarden, but theirs runs to 6, and in the last year tends to be a little more proactive in real teaching. 

 

Primary School starts at 7 and goes to 10-11. Now by in large it is fairly similar to most of the west in what they teach and how it is taught.

 

Where the real difference comes in is the final year. At the end of the final year, the teacher evaluates the student, and recommend them what level of highschool to go to, yes they have different grades of school. Before I get into that, I will point out, it is only a recommendation, and while it would obviously be smart to follow it, many parents dont, forcing their children into a higher grade than they can handle, this system has been tweaked several times over the last few years, taking power away from teachers and giving it to parents, which sadly, while we would hope to be a good thing, has resulted in chaos as demanding parents push their children more than they can handle. 

 

For their equivalent of highschool, the German separate into three different levels, the bottom is called “Hop school” and is very basic level of education, focusing more on classes, such as design drawing, woodwork ect, also classes are more designed to be fun and interactive to keep the children amused and paying attention. Students placed here are not of high academic prowess, and usually end up in blue collar work or trade professions. This level finishes at 15, where they can then leave to the work force or get tested into the next rank, which is…

 

The middle rank is “Real School” which is pretty much the equivalent of what most of the western world does for highschool, maybe a bit easier or more focused on “interactive learning” than the standard western school. These schools finish at 16, and children who go to them often move on a work/learn system that is very popular in Germany, where you study for 10-15 hours a week at a school, and spend the rest of the time at on the job learning/working. Jobs such as secretarial work, admin, computer tech, offer are common from this grade. If a child wishes to they can test at the end of this school to continue to…

 

The final grade of school is Gymnasium, which doesn’t have a translation really. This runs all the way up to 17. While they do receive students who are graduated from the lower level schools, it is not terribly common, and they usually lose more through dropping out to the lower grades than they get from people moving up (Especially since parents have been able to over ride teacher recommendations). Gymnasium is a step above what most western schools are, and in the final few years, are more similar to university courses than standard high school. The students are lectured at and are expected to motivate themselves. While a teacher is able to help, learning is self disciplined by in large. I would place most students who graduation from Gymnasium at or above many 1st or 2nd year university students from other nations.

 

At the face of it this system seems really hardcore, judging a 11 year old, guiding their future life plans from such a young age? It is harsh. But it has been shown to work time and time again. My highschool which took everyone had very smart kids, and real trouble makers, and thank God those kids dropped out at 15 (as soon as they are allowed to in NZ) because the rest of us could focus more.

 

How much better would your school have been if the kids who didnt want to learn werent there, and most of the students where at your grade of learning?

 

If you hated highschool because it was hard or not your thing, would you not have preferred a school tailored to teach you life skills and fun interactive learning?

 

The system at this moment has been broken a bit by the Green Government who took the power to place students away from teachers who knew the academic prowess of their students, to the parents, who by in large, force their children into high levels than they can handle, causing massive drop outs from the top level and lower learning standards for everyone involved. While the idea of parents having a say sounds right on the surface, teachers in Germany study for years in this system, parents are quite often blind to what is really in their childs best interests. In the old system, if a parent really didnt agree with the decision of the teacher, they could request a meeting or outside testing, but it was rare, as most had been through the system their selves and knew it worked.

 

I originally though that by placing a child in the mid level school you had decided their fate for ever and denied them access to university (as only students from gymnasium are granted university access), but they always have the option of being tested up if they wish. But most are happy to be placed into any level of school.

 

There is no real stigma about being in the “Dumb” school, as they are often more than happy to be in that level of school and move onto trade jobs, they never wanted a more academic path.

 

Considering the problem New Zealand and many western nations are facing with to many university graduates and not enough people in the trades, maybe a system tailored to the skills of the students is best.

 

Granted it took me years to get used to the system, and to this day, something about it still seems harsh. But with all the options given, and the results that speak for them selves. I cant honestly find a good reason not to support this system of schooling. 

 

I give a much more detailed description on the levels of schooling in the show here, or listen to iTunes with all the episodes, this is show 009, with questions from Preston and Aaron about the problems many in the west think the system has. At the least it is something to ponder. 

In Defence of the Nuclear Dream

This is in reply to a show we did on Nuclear Energy earlier in the year and some really insightful feed back we got from Derek over at EarthEvolution.

 

First I’ll summaries for show for those who havent got around to it yet, the segment on nuclear is about 30 minutes and is the first portion of the show. You can listen here directly through the web on our site, or find it on iTunes here.

 

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As a general rule, we three, were in favor of nuclear power, seeing it as the only long term, realistic answer to our energy demands. That is not to say its perfect, or that there arent other ways, but that to meet the ever rising, sweeping demands we face on our energy supply, Nuclear seems to be the way to go.

 

The first point Derek brought up was the type and nature of the nuclear plants in use. As we mentioned in the show, our support is mainly for the new type of reactors either fully developed or on the drawing board and just in need of additional funding to finalize, apparently designing nuclear reactors are hard or something….

 

These new breed of reactors, from just fairly stock standard reactors similar to what we use today but safer and a bit cleaner, to the whole new breed of Thorium reactors, can meet energy demands over decades, with minimal contribution to greenhouse gases, marginal nuclear waste that can be dealt with in a safe and environmentally friendly matter, and most importantly when you compare it to the other hot power items today like wind and solar, nuclear can provide stable, safe and continual power to nations that need it. 

 

While I am not against solar or wind power, they do not provide constant power, their upkeep costs can be very high (a lot of people seem to be under the assumption that you just let a wind turbine go and it will last decades, in reality they have long “down time” where they are maintained) and  they can be shut down by either good, or bad weather, or by our damned round earth. These are great interesting sources of power, but as we have almost no ability to save power from when it is produced to when it is used, we have to make the energy as it is needed.

 

This conflicts with the goal people who are heading the movement to solar and wind power also have, of having us convert to electric cars. Now it goes with out saying, these cars would, for the most part, be charged over night when we are not using them (Also they tend to take several hours of charging) so at night time, when the production of power would be at a low (totally for solar and diminished for wind) we would be adding a whole new drain to the grid. 

 

As to what to do with the old plants, improve ones that can be, and do rolling shutdowns of those that can’t and replace them with the new breed, if we just slam shut all of them now, the people who work in them will be out of jobs, are their expertise will be lost as it will take time to bring the new plants online. And once that expertise is lost, it is hard to get back, the US Space program has less technical expertise now than it did in the 60’s, solely due to the fact they didnt keep their engineers employed over time. So while the technology is better, they are actually worse off in terms of personal.

 

Making a snap decision to close down plants after disasters is natural, but not very smart, you can take a few months or years to find a solution, as worrying as it is, a disaster of the same level is unlikely to strike several times in a such a short period. And other safety measures can be taken. 

 

IT is a bit of risk/reward, but the reward of shutting them down due to fear with out a suitable replacement is not backed up by reward. That power is now most likely coming from fossil fuel plants, that pollute a lot more, cause a lot more health risks, are adding to global warming and are not a long term solution .

 

Derek also brought up the point that even if we did swap to nuclear, we face the issue that that we still have massive need for fossil fuels and will suffer the damage they cause. And that rapidly swapping to electric cars now would be very bad, as they are in the big picture, just as bad, if not worse than SUV’s die to the massive damage the mining to get their raw materials is causing. 

 

This again is rather like nuclear, the first few plants will cost a lot, will likely cost more than they ever make, but it is the start up cost of a new industry. Like electic cars, we just need to support them through the growing phase to the point that they do become viable/green. But you must always keep an eye out for the alternative that no one saw coming, having blinders on does no one any good. 

 

Dereks last and most pointed question was, how do we lower our demand on energy.

 

Quite simply I dont think we can. I think energy saving devices are just plain smart, why wouldnt you want appliances or cars that use less power? So long as the cost of building or making them is not exorbitant, their is no point in spending $2000 for for a fridge that uses 4% less power, you’ll never see that money back and that money would have been better spent saving power elsewhere. 

 

There is also game theory to consider. When there is a global agreement to stop green house gases, everyone must agree to it. If only half do, the problem is still there and those countries that did lower GG have probably cost themselves billions and hurt industry in the short term, so they likely wont.

 

If everyone agrees, all the better, because then your country can sneak back home and not really try, reaping the rewards of everyone else doing it, while you carry on your old ways, getting all the rewards with none of the costs, unfortunately, it seems most countries have this idea, they all want lower GG, but they want others to do it, no them. 

 

Game theory says, plainly, if only half do it there is no point, if everyone does it, your better off not doing it yourself and reaping the rewards, If no one does it, well your no worse off in the short term.

 

Considering the growing power and apathy of China and India and other countries, there is not going to be a global agreement on this issue. 

 

I personally think our best hope is in the technologies that can reverse the damage we do to our world, while sadly still doing it.

 

We did touch on several such ideas in this show, listen direct or on iTunes, And some of them show great promise, but we barely scratched the surface of that topic. 

 

This is a complex, deep issue and we only touched on a few points that were brought up directly, we are more than happy to hear your feed back and we may even do a new show on this soon and even include some interviews/emails if people have good points. 

 

Three Wise Guys iTunes subscribe and listen and join in!

Three Wise Guys #021.1 Interview with Prof Corey Olsen AKA the Tolkien Professor

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode #021.1 Interview with Professor Corey Olsen, listen direct, or through iTunes, and the catalog

 

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Topic: Fantasy and Sci-fi in Academia and society, its roots, its future, and why it is not taken seriously my academics and critics.

 

This is a interview recorded for show 020: Science Fiction and Fantasy, put posted separately. It features an interview with Professor Corey Olsen of Signum University and the Mythgard institute, online he is known as the Tolkien Professor and has run his own very successful podcast detailing the works of JRR Tolkien and Fantasy in general. The interview goes for about 40 minutes and covers the history of fantasy literature, its perception by the public and academics, and how it effects our lives every day.