Monthly Archives: March 2017

Viking Identity & Christianity – The Performed Violence of Olaf Tryggvason

The Postgrad Chronicles

Olaf I Tryggvason took the throne of Norway in 995, reigning for a brief but eventful five years. Though Olaf had been a pagan Viking raider, by the time he took the Norwegian crown he was a fierce proponent of Christianity, and his reign was pivotal in the inexorable transition of Scandinavia from paganism to Christianity. It is natural then that over time Olaf became mythologised figure in a Christianised Scandinavia whose literary culture was invested in clerical scribes. While the broad strokes of Olaf’s life and reign as described within our sources seem plausible, implausible tales of heroism, treachery, torture and prophecy have also attached themselves to his legacy. It is these narratives on which I will focus – examining not only the stories themselves, but the sources in which they appear – with a most particular interest in those tales that depict Olaf’s propensity to engage in coercive…

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Edward I’s Welsh Crusade

The Postgrad Chronicles

Edward I’s Welsh Crusade

Any journey to Europe to visit medieval castles is incomplete without a trip to the Welsh countryside to appreciate arguably the most impressive ring of fortifications from the middle ages. Edward’s imposing strongholds are not only an example of the craftsmanship of Master James of St George, but are an enduring representation of the military aptitude of the forceful and dynamic English king. From Flint, to Rhuddlan; through Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon, and ultimately concluding at Beaumaris, Edward literally set in stone his victories against the Welsh. In this article we will take a brief look at the military background of Edward I, his dealings with Wales, and the experiences of his crusading journey.

So, lets get to the history…

Despite his many victories against his northern enemies in Scotland, those that earned him the moniker, the Hammer of the Scots, it was to the…

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Streets of Stalingrad 4 – An Interview With Lombardy Studios and 626 Designs, LLC.

Rolling Boxcars

Streets of Stalingrad is touted as the ultimate wargame that is exclusively focused on the World War II battle for Stalingrad. It’s one of those games I owned, sold and now have

lingering sellers remorse. A few weeks ago the wargaming community was taken by storm (in a way) by the announcement of a forthcoming Streets of Stalingrad 4th edition. I read the announcement and what little additional information that was available at the time and blogged about some of my concerns. To be fair, I did pass some judgment based on the information available at the time and standard practices I was familiar with. Readers’ feedback, both on the blog and on social media conveyed similar concerns.

I took that as my queue to reach out the Lombardy Studious and 626 Designs, LLC., the company that will be publishing the game for an interview. I thought an interview…

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THE LOGOS YPTIOOS OF AEGAIAN

WE THE ECOUMENISTS exontes zilon FOR AN OECOUMENIC POLIS

Towards a New Egyptology?

In his inaugural lecture as Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology, Stephen Quirke – who is also Curator of UCL’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology – delivered a radical and highly personal vision of the future of Egyptology.

Invoking Walter Benjamin in On the Concept of History, Professor Quirke explained to a full auditorium how the collection, for him, is a problematic legacy of foreign (and often unwelcome) intervention in Egypt’s cultural past: an assemblage of unstable “monads”, overflowing with tensions and “waiting to explode”.

The talk began with the Arab Spring, moving back through the history of Egyptian archaeology, viewed not just from the standpoint of European scholars and explorers, but also through the eyes of Egyptian observers such as Al-Jabarti.

It ended at the recently established cultural village of New Hermopolis, devoted to the revitalisation of Middle Egypt through alternative forms of…

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Rebuilding Palmyra

As much as I am for reconstructing sites destroyed by these damned terrorists she has a point. It’s a matter of priorities. First you fix the present. Then you secure the future. Then you fix the past.

Muse, amused

In 2015, the ISIS destroyed the Temple of Bel – a Roman shrine within Palmyra, a UNSECO world heritage site in Syria from where they had been co-ordinating assaults. The International Criminal Court condemned the attacks as a war crime. Now a replica of the gateway of the Temple, 3D printed by digital archaeologists at the University of Oxford, has been erected in Trafalgar Square in a “show of solidarity” with Syria.

It is easy to recognise the virtue of quickly and easily undoing the damage ISIS wrought. Palmyra was a symbol of identity for the Syrian people, and a point of cultural pride. To rebuild is highly symbolic of the resilience of the displaced and oppressed in the face of ISIS’s terrorism, and the commitment of Syria’s government to restore order.

The last Palmyra was a feat of human endeavour and creativity, meticulously planned and executed with bricks and…

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KNAVES AND FOOLS

Wyrdwend

KNAVES AND FOOLS, BOYS AND WIZARDS

Suddenly Alternaeus looked up to see the boy standing beside him. How long the boy may have stood there patiently waiting for him to finish or may have attempted to summon him from his numinous labors he knew not.

He looked back down at the grael. The roiling and lotic liquid was lentic and smooth again, untroubled and clear. Not a shadow lingered, not a ripple disturbed the surface or the depths. It was as if the grael were one more and without any apparent transition a spotless and terrene lens by which to view our naïve and evident world. Or at least some sort of polished glass to see blemishless to the bottom of the Black Sea. From whose distant waters Alternaeus had filled the grael.

“What is it boy?” Alternaeus asked.


“You are summoned sir.”

“By whom, to where, and for what…

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THE SECRET ACCORD

Wyrdwend

My opinion is this. A man’s true Word-Hoard isn’t just what he knows, for not all coins are of the same weight and measure. Rather his true Word-Hoard is what his treasures will buy and sell, and often and uppermost, in secret…

THE SECRET ACCORD

I dug a Word Hoard
Connate and wide
To bury the Wealth
That often abides
When the Weal and the Wisdom
That cannot be spread
By exchange in the markets
Still dwells, it is said,
In the bed of Procrustes
Asleep for awhile
In dreams made of amber
For this mind of exile
Has mastered the tongue
Of the treasures beneath
Subterranean efforts
In caverns replete
The facade of the fashion
A looking-glass hall
Where the hordes
Glom the gilt-work
And the herd is a-stall
There’s an ark, and an archway
A cup dipped in brass
For written upon it
Inscribed is a task
In…

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MENTENIS

The Missal

“My father’s is taller still, and has a golden button on top!”
 
Always go for the golden button on top. That’s where all the good stuff is.
 
And on a more serious note, it is a real shame that modern man has lost so much of his rural festival and celebration backgrounds, those from both pagan and Christian times.
 
Those things used to hold us to the ground, made us realize things about time, made us grateful for things working. Losing those things weakens us, make us think that only technology and science is important. (And I do happen to like and to think most science and technology is important just not all-important.) Makes us think we are the inevitable and undisputed masters of our own fate (and nowadays we control much of our own fate, but much still is beyond our control and we should be…

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WHO’D A THUNK?

The Missal

Well, I’ll be darned. Who’d a thunk it, huh?

Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon card games and role-playing games are more than entertainment — they’re inspiration for the CIA.

David Clopper, senior collection analyst with 16 years’ experience at the CIA, also serves as a game maker for the agency. From card games to board games, Clopper creates games to train CIA staffers including intelligence agents and political analysts for real-world situations.

“Gaming is part of the human condition. Why not take advantage of that and incorporate into the way we learn?” Clopper said Sunday at a games-themed panel discussion at the South by Southwest Interactive technology festival. Clopper and other CIA officers discussed how the agency uses games to teach strategy, intelligence gathering and collaboration.

Related: SXSW…

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THE PHILOSOPHICAL SPHERE AND THE COHERENCE OF THE UNIVERSE

The Missal

THE PHILOSOPHICAL SPHERE AND THE COHERENCE OF THE UNIVERSE

I have been rather intensely studying the book Advanced Wizardry by Loricus ben Abechai since I first got it about a year or so ago. The book deals with actual “magic” and “wizardry” though, like me, he has a radically different idea of what both are compared to popular notions of the same. (He is, for instance, I strongly suspect, a Christian Khabbalist as he speaks often and loftily of “The Logos” and many other such mystical Christian terms, and Jewish terms, and relates them all to magic.)

Anyway in the sections I am now reading he has been speaking about the creation of the Wizard’s personal “Philosophical Sphere.” A notion I have never before encountered in any book of magic (certainly not as he means it) even a Medieval or ancient or neo-Platonic one. Though the idea is certainly based…

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THE MURALS OF DATONG

This interests me for purely archaeological, cultural, and historical reasons, but it also goes to show that in gaming and in writing fiction, authors and creators (and modern people in general) often overlook the near ubiquitous artwork and coloring that often existed in many Medieval and certainly a great many Ancient urban centers.

The answer seems self-evident to me if you think on it awhile. Lacking things like cinema and film and television, etc. then what would be your source of visual and imaginary stimulation in a world devoid of such things? Indeed, what would be your method of advertising your skill and craft and wealth compared to that of a neighbor or competitor? How would you communicate with foreigners? How would you establish yourself even after death?

Art work.

Impressed everywhere you could impress it as strikingly colorful and vibrant as you could make it.

I don’t think our ancestors were less impressed with visual imagery than we are, I think they were likely more conscious of it because they had less of an opportunity to render it in motion and in a way that was seemingly active and alive. They had to do so not “in the air” (images transmitted by carrier waves) but by time and by place as “solid images,” fixed by time and place. Art then was not shifting energy, but actual craft, and anything that called attention to that craft would have been a vital element of that craft. Color, skill, literary allusion or merit, design, complexity of composition, etc.

So they looked for every opportunity to do so that leisure or condition allowed.

This is why the Ancient world (especially) and any sufficiently advanced corner of the Medieval world looked as it did.

Writers, poets, game developers (even historians and non-fiction writers) would do well to note that in their own works. It would add real depth to their efforts…

Ancient Tomb Decorated with Vibrant Murals Found in China

Ancient Tomb Decorated with Vibrant Murals Found in China

The tomb’s entranceway is located on the south wall of the tomb. It was blocked off with bricks 1,000 years ago. Images of two servants can be seen flanking the entrance.

Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics

A 1,000-year-old circular tomb, whose walls are decorated with colorful murals, has been discovered in Datong City, in northern China.

Because the tomb’s entranceway is sealed off with bricks, archaeologists had to enter through a hole in the deteriorating arch-shaped roof.

The team, from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology, found cremated human remains in an urn in the middle of the tomb. No texts were found in the tomb, but the archaeologists believe that the tomb likely belonged to a husband and wife. [See Photos of the Circular Tomb and Colorful Murals]

The murals on the walls show servants, cranes and numerous articles of clothing that hang on several stands, their colors still vibrant despite the passage of a millennia.

Colorful clothing abounds on the tomb’s murals. One clothes stand, painted on a mural on the west wall, has “sky blue, beige, bluish-gray, yellowish-brown and pink clothes,” wrote the archaeological team in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. “The garment to the far right has a green-diamond grid pattern, each diamond of which has a small red decorative flower in it,” wrote the archaeologists, noting that another article of clothing has what appears to be a jade ring that “hangs at the waist.”

 

The murals on the west wall of the 1,000-year-old tomb depict articles of clothing as well as two servants.
The murals on the west wall of the 1,000-year-old tomb depict articles of clothing as well as two servants.

Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics

Additionally, the mural shows that “in front of the clothes stand there is a long rectangular table, on which are placed four round plates, black on the outside and red inside, holding, respectively, a headdress, bracelets, hairpins and combs,” the archaeologists wrote.

 

On the east wall of the tomb the mural shows another clothes stand. “On the stand hang beige, light green, bluish-gray, pink and brown clothes,” the archaeologists wrote. “On one of the garments hangs a ring-shaped pei pendant accompanied by a string of black beads.” Pei is a word that can mean “matching” or “accompanying” in English.

The team believes that the tomb likely dates to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125). Historical records indicate that this dynasty, controlled by the Khitan, flourished in northern China, Mongolia and parts of Russia.

At that time, people in northern China were sometimes buried in tombs decorated with murals. In 2014, Live Science reportedon the discovery of another tomb containing murals, which was found decorated with images of stars as well as numerous animals, including a crane, deer, yellow turtle and even a cat playingwith a silk ball. That tomb was also excavated by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology.

Archaeologists believe that both mural-decorated tombs will help shed light on  those who lived during the Liao Dynasty.

The tomb with the murals showing colorful clothing was excavated by the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology team in 2007. The team published a report on the tomb in 2015, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu. That report was translated into English for publication in Chinese Cultural Relics.

Original article on Live Science.

GREEN ICE OF THE ANTARCTIC

This gives me an interesting idea for both a science fiction story and an element to add to my fantasy novel…

 

Strange Green Ice Seen Floating in Antarctica’s Ross Sea

Strange Green Ice Seen Floating in Antarctica's Ross Sea

An imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image, on March 5, 2017, of Antarctica’s Granite Harbor, a cove near the Ross Sea, where the sea ice has a green hue due to a bloom of phytoplankton.

Credit: NASA

No, Antarctica isn’t busting out the green beer for St. Patrick’s Day. But a new satellite image of the continent shows strange green ice floating in the Ross Sea.

The green-tinged ice is probably the work of phytoplankton, marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center told NASA’s Earth Observatory, which released the image yesterday (March 9).

Photosynthetic plankton called phytoplankton (and algae) grow all around Antarctica in summer (which runs from October to February, because Antarctica is in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s now autumn on the icy continent, but algae blooms can happen in the Antarctic fall, too, the Earth Observatory reported.

In 2012, Lieser and her colleagues noted an enormous bloom in late February and early March that was 124 miles (200 kilometers) long and 62 miles (100 km) wide. Scientists on an expedition to observe the green swirls found that the bloom was not free-floating algae, but green sea ice, or sea ice with algae growing on it.

A zoomed-in patch of green ice near Antarctica's Ross Sea can be seen in this Landsat 8 image captured on March 5, 2017.
A zoomed-in patch of green ice near Antarctica’s Ross Sea can be seen in this Landsat 8 image captured on March 5, 2017.

Credit: NASA

The current late-season bloom appears to have gotten trapped in the slushy, just-forming sea ice, lending it a green hue. It’s unclear whether the algae bloom is on the ice, or trapped within or beneath it.

On the other end of the globe, Arctic waters experience phytoplankton blooms, too. As in Antarctica, these tiny organisms are the basis of the food web. Scientists have found, however, that the Arctic’s spring phytoplankton blooms are coming earlier. What’s more, a second season of algae blooms has emerged in the fall, as sea ice has retreated.

Original article on Live Science

PIE

So it was PIE after all?

I had wondered… at the possible construct and the sound

RAINBOW CONNECTION

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