Category Archives: Book

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK – RESURRECTED RELICS

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK

If you ask me ancient archaeological sites like these make for superb adventure and dungeon and plot locales, though of a very different type than the standard dungeon or adventure site.

Very bizarre artefacts, relics, objects, events, rituals, and creatures could easily exist at such sites. I often use modified Real World archaeological sites and place them in my games and novels and stories because they are so ancient, rich, and full of odd and often unexplainable things. (As a matter of fact I have an entirely separate category of “adventure and plot locales” when it comes to ancient and prehistoric archaeological sites for my writings and designs, including the artefacts and events discovered/recovered there.)

It is very good to have odd and unexplainable things in your writings and in your games and milieus that the players and readers can try, like everyone else, to figure out, but can’t really understand, deduce, or explain.

Unknown or unexplained or recently discovered archaeological sites are superbly interesting because unlike many other sites they have already passed into pre-history (or out of history) or little to nothing is known about them until they are accidentally stumbled upon again (by completely different peoples and characters, etc.), and because, of course, they tend to be so ancient all memory of them has been subsequently lost. And of course many of these unknown and unrecorded sites tend to be megalithic and absolutely gargantuan in nature, consisting of many vanished layers of development. Entire campaigns and years and years of adventures, not to mention book sequels, can easily be written around such sites. And, of course, one site often bleeds into another.

That’s a superbly good state of affairs for the reader or player (going blind into the dark or going blind back into the far more ancient things), but it is an entirely excellent thing for the writer and the game designer/game master.

Because at such sites the entirely unexpected and the wholly forgotten should be the most common expectation and the most dangerous memory.

 

NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

By RALPH BLUMENTHALOCT. 30, 2015

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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High in the skies over Kazakhstan, space-age technology has revealed an ancient mystery on the ground.
Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old.

The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Another is a kind of three-limbed swastika, its arms ending in zigzags bent counterclockwise.

Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes.

 

The Bestamskoe Ring is among the so-called Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan — at least 260 earthwork shapes made up of mounds, trenches and ramparts, the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old, recognizable only from the air. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
Two weeks ago, in the biggest sign so far of official interest in investigating the sites, NASA released clear satellite photographs of some of the figures from about 430 miles up.

“I’ve never seen anything like this; I found it remarkable,” said Compton J. Tucker, a senior biospheric scientist for NASA in Washington who provided the archived images, taken by the satellite contractor DigitalGlobe, to Mr. Dey and The New York Times.

Ronald E. LaPorte, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who helped publicize the finds, called NASA’s involvement “hugely important” in mobilizing support for further research.

This week, NASA put space photography of the region on a task list for astronauts in the International Space Station. “It may take some time for the crew to take imagery of your site since we are under the mercy of sun elevation angles, weather constraints and crew schedule,” Melissa Higgins of Mission Operations emailed Dr. LaPorte.

The archived images from NASA add to the extensive research that Mr. Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.

“I don’t think they were meant to be seen from the air,” Mr. Dey, 44, said in an interview from his hometown, Kostanay, dismissing outlandish speculations involving aliens and Nazis. (Long before Hitler, the swastika was an ancient and near-universal design element.) He theorizes that the figures built along straight lines on elevations were “horizontal observatories to track the movements of the rising sun.”

Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares a border with China, has moved slowly to investigate and protect the finds, scientists say, generating few news reports.

“I was worried this was a hoax,” said Dr. LaPorte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh who noticed a report on the finds last year while researching diseases in Kazakhstan.

With the help of James Jubilee, a former American arms control officer and now a senior science and technology coordinator for health issues in Kazakhstan, Dr. LaPorte tracked down Mr. Dey through the State Department, and his images and documentation quickly convinced them of the earthworks’ authenticity and importance. They sought photos from KazCosmos, the country’s space agency, and pressed local authorities to seek urgent Unesco protection for the sites — so far without luck.

The earthworks, including the Turgai Swastika, were spotted on Google Earth in 2007 by Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh archaeology enthusiast. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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In the Cretaceous Period 100 million years ago, Turgai was bisected by a strait from what is now the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean. The rich lands of the steppe were a destination for Stone Age tribes seeking hunting grounds, and Mr. Dey’s research suggests that the Mahandzhar culture, which flourished there from 7,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., could be linked to the older figures. But scientists marvel that a nomadic population would have stayed in place for the time required to fell and lay timber for ramparts, and to dig out lake bed sediments to construct the huge mounds, originally 6 to 10 feet high and now 3 feet high and nearly 40 feet across.

Persis B. Clarkson, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who viewed some of Mr. Dey’s images, said these figures and similar ones in Peru and Chile were changing views about early nomads.

“The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects — like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs — has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in an email.

“Enormous efforts” went into the structures, agreed Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archaeologist from Cambridge University and a lecturer at Vilnius University in Lithuania, who visited two of the sites last year. She said by email that she was dubious about calling the structures geoglyphs — a term applied to the enigmatic Nazca Lines in Peru that depict animals and plants — because geoglyphs “define art rather than objects with function.”

Dr. Matuzeviciute and two archaeologists from Kostanay University, Andrey Logvin and Irina Shevnina, discussed the figures at a meeting of European archaeologists in Istanbul last year.

With no genetic material to analyze — neither of the two mounds that have been dug into is a burial site — Dr. Matuzeviciute said she used optically stimulated luminescence, a method of measuring doses from ionizing radiation, to analyze the construction material, and came up with a date from one of the mounds of around 800 B.C. Other preliminary studies push the earliest date back more than 8,000 years, which could make them the oldest such creations ever found. Other materials yield dates in the Middle Ages.

Mr. Dey said some of the figures might have been solar observatories akin, according to some theories, to Stonehenge in England and the Chankillo towers in Peru.

“Everything is linked through the cult of the sun,” said Mr. Dey, who spoke in Russian via Skype through an interpreter, Shalkar Adambekov, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

The discovery was happenstance.

Researchers are hoping to marshal support for investigating the earthen mounds that make up figures like this one, the Big Ashutastinsky Cross. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
In March 2007, Mr. Dey was at home watching a program, “Pyramids, Mummies and Tombs,” on the Discovery Channel. “There are pyramids all over the earth,” he recalled thinking. “In Kazakhstan, there should be pyramids, too.”

Soon, he was searching Google Earth images of Kostanay and environs.

 

There were no pyramids. But, he said, about 200 miles to the south he saw something as intriguing — a giant square, more than 900 feet on each side, made up of dots, crisscrossed by a dotted X.

At first Mr. Dey thought it might be a leftover Soviet installation, perhaps one of Nikita S. Khrushchev’s experiments to cultivate virgin land for bread production. But the next day, Mr. Dey saw a second gigantic figure, the three-legged, swastikalike form with curlicue tips, about 300 feet in diameter.

Before the year was out, Mr. Dey had found eight more squares, circles and crosses. By 2012, there were 19. Now his log lists 260, including some odd mounds with two drooping lines called “whiskers” or “mustaches.”

Before setting out to look for the figures on the ground, Mr. Dey asked Kazakh archaeologists whether they knew of such things. The answer was no. In August 2007, he led Dr. Logvin and others to the largest figure, now called the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village.

“It was very, very hard to understand from the ground,” he recalled. “The lines are going to the horizon. You can’t figure out what the figure is.”

When they dug into one of the mounds, they found nothing. “It was not a cenotaph, where there are belongings,” he said. But nearby they found artifacts of a Neolithic settlement 6,000 to 10,000 years old, including spear points.

Now, Mr. Dey said, “the plan is to construct a base for operations.”

“We cannot dig up all the mounds. That would be counterproductive,” he said. “We need modern technologies, like they have in the West.”

Dr. LaPorte said he, Mr. Dey and their colleagues were also looking into using drones, as the Culture Ministry in Peru has been doing to map and protect ancient sites.

But time is an enemy, Mr. Dey said. One figure, called the Koga Cross, was substantially destroyed by road builders this year. And that, he said, “was after we notified officials.”

 

 

HOLMES

Ian McKellen is Sherlock in first look teaser trailer for Mr Holmes

Ian McKellen is Sherlock in first look teaser trailer for Mr Holmes

By Sarah Doran

Wednesday 4 March 2015 at 04:15PM

Step aside Sherlock, Mr Holmes has arrived and he means business.

A new teaser trailer gives us our first look at Ian McKellen’s take on the iconic character in the forthcoming film Mr Holmes.

Adapted from Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of The Mind, the film follows the world famous sleuth in 1947 when he has retired to a remote Sussex farmhouse, living in relative anonymity with only his housekeeper Mrs Munro and her young son Roger for company.

Cantankerous, demanding and frustrated with the misrepresentation of him in Watson’s best-selling novels, he diverts his attention to an unsolved case. As the mystery deepens, Sherlock tries desperately to recall the events of 30 years ago that ultimately led to his retirement.

Directed by Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), McKellen leads an all star cast featuring Academy Award nominee Laura Linney (The Savages), Frances de la Tour (Harry Potter) and newcomer Milo Parker.

And as the first poster for the film reveals, he certainly has no trouble channeling the mystery solving man from 221b Baker Street.

Mr Holmes will be released in UK cinemas on June 19th

THE WORM OUROBOROS

I have been re-reading the Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison lately and have found it to be immensely entertaining, stimulating to my imagination, and very useful for my own writings.

THERE IS A SECRET, KEEP IT WELL

THERE IS A SECRET, KEEP IT WELL

There is a Secret few will know
Until that day it rises up,
For buried deep beneath the Earth
Lie coiling serpents in a cup,

Long before came history
To marque out frontiers of the past,
There toiled and bled unspoken days
That men today should flee aghast,

Wonders weird and terrors dark
Did stalk about the world those nights,
When those we’d hardly recognize
Did marvels by their hoary might,

Too long in sand or sea or clay
Has lain the wreckage of their age,
But those with other eyes to see
May still by peerage time assuage,

Specters worn by passage deep
Spectacular in deathless climes
Have breached the wall of life again,
And up from Hell made dreadful climb;

I’ve watched from shores by looking glass
As all these things have sure approached,
As seas disgorge the ancient rimes
That feed those things that do encroach,

And man with gore and screams of pain
Will roil in grave and long revolt,
But to what end I cannot name
Of torture, doom, or final hope?

Chaos will man gather round
Calling for it from afar,
A Heart of Stone imperfect cut
Whose pulse does beat for blood bizarre,

Like nothing man thinks anymore
Except in Secrets buried deep,
When questioned if he is in truth
A Man like God, or that which creeps,

It is not for me to say
What Man will be or where he goes,
Knowing only that I watch
As man revisits with his Ghosts,

Yet this I’ll say and temper hard
With all I know of what’s no more,
The day comes swift when men will find
That death is what they least abhor…

 

because these things are engraven by Tome and Tomb

IT CAME! IT CAME!

Christmas came early! It came!

I walked outside just now to take my dog for a hike in the woods and what did I find?

My new Dungeon Master’s Guide!!!

Just one day after release from Amazon!

I have a lot to do today and so won’t be able to study it until tonight, but just from a quick perusal it looks like a true jewel of a DMG and it certainly has the best artwork of any Dungeons and Dragons book I’ve veer seen published.

It looks like a very solid and useful book. I can’t wait until tonight to examine it in detail.

IF NO-ONE KNOWS… from LESSONS LEARNED

If no-one knows you’re there then no-one is a threat to you. You, on the other hand, are a threat to everyone.

A SUPERB WORK OF ART

 

The Lord of the Rings

£60.00
Pages: 1244
Format: Hardback
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien, Illustrated by Alan Lee
Published Date: 19/06/2014
ISBN: 978-0-00-752554-6
Detailed Edition: Illustrated Slipcased edition
Since it was first published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings has been a book people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, its sweeping fantasy has touched the hearts of young and old alike. Well over 100 million copies of its many editions have been sold around the world, and occasional collectors’ editions become prized and valuable items of publishing….

SIGURD, ROLAND, THE PRINCES OF IRELAND, AND THE ICELANDIC SAGAS

I’ve been sick the past couple of days. Caught my wife’s cold. Didn’t sleep at all last night. Slept a little today.

On the upside of all of that I’ve been able to start my October Reading early.

I have four books in particular that I began last night and that I’m really looking forward to reading up until Halloween.

Sigurd and Gudrun – Tolkien’s retelling of the Volsungs. Seigfried was one of the first three books I ever checked out and read from the library on my own (in 2nd or 3rd grade), and I not long ago finished Tolkien’s alliterative rendering of The Fall of Arthur. Which was absolutely fantastic and has rekindled my interest in alliterative poetry. So I’m really looking forward to this. The magical sword Gram was the basis of the magical sword in my own writings, Wrothcholire.

Chanson de Roland – The Song of Roland (about Roland and the Paladins of Charlemagne) was the second book I ever checked out of the library to read on my own. I haven’t re-read it in years but I got a superb English Medieval Library copy of the work and look forward to it greatly. Roland’s sword Durandal also had a big effect on me (as did the Oliphant) while I was growing up and I also incorporated many of its properties into Wrothcholire.

The Princes of Ireland – This is historical fiction (a genre I greatly enjoy reading) and I have heard many very good things about the author, Edward Rutherfurd. I hope he is as good in his own way as Patrick O’Brian was with the Jack Aubrey books.

The Sagas of the Icelanders – I have recently been enjoying Mike Drout’s excellent lecture series on The Norsemen. When he got to the sections on the Vikings and the Poet Serial Killers it made me want to re-read the Icelandic Sagas. So I got a good copy that is a mix of the various types of Sagas. I haven’t started it yet but will tomorrow. I haven’t read the Icelandic Sagas since college. I’m interested to see what I will notice now I did not notice when I was a young kid at college.

Well, I suspect that my fiction and literature reading for October will be excellent indeed.

Good night

MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS

If this actually happens it would be extremely interesting. I’ve also long thought that At The Mountains of Madness would make a superb home-brew adventure or campaign for nearly any gaming genre (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, action-adventure, detective/mystery, super-hero, mixed, etc.)

Guillermo del Toro: His Version Of At The Mountains Of Madness Coming Soon!

By screenPhileson September 8th, 2014 at 5:47pm· 3k saw this· 3+ people are talking
image courtesy of Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos
image courtesy of Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos

Guillermo del Toro’s version of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was a passion project for the director, and for awhile was moving full-steam ahead at Universal Studios. As if fan-favorite director del Toro at the helm wasn’t enough, it would have starred Tom Cruise and been produced by James Cameron, the director of films like The Terminator, Aliens, Avatar and Titanic.

Yet somehow it wasn’t because Universal pulled the plug on the project.

Ostensibly, the reason for doing so was the cost, as well as the rating. The horror movie was based upon a H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name and budgeted at $150 million. Ratings-wise, del Toro was adamant that the film be R-rated, which I still think is a really good idea, despite that it contributed to the project falling apart (If you’ve never read Lovecraft, you can download a copy of At The Mountains Of Madness here and The Shunned House, here. Both are available in most popular ebook formats)…

THE PEASANT GIRL AND THE WITCH

…Then (Baba) Yaga broke her (the peasant girl) in pieces and put her bones in a basket.

Now the stepmother sent her husband for his daughter. The father went and brought back only her bones. As he approached the village, his dog barked on the porch: “Bow! wow! Bones are rattling in the basket!” The stepmother came out with a rolling pin: “You’re lying!” she said. “You should bark, ‘A young lady is coming!'” The husband arrived; and then the wife moaned and groaned.

There’s a tale for you and a crock of butter for me.

 

Hmm… That was even more vicious than I was expecting. But that entire tale was fascinating as it involved a little peasant girl being sold into bondservice to the witch Baba Yaga.

Meaning it was really about being sold into the service of a well-known murderer.

There’s a lot to be pulled from this story. And  a whole nother story embedded in it about how to regain your freedom.

I keep thinking how much good such an obverse Baba Yaga tale might have done those little girls abducted in Nigeria had they been properly trained in escape and evasion.

Or even just simple observation and patience.

THE MONSTER MANUAL

A quick first review of the new 5th Edition Monster Manual

If you find this article useful, please share it with your friends!

Despite the ending of the summer and the lull after GENCON and PAX PRIME, the excitement at the release of the new 5th Edition Player’s Handbook last month is still going strong! And by all accounts, the new adventure arc Hoard of the Dragon Queen is doing quite well, with many D&D fans enjoying the new organized play activities presented each week in stores around the country.

But now, D&D enthusiasts have a new release coming up at the end of this month – the D&D Monster Manual goes on sale this Friday the 19th of September in select stores, and for general retail sales on the 30th! As the second core rulebook for the new 5th Edition of D&D, the Monster Manual is an absolute essential purchase for any Dungeon Master looking to create their own worlds and adventures.

Don’t Miss: Review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen | Review of the Player’s Handbook | Review of the D&D Starter Set

So how does this new D&D Monster Manual compare to its predecessors? Read on and find out!

D&D Monster Manual (5th Edition)

  • Lead Designers: Mike Mearls & Jeremy Crawford
  • Monster Manual Lead: Chris Perkins
  • Stat Block Development: Chris Sims, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee
  • Story Development: Robert J. Schwalb, Matt Sernett, Steve Townsend, James Wyatt
  • Cover Art: Raymond Swanland
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardbound (352 pages)
  • Price: $49.99 (Available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $29.97)

SPEAKING OF MONSTERS

Monster Manual Gallery

 

THE TRUE HISTORY OF WIZARDS AND WITCHES

While researching English translations of the Fihrist by al-Nadim (because I wanted to see what books and works it listed by both ancient Greek and Roman authors and if it possibly listed now lost Byzantine works) I accidentally came across this absolutely fascinating book entitled The True History of Wizards and Witches.

I have only perused it so far but already it has some fascinating historical analysis and details which I am anxious to study in depth. I thought some of you might very well enjoy it and learn from it.

THE TRUE HISTORY OF WIZARDS AND WITCHES

 

You can also download it as a .pdf as I have done.

PDF Version

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