Category Archives: Discovery

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

MEDIEVALLICA – NOTHING ELSE MATTERS

ENIGMA – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Enigma: A Steampunk-Themed Cafe Filled with Kinetic Sculptures Opens in Romania 

Welp, now we’ve seen everything. Just last week, a new cafe opened in Romania called Enigma that claims to be “the world’s first kinetic steampunk bar.” We have no way to verify if that’s true, but it certainly looks impressive from these photos, if you’re into that sort of thing. A slightly terrifying humanoid robot with a plasma lamp cranium bicycles by the door, and a variety of kinetic artworks churn and rotate on both the ceiling and walls. Watch the video to take a peek inside, and if you’re in town you can visit Enigma Cafe at Enigma at Iuliu Maniu, Nr 12, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Photos by Zoly Zelenyak from The 6th-Sense Interiors. (via Steampunk Tendencies)

kinetic-1

enigma-1

kinetic-2

enigma-2

kinetic-3

enigma-3

kinetic-4

enigma-4

TO BOLDLY GO… AGAIN? – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

If they just concentrate upon science and exploration, as the original did, and even to some extent as TNG did, then I’m in. Totally in.

Strangely enough, at least from this write-up, that seems like the way they might be going.

But I can’t stomach another “Enterprise” or yet another Jedi-wanna-be science fantasy or life-action anime series. I just can’t stomach that modern pseudo-science and amoral modern crap in my Star Trek anymore. That kinda stuff is for Star Wars, not Star Trek.

 

A totally new Star Trek television series is coming in January 2017! The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast of the premiere episode on the CBS Television Network, and the premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access.

The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Both films were produced and directed by J.J. Abrams.

The new series will be produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout. Kurtzman and Heather Kadin will serve as executive producers. Kurtzman is also an executive producer for the hit CBS television series Scorpion and Limitless, along with Kadin and Orci, and for Hawaii Five-0 with Orci.

The new program will be the first original series developed specifically for U.S. audiences for CBS All Access, a cross-platform streaming service that brings viewers thousands of episodes from CBS’s current and past seasons on demand, plus the ability to stream their local CBS Television stations live for $5.99 per month. CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series.

Sign up for a free trial of CBS All Access and prep for the new show with every episode of the classic Star Trek series available commercial-free!

Star Trek, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016, is one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time. The original Star Trek spawned a dozen feature films and five successful television series. Almost half a century later, the Star Trek television series are licensed on a variety of different platforms in more than 190 countries, and the franchise still generates more than a billion social media impressions every month.

Born from the mind of Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek series debuted on Sept. 8, 1966 and aired for three seasons – a short run that belied the influence it would have for generations. The series also broke new ground in storytelling and cultural mores, providing a progressive look at topics including race relations, global politics and the environment.

“There is no better time to give Star Trek fans a new series than on the heels of the original show’s 50th anniversary celebration,” said David Stapf, President, CBS Television Studios. “Everyone here has great respect for this storied franchise, and we’re excited to launch its next television chapter in the creative mind and skilled hands of Alex Kurtzman, someone who knows this world and its audience intimately.”

“This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before – directly to its millions of fans through CBS All Access,” said Marc DeBevoise, Executive Vice President/General Manager – CBS Digital Media. “We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, expanding the service across affiliates and devices in a very short time. We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.”

The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.

“Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world,” said Armando Nuñez, President and CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group. “We can’t wait to introduce Star Trek’s next voyage on television to its vast global fan base.”

CBS All Access offers its customers more than 7,500 episodes from the current television season, previous seasons and classic shows on demand nationwide, as well as the ability to stream local CBS stations live in more than 110 markets. Subscribers can use the service online and across devices via CBS.com, the CBS App for iOS, Android and Windows 10, as well as on connected devices such as Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku players and Roku TV, with more connected devices to come.

The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond, which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

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
Advertisement


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
Advertisement
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.”

 

 

BAM! THE ANCIENTS WERE ANCIENT BUT HIGHLY DEVELOPED

Archaeologists Unearth Spectacular 3,500-Year-Old Warrior’s Grave in Pylos

0

The Greek culture ministry announced that an international team of archaeologists led by the Department of Classics from the University of Cincinnati have uncovered a spectacular 3,500-year-old, treasure-filled grave of a warrior has been discovered near an ancient palace in southern Greece.

UC's Sharon Stocker with the 3,500 year-old skull found in the warrior's tomb (Photo Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

UC’s Sharon Stocker with the 3,500 year-old skull found in the warrior’s tomb (Photo Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

The Culture Ministry says the grave is the most spectacular discovery of its kind from the Mycenaean era in more than 65 years on continental Greece. The discovery has revealed about 1,400 artifacts, including gold and silver jewelry, cups, bronze vases, engraved gemstones and an ornate ivory-and gilt-hilted sword.

Gold ring with a Cretan bull-jumping scene was one of four solid-gold rings found in the tomb. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

The grave escaped plunderers who looted a monumental beehive tomb discovered decades ago in the area, near the palace of Pylos — one of the most important Mycenaean administrative centers.

The warrior’s remains were found with a yard-long bronze sword and a remarkable collection of gold rings, precious jewels and beautifully carved seals. Archaeologists expressed astonishment at the richness of the find and its potential for shedding light on the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization, the lost world of Agamemnon, Nestor, Odysseus and other heroes described in the epics of Homer.

Alex Zokos, a conservator, removed a bronze jug at the site. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

It said the dead warrior, aged 30-35, must have been a “leading member” of Pylos’ aristocracy. The tomb, which stands at 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) long and 1.5 meters wide, was unearthed during excavations begun in May near Pylos, on the site of the palace of Nestor.

One of more than four dozen seal stones with intricate Minoan designs found in the tomb. Long-horned bulls and, sometimes, human bull jumpers soaring over their horns are a common motif in Minoan designs. (Photo: Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati)

“Probably not since the 1950s have we found such a rich tomb,” said James C. Wright, the director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

l_17083

Nicholas Wade wrote in The New York Times that the discovery could be a gateway to discovering unknown things about the relationships between the Minoan civilization on Crete and the Mycenaean civilization that flourished on the Greek mainland more than 3,000 years ago.

THINGS OF INTEREST AND USE – GAMEPLAY

THINGS OF INTEREST AND USE

I have a Pinterest account in which I have compiled things of interest and use for my writings, gaming, and inventions.

Some of you might find these things useful for designs, idea-generation, or mapping.

HAUNTED CASTLE: DUNOON MASSACRE

HAUNTED CASTLE TOWARD: THE DUNOON MASSACRE

THE LOOTISTS – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Excellent suggestions. I’ll return to this later on with ideas of my own I’ve used over the years, mainly as either hard to decipher clues or as misdirections.

20 Things to Loot From the Body

Adventurers are always looting the bodies of their fallen enemies. But often the NPC seems to have nothing but weapons, armour, (hopefully) a couple of magic items and a smattering of coinage.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

That’s great for PCs hunting for loot, but it sadly fails to provide any depth or verisimilitude to the experience; after all, everyone’s got bits and bobs in their pockets! Use the table below, to generate the details of minor items the fallen foes have about their person.

  1. A partially carved piece of wood that might represent a small dog…or it might not; the carving is so bad, it’s hard to tell.
  2. Three worn and bent silver coins of obviously ancient origin. The details on the coins’ faces cannot be made out, but one has a small chip missing.
  3. Two keys tied together with a short length of fraying twine.
  4. A bloodstained cloth along with a tightly wound bandage and a half-empty flask of oil.
  5. A small wooden box containing a fine white powder—snuff—that smells strongly of cinnamon.
  6. A list of names on a scrap of parchment. Only the last two have not had a line drawn through them.
  7. A much used and well-worn flint and steel along with some scraps of dried and frayed cloth all bundled together in a small, waterproof pouch.
  8. A handful of dried meat and an all but empty tiny jar of honey.
  9. An empty bone scroll tube missing both its stoppers. The bone is yellowed and obviously old.
  10. A tarnished and broken golden chain missing several links. Several of the links are very worn and the whole thing is worth no more than 10 gp—as scrap metal.
  11. A small, mud-stained book. The pages within are in better condition, although not particularly well written or illustrated. The work is an overview of a nearby kingdom and details major settlements and geographical features.
  12. Several long pieces of string all hopelessly tangled together.
  13. A dozen gold coins (seemingly). In reality, these heavy coins are of lead and have been covered with a golden wash. The job is good enough to stand a cursory glance.
  14. A whetstone, an oily rag and a small flask of oil all contained within a stained, slightly smelly belt pouch.
  15. A scrap of parchment with the message, “Midnight on the Street of Smoke.”
  16. A scrap of parchment depicting a very crude treasure map. Named features include, “Big Tree”, “Pond”, and “Bone Pile”. However, there are no other features to enable anyone to actually follow the map (or what the treasure might be).
  17. Several sheaves of parchment depicting scantily clad elven men in rather odd poses—the illustrations are surprisingly well detailed.
  18. A simple golden band—perhaps a wedding band. The engraving inside spells out “Beloved” in Dwarves runes. The ring is worth 50 gp.
  19. A pouch containing several bunches of dried herbs. Each bunch is tied with a different colour twine.
  20. Several small chunks of rock of a type found in the locality. Each of the chunks has fleck of gold embedded within that glimmers in the light—a tantalising clue (perhaps) to a nearby as yet undiscovered deposit of gold.

I Loot the Body

Are your PCs always looting the bodies of the fallen? Want more of these cool little details? Fear not—Raging Swan Press has got you covered! I Loot the Body, by Josh Vogt, is a virtually system neutral supplement designed to provide hundreds of small knickknacks to “populate” your NPC’s pouches and pockets.

THE IMAX INFINITY WAR

Interesting…

 

Avengers: Infinity War to be Filmed Entirely with Brand-New IMAX Cameras

MAY 7, 2015

Avengers: Infinity War to be Filmed Entirely with Brand-New IMAX Cameras

On the heels of the reveal of its nine-month production schedule, Marvel Studios, the Russo brothers and IMAX today announced that Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War – Parts 1 & 2 will be shot in their entirety using IMAX and ARRI’s next generation revolutionary 2D digital camera – a joint customized digital version of ARRI’s new large format camera, the Alexa 65. The two-part “Avengers” saga marks the first time a Hollywood feature film will have been shot completely using IMAX cameras and will feature IMAX’s exclusive aspect ratio, providing moviegoers a uniquely immersive experience.

Prior to filming Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War – Parts 1 & 2, Joe and Anthony Russo, who also directed Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will use the IMAX/ARRI 2D digital camera for select action sequences on the forthcoming Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, which will release in IMAX theaters in May of 2016.

“The intent with the Infinity War films is to bring ten years of accumulative storytelling to an incredible climax,” Joe and Anthony Russo stated. “We felt that the best way to exploit the scale and scope required to close out the final chapter of these three phases, was to be the first films shot entirely on the IMAX/ARRI Digital camera.”

“Over the years, IMAX has had the incredible good fortune to work with some of the world’s finest, most talented filmmakers, who continue to push the envelope both technically and creatively,” said Greg Foster, Senior Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. and CEO of IMAX Entertainment. “We could not be more excited to deepen our partnership with Joe and Anthony Russo, a pair of filmmakers we believe are next-generation trailblazers. Marvel’s Avengers franchise has become aglobal phenomenon and to have it pay off in this epic way using the IMAX/ARRI digital camera is the very definition of event movie-going.”

The next-generation 2D digital camera – co-developed by IMAX and ARRI – is meant for use by today’s leading filmmakers working in the IMAX format. The joint solution is designed as a complementary tool to IMAX’s high-resolution capture technologies – including its 3D digital and 15perf / 65mm film cameras. Moreover, IMAX worked with ARRI to achieve the highest level of digital image capture for playback on IMAX’s xenon and new laser projection systems.

Set to be directed by the Russo brothers and featuring a script by Marvel favorites Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 is slated for release in IMAX theaters on May 4, 2018; Part 2 will open on May 3, 2019.

THE TRIGGERING OF THE HUMAN IMAGINATION – LOST LIBRARY

Recently I have undertaken a new career (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, an additional career) as a fiction writer. My background as an author is as a non-fiction writer, primarily dealing with such subjects as business, science, and technical matters. Although on occasion, often for private clients and sometimes just to pursue my own interests, I write analytical, white, and theory papers on everything from military and law enforcement matters to educational techniques to religious subjects.

But, as I said, now I am embarking upon a new or supplementary career as a fiction writer. Last night, while reclining in bed, and reading a fiction story before sleeping, it occurred to me that the author was very good as describing some scenes (thereby easily provoking my imagination to work “independently” of the actual words used to construct the scene) and at other times the author did a very poor job of description and my imagination had to work very hard, or was confused as to exactly what the author was describing. (The author was Michael Moorcock.)

I went to sleep and later awoke about 0500 hours from a dream, and then an idea suddenly occurred to me about what had triggered the dream. (I didn’t connect my dream directly to the story Moorcock had written but it had triggered an “oblique set of imaginings” which I thought were related to some of the ideas expressed in the story.) After I was awake about fifteen minutes or so replaying the dream through my mind it occurred to me that many authors, as well as others, such as really good playwrights, poets, filmmakers, graphic or visual artists (I had recently taken my children to see one of the largest collections of Sacred and Italian and Spanish Gothic and Renaissance Art in the entire nation, and most all of the works were both highly symbolic, and fantastically beautiful), even inventors, scientists, and religious leaders often express their ideas in such a way as to have a great and lasting impact upon the imagination of the consumer. (I am using the term consumer here to represent any partaker or user of such services, products, information, or ideas as are being now discussed.)

And herein lies the seed of my theory. That there are certain techniques that writers, artists, inventors, etc. use that are capable of triggering the imagination of the listener, audience, or observer in such a way that the imagination of the consumer is expanded to such a degree that it becomes heavily provoked, and can then operate almost entirely independently on similar matters (if not indeed completely independently) of whatever the original trigger that had initially produced it.

Using a writer as an example of my intent, for instance, certain authors are so good at description, that they can create an image in the mind of many readers that even when the reader completes reading the description or has finished the work, there lingers a sort of lasting or almost semi-permanent impression of (and on) the imagination, that is not static and calcified, but is rather “alive,” flexible, and on-going. A sort of Living and On-Going After-Image that is not static, but is fluid and almost vital. The images and impressions made by the work do not die out with the reading of the last word, or by finishing the book, but rather they “carry on” almost as if they had created a sub-rosan or virtual reality within the mind and psyche of the consumer or the partaker. And this new and virtual mind-reality is likewise not limited to the breadth, depth, or scope of the original subject matter of the work, but rather one type of imagining or image activates numerous others in a long and continuing chain of triggered imaginary impulses, the limits of which are constrained only by the inventiveness, potentialities, and desires of the particular consumer in question.

As a side note I should also mention that I am not using the term Virtual to imply something that lacks reality, as much as to represent something that has not as of yet become imminently real, but could very well become empirically real when imagination is determinedly and ambitiously combined with actual work and concentrated effort. (Now of course a badly executed or ill-conceived effort of work, imagination, or description may leave the consumer either highly confused as to what exactly the author meant by virtue of his description, or may lead the consumer completely away from the actual intent of the author, or may simply provoke a feeling of disinterest or “dullness” on the part of the consumer, triggering within him not sustained and powerful imaginings, but rather impressions of distraction, or a shallowness that can only be indicative of a total lack of interest and respect for the work in question and what it produces.)

But my theory (and my theory is not new, I am sure, but I am seeking a sort of specialized or different application of it) is that while there are certainly defective techniques of the act of describing or envisioning a thing that lead to a failure to spur on the imagination of the consumer, that miscarry the attempt to create a “virtual reality” of the mind through the lacking exertion(s) of a peculiar creator, there are also techniques that rarely fail to produce the sort of positive effects that I am discussing here in respect to the imagination.

That is to say if there are techniques that fail in the cause of provoking and exciting and expanding upon the capabilities of the imagination of the consumer, then there are obviously other and more intense techniques, which will, more often than not, have the desired effect of expounding upon, elucidating, enlarging, edifying, and invigorating (perhaps permanently) the imagination of the consumer. Techniques that can help to create a sort of “perpetual inner motion” of the imagination, and that will have effects far beyond and far exceeding the actual individual triggers or spurs that were used in producing this state of affairs.

(Now, for purposes of this discussion, I am not going to really address the receptivity or state of internal agreement that any particular consumer feels toward the subject matter he is consuming. That is outside the bounds of what I am discussing, and in any case there is very little, practically speaking, that any creator can do to control the state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. The creator can use the best techniques possible, and undertake his or her work in the most crafty and acute manner by which he is able, but he cannot control the inner state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. That is almost entirely the duty or the affair of the individual consumer of information. If someone else wants to discuss this issue of information dispersal versus information receptivity, then feel free, but as for me, and at this moment, I intend to avoid the issue as a momentary distraction to the other more important points at hand.)

It also occurred to me this morning, after teaching my classes, that the same sort of thing happens in Role Play Gaming, and that moreover in such an environment such “triggering of the human imagination” is often a corporate act, as much as an act of the creator of the plot, storyline, and/or milieu being explored. (And if indeed it is an act of both the corporate and individual imagination, then this in itself might be an important clue towards the feasibility and dynamic nature of important methods of “imaginative triggering.”) That being the case it seemed to me that this website and blog would be the perfect place to solicit further ideas for this discussion. And that a discussion of role-play techniques and methods geared specifically towards the architecture of imagination might yield vital and important clues towards even larger issues of the mind and visionary invention.

Now there may indeed be, and I very much suspect that indeed there are, more or less Universal Techniques and Methods for the “triggering of the human imagination” in the way in which I am framing the issue. (Techniques that may vary in application according to media type, or in discipline or field of endeavor, but are still interchangeable in intent and basis of intended achievement.) However let’s put that possibility aside for the moment and work at the problem inductively.

Let me ask the question(s) very simply in this way: What techniques or methods do you employ as a DM (or even as a player), adventure writer, milieu creator, writer, songwriter, inventor, and so forth that seem to you to “trigger the human imagination” in a very intense and enduring fashion? So that your work takes on a “virtual life of its own in the mind of your consumers,” and/or so that it continues to excite your consumers long after the actual act of the game is concluded? And how do you go about employing such techniques on a consistent basis in order to repeat these effects in a systematic and continuing manner?

I’m looking forward to your answers, ideas, opinions, and speculations…

THE MEDIEVAL FORGE

Discoveries, Donations and Digs: Medieval News Roundup

A couple dozen items to share with you as we get caught up with the medieval news from the last few weeks…

Finally, we wanted to show you this beautiful video of a 16th century Irish castle…

GONE A’VIKING

The Viking women who disappeared

By Cathinka Dahl Hambro

Women played an important part in Viking Age society, and their role far exceeded that of mother and the “housewife”. Why, then, are they barely mentioned in the history books?

Ingeborg - Norse mythology - painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892)

“The standard specialist literature within the field is pervaded with Viking expeditions, kings, weapons, and battles,” says Viking researcher Nanna Løkka.

“If women are mentioned at all they are placed within an everyday context, with children, handicraft and domestic life. Thus, when the characteristics of the Viking Age are described, women are either left out completely, or they are given their own little paragraph, as they appear neither very exciting nor spectacular.”

In the recently published anthology Kvinner i vikingtid (“Viking Age Women”), sixteen women and one man challenge this standard saga inspired account of the early Norwegian Middle Ages, which is characterized by raiding kings and chieftains. Løkka has edited the book in collaboration with Nancy Coleman.

Kvinner i vikingtid examines the various roles of women in a society where not only men possessed political power and influence. The book shows that the role of women was not always a domestic one. On the contrary, they actively participated within various aspects of public life such as trade, textile production, medicine, and religious practice.

Kvinner i vikingtidNone mentioned, all forgotten

Both the sagas and the schoolbooks tell us show many benches the master builder Torberg Skavhogg built for the rowers when he equipped the hull of King Olav Tryggvasson’s legendary longship Ormen Lange (“The Long Serpent”). The women who were responsible for weaving the sail, however, are not mentioned by name.

“The Vikings wouldn’t have reached England unless someone had equipped the ships with sails. It is a well-known fact that the Vikings were far ahead of their European neighbours in terms of maritime techniques. In an episode of the TV series Vikings, they make a big fuss about the ship’s anchor, but the sail is not mentioned with a single word,” says Løkka.

The textile production was probably organised hierarchically, where women supervised other women in extensive collaborative work. Løkka adds, “The larger Viking ships used 100 square meter sized sails. In order to produce that, the women needed 200 kilos of wool from approximately 2000 sheep, and it required hundreds of working hours. We are talking about more than just a small-scale family business.”

High school textbooks are the worst

According to the researcher, the models applied to understand the Viking Age ignore the women’s impact and contribution. This is particularly visible in the high school history books. Løkka found that only one among the six most popular history books from the 1990s and 2000s provides its own paragraph on women.

“If women appear at all in the general literature on the field, they are usually depicted as the stereotypical “housewife” who is tied to the farm and the home, not as someone who participates in important social processes,” says Løkka.

In the standard accounts of the Viking Age, the farm is regarded as the smallest, yet most significant unit. Other important institutions in the Viking society are the family, the chiefdom, and the Thing.

The woman is usually associated with the farm and the private sphere, whereas the man is connected to public life. Hence, the gender roles are often described in terms of “inside” and “outside” in order to distinguish between men and women’s responsibilities.

“I’m not saying that the stereotypical representation isn’t feasible at all, but it contributes to a description of the Viking Age based solely on male activities. Most probably the Viking society consisted of other dividing lines and hierarchies where women to a larger degree ranked on top,” Løkka adds.

Nanna Løkka - photo courtesy University of Oslo

The “housewife” as business manager

For example, recent research shows that being a “housewife” might involve major responsibility and hard work, particularly if the farm was of some considerable size. The chieftain’s home at Borg in Lofoten, which is the largest known chieftain’s farm, was more than eighty metres long. That is only twenty metres shorter than the Nidaros Cathedral. A typical chieftain’s farm may have had a longhouse of approximately fifty metres. A banquet on such a large farm could easily involve 150 people, all of them expecting to be served food and drinks.

“Running a farm like that is like managing a medium size business. Thus, these women should rather be regarded as business managers than mere housewives,” says Løkka.

With this in mind, one may therefore ask whether this type of feast actually belonged to the so-called private sphere. At these banquets, contracts and deals were made, politics was developed, and alliances were formed.

If the food or drink was unsatisfactory it could cause diplomatic crisis or disgrace. Therefore, the women who cooked and served the meals held an important public function. According to Løkka, categories like inside/outside and private/public have probably become antiquated due to recent research.

Malevolent Viking women

It doesn’t make things better that the women who did position themselves at the top of the male warrior hierarchy were often severely condemned by the later saga writers. This was the case with Queen Gunnhild, who according to tradition received training from Sami magicians. Allegedly, she took over the leadership of her sons’ army when her husband Eirik Blodøks (Eric Bloodaxe) was driven into exile and subsequently killed.

Alfiva, the de facto Norwegian ruler in the beginning of the eleventh century, received an equally bad reputation, becoming highly unpopular after introducing new legislation and a new tax system.

Viking reverie as nation building

Nanna Løkka emphasizes that in many ways the term Viking Age is a nineteenth century construction, which was formed along the lines of the era’s prevailing national romantic ideals.

For instance, historian Jørgen Haavardsholm has noted that the term Viking Age can be connected to a political process in which the goal was to create a nation with a proud and common past where the Vikings served as masculine and unyielding heroes and adventurers.

“An entire period and society has been connected to the Viking raids. In reality, however, only a small number of the men actually went on Viking raids. It has nevertheless added masculine value to the era, and consequently the female half of the population has been neglected,” says Løkka.

Farewell to the Viking Age?

The national romantic heritage is one of the reasons why a new generation of historians preferred to use the more neutral and European term Early Middle Ages in the four-volume history work Norvegr from 2011. Archaeologists, on the other hand, have mainly preferred the term Late Iron Age.

Lokka explains, “I ended up using the term Viking Age primarily because I want people to understand what I am working with. Moreover, the Viking Age sells and attracts attention. But there is definitely an ambivalence there.”

See also: Viking Women: Not as Different as You Might Think

TOP 10 SWORDS

Top 10 Most Famous Swords of the Middle Ages

Though I would have included different swords in a couple of instances not a bad list at all.

SEA PEOPLES ABANDONED?

Researcher casts doubt on sea peoples theory

The ancient city of Lachish was one of the 16 sites re-examined in the research project. Image: Mark A. Wilson/Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The ancient city of Lachish was one of the 16 sites re-examined in the research project. Image: Mark A. Wilson/Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

University of Tübingen doctoral candidate Jesse Millek has been honoured for his research, which questions the controversial theory of the “sea peoples”.

Mr. Millek has been awarded the Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize by the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem for a paper presenting his findings on the topic. He has been studying the control of resources during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Southern Levant. The research focuses on the fall in trade at the end of the Late Bronze Age in what is now Israel and Jordan.

The award winning work is entitled, “Sea Peoples, Philistines, and the Destruction of Cities: A Critical Examination of Destruction Layers ‘Caused’ by the ‘Sea Peoples,”  and deepens the understanding of what caused the decline of the Southern Levant at the end of the Bronze Age.

Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, from the air. Image: Steve F-E-Cameron/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

More complex

Until now, an inscription in the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III – Medinet Habu – has been said to be evidence of an invasion by the “sea peoples”. The engraving, dating back to 1180 BCE, became the basis for the much-discussed theory which blamed the invasion for the collapse of the neighbouring Levantine kingdoms and the collapse of interregional exchange. Mr. Millek’s recent findings, however, indicate that the causes for a sharp decline in trade are much more complex and likely to have been related to internal, revolutionary processes of social change and an altered approach to handling resources.

Critical examination of 16 sites

Mr. Millek critically examined 16 sites in the Southern Levant said to have been destroyed by the “sea peoples” in a Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 1070 paper. One example is the city of Lachish. Located 44 kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, it is one of the largest and most significant archaeological sites in the Southern Levant.

During early excavations, archaeologists uncovered the charred remains of a temple and building in the Late Bronze Age Destruction of Level 7. Subsequent research interpreted these finds as evidence of a military conflict with the “sea peoples.” However, a critical reassessment of the excavation reports indicates that several significant factors were missed in the initial interpretations.

Jesse Millek says that, “The Late Bronze Age building in Area S was most likely destroyed by a kitchen fire, as the area around the hearth showed the most destruction and was very likely the source of the fire. Even in the past, buildings could be destroyed and preserved in the archaeological record by a common place event like a kitchen fire. Moreover, the Fosse Temple appears to have been ritually terminated as all valuable or cultic items were removed from the temple before it was burned and there were no signs of vandalism. Additionally, the site remained sacred after it was burned as no later people built on top of it, or dug into its remains, which would again indicate the temple was ritually terminated.” The orderly de-consecration of sacred sites points towards changed handling of spiritual resources and a cultural reorganization of values within the society. Continuing research should determine in how far the fall in trade is linked to this change in values.

The head of project A06, Professor Jens Kamlah, emphasizes the significance of disproving the “sea peoples” theory. He says, “The goal of our research is to disprove the evidence supporting this old, extremely simplified, model. Mr. Millek’s work represents a significant contribution to this effect. The time period we are investigating is crucial for the rise of the Israel we know from the Old Testament of the Bible. Demonstrating the different reasons and complex economic relationships behind the decline in trade can provide new insights into this key epoch.”

‘WARE THE SKOT AND THE SKOTLANDS

Vikings ‘were warned to avoid Scotland’

Scotland is full of dangerous natives who speak an incomprehensible language and the is weather awful. That was the verdict of a series of 13th century Viking travel guides that warned voyagers to visit at their peril.

10K
120
1
9
10K
Email
Vikings on street: Vikings 'were warned to avoid Scotland'

Revellers at the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival in Shetland Photo: GETTY

The medieval chronicles, set down on yellowed calf vellum eight centuries ago, describe Scotland – or Skotland, as it was known – as an unwelcome and inhospitable country offering rewards only to the bold.

“Icelanders who want to practise robbery are advised to go there,” says one saga. “But it may cost them their life.”

Another saga tells the story of Icelandic merchants who sailed into a west coast sea loch where they met 13 ships bristling with what they called “Vikings” – more an occupation than a nationality – but were actually natives.

A Scot identified in the saga as Grjotgard, a kinsman of Melkolf, king of Scotland (Malcolm II), told them: “You have two choices. You can go ashore and we will take all your property, or we’ll attack you and kill every man we lay our hands on.” The merchants were terrified, the saga says, but presumably lived to tell their tale.

The chronicles have been interpreted by Gisli Sigurdsson, a historian at Reykjavik University, who believes the sagas – part fiction, part fact – reveal how the ancient Norse were far from the fearless pirates of legend.

As the Norsemen became as keen on trade as marauding, they were particularly nervous about sailing up the west coast sea lochs they referred to as the “Scottish fjords”. “The only places the Norse could have expected a safe reception was Orkney and Shetland, where the people were basically the same as them and where they would be greeted as kin,” Mr Sigurdsson said.

The Norse Viking age peaked between the 9th and 12th centuries, when Scandinavian seafarers conquered new lands, settling Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, and establishing colonies in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, North America and Russia.

The Icelandic sagas, written in the 13th century but based on earlier oral stories, were often used as route guides for raiders, traders, crusaders and explorers, effectively a road map of medieval Europe and the Middle East. They have proved remarkably accurate, even helping archaeologists to pinpoint the remains of a Norse village in Newfoundland.

Orkney is described as a handy base camp for pillaging Scotland. But the Norse had other bases too, some of which would feature high up in a modern guide for tourists. If you are planning to raid Scotland, one saga reads, you could do worse than base yourself in Fort Skardaborg. That’s today’s Scarborough.

Mr Sigurdsson believes the Norse Vikings were particularly nervous about the Gaels of Ireland and west Scotland.

Orkney historian Tom Muir said: “They picked weak targets, like monasteries. Some of the monasteries were basically unguarded banks of cash with a sign above them saying ‘free money’. The truth is that there were raids both ways and that the Norse had every reason to fear their Celtic neighbours. There are well-documented accounts of Gaelic-speaking Lewismen raiding Orkney.”

The Norse eventually lost their hold in Scotland. But Celts and the Vikings must ultimately have started to get along. DNA evidence suggests many Scots and Icelanders interbred and settled in both countries.

THE UNKNOWN RUINS

Nice. Extremely nice. Although I am familiar with some of these sites, some of these will also make good new research investigations for me and material/sites for my novels.

 

 

Done Pompeii, Ephesus and Angkor and still thirsting after archeological marvels? The founder of Timeless Travels magazine recommends 10 less well-known sites that can usually be savoured without the crowds

CE7J30 Ancient khmer pyramid in Koh Kher, Cambodia.
Ancient Khmer pyramid in Koh Kher, Cambodia. Photograph: Alamy

Koh Ker, Cambodia

Lost to forest and abandoned for over a thousand years, you’ll find this little-visited site in northern Cambodia. It’s less than two hours’ ride from its more famous cousin, Angkor Wat, and well worth a visit to see more than two dozen temples emerging from the jungle. A highlight is a seven-tiered pyramid, 40 metres high, which is thought to have been the state temple of Jayavarman IV and is often compared to Mayan temples. The site was the capital of the whole Khmer empire from 928-944AD.
A new road means day trips to Koh Ker are possible from Siem Reap, but there are also now a few basic guesthouses and an ecolodge for those who want to stay longer

Choquequirao, Peru

Choquequirao is a ruined Inca city in south Peru

Pinterest
Photograph: Zachary Bennett/Corbis

Little sister to the better-known Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is one of the most-rewarding travel destinations in the Americas. Only a few hundred people visit during the dry season (May to October), compared with thousands each day at Machu Picchu. At 3,000m, the site sits on a cloud-forest ridge, 61 miles west of Cusco in the remote Vilcabamba range. The city was built by Topa Yupanqui, son of the man who built Machu Picchu, Pachacuti, some time in the 15th century. It’s a two-day trek to Choquequirao from the town of Cachora (though a cable car link is planned), and exploring it and the outlying sites of Capullyoc, Hurincancha and Casa de Cascada with a guide will take several days.
Buses run from Cusco to Ramal, close to Cachora, where guides and pack mules can easily be hired

Ani, Turkey

The ruined church of Saint Gregory in Ani, Turkey.

Pinterest
The ruined church of Saint Gregory in Ani. Photograph: Alamy

There are some wonderful treasures in the far east of Turkey and one of them is the site of Ani. Capital of the Armenian Bagratid dynasty until the 11th century, and situated on key trade routes, it flourished for over 400 years and at its peak was larger than any contemporary European city, with a population of over 100,000. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1319, and today its ruins are spread over a wide area, with the remains of spectacular churches, a Zoroastrian fire temple, palaces and city walls. Take a picnic and spend a day exploring the site.
Ani can be reached by taxi or hire car from the town of Kars, 46km away and served by internal flights from Ankara or Istanbul

Conimbriga, Portugal

Roman ruins (House of fountains), Conimbriga

Pinterest
Photograph: Getty Images

This is one of the largest Roman settlements in Portugal – roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto, near the village of Condeixa-a-Nova. It was a prosperous town in Roman times and, while not the largest Roman city in Portugal, it is the best preserved. Although only a small section of the site has been excavated, there are baths, luxurious houses, an amphitheatre, a forum, shops, gardens with working fountains and city walls to explore, with many wonderful mosaics still in situ. In its centre is one of the largest houses discovered in the western Roman empire, the Casa de Cantaber, which is built around ornamental pools in superb colonnaded gardens and has its own bath complex and heating system. There is also a good museum, cafe and picnic site. Pick up a guidebook from the museum and have a few euro coins in your pocket to make the fountains work.
Easyjet and Ryanair fly to Porto and Lisbon from about £50 return

Han Yangling, China

Terracotta figures at Han Yang Ling Museum.

Pinterest
Terracotta figures in the Han Yangling museum. Photograph: Alamy

A smaller version of the Xi’an terracotta warriors, this often-overlooked site is the the tomb of E mperor Jing Di , who died in 141BC, and his Empress Wang. The site, 20km north of Xi’an, is well laid-out, with glass panels over the burial pits so you can see everything in situ, and there is also an excellent museum. The warrior figures here have individual faces; their arms were made of wood and they wore clothes. Sadly, both have disintegrated now, though examples can be seen in the museum. The pits are filled with figurines of courtiers and animals, and you can see the fossilised remains of wooden chariots.
Han Yangling is easily reached by taxi, from Xi’an international airport (25 minutes)

Pella, Jordan

Ruins in Pella, Jordan

Pinterest
Photograph: Corbis

Frequently bypassed for the larger sites of Jerash and Umm Qais , Pella, in the north Jordan valley, is a multi-period site, occupied since neolithic times. It has some stunning Roman/Byzantine remains, and recent excavations have unearthed a Canaanite temple dating from 1700BC and early-bronze-age city walls dating from 3200BC. Take the time to climb to the top of Tell Husn, the southern mound overlooking the dig house, and you will be rewarded with a fantastic view across the excavations and the Jordan valley.
The site is 45 minutes by road from the city of Irbid (two hours from Amman). Buses run from Irbid to the present-day village of Tabaqat Fahl

Vatican Necropolis, Italy

Roman necropolis in the Vatican.

Pinterest
Photograph: AGF/Rex

Beneath the Vatican City lie the ancient streets of Rome and an ancient burial ground, the Vatican necropolis – originally a cemetery on the southern slope of Vatican Hill. Saint Peter is said to be buried here, after he was martyred in the nearby Circus of Nero. Emperor Constantine I built a basilica above the apostle’s grave in the fourth century AD, and excavations in the 1940s did find a number of mausoleums. To walk at ancient street levels through the necropolis is an exciting experience for those who love to step back in time.
Visits must be booked with the Vatican Excavations Office. Tours, in groups of about 12, last 90 minutes

Takht-e Soleyman, Iran

Takht Soleyman

Pinterest
Photograph: /Getty Images

Takht-e Soleyman, meaning Throne of Solomon, is a breathtaking site built around a mineral-rich crater lake 30km north of Takab in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. The earliest remains date from the Sasanian period, from 224 to 651AD. Set in a vast, empty landscape 2,000 metres above sea level, the site includes the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple complex and a 13th-century Mongol palace. It is surrounded by an oval wall with 34 towers and two gates. The lake is 60 metres deep and so filled with minerals that it contains no life and is undrinkable. Don’t miss the small museum, housed in an Ilkhanid (a 13th-century building), with fine examples of tile, ceramics and stucco decoration.
The site is about two hours by taxi from the city of Zanjan, which is served by buses and trains from Tehran

Fatehpur Sikri, India

Fatehpur Sikri, India

Pinterest
Photograph: /Corbis

This surprisingly intact walled and fortified Mughal city is 40km west of Agra and the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh. Built by Emperor Akbar in 1571, it was the Mughal capital for 14 years before being abandoned for lack of water. A stunning royal complex of pavilions and palaces include a harem, a mosque, private quarters, gardens, ornamental pools, courtyards and intricate carvings. It is the best-preserved collection of Mughal architecture in India. Don’t miss the Rumi Sultana palace, the smallest but most-elegant structure in the complex, and the secret stone safes in the corner of the Treasury, which also houses a museum opened just last year.
The complex is an easy day trip from Agra: take a bus or train to Fatehpur station, 1km from the site

Pula, Croatia

Ancient Amphitheater Pula, Croatia

Pinterest
Photograph: Getty Images

The amphitheatre of Pula is the only Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and all three levels preserved. Built between in 27BC and 68AD, it is one of the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world, and the best-preserved ancient monument in Croatia. Overlooking the harbour in the north-east of the town, it seated 20,000 spectators. In summer there are weekly re-enactments of gladiator fights, and it is also used for plays, concerts and the September Outlook festival. Look out for the slabs that used to secure the fabric canopies that sheltered spectators from the sun.
Ryanair flies to Pula from Stansted from £117 return

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN – ESSAY ELEVEN: LUCK BE NOT LAZY

My next Essay on Gaming and Game Design, since this is my post for Design of Things to Come.

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Eleven: Luck Be Not Lazy

“High Fortune is the Good Wife of the Brave Husband.”

“Our survival kit is within us…”

“Good Luck befriend thee, Son…”

Synopsis:Boldness makes you luckier.” Boldness and risk taking make you more likely to survive and succeed than timidity and cowardice. This is true both in life, and in-game.

Recently while reading the book The Survivor’s Club (I am a survivalist and often study various aspects of survival art and science) I came across a very interesting equation by Nicholas Rescher.

The equation is as follows:

λ(E) = ∆(E) x [1-pr(E)] = ∆(E) x pr(not-E)

Rescher was attempting to mathematically illustrate how conclusions are drawn about the conditions and functional nature of “luck.” I have not had the time to examine the mathematics in detail for myself since I have only the basic equation formulation and a basic interpretation by the author of the book (not the author of the equation). I plan on looking up the entire background of the equation when I have the time.

Basically the equation states that how lucky an individual (or theoretically an event, with variable exchange) is considered to be depends upon a number of factors, but not least is the level of sufficient risk associated with any endeavor. That is to say the greater the risk taken by an individual, when success is finally achieved (though success is not guaranteed), then naturally the “more lucky” such an individual is considered in relation to others. This is of course only logical, and can be illustrated in the following way.

Two men decide to cross a chasm. One does so by a secure wooden footbridge with a safety railing, another along a length of tightrope. If both men make it safely across then most objective observers would say that the man walking upon the tightrope was “luckiest.” His risk was greatest and when (if) he succeeds then luck has been said to play a greater role in his crossing (in spite of any personal skill he might possess in wire-walking) than in the guy who has crossed the chasm on a relatively secure footbridge (in which case chance or luck plays a much smaller, if any, role as regards the crossing). This is self-evident, though perhaps often ignored or not noticed in this way in most circumstances by some observers.

lady luck

But I suspect that an even more interesting underlying and basic assumption fundamental to the structure of the equation (though it may not necessarily be overtly stated, when considering “normative variables”) is this: the greater the risk you take the more lucky you are likely to be. Not merely as a matter of relative comparison to others in different circumstances, but as a practical and fundamental matter in most any circumstance. And by extension then the more risk you assume in your given situation then the more likely you are to eventually succeed within that given situation. (Also this implies that luck is not a matter merely to be judged and quantified after the fact, or after the conclusion of the endeavor, but as a functional force, and likely an indirectly measurable force, operating throughout the course of events.)

Think about that for a moment. For the idea may just very well be fundamental to the nature of what many consider “good fortune.” Whether most people realize it or not.

The implication is that with great risk comes not only great danger, but also a greater probability towards actual and more capital success. (I think that there are several reasons for the likelihood of this conclusion, some physical, some psychological, and a few of which I will discuss here). The equation actually states that if you succeed then a larger level of risk can be said to include within the nature of the success a greater degree of good fortune, expressed colloquially as “luck.” But underneath the equation, if you examine it closely, is a sort of sub-structural formulation that implies that the greater the level of risk you assume in attempting any given or particular thing, the more likely you are to actually succeed, but that this does not become absolutely mathematically obvious until after the events are actually concluded.

In short the equation is covertly implying that all things being equal, and excluding the impossible (of course, as well as the intentionally foolhardy and reckless), it is the one who assumes the greatest risk who is far more likely to be lucky and in the end, to succeed as a result of the advantages bestowed by luck. (Is luck the only factor in success? Good Lord no. Preparation, skill, cunning, cleverness, drive, desire, etc. – all of these factors and more, or even less, can help to assure success. But what it is saying is that among roughly equivalent situations and/or competitors it is the more daring and less risk averse who is mathematically far more likely to “get lucky” and win the day, other factors not withstanding. Risk is therefore, as counter-intuitive and paradoxical as the idea may seem, one of the open and golden gateways to good fortune. Or as the old maxim goes, “Fortuna favet fortibus.” There is far more to that observation than mere Latin wit.

We all know that boldness is a fundamental aspect of the nature of Heroism. (Indeed, I personally would not attempt the execution of the function of anything heroic lacking the mettle of individual bravery as my guide. There is neither room for in most risky situations, nor likelihood of success in most dangerous situations for the ‘timid hero.’) Heroes therefore are universally bold. Or on the royal road through hardship and risk to becoming universally bold. Yet often heroes also triumph over seemingly vastly superior opponents with vastly superior resources. Why? Because they are bold. Because they are daring, and audacious, and brave. They also almost universally, whether in real life, or in myth or literature, “get lucky” or at least luckier than everybody else around them. Why? Because fortune does indeed favor the bold. The bold risk great things and therefore fortune is a natural and interested companion along the way. Fortune is attracted to bravery and risk-taking. (This does not imply that all risks are equal, or even equally fortunate, only that fortune prefers boldness to a lack thereof.)

Now it might appear on the surface that the heroic individual, or group, is often both bold and lucky. But the actual truth is they are lucky precisely because they are bolder than everyone else. Hence luck does not make one bold, being bold makes one lucky. There is a direct, if not always immediately observationally evident, correlation. That man who takes the most risk is that man who is likely to be luckiest and to be most successful. Even if bravery does not create good fortune in a particular circumstance it at least maintains and augments what good fortune already exists within that circumstance.

There are several reasons for this I think, some derived from my own personal observations, others I have gathered from anecdotal evidence, some taken from historical studies, still others implied by the equation I listed above.

First, the psychological ones:

1. The man who is audacious and daring tends to impress others with their vision. Small visions do not attract interest or followers. Bravery impresses and heroic visions and examples evoke imitation. Courage inspires devotion. And devotion inspires more courage as well as more of itself, which thereby tends to augment good fortune through cooperative enterprise and shared labor and objectives. Making success far more likely.

2. The individual who is brave tends to impress even dangerous creatures and animals, which will sometimes flee a man who the animal could easily kill because the man exhibits no fear. So if something or even someone thinks you’re crazy enough to be unafraid (regardless of whether you really are or not in that situation) when they think you should be then this gives them pause about their own chances of success against you. Courage in yourself can often inspire caution in an enemy or dangerous opponent, tipping the scales of good fortune, as well as the initiative and control of the situation in your favor.

(This has happened to me on more than one occasion with animals, men, and situations. For instance I’ve been shot at and drawn on on more than one occasion. Most recently this happened to me about two weeks ago. Yet I managed to defuse that particular situation without bloodshed or anyone being harmed because I walked towards the gunfire instead of freezing or fleeing from it when guns were drawn. Not that walking into gunfire is the most impressive or important kind of courage, it is far from it. Other things are often far more dangerous. I know that from personal experience. But the policeman in this case had the wrong location and the wrong target and he was obviously afraid of attack himself and so he drew and fired when he thought he was under attack. I don’t blame him by the way, he did indeed think he was under attack and may have even thought he could possibly be killed. He was also a young fella and a bit of a rookie. I doubt he had ever drawn his weapon before in the line of duty, but that’s just an assumption mind you based upon my observations of the boy, I didn’t really ask him. But he didn’t do anything really wrong; he was just surprised and scared by the situation, not knowing what was really going on. So I supported him when his commanding officer came out to do the in-the-field inquiry about why and how he had discharged his weapon. But I was able to prevent any real harm during the incident by walking into his line of fire [he wasn’t shooting at me, but I caused him to pause by interjecting myself] and taking control of the situation with my voice. Thereby stopping any further firing. I don’t think most people realize how effective an instrument the human voice can be in controlling a dangerous situation but those of you with law enforcement or military backgrounds probably know exactly what I mean. Your voice is probably often your most effective tool of courage and control. So I wasn’t afraid at all when it was happening, though my wife later yelled at me, as she often will, by saying “you stupid white guys run towards gunfire instead of away from it.” But obviously it has got nothing to do with being white, I’ve known a lot of brave men from all kinds of backgrounds, or even really with being stupid I would argue, but with training. I wasn’t afraid at all and so acted as I have trained myself over time, to walk towards danger and not away from it, and to attempt to command any given dangerous situation by not panicking, but by trying to assume control of the circumstances. I also wasn’t scared at all in this situation because I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. Over time I have basically trained fear for my own safety out of myself so that when others are endangered I think about others and not myself. Which eliminates the occupation with “self-fear.” It has become a matter of habit by now, and I never consciously weigh dangers for myself in my mind in that way anymore. However this does not mean the elimination of fear, if my children or wife had been under fire or endangered then I would have been afraid, I would have been thinking of their survival. I do not think though, and thank God this has never occurred, that even in that situation it would have paralyzed me, but I would have been afraid. Afraid for them. Indeed after the shooting I spoke about before was over and I realized just how bad the situation could have become for everyone – there was another officer who could have drawn and started shooting but he remained basically calm and watchful – I had about two minutes where I needed to sit down. To prevent my legs from shaking. But that was about 15 to 20 minutes later. Various friends and some people at church heard about this little adventure from my wife and the police and they all said I was a lucky fool. Just shook their heads. But I wasn’t a lucky fool; I was lucky because in that situation my training allowed me to be bold enough to prevent the situation from becoming completely out of control. I guess what I’m saying is that training yourself to move towards danger may seem apparently crazy, and so the assumption is that you just get lucky that nothing bad happens. Actually you get lucky because you act boldly. The crazy is only relative to those who do not understand that boldness enhances good fortune, not detracts from it.)

3. Bravery does not allow for panic, especially not debilitating panic. Courage is usually prepared for most situations (through exercise, practice, training, and habit) or at the very least does not panic and make situations worse. Boldness has “faith in itself.” Because boldness and enterprise are habits and skills that can be learned through practice. Perhaps some people are naturally born fearless or bold. But regardless of the veracity of that statement a person can become bold and daring through the exercise and practice of courage, just as is the case with bodybuilding through resistance training. You become muscularly and physically stronger by working ever-heavier resistance against weak and inexperienced muscles. You become more courageous by placing yourself in dangerous situations and exercising control against your fear. Eventually your “courage physique” will increase and it will take more and more danger to cause fear any real friction or resistance against you.

That’s all I’m gonna say about the psychological factors because it is not my intent in this essay to discuss all possible psychological variables. But merely to present basic possibilities.

greek

Now for some of the physical factors:

1. I suspect that on the physical level there is an “Entrainment of the unlikely” but nevertheless “necessarily possible” whenever boldness is a factor operating upon the physical environment. That is to say that boldness has both a physical and a quantum effect upon the surrounding environment much as it does on the psychological environment in which courage is in operation. Though the effect may be subtle, it nevertheless positively influences events in favor of the party operating “boldly.” The apparent physical effect is displayed as a tendency of events to move favorably in relation to the “bold party.” Though of course more than one party may be simultaneously operating in a bold fashion. It is not my intention in this short essay though to discuss competitions or conflicts between separate parties acting against each other each in their own bold fashion. That subject can be taken up by another if they so desire.

2. I suspect boldness is probably also a “quantum excitement” to the local environment, causing obstacles and frictions to move away from or bend away from the “bold party.” Friction and resistance does not build up in the environment against the bold, but rather boldness acts as a sort of overlaying energy field that slightly tilts the operational environment in the favor of the bold. You might think of daring and risk as exciting the local environment in such a way that it acts as a sort of simultaneous lubricant for good fortune, and as a sort of barrier against misfortune.
Now if all, or indeed if any of this is true, then this idea has large scale implications for human activity and work in the real world. It also has large scale gaming implications, because heroic gaming could therefore be used as a sort of imaginary training ground for the development of higher and higher states of mental and psychologically habitual (behavioral habits begin in the mind after all) boldness, which could then be effectively transferred outside the self-contained environment of a given game and exported to the wider world.

But for the moment, since this is a website and forum dedicated to gaming let’s examine how we might exploit the idea encapsulated by the statement: “Boldness makes you luckier.”
So I’m going to make a few suggestions as to how to use this hypothesis within your game and/or game setting.

1. If you use some factor, variable, or attribute in your game that represents or expresses Luck (I use several in my games) then (given that my previous statements and hypotheses above make sense to you) anytime your players display real courage this should have a corresponding and even compounding “Luck Effect.” If they are brave, and bold, then their level of Good Fortune should naturally increase, or be augmented in some way. Good luck is never lazy, and it is rarely risk-averse. Rather the braver the character the more likely he is to be lucky in any given situation (assuming he or she does not face impossible odds or an inescapable situation).

So acts of courage and heroism are more than likely to have a direct and positive corresponding effect upon factors of good fortune and the benefits bestowed by luck. I can’t tell you how to do this exactly in your game or setting (because I don’t know the details of your setting) but it is my recommendation that you bind together in some way acts of heroism and boldness to corresponding gains in good fortune. (However these things might be expressed, as bonuses to saving throws, or as “luck advantages,” or as gains to certain types of abilities or skills, or whatever the particular case may be in your situation.)

2. I would also suggest that acts of cowardice and timidity have a corresponding suppression upon factors involving luck. The risk averse would also be averse to natural good fortune. After all the obverse of my proposition, that bravery makes you luckier, is easily demonstrable. No great thing was ever achieved by timidity. The timid do not attempt and therefore naturally do not achieve great things. That is self-evident. Therefore good fortune can hardly be considered a close ally of timidity or cowardice, for achievement is the opposite of being retiring and timid. And achievement against great odds can be called one of the potential proofs of good fortune. So the bold often achieve where the timid will not go. And good fortune goes where the bold dare to lead her. Therefore fortune is long time friend of the bold, but always the stranger to the timid.

3. Courage might not only affect “Luck Factors” but even attributes like Charisma, Wisdom, and leadership. Courage should and will increase luck and overall good fortune but it might also temporarily or even permanently increase attribute scores like Charisma, Wisdom, Intelligence, or leadership abilities.

4. Courage causing increases in luck and good fortune might also have a corresponding positive effect upon things like intuition or even psychic abilities (I use the term psychic to reflect both mental abilities and spiritual capabilities.)

5. Courage would make one “fortunate” in the types and quality of the individuals you attract to yourself as friends, allies, and followers.

6. Another suggestion I might make is that in game terms at least allow for a sort of generalized and conditional reaction to acts of heroism, bravery, and boldness on the part of the surrounding environment. This could take any number of different forms but the overall effect would be that the environment “acts lucky” towards the person exhibiting bravery, initiative, and enterprise.

7. Courage and luck might have a beneficial effect upon the degree of power and level of control one may exercise over magic, magical items, artifacts, and devices, and/or more mundane types of tools/technology.

8. If courage increases good fortune and good fortune makes survival more likely then heroism and bravery should likely have direct and positive effects upon any useful survival mechanism or skill within your game.
These are but a few simple ways that the relationship between boldness and good fortune could be exploited in game, and could also serve as a sort of “reward system” to your best and bravest role-players. I could go into other related matters such as the possible mathematical relationship between boldness, confidence, and chance mechanisms, like gaming dice. But I’ve explored pretty much what I personally wanted to explore as regards this subject, and since I am presenting this post as an Interactive Essay others can add related or peripheral content as they see fit.

But in summation I would also like to encourage you all to make better use of heroism, enterprise, initiative, and boldness in your own situation(s), both in real life and in-game. I suspect that given time you will find yourself more and more inclined to boldness through practice (assuming you are not already), and as a result of that more likely to find yourself enjoying an ever increasing level of good fortune and definite luck.

Good luck to you then.

DIDN’T HELP MUCH

Whoever he was…

But from a gaming perspective this gave me a good idea. Imagine a previously damaged piece of armor, never repaired, whose magic, or virtue, or defect, stemmed from that very damage/mis-shaping. For instance the amror might give either a normal benefit or even some type of magical or supernatural benefit overall, but it might also do things like make the wearer invulnerable at the point of prior damage/injury, or it might make the wearer totally invulnerable to the type of weapon or attack that had previously damaged the armor.

Or, for instance, the armor might make one totally invulnerable to all attacks except the very kind of attack that had previously damaged it. And those are just a  few possible ideas.

The point is that the previous history of, and damage to, the armor would render it useful enough to be of extraordinary benefit in some or most situations, but also vulnerable enough in certain circumstances to be a dangerous liability.

The same of course could easily be true of weapons or any other type of device or artifact. Prior history influences or writes current or future function.

This is a French cuirass, a breastplate worn as body armour by French cavalry. The hole is from a British cannonball that smashed through the unlucky soldier’s chest. The Waterloo campaign was the first occasion that British troops found themselves face to face with Napoleon’s heavy cavalry, whose armoured cuirasses and metal helmets made them a daunting foe.

Yet as the British would discover, even these armoured troopers were by no means invincible as this breastplate brings home with shocking force.

The bulk of Napoleon’s heavy cavalry was made up of the twelve regiments of Cuirassiers, but the elite of the arm, in their own eyes at least, were the men of the two regiments of Carabiniers. With a lineage running back to 1679, the Carabiniers had only been given cuirasses in 1809. Unlike the cuirassiers, their armour was gilded with brass rather than being of polished iron, and their old blue uniforms were changed for white. Both regiments served with distinction throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and in 1815 were brigaded together under Général de Brigade Blanchard as part of Général de Division Kellermann’s III Corps de Cavalerie.

Riding in the ranks of the 2eme Carabiniers was 23-year-old trooper François-Antoine Fauveau. A recent recruit, Fauveau’s height of 1.79 metres gave him the ideal stature for a heavy cavalry regiment. These, after all, were intended to be big men on big horses, riding down the enemy by the weight of their charge. The young man’s service papers also record that he had a long, freckled face with a large forehead, blue eyes, aquiline nose, and a small mouth.

During the afternoon of June 18th, the Carabiniers, along with the rest of the French heavy cavalry, were thrown repeatedly against the squares of allied infantry on the ridge forming the centre-right of Wellington’s line. As the cavalry charged, allied gunners kept them under fire until the last moment before dashing for the safety of their supporting infantry, and it was from one of their guns that Fauveau received his death-wound. Although impressive to look at, and capable of turning a sword-stroke or a pistol ball, no cuirass could deflect a cannon shot.
There is, however, a twist to the tale. Family legend has it that when his call-up papers arrived, François-Antoine was on the point of getting married, so his brother joined up, and died, in his place. Yet whoever was wearing it on June 18th, this cuirass serves to emphasise the brutality of Napoleonic warfare at a most personal level.

 

THE LOST WORLD

I don’t know how many of you RPG players who frequent my blog are old enough to remember the Empire of the Petal Throne (in Tekumel).

I’m old enough to remember both it and the original Blackmoor, and I bought and played both, though some short time after their original releases.

In any case I always thought Empire of the Petal Throne, not just the D&D setting, but the entire milieu (fictional and gaming) was one of the very most interesting fantasy mileus/worlds ever invented.

So in honor of this I will be making some posts, today and in the near future, on this brilliant and fascinating fantasy setting, and world.

Anyway, to you younger players, or to you older players who still remember this world and this setting, you should find this interesting.

Enjoy.

 

The World of Tékumel

At what point does a world become real? You can detail the languages, cultures, personalities, political systems, histories … but beyond all this is something more that can bring a world alive in the imagination … and make it almost exist.

click to enlargeThe Thoroughly Useful Eye

[click to enlarge]

The world of Tékumel is complex—steeped in history, hoary tradition, a complex clan and social system, myriad flora and fauna. There is a proverb for every time and place, several complete languages and their beautiful scripts, and thirty-four forms of the personal pronoun ‘you’ in Tsolyáni.

This section holds canonical information (recognised by Professor Barker as ‘official’ or ‘real’ Tékumel) about the world of Tékumel that has been previously published in various game systems, sourcebooks and novels. Over time The Eye of Illuminating Glory section will become a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the world of Tékumel: history, races, maps, cultures, language, militaria, arcana and more.

[Return to Top]

You are about to enter the world of Tékumel, the incredible work of imagination by Professor M.A.R. Barker.

If you’ve never encountered Tékumel before, you’ve stumbled upon an entire world the equal of Tolkien’s Middle-earth in detail and wonder: thousands of years of history, entire languages, rich cultures, unique creatures, bloody conflicts and fascinating mysteries.

Whether a new visitor or an old fan, there’s a world to explore here at the official home of M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel:

About the Site

The Eye of Incomparable Understanding

About the Site

If you’re new to Tékumel, start by reading this section: a brief welcome, a guide for new visitors, a history of changes to the site, and a comprehensive site map. Here also can be found the Tékumel FAQ and the Tékumel Product List, plus the site’s ever-useful search function.

World of Tékumel

The Eye of
Illuminating
Glory

World of Tékumel

Lots of fascinating information to immerse you in the rich science-fantasy world of Tékumel. We’ll explore the world’s history, the most common gods worshipped, some of the strange beings that share the planet with mankind, and a comprehensive collection of maps of the northern continent.

Tékumel Gaming

The Eye of
Opening
the Way

Tékumel Gaming

Role-playing, boardgaming and miniatures gaming, for those who wish to adventure among Tékumel’s inhabitants. Here you’ll find a wealth of roleplaying systems, adventure materials, game system tools and playing aids, plus a look at miniatures created for Tékumel.

Tékumel Archive

The Eye of
Retaining All
Things

Tékumel Archive

Hard-to-find information from now-defunct fanzines and online mailing lists, including the Eye of All-Seeing Wonder and Visitations of Glory. Visit Tékumel Tales for fiction set on Tékumel. You’ll find useful links to other sites and discussions, plus The Blue Room, a vast repository of information.

Want to talk with other explorers of Tékumel? The Forums.

Hunting for that rare Tékumel item? Tita’s House of Games.

Writing new Tékumel material? The Tékumel Foundation.

%d bloggers like this: