Tuesday 28 November 2023

Italy trip photos

My recent trip to Italy was done to research as many medieval (and older) sites as I could hit. I saw a number of baptistries, cathedrals, churches, museums, and old cities. It was amazing.

I've made an album with some of the more interesting photos from my trip to Italy. If you want information on the photos, check out the album at Flickr

Italy Research Trip

Sunday 19 November 2023

The Escapist video team starts Second Wind

I'm not sure what my audience here is interested in, so I'm basically posting the kinds of things that interest me. I've been watching the video game youtube channel The Escapist for years. I remember when Yahtzee Croshaw and Jim Sterling did poetry jams. The last few years the channel grew and added a lot of new shows and personnel. One of my favourite shows there is the D&D campaign Adventure is Nigh (season 1).

A few weeks ago, The Escapist's parent company fired the editor-in-chief, and the entire video team quit in protest. They've created a new company: Second Wind. So far their youtube channel's uploaded a few videos either wholesale from The Escapist (if the creator was an independent) or a modified version (if the creator was a full employee, whose IP videos belong to The Escapist). 

So, Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation, a sarcastic video game review show, has been reborn as Fully Ramblomatic. It's a fun show so long as you're ok with adult content and swearing. I also enjoy Design Delve (if you're interested in what makes video games work behind the scenes), and Cold Take (if you like to consider the philosophical side of games). I'm hoping they start a new D&D campaign too.

The Second Wind crew's great and it's really impressive how quickly they've bounced back with this channel and content. I'm looking forward to see what new shows they come up with and watching them for years to come.

Tuesday 14 November 2023

I'm back from Vacation

I spent a month in Italy on a research trip, taking photos of lots of churches, baptistries, hill towns and more. Jetlag's been hard to kick, so it's taking me longer to get back up to speed than I'd like.

Last year I promised to post some photos of France and apparently I forgot to do so. One reason is that I had a lot of blurry shots and got a photo sharpening ai program. Fixing those photos took up a lot of time. But I will try to get some photos of both France and Italy up on my blog on the sooner side. I got an account on flickr so I can share photos here more easily (I hope).

I didn't get any reading done on the trip. The stress of going from place to place, plus the amount of time it took for me to back-up my photos every night in case something went wrong/was lost/stolen meant I didn't have much free time. I saw a lot of great stuff and took a LOT of photos.

I have another research trip I'm planning for so I'm not sure how much fiction I'll be reading in the next few months. Probably not much. I have a long list of history and religion books I want to get through as well as general city research for each place on my itinerary. I prepare detailed floor plans for churches, with diagrams or layouts of the more interesting sculptural programs (generally on portals and the west facade). All of this takes a lot of time.

So while I'm hoping to keep up posting here, it may be bi-weekly for the next few months. I'll have to see.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Books Received in October 2023

I'm back from vacation and have requested 2 books that come out next year for review. Many thanks to the publishers who approved my requests.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known by Seanan McGuire - The next book in the Wayward Children series. It takes place after Lost in the Moment and Found, so isn't a good starting point if you've not read the other books.

Antsy is the latest student to pass through the doors at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children.

When the school’s (literally irresistible) mean girl realizes that Antsy's talent for finding absolutely anything may extend to doors, Antsy is forced to flee in the company of a small group of friends, looking for a way back to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go to be sure that Vineta and Hudson are keeping their promise.

Along the way, they will travel from a world which hides painful memories that cut as sharply as its beauty, to a land that time wasn’t yet old enough to forget—and more than one student's life will change forever.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known is a story that reminds us that getting what you want doesn't always mean finding what you need.

Strange Religion by Nijay K. Gupta - I've been looking for a book that explains how ancient Romans practiced their religion and how that differed from early Christian practice. I'm hoping this is that book.

The first Christians were weird. Just how weird is often lost on today's believers.

Within Roman society, the earliest Christians stood out for the oddness of their beliefs and practices. They believed unusual things, worshiped God in strange ways, and lived a unique lifestyle. They practiced a whole new way of thinking about and doing religion that would have been seen as bizarre and dangerous when compared to Roman religion and most other religions of the ancient world.

Award-winning author, blogger, speaker, and New Testament teacher Nijay Gupta traces the emerging Christian faith in its Roman context in this accessible and engaging book. Christianity would have been seen as radical in the Roman world, but some found this new religion attractive and compelling. The first Christians dared to be different, pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, transformed how people thought about religion, and started a movement that grew like wildfire.

Brought to life with numerous images, this book shows how the example of the earliest Christians can offer today's believers encouragement and hope.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Blog Vacation

As I'm taking a research trip to Italy, I'll be away from my home computer and therefore won't be blogging for a month or so. 

It's a fairly comprehensive trip, with a lot of stops and a lot of medieval and ancient sites to visit. I've done a year's worth of research to prepare for this - and that still didn't feel like enough. Italy has such a deep and complicated history.

I've made information pages for the various churches and monuments I plan to visit. I hope to put some of those up online at the Internet Archive. I need to rework them for public use first (my current ones are designed to fit on as few pages as possible & so can be hard to read). I also need to fill in gaps where I was unable to find out the information/subject, and make corrections since some of the information I found will turn out to be out of date or wrong. Given the other research trips I still want to take (which need new information pages), reworking older pages isn't a high priority. In other words, it may be a few years before I post some of these. We'll see.

When I return I'll share some of my trip photos. 

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Shout-Out: Charming by Jade Linwood

Brave, Resourceful, Deceitful, Double-Crossing... Charming.

Prince Jean-Marc Charming Arundel, known to friends and enemies alike as "Prince Charming," is handsome, well-mannered, brave, a peerless swordsman, a cunning tactician – and a liar, a con man and a fraud. For years he has been travelling from one kingdom to the next, rescuing endangered princesses and maidens, securing their troths and his place in their fathers' palaces, then looting their treasuries and having it away before dawn.

Until a chance meeting of three of his victims – raven-haired Marie Blanche de Neige, the sorceress Doctor Emilia Rapunzel and the long-slumbering Bella Lucia dei’ Sogni – suggests a course of revenge...

Tuesday 26 September 2023

History Book Review: Magic in the Roman World: Pagans, Jews and Christians by Naomi Janowitz

The book focuses on how magic was viewed in the first Christian centuries. It has 6 chapters in addition to an introduction and conclusion. They are: 1) Greco-Roman, Christian and Jewish concepts of “magic”, w) Daimons and angels and the world of exorcism, 3) Ancient rites for gaining livers, 4) Using natural forces for divine goals: Maria the Jewess and early alchemy, 5) Divine power, human hands: becoming gods in the first century, 6) “Even the decent women practice witchcraft”: magic and gender in late antiquity.

It’s a relatively short book that gives a good introduction to the topic. The author emphasizes several times how modern definitions of the word ‘magic’ don’t match those of the past, and that we therefore have to be careful both with how we approach the topic and - if reading works in translation - how the translators may have taken innocuous words and forced a negative view on them (for example some Greek words in themselves have no magical connotations, but some translators have added the word ‘magic’ to them). Similarly, sometimes later writers objected to earlier forms of practicing their own religion, as with some people who edited the Hebrew Bible, and wrote in condemnations of what had been normal Jewish religious practices.

There are some interesting ideas here. The religious rituals of those who practiced differently were often termed magic. This could have political and therefore propagandistic purposes. The term magic comes from the Persian word ‘magos’, meaning priest. The Persians were the military enemies of the Greeks. Magic was considered bad because it worked, and worked via evil spirits rather than through the correct ‘god’ (that is, the deity the author of each specific source text followed). Thus, Romans and Greeks called Moses and Jesus “magicians” [this isn’t in the book but there are some fabulous Christian sarcophagi in the archaeological museum in Arles that show Jesus performing miracles using a magic wand, so it seems early Christians weren’t as horrified by that idea as modern Christians would be].

The book covers a decent range of topics including alchemy and deification of humans. It was interesting seeing some of the rationale behind the belief that Roman Emperors became gods after death and how some religious practitioners of other faiths tried to ascend and become like gods themselves.

The author does a good job of exploring the subject of each chapter from the Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian viewpoints. Sometimes spending more time on one group than the others, but showing how complex the notions of magic and religion were in the ancient world.

There are no photos in the book which seems a shame.

If you’re interested in ancient religions and magic, this is a quick but useful jumping off point for more in depth studies.