fajrdrako: Supernatural ([Dean])
Went to see a documentary at Alliance Française called "Les origines du langage", about how speech and language developed originally in homo sapiens. Apparently once it happened, it happened fast, because it was such an evolutionary advantage. They said the same parts of the brain which deal with gesture and patterns are the parts that deal with language.

It wasn't too difficult to understand the French, though when they first started talking bout "Les Austrolopithèques" I thought "the who?" The easiest person to understand was a linguist from the Université du Québec à Montréal, which probably means my ear is pretty much attuned to the local accent and speech patterns.

I'd like to see it again.

fajrdrako: (Doctor Who - Amy Pond)


They really did find the body of Richard III.

Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king's.

I like the way it shows that history isn't a closed book, that we can learn more all the time - including things that happened in 1485.

fajrdrako: (Default)


Not unexpected, but bad news nonetheless.

Timbuktu mayor: Mali rebels torched library of historic manuscripts.

I hate it when this happens. It's so easy to destroy old things, so difficult to preserve and value them.

Nicholas would be furious.

fajrdrako: (Default)


One thousand six hundred and thirty-four years ago, Basil of Caesarea died in Cappadocia. He was one of the men who shaped Christianity the way it is today; establishing the Trinity and the Nicene Creed; being an example of a strong bishop, theologically and politically; setting up the monastic tradition; being an example of charity and kindness and non-materialism; and having a huge influence on the future of Western civilization.



It may seem odd for a humanist like me to be interested in Christian saints, but they were fascinating people - some weird, some wonderful - and they did a lot to make the world we live in. I hope we are evolving beyond their world view, intellectually speaking. But (to borrow a metaphor), they are the giants on whose shoulders we build. They are our past.

I have another reason to like St. Basil. In September, I went to the Göreme Open-air museum, Nevşehir Province in Turkey. An amazing place: a land of "fairy chimneys" - which Canadians in Alberta call "hoodoos" . The French call them demoiselles coiffées. Unusual, beautiful, otherworldly. And in the many caves of these fairy chimneys and hills of soft stone the early Christians carved beautiful churches with narrative paintings on the walls, with columns and vaults and chambers. Walking into one of these churches now is like stepping into the world of 1500 years ago.

This morning one of my friends who was with me in Turkey, Tasia, sent me a link to the lovely Greek Hymn to St. Basil.

It was St. Basil who encouraged anchorites to live in these caves, establishing a Christian community. As so often in history, the influence of one man in the right time and place creates a trend and shapes the future.

fajrdrako: icon by <user name=fajrdrako> ([Bond])



  • There are two new trainers at the gym, both named Caitlyn. Huh.

  • and Pim picked me up after I was through at the gym, and we went to breakfast at Kristy's. Over breakfast, Pim let us look at her shiny new Samsung Galaxy, which she got to replace her dead Blackberry yesterday. It's very pretty. Mostly we were looking at picture galleries of Daniel Craig and Ben Whishaw. I must say, the system works very well indeed for doing this. Also for reading fanfic on AO3. We had a fun breakfast, spending a lot of the time laughing. Not to mention exclaiming when the device did something we didn't expect, like making a lovely picture disappear unexpectedly.

  • As our rather exuberant breakfast was drawing to a close, [livejournal.com profile] maaseru said, "You know, they serve Christmas dinner here."

    There was a beat, as we each thought the same thing: "Why not?" We always make our own shared Christmas meal, which is delicious and wonderful, but takes a lot of time, money and effort on Christmas day. This will be different. This will be a nice change.

    Reservations have been made.

  • After breakfast we were on our way home when we passed by a Dollarama on Somerset Ave. W. that we hadn't seen before. "Shall we check it out?" we said, almost in unison. We then went on one of those little Dollarama shopping sprees that are such fun: I got some Christmas ribbon, parchment paper for Christmas cookies, dishwashing detergent, a Christmas Elf hat, and a small mason jar.

  • I have started doing yoga daily again. Feels good.

  • Tasia came over, and we watched Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan War, a six-hour miniseries about the history of the eastern Mediterranean around 1200 B.C. Utterly fascinating, especially since there were scenes in places we went to in September: Troy, Istanbul, and Pamukkale. And places Tasia has been to but I have not, like Mikinos, Thebes, Pylos, Knossos, and Berlin; and places I have been to in the UK, like the British Museum.

    This was made in 1985, and it was interesting also to see the inadvertent glimpses of modern history: Berlin behind the Iron Curtain, famous historians like Colin Renfrew, or the clunky state of computers and electronic devices in use.

    We both loved the show - John Woods is fabulous, and he explains the history so well. Most historical documentaries have me shouting at the screen in ten minutes in frustration: either they sensationalize or oversimplify. This series does neither. Solid information, well explained, about an era I find fascinating. Once again I want to go back and read about Michael Ventris - I believe there's a new biography of him out - Evans, and the Hittites.


    I was wondering what that thing is, behind Wood's right shoulder.


  • We have seen other Michael Wood miniseries, like In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, but not his first series, In Search of the Dark Ages. I have the book, but the TV series seems to be unavailable on DVD. What a shame!

fajrdrako: (Default)
I found an interesting article online about unusual carvings in a medieval church: 'Forgotten' grotesques discovered in medieval church. But none of the articles on the subject talked about the approximate age of the carvings, or of the church.

To a local, I suppose it would be obvious whether the church was, say, Anglo-Saxon, or 15th century. I'd guess that kind of carving was more typical of the 13th or 14th century. I wish they'd said.
fajrdrako: (Default)


They've found some medieval underwear. Not in such bad shape, either. You can really tell what it is. But then again, how many viable designs can you have for bra and panties?

I'm impressed

Now, I always suspected people wore underwear in the Middle Ages, but couldn't prove it for lack of evidence. Now there is... something.

Seems to me historical discoveries are being made at an unprecedented rate these days.

fajrdrako: (Default)


An interesting story about art and life: The Highwaymen. Wikipedia article: The Highwaymen. Seems there are lots of websites about them.



Seems to me this reflects what happens all over the world, where scenery and tourists interconnect. Except that here it has a particularly interesting background of a very particular social history.

fajrdrako: ([Black Widow])


I came across a mystery I hadn't heard about before - The Dyatlov Pass Incident. I'd call it "The Dyatlov Pass Deaths", myself.

The Wikipedia account

Another site about it: The Dyatlov Pass Incident

The The Skeptoid explanation seems less plausible to me than the "official weapons testing" explanation, but who knows?

Made me think of Black Widow.

fajrdrako: (Default)




I'm very interested in the Picts, and this acheological site near Aberdeen fascinates me.

For elucidation, here's something on the Rhynie Man.

Tuesday...

Nov. 15th, 2011 09:34 pm
fajrdrako: (Default)



  • Worked again on my Dunnett web pages. Enjoyed myself way too much reading things like:

      Their wolfs heartis in labis likeness;
      Their thoughts black, hid under wordis white,
      Fie on their labour! fie on their delight!
      That feinen outward all to her honour,
      And in their heart her worship would devour.

        - The Kings Quair by James I of Scotland, in The Book of Scottish poems, ancient and modern by John Ross.


  • Tried applying for Employement Insurance online, but couldn't figure out what I was supposed to say at one point - none of the options fit - and of course I couldn't get through to them by phone. I'll try again tomorrow morning.

  • Met up with [personal profile] fairestcat at Bridgehead, and had a truly lovely and relaxing time with her.

  • French class was great as always. The people in this class are much more talkative and interactional than the last class. We had to prepare a dialoque with a partner about buying something - I was negotiating to buy a comic book from her, but she was asking too much, and wouldn't lower the price. It was fun - most of the dialogues were quite funny.


    Now to do some studying before going to bed.

  • fajrdrako: (Default)




    A little research this morning, before rushing off to work.

    In "Quotes of the Day" today there was this passage from H. Rider Haggard:

      Out of the dark we came, into the dark we go. Like a storm-driven bird at night we fly out of the Nowhere; for a moment our wings are seen in the light of the fire, and, lo! we are gone again into the Nowhere. - H. Rider Haggard, 1856 - 1925


    Very familiar, and not from H. Rider Haggard - not that I haven't read him and probably that passage, too; but it rang bells as being from Anglo-Saxon literature, something Haggard was citing or translating or paraphrasing. So I had to find out where. It turns out to be from the Venerable Bede, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, chapter XIII, when the English are debating whether to become Christian in the time of Bishop Paulinus:

      Another of the king's chief men, approving of his wise words and exhortations, added thereafter: "The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed."


    The King, of course, is Edwin of the Northumbrians. I always loved that metaphor. But then... I love so much of the Venerable Bede. This reminds me that I was re-reading Bede a few months ago, and stopped. Must get back to it. Obviously I hadn't got as far as that scene.

    Whew. Finding it makes me feel better. Now I can go to work happy.

    fajrdrako: (Default)




    I went today to see the movie Anonymous, starring Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who in this movie is the real author of all Shakespeare's plays.



    Okay, fair enough. I've been curious enough to read about the Oxfordian case, even though I think it's a bit of historical hogwash. I can suspend my disbelief for the sake of a good movie.

    Sadly, this wasn't a good movie. I say "sadly" because I love movies set in any historical era, but the Tudor period is a bit of a favourite (probably thanks to Dorothy Dunnett), and I'm itching for another good story in that setting. La Reine Margot? Elizabeth, the Golden Age? Shakespeare in Love? Love 'em.

    I was forewarned that the movie portrayed Shakespeare as a rotter. I didn't realize he was also going to be an illiterate idiot. Even after going to grammar school in Stratford? What kind of teaching standards did they have? Given that Shakespeare (the idiot actor in the movie, I mean) had to be able to read to learn his lines, they say that he could read but couldn't write, and when challenge to write the letter "i", which is described to him, he can't do it. Is that even possible?

    To give credit where it is due, Rhys Ifans does a very good job of portraying the feckless Oxford. I loved the musical score by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker. Some of the costumes were terrific. But, beyond that... )
    fajrdrako: (Default)




    I went to see The Three Musketeers with Sheila and Ian.

    There's something about that era... When I was four years old I was madly in love with a portrait of King Charles I as the Prince of Wales that was in the National Gallery. I loved going to the art gallery with my parents; they could look at any number of things, and there I was, transfixed by Charles I. I still love that painting.



    I can't explain my passion for images of the early seventeenth century; the swashbuckling, the sense of intrigue. Though I enjoy reading about the history of the time, it isn't one I've ever particularly studies. And for all this movie is a live-action 3D cartoon full of airships and explosions, it captures whatever kernel it is that captures my love and imagination. It could have been made just for me.

    A few comments... )

    fajrdrako: (Default)




    I love archeological mysteries. And yet before today I never heard of the Plain of Jars in Laos.

    Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it. How fascinating... I see now there are many sites, many with great photos, like this one from 7 Most Fascinating Asian Battle Sites (and this just after I'd been reading about Hiroshima!):



    There are good photos at... )

    fajrdrako: (Default)




    I found this interesting: The Rebuilding of Stonehenge. I knew there's been restoration, but I didn't know it had been as extensive as this makes it seem. I suppose it's good for the tourist trade to make it seem as untouched and authentic as possible. On the other hand, I tend to take with a grain of salt any site called "ufos-aliens" and which seems to be about cosmic conspiracies. Not that I don't love X-Files as much as the next fan...

    I also, of course, went for a look at Constable's picture.

    It made me think of the things Zawi Hawas has done in Egypt. Of the things that need to be done to the Colosseum in Rome. Time takes it toll, of course - and sometimes archeologists move things around, like Schliemann at Troy.

    fajrdrako: (Default)




    The truth is out: Why Hitler lost the war, courtesy of Dizzy Dee.

    fajrdrako: ([Medieval])




    Watched The Borgias tonight with [personal profile] commodorified, [personal profile] fairestcat, [personal profile] auriaephiala, [personal profile] deakat, and [livejournal.com profile] raynedaze.

    Mixed feelings. I expected something as extravagantly hokey and superficial as The Tudors, and it wasn't that. It was... in many ways very impressive. But just a little flat. Not quite real enough. Not enough variation in tone.

    • Seems to me Rodrigo Borgia was exculpated from a lot. I expected him to be more calculating and ruthless; instead, while he was calculating enough, it was Cesare who was the ruthless one, and Rodrigo was more of an innocent than I expected. I don't know the history well enough to know the truth.

    • Loved the title sequence.

    • Sadly, the real Rodrigo Borgia did not look like Jeremy Irons. Pity.

    • Lucrezia seemed a little too artless. At fourteen? Shouldn't she have been something of a sophisticate? Or was she less intelligent than I have always imagined? Actually, though they said she was fourteen, according to Wikipedia she was born in 1480, so she would have been twelve. She seemed much more like twelve than fourteen to my eyes.

    • Gorgeous costumes and scenery. I kept thinking nostalgically of Italy, and Italian art. Or picturing the characters as characters in one of Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo novels. And the poisoned monkey made me think of Margaret Lennox's monkey in Queen's Play.

    • I'm way too much of a Renaissance history greek: I kept getting warm fuzzy feelings at all those familial family names, Orsini and Sforza and della Rovere and such.

    • I couldn't help thinking: in 1492 Rodrigo Borgia must have been about 60. Martin Luther was just approaching puberty. Henry VIII was an infant. Calvin would be born seventeen years later. Machiavelli, who understood that sort of scheming only too well, was twenty-three.

      An era was ending.
    fajrdrako: Script - Voynich codex ([Script])




    After we watched Fringe and Supernatural this evening - two shows with a fine capacity for messing with our heads - Pim was telling me about the Voynich Manuscript, which astounds me mostly because I never heard of it before. How did that one pass me by?

    That got us - well, me - onto a search of invented scripts, invented languages, and fictional worlds - all subjects I love. The "see also" and the "external links" addenda to this Wiki article are fascinating. Why does this make me think of The Ninth Gate or Le Club Dumas?

    It's fun to browse this list of fictional worlds, too.

    fajrdrako: (Default)




    They're excavating it! They found it!

    This is so very cool.

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