felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Pardoner)
So as of yesterday I have an altar from IKEA. Not that IKEA advertises it as such - rather, I've redeemed that most fallen of furniture-pieces, the TV table, and repurposed it toward a nobler end than the one it was destined for.

However, I'm quite sure that given the explosive growth of Neo-Paganism in Sweden as elsewhere, IKEA home altars are in the offing.

There is, of course, nothing new about Pagan holy sites that require assembly. Earlier this year, archaeologists uncovered a 6th-century Greek temple with assembly instructions in Italy.

And on Labour Day I was researching ancient Norse temples -- what else does one do on Labour Day, really? -- and was directed toward an article on heathen hofs and stave churches. For anyone who's never seen a picture of a stave church, they really are quite beautiful. Current thinking is that as soon as the Christians had burnt down the Pagan temples, they stole the architectural style. The Vikings had no DRM, so the copyright on their sacred architecture was easily bypassed. Stave temples became stave churches.

Anyway, I bring this up because the steps in building such a temple read suspiciously like the instructions to the Hemnes grey-brown sprucewood altar. Which explains why the Swedish are so good at this - they've been doing since Viking ages. Real Harald Bluetooth technology.

And you can just bet that the Vikings were furious after they waited ages by the warehouse to collect their DIY temples, only to be told that same-day delivery by longship was 85 ounces of hacksilver. Then they would undoubtedly over to collect their kids, who would have been screaming playfully in a small room filled of the skulls of IKEA's enemies.

And one day I'm sure, archaeologists will dig below the postholes and hearth sites and Frankish glass and gold figurines they always find in those buried Norse temple sites, and find the Allen keys. Because you know, once you lose the Allen keys, it will take you a thousand years to find them again.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I've been doing a fair bit of historical research -- not for my poor, neglected website, though I have all the material I need to read for my next entry gathering dust on my desk, awaiting a time of motivation.

No, I've been researching medieval Europe for the second novel I have going, especially those details that most fantasy writers just don't care, and just crib off other writers, who cribbed off other writers, who cribbed off other writers, who stole them from either J.R.R. Tolkien or Gary Gygax. It's about time the whole inbred fantasy genre got some fresh blood.

On that note, I've gone back to the history books for my setting, back to the medieval sources for my monsters, and back to medieval and Roman stories about witches for my spells. I'm reading an excruciatingly-detailed 19th-century history text on crime in medieval England right now.

Meanwhile, I'm returning to material I'd forgotten since undergrad history. I'd forgotten that spaces between words and small letters only really came into popular use in the court of Charlemagne, in the 700s AD.

Think about it -- up until then, all letters were written in all-caps shouting, which strikes me as very rude. No wonder there were so many wars back then.
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From Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, in the section dealing with Christian attempts to eradicate the "rustic" paganism of the illiterate country folk once they were done with the priesthood and temples in the cities:

"Take the learned Agobard of Lyons, bishop until his death in 840: he writes a treatise titled, though perhaps not by the author, 'Against the stupid opinions of the masses,' in which he begins, 'In these parts nearly everyone, noble or lowly, citified or rustic, old or young, thinks that hailstorms and thunder are within the control of man'; and from here he goes on to describe a universal belief in practitioners called tempestarii or weather-men who can be called in to control the source of the phenomena, which most folk say come from a sky-land called Magonia and are born along celestial ships.

"Now this, says Agobard, is madness, a great stupidity; and the most profound stupidity of all which he recently witnessed was the exhibiting of four people tied up and held in the public prison who, it was advertised, had accidentally tumbled out of the ships!"
Am I the only one who thinks that castaways from weather-controlling skyships into Dark Ages France would make a great basis for a fantasy short story? I'm filing this one away for later.
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So we were without water here for 24 hours, after my parents' laundry room and the sun room flooded. Giant snow drifts kept us trapped indoors for 48 hours. So yeah, I've had better holidays.

It's given me a lot of time to read, though. I finished Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins.

Book review follows )

I'm now reading a history book, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries by Ramsay MacMullen. So far it's the best thing I've read since Beedle the Bard, which I read on the plane.
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I've updated my historical website with something historical for a change. The new article is about homosexuality in the media at the end of the 19th and the turn of the 20th century in Canada.

Individual cases had been mentioned, but this was the first time homosexuality started to get talked about as a "social problem."

Doing this site has been really interesting. I've not only had to dig up LGBT history, but a lot of general Canadian history as well to do a background on these issues. There's so much out there that would be considered vital history to know in any other country, but which isn't even taught in our schools.
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I just thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Lughnassadh to all those who observe it ^_^

I'm very slowly getting caught up on LJ again. Mostly I've been wrapped up in writing, in work, in Timothy Findley. I tried Psychonauts today -- I saw it at [livejournal.com profile] node357's -- and it deserves its reputation.

Er, yes -- how about ancient Roman Graffiti from the city of volcano-buried Pompeii.
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I just finished a book entitled Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill. I gave it as a gift once and it seemed interesting, so I bought a copy for myself as well.

Cahill's built a career as the optimist's historian. What interests him aren't the wars, political struggles, glories, and evils, but the remarkable, positive moments -- like how Irish Catholic monks copied and preserved technically heretical Classical texts so as to keep them alive and in memory.

Mysteries is kind of a random sampling of the people and places he finds interesting, and which tend to get forgotten in the modern view of the Middle Ages as a sterile and superstitious age. He covers the City of Alexandria, the first universities, Hildegaard of Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Francis of Assisi, Dante, Giotto, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Héloïse and Abelard, among others.

Review continues )
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Today I finished Lover's Legends: The Gay Greek Myths, Andrew Calimach's attempts to restore at least one version of the more homoerotic Greek stories. Few of them are direct translations -- they're all mixes and matches of different fragments from a wide variety of sources to create possible lost versions.

He uses the Erotes of pseudo-Lucian to frame it. The Erotes is an old debate (1700 years old) over which sexual orientation is best. I've read the Erotes before, and Calimach keeps close to the more popular translation (although his is more poetic).

It's absolutely beautiful, and Calimach puts a lot of his own poetic and spiritual energies into it -- he's especially interested in shamanic ideas underneath some of the mystery faiths and older myths.

One idea he discussed only in one of the footnotes intrigues me -- the idea that the mystery cult of Dionysus may be one of the sources of Christian mythology/religious practice. I've always been quite interested in the roles other religions played in the development of Christianity and Judaism, which have been traditionally portrayed as appearing fully-formed with the arrival of tablets and/or messiahs.

This claim always seemed suspicious to me, and it seems now that Christianity especially arose out of a soup of local religions and traditions in the eastern Empire -- the Cult of Isis (and Horus), Zoroastrianism, Cynic philosophy, and Mithraism. Virgin births were a dime a dozen, as were sons of gods, saviours of humanity, and harrowings of hell. Now we can add Dionysus to the mix, too.

I'm going to read Jim Egan's biography next, and after that -- having read something like five books in a row on gay topics -- I'm going to move on to other subjects. I have Seamus Heaney's Beowulf here, which is probably a good candidate.

After all, nothing less homoerotic than sweaty, muscled men.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Here's the kind of stuff you stumble on to checking Wikipedia's list of "unusual articles."

Two of my favourites:

The BBC (no less) reported that the United States military briefly considered a bomb that would cause gay sex among enemy combatants:

"The plan for a so-called "love bomb" envisaged an aphrodisiac chemical that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among troops, causing what the military called a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale."
It actually sounds like the plot of a truly awful slash fanfic written by some pre-teen who'd been watching Dr. Strangelove after snorting powdered Tang.

Also, those of you who are interested in Classical history will be happy to know that in AD 1985, Rome and Carthage finally ended 2,248 years of hostility. No peace treaty was ever signed at the end of the last Punic War, what with Carthage being razed and all, so Mayor Ugo Vetere of Rome, Italy, and Mayor Chedly Klibi of Carthage, Tunisia, finally settled their differences more than two decades ago and signed a treaty. Who knew?

ETA: And now my website has an update here. Nothing specifically Canadian -- just stuff about changing views of homosexuality in the late 19th century. I was looking for a way to slip in why I don't agree with Foucault's theories, and finally found a context for it.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Turns out my new athame is far more authentic than I gave it credit for. In fact, it's an almost perfect replica (though simplified, made of cheaper materials, and blunt-edged) of an actual sword dating from the Roman period called the Sword of Tiberius, pictured here.

The things I took for modern affectations -- the knob-like ending and the grooves on the blade -- are real aspects as well. It even has a type: Mainz-type gladius sword.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
"Piracy had a tradition of cross-dressing and effeminacy, and the pirates of the Caribbean West Indies were famed for being dandies who adored ornate, satirical, unconventional dress. Male pirates loved strutting in 'feathered hats, wigs, silk stockings, ribbons, and other garments'. Dressing up was an essential part of pirate behaviour, a factor which worked to the advantage of the many women who cross-dressed as pirates, such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the duo whose nefarious exploits were recorded by Daniel Defoe in his A General History of the Pyrates."
--- Rachel Holmes, Scanty Particulars.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] metawidget posted this, and I'd never heard the story before.

The full story is here, but the gist of it that Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov had to make a decision on whether or not to destroy the world. He was getting false readings that the Americans were launching missiles at Russia.

He chose to assume it was computer error, rather than inform his superiors of a possible attack as he was supposed to -- knowing that those superiors would probably, in turn, have launched a retaliatory attack that would have ended in all-out nuclear war. He was interrogated for not following procedure, and left the military a few months later.

His cool head probably saved all life as we know it. As a reward, is currently living in poverty in the town of Fryazino, on a pension equivalent to $200 American a month.

Anyway, there's a movement afoot to call September 26 "Petrov Day." There are probably few other individuals more deserving of a day in their honour.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I made my concluding entry on New France, on my other journal. It's mostly a summary of everything else.

I keep stumbling across various bits of trivia.

One 19th-century treatise on legal history says that residents of Roman Gaul had a tradition of trial-by-combat (the theory being that God gives victory to the one who's right). If a peasant and noble fought, the noble had to arrive without any armor but a shield, and any weapon but a staff. If he tried to cheat by showing up in armour and on a horse, these were taken from him, and he had to fight unarmed from a chair. If he got up, he would've been put to death.

I work today -- hopefully not tomorrow, but I'm not sure yet. And tonight, there's a benefit drag show for the NDP at Cleopatra.
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I updated my other blog with a series of corrections. That'll teach me to trust secondary sources -- it turns the little work done in unearthing the Saint-Michel case had been done very badly, and when I went to the original documents, I found most of it had been done incorrectly -- factual errors everywhere.

I think I've unearthed every surviving bit of information on this side of the Atlantic about Saint-Michel, unless there's some old mouldering book out there no one's discovered. As for information from France, I can't tell -- France's online government archives seem to have been programmed to be as difficult as possible.

Because of all this research, I've been scarce lately.

In any event, the entry is now four times as long and as accurate as possible. I think it's safe to say I know more about this man than any other living person. I plan on updating again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, just in time for the Fête Nationale, an anecdote from the great historian of New France, W.J. Eccles:

"Five years had elapsed since [French explorer Jacques] Cartier's departure with ten kidnapped Iroquois [including Chief Donnacona], and he had promised to bring them all back safe and sound in ten months. all but one of them, a child, had died in France. When asked, Cartier admitted that Donnacona, was dead, but he declared that the others were alive and well, great lords who now preferred to remain in France."
Some of the Natives were as good con artists as the French, though. The Hurons kept stringing the French along with promises to lead them to the Kingdom of the Saguenay, a magical land with all the gold and gems they could want, if the French would only keep coming back to trade with them exclusively. The French bought it.
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Today was the first day in seven that I didn't have to go into my regular job, though I was in training for my very temporary moonlighting one instead, giving Cambridge Exams. My first official day on the job for that is tomorrow afternoon. Then I'm back at my usual on Friday.

I also got my first heavy edit for my novel done today (checking for historical accuracy and internal consistency), as well as getting a little more research done. I stumbled onto a book of 19th-century pictures of British Columbia, which may prove helpful.

I also reread The Half-Blood Prince.

Only of Interest to Harry Potter fans, otherwise nothing to see here and plenty of spoilers. )
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I'm about one-third through my first heavy edit of the novel. This run-through is to a) make sure it's detailed and excurciatingly historically accurate (the novel takes place over 114 years and in three cities), and b) to make sure it's internally consistent.

To this end, I've been reading dozens of histories, pored over hundreds of documents, gathered a huge collection of photcopied photos, and (in Montreal) visited the locations I'm writing about, and tried to reconstruct what they would've looked like at the time.

I've researched things from the development of phone technology (to know if a person in downtown Montreal in 1945 would need to talk to an operator to make a long distance call), to urban growth patterns (to know what existed in 1900), to the origins of place names (it turns out that the name of the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale means "little throne").

I've read up on the lives of saints, on how logging was done in the BC bush in 1890, and what songs were popular in 1974.

After this, I'm going to do a quick edit to make sure it all fits together still, then a deeper edit to enrich the language.

The Future Has Kittens

I graduate in 17 days, and the last Harry Potter book comes out in 54. I'm not really sure which one I'm looking forward to, more.

And the photo of Nietzsche-Cat makes me wonder, is the cat making the statement, or is it the abyss staring back...?
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So, I spent yesterday after work wandering the city in search of traces of history. Specifically, I was hunting down Griffintown.

I've had a nightmare of a time trying to get a hold of information on this vanished neighbourhood. It was an Irish slum that grew up around the Lacine Canal, but was pretty much rezoned out of existence after the war.

I went to the site of one of Canada's most infamous murders, the killing of prostitute Mary Gallagher, who was decapitated by her best friend with an axe in their little shack in Griffintown in 1879.

The shack is gone, and it's now a parking lot, but Gallagher's ghost is supposed to come back there every 7 years, looking for her head. In that dead industrial park, surrounded by rubble and empty buildings and abandoned by the world, it's easy to believe in ghosts.

Then I stumbled accidentally onto the ruins of St. Ann's church, the heart of Griffintown. Its stone foundations survive, so you can step inside and walk the aisle to where the choir and altar once were -- they're now a copse of trees, holier by far than any manmade site and yet seeming to add the ruins' beauty to its own.

Strange, the sort of eerie beauty that clung to that church that was becoming a forest, surrounded on all sides by expressway and factories. I'm always astonished at all the beauty around me, and how little it gets noticed.
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Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the British beginning to phase out slavery in their Empire. Our Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, made a speech about it yesterday.

They weren't the first to outlaw slavery, and Upper Canada (now southern Ontario) became the first place in the Empire to begin the phase-out more than a decade before. Yet in 1807, Britain was the most powerful nation on Earth, and when they decided to shut it down on their own ships, that was a major turning point.

In other political news, Quebec votes tomorrow and I dislike all three front-runners. All three are centre-right parties, though two pretend to be left-wing during elections even though one of them is led by a former Mulroney Conservative, and the other one by a man who signed Québec Lucide.


Things were quiet today, after a rushed and unpleasant week (my parents were in town, and they used up most of my time around work and NDP functions). I am keeping up with my writing, though little else. I still haven't heard back about the exam I wrote a week ago.

Not much else to report. We are watching a new anime, now -- a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, except the count is now a gay vampire living on the moon, and he now has a kick-ass spaceship.

They must have felt this was too prosaic for anime fans, so they spiced it up by giving all the characters psychedelic outfits with patterns that shift as they move.
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It's Valentine's Day today. I'll spare you the full force of my bitterness -- I haven't had a non-disastrous date in about 5 years. However, I think I am adopting my roommate's name for it -- Dies Irae, the Day of Wrath.

The funny thing is, it's not even meant to be February 14th. It's supposed to be related to Lupercalia, an old Roman fertility holiday, but it actually comes from a story by Geoffrey Chaucer, on which Valentine's Day was the day on which all the birds chose their mate for the year.

Chaucer invented this tradition, and he seems to have been thinking of of May 2, the feast of St. Valentine of Genoa.

For some reason, it got moved/confused with the feast of a different St. Valentine, about whom nothing is known except that he was martyred.

So remember, Montrealers, when you're out there freezing in -25-with-the-windchill weather to go through the ritual date with your loved one -- or person you met last night online -- remember that this ritual self-flagellation for the coupled and the single could've been in May instead.

Now the only question is, why do the lovers get the chocolate when the singles need it more?
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I have been even more absent lately. So this is belated, please forgive me:

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I finally got my grades back for the semester. I've got seven A's and one A- so far, and one grad class left.

Mostly I've spent the last few weeks trying to get past writer's block. My usual trick (video games) worked, and I'm back on track for my self-imposed deadline for the novel in November.

Also, happy Dollard-des-Victoria-the-Patriot's Birthday today, to my fellow Canadians! Today we get together to celebrate Queen Victoria's valiant struggle for democracy in Lower Canada against the Iroquois! She was martyred, but she got better*

*To those of you completely lost, this is a long weekend in Canada. It's officially called Victoria Day, after Queen Victoria. It's also known as The Queen's Birthday, leading some to falsely assume that Lizzy Part II was born on May 24th. In Quebec, where the monarchy is often seen as a symbol of the evils of British empire and a form of parasite on the public purse, many took to calling it Dollard-des-Ormeaux, after the French soldier who was martyred, according to legend, killed by the Iroquois he set out to masssacre.

Of course, Queen Vic is now recognized as a symbol of racism, militarism, and prudery. And we tend not to consider would-be Indian mass-murderer heroic. So now it's called the Fête des Patriotes in Quebec, for the martyrs of the 1837-38 Rebellion for democracy in Lower Canada. Which doesn't help the rest of Canada.

May I humbly suggest Three-Day-Weekendmas? We could sit around, singing Three-Day-Weekend carols, roasting chestnuts over the Three-Day-Weekend log, and exchange Three-Day-Weekend presents.

Also, I don't think the name Festivus II: The Revenge of Festivus is yet taken.


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