gwynhefar: (great unknown)
And now I'm getting all teary-eyed at work:

And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda' )

Grr . . .

Feb. 28th, 2009 05:49 pm
gwynhefar: (as shackles)
It is rare for a book to tick me off in the very first sentence, but I've found one that manages it. If it hadn't been from an author I'd read before and enjoyed I might even have not continued.

The very first sentence begins: "Branwen ap Griffith sat on the grassy hillside with her back to an oak tree . . ."

Ok, first off, if you plan on writing historical fiction set in early Medieval Wales, for goodness sake, do your research!!

Branwen is a young woman, as such she would not use the patronymic 'ap' which means 'son of'. She would use 'ferch' or 'daughter of'. Secondly, 'Griffith' is a later Anglicization of the Welsh 'Gruffudd'.

So if she'd done her homework, the sentence should correctly read "Branwen ferch Gruffudd sat on the grassy hillside . . ."

Hmmph.
gwynhefar: (did you know you could fly?)
There are those moments in every generation . . . the ones that the world looks back on years later and asks 'where were you when . . .' Today was one of those moments.

It occurs to me, that those moments are almost always bad. Let's review, shall we. In my life we have:

Challenger -- 1/28/86 I was only 6 years old. I barely remember it. I don't *think* I saw the event live. I know I did see the footage not long after, but by that time I knew what was going to happen when I watched it. I think that was probably for the best.

Berlin Wall -- 1989-1990 I list this even though it wasn't really a single *event*. I do know that it did not become real to me until I saw the images of the dismantling in 1990. Hey, I was 10 when the border was opened, and I certainly didn't understand all the political maneuvering.

Oklahoma City Bombing -- 4/19/95 I was in high school. I was also a self-absorbed teenager, so I didn't really pay much attention to the larger implications of an act of domestic terrorism. I do know that what really got me was the day care.

Columbine -- 4/20/99 Only 2 days before my 20th birthday. My first thought was that I was thankful to be out of high school. Another was that those kids sounded a lot like me when I was in high school, which scared me, although my response to being an outcast has always been to turn inward and lock myself in my room, never to lash out. But still . . .

9/11 -- 9/11/01 That was the year I'd taken off between undergrad and grad school, and I was working at a credit union. We kept CNN on television in the lobby for people to watch as the waited in line, so it was on while we were all setting up to open. I remember counting out my drawer when I noticed the "Breaking News" heading and the picture of the towers. I stopped to watch just in time to see the second plane hit, although from that angle I hadn't noticed the plane, just the huge fireball. I called to my co-workers and we all stood glued to the TV for most of the day. One of the loan officers had a brother and a sister who both worked close to the towers, and he was unable to get in touch with them until almost closing, so that made it personal for us.

Katrina -- 8/29/05 This was the first one I didn't just watch on the TV. I lived it, and I won't go into detail because I already have many times. Just that there are two moments that stick out in my mind -- sitting on my bed up against the corner of the room with my knees to my chest terrified as the apartment literally shook around me, and that moment of relief after the storm had passed and before we knew that the levees had broken. For that one moment I actually had the thought, 'well that was actually kinda cool'. Then we started hearing about the levees, and 'cool' went out the window.

Virginia Tech Massacre -- 4/16/07 I went into work late that day and the first I heard of this was my mother calling me on my way into work to tell me that my brother was ok. My response was, 'well, why wouldn't he be?'. That's when she told me what had happened. I was pretty much useless at work that day, glued to CNN's webpage as the casualties started coming in. All I could think of was that I was so relieved that my brother hadn't had a class that morning, because he had classes in that building. This one hit so much harder than Columbine because my brother was there and it so easily could have been him.

Gustav -- 9/1/08 Ironically, I slept through the worst of Gustav, so I didn't feel my apartment shaking like in Katrina. By the time I was awake, the worst of the wind had passed. Bored with no power I went to investigate the voices I heard outside and spent most of the rest of the storm in the stairwell alcove of my building with my neighbours watching the trees whip by. Every half an hour or so one of my neighbours ran out to clear the drain in the parkinglot so the water didn't rise above the curb and flood the downstairs apartments. Of course it was the week without power and standing in line for hours just to get ice that was the worst of it.

Which brings us to today -- 1/20/09 Only the second positive thing on my list. Others have already said far better than I what this day means to them, and to history. All I will say is that I cried. And that I have hope.
gwynhefar: (Default)
As much of my ancestry seems to end up in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, it is not really that strange that somewhere along the line I can supposedly claim Odin/Woden as my ancestor. What I find intriguing is that I can apparently claim him through 7 of his sons, through 7 different pedigrees.

Through his son Geat/Gauti, he is my 62nd great-grandfather.
Through his son Skjoldr, he is my 59th great-grandfather.
Through his son Baldur/Baeldaeg, he is my 54th great-grandfather.
Through his son Casere he is my 52nd great-grandfather.
Through his son Sigrlami, he is also my 52nd great-grandfather.
Through his son Wecta, he is my 50th great-grandfather.
Through his son Sigi/Sigar, he is my 43rd great-grandfather.


I guess it's not that surprising if you think about it. I mean, if you're a Germanic or Norse warlord who wants to take over a kingdom, what do you do? You kill the current king, marry his daughter (by force if necessary), and immediately claim your blood is every bit as 'divine' as his was. And through the marriages with the daughters the conquerors and conquered ended up related to each other anyway, so if you're related to one, you're related to them all and they all have different routes to the same goal -- descent from a major divinity to lend legitimacy to their kingship.

It's just really rather cool to see *how* they did it, and how the pedigrees end up working out.
gwynhefar: (zomg!)
Ok, so I have never viewed the Discovery channel or their Discovery.com website as a citeable source by any stretch of the imagination, but I did credit them with generally trying to give accurate facts, even if the delivery were slanted in favour of one theory or another. However, this article has completely blown any faith I may have had in their credibility.

The article describes a bowl recently found and dated to between the 2nd century BC/BCE and the 1st century AD/CE as the "earliest reference to Christ". The bowl apparently carries a Greek inscription which the article transliterated as "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS" and translated as meaning either, "by Christ the magician" or "the magician by Christ." A photograph of the bowl is provided for our edification.

Let's look at that, shall we?




Now, I don't read Greek, but I *do* know my Greek letters. Bear with me a moment here. Clearly visible in the picture is the "DIA CHRSTOU" part of the inscription. Let's take a look. For those of you who don't know the Greek letters, allow me to 'spell' it out for you:

Δ = capital D
ι = lowercase i
α = lowercase a (it's a little distorted here, but hey, they're carving on clay)
Χ = capital CH (in Greek, the hard 'Ch' sound as in 'Christ' is one letter)
ρ = lowercase r (yes, I know it looks like a 'p'. It's an 'r')
σ = lowercase s (oftentimes, like here, truncated so it looks more like a 'c')
τ = lowercase t
ο = lowercase o (short o, not long o)
υ = lowercase u (again, looks like a 'v', it's actually a 'u')

D-i-a CH-r-s-t-o-u yes? But wait! you say. You're missing something. There's an extra letter in there, nice and clear, between the ρ and the σ. Why, so there is! And look, it's η

η = lowercase e. Yes, 'e', not 'i'. Remember, 'i' is ι It's actually a pretty clear inscription. No amount of hemming and hawing is going to make that η a ι; make that 'e' an 'i'.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, our ever-helpful Oxford English Dictionary gives the root word (helpfully spelled out in both English and Greek) as Χριστος where ς is the lowercase 's' when it comes at the end of the word. In other words, "CH-r-i-s-t-o-s" The "-ou" instead of the "-os" in the inscription makes the noun possessive.

So, summing up, the bowl does *not* say "DIA CHRISTOU O GOISTAIS". It doesn't even say "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS" (note how the article conveniently omits the troublesome vowel entirely in its transcription). It says "DIA CHRESTOU O GOISTAIS". "Chrestou" ≠ 'Christ,' folks

Only hint in the whole article that this whole "earliest reference to Christ" thing might not be all it's cracked up to be? One sentence, buried on the second page: "Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain 'Chrestos' belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais."

Yeah, way to show the unbiased scholarship, guys.
gwynhefar: (WTF)
How did I not know the Tudors were originally Welsh?

I'm tracing back the Tudor line on my dad's side and I start getting all these Welsh names and Tudor begins to be spelled Tewdwr. Well, duh! So now I've got my biological father's line going back to (mythologically speaking) Odin, and my dad's line going back to Beli and Dôn. I've promised my mother I'll give her a call as soon as I find a royal and/or divine ancestor in her tree *g*

I am realising, as I go through all this stuff, just how very lacking my knowledge of British history is, however. I blame a strong American bias in my secondary history education, but I suppose I have no excuse for not learning more on my own. Must start doing that.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Book #28 -- Jess Wells, The Mandrake Broom, 210 pages.

An excellent historical fiction about the brave women who attempt to keep the knowledge of herbal remedies from being completely lost during the early European witch-hunts. Very clearly well researched and compelling, but ultimately also very depressing, unsurprisingly. A slow read but a very good one.

Progress toward goals: 98/366 = 26.8%

Books: 28/150 = 18.7%

Pages: 8138/50000 = 16.3%

2008 Book List

cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] 15000pages, [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, and [livejournal.com profile] gwynraven
gwynhefar: (Chaos Theory)
Having seen a preview for The Libertine I decided to rent it from Netflix, and also to look up a bit on John Wilmot before it arrived. Accordingly I read the most notorious play attributed to him, The Farce of Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery.

A warning - do NOT read this if you are at all easily offended or squeamish about sexual topics. I can completely understand why public performances were outlawed for over 200 years. In fact, I do believe you'd need a special license to perform this play in most parts of the US now. Whether it was written by Rochester or not, it is the single most explicit piece of pornography I have *ever* read. And written in 1684 no less. My hat's off to the author *whoever* he is.
gwynhefar: (I must go down to the sea again)
Book #17 -- Captain Charles Johnson (Daniel Defoe?), A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, 760 pages.

Ah, what to say about this one? Generally held to be the most authoritative source for pirate biographies, it is a masterful collection drawing from all possible contemporary sources. The lives themselves are not quite that of legend -- generally they are uncomfortable, brutal, and short. Nonetheless there is an element there that fascinates me, and the author has a gift for narrative and is not without a keen sense of humour. The first half -- detailing the lives of the pirates of the Caribbean -- is my favourite. Most of the names I know well fall in that half, and the Caribbean pirates tended to strike out on their own and continue until caught or killed. The second half, detailing the lives of the Madagascar pirates, is interesting, but also endlessly frustrating. The Madagascar pirates were disorganised and incestuous, joining together and splitting apart so often it made my head spin. I ended up drawing a chart to try to keep track of who held what position on what ship when and who they were allied with. The same names would crop up over and over and it was hell trying to keep them all straight. It was still worth it. A truly excellent book, if a bit dry in places, and a must-read for anyone interested in pirates.

Progress toward goals: 55/366 = 15.0%

Books: 17/150 = 11.3%

Pages: 4945/50000 = 9.9%

2008 Book List

cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, [livejournal.com profile] 15000pages, and [livejournal.com profile] gwynraven
gwynhefar: (Default)
Book #144 -- Cate Tiernan, Seeker (Sweep #10), 172 pages.

This is the first book in the series from a point of view other than Morgan's. It was definitely interesting to see things through Hunter's eyes, and I'm glad that it seems we will be looking deeper into this whole Council thing, which has had me distrustful from the start. Of course, it likely means more sorrow and strife for our heroes, but what would the series be without that?

Book #145 -- R. J. C. Atkinson, Stonehenge, 216 pages.

A clear and concise overview of pretty much everything scientifically and archaeologically known about Stonehenge up to 1956. I found myself embarrassingly ignorant on the topic once I got into it -- for example, I had no idea that Stonehenge went through so many different configurations before ending up as it is today. The way they have been able to largely piece together not only what it looked like before it started to fall to ruin, but also what it looked like before it was torn down and reassembled, back through several iterations, is remarkable. Now I just need to find a good book to get me caught up on the developments from 1956 to the present. Any suggestions?

Progress toward goals: 344/365 = 94.2%

Books: 145/150 = 96.7%

Pages: 41344/50000 = 82.7%

2007 Book List

cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] 15000pages, [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, and [livejournal.com profile] gwynraven
gwynhefar: (Default)
You know what I've discovered is really quite disconcerting? When you read a historical fiction novel about a time/place that you are not really familiar with, and then end up encountering the people and places from the novel in an actual history book. I keep forgetting the history came *first* :)
gwynhefar: (Default)
How is it that I'm only now reading about this. After randomly browsing the web. Why wasn't there some big commotion when it first came out?

These people are claiming to have found the tomb of Jesus' immediate family, including the bones of Jesus, his mother Mary, Mary the Master (who they have tentatively identified as Mary Magdalene), and one inscribed "Judah, son of Jesus" whom DNA evidence suggests was also the son of Mary the Master (lending support to the theory that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife).

Really fascinating stuff.
gwynhefar: (Ireland)
The more I read about the ancient Celts the more fascinated I become. Did you know that the pre-Roman Irish had a system of laws that called for (among other modern notions) a national health care system, worker's comp -- in which the offending employer was required to pay not only the injured party's medical bills, but for the maintenance of his family until he was recovered -- and stiff penalties for non-licensed physicians? Incredible.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Here you can hear a cylinder wax recording of Alfred, Lord Tennyson reading "The Charge of the Light Brigade". The recording was made on May 15, 1890. It's a crappy recording, of course, many words and even full lines are obscured and can't be heard. But it's still fascinating to listen to and know that that is *Tennyson's* own voice.
gwynhefar: (library)
I now know that on April 14, 1899, L.S.U. faced down Texas in baseball. The final score was Texas 8, L.S.U. 6. I know this because while weeding my section in the library, I came across an old botany textbook, and doodling in one's textbook was apparently just as common in 1899 as it is today. Mr. Quin has also informed me that his schedule Spring session 1899 is as follows:

Monday 1st hour Recitation
Wednesday 1st hour Recitation
Friday 1st hour Recitation
Tuesday 1st hour Lecture
Tuesday 3rd and 4th hour Laboratory
Thursday 1st hour Lecture
Thursday 3rd and 4th hour Laboratory
Friday 6th and 7th hour Field Work

He was also apparently to omit section XI of the book from his homework. He is fond of underlining important points, checking off areas studied, and placing 'x's next to parts that won't be on the test.

Making little discoveries like this is one of the reasons I love this job. Now to send this book over to Special Collections.
gwynhefar: (Default)
So in part because of the book I read yesterday, I've been thinking a lot lately about the dichotomy of being a Northerner who has now spent more of my life in the South than I have in the North. I whine and complain about the heat, and the conservatism. But you can't live down here this long and not have some of the culture and mindset rub off on you.

The thing is, there's a reverance for history and heritage and the past down here that I fully admire. And truth be told, I *understand* the Confederate position, and why it's still such a touchy subject down here.

In school up North you learn that the Civil War was about slavery -- the South wanted to keep it and the North were the good guys wanting to free everyone. But that's a vast oversimplication. The Confderates weren't fighting because they loved slavery. They were fighting to protect their homes and families from people they saw as invaders who wanted to destroy their way of life -- a way of life that just happened to be supported by slavery. Without slavery, the South had no hope of competing with the industrialised Northern states.

So yeah, not quite so black and white. It's hard to hate people who were just defending their homes and families. And it's pretty easy to sympathise with those today who feel that those ancestors who fought are worth remembering and honouring.

Welcome to the world of grey. Gods I hate no-win situations.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Nuremberg Chronicle

All you ever wanted to know about the Nuremberg Chronicle, including an annotated bibliography of further sources. So sue me, I'm a book geek.
gwynhefar: (Default)
Book #14 -- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 279 pages

I've been reading this book bit by bit for the better part of a year. This is one of those books whose every paragraph merits a good hour's worth of contemplation. Dillard takes her experiences of nature in the mountains of Virginia and extrapolates from them a fascinating philosophy of life. She has a tendency to dwell on the more unpleasant aspects of nature -- the book abounds with vivid descriptions of parasitic insects and predatory impulses. But for me this made it all the more fascinating because Dillard is able to find a beauty in the most disturbing and mundane aspects of nature. This is a wonderful book, and one I'm sure I'll reread many times.

Book #15 -- Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, 782 pages

This is another book I've been working on for several months, but it was definitely worth it. It is an Alternate Universe Napoleonic England, in which magic, once one of England's strengths and a respectable profession, has largely fallen into disuse and many of its methods lost. The book tells the story of two magicians determined to bring English magic back to its former glory. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are two very different types of magicians, often taking positions against one another, but always under the shadow of the mysterious figure of the Raven King -- England's greatest magician and the absent King of Northern England. I *loved* this book, and although I was somewhat disappointed that the ending left you with almost more questions than answers, I don't really see how it could have ended any other way.

Book #16 -- Herodotus, An Account of Egypt, 90 pages

Herodotus is one of those historians who is actually fun to read, and his account of the geography, history, mythology, and politics of the land of Egypt is fascinating. Herodotus was writing in the 5th century BCE, so his work has the added attraction of offering a rare contemporary account of the culture of the ancient Mediterranean area, including an alternate version of the Trojan War.


Progress toward goals:

16/50 = 32%
4252/15000 = 28.3%

crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, [livejournal.com profile] 15000pages, and [livejournal.com profile] gwynraven
gwynhefar: (Default)
So I'm reading Herodotus -- particularly the section from Histories where he talks about Egypt. In which I came across an alternate view of the Trojan war that highlights exactly how little I really know about ancient Greek mythology/history.

We all know Homer's version -- Paris steals Helen, goes back to Troy, the Greeks lay siege, lovely popularised romantic view of Paris and Helen holed up in Troy, love against all odds, yadda yadda yadda.

According to Herodotus (who calls Paris by the name of Alexander, although all the other names are the same) Helen never even went to Troy. Their ship was blown off course and landed in Egypt, where some of the crew reported Paris's abduction of Helen to the local authorities, and King Proteus confiscated the stolen goods (namely Helen, and some additional finery) before sending Alexander (Paris) on his way. The Greeks show up at Troy only to be told Helen isn't there -- she's in Egypt. Menelaus doesn't believe them, and sacks the city anyway, only to find that they were telling the truth, at which point he has to go to Egypt to claim his wayward wife, which he does, before getting on Proteus's bad side by sacrificing a couple of Egyptian children.

This version, Herodotus claims, makes more sense than Homer's, as Priam was no idiot, and Paris wasn't even his eldest son and heir, so certainly he would have returned Helen to Greeks before allowing his children to be murdered and his city to be destroyed had such a thing been possible.

Moreover, Herodotus shows with quotes from the Iliad that Homer was aware of this alternate history (incidently pointing to inconsistencies between the Iliad and the Cypria that he says proves the Cypria was not in fact written by Homer) and speculates that Homer's version of the story was invented simply because it suited Homer's purposes better than the truth.

I'm sure no one else here is interested, but I found the whole passage fascinating. I don't suppose anyone knows which version scholars credit with more authenticity? I really need to study the classics more.

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