Long Ago, in a theater not so far away…

my parents sat me down in a seat. The curtains parted. Trumpets sounded, a bunch of words moved past almost too fast for me to sound them out, and then and the biggest…thing…I’d ever seen slowly appeared on screen. Everyone in the theater gasped as a starship filled the screen, and kept coming, and coming… I was pretty young, but even I knew that the dude in the black cape was Bad News. I was hooked, hard, and never looked back.

That amazing film opened 40 years ago this past Thursday, May 25th. Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: Merchant and Magic

This is part of a story I’m still doing research for. I’ve got some of the nuts-n-bolts sorted out, but the rest needs some ground-truthing, so to speak. This is an expansion on something I posted earlier.

Magic sparkled around the seal as he pressed it into the quick-hardening clay disk affixed to the bale of hides, or would have if he could see magic. Tycho waited four heart beats, then lifted his seal. The impression had taken and the cluster of watching men all relaxed. A merchant’s first seal in a new market always attracted attention. The weigh-mage gestured his confirmation, as did the market-master, who entered his approval in the great market book. Tycho had already stamped the book, using the blue-green ink of the Free City of Rhonari to confirm his place of origin and trade-confraternity. Had the seal not taken, well, another mark would have been made, closing the gates to him forever. Tycho stepped back from the weigh scales, allowing the apprentices to take the bundle of un-cut hides off the platform and carry them through the enormous doors of the great warehouse.

“Welcome, Master Tycho Rhonarida,” the market master announced, his oddly high-pitched voice cutting through conversations and arguments in the square before the central warehouse. “May your spirits smile on your doings.”

“And may yours prosper and protect you and your—” he caught himself before he said proud, “your fair city. May her walls be strong and her denizens be stronger.” He braced, not staggering as the weigh-mage slapped him on the back with a hand the size of a great-hauler’s hind-foot. The men muttered and grunted their approval. He was a foreigner, but a man of men. That counted for much these days. Continue reading

Book Review: Die Geier-Wally

Von Hillem, Wilhelmina Die Geier-wally Kindle Edition.

This isn’t the sort of book I’d usually read in English, but it is well-known in German literature as an example of a Heimatroman and Alpenroman. And it was inexpensive, so I got a copy. The novel, about a young woman in the Ötztal in southern Austria in the 1870s proved to be an intriguing book, in part because of how differently a modern author would  probably depict some of the characters. But von Hillem’s landscape descriptions are spectacular, and her writing engrossing enough that I plowed through. Continue reading

Why not? Thoughts on the Commentary on Manchester

Massive Rant. You have been warned.

“How could they be so cruel as to attack children and young people?”

Because they are called “terrorists” for a reason.

“Why bomb a concert with lots of young people?”

Because they want to make life so horrible that you give in to their every request, and killing kids is a great way to do just that. Continue reading

Book Review: The River, the Plain, and the State

Zhang, Ling. The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048-1128 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Print edition.

Chinese imperial management of water has been one of the critical keys to following the history of imperial after the Zhou Dynasty. Some of the bedrock work in US environmental history took as its starting point Karl Wittfogel’s “Hydraulic empire” thesis, looking at state control of water and society and how that relates to the development of both the US government and the American West. Because Chinese records are so copious, a lot of work can and has been done looking at how the Chinese lived with and coped with their major rivers and the hydraulic “systems” that developed over thousands of years. This book focuses on a small space in time and shows how the complicated interactions of state, environment, and society caused, then reacted to, and were shaped by, the Yellow River changing course between 1048 and 1128. Continue reading