Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Huzzah Got Medieval!

Holy St. Guinefort! Got Medieval is on PC Magazine's Top 100 Blogs!

Congrats to Carl!

Tim Romano's e-Edition of "The Wanderer"

I've seen this before, but I had forgotten about it: Tim Romano's e-edition of The Wanderer and his translation of Beowulf.

I really love the way he's worked out the frames on The Wanderer, with the MS image centered, rather than the reverse as it usually would be.

h/t Anachronista

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nest Christmas Party

Warning: Non-Medieval Content Ahead

As some of you will recall, my Cub Scout den raised money to bring Christmas to The Nest, a children's group home in Kenya. The boys did yard work to earn the money (raking leaves, picking up sticks and pine cones, collecting pecans, etc) in an attempt to meet their goal of $200. By the time all was said and done, they raised $275!

You can find other photos of Christmas at The Nest here, and you can read a more detailed account of the party here.

One of the Bear Cubs was shocked to hear that having meat for dinner is a luxury for some people, and said he suddenly felt rich when he heard there were kids for whom a Coke is a special treat. I think all the boys were left with a greater appreciation of everything that they have, and also a sense that the Boy Scouts isn't just about camping; the Cub Scout Promise to "do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the Law of the Pack" means something very real.

Bear Cubs Colin Jones, Quinten Pouncy, and Orion Nokes did their best, and did their duty to help other people. I'm proud of them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thomas Becket -- Troublesome Priest, Martyr, Medieval Superstar

In case you've forgotten, today is the 838th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.

Yes, I know the current Archbishop of Canterbury is annoying and does not rise even to the level of "troublesome priest," but if anyone was considering assassination, just consider how poorly that worked out for King Henry II.


I've got a close friend who is really into Warhammer, which, if you've never heard of it, is a kind of fantasy* wargame played with miniatures on a table (or other surface). Players organize their armies and attack one another until one army wins, using a rather baroque set of rules.

I haven't paid a great deal of attention to Warhammer as modern medievalism because I only had one friend who was into it, and it is such an expensive hobby that I had no desire to drop the coin necessary to find out more.

Tonight, though, I learned that my friend had seduced three other mutual friends over to Warhammer, and that they were planning some kind of big war this week. In their discussions, I learned a variety of things about the game:
  • It's even more expensive than I thought. Individual pieces can be very expensive, meaning that armies almost always run into the hundreds of dollars. I suspect folks have armies running into the thousands of dollars.
  • The world of Warhammer is far more complex than I had imagined. I assumed that it was a basic fantasy world, with these guys as the good guys and those guys as the bad guys, but it has a developed history, sometimes with individual families or characters well-developed.
  • The artwork is really, really cool. Players paint and modify their figures and often even make their own terrain. Much it is reminds me of model train builders; I'm not a train fan, but I love their landscapes. Same here. White Dwarf magazine is generally filled from cover-to-cover with photos of beautiful minature. Just check out some of the images that appear when you Google "Warhammer miniatures."
No, I'm still not going to get into Warhammer; I have neither the time nor the money. Still, that doesn't prevent me from admiring the work of gamers who make those beautiful miniatures.

*There's also Warhammer 40,000 which is a futuristic, science fiction game, but since this is a medievalism blog, I'll just ignore that here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

PEAA Awards

The Swain has stepped up and created the PEAA Awards. He explains it here:
Announcing the first annual Praemium Ephemeridis Aetheriae Auctoribus awards(Award for Authors of Ethereal Diaries). Ok, I'm not that caffeined (rhymes with fiend) yet, so if you have a better name or acronym, write in. Anyway, here's the deal. Nominate the best medieval blog *entry* of the year that is not one written by you. So: medieval, an entry, written by someone other than the person nominating [....]I'll collate and between the 25th and the 1st announce things that are gaining votes and announce those whom we wish to recognize after the first of the year [....] The prize contains nothing other than the approbation of fellow medievalists.

The categories:
  • Award for Best Blog Entry of the Year
  • Award for Blog Entry that Fueled Research
  • Award for Blog That Best Serves the Medieval Community
  • Recognition for Best Electronic Article on a Medieval Topic
  • Award for Best Entry Making Fun of Ourselves
  • Best Journal Article of the Year
  • Best New Medieval Book of the Year
  • Best New Medieval Web Project of the Year
  • Best Use of Electronic Media of the Year
  • Best Medieval Movie/TV Show of the Year
  • Best Medievalism Web Site of the Year
  • Best Medievalism Book/Movie/TV of the Year
Now I know what I'll be doing over the next few days: surfing old posts of your blogs. If you've got a post that you think is really quite good but are afraid will be over-looked (and you can't nominate it yourself, you know), send me a link and maybe I'll nominate you.

Write suggestions and nominations to larsprec AT gmail dot com.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the First Day of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas, Jeff Sypeck sent to me ...

... a Johnson & Johnson medieval apothecary pen!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just How Evil Am I?

One of my minions (also known as the "Hot Minions,"* "The Noklings," or my own favorite, "Individuals of the Hench Orientation") was recently in a toy store with me and we saw the Schleich knight figures, which also included some fairies. She expressed a deep dislike for fairies.

It's not evil enough that I have minions (or hench-persons, or whatever), but now I'm considering getting one of the fairy calendars over at Heroic Dreams so I can deck out my lair (or office, if you'd prefer) with fairies just to torment her.

Or maybe I should just take the medieval/fantasy-themed supervillian thing to its logical conclusion, and make my student assistants dress in fantasy costumes, perhaps as frickin' fairies with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' leafy tiaras.**

*Someone once referred to them as my "two hot minions," and so they have decided this is their official job title. Don't believe me? Go on Facebook and search for anyone with "hot minion" listed as her job title.
**Can you tell I'm still decompressing from the semester?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Squire Scouts

I was at the Scout Store yesterday, buying a Christmas gift for my Cub Scouting nephew in Kenya, when I saw this display:

In case the text is too small to make out, at the top it says "U*S*A BONDS," in the middle "Third Liberty Loan Campaign. BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA," and the platform upon which they are standing says "WEAPONS FOR LIBERTY." On the sword it says "Be prepared," which is the Boy Scout Motto.

I think Liberty is male in this image, though it's a little hard to tell, but male or female, the knight iconography is clear. Torch and book gone, this Liberty has a shield and sword. The scout here is depicted as a squire assisting Liberty.

I did a bit of research, and found that this poster is a WWI poster from 1918. Since the Boy Scouts started in America in 1910, I'm a bit surprised that the Scouts were already so recognizable only eight years after they came to this country (and only a decade after they were started in England). It's also interesting how quickly they adopted the chivalric image of the Boy Scout as the prepared squire of Sir/Lady Liberty.

In one article from the time, Benjamin Strong, Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, had this to say:

There is every evidence from the results they [the Scouts] have hithertofore obtained, from the earnestness and courtesy of their manner in going after these results, from the enthusiasm and chivalry of their attitude toward their important task, that their hearts are absorbed in it. They are true crusaders, these young Americans, the hope of our race.

The amounts are staggering, too. In the three drives, the scouts sold nearly $150 million in bonds -- and let me remind you, that's 1918 dollars. Those are some pretty active squires.

Pretty cool, huh? Since the image has passed into the public domain, someone is selling t-shirts of it on Zazzle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

After a weekend of furious holiday baking and running around trying to find linens for unexpected guests, a medieval miscellany and a cup of tea are very welcome indeed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Medieval Christmas Music

OK, since I can't understand what they're singing (nor can I even identify the language for sure), I can't confirm the YouTube indentification of this as "medieval Christmas music" -- but it sure is peppy!

Same here, but the music doesn't really get going until about 1:50 or so.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Karma here. Today is supposed to be a huge trek-to-library day, but I might have to swim to campus. While I ponder the best way to get some art history books home unscathed despite the rain, I figure I'd stall by putting up a Medieval Miscellany.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What to Read for Freaks and Monsters

I've had a couple of requests for my reading list for the medieval lit survey course in the Spring (ENG 4402 for the hometown crowd). I've decided to go with a "freaks and monsters" theme, so here are the primary texts. I've ordered the Penguin or Signet Classic version of each one from the bookstore -- 'cause I'm cheap. You can order a different version if the spirit moves you.

  • Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy (though we'll only read The Inferno, I think).
  • Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron.
  • Byock, Jesse L, trans. The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.
  • Byock, Jesse L, trans. The Saga of the Volsungs.
  • Gerald of Wales, The History & Topography of Ireland.
  • Mandeville, John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville.
  • Ovid, The Metamorphoses.

That's it. Because it's technically a survey course with a theme (rather than, say, a Selected Topics course), I've left out secondary works for the moment, and will probably handle them through handouts and directing you to them for research papers. I still have time to change my mind, though, so don't get too comfy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent, According to Lego

Some folks were less creeped out than me at the idea of a Lego Advent Calendar. They pointed out that there are chocolate Advent calendars, so Lego isn't so weird, right?
I hadn't thought about the chocolate calendars, though in the case of the chocolate Advent calendars I've seen, the chocolates are regular-shaped ones hidden behind a little door with the image of the day. Or are there ones with chocolate-shaped Marys and Josephs that you eat? Creepy...
Looking more closely at the Lego Advent Calendar's innards, it's even weirder than a Lego Messiah. Using the images provided by Amazon, here is the story of Advent, as told by Lego...

Once upon a time, at the gates of Jerusalem...

...King Herod and his jester decided to pre-emptively slaughter the innocents...

... so they got their weapons together....

... and fired artillery into Bethlehem...
... thus suppressing the enemies of the Roman Empire and their puppet governors in Judea. This was a move welcomed by the wicca community...
.... but unfortunately for them all, the Wise Men used the confusion as cover to sneak in to see the baby Jesus, whom they showered with gifts of gold, frankincense, and spiders.
... and that's what Advent is all about, Charlie Brown.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Rivkah spent most of her day rescuing her current knitting projects from some very solicitous cats, and has only just now realized that she is familiar with a resource that others might be interested in, regarding medieval textiles. Ravelry is an online community of knitters and crocheters; within it there are smaller groups, one of which is called Medieval Textiles. There, skilled knitters, spinners, etc. try and recreate techniques and garments from the medieval period.

Quid Plura's Xmas List

I've been waiting eagerly since Thanksgiving for this feature: Quid Plura has some Xmas* offerings for medievalists.

I thought the Lego Advent Calendar was a joke. It isn't! Really, what kind of market could there be for this?

*And I continue my crusade to take the "Christ" out of Xmas, a crusade that will misidentify me as atheist and will only make sense to other Christian medievalists. I keep waiting to get an angry phone call from my mom. After I have won this battle, I'll start replacing "and" with 7. Muhahahaha!

Cædmon's Hymn Project

I hope you all like these videos as much as I do. They're partly a project for my Old English class, and partly the interest of other students. The first video is Cædmon's Hymn in Old English (the normalized West Saxon version found in Pope's Eight Old English Poems), and the second is a modern English translation.

Original lyrics by Cædmon, inspiration by God. Modern English translation by Erin Murray; music and performance by Clay Paramore, and piano by Laura Aaron.

By the way, I promised Erin that she would get extra credit if she could get a hundred views before I calculate their grades on Tuesday, so I'm sure she'd appreciate it if you'd watch it more than once! Also, high praise for Clay, who wasn't doing it for a grade -- he just wanted to do something cool.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Grand Opening at is ready to roll out! Peter Konieczny describes the aims of the site:
[T]he site attempts to cater to anyone interested in the Middle Ages - scholars, students, historical fiction readers, movie buffs, gamers, etc. So you will see all kinds of sections, although most of them are just in an embryonic state. The one big feature so far is that we [...] are developing a database of all online academic articles and theses that deal with the Middle Ages. We make a post for every article, with all the bibliographic info, plus tags which represent subject and geographic headings [....] That way, people can search for articles that deal with Social History or Scotland. So far, we have posted about 300 articles, and we have a list of hundreds more that we can post too! We also are republishing some academic articles where we can get permission to republish them, or if they are out of copyright.

They're looking for more articles to link to, so if you know of any hidden away on professors' homepages, let them know.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Karma here. It's been a week full of mad prospectus writing for me, so I'm offering a Saturday miscellany this time, as it's the first time I've been able to catch my breath all week.

Friday, December 05, 2008

How You Can Help Kenya this Christmas

Warning: Non-Medieval Content Ahead

As many of you know, my sister and her family are missionaries in Kenya.* This time of year, I'm frequently asked by people how they can help out with the mission work in Kenya. Here are some opportunities to give that you might not have known about:

CMF International now has their Christmas Catalog available. Though I have no doubt all the needs are urgent, in Kenya they have a particular need for Bibles (page 3 of the .pdf file) and water (page 11). According to my brother-in-law,
water and bibles have been the most requested things of us personally- even here in Nairobi. People come to our gate with water jugs and fill them up here to carry home. And I have a waiting list of people wanting English Bibles. I can only buy 10 or so every few months to hand out, but now people are recognizing my truck and are waving me down while I am driving or when I stop the truck for whatever reason.

He's not kidding about the need for Bibles; my parents are going to Kenya in two months, and they are taking six (!) bags with them -- every spare ounce of weight taken up by Bibles.

Of course, there are many other needs as well, so give where your heart leads you. Many in the medievalist community will be interested in education, and if you look at page 10 of the .pdf, you'll see the education needs. For $200, you can support an adult literacy teacher for a year, or for the same amount you can support a Turkana high school student for a year. If that's out of your budget, for $75 you can provide a desk and chair for a student, or for $50 you can provide a set of school supplies for a student.

Are even those things out of reach for you? For just $10, you can buy a treated mosquito net to fight malaria. Still too much? For just $1, you can buy a brick for a building in the Tanzania training center. Heck, even a grad student can afford that.

Also, for those of you who live in the Troy area, there's one other opportunity: This year, the Bear Cubs (3rd grade Cub Scouts) are doing a service project for Christmas -- they are raising money to bring Christmas to an orphanage in Kenya. To this end, the Bear Cubs are looking for light housework or yardwork in the Troy area (appropriate to 3rd graders) that they can do for you to earn money for the orphans. The director of The Nest orphanage says she can provide Christmas for all the orphans for between $100-200. This will provide meat (chicken) for Christmas dinner, and some other special luxuries such as soda. Anything more than they can reasonably use for Christmas will go to other necessities.

*Please note that their website usually does not have so little content -- it's under reconstruction.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Most Understated Archetypal Claim Ever

The Telegraph's article, "Grand Theft Auto, Twitter and Beowulf All Demonstrate that Stories Will Never Die," has this remarkable statement:
The characters in Beowulf, and in Henry James, and in Joel Schumacher's latest slam-bang movie extravaganza, all participate, with more or less elaborate variations, in archetype.

I guess an era when someone can unironically say that MIT will "try to keep meaning alive," and will "take the next quantum leap in storytelling" needs reminders, no matter how understated, of archetype.

Thanks, MIT! Storytelling has been suffering from a dearth of meaning, and we're glad you're here to Hollywood to show the rest of us rubes how it's done. If only Chaucer had access to the latest film-making technologies, we might still read his work today! Zemeckis certainly improved the story that boring ol' Beowulf by turning it into a video game. And Peter Guber is certainly right when "he blames the audience for the perceived breakdown in narrative quality," because there's nothing an audience hates quite so much as a good story.

It's basically impossible to write about this without getting snarky.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Good morning! Here is a funny YouTube video (don't worry! it is relevant! sort of!) for your viewing pleasure. Pity it wasn't a debauched simian.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Karma here, with a short miscellany after a long drive (and before what promises to be an even longer day). I am comforted by the knowledge that I sally forth bravely into the overcast morning on the very same day of the month when the Lombard League united northern Italy against Frederik I, in 1167 (thanks, Got Medieval). Wish I had a carroccio instead of a shuttle waiting for me, though - would make for a more amusing trip to campus, anyway.