Friday, July 30, 2010

Danger: Pothead Medievalism Ahead

Uh, despite the fact that this has James Franco, I doubt I'll be rushing out to see the film Your Highness next year. I'm guessing with the title and the reference to "wizard's weed" in the synopsis, this film plans to do for the Middle Ages what Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers did for the French Revolution.

So, basically this takes all the stoner jokes about hobbit pipeweed and extend them into feature-length.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Humidity and Bald Eagles

First, in this article about the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period, do the findings about moisture mean that, in Europe during the MWP, people first began saying, "Yeah, it's hot, but it's a dry heat"?

Second, exactly what role did the North American bald eagle play in the Middle Ages on the Isle of Wight? Seriously, like why did they have the eagle there at all? It seems rather like having llamas or kangaroos.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ruins of Medieval Church Found in Switzerland

According to this article, the Swiss have found the remains of a medieval church under the town of Moutier. The article has no estimate as to the century, but there has been a monastery there since the middle of the Seventh Century.

As of today, no medieval churches have been unearthed in Troy, Alabama -- but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pennsic 2010 Meet-Ups

I won't be there, but anyone interested in doing a meet-up at Pennsic this year can sound off on our Pennsic 2010 Meet-Ups Facebook discussion thread.

Woruldhord Project

Most of you out there already know about this from the days of the Wordhoard's hiatus, but Stuart Lee has an exciting project called the "Woruldhord Project" (no relation to the Unlocked Wordhoard, which is a shame because Lee and his work are both really groovy). Right now, The Woruldhord is just open for submissions, but lots of our Wordhoarders probably have things to submit. They are looking for:

Members of the public, of academia, of special interest groups are asked to submit via an online web site any images, documents, audio, video they have of material they would be happy to share with the rest of the world to further the study of Old English and the Anglo-Saxons.

We would welcome images of buildings, sites, artefacts; teaching handouts or presentations; audio of readings or interviews; video clips of crafts, sites; and so on. In fact anything that you feel would benefit teachers, researchers, and interested parties who wish to learn more about the Anglo-Saxons.

Oxford University will collect the material together and then make everything submitted freely available on the web for educational purposes to a worldwide audience.

Go forth and submit!

Recreating the Seneschal of Hainault's Challenge

Anyone going to Pennsic this year and interested in recreating the single combats resulting from the Seneschal of Hainault's Challenge, contact Will Mclean at A Commonplace Book.

Medievalist Gun Rack

I just realized that instead of having a gun rack in my car, I had three different swords in the back over the weekend. While I could claim I'm prepared for the zombie apocalypse, it probably signifies some weird sort of medievalist redneck.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Killing Your Friends and Father for Fun & Profit

I've been reading Usama ibn Munqidh's Book of Contemplation lately. Ibn Munqidh was an aristocrat who lived in 12th-century Syria, and his Book of Contemplation is about fate, and is mostly illustrated with events from his own life. It's also of interest because we get to see a bit of the Crusades from the Muslim side.

One event in the book has gotten me thinking about the problems of understanding other cultures -- not just other ethnic cultures, other religious cultures, or cultures separated from us by the long centuries of time, but also differences in social class.

We're told by UiM that "Al-Zafir [a caliph] now concocted a plan with Nasr [an amir of the same age, and son of the vizier 'Abbas], convincing him that, in Nasr killed his father, he would appoint him to the vizierate in his place." Later UiM hears about the plot, and warns Nasr that to kill his own father would leave him damned come the Day of Judgment. "He [Nasr] later acquainted his father ['Abbas] with the whole affair. So the latter behaved kindly towards him, won him over -- and plotted with him to murder al-Zafir. Al-Zafir and Nasr were the same age, and they used to go out together at night in disguise. So Nasr invited the caliph over to his house [....] As soon as the caliph was all settled in the sitting room, Nasr's men rushed out at him and killed him." (Paul M. Cobb's translation, Penguin edition).

Here's my problem with this -- I have trouble conceiving of this social situation arising at all. When I look at the family life of, say, Henry II, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but this is even more difficult to understand.

I try to imagine fictionalizing the dialogue, and can't come up with anything that would sound even remotely believable to modern audiences. Let's say two friends are out on the town -- how do you get around to "Hey, let's kill your dad!" And then, even assuming you're down with that, later telling your father about it, who says, "Hey, let's kill your friend!" It can't be true that all Syrian aristocrats were sociopaths, but the matter-of-fact way ibn Munqidh writes about it, and the number of people involved in the subsequent bloodbath makes it seem that way. Somehow this situation was a natural outgrowth of world they lived in.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wordhoarder Reviews

One of the new features of the Unlocked Wordhoard will be "Wordhoarder Reviews," found on the discussion tab of the Facebook page. Though I'll still be the only one posting material to the Wordhoard blog, the Facebook page will encourage more community interaction.

Wordhoarder Reviews is a feature in which I invite people to give their own movie reviews on the discussion board. While sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb often provide both professional and amateur reviews, the online medievalist community can offer well-considered and often expert opinions on medievalist popular culture.

Our first Wordhoarder Review is of Valhalla Rising. If you've seen it, go to the Facebook discussion boards and tell us what you think!


As some of you know, the Wordhoard has been in hibernation as I worked out various problems, particularly the connection with new social networking sites and some other conceptual issues. I'd become worried that the Wordhoard's identity as a meeting place between the popular and the scholarly was no longer tenable, that blogs were becoming an outdated medium.

So, today I'm beginning a process that will likely take some weeks: the re-emergence of the Wordhoard, more closely intertwined with new ways of accessing information online. Most of the content will be of the sort you've grown used to, some old features will wither away (RIP: Morning Medieval Miscellanies), and I plan to develop some new features.

I invite you to "Like" the Wordhoard on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and generally just beam medievalism directly into your brains in whatever ways are technologically possible. For now, the wall on the Facebook page is wide-open for your own posts and commentary on all things medieval, and I'll keep it as open as possible unless spammers, trolls, and other Grendel-kin become a problem.