Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

July 30, 2003

Mapping

Many years ago I took a couple of cartography courses at Victoria University of Wellington (this was back in the days when they had separate courses for cartography; I believe that they are now integrated into other Geography papers). The lecturer was wonderful, it was fun playing with aerial photographs, and some of the projects the students did were amazing.

Sadly, the courses didn’t include being taught how to draw, shade, etc — not the fault of the courses, obviously, but sad for me because I haven’t learnt those skills anywhere else either. This has led to not embarking on a number of maps which would require competency in those skills, which is silly since I both enjoy making maps and recognise that I’ll get better if I practice.

Yesterday I got my hands on some A3 and larger sized OHP film so that I could continue with the map for my Nobilis game (which still doesn’t have a website — my excuse is that it would mostly consist of funny quotes from the Power of Fear). I am using the transparencies to work in layers, and am currently working on a contour layer. Once that’s done, I shall be able to definitively answer the question of just when the sun first hits Fear’s attic window in summer. Yes, that is important to know; this is the game in which near gods sit around drinking coffee for half of the daylight hours.

Posted by jamie at 09:54+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

July 20, 2003

Heredity and Middle-earth

Michael finds Tolkien's obsession with blood and birth distasteful and is unsympathetic to that world view. Obviously that’s a matter of taste, and not to be argued over, but I think it’s worth pointing out that it is of a kind with some attitudes today. Just recently Carla said if my ancestors promised certain rights to a group of people, I expect to honour those promises, and it is precisely that connection which Tolkien is emphasising as having reality in Middle-earth. These connections between people and peoples are not only by blood; oaths are important bindings between those who are unrelated by blood or marriage, as with Finrod’s oath to aid the house of Barahir.

Also, just as fairy-tale princesses are beautiful, because or as an indicator of their virtue, so the Edain are greater than other Men because of their contact with the Elves and their faithfulness. Here the world view adopted by Tolkien for his work has been reified, made real in the story.

Moreover, these familial, dynastic and racial strands are a cornerstone of Arda's history, is almost what history is. It is useful to recall that the Children of Ilúvatar were a theme of Ainulindalë, the Great Music of Creation, and it is no stretch to see in those strands of blood the threads of music in that theme. The reality of kinship in Middle-earth is a large part of that world’s cause and effect; it cannot be removed or dismissed without destroying any sense there is in the work.

Posted by jamie at 13:09+12:00 | Comments (4) | Permalink

Sub-creation

What with looking again over Mark Rosenfelder's Virtual Verduria (his fictional world), releasing IPA Zounds, and studying Tolkien and Old English, I am keen to do some world and language creation of my own. I have said this before, and done little about it, and the same possibly applies now. After all, I have Tolkien and Old English to study and a Nobilis game to run.

Actually, some of my world building enthusiasm can go towards the Nobilis game. I have a map to draw of the PCs’ chancel, and am looking around for different approaches for it (I’m leaning towards contours with colouring to denote surface features, largely because I don’t have the skills for a good shading job). However, it’s not the sort of game that would benefit from developing languages and so forth (though it would be fun to take a brief look at the Nahuatl/Latin cross that will appear in the next session).

In minimally related news, I have added two of my Changeling: the Dreaming sites (the Database Registry and the Dreaming Web) to a webring. I have always been suspicious of webrings, for a number of reasons, but in this case two common problems are not present: the need for one or more webring graphics, and broken/invalid webring code/markup. It may be that I repent of the notion, but for now it may serve to bring some good material to the attention of those who would be interested in it, and that must be a good thing.

Posted by jamie at 11:43+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

July 14, 2003

Fabulous

A. S. Byatt examines why adults like Harry Potter books (New York Times; free registration required). It’s nice to see someone pointing out the really good works of superficially similar fantasy, from authors such as Diana Wynne Jones (Hexwood is brilliant, and her books for really young readers are clever even for this adult), Ursula Le Guin (would anyone care to comment on the latest Earthsea book?), Susan Cooper and Terry Pratchett (who I think is actually doing something very different from the others).

Today was the first day of my classes, Tolkien and medieval literature and Old English literature (which I would much rather was Old English language, but it isn’t offered this semester). What fun! I even got special mention as the person who has not seen the films and will not see the films. The one real mention of the films made by the lecturers was to note that the Rohirric song (a part of the Old English poem The Wanderer) was not sung while Théoden put on his armour. Obviously the context of looking on the grave mounds of the sons of Eorl doesn’t mean anything. (Yes, I do think making a film version of The Lord of the Rings is an almost wholly misguided endeavour. Yes, I’m aware that Tolkien himself wasn’t entirely averse to the idea.)

Posted by jamie at 16:42+12:00 | Comments (3) | Permalink

July 08, 2003

I can be disturbing!

Last night was the first play session of my Wishbringer Nobilis game. It went well (except that, having gotten all the candles ready for the church scene, I forgot about them completely), and the bits which were meant to be disturbing actually were. There were even funny quotes; I guess now I have to create a website for the game.

Posted by jamie at 12:14+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

July 02, 2003

Wellington’s bypass

Iona writes about Wellington's proposed bypass and mentions New City Spaces by Jan Gehl. For those interested in sane approaches to developing built spaces, I recommend immersing oneself in the books of Christopher Alexander (the books are much better than that website). I also found Howard Davis’ The Culture of building an interesting read.

What continues to astonish and sadden me about the proposed Wellington bypass is just how anyone can support it. How can the dubious appeal of a few minutes less travel time each day (I say dubious because those reductions may not happen — roads produce traffic — and because I suspect the problem(s) lying behind the need for speed is not going to be solved by the bypass) overcome the obvious drawbacks to the scheme. It’s another road, another piece of land made unusable except by motorised vehicles, another disruption to the connections between people and places in Wellington.

Posted by jamie at 17:02+12:00 | Comments (2) | Permalink

Wandering through literature

I᾿ve just finished reading Homer’s Odyssey (as translated by Robert Fagles). I am looking forward to reading the introduction by Bernard Knox, who wrote so wonderfully on Aeschylus’ Oresteia that I was an immediate believer in its greatness.

Since I don’t know ancient Greek, I can’t comment on the translation qua translation, but I can say that I found the text easy to read and pleasant to speak aloud.

Following this, I have another reread scheduled (help me, I’m turning into my brother!), Beowulf. I may however get drawn off into any of the other books on my list, of which there are many. (Interestingly enough, I think that all of them are written by dead white men, except for those written by living white men.)

Posted by jamie at 16:21+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

July 01, 2003

File formats and “business standards”

I am currently looking for work, which means sending my CV off to various people. Now, my CV is written in LaTeX and is a thing of beauty. When I send it out to people, I send it either as PostScript or PDF. And then, it invariably occurs that someone asks me to send it in Word format.

So, I try to import the PDF into OpenOffice.org Writer, knowing that I can then save it as Word from there. Only it doesn’t work. latex2rtf doesn’t work either, as it doesn’t recognise the style I use. Finally I just copy the text into Writer, format it, and save it as Word. Which is a massive waste of time.

What would be useful is some way of specifying the content in a structured way, and an optional set of suggestions for presenting that content. Wait, where have I heard that before? And indeed, there is the XML Résumé Library, which is an XML and XSL based system for marking up, adding metadata to, and formatting résumés and curricula vitae. Oh, the joy of creating a functional CV from a (presumably non-functional) CV simply by using a stylesheet!

I once had a boss who claimed that Word was a business standard, and therefore not a bad thing to use. I disagreed then, I disagree now, and in the realm of CVs there are so many more worthy alternatives that it is madness to hold on to a proprietary format.

Posted by jamie at 13:08+12:00 | Comments (3) | Permalink