Quotes: Finns Were on Intimate Terms with Winter

After the Finnish centennial in 2017, I’ve been reading outside my usual periods of Finnish history, including on the Finnish Winter War (1939-1940, for 105 days against the USSR).

It’s easy for a modern Finn—at least this modern Finn—to get tired of reading endless takes, almost exclusively by foreigners, condemning the horribleness of the Finnish winter. Like in this excerpt from a book on the Winter War:

“One of the main factors that enabled the Finns to destroy forces much larger than their own was surely rooted in the differing psychologies of the men engaged on either side. To the Finnish soldier, the cold, the snow, the forest, the long hours of darkness were all factors that could be turned to his advantage. To say that the Finns were on intimate terms with winter is to voice an understatement. In Finland winter is the fact of life, and all else—the economy, the culture, the national psychology—is colored by, or derived from, that single overriding reality. The relationship between the Finns and winter constitutes something of a contradiction. On the one hand, winter makes life harsh and lonely and something crude. It is this aspect of living with winter, the cumulative effect of endless subarctic nights, the unearthly silences of the winter landscape, the harsh and marginal quality of rural life, that imparts to the Finnish character that dour and brooding quality that is so hard for foreigners to penetrate.”

– William Trotter, A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 [original emphasis]

It is true that we stayed poor quite long and urbanised quite fast, pretty much during my parents’ generation, so it’s easy for me to lose perspective. Even as late as 1950s (I believe) it wasn’t unheard of for more remote farms not to have electricity. And our winters are undoubtedly long and dark compared to even central Europe, not to mention the Mediterranean and further south.

What bugs me, though, is that people seem to expect conditions like Siberia or Greenland. Hate to disappoint you, but our climate is greatly tempered by the Gulf stream and it isn’t that different from, say, New England. Another detail I’d like foreigners to really learn is that less than half of the country is arctic, and that means the rest is not. The southern coast is, in fact, part of the temperate broadleaf forest zone which covers most of central Europe, Britain, southern Scandinavia, and southern Russia.

I do grant that the Finnish character hasn’t caught up with the technological development, at least not yet: in general terms, we still tend towards melancholy despite now having world-class cities, transportation, and tech.

Trotter, William R. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1991, p. 144.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

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Reconstructing an Ancient Andean Structure Block by Block

The basin of Lake Titcaca, on the border between Bolivia and Peru, is one of the few places in the world where large-scale, complex societies have developed independently, out of contact with other, earlier large-scale societies. Between about 500 and 1000 CE, the people who lived at the site of Tiwanaku, on the modern-day Bolivian shore, built a number of megalithic structures using highly accurate stonecutting to fit together enormous blocks of intricately carved stone.

Remains at Pumapunku, a site associated with Tiwanaku. Photograph by Brattarb via Wikimedia

 

In the past millennium and a half, these structures have been the victims of neglect, colonial looting, and reconstruction efforts driven more by the impetus to create suitably impressive national monuments than by archaeological evidence. As a result of these pressures, the various Tiwanaku structures are now in a very poor state and it is difficult to know how they were originally put together, what they looked like, or how they were used.

Now a team of archaeologists has brought a new approach to the problem. Working with the site known as Pumapunku, or the Gate of the Puma, they used data from earlier efforts to measure and reconstruct the surviving stones at the site to create small 3D printed blocks with a high degree of precision. These small blocks could be quickly and easily reassembled to test various ways of reconstructing the site and find a reconstruction that fit the original pieces together. Theories that are impossible to test on the ground, given the enormous size of the stone blocks and the fragile condition of the site, were easy to try out with the scale model blocks.

Working with printed blocks to reconstruct Pumapunku. Photograph from Alexei Vranich “Reconstructing Ancient Architecture at Tiwanaku, Bolivia: The Potential and Promise of 3D Printing,” Heritage Science 6 (2018), accessible here under Creative Commons

 

This experiment yielded some important new results. Where earlier archaeologists had reconstructed sections of what they believed to be a single long wall, the team discovered that those sections actually fit together better to create a rectangular enclosure, similar to some other, earlier sites in the region which can now be looked to as a basis for better understanding Pumapunku.

As a historian, I’m excited by the potential this new approach offers to archaeologists for reconstructing damaged or poorly preserved structures. As someone who used to spend hours playing with Legos, I’m thrilled to see such interesting applications for plastic bricks!

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

Spring 2019: Tolkien Exhibition at The Morgan in NYC

The Morgan Library and Museum is going to have a Tolkien exhibition.

Morgan Library The Hobbit Tolkien Exhibition 2019

From the exhibit description:

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.”

They’ve also made an introductory video:

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth by The Morgan Library & Museum on YouTube

Related program includes a lecture, gallery talks, workshops, and family programming, among others. The exihibit is open January 25 through May 12, 2019. More information at The Morgan website.

Found via Locus.

Image cropped from the cover illustration for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, via The Morgan

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 4

The adventures of Victorian Toronto’s most scientifically-minded detective continue in Murdoch Mysteries season 4, and we’re here to rate them.

  1. “Tattered and Torn” – 4
  2. “Kommando” – 5
  3. “Buffalo Shuffle” – 5.5
  4. “Downstairs, Upstairs” – 6.5
  5. “Monsieur Murdoch” – 4
  6. “Dead End Street” – 10
  7. “Confederate Treasure” – 7.5
  8. “Dial M for Murdoch” – 5
  9. “The Black Hand” – 5.5
  10. “Voices” – 6
  11. “Bloodlust” – 7
  12. “The Kissing Bandit” – 6
  13. “Murdoch in Wonderland” – 5.5

The average rating for this season is 6, down a little bit from last season’s 6.6, but still perfectly respectable. This season represents a good mix of the usual Murdoch fare: there’s a Victorian-flavored version of a contemporary-feeling story (“Kommando,” about soldiers experiencing frightening side effects of experimental drugs), Murdoch-ized takes on popular modern shows and movies (“Downstairs, Upstairs,” about a murder in a house full of servants, and “Dial M for Murdoch” about a telephone operator who thinks she overhears a murder), nineteenth-century international intrigue (“Confederate Treasure,” about the hunt for a missing fortune in gold from the time of the American Civil War), and Murdoch inventing modern technologies (sonar in “Confederate Treasure,” image scanning in “Monsieur Murdoch”). This season also brings us a tedious new turn in the will-they-or-won’t-they tease of Murdoch and Dr. Julia Ogden, as Dr. Ogden moves away from Toronto, moves back, and marries her new beau Dr. Darcy Garland, while Detective Murdoch wallows in uninteresting tongue-tied despair. Still, all in all, a solid season of Murdoch.

The lowest-rating episodes this season are a couple of 4s: “Tattered and Torn,” in which the discovery of multiple mutilated bodies encased in concrete leads Detective Murdoch to revisit an old rape and murder case, and “Monsieur Murdoch,” in which Murdoch investigates the disappearance of a young French woman who may not be who claimed to be at all. There is nothing particularly wrong with either of these episodes. Both are perfectly competent, but they are also both a little lacking. The pacing sags a bit, the casting is a little off, and the conclusions don’t entirely live up to the promise of the opening mysteries. Still, even these lesser efforts of Murdoch are fun to watch and worth coming back to now and then.

On the other hand, this season has one outstanding episode that gets a full 10 from us: “Dead End Street,” in which Murdoch discovers the clues to a murder in an intricate model of a neighborhood made by a woman who does not communicate in any other way. This case unfolds quietly but intricately as Murdoch faces the challenge of learning about the crime from a witness with an extraordinarily detailed recall of events, but whom he cannot question. Liisa Repo-Martell delivers a powerful guest performance as the model-building woman, conveying the deep intelligence and sensitivity of a person who relates to the world around her in a way very unlike her neighbors.

All in all, an excellent season of Murdcoh, with a lot worth coming back to.

Image: Murdoch Mysteries main cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Quotes: Willful and Obstinate Little Country

After the Finnish centennial in 2017, I’ve been reading outside my usual periods of Finnish history a little, including on the Finnish Winter War (1939-1940, for 105 days against the USSR).

In November 1939, just before hostilities broke out, a Finnish delegation met with the Soviets in Moscow to discuss land transfers and other concessions Russians demanded from Finland. The following tidbit is reportedly from the delegation’s last meeting with Stalin and Molotov.

“But after an hour of futile discussion it was obvious to everyone that the whole business had come to a dead end. Each side bade farewell to the other. Since the Finnish delegates were clearly just as upset by this outcome as the Russians, the final meeting ended with remarkably little display of animosity by anyone. The actual parting, in fact, was almost jovial. Molotov waived and said, ‘Au revoir!’ and Stalin shook hands all around and wished the Finns ‘all the best’. Then he went off to confer with his generals about how best to subdue this willful and obstinate little country.”

– William Trotter, A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940

It’s not clear whether “willful and obstinate little country” is Stalin’s phrasing or Trotter’s. I like it nevertheless—it tells you a very important thing of the Finnish character: as we say, a strong will takes you through a grey stone. 🙂 Or, in this case, it slows down a massive army significantly enough to retain the country’s independence, which none of the other small Baltic states were able to do.

Trotter, William R. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1991, p. 18.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Captain Marvel Special Look Trailer

Captain Marvel, the next installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is released this March. I don’t typically go looking for hype and speculation; instead just read whatever I come up with in my usual browsing, but this special look trailer of (mostly) Carol Danvers is so great I’m tempted to.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel | Special Look by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

LOL! Awesome! 😀

When a female (super)hero—and, sadly, usually only the one—is part of a story, I tend to cringe, because a lot of the time they’re not treated terribly well or given anywhere near equal screen time or lines or agency as their male co-heroes. As impossible it is to truly say on the basis of trailers, though, I’m more and more optimistic of Captain Marvel.

I’ve eagerly waited for the MCU movies before, sure, but I can’t remember being quite this pumped before. I really, REALLY can’t wait for March!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Joy to the World (of Warcraft), Final Thoughts

Well, we’ve come to the end of Alunaria’s positive WoW-ing challenge, and here’s how it went.

We posted 14 times with fun transmogs (Erik) and reflections on things in World of Warcraft that make us happy (Eppu). We don’t usually post very much at this time of year, so it was a change for us. It’s been fun.

Alunaria also asked for a final reflection on the experience of staying positive for two weeks, so here goes.

Did you make it through?

Yep. For the last two weeks, I’ve been playing as usual and having a good time. I’ve also stayed away from negative posts, which wasn’t hard for me since I don’t go in for that much anyway. One time I was looking through the comments on a Blizzard Watch post and things were starting to get testy, so I backed out, but that was it. I just don’t spend my time on YouTube or the forums listening to people complain, so staying away was just an ordinary day for me. While there are still things about the current expansion that I don’t like, there is a lot that I do enjoy, and that’s what I spend my time doing anyway, so there wasn’t any real change in how I played the game, either.

What proved to be the most difficult?

Honestly, not much. Like I said, I just don’t do the parts of the game I don’t like, and I don’t spend much of my time listening to people complain about parts of the game they don’t like. Keeping up regular posts at a time of year when we usually take a break required a little effort, but it was also a fun thing to do over the holidays.

Did you manage your minimum of seven posts?

We got 14 posts between the two of us (7 from Erik, 7 from Eppu), so both jointly and severally, we sure did.

Do you feel any different now?

Not really. It was fun, but it also wasn’t much of a change for me. There are things I like about the current expansion and things I don’t, and none of that has changed. Fortunately for us, we’re able to play in a way that avoids most of the things we don’t like and focuses on the things we do, but other people have different tastes and priorities, and if this expansion isn’t working for them, their feelings are as valid as ours. I suppose I’m just not the target audience for this experiment.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our posts as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them. Happy New Year all around! May it fill your days with joy, in and out of Azeroth!

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Joy to the World (of Warcraft) 14

Alunaria, over at Alunaria’s Avenue, has proposed a holiday challenge: stay away from the griping, grousing, and general grinchiness about World of Warcraft that’s all to easy to find these days and post something positive instead.

My final entry is for the music. Each and every expansion has brought a new twist to the main theme plus a sizeable selection of anthems and tunes for various scenes. Everything is incredibly beautiful, haunting, or exciting; rarely do I disagree with or dislike the game music selections. In fact, I often play WoW music when working or doing house chores. 🙂

The music from vanilla, however, will always have a special place in my heart. I especially love the Nightsong. Here’s an extended version:

Nightsong Extended – HD via shadowsnstuff on YouTube

 

* * *

As this is my final post for the positivity challenge, here are some concluding thoughts. (Be sure also to read Alunaria’s final experiment post!)

Yay, I made it! 🙂

I don’t think this challenge changed my thoughts of Battle for Azeroth much; since the launch, I’ve had enough other things on my plate to make following negative Nellies impossible. It’s good to know, however, which sites are safe and which I should stay away from.

My playing also hasn’t changed a lot, but a bit. I’m still new enough to the expansion that I have to actually pay attention when I’m questing. I’m starting to remember some of the tricks to particular quests and areas, though, so soon I’ll have to be on my toes to remember to stop and enjoy instead of brainlessly churning through the content.

What has changed for me after compairing the previous epansions to the current iteration is my appreciation of many changes in recent years. I already talked about the Flight Master’s Whistle, the gathering nodes and the landscaping; I also think the world of mass looting and the ease of scrapping. While I’ve never cared for the mission board quests that much, I find the BfA version smoother to operate and slightly more interesting. Most of the armor and weapons in Pandaria and Cataclysm I find too boring to look at, but BfA has a lot to like again. And the quest chaining has also become more interesting along the years, I think. And the cities! I love Suramar from Legion and both Dazar’alor and Boralus in BfA.

As a bonus, here’s my Night Elf druid’s Christmas mog viewable in the Wowhead Dressing Room:

WoW BfA Stormsong Valley NElf Flight Masters Whistle Dec 2018

Funnily enough both Erik and I accidentally chose the same staff (here’s Erik’s mog). 🙂

Finally, here are links to my preceding six posts:

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Joy to the World (of Warcraft) 13

Alunaria, over at Alunaria’s Avenue, has proposed a holiday challenge: stay away from the griping, grousing, and general grinchiness about World of Warcraft that’s all to easy to find these days and post something positive instead.

(I had meant this post for yesterday, but I ran out of time. Oh well; here it finally is.)

The Horde side has Caravan Brutosaurs! If you hang out awhile in the city, you can see Dazar’alor drudges unpacking these brontosaurus analogues—people at the top of the saddle structure chuck baskets and boxes down, where others first pile them up and then take away.

WoW BfA Zuldazar Caravan Brutosaur

The same model is also called Roughneck; there are some traveling the roads west of the city.

WoW BfA Zuldazar Roughneck

The really awesome thing, though, is that you can ride some of them! There’s at least one rideable Caravan Brutosaur walking back and forth over the bridge that runs west towards the Village in the Vines from the stretch of land between the Great Seal and Tal’farrak in Dazar’alor.

When you mount, you get an action panel with two options: toss fruit to scare away saurid and other beasts, or hop off. I don’t yet know whether it’s only available during the Brutal Escort world quest; I have been able to ride the brutosaur and the fruit tossing worked fine, but I didn’t see any attackers nor were any other events triggered. I was on my level 114 warrior, though; maybe the rideable brutosaur is available below 120 but not programmed to do anything else.

WoW BfA Goblin Warrior on Caravan Brutosaur Jan 2019

It’s pretty awesome anyway—then again, the brontosaurus is my favorite dino. 🙂

Images: World of Warcraft screencaps

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Joy to the World (of Warcraft) 12

One last holiday transmog for Alunaria’s positive WoW-ing challenge!

My blood death knight decided long ago to walk away from the grim, painful history she can’t remember and dedicate herself to fighting for light and righteousness, so she’s here to bring the holiday season to a close in her Gifts of Gold mog.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.