Quotes: Even Just One New Language Infects You with a Radically Different Way of Thinking

The embodiment of the Enemy in The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, the Woman in White, says of the catalytic effect of human cities:

“You eat each other’s cuisines and learn new techniques, new spice combinations, trade for new ingredients; you grow stronger. You wear each other’s fashions and learn new patterns to apply to your lives, and because of it you grow stronger. Even just one new language infects you with a radically different way of thinking! Why, in just a few thousand years you’ve gone from being unable to count to understanding the quantum universe—and you’d have made it there faster if you didn’t keep destroying each other’s cultures and having to start over from scratch.” [original emphasis]

To me, one of the most fascinating features of my native Finnish is that the negator ei (‘no’) can be conjugated in personal forms, as if it were a verb: en, et, ei, emme, ette, eivät. For example, a one-word answer “En” to a question (e.g. “Would you like some tea?”) translates as ‘[I do] No[t]’, while “Emme” means ‘[We do] No[t]’, etc. And this is just one little, tiny detail of the amazing linguistic variety that exists on Earth. There are times I wish I had studided linguistics even further.

Anyway.

Obviously for the Enemy us petty humans had better stay petty and not learn anything new ever. She’s not wrong, though: we’ve come a long way, and human ingenuity can be astounding. Unfortunately, so can the human cruelty. If only we could stop the needless hate and reach for more amazing heights…

Jemisin, N.K. The City We Became. New York: Orbit, 2020, p. 342.

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

Hand- and Footprints in Tibet Potentially the Earliest Prehistoric Art Found

Potentially the earliest stone age art consists of hand- and footprints on stone, and was found in investigations between 2018 and 2020.

From the September 2021 Science Bulletin abstract covering the find:

“At Quesang on the Tibetan Plateau we report a series of hand and foot impressions that appear to have been intentionally placed on the surface of a unit of soft travertine. The travertine was deposited by water from a hot spring which is now inactive and as the travertine lithified it preserved the traces. On the basis of the sizes of the hand and foot traces we suggest that two track-makers were involved and were likely children. We interpret this event as a deliberate artistic act that created a work of parietal art. The travertine unit on which the traces were imprinted dates to between ∼169 and 226 ka BP.”

Below is a contour map from the article, showing the prints on the rock surface:

Science Bulletin Sept 2021 Zhang et al Earliest Parietal Art Contour

Fascinating. I’m sure there are still many open questions, like intentionality (if such a thing is even possible for prints left hundreds of thousands of years ago) and the identity of the creator(s). (The discovery team posits they may have been children, potentially at play.)

It’s just… Do these prints remind anyone else of of how Gollum moves?

Found via Colossal.

Image via Zhang, David D., et al. “Earliest parietal art: Hominin hand and foot traces from the middle Pleistocene of Tibet.” Science Bulletin September 10, 2021

A Babylon 5 Reboot Is in Active Development

‘Tis official: a Babylon 5 reboot is in the works.

The Catholic Geeks babylon52

(Please read the thread for more of Straczynski’s thoughts on the announcement. Looks like at this writing many articles available online largely just rephrase his tweets.)

Without wading too deep into all of the speculation, I did glean this tidbit about the timing of the new B5:

Pretty exciting, wouldn’t you say? Of course, in the end the fan reaction—including mine—will depend on the technical quality of the final product, our personal preferences, which aspects were chanced and which retained, and whether the cast will be able to carry the stories. I’m certainly looking forward to more news on the project, and fervently wish that the casting will be successful (and quality-wise more even).

Image via The Catholic Geeks

Scenes from Among the Trolls

Forbidden Studios is an independent game development studio based in Turku, Finland. Their first game is in development now. Recently the studio shared a few more pictures from Among the Trolls on Twitter:

Among the Trolls Forest w Birch

All of the scenery looks absolutely lovely, very much like home, which I’m not used to seeing in a video game, and they prompted me to go look for more. Below are a few other shots that reflect a location firmly based on traditional Finland:

Among the Trolls Cabin Interior

A traditional cabin with what’s clearly a ryijy wall hanging. Nice.

Among the Trolls Sauna

It’s a sauna! Ha! 🙂

I’m now looking forward to hearing more about the story. At this writing the description only says “Among the Trolls is a first-person survival action adventure where the strange mysteries of Nordic forests are unraveled.”

On the basis of the current demo video, among other things you can pan for gold and have a sauna bath; at least two things that are highly unusual. (In fact, a sauna bath provides more sisu in game, which can save your life when all else fails. How fabulous!) On Twitter, Forbidden Studios also shared a clip of rune singing, which is clearly a reference to the Kalevalaic poetry. More unique Finnish goodness!

There might be one potential problem, unfortunately. If the Forbidden Studios gallery and Twitter stream are anything to go by—and they might not—there is only one woman in the plot. (The protag’s grandmother Elina Kantola, who has disappeared along with her husband Aarne.) It could be a stylistic choice; it’s not at all uncommon for Finnish storytellers to focus on lone men in the woods. If true, however, that’s a problem for me.

As fantastic as it is to see the kinds of environments I grew up with reflected on screen, if there aren’t female characters beyond the obligatory Smurfette / wife / girlfriend / (grand)mother type, I’m not interested. At this point in my life the lack of multiple individual, nuanced women in a story is as hard and immediate a turn-off as horror and dystopia are.

Images by Forbidden Studios: Forest via Twitter. Cabin interior via their website. Sauna scene screencapped from the video demo.

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

Agatha Christie’s Hjerson: A Poirot Spinoff

Fans of Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot probably remember Poirot’s friend, writer Ariadne Oliver. Her popular detective, Sven Hjerson, happens to be a countryman of mine.

Astoundingly—to my mind at least—Sven Hjerson is going to get his own series! Produced in Sweden, the series is called Agatha Christies Hjerson (unsurprisingly, Agatha Christie’s Hjerson in English). The series was created by Patrik Gyllström; he has also written some of the scripts along with Jakob Beckman, Martin Luuk, and Björn Paqualin, and there are two co-directors, Lisa Farzaneh and Lisa James Larsson. Hjerson is starred by Johan Rheborg and Hanna Alström, the latter of which has some international renown as the Swedish Princess in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

C More Agatha Christies Hjerson S1

The titular character Hjerson is a Swedish-speaking Finn who has had a long career as a criminal investigator in Sweden and now lives a retired, uneventful life in the Åland Islands. A Swedish reality tv producer Klara Sandberg is on the lookout for a new hit series and decides on Hjerson as her new star. Naturally, murders ensue.

Agatha Christie’s Hjerson is a C More original production. The series was filmed in Stockholm and Åland Islands (Ahvenanmaa) and is described as a combination of Christie and Nordic noir. Season one consists of four 90-minute episodes, which for tv have each been split into two parts.

So far the IMDB reviews are not flattering. Have you seen Hjerson? Do share!

Image via C More

Fan Project for Home Bakers: Sandworm Bread

In honor of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune release in Europe, here’s an older but still impressive project for making your own sandworm bread with—you guessed it—spice filling.

Kitchen Overlord Chris-Rachael Oseland Sandworm Bread

The recipe is by Chris-Rachael Oseland at Kitchen Overlord, and it’s an entertaining read as well as a very neat fan project. Please visit her site for more foody, nerdy goodness of all shapes!

Found via File770.

Image by Chris-Rachael Oseland at Kitchen Overlord

Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!

WoW: Reminiscing about Past Feature Additions

Our home is finally starting to function and look like a home (instead of a storage area for n+1 boxes) after our transatlantic move. We’ve been even able to play World of Warcraft a little in the midst of cleaning and organizing and bureaucracy and starting work again.

That got us reminiscing about the various expansions, specifically their new features we liked or loved at the time that have since become—begging your pardon for the pun—quite vanilla.

Below are some of my favorite changes, listed in expansion order.

(FYI: I just couldn’t remember and failed to find online the exact timing for some features, so I’ve given my best guess. If you know, please let me know in the comments!)

The Burning Crusade

-Ahh, the amazing, breathtaking sky over Hellfire Peninsula!

-Multiple flight points per zone—what is this awesome magic?

-Expanding the availability of paladins (one of my favorite classes).

WoW BC Hellfire Peninsula Skies

Wrath of the Lich King

-In Northrend the environmental design definitely progressed from lumps of mashed potato. (Overall, though, they really didn’t know what to do with the icy zones, Icecrown and Storm Peaks.)

-Improved music, especially the Grizzly Hills intro music. That’s still one of my all-time favorite WoW themes.

Cataclysm

-Changes to Orgrimmar and Stormwind. It took me time to get used to, but I wouldn’t go back.

-Flying in old world zones.

-Phasing, but only when it doesn’t mess up the rest of the gameplay.

Mists of Pandaria

-Pandaria is where the environment design turns truly good. By this I mean natural-looking shapes in the landscapes, undergrowth with variety (including height), mountains that look like actual mountains, etc. To be sure, Cataclysm tried very hard as well, but graphics just got so much better by MoP that it was more feasible to do better. (Trees still look clunky, though.)

-Area-of-effect looting. The shift-click looting did help, but, man, I NEVER want to go back to picking. Each. Individual. Loot. Item. One. At. A. Time—AOE loot helps so much.

-11th character slot per realm. Obviously it’s changed again since, but at the time it was big.

WoW Pandaria Jade Forest Arboretum

Warlords of Draenor

-The toons’ new and improved looks. I didn’t like losing some of my favorite female Dwarf faces, but overall the change was good.

-The little gold coin marker for vendor trash in your bags. Hated it first, grew to love it.

-No fighting over gathering nodes anymore, since more than one player can get the same one. (If it was WoD? Or was it Legion?)

WoW Arms Warrior Roar

Legion

-The new transmogging system that automatically saves all applicable reward looks into your wardrobe. Oh, and being able to hide certain gear slots in your mog.

-Trees look so. Much. Better!

-Worldquests.

Flight Master’s Whistle.

WoW Legion Druid Classhall Xmas Gear Dec 2018

Battle for Azeroth

-Allied races.

-This is slightly esoteric, and definitely not a gameplay feature, but I love the penguin sledding world quests!

-Overall my favorite expansion, by the way.

Shadowlands

New customizations for the core races (skin, hair, jewellery).

-After opening Shadowlands with your first character, being able to choose whether you do the storyline or not on subsequent toons.

Torghast, of course.

I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a lot. Love to share your favorite tweaks to the game? Comments are open!

Images: screencaps from World of Warcraft.

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

Murderbot Mayhem Music: Fan Playlist for Network Effect

For the pure joy of having our sea container finally arrive with our moving goods, I’ve been re-reading all of Martha Wells’ Murderbot books in the past few weeks. That reminded me of a playlist Meghan Ball made to accompany the Murderbot novel Network Effect. I gave it a listen, and found it conveyed a very different idea of Murderbot than my impression.

So, I made my own playlist. It starts with a concert version of Darude’s “Sandstorm”, which I thought appropriate due to the reference of Murderbot visiting the Preservation planet for a cultural festival with concerts and operas in the beginning of the book.

  • Darude: “Sandstorm”, performed by Synthony and the Auckland Symphony Orchestra
  • Armin van Buuren: “Blah Blah Blah”
  • Paul Ruskay featuring Kokia: “Strike Suit Zero Main Theme”
  • Linkin Park: “Numb”
  • Darude’s “Sandstorm” and Rammstein’s “Du Hast” mashup by Monsterovich
  • Clint Mansell: “Lux Aeterna” (soundtrack from Requiem for a Dream, directed by Darren Aronofsky)

The “Blah Blah Blah” and “Numb” lyrics remind me of the doubts some humans (especially Thiago in this story) have about Murderbot, and Murderbot’s attitude towards those kinds of humans. The mashup of “Sandstorm” and “Du Hast” nicely marries action-paced music with the weirdness that comes with Murderbot finally finding targetControlSystem and the thread of targetContact contamination and the crystalline growth / alien hivemind taking over Murderbot. Ending the list with a piano piece brings some calm again.

Below are videos for your listening convenience.

Darude’s Sandstorm performed by Synthony and the Auckland Symphony Orchestra by Auckland Symphony Orchestra on YouTube

Armin van Buuren – Blah Blah Blah (Official Lyric Video) by Armin van Buuren on YouTube

Strike Suit Zero Main Theme via Paul Ruskay – Topic on YouTube

Linkin Park – Numb [Lyrics on screen] HD via LinkinParkLyrics100 on YouTube

Durude [sic] Haststorm (Du hast remix) by Monsterovich’s Music on YouTube

Requiem for a Dream – Lux Aeterna (Piano Version) by Patrik Pietschmann on YouTube

What would you add or subtract? Do you have your own playlist?

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.

The Final Teaser Trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The final teaser trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings dropped only ten days or so before the release day. Desperation during disease-ridden times? Who knows, but I’m glad it’s here; this trailer give us more insight into Shang-Chi the person, not just his past. Here it is:

“Run It” | Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Still handsome with flashy fight scenes. Unfortunately, my original complaint—that the trailers fail to situate Shang-Chi into the Marvel Cinematic Universe—still stands. WHY is this a Marvel movie? Having read any specific comics should be an aid to enjoying the MCU, not a requirement, if you ask me.

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

Second and Final Trailer for Eternals

The second trailer for Eternals came out last week. Check it out:

Marvel Studios’ Eternals | Final Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

This is more like it: at least I found out who the Eternals are and a teeny bit of why they are on Earth. The connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we already know are still weak, though. I do love how varied the characters are compared to the previous MCU movies. And, of course, it does look even more gorgeous than the first trailer, if you ask me. 🙂

Looks like the Eternals is still set to release on November 05, 2021. Ultimately, I suspect, whether we’ll go see it in the theater will depend on the local covid-19 situation, since late summer and early fall have been worse than I’d like.

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