Yoik at Eurovision

As winter takes hold around here, we turn our thoughts to the far north, to lands of snow, reindeer, and northern lights. We’ll leave you with a couple of examples of yoik, a distinctive Sámi musical tradition. Songs featuring yoik have twice made it to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. The first was the Norwegian song “Sámiid ædnan” from 1980, performed by Sverre Kjelsberg and Mattis Hætta.

Sámiid ædnan – Norway 1980 – Eurovision songs with live orchestra via escLIVEmusic1

The next one was “Spirit in the Sky,” also from Norway, performed by KEiiNO in 2019.

KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky – Norway – National Final Performance – Eurovision 2019 via Eurovision Song Contest

We’re vacationing for the rest of the year. See you in 2020. Happy New Year!

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.

Visual Inspiration: Dark Nights in the North

During my years in the U.S., I’ve been asked more than one variation of the question “Is it always cold?” in Finland. (The short answer, of course, is No; the long answer is It depends on your definition, and when and where in Finland you are. It CAN be cold, but “always”, no.)

What southern people don’t usually realize is that it’s not the winter cold but the long dark that affects you most. (Of course, as a counterpoint, we do also have the magical light summer nights.)

Besides, the dark isn’t all bad. Away from light pollution there is the Milky Way on clear nights, and the further north you go, the higher are your chances of seeing northern lights. The latter can range from faint whisps to quite a light show.

For your potential worldbuilding inspiration, here is a small selection of Flickr photos roughly from around where I grew up, including travel destinations in the north.

Flickr Juho Holmi Ritosuo 2

Flickr Juho Holmi Northern Lights over Oulu

Flickr Timo Newton-Syms Northern Lights

Flickr Heikki Holstila Northern Lights II

For me, and indeed most other Finns, winter starts some time in November to December, depending on the temperatures each year. And even though technically I didn’t grow up with the polar night (when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all), it was quite dark especially before the snow fell—which is exactly why getting snow on the ground was such a relief.

Flickr pikkuanna Rantavehnää

Flickr pikkuanna Hiihtolatu

Images via Flickr: Ritosuo 2 and Northern Lights over Oulu by Juho Holmi (CC BY-ND 2.0). Northern Lights by Timo Newton-Syms (CC BY-SA 2.0). Northern Lights II by Heikki Holstila (CC BY-ND 2.0). Rantavehnää and Hiihtolatu by pikkuanna (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

History for Writers Compendium: 2019

History for Writers explores world history to offer ideas and observations of interest to those of us who are in the business of inventing new worlds, cultures, and histories of our own. Here’s where we’ve been in 2019:

Ethnicity and identity

Food

Warfare

Social structures

Spooky things

Fun with history

Join us in 2020 for more history from a SFF writer’s perspective.

History for Writers is a weekly feature which looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: A Wheelchair Scooter

Oh my goodness—I am so (so, so, so) overly excited about this wheelchair scooter called Pendel:

NimbleDearArchaeopteryx-mobile via Videopress.com

It’s by Huka, a Dutch company. And it’s SO. AWESOME! Just wheel your chair up the little ramp, stabilize the chair, secure your stuff, lift the ramp up behind you so it’ll form a low “back wall” for the wheelchair area, and go! Aaaaaa!

io9 Tom Hiddlestons Loki Whee Gif

In a sense, I’ve been ridiculously lucky so far—none of my chronic conditions have affected my mobility. I’ve never even sprained a limb, let alone broken one. I have been operated on, though, although fairly lightly and fairly late in my life. However, that one experience was enough to convince me of the absolute, unadulterated value of mobility aids of various kinds, including accessible building.

Twitter Adam Holisky Picard Full of Win

Which reminds me: I just cannot (can-NOT!) understand people who gripe and complain about having to get help, including walkers or wheelchairs or whatnot. Isn’t the tech there precisely to enable us to function more independently for longer, just like glasses?!? Aren’t we social animals who help one another???

Expanse Tedious

(Badly fitted or broken aids, on the other hand, are the worst and should be burninated. And don’t even get me started on how despicably some people choose to treat disabled people who are just out and about, minding their own business…! #JustAskDontGrab)

One thing’s for sure: whenever I get to the stage that I need various aids, mobility or otherwise, BRING ‘EM ON!

Twitter ItsJustJords Sitting Frog

Pendel found via Nicola Griffith.

Images: Tom Hiddleston as Loki whee gif via a comment on io9.com. Captain Picard Full of Win via Adam Holisky on Twitter. “Tedious” screenshot from The Expanse season 3, episode 4, “Reload”. Sitting frog via ItsJustJords on Twitter.

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The King’s Man Trailers

It’s about three months till the next Kingsman continuum movie comes out. This one is set back in time and dubbed The King’s Man, and, as usual, there are trailers:

The King’s Man | Official Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX on YouTube

The King’s Man | Official Trailer 2 [HD] | 20th Century FOX on YouTube

Based on the two preceding movies it looks like the franchise-wannabe doesn’t quite yet know how serious vs. tongue-in-cheek to go. The King’s Man appears more somber in tone, but we’ll see.

Find it in theares on February 14, 2020.

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

Making a Mark

Some things never change. For instance, there will always be people who feel the need to leave their mark wherever they go. The graffiti in this image comes from the temple of Isis, originally located on the island of Philae in the Nile River in southern Egypt (since moved to the nearby island of Agilkia because of the damming of the Nile). The temple to Isis and other buildings were constructed at Philae by pharaohs in Egypt’s Late Period, between the eighth and fourth centuries BCE, and the Macedonian Ptolemaic kings who ruled Egypt between 323 and 30 BCE continued to build there. During this period, Philae marked the southern boundary of Egypt. Garrisons of soldiers were stationed there, and it was also a site of pilgrimage not just for Egyptians but for people from the larger Mediterranean world as well as from farther up the Nile in Africa. Under Roman rule, Philae continued to be an important religious site, and soldiers were stationed at a frontier post nearby.

Many people came to Philae for many reasons, and the temple is filled with inscriptions left by visitors. This one, for example, was carved in honor of the Nubian sun god Mandulis. A companion inscription dates the graffiti to 394 CE, which makes this the last known hieroglyphic inscription carved in ancient Egypt.

Inscription of Esmet-Akhom, photograph by A. Parrot via Wikimedia (Philae; 394 CE; inscription in stone; by Nesmeterakhem)

Later tourists got in on the action, too, like Bauerhorst and Brehm, two European visitors who left their marks in 1851.

Insciptions by Bauerhorst and Brehm, photograph by Michael Brehm2 via Wikimedia (Philae; 1851 CE; inscription in stone)

This one may look like it comes from the Roman period, but B. Mure is not a Roman name. It may have been left by Benoit Mure, a French homeopath who traveled in Egypt in the mid-1800s promoting homeopathy.

Inscription of B. Mure with addition, photograph by Ad Meskens via Wikimedia (Philae; c. 1850 CE; inscription in stone)

Another thing you can always count on is smartasses. After Mure left his mark at Philae, whenever that was, someone else came along and added a Latin inscription stultus est, “is an idiot” below his name.

History for Writers looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write.

First Black Widow Trailer

We’ve had to wait for a movie starring Black Widow for so long, a part of me won’t believe it’s going to happen. But! There’s a trailer now!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow – Official Teaser Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

I have a hard time figuring out what the story will be from this clip, but sources talk about a character called Taskmaster. Otherwise, looks like we’ll see more European and Russian locations; I do enjoy both. Apparently the story is set between Civil War and Infinity War.

Filming apparently largely takes place in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary, and Norway seems to stand in for Russia (I assume Siberia and/or other northern locations), which is nice—I’ve never been to Hungary nor the far Norwegian north, so it’ll be nice to gawk and keep my old-cat creature comforts at the same time.

I didn’t use to like Black Widow, but that may have more to do with how little Johansson was given to work with in the first phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, Nat’s road-trip-buddy mini movie with Captain America stuffed in the middle of Winter Soldier is one of my favorite MCU excerpts.

Black Widow is written by Ned Benson and directed by Cate Shortland, both of which are unknown to me. The new cast (i.e., outside the familiar MCU characters) is mostly unknown to me, too, so it will be a big—dare I say it the third time—unknown overall. I’m looking forward to it, though, and fervently hoping it’ll be as awesome as other MCU favourites of mine!

The movie opens May 01, 2020.

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Rating: Elementary, Season 5

Season 5 marks a return to form for the excellent mystery series Elementary. Here’s what we thought of this season’s episodes:

  1. “Folie a deux” – 5
  2. “Worth Several Cities” – 6
  3. “Render, and then Seize Her” – 6.5
  4. “Henny Penny the Sky is Falling” – 7
  5. “To Catch a Predator Predator” – 6.5
  6. “Ill Tidings” – 6.5
  7. “Bang Bang Shoot Chute” – 5
  8. “How the Sausage Is Made” – 6
  9. “It Serves You Right to Suffer” – 3
  10. “Pick Your Poison” – 6
  11. “Be My Guest” – 8
  12. “Crowned Clown, Downtown Brown” – 6
  13. “Over a Barrel” – 7.5
  14. “Rekt in Real Life” – 8
  15. “Wrong Side of the Road” – 6
  16. “Fidelity” – 9.5
  17. “The Ballad of Lady Frances” – 5.5
  18. “Dead Man’s Tale” – 7.5
  19. “High Heat” – 6
  20. “The Art of Sleights and Deception” – 5.5
  21. “Fly into a Rage, Make a Bad Landing” – 6
  22. “Moving Targets” – 6
  23. “Scrambled” – 4.5
  24. “Hurt Me, Hurt You” – 4.5

Season 5 builds on the series’ strengths: the unraveling of complicated mysteries and the growth of the friendship between Sherlock and Joan as complicated people. The average rating for this season is 6.2, the best since season 1, and the continuing overall quality of the series shows in our individual ratings. Only one episode falls below 4, our unofficial cutoff point for being worth rewatching, and a lot are in the 6-8 range of not extraordinary but well done.

The only real drag on this season is the arc story about Shinwell, an ex-gang member former patient of Joan’s who may or may not be trying to go straight. This arc never lives up to its potential and ends up being an unsatisfying shaggy dog story.

The one real disappointment of an episode this season is “It Serves You Right to Suffer,” at 3, mostly because it is primarily concerned with Shinwell’s story. The episode revolves around a shady FBI agent and it never grows into anything interesting.

By contrast, our favorite episode of the season, “Fidelity,” coming in at 9.5, does a much better job of playing into the series’ longer story arcs. “Fidelity” is the second half of a two-part episode, after “Wrong Side of the Road,” in which Sherlock and Joan, along with Sherlock’s former protege Kitty, investigate a series of deaths that seem to be linked to a traffic accident in Britain years earlier.

Another touch we appreciate this season is that a number of episodes end with living victims being rescued, which is a nice change in a series mostly focused on solving murders. Episodes like “Be My Guest” and “Rekt in Real Life” have happy endings in which people in danger are found safe. Marcus’ girlfriend Chantal, after being assaulted at the end of “The Art of Sleights and Deception,” makes a full recovery, which is a better fate than often happens to detectives’ loved ones and people of color on television.

All around, it’s another satisfying outing with Holmes and Watson.

Image: Sherlock and Joan at work on a case, from “Folie a Deux” via IMDb

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

WoW BfA: Flying Again!

My human mistweaver monk and Erik’s paladin were able to open flying for us early last month, and it’s glorious!

To celebrate, I got myself a Stormsong Coastwatcher mount.

WoW BfA Flying Stormsong Coastwatcher

Now we’re slooowwly working on the Honeyback Harvester mount. There aren’t enough fuzzy bee butts in my life yet!

Speaking of flying: I understand most of the arguments on both sides of the flying vs. no flying discussion. Personally, though, even if I strongly prefer to have flying, I think the current solution (introducing the Flight Master’s Whistle with a short cooldown once you hit level cap) works fine. I’m glad they added and kept it.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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

Star Trek: Picard Series Trailer from NYCC

Oooo—I can’t believe I didn’t yet blog about the second Star Trek: Picard series trailer that came our way. This was released at New York Comic Con.

Star Trek: Picard | NYCC Trailer | CBS All Access by CBS All Access on YouTube

Like the San Diego one, this trailer looks so awesome! The Borg presence doesn’t seem quite as heavy as the SDCC trailer gave reason to believe (but then again, you never know). It’s lovely to see glimpses of the old TNG cast, however, and the spiffy new tech and props look absolutely amazing. Mostly I’m thankful to see Sir Patrick Stewart in another genre production, for he is getting old and who knows how much longer he’ll have with us.

Picard is set to premier on January 23, 2020. Soon!

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