A Paladin of the Blue Dragonflight

With Dragonflight on the horizon, I’ve been messing around with some dragon-themed transmogs. Hopefully the next expansion will give us some great new dragony appearances, but in the meantime, here’s my set for a paladin of the blue dragonflight.

The shield even breathes fire! Here’s the Wowhead dressing room link if you want to look up any of the pieces.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

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

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Ancient Pants for a Rider Reconstructed

The precise construction of ancient textiles is often a matter of educated guesswork, since fibers—if they survive in the first place—tend to rot in most soil types. Now we have a little more to go on: in March 2022, a study was published on the technical details of fabric and finishing techniques of eight wool garments, including a spectacular pair of pants, belonging to a rider buried ca. 1200-1000 BCE.

One of the oldest preserved pairs of trousers in the world, the garment was found at Yanghai, Turfan (also known as Turpan), in the Xinjiang area in Northwest China. It’s an area with a long history and multiple tombs, as befits a stop on the Silk Road.

The breeches were made from three pieces: one for each leg and one for the crotch to combine the two sides.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants1

All three pieces included some woven patterning. Besides striping, the leg pieces also had a decorative band in a T-hook pattern (a kind of geometric design) around the knees.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants2

Interestingly, it seems that the pant pieces were woven on a loom into the final size and shape; no cutting from a longer length of cloth was involved. A combination of multiple techniques was also discovered: regular twill weave on the majority of the work, the weave on the knees, and a third method on the upper areas to create a thick waistband.

All this means a high skill level was needed in gauging not just the size of the future wearer, but also the amount of yarn required, plus naturally the various weaving techniques.

In the course of studying these clothes, reproductions were made. The outfit consists of the trousers, a poncho with belt, two pairs of braided bands (one below the knees and another at the ankles), and a wool headband.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants3

I’ve recently done some reading on recreating prehistorical clothing from scratch, and let me tell you, all of the shearing, washing, sorting, carding, spinning, dyeing, and—only at the very end—weaving plus sewing was no mean feat. The gorgeous (pre)historic garments we have managed to find must have taken a simply enormous amount of work to create. Even with a little weaving and band making plus a lot of sewing under my belt (pun intended—sorry, not sorry) I have a hard time imagining the magnitude of effort required in textile production before modern machinery.

Found and images via Helsingin Sanomat. (NB. Finnish only.) In English, you can read more at Science News.

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

Trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I had completely missed the news that there was a big budget D&D movie in the making! On the basis of this trailer, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves looks kinda bad, but fun kind of bad. Take a look yourself:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Official Trailer | Comic Con 2022 by IGN on YouTube

I’ve been playing so much World of Warcraft in recent years that I’m woefully out of date with D&D, but I think I spotted familiar things in the trailer. Also handsome, at least on a quick view; they sure churn out decent special effects these days.

At this writing, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is expected to release in theaters on March 03, 2023.

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Thoughts on Rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We recently rewatched the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s been a fair few years since we last saw it, which is long enough to forget a lot of details, so there was pleasure in rediscovering some of what made the show so good. A few random thoughts inspired by our rewatch.

To begin with, we can’t avoid the fact that Joss Whedon has now been exposed as an entitled sex pest who created a hostile and unsafe working environment on his shows. This knowledge casts a pall over our enjoyment of the show and gives an ugly tint to some of the character interactions. Xander’s puerile lusting after Buffy or Buffy’s teen crush on a two-century-old vampire are harder to stomach knowing what Whedon was up to behind the scenes. It’s not impossible to enjoy the show now, but we have more than the usual amount of disbelief to suspend.

There are other things that require a little indulgence as well. The series is twenty years old, and it shows. The special effects don’t hold up particularly well, the stunts are a bit obvious, and the pop culture references have not all aged gracefully. Still, that’s par for the course when going back to something older, and we can’t hold it against the show.

Other things date the series, too. It is a clear product of third-wave feminism, with its insistence that girly girls can be strong and don’t need boyish boys to protect them, but the series still can’t fathom the idea that girls don’t need to be girly or boys boyish at all. The overwhelming whiteness of the cast is also hard to ignore—it takes seven seasons before we get a person of color as even a side member of the cast. The show was notable at the time for showing a happy, loving queer relationship; it is notable now for crushing that relationship for the sake of drama.

Those things being said, though, Buffy is much better than I remember. The early seasons hold up quite well. The characters are well developed, the dialogue snaps, and the jokes mostly land. The central conceit of taking the challenges and frustrations of young adulthood and turning them into literal demons is just as much fun to watch now as it was then. The idea of a young woman who needs no saving but can kick monster butt all on her own is not as revolutionary now as when the series first aired, but it’s still satisfying to see a woman whose heroism is not the product of overcoming weakness but of embracing strength.

I find it hard to remember how good the first few seasons are because my memory of the show is tainted by the failings of the last few seasons. The show lost something when it turned away from the monster-of-the-week-as-coming-of-age-metaphor formula in season five and went hard into dramatic arc territory with the mystery of Dawn, Glory, and Ben. Season six has its good and bad points: the good point is the musical episode “Once More With Feeling;” the bad points are everything else. The early episodes of season seven recover some of the magic of the early series by focusing on the friendships of the main cast, but those are soon sacrificed to the First Evil arc that drags on for most of the season.

Many fans have their own personal cutoff points where they choose to mentally end the series. The end of season three is a popular one and makes sense; there is great satisfaction in watching the senior class of Sunnydale High School pull together to slay a powerful demon, and the end of high school makes a natural end point for the show. The end of season five is also a popular contender, with Buffy sacrificing herself to save her sister and the world. For myself, I choose the end of season four. The season has its weaknesses, but I enjoy the early episodes that take the monster-of-the-week approach to adjusting to college life. The ending that sees Buffy and the Scoobies tap into the primal power of the slayer brings a nice conclusion to the themes of friendship, courage in the face of life’s horrors, and Buffy’s ambivalence about her calling that animated the early seasons. In fact, I now wish that the geek trio of season six had been the villains of season four instead of Adam and the Initiative. The trio’s overt goofiness was always an odd fit in the bleak season six, and their refusal to grow up could have made for an interesting counterpoint to Buffy and the gang’s rocky but earnest transition into adulthood. Ah well—these are such things as fanfic is made of.

When we were packing up our house for our big transatlantic move last year, I was considering getting rid of our Buffy DVDs. Now I’m glad we didn’t. It was a pleasure to rediscover the joys of the early seasons, despite all the show’s other problems.

Image: Buffy cast photo via IMDb

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

Epic Mashup: Captain R2-D2

We all know interesting mashups of genre characters, but this R2-D2 / Captain America mashup really takes the cake:

Twitter Daniel_Logan R2-D2 Captain America Mashup

When you think about it, R2-D2 is very like the Cap: starts small (although R2 never gets larger), doesn’t talk all that much, embodies persistence, can often jury-rig vehicles, kicks (space) Nazi butt, and despite modest beginnings turns out to be one of the most competent characters in the story. I’m all in with this one, LOL!

Image via Daniel_Logan on Twitter.

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

Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The first official trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has now been out for a few weeks:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

OMG, what a different choice of music for the trailer—at first just a neat, atypical choice, then getting more and more sinister when juxtaposed with the imagery. Brr!

The underwater events and Mesoamericans scenes completely took me by surprise. (Seems surprisingly similar to the Avatar sequel about to be released this year, doesn’t it, or am I the only one to make the connection?) Looks awesome, though, and has so much potential for very inventive storytelling.

On the other hand, the tribute to Chadwick Boseman I did expect—or would’ve been surprised to see omitted. RIP; the world lost a huge talent.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler did such a fantastic job with the first Black Panther that I’ve no doubt that this sequel will be amazing. (Finally, FINALLY, there are A LOT of serious, powerful, purposeful roles for women!) I can’t wait!

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

Quotes: The Things We Have Had on Our Minds During the Day

People have long been fascinated by dreams and seen them as potential sources of meaning and insight. While today we focus on dreams as potential windows into our unconscious minds, ancient peoples often thought of dreams as a potential channel to the supernatural. Ancient Greeks produced complex manuals for interpreting the symbolism of dream images as a way of understanding the gods and predicting the future.

In that context, it is interesting to see evidence for a more rational, grounded approach to dreams. This passage comes from Herodotus’ account of how King Xerxes of Persia decided to invade Greece. After debating the merits of the proposed campaign with his court and deciding against it, Xerxes repeatedly dreamt of a shadowy figure that demanded he carry on with the attack. When Xerxes brought up this dream to his uncle Artabanus, Artabanus offered a level-headed interpretation:

Now when you have come around to a better way of thinking, you say that although you have decided to abandon the expedition against Greece, you are visited by a dream from some god forbidding you from giving up on the plan. But there is nothing divine in this, my boy. I have many years on you, so I’ll teach you what recurring dreams like this are about: the things we see in our dreams are usually the things we have had on our minds during the day, and in recent days we have been concentrating on this campaign.

Herodotus, Histories 7.16b

(My own translation)

Now, in Herodotus’ narrative, it turns out that Artabanus was wrong and Xerxes really was being visited by some divine force prompting him to carry on with the invasion plan, but the fact that Herodotus could put that argument into Artabanus’ voice tells us that the idea was part of the contemporary conversation in the Greek world. Indeed, Artabanus generally figures in Herodotus’ work as a wise and perceptive counselor whose advice Xerxes would have done well to heed. Giving this argument to Artabanus gives it a significant weight as an idea, even in a cultural context where people were inclined to see dreams as messages from the gods.

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

Teaser Trailer for Andor, a New Star Wars Series

Apart from Obi-Wan, another Star Wars series I might want to see is Andor. Here’s the first teaser:

Andor | Teaser Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

And the second trailer:

Andor | Official Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

There’s also what’s apparently not called a trailer but a sizzle reel for Andor from 2020 with some fascinating concept art and behind the scenes glimpses.

The first thing to really grab me was the birch tree in the first trailer (around the 20- to 30-second mark). I love birches despite their evil, evil pollen, but they’re rarely depicted in SFFnal screen adaptations. Now, though, birches are canonical in Star Wars. Woot!

Another thing of note is how different the two trailers are—I’d say the first mostly introduces a mood for the series, while the second starts rolling in the various characters almost at a breakneck speed.

I also loved that Mon Mothma seems to get a much larger role than in previous stories. Plus, Fiona Shaw! Shaw’s a superb actor (whom I know from Killing Eve, a screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion from 1995, and as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies) but, sadly, at this point Shaw is credited only for one episode in IMDB. Boo!

Add to all that more of Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgård (seen in Dune, Chernobyl, the Thor franchise, and many others) plus the astounding set-building, propping, and costuming we’re sure to get in any Star Wars project, and I’m strongly considering a Disney+ subscription.

Andor will release on August 31, 2022, with a three-parter of a premiere.

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A World of Warcraft Druid Cosplay by Svetlana Quindt

Svetlana Quindt at Kamui Cosplay makes seriously impressive cosplay outfits from scratch. Here are a few of her photos of the druid tier 9 set from World of Warcraft.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 w Flute

Her attention to detail is amazing! Take a look at the Making of photoset on Flickr for a sampling.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 Vest Progress

And because merely sewing an intricate costume wouldn’t be enough, Quindt has embedded LED lights into some of the gems.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 Skirt w Gems

A staff, of course, is included.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 w Staff

OMG, there’s even a little pouch built into the shoulder piece! I’m afraid I’m way too impatient to make anything this detailed, even if I looked like an Elf… Although, the Dwarven females look about the right height for me if I squint hard. LOL! 🙂

Quindt has written blog posts on the build process, available at the Kamui Cosplay website.

Images: Druid tier 9 costume by Svetlana Quindt: With flute. Making the vest. Skirt with gems. With staff.

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

The Pyramids of Kush

The pyramids of Egypt may be famous, but they’re not the only pyramids to serve as royal tombs.

The region of Nubia lies along the upper Nile in modern-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The kingdom of Kush flourished here for a millennium and a half, even dominating Egypt for a century as the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty. Kushites had a long history of war, trade, and diplomacy with Egypt, including incorporating elements of Egyptian art and architecture into their own culture. Like all such cultural borrowings, the Kushites did not simply imitate what they had seen in Egypt but reimagined and innovated on those ideas to suit their own needs.

Pyramids at the northern cemetery at Meroe. The larger pyramids in the background are in ruins, but the two smaller ones in the foreground have been restored in modern times to give an idea of the original shape. Photograph by UNESCO via Wikmedia (Meroe, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE with modern restoration; stone)

In Egypt, Kushite visitors would have seen the massive ancient stone pyramids of the early kings still famous today. They would also have seen small, steep-sided brick pyramids that were popular in later times as tomb markers for wealthy families. In their royal cemeteries in Nubia, Kushite rulers combined these forms to create stone pyramids much larger than the private monuments in contemporary Egypt, though not as large as the great pyramids of early pharaohs. These pyramids had steep sides, rising high over narrow bases. Many also had passages leading inside at ground level marked with monumental gates, a feature not found in Egyptian pyramids. While the major pyramids of Egypt were almost all built for kings, some of the largest Kushite pyramids were built for queens. These tombs drew on Egyptian ideas, but interpreted those ideas in a new way, marking the kings and queens of Kush as both connected to Egypt but also distinct.

Another view of a partially restored pyramid at Meroe. Photograph by Michael Walsh via Wikimedia (Meroe, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE with modern restoration; stone)

The custom of building tombs in this style took hold in Nubia. Despite the depredations of modern treasure hunters, there are, in fact, about twice as many Nubian pyramids still standing today as Egyptian. They are are a remarkable piece of world heritage and a fascinating example of the adaptation and reinvention of one culture’s ideas in the hands of another.

Pyramids at Nuri. Photgraph by Vit Hassan via Wikimedia (Nuri, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE; stone)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.