Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Vikings

Thurs.

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* If you were offered a true statistic about an alien civilization, but only one, what would it be? MR, true to form, wants information about “the real rate of return on capital.” I’d want a measure of the class inequality in their society; “infant mortality rate” is suggested in the comments, but of course we don’t know what their lifecycle is like so that answer might not tell us anything. “How many other civilizations have you exterminated?”, also from the MR comments, seems a good choice too…

* David Foster Wallace, Viking Poet.

* All six hours of The Staircase, a true-crime documentary set right here in Durham, is now available on Google Video. Jaimee and I watched this a few years ago and quite enjoyed it. The discussion in the MetaFilter thread is preoccupied with the documentary’s veracity, but this aspect doesn’t really trouble me; I don’t think the film presents itself as an objective or dispassionate approach to “the facts,” which is not something I think documentaries are really capable of achieving in the first place. The film is very engaging and not deceptive, which is good enough for me.

* This Indexed fantasy league is incredibly flawed. There’s no way a single zombie could defeat a werewolf, a vampire, an elf, and a ghost to win the championship; I believe the word you’re looking for is zombies.

* Anarchism and science fiction: a reading list. Via MeFi.

* Two more Civ V previews from Gamespot and IGN.

* And please be advised your doomsday seed vault is functioning perfectly.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

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Wells Tower reads a personal favorite, “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.”

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April 9, 2009 at 9:07 pm

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"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned"

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One of my favorite obscure writers is about to become a lost less obscure; Wells Tower’s first collection of short stories is coming out after a too-long wait. I’ve taught Towers’s Viking-flavored story “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” a few times and I appreciate it more each time I read it. Knowing nothing about the circumstances of its writing beyond its original publication date (2002), I see it as one of the great fictional commentaries on the psychic state of post-9/11 America. The ending, still, just kills me.

Purist that I am, I’ll quote the original version here behind a [+/-], which I think is better than the book’s slightly modified version. But don’t read it until you’ve read the whole thing, or unless you’re existentially certain you never will.

Where had the good times gone? I didn’t know, but when Pila and me had our little twins and we put a family together, I got an understanding of how terrible love can be. You wish you hated those people, your wife and children, because you know what awful things the world will do to them, because you have done some of those things yourself. It’s crazy-making, but you cling to them with everything and close your eyes against the rest of it. But still you wake up late at night and lie there listening for the creak and splash of oars, the clank of steel, the sound of men rowing toward your home.

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March 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

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Hnefatafl

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Hnefatafl was a chess-like game played during the Viking era in Scandinavia, notable for its asymmetry: one player’s goal was to kill the opposing king, while the other player’s goal was merely to escape death. The rules are (mostly) lost, though attempted reconstructions exist, which you can play some online. (via the Smugopedia entry on Go)

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September 6, 2008 at 6:49 pm

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