Weekend Reading 16

Our Weekend Reading series (brought to you by our Patreon backers) continues with a curated selection of articles—and a few other things—from around the Internet that interested us this week!

Peter

Richard Beck actually covered the Sabbath on his blog the day before our episode on it dropped. So naturally, I have to include the link.

Let me say it a different way. We are missing the point of Sabbath because we are instrumentalizing Sabbath, turning Sabbath into a technique and a tool.

Notice how the call to Sabbath tends to work. We’re busy. That’s unsustainable. So we need to rest. Why? So that we can keep working.

Sabbath in this view is a technique to sustain work. Sabbath isn’t the end, it’s a means to an end, the sustaining of work.

In short, we’ve turned Sabbath into a self-help technique. Sabbath is a recommendation for busy people to keep them from getting stressed out.

Douglas Underhill recently wrote a great blog piece on the Wish spell in D&D that could very well go alongside some of the other “battered group syndrome” rants we’ve had on the podcast of late.

As written, wish spells, or wishes in general in TRPGs, are almost always explicitly ways to disrupt players’ expectations and, in a word, screw them. GMs and DMs are often encouraged to find any possible loophole, any interpretation in the player-character’s wish that might justify screwing with them.

I think roughly 100% of the people who read this are podcast listeners, so I can be pretty sure this Lifehacker article on speeding up podcasts (or maybe not) will at least be an interesting read to you.

There are so many good podcasts out there (including Lifehacker’s The Upgrade), but there’s only so much time in a day. The Wall Street Journal reported on “podcasts nuts” who make time for podcasts by speeding them up with apps like Overcast. Like, up to 5x speed. Sure, that saves time, but it also probably spikes your blood pressure and makes listening to podcasts super stressful. So what’s the best speed to listen to podcasts in without sacrificing your health or ruining the podcast?

Jenny

My weekend reading for today is brought to you by crime!

During a politically tense time in 19th Century Lithuania, Russia tried to ban Latin Lithuanian. The clergy were having none of that so what do they do? The only thing they can do to save their language and traditions: they smuggle books.

In 1899, a pair of smugglers were crossing the border between Lithuania and East Prussia. Clutching their packs, they lay on a bank along the Prussian part of the river Šešupe, and for hours they studied the movements of the guards on the other side. They could not afford to get caught.
When it was dark, they pushed across the Šešupe and ran 10 miles to a distribution center in the Lithuanian village of Pilviškiai. There they discovered that Russian authorities were searching for them.
Soon they would return to Prussia, where they would hide out for several weeks before deciding to abandon the region entirely. Within a year, they would be on a boat to Scotland.
But that first night, before they fled, they needed to drop off their smuggled goods—the very reason that authorities were after them. They opened their packs, and out poured books.

Waypoint recently put out an incredible 10 minute documentary on YouTube called Escaping Prison with Dungeons & Dragons. This isn’t exactly reading, but watching it was eye-opening and truly inspiring. (There is some coarse language and a mildly controversial statement regarding which edition of D&D is best, so watch with discretion.)

All across America, hardened criminals are donning the cloaks of elves and slaying dragons all in orange jumpsuits, under blazing fluorescent lights and behind bars.

We meet with two former cellmates in who played D&D together in maximum security prison and how they are now using the game to integrate back into civil society.

And for the last reading, the story of one of the most successful book thieves in the history of the United States.

James Richard Shinn was a master book thief. Using expert techniques and fraudulent documents, he would ultimately pillage world-class libraries to the tune of half a million dollars or more. A Philadelphia detective once called him “the most fascinating, best, smartest crook I ever encountered.” And yet, despite the audacity of his approach and the widespread effects of his crimes, Shinn has been relegated to a footnote in book history.

Grant

Sit tight, folks, because there’s a lot of reading coming your way.

Jenny mentioned Waypoint above, but that video isn’t the whole of the story. This past week, Waypoint has focused heavily on play in prisons—gaming of all types, in fact. They’re calling this series “At Play in the Carceral State“, and almost every article has been utterly fascinating. A couple of notable articles to mention: “Inside the Gaming Library at Gitmo, America’s Controversial Military Prison”; “The Benefits of Gaming Behind Bars”; and “How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband”. From that last article:

It may sound like a strange juxtaposition: hardened, tattooed offenders donning the cloaks of fantasy characters. Yet both former inmates and correctional officers agree: D&D is more common in prison than you might imagine. Most facilities have at least one game going. Some have a player in every cell block. According to Micah Davis, a former inmate and Dungeon Master imprisoned in Texas, “We had our own table in the dayroom. That’s saying something. Aryan brotherhood table, Mexican mafia table, black guy table, and D&D table.”

Luke Harrington’s “D-List Saints” series at Christ & Pop Culture is back, this time discussing St. Hippolytus, a.k.a. “The Guy Who Just Decided He Was Pope”. It’s an interesting look at a fascinating father of the early church only a few degrees removed from Christ himself:

But just like that one kid who thought he was shoo-in for class president because of his straight As, Hippolytus soon got a rude awakening about how politics work. The council elected St. Calixtus I instead, which Hippolytus didn’t like at all—so he more-or-less just declared himself pope. No, seriously—not only did the guy write large chunks of the Western liturgy, he also straight-up invented the concept of an “antipope.” What have you done with your life?

My final suggestion is, uh, big. Galaxy Science Fiction was an American sci-fi short story magazine with a thirty-year run, from 1950-1980. It was notable for quality stories with an emphasis on social science fiction from excellent, well-known authors of the era. It’s also now available in its entirety online from archive.org. It’s very hard to excerpt any reasonable piece of this, so just take my word for it and start browsing. I promise you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

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