Weekend Reading 40

Peter

The Guardian has a really neat article on how the famous Giant’s Causeway formed here. Neat bits of Celtic myth and geology both in this one.

According to legend, the Giant’s Causeway was built by the Irish giant, Finn MacCool, as a crossing to confront his Scottish rival. Scientists have an alternative explanation, and for the first time they have reproduced in the laboratory the process through which the causeway’s 40,000 near-perfect hexagonal columns were formed.

In a huge, unexpected gift to the GMing community (and anyone else who needs sound effects) the BBC has released over 16,000 of them for free!

These 16,000 BBC Sound Effects are made available by the BBC in WAV format to download for use under the terms of the RemArc Licence. The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.

It’s been a little while since I referenced Richard Beck in one of these posts, but I hope you knew more was coming at some point. (If not, surprise?) This is a typical one of his short-but-profound blog posts on the subject of mortality.

The argument I make in The Slavery of Death is that there are two paths set before us, neurosis or grace.

One path is the path of self-esteem, striving to build, perform for, achieve, and secure sense of significance and self-worth by participating in a “hero project.”

 

Grant

Not every headline is perfect, but this NYT headline pretty much is: “Teenage Vandals Were Sentenced to Read Books. Here’s What One Learned.” It’s an interesting look at an unusual punishment (and the various ways in which it could have backfired), and the resulting effect on the vandals in question:

One of the teenagers agreed for this article to share the list of books that he chose. Among them were “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan; “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee; “The Tortilla Curtain,” by T.C. Boyle, about a Mexican couple trying to make a life in California, and “Things Fall Apart,” a tale of Nigeria by Chinua Achebe.

He wrote that two books affected him deeply: “12 Years a Slave,” a memoir by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana, and “Night.”

An excerpt from one of his court-ordered essays was provided to The New York Times, with his permission, by his defense lawyer. He describes not fully knowing what a swastika meant, and that he thought it “didn’t really mean much.”

“Not anymore,” he wrote. “I was wrong, it means a lot to people who were affected by them. It reminds them of the worst things, losing family members and friends. Of the pain of torture, psychological and physical. Among that it reminds them how hateful people can be and how the world can be cruel and unfair.”

Atlas Obscura tries to tackle a question I’ve seen raised elsewhere: “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?” Despite invoking Tolkien and other luminaries, I’m not entirely convinced that the author satisfactorily answers the headline’s question; but it’s still food for thought (YES I DID THAT) and good inspiration for your fantasy games.

Both Tolkien and Jacques fleshed out their worlds with history, songs, and distinct languages and dialects. To Maslen, food is another way to make fantasy seem real. “A lot of fantasy is set in other worlds,” he says. “Say you are writing a secondary-world fantasy. In that case, you want to make it as rich, as believable, as available to all the senses of your readers as you possibly can.” Songs appeal to the ear, frontispiece maps appeal to the eye, and descriptions of food appeal to readers’ stomachs.

This story is just really cool: ““Lost Verdi Opera Score Discovered in Berlin Basement”. WQXR gives us the story of Die Macht des Schicksas, found in a hoarder’s basement, and which is surprisingly empowering for its time:

Initial comments about the score of Die Macht des Schicksas suggest that Verdi wanted to create a new kind of opera in an epic heroic style. The score is being held at the Hochschule für Musik on the Charlottenstraße in Berlin’s Mitte district, not far from the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, which reopened last October after being closed for many years of restoration. In the years the theater was closed, some important documents went missing, and most of them were found among the piles of Dokumentation in Zander Hecht’s basement.

[…] Dr. Storione told me that Bläuel Wittling had originally written about a group of fearful Nordic women who sought refuge from men and lived in a “sharing community.” Wittling’s views intensified after attending the first complete Ring Cycle at Bayreuth in 1876 with her lover, Sardelle von Gole. Wagner’s Valkyries represented a new type of woman for Wittling and, with the encouragement of von Gole, she wrote a play called Die Macht des Schicksas about a group of women who find self-empowerment and glorious autonomy through communal living on the Spree river, which was as mythical to Wittling as the Rhine was to Wagner.

Jenny

I love a good redemption story in any and all forms. One of the better ones that I’ve heard of recently is one involving a group of teenagers involved with a charity called Growing Change. They’re currently going through the process of turning an abandoned prison into a farm with affordable housing and a community centre.

Zeke and Derek are part of a group working on a multi-year vision to “flip” this prison. Their youth organization, Growing Change, officially acquired the Scotland Correctional Center site from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety in 2017. The plan is to turn it into a permaculture aquaponics farm where they teach community members these methods of growing food while conserving water and energy. They’re also planning a climbing wall to raise revenue, a paintball field, a recording studio, and housing for homeless veterans.

John Arcadian, writer and/or art director for a whole lot of RPG books, recently did a TEDx Talk about the social benefits of tabletop roleplaying. Not technically reading, but a very cool video.

Social skills are vitaly important to success in life, but where do we find practice space for them? John Arcadian, a writer and publisher of tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, talks about the benefits that can be gained from playing out characters in Tabletop Role-playing Games. Discover an amazing world of social improvement alongside the incredible worlds of swords and sorcery, and learn how the kind of play done in these sorts of games mirrors the developmental play that helps us learn social skills while young.

And finally, why monks in D&D don’t have to be an out-of-place stereotype.

One of the biggest complaints I see from DMs regarding base classes is the monk. Not because they have a rule problem with them, per se, but rather because monks just don’t feel right to them. Or, to paraphrase a lot of the arguments I see, “What is a wire-fu martial artist doing in my version of Lord of The Rings?”

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