The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, part 9: Ancient Phaistos and Kamares Ware

Thor and I complete our tour of the lovely Phaistos site and admire the distinctive pottery found in the nearby sacred Kamares Cave.

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and will continue every Saturday.

Last week’s blog post (12/7/19) introduced the important Minoan palace/community complex of Phaistos, established in the late Neolithic Era and reaching its height between the 20th and 15th centuries BC. It was mentioned by Homer in “The Illiad” as a well-founded city” and one of the fabled 99 cities of the ancient Cretans. It’s hard to separate fable from rare facts about the ancient people sometimes called the Keftiu, but mostly termed Minoans after King Minos of the most famous Cretan palace-city of Knossos. But apparently Phaistos (sometime spelled in English as Phaestos) was named for a son or grandson of Herakles (Hercules). Phaistos (the man) was apparently killed by a Cretan King Idomeneus, who was the war leader of the Cretan contingent supporting Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Confused yet? Continue reading

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New Worlds: Cities I – Where and Why and What

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Defining a “city” is easier said than done. Much ink has been spilled on that topic in fields ranging from archaeology (we can’t study the rise of urban settlements without first deciding what we’re looking at) to law (if specific codes apply to cities, then you have to decide which places fall under that header). I’m not going to attempt a formal definition here; for our purposes it’s enough to just say that a city is a large, dense, permanent settlement.

How large? Several of the fantasy games I play have attempted at various points to provide numerical answers to that question, and for the most part these numbers are hilariously wrong. The Pathfinder roleplaying game defines a small city as having 5-10,000 people, a large city as having 10-25,000, and a metropolis as anything with more than 25,000 people. The city of Korvosa, we are told, supports a royal court, three separate military organizations, several universities, a major criminal underworld, thriving international trade, and more . . . all with a population of about 28,000 people.

That’s less than one-seventh the size of late sixteenth-century London.

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Kansas: the SF Collection

Center for the Study of Science Fiction

In my field, when you say Kansas, the reply is “James Gunn and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.” And I actually got a chance to visit this fascinating repository when I went to Kansas! I was given the guided tour by university professor and SF writer Kij Johnson, and reference librarian Elspeth Healey.

The Center itself is a smallish room crammed to bursting with F and SF. There is just about room to pass between the bookcases, but not much more. Here is Kij and a very bemused me, overwhelmed by the extent of the collection:Science Fiction Book collection

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The Duchess Rants: On a Different Note…

What happened to music?

Yeah, I know I am entering the full ‘get off my lawn’ curmudgeonly territory – but honestly – I can’t say I remember many songs from this millennium. Or from some ten years before, actually. It all blurs into a maelstrom of NOISE and forgettable lyrics. Yes, yes I am perfectly certain that someone out there is going to sit up in fury and go, but what about…?

Maybe I am just a weird anomaly, but I like substance. I LOVE story songs and poetry songs. Not so much “baby baby baby, the bedroom’s over there” but something… more.

I will throw two things your way and you may choke on the comparison because at first sight they really have pretty much nothing to do with one another, but bear with me for the duration of this rant. After that you can stalk off in a huff and defend your own musical icons if you wish. But, two things…

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BVC Announces Whistling Bagpipes by Irene Radford

Whistling Bagpipes by Irene RadfordWhistling Bagpipes
Whistling River Lodge Mysteries 3
by Irene Radford

The Grand Festival of Highland Arts and Games has descended upon the Whistling River Resort and Golf Course. Glenna McClain, General Manager and part owner of the lodge, has her hands full of bagpipers, dancers, and officious officials. Among them prances the criminal ex-lover of Glenna’s security chief Craig Knutsen. He will have to face his carefully guarded secrets once and for all.

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Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Sticking the Ending

Batman The big pitfall of planless writing is that the story will go nowhere.The questing party will wander around the mines of Moria in the dark and never get out. The hobbits forget about the One Ring and become involved in the court politics of Gondor. Aragorn and Arwen hop into bed and suddenly the novel becomes 50 Shades of Grey. Saruman gets involved with flamewars on 4-chan and doesn’t imprison Gandalf in Orthanc.

This is unacceptable. You, the author, have to keep control of the thing so that it goes somewhere. You may not know the plot, but you know when it runs off the rails. It has to end right. You must see to it that your readers close the book and say, ‘Wow!” If they say, “Waitaminute, that’s not an ending,” then you are in trouble. You must and shall shape the thing properly. You are not allowed to cheat your reader — or at least you can’t do it more than once. Remember the end goal? It’s not the Ring in the volcano. It’s a good book. Continue reading

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Post-retirement Fashion; Why Are Ties?

The acceptable garb of my former workplace was one step below “business casual”. No suits on either men or women; the Director and Assistant Director (both male) came closest to the suit thing by wearing shirts and slacks without ties. No one wore ties. When you really begin to think about ties, why are ties? They don’t hold anything in place. They don’t keep you warm or cool. They can be colorful or bland. Congressmen prefer yellow or red, depending on which side of the aisle they sit.

Women don’t wear ties, except if they’re rocking a tux or a Brooks Brother. I used to own a few bow ties but that was in the eighties, when bow ties, bolos and other collar ornaments were popular. Women have their own female version of the suit. Open collar shirt, jacket and pencil skirt – or slacks. The jackets can be tailored in multiple ways. Thank Coco Chanel for that.

Until my last lap in the workforce, employed by a major research center, I never had to worry about work clothes. All I needed was a uniform or scrubs. I ditched my nursing cap the moment I moved to back to California where none of the other nurses wore them. (You might also ask the question: why nursing caps? The male nurse didn’t have to wear one. I’m not in touch with current nursing curriculum but I don’t think it includes caps any more.)

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, part 8: Mysteries of Ancient Phaistos

Thor and I trace the labyrinthine ruins of this Minoan palace-city where I camped years ago to listen to voices of the ancient past.

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and will continue every Saturday.

Lawrence Durrell, in his wonderful pictorial memoir THE GREEK ISLANDS, writes of Phaistos (sometimes spelled Phaestos in English): “Atmosphere for atmosphere, I feel much more mystery and splendour about Phaestos than Knossos. I think most people would agree. The site is a honeyed one for summer breezes…. and through the verdant plain below a small river called Giophoros — ‘earthbringer’ — prettily potters.”

I’m not sure everyone would agree with Durrell, but the two major Minoan sites are very different in their presentation today. The more famous Knossos (we’ll visit it in upcoming blog posts) was extensively and controversially reconstructed some decades ago by Sir Arthur Evans, to dramatic effect: Continue reading

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