Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm! and some Greek Music to see you through?

I'm buckled down for the Hurricane and may or may not have power (or water), so I don't want to waste an awesome post that I can't necessarily promote to the fullest! Plus, I'm sure plenty of my audience is suffering from the same dilemma, and I don't want YOU to miss out either!

If I'd really been thinking, I would have planned some kind of WEATHERFEST for this occasion, but alas! I clearly was only thinking about how much water I had, and whether or not the roof would hold.

For those of you who DO have power, you might be interested in this video, supposedly full of music from ancient Greece. How much is Bronze Age, as they claim in the description, I cannot tell you, because I am not a history of music major, but it's also got a coolish slide show of Greek imagery. I'd say it is probably more a representation of later music than Bronze Age, from what my Music MA friend has told us previously BUT! Either way, it's interesting to listen to! Also an hour long, so maybe for those of your writing historical fiction in the Classical World, you could use it to set the mood? I don't know. Maybe I'm storm-tossed.

Friends in the Frankenstorm, good luck! Stay safe! See you on the flip!

ETA: We did NOT lose power, thank goodness. At least not yet. Hopefully not at all! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Avignon and the Palace of the Popes

Remember when I said I ditched Paris for a part of my book, and relocated an entire plot point to another city in France? Avignon is where I resettled my characters -- not just because Avignon is fun to see and say, though that's part of it, but because Avignon was, for some time in the 14th Century and early 15th Century,* host to a series of Popes and Anti-Popes. And while they were there, as you might imagine, all flaws of the Catholic Church considered, they built a pretty magnificent palace.**

Of course, the popes (and most especially the anti-popes) could not stay forever. For some reason people REALLY felt the Pope belonged in Rome. The palace was besieged and the anti-pope residing within was made to flee (so that France could recognize a DIFFERENT Anti-Pope, but whatever). The result was that by the time Avignon matters to me, the Palace is kind of abandoned. Avignon was not willing to admit it belonged to the Church (seriously, the anti-pope business was ridiculous) but it was kind of a mess after the whole besieging business. In short, it's ripe for my picking, because nobody was really doing anything with it either way for this tiny window which actually, really, by coincidence, lined up with my book.***

What's that you say? You'd like to see some video information about this pretty sweet monster palace? But of course! Short and sweet and pretty impressive:

*guys, I cannot emphasize enough how much I prefer antiquity to the middle ages and beyond.

**Which I am now dying to go see in person, of course. Also, all the credit to Avignon for having such an informative website for the Palace of the Popes!

***History Score!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dragonscale Leaves, and Other Reasons I Love Fall

Photo by Micha L. Rieser, wikimedia commons
When I was little, we had HUGE old maple trees in front of our house, and they all dropped their leaves together, carpeting the entire yard in red and gold and russet-toned sunsets. My sister and I would rake them all up, and play ghost in the graveyard with our friends in the neighborhood, while wearing hooded sweatshirts -- the hoods cinched up so tight we only had enough room to see from one eye at a time, a skill which would later come in handy during the cold North Dakota winters.

Inevitably, my father would get tired of the mess of leaves in the yard, and one weekend we'd finally have to give up our games, and do the real work of raking the dry and crumbling leaves to the curb for collection by the village. The piles (usually a pair, on either side of the walk) would be as tall as I was, and three or four feet wide, covering the entire grassy area between the sidewalk and the road.

After my father thought the job was done, I'd shape them with my rake, into a hump and a long neck and turn the immense piles of leaves into dragons, necks and tails curling, with a nook for me to nestle into. Technically I wasn't supposed to be playing so close to the road. But it was a really REALLY slow street. No one drove down it, unless they lived there. So for days, while we waited for the town to come by and suck up the leaves with their monstrous vacuum truck, I played with the dragons, sitting beside them under the bare trees, imagining long conversations about flying and mountainous volcanoes. Until one day, I would wake up, and they'd be gone. Flown (or blown) away.

Maybe this year, the dragons will come again. There are certainly leaves enough!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Haunted October

Haunted October OooOoooooOOOOoooo

Hey Friends and Followers, today I am posting over yonder at the World Weaver Press blog for their Haunted October blogtour!

I don't have a lot of experience with traditional scary stories or horror as a genre, but there were definitely some less traditional stories in my childhood that scared me silly. Maybe I didn't watch a lot of scary movies, but as the intro says -- I DID have brothers!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Heracles, Theseus, and the Gods OR Euripides (II)

Herakles snake Musei Capitolini MC247
D'aww Baby Herc!
In the latter part of his play, Euripides illustrates the bond between Theseus and Heracles. They’re friends, of course, and why wouldn’t they be, being the two most celebrated heroes of their time, and it goes without saying that Theseus is indebted to Heracles for rescuing him from Hades and the chair of forgetfulness. But more than that, they’re cousins. Family. And in Heracles' most desperate hour of need, when he is contemplating for the first time the thought of suicide to revenge upon himself the murder of his wife and children, it’s Theseus* who comes to his aid.

But what’s more interesting to me is the differences in ideology between the two heroes. Heracles takes upon himself all the guilt for the death of his family, in spite of the fact that Hera drove him into madness, removing from him his ability to reason, his ability even to recognize his own children and wife. Theseus feels differently, placing the guilt upon the gods, and arguing that even the gods sin and suffer. Theseus says:
“I cannot counsel you to die rather than to go on suffering. There is not a man alive that hath wholly ‘scaped misfortune’s taint, nor any god either, if what the poets sing is true. Have they not intermarried in ways that law forbids? Have they not thrown fathers into ignominious chains to gain the sovereign power? Still they inhabit Olympus and brave the issue of their crimes.”
It’s true. The gods are absolutely guilty of incest. Zeus and Hera are brother and sister, for starters. Plus there’s Heracles – a living example of weird family relationships.** And then there’s the whole gelding of Cronus. I mean, really.

But Heracles isn’t buying what Theseus is selling. Not in the slightest. He responds:
“For my part, I do not believe that the gods indulge in unholy unions; and as for putting fetters on parents’ hands, I have never thought that worthy of belief, nor will I now be so persuaded, nor again that one god is naturally lord and master of another. For the deity, if he be really such, has no wants; these are miserable fictions of the poets.”
And then, even more tellingly, in regard to Heracles’ own character:
“But I, for all my piteous plight, reflected whether I should let myself be branded as a coward for giving up my life.”
In the end, it isn’t Theseus’ argument that others have suffered what he has, or even the question of his guilt, at all. In the end, Heracles doesn’t kill himself because he doesn’t want anyone to think he was a coward. Because Heracles will not let anyone call him anything other than brave. In the end, all that matters to him is his reputation, and nothing the gods have done to him can even compare.

*my hero!
**First, some genealogy. Heracles is the son of Zeus and Alcmene, she herself a granddaughter of Perseus, who was, of course, a son of Zeus, thereby making Alcmene Zeus’s great-granddaughter, and Heracles both Zeus’s son, AND his great-great-grandson. 
Just for the record.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Words Pirithous Doesn't Know

The problem with writing Pirithous in the modern world, is that on the one hand, you have everyone around him who speaks English fluently, born into it, with all the cultural context they require, and on the other -- there's Pirithous, whose culture context is somewhat limited by the fact that he's been in Hades for the last three thousand years. You might remember my post on what expression Pirithous might use for Thalia's *ahem* backside, for example.

I mean, sure, Pirithous has learned English by now, but if I start going on about the Nixes, how many people on the street are going to know what the heck I'm talking about? Without context, language loses a lot of meaning. Maybe you can put together by context in the conversation that the nixes had something to do with water, or were some mythical creature, but how confident would you be in adding "Nix" to your vocabulary?

Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15
Nymphs, of course!

So here I am, once again, struggling to find the right word for Pirithous to use as a pet name for Thalia. Would he really have the cultural/religious context and confidence to employ the word "imp" even if he'd picked it from Thalia's vocabulary? What about "minx," which probably never crossed her mind? Nymph is the most obvious choice, but since he's already used that one with another woman in his life, I'm not sure reuse is appropriate -- even if it is a different book.

Even more challenging, even if I knew enough Greek to employ something cultural appropriate (do Greeks have any Greek-specific pet names?) it wouldn't be the right language for Pirithous. He predates Classical Greek culture by somewhere around 600 years. And while I do fudge things a little bit to allow some level of (mis)understanding -- in my defense, they have a really hard time communicating while it lasts -- I'm not sure I can get away with putting words in his mouth that don't fit his cultural context.

So I went looking through the words captured in the Linear B tablets, since after all, Pirithous does hail from that era -- not that I had much luck, there, either:

i-je-re-ja -- priestess (female) (ιέρεια -- priestess)
pi-pi-tu-na -- Pipituna ? Goddess name ? (a bird goddess? from Indo-European: 'pī̆p(p)-', 'to peep, squeak'
Po-ti-ni-a -- (The Great Lady ) Goddess surname Etym.Indo-European 'poti-s', 'host, husband, lord, master, owner' and 'gu̯ē̆nā 'queen, wife, woman'
ku-na-ja -- woman (γυναίκα -- woman) from Indo-European 'gu̯ē̆nā, 'wife, queen, woman'

Not a one of these words would roll off the tongue casually, no matter whether you were raised in it or not. (Though, I must admit, Pipituna does kind of appeal, or it would if it weren't  four syllables.) So where does that leave me?

Friends and Followers, I am stumped. Hopefully something will present itself naturally in the next couple pages, or I might scream.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Greek Dancing

Today, I'm researching Greek Dancing. Ancient and Modern. Ancient, because I wanted to know if Pirithous would know how to dance -- formal and improvised -- and modern, because Thalia is Greek American, and her best friend, Nikki, is even MORE Greek American than she is. In the setting of a wedding, hosted by Nikki's family, it seems to me that Greek Dancing would absolutely take place. So how familiar would Pirithous be with this type of celebrational dance? How quickly could he pick up on it, if he weren't?

As a demigod, I like to think Pirithous would have a certain level of grace when it comes to his movements. A supernatural level of coordination, when it comes to anything athletic. But a person who has never danced would have a more difficult time capturing and following the steps, than someone who has had his own history of dance in his own culture. I have no trouble believing that Pirithous would be familiar with women-as-dancers, trained for entertainment during feasts. But what about the men? How and when did they dance?

My cursory research so far indicates some references in Homer to ancient dances during feasts and relating to battle, which makes it pretty fair game, since the age of heroes is kind of one of those times that has a certain level of fluid and mish-mashed history, but I'll want to do a bit more exploration into it before I settle on any concrete answers. And as for modern Greek dancing -- youtube videos to the rescue!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Notes on Heracles, from Heracles by Euripides!

What I will NOT do today, is talk about Christopher Columbus. But you can read my thoughts, Re: Columbus hating, here.

I've started digging into primary sources for research on Heracles (my tentative plan for NaNoWriMo, which um, I might have derailed already today, because The Adventures of Pirithous in Washington, DC actually sounds like SO MUCH FUN right now that I might just have to make it happen), and because I had it handy, I thought I'd start with Euripides' HERACLES.
Hercules Musei Capitolini MC1265 n2You might remember Euripides from previous posts -- I read some Euripides when I was researching Helen and Paris, back in the day. He wrote plays in Classical Athens, and we have a LOT of them, in bits and bobs and fragments, but also whole, and from these plays, we can tease out some of the cultural ideas of the time. For myself (and Heracles), I'm less interested in the politics and rhetoric than I am the mythology, and what Euripides' accounts are in regard to the various heroes and their stories. Sometimes he contradicts himself -- like with Helen of Troy: did she go to Troy or not? -- but that's okay, because those contradictions are places where I can start drawing my own conclusions and maybe twist the mythology in the direction I want it to go.

So far, I've picked up two important pieces of information on Heracles:
1) He had auburn hair, according to this play.
2) He had three sons by Megara.

The other fascinating thing about this particular play, is the fact that it begins while Heracles is in the Underworld, fetching Cerberus and rescuing Theseus from Hades -- the last of his 12 labors -- and Megara and his family are under threat of death at the hands of a usurper-king, waiting for his return. Now, my understanding of Heracles and Megara, was always that Heracles murdered Megara and their children in a fit of madness (set on him by Hera) and it was AFTER this, and to be cleansed of the blood on his hands, that he went about his Twelve Labors. This does not bode well for sorting out his timeline -- or maybe it just gives me the permission I need to sort things out into a chronology that will make for the best story.

When it comes to Mythology, you can only count on one thing: nothing is EVER conveniently linear!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Remembering My Grandfather

77. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
But a noble name | will never die,
If good renown one gets.

78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man's deeds.

I have struggled for a while now, to find words of my own to capture just what lessons I've learned and will carry forward from my grandfather, and I think the reason I've struggled is because his influence on my life was so subtle. It isn't like with Grandma, where I could point to practical applications. Grandpa's relationship with me wasn't about the practical. He was about the intellectual, the moral, the academic. It was about being a good person and living a noble life. The things I learned from my grandfather weren't explicitly taught because he was a living example.

I think that's why this particular quotation from the Havamal seems the most fitting. It was the things my grandfather DID that made him memorable, his deeds which we won't forget. And even in his passing, he'll still live on as an example.

Because my grandfather? He was a good man. He never let anyone down, never wavered in his loyalty or his love for us, even when the way forward seemed bleak or impossible. He shaped my idea of what family was, what family should always be, and the kind of person I should want to be. A good person, who inspires others to be good, too.

His noble name will never die, and maybe, if I'm lucky, if I follow the example he set, someone will say the same thing about me.