All’s Quiet

My apologies for missing the next episode of the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt listen through. I started a master’s program and I was late registering. The first week had a ton of work, and I’ve been trying to get ahead of the game. That’s going to be tough, but once I have a bit of a buffer, I’ll be back to regular postings.

As I mentioned to someone else, I was thrilled to start my master’s program, and then I started my master’s program .  . .

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Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

One of the awesome things about being Canadian is that we get Thanksgiving first!

That and you get to be Canadian. How awesome is that?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Strike Back – Legacy

I’ve seen the first episode of Strike Back Legacy, the fifth season of Strike Back. This time, kidnappers take the daughter of the UK ambassador in Thailand who is undertaking talks with North Korea. It looks like it was filmed on location in Thailand, and it looks pretty good.

I honestly had to give up on the fourth season (Shadow Warfare). I mean, much of it was good, but it was the season that pretty much demonized homosexuality and implied women weren’t fit for command. I really had enough of it. I’m sure it played well to its target audience, but I had hoped that I was its target audience as well.

Legacy episode one had no gratuitous nudity and the female operative who was allowed to join the boys got rocked as bad as the boys and came to their rescue a couple of times. The action – always the best part of the show – remains top notch. I almost groaned when they had it be the North Koreans involved, but who else can one demonize these days? Maybe for once the production team will have done some homework, but I expect this is going to be kind of like Olympus Has Fallen, in which I’ll just grin and bear the idiocy in order to enjoy the action.

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Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Tutankhamen

Although this episode is titled Tutankhamen – The Lost Pharaoh, it really isn’t so much about Tutankhamen as it is about the finding of his tomb, and that’s totally okay with me. This is a fascinating dissertation on how Egypt was excavated before there was even a discipline of archaeology. Whether treasure-hunters or honest explorers of history, Europeans came Egypt to uncover its past, and from Napoleon on, that led to hunts, digs and discoveries.

The episode talks a lot about Howard Carter, and I find him an immensely sympathetic character, an artist shipped off to Egypt when he was 17 who remained there through many different jobs, some of them prestigious many of them not, before finally gaining funding from Lord Carnarvon to seek for Tutankhamen’s tomb. One of the things I like about Carter is that when forced to choose between entitled Europeans and earnest Egyptians, he chose the Egyptians. It cost him his job as Inspector of Antiquities which led to him being available when Lord Carnarvon came seeking an excavator.

While this episode isn’t going to give you lots of good inspiration for an adventure set in Ancient Egypt, it provides a lot of interesting information on tomb hunting and the work that went into not just excavating the ancient tombs, but finding them.

The first time I listened to this series, it inspired an idea for Howard Carter – Combat Archaeologist, here.

You can find the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt here.


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Five Bloody Heads

For those who dig sword noir, I think I may have found an author you might enjoy. Peter Fugazzotto’s work has been published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Grimdark. He’s self-published a couple of novels, and I read an excerpt from his latest on his website. I like his writing style and the premise of Five Bloody Heads intrigues me. I’ll admit, I really don’t like the protagonist right now, but I am hoping that through the course of Five Bloody Heads he’s redeemed somewhat. I don’t mind tough protagonists, but I prefer them with a code of honour, like Conan, Marlowe, or Parker.

Go check out Peter Fugazzotto’s website and read the excerpt there. Decide for yourself if this looks like something you could dig. Amazon has one of his previous novels on for 99 cents when I checked, and I think for that amount, it’s pretty easy to take a chance.

You can find out more about Peter Fugazzotto at his website, here.

You can read an excerpt from Five Bloody Heads here.

You can find Peter Fugazzotto’s Amazon Author’s page here.

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No Tears for the Dead

When I read the synopsis for No Tears for the Dead, it reminded me of the Killer. An assassin makes a mistake and kills a young child. Guilt-ridden, he decides to save his next target, the child’s mother. The director is the same as the Man from Nowhere, my personal favourite Korean actioner right now. It seemed like a sure thing.

You know where this is going.

While there are some good action scenes and some solid performances, this is an okay rather than a good let alone great action movie. The storyline plods too often, and while some of the set-pieces are gripping, some of them are pedestrian. There’s just not enough good stuff in here.

Listen, an okay Korean action movie is still well ahead of almost anything put out by Hollywood, but when there are actioners like the Man from Nowhere or crime dramas like A Bittersweet Life, there’s no need to bother with No Tears for the Dead until you’ve run through those two and the Berlin File, Commitment, Old Boy, and A Company Man – possibly Suspect, but I’ll report back in on that later – and these are just the movies available on Netflix in Canada!

Kind of sad. I wish I had better news, but one so-so entry among a collection of strong showings isn’t bad.

I give No Tears for the Dead 3.5 long-range shotgun blasts out of 5. It’s better than most Hollywood actioners but not strong enough to stand against the other great movies coming out of Korea.

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Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Akhenaten

Welcome back to the Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt listen through, and this time we’re looking at someone as different in his own way as Hatshepsut when it came to being a pharaoh: Akhenaten, who Dr. Brier calls the heretic pharaoh.

Dr. Brier begins by explaining how conservative a society Egypt was. Its art didn’t really change at all in its 3,000 year history, nor did its social or political institutions. When change happened – such as a female pharaoh – the Egyptians attempted to get back to traditional ways and erase that aberration from its collective memory – for example, by attempting to remove all references to Hatshepsut after her death.

This seems kind of crazy on its face, and I imagine – though have no evidence – that this is more about Egyptian perception than actual fact. It is honestly impossible for me to visualize a society not changing over 3,000 years. Maybe the institutions and roles of the elite may not have changed, but culture must have moved forward in some way. Language must have evolved. But Dr. Brier seems to assert that this is not the case. It seems implausible at best to me.

However, Dr. Brier does explain that there were moments in history where the membrane of Egyptian conservatism was stretched almost to the breaking point, and Hatshepsut was not even the worst culprit.

As explained, the pharaoh, the military, and the religious institutions were all linked in a cycle of foreign adventure bringing esteem and booty, donated to the clergy, who supported the pharaoh and military. Akhenaten threw this all into turmoil by rejecting the use of the army as a mechanism for aggrandizement and resource collection and by eliminating the cultural need for the clergy by creating a new religion.

Dr. Brier says that Akhenaten created the first monotheistic religion. Not only did Akhenaten assert the Aten – a Sun deity in the Egyptian pantheon, but not one anthropomorphised and presented as the solar disk – was the only god the Egyptians would worship, the Aten was the only god, and all others were false. I’m not a comparative religion scholar, but given that Akhenaten ruled around 1350 BCE, I can believe it. The general non-scholarly cultural conception of the Exodus is that it happened around the time of Rameses (don’t worry, we’re getting to him) who began his period of rulership around 1270. That’s not a huge span of time, so I would imagine Akhenaten and the Jewish culture both likely have a claim on first monotheists, but this isn’t really a race.

Akhenaten’s monotheism was not a cultural evolution, it seems more like one man’s epiphany enforced on a nation. The fact that he had to create a completely new capital – eschewing the two traditional capitals of Memphis and Thebes – and populated it with a new elite indicates that his religious views were not shared, and his disinterest in military adventurism probably not appreciated.

In discussing the move from the capitol, Dr. Brier repeats a piece of information I believe he stated before but which I haven’t mentioned. He says that for the Egyptians, the west bank of the Nile was the land of the dead while the east bank was the land of the living. This is in relation to Akhenaten’s new capital of Akhetaten (very similar to the pharaoh’s name, which may be why Dr. Brier glosses over the Egyptian name for the place, generally using the Arabic and more modern Tell el Amarna), where tombs are located on the east, at the city.

This distinction of the west and east bank as land of the dead and living respectively is a great little cultural note that can help bring alive the setting in an RPG. It’s interesting, because in researching Thebes for Nefertiti Overdrive, I learned that the palace at Malkata was on the west bank. This may be because the pharaoh was supposed to be Osiris on Earth and so can live on the west bank, but I’m wondering if maybe this is one of those rules that isn’t really a rule – kind of like women can’t be pharaohs or lead armies.

It’s important to note that Akhenaten’s wife was Nefertiti and his son was Tutankhamen. Considering how iconic those two are for the general populace’s perception of Ancient Egypt, it’s interesting that Akhenaten really isn’t known at all. Part of that is likely due to following rulers attempting to erase him from history. He was an anomaly, and the Egyptians didn’t like it. His son returned to the old religion, his capitol was abandoned, and his name was removed from monuments. He had changed the religion, ignored the army, and even tried to alter expectations of artistic representations.

In this case, the designation of great seems more for his impact on contemporary society than his impact on history. It is fascinating to consider how one individual with enough power can impose so much on a society, even facing almost complete opposition.



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