Geek break!

We now take a break from our scheduled programming to bring you a special segment on Geekery.

I got a blog award! And not just any blog award, but a Geeky one. And not just any Geeky award, but a girly one, too. So great!

Eleni, my awesome geeky friend over at RPG Called Life, awarded me this the other day:

geekgirlsuniteaward

Which makes me so happy, because 1) Eleni is an awesome geeky girl whose blog I love and 2) I am a geek and proud of it!

The rules:
List ten geeky facts about yourself and…
Pass this award onto your favorite female geeks!

1. I met four of my best friends online, through various RPG clubs based on the Tamora Pierce books that I read when I was a pre-teen. I was obsessed with these books and spent a lot of my time writing and talking about them with Fae, Ali, Kitty and Lea. I wanted them to be real. Hell, I still want them to be real. And Fae and I still write using characters that trace back to those books original.

2. I speak a bit of Quenya (a Tolkien Elvish language) with Fae. We used to know more, because we wrote characters who spoke it. Now we just speak it to each other - our conversations, emails and letters nearly always end with “Namaarie melamin vanima” (”Farewell my love, beautiful [Fae]“) or “Amin mela lle”(”I love you”).

3. I can recite the entire Rent soundtrack from beginning to end. I’m obsessed with musicals - particularly Rent, Wicked, Spring Awakening and Aida.

4. I am a huge Diablo II freak. I love that game and have spent many, many nights playing multiplayer with my friend Kaitlyn. I also loved Neverwinter Nights, but my computer wasn’t good enough to run it. I recently became obsessed with Fable II. I love fantasy rpgs.

5. I correct people’s grammar and spelling constantly. In person and on Facebook. Also, one time I was bored an took a red pen and corrected all the sentence structure errors in our local newspaper. It was appalling. There are few things in life that make me as happy as a red pen and someone else’s hard work.

6. I watched all ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 and all five of Stargate Atlantis between September and December of last year.

7. I’m a huge history Greek. I’ve studied Greek and Latin (albeit poorly). I’ve read most of the Greek and Latin authors (Homer, Ovid, Seneca, Aeschylus, Plautus, Herodotus, etc.) I can go on for ages about mythology.

8. I was a huge Pokemon fan as a kid. Enough said.

9. I once had a conversation with Chandra about the Julio-Claudian dynasty as we were getting ready for the day, before 9am. I know this is similar to #7, but it’s too good of an example.

10. My favourite part of working in a museum was dressing up in the period costumes. I firmly believe that I was born in the wrong time period. I also love Renn Faires and anything else that involves dressing up and pretending.

And now I want to award this to:

My friend Kitty, who I mentioned in #1, who is a fellow fantasy geek and classicist.

The Chris from Always Standing, who plays WOW, among other geeky things.

My Faerie, fellow Elvish speaker who loves all the geeky things I do, plus comics and more video games.

Also, if you haven’t read it yet, read why I think Geeky girls are so awesome: Top Ten Reasons to Love a Geeky Girl.

Athens

Before New York City, London and Rome, there was Athens. Athens was the centre of the Greek world for a long time. It was the centre of the beginning of what we like to call Western civilization - home of philosophers like Plato and Socrates, of playwrights like Aeschylus, Eurypides and Sophocles. It was the birth place of democracy. There is no denying that our cultural and intellectual roots can be traced back to Athens.

I fell in love with this city, almost immediately. I say almost because our first impression was largely biased by the fact that it was 9pm, we hadn’t eaten since 1 and we were incredibly lost (more on this later!). But as soon as we found our hotel, dropped off our bags and walked through the Plaka to a great restaurant nearby, I knew that I was going to love Athens.

You could see the Acropolis from our hotel balcony.

It was pretty freaking cool.

But that wasn’t the only thing.

The Theatre of Dionysus, where you can imagine a stunning performance of Antigone or Oedipus the King:

Theatre of Dionysus, photo by me

The Erechtheion, the other temple on the Acropolis:

The Erechtheion, photo by me

The Karameikos, the earliest Athenian cemetery:

Three graves in the Karameikos, photo by me

The massive Olympieion, temple to Olympian Zeus:

Olympieion, photo by me

And the beautiful Hephaisteion, overlooking the Agora:

Hephaisteion, photo by me

Just to name a few. We were only in Athens for four days. I could have stayed weeks.

The labyrinth city

One of the main reasons I chose Newcastle for my MA was the two study trips with Greek and Roman Archaeology. In January, we went to Rome for four days. The planned trip to Greece was only Athens for two days, but since I have dreamed of visiting Greece since I was a six year old reading mythology picture books, I had to see more than just Athens.

And so, Chandra and I planned a ten day trip designed to see as much of Greece as possible - and still spend a bit of time in the sun.

The first place we went was Crete. We flew from Manchester to Heraklion, the modern city from which you can visit ancient Knossos.

Instead of staying in the city, we stayed outside at a nice little hotel with a pool and a short walk to the beach. After all, us Canadians (pale as we might be) are used to a warm summer that we’re fairly certain not to get in the Northeast of England this year, so we had to get some much needed Vitamin D while we could.

Our first discovery from Greece was the wonderful food:

Gemista and Greek salad, photo by Chandra

And a beer named Mythos, which is like, perfect!

Me and a Mythos, photo by Chandra

The next day we headed into Heraklion to find our way to Knossos, the ruins of the legendary Minoan city that dates back to about 1700 BCE. It’s the famous city of King Minos and the Minotaur, of the Labyrinth built by Daedalus. It was excavated by the infamous Sir Arthur Evans, starting in about 1900 CE.

Knossos, photo by me

And why is Evans infamous?

It has to do with both archaeological theory and the ethics of restoration. Evans restored and reconstructed a number of buildings on the site, something that no archaeologist would dare to do nowadays. It wasn’t long before his British colleagues were pronouncing the reconstructions as wrong. To this day, Evans is used as a bad example in archaeology textbooks.

A few of Evans' reconstructions, photo by me

But the people of Crete see Evans in a different light. Unlike many of the antiquarian archaeologists of the early 20th century, Evans didn’t expropriate the artefacts from Knossos to a fancy cabinet of curiosities in England. He left the site and all its finds to the people of Crete. So they kind of love him.

Part of me disagrees with Evans’ reconstructions, but the other part of me recognizes that it makes the site a hell of a lot more interesting to visit. And to take photos of. Like our tour guide said, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in ancient Knossos.

After an educational morning, we retired to spend our next day and a half on the beach and swimming in the Sea of Crete.

Beach! photo by me

Greece is officially my favourite holiday spot because you get archaeology and history and sun and sand.

Ancient footprints are everywhere…

#48. See the Acropolis and the Coliseum.

The view of the Acropolis from the Areopagus, photo by me.

It’s recently come to my attention that, in the past 5 months or so, I have seen a lot of the most important monuments and pieces of art in the world.

The Parthenon, under construction as per usual, photo by me.

More importantly, for me, is that I’ve finally seen all of the things I’ve been studying in my years of ancient history classes, essays and books.

The inside of the Coliseum, photo by me

Number 48 was about seeing what I thought were the two pinnacles of Greek and Roman civilization. But along the way I’ve seen some pretty awesome things that have come up over and over again in my studies. Not buildings or monumental structures, but artefacts.

It started with the Augustus of Prima Porta in the Vatican Museum in Rome. There was the statue of Laocoon and his sons in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. There were the famous statues of Nefertiti and Akhenaten in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre.

This trip to Greece was no exception.

In the Archaeological museum of Knossos in Heraklion, there was the Phaistos disc, a beautiful and mysterious Minoan artefact, engraved in a language (Linear A) that we have never been able to translate:

The Phaistos Disc, photo by me

And this famous faience statue of a Minoan snake goddess that I remember studying in second year Greek history.

Minoan Snake Goddess, found at Knossos, photo by me

In the National Archaeological Museum, the famous bronze statue of a God (Zeus or Poseidon) recovered from a shipwreck:

Zeus? Poseidon? photo by me

And the famous Mask of Agamemnon - a funerary mask that Heinrich Schliemann uncovered at Mycenae and wrongly interpreted it as being the Agamemnon (of Homeric fame).

Mask of Agamemnon photo by me

At at Delphi, the Charioteer of Delphi:

Charioteer of Delphi, photo by me

Just to name a few, and not to mention all of the hundreds of photos I took of other artefacts that I found super interesting, but aren’t as famous.

I had an interesting revelation, though. As I was taking these photos, I was thinking “So that someday I can use it in a Powerpoint for a lecture.” I always do this when I’m at museums. But I started to think about what that meant. That maybe I want to be a professor someday. Which means maybe I want to do my PhD someday. Which is a little bit terrifying.

It’s interesting how most of the things of my list of things to do before I die have turned out to have completely different meanings from where they started originally. This is just one example.

Neverwhere

“Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.”

Neil Gaiman has been getting a lot of press lately, since his book American Gods was chosen as the first for an online Twitter book club, 1 Book 1 Twitter. I haven’t read American Gods yet, but I thought it was about time that I write about the last book of his I did read, Neverwhere.

Neverwhere was originally written as a tv series for the BBC in the 90s. According to Neil’s prologue to my copy, there were things that he wrote which were cut from the final script for the show. And so he wrote the “author’s preferred text,” which is what I read.

The plot is extremely interesting. The idea is that there’s a whole world under London (under many large cities) and that it’s made up of the people that our society tries to make invisible. But one man, Richard, crosses that line when he rescues a girl called Door.

Once you’ve gone into London Below, you can’t come back.

It’s an adventure story, with unique characters and interesting twists. Gaiman uses well known London landmarks in clever ways. This is Gaiman’s genius - he makes his stories believable. There’s a subtlety to Gaiman’s writing that you don’t often see in fantasy books. Usually, fantasy novels try so hard to create this elaborate world and spend a great deal of the book describing it in great detail to prove it to you (Hello, Tolkein!) Neil Gaiman doesn’t need to do this. His worlds are believable in a much more simple and eloquent way.

I also watched the miniseries. It was very similar to the book, and it was enjoyable. But the 90s style of it was a bit distracting.

“‘You’ve a good heart,’ she told him. ‘Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go.’ Then she shook her head. ‘But mostly, it’s not.’”

“He continued, slowly, by a process of osmosis and white knowledge (which is like white noise, only more informative), to comprehend the city…”

“…and she would whisper to him how much she loved him, and he would tell her he loved her and always wanted to be with her, and they both believed it to be true.”

There are some other quotes I flagged but when I reread them they seemed to give away too much of the plot, so I think you should just read it for yourself.