Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dragon Comics: Wake Up Axel

Just so everyone knows.  This is my drawing.  No one may use this photo without my permission. 

Why we read Harry Potter

I was bothered by something a friend of my friend said one day.  He criticized the seventh book of Harry Potter for having silly plot errors on the horcruxes, and the sudden emergence of deathly hallows being so unnecessary, and how it took away from the story. 

Personally I think that's ridiculous for two reasons. 1) It actually works out just fine.  2) That's not why we read Harry Potter. 

What I mean by that is literally that's not why we read Harry Potter.  We don't read Harry Potter just because of magic and plot, and the semantics of magic and plot, and how magic works.  That was what that friend was talking about.  The friend was criticizing the magic system.  That was his justification of criticizing the final installment of the Harry Potter series. 

Believe me when I say that is not how to critique a Fantasy book.  It really isn't.  It's a disgrace.  The ones who analyze and attempt logicize the magic system are the ones who are ignoring everything else that's far more important.  If they keep it up, they'll be asking questions like, "Well how does Voldemort use the killing curse?"  You have to mean it, says Mad Eye Moody book four. 

"But how do you mean it?" We can't tell you because we don't know.  J.K. Rowling probably doesn't know it either.  It's magic.  It's not supposed to make sense. 

"But why didn't Sirius Black use Protego on Bellatrix Lestrange's Curse Reducto that shoved him into the wall?" I don't know!  Timing?  If we keep asking these questions, we'll begin to wonder how does Harry manage to learn a Patronus faster than everyone else, why does everyone else struggle with spells and then suddenly are magically able to perform them when thrown into the action?  How does it work?  How does all this magic work?  If we knew how magic works, it wouldn't be magic...It would be science.  And that's a problem right there.  It's magic...It can't be logicized.  If we try to argue that then it looks as if the author is breaking their own magic rules.  But here's the catch.  The author has to break these rules in order to tell a story. 

J.K. Rowling has to tell a story.  Though the uniqueness of the magic in Harry Potter plays a role, the magic isn't the only reason why we read Harry Potter.  We read Harry Potter because of the uniqueness of the setting.  Diagon Alley's many shops can be related to the many pedestrian zones found in Europe, littered with small kiosks, flowershops, jewelry stores, and more.  The Daily Prophet is a newspaper, much like our own.  Hogwarts itself is relatable to children because it's school.  It just teaches magic.  But everything else, classes, lunch periods, library studying, classrooms, lessons, and everything are all relatable.  Quiditch is very much like football.  The foods are full of variety and uniqueness.  The features of Harry Potter's world are relatable in some way or another to our own.  It is the invention of J.K. Rowling's mind, the uniqueness of vivid detailed imagery and creative play, the details within the setting that give life to the world of Harry Potter. 

It is also the characters.  All the characters, even the minor ones, have some unique complexity to them or at least a personality aspect that make them come alive.  Rowling's dialogue comes alive in many unique ways that bring complexity and life to the characters.  She gives them unique names, something that Dickens would do.  She creates lines of dialogue that fit each character perfectly.  She captures real emotions and real feelings and real personalities that exist in our everyday world and she does it so with a high vocabulary. 

This is why I think J.K. Rowling is neither a children's writer nor an adult writer.  Though her intended audience is children, she speaks to a thousand voices who grew up with her works both young and old.  Her vocabulary and sentence structure far exceeds your average teen adventure novel and paranormal romance.  Her story is paced not at thriller pace but rather a calm detailed joyous pace that takes pleasure in the details and complexities of the real world.  Her works speak of crucial themes that children and even in away adults go through every day of their life.  Love is a crucial theme, love and how evil is in fact created not born with.  There are so many possibilities to analyze Harry Potter.  We should start treating this great series with a little bit more respect.  If we follow the guidelines that I have set forth here, perhaps we might be able to start taking Fantasy Literature a little more seriously. 

And on that note, that ends this post.  This is a mere summary of an idea I intend to work with, therefore, hands off to everyone else.  This copyright is enforced by the Draxon Industry.  If you break this, you will be haunted by dragons and werewolves for the rest of your life! Ha, ha!

Keep reading everyone!

Starvix Draxon

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sumer and Akkad

During the third millennium, Sumerians and Akkadians emerge.  Sumerians are the most important of the two.  They kept writing accounts in temples and palaces which composed religious and literary texts.  They also developed Sculpture, architecture, religious imagery, and literary styles as well as views on kingship, law, and society.  This all roughly occurred in 2900-2300 B.C.  The Sumerians also began arithmetic, astronomy, botany, and medicine.
All cities revolved around the temple with a priest ruler.  Eventually they separate into a secular ruler a ruler in war.  This led to the rise of kingship.  The palace and temple were of course right next to each other.  The kings were representatives of deities and would commission and support the construction of temples. 
Akkad is a city that became an Empire around 2300B.C, founded by King Sargon.  They spoke a Semetic language.  Akkadians borrowed from the Sumerians, script religious imagery, scientific principles and literary styles.  It did of course contain it's own cultural elements such as its own deities though they are sometimes identified with Sumerian Gods.
The Kings would call themselves King of the Four Quarters of the World, and had themselves deified, yet they were unable to prevent the local revolts and rebellions. 
We then have the Sumerian Renaissance 2100-2000B.C
with the Kings of Ur also known as the "Third Dynasty of Ur" who create another Empire. There are actually 100,000 clay tablets that inform the history of the Empire. 
This Empire of Ur was overthrown by invaders known as Amorites.  They took over the river valleys and cut off grain supply.  Around the same time Egypt begins to suffer from doubts, so do the Mesopotamians. 
That's it for this post. 

Third Millennium: Early Bronze Age: Old Kingdom of Egypt

The Old Kingdom occurs from 2600-2150 B.C.  You actually have two ways to divide Egyptian History: Dynasties and Kingdoms. 

An Egyptian priest named Manetho wrote a history of Egypt in Greek that divided everything into dynasties, a dynasty being various royal houses.  In modern terms you have three Egyptian periods.  Old, Middle and New Kingdom. 

Early Dynastic Period: 3000-2600
Old Kingdom: 2600-2150 B.C
Middle Kingdom: 2000-1800
New Kingdom: 1550-1100 B.C
Late Period: 750 B.C - 1992 A.D or C.E in common terms. 

Lower Egypt is Nile Delta, Upper Egypt is south of Delta

The Egyptian King was called "Lord of the Two Lands" and wore a double crown.  Here!  I'll even show you a picture of the three different crowns of Egypt. 

Pretty neat, ja? 

Now the Old Kingdom was the time when the pyramids were constructed.  The earliest pyramids were made out of mud brick, the bigger ones were made out of stone.  The largest ones were built during the fourth dynasty around 2500B.C.  These pyramids were built in Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt.  What we can learn from these great architectural feats is that the king was really powerful, and the people after all were willing to serve their king who was a god born into this world.  Unfortunately the Pharaoh begins to lose power to his provincial governors who were granted land as "salaries" which eventually led to a removal of power from the King.  Also around this time the Nile starts to dry up.  Famines begin and Egypt begins practicing artificial irrigation. 
And that's our lecture on the Old Kingdom. 
As a reminder these sources come from An Introduction to the Ancient World second edition by L. Ed Blois and R.J. Van der Spek  I am not stealing this info.  This is to help me study for a midterm. 
Starix Draxon

Birth of Civilizations: Stone Age to Neolithic Period: Rainfall vs Irrigation:

Civilizations begins along three major rivers: The Euphrates and Tigris in Mesopotamia now know as Iraq, and the Nile River now known as Egypt.  These are known as river valley civilizations. 
But when on the timeline does civilization begin.  Well it goes something like this. 
We have the Old and Middle stone age, which is characterized by Hunter gatherer societies.  We set the end of the Middle Stone Age at 10,000 B.C or B.C.E in modern terms.  The New Stone Age: roughly begins the cultivation of plants and domestication of animals.  This is also called the Neolithic Age or more commonly the Neolithic revolution. 
But how did civilization start.  Well in order to transfer from hunter gatherer to agriculture, you have to grow crops. This requires water.  Obviously you can't grow wheat and barely in a desert.  So how then?
There are two types of agriculture: Rainfall and Irrigation. 
Rainfall agriculture naturally requires rain to fall on the soil in order to grow the crops.  That means you have to rely on the weather to grow your crops.  The place s that used rainfall agriculture were in Iran, Northern Iraq, Northern Syria, and the coastal Mediterranean.  As the book puts it, "A prerequisite for rainfall agriculture is an annual precipitation of at least 250mm.  That means a slight decrease in rainfall will lead to a food crisis, so you can see how very vulnerable these areas are.  If there is a drought you're dead. 
There are two kinds of irrigation, Natural and artificial.  Egypt has natural irrigation because every year the Nile will regularly flood leaving damp soil filled with various silts and particles that create superb fertility.  The Egyptians didn't have to artificially irrigate any of their crops.  Mesopotamia however had irregular floods occurring during the wrong parts of the year, so they had to perform artificial irrigation.  In fact Mesopotamia first utilized the sowing plow to help raise the level of production. 
What makes these civilizations far better, probably why all river valley civilizations are better is the fact of the irrigation.  These civilizations could produce a crop ratio of 15:1 and sometimes even higher than that!  For Greece, Italy, and Medieval Europe the crop ratio was on average 4/5:1 or if it was a good harvest, 7/10:1. 
So once you have a stable way of growing food, a stable agriculture system, now we can develop other crafts emerge such as carpenters, tanners, scribes, and metal workers. 
Some key dates to remember:
3400 B.C the invention of writing occurs
3000 B.C man discovers how to exploit and smelt copper ore and produce bronze a combination of tin and copper.
Once this kind of stability in agriculture occurs, people settle down into villages, which over time turn into city states.  According to my textbook Jericho actually became a full city around 7000 B.C. 
Now let's describe what a Mesopotamian city looks like.  At the core of a Mesopotamian city was the temple which housed the state deity.  These temples grow into organizations that own estates and engaged in activities including agriculture, stock breeding and other various crafts. 
We eventually have two scripts emerge at the invention of writing that occurs between 3400-3200 B.C, Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics. 
There are two kinds of writing that I will mention: pictographic and ideographic
Pictographic - words represented by a picture
Ideographic - words represented by a symbol
Ex. of Pictographic - a picture of a bird meaning bird
Ex. of Ideographic - a heart symbol meaning symbolically love. 
The Egyptian script however renders only consonants, leaving vowels out of the picture.  That's why it's so hard to figure out how the Egyptian language sounds.  Ex.  Ra or Re?  Common battle I see.  Personally I prefer Ra, but I could easily be wrong.  Writing was also only used by small groups of educated people. 
In most cities of this time, the majority of people were peasents who lived in the city.  During the day they would leave the city in order to work in the fields and then return to the city in the evening. 
Agriculturalists - people so lived a sedentary life. 
Herders - nomadic peoples moving around from one place to another. 
Herders will do a seasonal migration called Transhumance usually transferring from winter to summer pastures. 
Both Mesopotamia and Egypt lacked valuable resources such as timber and metals, yet agricultural wise they were very different.  Mesopotamia had to create canals to get their crops grown.  Worse yet the water in the Euphrates and Tigris could contain harmful salts that would damage the crops, unlike the Nile, which left fertile silts and soil deposits. 
There's also another aspect about Egypt that actually makes it safer than Mesopotamia.  In Mesopotamia the fertile land gradually separated from infertile land.  In Egypt you can literally have one foot in the desert and one foot in fertile soil with plants and everything. 
I will talk more about that when I get to the post on how environment influences cultures and lifestyles in society.
That's basically it for this post.  Next post will focus on the third millennium early Bronze age on Egypt.  Take care! 
Starvix Draxon