Temporal [A Short Story]

He’d taken her to many of his favourite places and times and she, in turn, had showed him her own favourite places and times. That day, while technically arbitrary since they both possessed the means of temporal traversal, was a milestone for Claire, prompting James to plan a series of connected temporal jumps to celebrate.

The viscous pop that preceded and followed every jump slapped the inside of his head as the thin vacuumed layer an atom thick clicked from present to past, or rather alternate present that just happened to be the former present’s past. The instantaneous jump was always disorienting and he sneezed. It was always the ionized scent of the new time that James noticed first as the single atom field dissolved around him and the native particles of the new time rushed in to to fill the void.

Claire laughed. “Every time.”

Every time,” James smirked, rubbing his nose.

They’d just come from cursing out Cicero in English (which of course he would not understand) for writing the five books of the Tusculan Disputations which Claire had to translate from Latin into English in her graduate studies. The confusion on Cicero’s brow at this blonde robed woman barking at him in an unusual tongue would be a hard experience to top.

Still smiling from the high of going off on Cicero, Claire looked around trying to guess when James had jumped them to now. This trip was to be a surprise to her and he’d made her promise not to check the holographic read out that would project the data against the skin of her arm. She agreed not to check.

So we’re on an island,” Her furrowed brow scanned the horizon of azure sea beyond the green capped cliffs that fell off sharply in front of her. She swung around to look behind her and smiled. “I’ve spent a lot of time here. I should recognize this place.”

Claire looked up at James and he beamed back: “Yah, but when.”

The island stretched 200 km from east to west and varied from 12 to 58 km from north to south.

Are we standing where Heraklion should be?”

Well, it won’t be for a very very long time, but yes,” he followed behind her and his heart hummed from the glow in her eyes as she scanned the untouched contours of a Crete.

Is that …” she started to ask and then started to walk toward a mound of dirt James had hoped she wouldn’t notice. “That’s recently disturbed soil.”

Oh wow, good eye,” James smirked. “You actually weren’t supposed to notice that. I came here earlier and …” he paused. “Actually … spoilers. You’ll find out later.”

The trees!” Claire said, gape mouthed. “It’s completely deforested now … well … in the present it will be completely deforested. Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, the Aegean Islands, and the Greek mainland all commercially exploited Crete for timber. So I’m going to say we’re 2700 BCE.”

Close,” James clicked his wrist and a holographic beam projected the time stats on the skin of his wrist. “2796 BCE.”

So roughly three hundred years before the great Minoan civilization,” she said, eyes lapping up the reality that had before been merely ink on paper inside a textbook.

They walked together around the rim of the island before arriving back at the disturbed soil where James instructed her to close her eyes so he could sync up their time circuits to arrive at the same point in time.

Ready?” He smiled.

You didn’t say I could look yet,” she smirked.

You can look,” he said.

Oh good,” she started to check her wrist.

You can open your eyes, not check the time circuits,” James laughed.

Well, you should’ve been more specific.”

I’ll remember that. Ready?”

Ready?”

There was a slow hum of energy and then that disorienting pop and another wave of new smells.

James sneezed.

Ever-“

Everytime,” James interrupted her. “Well, here we are.”

And when is here?” There was a smaller settlement where the present, (future), city of Heraklion would’ve been.

What’s your guess?” He started to move to a space of soil behind Claire and seemed to be looking for something.

Claire was busily surveying the rocky outcroppings that sunk away into the sea beyond the lip of the cliff in front of her.

When she turned she saw it.

Oh my god,” she sighed.

Right?” James stood up from his digging and followed Claire’s gaze to where the first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river jutted out from the island’s horizon.

So we’re before 1700 BCE. Before the destruction of the palace and the other Protopalatial palaces around Crete,” she still hadn’t blinked yet. “Was it a large earthquake or foreign invaders?”

What am I? A time traveller?” James shrugged. “It’s ready.”

What’s ready?”

Exactly,” James was pointing down to a space of dirt at his feet and handed her a 4 inch trowel.

It wasn’t that far below the surface and Claire quickly excavated what turned out to be a small plastic tub. It contained photographs from their visit to the Chicago jazz club Apex Club in 1927 where they danced the Charleston. Another was from the time they went to the 1897 General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm where they saw exposition of “new” media technologies such as the phonograph, and film. One showed Claire with gymnast Natalia Kuchinskaya performing her floor routine in the background at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico.

These are wonderful,” she cooed. “Thank you.”

There’s one more thing in there,” he pointed to the bottom of the plastic tub.

It was a voice recorder. She pressed play and the machine in her hand whirred to life.

James’ familiar voice was singing her Happy Birthday.

That was Beethoven playing piano, ” he said afterward as she hugged him. “Happy Thirtieth Birthday, Claire.”

The Eye of Affluence – A Short Story

The Eye of Affluence – by Joel Nickel

 

They do not understand how closely I watch them. That amuses me. I’ve been watching for centuries; for eons. Watching intently. I have drunk in the complexities of their petty interactions and the tawdry dealings with which they delude themselves by infusing with a kind of elitist self-importance that irks my benevolent sensibilities. They label themselves rulers and that moniker disturbs me greatly. They wrongly believe their adeptness at, essentially, herding their flock makes them worth their indulgence in self-congratulatory excess. Incorrectly, they believe their deeds have been hidden from all save a few like-minded puppet masters who share a space at what they believe is the top. But there is always a layer higher; just as I have layers adjacent to my own. There are those above me who know what I see and those above them too seeing that they see what I see. For one to think anything to the contrary is egotism and incredible ignorance.

For a long span of time I’ve been watching with interest the Randale family. From their beginnings as largely benign moneylenders, I followed the path over generations of scheming and plotting so as to advance their line; and their ultimate cause as they refer to it among themselves.

That amuses me too.

But amusement turned to astonishment alarmingly quickly as their lineage grew darker and their means to attain their desired ends became more and more malevolent and distasteful. Alas, I cannot intervene and that saddens me, though I have long ago released myself from my misplaced guilt and ownership over any sort of responsibility. I can only watch, as those above can only watch me. I watch others too, I watch all, but I watch the Randale’s most closely. Of course, I see ahead too. And I see what is coming for them. That is at least something.

For the time I have watched, I have seen various incarnations of their line engage in acts of barbarous iniquity. Their wanton need to acquire more and more of that objectively meaningless material [in all of its physical and ethereal forms] seems to direct every action, every choice throughout their bloodlines collective narrative. Countries toppled. Empires destroyed. Millions slaughtered. And over what? Simply a concept that exists solely as a means for control.

They cannot see the adjacent levels of reality as I can. They do not see below as they have not seen me above and in their current state they can never ascend. But surely they will descend.

Any who learn of the Randale’s past and current actions and their ultimate cause [and have had the unfortunate fortitude to stand against them] have ascended to meet me before they could alert any others. Or, if they are lucky, the ones who espouse the change so urgently needed are shamed and marginalized into meaninglessness amongst their greater brethren. They are given labels like cooks, conspiracy nuts, crazies, but they are ones who have seen as I have seen and am seeing.

The Randale’s control the information and in the current incarnation, Vermillion Randale, leads the clandestine army of influencers toward realizing his family’s legacy of their ultimate cause. But I know. I know what’s coming. And I shall never see them ascend to meet me. But I will watch them descend below with measured delight. 

Facts About Sparta’s Women

Via Heritage Key

Skimpy clothes - if not quite as skimpy as those sported by Lena Headey in '300' - were commonly worn by women in Sparta. It was just one of many freedoms they enjoyed which weren't shared by their Athenian sisters.

As documented in the article ‘Woman of Sparta: Tough Mothers’, Spartan women enjoyed all kinds of rights not shared by their Athenian sisters – albeit plenty of plights too.  Sparta’s unique social system and constitution, which was completely focused on military training and excellence, afforded females a level of freedom and responsibility uncommon in the classical world – as child bearers, they were vital to replenishing the ranks of an army that suffered an almost constant stream of casualties; with so many men constantly away at war, they were crucial to running their households and the community at large.

Yet, Spartan women were also subjected to brutal and demeaning rituals and rites, in what was a cruel and strange society. Their glorious duty in life was to facilitate the fiercely macho city state’s status as the prominent military power in Greece, or die trying. The only family and the only love they were allowed to know was Sparta itself.

Here we count down key facts, good and bad, about Sparta’s fairer sex.

1. They Were Citizens of Sparta

This was a crucial factor in Spartan women’s relative empowerment. Unlike the perioikoi, an autonomous group of free inhabitants of Sparta, or Helots, state-owned serfs, essentially slaves, women of Sparta were considered Spartiates – that is, full citizens of the city state. They were exempt from manual labour, could own land, amass wealth and were entitled to an education.

2. They Could Dress Daringly

They probably weren’t quite as revealing as some of the dental-floss sized outfits sported by Lena Headey in her role as Queen Gorgo in300, but certainly Spartan women’s dresses were notoriously skimpy for their age, allowing them to flash not just leg but thigh too. This was deemed acceptable since women, like men, were expected to be models of physical fitness and proud of it. Spartans believed that the stronger the Spartan mother, the stronger the son. Long hair was banned though.

3. They Had to Give Up Their Sons at a Young Age

As much as it was an honour for a woman to bear a child in Sparta – particularly a boy – it was also an incredible emotional burden. For starters, in a society that practiced eugenics – that is, the process of trying to improve a race’s genetic makeup by killing off inferior children – a baby needed to be deemed fit enough to live by a council of elders. If it failed, it would be left out to die. Male children that passed the test would be wrenched from their mothers when they reached just seven years old, and placed in theagoge – an extremely harsh educational system preparing them as soldiers.

4. The First Ever Female to Win Gold at the Olympics Was a Spartan

Just about every event at the modern day Olympics has a men’s and women’s category, but it wasn’t always so. At the ancient games, the Olympics were originally exclusively for male competitors. The Spartans, who – unlike the Athenians and other Greeks – prided their women’s physical prowess and skill, changed that. Spartan princess Cynisca became the first ever female Olympic victor when she won the four-horse chariot race not just once but twice, in 396 BC and then again in 392 BC.

5. They Expected Their Sons to Triumph or Die on the Battlefield

“They would tell their sons as they saw them off into battle to return ‘with their shield, or on it’.”

A famous quote by a Spartan woman, recorded by Plutarch, is that they would tell their sons as they saw them off into battle to return “with their shield, or on it.” That is: shield in hand and triumphant, or carried on their shield, dead.

Plutarch also gives various accounts of Spartan women murdering their sons if they showed cowardice, or celebrating their deaths if they occurred on the battlefield. Clearly the ethos of Sparta was ingrained deep into women’s minds.

6. A Spartan Woman’s Greatest Honour Was to Die During Childbirth

There was only one way a Spartan man was entitled to have his name etched into his headstone, and that was if he died in battle. The equivalent death for a woman was deemed to be while performing her divine duty to Sparta – giving birth. Therefore, only women who passed away while in labour were allowed to have their names recorded on their graves and be remembered immortally.

7. They Were in Competition to Bear the Most Sons

It wasn’t quite Soviet Russia – where women were awarded a medal for giving birth to more than 10 children – but Sparta too had a system for hailing mothers with the strongest and most fertile wombs. If a Spartan female gave birth to three or more sons, she was rewarded special privileges and status, similar to veteran soldiers who had triumphed on the battlefield several times.

8. They Had to Make Love in Secret

The Spartans weren’t shy or conservative when it came to sex – Spartan men were openly encouraged to have sexual relations with other men and young boys as a means of strengthening masculine bonds. But sex with women was considered to be exclusively for the purpose of fathering children.

It was subject to all kinds of strange rules and rituals – one of which was that all liaisons between husbands and wives had to be conducted secretly. The idea was that, since contact would be limited, sexual desires would be heightened and potency increased, resulting in healthier offspring.

9. They Were Major Landowners

As mentioned above, because Spartan women were full citizens, they could own land. And own it they did, in massive amounts – perhaps as much as a third of all of Sparta at one stage. Every Spartan male was allotted a portion of land, called a kláros orklēros, upon completing military service. When he died, this would be passed to his male heir if he had one, but if not, then his daughter profited. Property was shared between married couples, meaning wives could also inherit from their husbands. It was theirs to keep, tend, and profit from even if they divorced.

10. Spartan Women Caused the Decline of Spartan Society?

Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that a contributing factor in Sparta’s decline around the late 4th century BC was that Spartan husbands had become so dominated by their wives. He alleged that Spartan womens’ ability to acquire wealth and land, coupled with the fact that they lived – as he put it – “in every sort of intemperance and luxury” while the male population all the while dwindled, caused disorder to reign in a city state that needed militaristic discipline to survive.

_______________

About The Author

Malcolm Jack

Malcolm Jack (follow me: e-mail or RSS feed for MalcolmJ)
Malcolm Jack is a freelance arts and entertainment journalist based in Glasgow, Scotland. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2004 with an MA Honours Degree in History.

‘Grand Theft Auto’ Director’s Next Game Explores 1979 Iran Revolution

Via CNN

 

1979 was marked by the overthrow of the shah of Iran by a populist revolt and the rise of a fundamentalist Islamic state.

Vice City. San Andreas. Liberty City. Tehran.

Three of these locales are instantly familiar to videogame diehards as settings in the “Grand Theft Auto” series, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The latter, however, is more commonly linked to news bulletins about the Iranian nuclear program or confrontational statements by the country’s hardline Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

If Navid Khonsari, 41, has his way, Iran’s capital city will soon be much more familiar to gamers. A director of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, the Iranian-born Khonsari’s next game has a simple working title whose numerals denote a world of significance: “1979.” And the game’s tagline? “There are no good guys.”

“1979” gets its name from the year when the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran began, which was during the height of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. That year marked the overthrow of the dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, by a populist revolt and the subsequent installation of a fundamentalist Islamic state.

The game aims to combine some sandbox, open-world elements popularized by “Grand Theft Auto” with what Khonsari calls a “baton-pass” narrative, which explores this historic backdrop through the sequential perspectives of several playable characters.

Khonsari has an ideal pedigree for an undertaking this ambitious: Besides creating a raft of iconic and genre-defining games, he also grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

Navid Khonsari says that players of "1979" will make choices that could change how they look at history.

“I want people to understand the incredible moral ambiguity of this story, that this was a country with many different ideas and beliefs,” Khonsari said in an exclusive interview with CNN. “Growing up in Iran when I did, I saw Iranians in the greatest light, and I saw them in the worst light.”

Shortly after the fall of the shah, Khonsari’s family fled Iran for Canada. Khonsari moved to the West Coast as an adult to pursue a career as a filmmaker. He later moved to New York City and applied his talents to an up-and-coming studio named Rockstar Games.

“I was the cinematic director for ‘GTA 3,’ ‘Vice City’ and ‘San Andreas,’ as well as the two Max Payne games, ‘Red Dead Revolver’ and ‘Bully,’ ” he said. “Anything that came out through Rockstar between 2001 and 2005, I was fortunate enough to be involved in.

“My main job, and what grew into my current passion, was bringing that cinematic ‘feel’ to video games.”

After he left Rockstar, Khonsari founded his own game-production company, iNKstories, which he co-runs with his wife, Vassiliki. The duo already have two blockbuster titles under their belt, “Alan Wake” and “Homefront.” They aim for “1979” to be the third.

The gameplay of ‘1979’

At the game’s outset, the player is an American/Iranian translator on a mission to rescue the embassy hostages. The player must choose one of three historically inspired ways to enter Iran: By helicopter with a U.S. special forces team, through the Iraq border with Saddam Hussein’s army or across the Afghanistan border with the Taliban.

In these preliminary levels, the game plays as a fairly standard third-person shooter, with some linguistic puzzles that will test your character’s imperfect mastery of the Farsi language.

The gameplay of "1979" includes morally ambiguous elements of diplomacy, stealth and bartering.

“But once you get into Iran, you’re no longer the translator,” he said. “You take the role of a student demonstrator who was opposed the shah. You’ve kicked the shah out, but you’re unhappy with some of these fanatical elements you see rising up.

“So the game changes, and now your mission is to get this small military group to Tehran, but nonviolently, clandestinely. You want the American hostages out of Iran because you want the country to focus on rebuilding itself, and you’ve heard all these rumors about a war with Iraq coming.”

This, Khonsari explains, is where gameplay shifts to include some morally ambiguous elements of diplomacy, stealth and bartering. Each time the baton passes to a new character, the style of gameplay changes, too. Some characters will focus more on action, while others will feature vehicles and puzzle-solving.

“Not everyone you meet is going to be helpful,” he said. “There are going to be aspects of bribery, making exchanges and turning a blind eye to really bad stuff so you can get the job done.

“Maybe, in order to get the group there, you need to sacrifice some stragglers and let them get captured so the others can get away. And then you’ll have some extreme choices to make when you get to Tehran: Are you going to invade the embassy, guns blazing, to try to get the hostages back? Or are you going to try to protect the embassy from the Americans?

“People who might not be completely familiar with the game world look at fancy graphics and polished gameplay and say ‘this is cutting edge,’ ” he continued. “But from what I’ve seen, it’s still quite basic. Very much a checkers mentality — red against black, good against evil. I’m interested in having good and evil within the same character, and for you to experience both. I think that’s true to life, and I think you can design a game around that, too.”

A multiplayer version is also in the works, with 12 maps planned for release. The multiplayer modes will feature differing combinations of straightforward gun combat with ruthless negotiation and decision-making.

First in a franchise?

Though the game is still in the alpha stage of development and at least a year and a half away from release, Khonsari hopes the success of “1979” will breed a franchise of similar games.

“(This is) the first installment of a franchise where the games will be named after years in which there were CIA operations within certain countries,” he said. ” ‘1979’ is the first one because it’s closest to my heart and I know the story the best. After that, we want to explore what took place in Panama with (Manuel) Noriega, and Libya back in the ’70s and ’80s with (Moammar) Gadhafi.”

Khonsari’s heritage is one reason he’s not concerned with political correctness in his treatment of one of the United States’ supposedly implacable enemies.

“Iranians are going to criticize me because I’m making a game that ‘promotes American imperialists going in and shooting Iranians,’ ” he said. “Americans are going to criticize me because I’m making a game that ‘glorifies Islamic fundamentalism,’ or something. I’m not going to please everyone, and the point of the game isn’t to do that.

“I think that being able to base a game in contemporary historical truths is significant, besides being educational,” he said. “It opens people’s eyes to look beyond what they’re reading in the paper and realize that there’s a definite relationship between history and the headlines.

“Most of the people who are playing games nowadays were born after 1980 — after the Iranian Revolution. People are so quick to accept the official record of things as ‘history,’ without examining everything that’s gone on in the last 40, 50, 60 years. It’s important we remember these things, and work to keep them relevant.”

Is Nostalgia Dead?

My friend Jocelyn McLean brought it to my attention that nostalgia is dead for our generation, because everything we’ve ever known is so readily accessible online. We just download it via P2P sharing sites or watch clips of it on YouTube. In fact, that TV series I’ve been searching for since the 80s, Blizzard Island, was recently uploaded onto YouTube and I was able to relive the memories of watching it as a small child!

I remember the early 90s when I was in school and looked back to my early childhood in the 80s and had no real way of experiencing those things except through my memory (and the occasional VHS) but now, as Jocelyn pointed out, we have YouTube and P2P sharing … that’s very interesting!

Here’s a video of a game I played the shit out of when I was a child.

Tiny Toon Adventures – Buster’s Hidden Treasure for SEGA Genesis

Bonging with the Bard: Shakespeare Smoked Marijuana?

Via Harvard Magazine

Perhaps the second-most-cultivated plant in Elizabethan England, after wheat, was hemp—Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana. The sovereign herself encouraged its growth. Hemp fibers were fashioned into rope, paper, garments, and sails. “Queen Elizabeth’s navy ran on that stuff,” says Clay professor of scientific archaeology Nikolaas J. van der Merwe, who recently helped focus high technology on fragments unearthed from a literary dig to suggest that the Elizabethans may also have smoked marijuana for its mind-altering effects. One smoker may even have been William Shakespeare.

With colleagues Francis Thackeray and Tommie van der Merwe (not a relation), van der Merwe analyzed scrapings from the bowls and stems of 24 pipes dug from sites in and about Stratford-on-Avon. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust provided fragments of kaolin (white clay) pipes, some unearthed from the garden at Shakespeare’s residence and all dating from the 1600s. “There’s an archaeological dating system for pipes, based on shape and the diameters of the bowl, stem, and stem bore,” van der Merwe explains. “I scraped things out of them—mostly soil—but you could see little black flecks on the inside of the bowls.”

When subjected to a chemical assay using gas chromatography and a mass spectrometer—as summarized in the South African Journal of Science—these flecks proved most interesting. Though cannabis itself degrades fairly quickly, cannabidiol and cannabinol are stable combustion products produced when it burns. (Van der Merwe has detected these substances in 600-year-old Ethiopian pipes.) Eight of the 24 pipe fragments showed evidence suggestive of such marijuana-related compounds.

Unexpectedly, cocaine also appeared on two specimens, including one from the Stratford home of John Harvard’s mother. Cocaine was introduced from South America to Europe during the sixteenth century, the authors explain, “initially through Spanish conquistadors who in turn were raided by English explorers such as Sir Francis Drake, a contemporary of Shakespeare.” Other pipes showed nicotine, implying the smoking of another New World plant, tobacco.

While no one knows whether Shakespeare himself smoked any of the pipes in question, the data of course provide fodder for speculation. The researchers muse on the phrase “noted weed” in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76, which also mentions “compounds strange.” They ask if the “Tenth Muse” of Sonnet 38 might refer to chemical inspiration.

Scholars like Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt, an authority on Shakespeare and general editor of the Norton Shakespeare, are amused but not persuaded. “I suppose it’s remotely possible that Shakespeare and his family were getting a buzz from what they were smoking, but I very much doubt that it played any meaningful role in his life,” Greenblatt says. “Shakespeare never mentions pipes, tobacco, or smoking anywhere in his poems or plays, in contrast with Edmund Spenser and other writers of the period. Alcohol is a much more likely stimulant for Shakespeare’s imagination, and even that is probably unimportant. The seventeenth-century gossip John Aubrey described Shakespeare as not much of a partygoer—when he was invited to a debauch, he’d beg off, saying he was in pain. More likely, he was working on another play.”

~Craig Lambert