A Chaotic Gift (for Chris Bateman)

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Dear Chris, You have recently returned from paternity leave, and have witnessed the birth of your second son, on which again my congratulations! As you wrote on your own blog, you’d like nothing more from your readers as a gift than an open letter, so who am I to refuse? After I finished reading the final draft version of your upcoming book, Chaos Ethics, somewhere last year, I wrote to you in an email that I thought it would be an interesting idea to start a letter series on the topic of Chaos, in the broadest sense. It is not something you touch upon extensively in your book—understandably so, since it is about ethics first and foremost—but knowing you slightly, I suspect you will have some additional things to say on the concept. [...Read more...]

Runic Escapades: The Ribe Cranium

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I wrote the introductory post for a new history blog founded by four colleagues/friends and myself. It’s about the Ribe cranium, an 8th century skull fragment with a runic inscription. The inscripion is (most likely) a healing spell to defeat a dwarven spirit causing illness, possibly a headache. The article is part of an ongoing series “Runic Escapades”, in which I will present runic inscriptions in their cultural and historical context. [...Read more...]

On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

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While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the history of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Englishers) who had introduced the term Cybernetics as “the study of control and communication in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, and that title immediately caught my eye. Studies of the interaction between science, technology, and religion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folklore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. [...Read more...]

No Control: on The Wasp Factory

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Few novels compelled me as much to immediately write my thoughts down as The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Usually I enjoy novels a lot while reading them (or not), but quickly dive into a new one afterwards. In this case, I felt the need to spend some words on it before moving on. I’m pretty sure this means that the book has some sort of clarity and compactness of style that brings across its messages very directly. I sure wasn’t the only one reading The Wasp Factory this month. Banks passed away after a battle with cancer on June 9th, and a number of my online friends and acquaintances made a grab towards his debut novel, like I did. [...Read more...]

Sanctifying Games

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This April was a religion-themed month over at videogame blog The Ontological Geek. I wrote the final article in the series, and mused a little on how concepts of religion, God, and particularly The Holy, can be incorporated into videogames. For perhaps obvious reasons, it’s easy for games to tackle and represent the more mundane sides of religion and faith, but they seem to struggle somewhat when it comes to matters more transcendent. In “Sanctifying Games”, I try to explore why that might be. [...Read more...]

2012: A Year in Books

Lori Nix - 'Library' (2007)

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway. [...Read more...]

Right Up Yonder

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Throughout human history, in art and religion, we find a longing for deliverance, the view of a promised land just out of our current reach, whether somewhere else on some part of (mythologised) Earth, or in a world beyond. [...Read more...]

Science Stories: The Mythology of Evolution

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Most people will be at least passingly familiar with the ‘war’ between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ that has been a central theme in the history of the West in the past few centuries. My quotes are intentional because each of these concepts is far more complicated than common usage would suggest. The problem is: most, if [...Read more...]

FATALE & the History of Salomé

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This is the third time I’m writing about a digital work by Flemish duo Tale of Tales, and that alone says something about the capacity of their releases to inspire discussion. I started with the peaceful MMO The Endless Forest, and also did a short bit on The Graveyard. Continuing the chronological trend would leave The Path as my next subject – arguably their best and most game-like work – but writing about that fascinating psychological horror piece still seems rather daunting. Instead, I’m sticking to the slightly more manageable FATALE and exploring a bit of what it has to say about the figure of Salomé and how she’s been treated throughout history. [...Read more...]

Remedios Varo: Spiritual Confinement and Escape

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Not a lot of words from me this time: just three pictures. This conceptual triptych by Spanish/Mexican painter Remedios Varo is too beautiful not to share, and just a sample of her impressive body of work, rooted in European surrealism, but with a direction all of her own. The three works, in chronological order, are: [...Read more...]