links for 2010-03-05

  • "One hundred years ago — or a hundred and one, depending on who you talk to — William Rider & Son, Ltd, published a pack of cards whose mysterious cartoons — the Tower, the Devil, the Fool — were destined to sink their roots into the dreaming loam of the 20th century imagination. At the time, Tarot decks were only found on the Continent, especially Italy and France, where the 78 cards were (and are) used for a popular trick-taking game as well as for fortune telling. Inspired by the notion that the cards encoded mystical knowledge, the occult scholar A.E. Waite, who also published an esoteric “key” to their meanings, spear-headed the design of a new deck that both honored and transformed traditional images that stretch back — at least — to the Renaissance courts of northern Italy."
  • "Within hours after this essay went up the other day, people were pointing out tons of Jewish fantasy authors that Weingrad had somehow missed. For example, there's Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel prize for writing, essentially fantasy. Other fantasy greats include Marge Piercy, Michael Chabon, Peter Beagle, Charles Stross, Esther Friesner and Neil Gaiman.

    And Spencer Ackerman asserts that "Jewish Narnia is called Marvel Comics," and points to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Superman creators Siegel and Schuster as the creators of epic stories whose Jewish roots permeate their work."

  • "Pushing the clock backwards, archeologists have dug up ancient stone tools in Andhra Pradesh, suggesting arrival and survival of modern human beings in India as early as 74,000 years ago."
  • "Petrie studied these crude inscriptions and observed that they appeared to be a kind of imitation of hieroglyphic signs. Yet the repertoire of signs was very small. Petrie ingeniously identified these awkward signs as an alphabetic script, different from the Egyptian hieroglyphic system with its hundreds of signs. Yet Petrie was unable to read these strange inscriptions.
    In 1916, some ten years later, Sir Alan Gardiner, the famous English Egyptologist, noticed a group of four signs that was frequently repeated in these unusual inscriptions. Gardiner correctly identified the repetitive group of signs as a series of four letters in an alphabetic script that represented a word in a Canaanite language: b-‘-l-t, vocalized as Baalat, “the Mistress.” Gardiner suggested that Baalat was the Canaanite appellation for Hathor, the goddess of the turquoise mines."