Showing posts from February, 2014

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: History

In preparation for the fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, premiering April 6, I've decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times now on this blog about Game of Thrones, launching a popular critique, mapping a fanciful comparison to Alaska, and musing about narrative and historical theory. This time, however, I'll keep things more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books. Two I heartily enjoy, and one I think is worthy of critique.

Besides the obvious joys of plot twists, dynamic characters, and vivid details, there are two huge highlights that I enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire—the history and the religion. Let's start with the history.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

"Family Visibility" Across Countries and Cultures

One thing I noticed while in Mexico was how many kids there were—riding the metro, walking about with their parents, or even going around trying to sell things. Compare this to the United States, where one typically seems to see children out in public only at child-specific places, like schools, playgrounds, sports fields, and so on. To be sure, Mexico does have a younger population than the U.S., (about 30% of the population under 18, compared to 24% in the U.S.), but what I saw was true in France as well: Both Mexico and France appear to have higher "family visibility" than the U.S.—and I wonder why this is.

"Family visibility" may also vary dramatically between communities: One town might have a culture of more families going for walks, and another might be totally dominated by car culture—even more than usual. It could also vary significantly according to the day of the week: One reason I might have seen so many kids in Mexico City was that I was there on Sund…

Review of Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

Today I finished reading the graphic novel Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. It was a good read—and a quick one—with engaging illustrations and a great concept behind it of viewing the Boxer Rebellion from two intertwined perspectives.

These perspectives are related in two short volumes titled Boxers and Saints. Boxers tells the story of a village boy who comes to lead men into battle as part of the Yihequan, or the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (the "Boxers"). Saints tells the story of a village girl who converts to Christianity and helps the refugees fleeing the Boxers.

I found a lot of positives in this graphic novel, but I wasn't entirely blown away by it, either. I'd recommend reading it to almost anyone, but let me explain my thoughts first:

Mapping Indigenous Autonyms in Canada

Half a year ago, I wrote about the project "Map of Our Tribal Nations." The map displayed (or attempted to display) all of the indigenous nations that inhabited the lands now making up the Lower 48, naming them by their autonyms (names for themselves in their own languages).

At the time, creator Aaron Carapella promised he would later publish a map of all Canada's indigenous nations and their names. Since then, he has—the Canadian First Nations Map—and afterward he encouraged me to review it. Now I will.

Hygge in Ketchikan, Alaska

Denmark lies at the same latitude as Southeast Alaska. We have the same darkness, and probably some of the same cold winter weather. This is the first time in five years I'm spending the winter in Ketchikan, and I have to say it feels nice. Most people in the world probably wouldn't like spending a winter in Alaska—even in relatively balmy Ketchikan. I, however, have always felt that it was very comfortable here during the dark season, which brings me to the concept of "hygge."