Writing A Brief History of Real World Magic

A Brief History of Real World Magic-Scenography of the Ptolemaic Cosmography by Loon, J. van (Johannes), ca. 1611–1686. Public Domain through Wikipedia Commons

Scenography of the Ptolemaic Cosmography by Loon, J. van (Johannes), ca. 1611–1686.
Public Domain through Wikipedia Commons

A Brief History of Real World Magic

I am honored to have my essay A Brief History of Real World Magic published by Author and Scientist Dan Koboldt on his ongoing series for writers and fans of speculative fiction called Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fiction.

I came across Dan’s blog series last fall when I entered Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars competition. I found the content provided to be insightful and interesting. For a long while I considered contacting Dan about a submission for this series. I’m glad I finally got around to writing my essay and emailing Dan.

The core of my brief history was an Independent Study I completed as a History major in college at Capital University many, many years ago on the History of Medieval and Renaissance Magic. In researching these ancient scientists and philosophers I found many amazing links to our modern ideas about magic. From Dungeons & Dragons, to Harry Potter and most modern video games, there is a common thread weaving back through history. Sympathetic magic, talismans, dream magic, astrology, and astronomy all factor in to our modern conceptions of magic throughout fantasy culture.

I enjoyed conducting that research and I’m glad to have the opportunity to revisit it and share it now. Thanks to Dan Koboldt for allowing me to do so!

A Farewell to Kings

A Farewell to Kings

Rush Clockwork Angels Tour
Rush-Clockwork Angels Tour-Columbus, Ohio 2012

June 8, 2015 Rush played Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio opening the second leg of their R40 Tour marking their 40th Anniversary as a band. I was privileged to take my wife and two children and share a special evening with Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee. Given the recent articles, interviews, and rumors, this is most likely the last major live tour Rush will undertake, so for me the evening was bittersweet at times.

I write this post as part review, part ode to the biggest musical influence in my life.

I’ve been following Rush since 1989 when a college buddy introduced me to the band. Once you hear these three masters play live your life changes, at least mine did. That first concert during the Presto tour hooked me for the rest of my life. Though I admittedly didn’t yet know the lyrics, and probably couldn’t understand most of them either given Geddy Lee’s high-pitched wail, there was magic in their music. Rush is the epitome of professional and they are truly masters in their craft.

For the past 26 years, I’ve not missed any Rush tour; I’ve seen at least one concert on each tour since 1989. Last night I overheard a guy behind me talking about the spiritual experience of watching “The Boys” live, and I couldn’t agree more.

Throughout college and the course of the last 26 years, Rush has provided a soundtrack for my life. My kids have grown up on Rush music. The Rush 40 concert was the third I’ve shared with my daughter, the second with my son, and they’re both under the age of 15. The guys sitting next to us complimented me on bringing my kids to share the experience, and there were quite a few families in attendance at that concert. Musically Rush reinvents itself every album they record. Lyrically, Neil Peart composes some of the richest poetry there is and the stories and philosophical thought packed into those words are all a part of me, and always will be. It’s impossible to fully express the effect Alex, Neil, and Geddy have had upon my life.

The Rush 40 concert was remarkable. The setlist, which travels back through time as a retrospective of their body of work is close to perfection. The only thing that could have improved upon what they played last night for me personally would have been the addition of at least one song from Hold Your Fire, but that’s a minor point. Hearing  Jacob’s Ladder, then an abbreviated version of Hemispheres and 2112 with Xanadu thrown in for good measure was a dream come true. If this is in fact the last time I get to see Rush perform live, they did not disappoint. Their performance last night was Rush in peak condition and they still sound better live than any band should ever have a right to sound.

Thank you Alex, Neil, and Geddy for your creativity, your professionalism, your work ethic, your sense of humor, and most of all for sharing your talents with me for all these years. I’ve learned many things from you three gentlemen, and I’ve been able to teach my children many things from your music, and your example as human beings.

“I hear their passionate music
Read the words
That touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct —
I wish I had that drive”

Mission from Hold Your Fire

Lyrics by Neil Peart

 

Welcome to Nightvale!

Welcome to Nightvale!

 

Welcome to NightvaleEarlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the auspicious town Nightvale by way of Cincinnati. The wildly popular podcast is currently touring its live show “The Investigators”. Watching Cecil Baldwin was truly a treat. The man is a consummate acting professional. All the performers in this production were excellent performers and it was fun to see them in person, though, with the exception of Cecil, none looked like I imagine the characters they portray.

 

My only disappointment for the evening was the script itself. I think the writers tried way too hard to make this live show interactive and accessible. I can appreciate the accessibility issue. It’s understandable that they want to grow their audience and not alienate new listeners/viewers. I think they accomplished that goal. However, to me the problem was the story itself just tried to hard to involve the audience. The premise behind the podcast is a radio show. I don’t expect it to be an interactive experience, and I didn’t go to watch it live seeking an interactive experience. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy “The Investigators”.  Experiencing Nightvale live was a delight. The story was somewhat forgettable and didn’t advance, or add to Nightvale lore in any discernable way. That’s my disappointment.

 

The most intriguing part of Nightvale’s charm is the depth of mythology, setting, characters and description achieved with each episode. Followers of Welcome to Nightvale will readily tell you details about the lives of a multitude of characters. The minutiae is what makes Nightvale such fun. It’s easy to become lost in the lore and dream of picking up and diving into the weirdness. I just didn’t leave the theatre with any new epiphanies or friends from Nightvale.

 

Still, experiencing Nightvale live was well worth the two hour one-way trip and I would gladly give any new live shows a try in the future. Goodnight, Nightvale. Goodnight.

Visions of The Avengers

Visions of The Avengers

I’m anxious to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, in a good way, and a bad way.  The Avengers was my favorite comic book growing up. It’s one of the first books I ever bought with my own money and started collecting.  I was thrilled with Joss Whedon’s take on my Avengers in the first film. It worked really well and Joss obviously “got it”. He maintained a lot of the chemistry and relationships that makes The Avengers special as a comic book.

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up with comic books as much as I’d like as an adult.  Time, money, and life interfered.  But, to me my Avengers will always hold a special place in my heart and mind regardless of whatever has been done to the title through the years.

VisionsNow, my favorite character in Marvel comics has always been Vision.  Thus, I’m having grave reservations about Avengers: Age of Ultron. I truly don’t want Vision and Scarlet Witch to be ruined. Vision has always represented an especially poignant look at our struggle to define our humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Vision has explored how we deal with love, life, loss, and everything in between. I was heartened by the Pinocchio references in the trailers. I’m hoping Joss still “gets it” and doesn’t muck up Vision. We’ll see. . . .

(A few hours later…)

Not a disappointment in the least. If anything, Vision didn’t have nearly enough screen time, but I think the new origin story Joss crafted fits in nicely with what Vision has always been and represented and it melds well with the MCU on screen currently. I was very pleased with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the movie. Again, a lot of potential for character development there. Another great Avengers movie.  Thank you Mr. Whedon, job well done!

The Influence of Batman

Batman ClocThe Influence of Batman

Since I was a little kid I’ve always been fascinated by Batman.  I grew up watching Adam West and Burt Ward fighting Caesar Romero, Burgess Merdith, Frank Gorshin, and Julie Newmar (the only Real Catwoman, Earth Kitt, Blech!).  Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.  I even had a talking Batman alarm clock as a boy.  Really wish I could get it to work again, since I still have it.

The Dark KnightOdd that I didn’t read a lot of Batman comics as a kid, having gravitated to Marvel and The Avengers (sounds like another influences Blog Post).The Frank Miller Batman books, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, are all definitely graphic novels which I would consider influences.  For me, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is the definitive Batman.  Haters hate, I don’t care.  I love Christian Bale.  Hell, my favorite Batman from the 80’s and 90’s was Val Kilmer.  I’m weird like that.

JokersThe thing is, as I got older I became as fascinated with The Joker as the Caped Crusader.  Mark Hamill’s Joker is great, but Heath Ledger is my all-time favorite. Batman and Joker are simply two sides of the same coin.  Harvey Dent’s coin is no coincidence, I’m sure.  Put another way, Batman and Joker are all about Balance:  Law and Chaos, Order and Entropy.  The fact is, you can’t have one without the other.  It’s the way of the universe.  Those are the types of ideas I like to explore in my writing.  My characters are never black and white.  Real people are never black and white.

So far, I have to admit I’ve been very pleased with Fox’s Gotham.  I’ve avoided reading the criticism.  It won’t change my opinion.  I like what I like, and I like Gotham.  It’s good to see yet another step forward in the Batman mythology.  I see Gotham as a step along the same path Nolan charted with his three films.  Thus far, my only disappointment has been the initial appearance of Joker, but the kids performance was great.  Gave me chills at the end, but I just have to wonder if they shouldn’t have waited for a while to bring him in.  I’m more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt though.  Penguin’s blossoming origin story has been amazing and I’m enjoying Jim Gordon coming to life, layer by layer being added with each episode.  They could speed up development on Bruce Wayne for my tastes, but again, I think they are heading the right direction.

I only hope that Mr. Affleck’s upcoming portrayal isn’t as sinfully awful as I fear it will be.  Regardless, I’m confident Batman’s legacy can survive even Ben Affleck.