Apocryphal Moomin Land

Naantali is a small coastal town near Turku in Finland. The name is a fennicisation of Sw. NÃ¥dendal, which in turn stems from the name of a Bridgetine abbey founded there in the 15th century. Vallis Gratia, “Valley of Grace”.

Naantali is best known as a picturesque summer resort of the Turku bourgeoisie in the late 19th century. But increasingly, it has also become associated with the Moomins, Tove Jansson’s magical fantasy characters. A sizeable island right outside town is home to the Moominworld theme park. Today I visited it with my wife and kids.

The kids were reasonably entertained by the park, both the 5-y-o and the 10-y-o pointing out the chipboard labyrinth as the best part. So the visit was far from wasted. But I was disappointed. You see, the Naantali theme park is not designed to recreate the books and their author’s many lovely and quirky illustrations. It doesn’t even go for the comic strip version of the Moomins created by Tove’s brother Lars. We were treated to a homegrown theme-park version of the recent Japanese TV cartoon. What a let-down.

Also, there is not very much to do in the park. No rides. Little interactivity. It’s more a question of walking around and looking at buildings and dioramas, many of them kind of tacky and sad. You can also meet and talk to actors dressed up as Moomin characters, and see them perform short plays every hour.

Good points were the food, which was nice though expensive, and a corner in one shop with Tove Jansson’s books in Swedish plus Finnish and English translations. But the shop was pretty big, and apart from that corner, it was filled with Moomin cartoon merchandise.

Moomin Valley is most emphatically not located in Naantali.


Georgia and Georgia and the Georgics

i-5446119af0746a81591c99809453a596-saint-george-dragon.jpgNoreen Malone at Slate explains why Georgia and Georgia are both named Georgia. Basically it’s:

  1. George means “ploughman” in ancient Greek
  2. Saint George dies in AD 303
  3. Part of Central Asia (Georgia) becomes associated with the saint for unknown reasons
  4. Crusaders bring the cult of Saint George to Western Europe in the 12th century
  5. Saint George becomes England’s patron in the 1340s
  6. King George II grants part of North America (Georgia) a charter in 1732

But what does this all have to do with the Georgics of Virgil, published in 29 BC? Well, the poetry cycle’s overt theme is rural life and farming: subjects known in Greek as, yes, georgics.

Anthro Blog Carnival

The forty-seventh Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is on-line at Almost Diamonds. Archaeology and anthropology, and all dedicated to a future merger of the Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment with the Backyard Bard!

The Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment (founded 1994) is an organization based in East Lansing, Michigan. It is a signatory to a wide range of public resolutions and petitions and works towards creating awareness on certain issues, such as promoting harmony and dialogue between Hindus and Muslims. The Backyard Bard is a Christian theatre company based in Melbourne, Australia. It specialises in Biblical storytelling but also in Shakespeare.

Submissions for the next carnival will be sent to Tangled Up in Blue Guy, not to the old submissions address. The next open hosting slot is already on 10 September. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me for hosting. No need to be an anthro pro. But you must be a signatory to a wide range of public resolutions and petitions, and specialised in Biblical storytelling, like me.

Sb Reader Survey


ScienceBlogs has a huge audience (largely thanks to Pharyngula), which attracts advertisers. However, though the site’s hit rate is a good quantitative selling point when you’re pushing ad space, it lacks a qualitative dimension. If you advertise here, you know a lot of people will see your ad, but you won’t know who they are.

My dad the ad man has actually worked with this sort of thing for decades. He and his colleagues will help you classify consumers and media outlets so that you can identify your ideal customer and ways to reach her. Put simply, if you’re in the business of selling yarn and knitting needles, then you probably shouldn’t advertise in Thrasher Magazine.

This, I believe, is the background to the Sb Reader Survey. The Overlords want to know who you are, in order to help the advertisers keep from plugging knitting needles to skateboarders. I’m not sure if there’s really anything in it for you, beyond the chance of winning some home electronics. (I advise you to install Firefox and Flashblock so you never have to see an ad banner again.) But Madam Ginny, the Great Catherdswoman of Sb, has asked me to tell you about the survey. And I could never say no to Ginny.

Jeff Had Some Good Last Days


Jeff Medkeff’s friend, co-blogging under the pen-name Iatros Polygenos (“mongrel doctor” if my Greek serves me), offers a detailed account of our friend’s last days. Turns out that Jeff died during a trip to England where he was having a blast, visiting Darwin’s home, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and other great sites! I’m very grateful to learn that Jeff died swiftly in the middle of having fun, not after weeks of wasting away in bed.

Criss Cross: Swedish Scrabble Ripoff


Scrabble was first published in 1948. Shortly thereafter, it was ripped off for the Swedish market by a firm named Lemeco, under the tell-tale Anglophone title Criss Cross. The main difference between the ripoff and the original is that individual letters don’t have point values in Criss Cross: instead you get five points per vowel and ten per consonant.

Criss Cross does not bear a printing year. I date it at about 1950, because my copy still contains the notebook where my dad and his kid sister recorded their games. A signature of my dad’s in the notebook looks like the handwriting of a <10-year-old, which would place it before 1954.

Should you feel moved to acquire a copy of Criss Cross, then you can have one at Tradera. Lemeco also made toy cars and a Perry Mason boardgame.

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Guantanamo Prisoner Sentenced to -1½ Years

In many people’s opinion worldwide, US detainment of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay is legally iffy. I mean, hello, habeas corpus? It is thus kind of interesting to learn about the first sentence pronounced for a Gitmo detainee, that of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver. Hamdan was captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in November 2001.

Here is an example of what kind of people are actually being kept at Guantanamo. The court in question is a military one, and so can be expected to hand out pretty harsh justice, but still. The sentence should give us a rough idea of how bad a man, how dangerous a terrorist, Hamdan is. Is it capital punishment? Imprisonment for life? A few hundred years’ imprisonment?

No. Hamdan has been sentenced to 5½ years in jail. (For comparison, this is what you get in Canada for not informing your bedmates that you have HIV.) But he’s already been held in custody for six years and nine months (and I’m not even going into the imprisonment conditions). So now the US owe Hamdan one year and four months’ imprisonment. Might Dick Cheney be persuaded to do the time?

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Anthro Blog Carnival

The forty-fifth and forty-sixth Four Stone Hearth blog carnivals are on-line at Remote Central and Testimony of the Spade. Archaeology and anthropology, two entire carnivals about the ancient uses of buergerite!

Buergerite, you will remember, is a mineral species belonging to the tourmaline group. It was first described for an occurrence in rhyolitic cavities near Mexquitic, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It was approved as a mineral by the King-Emperor of Pannonia-Scythia-Transbalkania in 1966.

Submissions will henceforth be sent to my personal email address, not to the old submissions address. The next open hosting slot is already on 13 August. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me. No need to be an anthro pro. But you must be employed full-time in the production of buergerite arrowheads. Like me.

Hard-Up Debater Appeals to Kuhn

I just came across an unbelievably crappy argument in a scientific debate between two professors. I must keep the details obscure, but the basic form of the exchange follows.

X: I have discovered that tomatoes were grown in Ireland in the Neolithic.

Y: That is highly unlikely. The seeds and leaf remains that form almost the entire base of your assertions belong to turnips. Just check out these pictures for comparison.

X: Professor Y subscribes to an earlier Kuhnian paradigm than myself. Therefore his work is incommensurable with mine, and he is by definition unable to criticise me. I remain convinced that tomatoes were grown in Ireland in the Neolithic.

I tell you people, I am reeling.

I Miss The R.U. Sirius Show

i-4bd73bd14f8b14038bc62bb418247b2a-RUsirius_0.gifThe R.U. Sirius Show is/was a great weekly counterculture podcast that aired 88 episodes until about a year ago. Then it went on unannounced hiatus. I miss the show! Can anybody offer information on what R.U. is up to, and whether he has any plans to recommence his podcasting?

The latest interview with Sirius that I’ve been able to find dates from February. There he offers no comment on his silence.

Update 10 February ’09: In an interview on the Right Where You Are Sitting Now! podcast from June ’08, R.U. Sirius explains (about 10 minutes from the file’s end) that his podcasting halted because a financial backer withdrew his support.