Tag Archives: art

Thoughts on “Egyptian Magic” by E.A. Wallis Budge

This is another of those books that have been on my shelf for a long time. I picked it up at a used book store, mainly because I was familiar with the author. Budge was a curator of Egyptian antiquities at the British Museum, and he published one of the most well-known translations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I figured if anyone had insight into Egyptian magical practices, it would be Budge.

Budge begins his analysis by asserting that there are basically two types of magic used by the ancient Egyptians.

The “magic” of the Egyptians was of two kinds: (1) that which was employed for legitimate purposes and with the idea of benefiting either the living or the dead, and (2) that which was made use of in the furtherance of nefarious plots and schemes and was intended to bring calamities upon those against whom it was directed.

(p. 3)

Often, specific magical practices could be used for either of the two kinds of magic. An example of this would be the use of magical names.

The Egyptians, like most Oriental nations, attached very great importance to the knowledge of names, and the knowledge of how to use and to make mention of names which possessed magical powers was a necessity both for the living and the dead. It was believed that if a man knew the name of a god or a devil, and addressed him by it, he was bound to answer him and to do whatever he wished; and the possession of the knowledge of the name of a man enabled his neighbour to do him good or evil.

(p. 157)

Most of us are familiar with ancient Egypt’s use of animals in art and hieroglyphs. Budge point out that this was an advanced use of symbolism employed by the Egyptians, which was often misinterpreted as worship of animals.

The Egyptians paid honour to certain birds, and animals, and reptiles, because they considered that they possessed certain of the characteristics of the gods to whom they made them sacred. . . The educated Egyptian never worshipped an animal as an animal, but only as an incarnation of a god, and the reverence paid to animals in Egypt was in no way different from that paid to the king who was regarded as “divine” and an incarnation of Ra the Sun-god, who was the visible symbol of the Creator. The relation of the king to Ra was identical with that of Ra to God. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans never understood the logical conception which underlay the reverence with which the Egyptians regarded certain animals, and as a result they grossly misrepresented their religion. The ignorant people, no doubt, often mistook the symbol for what it symbolized, but it is wrong to say that the Egyptians worshipped animals in the ordinary sense of the word, and this fact cannot be too strongly insisted on.

(pp. 232 – 233)

While this book may be dated, and much of the terminology employed would not be considered politically correct in our present day, there is value in reading this from a strictly historical perspective. Budge clearly spent much time exploring ancient Egyptian texts and his knowledge is evident in this book.

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Shudder #1: Collector’s Edition

This is a “new” graphic horror magazine. I put “new” in quotations marks because actually, it used to be The Creeps magazine, but it seems that there was some copyright infringement and they had to change the name. Anyway, this is the first issue and it adheres to the time-tested format of short, campy horror tales done in black-and-white. The writers, artists, and editors are all alumni from the early days of Warren publications, so there is definitely an authentic feel that fans of the old horror mags like Creepy and Eerie will appreciate.

The tales are curated by Old Aunt Shudder, who introduces herself on the inside of the front cover page.

Welcome! …to the first great collector’s edition of Shudder magazine! Your Old Aunt Shudder here, and I’ll be your host as you journey through these terror-filled pages! Inside, you will find all new work from the greatest horror comic artists and writers in the history of monster-dom! I’ve scoured the globe for the world’s top talent to bring you the kinds of terror tales that haven’t been seen for nearly fifty years! Presented in the classic style of the best black and white illustrated horror comic magazines of the 1960’s and 1970’s! Shudder is dedicated to preserving the style of horror comics that were being created at the height of the genre, when realism ruled and dark, moody illustrations brought the world of monsters, creatures and things that go bump in the night to “life!” Now! Enter my world… it’s guaranteed to make you… Shudder!

This is great stuff to read during the Halloween season, especially if, like me, you were raised on the classic horror magazines that Shudder emulates. I am definitely looking forward to future issues.

Happy reading!

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #9

It has been four long years since the last issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina rolled off the press. So getting my hands on this new issue was a Halloween treat come early. The new issue picks up where Issue #8 left off, where Sabrina must balance the scales by sacrificing a human life to compensate for raising her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle, from the dead (and there are other morbid twists here that I will intentionally leave out).

While there is so much for a horror fan to enjoy in this series (gore, cannibalism, demons, bestiality, just to name a few), and the artwork is eerily exquisite, for me, it is the quality of the writing that raises this comic above the realm of pulp and places it squarely into the category of artistic expression. To back up my claim, I need only quote from the opening pages of this issue.

We are entering the hours of the wolf. The hours between midnight and dawn… The hours when sleep is most profound, when nightmares are most real… The hours when the sleepless are haunted by their most profound fears… when ghosts and demons are at their most powerful… when the most unspeakable crimes are planned, when the darkest conspiracies are plotted… when the most terrible bargains are made; when witch-wishes are whispered aloud… Then comes the dawn. And with it, a clarity and sense of mission.

I must again emphasize that this is a very dark and very mature comic. If you are expecting a wholesome Archie comic like you remember from your younger days, you will be in for a real shock if you read this. But if you like reading dark, creepy, edgy stories during the Halloween season, then this is a must-read.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Thoughts on “Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

This book, part of Marvel’s Epic Collection, contains reprints of the earliest Doctor Strange comics. The book contains the tales published between July 1963 and July 1966.

So without sounding too nerdy, I have to say that I really love Doctor Strange. I find the material fascinating: parallel universes, astral projection, mysticism, these are all things that are near and dear to me. But the real beauty of the early Doctor Strange is the artwork. Steve Ditko’s psychedelic representations of other realms and interdimensional struggles are nothing short of mind-blowing. It should come as no surprise that Pink Floyd included an image of Doctor Strange on the cover of their second album, “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

In one of the tales, Doctor Strange is ensnared in a mind-trap. The text, representing Strange’s thoughts, and the accompanying illustrations, capture the sensation of becoming overwhelmed as a result of an hallucinatory experience.

It has encircled me again! But this is a new mental weapon – – with a different power! It is the most dangerous one of all – – for it feeds the brain hallucinations! I cannot tell what is real, or what is imaginary! Unless I can shatter this web of wonderment, all is lost! My mission will be forgotten – – I will be doomed to a life of aimless imagery!

(p. 258)

Next year, Marvel is supposed to release the second Doctor Strange film. It is amazing that a comic created nearly 60 years ago can still feel relevant today, and can still inspire generations. I for one am looking forward to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” currently scheduled to hit the theaters on March 25, 2022.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Cheers!

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Thoughts on “The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt” by Ken Krimstein

So a while back, I said that I was going to be changing the format of the blog and just posting quotes instead of sharing my thoughts. Well, as you have likely surmised, I have gone back to my original format. There were a couple reasons why I went full circle:

  • I discovered that posting quotes regularly did not really take that much less time; in fact, I think I spent even more time, since I felt compelled to post more often.
  • My daughter was all excited because she Googled something by Umberto Eco and one of my blog posts was the top Google search result.

Anyway, I figure I will write when I can, and not sweat it if I get too busy to write. That said, my thoughts on this book.

I came across this at a community center where there was a table of free books (a dangerous thing for a bibliophile). Most of the books were of no interest to me, but this one immediately caught my attention. While in college, I had read Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece of political theory, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The book was one of those that left a strong and lasting impact on me. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed the behaviors of political leaders and listened to their words, then thought back to Arendt’s book. Essentially, she wrote the book on totalitarianism. The term did not exist until she coined it.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a biographical graphic novel. It provides a witty overview of Arendt’s life, how she fled Europe during World War II, established herself as a political theorist and philosopher, and eventually went on to become the first woman to be appointed full professor at Princeton University.

While most of the book tells the story of Ms. Arendt’s life, it does briefly summarize some of her political ideas.

As fire lives on oxygen, the oxygen of totalitarianism is untruth. Before totalitarian leaders can fit reality to their lies, their message is an unreeling contempt for facts. They live by the belief that fact depends entirely on the power of the man who makes it up.

(p. 167)

The graphic novel quotes Arendt as saying, “Whatever I do, I am simply unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me.” (p. 126) I feel the same way. It is impossible to ignore what I see going on in the world. And if you ever read The Origins of Totalitarianism, you will also not be able to look at the behaviors of political leaders the same way again.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you find these posts interesting. If so, please let me know. As long as there is interest, I will do my best to keep writing.

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Animal Symbolism

Animals have been a vital element in the development of mythological systems throughout history, across virtually every culture imaginable. In Western societies of the Middle Ages, in particular, animals represented specific traits and could therefore be utilized as symbols to convey moral and religious lessons in works of art. Animals can represent victims of technology, industrialization, or war. Also, animals sometimes equate with the concept of “purity,” existing in a wild, natural state and therefore utterly free from man’s sins and vices. Some passion plays and other didactic forms of theater utilized animal imagery to represent specific modes of behavior, including human vices.

John Kenneth Muir. Back to Frank Black: p. 196

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Thoughts on “Along the Road” by Aldous Huxley

As I continue working through the books that have been on my shelf way too long, I decided to read this one, which has been on my shelf for at about 25 years.

This book is a collection of travel essays which Huxley published in 1925. From an historical perspective, it is interesting to read about what things were like in Europe in the years between World War I and World War II. Also, travelling in a time before cell phones and GPS provided fodder for interesting stories.

Early in the book, Huxley asserts that most people do not like to travel and only do travel so that they can essentially have the bragging rights of having been somewhere cool.

The fact is that very few travellers really like travelling. If they go to the trouble and expense of travelling, it is not so much from curiosity, for fun or because they like to see things beautiful and strange, as out of a kind of snobbery. People travel for the same reason they collect works of art: because the best people do it. To have been to certain spots on the earth’s surface is socially correct; and having been there, one is superior to those who have not. Moreover, travelling gives one something to talk about when one gets home.

(pp. 9 – 10)

I confess chuckling when I read this. I considered times travelling with friends when I was younger. I was eager to go out, see and do things, and often my travel companions wanted to hang around the hotel room. I never understood this. For me, the whole point of travelling is to experience something new and to broaden my perspectives.

As an avid reader, I am guilty of always bringing books with me when I travel. As Huxley points out, I am not alone in this regard.

All tourists cherish an illusion, of which no amount of experience can ever completely cure them; they imagine that they will find time, in the course of their travels, to do a lot of reading. They see themselves, at the end of a day’s sightseeing or motoring, or while they are sitting in the train, studiously turning over the pages of all the vast and serious works which, at ordinary seasons, they never find time to read.

(p. 70)

I am reminded of my travels in the Lake District of England, carrying around my volumes of works by the English Romantic writers. I did read some, but mostly it was one or two poems in the evening before falling into sleep from exhaustion. I now choose my books strategically, something that is not too heavy, and which will likely get me through most if not all of the journey. The truth is, most places have interesting local bookstores, and it is really hard for me to visit a place like Paris and not schedule a trip to the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. I can always buy another book if needed. And for those of use who have eReaders, there is always a veritable library at the fingertips.

Overall, I liked this book. Huxley provides some great descriptions of various places he visited, as well as some in-depth analyses of artwork and architecture native to the locations. Granted, much of what is included in these essays is outdated, but I still found the book interesting.

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“Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla – Issue 01” by Cynthia von Buhler

I picked up this comic the other day on a whim. I was in a new comic store and saw this on the shelf. It looked interesting, so I bought it. Wow! I was really impressed.

First, I need to point out that Ms. von Buhler is both the writer and artist for this graphic tale, and her work is outstanding on both fronts. The writing and the artwork both excel in quality. This is a fictional detective style story based on historical facts about Nikola Tesla and the mystery surrounding his life and death. In addition to creating an engaging mystery tale, Von Buhler also uses her character, Minky Woodcock, to explore issues of gender bias. The result is a definite work of art.

At the end of this installment is a section entitled “Fact versus Fiction,” where von Buhler cites the historical facts that she weaves into the tale. She also shares some interesting tidbits about her research, which I personally found fascinating.

Tesla lived in the New Yorker Hotel in 1943. Every day he would walk to nearby Bryant Park to feed the pigeons. He took a fancy to an injured white pigeon after nursing her back to health. As part of my research, I stayed overnight in Tesla’s two small rooms on the hotel’s 33rd floor where his beloved pigeon would enter his room every day via a window facing the Empire State Building.

It is worth noting that Tesla was convinced that there was power associated with the number 3, and he was quoted as saying, “If you knew the magnificence of 3, 6, and 9, you would know the key to the universe.”

If you like detective stories and graphic novels, then I highly recommend this one. I for one will be reading the subsequent installments in this arc. Thanks for stopping by, and may you always discover new and interesting things to read.

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Thoughts on “The Overstory” by Richard Powers

When I was a college student, I took a course on Environmental Literature, where we read such writers as Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Mary Oliver, and others. It was an inspiring course and spoke to my environmentalist sensibilities. The Overstory by Richard Powers would be a worthy addition to a course on Environmental Literature.

This book is exquisitely written and full of insightful and thought-provoking passages about humanity’s connection to trees and the natural world. In fact, as I was reading this book, I took copious notes regarding sections that were of interest and worthy of writing about in this post, but there is one passage that stands out for me above all others in this book:

“You’re a psychologist,” Mimi says to the recruit. “How do we convince people that we’re right?”

The newest Cascadian takes the bait. “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

(p. 336)

As a person who takes environmental issues seriously and who feels that climate change is the greatest existential threat facing humanity, I am often baffled at the apathy and denial that I see around me. I could not understand why people would refuse to heed the recommendations of scientific experts. But Powers identifies the problem and the solution. Facts and data do not inspire. Stories do. Oscar Wilde famously wrote: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” You can beat people over the head with statistics and argue until you are out of breath, but that will never change another person’s mind. But art, or a powerful story, these can speak directly to a person’s soul.

I had an English professor in college who told me that the books and poems we read matter. The Overstory validates what my professor told me all those years ago. This book matters, and I suspect that anyone reading this book will be a different person by the time they finish.

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Lady Mechanika Vol. 2: The Tablet of Destinies

I like Lady Mechanika. She is tough and smart, qualities I admire in a woman.

For those who are unfamiliar, Lady Mechanika is a steampunk graphic novel series about a woman who is part human and part machine. The writing and artwork in all the volumes I have read have been consistently high quality, and this one is no exception.

I won’t go too deep into the plot. Suffice to say it involves secret societies, travels to exotic lands, searching for ancient relics, and battling a race of evil villains. The stuff of any good hero/heroine saga. What I found particularly interesting about this book, though, was the abundance of references to, and quotes from, occult texts, particularly regarding alchemy, a subject I find fascinating even though I am by no means an expert on the topic.

Anyway, I figured I would share a few quotes to whet your interest.

“Alchemy is the perfect knowledge of whole Nature and Art.”
-Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont.
One Hundred Fifty Three Chymical Aphohrisms

Strassmann: Three ones? The Tria Prima!
Prof. Thomsen: Tria Prima?
Strassmann: The three primes of alchemy! The alchemists say that all matter is comprised of three prime components which they call philosopher’s sulfur, mercury, and salt, representing the female component, the male component, and the hermaphrodite, or neutral component.

The Rosicrucian Order is supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, and the “enlightenment of man” through the arts and sciences. Mr. Banerji insists that alchemy is of interest to only a small minority of Rosicrucians… and has not been the prevailing subject of study for centuries, not since alchemy gave way to its more respectable form, chemistry. The Rosicrucians may very well be responsible for chemistry as we know it today, a product of their applications of scientific methodologies to ancient alchemical practices. But I mistrust an association that claims to revere learning while shrouding itself in silence and secrecy. What possible harm could arise from the dissemination of knowledge?

I have to say that Ms. M.M. Chen, who wrote the text for this book, clearly did her research. The book is filled with other quotes and references to arcane and mystical texts, including the works of Paracelsus, Eliphas Levi, and Isaac Newton, just to name a few. But do not let this intimidate you in any way. The story is excellent, exciting, and entertaining. Anyone can pick this up and enjoy it.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading cool stuff.

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