Do Ventriloquist Dummies Freak You Out?

Then you might not be surprised to learn they have a dark and scandalous past, as this post at Atlas Obscura reveals:

But ventriloquism is not a modern art—it dates back to at least the classical Greece, when it really freaked people out.

Back then, ventriloquists were called “engastrimyths”. Writes Steven Connor in his book Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism, this was a mashup of “en in,gaster the stomach, and mythos word or speech.” Basically, people believed engastrimyths had demons in their stomachs who belched words from their host’s mouths. Engastrimyths plied their trade for entertainment (what could be more thrilling than demonic tummy talk?) and as divination. Pioneering ventriloquist Valentine Vox writes in his book I Can See Your Lips Moving: The History and Art of Ventriloquism that the art’s roots lie in necromancy—the ancient art of allowing a dead person’s spirit to enter the necromancer and speak to the living.

And Now, a Public Service Announcement from Rick Riordan

I really, really get it. Those movies were horrible. Even so, isn’t this a cool problem to have?

This was so good I’m reproducing it in full from Mr. Riordan’s blog:

Dear Teacher,

Hi! I am so grateful that you are teaching Greek mythology to your kids and maybe reading my books with them. I hope it goes well! If you want some lesson plan ideas I have a ton of free stuff on my website, mostly pulled from my own fifteen years as a middle school teacher.

Now a plea: Please, for the love of multiple intelligences, DON’T show those “Percy Jackson” movies (ironic quotes intentional) in your classroom for a compare-contrast lesson or, gods forbid, a “reward” at the end of your unit. No group of students deserves to be subjected to that sort of mind-numbing punishment. The movies’ educational value is exactly zero. A better use of classroom time would be . . . well, pretty much anything, including staring at the second hand of the clock for fifty minutes or having a locker clean-out day.

If you need a break and are using the movie so you can have time to grade papers, hey, I totally get that. I was a teacher for a long time! May I suggest Clash of the Titans, or the cheesy old 1960s version of Jason and the Argonauts, or heck, even the animated Hercules from Disney, as bad as it is. Those movies have plenty of things to compare and contrast with the actual Greek myths. But my heart breaks every time I hear that classroom time is being thrown away watching those vapid Percy Jackson adaptations.

Maybe the kids want to watch them on their own. Fine. Whatever. Personally, I would rather have my teeth pulled with no anesthesia, but to each his or her own. Spending class time time on those movies, though? I’ve justified a lot of things in my years as a teacher. Once I did a barbecue pit sacrifice of prayers to the Greek gods with my sixth graders. Once I taught the kids a traditional Zulu game by rolling watermelons down a hill and spearing them with broomsticks. We took fencing classes when we studied Shakespeare, reenacted the entire Epic of Gilgamesh, and, yes, we watched some pretty great movies from time to time. But I can think of zero justification for watching the adaptations of my books as part of a school curriculum. (And please, don’t call them my movies. They are in no way mine.)

Thanks for listening. I hope you have a great school year. I hope your kids get excited about reading. And I hope you’ll consider this author’s plea. The kids don’t need classroom time to learn that movies can be really, really bad. They’ll find that out on their own!

Yours truly,

Rick Riordan

Sunday Inspiration: Darkness

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
—Samwise Gamgee, via J. R. R. Tolkien

On Getting Combat Right

Trent Cannon (a name that has “Protagonist” written all over it!) has been discussing combat in medieval fantasy over at Fantasy Faction.

In Part One back in January, he addressed the particulars of learning to fight as well as some common-sense observations about spears and armor.

Just today he has posted Part Two, dealing with the realities of injuries, unconsciousness, and skill-versus-strength in a sword fight.

It’s all quite enlightening.

The Physics of Vampires

As it turns out, vampires need to finish feeding in under seven minutes. Some physics students at the University of Leicester did the math:

A bite to the neck and a clean getaway—that’s what a vampire needs. A group of physics students from the University of Leicester calculated exactly how long a vampire would need to accomplish those two things: about 6.4 minutes. They published their findings in the university’s Journal of Physics Special Topics.

The human body can’t function during major blood loss. After 15 percent of the blood leaves the body, the heart rate changes, and blood drinking, even from the carotid artery, becomes a process of diminishing returns. The Leicester students set out to calculate how long it would take for 15 percent of the body’s blood to make it out through a couple of holes in the neck.