This Gutenberg Thing


Now we are in the brave new of Gutenberg and it seems that all is well . In the lead up to this I have been testing Gutenberg via a developers plugin. My biggest challenge has been understanding why the change was required.  I found a great explanation from a YouTuber called look at the video and it becomes clearer. In essence Gutenberg is designed in a way to ensures that editing looks like the final post. Additionally the blocks that are fundamental in Gutenberg can be dragged around and repostioned.

Like many innovations I think that Gutenberg wasn’t explained  sufficiently simply the  causing some users to panic. Other than the obvious visual difference Gutenberg works well. There are many of the block formats that I have yet to delve into but this will come.  

WP Book

An interesting application/plugin for WordPress is WPBook. This plugin installs on you blog allows your post to be visible on a Facebook page.  It only works on self hosted WordPress installs.

The installation is, from my experience of WordPress plugins, a little quirky. This is primarily because the WPBook requires that you create a Facebook application. This sort of thing is a little daunting for someone like me with no programming experience. However it is really more about creating the application within the developers section of Facebook, this creates an API key and another password or  key called a secret. You then enter theses details in the plugin section of your blog. You need to give your application a unique name so that it has a “canvas” name this is Facebook jargon for where they host their application.  So after a few trials and errors  I was able to create an application that now displays my deep and meaningful post on my Facebook page.

The guy who created it John Eckman can be found here

A Quick Visit to Elliston

I had a flying visit to Elliston this week. I was there to facilitate training and had time to look around. Elliston is not a large place three shops a pub and police station. There isn’t much else other than a medical centre. That aside Elliston has a most spectacular coastline and I’m told the fishing is great. Sadly I didn’t come across any fish.  The day was bright and sunny however Elliston is exposed and quite windy.

I drove to Elliston from Part Lincoln which is a 340 kilometre round trip across mostly flat country. I did see lots of old stone walls and what looked like low lying lakes. 

A Post Using Gutenberg

This is our holiday house and posted the photo on Instagram. Pulling the photo across from Instagram was really easy. I have already completed two posts on another blog and  so far I think that Gutenberg is OK. 

The block structure is easy to navigate and quite different to its predecessor. Im sure that there will be haters but I look forward WordPress 5 when its part of the the core. 

One Man’s Flag by David Downing

One Man's Flag (Jack McColl, #2)One Man’s Flag by David Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second Jack McColl novel’ by David Downing, which continues his spying, adventures this time inside enemy lines on the continent. Europe engulfed in the war to end all wars. There is continuation from the first novel, Jack of Spies, but enough to read this on its own. Since the first yarn, McColl has now become a spy being formally part of the fledgling British secret service. Previously he may more accurately described as an amateur spy. He has and troubled relationship with Caitlin a journalist from the US who is sympathetic to the Irish republican cause. She comes from a strong Irish-American family.
The story explores the war on the western front as well as issues on the home front in the United Kingdom. This becomes entwined with the 1915 uprising in Dublin where there was an attempt to overthrow the British. The plot moves between the Irish uprising and McColl’s troubles behind enemy lines in Western Europe. The background to the Irish uprising is interesting as are the escapades of Caitlin and Jack.
I really enjoyed David Downing’s Station novels, which I felt were more immersive than the McColl series. That has not to say I do not like them but enjoyed the Station novels more. It could be that the period that the McColl novels are set does not hold the same appeal. There are another two to come and I will definitely be reading

View all my reviews

Google Photos and WordPress

Just ranted on my other blog about Google Photos and WordPress. See rant here . I have been patiently trying to seamlessly access my Google Photos to use on this and another blog. Happy to use the WordPress interface but the whole photo thing is becoming a pain. A single image on a self hosted blog works fine. See sample below, the wine was nice. Otherwise I really like Google Photos and WordPress just wish they would get on better.

Nearly had another rant when this wouldn’t publish. Seems the site was auto-updating a plugin.

Addit: Now to add insult to injury the photo alluded to above is saved by alt text. The image itself is gone .

Wine Glasses with a Sunset Backdrop
Sunset at the bar

A bit of an update

Not much doing on the travel front and my reading has slowed down. Recently that’s in the  last couple of weeks we ventured across to Kyneton in Victoria A great show and a nice area to visit. The lovely weekend was marred by the radiator on my car blowing up. Well blowing up is probably too strong it leaked and we had to stop in the middle of nowhere. Halfway between Kyneton and Lancefield where  at least an area where we had mobile phone coverage.

So for a weekend away we added almost $2000 for a show that cost $10 to get into. We will go again but maybe fly and hire a care at the other end.

Guide to the classics: the Icelandic saga

Guide to the classics: the Icelandic saga

Margaret Clunies Ross, University of Sydney

Iceland has been in the news quite a lot lately, mainly because of its young soccer team’s outstanding performance in the Euro 2016 football tournament. And there has also been a surge of general interest in other aspects of Icelandic culture, including modern Icelandic literature.

Halldór Laxness
By Nobel Foundation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Icelanders love books, both reading and writing them, and in recent years translations of contemporary Icelandic literature have made it into bookshops and literary pages abroad in increasing numbers. Nor must we forget that in 1955 the Icelander Halldór Laxness won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Back in the Middle Ages, Icelanders were great literary producers and consumers too. The term “saga” is used to refer to the new literary genre that developed in Iceland from the late 12th century up to the end of the 15th century and sometimes later than that.

“Saga” is an Icelandic word that means “something said, a narrative”. Originally the term is likely to have been applied to stories that were probably formed and transmitted orally. Later, they came to be recorded in writing, in hand-written manuscripts, many of which survive to the present day, though a good number have perished over the past 500 years or so.

In terms of its structure, the Icelandic saga is usually a prose narrative, but in many cases contains a good deal of embedded poetry. With regard to its subject-matter, the saga falls into several categories, and these allow it to be differentiated into generic sub-groups.

The subjects of sagas

Sagas of kings are historical biographies of the kings of Norway (and to a lesser extent, of Denmark) from prehistoric times into the 14th century. Although the antecedents of the first kings’ sagas were composed by Norwegians, Icelanders quickly became the masters of this genre, which usually contains much embedded poetry. This poetry is attributed to the court poets, or skalds, of these kings, whose compositions (mostly elaborate praise-poems) must have been passed down by word of mouth, in some cases over more than 200 years.

Icelandic saga character Hordur Grimkelsson.
By Gilwellian (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Most Icelandic saga writing was probably considered in the Middle Ages to be a form of history rather than fiction. This does not necessarily mean that the standards of modern historiography were applied to it, but what is narrated is likely to have been considered to be within the bounds of historical probability.

Coleridge’s “that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, that constitutes poetic faith” might have applied in the consciousness of some audiences to some of the events and characters that appear in a sub-group of the saga that modern scholars call the fornaldarsögur (“sagas of the old time”), in which supernatural happenings abound. But other people would probably have considered such things to have been normal in the society of the pre-Christian age in Scandinavia and other prehistoric realms.

As for the Icelanders’ own history, that was the subject of several sub-genres of the saga, including the best-known today, the so-called “sagas of Icelanders” or “family sagas”, as they are often known in English.

There were also the so-called “contemporary sagas” that tell of what happened in Icelandic society during the turbulent 13th century – in the middle of which Iceland lost its political independence to Norway – and sagas of bishops and saints.

Furthermore, following the Norwegian king Hákon Hákonarson’s introduction of a programme of translating French romances into Norwegian, another type of saga, the sagas of knights, appeared, at first translating foreign romances, later, in Icelandic hands, developing indigenous romance narratives.

From the 18th century, when saga translations first began to appear in modern European languages, sagas of Icelanders (family sagas) in particular have attracted foreign readers. There are now many English translations to choose from, in some cases multiple versions of a single saga.

The most widely accessible at present are probably the most recent Penguin translations, which are new editions of a five-volume series originally published in Iceland in 1997 as The Complete Sagas of Icelanders. These were prepared by a number of saga scholars in collaboration with Icelandic colleagues. Increasingly, there are saga translations available on the web, though their quality is not always reliable.

Sagas of Icelanders are about Icelandic families whose ancestors migrated to Iceland from Norway, the British Isles and (in a few cases) other parts of Scandinavia towards the last decades of the ninth and the first three decades of the 10th century AD.

Some people have called Viking-Age and medieval Iceland the first post-colonial European society and there are certainly parallels to be drawn with ideas from contemporary post-colonial studies.

Ingólfur Arnarson is considered the first permanent Nordic settler of Iceland.
By Johan Peter Raadsig (1806 – 1882) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Empire writing back to the motherland

Icelandic saga writing can be seen in the context of the modern idea (first formulated by Australian scholars) of the empire writing back to the motherland, in this case Iceland “writing back” to Norway and to common Scandinavian oral traditions of poetry and story. In this process, medieval Icelandic authors created a new literary form.

The structure of saga narratives allows a number of different thematic and stylistic tropes to flourish. Many sagas of Icelanders are about feuds between families and their supporters; they give graphic accounts of fights, escapes, outlawry and reconciliation. They detail complex legal procedures that, in the absence of a police force on the island, were the individual’s main recourse to justice, but only if he had sufficiently powerful supporters.

Some sagas, the so-called sagas of poets, detail the love lives and stormy careers of well-known skalds, off duty in Iceland from their careers at the Norwegian court. Others are more regional histories of families from certain parts of Iceland and their struggles with neighbours and with the supernatural inhabitants of their region.

The saga form has often been compared to the modern literary form of the novel, but, though similarities exist, there are also important differences. Like the novel, the saga narrates a chronologically defined story, but as often as not, there is not one story, but several intertwined narratives in a saga.

That may sometimes be true of the novel, of course, but saga strands do not always link up to the main narrative. They may just peter out when the saga writer no longer needs a particular character or line of narration. It is common for saga authors to explain that someone or other is now “out of this saga”.

Unlike the novel, the saga does not normally get inside a character’s skin to reveal his or her inner thoughts or psychological motives; rather, external actions ascribed to the character reveal something of his motivation, given the small-scale society described and its conventionalised behaviour. For example, if a character puts on dark-coloured clothes (rather than neutral homespun), then you can be pretty sure something important is going to happen, usually of an aggressive nature.

Narrative voice

The stance of the saga’s narrating voice also differs from that of many narrative voices in the modern novel. The persona of the narrator is not omniscient, although he may reveal what the common opinion of a character or an action may be. Sometimes he will refer to dreams or what we would classify as supernatural happenings as indicators of what is likely to occur in the future or how a present action should be judged.

Njáll, the great Icelandic tribune jurist and counsellor, from The saga of Burnt Njáll.
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

An example from Brennu-Njáls saga, The saga of Burnt Njáll, regarded by many critics as the best of the Icelandic family sagas, shows how the narrative voice in a saga can be heard obliquely.

At a certain point in this saga, a group of men involved in a feud decide to burn Njáll and his family in their farmhouse, an act that was conventionally regarded as a heinous crime. Njáll himself, old and prescient, with an understanding of true Christian values though he lived before the conversion to Christianity, lies down with his wife under an ox hide to wait for death, saying that God “will not let us burn both in this world and the next”.

When, after the fire, the couple’s bodies are discovered to be uncorrupted, the audience is left to draw the conclusion (assuming a medieval understanding of the Christian religion) that God has indeed saved Njáll and his wife even though they were unbaptised. The conclusion here is, however, based upon our knowledge of how medieval Christian audiences, for whom these narratives were written, would think.

It is not directly stated, and quite recently an American scholar, William Ian Miller, has repudiated the interpretation above for one of pragmatic realism: the couple did not burn because the ox hide protected them.

I think myself that Miller is wrong, and that the text contains ample clues of how the audience for which the saga was written would have understood it and how we should understand it today.

Although medieval Icelandic sagas are much less well known than many other classics of European literature, they richly deserve a place in the company of the best that European literature has to offer.

We do not know the names of their authors, and must recognise that the anonymity of those who created them has a literary point to make: sagas narrate history, and that history belongs, if not to everyone living in Iceland at the time of writing (and to their modern descendants), then to specific families and other interest groups, whose ancestors figure in their stories. The authors shaped those stories but did not distort them.

My 2010 book, The Cambridge Introduction to the Old Norse-Icelandic saga, may be of interest for readers seeking a further introduction to the sagas.

The Conversation

Margaret Clunies Ross, Eneritus Professor of English Language and Early English Literature, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Reading on Cruise

I have had something of a read- a-thon on my recent cruise holiday. Managing  to read six novels in nine days this is a personal best. Three books from my tablet and three from the ship’s library.

The books in the ship’s library were all good and volumes that I would not have searched out.  Nothing like making  do with what you have. Two were from English TV shows or rather the TV shows are based on the books. A DCI Banks novel the 21st in  the series a great yarn and an easy read. The other was an Inspector Thorne mystery Time of Death which was intriguing. The last of the books was Called Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty. This is a s far as In=know not a TV series. A great yarn set against the backdrop of the ‘Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Two different authors made up the last three books. Prequels to the Inspector Erlendur series by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason. I have really enjoyed the series and the two prequel volumes Reykjavik Nights and  Into Oblivion were up to the mark. Rounding out my reading was the The Keeper of Lost Causes by Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen the first in new series for me and another great read.  Next in the series is The Absent One which I have already made a start on..

Well that’s holiday reading !