Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Karavansara U. – courses #2

The Karavansara University is here again, and this month I’m doing something different – in stead of selecting a number of courses from a variety of sources, I’ll focus on a single resource, because a few interesting courses have been pointed out to me, and because it’s got a cool name: the Khan Academy.

Based on their presentation…

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

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Rorke’s Drift (and Hope & Glory)

It is the 140th anniversary of the battle of Rorke’s Drift, a minor engagement in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Contravening orders, Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande led a force of roughly 4000 Zulu warriors against a unit of 150 British soldiers led by lieutenants Chard and Bromehead, based at the mission station in Rorke’s Drift. On the 22nd and 23rd of January, the Zulu forces repeatedly attacked the British defenses, and were pushed back, in a battle pitting numbers against technology. An estimated 350 Zulu warriors were killed and 500 wounded, and 17 British soldiers died and 15 were wounded.

I first heard of Rorke’s Drift when I was ten or twelve, when I first saw the film Zulu, directed in 1964 by Cy Enfield and featuring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. It’s still one of my favorite movies, and back in the day it made a colossal impact – the Anglo-Zulu war is not something you get in the history curriculum in Italian middle grades, and therefore the movie was, to me and my friends, first, basically an adventure story, and secondly, totally open-ended; we had no idea of how it would end, every twist and turn, every new charge was a surprise.

Zulu is a great movie (yes, I know, it is historically inaccurate, so sue me) and I guess my interest for colonial history and the British empire started there.
It was therefore only to be expected that I would do my own take on Rorke’s Drift sooner or later.
Cue to Hope & Glory.

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Abraham Merrit’s Birthday

Truth to be told, it was yesterday, but better late than never, right?
Merritt was one of the great fantasists of the first half of the 20th century, and he had an incredible influence on his contemporaries (the Weird Tales generation).
Highly imaginative and wildly eccentric, he produces a number of works that are highly recommended.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar

And today, remembering his birth, why not check out my favorite Merritt work, The Ship of Ishtar?
It was originally published on the Argosy All-Story magazine in six episodes, in 1924. You can find it for free on the Gutenberg Project of Australia.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar

Virgil Finlay did some beautiful illustration for the story in 1949, and here are three examples.

Virgil Finlay, The Ship of Ishtar


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Roderick Usher

A few days back I was asked who’s this “Roderick Usher” that’s mentioned passingly in one of my BUSCAFUSCO stories.
I was also told that I shouldn’t put obscure references in my stories, because the readers like to know who’s we’re talking about.

I was quite taken aback, but, considering yesterday was Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, here’s The Fall of the House of Usher, animated, and narrated by Christopher Lee.