Congrats to the prize winners from the draw held at my recent signing for "Ticking: The Hawking Sequence". Heinz Hammer of Chilliwack won first prize: an official "Ticking" T-shirt, matching coffee mugs and a baseball cap. Thanks to Heinz and his lovely wife Eunhee for a lovely lunch.
Second prize went to Mike Doolan of Coquitlam. Delivery of the highly-coveted prize meant social distancing and an elbow-touch. Mike's fantastic wife, Karen, ensured that hospital-like sanitation was upheld.
What did Jesus look like? What do you think?
In my upcoming third book, “Ticking: Finding Jesus”, the chrononauts go back in time to see if Jesus Christ actually existed.
But if he did, what did he look like?
Everyone knows that he was a rather handsome man, right? Of course, the chrononauts would be searching for a kind of a Ryan Gosling/Jake Gyllenhaal combo, like the man on the left below.
Given sufficient millennia, I suppose that anyone can be as handsome as a Hollywood actor. But recent depictions of Christ are probably more complimentary than reality or logic suggests.
What Jesus looked like is, of course, secondary to His Message. That vision has undergone metamorphosis as scholars over the years have debated his appearance.
The focus of early sources was on the physical unattractiveness of Jesus. The 2nd century anti-Christian philosopher Celsus cruelly wrote that Jesus was "ugly and small". Another scholar stated that Jesus's form was despised, that he had an ignoble appearance and, sadly, his suffering proved the 'abject condition' of his body.
Others claim that he was a weak and inglorious man. The Acts of the Apostles is early Christian literature, recounting the lives and works of the apostles of Jesus. In the Acts of Peter, he is described as small and ugly to the ignorant. In the Acts of John, he is seen as bald-headed, with no good looks.
It seems more probable that Jesus was, to some degree, physically robust. Jesus is traditionally known as a carpenter and not rich. So, given the physicality of that occupation and the absence of dietary excess, he was likely lean of stature. And, he walked a lot!
Archaeological and forensic anthropological research suggests that Judeans of the time, like Jesus, were biologically close to Iraqi Jews. Thus, the average Judean (I’m lumping Judeans and Galileans together) would likely have had dark brown or black hair. Jesus’ hair was probably cut short, as the Bible says that “long hair is a dishonour to a man.”
He likely had an olive or dark reddish complexion and brown eyes.
Judean men of the period were not tall; about 1.65 metres or 5 feet 5 inches. Jesus probably had short hair and a beard, in accordance with Jewish practices of the time and the appearance of philosophers.
Scholars believe that he may have looked something like the man on the right below.
“I don't know how to take this, I don't see why he moves me. He's a man, he's just a man…”
From Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973)
Logically, it seems that Jesus was just a man; a regular-looking Galilean man. What do you think?
Look for “Ticking: Finding Jesus” coming this fall to a rain forest near you.
So, you’re self-isolating. Sequestered. Feeling rather…hermitic. It’s been weeks since your last haircut and you don’t feel like cutting your nails or shaving. What’s the point, right?
Scratching your stubbly neck, you realize that your significant other has disappeared into another part of the house; doing her part to social distance herself, you suppose.
Face it, you are becoming a hermit.
So, what is a ‘hermit’? A hermit is someone who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons.
As the wealthy tradesman, his wife and mistress discovered in “Ticking: A Tale of Two Time Travellers”, hermits were also employed by aristocrats to simply exist, as a part of the landscape surrounding the estate, to entertain visitors and to, somehow, improve the aristocrat’s cache. This phenomenon -- the ornamental or garden hermit -- occurred primarily in Georgian England, Ireland and Scotland, but hermits were also employed in continental Europe.
Prior to hiring a hermit, estate owners would have a hermitage constructed. If a grotto or cave were not available, this place of lodging might be a rustic shack.
The aristocrat might demand that his hermit dress in a costume, often as a druid. Although it is unclear as to what a druid looked like, the ‘druid costume’ unfortunately included a cap that looked much like a dunce cap.
The aristocrat in ‘Ticking’, Sir William Mansfield, made no such costume demand. He paid his hermit to simply live on the estate grounds, in a grotto. Estate staff would bring him meals and empty his chamber pot daily.
The hermit was forbidden to converse with anyone and was to “neither to wash himself…in any way…but is to let his hair and nails both on hands and feet, grow as long as nature will permit them.” (from an advertisement referenced in Sir William Gell’s ‘A Tour in the Lakes Made in 1797’).
Payment was made only after completion of a contract of, say, 5 to 7 years. At the end of that period, Sir William paid his man a pension equivalent to the annual income of a regular working man, for the remainder of the hermit’s life.
The first thing the hermit would do, I suppose, upon completion of the contract is to cut his fingernails, as he was forbidden to cut them during his tenure. Five years of growth would make them long (there’s a vast range for fingernail growth, between 0.5 and 4 inches per year). So, a hermit could have 20-inch nails at the end of his 5-year contract.
Cutting his nails would allow him the dexterity to perform other needed sanitary tasks, like finally bathing, washing his hair and shaving his beard. The bath would likely not be in a bath tub, as only the rich had tubs.
So, while you self-isolate, bear in mind the sad existence of the garden hermit. Then, order a non-contact pizza or something and consider yourself pretty well-off.
AUDIOBOOK -- Ticking: A Tale of Two Time Travellers, Chapters 37 to 48, the final chapter
In this troubled time, enjoy. I'll post additional chapters so that you can complete the book and, hopefully, leave me a comment or two. Stay safe, wash hands...you know the drill.
In The Hawking Sequence, Skypilot and Alim escape from the work camp via a “speeder” (railway motorcar). My love of speeders runs deep. When I was 10 or 11, my parents took me to see the National Film Board of Canada’s “The Railrodder” (1965), starring Buster Keaton. Keaton plays an elderly Englishman who, after reading an ad in the London Times about touring Canada, decides to do just that.
He swims across the Atlantic (I guess, as he is seen emerging from the water, fully clothed and with enough energy to walk up the beach) then steals a conveniently parked and vacant speeder. The short film is an homage to his previous work as he travels in the speeder along the tracks performing goofy stunts reminiscent of those in his younger days, but miraculously never coming face-to-face with an opposing train. An enjoyable, but not particularly funny, movie that captured the attention of at least one young Canadian at the time.
The concept of the speeder stayed with me. Imagine flying along the tracks, bouncing around corners and over level crossings, while constantly thinking that a train will soon appear around that next corner coming straight at you!
While attending university, I got a job as a Trainman with the Canadian Pacific Railway unapologetically through my uncle, E.N.A. (Ted) Sewell, who was running the show at the CPR. From there, I went to the British Columbia Railway, working on the track maintenance crew. Most of the crew were swarthy Portuguese and I was the tall, gangly kid who kept breaking hammers by not hitting the rail spike at the correct angle.
I guess the railway was tired of repairing hammers as, one day, a supervisor drove up to the crew and asked the foreman, “Where’s Van Alstyne?” Bending down, I heard my name and stood straight up. The foreman saw me immediately, as I was head and shoulders above my colleagues.
The foreman offered me a job as Track Patrolman, operating a speeder! This one was the classic yellow and even had a regulation red emergency light on top; like on the top of police cars of the time.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, saying Adeus to my Portuguese workmates and thereby starting the best job I ever had.
Stories about my train patrol experience to follow…
The main character in the Ticking series of books is named Skypilot.
Writers of fiction cower at one of the unwritten rules, this one in a loud voice from above and accompanied by thunder: “Of thy main characters, [insert clap of thunder here] thou shalt make-up but a single weird name”.
For Ticking, I wanted a name that is odd, different for my protagonist; something that reflected his religious family background, a connection to Classic Rock and the choice that his progressive missionary parents made when he was born.
A “Sky pilot” is a member of the clergy, especially a military chaplain who blesses the troops – like in The Animals 1968 song of the same name – prior to battle.
As mentioned in Ticking: A Tale of Two Time Travellers, Sky was not the only one in his school with a different name. Some recent, actual names for babies include: Aoife (for a girl, pronounced EE-fa), Cookie, Peaches, Sugar, Dove, Elon, Falcon, Lark, Oak, Sable, Cub, Lion, Coyote and, of course, Sequoia.
Game of Thrones fans selected Oberyn, Rhaegar, Margaery and Daenerys, the spellings of which will frustrate teachers, coaches and aunts completing birthday cards for years to come. Other parents chose to honour authors, like Hawthorne, Sinclair and Whitman. I am not sure as to the current popularity of “Vann” as a given name, but my upcoming trip to the year 2036 will reveal its future popularity.