Anthrocon 2019: Come say hi!

Hey, so I’m at Anthrocon for the final day, today. I presented a lecture on Japanese anthropomorphic art of the late Heian era, on Day 2, and today I’m just enjoying the unique ambiance of Pittsburgh’s premier furry convention while I can. Definitely a liminal space. If you’re around and see me (glasses, olive drab kitty hat), come say hi!

If you saw me speak, leave a comment below! And as ever, please consider sending a few dollars my way via or so that I can keep costs covered amidst chronic underemployment and keep bringing you the kickass history you love.

Thinking About Age in History

Hey, readers– welcome to nearly-the-end-of-May!

The first proper installment of the Shrines series is taking a little while longer than anticipated. This is due to a variety of factors, most notably the fact that the landscape around the shrine has changed, which is necessitating my doing more digging. If i was there in person, it’d be easy to go there and see what’s up, but I have to do it from the other side of the world, so– it’s a challenge. That it is an especially small shrine makes this harder. This said, your patience is acknowledged, and appreciated. So.Thank you.

So in the meantime, gather round and let’s talk a bit about something that’s been on my mind.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of putting historical figures on a pedestal– forgetting that they were human like you and me, and that they were just as likely to complain of being bored, tired, or confused. I try to counter that by reading widely and not shying away from criticism of them.

But have you thought lately about age?

Let me give you an example.

Joshua Chamberlain, the 19th century scholar who began as a Bowdoin College professor and became a general, a college president, and Governor of Maine, has been turned into a “Maine Man of Steel” (to quote biographer Tom Desjardins) thanks to fictional depictions of his actions at Little Round Top. during the fighting at Gettysburg. He did not act alone, of course, and nobody else at Little Round Top got the Hollywood treatment, but the fact of the matter is, he was cool under fire and his leadership mattered.

How old was he, that July day in 1863? Just shy of 35.

How old am I, as I write these words? Just shy of 35.

There’s something humanizing about that– the thought that when Chamberlain had his moment at Little Round Top, he was my age, not this timeless, ageless dose of badass in human form.

He was my age.

And if he could figure out how to be an effective leader and how to hold his shit together under fire, then maybe I can face the things that scare me, eh?

So this is my invitation to you. Next time you’re thinking about your historical fave and something awesome they did– think a bit about how old they were when they did it. You might be surprised at the insight that offers.

That’s all from me for now. More soon. And never forget: who you are, and what lights your fire, is worth fighting for.

Shrines of Northern Japan 東北神社巡り

Once upon a time, I did a series of posts on Tumblr that profiled Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan: their locales, their enshrined deities, and some of their lore. It got a lot of traffic: the masterpost that indexed them has 346 notes as of 29 March 2019, the original post went up in 2015. So it’s gotten some positive feedback and support, but along with much else, it had to go on hold between finishing grad school and getting after job hunting. Since then, I’ve developed new interests– and it seems to me that one of them is particularly suited to this project!

Roadsigns near Saeno-jinja in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. As posted on my Instagram.

It seems like things are coming into order, with my recent employment, so it’s at last time to revisit this– the art and the shrine profiles together, because these things seem made for each other.

It’s going to be a little different, this time, though.

  • I’m going to focus on northeastern Japan first, in order to keep to my most ready pool of source material. I have less access to an academic library now that I’m no longer a graduate student, but I have periodic access, so I need to plan better. Since I have my own personal library– and a range of digitized sources– which focus on the northeast, I’m going to start there. As I build both my experience, my source access, and my income, I’ll build out from there in terms of geographic coverage. For the purposes of this series, I’m defining the northeast as the Tohoku region– meaning, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori, Akita, and Yamagata.
  • Unlike the original series, I’ll just be focusing on shrines rather than including Buddhist temples. There’ll be some overlap, though, because of shinbutsu-shugo, and how the line between the two used to be blurred.
  • There’ll be new (or extra) material included in the new version! Aside from the drawings, I’m also going to make a point of including maps and more expansive reference lists. Addresses are fine, yes, but a point on a map is better– especially if you happen to be in the neighborhood and are trying to get there.

What’s my schedule right now? I’m hoping to get the first profile live and posted sometime in mid-April. It’ll be on one of the shrines from before, but revised and expanded.

That’ll be something to look forward to for your mid-April. Meanwhile watch this space! And remember: sign up to my Patreon at to support this and the rest of my content– and for early access and bonus material!

Shiogama Shrine (Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture) in spring. Image in the public domain.