Monday, 13 July 2015

Vincent's 80th birthday book

This post is a follow up to my blog post: Celtic art in Europe: making connections. Essays in honour of Vincent Megaw on his 80th birthday.

After waiting months for my some of my pensions to be processed, I can finally start buying books again. It should not come as a surprise to anyone who has read my previous blog about it that the Festschrift for Vincent Megaw would be the first major purchase. I first learned of its existence in an email from Vincent, himself. Yet, I had a problem: should I buy the hard copy or the e-book? The reason I had a problem is because I had started to think about the question too early. So, if you ever find yourself in any dilemma stop thinking about it and trust to Providence.

Providence visited me in the guise of my daughter and my son-in-law, who were concerned about my forthcoming (second) expedition to the backwoods NE of Prince George, British Columbia. Where we are going, there is no cell-phone reception. Last time, we went in on foot but this time it will be by 4WD. My limited experience with this mode of transportation leads me to believe that a 4WD allows people to become stuck in far more remote places than can easily be reached on foot. It really does not matter that you have a winch when you are stuck in the middle of some muskeg and the only tree close enough is a very young sapling. My son-in-law suggested renting a satellite phone, but I bought an inReach Explorer, instead, which has both GPS features and a satellite messaging system (including an SOS button for the world's major search and rescue service). This cost me about twice what the rental of a phone would have cost, but one more expedition will pay for that. I also have an option to suspend the service costs for any number of months for only $4.95 per month. As this gizmo can be paired with tablet, I bought one of those, too. Previously, I had thought of buying an e-book reader, but the tablet serves well for that, and e-book readers cannot install the Google Earth app for Android. Limited functionality compared with the desk top version, but still useful for the expedition as the maps just do not show the sort of roads we will be traveling on through the forest. Even then, a lot can change in the forest on logging roads that have not been used since being captured by Landsat years ago, as we found out on the first expedition.

So, I started buying some books and music for the trip on Google Play (Jack London seemed appropriate for the reading material). I thought I would see what they had in books on Celtic Art and there was Vincent's birthday book. If I ordered the hard copy it would probably not arrive in time for the trip; a hard copy would add weight; one can select and copy in an e-book for taking notes and giving quotes; simple touch-operated translation for the French and German papers; it was cheaper as an e-book; the books are not just downloaded to my tablet, but I can also access them from any computer from the Google site; bears cannot eat on-line digital files. What dilemma?

I thought that I might write a review of the book when I get back from the trip, but this is such an important collection of papers that any attempt at an expository review could hardly do it justice. The introduction in the book is the first chapter, and it spends enough time to do a good job of that. Why the publishers do not offer that introduction as a free sample is beyond me, it would sell many copies. There are some papers that will inspire some commentary for this blog and talking about one or two of them might even take the form of a series. My only complaint is that the book is formatted fine for hard copy, but the small print and double columns make it less than ideal for an e-book as the publishers did not bother to do anything but convert it to PDF. In better format was Peter S. Wells, How Ancient Europeans Saw the World (which I also bought). There, even the table of contents are links and it is single-columned with readable text I don't need to zoom.

What surprised me completely about Vincent's birthday book is when I read what people I knew had to say about Vincent, and also reading the same from people I did not know, but have read and have discussed some of their ideas with Vincent. It gave me the strangest sensation of eavesdropping. Of course, many will be drawn to this book because one of the contributors is John Collis, who might be fairly described as being Vincent's arch rival, at least in matters of Celtic identity. Collis does say though, that "the written word actually hides a friendship between us goes back many years!"  Vincent has said much the same to me about John Collis in email. This book has many levels.

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