Watch our stream!

So today Jim and I tried out streaming Final Fantasy X and chatting about it, and you can watch the result on-demand here:

I am clearly not good at this but we’re going to keep doing it every week, and maybe develop our, uh… live entertainment skills. So if you find this passingly amusing, stop by next week (8-9:30 pm Friday in the UK, 7-8:30 am Saturday in New Zealand); it’ll probably get better!

I guess this is also the first time anyone who reads this blog will have heard my voice? Except the handful of you who also know me in real life, obviously. I dunno if that’s a huge selling point for you. It’s a weird voice. Jim’s is much more representative of a New Zealand accent, mine is all over the place.

so yeah, that’s this thing

Leo MR [Patreon cultist] asks:

So in the course of researching Heracles (particularly the Laomedon episode) I learned that Hera, Poseidon, and Apollo once tried to rebel against Zeus and had him chained (?) but Zeus was freed by Thetis, Achilles’s mother (?!) and then Poseidon and Apollo were punished by Zeus to work in Troy for a few years under human disguises (???) What the Hades was this whole story about and how did it come to be?! I tried looking up more details online but could only find a scant handful of information; do you know anything more about it?

Y’know, I think that is basically the entire story (although I think the business with Apollo and Poseidon working for Laomedon at Troy is a separate issue; the rebellion Thetis helped to stop involved Athena, not Apollo). I’ve only ever encountered it as part of the backstory of the Iliad, and it is there… well, pretty much because Homer needs a reason to have Zeus owe Thetis a favour. This is the memory she invokes when she goes to Zeus in Iliad I and asks him to punish Agamemnon for disrespecting her son by tipping the scales against the Greeks. If you run into the story outside of that context… yeah, you’re absolutely right, it’s bizarre! I don’t think there are any other references to it anywhere in Greek literature – I mean, there are texts I haven’t read and mythology isn’t really my specialty, but if there’s something else out there dealing at length with a rebellion against Zeus among the Olympians, it’s hella obscure. Most scholars working on Homer today think that the epics were originally produced by bards through oral composition-in-performance – that is, “Homer” (who wasn’t a real person, unless he was; readers who are new to my bull$#!t about this should Google “the Homeric Question”) made it up as he went along, knowing the broad strokes of the plot from centuries of tradition, but improvising on a lot of the details. And… honestly I think this bit might genuinely have been improv? The poet knows the way the story is supposed to go – Achilles leaves the battle, and the Greeks are met with disaster for the next several days until Agamemnon relents. He may know that this happens because Zeus is in Achilles’ corner on this one. He might not know exactly why Zeus is willing to step in. So… he goes back to what he does know, because it’s a fact of the tradition: Achilles has a divine mother, who presumably would be able to intercede on his behalf. He could narrate Thetis making a persuasive argument, either to Zeus or to a council of all the gods, but for the most part, characters in the Iliad and the Odyssey tend to get each other to do things by invoking existing relationships and outstanding favours, because that’s how politics works in Iron Age Greece. So the poet comes up with a reason why Zeus might owe Thetis something, and because he’s quite clever, he makes it a reason that has some applicability to the current situation: when Zeus’ authority and station were challenged, Thetis upheld them. He should do the same for her son.

I wish I had more, but I think that may genuinely be the beginning and end of this one.

The Dag asks:

Who would win in a dance-off? Ludicolo, Oricorio, Bellossom, Sudowoodo, Maractus, Jynx, or you?

Okay, so, the easy part first: I cannot dance, and I come dead last.  I will, however, sabotage all the other contestants by spiking their drinks.  I’m not trying to tip the competition towards anyone in particular; I just think it would be hilarious.

Now, what are the dance skills of all these Pokémon like?

Continue reading “The Dag asks:”

Streaming with Jim

Jim the Editor’s set himself up to stream things for his Youtube channel recently, mostly playing cricket and golf video games that I, frankly, don’t understand or care about, but later this week he’s going to play some Final Fantasy X, with me on voice chat to talk about the game, its story, characters, themes, etc. We’re planning on 8-9:30 on Friday night UK time, which is 7-8:30 on Saturday morning for me in New Zealand, and… I dunno, late Friday afternoon in the US, probably. In theory we’re planning for this to be a weekly thing. I’ll be moderating the chat and feeding questions and comments to him, so if you have time, stop by and say hi!

Red Rain asks:

What’s your favorite primordial deity? Mine is Tiamat.

Gotta be Auðumla – the magic cow who formed from the ice of the primordial void at the beginning of time according to the Gylfaginning, the section of the Prose Edda that deals with the creation of the world in Norse mythology.  The exact cause-and-effect of events in this text is a bit tricky because it’s not a straightforward narrative; the stories are presented in a question-and-answer format (also: not my field, haven’t formally studied these texts, don’t know how they work).  Basically, though, there was a great frozen void, and then there was a cow, and the cow said “let there be milk,” and Ymir, the first of the frost giants, drank the milk, and meanwhile the cow survived by licking the ice, which gradually revealed the first of the Æsir gods, Buri (what he was doing frozen in the ice is anyone’s guess).  They don’t make cows like that anymore.

Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 1: Black Eagles)

I’m dramatically late to the party for doing anything related to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but I’m going to write something anyway because I loved this game and its characters and story.  Because I’m a Pokémon person, I think the best way for me to talk about it is through the medium of creating Pokémon teams for all the characters!

If you haven’t played this game, the setup is that you are a mercenary (your character can be either male or female, and their default name is Byleth) in a continent loosely inspired by late mediaeval/renaissance Europe, divided between three major nations that are historically rivals but share a common language, culture and religion, and have united against external threats in the past.  Shortly after the beginning of the game, you visit a sword-and-sorcery academy, located in neutral ground at the centre of the continent, where nobles of all three nations send their kids to learn how to be JRPG badasses.  The academy is part of a monastery where the Fantasy Pope, Archbishop Rhea, lives.  She decides, unexpectedly and despite your total lack of relevant qualifications, to appoint you to a teaching position; thus the plot begins in earnest.  The students are organised into “houses” according to which nation they come from (so the “Three Houses” of the title are, like, school “houses,” but also noble “houses;” the word “house” is beginning to lose all meaning for me), and this year just happens to be the year the future rulers of all three nations are starting their training, so they get to be class president of each house.  You’re asked to pick a house to be in charge of, and mainly interact with the eight students of that house, but can become friends with others and get them to transfer to your class as well.  You then guide them through the plot, gaining their confidence and affection, teaching them to be fantasy RPG protagonists, fighting bad guys, traumatising them and yourself through exposure to the horrors of war, and so on and so forth.  As a real-life educator this premise scratches a very specific “I am so proud of all of you” itch that I have.  I’ve played through the entire game at the head of all three houses, but in case you haven’t played it and think you might, I’m going to avoid revealing details of the plot or any character development past roughly the first third of the story.

So, without further ado, here’s the first instalment: the students of the Black Eagle House, who come from Adrestia, which is the Fantasy Holy Roman Empire (used to rule the entire continent but has since lost a lot of its power; founded with the blessing of the church but has fallen out with them over time; looks to the past and tradition for its authority and strength).

Edelgard von Hresvelg

  • Future Emperor of the Fantasy Holy Roman Empire
  • Natural leader; charismatic, decisive, supportive
  • Progressive socio-economic agenda
    • I mean, she still plans to rule as an absolute monarch and everything, but they’re a mediaeval empire whose hierarchy appears to have been largely unaltered for about 1000 years; baby steps
  • Has a Dark and Tragic BackstoryTM but channels it into determination to save the world
  • Extremely scary if she gets her hands on a battle-axe; capable of wearing five times her own body weight in plate armour
  • She is perfect and I love her

Favoured types: Fire, Steel, Dark
Fire for spoilery reasons; Steel because she wears about a ton of it; Dark because she can use dark magic and isn’t afraid to achieve her goals by… questionable means.

Disfavoured types: Dragon, Water, Ice
Dragon for spoilery reasons; Water because she can’t swim and is afraid of the ocean; Ice as an opposite element to Fire.

Partner: Heatran
As one of the house leaders, Edelgard deserves a legendary Pokémon as her partner, and Heatran’s Fire/Steel typing, heavy armour plating and willingness to either rule the world, or watch it burn, make it a perfect fit.

Other Pokémon: Emboar, Umbreon, Corviknight, Coalossal, Drapion

Edelgard favours bulky Pokémon with powerful physical defences that aren’t afraid to wade into the middle of a brutal melee.  Emboar, Coalossal and Drapion share her imposing physical presence and ability to dominate in close combat.  Corviknight gives her a “black eagle,” the insignia of her house and the empire she is heir to.  Umbreon is just as tough as her other Pokémon, but fits in better at court.

Continue reading “Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 1: Black Eagles)”

G.T. Waters asks:

Do you by any chance know who were the first people to make use of lighthouses and the symbolism of lighthouses in antiquity?

Genuinely no idea.  I would guess that the concept of a lighthouse – a tall coastal structure (or even just a signal fire on a hilltop) that provides light for ships to navigate by – probably starts not long after the earliest permanent maritime harbours, which means it almost certainly goes back well into the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC, give or take), and maybe even the Neolithic.  As for where, I’d say Syria or Israel-Palestine is a good bet, but the Persian Gulf would also make sense.  Maybe even southeast Asia, but I don’t know anything about the archaeology of that region.

The Great Pyramid-Palace of Myanak asks:

Now that it’s a few generations later, are there any new(ish) Pokemon who would potentially displace those in your Top Ten Worst Ever series?

Y’know, I honestly don’t think so?  For one thing, I don’t think that I would write that list today in any case. Even aside from that, though, part of the criteria for that list was I had to have major issues with both the design and the Pokémon’s in-game traits, and there’s just very few designs in generations VI-VIII that I think are genuine duds.  Dedenne might be the only one since I wrote that list, and I sort of gave the Pikachu clones a single spot together, so adding Dedenne wouldn’t actually make any difference.  Greedent and Thievul are pretty dull, I suppose, and I haven’t really seen any evidence that either of them can do much; they’d be worth consideration. Of course, they’ll be getting reviews in their own time, so I suppose if they turn out to be redeemable we’ll find out then.

My “application” for a “job” on the Interwebs

So…

…how ’bout that devastating pandemic that has laid bare the callousness and cruelty of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on the planet, huh?

Just so no-one’s worried about me, I’m fine. I went home to New Zealand in March, and over the course of the last three months, New Zealand has become more or less the safest place in the world as we eliminated our COVID-19 outbreak through swift and strict lockdown measures, and we are continuing to impose quarantine on all visitors to the country to prevent reintroduction of the disease.

Meanwhile, the US is…

uh…

uhhh…

uhhhhhh…

uhhhhhhhhhh…

…fine.

So my situation is actually pretty peachy compared to what I assume the majority of my readers are looking at (my analytics page says the vast majority of my traffic comes from the US, which is not surprising since I write in English and the US makes up the majority of the English internet). However, I do have to… let’s say “reevaluate” a lot of my plans and priorities. I’m not going back to the United States in August to continue working on my PhD, because… well… on the one hand you have New Zealand, with its stable and fairly competent government, absence of deadly pandemics and relative lack of civil unrest, and on the other hand you have… Ohio. Er… no offence. In theory I could work on my PhD remotely and my department would almost certainly approve that plan under the circumstances, but I only have one more year of funding. Using that year to work from home, without access to my department’s resources or academic environment, would almost certainly be a waste; I would probably fail to complete my thesis within the time I have left and lose my chance. So, with my department’s support, I’m asking the university for a leave of absence. In theory, I’m going back in August 2021. In practice… well, I guess we’ll see what the state of the world is in August 2021. In the meantime, I’m applying for jobs in New Zealand. Maybe I’ll just have a job for the year and then go back; maybe I’ll find a job that I turn out to like and be good at, and just change over to that (hopefully getting a leave of absence from that job to finish my PhD later); maybe I’ll be part-time; maybe I’ll be full-time; maybe I won’t be able to find a job and I’ll just starve to death. Y’know, options.

But… another way of looking at it would be that we have a crisitunity on our hands.

Continue reading “My “application” for a “job” on the Interwebs”