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”

Staryu and Starmie

Staryu.

The Dark Forces from Parts Unknown whose occult powers sustain my life and strength have anointed new emissaries to convey their terrible will!  By which I mean, I have two new Patreon supporters pledging $12/month, the amount required to bribe your way onto my Dark Council.  The Dark Council can vote once a month on any topic (I mean, I assume Pokémon-related, but strictly speaking I suppose it doesn’t have to be) for me to write about at length, and this month I’m writing on the suggestion of Miame Irohara (thank you so much for your support!) whom I have named my new Chancellor of Fate.  By the authority vested in the Council, she has requested that I write about her favourite generation I Pokémon (and some of mine as well): Staryu and Starmie.

This is actually pleasantly topical, since Staryu and Starmie are among the Pokémon who weren’t previously in Sword and Shield but have become available in the Isle of Armour expansion (reminder: even if you haven’t bought the expansion, you can still trade for Staryu, or transfer it from an earlier game via Pokémon Home), and as any veteran trainer knows, they are some seriously kickass Pokémon.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of training one, maybe give this article a read, pick one up and take it for a spin (…literally).  But first, let’s talk about starfish.

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Herald of Opera asks:

So, it’s been nearly five years now, but I hope it’s not too late to remind you to tell us all about the centaur preserved in honey. You never told us about the centaur preserved in honey, and I don’t feel like looking up translations of Pliny the Elder’s work.

It’s never too late to ask me about Pliny the Elder.

So, in book 7, chapter 3 of the Natural History, Pliny is talking about unusual or miraculous births, beginning from twins and triplets, moving up to more… dubious reports.  He then says the following (my translation):

“It is written that Eutyche of Tralles was laid on her funeral pyre by 20 of her children, having borne 30, and Alcippe gave birth to an elephant.  However, this must be counted as a portent [i.e. the result of divine intervention; in Roman culture the gods were thought to convey their will or displeasure through miraculous or ominous events], just like when a slave girl gave birth to a snake at the beginning of the Marsian War; and there are a wide range of creatures born with multiform bodies that should also be considered omens.  Claudius Caesar [who, in addition to being Emperor, was a prolific historian] writes that a horse-centaur was born in Thessaly and died on the same day, and during his reign I myself saw one, brought to him from Egypt in honey.”

And, well, he could be making this up, but I don’t think that’s his style.  If Pliny says that he saw this centaur, I believe that he believes it.  I think it’s more likely that he was taken in by a hoax.  I think that some Roman bastard in Egypt, looking to curry favour with the Emperor, stitched together parts à la Fiji Mermaid from the dead bodies of a horse and a human (probably either a condemned criminal, whose bodies were sometimes used for medical experiments in Alexandria, or a slave, whom I can only hope died of natural causes) and Fed-Exed the awful thing to Claudius in Rome.  The honey would have kept it “fresh,” because – as the Romans apparently knew, on the basis of this passage – honey has antibacterial properties.  There are jars of honey found in Egyptian tombs of the New Kingdom that are still recognisable as honey and theoretically still edible, although I don’t think anyone has dared to try it.  It was probably the best substance readily available at the time for preserving biological specimens.

I want to imagine a sort of fish-tank setup with big transparent panes of glass and clear golden honey so you could actually see the alleged centaur floating inside.  Sadly, as a Roman glass nerd I know that in Claudius’ time even the Emperor would probably not have been able to get hold of large glass panes of high enough quality to create a setup like that.  More likely, it was sent to Claudius stuffed into a big terracotta jar, and he kept it there and had someone fish it out for Pliny to take a look.

The Romans were weird people.

A Black Lizard-Lion on a Grey-Green Field asks:

How exactly was Athens able to take over the Delian League without anyone contesting it until it was too late to not incite violence?

and related:

A bald eagle implies the existence of a hairy eagle asks:

Why did Athens take over the Delian League?

So… “why” I think is actually pretty simple: because it made them richer and more powerful.  I mean… obviously it’s more complicated than that, and publicly they professed altruistic motives and said the word “freedom” a lot (…remind you of anyone?), but honestly… when you get right down to it, I think it was because wealth and power are useful to have.  Classical Athens was a democracy and we remember it for its literature and art and philosophy, but that doesn’t mean they were “the good guys” in any meaningful sense.  Thucydides, who wrote the main contemporary history of the Peloponnesian War, seems to think that they trapped themselves into it: the more power you gain, the more you have to be afraid of what happens if you lose it, and the more desperately you have to fight to hold onto it, potentially to the exclusion of all ethical concerns.

Continue reading “A Black Lizard-Lion on a Grey-Green Field asks:”

Chocolish, Chocolite, and Chocoluxe asks:

2 questions.
What’s your all time favorite dinosaur?
What are some obscure Greco-Roman creatures from mythology?

First part, easy: Parasaurolophus.  Couldn’t exactly tell you why; it’s a childhood thing.  The trumpet horn is neat and it’s kinda funny that people used to think it was a snorkel (good Pokémon design fodder there; it’d make a nice Water-type).

As for the second part… hmm… well, how obscure are we talking here?

‘cause some of the weirdest bull$#!t isn’t even really from “mythology” per se, but from geography and ethnography – Greek and Roman scholars writing down whatever half-baked rumours they could scrape together about distant lands and their inhabitants.  For instance: ya boi Pliny the Elder talks in book VIII of the Natural History about this animal that supposedly lives in Ethiopia, a place he had definitely never been to, called the crocotta, which is the product of either a dog mating with a wolf or a hyena with a lion – unclear which; possibly both (also, according to Pliny, hyenas attract dogs as prey by mimicking the sound of a man vomiting, and touching a hyena’s shadow will cause a dog to go mute, so frankly his description of a “hyena” might as well be a mythical creature too).  The crocotta has the legs and hooves of a deer, the body and mane of a lion and the head of a badger, and instead of teeth it just has this one long ridge of bone that goes all the way around the inside of its mouth.  Oh, and it can imitate a human voice for some reason, and uses this ability to call people by name at night to draw them out into the wilderness where it can eat them.  It’s just an aggressively terrible animal and I’m glad it doesn’t exist because if it did then I, personally, would be morally obligated to exterminate it.

Make a Pokémon outta that and smoke it.

Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales; Galarian Mr. Mime and Darmanitan

Today, for… some reason… I have decided to try to bridge the gap between Alola and Galar by reviewing all four of the Ice-type regional variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Ninetales, Galarian Mr. Mime and Galarian Darmanitan.  This obviously took far too much time and the article is far too long, but I’ve written it now, and if I had to write it, then you all have to sit down and read it; that was the deal, that’s how this works.  The Ice type is an interesting choice for regional variations, because real animals also kind of have Ice-type regional forms: as animals move into more extreme latitudes, they have to deal with longer and colder winters, and tend to adapt accordingly.  Cold-adapted animals tend to be bulkier than their relatives living in temperate climates, with more compact limbs, thicker fur or feathers and often a white colour scheme to blend in with snow.  Adaptation to different climates in Pokémon can be a mixed bag as far as realism goes, and we’ll see multiple different takes on that with today’s four Pokémon.  Let’s get started.

Continue reading “Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales; Galarian Mr. Mime and Darmanitan”

The Dag asks:

Why is Aphrodite considered an Olympian instead of a Titan?

Well.  Hesiod doesn’t give a definitive list of “the Olympians” in the Theogony, and it’s the Theogony that claims Aphrodite was born of the blood of Ouranos – Homer says in the Iliad that she’s a daughter of Zeus.  In fact, I don’t think anyone gives a definitive list of “the Olympians” until the Hellenistic period.  The Homeric Hymn to Hermes mentions that there are twelve of them, but doesn’t say which twelve, except that Hermes isn’t one of them (because the Hymn is about Hermes’ ascent to godhood).  The idea that there are twelve of them is persistent in ritual, but it doesn’t seem like anyone thought it was particularly important to come to a firm agreement about who the twelve actually were (Herodorus’ list of the twelve gods to whom Heracles made sacrifices at Olympia includes Kronos, Rheia and Alpheios, who would never make it onto any modern list of “the twelve Olympian gods”).  It’s also perfectly acceptable in Greek poetry to refer to a whole bunch of minor deities, notably the Muses, as “Olympian” (often it’s really just a synonym for “divine”).  So “Olympian” is fuzzy and you can get away with throwing a whole lot of people in there.

“Titan,” on the other hand, is pretty specific.  Hesiod claims that “Titan” was a name given to them by Ouranos, and he derives it from τιταίνω, to stretch or strain, and τίσις, vengeance (which is probably not the real etymology, but it’s what he believed, at any rate), so I think in his mind “Titans” only means the twelve children of Gaia and Ouranos who rebelled against the rule of their father, whom he explicitly lists: Kronos, Rhea, Koios, Phoebe, Hyperion, Theia, Iapetos, Mnemosyne, Kreios, Themis, Okeanos and Tethys.  There are other, different lists of the Titans given by other ancient authors (Apollodorus adds Dione, the mother of Aphrodite in the Homeric tradition, for a total of thirteen; the sixth Clementine Homily seems to think that Demeter was a Titan, but this is a Christian text citing pagan myth in order to discredit it, so it could conceivably have some details muddled).  Today we often consider several of their more famous children to be “Titans” as well – notably Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Leto, Helios, Selene and Hekate, or even more distant descendants like Calypso – but to be honest I can’t find an ancient source that actually calls any of them “Titans” so I’m not sure when that starts; it could be in the scholia or something.  So the short answer is simply that, despite belonging to an earlier generation than the other “Olympians” in Hesiod’s version of the creation myth, there is no tradition I’m aware of that ever says Aphrodite was part of the rebellion against Ouranos.  It also helps that Aphrodite literally lives on Olympus, which the Titans traditionally didn’t – according to Hesiod they hung out on Mount Othrys (which like Olympus is the name of a real mountain in Greece; it kind of faces Mount Olympus across the plain of Thessaly).

Larry asks:

How much of the way our experience with “a pokémon trainer is you!” was based on the background we picked for our character? Obviously, there were the story beats with us doing ranger/biologist work besides training.

But I’m assuming that our capacity to find Pokémon that you usually only see in Kanto under special conditions (The Hoenn Radio In Soulsilver) is because our scientist background lets us examine the environment better? And our compassion is the reason we’ve had your first non-misanthrope character. I assume even if we weren’t a big battling fan we’d still know most, if not all, type matchups though? (The games and the anime pretending 10-year olds wouldn’t know that ground is immune to electric is just… the worst worldbuilding I’ve seen.. ever? )

Uh, but tangent aside- I meant to ask you about what you would do with each specialty! “Swords” seemed weird as fuck and I’m confused, but I’m pretty interested in Athlete- would that let us basically be our own HM pokémon?

[Before saying anything else: I do want to bring this back, but things are… well, crazy right now, as I think most people have probably noticed.  When I do, it will probably be a two-week schedule rather than every week, because that was taking too much time away from articles.]

[…what is my life]

But yeah, the point of that “choose your background” question was basically to decide what kind of story this was going to be, what aspects of the Pokémon world we were going to focus on.  Part of that is just dictating the kinds of details I emphasise and explore in the narration, but the character’s skills also determine some of the options I offer when we have a choice to make.  I didn’t have everything planned out, but for every “special skill” I had some idea of a few things that it would let us do to take the story of Pokémon: Red and Blue off the rails, and a few ways that our character would react differently to the events of the story.  The point is that the things we do to influence the world in significant ways should mainly come from those “special skills.”

Continue reading “Larry asks:”