You’ve Been the Subject of So Many Dreams Since I Climbed Your Torso

I climbed the Statue of Liberty once, when I was probably around nine or so. This must not have been that long after it was reopened to the public in 1986, and it was one of the last trips I remember taking with both of my parents. My mom and sister went up separately from my dad, my brother, and me. My dad was carrying my brother, and fortunately we made it to the top of the pedestal around the same time, because he didn’t want to carry a child up the narrower steps of the statue itself. I remember being kind of annoyed that the pedestal was so much bigger than the actual statue. I guess a lot of statues are like that, but you can’t go inside most of those. Climbing up a large box is nowhere near as interesting as climbing inside a giant woman. By the way, the statue is clearly open at the bottom, so I have no idea how the Ghostbusters could get it to walk around. Then again, we don’t know all of the properties of that magic slime

Anyway, Beth and I visited Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn a few days ago, and they have a statue of Minerva that directly faces Lady Liberty.

This got me wondering if the more famous statue was based on a particular goddess, and it appears that the answer is Libertas.

She was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Eleutheria, about whom not a lot is known. She was sometimes associated with Artemis, and was pictured on some Alexandrian coins. The Roman version was somewhat more prominent, although I don’t know that there’s any actual mythology about her.

Originally more of an anthropomorphic personification, Libertas officially became a Roman goddess around the third century BC. While originally associated with individual freedom, she came to symbolize the Roman republic.

She had a temple on Rome’s Aventine Hill, in which census records were stored. Another temple was built on Palatine Hill, particularly the old home of the exiled Cicero. I’d say a land grab in the name of a goddess representing freedom is strange, but it’s not like modern governments don’t still do that kind of thing. Cicero was able to successfully sue to get his land back and the temple destroyed. The scholar Marcus Terentius Varro identified Libertas with Feronia, a goddess of wilderness and patron of travelers who was also associated with freedom. It is sometimes said that slaves were freed at a temple to Feronia.

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that Libertas was not the only Roman deity of freedom. There were also two known as Liber and Libera, seen as a married couple, who represented liberty as well as wine and fertility.

Cicero referred to them both as children of Ceres, and Libera eventually came to be identified with Prosperpina (Persephone in Greek). Liber’s association with wine resulted in his being conflated with Bacchus, and hence Libera became his wife Ariadne. Another oddity is that Eleutheria/Libertas was sometimes seen as an aspect of Zeus/Jupiter, strange not so much because of the different gender as because the King of Olympus was a total autocrat.

Not only is the Statue of Liberty a representation of Libertas, but so are other female personifications of nations, such as the American Columbia and the French Marianne.

While the statue wears a pointed crown, it was more common for Libertas to wear either a laurel wreath or a pileus, a pointed felt cap worn by freed slaves. The hat was commonly confused with the Phrygian cap, although unlike the pileus that had the top pulled forward, sort of like what the Smurfs wear.

Due to the confusion, female depictions of liberty often wear a Phrygian cap instead of the traditional pileus.

Posted in Greek Mythology, History, Mythology, Roman, Roman Empire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Academy of Mutants

Since I’ve been thinking a bit about superheroes recently, I thought it might not be a bad idea to write about the X-Men cartoon from the 1990s, which was how I was introduced to most of those characters. I don’t know how closely it stuck to the comics, but the line-up was apparently close to the one they were using in the comics at the same time. The core group consisted of Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, Storm, Beast, and Jubilee; but other members and Marvel characters made occasional appearances.

I’m not sure why Jean didn’t go by a nickname; she was originally Marvel Girl, but I don’t think they used that anymore by the time the cartoon came out. Apparently Morph, who appeared as part of the team in the earliest episodes but only rarely after that, was original with the show.

He was, however, based on a shape-shifter who was once part of the group in the comics. I always liked Beast, who was intelligent, soft-spoken, and gentle to contrast with his appearance.

He was the less grumpy fictional Dr. McCoy introduced in the 1960s. As I’ve said before, the hatred and fear of mutants comes across as kind of weird in a world where lots of people have supernatural powers, but it’s not like prejudice ever makes that much sense anyway. There were a lot of interesting themes and story arcs, and while it was sometimes a little difficult to keep track of all of them, it was nice to see an ongoing cartoon that didn’t go back to square one at the end of each episode. Disney’s Gargoyles was also like that.

One of the first movies I saw in the theater with Beth was the 2000 X-Men. We’d both seen the cartoon, and I remember discussing some elements we thought were done much better there. One thing that stuck out for me was their portrayal of Rogue, who in the film barely had a Southern accent and wasn’t raised by Mystique.

It seemed like they combined her with Jubilee, in making her one of the younger characters and highlighting her bond with Wolverine. The cartoon version was also able to fly due to having absorbed the powers of Ms. Marvel (not to be confused with Marvel Girl, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Prince Marvel, or Professor Marvel).

Looking back, the animated Rogue reminds me of Neko Case, especially when she had the white stripe in her hair. I’m not sure which was more accurate to the comics, but if the Wikipedia page is any indication, I think it’s the cartoon. Beth also mentioned how the cartoon came across as more sympathetic to Cyclops, while the movie focused on Wolverine and made Scott almost a nonentity except as a barrier to Logan’s crush on Jean. It wasn’t a terrible movie, but I never made an effort to see any of the sequels.

Posted in Comics, Television, Cartoons, Prejudice, Neko Case | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luma Park

I haven’t actually played Super Mario Galaxy, and when I saw Tavie play a little bit of it, it looked complicated. I guess it’s just that I’m old-fashioned, and used to seeing Mario in only two dimensions. Nevertheless, I can’t help but like the character of Rosalina, who is basically a goddess. Not all-powerful by any means, but with powers and responsibilities of cosmic proportions. Considering how prominent the Goddesses have become in Shigeru Miyamoto’s other game series, Zelda, it’s always seemed a little weird that we don’t see much of the mysticism behind the Mushroom World. I guess it’s largely because the Mario series has always been lighter and more childlike than many other franchises, so they aren’t going to delve much into the metaphysical.

Rosalina basically raises baby stars, known as Lumas, until they’re ready to grow into celestial objects, making her sort of a mother goddess. The thing is, she appears to have started life as a fairly ordinary human, as detailed in an autobiographical storybook that she reads to the star children. After her mother died, she took up with a Luma who had also lost its mother, and she eventually created her flying Comet Observatory as a home for the young stars. Every century, she pays a visit to her home world, which is celebrated with a festival in the Mushroom Kingdom. Pretty melancholy stuff for a Mario game, huh? The book also mentions a father and brother, but there’s nothing about what happened to them. Apparently Rosalina was originally intended to be related to Princess Peach, but this is purposely left ambiguous in the final game. Certainly, the picture of her mom looks like the Princess, and the book also shows a castle and hill that look like the ones from the beginning of the game.

GameTheories proposes that Peach herself is Rosalina’s mother, and that the reason she’s still alive is involved time travel or recreation. It’s also a common theory that the two of them are sisters, which would also mean Peach has a brother we haven’t met yet. Apparently the French version of the storybook mentions that Rosalina’s father has a mustache, which could mean it’s Mario or Luigi, but Peach’s father as he appears in the Nintendo Comics System also has a mustache. Besides, Rosalina and her mother might look like Peach simply because that’s the style in which humans are rendered in that series.

And if the Koopalings are sometimes Bowser’s kids and sometimes not, how can we expect any relationships in these games to be consistent? Next they’ll probably be telling us that Mario and Luigi aren’t biological brothers.

Rosalina has proven to be rather popular, appearing not only in the Galaxy games and sports titles, but also in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. games and as a hidden playable character in Super Mario 3D World. This means that she’s beaten out Daisy and Waluigi as far as being playable in one of the main Mario games goes. In Mario Kart, she’s one of the heavier characters, in the same class as Donkey Kong. She looks quite thin, so I don’t think that weight is fat or muscle.

It’s more that she’s just a larger-than-life person in all respects, more like a storybook giant than an actual human with giant features.

Maybe her large size and long life can be attributed to eating Star Bits, normally food for Lumas. Her Veronica Lake hairstyle wasn’t present in the earliest concept art, and was probably added to differentiate her more from Peach and Daisy.

As mentioned on Back of the Cereal Box several years ago, Rosalina’s original Japanese name was Rosetta, which is a kind of orbit. Why the English translators changed it, I can’t say. “Rosalina” is likely a variant on the Italian name Rosalinda, meaning “beautiful rose.” I guess this fits in with the floral names of the other princesses, since a peach is a flower as well as a fruit. But then, peach blossoms are pink and daisies yellow, and there aren’t any turquoise roses (as far as I know). And I suppose her sad eyes are not intended as a reference to the Billy Joel song “Rosalinda’s Eyes.” I can’t help drawing a connection between Rosalina and a very minor character from Grampa in Oz, the sky shepherdess Maribella. Described as a “cunning little lady” with a moon bonnet and skirts embroidered with stars, she says that her job is to keep the baby stars from falling out of the Milky Way. Prince Tatters uses her knitting bag to carry his father’s head. The fact that Maribella has somewhat of a compound name is a nice bonus.

Posted in Characters, Mario, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reviewing Ann Soforth

Queen Ann and Jodie in Oz: The Complete Ann-Thology, by Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag – I first read Queen Ann in Oz many years ago when Books of Wonder published it, and now it’s been republished with some edits and a sequel. The story is largely a follow-up to Tik-Tok of Oz, which tells how Queen Ann Soforth’s parents left Oogaboo, but never explains what happened to them. Here, Ann goes in search of them with help from the Shaggy Man, Tik-Tok, a group of Oogabooish children, and a miniature dragon. The tale expands on what we know about Oogaboo from L. Frank Baum, explaining more about how the young make names for themselves by raising new crops. It introduces the small Oz communities of Sand City and Barberville (not to be confused with Tonsoria), and tells how the Love Magnet reached the United States. The new follow-up, Jodie in Oz, is shorter and only credits Carlson as the author. It ties up a loose end in the first book, about how Jodie plans to alter the climate of the mountains near Oogaboo in order to plant a forest. She is joined by Dorothy, Trot, and Cap’n Bill; and visits the Mist Maidens and the Cloud King. Finally, “Another Adventure with Ann” is a short play that Gjovaag wrote for the 1988 Winkie Convention, which tells how Ann feels slighted by getting an invitation to a meeting of Winkie rulers too late for her to walk to the Tin Woodman’s castle, and sets out to conquer the country. Fortunately, Shaggy and Tik-Tok manage to talk some sense into her. While there’s some humor specifically tailored for the convention, including Tik-Tok with his thinking wound down listing some attendees, everyone is very much in character. A footnote says, “Although based on an actual event in the history of Oz, dramatic license has been taken for entertainment and comedic purposes.” There are actually several footnotes throughout the book, many added by editor Joe Bongiorno to clear up some troublesome issues. While I also have problems with the idea that people eat meat when all the animals can talk, I think Joe might have been a little TOO thorough in catching all the carnivorous references. Aside from that, not much was changed about the original Queen Ann text, so the main appeal to anyone who’s already read that would be Jodie and the play.

One thing I’ve wondered about as far as Oogaboo goes is that, with only eighteen men, twenty-seven women, and forty-four children (at least at the time of Tik-Tok), doesn’t it seem like everyone would be related by now? According to Queen Ann, Jo Dragon is Jo Files’s nephew, which presumably means that either Jo Egg or his wife is Files’s sibling. Since people in Oz don’t age unless they want to, reproduction is presumably not a concern for the current inhabitants, but what about in previous generations? Oogaboo has apparently been around long enough to have its own traditions, like the oldest male in the Soforth family being the king. Perhaps it’s most likely that outsiders do occasionally move there, even if not all that often, in order to avoid incest among the inhabitants. I also remember there being a discussion on the old Ozzy Digest e-mail list about how, if the pass out of Oogaboo was modified so Jodie could raise a forest there, it’s barren again in David Hulan’s Glass Cat. There’s also the issue of whether we should consider Queen Ann’s marriage in “Nero Zeero: Snoz of Oz,” by Jay V. Groves, to be canonical. If that story takes place around when it was published in 1983, that wouldn’t affect the events of Queen Ann, but Glass Cat might be a different story. Joe’s Royal Timeline of Oz solves this problem by having Glass Cat take place BEFORE “Nero Zeero.”

I find it interesting that a footnote in Queen Ann refers to Amnesia having been named “by an unknown practitioner of magic, who could cast spells at a christening that would affect the child later in life.” I wonder if this magician also named Carter Green and Herby. And my own explanation for what happened to the Love Magnet takes this book into account: it was made by Conjo, given to a sailor who was eaten by a whale, washed up on shore where the sorcerer Kalnorsto found it, stored in Jinnicky’s castle, stolen by the renegade Christmas tree from Jack Pumpkinhead, lost in the Winkie Country, found by Jol Jemkiph Soforth, taken to Kansas by Amnesia, and finally stolen by the Shaggy Man.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Oz, Oz Authors, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You Always Hurt the One You Love

Beth sent me a link to this post the other day, and there’s also been a lot of talk about the football player who got in trouble for hitting his kid. I can’t say I’m totally decided on whether corporal punishment for kids is ever okay, but I think it’s definitely a matter of degree. Maybe for some children, lightly slapping them is something they’ll respond to better than other means of discipline. Still, it should be a last resort. And when you hit a child with a switch or whatever, that doesn’t reinforce that their behavior is bad so much as it does that they have a sadistic parent.

It gets even worse when I hear about fundamentalist Christians who think they should beat the ever-loving crap out of their kids, then comfort them. Yeah, that’s not going to give them a complex or anything. Apparently that kind of thing is common in BDSM relationships, and while I can’t say I understand that either, it’s between two consenting adults. It’s not the kind of bond you want to have with your child. According to this page, it’s apparently common among fundamentalists to claim that they have to hit their kids BECAUSE they love them. I don’t think that’s exactly what “tough love” is supposed to mean. I’ve even come across fundamentalists indicating that you should hit your kids with an object other than your hands. To quote this article, “Many, but not all, fundamentalist advocates of corporal punishment recommend striking children with implements rather than the hands so that the parents’ hands will be perceived as instruments of love.” Of course, it’s also likely that you’re going to hit a kid harder with a switch or cane than with your own hands. And, what, the kid isn’t going to see that you’re HOLDING that object in your loving hand?

The Biblical justification for beating children is mostly found in the book of Proverbs, most famously 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” This was later reworked into “spare the rod, spoil the child,” one of those phrases that everyone knows but that often gets misinterpreted, sort of like “feed a cold, starve a fever.”

So being bad at math counts as mischief?
If you’re a believer in Biblical inerrancy, then I guess it doesn’t matter to you that this book was written over 2000 years ago, and there have been many advances in child psychology since then. This page points out that King Solomon, who is often identified as the author of Proverbs, was not presented as a very good father. In fact, the Bible is full of terrible parents. Abraham cast one son out into the desert and almost sacrificed another. Lot offered his daughters to a mob intent on rape, and they later somehow got it into their heads that it they should have sex with their dad. And these are the heroic patriarchs, not characters who are written as bad examples. So I’m not sure looking to the Good Book for child-rearing tips is necessarily the best idea. Perhaps more importantly as far as fundamentalism and corporal punishment go, it seems to reflect the way some of these people look at God. After all, he’s the All-Father (okay, that’s actually Odin, but you get the point), and supposedly loves all of us. And I’ve seen all kinds of stuff about how God punishes people BECAUSE he loves them, although exactly what anyone learns from an eternity of torment is unclear.

And just like God is always right (even when he breaks his own rules) and mankind is inherently sinful, children are naturally bad and have to be driven into submission by their parents. I’m not saying some kids aren’t bad, even when their parents seem to do everything right. But to have the unflappable “I’m right, you’re wrong, and you need to accept that” mentality means that you’re not going to learn from your own mistakes. And who among us can say that we’re perfect parents?

Speaking of punishment and behavioral conditioning, I recently read online that cats can be motivated by reward, but they don’t understand punishment. Did a cat write that? They can be pretty manipulative, after all.

You should see how sad Reagan’s eyes look when she’s begging for treats. I do think there’s a definite point there, though, in that the animal has to connect the reprimand with the bad behavior. If you punish them afterwards, they’re just going to think you’re mean for no reason. We have a spray bottle to use on the cats when they’re fighting or scratching something inappropriate, but the problem is we can never catch them at it.

Posted in Christianity, Current Events, Education, Families, Fundamentalism, Relationships, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rock Me, Aristaeus

I’ve been reading about mythology for most of my life, and yet I still occasionally come across a deity I hadn’t heard about before. Most recently, it was Aristaeus, one of many agricultural deities who largely fell out of fashion when living in cities became the norm. Actually, it looks like I had mentioned him in passing before, but I had forgotten. He was originally a demigod folk hero, the son of Apollo and the huntress Cyrene.

The god fell in love with the woman when she was fighting a lion on Mount Pelion, and he took her to Libya where they founded a city called Cyrene. Some sources say he also made her into a nymph, while others indicate she was a nymph all along. Their son Aristaeus wandered throughout Greece, Italy, and northern Africa, teaching people useful skills, some of which he invented.

He was known as the father of cheese-making and beekeeping, and really, how can you go wrong with a god of both cheese and honey? He also taught how to cultivate olives, but I’m not so keen on those. “Aristaeus” literally means “the best,” and it’s believed that there were actually several local gods of that name who were combined into one figure. He introduced mead to Olympus, but it was much less popular than Dionysus’ wine. I wonder if he later sold it to the Aesir with more success. The hero also studied with the centaur Chiron, and saved the island of Ceos (now called Kea) from a drought by building an altar and praying to Zeus. Sounds like a genuinely nice guy, right? Well, mostly, but he apparently had a habit of chasing women. Weren’t there any Greek deities who DIDN’T think rape was okay? Anyway, while he was chasing after Orpheus‘ wife Eurydice, she stepped on a snake and died, which led to Orpheus’ unsuccessful attempt to bring her back to life.

As punishment for this, the nymphs killed off all of Aristaeus’ bees, possibly through the overuse of cell phones. He made it all right again by sacrificing some cattle, however, and he was provided some new swarms to raise. I suppose he was eventually raised to full godhood, although I don’t know that there was a particular story about this.

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What’s a Pound of Flesh Among Friends?

The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore – Moore’s latest novel is a follow-up to his earlier Fool, a take on Shakespeare’s King Lear. This one combines elements of two plays, The Merchant of Venice and Othello, both of which I read in preparation for the Moore story. There’s a bit in the afterword about whether Merchant should be considered an antisemitic play. I’d heard a lot about Shylock being a greedy Jewish stereotype, and it was not at all exaggerated. That was pretty much what was expected in popular entertainment in Shakespeare’s time, however. Othello was largely based on an earlier story that was intended to warn against miscegenation, but I think Shakespeare actually curtailed the racism somewhat. In the play, Othello’s problem wasn’t that he was African, but that he trusted a scheming villain.

Moore not only adds an element of fantasy and a lot of raunchy humor to the Venetian plays, but also flips how some of the characters are portrayed. Instead of the hero, Antonio from Merchant is in cahoots with Iago to start a new Crusade. Shylock is still stubborn, but presented more sympathetically. After all, the other Christian characters treat hm shabbily for no real reason other than his heritage, so as extreme as his plans for revenge might be, we can see why he might be driven to it. Moore didn’t originate the portrayal of Shylock as sympathetic, but he continued quite well in that vein. Pocket, the fool from the earlier novel, reappears as the main viewpoint character. Originally caught in a trap based on the one in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, he escapes with the aid of a sea serpent, and has to do his best to expose the plot. As Fool was set in a fictional thirteenth-century England, Serpent is set not long after that, even though the plays were likely intended to be contemporary. This allows Moore to bring in Marco Polo as a character. Pocket has a good bit toward the end about Christian hypocrisy: “You lead in with his ‘suffer the little children to come unto me,’ when it’s convenient, but the whole time you got your vengeful Old Testament God right behind, like a wicked dagger hidden in the small of your back, ready to smite the first flailing fuck that works against your interests.” He later continues with, “So Shylock may be a vengeful, greedy bastard….But not because he’s a Jew, any more than the lot of you are shiftless, greedy tossers because you are Christians. You all share the same god: gold. Your faith follows fortune, and would deny him fortune for his.” Also worthy of note is the use of the chorus as an interactive narrator.

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