Is Being a Jerk a Pre-Existing Condition?

You’ve probably heard by now about how the latest Republican health care bill has passed the House of Representatives, and Donald Trump and his cronies had a big celebration over taking health care away from a bunch of Americans. I saw a lot of criticism on Twitter not just of that, but of how CNN used the headline, “Finally, a Victory for Trump.” Unless they were trying to be sarcastic, why are they kissing his ass like that? Also, why “finally”? Are they forgetting that he won the presidential election, or we wouldn’t have been in this mess in the first place? But then, remember how much Trump talked in his campaign speeches about “winning”?

What was always absent from this, at least from what I remember, was WHAT we’d be winning. Shouldn’t the concern be keeping as many people people as possible happy and healthy, not simply being a winner instead of a loser? Not to Trump, obviously.

A Google search brought up a few articles about how saying the new bill would make rape a pre-existing condition was an exaggeration. From what I can tell, this is technically true, but it does allow individual states and insurance companies to make such calls for themselves, and you’ll forgive me if I don’t think they have our best interests at heart. In fact, insurance companies make money by NOT having people’s best interests at heart. Health insurance in general is a dehumanizing concept, but at least getting rid of the pre-existing condition crap was a step in the right direction, and the Trump administration is really eager to bring it back.

Sure, some of them have pre-existing conditions, but this bill wouldn’t affect THEIR health care. At this point, it’s really difficult to be optimistic. Sure, it’s possible that this bill won’t pass the Senate. Yes, states might not apply for the waivers that allow them to deny people health care for whatever pre-existing conditions they want to. But the people and media outlets saying this are often the same ones who said that Trump would never win the election, and that Ivanka would be a moderating influence on her father. Well, Donald won, and Ivanka is so complicit that I’m not even sure she has an identity outside being a Trump.

Remember what George W. Bush said: “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.” And if Trump voters really cared about rape, that “grab ’em by the pussy” tape would have bothered them a lot more.

One thing I’ve noticed about Republicans in general, and this is something I’m sure I’ve addressed before but I couldn’t find any specific posts on it, is their tendency to assume people always deserve their current situations. I don’t know if they actually believe it, or just defend it in order to remain in power. Probably a little of both, with the people who aren’t actually rich but think they will be someday more in the former category. The corollary of that is that, if your situation sucks, you can do something on your own to change it. Just work hard and you’ll get rich. Yeah, that was never true for the vast majority of people. Even those who really do manage to get out of terrible situations generally have some kind of help; it’s not just rugged individualism. Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama recently suggested that people who “lead good lives” don’t get sick, echoing what the CEO of Whole Foods said in 2009. So if you’re born with a health problem, that’s somehow your fault? I guess it could be something you did in a past life, but this generally seems to come from people who profess belief in Christianity, in which reincarnation isn’t a thing (well, in what became the orthodox variety, anyway). Yes, good lifestyle choices, diet, and exercise are certainly factors; but they’re far from the only factors. Two people can have the same health habits and vastly different health histories. Or they can work the same amount, but one will get rich and one won’t. We have Dr. Ben Carson arguing that low-income housing shouldn’t be too comfortable because then people won’t work to improve themselves, as if they can just magically get jobs if they so choose. Even the able-bodied ones can’t always do that. A lot of it is simply chance, although I guess a president who owned casinos wouldn’t have a problem with that being the case. He’s also someone who’s rich WITHOUT having worked hard, but simply because of his circumstances at birth. What’s the case for why he deserves his cushy position in society? What’s more, even in the cases where people’s conditions ARE ostensibly their own fault, if they’ve squandered opportunities or had crappy diets or started doing drugs or whatever, should we not be at least somewhat understanding? Should we not be allowed to bounce back after bad decisions? Besides, when you’re trying to get by in a stressful world, maybe you should be allowed some vices.

Posted in Current Events, Economics, Health, Politics, Prejudice, Snobbery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Super Mario Apocrypha

Nintendo kind of seems to be steering away from Mario-related media as of late, as least in North America. I’ve heard that Archie Comics wanted to do a Mario title, but couldn’t get permission. In my younger days, however, there was plenty of it, and it shaped the way I looked at the franchise. Milo, who did a lot of scans and translations of the German Club Nintendo comics, made a post in March 2016 adding outside media to the Zelda timeline, presumably tongue-in-cheek but still quite well researched.

I was wondering if I could do something similar with Mario, despite the lack of an official timeline for that series. The licensed but now presumably now disregarded media I’ve been exposed to were:

If we’re looking at the timeline in order, I guess the first point of note is that the first Mario vs. Wario comic has Wario flashing back twenty years to when he and Mario used to play together as kids in the Mushroom Kingdom.

This is presumably after the past part of Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, as they’re older than babies. To make this work with some of these other media, this would presumably be before Mario and Luigi’s parents took them to Brooklyn. It’s often mentioned that the Super Show flashback episode “Plummers’ Academy” shows people who look like Wario and Waluigi before these characters were actually introduced, so this could be an (unintentional) indication that these two also lived in or near Brooklyn for a while.

The live-action Super Show segments would have taken place after this flashback, and presumably also after the games that have Mario and sometimes Luigi doing odd jobs other than plumbing, although it’s possible that they occasionally did these jobs to pick up some extra money even after they took up plumbing as their main profession. They don’t seem to make that much for people who frequently have celebrity customers.

The cartoon introduction showed the brothers being sucked into a bathtub drain that took them to the Mushroom Kingdom, which is confirmed in the SMB3 episode “Toddler Terrors of Time Travel.” I don’t know if it should count as official that they emerged from the pipe and automatically knocked out a bunch of Koopa Troopas and scared Bowser away, but it’s possible. The cartoons presumably took place after the events of the first SMB game, and likely SMB2 as well. The anime was basically a retelling of the first game, and while it has elements that now seem off, like the Marios owning a grocery store, Luigi being greedy, and Princess Peach having a fiancé, we can perhaps accept some of the basic elements of the plot. Hey, maybe Peach WAS engaged back at this point, but it was later called off for some reason. I suppose the 1993 film was supposed to take place BEFORE the first game, but its world is so off from everything else that it’s near impossible to incorporate even by my liberal standards.

One oddity of the cartoon is that it included pretty much every enemy from SMB2 (aside from Wart himself, I think the only other one that never put in even a token appearance was the Panser), even though that game was apparently a dream. But then, the actual games followed suit after that, with Bob-ombs in SMB3, Pokeys and Ninjis in SMW, and Birdo eventually becoming a significant recurring character. The Yoshi games make it clear that the Koopas were employing Shy Guys back when Mario and Bowser were still babies. So either Mario dreamed about creatures that actually existed, or there was some way to get from the dream world to the waking one. One weird theory I came up with involves the Valiant story “A Mouser in the Houser,” which has a tribe of mice reveal that Mouser was their king before he teamed up with Bowser.

These same mice developed the warp pipe system, so maybe they also had a way of accessing Subcon that Mouser used, taking a job working for Wart as a bomber of good dreams like the SMB2 manual indicates. After Wart’s defeat, he returned to the Mushroom Kingdom and became Bowser’s right-hand mouse for a while. I remember seeing a letters page in one of the Valiant comics asking why King Koopa was controlling Wart’s troops, and the answer was that he had a higher rank.

There’s no indication as to what order the cartoons take place in, although “Mario and the Red Baron Koopa” has to take place after “The Pied Koopa,” and “Flatbush Koopa” after “Brooklyn Bound.” The first one aired, “The Bird! The Bird!”, is Plumber’s Log number 101 and has the Princess explain Fire Flowers to Mario, but there’s no consistency to the log numbers and Mario later suggests he already knew about the flowers. Many of the cartoons start with some narration about Mario’s team trying to free the people of the Mushroom Kingdom from King Koopa, and in “Flatbush Koopa” they appear to have succeeded, and they also find a warp pipe to Brooklyn. It turns out that Bowser has invaded Brooklyn, so Mario and company lure him back to the Mushroom Kingdom and destroy the pipe. He leaves his troops behind, though, so this could be the beginning of his downfall. The writers’ bible for the SMB3 cartoon says that Bowser was trapped in a Banishment Zone in between the two series, but he eventually escaped. Mario and Luigi returned to Brooklyn until after he attacked again. I like to think this is when the Super Mario Land games took place, or at least the first two. While Luigi was fine with returning to plumbing, Mario craved adventure, and took to ruling over a fiefdom granted to him by Peach, or perhaps an island he saved from Bowser. Travel between the Mushroom World and what the cartoon calls the Real World had presumably become much easier, with the characters frequently warping back and forth. I don’t know whether these new warp pipes were newly created or the heroes just hadn’t come across them previously.

Salvador Drainado is sure that the warp he finds is the only way back to our world, but we know from “Flatbush Koopa” that this isn’t actually true.

At the time of the cartoon, the Koopalings were still considered to be Bowser’s kids, and he had a paternal relationship with them in the show. If we want to make this fit with the current concept, we could say that he adopted them, or perhaps that they were illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne (in which case they’d still be his kids, but it might explain why Bowser Jr. would become his favorite). If they’re adopted, then it’s possible he did so right before the events of the game. Otherwise, the kids must have been somewhere else before this. Perhaps they were staying with Bowser’s mother, who appeared in a Super Show cartoon.

The magic wands are also an issue, as the game has them stealing them from kings who get them back, while in the cartoon they pretty much always had the wands. There actually were two episodes where they stole wands from kings, who got them back by the end. Later games also give them wands, however, and Bowser occasionally used a scepter-wand in the SMBSS.

The Valiant Super Mario comics and the first six Nintendo Adventure Books, the latter of which have Mario and Luigi traveling back and forth between Brooklyn and the Mushroom World, would presumably take place around this period as well. They give the Koopalings somewhat different personalities; and use the character of the Mushroom King, Peach’s father. He’s so ineffectual that his presence doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but if we’re fitting everything together, it does the raise the question as to what he was doing while his daughter was off traveling with the Marios to find a way to get rid of Bowser. Maybe he was transformed into fungus like in the live-action movie. In one of the books, Luigi mentions that the Koopalings’ wands were stolen from the Mushroom Kingdom, but doesn’t elaborate on this. Some of the comics might actually take place before King Koopa’s banishment, like “It’s Always Fair Weather,” in which Mario first discovers the power of the Super Leaf.

One tricky thing about Super Mario World as far as outside media go is that everyone seemed to depict Yoshi differently. The flashback in the cartoon “Mama Luigi” has Luigi tell Yoshi how he, Mario, and the Princess came to Dinosaur Land for a vacation after banishing Bowser from the Mushroom Kingdom (again). This fits with the little in-game story we get, although it does raise the question as to how King Koopa was banished this time. Considering the crashed airship that became the sunken ghost ship, maybe the Koopas were on that and then settled in Dinosaur Land, which Bowser would presumably have remembered as the place he spent much of his childhood. In the cartoon, he captures both Mario and the Princess, but Mario escapes without finding out where Peach is being held. He tracks down Luigi, who has teamed with the newborn baby Yoshi.

They rescue the Princess and decide to remain in Dinosaur Land to help the native cave people and thwart Koopa schemes. The Chancellor from Super Mario RPG, who seems pretty competent, is probably holding things together in the Mushroom Kingdom at this point. Still, the Marios and Peach do eventually return, possibly taking Yoshi with them. While Dinosaur Dilemma starts out in Dinosaur Land, the last three Adventure Books to feature Mario have Yoshi living in the Mushroom Kingdom with the other main characters. This Yoshi doesn’t speak English, but since he’s portrayed as a child, he’s probably the same one from the cartoon. In Flown the Koopa, Bowser is still in his valley in Dinosaur Land. And even Super Mario 64 has Yoshi hanging out on the roof of Peach’s castle.

My thought is that Super Mario Adventures also takes place around this time, as it has the heroes start in the Mushroom Kingdom while Bowser is still dwelling in his Dinosaur Land castle. During this adventure, Mario and Luigi meet another Yoshi who’s chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and he takes them to Yoshi Village to meet some of his compatriots.

Bowser has also captured a lot of Yoshis, but the protagonists rescue them along with the Princess. It’s tempting to think these Yoshis might include some of the ones who accompanied Mario when he was a baby, and maybe the parents of the young Yoshi from the cartoon, but that’s still up in the air as far as I’m concerned.

Some of the Club Nintendo comics have Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi all living in or near Brooklyn, which I guess isn’t too far-fetched. There are, however, other Nintendo characters there who don’t have the same connections to New York. Actually, I think the Ruby-Spears cartoon did have Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, and Mega Man living in New York, but in the future. In one story that doesn’t use Mario, “Kirby’s Biggest Case,” a mad scientist has a giant Game Boy that he can use to draw characters into and out of games. It’s kind of funny when Kirby asks Lolo whether he’s seen any video game characters, when of course both of them ARE such characters but presumably don’t know it.

Maybe they’d been transferred into our world by the scientist’s device or some other means. Regardless, most of these comics were published in the time between SMW and SM64, and presumably took place then as well. And that’s pretty much it, although I’d also like to propose that the part in Donkey Kong ’94 when DK overdoses on Super Mushrooms and becomes gigantic could be linked to the Captain N cartoons, in which he was always huge.

This could also be around when he started taking up potion-mixing.

Posted in Captain N: The Game Master, Cartoons, Comics, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Magic, Mario, Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everybody’s Doing It, the Jean-Luc Picard

We’re up to the Star Trek films using the cast of The Next Generation, where they drink Romulan Pepsi instead of Klingon Coke, and a British guy playing a French guy is the captain of the Enterprise. I think this is also when they stopped putting the numbers in the titles, which most long-running series eventually do for whatever reason. Well, okay, not Final Fantasy. Maybe that has something to do with the different cast, though. The first movie to incorporate this cast came out the same year TNG ended.

Generations – Instead of moving straight into the twenty-fourth century, we instead do a bit of a crossover. Gene Roddenberry was apparently against this idea, but he was dead by then. Since TNG begins almost a century later, however, Kirk meeting Picard pretty much required some time travel.

The movie starts with Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov (it was originally supposed to be Spock and McCoy with Kirk, but Leonard Nimoy didn’t like the script and DeForest Kelley’s health was bad) as guests on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B. It’s originally just supposed to be a flight around the solar system, but they’re the only ship available to answer a distress signal, which seems to happen remarkably often. They manage to save some refugees from El-Auria, a planet inhabited by beings who physically don’t look any different than humans, but live a lot longer and are really good listeners. They don’t sound all that dissimilar from Betazoids, who look pretty much just like humans but have telepathic powers. Kirk apparently dies during the mission, but actually ends up in the Nexus, a ribbon of energy transcending time and space that keeps its inhabitants in perpetual bliss, and from which the rescued El-Aurians had been separated.

Meanwhile, seventy-eight years in the future, Captain Picard’s crew is celebrating Worf’s promotion in a holodeck simulation of an old sailing ship. The holodeck is used a lot in TNG, and there have been plenty of jokes about how far-fetched a fully interactive virtual reality simulator with a multitude of different settings is.

In an episode of Futurama, Kif Kroker writes a program in four million lines of BASIC. Many of the programs do seem to be pre-programmed, and for all we know there were multitudes of programmers working on them. Still a little hard to swallow, though.

The Enterprise rescues a guy in a system where the star had just been destroyed, only to later find out that he blew up the star himself and is planning to do it to another one, and one orbited by an inhabited planet. This is Dr. Tolian Soran, played by Malcolm McDowell, one of the rescued El-Aurian refugees, who is so desperate to get back to the Nexus that he’s destroying entire star systems in order to alter gravity.

Picard tries to stop him, but they both end up in the Nexus, where Picard finds himself married with many children, and his recently deceased nephew still alive as well. He meets up with Kirk, who is living in his old country home with a woman he had wanted to marry. The thing is, while they enjoy these scenarios, they’re quick to dismiss them as not real. So Soran is obsessed with getting back there, while both captains say, “Eh, not really my thing”? I guess it’s supposed to show their devotion to duty, but maybe the Nexus just isn’t as great at providing happiness as it’s made out to be. The two of them use the power of the Nexus to go back in time a bit and stop Soran, which in the process leads to Kirk dying on a collapsing bridge. A noble death, perhaps, but not a particularly grand one for such a significant character. And this was AFTER the ending was rewritten because test audiences hated the original scene, where Soran shoots him in the back. I thought the fight scene in general was pretty anticlimactic for such a team-up anyway.

There’s also a subplot about Data installing an emotion chip and becoming annoying about all the new sensations he feels, and that part is enjoyable. I also appreciated the inclusion of the back story for Whoopi Goldberg’s bartender character Guinan, who was also one of the refugees picked up by the Enterprise-B and had experienced the Nexus.

First Contact – One of the major recurring menaces in TNG and later Trek shows are the Borg, cybernetic organisms who assimilate other life forms into their collective, sharing a hive mind and incorporating the physical and mental abilities of those they assimilate. They also can adapt to weapons after a while.

They even assimilated Picard at one point, but his crew managed to rescue and restore him. This time, the Borg have invaded Earth, and Picard is ordered not to engage them. He does anyway, because you can’t have a Star Trek movie without someone disobeying regulations. The Enterprise manages to destroy the Borg Cube, but they take another ship back in time to 2063 in order to assimilate everyone on Earth. As the Enterprise is caught in the time vortex, it goes back as well. Yeah, it’s another time travel plot. I’d say they do this every four movies, but there was time travel in Generations as well. There’s also another bit of getting the old gang back together, not as pronounced as in the first two films, but still there with Worf temporarily rejoining the crew when he’d left for Deep Space Nine after the last movie. And like the third and fourth films, it’s directed by the guy who plays the first officer, in this case Jonathan Frakes. If the Borg can time travel, shouldn’t they have already assimilated, like, the entire galaxy by the twenty-fourth century? There can’t be someone caught in their vortex EVERY time. Anyway, they’re specifically trying to stop Zefram Cochrane, a character who had already appeared in an episode of the original series, from achieving warp flight. It just so happened that the Vulcans were patrolling the area, and when they detected the warp signature, they made the first officially established contact with humanity (although of course there had been other encounters before). The Borg try to prevent this by attacking the base in Montana where Cochrane is living, but the Enterprise crew intervene and try to help him out. It turns out that this historical personage is a drunk, a womanizer, and only interested in space travel to the extent that it can make him rich; and is very uncomfortable with the hero worship the people from the future are bestowing on him. Back on the Enterprise, the Borg have managed to infiltrate the ship and take over much of it. There’s a holodeck sequence in which Picard, accompanied by Cochrane’s friend Lily, runs a gangster simulation in order to kill Borg with a machine gun.

I understand the programmed story had actually appeared in a TNG episode, although I can’t say I’ve seen it. The reason the bullets work is that some of the material in the holographic simulations is actually replicated matter, and this can kill people when the safety protocols are turned off, or something like that. Lily is the one who points out how vengeful Picard is acting, despite his insistence that people in the twenty-fourth century are above such things. We also meet the Borg Queen, basically the hive mind personified, a rather disturbing woman who tries to seduce Data in order to gain access to the ship’s computers.

Commander Riker and Geordi LaForge accompany Cochrane on his historic flight, which kind of seems like cheating to me, but having to recreate a past event as best as possible in order to save the future is an old time travel tradition.

By the way, Geordi has ocular implants instead of his visor in this film, and I don’t know that it’s ever explained why. Hey, maybe the title is actually referring to him getting HIS first contacts. Okay, that joke doesn’t quite work, does it?

Also, Deanna Troi wears her hair down, but I don’t THINK that’s particularly significant.
The Borg on the ship are defeated as well, and we get some brief but interesting scenes of Cochrane interacting with the Vulcans.

Cochrane is apparently the first character in a Star Trek show or movie to actually use the phrase “star trek,” although I’ve seen it mentioned a few places online that Q had said “trek through the stars” in an episode prior to this. I’d also like to mention the cameo by Robert Picardo, the Emergency Medical Hologram from Voyager, which makes sense as he’s apparently a standard program. He also uses Dr. McCoy’s catchphrase, so it’s sort of a double reference. The Borg’s tactics here seem a bit haphazard for such allegedly logical beings, but it’s a solid plot and a good look at future history. I’d say they’ll have to do a retcon if the show actually lasts until 2063, but are they actually making any new Trek media other than the reboot series? I suppose Cochrane’s flight should have happened in that universe as well, though, as the timelines didn’t diverge until around when Kirk was born.

While I saw these two movies around when they came out (actually in a second-run theater at the student union for First Contact, I haven’t seen the next two at all. So I’ll be boldly going where many people have gone before, but none of those people are me.

Posted in Futurama, Star Trek, Technology, Television, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Start Bitching

I wanted to say something about Bill O’Reilly losing his show at Fox News, because my wife used to hate-watch him fairly often, so I’ve been exposed to way too much of his angry old man shtick. He was an interesting figure in some ways, but also truly despicable in his views and actions. I’d say his firing couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, but he received a really generous severance package, and it’s not like other Fox News anchors don’t have the same basic attitude. Sean Hannity might be worse, and there have been stories coming out recently about his harassing women. It sounds like it’s basically the culture at the network, and O’Reilly being singled out was due to a specific campaign toward his sponsors. Still, he deserved it. Anyway, he released a new book co-written by Bruce Fierstein, Old School: Life in the Sane Lane (because he’s totally a guy who knows what sanity is) not too long ago, and it’s mostly been getting attention because he says in it that no means no and you should treat women with respect. Well, maybe he means that the peons reading the book should be respectful, while he can do whatever he wants because he’s rich and famous.

What’s going on with that cover? Is this some fetish of his? Why is his current head badly pasted onto a child’s body?
Really, though, being a moral scold while acting immorally is kind of his whole thing. Bill Cosby’s too, for that matter. I don’t plan on reading this book; I already read his Culture Warrior, and this one sounds like it has a remarkably similar Us vs. Them mentality, only here it’s Old School (not rap, I assume) against Snowflakes.

According to the blurb, this tiresome and usually hypocritical insult refers to people who are “on cable TV whining about social injustice and income inequality.” So does he think these things aren’t worth complaining about? Maybe not, since he already got his. I’ve already discussed how ridiculous complaints by older generations about younger ones are, although there are trends in raising children that are worth noting. It seems like the current trend is toward positive reinforcement, which can certainly be overdone. But O’Reilly’s talk about how tough his generation was just sounds like looking through rose-colored glasses at what, if he’s at all accurate about it, was a pretty crappy childhood with some lucky breaks that eventually made him rich and obnoxious. I think one thing that’s definitely improved in this respect is that there’s more knowledge now that not all people are motivated in the same way, and that what was once considered simple stubbornness or wimpiness might actually be signs of genuine mental or physical conditions. Besides, while being tough can certainly get you out of certain situations, it seems to me like the consequence is that you’re going to have to keep it up for the rest of your life. Even there, though, it’s tricky. You don’t need to look any farther than our president for someone who puts up a tough-guy facade, but also bitches whenever anyone says anything negative about him. O’Reilly, while a considerably better speaker, is much the same way, often playing the victim and calling out his critics for minor slights. And isn’t it kind of absurd to whine about other people being too whiny? I think there’s an idea that masculinity means hiding your feelings, sort of a Stoic kind of thing. But people who pretend to subscribe to this are often very emotional.

It’s just that they only feel comfortable displaying emotions like anger, jealousy, and contempt; not, say, sorrow or compassion. They’re also very dismissive of fear, considering “coward” to be a major insult, yet make decisions largely BASED on fear, like voting for Donald Trump because they think a Mexican might steal their job otherwise.

Then there’s the whole revenge thing, which I sometimes think O’Reilly combines with his sexual fantasies for some reason. I understand both happened in his book Those Who Trespass, and the Andrea Mackris tapes allegedly included his revenge fantasies toward Al Franken. And we all know how big Trump is on revenge, a method that often guarantees retaliation.

I’ve thought of how the bombing of Syria might qualify, as it didn’t seem to be at all strategic, but merely his attempt at pointless retaliation. How is dropping bombs on an airstrip going to stop Assad from gassing any more people, if that’s indeed what actually motivated Trump? Maybe I’m just against tough-guy posturing because I know I’m not one, but it just strikes me as a way to make sure the world at large never gets out of its current hostile mindset.

Posted in Current Events, Fox News, Health, Philosophy, Politics, Prejudice, Snobbery, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warping Through Continuity

While there is an official Zelda timelime, there still isn’t one for the Mario series, which makes sense as they don’t really focus on story. Fans certainly have tried to come up with one, however, and have made some clever inferences. This page links to two older attempts that haven’t been updated in a while, UberMario’s and Lemmy Koopa’s. This video from 2015 is pretty thorough, and factors in recurring items and character motivations.

And a video from last October incorporates the theory that there might be two different Marios involved:

I guess I usually go with the idea that the games take place in the order in which they were released, except when they’re obviously not supposed to. The Yoshi sub-series, in which Bowser is a baby, are obviously prequels. The story for Super Mario Land 2 suggests that not only does it take place immediately after the first SML, but that Mario was keeping pretty close watch over his castle before that. If he’d been living in his house in the Mushroom Kingdom or off on another adventure, Wario could have used that as his distraction, and not had to hire Tatanga. This is especially worth noting considering how stingy Wario is, although I guess he didn’t necessarily pay the spaceman in money. And the Game Boy Donkey Kong ’94 came out in the same year as Donkey Kong Country, but the Donkey Kong in the former is presumably Cranky in the latter, so there presumably has to have been a bigger gap between them. The Super Mario Galaxy games are difficult to place due to the universe resetting at the end of the first one and the second taking place during the same festival.

And are the Paper Mario games part of the same universe? I understand that Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam hints they aren’t, with the Paper universe enclosed in a book.

Still, that leaves the possibility of the same basic adventures taking place in different universes (certainly most of the characters are the same aside from the number of dimensions their bodies have, at least from what I’ve gathered; I haven’t played the game yet), or the paper universe being stories based on true events. It might also be worth noting that Yoshi’s Story has Bowser turning Yoshi’s Island into a storybook; and Doki Doki Panic took place inside a book, although Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t directly reference this.

Some games do explicitly reference other ones, or appear to show a main character encountering someone or something for the first time.

Mario and Peach don’t know Bowser Jr. prior to meeting him in Super Mario Sunshine, and Luigi’s Mansion is presumably Luigi’s first encounter with Professor E. Gadd.

Oddly, that game has King Boo seeking revenge despite the fact we don’t know him to have fought Mario and Luigi before, although the DS remake of Super Mario 64 retroactively places him in that game. It also brings in the Goomboss, who according to Paper Mario was just an ordinary Goomba before Bowser transformed him with the Star Rod during the events of that game.

While even official Nintendo manuals and strategy guides aren’t always in accordance with the creators’ ideas, and are sometimes changed later on, it does appear that Super Mario Bros. 3 was the heroes’ first encounter with the Koopalings.

And even though they met several Yoshis as babies, they don’t seem to remember them in Super Mario World, but do in later games.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that Mario and Wario knew each other prior to SML2. I do think the idea in both of the video timelines that Super Mario 3D Land takes place before SMB3 because it’s in the former that the Super Leaves are scattered throughout the world is clever.

The Leaves don’t work quite the same way in both games, but they’re pretty similar. There’s also a suggestion in a comment to UberMario that New Super Mario Bros. Wii could take place before SMW due to the hot air balloons (in the Advance version of the latter, that is; it’s not there in the original Super Nintendo game), although that would mean the heroes interacted with Yoshis as adults prior to SMW.

I’m not all that familiar with most of these games, to be honest, but I have researched them online. In a future post, I hope to look at how other Mario-related media can (or can’t) fit into the basic structure of the series.

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Mellow Yellow

When you go back far enough, it can be difficult to tell real personages from mythical ones. Lists of kings often include some far-fetched entries toward the beginning, like people who ruled for centuries. One of the most significant quasi-historical figures in China is the Yellow Emperor, who is credited with just about every hallmark of civilization.

He’s generally known as Guangdi, which literally means “Yellow Emperor” (or “Yellow Thearch”); but his personal name is sometimes said to be Xuanyuan, the name of the hill on which he was supposedly born. According to myth, he was conceived when his mother was zapped by the Big Dipper. When exactly he would have ruled isn’t entirely clear, but Jesuit missionary Martino Martini calculated that it began in 2697 BC, which is now commonly used as the beginning of the traditional Chinese calendar, which Guangdi is said to have invented. Prior to the twentieth century, there wasn’t any continuous measure of years, with a new era simply starting when a new emperor took the throne. Mythology claims that he invented the very concepts of civilization and law, as well as the beginnings of agriculture, mathematics, and astronomy. One of his wives was the first to cultivate silkworms, and he convinced his court historian to create a new system of writing. It’s also said that he invented the mirror, and presented twelve of them as a gift to an empress from the west so that she could use a different one every month.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story in his Book of Imaginary Beings about Guangdi trapping invaders from the spirit world in mirrors, where they would be forced to imitate the actions of humans, but would eventually escape.

A few pages I found suggest that this was an actual Chinese myth, but I suspect it’s Borges’ own invention. He was known to mix real mythology with his own creations, and include spurious references to add verisimilitude. Also associated with the Emperor is a small chariot with a figure on top that would always point south, an actual Chinese invention, but one that more reliable sources date to the third century BC.

From what I’ve read, the chariot contained no magnets or other means of actually determining direction, but probably had a mechanism that would generally keep the figure pointing the same way even when the chariot itself turned. Guangdi used this chariot to guide his army through the fog produced by an enemy, although I think this story is sometimes told of a different emperor. Another tale has it that the Yellow Emperor visited the Bai Ze, a fantastic beast described as having bovine and leonine features, as well as six horns and as many as nine eyes.

“Hey, I’m watching you! I’ve got eyes in the back of my…back.”
The Bai Ze told him about all 11,520 supernatural animals in the world, and he compiled the information in a book. He tamed bears, tigers, and winged lions; and rode in an ivory chariot pulled by dragons and an elephant. There are mentions of his having four faces so he could look in all cardinal directions at once, but this is probably metaphorical. In his later life, he became a student of Taoism, and achieved enlightenment and immortality. After an earthly life of about one hundred years, he set up a copper sacrificial tripod at the Mountain Bridge, which summoned a dragon that took him and seventy of his officials to Heaven. He dropped his bow and part of his beard, and these along with his clothes and walking stick were buried where his mausoleum would later be built.

He was subsequently worshipped as one of the Five Forms of the Highest Deity, associated with the center of the cosmos, the element of earth, the dragon, and of course the color yellow.

The star Regulus is called Xuanyuan in his honor, which is apparently what led to the ancient alien crowd insisting that he’s originally from that star system. This conspiracy theory also refers to his tripod being able to record information and his chariot traveling so quickly it made riders age at an accelerated rate, but I’ve only seen these references on pages written by UFO enthusiasts, so I’m not sure what the basis is. I’d be interested in knowing if there is some traditional myth that inspired these ideas, or the Borges story for that matter.

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The Room in the Elephant

I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve had the desire for some time to visit Lucy the Elephant, a building on the shore in Margate, New Jersey.

Beth had gone before, but I was doing something else that day. When my dad visited this past weekend, the three of us all went together. When we first entered, it looked like there were other people in our tour group, but they left after climbing the stairs. I still don’t know what was going on with that. Anyway, we watched a video and then took the steps to the howdah, where you get a good view of the surrounding area.

The main room has several artifacts associated with the elephant, and of course there’s a gift shop. Apparently elephant-shaped buildings were a thing at one point. I’m reminded of the elephant statue where Gavroche lived in Les Miserables, which wasn’t designed as a building, but was hollow. This was a real statue commissioned by Napoleon and built on the former site of the Bastille.

Napoleon’s intention was to have it made of bronze with a stairway to the top in one of its legs, but only a wood and plaster version was made. It quickly fell into disrepair, but was not demolished until 1846.

A replica of it can be seen briefly in the film version of the Les Mis musical.

The Elephant Bazaar, which later came to be known as Lucy, was built by James Lafferty as a tourist attraction in 1881, actually the same year my mom’s house was built. It’s made of cedar covered with tin, and is about sixty-five feet tall. It’s commonly thought to have been a hotel, but I don’t think it ever officially was, although there was a hotel nearby. An English doctor and his family did stay there during the summer of 1902, however, and I believe their bathtub is still inside.

It was also apparently a rooming house for a while, and served on and off as a tavern in the early twentieth century. In addition to its being a roadside attraction, Lafferty originally used the howdah as vantage point to show properties to potential customers. He had a patent to design animal-shaped buildings for seventeen years, and was responsible for two other elephant structures: the Elephantine Colossus on Coney Island and the Light of Asia (also known as Old Jumbo) in Cape May.

The former was 122 feet tall, and the latter around forty.

Both ended up being failures, with the Colossus receiving too much competition and eventually burning down in 1896, and Jumbo never making enough money to cover its cost and falling into disrepair. The Colossus was essentially a brothel for a while after tourists lost interest in the observatory and museum. Lafferty was forced to sell the Bazaar in 1887 to a Prussian immigrant named Anthony Gertzen, and it remained in his family until 1970. The official story is that his daughter-in-law Sophia first called the structure Lucy in 1901, and the name stuck. Only male Asian elephants have tusks like Lucy’s (female African elephants have them, but they also have bigger ears), but presumably due to the name, the building is referred to as female. There’s also a window in the butt, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I guess it was pretty much a necessity.

When a developer purchased the land on which Lucy stood, the Margate Civic Association raised the funds to have her moved a few blocks over and slightly more inland, to the site where she now stands. She now requires constant maintenance, but I have to say I would have liked to have stayed in a place like that back when such a thing would have been feasible.

While Lucy is the only remaining elephant building in the United States, there is one in Bangkok that’s sort of elephant-shaped, although it’s much more abstract than Lafferty’s structures. Completed in 1997, the Chang Building (or the Elephant Building, as it’s nicknamed) consists of three towers with a top floor connecting them. It’s 335 feet tall, and contains both office and residential units.

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