Monthly Archives: October 2014

Happy Hallowe’en!!

BOO!

This post is to add a little bit of fun to what will hopefully be an enjoyable All Hallows Eve for everyone!

Sittin’ Up with the Dead

One-Eyed, One-Horned Flyin’ Purple People Eater

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

http://vimeo.com/52484438

Have a Happy Hallowe’en, all – and watch out for low flying witches, ghosts, ghouls, and Great Pumpkins!!!  🙂

Have a spooky good night!

The Mithril Guardian

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Quotable Quotes #2

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. – Thomas Paine

Believe that your life is worth living, your belief will help create the fact. – William James

The tree doth not withdraw its shade, even from the woodcutter. – Unknown

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. – Mark Twain

Truth is stranger than fiction. – Lord Byron

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false with any man. – William Shakespeare

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise. – Thomas Gray, English poet

A word to the wise is enough. – Plautus, Roman dramatist

We live, not as we wish to, but as we can. – Menander, Greek dramatist

The wish is father to the thought. – William Shakespeare

The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. – Victor Hugo, French novelist

Know thyself. – Plato

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. – Oscar Wilde

The Girl Who Saved a Fort

220px-Vercheres

Marie Madeleine Jarret de Verchères is a heroine of Canada whose mighty deeds have been largely forgotten over time. The daughter of French aristocrats who had settled in Verchères (now part of Quebec, Canada), Madeleine grew up in a fort along the St. Lawrence River.

In October of 1692, Madeleine and her younger brothers, Louis and Alexander, were at the Verchères fort. Their father was away from the fort and their mother had just gone to Quebec on business, taking her younger children with her. Most of the men in the fort were out working in the fields, and many of the fort’s soldiers were standing guard over them. The fierce Iroquois, a tribe of Native Americans who hated the French, had been attacking French settlements during this time and it was unwise for settlers to go outside their colonies alone or without arms.

October 22, 1692, began calmly and quietly, as had the day before. But it was not to remain quiet. Midmorning had barely arrived when a large band of Iroquois braves suddenly attacked the fort. Most of the male settlers were killed where they worked in the fields, and the guards died similarly. As the oldest member of the Verchères family present in the fort, Madeleine assumed command of the people there. She closed the fort’s gates and told her younger brothers and an old soldier, who had remained inside the fort due to his age, to take up arms and prepare to defend the settlement.

Rushing to the blockhouse powder room to get a gun, Madeleine found that there were two other soldiers, whose duties had kept them in the fort, in the powder room already. To her horror and disgust, she learned that at least one of the soldiers was preparing to blow up the powder room in order to destroy the fort. This was to prevent the Iroquois from getting inside the colony, where they would kill them and the remaining settlers – almost all of whom were women with infants and young children.

Madeleine gave the two soldiers a furious scolding, reprimanding them harshly for their cowardice in despairing of their situation. She ordered the two out of the blockhouse, then got the gun and powder she had come for and left. She directed the defense of the fort, her only forces being her two brothers, the old soldier, and a few other able settlers. The little group stood off the Iroquois until help arrived from Montreal a week after the siege began.

Some reports and retellings of Madeleine de Verchères’ story say that she did not sleep for the first two days of the siege. They also say that she went about her warrior’s duties with a pleasant smile and attitude to keep up the courage of the other women in the fort, who were not only afraid for their lives and the lives of their children but were also grieving for their husbands and sons who had been slain in the fields by the Iroquois.

At the time of the attack Madeleine de Verchères was fourteen years old.

Madeleine de Verchères fades from history after this event. Little is known about the rest of her life other than the facts that she was awarded a pension by the French crown for her heroism and that she married a man named Pierre Thomas Tarieu de la Pérade in 1706. It is said that Madeleine again showed her strength of character by saving her husband’s life in 1722 when he was assaulted by an Indian. It appears that her marriage remained childless.

She died August 8, 1747, and a statue of her stands in Verchères, the only reminder of the fourteen year old colonial girl who led the defense of her family’s settlement – and won.

May she never be forgotten!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

References:

Encyclopedia Americana: Vol. 28, 2002, page 16.

Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel C. Brill.

“You don’t approve of me, do you?”

Papago Wells

“You don’t approve of me, do you?”

“What is there to approve of? You are beautiful, of course, but you resent the very things that made life easy for you. You resent you father. From the summit of the molehill of your Eastern education you judge the mountain of the obstacles your father faced. You” – he turned away from her – “are like the froth on beer. You look nice but you don’t mean anything.”

Exchange between Logan Cates and Jennifer Fair in Last Stand at Papago Wells by Louis L’Amour

The Hunger Games: Gale Hawthorne

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Mockingjay

After Presidents Snow and Alma Coin, Brutus, Enobaria, Cashmere, Gloss, Glimmer, Cato, and Clove, I think the character in The Hunger Games trilogy I dislike the most is Gale Hawthorne. In part, this is due to the fact that I have never seen much use for so-called “love triangles” in any kind of story. In a “love triangle” plot/subplot, the girl falls for two totally different guys but cannot make up her mind which one she truly loves, blah, blah, blah, puke, puke, puke.

This is not a way to enhance my appreciation of a character. In fact, it is more likely to do the opposite, since all the “love triangle” girls seem truly capable of doing is a lot of dithering.

I mean, how hard is it to really know which guy is better than the other? Pretty generally, in a “love triangle” story, one guy is sincere in his love for the girl and the other guy is not. All the girl has to do is watch and see which fellah behaves better and actually means it and she’s found her guy. But instead we often have the girl wailing and gnashing her teeth while saying, “I can’t choose! I can’t choose!”

Oh, give me a break.

Anyway, of the two young men who end up vying for Katniss’ affection in The Hunger Games, Peeta wins out. Why? Well, if you cheat (the way I did) and read the Wikipedia files, it is said that Peeta beats out Gale because Gale and Katniss both have the “same fire.” (Funny how no one on Wikipedia mentions Gale also kissed and dated other girls prior to Katniss, which makes him, to my mind, to be of doubtful constancy. He fell for girls prior to her, what’s to keep him tied to Katniss forever after, hmm?)

Okay, having read The Hunger Games books, I can say that this thing about Gale and Katniss having the “same fire” is baloney. While Katniss and Gale both have fiery personalities, their fire is most definitely not the same. Katniss’ fire is her will to survive, no matter what. Gale’s fire, however, is the fire for vengeance.

This desire of his is understandable. Gale’s father died in the same mining accident which killed Katniss’ father. He is whipped in Catching Fire for hunting and killing a turkey so that he, his three younger siblings, and his mother could survive without recourse to the Capitol’s “liberality.” He saw his home destroyed and his friends killed when District 12 was burned to the ground. It is perfectly understandable that he would want revenge for all the suffering the Capitol had inflicted on him and those he loved.

But we are warned not to seek vengeance for wrongs committed against us for a reason. In his thirst for payback, Gale becomes very similar to the people he hates. His loathing for the Capitol is so strong that he sees Katniss’ harmless, fluff brained prep team – which has never known true suffering and want in their lives – as monsters. Never mind that they have been raised by the society of the city to be as helpless as children, he does not appreciate that the prep team’s only experience of ‘reality’ has been the decadent lifestyle of the Capitol.

Unlike Katniss, Gale has never been to the Capitol. He has no idea what the people in the Capitol are taught to believe, so he never considers anyone from the city as less than evil. The Capitol citizens are encouraged to lead the lives they do by the government of Panem. As the Hunger Games are a form of control over the districts, so this dissolute way of living is encouraged in the Capitol to keep the city’s people under the control of Panem’s government. Having witnessed life in the Capitol, Katniss has a better understanding of the mentality of its citizens than Gale does.

Gale shows just how far he has fallen when he devises an attack on the Peacekeeper base in District 2. The Capitol Peacekeepers have retreated into a mine/military base in a mountain in the District. With them are a number of District 2 miners and undercover rebel operatives. In planning the rebel attack on the mountain, Gale never stops to sympathize with the people who are pinned down in the mountain. He never stops, as Katniss does, to consider how many of the people inside the base are actually on the Capitol’s side – all he wants is revenge.

Katniss is able to convince the other rebel commanders to leave the District 2 people a way out of the mountain. Remembering her own father’s death in a mine, she is unwilling to condemn so many others to a similar fate. This is something Gale does not appreciate because – as I have already stated – he sees everyone who lives in the Capitol and at least half of the population of District 2 as the enemy. Katniss lacks the ability to articulate to him that his view is wrong, but in the end she knows he is in error and she also knows that he will not be swayed from his point of view.

This is what helps her to realize that Peeta is the better man. Consumed by the fire of his hatred, Gale will do whatever he can to strike back at the Capitol and make them hurt the way they have hurt him. That is all that matters to him.

The first hint of this is in Mockingjay. In the third book, Katniss and Gale witness Capitol hovercrafts bomb a hospital full of wounded District 8 inhabitants. While Katniss did not expect the Capitol to target the hospital, Gale did, leading her to say that Gale understands their enemy. Gale does in fact understand them for he has met the enemy and they are him.

So, is it the “same fire,” readers? I think not. I think it more accurate to say they have incompatible personalities with undeniable similarities. Gale’s flame is the fire of destruction; Katniss’ fire is for the preservation of life at the necessary price. Vengeance destroys, while survival recognizes the importance of humanity and life and – well, survives.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Incomplete Statements – Joss Whedon’s Take on Character Suffering

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As all you Marvel fans know, Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron will be hitting American theaters May 1, 2015. From the beginning, Mr. Whedon has stated that “death will play a part” in the sequel to his and Marvel’s 2012 SMASH (pun intended) hit that was Marvel’s The Avengers. But, on a side note, for those of you who for some reason hate Hawkeye and want to see him dead, Renner has some disappointing news for you.  According to Renner, the World’s Greatest Marksman is not going to get the axe in Age of Ultron. So unless Whedon has snipers trailing the actors and actresses who performed in the film, I do not see exactly what Renner would gain by lying about Hawkeye’s escape from the chopping block.

Okay, that being said, why am I writing this post? To start to answer that question, allow me to put up a couple of quotes from Joss Whedon, the Writing Jedi Master himself:

 

You’re known for your strong female characters, but often they meet ugly ends. Is there a disconnect there? If I create a strong female character, I’m going to want her to go through things. I’ve killed off characters, male and female, willy-nilly. I have a reputation for it. But if I’m not giving them real pain and hardship and tragedy, I’m not a storyteller. – Joss Whedon to Time Magazine June 17, 2013

 

When asked if he will kill an Avenger: “I’m always joking about that. Um…maybe?… But I’d have to have a really good reason, a really great sequence for [Marvel executives] to go, ‘We’ll cut off a potential franchise, that’s fine!’ They know as any good studio does, that without some stakes, some real danger, how involved can we get? We don’t just rule it out across the board, but neither is the mission statement ‘Who can we kill?’ We try to build the story organically and go, ‘How hard can we make it on these people?’ You go to the movies to see people you love suffer – that’s why you go to the movies.” – Joss Whedon on Avengers: Age of Ultron

 

First and foremost, let me say that I think Joss Whedon is a great storyteller. If we ever met and began talking, we may not agree on much, but I still think he is a great storyteller. Does this mean that, in the case of the quotes I cited above, I believe he is wrong? No, I would not say that. What I would say is that Mr. Whedon did not seem to carry through on his statements.

I believe that the above accounts are only half the answer to the questions posed to him. He is correct when he says that the audience goes to a movie expecting to see the protagonists endure trials. And yes, sometimes the protagonists die at the end of their stories. This is totally acceptable, even if it is hard for some of us to swallow.

But the point I believe Mr. Whedon failed to make – perhaps because he was constrained by the amount of time the interviewer had, or the interviewer trimmed his response for some reason – is why the protagonists, the heroes and heroines of these films, suffer at all.

Why? That is the question we wrestle with, even in real life. Why does bad stuff happen? Why does it have to be so hard? Why do we – and therefore the characters we come to care about – have to get hurt?

I have a theory. Here are a couple of new angles on suffering that might make my theory clear:

Angle #1: Do you know how swords were made, readers? For centuries what one needed to make a sword was a forge, fire, metal, an anvil, and a large hammer, as well as a long set of tongs. I am not clear on all the particulars of sword forging, so I may be mistaken on certain points of the procedure. But from what I understand, once the smith had a rough, properly shaped piece of metal to work with, he had to strengthen the metal so that the sword would not break at the first thrust in battle.

This meant two things had to be done. One, the metal had to be plunged into the fire in the furnace and left there for some amount of time. Two, after the metal was hot enough, the smith pulled it out of the fire, laid it across an anvil, and began beating it into shape.   This process not only refined the shape of the sword, it strengthened the metal. Depending on when the smith – or the man who hired him to fashion a sword – wanted to finish a blade, the process I have just described could take hours, days, or even weeks and months. At the end of that time you had one durable, deadly weapon.

Angle #2: Everyone around the globe has been engaged in constructing something at one time or another in their lives. Whether it is a birdhouse, a human house, a car, a loaf of bread, or even something as simple and small as a homemade thank-you card, we have all shaped something at some point in our lives.

Think for a moment, readers, about the effort that goes into making the items I just listed. Birdhouses are often made of wood, which requires their builder to acquire the proper sized wooden boards, sand that wood down, and cut a hole in one of those wooden boards that is the right size to attract the bird species he wants to nest in the house. Then he has to nail the entire contraption together.

More effort must be expended in putting together a house for humans, or a car, and to make bread one needs to mix the ingredients together to make dough, which must then be kneaded. Even a child’s homemade thank-you card involves tools and effort. Fashioning such a card will most definitely require paper and scissors – and depending on how the child decides to embellish the card, their parents will need any number of items!

So what do these many separate things have in common? What does sword forging have in common with building a birdhouse, a human house, a car, bread, and a thank-you card? Answer: Each activity leads to inanimate objects being beaten, hammered, or cut into the form the shaper wants. And so it is that hardship shapes, or “forges,” characters – real or fictional.

Imagine that you are the sword I was speaking of a few paragraphs earlier. Think about what it would feel like to be thrust into a furnace for what seemed an agonizing eternity. Next envision being hauled out of the fire, feeling relieved that the hellish heat is gone. Then you realize that you are being put on an anvil, where the smith begins to pound you with a large, heavy hammer. And this goes on and on and on, until you are certain the torture will never end. But it does, and suddenly you are back in the fire in the furnace. Just like in Edge of Tomorrow, the process simply repeats and repeats, leaving you with the impression that it will never stop.

But at the end of all the “pain” in the forging process, what would it feel like to be a completed weapon? In some sense, I would think it would feel fulfilling. If you were a newly completed sword, and you looked back on the grinding process that made you what you were, you might think, “Well yeah, it hurt, but just look at me now! WOW!! This is so cool!”

So why do characters have to suffer during a story? Why do we, the people living and suffering in the real world, have to suffer?

In the first case, dealing with characters, on some intuitive level the audience understands that the pain the characters suffer depends in part on their choices and in part on factors outside of their control. The audience also knows that the trials a character experiences can make them stronger. For instance, the “fire” of Loki’s invasion “forged” the Avengers; it brought them together and made them an amazing, bad-guy “SMASHING” team. But we all know that the “forging” process was a painful one – especially for Avengers Bruce Banner, Thor, Tony Stark, and Hawkeye.

Banner had to learn that he had some control over the Hulk before he could truly join the team – but that was not an easy or fun lesson for him to ‘study.’ Tony and Thor each had to grow up and realize that they have limits; sometimes there are things one cannot prevent, people one cannot save. Tony learned he could not save everyone after Coulson’s ‘death.’ And getting stabbed in the gut by Loki finally taught Thor that maybe – just maybe – his “little brother” did not want to be brought home.

Hawkeye, arguably, endured the hardest and most grueling test. Loki took him apart from the inside out and left him to glue himself back together after Black Widow freed him. After being tortured like that, others might have taken the “easy way” out of learning that lesson by the simple expedient of putting a permanent halt on their breathing. Hawkeye did not; he faced it and he learned from it – and just what he took away from that experience will probably be revealed in Age of Ultron.

Now to the second case: why we suffer in the real world. Just like the characters we love, we suffer the consequences of our choices and we suffer because of things outside our control. There are two ways that we – and the characters we care for – can look at suffering. We can look on it with hate and disgust, becoming bitter and unbearable goblins in human skin – or we can look at in the way that a new sword might look back on its forging, “Yeah, that hurt. But I’m ready for the next challenge now! Come and get me – if you dare!”

That is why we watch the characters we love suffer in the stories we enjoy. To see whether they will get through the pain and how they will react to it. Some will become bitter and hateful, but it must be remembered that this is an initial reaction which can later be overcome. After all, Hawkeye was furious at Loki when he joined the Avengers in the first film. It was a natural reaction and completely understandable.

But did he stay that way? Doubtless, Loki had better hope he never meets the archer again anytime soon. But from what little we know of the sequel, Hawkeye has not allowed his anger and pain to poison the rest of his life. A hateful person, after all, would not have been quite so courteous in tone – if a little rude in words – when challenging Thor’s surety of the worthiness enchantment on his hammer. And it has been reported that the manner of his challenge to the Thunderer was as a friend, not as an antagonist.

This is why we watch the characters we love go through hardship. Because we feel solidarity with them on some level, and it helps us weather our own ordeals.

Now whether or not Mr. Whedon would agree with my assessment of his statements I do not know.   It may be that his declarations, as expressed in the quotes above, are his views in a nutshell. Whether they are or not, they set me to thinking, and this post is the result.

This post cannot contain all my views, of course – I am still being “forged.” My views will change as impurities are burned off or hammered out; but the opinions expressed in this post are, at least, a step toward becoming a completed “sword.” It is a long, arduous process that will take time – perhaps all my time. I have no more knowledge of what awaits me at the end of my life than a sword in the furnace or under the hammer does. I will have to wait and see.

Makes life exciting, doesn’t it?

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Zoids – The Shield Liger

Shield Liger

Here’s Spotlight! Today’s focus is on yet another zoid from the series Zoids: Chaotic Century. This zoid is the Shield Liger – a zoid designed and built by the Helic Republic to counter the Guylos Empire’s Zaber Fang. Although the zoid is referred to as a Liger, which is the offspring of a male lion and female tiger, the Shield Liger is based solely on the lion. Unlike the Zaber Fang, the Shield Liger has a larger cockpit and can seat two people, one to pilot the zoid and the other to “fly RIO,” or act as a sort of Radar Intercept Officer.

During the first half of Chaotic Century, the Helic Republic and the Guylos Empire were locked in a fierce war (we never learn exactly what began the war, and some of us are not particularly inclined to care why it started). The Republic was fighting for its survival as a nation and, being the underdog in the war, its weapons were not of the same quality as the Empire’s. One character in the series, Moonbay, continually scorned the quality of Republican-made goods, particularly its ammunition.

Since the Empire had more wealth, it could afford better gear and weaponry for its soldiers, while the Republic had to make do with what it could build from scratch or buy from others. Undoubtedly, some of these merchants who sold the Republic goods for its war effort offered them technology that was substandard. Building stuff from scratch also means that some of the Republic’s equipment would not function well, and at times it was known to give out in the worst possible situations.

Shield Liger Missile Launch

The Shield Liger is a zoid which is not quite as lithe as a Zaber Fang, but it is a high performance and maneuverable zoid nonetheless. Because the Republic had less wealth than the Empire, they had to make the most of the weapons they had. So the Shield Liger, unlike the Zaber Fang, comes equipped with two eight shot missile launchers that are folded against its sides when it is not in combat. When in a battle these missile launchers can be lowered and used to fire missiles at an enemy zoid (the above photo showcases the Shield Liger’s left missile launcher in action).

The only problem with the launchers is that they can only carry so many missiles. Not only that, the Shield Liger must remain still while it fires its missiles, making it vulnerable to attack if it is still firing at a rapidly approaching target (this was never seen in any series that I know of, but it is a possibility I have thought about). Also, if a particularly ruthless enemy pilot wanted to severely damage a Shield Liger, they could snap off one or both of the launchers when these were lowered (this was never shown in any zoids series that I can recall, but it was another prospect I considered).

The Republicans, ever practical with their limited supplies, also installed a two barrel cannon (it may have been a laser cannon, I never learned for sure) beneath a panel of armor on the zoid’s back. This panel is not shown in either of the attached photos, unfortunately.

This cannon would be an asset it close combat, because the Shield Liger pilot could extend the cannon and fire broadside at a rival zoid if it could get close enough. The three barrel cannon between the Shield Liger’s forelegs is another weapon that could be used to great effect in combat (the Zaber Fang, too, traditionally comes equipped with a similar cannon between its forelegs).

Perhaps the Shield Liger’s most impressive weapon is its energy shield (hence the name Shield Liger). Though it is not shown in either of the attached photos, the shield is a dome of white energy that is activated when a plate of armor under the zoid’s chin flips down at a roughly seventy degree angle and another plate of armor behind the cockpit flips up at the same position. This activates the Shield Liger’s energy shield, which covers the front half of the zoid.

The shield can be used defensively to protect the zoid from enemy fire, but it can also be used offensively. Ramming another zoid while the Liger has its shield engaged can either damage the other zoid or it can knock the opposing zoid down. But while the shield is a great asset and can block most conventional fire, a heavy duty enemy shell, a ram attack by another zoid, or a heavy bombardment can tax the zoid’s energy reserves to the point where the zoid cannot keep the shield up. Once the shield is down, the zoid is again conventionally vulnerable.

The shield can also be pierced by another zoid’s attack, not just enemy shells. Raven was able to penetrate the shield of Van’s Shield Liger with his Zaber Fang (Van is the protagonist of Chaotic Century). The maneuver destroyed Raven’s Zaber Fang but it also broke through the Liger’s shield. And there are zoids with capabilities that can destroy a Shield Liger very easily, but those will be discussed another day.

I have always had a preference for the Shield Liger, even when other, stronger zoids stepped onto the scene. It is a strong zoid when paired with a capable pilot, and I think that, if zoids were real, I would choose to pilot a Shield Liger. But that right now is a dream that has yet to see any chance of fruition.

Still, it’s fun to have a dream like this, I think.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian