Posts Tagged ‘mythology

18
Jun
08

loreology: the hydra

If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.

 

 

This Week: Hercules’ Headache

 

Today I found myself playing two MMOs with similar names and the same, dangerous creature: the hydra. World of Warcraft, the current reigning champ in the online gaming arena, and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, an upcoming dynamic challenger, pit the multi-headed monster against you, though the hydra stamped me into the muck in WoW‘s Outlands mires and roared through elven mountains in Warhammer.

 

Most of us know the Greek myths of the hydra. The poison-breathing, multi-head-chomping beast guarded the entrance to the Underworld in some stories and fought Hercules as one of the Twelve Labors in others. It’s the offspring of Gaia, and the sibling to other impressive beasts like the Chimera and Cerberus. I didn’t know that the hydra is also a stellar constellation, a record label, a Transformer and one of the most sinister criminal syndicates in the Marvel Universe (okay, I did know that last one, comic geek that I am).

 

In some tales, if you cut the head off a hydra, it grows back–or even worse, it grows two to replace the one. Call it super regeneration, or, to tap into my comic geekness again, a super healing factor that only Wolverine can dream he had. Neither of the hydras I faced had a whiff of regeneration, and it’s a good thing or I’d still be hacking my way to salvation.

11
Jun
08

loreology: androids

If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.

 

 

This Week: Metal Heads

 

You could be fooled, or just plain confused, by an android. Unlike robots, which are more mechanical in nature, androids are machines designed to look like humans. Remember the replicants from Blade Runner? They were never called “androids” in the movie, but the movie was based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Cyborgs are even further removed from androids; they actually wear a little flesh, as they’re part living tissue and part metal.

 

Now, on the off chance that you were down at the local police station and had to pick out the android amidst a motley mechanized crew, I think I’d ask for a metal detector. Forget what your eyes see. Cyborgs beep half the time, androids probably fall in the middle and robots set off that annoying, constant whine that makes the sound of an unattended boiling kettle seem as blissful as crashing waves.

 

The term android comes from the Greek “andr,” or “man/male,” and the suffix “eides,” or “of the species.” Back in 1270, Albertus Magnus, a Middle Ages priest famous for critical thought, first used the word. It also appears in 1863 U.S. patents to describe “miniature humanlike toy automatons.”

 

Star Wars droids are the most famous modern-day examples. The shortened android term makes sense to me–chrome domes like C-3PO come up short in the human likeness department. Ironically, androids show up in Isaac Asimov’s classic I, Robot, and they’ve been the stars of video games, such as Data in any “Next Gen” Trek game or various characters in the Phantasy Star series.

 

In the 21st century, several Japanese companies have built “real” androids–you know, ones with plastic, computer chips, metal gears, or whatever makes it tick, not just imagination. They say one of the newer androids can fool the unsuspecting, so we’re certainly getting closer to BSG Cylons.

 

01
Jun
08

Reexamining Myth

I’ve always been fascinated by scientific discoveries. Particularly discoveries that challenge our base of knowledge and force us to reevaluate our view of the world. One such discovery was revealed this week when aerial photographs of an “uncontacted” tribe were published, showing a primitive culture thriving in the Amazon basin near the Brazilian/Peruvian border. In some shots, you can even see a couple of men on the ground (adorned in red body paint) aiming their bows at the intruding aircraft from which the photos were taken. This encounter instantly reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I can only imagine how the sight of a low-flying airplane impacted the tribe’s day/life/religion/society. While I’m not necessarily supportive of such drastic (and potentially devastating) intrusions, the photos were required to prove the existence of such tribes in an effort to persuade governments to protect their lands from illicit logging. I guess that’s why the prime directive is a bit flexible at times. Nevertheless, it makes me wonder how this event is being interpreted by the tribe. It is certainly fertile territory for the creation of a legend or myth.

Outside of UFOs, Sasquatch, and the Loch Ness Monster, we don’t generate many myths of our own anymore. But I’m still amazed when scientists confirm the existence of creatures that were believed to be extinct or purely fictional. The giant squid (Architeuthis) is a prime example. Before one was photographed in 2004, the giant squid was little more than a myth, popularized by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Such discoveries urge us to question the origins of our myths. Perhaps our myths are based on some element of fact? Just like someday the tribe in the Amazon may discover the buzzing metal bird that visited their village was really a man-made aircraft.

Too Human has reinvigorated my interest in mythology and its role in cultures. As a result, I’ve spent some time checking out online resources for background info, mostly on Norse mythology. My research was recently sidetracked by an engaging documentary called The Goblin Man of Norway. It details the discovery of ancient (but technologically advanced) artifacts recovered from a receding glacier in Norway. The freaky thing about it is, these artifacts are thousands of years old yet exhibit mechanization that possibly exceed today’s technology. Such discoveries of lost technology aren’t totally unprecedented. Remember the Antikythera mechanism? Anyway, the Norwegian Film Committee is hosting The Goblin Man of Norway film on their website, broken into three parts. The first part is available now and is well worth checking out.




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