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Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

The Legend of Polybius. Now on YouTube!

In History, Mythology, Portland, Video Games on May 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

Just today I found out that someone put my Polybius talk on Youtube. So, if you want to watch me talk about a killer fake video game, here it is.

The Band Styx is Not Worthy of Its Name

In Music, Mythology on March 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

The other day as I strode through a Fred Meyer, I was somewhat appalled by the musical choices of whoever was running the PA system. Of course, the music in Fred Meyer is always bad, but on this particular day, it was especially offensive because jumping from the speakers was the absolutely insufferable music of Styx, one of the most insufferable bands to come out of the 1970s.

If you’re not familiar with the music Styx, that’s good. Keep it that way. They are most known for Mr. Roboto, probably one of the worst songs ever inflicted upon airwaves. While I hate Styx for their music, that’s not thing thing that annoys me the most about them. No, the reason I really hate Styx is that they don’t deserve their name.

Styx, of course, is the river in Greek mythology that runs through the Underworld. It runs through the darkness of Erebus and Tartarus, where the dead wander and eat dust for eternity. It runs past the mighty guardian wolf Cerberus, the great three-headed monster that keeps the dead in and the living out. It runs through the mighty fields of Elysium, where heroes feast in eternal splendor. Daily and nightly Charon, the ferryman of the dead boats upon the Styx, shuttling the departed to their final fate. Such powerful, iconic, resonating imagery, should not be the province of a terrible seventies progressive band. The name “Styx,” in a just world, would belong to a far better musical entity.

Somewhere, there’s a metal band whose guitar chords scream like the fiery wails of demons and, whose basslines thunder like the rage of the gods. But, they cannot name themselves after the river of hell.

Somewhere, there’s a darkwave group whose sythesizers echo like lonely cries of the forever damned and, whose singer cries like liquid darkness. But, they cannot name themselves after the waterway of eternal regret.

Somewhere, there’s an industrial act whose beats echo into hopeless eternity and whose refrains screech out the hows of Cerberus. But, they cannot name themselves after the boundary that divides the living and the dead.

It is just and proper that Nirvana, a band named for Buddhist enlightenment, did actually change the world. It is good and laudable that Black Sabbath, a band whose name recalls dark covens and hideous rituals, delivers on what their title promies. It is entirely appropriate that AC/DC’s music is exactly as electric as their name suggests. Styx, though, abuses their name. Their insufferable and flaccid music recalls nothing of the mighty mythological imagery that they summon up. They wish to invoke Death itself, but instead deliver horrible music that is already its own parody.

So, you suck, Styx. You stole one of the most potentially awesome names in music and mythology. The most badass geographic feature in Greek myth really should belong to a better band, but you ruined it, and I hate you for it.

ATTENTION POP CULTURE: Hades Was Not That Bad a Dude!

In Movies, Mythology, Rants on February 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

There seems to be a not-very-promising-looking kids movie coming out today all about the Greek gods. I have no plans on seeing it, but I’d like to use this as an excuse to talk about something that has bugged me a lot: Pop culture’s persistently negative portrayal of Hades. You know what I’m talking about- he’s usually portrayed as some kind of Greek version of Satan, or like something off a death metal album cover. Apparently in the shitty-looking new movie coming out today, he’s one of the main bad guys. And remember the Disney movie with Hades as the bad guy? Or how he looks like some inhuman S&M fantasy in the God of War games? It’s everywhere.

Unfortunately, this popular depiction of one of the major Olypians is utter bullshit. While the ancient Greeks were afraid of the lord of the Underworld and found him to be something of a hardass, he was not the “bad” member of the pantheon.

Hades was the more or less passive ruler of the next world. If he were a D&D character, he would have been Lawful Neutral king who managed his domain the same way that Zeus ruled the sky and Poseidon the sea. (Solid earth was open to all of them.)

The Greek underworld itself was also pretty varied, it wasn’t just a hell-like place where everyone got zapped with flames or tormented in a Dante-like fashion. For the most part, it was gloomy and boring, though the Elysium and Tartarus were offshoots of the underworld, where souls were either rewarded or punished, respectively.

While Hades was considered a fairly morbid and fearsome guy, people were afraid of him and his domain in the same way that people have always been afraid of the irreversible nature of death. A realm of death and eternity that no one could ever leave is kind of scary no matter how you slice it, but Hades was nothing like this:

Or this:

If anything, he was one of the more just Olympians. Yes, there was that nasty business with the rape of Persephone, but for the most part he was a pretty passive and predictable administrator. You know who was a pretty nasty member of the Greek pantheon? Well, almost all of them. Zeus, for instance, was a colossal dick, what with all the womanizing and the petty punishments he kept dishing out. Ares was a bloodthirsty maniac. Even Athena, one of the more likable deities, got all bitchy envious and turned Arachne into a spider. They were a petty, nasty belligerent bunch, which is why they’re such great characters and we continue to tell stories about them to this day.

But, for gods’ sakes, please stop using poor Hades as the stock bad guy. Cut the poor dude a break. If anything, Ares was the nastiest, what with all of the bloodlust and destruction.

BONUS MYTHOLGY RANT!: You know the sequel to The Mummy? Remember how The Rock makes a deal with Anubis and gets super-powerful? Remember how Anubis was portrayed as basically the Egytian version of Satan? Also wrong! Anubis was the god of morticians, and basically in charge disposing of corpses in a sanitary fashion. Portraying his as the malevolent figure in the Egyptian pantheon makes about as much sense as depicting St. Peter as the central villain of Catholicism. IT MADE NO SENSE! Especially since Egyptian mythology had Set and Apophis, two perfectly interesting malevolent baddies, available. Why did they pick on poor Anubis?