The Monday Muse: On Wonder Suits

Greetings, Ladies and Germs, for this week’s edition of The Monday Muse! So…do you know what the Muse’s Kryptonite is? Moving. I am one hundred percent sure she took one look at my insane, box-laden place and assumed I was going to ask for her help, so she took off. I’m actually writing this in the hope that we’re able to set up our Wi-Fi on time to post it today; if not, it’ll be the sadly delayed Monday Muse. But fear not! Where there is Nerd, there shall soon be Internet!

Anywho, on to the writing. I believe I shall take for my inspiration the post from yesterday’s Silly Sunday, for it is a subject near and dear to my heart. In fact, one of my absolute favorite websites on the planet is The Hawkeye Initiative, where the creators have endeavored to demonstrate just how ridiculous the art is for female characters by replacing female characters with Hawkeye.

There is a straw man argument going around that male comic book characters suffer from the same over-sexualization as females; after all, you don’t see too many scrawny comic book characters, do you? They’re all muscular and, in their own way, the idealized male form. The problem with this argument is, of course, that the way females are drawn isn’t the ideal female form: it is the sexualized fantasy of the ideal form. It is an ideal only in the minds of a certain breed of male. Most women do not want globes on their chest. Why?

  1. Breasts should not be perfectly round. That is just ridiculous. Only fake, porn star boobs are that shape and they’re hideous. And also probably useless for the one thing boobs were put on this planet to do (namely, feed babies).
  2. Gigando breasts like that are painful. They’re heavy. They require holstering and are ultimately damaging to the spine. Lots of women with breasts that size end up reducing them because they’re just so damn painful (not to mention inconvenient). Pair giant boobs with the ridiculous waist size so en vogue with female characters and these poor girls are not only fighting crime, but fighting against the twin specters of scoliosis and debilitating back pain.

Further, the bodily ratios so apparent in these females are, in general, very rare. Are they impossible? Of course not. I’m sure that among the seven billion people on this planet, there are women out there who are shaped like Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel (or She-Hulk). But it’s not common. And to have so many women have a default shape of big boobs, tiny waist, and rounded hips is ridiculous. Even working out constantly and fighting crime isn’t going to give every woman that body type. Some women naturally have broader shoulders than hips or a big ol’ butt and no amount of crime fighting is going to change that.

This is problematic for another reason beyond just the tendency to deliver upon a male viewer’s fantasy. It is problematic because it is so very lacking in diversity. This is a comic book world where the new Miss Marvel is so amazing precisely because she manages to break these norms. What makes Miss Kahn so special isn’t really that she’s Muslim (though kudos to Marvel for writing a Muslim character): it’s that she is a normal girl, and she is drawn like one. In a world where male comic book characters have body types that run the gamut (Superman is not drawn like Flash is not drawn like Wolverine is not drawn like Spidey or Tony Stark), reflecting the nature and power set of the character, why is it that females have the same variation of large breasts, small waist, and rounded hips?

See, the thing is that male characters are also drawn to an ideal, but that ideal isn’t a sexual one. Male characters aren’t drawn to attract the eye of female readers. That ideal is purely for men; an ideal of strength and fitness. It’s aspirational rather than libido-driving. Superman’s physique isn’t there to titillate; it’s there to reflect his strength and stolidity. He is the Man of Steel, after all, right? Spiderman, while muscular, is still slender; this is done to imply, through the visual medium, that his character is about stealth and agility, flying through the air on webbing. He can’t be physical like Superman; it wouldn’t work. But if you were to put the Lady Sif—a warrior character—next to, say, Emma Frost…their body types wouldn’t be as different as you would think. Oh, a bit taller here…slightly bigger boobs there…but ultimately? All variations on the same theme.

And then there’s the costumes. Let’s compare Superman, for example, and Wonder Woman. Both have very similar identities and very similar power sets. Wonder Woman is not quite so invulnerable, of course, and I’m reasonably sure they haven’t given her the ability to shoot lasers from her eyes, but they’re quite similar. Why then does poor Diana practically run around—depending upon the artist—in various degrees of thong beachwear? What advantage does wearing a glorified bathing suit give her? Do comic book artists think the only way we can tell Wonder Woman from Superman is to have one be practically naked? And why do so many females fight in heels? I can only imagine it’s because most comic book artists have never actually worn them before. These are intelligent, kick-ass ladies; they’re going to wear sensible footwear to fight bad guys.

See…Superman wears that ridiculous outfit of his because, again, it’s a reflection of the character. He doesn’t need armor or anything, but he does need an outfit that is (minus the cape, which I’m guessing is a holdover from his early origins) lacking in extraneous fabric. You know…for the flying. Or Batman, who has in recent years developed a costume that makes use of armor to reflect his becoming a more physical character, because it wasn’t enough for him to just be the best prepared and smartest dude in the room. (It really wasn’t.) What practical purpose does Diana’s costume serve? What character trait does it reflect? Why, when discussing Black Canary’s fishnets, is the excuse always “she needs it for flexibility?” Does Spiderman need fishnets for flexibility? I think not. And…because I’ve heard this argument before: No, Spiderman’s movements are *not* sexual. They were drawn to be a reflection of his agility. If sexuality was the outcome, it was certainly an unintended side effect.

You see, that, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of the problem: the sexualization of female characters is intentional, whereas it is a consequence for the males. If Spiderman is sexy, it is because the combination of his slender body type and “spider-like” movements is appealing. If Spiderwoman is sexy, it’s because she was drawn that way. And that is problematic.

This has been another Monday Muse! Check back with us on Friday for some boozy books!

-C

ps- I am aware that both Superman and Wonder Woman have had a change in wardrobe. I do not know how I feel about jeans and a t-shirt for Supes because it makes him feel a bit like a ‘bro’, but I very much like the new costume for Diana. Of course…the last time DC tried to give WW pants, the fandom whined so much, it went back to bikini briefs, so we’ll see how long this lasts.

Silly Sunday: Justice Best Served

Happy Silly Sunday, everybody! Let’s get right to the fun stuff!

Yes, we’re all LOLing, but this is an important issue for female superheroes everywhere. They are forced to fight crime in bikini bottoms and halter tops (at best). How is that conducive to catching bad guys? It isn’t. Because, realistically, these super ladies are splitting their priorities between fighting bad guys and fighting a wardrobe malfunction (and a mega wedgie)…

Pants for justice!

-A

Shakespeare Saturday: Sharing is Caring

Greetings, fine readers! Today marks yet another edition of Shakespeare Saturday, in which we share our love of the Bard, sometimes even intelligently. I know I’ve promised a whole spiel on why I think the man wrote his own plays despite quite likely being the only person in his family who was even remotely literate…but I can’t do that today. I’ve only got internet at this here apartment for another couple of hours. Actually, I’m writing to you from the past! It’s Friday night here and I’m surrounded by a veritable menagerie of random stuff–some of which I even remember owning. In case it isn’t clear, I’m in the process of moving and tomorrow is the BIG DAY. Literally, it’s the day I’m moving all the stuff that’s too big for my car. Like Shakespeare running from Stratford (perhaps because he poached a deer) to London for work, I am moving for work. Granted, it’s not for my work, but I can blog anywhere, right? Right.

Anyway…because I hardly have the time to devote to a post like that (I feel like I’m hyping it up now, and I have to write a dissertation-level post to make up for it), I’m going to share with you one of my favorite blogs. The creator has more than just Shakespeare among her topics of choice, but it’s one of my go-to for Willy-related goodness. I feel bad about just foisting today’s duties upon an unexpecting blogger, but as I’m probably off crying in corner as you’re reading this (I found out today that my grandmother is *also* moving and GUESS WHO’S HELPING?!), I am hardly in the right frame of mind to do anything.

Plus, I distinctly remember telling all of you that there would be times this particular blog was not deep at all. There are going to be days we quite literally just post a picture and move on. I love Shakespeare–we both love Shakespeare–but I’m not a Shakespeare scholar. I’m a historian. I just really enjoy his work. This is a fangirl blog some four-hundred years after the man died. Actually…didn’t he die in 1616? Does that mean we can have a 400-year death day party next year? YES! WE CAN DO THAT!

OK. So…now that I’ve rambled on for far too long (this is my break from packing, guys…I’m trying to make it last, OK?), here’s that blog you should totally go read if at all possible:  Shakespeare Blog!

She totally wrote the post on Richard III that belongs on a Shakespeare blog. I would have just ranted about how much Tudor propaganda (with Shakespeare playing a big ol’ roll) ruined the man’s reputation and how we all think he had a hunchback when he just had scoliosis…and both of his arms were totally OK. And there’s no proof he killed his nephews in the Tower (and really…he had very little reason to–it served the Tudors far more than Richard that they died in such a fashion), either. Anyway, go read the blog. Pretend I wrote something anywhere near as good. Why can’t there be a day of the week that begins with H? I would like a history day. Throwback Thursday just doesn’t have the right…feel…

I’ll see you on Monday. Maybe a nice, rambling discussion of something historical will make me feel better. Until then!

-C

Boozy Books Fridays: The Strange Case of The Stranger

Well, it’s time again for Boozy Books and this week we’ve picked a real doozy. It’s time, dear readers, that we break from the expected and try something that challenges who we are, the way we think, and how we see the world. Today, nerds and nerdettes, we will be diving headfirst into Albert Camus’ philosophy of the absurd with his existential masterpiece The Stranger.

The story of an apathetic French Algerian, The Stranger challenges the concepts of traditional emotions and morals from start to finish. Written as a first-person narrative the reader sees a lot of unpleasantness as told by the unfeeling Meursault. He does not experience any range of expected human emotion and his only concession seems to be placing people into categories of interesting or annoying. He lacks feeling at his mother’s funeral, he lacks feeling in his “relationships”, he lacks feeling in bed, and to top it all off this lack of concern is demonstrated flawlessly when he murders a man with no particular motive or… wait for it… feeling. The man is an existential machine! Nothing matters because there is no meaning in the world beyond the meaning we assign it and he has assigned literally zero meaning to anything.

The book is a fast read and ends with possibly the only tantrum of Meursault’s apathetic life in which he laments the absurdity of the human condition and the meaninglessness of his very existence. The universe is indifferent to mankind and, thus, so is Meursault. Poor, bitter, indifferent, murderous Meursault….

So what are we pairing with this deliciously dark story? WHO CARES! If Meursault has taught us anything it’s that nothing matters, right? So drink wine, or liquor, or beer. HELL, drink wine and liquor and beer. The world is amoral. The world is absurd. Life is unfair and we’re all going the way of the bloody dinosaur so drink up!

If you really want to enjoy existentialism I say do it with a stiff drink or two and rediscover your own humanity by saying to yourself “why would you just kill some random guy? Why would you kill anyone, period?? Yes, death  is coming for us all, but you don’t have to expedite it, you crazy existential bastard!”

With that said, enjoy the book and enjoy some drinks, but please take Camus’ message with a grain of salt. While our mortal time may be limited, we cannot live while incessantly preparing for the arrival of death. So live, love, eat, drink, read, explore, dance, sing, cry, laugh and above all do it with passion.

Adieu mes amis,

-A

http://www.amazon.com/The-Stranger-Albert-Camus/dp/0679720200

The Monday Muse: Saving the Planet with Satire

Hey there, Nerd Cactus followers! Today’s musing is brought to you by the frustration of living in a state which has banned the terms “climate change” and “global warming”. YAY! I love living in denial…

Yes, despite the melting of the polar ice caps and rising levels of the ocean, there are still politicians who insist that if we don’t talk about it, it’ll just… go away. False. At the current rate of rising sea levels Miami will be underwater within years. Newsflash: the city is already flooding. Not from rainwater, but from storm sewers that overflow during high tide (which is only going to get higher). Sea levels have risen between 9 and 12 inches in the last century and they are expected to rise up to 6 more inches by 2030. This is scary, people. And Florida is not the only one in danger either. Coastlines of the world, prepare to meet thy maker.

So, in the satiric style of Jonathan Swift (but I’m partially serious), I propose that we do something about this impending doom. Please pass along the following proposal to friends, family, and politicians alike, because I truly believe this is a serious matter. And if I get arrested for fighting “climate change” so be it.

Ahem.

It is a melancholy object, to those who walk the streets of South Beach and patron its many bars, when they see our famed dirty roads flooded with foul, filthy water. Need I remind anyone that tourists are here to enjoy our basic level of grubby, piss-smelling sidewalks? They are not interested in floods of sewer water. Ah, how the tides have turned as our lack of respect for mother nature attempts to bite us in the behind.

I think it is agreed by all parties that the real estate bought on Star Island should, at all costs, maintain its value rather than being swallowed by the mighty Atlantic and forever eternalized as the next Atlantis. Though perhaps a submarine tour of  Gloria Estefon and Shaq’s homes would provide a lucrative business venture for the pioneering deep-sea entrepreneur. Hmm. Food for thought.

But, NO, if we put our heads together we can ensure that the tides do not get any higher and our tourist season goes on. And on. And on. We can continue to reap the benefits of our ocean-front properties as long as we ensure their continued existence. That ought to appeal to the Scroogian members of our “elected leadership” whose love of money is only equaled by their love of spouting nonsense.

It is in the interest of the world (economy of tourism) that we attempt to save our coastlines. We must prevent the sea level from rising any more than it already has. In fact, the best thing to do would be to lower the sea level so that when the ice caps melt we end up back at square one. Everyone is comfortable being back at square one, yes? Well, anyway, with this plan we would (at least temporarily) find ourselves with larger beaches, making room for more walking, talking wallets.

So here it is. I propose that we scoop out large amounts of water from the ocean. Of course, by large amounts, I’m talking tons. But once the water is out we can desalinate it and redistribute it as drinking water. Also, we can sell the salt as table salt. People are totally into sea salt right now.

j8hs3

With the sea level hindered (at least temporarily) we won’t have to deal with Miami’s flooding. While the “scoopage” could be handled by large ocean carriers equipped with construction equipment-esque buckets it could also be handled by the people. Imagine if every resident of Miami were to go out and take two gallons of seawater home with them after a day at the beach. Not only would it be cost efficient, but the populace would feel a collective sense of accomplishment, having done something to protect their homes. Brilliant!

Yes, my friends, change is possible, and it does not require becoming particularly environmentally friendly either. With a pair of buckets every man, woman and child across the coasts of the world can make a difference. And these delightful sea salt caramel brownies.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sea-salt-caramel-brownies/

Thanks for listening. We appreciate your donations. Nerd Cactus for President. Etc. Etc.

-A

Silly Sunday: Richard III

Greetings! Welcome to a very special edition of Silly Sunday. I promise you I will post something silly at the end of this post–I wouldn’t want to ruin the premise, would I–but I felt today needed something a little less…ridiculous.

As many of you probably know, King Richard III of England, the last Plantagenet King (though, considering that most of the Tudors’ Royal Blood came from John of Gaunt on Henry’s side and both Edmund of Langley AND Lionel of Antwerp–and some John of Gaunt, too, actually–on Elizabeth of York’s, there was still a lot of Plantagenet blood there), was reinterred today after a special ceremony. A huge cortege, a special Compline service, twenty-one gun salutes…the works. A burial fit for a King, no matter how ignominious his previous burial site. Or his death.

I am very passionate about Richard III. He is one of those historical figures that has fascinated me for a long time and for many reasons, not the least of which has always been the dichotomy between the source material and the way he is portrayed in popular media. Shakespeare…well, we here at Nerd Cactus love him, of course, but part of me will never forgive him for Richard III. Yes, I realize it was because he was writing in Tudor times, but I will never forgive Mel Gibson for Braveheart, either, so…that’s OK.

Now, rather than launch into a very long, very (likely) boring to most people that aren’t me essay…and, you know, miss the point of Silly Sunday entirely, here’s the Richard III song from the BBC’s Horrible Histories.

See? I told you I’d give you some silliness. Though, actually, Horrible Histories is quite excellent and I recommend it heartily. So, there you go…another Silly Sunday down! We’ll see you tomorrow for some Monday-based musing!

-C

Shakespeare Saturday: The Fool

Hi there, fellow Cacti! I’m writing to you via the WordPress app while backstage at a performance that has absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare…
But fear not! I have thought long and hard about what subject to delve into today and have landed upon the Fool. Yes, that deceptively simple-minded, recurring archetype of unexpected wisdom found in Shakespeare’s tragedies; the Fool has always been harumphed at despite his ability to deliver truth where our main characters can’t seem to see it.
It’s a rather excellent use of the stage, for the plays in which the Shakespearean Fool is featured do not typically utilize a chorus to depart information across the fourth wall. However, the Fool has no problem talking directly to the audience, supplying a comedic departure from the action as well as pertinent observations about the characters and the action of the play. The greatest of Shakespeare’s fools are successful because they possess incredible wit; more so than our great heroes who are too busy drowning in their own hamartia to pay them any mind.
The Fool was a pretty familiar character by the time Shakespeare was writing his plays – having been born of the jesters of the middle ages. BUT Shakespeare extended the use of the archetype by including the characteristics of the fool into characters who have since been labeled “clowns”. These “clowns” perform the same function as the fools in Willy’s tragedies though they do so from a place that is more rooted in reality. For instance, Mercutio – of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – is a beloved character who has been classified as a clown for his use of wordplay and blatant mockery of the play’s main themes. (Btw R&J does make use of a chorus, but it’s not a typical device in the Bard’s tragedies).
While the clowns serve much the same purpose as “the Fool” they are camouflaged as characters who just happen to shoot their mouths off at the appropriate moment; providing levity where the audience has been met with drama, drama, and more drama.
Let’s take a closer look at the Fool in King Lear. This is one of Shakespeare’s characters that is literally a fool. Shakespeare’s got a few of these; characters like Clown in Othello and Fool in Timon of Athens. I adore Lear’s jester in particular because the audience is well aware of what’s actually going on with Lear’s daughters so the Fool turns his observations directly to Lear. The Fool fearlessly speaks the truth yet the class division between nobility and their inferiors is apparent in Lear’s inability to recognize the Fool’s wisdom. The Fool plays commentator throughout the action of the play and it is through his eyes that we see the ideology of good overcoming evil is an illusion , as is the belief that the world we live in follows any kind of rational order of existence. It is as a result of this understanding that he accompanies Lear on his descent into madness as a sort of caretaker; the only character capable of caring for the mad king.
So anyway… To sum this all up: The Shakespearean Fool is so much more than a cursory glance would suggest. In his very absurdity the Fool is often the character who possesses the foresight to prevent further tragedy (even if that foresight is wrapped in layers of sarcasm).
That’s all from me. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Shakespeare Saturday and learned a little something.

-A

That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool, no knave, perdy.

-The Fool

King Lear Act II scene iv

Boozy Books Fridays: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Greetings and salutations, readers of Nerd Cactus and welcome to the latest edition of Boozy Books Friday, in which we, your literary sommeliers, take you on an adventure of the mind and the palate. This week, we’re hopping on the Heart of Gold, launching the improbability drive, and hoping to avoid Vogons reading poetry (or maybe building interspace highways). That’s right, this week we’re delving into the madcap and thoroughly absurd world of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I should make it known that I am simply doing the first book in the series and not the entire thing, though of course I have no problems with reading the extended books, either. A trip to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe is always in order after all and, so long as you’ve got your towel, I can’t see any reason why you can’t keep drinking and reading. You know…so long as you’re safe about it. I wouldn’t want to encourage any excessive drinking.

Please note: there may be some of you who believe we should have delved into the Discworld books in honor of Sir Terry Pratchett. Believe me, we wanted to, and there is every intention on our end of presenting a pairing for his series, but there simply wasn’t enough time to devote to figuring out the perfect pairing. We don’t just pull them out of thin air, and rushing to get something together seemed like more of an insult than taking the time to do it right. So no worries, we’ll take a trip to the Unseen University soon. Promise.

Now…let us begin…

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

I think, ladies and gentlemen, that for all the amazing quotes and characters and hilarity that have come from the pen of the late Douglas Adams, that quote best sums up everything there is to know about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Why, you may ask, when it tells us the answer to life, the universe, and everything?! Well, for one, what is the question? We can hardly be expected to understand the answer without the question, can we? For another, as big as space is, Douglas Adams’ imagination is just as big. He starts off with Arthur Dent waking up on the day the Earth is going to end and ends with him nearly murdered by hyper-intelligent mice before going off for a bite to eat at the aforementioned Restaurant at the End of the Universe. And that’s just the first book in the six book trilogy!

What makes this book so wonderful is its whimsy and deceptive silliness. It is full of quintessentially British humor, which makes one giggle, but that isn’t all, and it isn’t the most important. This book–and the entire series that follows it, of course–manages to say some very poignant things in between calling people hoopy froods and dropping a surprised whale from the atmosphere above Magrathea. That is not to say, of course, that its contributions to pop culture can be discounted; one needs only read this post to see just how much Adams has contributed to the zeitgeist. But, as important as towels and 42 and DON’T PANIC are as contributions to the collective that is pop culture, there is a great deal of satire to be found within these pages. One of my favorite quotes in the entirety of the book is this one: “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” Why? Because it’s…rather true. The people who’d make the best leaders are often the ones that would make the worst politicians and vice versa.

Where Douglas shines for me is in his use of language. His sentences are often so evocative simply because of their sheer inanity. They twist, taking the reader to a place that they never expected to go, really. Take this sentence for example:  “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” Vogon ships are lumbering and graceless, hanging in the sky only because that is what they’re meant to do. And from this sentence, we are able to extrapolate so much about the Vogons themselves: they are like their ships. A few chapters later, when Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect (he took his name because he incorrectly deduced that cars were the dominant life forms on Earth) are trapped in a Vogon ship, your beliefs are confirmed. So much from one little sentence. Not only that, but an incongruous sentence that manages to take the traditional form of the simile and twist it on its head. And this incongruity doesn’t just find its way into sentences, either; it’s all over the book. These sorts of build-ups for weird or slightly disappointing payoffs seem to form the heart of the book’s humor. Why is the Earth ending? Some catastrophic event? Plague? Intergalactic warfare? No. It’s being destroyed to make way for an interspace highway. The big bad Vogons? Obsessive bureaucrats! Arthur Dent, the last man on Earth? A regular man wandering around, completely lost and wanting nothing more than to go back to a home that doesn’t exist (or at least find a decent cup of tea–another of those distinctly British jokes).

Douglas Adams’ satire is so very different than Jane Austen’s, or Jonathan Swift’s. This is, of course, because there are multiple forms of satire, but also because Adams seems to have invented a form of satire all of his own. It’s so distinctly Douglas Adams, at once full of irony, mischief, and keen social observation, and delightfully whimsical and idealistic. As bad a week as Arthur Dent is having–and having one’s planet destroyed counts as bad, I’d say–the book is still optimistic. This might be, of course, because Earth isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. Space, remember, is big. Really big. And Earth, if you consult the Guide, can only be classified as mostly harmless.

Now…there are three choices one can make here insofar as libations are concerned, two of which include booze (unless one wants to throw a little tipple into the third). The first is just a good, old-fashioned ale from down the pub. It’s good. You’ll want the beer (and the peanuts–can’t forget the peanuts) to help you as you escape Earth’s destruction, in any case. Make sure it’s an English ale, please (so no Guinness or Blue Moon, or anything). Something like Newcastle or Boddingtons, or whatever suits your fancy. The second choice is the ever-present cuppa (cup of tea), which the English seem to have decided is the perfect panacea for everything from a paper cut to, well, the planet being destroyed along with everyone and everything on it. It’s up to you if you wish to add a little something. Third, is, of course, the Pan-galactic Gargle Blaster, which is best described as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.” There are many recipes all over the internet for adapting the thing, so prepare one to your taste and sip away. Careful, though…they’re lethal.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gents! Another edition of Boozy Books Fridays! Join us next time, when we’ll give you more books, more booze, and perhaps some Babelfish! Until then, so long and thanks for all the fish!

-C

http://www.amazon.com/Hitchhikers-Guide-Galaxy-Douglas-Adams/dp/0345391802/

The Monday Muse: On Names

Greetings, fine readers of Nerd Cactus Land, and welcome to today’s edition of The Monday Muse, wherein we delve into less specific, more (hopefully) thoughtful topics designed to make someone think. I don’t know who that someone is, but hopefully they’re reading because otherwise this is all a waste.

I admit that I was at something of a loss as to what to write today. The Muse…she is fickle, is she not? After spending the weekend at Disney, I found that I was drained both mentally and physically. I was inspired to write nothing…except maybe another rant about how much I dislike Frozen, brought on by the sheer inundation of Frozen-related everything on display everywhere. Meanwhile, Tangled is relegated to a single bathroom at Magic Kingdom. A bloody bathroom. What is up with that?!

But that is not what I want to write about. We already know I don’t like Frozen. I’ve covered it. Unfortunately, that was the only thing that was popping into my mind when it came time to think about a topic for today…along with why it is too damn hot here in Florida. And so I thought, I pondered, I stressed…I even considered finding a topic generator and writing some sort of short fiction. But then, the Muse dropped the perfect topic into my lap.

It all begins with Sharp Falcon. Yes. Sharp Falcon. Which was a name someone suggested for a professional Software Test Automation product.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you blinked a few times. Maybe raised an eyebrow or two. Or you burst out laughing, because who names something Sharp Falcon? It sounds like a too-literal translation of some really cool move from a Japanese video game. Or…a Power Rangers formation. Whatever it is, it is not something you name a professional…anything. It just lacks everything a name is supposed to have. Take it from a writer…we know a thing or two about names.

Names are very important. A good name has power. It has oomph and pizzazz. You can speak it easily–trippingly on the tongue, if you will–and it is pleasing to the ear. Something about it sticks with you. Sherlock Holmes, for example, or Tristram Shandy.  Or maybe Inigo Montoya, though perhaps that’s just because it comes as part of a crazy-awesome bit of dialogue that anyone in their right mind can quote at the drop of a hat. These names are famous because they have resonance. Your mouth likes to make those movements and your ear likes to hear those sounds. And it doesn’t really need to be strange, either. Harry Potter is much better than Barry Hopper, isn’t it?

Another thing to note is the fact that names must also be a reflection of what it is they’re describing. It has to work, in other words, for the character. No, it doesn’t need to literally reflect the character (or product, company, etc); it just needs to evoke the right imagery. It needs to fit. This is true even of naming newborns, right? Parents often plan on a particular name for their child only to realize that it just doesn’t fit the person that is staring up that them (or, I suppose, sleeping up at them). And if this is true of a human child, with unknown characteristics, it is doubly true for a purposeful construct like a literary character. This is not to say you can’t go the literal route; it worked for Ron Swanson with the Very Good Building Company, didn’t it? But naming your enforcer Strong Guy without any sort of irony…not that fun. Looking at you, Marvel. So…let’s go with the right connotation, shall we? Not everyone can pull off Major Major Major Major, after all.

For example, do you think Luke Skywalker would have been as cool with the name Annikkin Starkiller? Yes, but in a very different way. Because of its peaceful imagery, Luke Skywalker is the name of a hero; Annikkin Starkiller, on the other hand, with its evocative images of violence and aggression, seems far more villainous and sinister. Professor Moriarty is also a villain name, given the obvious connection to ‘death’ (morir is Spanish for ‘to die’). Lord Voldemort is imperious due to the adoption of a title, but there’s also the meaning of Voldemort. Volere in Latin is ‘I roll’, de is of or from, and mortem is death. So, constructing this into a name, you get ‘I roll from death’ or, more loosely, ‘roll of death’ (which evokes a black cloud of looming evil). Further in Harry Potter is the use of (sometimes loose) Latin to make spells: expelliarmus is from expello, which is itself a combination of ex (out) and pello (to drive), and armus, meaning weapon. So, basically, Rowling is awesome, but we already knew that.

Taking all of that into consideration, it becomes obvious that Sharp Falcon is just not a good name for anything. A name that reflects the product and is memorable for something other than being Sharp Falcon (i.e. silly) is far better. Try a different language, particularly one that is no longer widely spoken (Latin is perfect for this), or words that have the right imagery for what you’re trying to describe. Combine this with words that sound good and are fun to say, and you’ll eventually find the perfect name. The name is out there somewhere; you’ve just got to figure out what it is you want to name, first.

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of The Monday Muse. We’ll be back on Friday with the latest incarnation of Boozy Books!

-C

ps- Just for the funsies, I tried to turn Sharp Falcon into something cool. I came up with Peregrine Dagger, who’s a British investigator-type character, probably gifted with some sort of magical ability. Either that or it’s a literal dagger that an Indiana Jones-type character needs, because it belongs in a museum. Whatever I decide, I’m definitely writing it. Peregrine Dagger lives!

Silly Sunday: When Memes Bring the World Together

Hi there, Nerd Cactus readers! Welcome back!

Today is Silly Sunday which means (drum roll)… absolutely nothing! No worrying about thought-provoking posts or social commentary, we’re just here to have a good time. And a good time is almost always guaranteed by a well-placed, quick-witted meme. Memes have a strange, mystical power that brings strangers together and quite literally form a dialogue of their own which transcends actual language.

A “meme-tacular” event took place in Germany recently and demonstrates my point perfectly. A broken door and a ton of imaginative meme lovers created something which supersedes language and gives us a look at how our current-day culture has honed an ability to sum up its thoughts with an image accompanied by a succinct (and often sarcastic) block of text.

Below is the link for the complete explanation and collection of memes in regards to this event (as well as my own addition to the crop of “Techniker” memes). Enjoy!

-A

The Meme-tastic German Door

keanu