Nerdscape: An Evolution

So, fellow Arizona author Kevin Hearne is hosting a photo contest for a worthy Nerdscape. A nerdscape, as Hearne puts it, is a place for you to let your geek flag fly. I took a picture, thinking that would be the end of it, however, as I was soon to find out, capturing one's Nerdscape can often become a sojourn into one's self... So my desk in its natural state is its own altar to geekdom. I didn't have to do much at all in the way of meeting Hearne's criteria for a Nerdscape. One of the qualifications is "junk food". I sent him a quick tweet to be certain that booze was not considered "junk food". (Kevin says that booze, like coffee, is a vital fluid and therefore cannot be considered "junk".) So, I added a bag of Dove chocolates to my desk, artfully arranged a couple of books and took the first picture. Again, other than the chocolates and the positioning of the books, this is my desk in (pretty much) its natural state.

Represented above you will find 4 moai, the sunflower from Plants vs Zombies, a poker chip, a random duck, a d20, Dianna Wynne Jones's "Castle in the Air", Batman EGO, "Little Richard" from the webco
mic "Looking For Group" (wearing Tigger ears from Disney World, I might add), the above mentioned chocolate, a red frog, my extra monitor, external speakers, slave drive and laptop sporting the Dr. Who/Pulp Fiction mash-up as a desktop, and my framed reminder to Keep Calm and Carry On. (It sparkles!)
Now, I looked at this and thought, "Well hell, you can't tell there's a Doctor Who reference on the computer with that...maybe I should condense things and get a closer shot."  I did... but you still couldn't tell the desktop was Whovian. So I switched to a desktop of multiple TARDISES (TARDISII?) and this was the result:
I looked at this one, prepared to fire it off to Kevin, when I realized that something was missing. What about my love of Firefly? So, I thought I should dig into my box of joy that I keep beneath my desk and pull out the Firefly sticker. Whilst going through that box, I found a few other things... and so, here is my Nerdscape.
Includes all of the above as well as one of my many Timmy (Think Geek) stickers, my Firefly sticker, my Volunteer badge from Phoenix Comic Con and a miniature Cthulhu.
I won't call it finished, because it never is, is it? This is so not comprehensive. Even now I'm thinking, "DUDE! I should've gotten my daughter's Ocarina Of Time to put in that pic!" But no, if I keep going it will just snowball into an obsession. I have enough of those. Clearly.

Thinking of You

This week has been full of silly shit, crazy shit and annoying bullshit. My brother-in-law was finally able to slay the dragon of Bureaucracy and sort out the title issues on my late sister-in-law's car (which means I get my car back and get to start going to the gym again WOO!). It should not take 4 separate trips to the MVD and long phone calls to be told in no uncertain terms what documentation you need in order to take care of this particular legal transition of power steering, but oh look, it did. Seriously, I wasn't even with him and I was tempted to punch someone square in the face when I heard the bullshit they put Zach through. A man shouldn't have to jump through so many hoops to put his dead wife's affairs in order. So, AZ MVD? Eat a bag of cocks.

Thankfully it's done now. Anyway, want to hear some funny shit from my week? Meet me after the jump!

Anyway, what else...? OH! Did you know that once someone from Australia ships something to the States they stop tracking it and it is lost forever in a sea of postage stamps and sadness? Found that out yesterday.

My daughter has asked Sean and I to teach her chess, so we've been doing that a bit every day. Last night she made me proud not just by holding her own at chess for a bit longer than expected, but also because when a friend of ours threatened us that he would bring "crazy" into our house, my 7 year old raised her hand and asked (very clinically), "How crazy?" She might as well have followed it up with, "Bring it on, dude. I got this."

Got a text that made me squeeful. It's always nice to know that something you wrote made a professional editor cry. (Your tears are ambrosia. Your screams the sounds of angels.)

One of the best parts of the week, though, was last night's conversation on Facebook. My friend Mel posted to my personal wall that Johnny Weir had been on Celebrity Cook-off and that it made her think of me. I thought, "Yay, always nice to be in someone's thoughts but... um... why?" I'm not a Johnny Weir fangirl (although I do appreciate the Lady Gaga of men's figure skating for his talents) nor do I watch Celebrity Cook-off. So I asked, "Why?"

Mel: You're a Loki fan, right? Didn't he play Loki?

Oh dear gods, how I cackled at this. I had friends over at the time, too. We all laughed hysterically at this. It was fantastic. So, here's how things shook out in that conversation.

Me: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA Tom Hiddleston played Loki. Johnny Weir is a figure skater. Mel: Oh my lord... I quit Me:  I kinda wanna pet you on the head right now. Mel: Now I don't know if it was loki or johhny weir. My mom and {daughter} are laughing hysterically now Me: A quick Google shows me it was the Ice Princ(ess)... Loki WAS the son of a Frost Giant... Johnny Weir IS a very pale ICE skater... I suppose that some sort of argument could be made that they are related. Also, they both have very interesting tastes in fashion. Mel: Do they at least look alike? Someone said something about conjuring the inner loki....I was watching from my bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth. The re aren't enough excuses. Do they at least look. Little similar?

I'll let you decide:

Johnny Weir, on the show in question.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki in THOR.

(I went with THOR Loki because AVENGERS Loki looks nothing like Johnny Weir. Likewise, any other picture of Tom Hiddleston ever taken does not resemble Weir.)

Here's the rest of my conversation with Mel.

Me: There's enough of a resemblance I could see that a ... no, I'm sorry. Hiddleston is a god amongst men. Mel: So take it as a compliment that seeing someone out of the corner of my eye that remotely looked like loki made me think of you....also now when I see this ice skater dude I will also think of you. I think I need to go to bed. Me: This totally made me giggle. *hugs* Mel: seeing it again and not from a room over via mirror...I'm having a serious what the hell was I thinking moment. I should also clarify that I do not (obviously) know actors by their names....even extremely famous ones....except morgan freeman for some reason. Example...that one bald dude in die hard is known as "die hard" in my home. So when someone said something about his inner loki (which I'm still trying to figure out unless I can not see OR hear) I assume it was loki....not Loki's genetically challenged distant half cousin twice removed. I'm still dying laughing. Thanks for loving my ridiculousness lol

Me: Just understand I may be blogging this tomorrow.

And so I am.

I hope you guys were as entertained as I was by this little foray into mistaken identity. Also, because I love you, I'll add another picture of Tom Hiddleston being sexy as hell. Have a great weekend, gang! Stay tuned! I might have an announcement over the next couple of weeks. *waggles eyebrows* Alright, loves. Here it is, your moment of zen:

Better Know A Trickster #2 - Maui No Ka Oi!

So, back in October I started a series of blog posts introducing you to the Tricksters of various pantheons. We started with the red-headed stepchild of Asgard, Loki. This time we're going to leave the icy Norse lands and sail to the South Pacific and meet that maker of mayhem, the slayer of the sun, the thief of fire himself: Hawaii's very own Maui!

Like Norse mythology, much of what we white folks know of the Hawaiian religion comes to us from Christian scholars who came to the islands and wrote about the savages they found. One of the better sources of information out there comes from David Kalakaua, the last reigning king of Hawaii. His book, The Legends and Myths of Hawaii, seeks to explain his culture to the rest of the world. This book is rich with understanding of the native religion and the tales the Hawaiians tell to this day.

One thing I've always found intriguing about the Hawaiian beliefs is how present it is in comparison to say the Judeo-Christian faiths. From what I've read--and I know that I don't know half of what there is to know, so if I'm wrong, feel free to correct me--the Hawaiians don't base their lives on the aftermath. The gods are here. They live and surf on the islands among mortals. Our ancestors remain with us as protective spirits. The philosophy is very rooted in the moment, the here and now.

Until the 19th century, the myths were handed down mostly in an oral tradition where the kahuna--wise man or priest--sang the tales. The backbone of Hawaiian mythology is the Kumulipo. This is the origin chant. To "perform" it, one needs more than 6 hours and some awa to keep the throat cooperating. Beginning with the darkest of void, the Kumulipo describes the birth of the world. Beginning with the coral polyp, populating the ocean, then the land and skies until finally man shows up. Then, the lineage of the kings is spoken. There are still those today who can trace their ancestry to the Kumulipo chant.

Like most trickster deities, Maui's birth is full of its own mystery. As chronicled in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth chant of the Kumulipo, Maui's mother Hina--goddess of the moon--wears the loincloth of a mortal chief, Akalana, and became pregnant. Now there's some subtext here about the loincloth and what she did with it. Some say that she was overly fond of the young chief and snatched the loincloth, then masturbated with it. (So, call me maybe?) However she came by the seed of the mortal, Hina was surprised when she delivered not a baby but an egg. This egg hatched to reveal a rooster.

When the goddess gave birth to a cock, the other deities feared she had broken the sacred laws--taboo. Immediately, it seems, Maui must fight to survive. His own uncles challenge him to physical combat and leave him with a bleeding head. And it just gets better from there. Ten times, Maui is tested by the gods and the circumstance of his very existence. But, as he navigates his difficulties, his guile and cunning are forged.

Among the strifes of Maui are some of his most famous exploits. The sixth test comes when he asks his mother about his parentage. While the lines in the chant are sparse, myths of these trials have bloomed like the islands themselves. Hina sends Maui to be with his mortal family and he acquires a fish-hook from his grandmother. The hook itself is made of her bone, and the line from her hair. She has given Maui a powerful object indeed! While he is very lazy and leaves the actual work of fishing to the mortal sons of Akalana, Maui casts this hook into the sea and draws up the islands! However, he never finished the task of uniting them, and thus we have the chain of them dotting the Pacific.

Like other tricksters, Maui is known for his mastery over the elements, specifically fire. He stole the fire from the mudhen and snared the sun because it crossed the sky too quickly. Summer is dedicated to him for slowing the sun's passage for the people of the islands. The constellation of Scorpio is also known to the islanders as Maui's hook.

The Kumulipo chant itself calls him trickster, revering his cunning ways. "Maui-of-the-loincloth/ The lawless shapeshifter of the island/A chief indeed." (Beckwith, 136.)

The last island that his hook drew from the water was the verdant isle that we call Maui. He claimed it for his own and to this day the natives insist that Maui no ka oi! Maui is the best. I'm inclined to agree.

If you like the artwork in this post, please visit the artist Brittney Lee at her Etsy shop. Show her some love and buy a print. She is a rock star! I've got two of her pieces in my house and if I had the extra bank I'd give her all the monies for more awesomeness.  Also, a special thanks to Kanila Tripp for fact-checking me and making sure that I don't sound like a lame haole girl. 

No Substitute For An Actual Post

Wow. What a week. So, let's for a moment forget the flurry of Thanksgiving and the terribly satisfying gluttony that followed (because all of that in and of itself was exhausting). We hosted 10 people at our house and had enough food for probably twice that. Either that or we just weren't all that enthusiastic about our stretchy pants. Anyway, it has been a whirlwind that only feels like it's dying down today because I am not physically in motion.Sunday I got word that my Grandmother fell and broke her hip. Multiple fractures. Now, the woman is 92 years old with osteoporosis and has been living on her own since before my grandfather died in 2004. She's a tough cookie. That being said... well, I was scared to death. You see, two years ago I had this dream that my Grandma told me the exact day she was going to die. (Why yes, I do remember a dream I had two years ago. I also remember one I had when I was 4 with more clarity than I remember last month. What of it?) November 26, for those curious. ALSO, I had this really creepy feeling about a week and a half ago (a week before she fell, that is)... just this weird, "Oh God is Grandma alright" feeling. Turns out both of my aunts had the same kind of ookiness on the same day. So, Sunday, Grandma falls and gets to the hospital. Surgery ensues when? Monday the 26th of November.  *facepalm* I was on pins and fucking needles all. damn. day. Because I was certain she wouldn't make it out of surgery. "This is it, this dream is coming true."  Long story short (too late): Grandma came through surgery with rainbow unicorns. She's got some hardware in her hip and her chances of winning a championship pogo-stick competition are minimal, but she is on the mend. She starts rehab this week and will then be moving in with my aunts. She was sitting up and even took a couple of assisted steps yesterday. Go Grandma! Beyond that, there's all sorts of crazy shit going on. My husband and daughter overruled my desires to sit and sulk and worry on Sunday by forcing me to deck my halls. Our house is full of fa and la and all ready for Christmas.

I've been putting the finishing touches on getting a short story ready for submission for potential publication in an anthology. Had to write up a bio for the thing. I hate writing bios, especially short ones because (let's face it) I ramble. All the bios I read for comparison/ideas were basically, "So and so has a OMGWTFBBQPHD from Wooptieshit University and has spent many years gaining credibility. S/he was published in Big Bad Monthly and the coveted Epic Awesome quarterly. S/he has something pithy and clever here about living in a fantasy land with a cat that thinks it's a panther."  I don't have any of that. I have no nifty degrees. I have no publishing credits to my name outside of a school newspaper and possibly a bathroom wall somewhere in the Midwest.  Bios are where I freak out and feel inadequate.

So when I mention on my personal Facebook page that I'm doing this bio thing and how much I hate it, I got all sorts of suggestions from my beloved (and disturbed) friends. My favorite involved the line, "She lives in the American Southwest with 2 hobbits, 2 cats and a small thermonuclear device she bought on" Classic. Gold. Right there.

But, I think I've got that submission cocked, locked and ready to rock some stripey socks.

Two more things started falling into place. I can't talk about them just yet, but soon I will be able to spill it here. Because these gears are moving, others that have been at a standstill for months can get back to rolling as well. And soon Damocles will take his leave of me. Right? RIGHT?!

So yeah, I was hoping to get the next installment in the Better Know A Trickster series out to you this week, but due to crazy shit happening in my personal space, I'm going to ask for an extension of goodwill. Maui is coming, don't you worry.

Love and peaches, gang.

Better Know a Trickster: Loki

So, as some of you know, I'm a bit of a mythology buff. I have always loved reading the stories and myths of other cultures. It's exciting, illuminating and damn fun to read what various societies have believed and weave together a tapestry of human belief.

Now, when I say "mythology" I use that as a blanket term for all stories used by cultures to explain the origins of life and to teach the values that culture holds dear. Myths entertain, sure, but they paint a picture of the people telling them. Myths are everything from the Bible, to traditional Greek tales to Spiderman comics. Myths preserve the status quo while also explaining how that status came to be.

In calling them all myths, I am not saying they are untrue. If you believe that the world was created in 6 days by a supreme deity or that Thor brings thunder, that is for you to decide. I am not looking for truth or fact when I read myths nor am I saying that any one system of belief is true. It's all mythology and that's not a bad word or a slam. What I'm looking at/for are the stories and to get a glimpse of the people who told them.

One thing that stretches across many cultures and myths is the Trickster.  The Trickster is the magic monkey wrench that fucks up the hero's day and giggles about it. S/he is the avatar of chance and chaos, the explanation for why things can't go the way we always plan. The Trickster is often reviled by his/her own kind, the villain you love to hate. In many cases the Trickster is gifted with a silver tongue and the skills of illusion, shape-changing and such. He often serves as the foil to the chief deity in the pantheon. A serpent in a garden or a wild dog, the Trickster moves apart from his fellow immortals.

I am enthralled by Trickster myths. Tricksters are fantastic, deep, sympathetic characters. They are the comic relief, the madness in worlds of method and they do not discriminate. So, I'd like to take some time to honor these jackals and thieves with a series of blogs that introduce you to them in their various forms.  Join me after the jump for the first installment of Better Know A Trickster.

I figured we could start with Loki as his name is rather ubiquitous at the moment. Now, there are several versions of Loki. The most popular right now is (rightfully) Tom Hiddleston being fucking awesome as Loki Laufeyson in the Marvel movies. That version of Loki takes off from the comic books (obviously). That comic book version takes liberties from the Norse myths. Then there are all the other Lokis in movies, books. Even my own Etudes in C# series features a version of the Norse god of Mischief.

Pop-culturally speaking, Loki is kind of a big deal.

Now, I could--and have--spend hours dissecting Loki's characterization in Thor and The Avengers. I think he's brilliantly written in both films and the acting is beyond reproach. The ways the films treat Loki intrigue me and are enough to get me going on rambling diatribes about fascinating antagonists. I am not as familiar with his comic book cousin--while they are the "same" character, liberties are always taken, so Hiddleston has created something new with his portrayal. What I want to focus on, though, is the root. The being out of Norse myth.

Born This Way Among the various peoples in Norse mythology are the Aesir, Vanir and Jotunns. One of the easiest ways to think of these groups would be to liken them to clans. Many of the gods we've all heard of (Odin, Freya, Baldur, Thor) come from the Aesir. The Jotunns, while not on the whole thought of as gods, are giants and of comparable power to the Aesir and Vanir. While Loki hangs out with the Aesir often, he is a Jotunn. Some trace his lineage to both a god and a frost giant, putting him equally in both houses while simultaneously being in neither.

According to the Prose Edda (13th century, Snorri Sturlson), Loki is thought to be the son of Farbauti--a male Jotunn associated with wildfire--and his wife Laufey. While the stories tell of Loki's parentage, there is no defining moment that pushed him to the Dark Side or made him decide to take up this role. There is no Fall from on high, no great battle and no quarrel with Thor. Loki seems to be born into the life of a prankster and takes it upon himself gladly.

 Loki - 18th century Icelandic manuscriptOne of the difficulties in capturing this Trickster comes with his name. Loki itself does not seem to have any translation or specialized meaning. Some scholars link it to the Old Norse word for "close" while others suggest its etymology comes from the word Loptr, or air. Either way, this is rather telling of the character himself.

Loki is slippery. He rides the back of the wind itself and ingratiates himself with those in power. Like many Tricksters he is kept close not just because others want an eye on him, but because he just appears there. Loki is the kinda guy that sidles up to a group of people at a bar or party and an hour later you find yourself hanging on his every word and following him to the next stop on a bender but thinking, Wait, when did he get here? He is breath, a phantom scent. He is the very spirit of charisma and charm when it suits him, and is equally at home in the shadows. He is smooth and slick and able to slide right into the cracks near Odin's throne.

"I'm not wearing the grass skirt this time."

Exploits Part of Loki's very specific skillset is the ability to change his shape. He has been--at various times--a fish, a raven, a horse, an old woman, a seal and a fly. His mastery of illusion and disguise is well documented in the Eddas.

When Thor lost his beloved Mjolnir, Loki hatched a scheme to recover it from one of the Jotunns. He put Thor in drag, dressed himself as "her" lady-in-waiting and together the two delivered themselves to the Jotunn as a bride and her maid. Mjolnir made it safely back into Thor's hands and Loki discovered the joys of cross-dressing.

This is something Loki seems to enjoy, actually. When Baldur, the favored son of Odin, was blessed with nigh invulnerability, the Aesir celebrated by inviting all who would come to feast. Loki was jealous of Baldur's blessing and the attention lavished upon him, so he took on the aspect of an old woman and tottered up to Frigg--queen of the Aesir, Odin's wife and Baldur's mother. In this shape, he gets Frigg to admit the one thing that will kill her son. Loki takes this information and sees it to the end, slaying Baldur in the very hall of the Aesir.

He does seem to love danger. Not only did he kill the shining son of Asgard, but he hit on Thor's wife, insulted everyone within the sound of his voice, and challenged the god of thunder to a drinking contest (and slipped him a roofie that contained the entire ocean). It's not all murder and mayhem for Loki, though. Sometimes the gods get in a sticky situation and they need a wetworks man to take care of things. Enter the red-headed stepchild of the pantheon. The Trickster gets the dirty work.

For example, this one time Odin wanted to make some changes to Asgard and hired a contractor to do the work, like you do. Well, this particular stone mason, a giant, was a master of his craft and demanded that Odin pay him the Sun, Moon and the lovely Freya in marriage. So Odin--being a bit of a joker himself--says he'll pay up if the giant can do things in some ungodly amount of time. The giant takes the deal and gets to work. Turns out the giant wasn't bluffing. He really was that good. He had this horse, Svaðilfari, that could hold Odin's outlandish pace. Odin wasn't too thrilled with this and said, "Loki, help a brother out." Loki didn't even take the time to say, "I've got this" before turning himself into a mare (there's that cross-dressing thing again) and shoving off to distract the giant's horse.

Spouses/Children As with many mythical characters, the flow of lineage can be distorted from one source to another. Loki fathered more than a few beings to further unleash havoc on the worlds.

According to the Poetic Edda, with the giantess Angrboaa ("she who brings grief"), Loki sired Hel (goddess of the dead), the world serpent Jormungandr and the mythical wolf Fenrir who lent his name to JK Rowling's fierce werewolf. His wife Sigyn bore him sons Nari, Narfi and Vali.

One of the stranger couplings for Loki comes from the myth of swindling the stonecutter. When he went to distract Svaðilfari, apparently Loki did a good job. Who knew that he was such a sexy lady-horse? Soon after that little tryst with the stallion, Loki gave birth to an eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Odin thought this was a pimp ride and took Sleipnir for his own.

 "The Punishment of Loki" - Louis HaudWhere Are They Now? After Loki killed Baldur with an arrow made of mistletoe, he led the Aesir on a merry chase across the realms. Eventually, however, the pissed off gods cornered him in an alley and trounced the bastard. Odin felt that death was too good for him and had him chained to a rock. The gods hung a serpent over him to drip acid on Loki's naked body for all of eternity. His wife, Sigyn, couldn't stand to see him suffer. She held a bowl beneath the serpent and caught the venom. When the bowl fills, however, she has to dump it into the sea and while she does the venom burns Loki.

He will remain there until Ragnarok, the end of days, when he will be part of the world-breaking festivities.

The stories of Norse myth are among the most difficult to pin down. The Eddas we have were compiled by Christians trying to translate and piece together oral traditions of a culture centuries dead. What has survived goes beyond specific myths and legends. We have these rich characters from this pantheon and a new way to look at archetypes. Perhaps the reason comic books seem to thrive with Norse characters is because they are more fertile ground, because the lack of specific history makes them easier to mold.

The Marvel franchises have used Thor, Loki, Odin and others for their purposes and created new versions of these gods. Right now Loki's star is high because of The Avengers, it's true, but at the end of the day, it's because he's a classic trickster. Someone we love to hate and a dark horse we can root for from time to time.