Gluteus Terminus

Where were you when you learned your butt could die?” So asks Almie Rose in an Attn: blog post. My answer would be “right here in front of my screen, sitting on it.” The title of Almie’s article explains why she’s asking the question: “If you spend most of your day sitting down, you need to be aware of this weird health risk.” The risk she references is “gluteal amnesia” or “dead butt syndrome” (DBS). If you search for gluteal amnesia, an avalanche of stories and images and videos on DBS leap into existence before your eyes, and if you took time to read or view them all, your butt would be deader than the proverbial doornail.

Ah, what was that thing I do again?

So, what is it? If you sit too long, apparently, your butt muscles (the old gluteus maximus and others) forget how to “activate properly.” “When you get up to stretch,” Almie writes, “this isn’t only in an effort to minimize the risk of blood clots or weight gain, it’s to strengthen your butt’s muscle memory.” DBS can lead to back, hip, and ankle problems—your back especially because the back takes over the work your butt can’t remember how to do.

Who is most likely to suffer DBS? We Americans are because, according to ABC News, we “work more than anyone in the industrialized world” and we probably sit at desks more, sit in cars driving to work more, and sit on the couch binging more than anyone else, too. This is quite an accomplishment. We should get some recognition for it or perhaps even a butt-for prize of some sort. We already have competition, of course, because people have been getting recognized for sitting in various ways for some time now. The record, for instance, for the most people sitting in one chair is 2,067 (right?). There’s also feats that involve crushing the most nuts by sitting, skipping rope while sitting, and the farthest basketball shot made while sitting on the court.

But I digress (again). DBS occurs through a process called reciprocal inhibition. Translated, this means the neurons in your GM forget how to fire their signal to the muscles and thus “move your butt.” Fortunately for us there are ways to prevent this. Maintaining proper posture while you sit helps. Getting up is another (doh!). Getting up and “tucking” your tailbone and “flexing” your glutes five times for ten repetitions is even better, as is doing squats or lunges. FYI, I typed “lunches” there instead of “lunges” initially. My Freudian slip is showing. Although, now that I think about it, to have lunch I would have to activate my glutes, stand up, and move to the kitchen. To better fend off DBS, I could do some butt clenches along the way. This might look, I realize, like someone trying to get to the bathroom before an explosive event of an undesirable nature happens. But what the heck. I’m willing to risk a little embarrassment to avoid my rear end.

Ripping One Off

After reading my recent blog on why we should rename polka dots to flamenco dots, my wife Kalo brought something very important to my attention: I had neglected to mention Polka-Dot Man (PDM). I pled ignorance, never a good defense but true in this case. If you’re not familiar with PDM, he’s one of Batman’s nemeses or, as one site describes him, “a minor supervillain.” PDM, cover name Abner Krill, was “known for committing grandiose crimes revolving around a bizarre theme of polka dots.” Even cooler (okay, I’m a comic nerd) is the fact that the polka dots on PDM’s supervillain outfit could turn into odd weapons and escape devices, a buzz saw dot, for example, or a one-man flying saucer.

PDMan

PDM was also known as Mister Polka Dot (MPD). Over the issues he appeared in, PDM committed a series of weird robberies. Batman has a eureka moment and connects the dots of these crimes on a map, which form a stick figure. He and Robin go to the head of this figure (a map company) and catch PDM in the act. The Caped Crusader punches PDM out, crowing “Right on the dot! By now, you should be seeing spots before your eyes, Mister Polka Dot!” PDM’s fortunes plummeted after that. He became penniless and an alcoholic. Later, he made a comeback of sorts, joining a band of costumed misfits that included Immortus, Professor Milo, and the Condiment King. He eventually has a terminal encounter with a flying manhole cover and thus ends the brief and not-so-glorious story of Polka Dot Man.

Well, not quite. While he’s not listed as a character in in The LEGO Batman Movie, he does appear in this “trailer” for the Ultimate Batmobile Set. You can undoubtedly buy him to add to your Lego collection, should you feel the need.

While PDM has SVCC (supervillain cool cred), think how much better he might have been as Flamenco Dot Man. Certainly he would continue to plague Batman and Robin with his dastardly deeds, but now he could also torment them with videos of torrid flamenco performances. These would be very stylish, naturally, but they would also contain clues to where FDM’s next crime would take place, much like honey bees impart vital information through their waggle dance. In FDM’s case, the Dynamic Duo would have to puzzle out the meaning of each backswing, dig, heel-and-toe, and stamp.

FDM would also have a cool flamenco name to replace Abner Krill, something like Inigo Montoya (oh, right, that’s taken) or maybe Don Diego de la Vega (rats, also taken). Anyway, you get the idea.

Of course, FDM’s weapons would have to be different, too. Instead of a buzz saw dot, perhaps a razor-sharp tortilla, and instead of the flying saucer maybe a small, levitating stage on which he could perform “on the round” and escape at the same time, his movements controlled by his feverishly flailing boots. And finally, there’s the FDotmobile, the FDotplane, the FDotboat, and, for later in life, the FDotStairRider.

I’m hoping the folks at Marvel and/or Warner Brothers see this post and give me a call. Given the disaster of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman needs a strong comeback vehicle. This might be it: Batman v Flamenco Dot Man: Deadly Dance-off. The critical question to resolve now is whether their final confrontation would take place on So You Think You Can Dance or World of Dance. If you have an opinion on this, please share.

The Secret to Success: Shut Up

I would have to discover this advice right after posting about getting back to work on my novel ZAD. Can I take it back? No. What advice you ask (or might ask)? Euny Hong’s Quartz post titled “Want to Write a Book? Stop Talking about It. Entirely.” In it, she leads off with this Korean saying that her mom cited often: “You have nothing to fear from someone who threatens that he is going to kill you tomorrow.” Then she explains:

The declaration of intention paradoxically reveals the lack of intention.

Why does talking about a big goal, such as writing a book or quitting smoking, sabotage your ability to complete it? Because every time you talk about an unfinished project with someone, you are tricking your brain into thinking you’ve done some of the work. Talking about writing a book gives you the same mental fatigue and satisfaction that you’d get from actually writing for an hour. It’s demotivating.

As evidence outside of her own experience, Hong cites the author John Hersey, a TED talk (“Keep Your Goals to Yourself“), and a 2009 psychological study (“When Intentions Go Public“). She also offers this observation:

One of the biggest mistakes people make in life is assuming that intangibles are in greater supply than money. All resources are finite–all of them–including the three traits that separate people who finish books from those who don’t: ambition, stamina, and your ability not to tire of hearing your own ideas.

Faras_Saint_Anne_(detail)

I’m not sure she’s right about this. When I was writing ZAD last summer, trying and succeeding in meeting the goal of producing 50,000 in 30 days, I posted my progress daily on Facebook. But I guess that’s different. I wasn’t talking about writing a book, I was talking about what I had written that day after writing it. The pressure of the deadline kept me going, not what Chris Baty describes as the “effective agents of guilt and terror” better known as your loved ones.

Baty is one of the founders of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In his how-to book No Plot? No Problem, he takes a stance opposite to Hong:

Terror is the amateur novelist’s best friend…. Nothing makes it more difficult to back down from a task than having boasted about it, in great detail, to all of your friends and loved ones. Think about it. Do you really want to be the butt of jokes every time novels are mentioned?

I’m not sure he’s right either. I wasn’t terrified of what people would say if I failed to reach the 50,000-word goal. But then, since I achieved it, I’ll never know (unless I try it again). What I do know is that I’ve just spent an hour or so writing this blog and thus “talking” about revising ZAD instead of revising it. So I guess Hong wins. It’s time, to alter a well-worn phrase, to “shut up and put up.” Good counsel for everyone, right? In fact, maybe we should make this our national motto instead of E pluribus unum. In Latin that would be clausi posuere. Not quite the same majestic ring to it I admit but it might catch on. I’ll start the ball rolling here. Not another word about ZAD until it’s on the bookshelves or Amazon. Either that or I’ll take Hong’s last piece of advice: “If [anyone brings] it up, say you’ve put it aside for the time being, got busy, or just that you don’t want to talk about it because of this thing you read one time on Quartz.”

The Liver Is Evil…

…and must be punished. If you’ve visited Key West and walked the walk (Duval Street in other words), you’ve likely seen a t-shirt in a window with those words emblazoned on it. The implication, of course, is that you should drink yourself into a stupor (many do here, unfortunately) while intoning “bad liver bad liver” repeatedly.

Gray1087-liver

In truth, you should do the opposite. The liver is so not evil. In fact, it does so many things to keep you functioning (alive in other words) that you should be showering it with gifts, lighting candles in its honor, and saying, repeatedly, “if there’s anything you need or want, anything at all, your wish is my command.”

I came to this conclusion after reading Natalie Angier’s article “The Liver: A ‘Blob’ That Runs the Body” in today’s New York Times. She begins by telling us that the Mesopotamians thought our souls and emotions lived in the liver. The Elizabethans purportedly called the king or queen “the liver of state” and thus woe to anyone who was monarch and “lily-livered” at the same time.

Fun stuff aside, Angiers explains that the liver’s to-do list is second only to the brain (and that it can regenerate whereas that slouch the brain cannot). That list comprises over 300 hundred items. Here are a few primary ones:

  1. “Reworking” food into something useful for cells, etc.
  2. Neutralizing harmful substances (such as the agent of punishment noted above)
  3. Generating hormones, clotting factors, enzymes, and immune molecules
  4. Controlling blood chemistry

The liver is so vital to us that if it fails, nothing can take over for it except another liver via transplant. It is our largest organ (no wonder they thought the brain was subservient to it), weighing in at around three-and-a-half pounds. Angiers describes it as looking like a “beached sea lion” nestled in our abdominal cavity. It contains 13 percent of the body’s blood supply at any one time.

If all those things weren’t enough, the liver also keeps time. Well, not really. It just swells around 50 percent after dark as its protein production increases and then shrinks the same amount when the sun comes up and protein destruction occurs.

So the upshot of all this is, again, the liver is not evil, far from it. It should be treated with respect. In fact, Angiers suggests, should anyone every ask you “What am I? Chopped liver?” your response should be “Yes, you are and you should pleased as punch about that.”

(Note to readers: I’ve just transitioned RatBlurt from Blogger to WordPress without, of course, letting anyone know about it ahead of time. Those of you who subscribed through Blogger may have to resubscribe through WP. Apologies for the inconvenience.)

A Case for Flamenco Dots

So, polka dots. I understand polka (I’m from Wisconsin after all). I understand dots. Whence, however, polka dots? This question arises because Flipboard just posted a photo gallery of Yayoi Kusama installations. If you’re not familiar with Kusama, she’s a Japanese writer and multimedia artist whose works often feature a “thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition, and pattern,” e.g., polka dots.

If you stare at them long enough, which dance to you see?

But what’s the story on polka dots, the origin story that is? Merriam-Webster’s no help. All it can offer is “a dot in a pattern of regularly distributed dots in textile design.” Wikipedia’s not much better. It vaguely notes that the name must have come from an association with the dance. This is based on the OED definition, which says of “polka,” “on account of the popularity of the dance, polka was prefixed as a trade name to articles of all kinds, e.g., the polka curtain-band (for looping up curtains), polka-gauze, polka hat, a pattern consisting of dots of uniform size and arrangement [polka-dot — notice the hyphenation; oh those Brits].

But then Wikipedia also says that flamenco dancers often wear polka dots, so why aren’t they flamenco dots? The latter seems much more akin to haut couture than the former: “Darling, which flamenco dots should I wear today? The Versace or the Stella McCartney?” Right?

Ah, here’s something with more substance: “A Brief History of Polka Dots” by Chloe Pantazi. Chloe skips over the thorny origin issue at first and gets right to the important stuff: fashion. She thinks America first fell in love with the dots when they saw pictures of Miss America of 1926 wearing a polka-dot swimsuit (it’s okay to hyphenate if it’s an adjective, what’s the term, clump?). Then Minnie Mouse donned her red polka-dot dress and bow in 1928. Then Frank Sinatra sang “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” in 1940 and in the same year The Los Angeles Times gushed, “You can sign your fashion life away on the polka-dotted line, and you’ll never regret it.”

Next came Christian Dior, Marilyn Monroe in yet another polka-dot swimsuit, Brian Hyland singing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and then in the 1960s Yayoi Kusama, whom you already know thanks to me.

Chloe finally swings back to the origin: the polka. For some reason beyond my ken, “polkamania” apparently swept through Europe in the mid-19th century (sort of like the Black Plague, I guess, except, well, polka dotted). When that happened, she writes,

enthusiasts claimed the polka jacket, then the polka hat (neither of them spotted), and finally, the polka dot. There is only a tenuous connection between dot and dance, yet surely the two are linked — it’s possible that polka dots reflect the same regulated, short bursts of energy that inflect the polka itself.

Tenuous might be the understatement of the year. Whatever its origin, the polka dot has held sway long enough. I’m going to start a movement for renaming them flamenco dots. I begin my argument for the change by offering this comparison. Polka songs come with titles like the “Beer Barrel Polka” (“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun — remember that one? No? Good.). Or better yet “In Heaven There Is No Beer” or “Have Another Drink on Me.” See a trend here? Flamenco songs, on the other hand, have names like “Echale Guindas al Pavo” and “Romance de Chavalillo Torero.” Do I know what these mean? Heck no but who cares? At least there’s no “En el cielo no hay cerveza” to be found anywhere. How much more convincing do you need?

If you want to weigh in on this so-not-a-debate, please do at #flamencodotsrule. And now, that’s our show for tonight. Goodbye.

Disconnected

Whenever the Comcast Internet connection goes down here in KW, which it does on occasion, I wonder if the island’s entire population is staring bewildered, like I am, at their browser screens as “what do I do now?” panic races through their brains. In casting my glance desperately about the study to fend off blankscreenophobia [paralyzing anxiety brought on by an unexpected and frightening “deadpage” appearing in front of you], my eyes fall on Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey [TWJ]: Mythic Structure for Writers and the bewilderment in my brain turns immediately to guilt. Oh, yes, think I, I’m supposed to be working on my novel, the one I wrote a 50,000-word first draft way back in July 2016 for Camp NaNoWriMo and haven’t touched since. My intention in acquiring Vogler’s book was to read it and get ideas for expanding and better structuring Zombie Alien Dad (ZAD). Looking over at TWJ, I see that the paperback now wears a book jacket, one fashioned from agglomerated dust and cat fur.
ZAD.jpg
ZAD: “Why or why have you forsaken me?”

Well, what the heck. Since I can’t dissonbrowze myself [distract through online browsing], I’m going to jump in and get started on TWJ. Here we go: Book One: Mapping the Journey, Chapter One: A Practical Guide. Vogler bases his story guide on Joseph Campbell’s classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The “Practical Guide” chapter opens with a quote from Willa Cather’s O Pioneers: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they never happened before.” Next, he introduces “The Hero’s Journey (THJ),” which is less of a map and more of a 12-step story outline. “With this tool,” he promises, “you can construct a story that will be dramatic, entertaining, and psychologically true.” If you already have a draft, as I do, with the THJ “you can diagnose the problems of almost any ailing plot line, and make the corrections to bring it to its peak of performance.” Hot dog!

I won’t go into the twelve steps in detail here. I’ll just say that the journey begins with the “Ordinary World” and ends with the “Return with the Elixir.” As Vogler explains, “Most stories take the hero out of the ordinary, mundane world and into a Special World, new and alien.” First, as you might have guessed, you must establish the ordinary world. The final stage of the story provides the payoff in which the hero brings a boon or treasure, what Vogler calls the Elixir, to benefit the ordinary world. This Elixir comes in many forms. It might be knowledge, as in Dorothy returning to Kansas from Oz after learning “there’s no place like home.” Or it might be a positive change in status, as in Luke Skywalker defeating Darth Vader and bringing peace and order to the galaxy for a time. So, my task now is to create my own hero’s journey or, even more difficult I imagine, creating two parallel yet different journeys for two heroes: Will, a teenage human, and Wouylerlubro (let’s call him “Wylie”), a being from the planet Choewrluria.

As it stands, ZAD opens with this line: “It began as a school morning like any other school morning for Will Mender.” I’m already thinking about shifting things around to where these words start the book: “Will stared at the wall of shame across the hall from where he sat outside the principal’s office.” Both seem like good hooks. The first suggests that what begins as an ordinary day will turn into something not so ordinary. The second indicates that Will has done something to get himself sent to the principal’s office, something that might have to do with being shamed. This is where my journey begins. If I finish revising ZAD such that publication and monster sales and a movie deal ensue (no sense in holding back on wishful thinking), that would be heroic indeed. Wish me luck.

Well. This has been a remarkable discovery. When the Internet becomes inaccessible, the world doesn’t end and good things can happen. Who knew?

Better to Be Toasty

“It is hard to fail [difficult to accept I think this means–I have no trouble failing at all] but it is worse never having tried to succeed.” This awkwardly worded quote belongs to Teddy Roosevelt, who obviously would not get along with Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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Yoda Schmoda!

The subject of useless endeavors comes up because yesterday various news outlets covered the grand opening of the Museum of Failure (Innovation) in Sweden. The Daily Mail, for example, trumpets this headline: “Colgate frozen lasagna, fat-free Pringles, and GREEN ketchup take pride of place in new Museum of Failure in Sweden.” The MOFI also features displays on the Apple Newton, Google Glass, Harley-Davidson Perfume, Bic for Her, and the Orbitoclast. (I’ll come back to this last one.) There’s even, and how apropos is this?, a display for the “I’m Back and You’re Fired! Trump the Game,” which the MOFI’s founder describes as a “boring version of Monopoly” that is “simplified so stupid people can play it.” The game features “T” pawns, Trump cards, and Trump money that comes only in three denominations: $10 million dollar bills, $50 million dollar bills, and $100 million dollar bills. The winner, naturally, is whoever ends up with the most money. (You can sill find TTG on Amazon should you suddenly have an irrational desire to walk in his Gucci loafers.)

The MOFI adopts a sunny attitude toward such flops, preaching that “learning is the only way to turn failure into success.” The website’s “About” section tells us that the museum is “a collection of interesting innovation failures” and “every item provides unique insight into the risky business of innovation.” As part of its “learn from losing, loser” mission, the MOFI is brainstorming events such as “a tasting of failed brews from regional microbreweries” and “fuck-up-night talks.”

Now, about that Orbitoclast. This is a surgical instrument invented in 1948 for performing frontal lobotomies, also called leucotomies. The instrument (cringe warning here!) was basically an ice pick with some gradation markings on it. Its main claim to fame was that it was sturdier than previous versions, which had an annoying habit of breaking off while still lodged in the brain. Believe it or not, the originator of this gruesome procedure won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for it. Not long after, however, the practice, the leading practitioner, and the instrument, as one author puts it, “withered into oblivion.”

But enough about the dark side of failure. TR also wrote that a person who fails “at least fails while daring greatly, so that his [or her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Despite the seeming triple negative there, I find these words comforting. I may have a defeat/victory scorecard that leans heavily toward the downside, but my soul will be forever toasty. Oddly, this makes me feel more self-confident, more of a WINNER, someone who could, dare I say it?. triumph at Trump the Game. This, would, of course, be HUGE, not that I would ever tell anyone. I will say this, however. Should you catch me with a certain familiar smirk on my face, you’ll know why. And NO, it’s not because I somehow managed to self-orbitoclasticize myself. Shame on you for even having such a thought!

Forrest Bill

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” If this line sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been repeated endlessly since Forrest Gump uttered it at the beginning of his self-titled fiopic [fictional film biography]. If you visit Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia, you can even see (we did) and sit on (don’t think we did) a replica of the bench from which he made this pronouncement.

Film poster with an all-white background and a park bench (facing away from the viewer) near the bottom. A man wearing a white suit is sitting on the right side of the bench and is looking to his left while resting his hands on both sides of him on the bench. A suitcase is sitting on the ground, and the man is wearing tennis shoes. At the top left of the image is the film's tagline and title and at the bottom is the release date and production credits.
ACK!*

My go-to information source Wikipedia describes Forrest as “a slow-witted but kind-hearted, good-natured and athletically prodigious man from Alabama, who witnesses, and in some cases influences, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States.” Even though most of his exploits occurred serendipitously, Forrest has been immortalized for his adventures and a major proportion of the world’s population likely knows about them.

They may not know, however, of the similar experience of Bill the Cat as chronicled in Berkeley Breathed’s 2016 The Bill the Cat Story (BCS). Bill is a Bloom County regular, and BCS is his origin story. To summarize not-so-briefly, a young boy named Milo decides he needs a pet and adopts Bill from the Pedigree Schmedigree Animal Shelter. Milo has Bill for “exactly one minute and a half” before his pet is catnapped and shipped to the North Pole. Before the nappers get away, though, Opus the penguin catches up to them, manages to reach into Bill’s FedEx box, and dresses him in a pair of smiley-face jockey shorts to keep the cat warm.

Up north, Bill becomes a North Pole sled cat. From there, he somehow makes it to Africa and becomes the leading herder (literally) for Edna’s Elephant Herding service. Next up, Bill appears somewhere in Asia, finding “a family that seemed to love him very, very much.” In fact they idolize him, worship him, and build monuments in his likeness as Bill enjoys “plenty of nap time, peeled grapes, and foot massages on Tuesday.”

Nothing good lasts forever, of course, and Bill gets catnapped again by ravenous space pie-rats looking for a snack. The rats are about to pietize Bill when they realize they have a celebrity on board. Somehow they mistake Bill for another orange cat, Garfield, and they feel obligated to return Bill to his rightful owner, guided by the instructions on his jockey shorts that say “Return to Opus.” Opus happens to be lounging at that moment on one of the gargoyles atop the Chrysler Building in New York City. Well, to speed forward to our happy ending, Opus returns Bill to Bloom County and reunites him joyously with Milo.

Although the only thing Bill ever says is ACK!, I’m sure if he could speak humango [the lingo of humans], he would, like Forrest, share the wisdom he gained from his travels and travails despite having failed to witness or influence any century-defining events. “Life,” he would say if he happened to be sitting on a bench next to you, “is like a tub of Temptations MixUps.” Then he would tell you why (“ACK!”) and offer you one (“ACK!”). If it were me sitting there, I wouldn’t know which treat to wish for: would it be Catnip Fever or Surfer’s Delight? I just can’t decide.


* Theatrical poster for Forrest Gump, Copyright © 1994 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Fair use.

Surely We’re All Mad People

“Surely we’re all mad people, and they whom we think are, are not.” This line from Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (TRT) appears on the title page of Joe Orton’s play What the Butler Saw.

Sundry times acted indeed.

TRT was first performed in 1606 and then published in 1607. It has been described as a subversive black comedy. Orton’s play is one also, as are his other works Loot and Entertaining Mr. Sloane. Some examples of SBCs in film are Nurse Betty, Pink Flamingos, They Live, Life of Brian, and The Great Dictator.

So what, you may wonder, is an SBC? Well, let’s break it down. “Subversive” is an adjective meaning “tending to subvert: having a tendency to overthrow, upset, or destroy.” Following the lexographic trail, “subvert” means, among other definitions, “to bring to nothing, destroy, or greatly impair the existence, sovereignty, influence, wholeness of, especially by insidious undermining.”

“Black comedy” is defined as “comedy that employs black humor.” Going further down this rabbit hole, “black humor” is “humor marked by the use of morbid, ironic, grotesquely comic episodes.” And “black” in this context refers to the quality of being “outrageously wicked: deserving unmitigated condemnation.” As an example of all this, in TRT, the lead character Vindice disguises himself as a panderer (a “pandar” in the play) to get closer to the Duke, who poisoned Vindice’s wife on their wedding day because she would not submit to his, the Duke’s, lustful advances. On the way to getting his revenge, Vindice tries to pimp his sister, which fails, and then convinces his mother to sell her, the sister, for gold. From there, he goes on to get various people close to the Duke executed and ends by covering his dead wife’s skull in poison, disguising the skull (somehow) as a living woman, and convincing the perpetumescent [always horny] Duke to kiss the skull. Goodbye, Duke.

So why this topic now? Last night on The Daily Show Trevor Noah spoke about the woman arrested yesterday for leaking NSA documents on Russian hacking of the 2016 election. With a look of incredulity, he announced that the woman’s name was Reality Winner and then asks “How is this real life? Did God quit his day job to make a web series?” He’s definitely on to something. We must have fallen through a rift in the time-space continuum and landed in our own SBC version of House of Cards. Either that or we surely are all mad, which means, of course, “disordered in mind” or, better yet, “completely unrestrained by reason or judgment.” We all know where this started. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading exponentially. This might make the Republicans happy since it proves their trickle-down theory of wackonomics really works. Then again, it might not.

Strange and Admirable

So you’ve probably seen or are going to see the Wonder Woman movie just out in theaters (93% on Rotten Tomatoes; who wouldn’t?). If you have viewed the movie, read the comics, or survived the 1970s TV show, you know that Diana Prince is an Amazon from the fictional island of Themyscira and that the queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother is Hippolyta. But you may not remember or know that Hippolyta preceded Diana in being a famous literary creation and star (hint: in books and on stage originally, not the screen).

What a time to leave my Golden Lasso at home!*

Backing up for a little history now, the Amazons came into being in Greek mythology as the daughters of Ares, the god of war, and a wood nymph. Instead of a made-up island, they lived in the similarly named Themiscrya, a town on the banks of the Thermodon River somewhere in what is now Turkey. According to myth, no sexual encounters were allowed in Amazon country, so to keep their race from dying out, the Amazons traveled each year to visit a neighboring tribe for a one-night stand of epic proportions (well, okay, it was two months of consecutive epic one-night stands and we will eschew talking about what happens to any male offspring).

Diana’s mum Hippolyta first gained notice in the myths about Heracles (Hercules, to you probably). Obtaining Hippolyta’s girdle (belt) was Herc’s ninth labor out of the famous twelve tasks he completed as penance for going mad and killing his family. Hipp was all set to give Herc the belt but complications ensued, as they always did when the Greek gods got involved, and he gets angry, kills Hipp, and takes the belt. (Lesson: Do not, under any circumstances, PO Herc.)

Next up for a wondrously revived Hipp is Theseus. In some versions of that myth, Theseus takes Hipp back to Athens and marries her; in others, he kills her (what is it with those ancient Greek heroes?) or she is accidentally killed by another Amazon or her sister (sheesh: this is like trying to keep up with the Yorks and Tudors). Shakespeare chose the happy ending and Hippolyta and Theseus get married at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Along the way, Hipp’s role is basically to declare her love for Theseus, observe how “strange and admirable” those crazy Athenians are, and forcefully correct Theseus when he doubts the wacky tale told by Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena.

So one could assert that Patty Jenkins was treading in Will’s footsteps in portraying a strong, fierce, compassionate, empathetic, vulnerable female character when she created the 2017 Wonder Woman. Whatever the case, kudos to both and an important lesson for everyone, but mostly us men, to learn perhaps: as Hippolyta cautions in the new film, “Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.”


* Image: Hercules Obtaining the Girdle of Hyppolita by Nikolaus Knüpfer. Public Domain.