July 16th, 2009


From Twitter 07-15-2009

  • 00:00:07: If he really HAD been hiking the Appalachian Trail, wouldn't he still have been out of office with no transfer of power?
  • 00:03:13: In WTF news, there's a Senator who's actually trying to pass a bill banning human-animal hybrids.
  • 00:04:38: Even if such things DID exist, why would they necessarily be bad? What about Chiron, for instance?
  • 00:05:29: Rachel Maddow says that mermaids disturb her. Considering that many mermaid stories involve sailors drowning, I can see this.
  • 05:49:19: @artmonkeygrrl Maybe she wasn't calling her kid, but just for justice in general.
  • 05:53:21: The trending topics include both "Michael Jackson" and "Half-Blood Prince." Does this have to do with his son?
  • 06:02:19: Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga? Is it St. Swithin's Day already?
  • 08:13:00: I heard something on the radio about Pearl Jam at the Spectrum. I didn't realize either one still existed.
  • 08:13:27: The pharmacy gave me a refill on the medicine I'm not supposed to take anymore, but not on either of the ones I actually need.
  • 12:35:58: @kattmoff I believe the preferred term is "Towelian-American."
  • 14:35:02: Reagan keeps sitting on the desk with her cat butt facing me.
  • 14:35:15: Okay, now she's sitting the other way 'round. Much cuter that way.
  • 16:57:06: @NowIsStrange insists that one of the kings in Super Mario Bros. 3 was turned into a donkey with a hat on its ass.
  • 17:42:50: I didn't know M.I.A. referenced the Pixies. That's pretty cool.
  • 17:46:18: Maybe you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but you CAN get stem cells from one. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8078996.stm
  • 22:25:20: This preacher dude says that, in Heaven, "Jesus will be our husband." So does that mean gay marriage is okay there?
  • 22:26:47: When these TV preachers beg for money, shouldn't their conservative base tell them to get a real job?

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Roc This Town

In my ongoing quest to highlight the most interesting of mythological creatures, it was pretty much inevitable that I would sooner or later come to the roc (also sometimes spelled "rukh"), that giant bird of prey. And when I say "giant," I don't just mean run-of-the-mill enormity. I mean a bird with legs the size of tree trunks, that can pick up full-grown elephants and rhinoceroses in order to eat them. Marco Polo mentions rocs in his own writings, but they're probably better known from their appearances in the 1001 Nights. When Sinbad the Sailor was marooned on an island where a roc nested, he had to use his family-friendly comedy routine to escape. No, he actually hitches a ride to another island on the roc's leg. On a later voyage, his crew disobeys Sinbad's orders and kills a baby roc, only to be bombarded with rocks by the parents. (Sinbad seemed to lose an entire crew on pretty much every voyage. Compared to him, Captain Kirk's track record was pretty good.) And if you're like me, you remember when Popeye fought Sinbad and cooked a roc in a volcano.

And since I try to take pretty much everything back to Oz, I feel obligated to mention that, in Captain Salt in Oz, the titular character tells his cabin boy of his desire to be a roc collector. He's heard that the birds nest on Rock Island (no, not the one in Illinois, but the one in the Nonestic Ocean, shown on the Oz Club's map to be some distance south of Peakenspire), and hopes to find a way to preserve a roc's egg and get it to the Emerald City. If it were to hatch, even a newborn roc chick (no, not the Debbie Harry variety; that's spelled differently) would be powerful enough to carry off his entire ship.

One fantasy series that makes extensive use of rocs is Piers Anthony's Xanth, probably largely because of how many puns you can make out of the word. (Hey, I've made at least three of them so far in this very post.) What with his tendency to come up with odd cross-breeds, I'm surprised we haven't yet seen him mention a Crocodile Roc or a Roc Lobster, but maybe they're coming in future books. Xanthian rocs actually don't seem to be anywhere near as large as the varieties that Sinbad and Samuel Salt were familiar with. I seem to recall one book suggesting that they were about the size of elephants, while the traditional roc was much bigger than that.

Anyway, roc on, everybody. And happy birthday to jenhime!

These Boots Were Made for Walkin' Seven Leagues

Since suegypt requested a post on seven-league boots, I might as well tackle them now. Fantastic literature is full of shoes with magical transportation properties, including Hermes' winged sandals, Jack the Giant-Killer's shoes of swiftness, and the Wicked Witch of the East's Silver Shoes. Seven-league boots, however, are a particular kind of magical footwear that, in one stride, will take the wearer...well, seven leagues, which is the same as twenty-one miles. Why this distance? Well, the Wikipedia article suggests that it was traditional for a horseback messenger to change horses every seven leagues, meaning that was the only time that their boots would touch the ground. Certainly an intriguing idea, but this could easily be one of those origin stories that everyone repeats but that turns out to most likely be bunk, like "Ring Around the Rosie" being about the plague or "the whole nine yards" having something to do with machine guns. Anyway, seven-league boots make appearances in several European fairy tales, and still show up from time to time in more recent literature. There's a pair in Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle, and Howl's assistant Michael tells Sophie that a single step will actually only take a person three and a half leagues. Terry Pratchett's Discworld series plays on the idea of seven-league boots, saying that they're no longer in use by the wizards there because of the strain that walking seven leagues at once will put on the human body, particularly in the groin area. I think I'll stick to magic carpets, thank you!