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Monday, December 31, 2018

M³ Exceptional Zeus

            Having gone through many of the other Greek gods, we’ve come around to the idea that they’re pretty childish and static. They have petty squabbles and their punishments are often blown way out of proportion. So now we have to apply the same evaluation to Zeus. Is he childish and static?
            It would be easy to say that because he raped his mother and sister and that he’s such a hornball and pretty much raped everyone he ever slept with, yes, he’s childish. He’s got daddy issues and never learned how to have a proper relationship.
            (Yeah, you just knew there would be an exception.)
            Except for forging alliances with the Cyclopes and Hundred Handed ones. Except for forgiving the gods after their attempted coup. Except for the order he brought to the word by siring so many of the other gods and spirits. Except for putting hope in the jar. Except for giving humanity the perfect woman. Except for siring so many of the Greek heroes. Except for quitting his adulterous affairs cold turkey after the birth of Hercules.
            That’s a lot of exceptions.
            When we put them all together, we come up with a bigger pattern to Zeus. Did he have sex and rape lots of women? Yes. Are we okay with that? As a modern culture, definitely not. The Ancient Greeks, though, were simply looking to explain the world around them, which was a harsh world full of, well, rape and sex.
            In the process of all of this rape and sex, though, Zeus brought law even to the gods, fostered order through the universe, allowed experience and wisdom to temper the fire of knowledge, and gave humanity heroes to aspire to be. Zeus has had a plan this entire time, subtly moving pieces on the board to complete his strategy. This goes beyond cunning. He changes, freely.
He didn’t know beforehand that the gods would attempt a coup. He didn’t know Prometheus would steal fire. He didn’t know which woman he needed to sleep with to bring about Hercules. But he was able to adjust and respond to the situations as they presented themselves. He tempered his anger—which was legendary—with mercy, something the other gods and goddesses never did.
            Zeus is anything but static, and he clearly changes. This is a very big deal in a pantheon where the norm is childish behavior, but something we would expect from a king, who has to mediate and rule over the kingdom. He is doing this even though it appears as if he’s not, which is also a remarkable feat.

Friday, December 28, 2018

F³ WIP Scapegoat

            From the back, Reese mumbled and stirred.
            I slapped her leg through her jeans, hard. She mumbled a little louder and slowly blinked, asserting more control over her body.
            She sat up, looking at me. “Allen?” she said, unsure.
            “Yeah. What the blankity blank were you doing there?”
            Peripherally, I caught Nikki’s slight smile.
            “Blankity blank? Are you a grown-up?”
            “My use of profanity is not the subject. Explain.”    
            “I was after the story.”
            I opened my mouth, then closed it.
            What’s the point? She’ll just keep talking about the damn story.
            “How did you know where it was?”
            “I recorded your phone conversation on my tablet,” she grinned.
            Several curse words went through my head, all applied to myself.
            I better talk to Jen and Jessie about what all these gizmos can do. I am definitely not up on their capabilities.
            “Cute. Well, you should congratulate yourself.”
            “I am.”
            “Not on that. You went face-to-face with not just a fae, but with a wight, and survived.”
            She stared at me flatly. “Is that supposed to mean anything to me?”
            “Two supernatural creatures in one night!”
            “Three,” Nikki added.
            “Three, counting the will o’wisp.”
            Nikki threw me a sidelong glance. I knew what that was about, but I wasn’t going to bring her into the conversation.
            “A weird disco light, some anorexics, and a creepy stockbroker. Unless you meant the college kids peddling drugs.”
            “Matthew,” Nikki said, pointing out the windshield. “I believe your backup is on the way.”
            I looked, confirming the stream of vehicles in a tight line.
            I hastily dialed Collins.
            “I’m on my way!” His voice was faraway, on speakerphone.
            “You’re about to pass me. Pull into the gas station on your right.”
            “It’s over. They bugged out.”
            “You better have a fucking good explanation for this, Allen. Judge is going to have my hide, the department, too.”
            I smiled, “Not this time. You’ve got a great scapegoat.” I looked back at Reese.

Monday, December 24, 2018

M³ Diomedes's Hat Trick

            Diomedes rules! Yeah, I’m biased but the facts bear me out. The guy drove off not one, not two, but three gods from the battlefield, all in the same day. Show me another Greek hero who could accomplish so much? Achilles? He’s supposed to be the greatest warrior, but he’s sulking in his tent. Odysseus is a great thinker and did was the man against Polyphemus, but this is on a whole other level. Hercules? Sure, he did a lot, and is the paragon of what human beings should aspire to, but his trick with Atlas doesn’t measure up to driving three gods from the battlefield, injuring two of them. We also can’t let go that one of these gods is Ares, the god of War.
            Diomedes rules.
            Mic drop.
            Mic pick up.
            Yeah, I’m not done with Diomedes just yet. We have to deal with the question of why this matters. Yes, Athena is superior to Ares, but that’s something else. Athena’s involvement with Diomedes is minimal. She allows him to see the gods and leans in on the spear thrust against Ares, but that’s it. Diomedes does all the rest on his own.
            Diomedes was able to face off against gods and came out victorious. This is huge. Achilles gets all the glory, but Diomedes is the one we need to recognize for great deeds. This changes the very nature of the godhood for the Greeks. Before this moment, the gods were on a level far removed from humanity. Even when we have contests such as Arachne vs. Athena, the gods always have the power to beat the humans. Arachne might be a better weaver, but she is powerless against Athena’s other gifts.
            Diomedes, though, wins the day. Driving Aphrodite and Apollo from the field are lesser—though still great—accomplishments as their areas are not war. Ares, however, is at home on the battlefield, and should be able to best anyone in hand-to-hand combat. Yet Diomedes is the victor. And that’s an end to it. The contest has already been decided, and either Ares is powerless to go after him in another way, or not bright enough to think of it (50-50, I’d say).
            What this means is that mortals can challenge the gods on their own level. It’s also important that it is Diomedes to accomplish this. Achilles, Aeneas, Perseus, Bellerophon, Theseus, or Hercules would rob these deeds of their true importance. They all have divine blood. That connection to the gods would be the excuse that allowed them to engage the gods in battle. Diomedes, though, is completely human.
            Mortal parents and his own prowess are what gave him the victory. Not only has he earned the reputation for a terrifying war cry to opposing armies, but to the gods themselves, and Greek mythology is forever changed.

Friday, December 21, 2018

F³ Blood Feud

            Mikey sat beside me with my hat on, trying to look cool, and succeeding because fedoras are an inherently cool hat.

            “What?” I said in response to Nikki’s look.
            She slowly shook her head. “I made no judgement.”
            “Not out loud.”
            A small smile turned up one side of her mouth. “I concede the point. Fedoras are cool.”
            I didn’t trust that look, but I carried on.

            “So, sisters, huh?” I said.
            He nodded, causing the hat to fall over his eyes, momentarily.
            “Never had a sister. For me it was a brother. She do something to make you mad?”
            A shrug, which also somehow made the hat fall over his eyes again.
            “Yeah, I get that. Sometimes just existing is enough. But why the doll?”
            He didn’t look at me, instead just focusing on the back of the seat in front of him, his mouth a hard line that cracked, briefly. “She carries that stupid thing everywhere and shoves it in my face.”
            I chuckled slightly at that. “Kinda reminds me of my brother.”
            The kid still didn’t make eye contact with me, but that didn’t bother me.
            “I was on the other end, though. I had a hat, a lot like this one. Not as nice as this one since my mom made it for me, but it was my first hat, and I loved it. I thought I was so cool, like Indiana Jones or Sam Spade.”
            The kid didn’t give any recognition of the names, which didn’t surprise me.
            “So I played at being an archaeologist on an adventure or a detective on the case every time I put the hat on, shooting Nazis, swinging on my bullwhip over chasms. And I guess I annoyed my brother. He was always the bad guy since I had the hat. Only the hero gets to wear the hat, y’know? Finally, he had enough and stomped on the hat and ripped it into pieces right in front of me.”
            “What’d you do?” Mikey asked.
            “Oh, I was mad. Sure, I went to Ma and Dad, and they punished him, but it wasn’t enough for me. It was war. It was a blood feud. I stopped talking to him. Any chance I got I would wreck his toy cars when no one was looking—so I wouldn’t get in trouble. It lasted for months, even after Ma made me a new hat. It didn’t matter because he had wrecked the old one.”
            “Are you still mad at him?” Mikey’s voice had grown softer, as had his face, genuine concern that his sister might feel the same way about him.
            “I was ready to be hate him for the rest of my life, but six months later, he said he was sorry and gave me a new hat, one that he bought from a store. It also wasn’t as nice as this one,” I rapped the brim with a knuckle, “but it was one he bought. He saved up his money and bought it for me.”
            “Did you ever fight after that?”
            “Oh, sure, all the time. That’s what brothers and sisters do. But it was never a feud like that ever again. After a day or so one of us would apologize and we’d go back to being brothers. But you know what?”
            “For those six months when I was mad at him, I was lonely. I was just mad at him all the time. I was mad at him for ruining my hat and I was mad at him for making me mad at him. I was mad at him for not being there to play with. I just kept getting madder at him, and then I’d stomp on his cars.”
            Mikey laughed at that.
            “Yeah, now it’s all funny, but then I was just mad at him. I wished he hadn’t waited so long to apologize. I wish I had realized I was making him mad with my hat. I am glad that, together, we used fire crackers to blow up one of his old model cars.”

            “You led quite a destructive youth, Matthew.”
            “Doll,” I laid the 30s accent on thick, “you don’t know the half of it.”
            “Indeed. I shall have to come by more often for you to regale me.”

Monday, December 17, 2018

M³ Tactics Over Brutality

            So, on one level, we have Diomedes kicking ass, and we’ll get back to the main man after this, but first we have to deal with a subtler battle. Who is the better god of war? In the red corner, we have Ares, God of War. In the gold corner, we have Athena Goddess of Wisdom (and war, and crafts, and a few other things).
            Since Ares only has one specialty, it would be easy to think that he’d naturally be better at it, and he’s quite good at laying waste to people on the battlefield. But the Greeks are also commenting on the nature of warfare when it comes to the Iliad. Ares has no finesse, he’s waded onto the battle field and killing the enemy, indiscriminately.
Athena, however, is much more precise in her targets. She wants Diomedes to keep an eye out for Aphrodite and take her out. After that, it’s all about Ares. This is good tactical sense, using her best resources against the enemy’s strongest warriors. Before Diomedes confronts Ares, the Greeks “always backward / gave way, as they saw how Ares went with the Trojans” (V 700-701). The god is just too much to stand against and will eventually demoralize the Greeks to the point of full retreat if left unchecked. Areas must be dealt with, and it will take the best the Greeks can send against him, which is Diomedes. Not Achilles.
Diomedes could have done the same thing, waded into the fight in a different place to simply massacre the Trojans, but this would be tactically unsound. Though battle lines fluctuate back and forth, they don’t often bubble. Armies give ground as a whole because bubbles can be cut off from the rest of the group and destroyed (what should have happened to Jon Snow, don’t get me started).
In order to win, Ares must be dealt with so that the entire army can progress. Athena’s choice is clear. Zeus even knows this as he “set[s] against [Ares] the spoiler Athene, / who beyond all others is the one to visit harsh pains upon him” (V 764-765). With just these few words, it’s clear that the better god of war is the goddess Athena. Ares makes war through the use of overwhelming force in either raw ability or numbers. There is no finesse to his fighting.
As the goddess of wisdom, Athena’s game is nothing but finesse. She could have chosen to do like Ares. She could have taken the guise of some Greek warrior and led a direct battle against Ares, but this was not her way. Instead, she stood by Diomedes and let him bet the one to challenge and dispatch Ares.
I don’t know if she could have taken on Ares directly because that’s not her way of war, it’s his. As the goddess of wisdom, she is deliberate in her actions, which are often not direct. She confronts him in her way, indirectly, wisely, and with the best warrior the Greeks can offer, whose only talents for direct battle are enough (with a little lean-in from Athena) to drive Ares away.
In a very real sense, this is an evaluation by the Greeks that tactics and strategy in battle will always win out over blind force. This will later be borne out as the Greek victory comes from the deception of the Trojan Horse, an indirect strategy as opposed to open warfare.
Athena is, by far, the more deadly of the gods of war. Superior tactics and strategy will overcome even armies of greater numbers and strength. Diomedes’s defeat of Ares on the battlefield demonstrates this understanding.

Friday, December 14, 2018

F³ The Vote

            I sat in a circle of other men, most of whom had their needs tended to by statuesque women in tight, revealing clothing. One man sat at the “head” of the table with a gold-bound gavel. I was dressed in the expensive suit I had bought just for coming into the Fairhaven Club, which I only did when absolutely necessary.
            My membership had first been bought by Max Auron to conduct business, but had been perpetuated by Nikki, which was why I was here, today.
            Two ceremonial raps of the gavel by the chairman. “Let us come to the last order of business.” He added an unhealthy cough, reminding me of the age of everyone here.
            The white-haired and balding men grumbled among their ranks, while the younger crowd looked determined.
            “Once again, the issue has been raised whether to open membership to women. Having heard all discussions, I call the vote. Is there a second?”
            Several men quickly chimed in with their “Second.”
            “Point of order, Mr. Chairman.” The young man three down from me stood for emphasis. “I object to this vote being held in the absence of our sole female member, Ms. Alexander.”
            Grumbles from the old guard started to rise and the younger started speaking loudly, but the gavel cut off the uprising before it become a full-on shouting match.
            “Your objection is overruled Mr. Hansen. Mr. Allen, there,” he pointed at me with the gavel, “carries Ms. Alexander’s proxy.”
            That caught Hansen completely off-guard as he slapped the table for dramatic effect, then opened his mouth and stared at me, dumbfounded.
            “I withdraw my objection,” he finally got out.
            Beside me, one of the men nodded in my direction.
            “All in favor,” the chairman said.
            Hands went up on the side of the younger men, but not mine.
            The friendly nod before turned into a scowl.
            “All against?”
            I raised my hand.
            “Ayes 9, nays 10. The issue is denied,” the chairman announced, tapping the gavel. “You and your allies may bring the issue again according to the bylaws, Mr. Hansen.”
            Hansen and his allies stormed out as the older crowd passed congratulations among themselves.
            I shook my head and walked out, wanting to be away from the idiocy of the Fairhaven Club.

Monday, December 10, 2018

M³ Ares v Diomedes

            In the case of Ares v Diomedes, Athena represents the butt-kicker, err, the defendant. The plaintiff contends that because he is a god, he will automatically win any battle with a mortal. Furthermore, he seeks to provide evidence of this with his willful slaughter of many, many Greeks on the field of battle outside of Troy.
            For the Defendant, Athena seeks to prove that Ares is a blundering idiot who only knows how to swing a sword or jab a spear while invisible to the eyes of the Greeks, and that a hero of sufficient courage can defeat the god.
            Sorry, no, Zeus is not presiding over this case, we’re doing this old-school, trial by combat.
            Ares takes to the battlefield and just starts slaughtering Greeks wholesale, and they have no idea who or what is doing this because all they can see is that soldiers are getting cut down by something they can’t see. They just try to avoid the area, but Ares keeps wading into them. Well, everyone avoids him, even Diomedes.
            No, he’s not afraid, Athena told him point-blank that he was only allowed to go after Aphrodite. But now she rescinds that order. In fact, she hops into the chariot with him and aims for Ares. Somehow, she also has gotten the helmet of Hades, and makes herself completely invisible to Ares.
            Ares, though, sees Diomedes, and likewise charges him. They’re both going full-tilt at each other. Ares stabs out, and Athena deflects the blow. Diomedes stabs, and Athena helps by leaning into it. And boom, “Ares the brazen bellowed with a sound as great as nine thousand men make, or ten thousand” (V 859-860).
            And then he’s gone. He doesn’t stick around. The god of war is unused to being injured and can likewise not handle it. Yes, Athena helped a little more this time, but, really, Diomedes could’ve done the job himself. She only leaned into the blow. What’s truly impressive is the fortitude of human beings vs that of the gods. Two gods can only take one injury before they go running back to Olympus.
Diomedes is not a perfect warrior. Before Athena found him again, he had been “cooling the wound that Pandaros made with the cast of his arrow . . . and wiped the dark blot of blood away” (794, 797), but he did so with style, not really noticing anything other than an entire day’s exhaustion from fighting the Trojans, Aphrodite, and Apollo. He’s just taking five and doesn’t hesitate to answer Athena’s call to do battle with Ares. He’s all in.

Friday, December 7, 2018

F³ WIP Getaway Driver

            The car raced away, slamming me into the door before I could brace myself. Nikki continued to to give her impression of a street racer, tearing into turns and squealing tires. I fumbled my belt on, then took a look at Reese, who was like a doll in the back seat, sliding around, boneless. Her eyes were open, making the effect particularly creepy.
            “Reese! Wake up!”
            “Your efforts to rouse her can wait until we have secured our escape, Matthew.”
            My eyes went up to the rear window, scanning for signs of another car or even a will o’wisp dancing in pursuit.
            “I don’t see anything,” I told Nikki. “You might want to make us more discreet.”
            “Blend in as it were?”
            “Not easy to do so long as we are in a Lexus in Shoreward.”
            “Yeah, but I don’t think the fae woman is up on which car models belong in which part of town. They can probably hear squealing tires, though.”
            “A valid point.”
            Her driving became more commuter and less racer, and I settled back into my seat.

Monday, December 3, 2018

M³ Lover Not A Fighter

            We’ll get into why Athena wants to hurt Aphrodite, later (it’s a really good story with appropriate trash-talk). For now, however, all we need to know is that Athena has authorized the use of force against Aphrodite. She does, indeed, take to the field of battle. She has no actual interest in the outcome of the war. Instead, she’s there to protect her son Aeneas because Diomedes will wreck him. Actually, he pretty much did wreck him. He smashed his hip joint pretty badly. He was going to die.
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