Entries Tagged 'Mythology' ↓

It’s Labor Day in America! Also, Open Myth Call for the Autumn!

As I wrote above, it’s labor day in America, which I’m actually spending working on my day job — it’s September, or as we call it in Academia, “the Apocalypse.”

So, in celebration of this day of rest, Corbett-877 is taking the day. He may show up later in the week, mind. I rather like this episode. But as long weekends often mean lower readership on Mondays anyhow, we may as well hold off a touch.

For those who do show up today, however, I’ll happily throw open the floor for the Autumnal Open Myth Call! If you’ve got questions that need mythological answers, this would be a lovely time to hear about them! Otherwise, if you’re in a place that celebrates Labor Day I hope you have it off, and if you’re not or you don’t… well, I hope your Monday’s going great anyway!

Why do things break right as their warranties expire?

This entry is part 26 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

And we’re back! Last week ended up being problematic for a number of reasons. My apologies for the silence — suffice it to say, we have had a stern talking to with the actors and the union has negotiated in good faith, so we think we should be back in business.

Which brings us to today’s myth, asked by cheerful reader Cathi Payne, who asks:

The warranty myth? Why does most new technology begin to fault or fail just after the end of the warranty period? What sort of creatures or beings are responsible for ensuring that these goods keep going until the expiry has passed?

It’s a classic question, and one well worth asking. Why do some devices just… collapse right as their warranty fails. And for that matter, why do some others keep going long after they should have keeled over and died? Or, asked succinctly:

Why do some things break right as their warranties expire?

Before clicking through, please understand that we have accepted no promotional consideration for product placement. However, we are open to doing so. You can’t sell a story without sometimes selling a story out, after all! Ha-chachacha!

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Ball Lightning, Missing Socks, Drawer Crud and the Protectors of the Hearth

This entry is part 25 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

When I first mentioned that Banter Latte would be coming back, and the myths along with it, I solicited new myth questions on my Tumblr and my Twitter feeds, respectively. And I got a lot of good questions from both sources, which you’ll be seeing crop up hither and yon.

One response I got was from Lisa Jonté, a wonderful writer and artist, who was one of the long-time editors of Girlamatic in its original incarnations (including during the time when I was the abortive editor at Modern Tales). She was also the creator and artist of Arcana Jayne, which was fantastic but is sadly not online any more. She was a regular contributor over at Sequential Tart and she’s a regular columnist at http://mmorpg.com, and if I sound impressed that Jonté submitted a myth request, it’s because I am.

Her request, submitted via by Twitter, was:

Ball lightning, missing socks and whatever the heck that crud is that collects in a drawer full of otherwise clean silverware.

Now, some of you may think that didn’t sound like a myth request. In fact, it sounded like three. But I know better, and of course, so does Jonté — a mythologist of some renown herself. I have to assume she was asking for an old tale to be retold, and was just constrained by the 140 character limit Twitter imposes.

Nevertheless, I understood, and I’m happy to oblige, especially since it harkens back to the story of the Viscountess of the Northwesterlies, and her Dust Wyvern nemeses. After all, there were aspects mentioned in that story that deserved some elaboration.

Small aspects, in fact. Under the bed.

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Time Zones and the Witching Hour.

This entry is part 24 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

Today we’ve got a couple of sources for our myth — one old and one new. One from last month, with old friend PlaidPhantom, who asks:

Here’s one, since I’m on vacation right now: what’s the deal with time zones?

The other is from back in 2007, when Super Prattle Droid asked:

How do time zones relate to the witching hour? If someone performs a dark rite in, say, a county which doesn’t do daylight savings time, but the state as a whole does recognize daylight savings time, and the area of the town he/she’s in is claimed by two states, one in the Central time zone and one in Mountain, when is “midnight” according to the Forces of Darkness?

Well, I won’t get into what makes up a force of darkness or not — that’s a very different story — but these two questions together remind me of a story that once I heard… it’s a sad one — for us, in particular, and by ‘us’ I mean human beings. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One warning — this isn’t the shortest of these stories. But then, that seems appropriate, don’t you think?

People speak of the Witching Hour. It is an old concept — part of deep rooted fears and prejudices around ‘witches.’ By witches, of course, we mean anything from practioners of old arts to the old women who understood the uses of roots and herbs to any woman who dared to want to read or smoke or speak when not spoken to. Needless to say, this had nothing to do with ‘witches,’ either in the proper sense or in the pejorative diabolist sense. Needless to say, there has never been a ‘witching hour.’

There was a henostic’s hour, mind. Four of them, actually — one for the two daily solstices at noon and midnight, when the world was as full and devoid of light as it got, respectively, and one for the two daily equinoxes at dawn and twilight, when light and darkness were in balance. That’s really what they’re thinking of. You probably haven’t heard of the henostic’s hour, but then history isn’t what it used to be.

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Why are the ideas of things scarier than the reality?

This entry is part 23 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

And here we are on Monday, and the Mythology of the Modern World is happily open for business.

Today, our question comes from an old friend not only of Banter Latte and Websnark but even random noodlings and writings for the In Nomine role playing game over at Steve Jackson Games. Moe Lane — an excellent writer of regard on matters idyllic and profane alike (including many matters political, for those who can’t bear to have their assumptions challenged. Be prepared — Moe plays streetball) asked all the way back in the original myth call:

Why is the idea of a ten-foot bug scarier than the reality of one?

Now, I know a number of you just clenched your muscles and thought “what, is he crazy? A real ten foot bug would be terrifying.” And that’s fair enough — but I’d remind you that you’re reacting, once again, to the idea. Even the situations where people have shown terrifying pictures of gigantic spiders climbing up barn walls are expressions of the idea, since those pictures are inevitably created via photoshop or camera angles. If one wanted to listen to the boring scientific explanations done by experts who went to schools and learned facts, they’d explain that ten foot bugs of either the arachnoid or insectoid varieties wouldn’t look like their smaller brethren and would work very differently. It has to do with square-cube laws and the way exoskeletons and hydraulic muscles work and… well, that’s not why you’re here, is it?

Nor is this to claim that ‘bugs’ aren’t scary. I’m a confirmed arachnophobe. A spider the size of a quarter can get me shrieking in a most unrefined manner. No, what we’re really discussing is the fantastic, versus the mundane. In our minds, we can conceive of the most horrific things. Confronted with the reality… well, sure they may still be scary, but at least a small part of our brains thinks “wait – this is what the fuss is all about?”

Which brings us to our core question, distilled to its essence: why are the ideas of things scarier than the reality?

One note? This is kind of a dark one. Just be warned. I blame Moe.

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The Fruit Fly and the Nymph of Time

This entry is part 22 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

Another Monday, and another explanation of how the world works, behind the scenes. And, as with so many of these ‘things,’ we’re clearing out the backlog of topics from… well, 2007. I feel like I should be tracking things with Gantt charts.

Today, thankfully, we have a twofer. Two separate questions can be merged together into one tale. The first question was asked by… um… ‘burning.’ Which… makes me hope someone extinguished him and/or her between then and now, or else we’ll have to answer this question for ‘ash.’ The second question comes to us via old friend of many of our endeavors hight Goblinpaladin.

burning’s question is:

Why do we all get so annoyed when another driver drives below the posted speed limit? How does “maximum legal speed” get transformed into “minimum polite speed?”

and Goblinpaladin’s is:

I don’t have a specific question formulated, but: Tell us a story about Procrastination. The Lord of the realm. Why it is tied to stress and also relaxation. Something. Anything.

Two questions. Procrastination and speed. Politeness in the moment being determined by rulebreaking, versus putting things off until everything becomes stressful.

As it turns out, these are related concepts, as you’ll see after the break. It’s a long one, so hunker down.

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The Souls of Toys

This entry is part 21 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

We’re back, and it’s time once more for the Mythology of the Modern World. Today’s myth comes to us via a question asked by Paul Gadzikowski, legend of Microsoft Paint before it was cool. His question is one asked by many people, both children and people who had been children once upon a time. To whit:

Some of us mortals suspect that our toys come to life at night or when we leave the house, and that they have Rules of which the upshot is prohibiting our knowing they’re alive. Where did the Rules come from?

It really is something worth pondering, and to be honest Toy Story and its sequels haven’t helped. They get some of the concepts right, but not all of them — if nothing else, the truth behind our toys and their hidden lives don’t end with the toys holding hands as they descend down a gravel track towards the pure molten fire that represents their horrible, twisted deaths every time one of them gets discarded. For one thing, our toys don’t want our children (or the rest of us) sobbing our fucking eyes out in terror when we think of the toys we loved got thrown out after being broken!

Not that I’m bitter.

In order to understand the Rules, you have to understand what takes bits of plastic, wood, cloth, and batting and turn them into our best friends, our closest comforts, our companions, our imaginations, and our recipients of cathartic violence that doesn’t lead us to killing the neighbor’s dog instead.

In other words… you need to hear about the Souls of Toys.

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Where do babies come from? I mean, really come from?

This entry is part 20 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

One of the things about a five and a half-year absence is you get a certain… backlog. Especially when you do things like answer questions and explain things about the hidden world behind our own. Some folks have wondered if I’m nervous if the current myth calls are quiet. The answer there is, simply enough, ‘no,’ because I’ve got dozens of questions that stretch back into the mists of time.

Which is not to say I won’t answer a newly asked question in a timely fashion. Writing is many things, but it’s not fair.

Today’s question was asked back on Monday, September 7, 2007 by a gentleman (I unwarrantedly assume) hight Joel Wilcox. Mister Wilcox asked:

Where do babies come from? Not sex or cells or the stork … where do they really come from?

It’s a fair question. One that mythologists, hacks and eight year old children (and Piers Anthony, who at one time or another was each of those things) have been asking for roughly as long as the species knew what a child was. Now, having had the scientific explanation short circuited (and rightfully so), and the traditional stork answer forestalled, the question remains.

Where do babies come from? I mean… really come from.

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Open Myth Call: June 1-7

Back when the world was new and this blog was as well, we had a tradition. On Saturdays, there would be an open thread — once a month, that thread would serve as a call for myths that need answering.

Well, the open threads never got much traffic — almost as if there wasn’t a lot of folks looking to chat in the comments section of a blog on a Saturday morning. However, the myth call was usually popular.

All right then — have a look at some of the old Myths of the Modern World if you would, and if you have any questions about the world, society, philosophy, Super Mario Brothers or the like, ask them here. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll answer them where we can on Mondays.

Thanks as always!

Mythology of the Modern World: Aren’t I Just Ripping Off John Hodgman?

This entry is part 19 of 26 in the series Mythology of the Modern World

Welcome back to Banter Latte. We apologize for the brief interruption of service.

Long time readers will remember that we answer questions about the Mythology of the Modern World — the mythological underpinnings that lie beneath the surface, which explain how the universe works in a way that is comprehensible. That the universe is in fact explainable via science has little bearing, since as we all know science is only useful if you actually want to learn something, build something, do something or cure something. Myth has the advantage of doing none of these things, and often being entertaining in the process. Also, there is significantly less math.

We pause to let the engineers in the audience stop swearing. The physicists generally accept the above with good grace. After all, they know the score. And they’re calling the shots. And they know that too.

Regardless, in this weekly roundup we strive to answer questions — questions which often (but not always) begin with the words “why” or “how.” Why is the sky blue? (Answer: you’re seeing God’s enormous iris, and the sun is his pupil. Which is why you should only sin inside windowless rooms or on overcast days. Yes, he has blue eyes, and dark skin, and actually keeps his white beard trimmed into a lovely goatee. No, he is not a hipster, though admittedly he was into literally everything before it was cool. And no, sinning at night is no good, because he can see your reflection off the moon. That’s what it’s for.) Why is the grass green? (Answer: grass is trying very hard to camouflage itself so it can blend into the forests, so that ravenous packs of horses, cows and sheep don’t devour it. It is more effective than you might think — go into a dense forest and look for grass. Can you find it? Generally not. The problem is, they only have the one camo suit available, so sitting out in fields it’s dead obvious. Honestly, it seems like a waste of money to me.) How are babies made? (Answer: ask your mother.) And so on and so forth. You can ask these questions via the contact page you see over to the right. There are no guarantees, of course. All rights are reserved.

Today’s question comes from an old friend named Anonymous. Anonymous and I go way back — Anon (the preferred nickname. ‘Mous’ is frowned upon) is the author of many great poems, songs, stories and internet rants. In this case, Anonymous says:

“Hey — about the whole modern myth thing. It’s cool and all I guess, but aren’t you just ripping off John Hodgman’s deal?”

Now, you will notice that the question doesn’t start with “why.” I frown on answering those, but as we’re just returning, it seems like a brief discussion touching on where these myths come from is in order. Further, given the scurrilous attack upon my character that the question implies, I think it only mete that I respond, to defend myself and the integrity of the mythology that is being formed here, and the ways in which it is distinct from the seminal, brilliant work by writer, actor, advertiser, expert and bon vivant John Hodgman, of which much has been said. His books can be found here, if you’re willing to buy from Amazon, and… well, other places, if you are not.

But I am getting sidetracked. This impugnation upon my work must be answered. Am I just ripping off John Hodgman?

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