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Cats of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Cats of Fantasy & Science Fiction

It’s been a thing to make animals into human type characters, or as it’s called, anthropomorphized. An early representation of this is in Kenneth Graham’s Wind In The Willows, with the characters of Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Mr. Toad.  While Wind In The Willows had animals living in holes but also wearing suits and rowing row boats and talking about cars (as Mr. Toad did), Richard Adams’ Watership Down gave a colony of rabbits more socialized human characteristics while keeping them looking like rabbits.

Naturally, Star Trek has their own anthropomorphized creatures with the Gorn, the Caitians, the Ferasan, and even the primate, acquatic, insectoid and reptilian Xindi.  The Xindi as a combined force felt threatened by Earth and attempted to destroy the planet.  This plan to destroy humans was pushed primarily by the insectoid and reptilian Xindi, while the primate, humanoid and acquatic Xindi were hesitant to use the weapon.

The interesting thing about Caitians and Ferasan (which is a Trek name used because they weren’t allowed to use Kzinti) is their origins don’t begin in Star Trek at all.  They began in the Known Space series by Larry Niven.  There, mankind battled against the war like Kzinti, a feline race who were the size and strength of Mountain Gorillas.  Niven rewrote one of his own short stories to use in the Star Trek Animated Series, adding in Catians and the rest is history.  Of course, Trek isn’t the only place you’ll find feline friends who are their own species within a universe.

The Charr, first appearing in Guild Wars Prophecies, are a war like feline species of the realm of Tyria.  Driving the humans out of Ascalon, the Charr claimed that region was their own until the humans drove them out.  In Guild Wars 2, the Charr have become a playable race, and according to the lore, they are finally calling for a truce with the humans.  Mostly because they still have three other fronts to deal with in the Ghosts of Ascalon, the Flame Legion and the Branded (corrupted dragon minions).  They are a technologically advanced race, as they seem to have harnessed the ability drill for oil, refine into petroleum and use for massive tanks and other machines.  In Guild Wars Prophecies and Eye of the North (where the player meets Pyre Fierceshot), the only Charr that are encountered are males.

Naturally, video games and television aren’t the only place where felines show up.  They even appear in the fantasy and science fiction of collectible trading card games.  One of the biggest being Magic The Gathering.

In Magic The Gathering there are many different tribes of cat people.  Mirri the Cat Warrior came from an unknown tribe and was banished for having two different eye colours which was seen as a taboo among her people.  Mirri herself went of alone and eventually became a student among the Multani, and eventually finding that she grew an incredible attachment and attraction to a human named Gerrard.  While she never found a chance to tell Gerrard, she did accompany him on many adventures.  Throughout the lore of Magic the Gathering there are many references to cat like people, many of whom live a warrior’s life.

So where exactly did our fascination with feline, or even canine, humanoids come from.  I’m not talking about were creatures, I’m talking about intelligent species that are felinoid.  Naturally cats are seen as important in many different cultures.  In the Mesoamerican Olmec culture, jaguars were revered.  Shamans and warriors alike would wear the skins of jaguars, and many shamans would claim they could shapeshift into a jaguar.  Even the Mayans and Aztecs found favour with the jaguar, though for the Mayans it was more material as the jaguar pelt was highly sought after.  In Ancient Egypt, cats were sacred.  Egyptians had been domesticating wildcats from the Middle East for thousands of years, and cats were seen as graceful and poised, especially with their ability to control vermin and kill cobras.  Mafdet, Sehkmet and of course, Bastet were all Egyptian deities who were depicted with feline heads.  All of them were lions at one time, though Bastet’s features softened over time to reflect the domesticated cat.  Because of this, many felt cats were sacred to Bastet, so when they died they were mummified and laid to rest so their souls may reside with Bastet for all eternity.

Among many First Nations Peoples, cats were seen as independent, yet enjoying social situations.

Even today, many believe that humans didn’t domesticate cats, but cats domesticated themselves.  They saw humans in a non threatening light, among them they could get food, water, and shelter.  In exchange, they need only destroy vermin and keep the humans company.  Fair enough trade.  And over the years, the existence of cats with humans has meant all kinds of folklore from even culture imaginable.  Many of which are carried down either verbally or through artwork or through written word until they make it to our minds in the 21st Century.  And we change things up for fantasy, fiction, and science fiction.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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EDITORIAL – The Future of Star Trek: It’s the Story, Stupid | TrekMovie.com


EDITORIAL – The Future of Star Trek: It’s the Story, Stupid | TrekMovie.com.

I had planned to do my own editorial on Trek, which I may still do, but this one is an excellent article.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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A second shooting; not as bad but still a problem


While the world was shocked yesterday to hear news of a young white man who pulled a gun on the EMA Church in Charleston, South Carolina, another shooting took place in Memphis, Tennessee.  The good news is, no one was hurt.  But the sentiment of fear is still there.

Back in Charleston, Dylann Storm Roof was set for bond after admitting to killing nine people at the EMA Church.  And the media even began portraying him as a sick, lone wolf.  Or, displayed innocent pictures of him to ensure that there would be some form of sympathy toward him.

Facebook and twitter feeds even tried very hard to distance themselves from Roof, claiming that he looked more of a “mixed race” than purely white.  Let’s face it, Roof was white.  He was whiter than me, and I’m pretty damned white.  White supremest groups also attempted to distance themselves from this act of terror, knowing that this action only hurts their twisted sense of morality.

Roof had claimed, as a roommate and close friend had said, that he wanted to start a civil war.  A race war.  And yet, the media and right wing politicians are trying desperately to play this down.  That this isn’t something that is a wide spread concern.  Because look, there’s brown people in the Middle East that are threatening the security in the United States and Canada.  We’re not that stupid.

Unmanned drone attacks against unsuspecting civilians won’t help protect any security when you have white supremacists who walk into a church to shoot the black people within.  Oh, and sexist.  I forgot to mention that, because Roof claimed that black men are raping white women, and he has to protect the white women.  Which is telling that Roof has no respect for women either.  Because when you use the white knight trope with regard to women, you’re basically saying that women can’t protect themselves, can’t make decisions for themselves, and can’t take care of themselves.  Which is all 100% not true.

So yes, America.  You have a gun problem.  You have a race problem.  You breed domestic, white terrorists on a daily basis, and that kind of right wing thinking is even affecting us north of the border.  Did you know that our current Prime Minister supported South African apartheid?  This is the thoughts of right wing conservatives (both small c and big C).  Strip away rights, dehumanize everyone not white, and force everyone into poverty.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Life, randomness

 

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Charleston; the shooter arrested


As quickly as it happened last night, it is now over.  Save for the trial.  21 year old Dylann Storm Roof was arrested by police suspected of shooting nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Security footage picked up Roof entering the church and later leaving, and picked up his getaway car.  The 21 year old Columbia native has a criminal history, and according to family members he never said anything racist.

Save for every time he made a racist joke.  Seriously, that’s what one family member said about Roof, that he’d make racist jokes but never anything “serious”.  Roof’s father bought him a .45 calibre pistol for his birthday, which is the suspected weapon used in the shooting.  Oh, and Roof was heard to have said “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” said Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the church’s slain pastor.  As noted in the photo, Roof (pronounced “cough”) is wearing a jacket with the flags of two racist African nations.  Meaning when whites ruled.  The top flag is for the apartheid South Africa before 1994, and the bottom one is for Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.  Which hasn’t been Rhodesia since the 80s.  Which means Roof’s racism was taught to him, because both of those nations under white, racist rule crumbled before he was born.

This entire thing was about race, but right now the media is ponying up to apologize for him, making him out to be a saint when all he is is a terrorist.  A monster.  A murderer.  Roof entered a church, an hour or two from his home, with a gun, fully with the intent to kill people.  This is not the actions of a lone wolf, this is the actions of a sick and twisted segment of society that breeds monsters and killers and terrorists that will strike against citizens of their own country without remorse or feeling.

Not surprisingly, Roof was taken alive.  Unlike the recent killings of unarmed black men and women, Roof was carrying a gun and had already killed 9.  Maybe it would have been different had he been carrying cigarillos and Skittles.  As well, Fox News is spinning this as an attack against Christianity, instead of what it really is; a racist attack against black people by a racist himself.  This has nothing to do with this being in a church.  It has everything to do with some white racist monster who wants nothing more than to kill black people.  Or anyone else who isn’t white.

One can only hope that this psychopath rots in a dark cell for the rest of his life, and that his 15 minutes of fame are now over and we never hear his disgusting name uttered again.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Charleston shooting is definitely about race


Everyone is waking up with the news of another shooting in the Southern States.  This time at a church in Charelston, South Carolina.  A white man, in his twenties, is suspected to have attended a meeting at the church, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and then opened fire killing nine people (more here).

There can be only one reason why someone would walk into a church and shoot people; it was a hate crime.  The church in Charelston is an historic one, dating back to 1816 as the largest African American congregation in North America.  It’s seen it’s hardships over the centuries.  Burned to the ground and rebuilt, banned by the state, and now this shooting.

This shooting harkens back to those times when mobs of white men would burn black owned businesses and churches back in the 1950s.  That was a time just 60 years ago, and we’re still dealing with it today.  It’s something I’ve said time and again, we as a society are far from a post racial one.  Race is still at the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially when an act such as this occurs.  Or like so many police shootings that have taken place this year, where white police officers murder unarmed black youth.

Here’s the big problem with this situation (aside from the fact nine people were senselessly gunned down by an obvious racist).  Police are already looking for this individual, and dollars to donuts says he will be taken in alive.  That is the way of things in the United States; unarmed black man suspected of wrong doing gets killed immediately, while armed to the teeth white man who already killed several gets taken in alive by the police and has his day in court.  This is a prime example of white privilege.

Last week in Texas, an officer tackled and detained a black 14 year old girl for attending a pool party.  She, along with other black and white high schoolers, were invited to the party, but several whites in the neighbourhood decided this was wrong.  In an ironic twist, white defenders of the police officer are saying that this is common for black people to act savage and uncivilized.  Yet, it was the police office who went to an extreme.  And now we have this shooting at a church in Charleston.  Individuals gathered for a bible study, shot in cold blood by a “civilized” white man.

While action is being taken quickly in this recent shooting, it’s odd how some are treating it.  The racist front in the United States is gaining ground, and acts like this only fuel them.  It won’t be long before an individual who feels “brave” for being racist will herald this jackass a hero.  There’s atheists who will do the same, saying that the shooter was sending a message to Christians.  Although, that message really has no bearing when it’s a white man killing black people.

It’s apparent this was a hate crime, nothing more, nothing less.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Life, randomness

 

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Black Like Me


If anyone remembers the title of the book which I’ve used as the title of this post, it was a work of non-fiction by journalist John Howard Griffin.  The book details a six week period of Griffin’s life as he traveled by Greyhound buses and hitchhiked through the racially segregated states of Louisianna, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.  At the time, 1959, race relations in America were particularly strained and Griffin wanted to chronicle the hardships black people faced.  The book was more a journalistic study, but to make it accurate Griffin had his skin darkened by a doctor and passed as a black man.

I read the book in high school, and unfortunately books in high school went unremembered because we had to read them.  Though, apparently I do remember the book, if not the entire content.  But I was reminded of that book with the recent news that has been popping up lately about former NAACP Chapter President in Spokane, Washington, Rachel Dolezal.  It was revealed that Dolezal, who has been passing as black, is actually white.  Unlike Griffin, she wasn’t doing it to do a series of journalistic articles to study the hardships of black people (and even Griffin doesn’t get a pass with that, really).  For Dolezal, it was personal gain, though some would argue that her attempt at bringing about change as the head of a civil rights organization is a good thing.

Sure, that’s good an all, but if you’re white, then stay white.  Don’t try and pass as something you’re not.

Out of the story, there’s a lot of calls that Dolezal is “transracial”, an attempt to compare Dolezal’s life to that of Laverne Cox or Janet Mock.  Both of whom are trans-women.  But the case of transgender is completely different than transracial.  Transracial already happens to have a root in adoptions, especially those children who are black who are adopted by white parents.

At best, Dolezal is dodging questions, and some might say out right lying about her past.  As she claims she is black, or identifies herself as black.  I might want to identify as a potato, but seriously no amount of imagination is going to turn me into a spud.

The one really damaging thing this has done is focus attention away from the number of black youth killed by police in the United States.  Though it might be said that this is another example of the continued appropriation and degradation of an entire culture.  Let’s face it, the majority of white people like parts of black culture, and can do so safely in the comfort of their white lives.  But when it comes to interacting with black people, that changes completely.

Is the United States, and to an equal extent Canada, living in a post racial society?  No it isn’t.  Especially when there’s a huge number of innocent black youth being killed and white people attempting to claim a heritage that isn’t their own.  In a way, Dolezal’s story can be compared to Griffin’s.  Both have tried to claim they were black, both have lived as black people for a good number of years, and both used this to propel their own personal gains.  All under the guise of civil rights and investigative journalism.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Life, randomness

 

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All Things Change


At one time, decades ago, a television series hit the airwaves that was groundbreaking for it’s time.  It dealt with issues of race, gender, gender inequality, war, and had television’s first inter-racial kiss.  If the pilot had stood, it would also have had a woman as the first officer of the starship.  As it happened, it had a black woman as a communications officer, and a Japanese American as a helms officer.  And it didn’t treat them as special or different, they were members of the crew.

That television series was Star Trek.

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For three seasons, it went boldly as it examined the human condition and (at the time) current social issues.  It’s been said many a time, even on this blog, that it even caught the attention of Martin Luther King Jr. who convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay with the show as she represented a black woman in a form not seen on television before.

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The years passed and then came the movies, and a resurgence in Trek proved there was enough interest to produce a new series.  The Next Generation came out, and it too went boldly were its predecessor had gone.  It examined social issues under the guise of science fiction.  From capital punishment, to torture, to the need for diplomacy.

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While TNG was still running, the producers of Star Trek decided they could do another series.  One that ended up much more serious in nature.  Deep Space Nine wouldn’t just explore the galaxy, but it would explore more social issues, using the backdrop of a recently liberated world from decades of oppression as the setting.  The show talked about the ravages of war, racism, inequality, and trust.  It even had the distinction of being the first Trek series to have a black commanding officer.

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Voyager came next, and continued the tradition that had come before.  With the backdrop of an unfamiliar region of space, the crew of the Federation Starship Voyager met social issues head on and often times made a positive mark.

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The last series in the group was Enterprise, and while it went back to Starfleet’s infancy, it still reminded the viewer that Earth had just overcome a massive world war, had dealt with poverty, crime, disease, and had found similarities to overcome their own differences and appreciate their own differences.

And then came 2009.

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In 2009, the entire original series was rebooted.  And while the cast was good, each actor taking on the role incredibly well, the stories weren’t the same.  Everything was set aside for action, and a lot of exposition.  The original series movies and Next Gen movies had a lot of action as well, but they still managed to tell stories that had similar social issues.  Such as The Voyage Home, and Insurrection.  But the new take didn’t have that same aspect, as everything seemed to be done for high thrills and playing off of tropes that had often gained a snicker or two over the years (such as Kirk and his involvement with women as seen in the beginning of ST 2009 and ST Into Darkness… by the way, those weren’t Caitians, as much as Abrams wants to say they were, they weren’t).  Khan was handled terribly, whitewashing the original Indian aspects of the villain, and seeming to dumb him down.  Khan’s strength wasn’t just his physical strength, but his ability to manipulate and his charismatic nature to convince someone to do something they normally wouldn’t do.  By the time Wrath of Khan was released, it would be expected that Khan was a little insane with revenge, due to the fact he was marooned on a planet, his wife killed by the natural inhabitants of the planet, and blamed everything on Kirk.  In ST Into Darkness, Khan was just angry all the time.  There was no manipulation at all.  There was no cunning that was the level of the original series or in Wrath of Khan.

As far as a science fiction story that manages to use it’s backdrop to tell stories of social conscious, Star Trek has begun to fail.  Worse so that the announcement of the script for a third film has been dumbed down because the producers feel the wider audience wouldn’t understand it.  Which isn’t putting a lot of faith in the fans.  The fans are people who meticulously catalog every aspect of Trek.  The fans are the ones who go out of their way to learn Klingon just for fun.  The fans are the ones who manage to poke holes in the stories, albeit without malice but more light heartedly (look to the Nictpicker’s Guides).

While Star Trek has failed, there is another movies series that has picked up the slack.

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George Miller’s latest in the Mad Max series manages to look at several different social issues, without using exposition, without using glamour shots, and without using gore.  You’d think a movie set in an apocalyptic wasteland would have tons of gore and have a multitude of gratuitous shots.  But no, it’s all done with great story telling.

There’s discussions of rape without actually showing a rape.  The Wives are sex slaves, and it’s basically mentioned that they had been raped.  But there was no need to put this on display at all (which is something the producers of Game of Thrones could take a lesson from).  There’s discussion of patriarchy, there’s discussion of slave trade, there’s discussion of an oppressive systems.  And the best part is, it’s all done with very little dialogue.  Couple that with the fact that a huge percentage of the movie was done with practical effects.  This isn’t even touching on the fact that Furiosa was a disabled woman, which was never once pointed out in a gratuitous way.

Where Star Trek failed, Mad Max succeeded.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Fun, randomness

 

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