Hoping For Hypatia’s Justice

Right now, I am having a total geekgasm with the upcoming film Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia of Alexandria. It has just premiered at Cannes and is due for general release in December. I have been waiting for this since for ever! Her extraordinary life and brutal death had always struck me with awe and sadness.

Some people “blame” religion for her death. I disagree that it was religion per se. Her religion served her well, obviously. It was ignorance and fanaticism – the religion of the Christian mob of that time – that served her a brutal death, and for all of us – the destruction of an entire library of precious knowledge and the plunging of Alexandria and the Hellenistic world into a dark age, thus “El mundo cambió para siempre” (The world was changed forever). I mourn for that time in history. Sad day for reason, philosophy, scientific learning, and even religion.

A little more information on Hypatia:

Hypatia (high-pay-shah in English, hu-pat-tea-ya in Greek) of Alexandria was a Greek scholar from Alexandria in Egypt, considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy.

Her contributions to science are reputed to include the charting of celestial bodies and the invention of the hydrometer, used to determine the relative density and gravity of liquids. Her pupil Synesius, bishop of Cyrene, wrote a letter defending her as the inventor of the astrolabe, although earlier astrolabes predate Hypatia’s model by at least a century – and her father had gained fame for his treatise on the subject.

One day in March 415, during the season of Lent, her chariot was waylaid on her route home by a Christian mob who blamed her for religious turmoil. Some suggest that her murder marked the end of the Hellenistic Age, although others observe pagan philosophy continued to flourish until the age of Justinian in the sixth century.

The Christian monks stripped her naked and dragged her through the streets to the newly Christianised Caesareum church, where she was brutally killed. Some reports suggest she was flayed with ostrakois (literally, “oyster shells”, though also used to refer to sharp roof tiles or broken pottery) and set ablaze while still alive, though other accounts suggest those actions happened after her death.

You can watch the teaser trailer here in its official site or in YouTube.

You fool! No man can kill me!

Back from my long, unwanted internet hiatus. It was terrible. Can you imagine the torture? Thankfully, gaming has kept me sane all this while.

I know I promised some of you that I would write on some very important things. Now that I am back to bumming (yes, after two years, I am back), I should have every chance to write.

However, with keeping myself sane, I acquired an addiction at the same time – to BFME. BFME or The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth is an RTS game not unlike Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Battle Realms, and Warcraft III. If you loved playing AOE back in high school (if you are my age), and loved the LOTR films, you are going to love BFME. As a huge plus, if you loved reading the appendices of the LOTR books, you are going to love The Battle for Middle Earth II – which focuses on the War of the North away from the pesky Fellowship. And it gets better. BFME2’s expansion: The Rise of the Witch King is based on the events before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – taking you into the history behind Angband’s rise.

My addiction has run so deep that I have dreamt nothing but my conquests of Middle Earth. And I have not even gone to playing BFME2 (which I am dying to play). Unfortunately, the game does not accept MX400 video cards (of which I have currently installed). By Sunday, I hope that my father (who is the real techie) would have finished upgrading the PC so I can also play Conquest.

I just love this. I feel young again! Goodbye professional, premature grown-up! For now.

Hellboy meets Tolkien meets Warcraft

I had a view of this and hell does it look promising. At least in my taste.

You should see the elves. They look a bit like Haldir clones but with extra darkness. Works for me.

It’s not Nazis, machines and mad scientists but the old gods and characters who have been kind of shoved out of our world. I kind of equate it to the whole American Indian situation. The Indians were shoved onto reservations. You had your old, wise Indians who said, “You know, this is the way it is. We can’t fight anymore. We just have to accept our fate.” You then have your Geronimo character saying, “Or we could just kill the White Man.” That’s kind of the situation we have in the film. We have our elf characters resigning to the way things are and then there’s one saying, “Or we could take the world back.” The main difference is – what if the Indians had a nuclear warhead? The elves have their equivalent of the weapon that is too terrible to use. What if this guy decided to use it?

The Real Elves And Dwarfs

Why do elves prefer bows; and dwarfs, axes? Why are elves, lean; and dwarfs, stocky?

Possibly it’s how they evolved to adapt to their natural habitats, perhaps in a way not very different from that of our species. I’d say: elves are more adapted to living in the valleys and forests — the ears to hear better over large distances and lean bodies to move from tree to tree with agility, and bows and spears to protect themselves from a distance. The stocky dwarfs are obviously better suited for the mountains — where their large axes are fit to call death upon a single blow; perhaps to compensate for their lack of agility. Their art also reflects how- and where they live.

Of course, this is just taking things seriously. None of us can prove at the moment if such creatures really existed in the natural world.

Being a fan and student of both mythology and anthropology, I’ve postulated this theory, partly for fun, and partly as an attempt to “rationalise” their existence in a naturalistic way:

ElvenlancerElves: About 150,000-100,000 BCE, stable populations of a tall and lean breed of late archaic Homo sapiens—or perhaps, an advanced breed of Homo habilis—slowly emerged as a separate species in the temperate valleys of Eurasia. Anatomically similar though far more complex than the breed of Homo Sapiens sapiens later to appear in East Africa, they were far slower in ageing, more agile in reflexes, keener in hearing, and sharper in eyesight. They were taller and leaner in appearance (ave. of 6 feet in height), had light-weighed bones, a long skull, high nose bridge, smooth skin texture, and fair–almost pale–colouring. Thus, a physiology developed in the temperate regions in Eurasia – well equipped for a region of deep valleys and large forests, barred by high mountains. Evidence of earliest urban civilisations must have appeared far later, as the ice sheets retreated and the regular celestial manifestations of the sun reappeared. They bore a culture which centered on extensive hunting/gathering and animal herding. They preferred abodes around large old trees and/or within valleys (often camouflaging their architecture with its surroundings) where they developed textile-weaving, metallurgy, and smithcraft celebrating their habitat. An area between the west Caucasus mountains and east of the Black Sea (then Lake Euxine) would have been the earliest possible site of urban “Elven” culture (cf. Cuvienen).

Kingdain_1Dwarfs: About 250,000-100,000 BCE, stable populations of a short and stocky breed of early archaic Homo sapiens (possibly related to Homo Sapiens neanderthalis) emerged as a separate species in the European part of the Arctic circle; in the highly mountainous regions of northernmost Europe and possibly nearby lands in northern Asia. Short and stocky in built with an average of 4 feet in height with heavy bones, they were hardier and tougher than most current hominid breeds of the time, thus were well equipped in living in mountainous areas, and in the deep, dark places under them. The earliest evidences of their urban civilizations are believed to have appeared much later in their history; where they built cities made mainly of stone and metal; and centred on metallurgy, smith-craft, and mining. The prehistoric mountain ranges of [now] Norway, the Swiss Alps and the northern Urals could be a plausible candidate for the earliest cultural Urheimat (homeland) of their pioneering urban civilisations (cf. Durin).

There exists a more “rational” way of explaining their [possible] historical existence, though. Quote, Wikipedia on Dwarf: Stories of dwarves may have a historical background: during the Bronze Age, tin miners from southern and south-eastern Europe slowly migrated northwest, since the relatively rare tin, which is needed to make bronze, was more common in the north. Being southerners, they generally were of shorter stature than northern Europeans and had darker skin, hair and beards. Their knowledge of metallurgy might have seemed magical to the northerners, whose lifestyle was still neolithic; the southerners’ superior weapons and armour might well have been perceived as enchanted. This would explain why stories of dwarves are especially common in Northern Europe, and also why dwarves are portrayed as workers, while few other mythological creatures seem to be associated with any kind of organized industry.

More generally, the pygmies of Africa, the short Eskimos, Sami (Lapps), the Asian Dropa pygmies of Tibet, short rainforest natives, people with dwarfism, and similarly short people may have had a hand in the origin of dwarf legends in many countries.

The field of Depth Psychology has suggested that dwarfs are most frequently psychological symbols of what Carl G. Jung termed the “Shadow.” The Shadow is the portion of the human psyche which contains personalities, behaviors, and/or events that have been suppressed by consciousness in the unconscious in a personal, societal, or collective manner.

Another origin might go back to hunter-gatherer times, when only those with physical defects would be available to do anything other than hunting and gathering. Those with dwarfism might be stuck as permanent craftsmen, and an association between crafting, and dwarfism might have developed.

Pfew. I took that rather seriously, didn’t I?

Images from The Battle for Middle Earth II.