Saturday, December 31, 2022

'What Dreams They Had' - Background Research


Just were do ‘traditions’ come from? 

What constitutes ‘authentic’ tradition?

Closest to the elements given below (a)

Dream Catchers are attributed uniformly in descriptions to the Ojibwe, but the making and use had dispersed to other Nations, the Lakota often mentioned.
The core of the legend is :

“ As the legend goes, according to Longboat, "there was a very special woman who was responsible for the children. Her name was Spider Woman, a name likely given as was customary in Indian tradition.
"Her job," said Longboat, "was to web these dream catchers and hang them above a baby's cradle board while the infant was sleeping. As its popularity increased, however, it proved too much for Spider Woman to take on because she could not travel from one location to another and try to look after all of the children.
"So, at that time, she passed the webbing (technique) down to the aunties, grandmothers and the mothers, to look after the webbing for the children and the young.” ” (1)

There may be no other First Nations object that as been so massively appropriated by outside cultures. To the point any attempt at finding design definitions becomes almost impossible. This really should be no great surprise, given how individual lines to tradition have been shattered at European hands. (2)

The following elements appear to be involved :
- Makers : uniformly, the creation was in the hands of grandmothers, aunties, mothers
- Size : for the original purpose of child protection, 3 - 5 inches
- Materials : frame of willow, wrapped in leather, web of sinew
- Form : exterior frame is circular "it was made in a circle ? a representation of the sun that travels across the earth." Other references state the circle also represents the shape of the full moon. However, a tear drop (snowshoe?) shape, frame ends crossed and to the top, also is mentioned (no symbology available).
- Webbing : The ‘making of’ references state the interior web starts at the hanging point and consists of a series of loose loops around the frame, with additional loops progressing towards the centre. All formed from the same length of cord, so resembling a spiders web. This suggests the webbing is more irregular than symmetrical. (3)
- Attachments : The largest variation in description comes in the number of starting loops (there appears no ‘standard’) :
8 for the legs of Spider Woman
7 for the Grandfathers / Prophecies
5 for the sky shapes
13 for the lunar cycle
28 for the days in a lunar month
- Centre : The webbing ends in the centre as a perfect circle. The purpose is to allow ‘good dreams’ to pass through, the evil ones caught in the web, to evaporate in the rising sun.
- Feather : A feather hangs from the dream catcher, which dribbles the passed good dreams down on to the sleeping child.
Longboat states a single feather, ‘owl feather for women, eagle feather for men’. A single feather is attached to the end of the web forming cord, so hanging from the central circle. (4)
- Beads : One source stated that glass beads (obviously post-European) were added originally to replace feathers, at a point where many First Nations ritual practices were outlawed, including the passing and use of certain feather types. Other interpretations
1 for the Creator (placed in the exact centre)
3 for the Three Fires (the Potowotami, Ottawa and Chippewa Nations)
4 for the Four Winds (see below)
- Central X : Used in some examples, marking the Four Winds (compass points)

At this point in time, it is hard not to imagine the dream catcher as a cultural object has now descended totally within the public domain. (A perfect example is the massive and rambling discussion provoked with the commentary "Are Dream Catchers Evil?")

It is worth noting that in an attempt to illustrate this commentary - it proved virtually impossible to find an image of the most basic dream catcher as defined by the elements listed above. (5) 

There are two primary reasons that I can see for this :
a) MASSIVE ‘cultural appropriation by the New Age pagans
b) the inherent design potentials of the basic elements.
c) A flood of commercial versions of what is at core a simple object to manufacture

'The Dream Catcher' - use for a Hollywood style horror film!

Two main references used (from many sought over the internet)
Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta
Dream Catchers

1) All quotes from Bev Longboat, ‘the executive director at the Niwasa (Little Ones) Head Start Program at Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont’.  (see link above)

2) It has been pointed out that there are several problems with any attempt to gather this kind of information :
a) Individual Nation groups will have different details, perhaps down to a local geographic level.
b) The line of historic through traditional to modern practice has been completely shattered through European impositions (read ‘intentional destruction’).
c) There has been considerable (and understandable) ‘re-invention’, now itself dating back to a period (1960’s - 70’s) starting to be shrouded in memory.
d) Add to this the problem of a difference between definitions of ‘traditional’ (‘what my grandmother told me’) and ‘historical’ (dated objects or writings). This last may reflect my own (‘Western’ / European) perceptions, especially since my focus is to time measured in centuries, not generations - especially since I now myself could be considered a ‘grandfather’ by count of years.

3) A feature of so many modern interpretations is the web having machine like mathematical / symmetrical patterns.

4) Modern interpretations also all show many variations in the number of feathers attached, with multiples tied to the bottom edge of the external frame. Almost uniformly, feathers so attached have cord or lacing over the bare shaft of the feather, with at least one bead inserted on to the shaft.

5) try :
I scrolled down through at least 100 images - to the point were it was obvious the search engine was loosing track and getting very derivative.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

‘What did you expect? - Aliens…’ (10 Lines X2)

We called them ‘Bugs’, although they had no relationship to Terra’s insects, they did come in a bewildering range of sizes, shapes - and functions.

The species is designated as ‘Maggots’, as like our Worker nymphs, they also have little in terms of exterior features to distinguish any one from another.

The range of separate types is mind boggling, each physically adapted to a specific function, all unable to perform tasks outside of that narrow role, all without any noticeable free will.

They are all undifferentiated in structure, with such minor differences in physical and mental capabilities as to be essentially unable to function beyond the most general of roles.

Instead of employing mechanisms of any kind, there has been deliberate genetic manipulation of different ancestral species for capabilities that we would utilize machines for, including construction, weapons, up to interstellar space borne tasks.

Although in their naked state each is almost pathetically in-effective, the species has significant ability to manipulate their physical environment, creating a huge inventory of mechanisms allowing them to engage in support, warfare and even space travel.

Many of the simpler types, although well suited to specific functions and present in massive numbers, appear almost mindless individually, obviously under the central control of a limited number of highly intelligent ‘Brain Bugs’, who appear to direct actions telepathically.

The exact method of co-ordination and control of group actions remains unclear, with each individual appearing to have the ability to not only self direct and improvise, but also to adopt effective levels of function outside it’s equipped primary role.

Any alien occupation will be carried out in significant force, with a full range of functional types included, with hardened surface support and underground living structures to be constructed with alarming speed by non-combatant ‘worker’ units.

Due to lack of specialization, the building of alien surface installations can be expected to be slow, but partially compensated by the ability of individuals to effectively operate a bewildering number of uniquely purposed mechanisms for construction and weapons emplacements.

On the whole, the only way to defeat any incursion will be to kill them all, with enemy forces expected to be individually easy to destroy, but present in such huge numbers and widely differing functions, that body counts of hundreds to one should be prepared for.

Overrunning enemy forces will require expenditure of significant numbers of combined types of warrior purpose spawn, as each individual Maggot can be expected to be able to mount significant destructive power, even able to shift from close quarters, ranged, to even flight attacks through use of the associated mechanisms.

Unfortunately, any attempt to fully eradicate a full infestation will be extremely difficult, as a Bug Hive can remain fully functional within sub surface chambers, exploiting underground resources, so even complete nuclear sterilization of a planet’s surface has marginal impact.

Fortunately the Maggots typically only make full use of above ground installations, so surface scouring can usually remove their presence, will still allowing for our effective use of the normal below ground colony building process.

To offset this, our forces have proved superior in all space environment combat, the tactical flexibility of pilots and offensive capabilities of even small ships able to easily defeat even significant friend to foe ratios of the single purpose craft present in Bug fleets.

To balance this surface action advantage, individual functional spawn have proved extremely vulnerable during travel in space, so the alternative of dropping asteroids from high orbit for impact effects is to be chosen as a preparation to surface actions.

It remains uncertain exactly what the internal command and control structure is within an individual Hive, and even vaguer what exists between separated colonies, with the analogy of terrestrial termites being the usual suggestion, if unlikely to be more than a rough approximation.

Just how an association of such independently minded parts could possibly function as a integrated whole is difficult to understand, with the yearly group migration of homeworld vaxim perhaps presenting a model, although that is not a tool using species.

So this star spanning conflict would rage on, the enormous differences between the parent species involved making even any communication, much less understanding and accommodation, virtually impossible.

Top Image
Artist not named (from Blizzard ?)

Column Images
Charts compiled by ‘xiaorobear

Apologies for the spacing - blame Blogger. 

‘Where did THAT come from?’
Maybe not where it might first appear, as suggested by content and the illustrations chosen.

‘Well, you know - Aliens…’
That is a paraphrase of a poorly remembered line from a film (somewhere)

But that’s not the start either.

Recently I had managed to get all three of Jack Chalker’s ‘Rings of the Master’ series. Now Chalker was writing extended series stories, back in the mid 1980’s, well before the current annoyance of 500 page rambling tomes merging into 5 book continuing epics (seemingly only to pad word counts and retail sales). I had enjoyed the original set of ‘Well World’ stories - if for no other reason than the constructed world setting was interesting.
But, I got about half way through book one, ‘Lords of the Middle Dark’, and just could not finish. (*) The concept was interesting, but the characters and progression was just not working for me, too many logic holes.
I returned to another old favourite : ‘Footfall’, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. Despite what the cover suggests, not ‘the best hard science fiction ever written’, but certainly well up there. (Mainly because it has an abrupt cliff hanger ending - looking way too much like there was intended to be a part two that was never written.) Niven is ever the ‘strange concept’ provider, Pournelle good with nuts and bolts. They run a bit short individually, but in combination they are incredible.
As a contributing note, I had re-read ‘the Mote in God’s Eye’, which may be one of the best first contact stories ever written, about a month back. Place this against two of my all time favourite book series sets (often re-read) : 'Old Man’s War' (6) by John Scalzi, 'Legacy of the Aldenata' (12 with the spin offs) & 'Troy Rising' (3) by John Ringo (with others).
'Starship Troopers' by R.H. Heinlein (Still my all time favourite, the single most influential book on me personally.)
(Seeing a trend here?)

After 'Footfall' I tried two new novels, as it happened both by William Dietz : 'DeathDay' & 'Resistance - the Gathering Storm'. I suffered through the first (only to find it literally ends instantly with : “You have my word…the bastards will pay”…) The second? I gave up half way through (although to be fair, it is a novelization based on a computer game).

First Contact
These are aliens, they are not like us.
They may not be even remotely like us.
To the point we don’t understand anything about them and what they are doing (much less why).
And exactly the same thing for them about us.
(John C Campbell’s essay ‘On the Nature of Intelligent Aliens’ not withstanding.)

Not the Star Trek universe of strange coloured human looking types with things stuck on their faces and heads. (Which have viable matings into babies? How do you define ’species’, remember?)
Hell, we are all humans and most the time most of us don’t have a clue about each other!
(Insert the logically built alien cultures above : Moties and Traveler Herd, even the Polseen)

So my overall concept was to frame up a pair of echoing statement / descriptions. One set from each side of an interstellar conflict (you recognize one side, yes?). Worked into the ’10 lines’ format.
Yes, since I’ve had and played Starcraft for a long while, the images seemed an excellent fit.

* The whole idea that I would start a book and NOT finish it is so recent for me. Kelly keeps asking me why I keep returning to a small subset of a fairly large science fiction collection (worse, about half of which is military SF). Dependability. Of late some many attempts to read new authors, or outside hard SF, have just been quite unsatisfying. I mean, I do write myself. I think fairly well, if suffering from ‘stream of consciousness’. But come on. Was there even an editor involved? (Seeing half chapters duplicated inside the same 500 page volume?) Why are you taking 500 pages to express something that would work just as well in half that? Are your characters really that stupid? (When there are creatures about, and the light switch doesn’t work, do you really want to go into that dark room?)
Maybe its just my increasing feeling of ‘short time’, and not being willing to work for relaxation, or just waste the time available.
And hey, increasingly I’m certainly seeing published works that are just at base not written as well as I do…

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Careful What You Wish For.. (10 lines)

There was a sharp memory of screams, the sound of tortured metal, sharp pain, as the airliner impacted the mountain wall that suddenly loomed out of the foggy night.

Then, like the snapping of a light switch, a featureless grey void without sound or form.

Slowly there was the impression of others, resolving into the presence of the fellow passengers, moving towards something in the distance, although details were impossible to distinguish.

The Baptist, who had been trying to convert all around with obvious zeal, exclaimed : “Oh joy, can you all not see the Pearly Gates before us!”

“It is Saint Peter,” said the Catholic, nervously thumbing a rosary, “judging all, and only allowing the Faithful to pass.”

“With those horns and forked tail, accompanied by those imps and demons?” smirked the Satanist, rushing forward to join into the mayhem glimpsed ahead.

“Unbeliever!” scoffed the Moslem, “Can you not see the Perfumed Garden, guarded by Allah’s own Angels, sure to bar entrance to all but the Dutiful and Pious!”

“Ah,” nodded the Buddhist sagely, “it is the plane of Bardo, where all things imagined are known, as you wait for the next turn of the Wheel.”

“What are you all going on about?” asked the Agnostic, “It just looks like the airport arrivals lounge, did I sleep through something?”

And so, one by one, the recently dead chose their oh so personal afterlife, framed by the individual belief they had held.


Believe it or not, the spark for this piece came from a vague reference in a discussion on a completely unrelated topic on Facebook recently (origin hidden to protect the innocent).

The image used sourced over the open internet, no artist was credited. (search 'afterlife') 

PS - Later change to Agnostic for line 9. : Thanks to a comment by reader Forest, who noted that more likely an Atheist would actually just vanish into the void.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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