hudebnik: (Default)
Specifically "Camelot 3000", a DC comic-book series originally published 25 years ago or so. I mention it because the hardbound edition recently appeared on our dining room table, thanks to my collection-development-librarian wife.

What do you call a guy who stands and fights against vastly superior numbers and weaponry? In fiction, you call him a hero. In real life, you call him a corpse.

Anyway, this is the story of a hero. See, the world is going to hell, being invaded by murderous extraterrestrial aliens, and the human race is losing steadily, apparently because after giving up on space exploration, it lost its will to do much of anything else either. And one day a guy in funny clothes who calls himself Arthur Pendragon and whose chief qualification is his willingness to stand and fight against vastly superior numbers and weaponry (and whose notion of "strategy" is "OK, everybody, on three...") shows up out of nowhere and offers to save the world, if its current political leaders will just hand over all their power to him and declare him King of Earth. The current political leaders, of course, are transparently corrupt, so they take this as nothing but an opportunity to scheme and back-stab one another (and Arthur). Turns out those political leaders are being played by another political leader, name of Morgan le Fay, who gets played a bit herself. Naturally, this being a comic book, Morgan (1600 years old but doesn't look a day over 25) wears a metal bikini most of the time.

An early portion of the book deals with the gathering of the Knights of the Round Table: the spirits of several characters from the original Camelot have been reincarnated in the bodies of somewhat-ordinary people around the world, and they have to be awoken, reminded of their true identities, and brought together to form a fighting team. For example, Guinevere has been reincarnated in the (hot) body of a female army general, so she has a more active role this time around. More interestingly, the Sir Tristan (of "and Isolde" fame) has been reincarnated in a (hot) woman's body, and (s)he spends much of the book demanding, without much success, to be treated as a man. When Isolde is also reincarnated as a woman, things get even more uncomfortable: Tristan still loves and desires her, but he's totally not gay, much less lesbian. This was controversial stuff 25 years ago, and in some parts of the U.S. it still is.

But what makes me really uncomfortable is the "Great Man" trope. See, the problem with Great Men is that, however Great they may be, they're still Men, and therefore susceptible to such human failings as overestimating their own Greatness. Especially when they see disaster looming, and imagine themselves the only thing standing in its way: they act "by any means necessary", putting their own Great judgment above petty things like laws, Constitutions, and basic human decency. The whole reason we have democracy, laws, Constitutions, and slow-moving government bureaucracies is to protect society from the whims of self-proclaimed Great Men.
hudebnik: (teacher-mode)
When I was about about four years old and my mother was teaching me math, she mentioned at one point that numbers could be divided into "even" and "odd", and that even numbers were those you could get by doubling another number. I thought it was really cool that there could be different kinds of numbers that had their own names, and I resolved to make up my own: "even even numbers", which were even more even than regular even numbers. They were the numbers you could get by nothing but doubling over and over again: 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.

Decades later, I read in Isidore's Etymologies:

Numbers are divided into even and odd numbers. Even numbers are subdivided into these categories: evenly even, evenly odd, and oddly even.... An evenly even number is one that is divided equally into even numbers until it reaches the indivisible unity, as, for example, 64 has 32 at its midpoint; 32 has 16, 16 has 8, 8 has 4, 4 has 2, 2, has 1, which is an indivisible singularity. An evenly odd number is one that can undergo a division into equal parts, but then its parts cannot immediately be evenly dissected, like 6, 10, 38, 50. As soon as you divide this kind of number, you run into a number that you cannot cut evenly. An oddly even number is one whose parts can be divided equally, but the division does not go to the point of one, like 24.

(From The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, transl. by Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach, and Oliver Berghof, ISBN 978-0-521-83749-1, Cambridge University Press 2006.)

OK, so Isidore beat me out by 1350 years....


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