Image from Thor: Ragnarok imdb page - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3501632/

Thor visits Australia! A short mockumentary catching up with the Norse god of thunder.

Previously only available at Comic Con, a short film showing Thor’s trip to Australia (featuring Dr. Bruce Banner ) was released by Marvel Studios.

While the final scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron sent Thor and the Hulk down a different road, one which left the Asgardian and green goliath absent from the battle at Berlin airport back in late April this year, A new mockumentary by director Taika Waititi catches up with Thor’s new domestic arrangements.

I had a few observations:

  • Thor’s “What are infinity Stones” chart hints at the power and mind stones, and references Nick Fury, plus Captain America’s indestructible shield.
  • The red reality stone, and it’s connection with Dr. Jane Foster, is also on the chart, along with a green stone next to the label “Time Stone”, confirming that the time stone is green in colour.
  • The yellow sugar sachets visible in the cafe are found across Australia, just in case there was any doubt of where the mockumentary was made.
  • Darryl’s email to Tony Stark as dictated by Thor mentioned Tony Stark creating a “possessed robot”, which is none other than Ultron, who was possessed by the AI built into the crystal shell surrounding the mind stone when it was still attached to Loki’s staff. Convoluted? It’s just like the comics.
  • Darryl’s tie also matches his Bike. Good sartorial and transport choices.

Thor: Ragnarok is currently set for a November 7, 2017 release date, and is distributed by Marvel Studios.

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How to draw empowered female characters: 7 steps from artist Renae De Liz

A language and content warning for this post – Warning, this post discusses artistic depictions of the human body, and some swears. Proceed with caution if needed.

Marguerite Bennet sent out this tweet in April this year. It’s already August, soon to be September, but it’s important to stop and take a deep breath.

Equality in story telling will emerge when more stories are published that show equality in their visual design.

Art that captures diverse personality, genders, and body shapes, for instance helps build equality. Representation is important.

Here’s another tweet, this one from artist Renae De Liz

De Liz published a set of neat tweets that explain how to de-objectify and empower female characters in comic artwork. I’m no artist, but these tweets show clear steps toward more equal representations in comics (in Superhero comics specifically):

1 – Distinct facial features promote personality.

A common expression in comics is to have lidded eyes, and a pout. While promoting a sensuous character, the side effect is lessening personality. Place personality and uniqueness first. Consider what your character is thinking about when drawing them in a scene, or in a single image.

2 – Commonly, breasts are drawn to outline and accent their shape, and as fully separated circles. What’s realistic for a hero is major support.

Athletes wear sports bras and apparel designed for support. These often have a specific look. Consider that many super hero profiles list characters as having olympic level fitness. It follows they would dress to match their athletic ability.

3 – Give her muscles! If a Superhero you’re creating or drawing from has super strength, or strength best fits her hero persona, you can depict that in her arms.

Arm length and size differs widely, but heroes who can lift a Renault Van, if they are male, have bicep and tricep measurements of around 19 to 22 cm. Powerlifters who are women are more than capable of matching that arm and strength capacity. It all depends how a person trains, moves, and interacts with their environment, or how their abilities have impacted their lives.

4 – Hands are set in a way to promote strength

Hands set in a softer way can reduce the sense of strenght about a character. Set hands in a way to promote strength and accentuate power.

5 – The “arch and twist” accentuates a “boob and butt perk”. Stick to what can realistically be done, using arches without the sexualised intent

The muscular-skeletal system is flexible, especially when trained to be. Consider a circus performer who practices stretches daily. It’s not realistic to flex the spine in such a wound up twist.

6 – Poses overall should be more functional versus simply being for sex appeal

Fairly straightforward, but a functional superhero pose is a different stance and attitude to posing.

7 – On heels. Modern heels amplify stance, but are not too realistic

There is a scene in the Young Justice animated series where Zatanna transforms her heels into comfortable flats. She couldn’t run across a rooftop in heels.

Consider what your character would choose as footwear. Consider low heels, or no heels.

To wrap up, the intent here is to help those who want to promote change in their work, and not to shame those who choose otherwise in their artwork. And for more about De Liz you can read her website . If you liked this post, or you are an artist who can give some more insight, why not leave a comment below?

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5 More Alchemy references in Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow

Japan, the birthplace of Pokemon, is not immune to the influence of Alchemy. Cross-pollination, in a cultural sense, with China no doubt infused the country with ideas of the Philosopher’s stone, Elixers, and transmutation. Drifting into the public psyche, it’s no surprise Alchemy ideas, images, and words can be re-identified in the initial Pokemon games (published by Nintendo in 1996) when looking back on the 20th anniversary.

Other fictional works from Japan use Alchemical language. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979, Tokyo Movie Shinsha) is inspired by the charlatan alchemist of the same name. A childhood spent in 1970’s Japan would have imbued Pokemon Creators like Satoshi Tajiri with a vague (at least) awareness of alchemy.

They used these basic building blocks as ideas to support their world of Pocket Monsters.

A name using these alchemical building blocks in fiction is “literary alchemy”. John Granger coined that term. It’s where fiction writers use alchemy “imagery and language” to build a world, or make milestones for a character’s journey to enlightenment and purification.

In mentioning “Azoth”, and having Solgaleo imitate the “Lion Devouring the Sun” alchemy artwork, Pokemon echoes and expands on ideas and alchemy archetypes used to weave together the Pokemon world together twenty years ago.

Here are five of those ideas:

5 . Alchemy concerned creating the philosopher’s stone, which was also know as the Elixir of life. “Elixers” are found across the Kanto region.

Elixer’s and tinctures are the core aspect of an alchemists day-to-day job. They get up, experiment, hide the recipe in an intricate, cryptic script, and then go out with the alchemist friends. Pokemon misspells the item as “elixir” (pron: “el – icks – ear”). Like most fantasy works, the item’s effects are restorative.

4 . Refining base metals into gold represents a big life goal for alchemists. Gold Orbs – “Nuggets” in the English versions – are also scattered across the Kanto region.

Using a philosopher’s stone, alchemists can transmute lead into gold. Everyone who has seen Harry Potter knows this. Delving a bit deeper, some alchemists found gold transmutation to be common. A distraction from the true goal – prolonging life and curing illness. The pursuit of gold could even be seen as toxic avarice.

Team Rocket desire wealth, and one character in Lavender Town – the place where Team Rocket committed the crime of killing a Marowak – says:

“TEAM ROCKET will do anything for the sake of gold!”

-Lavender Town Pokemon Centre NPC, 1996.

A degree of literary alchemy is at work here, casting Team Rocket in a selfish and destructive light for their desire of gold even before the player learns of their murderous rampages.

3 . Cinnabar is a naturally occurring mercury sulphide used by Alchemist in ancient Chinese culture as a principal material, and is the name of an island in the Kanto region.

In Japan, Cinnabar Island is know as “Guren Island”, which translates roughly into “Crimson Colored Lotus Island”. Remembering that literary alchemy evokes a journey to purity and enlightenment, the Lotus flower is also a symbol of enlightenment. Even if it’s red. The alchemy connection to Pokemon remains, if somewhat a bit less direct, across translations.

2. Firestones are for sale in the Celadon department store (4th floor, 2100.00 Pokedollars), but a firestone is also a half finished philosopher’s stone.

According to Diana Fernando ( Alchemy, an illustrated A to Z. 1998, Blandford) Jack Glass says to new alchemists “aim at the firestone – the stepping stone – first. It will transmute lower metals”.

If we swap out lower metals for fire type Pokemon, this statement is another thread tying Pokemon and Alchemy together. The firestone, and by extension the other elemental stones (plus the sun and moon stones from Pokemon Gold and Silver) transmute Pokemon. The link carries over into the Mega-stones introduced in Pokemon X and Y.

1. The “great work” or the steps needed to create a philosopher’s stone are 12 to 14 items long, depending on the differing alchemical lore. These stages line up with the major tasks needed to complete the Pokemon Adventure in Red, Blue, and Yellow versions.

Eight gym leaders. The elite four. The final rival battle. Capturing Mewtwo. Excluding the final tasks, there are 12 stages to becoming a Pokemon champion. With the added two obstacles, you can add defeating your rival, and capturing a powerful and notorious Pokemon. Fourteen steps altogether.

Creating a philospher’s stone commonly takes 12 steps:

1. Calcination 7. Cibation
2. Solution (or Dissolution) 8. Sublimation
3. Separation 9. Fermentation
4. Conjunction 10. Exaltation
5. Putrefaction 11. Multiplication
6. Congelation 12. Projection

The numbers do match up. In completing your Pokemon journey, you refine yourself into a Pokemon Champion, with a completed Pokedex. This is a match with a less well know Alchemy goal – improving the self, and achieving self awareness in your life.

But does this add up? Do you have any thoughts on literary alchemy in the Pokemon Games? Let me know in the commments.

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Pokemon Sun and Moon – Elements and Alchemy (part 2)

In my earlier post on alchemy and Pokemon, I looked at element systems, and found connections between the new Pokemon Sun and Moon Starters, Alchemy, and element systems.

Western and classical Greek element systems enlist four elements, and ancient Chinese alchemists use a five element system. But do Rockruff and Togedemaru both have places alongside the starter Pokemon in both of these systems?

Another element system from Japanese folklore also used five elements too. I’ll return to this later, but to look back at the question from the last post:

Why Togedemaru? Since when did this Pikachu Clone become a part of the element systems speculation?

That’s a good question. and I thought that just Rockruff alone had a link to the starter Pokemon.

In fact, Rockruff is going to be the starter Pokemon for a new character in a new comic book series to be published in Japan (reported by PokeJungle).

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His sleeve has Red, Blue, and Yellow stripes – a possible clue, and reference, back to the original Pokemon games?

But the answer for why Togedemaru ties into the elemental patterns can be found by looking back at the first Pokemon games from 20 years ago.

Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow also have their own element system, and it looks a lot like the alchemical and classical patterns.

Red Blue and yellow has two starters that closely embody half of four classical elements. Charmader’s tail is on fire. Squirtle readily sprays water. But what about air and earth?

Pikachu’s Lightning forks out of the air the same way that Bulbasaur’s bulb is a plant that grows from the earth. Their design choices both evoke the elements, even if the tie is slight.

Together, the four starter Pokemon form a classic element pattern.

If Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Pikachu represent the four elements, with each being a starter you could choose, what about the starter you could not choose? What about Eevee?

Rockruff’s special link with the Pokemon Sun and Moon starters parallels Eevee’s special status as a starter Pokemon.

Professor Oak intends that the player receive Eevee before the Rival steps in and claims the little brown dog.

So what elemental system fits, which includes Eevee? The answer is one I mentioned earlier – The Japanese element pattern. Japan’s folklore describes five elements called the Godai (五大) which means “The Great Five”. They are Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Void.

Void, The fifth element, represents creative potential, nothingness, acceptance, and communication.

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Eevee represents some of the aspects of the element Void – a blank slate, with the creative power to become many different Pokemon.

Comparing the older Pokemon games to the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon, the link between Rockruff and the starters becomes more clear.

Why Togedemaru has a place in a five element pattern, instead of any other steel type, also has an explanation. Togedemaru stands in for Pikachu, referencing the older games. A small woodland animal representing an element – Pikachu (mouse) representing air, and Togedemaru (hedgehog) representing metal.

Togedemaru is a reference back to Pikachu’s place in the older five element system. There is a similar reference to Rockruff standing in for Eevee, a small brown dog with a fluffy tail.

The design choices behind the Pokemon games and mythos certainly are deep, but what are your thoughts on these patterns and design choices? Do element systems explain the patterns of starters? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Pokemon Sun and Moon – Elements and Alchemy

It’s fairly clear alchemy ties into Pokemon design and folklore, especially when the Pokemon designs resemble alchemical properties, as Tim Poultney picked up on in their sketch.

Pokemon Sun and Moon draw from Alchemical influences.

The most basic building blocks of matter defined by alchemists are the elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Air in western alchemy, which stems from Greek philosophy.

Based on body shapes and markings, the new Pokemon Rowlett, Popplio, and Litten link to these elements, and with one specific entry in Alchemical lore – Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury. These were ‘Philosophical’ versions of familiar elements, not found on the periodic table of elements.

The three new starter Pokemon are designed after the ‘Prima Materia”, or basic alchemy symbols

Popplio looks like the alchemical symbol for mercury.

Litten’s markings resemble sulphur

Rowlett is round like the symbol for salt.

Then there is Rockruff, the little dog that shares a secret connection with the three starter Pokemon.

Youtube creator Eryizo proposed an interesting theory that ties the four new Pokemon together in a 4 minute and 30 second video:

With Rockruff linked to the starters, A four element structure becomes clear, where Rockruff represents earth and lead – the starting points for alchemical work

Iwanko, or Rockruff,  represents earth in a four element structure, and potentially the element lead, which is the mineral alchemists begin working on when attempting to transmute gold. Rowlett shifts from representing earth to air, which fits its design as an owl.

But what about a five element structure?

However, Alchemy from Zhou Dynasty China (1000 BC) involves five elements.

In a traditional Chinese elemental system, there’s another element. Chinese alchemy is similar to the Western discipline. The pursuit of immortality is considered noble, which transmuting metals is derided as common.

This is where Togedemaru fits.

The five elements from this point of view are Earth, Fire, Water, Wood, and Metal.

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Togedemaru is a steel type, and the Pikachu-clone of the Alola region. Fitting in with Rockruff, Rowlett, Popplio, and Litten there is a five element structure.

What’s important about comparing and contrasting both element patterns and perspectives is Rowlett’s types play a role in each pattern. Grass is wood, and flying is air.

But why Togedemaru and not any other steel type? Well, there is another element pattern, which ties back to Pikachu and Pokemon Yellow, which I will clear up in my next post.

Is there room for this five element theory? Let me know in the comments what you think.

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PokemonGO Teams and Social Psychology

Very recently, I had a real problem with how competitive the PokemonGO teams are. There’s a difference between trash talking and making people feel uncomfortable.

At first I was angry. Teams Valour, Mystic, and Instinct sounded so arbitrary. Some argued that it was the mascot that made their team great – Zapdos for team Instinct, Articuno for team Mystic, and Moltres for team Valor. Here’s an example of some the trash that’s come out of the competitive side of joining team Valour, Mystic, or Instinct in PokemonGO:

Content Warning – A meme that makes fun of disabilities


See more on Know Your Meme

Having said that, the competition is driving the PokemonGO gameplay forward. How interesting would the game be if we went after computer generated opponents all the time?

Not good at all. Boring even.

That’s why after I calmed down a bit, I looked at some different points of view.

One Twitch streamer said “The trash talk is just for fun. Don’t take it
seriously.”

YouTube content creator and Pokemon expert PokeKellz said:

The competitiveness needs to be taken in a spirit of fun and belonging. Making other people feel uncomfortable or out of place is going too far.

Niantic, the developers behind PokemonGo, clearly recognize that competitiveness is a big driver in human behaviour, and therefore gameplay.

How else would they keep the PokemonGo app interesting?

So I thought, why not unpack the social psychology of PokemonGO:

  1. In social psychology, the model used to explain group competition uses in-groups, and out-groups
  2. Group power and resources affect how distinctly an individual draws lines between their own group, and the out-group
  3. How distinct these lines are is also affected by how strongly individuals perceive their in-group aligns with relevant traits, such as intelligence, strength, or bravery.

Say for example a team valor member has a gym held down for several days, and has lucky eggs and Pokecoins at stake:

  1. Team valor is know for its passion and motivation.
  2. They work to keep the gym, staying motivated to check back, and eventually claiming more resources.
  3. Thus that team valor member is encouraged to see themselves as motivated and passionate
  4. They see themselves as distinct and separate from the other two teams.

This is one explanation for the source of PokemonGo’s competitive atmosphere.

Does clearing up the reasons for motivation help? Is team harmony viable? And do you feel a sense of belonging to your PokemonGo team? Let me know in the comments.

PokemonGO – Mental Health insights

PokemonGO and Psychology – a story about chasing an Ivysaur

I tried a Pokemon hunt around my suburb. I went alone. This was a risk. It’s far safer to look for Pokemon in groups or with an adult. I had not wandered the streets around my house just to explore since high school. Feeling a need to just get out and move, I trekked around the backstreets and parks.

I found an Ivysaur, but it escaped.

Seconds after the green reptile ran away, the negative critic started talking.

“You’re out, at night, alone, and you can’t catch any rare Pokemon. How are you going to keep up with your friends who are already approaching level 20, and have encountered Venasaur?”

PokemonGO and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – The inner critic

I wanted to ignore the critical voices, but they persisted. It was true that a friend had located a wild Venasaur. It was true that I had friends already more than twice the level I am (level 6 as of July 13, 2016!). I made a choice not to compare myself to their progress.

Here’s how I unpacked these thoughts with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT):

  1. CBT is about tracking and questioning problematic thoughts that lead to unhelpful behaviours and actions.
  2. The negative thoughts? That to be a worthy person you need to keep pace with your friends and peers.
  3. That’s a faulty schema (a set of automatic thoughts).
  4. You don’t have to keep pace with everyone to enjoy yourself, and be worthy.
  5. Instead of following the critical voices, and comparing myself to others, I tried another way of thinking.

PokemonGO and shame research – Comparisons

Brene Brown offers some insights into Shame and feelings of worthlessness. On comparison, Brown found when researching shame and wholeheartedness that:

  • In a competitive environment, healthy competition is okay, but excess focus on ranking and comparisons suffocates creativity and openness.
  • Setting boundaries is associated with satisfaction more so than one-upping and comparisons – show up and participate instead of focusing on perfectionism.
  • Cultivating worthiness and wholeheartedness with positive thoughts – “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

The last point is a more complex point. The basic idea is we are worthy of connection, and we are enough. Our worthiness for connection with others is not attached to how well we perform, or how we compare to others.

PokemonGO is a great opportunity to connect with others. It can be risky, since we are stepping out, meeting people, and talking to people. And regardless of the competition, and levels within the game, the connection is what’s truly important. I went for a Pokemon hunt alone, but I won’t be doing that again. I’ll be aiming to meet, and connect, with others.