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DEMOLITION DAYS, PART 87
Item ocho: The Bureau will front the necessary funds to outfit the project initially with food, drink, and the like. Reimbursements are not an option. My request lists will be filled, without question.
Item niner: The Bureau will source all explosives as per the attached (see attached).
Item ten: The Bureau will provide a sidearm and ammunition for me to carry in the field. I cannot bring my Casull as it’s in Kentucky. This will be in .44 Magnum or greater caliber. Again, non-negotiable.
Item eleven: People will be ordered, under penalty of field law, to have a good time.
Item 12: There is no Item 12.
I sent this off to Sam and figured I’d hear him scream all the way from Reno.
He didn’t even argue. He sent off my signed contract to me within a day. He agreed to everything else on the list without so much as a bureaucratic bat of the eye.
“I knew I should have demanded $2,500/day,” I swore lightly. “This was too easy…”
I spend the next couple of days designing a route from Reno, out to the field, to as many mines as practicable, and back within the allotted time.
I figure at least 2 or 3 days to reach and demolish the first mine. This isn’t a group of two or three compliant geology doctoral students. This is going to be an untidy mess of fifteen doctors, from many different fields of endeavor, all slightly united by being, at least distantly tangentially, related to geology.
The logistics are going to be a nightmare. Each participant will need a full MSA Safety Incorporated (Mine Safety Appliances) compliant suite before anyone breaches the first mine adit. Luckily, the Self Rescuers have proven much more applicable to this type of work over the heavy, uncomfortable SCBA gear and air pack. The Bureau will supply much of the gear, such as miner’s lamps, battery packs, camera, film, flashlights, back-up lights, a portable generator, an electric jackhammer, and the like. They will also have a ‘special situations suit’ for me, just in case; mine is in storage after its last decontamination.
The Bureau will provide everyone with NORM badges, ALTAIR® 4XR Multigas Detectors, V-Gard® Full Brim Hard Hats, a Latchways Personal Rescue Device® harness and gear, Blockz™ Safety Eyewear, U-No-Flinch® disposable earplugs, and a commemorative Bureau monogrammed towel.
Participants will be required to provide their own steel-toe or equivalent, intrinsically-safe field boots. They will need to bring their own hammers, Leatherman type folding tools, climbing gear if desired, gloves, and coveralls; as well as other field clothing.
This has all the earmarks of a genuine clusterfuck in the making.
I fly with Esme and the kids to the Windy City. After a couple of Chicago-dogs and Special Exports, I get them trundled off with family, I grab a burner flight to Reno.
I arrive at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport three days before the field trip is supposed to commence. I am greeted by Dr. Sam Muleshoe himself. He smiles, shakes my hand, and slips me a nice Cuban cigar from his private stock. Seems he went to the Caribbean on his long-overdue vacation.
I have my old room at the Hotel 666, just down the street from the Bureau.
It’s a bit late in the afternoon and Sam asks if I’d like to go out to dinner. I thank him but beg off. I need to get all my gear out and sorted, make some calls, and take a little downtime.
These interconnecting flights are getting more laborious as time goes on.
“Fair enough,” Sam says, “Let’s meet at my office at, say, 0900 tomorrow? That OK?”
“Works for me,” I say, “I’ll see you then.”
I infiltrate the hotel lobby. Paulie the porter recognizes me and greets me warmly.
“Doctor of Rock,” he exclaims, “Welcome back!”
“Hey, Paulie. Good to see you, lad. Keeping out of trouble?” I ask.
Paulie reddens. He knows that I know he’s into something here in Reno other than just the hospitality industry.
At the front desk, check-in is but a brief formality. I am handed the keys to my old room and bid a very good night.
My luggage is already gone. Paulie saw to that. He said he actually likes my aluminum baggage.
Up in my room, it’s all business as usual. Except for the fruit & cheese basket on my work desk. Plus a couple of bottles of Russian Imperial Export vodka, a 12-pack of Bitter Lemon, some sliced limes, and a bucket of ice that Paulie just fetched from the machine down the hall.
Paulie drags my luggage to the bedroom and asks if he should unpack.
“Nah, Paulie, thanks just the same.” I respond, “I’ll get it. I’ll only be here a few days.”
“Sure, Rock,” and he scampers over to the mini-bar.
“Look here,” he says, flanging it open, “It’s all pre-paid!”
The mini-bar is stocked to the gills with beer, liquor miniatures, and eatables of various descriptions.
I smile widely, thank Paulie, and slip him a ten-spot for all his help.
“Can Paulie get Doctor of Rock anything?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, “When you have a chance,” and I hand him one of my cigars, “If you can find any of these in town, grab me a couple-three boxes. Need any cash beforehand?”
Paulie takes the cigar, sniffs it, smiles, and says, “No sir! Paulie has great credit in town! I’ll find some for you, don’t you worry!”
“Great, thanks Paulie,” I say, “You can keep that cigar for yourself as a deposit.”
“Yes, sir!” he smiles and bebops merrily off down the hall.
I do the usual. Make up my portable office, make myself a cold beverage, and make a series of phone calls.
I call the Agency and speak to Agent Rack. I tell him I’m here for the next fortnight, everything’s, so far, under control, and thank him and Agent Ruin for the Swiss Army knife.
“Be sure to look at that knife very closely, Doctor,” he says. He chuckles, says ‘Adios’ and rings off.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I call Esme and talk with her, the kids, my remaining family, and various grandparents. The latter are slightly annoyed I didn’t come with, but they all say that will give them excuses to visit us once we’re settled.
I can hardly wait.
I draw the shades as per the Myanmar Directive, peel, and am in the large in-room Jacuzzi before the phone grows cool. I’m a bit tired and decide to make it an early night, after a bracing fresh drink or seven, a cigar or two, and the latest copy of Mining Monthly.
The next morning, it’s downstairs and off to the obligatory morning breakfast buffet. It was well above par, with all the usual protein, carbohydrate, and sugar-rich offerings any good breakfast chain would have to offer.
A bit later, in Sam’s office, I’m sitting in my usual chair, Vasque Trakkers up on the edge of his desk. I’m kitted out in my usual field garb: field boots, tall Scotch woolen socks, cargo shorts, tasteless Hawaiian shirt, new Nevada-made sheath Bowie, and Black Stetson.
“Go ahead. Make a snide comment. Make my field season.” I think.
I’m working on a fairly decent cup of DOI coffee and fresh cigar while Sam attends to some Bureau necessities.
One of the Bureau’s vehicle mechanics knocks on the door and has a quiet chat with Sam.
Sam smiles, shakes his head affirmatively, and says we’ll be there soon.
“What was that all about?” I ask.
“Just you wait,” Sam says, as he goes back to pounding on his keyboard.
“Fair enough,” I muse, and grab last month’s copy of Mining Monthly.
A half-hour later Sam gets up from behind his desk and says “Let’s go. Your steed awaits.”
“Outstanding!,” I reply and follow him out back to the rear lots of the Bureau.
We walk out and I see my venerable old trailer in the shop. There are several technicians swarming around it.
Sam walks over to a large dun-colored vehicle, kicks a tire, turns, and tosses me the keys.
“Well, here she is. What do you think?” Sam asks, smiling as wide as Glen Canyon.
It’s a recently de-commissioned US Military Hummer H1 Alpha Wagon, sent to the Bureau under special request.
It’s huge, it’s ungainly, it’s ghastly. It still has the weapon hard-mounts.
I love it.
Sam smiles even more broadly, which I didn’t think was possible for a human, and he tells me:
“This thing has it all. 5.7 L Vortec 5700 gasoline V8 Supercharged TBI engine. GM 4L80-E dual-gate 8-speed transmission. Ground clearance of 19 inches. A Central Tire Inflation System. HF, UHF, LF, CB and SW radios. Power take-offs, twin 42 gallons saddle tanks, a 20-ton winch this thing could tow a stalled dinosaur if needed.”
“I doubt that last one will be necessary,” I say.
He tells me to get in and take a drive.
So I do.
It’s like driving a building around the parking lot.
Loads of power, tons of low-end torque, huge gas tanks; it will easily handle the trailer full of explosives.
Well, there’s that sorted. I park the beast out of the way until it’s needed.
We check on the trailer. It’s about half-full of my order. Seems they’re having trouble sourcing a plunger-type detonator and I’m asked if it’s really necessary.
Sam grabs the miscreant by the scruff of the neck, drags him out of ear-shot, and reads him the riot act.
He returns, guaranteeing me that my order would be filled, to the letter, by tomorrow, and salutes “Sir!”
Back in Sam’s office, Sam goes to the safe and pulls out a large plain-brown paper wrapped package.
He plops it on the desk and motions for me to take a look.
In the package are a hip holster, several boxes of ammunition, and a Taurus Raging Bull Model 454 pistol. And it’s unsurprisingly chambered in .454 Magnum.
“That was a pure bitch to find, order, and get delivered in time,” Sam smiles. “But nothing is too good for our Pro from Dover. You can just imagine the pencil-pushers freaking when this requisition came wafting through.”
“Sam, thanks,” I say, “That if you’ll pardon the pun, is just what the Doctor ordered.”
And the holster even fit.
Sam and I spend the rest of the day going over the itinerary I’ve created.
Sam has many reservations. We chat about them, and after a while, I do as well.
“Rock,” he says, “this is a group of 15 different lab- and office-bound doctors. Not field types, by any stretch. Don’t you think you’re being too aggressive with your schedule?”
True enough. I had prepared it using the two-month-long field trek with Al, Chuck, and Leo as a model.
Three eager geologist-types are significantly different than 15 non-geologists probably out in the field for the very first time. Again, logistics came up and bit me on the ass.
Sam points out that any mines we manage to close on this trip will be lagniappe.
“Rock, you’re doing that thing again,” Sam smiles, “Being all resourceful, competent, and efficient. This isn’t just a shake-down cruise. It’s the orientation for a bunch of, what you so colorfully refer to as, ‘baloney-loaf’ PhDs.”
“I have to agree,” I reply, “I was being overly aggressive. Let me cogitate on the matter tonight at the hotel and I’ll present you a revised itinerary over coffee and doughnuts in your office in the morning.”
“That sounds good, Rock,” Sam replies, “I’ve had to deal with crowds like this before. It’ll be like herding cats. Individually, they’re probably brilliant. Collectively, out in the field, they’re going to be a bunch of stumbling greenhorns. Try not to overwhelm them.”
“Sound advice,” I tell Sam, “If we can close any mines at all, it’ll be a miracle. Let me work on this. I’ll be back in the morning once you purchase doughnuts; get the good Krispy ones, not those ‘Drunken Donuts’ fat pills...”
“I knew I’d be paying for this one way or another,” Sam sighs.
“You know how I’m loath to disappoint you,” I reply.
Back at the hotel, I order a Mongolian bar-be-que lunch, get comfortable, and set to work on a revised field itinerary.
“Hmmm…let’s see…Cigars? Check. Adult beverages? Check. Laptop? Check. Calls made and lunch ordered? Check. Guess I’m ready to work.” I muse.
I begin to revise the itinerary for 15 novices. It’s proceeding nicely when lunch arrives.
After a lovely faux-Asian repast, it’s back to work.
No calls, luckily. I’m back in the ‘zone’ and cranking out foolscap at the rate of knots. I read, re-read, edit, and revise my recommendations.
For a real field geology trip, this would be a 14-day junket, it’d be so easy. For these characters, it’s going to be a real grind. However, I’ve built in time for relocation. Moving 15 novices from Point A to Point B in the desert, in the summer, is going to take considerably more time that Al, Chuck, Leo, and me packing up and hauling ass.
Plus, I have to build in some serious orientation time. Orientation with explosives and explosives safety. Introduction to field geology and geological practices. Primers on field safety beyond explosives and explosive handling. Overview of mine access gear and it’s uses. Synopsis of mine environments, dangers, and opportunities for early death. Briefing on desert field camping and craft; including weapons safety and handling, the necessity of proper hydration, camp culture, and comportment.
Gad, it just goes on and on…
I look outside for the first time since lunch and it’s pitch black out there. Oh, well, another day down the proverbial tubes.
I have a good first draft of the itinerary. I decide to pull the pin on the day.
I call Es and find she’s out shopping.
I talk with my girls and get their ‘what I want from this trip, Daddy’ lists. Chat with some relatives, give them the condensed version of what I’d doing out there rather than being at home and basically come to discover things are A-OK.
I call Rack and Ruin to inform them of the latest developments.
They tell me they already know as they’ve talked with Sam today. They also inform me they, and their boss might just be dropping by in the field, as ‘observers’, later in the trip.
“Checking up on me, hmm?” I ask, jokingly.
“Yes.” came the terse reply.
“Double marvelous.” I muse as I hang up the phone.
Of course, I cannot let this challenge go unanswered. I retire to the Jacuzzi with a couple of cigars, a large tumbler full of iced ‘Old Thought Provoker’, a pad of paper, a pencil and an oddly crooked smile.
“Check up on the Motherfucking Pro from Dover, shall we?” I snicker.
After a light hotel buffet breakfast, I’m in Sam’s comfortable office, noshing on lovely, crème-filled pastries, sipping a Greenland coffee, to which I had recently introduced Sam, who has taken to it like a salmon on a slippery spillway.
We go over my revised itinerary and make a couple of minor revisions. Sam thinks it’ll be much more in line with likes of the gaggle of characters that should start arriving today.
I give the revisions to one of the Bureau’s secretaries and ask her to please do the updates for me. After that, Sam and I will review it one final time, and send it past the Bureau lawyers, before we have copies made for all and sundry.
In the interim, I drift back to the garage to see how my gear is coming along. Everything I ordered is ready and actually already packed in the Hummer. I ask for an inventory and I’m presented not just the inventory, but the checked register that was created as my truck was being packed for the trip.
The explosives trailer is locked and parked in a secure area. I infiltrate the grounds and open up the trailer with my keys. There’s an inventory on a clipboard in the ‘clibpoard’ [sic] cubby. With my new and improved field itinerary, there’s no way I’d use all the fireworks here, but I’m sure as hell not going to inform anyone of that fact.
“Well,” I think, “That’s all done and dusted. Nothing to do but wait for my charges to arrive.”
And arrive they did.
Over the next 24 hours, 14 of 15 participants have shown up. Luckily, with all the necessary paperwork and orientation guff, I don’t really have to be here. My job will drag on long enough. Let the Bureau bureaucrats handle them, get them all sorted, and I’ll see you after another Bavarian Crème. I saunter off back to my hotel room.
I call Esme and she’s actually there this time. She excitedly tells me that she’s found new ‘Middle East compliant’ luggage for us, whatever the hell that may be.
“It was on sale. Got us a great price!” she gushes.
“Marvelous,” I smile back into the receiver.
We chat over this and that while I regale her of the new itinerary and how the field campers are now showing up. I tell her it’s going to be quite the trek with this bunch.
After a few more chatty non-essentials, we profess our undying love for each other, and I am cautioned to come back home in one piece.
“Yes, Ma’am!,” I reply, “I will do my very best.”
I decide that Rack and Run will probably call tomorrow after the initial orientation and the welcoming dinner. So, they can wait.
My doorbell rings and it’s Paulie.
“Paulie! Stout yeoman!” I exclaim, as something about him always perks me up, “What news have you for me today?”
“Will Doctor of Rock be in his room for a while?” he asks.
“Yep, but I plan on doing laps in the Jacuzzi,” I reply.
“Then you wait right here. Do not move!,” he exclaims feverishly, “Paulie will be right back!”
Looks like I’m under starter’s orders.
So I immediately leave to refresh my drink.
Five minutes later, there’s a furtive knock on my door.
It’s Paulie, with a room service cart. A pile of some sort is concealed under a hotel tablecloth.
I open the door and Paulie scoots in.
“Look what Paulie got for you!,” he exclaims and whips off the tablecloth.
Nestled there are five boxes of Cuban Cohiba cigars, in the dimensions and wrappers, I so enjoy.
“Whoa, Paulie!,” I say, “You really knocked it out of the park this time. What are the damages?”
Paulie looks at the carpet and scuffs it a bit.
“Too much, I fear. Paulie makes mistake,” he pouts, “I spent too much of Doctor of Rock’s money,”
“Now, now, Paulie,” I say, “Belay all that nonsense. How much?”
“$200.” He croaks.
“Each?” I ask, very slightly alarmed.
“Oh, no,” he says, “For all.”
I smile like a Lewis Carroll feline and hand him $250.
“Paulie, you are a wonder.” I say, “Couldn’t be better!”
Paulie now beams.
“Paulie, how?” I ask the question that should always go unuttered.
“I know this guy…,” he smiles.
“Fair Dinkum, Paulie! You’re a wonder.” I say, “Look, I won’t say anything to anyone, but please share a little toast with me. I’m leaving early tomorrow for some time. I might not see you again, at least for quite a while.”
“But I have your card!” he says.
“Yes, however, I’m moving overseas. Still, I will be very certain to call the hotel once I’m settled and make certain you have my new contact info.” I say.
“Where are you going?” he now asks the question that should remain unqueried.
“The Middle East,” I say.
Paulie looks sore concerned.
“Nasty place. Paulie knows some people there.” he says, as he grabs my hand, “Doctor, you will be very careful over there. It’s full of crazy bad persons.”
“Like the US isn’t?” I think, “Paulie, you have my solemn promise.” I reply.
We have a short tot so we can toast our friendship. I slip him an extra $50 when he’s not looking. I know he’s got a big family back in Nogales.
“Paulie, as I like to say “Для вас и здоровья вашей семьи” [To you, your health, and the health of your family] as I raise my glass to him in the time-honored Baja Canada tipple salute.
Paulie smiles and replies, “Para usted y la salud de su familia. [For you and the health of your family].”
“You sneaky SOB.” I laugh, “You never told me you knew Russian.”
“Oh,” he smiles, “I know this guy…”
Suddenly, I think he might also know a couple of guys who go by the monikers of Rack and Ruin.
“¿Qué otros idiomas conoces? [What other languages do you know?]?” I ask.
“哦,几个,医生.”[Oh, a few, Doctor.], he replies with a smile.
“Чи новш гэж тэнэг юм. [You sneaky bastard…] ,” I reply.
“Мэдээжийн хэрэг.” [Absolutely.]” he smiles back.
Looks like the good doctor just got taught.
“Paulie,” I smile to one side, “Thanks for everything. I presume we will remain in touch “
“Мэдээжийн хэрэг, Доктор” [Absolutely, Doctor], he smiles, pushes the cart out the door and zooms down the hallway.
I just stand there behind the closed door. My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
I do believe I just had the very first test of my new agency appointment.
After a good night’s soak and sleep, I am packed and ready to go.
Paulie arranges for my luggage to be delivered to the Bureau later in the day.
I thank him once again, in English, and wander over to the DOI to see what and with whom I’m going to be saddled over the next fortnight.
I make the corner, turn to look and the Bureau’s back parking lot is crammed with campers.
Not the people type, although there were a few of those milling about; I mean Airstream, a Winnebago, a couple of Jay Flights, a Shasta, a Sero Scotty, and an all-aluminum Aristocrat.
“Well,” I think, “That will help immensely with logistics. Fewer tents, no worries about open-air toilets, additional cooking space…now, if they can just get them all out into the field…”
I’m walking around this impromptu open-air RV show in my normal field outfit.
Not a single person gives me as much as a second glance.
I just shake my head and wander over to Sam’s office.
“Sam, did you see all that business out in the back lot?” I ask rhetorically.
“Oh, yeah,” he sighs, “It would have been nice if they would have let us know. Going to pose a few logistical problems.”
“Yep. Ten out of ten for style, but minus several million points for good thinking, yeah?,” I smirk.
“Oh, hell,” Sam says, “It’s orientation time. You ready for the show?”
I grab a Greenland and a cruller, “Now I am.”
In the Bureau’s largest conference room, complete with stage and lectern, there are 14 professorial types gathered around, just chatting up a blue streak.
There are also several other people who look suspiciously like personal assistant Graduate students.
“This bodes ill.” I consider.
I am roundly ignored again, so I slip in back, behind the curtain.
Sam arrives at the lectern and asks for quiet. He receives what he asks for in a few minutes.
“Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, one and all. I am Dr. Sam Muleshoe of the Reno Bureau of the Department of the Inferior. I would like to welcome you to the first, in what we hope are many, in a series of field excursions in the Nevada desert to study, evaluate, and close abandoned mines. This is a stellar occasion, as we have the expert scientist here who literally wrote the book on mine reclamation and closure. We have persuaded him to lead this very first trip. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce your field trip leader, the hookin’ bull, that Pro from Dover, Doctor Rocknocker. Rock?”
I flip open the curtain and walk out I front of the forum.
There are several audible gasps. No applause, mind you, but gasps a-plenty.
I have a lit cigar in one hand, and a mug of what they probably thought was coffee in the other.
I’m wearing my usual field garb: Vasque Trakker field boots, freshly oiled; Scotch woolen tall-socks, cargo shorts, a really, really ghastly neon-colored Hawaiian shirt, an ‘All my faults are normal’ T-shirt, my well-aged field vest, a monogrammed Bureau field towel around my neck, and my ubiquitous black Stetson.
I have my soft-rock Estwing hammer on one hip, the .454 pistol on the other. I’m also wearing a sheath knife I recently acquired right here in Nevada, a NORM badge, an Altair® 4XR Multigas Detector, and several other odds and bods hanging from the hooks on my vest. I also have several fresh Cohibas in one of my vest pockets.
The silence in the room was palpable.
“Goooood morning, Reno!” I shout, in my best Robin Williams imitation.
Utter fucking silence.
“Hmm…tough room,” I snark. “OK, so it’s going to be like that, ‘eh?” I ask.
“OK,” I say, “Enough with the introductions. As you know, I am Dr. Rocknocker, although I prefer to travel under the name of ‘Rock’, as I’m not one for standing on tradition. I will be your field leader on this glorious desert excursion. We will be visiting a selection of different types and classes of mines, study them, then absolutely destroy them. Although I’m certain that this part is nothing new.”
I wait a tick, take a drag off my cigar, and sip my Greenland coffee.
“OK,” I say, “I can see by your collective enthusiasm that you’re just raring to get out in the desert and blow up some shit.”
There were a couple of gasps. At least they’re not all dead, as I had feared. I just noticed a few female forms flitting around the forum.
“Right,” I continue, “I may not be the best judge of human character, but I think I’m detecting a certain amount of trepidation from the gathered crowd.”
There are several murmurs, but no one volunteers anything.
“Right,” I carry on, “Let me lay this out right here before we even start. This is not a holiday. This is not a pleasure trip. This is a working, learning, operational, primarily geological scientific expedition. We will be in the desert for fourteen days, non-stop. If there’s any injuries or deaths, the unfortunate soul or souls will be air-lifted out by Nevada State Highway Patrol rescue or recovery chopper. You have signed on for the duration. We’ll have no ‘days-off’, or ‘late mornings’, nor ‘early evenings’. We have exactly 336 hours together and intend to squeeze every ounce of science out myself, my vehicles, my operational gear, , and my colleagues. That’s you if you missed the phrase shift.”
Still nothing but a slight crowd buzz.
“OK, time to shake up the audience.” I muse.
“Here’s the deal, guys, and gals,” I say, “I’ve been dragged out here against my better wishes; but I’m an unrepentant mercenary, so there you go. Once this is over, I’ll be headed to the Middle East. So, it’s my last field trip out here for a while, but it’s not my final hurrah. With that, as Dr. Muleshoe noted, I’m the hookin’ bull here. For those of you unfamiliar with the expression, that means I’M THE BOSS! What I says, goes. No arguments, no discussion, no parlay. We’re going to be dealing with nearly a ton of very twitchy, very tetchy, very high explosives. I’m the only one educated, experienced and above all, licensed for their use and operation. Do you think you know better than I do? Dandy. Keep it to yourself until a later time. Failure to do so will result in expulsion. No arguments, not fond farewells. You are out on your happy ass!”
Now the crowd is really buzzing loudly.
“Are we green, people?” I ask very loudly.
I am greeted by almost 2 dozen blank stares.
“’ Are we green?’ means ‘Are we in agreement?’,” I explain.
“Yeah,” I sigh, “So it’s going to be like that, is it? You people can speak, can’t you? Forget it, I was being rhetorical and unpleasant. Anyways, let me take this twisty can of snakes and lay it out nice and straight for you. If you are offended by ‘colorful metaphors’, or outright swearing, well, you’re gonna have a bad day or 14. I’m the one running this show. I’m an unapologetic field geologist, among other things. I smoke. I drink. I swear. I stink. And I get shit done. Done right, safe, and proper. On-time, and under budget. Probably non-ecofriendly, as well. If anyone here objects to anything I’ve said so far, well, U-turn 1800 and there’s the exit door.”
I wait exactly long enough to sip some coffee and puff on my cigar.
Continuing: “We’re all here to do a job, and learn something in the process. I’m here to teach and watch over you, to make sure you return home a reasonable facsimile of what left home. I’m not here to coddle, indulge, or hold hands. I’m here to instruct you in the modes and methods of safe mine inspection, abandonment, and closure. You’re going to get filthy, experience hardship, travails, massive explosions, and claustrophobic quarters. It’s my job to guide you through all this safely. So, you do what I say, when I say it and you don’t give me any cheek in the process. Are we green?”
“…green…,” comes the wan reply.
“I can’t hear you!,” I yell.
“GREEN!” comes the reply.
“That‘s better,” I say, “Next time, I best hear everyone in this room chime in. Any questions so far?”
“Yes!” a hand goes up.
“Finally!,” I remark, “Yes?”
“Will there be showers available?” came the question.
“Oh, absolutely,” I remark, “Right before we leave and right when we return. Any other questions?”
‘Yeth!” I hear.
“You, in the shiny yellow suit. Yes?” I ask.
“I most strongly object to your gun!” he says, “I’m not going anywhere with someone carrying a gun.”
“OK, fair enough.” I say, “The exit’s right there behind you.”
“My university paid for this trip, and I’m not going until you remove your gun!” he crows.
“OK,” I say, as I skin my smoke wagon and hold it up for all to see.
“Listen up, you primitive screwheads. This is my BOOMSTICK!” I thunder to many ashen faces.
Yessiree, Bob,” I say, “I’ve carried one just like this on six continents when I was in the field. Why? Because it’s a fucking tool. Just like a hammer’s a tool. Just like a compass is a tool. Just like a galvanometer is a tool. Just like 50 pounds of Torpex high-explosives are a tool. What do you have against tools, sir? Are you a closet anti-toolist?”
“Guns are evil,” he whines.
“Guns are inanimate objects, sir.” I reply, “You have the same senseless reservations about my Estwing rock pick? I could swing it soundly and kill with it as well.”
“Of course not,” he replies haughtily.
“Why not?” I ask, “It’s evil when it’s used to kill. Otherwise, when used properly, it’s a very, very functional tool.”
“Just like your gun?” he asks sarcastically.
“Fuckin’-A, Buckwheat.” I reply, “Exactly like that. It’s a signaling device. It’s a safety device. It’s great for running off predators and rousting single-minded snakes and scorpions. Only in the hands of a madman is it dangerous. You consider me a madman?”
“You knew who was running this show,” I remarked, “when you received the announcement. It’s no fault of my own you failed in your preparations and didn’t read the copy for content. It’s a well-known fact, as published in many, many geology, geochemistry, gemology, mining, oil & gas, and paleontology periodicals; who I am, what I do, and how I do it. Your failure to prepare does not constitute an emergency on my part. The gun stays. Period.”
“Any other questions?” I ask.
“Please, by all means, that’s why I’m here.” I relate.
“Can we just get on the road? We’re burning daylight, Rock. Time to hit the dusty trail.” I’m told.
“OK, how do I know this person?” I wonder.
“Quite right.,” I reply. “If there are no more questions…tic…tic…tic…OK, let’s meet in the back lot. Quit yer grinnin’ and drop yer’ linen, we’re outta here!”
I puff my cigar, slurp some coffee, pat Sam, who has his face buried in his hands, on the back, and walk out to the parking lot.
Ok, point of parliamentary procedure. I’m not going to type each of these goombah’s names every time we have an interaction. Since there are 15 of these characters, I will be referring to them in the narrative as ‘Dr. A’, ‘Dr. B’, ‘Dr. C’, and so on through ‘Dr. O’.
Out in the lot, everyone’s milling around like some sort of cadet review.
Andy the mechanic hands me a megaphone. Remind me to be nice to him someday.
“OK people, listen up!,” I holler, “You all have the field project’s map. Let’s all look on the map and find ‘Stop #1’. OK?”
Mutter, mutter, mutter.
“OK,” I continue, “So far, so good. Got that? Stop #1? Good. Saddle up and hit the sandy trail! See you there in three hours. Adios!”
It’s actually an easy, well-marked, leisurely 1.5-hour jaunt to the first mine, the defunct Sharp Curve gold and silver mine.
The Sharp Curve Mine is situated around the periphery of the Bone Mountain and Weepee igneous plutons which intrude Precambrian to Late Cambrian clastic and carbonate sediments. The Precambrian units consist of the Wyknot Formation, a quartzitic siltstone and sandy limestone interbedded with limestone and dolomite, and the massive Peed Creek Dolomite. Overlying the sediments are the allochthonous Cambrian Sheep Springs, Caminillo Brillo, Polenta, and Farkless Formations. Small, random roof pendants of Wyknot Formation are scattered over the surface of Bone Mountain. The sediments are metamorphosed to hornfels, phyllite, schist, marble, and other metamorphic rocks along the contact with the plutons.
After the intrusion of the dikes, late-stage hydrothermal fissure quartz veins, lenses, and irregular masses were emplaced in the metasediments and igneous masses along fault and shear zones, forming prominent outcrops in the central and southern part of the district. Locally, the quartz veins are crushed and cemented with hematite-stained silica. The intrusion of the Bone Mountain granite domed the bedded sediments into an anticline or dome structure which subsequently eroded to its present form. The metasediments are draped around the pluton with the remnant limbs dipping away from Bone Mountain on three sides. These anticlinal structures exhibit broad, complex, and side-by-each en echelon folds; minor thrusts; flexures and high angle faults of small displacement.
To be continued.
Tyrion and Greek Myth: the Minotaur, the Chimera, and the god Pan — Part 1 of 3 (Spoilers Extended)
For logistical reasons, I am dividing this writing into 3 posts. While this is one continuous writing, posts 1 and 2 REALLY go together, while part 3 "applies" the general/theoretical ideas laid out in posts 1 and 2, so I am posting Parts 1 and 2 together, and will post Part 3 in a day or two.
(Closest thing to TL;DR) This post will build on the argument I made in [this post] about Joanna's fate and Tywin's rage when Tyrion was born with black hair. It will argue that Tyrion Lannister's biological paternity is very complicated, and that to understand his story we need to understand that Greek myths of the Minotaur, the Chimera, and the god Pan.
I'll first discuss how from the moment we meet Tyrion we're invited to tie him to the myth of the Minotaur: a myth about an overproud and greedy king who is laid low by the gods, who cause the king's wife to have sex with a white bull such that the monstrous baby she subsequently births marks her husband as an obvious cuckold.
I'll then look at the Chimera myth and explain how the real-world phenomenon of genetic chimerism helps explain Tyrion's strange, "split" physiognomy (i.e. his mismatched eyes, his "patchy", three-color beard, and his two-color hair). Named for the Chimera of myth, chimerism can entail a person having multiple biological fathers. This is an idea that has been around for a long time and has gained more currency lately, but there is in my opinion far more evidence for it than I've ever seen adduced, and I will attempt to present a definitive argument, discussing not just the biological side of things but also some wordplay and some fascinating intertextual, literary evidence for the idea.
The idea that Tyrion is a genetic chimera seems at first blush to suggest that he has two biological sires. While that probably sounds outlandish enough to most readers, I will argue that a slew of connections between Tyrion's story and classic myths about the Greek god Pan posit Tyrion as a kind of Pan-figure, which in turns give us a very good reason to suspect he actually has several sires, per the infamous, salacious folk myth regarding Pan's paternity—one ultimately consonant with genetic chimerism—wherein Pan's mother had sex was a slew of men (108 in all!) who were not her husband, with Pan being the son of all of the men she had sex with.
With this theoretical backdrop in place, I'll then briefly touch on the strong, fairly well-known hints that Tyrion was sired by Aerys before discussing in far greater detail the hints that he was also sired by several men of Houses Martell, Greyjoy, and Baratheon (and perhaps others as well), with these men serving as figurative black-haired versions of the divinely-sent white bull from the sea who sired the mythic Minotaur, and their phenotypes explaining Tyrion's black eye and the black hair on his head and in his beard.
Tyrion as Asterion the Minotaur. Tywin As Minos.Let's begin by relating the Greek myth of the Minotaur to the story of Tyrion's birth.
King Minos & His BrothersThe myth of the Minotaur is about the ambition and greed of King Minos, who fights with his brothers for dominion over Crete, a fraternal rivalry that recalls Tywin's battles with his brothers Gerion and Tygett:
[Tywin's] relations with his brothers Tygett and Gerion were notoriously stormy. (TWOIAF)(Make no mistake: While Tygett clearly clashed directly with Tywin, Tywin who "mistrusted laughter" and "hated most" being laughed at surely hated Gerion's japes, too. [FFC J V, VII])
"That shadow Tywin cast was long and black, and each of them had to struggle to find a little sun. Tygett tried to be his own man, but he could never match your father, and that just made him angrier as the years went by. Gerion made japes. Better to mock the game than to play and lose." - Genna to Jaime (FFC J V)
In light of my belief that [Tygett and Gerion are both alive and effectively in exile in Essos], it's worth noting that in Greek myth, Minos's brothers are likewise exiled.
The White Bull of the SeaMinos asks the gods to send a sign to justify and legitimate his claim to rule (as against the claims of his brothers). Poseidon, god of the sea, sends him a magnificent white bull from the sea, which Minos is told to sacrifice as a sign of devotion. Wanting to keep the white bull for his own herds, Minos greedily substitutes another ordinary bull, refusing to make the "real" sacrifice Poseidon demanded.
ASOIAF just so happens to reference pretty much the exact same idea:
If a man with a thousand cows gives one to god, that is nothing. (Dav VI)Enraged at Minos's disrespect for his authority, Poseidon punishes Minos's "arrogance and hubris" by causing Minos's wife Queen Pasiphae to fall in love with and copulate with the white bull from the sea (whom the bewitched Pasiphae tricks into fucking her by hiding inside a hollow wooden cow). (https://www.ancient.eu/Minotau)
In some versions, Pasiphae is bewitched into mating with the white bull not by Poseidon but by Venus, who is pissed because Pasiphae doesn't show her the piety she used to.
The Births of Asterion & TyrionAs a result of coupling with the white bull from the sea, Pasiphae gives birth to a literal monster, the Minotaur, marking Minos as a cuckold. Pasiphae loves her child and names him Asterion—"As-Tyrion", basically. It is only when Minos sees the child that he realizes he's been cuckolded. He does not kill his wife Pasiphae, but in order to hide the evidence of her disgraceful affair and thus the shame of his cuckolding he builds a giant labyrinth to hide the Minotaur.
Tyrion's birth involved many of the same motifs and themes. He was explicitly seen as a sign from the gods and a divine lesson sent to punish and shame Tywin for his arrogance and hubris:
"We were in Oldtown at your birth, and all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the King's Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm."From TWOIAF:
"Famine, plague, and war, no doubt." Tyrion gave a sour smile. "It's always famine, plague, and war. Oh, and winter, and the long night that never ends."
"All that," said Prince Oberyn, "and your father's fall as well.
"Lord Tywin had made himself greater than King Aerys, I heard one begging brother preach, but only a god is meant to stand above a king. You were his curse, a punishment sent by the gods to teach him that he was no better than any other man." (SOS Ty V)
King Aerys infamously said, "The gods cannot abide such arrogance. They have plucked a fair flower from his hand and given him a monster in her place, to teach him some humility at last."Tywin himself acknowledges the same after first describing Tyrion in terms that stray suspiciously near to calling him a monster (like the Minotaur):
"You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father's sigil and his father's before him." (SOS Ty I)Tyrion's physical appearance at birth threatened to mark him as "not-Lannister" in the same way the bull-head marked the Minotaur as not-Minos's, even if the reality—
"You did have one evil [black] eye, and some black fuzz on your scalp." - Oberyn to Tyrion (SOS Ty V)—was of course exaggerated in rumor:
"…you had been born with thick black hair…" (ibid)Of course, Tywin wasn't truly taught "humility" at all. To the contrary, I believe his fragile pride saw him lash out violently against his wife to guarantee her silence regarding her sexual transgressions, while he called Tyrion his child and kept him out of sight until his blond hair grew in, after which he could rely on his fearsome reputation and the fact that "men see what they expect to see" to enforce his version of truth. The actions of Cersei vis-a-vis Robert's bastards (who were pointedly born (a) at Casterly Rock (b) following a tourney, just like Tyrion) were simply an echo of Tywin's brutality vis-a-vis Joanna, of which Cersei is likely at least dimly aware, if only on some deeply repressed level:
"I've also heard whispers that Robert got a pair of twins on a serving wench at Casterly Rock, three years ago when he went west for Lord Tywin's tourney. Cersei had the babes killed, and sold the mother to a passing slaver. Too much an affront to Lannister pride, that close to home." (GOT E IX)As with Tyrion, the physical appearance of Robert's bastards threatened Lannister pride, just as the Minotaur's appearance threatened to humble Minos.
(Why didn't Tywin just kill Tyrion like Cersei killed Robert's bastards? First, he may not have been absolutely certain Tyrion wasn't his. But to the extent that he was, he held the life of Joanna's son Tyrion hostage to Joanna's permanent silence and disappearance.)
A Cow With UddersOberyn's story about meeting an infant Tyrion contains a huge clue that Tyrion is a figurative Minotaur:
"Cersei promised Elia to show you to us. The day before we were to sail, whilst my mother and your father were closeted together, she and Jaime took us down to your nursery. Your wet nurse tried to send us off, but your sister was having none of that. 'He's mine,' she said, 'and you're just a milk cow, you can't tell me what to do. Be quiet or I'll have my father cut your tongue out. A cow doesn't need a tongue, only udders.'"I argued in an earlier post that Cersei's threat betrays the fact that Tywin had just torn out her mother Joanna's tongue. Notice that if that's true, then Cersei is "logically" positing Joanna as a figurative "cow" (since she didn't "need a tongue"), which makes perfect sense as a riff on the Minotaur myth, given that Joanna's mythic counterpart Pasiphae hides inside a wooden cow in order to couple with the white bull from the sea.
Pasiphae and CircePasiphae, by the way, is daughter to Helios, the sun, which jibes with a "Minotaur" being born to Joanna of House Lannister, which is associated with the sun. (Lann variously "stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair" and had "hair 'as golden as the sun.'" [GOT E VI; TWOIAF])
In some myths, Pasiphae places a "fidelity charm" on Minos which causes him to ejaculate serpents, scorpions and centipedes, killing any illicit lovers. I believe this is reflected in "our" Minos, Tywin, being impotent or otherwise obviously sexually dysfunctional and hating illicit sex. It's interesting, though, that when Tywin apparently has sex with Shae, it results in her death, albeit indirectly. (I don't think Tywin actually fucked Shae; I buy IllyrioMoParties's theory that he was pulling a Stalwart Shield and taking comfort in her embraces and kindness.) (I also think Shae was acting as a serpent/scorpion and poisoning Tywin. Ah, the irony.)
Pasiphae has a sister, by the way, named "Circe" (as in Cersei), a witch or sorceress who was an expert on potions and herbs. Circe is surrounded by beasts, most commonly lions and wolves. GRRM happily scrambles these motifs in ASOIAF's recasting of the Minotaur myth, with Cersei's visit to a love-potion-making witch (Maggy) playing a massive role in her story, and with such love potions likely playing a role in the manipulation of Joanna and her "white bull(s)". (See below.)
Lannister HerdsThe myth of the Minotaur involves a king, Minos, who wants to keep the white bull as part of his own herds of cattle, right? It's thus curious that we're twice told about Lannister cattle herds:
…the Young Wolf was paying the Lannisters back in kind for the devastation they'd inflicted on the riverlands. Lords Karstark and Glover were raiding along the coast, Lady Mormont had captured thousands of cattle and was driving them back toward Riverrun… (COK C V)
"Did you ever think to ask yourself why we remained in the west so long after Oxcross? You knew I did not have enough men to threaten Lannisport or Casterly Rock."
"Why . . . there were other castles . . . gold, cattle . . ."
"You think we stayed for plunder?" Robb was incredulous. "Uncle, I wanted Lord Tywin to come west." (SOS C II)
Tyrion and MazesWe're led to read Tyrion as a figurative Asterion/Minotaur from the very first line of Tyrion's first chapter in ASOIAF, which references a figurative labyrinth:
Somewhere in the great stone maze of Winterfell, a wolf howled.Tyrion calls four other things "mazes" in his chapters. (COK Ty IV; SOS Ty I & IV; DWD Ty VII). More importantly, he finds two things to be verbatim "labyrinths", a word derived from the Minotaur myth. (SOS Ty VI; DWD Ty VII) "Labyrinth" is only used four other times in all ASOIAF, two of which refer to Winterfell, the subject of Tyrion's auspicious first line.
In addition, Cersei imagines Tyrion as a "monstrous" animal (a la the Minotaur being a "monster" and half-bull), lurking in the secret passages of the Red Keep, which Jaime calls a "maze":
"Whoever did this might still be lurking in the walls. It's a maze back there, and dark."(Bulls and rats are conflated in the canon several times, including most prominently in AFFC's sister book, ADWD, when the "pair of brazen beasts" guarding the king's apartments in Dany's pyramid—which is called, verbatim, "a labyrinth"—are "a rat" and "a bull". (DWD tDT; tKB)
She imagined Tyrion creeping between the walls like some monstrous rat. (FFC C I)
TWOIAF foregrounds the importance of labyrinths and mazes by introducing an ancient culture of mazemakers. Regardless of in-world importance, this serves to emphasize that there's "something to see here".
A Monstrous Half-manTyrion is repeatedly referred to as "Half-man", which is what the Minotaur was. Once, Conn calls him "Tyrion Half man" and invites him to eat an ox (i.e. a bull), which inverts the Minotaur myth, inamsuch as the half bull Asterion eats men. (GOT Ty VIII)
Godric Borrel—who I will talk about more later—tells us that the Sistermen saw dwarfs like Tyrion as "monsters" and sacrificed them to the sea—
"When there were kings on the Sisters, we did not suffer dwarfs to live. We cast them all into the sea, as an offering to the gods. The septons made us stop that. A pack of pious fools. Why would the gods give a man such a shape but to mark him as a monster?" (DWD Dav I)—which is exactly what King Minos was supposed to do with the white bull Poseidon sent him in the Minotaur myth. Calling dwarfs "monsters" here suggests this is a very intentional parallel, given that the Minotaur is literally a "monster".
Indeed, Tyrion the figurative Minotaur is repeatedly referred to as a monstrous monster, beginning at birth:
"We were in Oldtown at your birth, and all the city talked of was the monster that had been born to the King's Hand, and what such an omen might foretell for the realm." - Oberyn to Tyrion (ASOS Ty V)Tyrion is rumored to have a "monstrous huge" head (like the Minotaur), and did have a "monstrous great voice". (SOS Ty V) He calls himself "me, the dwarf, the monster." (COK Ty VII) He says:
"Yes, and I am a monster besides, hideous and misshapen, never forget that." (COK Ty IX)On trial for his life, Tyrion pleads guilty to the "monstrous crime" of being born while referring to his "infamy"—
"Of Joffrey's death I am innocent. I am guilty of a more monstrous crime." He took a step toward his father. "I was born. I lived. I am guilty of being a dwarf, I confess it. And no matter how many times my good father forgave me, I have persisted in my infamy."—thus hinting that he is a figurative Minotaur, a monster born of woman.
Sidebar: Tyrion calls Tywin "good father". In ASOIAF, "good father" usually means "father-in-law", a term which can be read literally to mean "legal father" and thus hint Tyrion is not Tywin's biological son.
Casterly Rock CluesTyrion's story also reworks the mythic Minotaur being hidden in the Labyrinth. How so? When Tyrion came of age, Tywin forbade him from touring the world lest he "bring… shame upon House Lannister"—as the Minotaur threatened to shame Minos—instead putting Tyrion in charge of Casterly Rock's surely labyrinthine (see below) sewers:
So to mark his manhood, Tyrion was given charge of all the drains and cisterns within Casterly Rock. (DWD Ty III)The analogy to the Minotaur myth gets better. Said "drains" surely ran through the "bowels of Casterly Rock", which we're variously told were or are home to (a) caged beasts—
Cersei paced her cell, restless as the caged lions that had lived in the bowels of Casterly Rock when she was a girl, a legacy of her grandfather's time. (DWD C II)—(b) a man who wounded Tywin's pride—
A fool more foolish than most had once jested that even Lord Tywin's shit was flecked with gold. Some said the man was still alive, deep in the bowels of Casterly Rock. (GOT Ty VII)—and (c) the black sheep of House Lannister—
"… and every family has its drooling cousins." Tyrion signed another note. … "There are cells down in the bowels of Casterly Rock where my lord father kept the worst of ours." (DWD Ty XII)—all of which can be read as analogues to King Minos trapping and hiding his wife's son the Minotaur in the Labyrinth.
To be sure, Casterly Rock's bowels are indubitably a kind of labyrinth. Consider that Casterly Rock is a Westerlands castle—like "the great stone maze"/"grey stone labyrinth" of Winterfell, the "endless stone maze with walls that seemed to shift and change" that Arya imagines the Red Keep to be, Castle Black with its "maze of tunnels", and Highgarden with its "famed briar maze, a vast and complicated labyrinth"—carved out of a giant rocky hill containing vast reserves of gold, while Westerlands hills are explicitly associated with "labyrinthine caves":
The Westerlands are a place of rugged hills… where half-hidden doors in the sides of wooded hills open onto labyrinthine caves that wend their way through darkness to reveal unimaginable wonders and vast treasures deep beneath the earth. (TWOIAF)Speaking of the maze-like underbelly of Casterly Rock, Tyrion just so happens to remember a "dead sea cow" appearing there—
He reminded Tyrion of a dead sea cow that had once washed up in the caverns under Casterly Rock.—an image that is massively redolent of the Minotaur myth and its sacrificial white bull from the sea.
An "Ill-Favored" ConnectionWhen Tyrion is auctioned as a slave, a bidder calls his eyes "ill-favored":
"His eyes don't match neither. An ill-favored thing." (DWD Ty X)Calling Tyrion "ill-favored" connects him with "the squat, scrofulous, ill-favored man-at-arms called Yellow Dick". (GiW) So what? So: Yellow Dick is uniquely and memorably called "scrofulous", which derives from scrofula, a kind of tuberculosis known as "King's Evil". In the middle ages, divine monarchs, especially newly minted rulers, would lay their hands on a bunch of people afflicted with scrofula so as to "cure" them. Because scrofula frequently goes into remission on its own, the king/queen could easily claim "success".
The whole point of this exercise was to confer legitimacy on the ruler—to prove that they were indeed selected by god. In other words: to achieve exactly what Minos hoped to achieve by praying for and being sent the white bull from the sea that ultimately sired the Minotaur.
Tyrion being called "ill-favored" thus links him to a term that evokes the central theme of the Minotaur myth.
EnormityOberyn tells Tyrion he expected "Enormity" of him—
"I had just been born. What did you expect of me?"—only a few pages before Oberyn calls Gregor both (a) "the Enormity That Rides" and (b) a "lummox":
"Enormity," the black-haired prince replied. (SOS Ty V)
"I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this lummox Gregor Clegane . . . but not, I think, ending there. Before he dies, the Enormity That Rides will tell me whence came his orders, please assure your lord father of that."The etymology of lummox is unclear; it may stem from "dumb ox" or "lumbering ox". Regardless, it certainly evokes an "ox": a bovine draft animal. Oxen are most commonly castrated bulls. Given that hybrids are generally sterile (as it seems Tyrion may well be), a bull's son by a human woman—a Minotaur—could be seen as akin to an ox. Minotaurs are also monsters, and Gregor is repeatedly called a monster, including in the same paragraph when he is referred to as "the Mountain That Rides", the name Oberyn is mocking when he calls him the Enormity That Rides and a lummox. (COK A V)
By a kind of transitive property, then, when Oberyn says he expected "Enormity" of Tyrion, it's almost as if he says, "I expected to see an ox-like Monster", i.e. a Minotaur.
Sacrificial BullsIt's worth noting that ASOIAF nods to the Minotaur myth's motif of a sacrificial bull, linking it to a male child that is a great disappointment to his imperious, Tywin-esque lord father, who like Tywin refuses to name him his heir:
Lord Randyll [Tarly]'s disappointment [in Sam] turned to anger and then to loathing. "One time," Sam confided, his voice dropping from a whisper, "two men came to the castle, warlocks from Qarth with white skin and blue lips. They slaughtered a bull aurochs and made me bathe in the hot blood, but it didn't make me brave as they'd promised. I got sick and retched. Father had them scourged." (GOT J IV)In the very next chapter, we read an oddly shoehorned conflation of scourging with (a) whores (as in Tywin's famous "Wherever whores go" line, which I have previously connected to Joanna, who was one of Aerys's "whores" and who was ultimately de-tongued and exiled by Tywin); and (b) the sea, a la the Minotaur myth:
"No doubt as soon as we've scourged all those whores into the sea," Littlefinger replied…The next mention of scourging refers to the comet as "The Father's scourge" during a denunciation of "the Whoremonger King" (in Tyrion's POV, no less.) (COK Ty V) Again, this makes us think of King Aerys making "whores" of Rhaella's ladies, including Joanna Lannister, wife of Tyrion's "father" Tywin.
The next? Cersei Lannister has the whore Alayaya "scourged… then shoved out the gate naked and bloody", much as Tywin had Tytos's mistress "sent forth naked to walk through the streets of Lannisport". (SOS Ty I; DWD CII) We're then told, "absurdly", that Alayaya "was learning to read"—that is, to understand speechless communication (of a kind that might be employed by someone whose tongue has been ripped out, as I believe Joanna's was). Finally, Tyrion contemplates "scourging" Tommen in retaliation.
Thus the blatant evocation of the Minotaur myth via the sacrificial aurochs in Sam's story is connected via "scourging" to a whole bunch of motifs and situations which "rhyme" in various ways with the Minotaur myth and the idea that Tywin was cuckolded by Aerys and banished the tongueless Joanna.
Bullheaded BastardsThe Minotaur is literally a "bullheaded" royal bastard, right? And who do we meet in the early chapters of AGOT, putting us on alert for a figurative minotaur? Gendry, a "bullheaded" royal bastard with a helm that turns him into a figurative Minotaur who is told to mind his "filthy tongue":
"Mind your filthy tongue," the master said. "This is the King's own Hand." The boy [Gendry] lowered his eyes. "A smart boy, but stubborn. That helm … the others call him bullheaded, so he threw it in their teeth."Again: the allusions are right there for the taking: Tongues, Minotaurs, and royal bastards whose black hair (like Tyrion's) attests to their true paternity, as against the golden hair of "Robert's" Lannister children.
Translating the Myth: Divine Bewitching Bccomes… Love Potions?If Tyrion is indeed a figurative Minotaur, what does this mean regarding his paternity? How might GRRM translate/rework Pasiphae mating with a white bull? What about the part of the myth that sees Pasiphae divinely bewitched into loving said bull?
Plainly we're going to be looking for a figurative white bull, not an actual act of bestiality. As for Pasiphae being divinely driven to have sex with a bull, we have in the "love potions" of The Sworn Sword—
"…once my sister Rhae put a love potion in my drink, so I'd marry her instead of my sister Daella."—and ASOS Tyrion III—
"Maegi, they called her. No one could pronounce her real name. Half of Lannisport used to go to her for cures and love potions and the like." (SOS Ty III)—a clear Chekhov's Gun for getting people to have sex against their will. Surely it's relevant that Cersei (as in Cerce the witchy potion-maker of Greek myth) clarifies that her witch, Maggy, could "curse a man or make him fall in love", and even speaks of rumors that "she cast a spell on" her husband to ensnare him in marriage. (FFC C VIII)
Aerys as "Poseidon"?But who might have wanted to force Joanna Lannister to couple with someone who might sire a child that plainly was not Tywin's? Recalling that the Targaryens are likened to gods—
On Dragonstone, where the Targaryens had long ruled, the common folk had seen their beautiful, foreign rulers almost as gods. (TWOIAF)—and that it is the god Poseidon who causes Pasiphae to fall in love with a bull in the most common version of the Minotaur myth, it seems likely that Aerys was the perpetrator, effecting Tywin's public cuckolding so as to lay Tywin low.
TWOIAF ascribes to Aerys feelings akin to those Poseidon has towards King Minos per the standard Minotaur Myth, telling us the following immediately before describing Joanna's visit to King's Landing during Aerys's Anniversary Tourney of 272 (Tyrion being born in 273):
King Aerys had become aware of the widespread belief that he himself was but a hollow figurehead and Tywin Lannister the true master of the Seven Kingdoms. These sentiments greatly angered the king, and His Grace became determined to disprove them and to humble his "overmighty servant" and "put him back into his place".(Sidebar: Does the phrase "hollow figurehead" wink at the literally hollow cow Pasiphae uses to couple with the white bull in the Minotaur myth?)
Aerys's remarks upon Tyrion's birth—
"The gods cannot abide such arrogance. They have plucked a fair flower from his hand and given him a monster in her place, to teach him some humility at last." (TWOIAF)—are certainly consistent with a self-satisfied man who played the part of Poseidon to Tywin's Minos.
Rhaella as "Venus"?Egg's love potion story shows that the entire royal family had access to such potions, so we should also consider that the answer could lie in the version of the Minotaur myth that sees Venus exercise divine retribution on Minos's Queen Pasiphae because she no longer shows her sufficient devotion. This hypothesis is consistent with the fact that Rhaella had earlier dismissed Joanna from her service:
…though [Rhaella] turned a blind eye to most of the king's infidelities, the queen did not approve of his "turning my ladies into his whores." (Joanna Lannister was not the first lady to be dismissed abruptly from Her Grace's service, nor was she the last). (TWOIAF)Perhaps Aerys's renewed interest in Joanna prompted Rhaella to act against her unfaithful former lady-in-waiting in hopes that Joanna might bring forth an ill-begotten child that would in effect mark both Aerys and Tywin as cuckolded, at last undoing a woman who she may have felt had poisoned the well of her marriage from the start.
The Great Anniversary Tourney of 272 ACRegardless of who endeavored to see Joanna impregnated with a dark-haired child so as to mark Tywin as cuckolded, we surely know when Joanna was impregnated. Tyrion was born in 273. It just so happens that in 272, his mother Joanna Lannister traveled to King's Landing where a huge tourney was taking place:
At the great Anniversary Tourney of 272 AC, held to commemorate Aerys's tenth year upon the Iron Throne, Joanna Lannister brought her six-year-old twins Jaime and Cersei from Casterly Rock to present before the court. (TWOIAF)Aerys, to whom Joanna was widely rumored to be a paramour prior to marrying Tywin in 262—
The scurrilous rumor that Joanna Lannister gave up her maidenhead to Prince Aerys the night of his father's coronation and enjoyed a brief reign as his paramour after he ascended the Iron Throne can safely be discounted.—made lewd remarks to Joanna that indicate his interest in her had not fully waned:
The king (very much in his cups) asked her if giving suck to [her twins] had "ruined your breasts, which were so high and proud." The question greatly amused Lord Tywin's rivals, who were always pleased to see the Hand slighted or made mock of, but Lady Joanna was humiliated.(The pro-Lannister TWOIAF's claim that Joanna—who after all was good friends with the Princess of Dorne, a place with a libertine and bawdy attitude towards sex—rather than Tywin was humiliated must be taken with a grain of salt.)
Tywin Lannister attempted to return his chain of office the next morning, but the king refused to accept his resignation.It's strange that Tywin did nothing when Aerys was supposedly insulting Joanna, yet tried to resign the next morning. This suggests Aerys's remarks weren't the real issue. Something happened overnight. I believe that something was some crazy sex shit involving Joanna Lannister. Remember, this was a great tourney that would have brought princes, lords and lordlings from far and wide, particularly among those closely aligned with House Targaryen, the Iron Throne and/or Aerys. Illicit sex at a tournament would in itself hardly be news:
"There's nought like a tourney to make the blood run hot" (SOS Ar VIII)Are we to believe that Tyrion's birth the next calendar year is a coincidence?
In 273 AC, however, Lady Joanna was taken to childbed once again at Casterly Rock, where she died delivering Lord Tywin's second son. (TWOIAF)That's not really how dramatic fiction works.
Thus it's my belief that during the Anniversary Tourney, someone dosed Joanna Lannister and/or a certain young man or men with a love potion in order to get them to copulate, not just because of the trouble this would immediately sow, but perhaps in the hope that Joanna would give birth to a child that would plainly not be Tywin's.
The White Bull!??!?If Tyrion is a figurative Minotaur—a humiliating reminder that Joanna cuckolded Tywin—who is ASOIAF's equally figurative white bull from the sea? That is, who was targeted by Aerys or Rhaella as the right man to sire a child who would mark Tywin as cuckolded? Who was given a love potion to overwhelm him with desire for Joanna or positioned as the object of Joanna's lust after she was given such a potion?
I will assay an answer to this question later, but for now I want to pour cold water on an idea that may be occurring to you: the idea that the White Bull Gerold Hightower sired Tyrion. You just don't hand anyone with passing knowledge of Greek myth (a good percentage of readers when AGOT was first published as a niche fantasy novel) the answer to a major mystery in the first couple chapters of the first book, yet "The White Bull" is introduced in AGOT B II, right before we read the labyrinth-referencing first line of Tyrion's first chapter. It reeks of red herring. At the same time, though, the very existence of "the White Bull" hints that ASOIAF will play with the Minotaur myth.
Tyrion The Minotaur Is Also A ChimeraLet's now talk about how Tyrion is connected to chimeras—named for the Greek myth of the Chimera—and thus the biological phenomenon of chimerism, which suggests that Tyrion was sired by more than one man (i.e. potentially more than one figurative white bull from the sea).
The original Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with the heads of a lion, a goat and a snake. (Generally the body and legs were mostly that of a lion.) Modern renditions of the classic Chimera often substitute a dragon's head for the snake-headed tail. For centuries, though, chimera has meant any "fabulous beast made up of parts taken from various animals." (freedictionary.com)
Tyrion The Grotesque GargoyleWhy should we think Tyrion the figurative Minotaur is also some kind of chimera? Because ASOIAF in effect calls him a chimera, over and over, without ever saying "chimera". How so?
Consider that Tyrion is directly likened to a gargoyle no fewer than six times:
Tyrion Lannister was sitting on the ledge above the door to the Great Hall, looking for all the world like a gargoyle. (GOT J I)Consider that Davos's favorite lucky gargoyle on Dragonstone is described in a manner that very much recalls Tyrion:
Motionless as a gargoyle, Tyrion Lannister hunched on one knee atop a merlon. (COK Ty XIII)
"You are a lovely girl. It seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle." - Cersei to Sansa (SOS San III)
"Bugger Joffrey, bugger the queen, and bugger that twisted little gargoyle she calls a brother." (SOS A IX)
"There are gargoyles on Dragonstone that look more like the Imp than this creature." (FFC C VIII)
They hacked off her brother's head in the hope that it was mine, yet here I sit like some bloody gargoyle, offering empty consolations. (DWD Ty VIII)
Out front squatted a waist-high gargoyle, so eroded by rain and salt that his features were all but obliterated. He and Davos were old friends, though. He gave a pat to the stone head as he went in. "Luck," he murmured.The gargoyle is "waist-high"; Tyrion is a dwarf. The gargoyle's "features were all but obliterated"; Tyrion's nose is cut off. The gargoyle "squatted"; Tyrion (weirdly) "squatted" five times. On one of the occasions upon which Tyrion "squatted" like the gargoyle, he so happens to warm his hands over the coals of "an iron brazier"—
Tyrion squatted across from him and warmed his hands over the coals. (DWD Ty IV)—which is interesting because "hot coals in a brazier" are in turn likened to the eyes of a gargoyle—
The gargoyles watched him ascend. Their eyes glowed red as hot coals in a brazier. Perhaps once they had been lions, but now they were twisted and grotesque. (GOT B IV)—which could have been a Lannister-ish lion, but is now "twisted and grotesque", just like Tyrion:
Tyrion replied with a shrug that accentuated the twist of his shoulders. "Speaking for the grotesques," he said, "I beg to differ. (GOT Ty I)Finally, Davos touches his gargoyle's head for luck, which is exactly what the sailors of the Stinky Steward do to Tyrion:
The crew of the Selaesori Qhoran had been pleased enough when [Tyrion] first came on board; a dwarf was good luck, after all. His head had been rubbed so often and so vigorously that it was a wonder he wasn't bald. (DWD Ty VIII)Plainly Tyrion is a figurative gargoyle, and he calls himself a "grotesque", which is how Theon describes the face of a gargoyle that's "snarling"—
The falling snow had covered almost all of it, but part of one gargoyle still poked above the drift, its grotesque face snarling sightless at the sky. (DWD tTC)—just as Moqorro portentously sees Tyrion doing:
"Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all."So ASOIAF unmistakably calls Tyrion a gargoyle and a grotesque. So what?
"Snarling? An amiable fellow like me?" Tyrion was almost flattered. (DWD Ty VIII)
A Gargoyle is a Grotesque is a ChimeraSo this. By tagging Tyrion as a "gargoyle" and a "grotesque", ASOIAF implicitly calls him a chimera, because architecturally, gargoyles, grotesques and chimeras are essentially the same thing, with architectural chimeras/grotesques today being colloquially referred to as gargoyles:
In architecture, a chimera or grotesque is a fantastic or mythical figure used for decorative purposes. Chimerae are often described as gargoyles, although the term gargoyle technically refers to figures carved specifically as terminations to spouts which convey water away from the sides of buildings. (wikipedia: Grotesque (architecture))GRRM is well aware that grotesques and gargoyles and chimeras are basically the same thing. While he was careful to never mention the term chimera prior to Fire & Blood, he does make proper architectural use of "grotesque" while in the same breath associating gargoyles and grotesques with minotaurs:
In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building…
When not constructed as a waterspout and only serving an ornamental or artistic function, the correct term for such a sculpture is a grotesque, chimera, or boss. … However, in common usage, the word "gargoyle" is generally used to describe any monstrous sculpture, whether intended as a waterspout or not. …
Many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras. The most famous examples are those of Notre Dame de Paris. Although most have grotesque features, the term gargoyle has come to include all types of images. Some gargoyles were depicted as monks, or combinations of real animals and people [e.g. Minotaurs?], many of which were humorous. Unusual animal mixtures, or chimeras, did not act as rainspouts and are more properly called grotesques. They serve more as ornamentation, but are now synonymous with gargoyles. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gargoyle)
In place of merlons, a thousand grotesques and gargoyles looked down on him, each different from all the others; wyverns, griffins, demons, manticores, minotaurs, basilisks, hellhounds, cockatrices, and a thousand queerer creatures sprouted from the castle's battlements as if they'd grown there. (SOS Dav V)Meanwhile, Tyrion jokingly associates his birth with something that sounds very much the way a proper, water-diverting gargoyle functions:
"My father threw me down a well the day I was born, but I was so ugly that the water witch who lived down there spat me back." (DWD Ty IV)The Dutch word for gargoyle is waterspuwer. Literally, "water spitter".
(In my Joanna-Euron essay, I pointed out that The Westerlands essay associates rumors of Tywin throwing a child down a well with rumors of Tywin sending women to the Silent Sisters without their tongues: exactly what I believe befell Joanna.)
The Tyrion-esque Greek ChimeraA few details regarding the original Chimera support the notion that Tyrion is a kind of chimera figure. In one version of the myth, the Chimera is sired by a monster named "Typhon", a near-homophone for Tywin. (Before you scoff, our author has a character comment that "Arys" sounds similar to "Areo".)
In the Iliad, it's stated that the Chimera was raised by a man who was not its biological father, which jibes with Tyrion-the-chimera not being sired by Tywin.