A cross-cultural myth.

In Greek and Egyptian mythology, the phoenix was a beautiful bird that lived alone in the Arabian desert for 500 years (or 1,461 years, depending on who you're asking. Ain't like anyone got to hang around long enough to check, right?) and then consumed itself in a fire, rising renewed from the ashes to start another long life.

The phoenix was associated with the sun gods of both cultures (Re in Egypt and Phoibos, or Apollo, in Greece). In Egypt, it was often depicted as a heron; in Western lit, it often resembles a peacock or eagle. It's also been associated with Hinduism's Garuda and the Chinese Feng-huang.

Unsurprisingly, the phoenix has come to symbolize things like immortality and the renewed vigor of life in spring.

Research from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/p/phoenix.html

This was an Arabian legendary bird that was said to set fire to itself and then rise from the ashes every 500 years. It was supposed to be a bird of enormous size whose tears were of incense and its blood of balsam.

The legends of how it died actually vary. Some said that when it grew old it constructed a nest composed of cinnamon and thyme upon which it then rested and promptly expired. In time a creature rose from its bones and marrow that was not unlike a worm, which became a fowl that flew off with its nest to the city of the sun, where it placed the nest on an altar.

Another ancient narrator tells us that when the bird felt that its span of life was drawing to a close it flew up in the air to such a great height that the heat of the sun burnt its body to ashes.

An Australian cop show shown on the ABC in the early nineties. Comprised of two seasons of thirteen episodes each.

Very much a police procedural, Phoenix had an ultra-realistic feeling. The set was meticulously modelled on the real offices of a police task force in Melbourne. Conversations overlapped, and were littered with obscenities. Each of the two seasons covered a single investigation, rather than crimes being solved in a single hour long episode.

The first season began with a car bomb exploding outside a police ball, killing one police officer and horribly burning another. The Phoenix task force is formed, and spends the next thirteen episodes investigating the crime and eventually arresting the culprits.

The second season detailed the investigation of a drug smuggling operation, but the real focus of the season was the internal affairs investigations into the task force. There were allegations of police brutality, planting of evidence and corruption, all of which brought visits from the toecutters - the internal affairs investigators.

In my opinion, simply the best cop show ever.

Phoenix was an old arcade game released by Amstar way back in 1980 (this title was licensed to Taito in Japan, while in the United States it was licensed to Centuri and several other companies).

The story

It is far in the future, and it is up to you to pilot a lone ship against an armada of spacecrafts and "Phoenixes", before finally facing off against the alien mothership. Your only weapons are your trusty laser cannon, and shield generator.

The game

Phoenix is a vertical shooter with many similarities to Galaxian and Space Invaders. You pilot a lone ship (that can only move back and forth at the bottom of the screen. Your normal enemies are small bird-like spaceships that fly in formation, and attack just like the ones in Galaxian. But this is not just a Galaxian clone, as Phoenix adds to the basic formula by including large multi-part enemies (the Phoenixes themselves), a "shield" button, and a large mothership level.

All that extra gameplay is obviously going to have a bit of a price tag attached, and Phoenix paid that price with the graphics. Phoenix has much simpler graphics than Galaxian, and the ships move in a very mechanical fashion (making Galaxian look better, even though they are equally fun).

The Machine

Most Phoenix games will be in a standard Centuri woodgrain cabinet, but several other cabinets exist, due to this game being sold by multiple companies at the same time. These use sticker sideart (which covers the upper half of the machine), and glass marquees. The control panel is made up entirely of buttons, no joysticks are present. The monitor in this machine is mounted vertically, and the monitor bezel is relatively unadorned.

Phoenix uses a unique wiring harness, which isn't know to be compatible with any other games. This means you can't do a plug and play conversion of a Phoenix machine, you will have to do at least some rewiring. But, the unique harness has made replacement PCB boards for Phoenix a bit cheaper, as no one is buying them to stick into other cabinets.

Where to play

The ColecoVision and Atari 2600 ports of this title are both fun, and easy to acquire. Or if you have a personal computer, then you can download either the MAME or Vantage emulator, and play Phoenix that way (both emulators support this title perfectly). There is also a free version available for the TI-8X series of calculators.

This is a great title to add to your arcade game collection. This is one of the least expensive "classic" shooters that you can readily find. It is quite fun, but most people would rather have Galaga or Galaxian, so copies of Phoenix go for much less (as the average collector will rarely buy more than one game of the same general type). The parts to this game are not particularly expensive, so it is possible to cheaply "restore" an old Centuri cabinet with Phoenix for only $100 or so in parts (although a full restoration will of course cost more).

Phoenix was possibly the coolest police drama ever made in Australia (if not anywhere). Produced by ABC television (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that is). Two series were made, the first screened in 1991, the second in 1993.

The first series centred around urban terrorism; eerily topical nowadays but when it first aired the wounds were still raw from a real bombing at the Melbourne city watchhouse in 1986 - 5 years before - which killed two police officers. (in the show it was a bombing at the police Christmas party) - and it was at least tacitly based on the actual Russell Street bombing in question; there were many parallels.

Relentlessly realist in terms of writing and direction, the continuing narrative allowed intense character development and abusive, uncensored dialogue, and it also looked a hell of a lot like TAC shock-tactic road-safety advertisements which had only just begun airing at the time. Shot on 16mm film, unusual at the time and unheardof these days for Australian television, it had a very cool, grainy, slightly noir look about it, and one of the most labyrinthine narratives you're ever likely to come across in a police procedural. To add to that it had an excellent soundtrack by Paul Grabowsky.

A second series was made in 1993, but at least to start with it lacked the resonant hook of the first series: No bombings here, instead aggravated burglaries and related drug importation, and continual run-ins with internal investigations. But if you stuck with it it was well worth it, although it was clear that Paul Grabowsky and band had got bored and were competing to out-play each other on the soundtrack. Nevertheless it was still incredibly cool, and when I saw it at age 10 and then the second series at age 12, it was really the first thing I remember that pushed me towards filmmaking.

The other thing that made Phoenix such a cool show was that both series really captured the milieu of early 90s Melbourne: in the middle of a recession, full of crime and decay, a public service falling apart at the seams, and in the second series the penny-pinching of a newly-elected conservative government.

As a side-note I had a strange few weeks not long ago where Paul Sonkkila (the actor who played the head of the major crime squad in the first series) seemed to be following me; he turned up everywhere.

But thankfully that stopped.

And yes, I realise this has already been said, but by the time I noticed Snailgus's post I'd already finished writing :)

In the Marvel Universe, Phoenix was a member of the X-Men from issues 101 to 137. Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, although no longer a member of the group, was involved in a conflict between the X-Men and the Sentinels, in a space station. Although the Sentinels were defeated, the X-Men had to fly back to earth through a radiation belt or storm. Although there was an isolation chamber, the cockpit was not protected and whoever flew the spacecraft would be exposed. Jean volunteered, since she could communicate with the astronaut in the isolation chamber via telepathy.

The spacecraft crashed into Jamaica Bay in New York. As the X-Men struggled to shore, Jean burst from the water, wearing a strange costume and claiming to be reborn as Phoenix. She was hospitalized and recovered in a short time. Alarmingly, it was discovered that her powers of telepathy and telekinesis had increased to unbelievable levels, greater even than Professor X. She had also acquired some new powers, such as flight, and the Phoenix force, a large hawk-like nimbus of fire which surrounded her when her powers were in use. Her powers were so great that she was able to contain the gravitational force of a neutron galaxy. Ironically, some of these new powers were a problem; for example, her telepathy was now so powerful that she couldn't turn it off; she automatically read the minds of people around her. Furthermore, the powers seemed to rise and fall in strength; often she would find her Phoenix powers would return to Marvel Girl levels at crucial moments (such as during a battle with Magneto).

Later, when undergoing tests with Moira MacTaggert in Scotland, Phoenix began having hallucinations of living in the 18th Century. It was later learned that Mastermind was bidding to join the Hellfire Club, and that recruiting Phoenix as the new Black Queen was his entrance exam. So, using the mindtap mechanism of the club's White Queen, he projected illusions directly into Phoenix's mind.

Phoenix did join the Hellfire Club, but broke out of Mastermind's control and defeated all the members. Unfortunately, all this turmoil did not help her already fragile mental state, and she metamorphosed into Dark Phoenix. She left earth, and returned only after devouring a solar system and angering the Shi'ar. Phoenix committed suicide on the moon, realizing that her powers would never fully be under her control and that her very existence posed a threat to the stability of the universe.

Later it was learned that Phoenix was not Jean Grey at all, but an alien being which had taken her form and left her body to heal in a pod under the waters of Jamaica Bay. This pod was discovered and Jean Grey returned to life, so to speak. Unfortunately her telepathy was lost or blocked, and many of the moments that her love interest, Cyclops, shared with her had actually been shared with Phoenix, so she had no memory of them.

There was also another character called Phoenix, Rachel Summers, who was from an alternate universe in which Phoenix had not committed suicide and had had Cyclops' daughter. In her universe the United States was under martial law and all mutants were hunted down by the Sentinels.

A phoenix is a pattern in John Conway's Game of Life in which every live cell dies every generation, but which survives as a whole. One example phoenix is the period-2 pattern:

...O....
...O.O..
.O......
......OO
OO......
......O.
..O.O...
....O...
which alternates with the pattern:
....O...
..O.O...
......O.
OO......
......OO
.O......
...O.O..
...O....
(which can be considered either a reflection through a vertical 'mirror', or a reflection through a horizontal 'mirror'). This structure will survive indefinitely (provided there are no other cells in the neighbourhood which disrupt the cycle), though no individual cell survives but a moment after its birth. Another way of thinking of a phoenix is this: it is a pattern which lasts forever using the standard 'rule' of life "23/3" (survival if 2 or 3 neighbours, birth if 3 neighbours) and produces exactly the same patterns for the rule "/3" (cells never survive, birth if 3 neighbours). The collective name for these patterns (there is more than just this one) comes from the mythical phoenix, which died to give birth to its offspring.

Source: Glossary.doc, A Brief Illustrated Glossary of Terms in Conway's Game of Life, compiled by Al Hensel.

A manga epic by Osamu Tezuka, considered by the author to be his "life's work". The original Japanese title is "hi no tori" - literally, "firebird". It consists of twelve self-contained but interrelated volumes published between 1967 and 1988, alternating between the legendary/historical past and the science-fiction future. Tezuka intended to have the series gradually converge on a final volume set in the present which would unify all the preceding volumes, but he did not finish this during his lifetime.

The unifying element of the series is, of course, the Phoenix, immortal symbol of the life force, portrayed as intelligent, telepathic, and concerned with humanity's spiritual development. In some cases, the Phoenix is at the center of the plot; in others, all it seems to do is appear to people in visions and impart wisdom.

As of this writing, only the second volume has been published in English translation. A chart in the back of that volume summarizes the series as follows:

Greek mythological character most noted for having been Achilles' tutor. Blinded by his father, or cursed with childlessness depending on the story you read, because of an accusation by his father's concubine. Achilles' father, Peleus took him to see the centaur Chiron who had raised Achilles). Chiron is successful in restoring Phoenix's sight and Peleus appoints him Achilles' tutor. Phoenix was also apparently used as a generic term for "wise man" after the Phoenicians, who had given the Greeks the alphabet.

In book nine of the Iliad, Nestor recommends to Agamemnon that he send Phoenix as leader of a delegation to Achilles to include Ajax and Ulyses, to convince him to come out of his tent and return to battle at Troy. Not only had the seer Calchas prophesized that the city could not be taken without Achilles, but the greeks had gotten their butts whupped by the Trojans while Achilles was sulking in his tent. Agamemnon was keen to have him back, even to the point of offering to return Achilles' concubine Briseis, the loss of whom had sent Achilles to his tent in the first place.

Then Nestor answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon. The gifts you offer are no small ones, let us then send chosen messengers, who may go to the tent of Achilles son of Peleus without delay. Let those go whom I shall name. Let Phoenix, dear to Jove, lead the way; let Ajax and Ulysses follow, and let the heralds Odius and Eurybates go with them.

Unfortunately for Achilles, the seer had also prophesized that he would die young at the selfsame siege of Troy. It was going to take quite a bit to convince him to go back into the fray. Homer uses this story to provide some keen commentary on the nature of heroism. Phoenix appeals to Achilles to take the long view and think of how he will be remembered. If he does not return to the fight now, he will have no honor and will not be remembered as a hero. Achilles is not convinced:

Phoenix, old friend and father, I have no need of such honour. I have honour from Jove himself, which will abide with me at my ships while I have breath in my body.
The others did not fare much better. Ulysses attempt to sway him with Briseis and the other gifts sent by Agamemnon and Ajax's attempt to influence him with appeals to camaraderie, what we would today call peer pressure, also fail to find purchase with Achilles. He sends them away and only Phoenix remains, perhaps to travel back home with him. The story proves to be much more complicated, and Achilles eventually does fight and find his death in Troy.


In the movie adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010 there is a scene where Dr. Chandra, designer of the infamously murderous computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL, asks HAL's earthbound successor, SAL, to open a file and to name it Phoenix. Dr. Chandra asks SAL if she understands the reference. Before settling on the mythological bird, SAL offers up "the tutor of Achilles" which causes Dr. Chandra to exclaim that he was not aware of that reference. Neither was I at the time and I had always wanted to learn more about him. I finally made the time.

Homer: Mission to Achilles,http://24.24.31.212/literature/POL-HS-Mission-Achilles.htm, 2/26/2005

A time to die.
A time to release our cares and drift to foreign campii.
Time to be in a way foreign to the being we have known.
Time to experience different dimensions, different states of corporeality.

Reborn in ways uncomprehended, we leap anew like dolphins in the weak spring sunlight.
Our nascent selves await we know not what.
Phoenix, you have nothing on me.
I am not defunct, done, dead as last year's garden.

See me now, see me tomorrow.
I am potential undreamed of, a variable of unknowable value.
Watch me now, I'm on my way.
I have become the Phoenix.

A lightning strike creates a flame
that sets alight a monument of fame.

As the wind blows the fire grows.

The glow of the fire gives a flickering light,
banishing the shadows of the night.

Feeding the fire the flames just grow higher.

Nothing left to burn; from fire to embers.
Everything has been changed; people don't remember.

Since they were all gone from last year's false dawn.

The wind will now carry the ashes away
and the plants will sprout where the buildings lay.

A world without worth will experience rebirth.


BrevityQuest09

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