22 February 2010

Framing a realistic financial model for comic-book heroes

'Comics history is filled with characters who have seemingly bottomless pockets. Think about it. For years, the Xavier Institute has been sustained by Professor Xavier and Warren Worthington. Somehow, the nebulous assets held by these two men has paid for housing and feeding hundreds of mutants, building countless supersonic jets and periodically rebuilding a massive mansion when Sentinels blow it up.

Batman is able to create an arsenal of weaponry that could conquer a small European nation. He has literally hundreds of cars, jets, boats, explosives, grappling hooks, and bat-shaped shuriken that he created using his personal wealth. And his assets are so great that Bruce Wayne is able to build all of these things without anyone noticing that he is using his money to build ridiculous contraptions. This means that he can buy a Bat-plane without creating enough of a dent to arouse suspicion. That is a LOT of money.

But in Uncanny X-Men # 520, we see that wealth is, in fact, finite and that someone can't keep buying engines for a mutant asteroid indefinitely. It's nice to see someone in this universe who is in touch with reality. Even if that person is an immortal man in a white suit and surgeon's mask who dual wields hypodermic injection pistols'

- Mark Butler, Christian Science Monitor, 22 February 2010

19 February 2010

Traffic offence excuses

Special pleadings are not acceptable in the “No Excuse” initiative being run here in Dorset, a largely rural county on Britain’s south coast. The yearlong, $1.25 million project — a combination of advertising, education and increased police patrols — is an effort to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver inattention, a common problem across the car-driving world. […]

To that end, Sergeant Savage and Police Constable Lee Briggs were driving around [Weymouth in Dorset] the other day, on the lookout for signs of inattention. Their innocuous unmarked car became a light-flashing, siren-blaring vessel of righteousness every time they saw someone violating a rule, which was just about the whole time.

There is the odd psychotic episode — once, Sergeant Savage had to pepper spray a cellphone-using driver who turned violent — which is why the officers wear bulletproof vests. But “probably 99 percent of people you stop are decent people who accept whatever enforcement comes their way,” Sergeant Savage said.

The drivers caught that day tended to employ the “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy” defense, admitting only to part of the misdeed. Stopped for making a call while driving to his job as a window repairman, a man in a dusty Vauxhall tried to claim in mitigation that he had just bought his phone and had not yet had time to activate his plan to install a hands-free system. His assertion was undercut by the obvious elderliness and grubbiness of the phone.

The man then delivered a heartfelt monologue on the topic of cellphones and civil liberties. “Where does it stop?” he asked. “What won’t they let you do next? Have a passenger in your car? Listen to the radio?”

“On the other hand, you could pull over and take the call,” Sergeant Savage admonished. “This is a car, not an office.”

Mr. Smith, the road safety manager, said that the campaign’s name was a homage to motorists’ endless litany of fruitless rationalizations. “I was out about a year ago and we stopped a lady who had three children in the back of the car,” he related. “The officer said, ‘Why aren’t these children belted in?’ and she said, ‘They’re not my children.’ ”

- New York Times, 18 February 2010

16 February 2010

The Vatican's top pop picks

A list of Vatican-approved pop albums has been published in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper:

The Holy See’s top ten includes the 1982 album Thriller by Jackson, the video for which shows the late singer as a zombie dancing with other ghouls in a graveyard, and Pink Floyd’s meditation on time, death, mental illness and consumer greed, The Dark Side of the Moon.

The Beatles also make the list with Revolver, perhaps their most drugs-influenced, psychedelic album from 1966. In the song Eleanor Rigby Father McKenzie writes “the words of a sermon that no one will hear”.

Also given approval is U2’s album Achtung Baby from 1991, on which Bono sings in Acrobat: “I’d break bread and wine if there was a church I could receive in.”

As for Oasis, the Gallagher brothers — “enfants terribles of the working class”, the newspaper said — had given the world a “jewel produced by torment” in their 1995 album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.

The article by Giuseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini, who recently wrote that Bono was a “true crusader for Christianity”, said: “To single out ten classic discs to take to a desert island is no easy enterprise.” They had no hesitation, however, in starting with Revolver, “issued by the Fab Four long ago in 1966” and a “point of no return in contemporary pop music” [...]

The newspaper said that it had not included Bob Dylan — who sang for Pope John Paul II in 1997 at the World Eucharistic Festival in Bologna — partly because his “visionary poetry” had turned “Messianic” after his conversion to Christianity, but also because he inflicted on the world “three-note songs” that “tried the ears and patience of listeners”.

- The Times, 15 February 2010

12 February 2010

Spectacularly unfunny and yet enormously popular

'[For Charlie Sheen] being what is politely referred to as a "bad boy" has always been his appeal. To start punishing him for it now would, in the eyes of his fans, be as perverse as criticising Pamela Anderson for failing to adhere to feminist ideals. [Chris] Brown, on the other hand, presented himself as a smoochy romantic singer; Mel ­Gibson – another star who has fallen from grace – tried to be a ­romantic lead and ­serious film-maker, an image that was hard to maintain after an antisemitic rant at a police officer. Sheen, however, plays bad boys with added jokes, allowing reality to elide forgivingly into fiction. His funniest role ever was his cameo in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, in which he played the druggie but strangely wise convict, cracking his knuckles and winking at girls.

But to see this image twist at its most blatant, one is forced, sadly, to watch Two and a Half Men.

The first thing to know about Two and a Half Men is that it is spectacularly unfunny and yet enormously popular. When it comes to American TV, there is always an enormous market for deadeningly dull sitcoms that spin around the premise of the useless-but-ultimately-adorable man, replete with all the sorts of cliches one might have thought had died in 1963 (for further study on this subject, I refer you to the likes of Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens)'

- Hadley Freeman, Guardian, 10 February 2010

[Agreed! Well, it's got Melanie Lynskey in it, which is the only possible reason I could think of to watch it]

The Brunty Sisters

From a discussion of talismanic Napoleonic War hero Horatio Nelson:

While in Naples, Nelson began an affair with Lady Emma Hamilton, wife of the British ambassador. Her father had been a blacksmith and she a teenage prostitute in London before marrying Sir William. She was enormously fat and had a Lancashire accent. Another admirer of Nelson was Patrick Brunty, a Yorkshire parson of Irish descent, who changed his surname to Bronte after the King of Naples created Nelson Duke of Bronte. Had he not done so, his famous daughters would have been Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brunty.

- John Lloyd & John Mitchinson, The Book of General Ignorance, London, 2006

10 February 2010

Get me a P with an H of G!

Kira Cochrane on the 20th anniversary re-release of Pretty Woman:

...[O]ne of the project's best qualities is Roberts's saltiness and steel: you never really believe she is less than Gere's equal. But still, her character is the ultimate example of that oldest, most noxious of movie cliches, the prostitute with a heart of gold ("Get me a P with an H of G!" the legendary film producer, Samuel Goldwyn, apparently shouted when a script came up short). It's a stereotype that's popular for two reasons. One, it depicts women as bodies to be bought and sold. Two, it depicts them as moral saviours. Completely available; ­completely redemptive. Ker-ching: you've hit the womanly jackpot!

- Guardian, 9 February 2010

08 February 2010

V for victory

One man's year-long mission to cover his desk with energy drink bottles for a five second joke payoff. This, dear readers, is the can-do spirit of which our forefathers would be proud.

Conspicuous consumption

02 February 2010

Antipodeans in London

Selections from London's TNT Magazine 'Desperately Seeking' page:

TO ALL THE SHE[PHERD'S] BU[SH] CREW AT NO. 12: Cheers for a top Australia Day. I had so much fun at the Walkie. Met so many new people, got so drunk and woke up on a strange lounge floor with a picture of a cock on my face. Best night of my life. I love London. Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi. SteveO.

JULIA: You rock my world. Every time we speak, it's like 1000 volts of electricity shoots through me. This could be the real thing. I hope you feel the same way. Let's hang out more and see where it goes. Marcus.

DUNGA FROM ACTON: Put it away mate. We've all seen it before.

ADRIAN: It's over, you slut! I can't believe you shagged my sister. Don't worry though - your mates Rod and Tane were the best I've ever had. If you ever show your face again you'll find your clothes all burnt ... and I gave away your precious axolotyl. Haha. Suck on that.

- TNT Magazine, 1-7 February 2010