Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hellish Toilets

Just recently, an Australian blogger, Dan Schaumann, has made national news due to his unusual subject material of taking pictures of tourist traps.  While taking tourist photos of widely visited popular spots is nothing new, Schaumann has branched out onto an unusual realm of widely visited, yet rarely photographed realm of other countries.  I am of course referring to the bathroom.

His feats of travelling worldwide and going to specific spots for their facilities was borne out of a joke over how people would take pictures of the most mundane objects, such as food, and it would gain instant popularity via Facebook posts.  He took a few pictures of some bathrooms, and was surprised by the reception he received.  There's a lesson to be learned here.  Rather than constantly going after the next new thing by emulating their superficial features, go in the opposite direction and aim for something completely unmarketable.  Bloom County's Bill the Cat was originally intended to be the Anti-Garfield, a merchandising disaster that had virtually zero appeal, yet the public found his disgusting antics endearing.

As a result, he's gone on tour, and even has a list of his favorite recommended bathrooms, not unlike Kramer who would spout off the best and worst bathrooms in the city.  Going along the Seinfeld reference, Schaumann's attempts is not unlike the Seinfeld episode where George spouted off on the unmarketed potential value of a historical museum of toilet paper.  The basic function of peeing and pooping is a universal equivalent, yet there's hardly any documented records relating to a rather embarrassing ritual.  (Probably because anybody who bothered to write down about said facilities probably used the record to wipe their mess off.)

While past civilizations literally wiped out records on their sanitary use, the facilities have remained (sitting?) standing throughout their ruins.  All Schaumann's doing is giving tribute to the common form of porcelain figures.  Assuming that our digital archives aren't wiped out in an upcoming EMP storm, Schaumann has managed to capture the normally unseen underbelly of society for posterity.  Truly, we are living in enlightened times.

Normally, you wouldn't think seeing the dark underbelly of society that everybody uses as a subject of interest.  But if all toilets were similar along the like of outhouses and porta-pottys, there wouldn't be demand for seeing them in the first place.  That amount of variety and design of the universal bowl has branched out into unusual fields.  And unlike cars which have to be rotated out for the latest model, toilets have a long shelf life.  This is the natural result of following the basic guidelines to life as breathing and eating.  (Which is why we need to use the bathroom in the first place)  Despite this obvious fact of life, people still feel the need to cover up any potentially embarrassing allusions to the subject, resulting in a cultural clash of values that's a literal Game of Thrones.

Conflicts can result over childish representations that revolves around the issue, like Captain Underpants, one of the most popular and banned children's books.  Not having the interest or stomach to read the contents, I can't vouch for their quality, but obviously, we're becoming more socially open about such topics.

Sometimes, the issue of banning the truth can go too far.  Mike Peters of Mother Goose & Grimm fame had an amusing anecdote about his strip being cancelled in a paper when one of its readers sent a letter complaining about how much of a bad influence Grimmy was.  It wasn't until the reader elaborated that she was worried that all the scenes of Grimmy drinking from the toilet would motivate her dog to do the same, that the paper restored the previously banned comic.

There was a time where sponsors were squeamish about the prospect of showing even hints of activity done on television sitcoms, and we'd be lucky to get hints of any activity that wasn't done offscreen.  Apart from guttural grunting, you'd be lucky to see even a part of a toilet, and only the top half, rather than the lower half.  Nowadays, having casual conversations and dramatic scenes in lavatories is pretty much par for the course, and no one bats an eye.

As someone who sees the bathroom as a place to relax, the toilet is a suitable location for reading any material I have handy.  Sometimes I spend so much time in the bathroom that it's been nicknamed "The Library".  The problem with this is that I've become so accustomed to reading on the toilet that if I find myself in a bathroom without any ready material, I become constipated.

The worst case scenario is when you have to pay your way to use any of the bathrooms in the first place.  European public restrooms have such scenarios that allow for unfair practices, since you're unlikely to hold it in until you do it for free.
The first time I saw a bidet, I thought it was an unusually large urinal.  Fortunately, I dodged that bullet by plopping down on the toilet seat nearby.  But others aren't so fortunate.  Since there's usually only one bathroom stall in public toilets, and plenty of urinal stations, chances are high the barely-private stall will be occupied.  Some unruly patrons have taken the creative option of "doing their #2 business" in the more sparse urinals available.  That can't have been much fun for the janitor, or future customers.

One of the biggest concerns over using low Turkish toilets is the fear that you'll spread your mess all over your pants.  As it turns out in another comic I read (but can't find right now), the proper way is not to drop your pants and underwear all the way to your ankles, but to crop them up near your rear, leaving your bum clear.
Recent research has pointed out that the usual sitting position puts the rectum at an unfair angle, making it far more difficult to let your excrement out.  Even so, it may be too late for me to adapt to the new acceptable style of squatting.  For me, it would be a sense of balance.  If I close my eyes while standing on one leg, I lose all sense of balance, and I'm someone accustomed to walking on unsteady sheets of ice.  (Forget Turing Tests - for me, the true nature for dominant computer AI is when one is able to keep their balance of bipedal forms on unsteady surfaces.  Though they'd probably question the need for an inferior model when there are better alternatives out there)  With nothing to hold onto, there's the danger of cutting off circulation in my legs, which just raises the possibility of falling in, which would create a mess further than merely crapping my pants.  Going into an uncomfortable crouching position without any support is asking too much of me.
Another problem I have is that I'm simply unable to do the manly ritual of peeing while standing up.  This wasn't always the case.  When I was a kid, I used to do this all the time.  One day while peeing, I felt the usual tingling at my rear, and decided to let one rip.  For some reason, I didn't feel the familiar "pop" sensation, so I decided to try again to see if I'd do it right this time.  No luck.

Once I was finished, I turned around and discovered to my horror that what I thought were farts was actually my poop on the floor.  Since then, I've been unable to do any personal bathroom activity without sitting down.
But these are just differences over form.  The biggest issue most relationships revolve around on is over which direction the toilet paper roll should go.  Rumour has it that this was one of the most popular topics sent to Dear Abby.  There were loving couples who practically divorced over this issue.  In comparison, Religious incompatibility would be considered an easier conflict of interest.

For some reason, asking for instructions or permission to use the bathroom is considered one of the most embarrassing things in society, which may be why so many comedians find the subject hilarious.
So far, some of the most innovative displays of toilets have come from Japan, which has some... rather unfortunate designs created to suit to their specific tastes.  One for the men...
And one for the ladies.  (Though that probably appeals more to the men too)
However, the clincher may be this two-page story by Lenore creator Roman Dirge.  Nothing I could say could possibly live up to the reveal, so I won't bother.  Read for yourselves.

There was a Fantasia cult movie where the Devil answered the question of what possible use souls were in Hell, with this singular pithy reply: "Toilet Paper".

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scrooge Math

Years ago, there was some online links doing some research on just how much money was stuffed within the three cubic acres that is Scrooge McDuck's Money Bin.  While the general consensus is that the amount of nickels and dimes is somewhere within the realm of Multiplujillion, Impossibidillion and Fantasticatrillions of dollars and possible more funny-sounding made up numbers.  When these articles came out, I was reminded of a letter I read that tried to determine the exact nature of the legendary dimensions of the world's largest visible vault.

However, since I traded that particular issue for some obscure single-issue Mangas, I had trouble finding it again.  All I had to go on were my scant memories of the select few comics that I'd had in my possession that were picked up during my few visits to the airport, which were the only place where Gladstone Comics were available.  It was only recently that I recalled that the issue in question was #252, written by John Lustig and drawn by William Van Horn, was about a micromanaging robot, Perfecto 4000, took over Scrooge's business, under the belief that he was better suitable for managing it, since he was perfect.  While it sounds similar to the Armstrong episode of the DuckTales cartoon, there were slight differences, such as the Perfecto 4000 Robot only keeping residence within Scrooge's Money Bin, and all attempts to cast the mechanical being out via the army is easily repelled, not unlike the other overzealous Guardian Robot that was eventually taken out by Gizmoduck.  In the end, Scrooge has to rely on other expert safecrackers, the Beagle Boys to break into his own vault.

It was only recently that I finally recalled the cover I was looking for, since it wasn't available on the coverbrowser site, and managed to be in a place where I could write down my reminder, since past recollections led me to go on the spurious fallacy that I'd certainly remember it later.  After finally finding the relevant issue in question, I went to the last page and found the page-length letter devoted to the issue of Scrooge's bin size.

For ease of access, I've divided the letter into separate sections:

Right away, we can see that there's reasonable analysis of the meaning of the term 3 cubic acres, which's been bandied around so much that its lost all meaning.  When taken a closer look in the context of the dimensions, a singular acre is a piece of land, so putting it in three dimensions would yield the results below:

This is the nominal size of the familiar money bin we all know and love.  However, this would be equivalent to one cubic acre, not three.

This model of three cubic acres is basically three cubes stacked on top of each other, which is nowhere close to the square figure.  Now obviously, having such a structure holding valuable currency within its coffers would be subject to dangers of building health codes and windchill factors.  Rather than force the overarching structure into the Earth, the more logical choice would be to diverse and spread this mass into wider dimensions across.  However, Flash Kellan takes a more pragmatic interpretation of this, and winds up reducing the dimensions to a less than impressive degree.

While looking up information to check if any of this was available online, I found out that there were several follow-up comments to Flash Kellam's letter.  I've reproduced their contents below, and corrected them for spelling.  Included are the editorial responses, which were left out.


Dear Editor

Mr. Kellam's letter in Uncle Scrooge #252 calls to our attention an important mystery concerning the size of Uncle Scrooge's money bin: More remarkable still, however, is the fact that Mr. Kellam's letter solves a second mystery that has been troubling me for several months, while, contrarywise, the second mystery appears to solve the first. Let me explain.  You see, a few months ago, when I received an Uncle Scrooge comic book in the mail, I happened to notice there was something extra enclosed within the comic book: It was a brittle, yellowed envelope which appeared to be very old. Thinking that someone at the publishing house had accidentally dropped an advertisement in with my subscription, I was about to throw it away when I noticed the letters S. McD. scribbled in pencil in one corner.  Then, as you may imagine, my curiosity was greatly aroused. I hastened to open the envelope. Inside was a single sheet of paper containing the sketch of a cube. On examining the sketch more closely, I noticed that the six sides of the cube had been carefully shaded in with cross-hatches. Beneath the sketch, the following inscription appeared:

43,560 / 6 = 7,260

I pondered over the sketch for many hours, but to no avail; I could not fathom its meaning. So matters continued until I read Mr. Kellam's letter today. Then, suddenly, the meaning of the old sketch became perfectly clear: Mr. Kellam assumes that a cubic acre means the volume of a standard cube, each side of which is one acre in area. As he competently shows, this assumption appears to be inconsistent with the commonly assumed shape of the money bin. However, suppose that the entire surface of the standard cube is intended to equal one acre. Then, since an acre equals 43,560 square feet, each of the six faces of the standard cube must have an area of only 7,260 square feet. This seems to be exactly what the mysterious sketch was saying! Going on from here, we find that each of the twelve edges of the standard cube must be approximately 85.2 feet long.  Consequently, a cubic acre turns out to be about 618,593 cubic feet. Since Scrooge's wealth occupies three cubic acres, this means that he has about 1,855,779 cubic feet of cash. Assuming, then, that his money has reached the 100 foot mark on the depth gauge, we find that the square base of his money bin is roughly 136 feet in width and length. This corresponds perfectly with the usual cubical picture of the money bin, for it allows the bin to rise 36 feet above the money level, which is roughly the amount of empty space that one usually sees in drawings of the bin's interior. I hope this clarifies things. Of course Scrooge, with the vast mathematical abilities he has gained from constantly counting his wealth, knew it all along. Now, can anybody explain how Scrooge's notes happened to get mailed to me?

Brian K. Schmidl Chelmsford, MA


Dear Editor

As a follow-up to Flash Kellam's investigation into the projected size of Scrooge's money bin, I have taken things a step further in order to estimate the minimum net worth of his fortune. Mr. Kellam arrived at a figure of 27,274,140 cubic feet for the size of the money bin. Let us assume that Scrooge collected silver and gold coins in equal amounts; this would imply that approximately 13,637,070 cubic feet of the bin is occupied by each of the precious metals.  Now, silver has a density of 10.5 grams per cubic centimeter; gold has a density of 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter. Since precious metals are usually measured in troy ounces, we multiply by 0.0321507 ounces per gram and 28,316.846 cubic centimeters per cubic foot to give densities of 9559.267 ounces per cubic foot for silver and 17,570,843 ounces per cubic foot for gold. Multiplying these densities times the volumes above gives us 130,360,390,000 ounces of silver and 239,614,810,000 ounces of gold, in the money bin.

At the time of this letter, silver was selling for approximately $4.00 an ounce; gold was worth $400.00 an ounce. Scrooge's silver is thus worth $521,441,560,000, and his gold would amount to something like $95,845,924,000,000.00. So we conclude that in today's market his coins alone are valued at over 96 trillion dollars. At the bottom of the bin, of course, crushed under the immense weight of the metal above, lie the fabulous greenbacks which make up the remainder of his umpticatillion, fantasticatillion fortune.

Doug Hooley Boulder, CO


Dear Editor

In Uncle Scrooge #256, you printed a letter about the size of Scrooge's money bin. It gave a size of 136 feet square, 100 feet deep arid 36 feet empty at the top. l'm afraid the calculations are somewhat off. Scrooge is supposed to have 3 cubic acres of cash, and while acre is a measure of area and not cubage in the usual sense, it is used in measuring volume. In irrigation, water is measured by the acre-foot. One acre of area a foot deep, 43,560 cubic feet is one acre-foot. So, l'd consider a cubic acre as the square root of 43,560 = 208.71 feet on aside by the same in depth, that works out to 9,091,408 cubic feet per cubic acre. Then multiply by 3 and you get 27,274,224 cubic feet. Extract the cube root of this and you get just a scratch over 301 feet.

As Scrooge has only 99 feet on the money gauge the 27,274,224 divided by 99 would yield an area of 275,497 square feet. Assuming it's a square building, it'd be just a scratch under 525 feet along each side.  No matter how you measure it, it's a big pile of piastres.

J.W. Burns - Brockville, Ontario Canada

Dear Editor

Strictly speaking, unless Uncle Scrooge's world has six spatial dimensions, the term "cubic acres" is meaningless. An acre is a measure of area, equivalent to 43,560 square feet. A cubic acre would therefore measure approximately 82,653,950.010.000 square feet. Scrooge's money should be measured in terms of volume - something that can expressed in terms of cubic feet.

If you interpret "cubic acre" to mean a cube whose faces each span an acre, then a cubic acre would be equivalent to approximately 9,091,421.781 square feet  (or approximately 208.71 feet per edge). If the interior of the bin were 100 feet high , and the bin had a square footprint, the square's sides would each be approximately 522.248 feet long. It the bin's interior had a square footprint that was 100 feet long on each side, the bin would have to be approximately 2,727,427 feet high. For Scrooge to swim in the bin, the dimensions would have to be larger.

Ricky Chew - San Jose, CA

Dear Editor

In response to whether Scrooge has six or nine cubic acres of cash . We know that he has a 3 cubic acre petty cash bin, another 3 acre main bib underneath, and there is very likely another 3 acre area for his gold bullion. Therefore we can assume that the bin is about 9 cubic acres.  As for the value of the bullion, it's pretty high! One brick is 7" x 3 5/8" x 1 3/4", and contains approximately 400 troy ounces of gold. If gold is worth about 400 dollars per troy ounce, each brick is worth about 160,000 dollars. If one of Scrooge's cubic acres is 618,593 cubic feet, and a gold brick is about .026 cubic feet, therefore there are about 72,214,917 bricks in storage. The total value of Scrooge's gold bricks is about $11,554,386,560,000.

Corey Ziemniak - Montgomery, AL

Now, let's see if Randal Munroe of Xkcd fame can give his interpretation of this.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weird Romance: Linus and Lydia

While known for its portrayal of sophisticated kids commenting on everyday life, Peanuts is best described and known as a strip on unrequited love.  Lucy is obsessed with Schroeder whose primary interest is Beethoven.  While passively chased by Marcie and Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown is forever obsessed with the Red-Haired little girl and has also had occasional flings with Emily and Peggy Jean.  On the bizarre scale, there was Sally and her School Building, who unexpectedly committed suicide.  Even Snoopy isn't immune, having fallen prey to a bride who ran away at the last minute.

And then there's Linus.

While Walt Disney thought himself as Mickey Mouse (who appeared in 10 animated shorts), his animation employees related him closer to the violate and explosive Donald Duck (who had 200 shorts).  By the same token, Charles Schultz thought of himself as constantly put down Good Ol' Charlie Brown, but his creative avatar was through the talented and thoughtful Linus.

While Charlie Brown was the protagonist of Peanuts in the States (leading to a plethora of autobiographical self-conscious self-doubting self-hating nerds questioning their lifestyle choices along the likes of Robert Crumb and Woody Allen), other international countries focused on other memorable characters.  In France, the Peanuts title is merchandising bonanza, Snoopy, while in Japan, the main character is thought to be the intellectual and thoughtful Linus.

When not being pestered by Sally Brown or pining for the much older Miss Othmar, he has had various love interests as far as childlike infatuation allows.  He's engaged with girls such as Truffles the farmgirl, Eudora of the knitted hat, or Janice from the animated special on Lukemia, Why, Charlie Brown, Why?  But to me, his most interesting relationship was one relationship that occurred at the tail end of the strip's life when Charles Schultz was devoted to the daily drudge of his life's work, Lydia.

This mysterious girl only showed up in a few dozen strips, and her existence seemed to be nothing less than to completely perplex and frustrate the philosophical boy.  Lucy may attempt to allure others with her strength, but it's more through threat of intimidation than outright seduction.  Considering her traits, Lydia's the closest Peanuts has to a Femme Fatale.  Either knowingly or unknowingly playing hard to get and manages to be attractive without even trying.

For all her amusing potential, Lydia's main appearance was regulated to the dailies, and would be considered a complete unknown unless faithful readers bothered to pick up more recent Peanuts collections whose widescreen format were less attractive than the concise Peanuts Parade paperbacks.  Sadly, she only appeared in one single Sunday comic.

What makes Lydia so interesting is how non-nonconformist she is compared to everyone else.  Compared to the regular Peanuts cast who spouted safe platitudes, Lydia seemed committed to saying complete non-sequiturs to perfectly innocuous questions that only deepened the mystique.

Amazingly enough, while introduced in June 1986 and again in January 1987, she didn't give her "name" until May of that same year.  That's almost a year before Linus got a hint of what her name is, and it may not even be her true name, considering how often she changes it on a daily basis like socks.  One suspects that this school doesn't take name attendance, otherwise her identity wouldn't be an issue.

Despite her aloofness, I like how Lydia seems completely surprised by the simplicity of everyday life with something as mundane as mailing letters.

Why is she so relentlessly secretive?  Why does she change her names on a regular basis?  Why does she do anything she does at all?  Why?  Why?  Why?  I suspect the answer to those questions would be along the lines of Because! Because! Because!

It's probably the fact that she only interacted with Linus that limited her potential for talking with the rest of the Peanuts cast, which is something of a shame.  It would've been something if Sally got jealous and tried to intervene, being unable to either scare her off or drive her away.

Linus: Here's a Valentine's Day card.
Lydia: Aren't you kind of old for me?
Linus: Could you stop saying that?!  I don't want to marry you!
Sally:  That's right!  Keep away from my Sweet Babboo!
Linus: I'm not your Sweet Babboo!
Lydia: You aren't?  Then what are you?
Linus: I'm not an anything!  Though I'm feeling like a wild-eyed fanatic lately.
Sally:  Well, he's not yours, so hands off!
Lydia: When were you born?
Sally: Huh?  In August...
Lydia: Isn't he too old for you?
Sally: What??  Where did that come from?
Lydia: When you're Ninety-Seven years old, he'll be Ninety-nine.  Are you comfortable with that?
Sally:  I just want to share my lunch with him.
Lydia: There's nothing wrong with that.  Just don't rush into anything.
Linus: Look here, Lydia...
Lydia: Today, my name is Sally.
Sally: You can't be Sally - I'M Sally!
Lydia: There's more than one Sally in the world, you know.  (Opens newspaper)  See?  There's a Sally Forth.

The potential comedic implications were limited, but endlessly creative.  Other characters have relied on less than memorable stock punch lines.  It's possible Schultz had trouble trying to work scripts around this infuriating girl, or wasn't around the influence of whatever made this outstanding limited dry run possible.

Ending on one last tangent, I always felt that Lydia was the influential model for Laura from Kyle Baker's Why I Hate Saturn.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

12 Monkeys See, 12 Monkeys Don't

The movie 12 Monkeys was a visual and intellectual tour de force that led some film reviewers to categorize it as humour, when there was very little to laugh about, Brad Pitt's scenery overacting otherwise.  When Hollywood comes across something they can't properly pigeonhole or classify, they add "humour" to its description as a way to attract audiences that would otherwise be scared off.  Despite their unsure marketing, 12 Monkeys became something of a sleeper hit.  Because it was somewhat successful, 20 years later, they decided to make a TV show out of the premise, even though it was a one-off movie never intended to be a series.  MightyGodKing went into further detail over how producers are looking for well-proven franchises, rather than daring to explore new ground.

I was somewhat cautious but wary, since they were dealing with a concept that could either be an emotional trainwreck, or tolerably watchable.  I'm generally a good judge of deciding whether a show is to my taste or not within the first five minutes. Unless it's been extensively parodied by MAD, I'm not going to show much interest otherwise.  Let others burn their precious brain cells on perfectly harmless shows.

Having had the courage to check out the pilot, I knew we weren't off to a good start 15 seconds in, when we're given expository narrative, telling us exactly what we need to know.  As if the audience wouldn't be able to figure things out themselves, because God Forbid they should have different ideas about interpreting exactly what's in front of them.  It's not like they wouldn't appreciate having narrative curves thrown at them from a Terry Gilliam premise.

I basically stopped watching after Cole demonstrated that he came from the future by scratching the Doctor's watch. The whole point of 12 Monkeys was that their version of Time Travel was different from others such as Terminator and Back to the Future.  In those, history wasn't clearly linear, was capable of fluidity, and with small but significant changes to the timeline, certain events could be influenced to cause things to change for the better or for the worse.  12 Monkeys took the concept of Time Travel, and determined that if it was used at any point in history, history would have already be based around that fact, rather than rewriting itself.  But I suppose that would be considered too uncomfortable (and plot-intensive) for an audience more accustomed to having a choice.  If any of us were able to fully comprehend the consequences of our actions from something as innocuous as tossing an apple core, we'd never be able to function in our lives.

Also, changing James Cole from a confused mental patient with no control over his life to a hardboiled detective misses out on the pathos and makes him just another tough schmoe no different from dozens of tough guys on other shows and channels. There's none of the pure joy of experiencing the simple things we take for granted. The earlier carjacking is made more poignant by Cole's reaction to hearing music on the radio. "What a Wonderful World..."

Removing the rigidity of the time-travel device also ensures that there's little need for rewatching the series as a whole, since in the movie, there were dozens of insignificant scenes that which didn't contribute to the mission, that made for a richer experience.  Chances are, you'll be watching a much different movie the second time around, knowing what's going to happen at the end, and notice certain details that were lost the first time around.  Nowhere is this more evident than when Cole is watching the Hitchcock movie Vertigo, and remarks that he "Doesn't remember this scene.  That the movie is different every time you see it, because you're a different person."  To purists out there, I'm obviously paraphrasing, so take the above with a grain of salt.  Memory is an unreliable asset at best, and can be subject to scrutiny even in the best of situations.

Ironically enough, in a show about time travel, there's simply no time to allow the characters to breathe, and simply TALK to each other. In fact, the only thing that audiences found implausible about the movie was how quickly the Doctor became interested in James Cole after some brief encounters. Even allowing for Stockholm Syndrome doesn't move that fast.

The need to get the Sci-fi setup up in a hurry is probably its biggest fault. Similar to the American adaption of Prime Suspect, which wanted to show how tough Jane Timoney was by having her wave a gun in front of a taxicab driver, rather than Jane Tennison using cutthroat interrogation techniques by catching the suspect in conflicting lies. The better show for using a female cop combating male chauvinism and slipshod police work was The Closer, which had smart (and funny!) writing, believable interaction scenarios, and a constantly changing status quo, even as the characters remained consistent.  It also helped that the cast were a likable bunch, despite (or because of) their glaring faults, especially Flynn and Provenza.

That distinction between likable and unlikable cast members goes a long way in determining whether audiences will identify with whoever's on the screen.  Lately, Warner Brothers has been having trouble with pretty much every S-hero under the DC comics line, trying to shoehorn Batman's grimdark schtick onto other heroes who don't fit the profile, leading to a morally ambiguous Superman, because they believed that audiences don't want a beloved inspirational figure.  Constantly relying on a singular archetype figure not only limits the potential male protagonist, but also the alternate means of solving problems that don't ultimately resort to punching people in the face.

I was initially worried when I first heard about the American version of Sherlock, fearing that they would take the Dr. Gregory House route, where the intellectual genius' ability to find solution to unorthodox problems gives them the impetus to behave nasty to everybody around them.  An Ur example would be Cal Lightman from Lie to Me, about detecting the facial and body language cues of people to determine what they were being truthful about or not.  The first season was quite good, but by the second, Cal Lightman was being verbally abusive towards everyone to the point of contracting Tourettes.  While this method of snarking gives a kind of venting relief, in real life, this creates long-term strife with the people you're supposed to work with.  Even if your results gains traction, your employees will remember the uncomfortable implications of being around you, and prefer seeking employment elsewhere.

The likely culprit for this level of nastiness was the widespread diagnoses of Autism, and Asperger's Syndrome.  Exploring this mind-blind personality caught on, especially in Hollywood, since it gave an excuse for showing people with sociopathological symptoms to act however they want without worrying about the consequences.  But there's something people tend to overlook or forget about people with Asperger's - they have all the traits that would typically make them Sociopaths, except they don't ACT upon those traits. It's that thin line between a Villain and an Anti-Villain that makes them more compelling figures. Also, true Psychopaths are much more competent at manipulating the emotions of people around them, and have no fear about potential consequences of their actions.

Where remakes of popular movies tend to fail is by their lavish devotion to the original, which would alienate long-time fans, and possibly be less than inspiring than the source material.  It's recently been pointed out that these remakes could be vastly improved in one of two ways - either rip off the premise entirely, re-inventing it with your own rules, or be as different as possible with its own internal logic.  The BeetleJuice movie was an entirely different beast from the BeetleJuice cartoon, and the latter was all the better for it.  Where 12 Monkeys (and other shows) fail is in not taking their absurd premise far enough.

I've written about disturbing VHS covers in an earlier post, but this link goes into further detail of just how influential and inspiring these covers were to youngsters exploring the video store, and finding these lurid features in front of their innocent eyes.  Such imagery would be equivalent to those Tales from the Crypt comics that led to a crackdown of comics in the 1950s, but since movies were a more respected medium (despite parents complaints of how lousy they were), numerous people watched them regardless.  Never having the courage to watch one myself, I always thought Horror movies ended horribly, leaving only the lingering effects of what just happened.  A creative writing teacher could have their students use any one of the dozens of disturbing cover art and have them write a concise summary of what the story would be about. Chances are their descriptions would be far more creative and disturbing than the actual movies themselves.  It's that level of innovation that we should strive for, budgetary constraints be damned.  (Though working under restrictions yields more results than having access to extra funds)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tabulary February

This title makes more sense if you take a look at the calendar, and see how organized this month is.  Being the shortest month, (with the possible exception of Leap Year) there's plenty of chances for Calendar companies to save some valuable space on their pages for printing.  Less so, if you're using the British system.  If so, you're out of luck this year.

February 11 - Shrove Tuesday: Eggs, check! Flour, check! Milk, check!

As a way of explanation, Shrove Tuesday is better known as Pancake Day, hence the need for ingredients.  The conversion to text also loses something in the conversion, since there were originally checkmarks in the original.
The Look-out Point.  Pierre Outin, 1839-1899
February 12 - Ash Wednesday: Clean grate (if time)

February 14 - St. Valentine's Day: Expect no post today.