Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where is Gotham City?

The location of Gotham city in the Batman mythology has moved around quite a bit over the years. These days, it is common to place it in southern New Jersey, just south of Atlantic City. As far as I'm concerned, though, it needs to be tied to a real-life, major U.S. city. Just as all Marvel superheroes live in New York, so too should all DC superheroes have a place in the real world to call home. I'm not happy letting them live in Neverlandin my mind, all adventure stories need to be integrated into one, real-world-based narrative.

I'll deal with Superman's Metropolis in a future post. Today, it is time to unveil the true location of Gotham:

Boston, Massachusetts

Don't believe me? Let me explain.

First of all, Boston fits the profile. It's one of the most prominent U.S. cities and most populous metropolitan areas. It has a densely packed downtown, loaded with skyscrapers and other interesting buildings. It also has a rich and storied history, including organized crime, city corruption, convoluted politics, and plenty of old money living beside impoverished neighborhoods. Best of all, this big city has no other major superheroes claiming it.

Boston has the second-most amount of Gothic architecture in the U.S. New York is first, but we know Batman doesn't live there, because that's where Spider-Man and all the other Marvel heroes live. (This also explains why Batman doesn't cross paths with Marvel heroes muchhe's a Red Sox fan!)

The Boston area is no stranger to bats: it is home to an estimated one million of them, mostly small brown bats and large brown bats. They originally lived in caves and rock formations, but with very little natural habitat left for them, most bats in Boston now live in the attics of Boston's old, Victorian era homes. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to believe one of those homes is a large manor built atop a still-active cavern.

No city matches up completely with the map of Gotham developed over the years (especially since that map keeps changing), but Boston comes pretty close. Take a look at maps of both cities below: the basic layout of their downtown areas is very similar, with the main difference being that Gotham is surrounded by water on all sides, where Boston is a peninsula, connected at the southwest. It wouldn't take much to rearrange Gotham into Boston. (Note: the maps below are not to scale.)

Another factor in Boston's favor is convenience. When the Justice League of America was founded in 1960, it was based in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. (An obvious stand-in for Newport.) This is important, because the closest major city to Rhode Island is Boston. As the only founding member without super speed or flight powers, it would make sense that the team's headquarters would be located close to Batman's hometown.

Finally, one of the most important landmarks in DC Comics is Arkham Asylum, which lies on the outskirts of Gotham. This home for the criminally insane is inspired by and named after the sanatorium in the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts found in "The Colour Out of Space" and many other horror and science fiction stories by H.P. Lovecraft. In Lovecraft's writings, Arkham is modelled after Salem, Massachusetts, which lies on the outskirts of Boston, and the sanatorium is modelled after the real-life Danvers State Hospital in nearby Danvers, Massachusetts. Between Lovecraft's stories, the infamous Salem Witch Trials, and the ghosts of the Revolutionary War, the area certainly has a history of the supernatural—all of which lends itself to dark tone of the Batman mythos.

So that's my take on the real Gotham City. What about you? If you had to pick a major U.S. city—other than New York—as a stand-in for Gotham, what would it be? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Only human

Here are a few things I've learned. This is not an opinion, and it is not a judgment. It is an observation. It is a summary of what I have found to be the way people work. It's the system that is preprogrammed into us, and while that system may occasionally spit out something unexpected, 99% of the time it is pretty predictable. So keep the following in mind...

  1. Anything that has a deadline will be done last-minute.
  2. Anything that does not have a deadline will be done immediately or not at all.
  3. There are two kinds of deadlines: "first deadline," which is an arbitrary deadline that takes into account that everyone will wait until the last minute, and "absolute deadline," which is going to happen with or without you. It pays to know which kind you're dealing with.
  4. At least half the people in this world have no concept of sarcasm or irony and will take everything you say at face value, you big jerk.
  5. People make decisions mostly on the basis of emotion. A logical, scientific approach is not instinctive for most people. We are beings of complex chemical reactions, not computer circuits.
  6. Nobody knows for certain what they're doing. Not doctors, not judges, not your boss, not your parents, not political leaders, not religious leaders, not scientists, nobody. Nobody knows if God exists, nobody knows why the universe is exactly the way it is, nobody knows what's going to happen one minute from now, and nobody knows even 1% of what just happened to them one minute ago. In terms of knowledge, they can barely tell you more than you will find out on the Internet, and with no more accuracy. For every question we as a species answer, we generate a hundred new questions. We will never know all the answers. So take all lessons and advice in context and with a grain of salt, and don't worry that you don't know everything, because neither does anyone else.
  7. People will follow anyone who acts like they know what they're doing. (Even if they're a douchebag. Sometimes especially if they're a douchebag, because they can be extra convincing, and because it's easier to follow than to confront.) They do this because they want to believe that someone knows what's going on.
  8. If you repeat something enough, people will believe it, no matter how ridiculous it is.
  9. Every time you repeat something, no more than half of your audience will hear it. You will never reach everyone, no matter how compelling your message is.
  10. If you can convince 10% of the people, the majority will follow.
  11. No matter what you tell children, in the end they will do what they want. This holds true for adults as well, although adults have usually learned to be more subtle about it.
  12. You cannot influence a child (or an adult) to do the right thing by telling them, only by showing them.
  13. If you force someone to do something, you take away their opportunity to learn why they are doing it in the first place. If you motivate them to do it, they will become good at it.
  14. If adults acted as children do, they would be labelled sociopaths. Children are sociopaths. Don't hold that against them, though: they physically lack the capacity for responsible behavior, or for understanding what makes a moment special. That's why it's called childhood.
  15. Having children is simultaneously the best and worst thing that will ever happen to you.
  16. People will look for reasons to queue, both physically and intellectually. It is more comfortable to wait at the back of the line for an hour than to go to the front and ask to be let in, even if the latter is an option.
  17. Very few rules carry repercussions if broken. Rules without repercussions are actually only guidelines. People who know this, will treat them as such.
  18. Even if you drive reasonably, traffic tickets are inevitable. They are hidden mobility taxes.
  19. When you are in a car, you cease to be a human being to people who are not in that car.
  20. No matter how well you do in anything, you will only be rewarded if you promote your accomplishment. For the most part, other people are not paying close enough attention.
  21. Your boss is not your friend, and your employees are not your friends. Your teacher is not your friend, and your students are not your friends. Your parents are not your friends, and your children are not your friends. These can be quality relationships, but within that context they are not friendship. Friendship only truly exists among equals.
  22. Being right will not make you succeed. Succeeding does not make you right.
  23. It is better to make the wrong decision than to make no decision.
  24. You will only regret the chances you didn't take in life.
  25. Money cannot buy happiness, but lack of money is a hole that gets filled by misery.
  26. Misery is not the opposite of happiness, boredom is. People choose misery over boredom all the time.
  27. In general, people are really good at avoiding thinking about unpleasantness. That's a good thing, as the world is full of it. If we did not know that children would be able to learn to cope with it, we would stop having children and the human species would end.
  28. People would rather have a little of something good right now than a lot at some point in the future.
  29. People will gravitate to what stimulates them, even if it leaves them empty.
  30. True happiness does not come from pleasure; it comes from purpose. Laziness and self-destructiveness are not our preferred state: they come from lacking a sense of purpose.
  31. The world is a better place because different things make different people happy.
  32. The universe doesn't give you points for being unhappy.
  33. Life is about the journey, not the destination. Take time to enjoy the beauty in life. Love along the way. Laugh along the way.
  34. Everything is about the journey, not the destination. Taking your time while doing something worthwhile is always more intrinsically pleasurable than doing it as quickly as possible.
  35. People are all basically the same, no matter time nor place. They are the same deep in the Amazon rain forest as they are in New York City. They were the same in ancient times, and they will be the same in the distant future. Cultural and technological differences are very shallow; basic human nature runs deep.
  36. By the same token, you are not intrinsically superior or inferior to anyone else.
  37. Everybody is perfect. A lot of people will try to convince you it's the other way around, but they are wrong. We're all flawed, we're all broken, yes, but that's part of our beauty. People are poetry. Cherish everyone.
  38. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.