Monday, December 30, 2013

Twisdom 2013

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.





There is no effective euphemism for "half-assed."



Just saw a handbill for a band named "Scared to Death," and I read it as "Sacred to Death." That would have been a better band name.



Who cleans Darth Vader's durable medical supplies? Or does he use The Force?



Freeway is closed for miles. I, of course, immediately suspect kaiju.



I really need to stop (verb ending in -ing) for a while, so I can feel (adjective) and get some (expletive) (noun).



Future generations will edit out all of the awkward rap interludes in our songs.



I wish I were a wiener. If I were a wiener, everyone would be in love with me.



I think all extremists should be shot, but I'm on the fence about what to do about moderates.



What do Clark Kent's farts smell like? Don't they give him away somehow?



It is a crime against the universe that Run-DMC never made a children's album.



Theory: dark energy is related to the nature of time itself, and dark matter is the "echo" of matter from the past. Discuss.



Red R(obin—Y)um! I'm not saying there's a hidden message there, but...



I want a new kind of video game that works just like a choose-your-own-adventure-novel on 'roids. We have the technology. Make it happen!



I can't find Parmesan cheese at the grocery store; how does Batman find every clue at every crime scene every time?



How do people go on dates now that they have smart phones?



I'm just barely holdin' on now / I got the tiger by the teeth / feel cold and sliced, laid out on a platter / like a pack of deli meats



Everything just grew by 50%. My body, my car, the road, the whole world. The perspective is the same, but It's just... huge.



Wife: "These potato chips are greasy." Me: "They're wet with flavor."



I don't want to be a dick. Unless it's a private dick.



How is it that Reese's hasn't yet made a monkey-shaped peanut butter cup?



When I was a kid, adults said I could do anything I put my mind to, but damn if I still haven't figured out a way to fly like Superman.



On the information superhighway, everyone has road rage and there are no traffic cops.



We already live in a post-apocalyptic world.



My goal when I drink is to get drunk enough to not care that I'm old and fat and bald and going to die in a few years. [Note: this is probably the funniest thing I’ve ever drunk tweeted.]



There's a Disney film playing on the Lifetime channel right now. I can't help but feel that my wife and toddler are ganging up on me.



Just watched my 1st Magic Schoolbus. Found it highly implausible. And very likely those kids would be dead by the end of the episode.



One of these days, I'm going to eat asparagus and drink coffee at the same time.



In an ideal world, based on importance to society, the starting pay for a teacher would be double the going rate for a U.S. Senator.



I have an analog selfie hanging above the sink in my bathroom. Er, I mean a mirror.



This is me screaming into the void: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!



It's strange that we get to take credit/blame for the things our younger selves did, when we are clearly not those people.



So proud of my 2-year-old, who just sang to me: "Robot, robot, robot, robot eat your food!"



My favorite part of each episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is when he prays for "Toodles" from his black magic machine god, "Mouskedoer."



If I was naming my band right now, I would name it "Burglemeyer and the Perverts."


Twitter is the new haiku.


Social media has given us all a pulpit, but not all of us have been called to preach.


Some like it hot / But I like it hotter / You can keep the toast / Just give me jelly and butter



Each day you're a different person. The days before were your ancestors; the days to come are your heirs. Today is your life; live it well.



--------------------



Bonus: a lot of people asked me about the following stream-of-consciousness tweets during the year, so here’s the official explanation. The first word in each of them was one that popped into my head and I felt like tweeting it. And I have a little exercise that I do sometimes to test my mental flexibility: I say as many words or short phrases as I can in a row, out loud, that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. (Try it and you’ll see: it’s pretty difficult to do without pausing or falling into some kind of thematic pattern.) So I captured that exercise in these tweets – up to 140 characters.



Gunshy. Juniper. Hazmat. Hair suit. Jumping bean. Kamikaze. Fishing for compliments. Wishbone. A-1. Bone saw. Vera Cruz. Calamitous. Sight.



Bipolar. Point and click. Wax factory. Turtle dove. Noodle. Gun club. Chinese checkers. Jack of all trades. In fashion. Backbreaker. Swine.



Malaise. Milk bucket. Pomeranian. Diplomat. Jack Johnson. Jim Dandy. Old Appalachian Trail. Hinterland. Kissin' cousins. Flypaper. Yeah!



Hope. Glory. Creamed corn. Little Dipper. Trudging slowly over wet sand. Fortified. Ourang-outang. Icicle. Beater. Not like it used to be.



Nostalgic. Caramel. Concrete. Motor speedway. Hopscotch. Michelangelo. Can't get there from here. Boa constrictor. Texas Instruments. Okeh.



Problem-solver. Redacted. Garden gnome. Yesterday. White out. I can't quit you, baby. Joker. Radishes. Car crash. Belly. Jury's still out.

Monday, December 16, 2013

College football playoff brackets announced!

Every year, I report on the results of a mock college football playoff in protest of the fact that we still don’t have one. By popular request, this year I am releasing the brackets early. Enjoy.

I have bracketed and seeded the teams according to their final regular-season BCS rankings, with some consideration given to tradition (e.g., SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl bracket) and geography. I also used the rule of no more than one team per conference in any given bracket.


Rose Bowl Bracket

1st seed Michigan State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Oklahoma State (10-2, Big 12)

2nd seed Stanford (11-2, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed South Carolina (10-2, SEC)



Fiesta Bowl Bracket

1st seed Alabama (11-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed UCF (11-1, American)

2nd seed Baylor (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Oregon (10-2, Pac-12)



Sugar Bowl Bracket

1st seed Auburn (12-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Arizona State (10-3, Pac-12)

2nd seed Ohio State (12-1, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Clemson (10-2, ACC)



Orange Bowl Bracket

1st seed Florida State (13-0, ACC) vs. 4th seed UCLA (9-3, Pac-12)

2nd seed Missouri (11-2, SEC) vs. 3rd Oklahoma (10-2, Big 12)



------------



BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football

As I did the past two years, I have also set up a second-tier 16-team tournament. I've included all of the conferences champions without a spot in the main tournament (C-USA, MAC and Sun Belt), as well as the next-best available teams according to the BCS rankings and AP poll.


EAST BRACKET

1st seed Louisville (11-1, American) vs. 4th seed Bowling Green (10-3, MAC)

2nd seed Georgia (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Miami, Fla. (9-3, ACC)


SOUTHEAST BRACKET

1st seed LSU (9-3, SEC) vs. 4th seed Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4, Sun Belt)

2nd seed Duke (10-3, ACC) vs. 3rd seed Iowa (8-4, Big Ten)


MIDWEST BRACKET

1st seed Wisconsin (9-3, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Vanderbilt (8-4, SEC)

2nd seed Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC) vs. 3rd seed Notre Dame (8-4, independent)


WEST BRACKET

1st seed Fresno State (11-1, Mountain West) vs. 4th seed Rice (10-3, C-USA)

2nd seed Texas A&M (8-4, SEC) vs. 3rd seed USC (9-4, Pac-12)


So there you go. Start your office pools now and stay tuned: the final playoff results will be posted here sometime after January 6...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why have you never seen a superhero?

When people imagine what the Asteroid Belt is like, they imagine the scene from The Empire Strikes Back, where the Millennium Falcon is dodging a densely-packed array of space rocks. In reality, though, the Main Asteroid Belt in our Solar System holds only about 4% of the mass of the Moon, spread out over an orbit 1.5 billion miles long and over 100 million miles wide just at its core. When we send a spacecraft through it, our chances of even seeing an asteroid, let alone hitting anything, are statistically zero.

It's important to keep this perspective in mind when thinking about other rare, statistically improbable occurrences. A great example is shark attacks. On an average year, sharks kill five people worldwide. That is a ridiculously low number when you consider that there are an estimated 7,125,000,000 people living on the planet today. Even lightning strikes, another very rare form of death, still manage to kill 24,000 people annually. And yet, because the media reports each shark death, we sometimes think sharks are running amok. The reality is, your chance of being struck by either a shark or lightning in your lifetime is statistically next to zero.

Now what  if the media didn't hype an ultra-rare phenomenon? Or what if the phenomenon was purposefully discredited by the mainstream media, either due to its own inherent bias or due to government tampering, leaving only "fringe" elements to cover "the truth"? Examples abound: Bigfoot, ESP, UFOs, conspiracy theories.

Well, let me add one more. It has come to my attention that there are approximately 500 "people" alive on this planet today who are endowed with extraordinary powers that cannot be explained by conventional science. Some may be the next phase of human evolution, some may be aliens in disguise, some may be using technology so advanced that it is incomprehensible to us. In any case, they are not "normal."

If you add to that the number of truly elite, non-superpowered humans - we're talking James Bond / Bruce Wayne / ninja-level awesomeness here - then the number of extraordinary individuals on the planet might be 1,000. That is 0.000014% of the total population of Earth. To put it in a different perspective, it is about half the number of people walking this Earth with a Super Bowl ring. Given that small of a group, what is your chance of accidentally bumping into one of them on the subway? And what is your chance of realizing it even if you do?

Contrary to popular belief, superheroes and aliens are not walking around our planet in broad daylight in day-glow outfits waiting for the FBI to come lock them up at Guantanamo. But they are out there. Suspiciously reclusive, orphaned billionaire with one too many defense contacts? Hyperactive multiple-doctorate scientist working as a freelance photographer? Gluten and corn-intolerant goofball blogger obsessed with aliens, robots and zombies?

Then again, maybe you've already met a superhero and you don't even know it...








Sunday, November 24, 2013

Save the drama for Obama!

For a long time, I have noticed that the decor at the White House has changed since BHO moved in. The Oval Office is now stripped of the traditional Middle Eastern wallpaper, drapes and decor and replaced with unremarkable styles. The hallway that he walks out of to talk to the press no longer has Middle Eastern chairs, drapes, etc. And the thing that has bothered me the most is the bright red, white and blue flag behind him every time he speaks from the White House. It has stars and stripes on it and has been there from the beginning.

What is missing at Barack Hussein Obama's press conference?


No it is not the teleprompters. See the other presidents' pics for a clue.

That's right...no Muslim prayer curtains!!!

And I don't believe it was just an accident! It is intentional. So I ask, why is it intentional? He told you he would change America, didn't he?

Read more here.

***

P.S. - Because I have learned that only half of the people in the world understand sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor (which is at least 90% of this website), I want to specifically point out that the above is both. And if you in any way subscribe to the "Obama is a Muslim" camp, you need to get your head out of your ass. Feel free to hate the man all you want on policy issues, but stop attacking him on baseless nonsense. Also, stop being racist.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Subterranean Homeworld Clues

According to official, certifiable records, the deepest natural cave yet found by human beings is the Krubera Cave, which has been explored to a depth of 7,208 feet (2,197 m or 1.37 miles) from its opening at the surface in the Caucasus Mountains.

In Siberia, an ever deeper artificial hole was dug, the Kola Superdeep Borehole, which made it to a depth of 40,230 feet (12,262 m or 7.62 miles), or about a third of the way through the 22-mile-deep continental crust, over the course of two decades of drilling before the project was abandoned.

Of course, those are just the official records.

In reality, there is an entire world underground that we have literally barely scratched the surface of. A few brave souls have ventured further into the abyss and come back to report of a globe-spanning subterranean ecosystem, separated from our own by miles of sedimentary rock.


Gathering the various accounts available, I have created a very basic map of this realm, which is known as “Subterranea.” The underlying foundation of Subterranea is a ring of massive, basalt tubes, known as the “Symmesian Corridor,” extending for thousands of miles in a loop under the surface at an average depth of eight to ten miles (13-16 km) below sea level. Although this mostly places it within the Earth’s crust, it does extend into the mantle in a few places areas as it passes beneath the deep ocean. The Symmesian Corridor is at a minimum several miles across, and in some places are wide enough to accommodate a vast underground sea. Its walls are hardened with diamonds and unbreachable.

Weather and water currents rotate through it in a clockwise direction, circulating air and other vital resources throughout the vast underground realm. Whether the Symmesian Corridor is a naturally occurring formation or was engineered in some way is unknown. It is known that one section of the Corridor in the Indian Ocean was formed more recently than the rest, as the original segment in this region (approximate location noted with a dotted line) appears to have collapsed during the Great Cataclysm in the year 16,493 BCE.

Many smaller tunnel branches extend out from the Symmesian Corridor in all directions, including up and down, especially throughout the continental shelves. These are not shown on the map, as their location and exact nature is unknown. It is safe to say, however, that there are many hidden pockets of underground life that we know nothing about, which are connected more closely with Subterranea than with the surface world.

At certain points along the Symmesian Corridor, there are documented openings that extend all the way to the surface. We know this either because previous explorers have entered Subterranea at that point, or because unique fauna from Subterranea have made their way to the surface. These points are all identified on the map, and include:

  • The Savage Land: a sheltered game preserve built by aliens in Antarctica. The Savage Land appears to be the source of the many dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals that now roam freely throughout Subterranea.
  • Maple White Land: a secluded plateau in the Amazon Basin of South America. Explorer Maple White discovered dinosaurs and other prehistoric life forms here in 1901, and biologist George Challenger famously revisited the site two years later.
  • The Valley of Gwangi: a valley surrounded by impassible canyon walls near Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.  Local oral tradition tells of two Native Americans, Turok and Andar, who were trapped in the “Forbidden Valley” for over a quarter of a century, where they discovered all manner of strange beasts. More recently, around the turn of the century, a travelling rodeo was said to have captured a live allosaurus there, which they named “Gwangi.”
  • K’n-yan and Yoth: two underground realms of legend beneath Oklahoma. K’n-yan connects to the surface and is a blue-lit realm inhabited by humanoid aliens. Yoth lies beneath it, within the Symmesian Corridor itself, and is a red-lit realm where Serpent People once dwelt and still may. Beneath that, it is rumored that there is an even deeper cavern, called N’kai, where the Great Old One known as Tsathoggua dwells.
  • Mount Voormithadreth: a mountain in Greenland, honeycombed with tunnels. Once the epicenter of the ancient Hyperborean civilization, it is now buried under a glacier in Greenland.
  • Mount Snæfellsjökull: a volcano in Iceland. In 1864, German professor Otto Lidenbrock traveled into Snæfellsjökull and through the northeastern portion of the Symmesian Corridor, emerging at Stromboli.
  • Mount Stromboli: a volcano on an island off the coast of Italy, near Sicily, where Otto Lidenbrock and his party emerged in 1864 after traversing the Symmesian Corridor from Mount Snæfellsjökull in Iceland.
  • The original location of Lemuria: the location of the microcontinent of Lemuria before the Great Cataclysm. It was originally home of a kingdom of Serpent People known as “The Dragon Kings,” and later by the human genetic offshoots known as Deviants before it was relocated during their earth-shattering battle with the Celestials in 16,493 BCE. There is no longer a surface entrance here, although it may be possible to find an undersea entrance to the Symmesian Corridor.
  • Monster Island: a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Once part of the land of Lemuria, it was left behind as the rest of that microcontinent was violently dragged across the ocean floor during the Great Cataclysm in 16,493 BCE. The island has gone by many names over the years. Its official name is “Caprona,” after the Italian explorer Caproni, who was the first European to discover it in 1721. Polynesian islanders from Sumatra had already colonized the island, however, and in their language they called the place either “Skull Island,” due to the shape of a prominent outcropping of volcanic rock, or “Monster Island,” due to the island’s inhabitants, which includes dinosaurs, giant insects and all kinds of other strange creatures. The island’s most famous resident was King Kong, who was captured there in 1933. It was rediscovered in World War II, when both Axis and Allied forces saw it as a strategic location, but failed to capture what they then nicknamed “Dinosaur Island.” Most recently, the island was conquered by the subterranean Moloids.

On the map, I have also identified the location of several “sunken lands” of note. These include:

  • Atlantis: a great submerged island in the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantis had once been known as Almaren, the home of the Valar (later known as the Vanir), before it was sunk by the evil Melkor (mentor of Sauron). The Valar later rose it back out of the sea and gave it to men to be the kingdom of Númenor, but they destroyed it again when men tried to set foot on their new home of Aman (the extradimensional world we now known as Asgard). Atlantis was eventually rebuilt into another great kingdom many generations later, but sank again in the Great Cataclysm when it would not heed the warning of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, Zhered-Na. Later, seven kingdoms would be founded within the submerged ruins of Atlantis by the aquatic humanoids known as Atlanteans (Homo mermanus). Far beneath the southern part of Atlantis lies the subterranean realm of “Netherworld.”
  • Lemuria after the Great Cataclysm: the location of the sunken microcontinent of Lemuria (also known in this location as the Kerguelen Plateau) after it was relocated during the Great Cataclysm in 16,493 BCE. In their battle, the Celestials used a weapon that relocated the Deviants’ homeland thousands of miles across the ocean floor and sank it a mile underwater. It was abandoned by the Deviants, but was later repopulated by Atlanteans (Homo mermanus).
  • Mu: a submerged island southeast of Japan and east of Taiwan. Mu was the site of one of the first human kingdoms, which was destroyed by dark magic and sank into the Pacific Ocean in 61,844 BCE. After the Great Cataclysm, the Deviants re-established their kingdom underground, eventually building their capital beneath the ruins of Mu.
  • R’lyeh: the sunken stronghold of Cthulhu, one of the most powerful Great Old Ones. When Cthulhu and his kin were defeated by the Elder Gods (251.4 million years ago in the war that caused the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event), R’lyeh sank beneath the ocean floor with Cthulhu imprisoned within the city, “dead and dreaming.” R’lyeh is believed to be buried close to the “pole of inaccessibility,” the point in the Pacific Ocean furthest from any dry land on Earth.
  • Thakorr: a submerged city in the southern Atlantic Ocean near Antarctica. When the Atlantean kingdom of Kamuu was sacked in the mid-19th century, its people moved south and founded a new city, which they named after their king, Thakorr. Eventually, that city too would be destroyed and most of the Atlanteans would return to Atlantis. But a few Atlanteans still dwell among the ruins of the city of Thakorr.

Finally, it is worth noting that there is a pocket dimension that seems to be tied to Earth’s core. This “Hollow Earth” dimension is often mistaken for being within the Earth itself, perhaps because many of the portals to it are buried far beneath the planet’s surface. (The only known portal to the Hollow Earth dimension from the surface of Earth is located near the North Pole.) However, it is an entirely separate universe, albeit apparently a finite one.

This dimension has many names, including “Pellucidar” and “Skartaris,” and is populated by creatures from Subterranea (including dinosaurs) as well as alien creatures native to that dimension. (Visitors from the Hollow Earth may be responsible for some UFO sightings in our world.) It appears much as a primitive version of Earth does, except that it is inverted: the ground is on the inside edge of the sphere, with gravity pulling outwards, while a stationary sun and moon hang motionless at the center of the sphere. Surrounding this “Hollow Earth” is at least 500 miles of solid rock, after which the dimensional boundary appears to end and one either doubles back toward the center again or appears in our dimension somewhere in Subterranea.

I hope this overview has given you a better view of this fascinating, if inaccessible, world we live above. Subterranea may be relatively nearby, but the technological challenges of reaching it make it even more difficult to reach than a manned mission to the stars. Still, as technology improves, I hope that someday we can establish steady contact with the world beneath our feet and the civilizations sharing this planet with us.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Psycho-killer profile of the week: "The House"

DOROTHY "THE HOUSE" GALE

Body count: two confirmed killings in Australia.

Defense: "No -- No! It was an accident! I didn't mean to kill anybody!"

Verdict: one count first-degree manslaughter (with a mobile home), one count first-degree murder (by drowning).

Sentence: 30 years at the Winkie Maximum Security Penitentiary for Women in Western Australia.

Time served: Commuted after six years on condition that she never return to Australia.

Where is she now? Divorced mother of three. Raises Yorkshire Terriers and works as a dog groomer in Salina, Kansas. Additional past criminal record includes petty theft (shoes, apples, etc.), minor drug possession (poppy flowers and raw opium), operating a vehicle without a license, threatening an officer with a hatchet and resisting arrest.

Current threat level: Diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Considered minimal threat as long as she remains on her medication and reports to her parole officer. Can get flighty during tornado season or around scarecrows.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Five things you didn't realize about Batman

Batman is everybody's favorite superhero. Why? Because he doesn't have any superpowers; he's just an ordinary man, driven to fight for justice. Any one of us could be Batman if our circumstances had been just a little different. Or at least that's what we want to believe. But here are five things you didn't realize about Bruce Wayne's life.

1. His job is boring.

We all know that Batman is an obsessive compulsive workaholic who gets very little sleep and is always "on." After all, being Batman is a full time job and there's also a Fortune 500 company to run and a billionaire playboy image to maintain. We can assume he's very efficient at all of that and spends maybe 20 hours a week shaking hands, another 10 wining and dining, and he still has plenty of time to bring crime to its knees. But what does that entail?

Well, fort Bruce Wayne, it starts with a daily exercise routine, then systems checks, research and meticulous planning. At least 70% of being Batman is engineering and detective work - tinkering around in his Bat-Garage with his Bat-Tools and pouring over his Bat-Case Files. And thank goodness, because if Batman were fighting bad guys 24/7 like Superman, he'd be dead in a week. All of that OCD planning and avoiding stress keeps him alive!

2. He takes a long time getting ready.

A lot of superheroes are quick-change artists. I'm pretty sure Superman's uniform really is as easy to get into as pulling on a unitard. Tony Stark builds his Iron Man suits to mechanically secure themselves to him a quickly as possible. But Batman doesn't have this luxury.

Contrary to popular belief, Batman doesn't just slide down a pole and have his costume magically appear. His outfit is complex, and every piece has hidden functions and compartments that must be filled, double-checked and secured. (Again, this man does not have super powers - it is his super-OCD that ensures he will be able to meet every challenge.) His utility belt alone comes with over 100 discrete items and multiple, redundant clasping systems to fasten it tight to his person.

Keep in mind that Batman is also dressing in layers. Like a football player, he's wearing protective gear underneath his uniform. (Except his is made of next-generation Kevlar.) He's also wearing special gloves, a cowl and cape, and the most technically advanced boots you can possibly imagine.

Actually, I take that back: you cannot possibly image how advanced these boots are. They would make your puny brain explode from their sheer awesomeness. But they're a bitch to lace.

3. He does a lot of drugs.

OK, so I'm not talking about recreational drugs here. He definitely fights to keep illicit narcotics off the street. He doesn't smoke and he barely even drinks - all of those glasses of champagne he's always holding as Bruce Wayne are really just ginger ale. But we're talking about a guy who takes punches and gunshots and freeze rays and falls off of buildings and gets bitten by mutant sharks for a living. Think about how much pain you're in when you go to the dentist and she pokes at your gums for ten minutes. Batman is in excruciating pain all the time. So you can bet there is a fair amount of pain medicine involved, and that he is an expert in self-administration: figuring out how to straddle the line and take enough to function without taking so much that he's impaired.

Also, the one thing we know about Batman is that he doesn't believe in a fair fight. He outguns his opponents by an order of magnitude at every opportunity, and he uses his vast fortune to over-compensate for his lack of superpowers. (He may not have X-ray vision, but I guarantee you he has X-ray goggles somewhere in his arsenal, as well as six ways to disable Superman's X-ray vision in a fight.) If there is an advantage to be had, he will find it and exploit it. Why would he not take advantage of the miracles of modern medicine? Especially when he owns a medical research company!

Again, I'm not talking about getting high, I'm talking about performance enhancing techniques. The kinds of things that make us label Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong cheaters. Only there's no commissioner of the Justice League, and no one's keeping score. But if anything, Bruce is under even more pressure to perform, day in and day out. After all, if he's injured, he's only got Robin and Alfred sitting on the bench. So he uses banned substances like human growth hormone (HGH) and forbidden techniques like blood doping (removing your own blood and adding it back later for a boost), not just to give himself an extra edge, but also to make himself heal faster. After all, he's been around a few years and he's not getting any younger!

4. He's a douchebag.

What else do you call an insanely rich control freak who thinks the rules apply to everyone but him, is married to his work, can't hold down a steady relationship, and whose only real "friend" is his butler? Some people think Batman is "acting" when he is not in his cape and cowl, that Bruce Wayne's playboy personality is somehow a put-on to make people think he couldn't possibly be Batman. But there are lots of other ways he could have gone about it.

The truth is, he's rich, handsome and powerful, and like any human being in his position, he enjoys the life that goes along with that. He is a playboy. His Bruce Wayne persona isn't just an act, it's the other side to who he is. Just as he needs to be Batman at times, he has other needs, social needs, for which he needs to escape the shadows and become a "normal" person for a while. But he's basically the same person: he's still a control freak, still a megalomaniac, still driven beyond belief.

So, yes, he keeps a social schedule like a head of state and a little black book like a rock star on tour. And he comes across as fake and distant, just like a lot of rich people do, so he fits right in. Ultimately, he is a force for good, don't get me wrong, but that doesn't mean he's likeable. If you ever sat down and talked with him for a few minutes, unless you were a person of some importance to whom he was giving his full attention, you would probably find him to be impatient, arrogant and rude. That's not an act; ask the other superheroes and they'll tell you the same. It rolls right off Superman's back, because he's so upbeat and good natured that he can see right through to the goodness at Bruce's core, but a lot of the others just can't stand him.

5. He thinks and acts like a criminal.

Superheroes break the law all the time, we all know that, but mostly the laws they break are procedural: they don't get warrants, they don't read criminals their rights, in fact they don't have the proper authority or jurisdiction to do half the things they do. But we look the other way, because they stop dangerous criminals from doing even worse things. But Batman's relationship with the law is on a whole different level than other superheroes.

Batman understands the law, and the people who break it, better than anyone else in a costume, and he uses that knowledge to exploit the system to his advantage in every way possible. As he dismantled the crime families in "Gotham City," he built up his own network of loyal cops, contacts and cronies, and he now runs a kind of "Bat Mafia" of his own. the only difference is that his organization isn't involved in what we'd traditionally think of as organized crime. It does things Batman doesn't want to get noticed, like importing supplies for his assault on crime, but it does no harm. Just like the head of a real crime families, though, Mr. Wayne's alibi's are so air-tight that nothing can be traced back to him.

In addition, part of Batman's backstory is that he went to Yale Law School. I can only assume that means he is Skull-and-Bones and very well connected. He has personal relationships with Secretary of State John Kerry and both former Presidents Bush. Every judge in Gotham either owes his or her life to Batman or his or her career to Bruce Wayne. He is virtually untouchable.

So being a "real person" superhero isn't as easy as being fabulously rich and unwavering of purpose. You also have to be completely OCD (bordering on "crippling psychological problem" OCD) and willing to slide so far into the "gray area" ethically that it would probably be easier to just come at it from the other side. Knowing all that, is Batman still your favorite superhero?

Yeah, mine too.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Atlas of "fictional" cities in the United States

In the late 1920s, the Bureau of Investigation (predecessor of the FBI) had begun using informal codenames for its field offices, most of them food-based and rather obvious. For example, New York was “Apple,” Boston was “Bean,” and Detroit was “Cherry.” Others included “Peach” for Atlanta, “Onion” for Chicago, “Orange” for Los Angeles, “Apricot” for San Francisco, and “Coconut” for the head office in Washington, D.C., because it was “hard to crack.”

The bureau’s director, J. Edgar Hoover, was never a fan of these nicknames – he felt they lacked gravitas – and so they were never formalized. However, years later, Hoover would remember them when it came time to protect the secrecy of agents’ locations in certain communications.

When the Bureau was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935, it took on an expanded role, including the investigation of strange phenomena. In 1938, the FBI began to look into reports of a “super-powered vigilante” in the San Francisco Bay area. The mission was given the codename “Project Metropolis,” after the 1927 Fritz Lang movie of the same name. “Metropolis” had soon replaced “Apricot” as FBI jargon for the San Francisco field office, and in 1939 J. Edgar Hoover himself officially authorized its use for that very purpose. Since that time, many of the FBI field offices have been given official codenames, and those codenames are often used interchangeably for the cities they are based in. Certain other “places of interest” have also been identified by codenames throughout the years.

These codenames are used as a matter of routine in order to protect lines of communication and keep the general public from panicking should they overhear an FBI conversation. For example, in FBI jargon, “Firecracker in Midway City,” means, “There was a terrorist strike in Detroit.” And, “I’ve got a solo in St. Roch,” means, “I’m going on assignment in the New Orleans field office.”

Here is a list of the most common FBI location codenames. Those associated with primary FBI field offices are marked with an asterisk (*) in the text and highlighted with a red dot on the maps. Note that this is only a partial list. There are locations not listed here that have been assigned official FBI codenames, and some locations may have additional high security level or mission-specific codenames in addition to the general-use codenames listed below.

THE EASTERN STATES

Connecticut: Bridgeport = “Calvin City”[1]; Hartford = “Violet Valley”[2]; New Haven* = “Ivy Town”[3]

Maine: Bangor = “Derry City”[4]; Portland = “Rockwell City”[5]; Thomaston = “Cabot Cove”[6];

Maryland: Baltimore* = “Opal City”[7]

Massachusetts: Boston* = “Gotham City”[8]; Martha’s Vineyard = “Amity Island”[9]

New Jersey: Atlantic City = “Bluehaven”[10]; Newark* = “Brick City”[11]

New York: Albany* = “New Carthage”[12]; Buffalo* = “Newford”[13]; New York City* = “Liberty City”[14] (each borough also has its own nickname: Brooklyn = “Broker City”[15]; Bronx = “Riverhead”[16]; Manhattan = “Atlas City”[17]; Queens = “Dukes City”[18]; Staten Island = “Bethtown”[19]); Rochester = “Port Charles”[20]

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg = “Radiance City”[21]; Philadelphia* = “Civic City”[22]; Pittsburgh* = “Keystone City”[23]

Rhode Island: Newport = “Happy Harbor”[24]; Providence = “Park City”[25]

Vermont: Burlington = “Cloister City”[26]

Virginia: Norfolk* = “Waterville”[27]; Richmond* = “Leesburg”[28]

Washington, D.C.* = “Monument Point”[29]

THE MIDWESTERN STATES

Illinois: Chicago* = “Century City”[30]; Springfield* = “Light City”[31]

Indiana: Indianapolis* = “Crossroads City”[32]

Iowa: Des Moines = “Pittsdale”[33]

Kansas: Hutchinson = “Smallville”[34]

Kentucky: Louisville* = “Mammoth City”[35]

Michigan: Detroit* = “Midway City”[36]; Grand Rapids = “Zenith City”[37]

Minnesota: Minneapolis* = “Dakota City”[38]

Missouri: Cape Girardeau = “River City”[39]; Kansas City* = “Central City”[40]; St. Louis* = “Hub City”[41]

Nebraska: Omaha* = “Heartland City”[42]; Wayne = “Blue Valley”[43]

Ohio: Cincinnati* = “Fawcett City”[44]; Cleveland* = “Edge City”[45]; Columbus = “Capitol City”[46]; Toledo = “River Heights”[47]

Wisconsin: Milwaukee* = “Lake City”[48]

THE SOUTHERN STATES

Alabama: Birmingham* = “Titan City”[49]; Mobile* = “Charlton’s Point”[50]

Arkansas: Little Rock* = “Millstone City”[51]

Florida: Daytona Beach = “Speedway City”[52]; Jacksonville* = “Solar City”[53]; Miami (the FBI office is in North Miami Beach*) = “Vice City”[54]; Orlando = “Calm Lake”[55]; Tampa* = “Gateway City”[56]

Georgia: Atlanta* = “Arbor City”[57]

Louisiana: New Orleans* = “St. Roch”[58]

Mississippi: Jackson* = “Caldecott City”[59]

North Carolina: Charlotte* = “Diamond City”[60]; Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill = “Delta City”[61]

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City* = “Plesantmere”[62]

Puerto Rico: San Juan* = “Universal City”[63]

South Carolina: Columbia* = “Viceroy City”[64]

Tennessee: Knoxville* = “Valley Town”[65]; Memphis* = “Empire City”[66]; Nashville = “National City”[67]

Texas: Amarillo = “Rocky City”[68]; Austin = “Big City”[69]; Dallas* = “Braddock City”[70]; El Paso* = “Fort Robbins”[71]; Houston* = “Millennium City”[72]; San Antonio* = “Dos Rios”[73]

THE WESTERN STATES

Alaska: Anchorage* = “Newton City”[74]

Arizona: Phoenix* = “Top City”[75]; Tucson = “Cactus City”[76]

California: Eureka = “Santa Mira”[77]; Fresno = “Superior City”[78]; Long Beach = “Steel Harbor”[79]; Los Angeles* = “Coast City”[80] (certain areas within the city also carry their own codenames: South Central Los Angeles = “Los Santos”[81]; Hollywood / Beverly Hills / Bel Air = “Star City”[82]; San Fernando Valley = “Santa Marta”[83]); Marin County / North Bay = “Park Ridge”[84]; Oakland / East Bay = “Bakerline”[85]; Orange County = “Golden City”[86]; Riverside and San Bernardino Counties = “Valley Port”[87]; Sacramento* = “Basin City”[88]; San Diego* = “Jump City”[89]; San Francisco* = “Metropolis”[90] (since “Metropolis” has in many ways come to stand for the entire Bay Area, the FBI has also started using the codename “New Troy”[91] when they need to refer more specifically to just the city limits of San Francisco itself); San Jose / Silicon Valley = “Platinum Flats”[92]; San Luis Obispo = “Sunnydale”[93]; San Mateo County = “Queensland Park”[94]; Santa Barbara = “Santa Teresa”[95]; Santa Clarita = “Rancho Alto”[96]; Stockton = “Excelsior City”[97]

Colorado: Colorado Springs = “Cosmos City”[98]; Denver* = “Middleton”[99]

Hawaii: Honolulu* = “Harbor City”[100]

Nevada: Las Vegas* = “Little Mountain”[101]

New Mexico: Albuquerque* = “Mercer City”[102]; Los Alamos = “Science City”[103]

Oregon: Portland* = “Portsmouth City”[104]

Utah: Salt Lake City* = “Pioneer City”[105]

Washington: Seattle* = “Vanity City”[106]; Snoqualmie = “Twin Peaks”[107]; Spokane = “Evergreen City”[108]

POSTSCRIPT: THE OCCULT NAMES

As we all know by now, the original colony of Massachusetts was plagued by supernatural phenomena, of which witches only began to scratch the surface. At that time, the colony included what eventually became the state of Maine, and today you will still find many people in both Massachusetts and Maine who practice “the old ways.” The FBI has identified a variety of strange, occult subcultures in the local population that uses alternate names for locations throughout both states. Here are just a few of the “hotspots” of activity that have been identified (there are many more), along with the alternate names used by these occultists.

Maine: Durham = “Jerusalem’s Lot”[109]; Woodstock = “Castle Rock”[110]

Massachusetts: Athol = “Dunwich”[111]; Marblehead = “Kingsport”[112]; Newburyport = “Innsmouth”[113]; Salem = “Arkham”[114]


NOTES

[1] Home of the Golden Age version of The Atom from DC Comics.

[2] One-time home of the Doom Patrol from DC Comics.

[3] Home of the Silver Age version of The Atom from DC Comics. (The fictional Ivy University is an analog of Yale University.)

[4] From It and other works by Stephen King.

[5] From the book The Iron Man, made into the film The Iron Giant.

[6] From the television program Murder She Wrote. The FBI investigated the abnormally high rate of murders here, but found only coincidence.

[7] The home of Starman from DC Comics, located in Maryland.

[8] The home of Batman from DC Comics. This is a city that is normally thought of as an analog of New York City, but I made a strong argument that it is really Boston. Believe it or not, Gotham City also exists in the Marvel Comics universe.

[9] From the movie Jaws.

[10] DC Comics has a city named “Blüdhaven,” which is the adopted home of Nightwing. It’s an important city, but a terrible name, so I fixed it.

[11] The former home of Black Lightning from DC Comics. It has also become a real-life street nickname for Newark, due to the volume of crack bricks present.

[12] From DC Comics.

[13] From the novels of Charles de Lint. Newford is a U.S. city, but seems to have some Canadian characteristics, so I used it for the border city of Buffalo.

[14] The analog for New York City in the video game Grand Theft Auto.

[15] The analog for Brooklyn in the video game Grand Theft Auto.

[16] The analog for the Bronx in the 87th Precinct series of novels. (In Grand Theft Auto, it is called “Bohan.”)

[17] In honor of the former name for Marvel Comics in the 1950s, Atlas Comics.  (In Grand Theft Auto, it is called “Algonquin Island.”)

[18] The analog for Queens in the video game Grand Theft Auto.

[19] The analog for Staten Island in the 87th Precinct series of novels. (In Grand Theft Auto, it is called “Happy Island.”)

[20] From the soap opera General Hospital.

[21] Home of the second generation of Blue Boys, sons of the original Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys from DC Comics.

[22] The original home base of the Justice Society of America from DC Comics. (The Dark Horse Comics universe version of Philadelphia is known as Arcadia, and it has also been visited by some DC Comics characters in cross-over stories. Still, I prefer Civic City as the general term.)

[23] The home of Jay Garrick (the original Golden Age Flash) from DC Comics.

[24] The original home base of the Justice League of America from DC Comics.

[25] A former home of Black Canary from DC Comics.

[26] From DC Comics.

[27] From a 1945 story in Timely Comics featuring the Sub-Mariner, and a reference to the Hampton Roads waterway.

[28] A city in Virginia from DC Comics. Also called Lee City in Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel.

[29] A Washington, DC analog from DC Comics.

[30] From the Green Hornet comics published by Dynamite (other stories place the character in Chicago or elsewhere), and a reference to the 1933-1934 “Century of Progress” World’s Fair held in Chicago.

[31] A homage to the soap opera Guiding Light, which is set in a fictionalized version of Springfield, Illinois.

[32] A reference to the city’s nickname, “The Crossroads of America.” (There is also a location in DC Comics - the home of the Sovereign Seven - called the Crossroads, but it is traditionally located in the Northeast.)

[33] The hometown of Lois Lane in DC Comics.

[34] The boyhood home of Superman from DC Comics.

[35] Timely Comics created a fictional city named Louisville in 1940, but I couldn’t use its actual name as its codename. Instead, I used the original, Golden Age home of Plastic Man in Police Comics, in honor of nearby Mammoth Cave National Park.

[36] The DC Comics analog of Detroit.

[37] From an obscure city of unspecified location in DC Comics.

[38] From the Milestone Media imprint of DC Comics.

[39] From a 1976 story in Marvel Comics starring Captain America. This is also a real-life nickname for the city.

[40] The home of Denny Colt (Will Eisner’s The Spirit) and of Barry Allen (The Flash from DC Comics). For the former, it was more of an analog of New York City, but for the latter it was definitely Kansas City.

[41] From Charlton Comics, and later from DC Comics; originally based on East St. Louis, Illinois.

[42] This is my tribute to Dairy Land from the episode “Too Hot to Handle” on the first season of Super Friends (1973). “Dairy City” sounded a little too over the top, but I liked the farm-fresh feel it evoked.

[43] The hometown of Wally West (Kid Flash) and the adopted home of Courtney Whitmore (Stargirl) from DC Comics.

[44] The home of Billy Baston (Captain Marvel) in DC Comics; a tribute to Fawcett Comics.

[45] From The Mask comic book series. Also, you need an edge to “cleave” something.

[46] The original home of Alan Scott (Green Lantern) from DC Comics.

[47] From the Nancy Drew book series.

[48] An obscure city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel, and a fitting name given the city’s location on Lake Michigan.

[49] From an obscure 1940 story in Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel, starring the robot Electro.

[50] From DC Comics, named as a tribute to Charlton Comics.

[51] An obscure city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel, and a play on the city’s name.

[52] The DC Comics city where Cliff Steele crashed in an auto race before he became Robotman.

[53] A city in Florida from DC Comics.

[54] The analog for Miami in the Grand Theft Auto video game series and a tribute to the television series Miami Vice.

[55] A vacation destination city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel.

[56] DC Comics has Gateway City located in California, where it is an obvious analog of the San Francisco Bay area, but it works just as well as an analog of the Tampa Bay area in Florida.

[57] A city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel, and a reference to one of Atlanta’s nicknames, the “City in a Forest.”

[58] The DC Comics analog of New Orleans.

[59] The mutant Rogue (Anna Marie) from Marvel Comics grew up in Caldecott County, Mississippi.

[60] A reference to the city’s official nickname, the Queen City, as well as its status as a center of finance. The Golden Age name in Marvel Comics (then known as Timely Comics) was Finance City, but I just couldn't bring myself to perpetuate that one.

[61] Delta City is minor setting in DC Comics, home of the Heckler. The location is unspecified, but the Research Triangle area seemed a natural fit.

[62] A city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel. The name is a good play on Oklahoma City’s nicknames “OK City” and “The Big Friendly.”

[63] An obscure city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel.

[64] The home of Resurrection Man from DC Comics.

[65] From an obscure city in a 1941 story in Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel.

[66] There is an Empire City in DC Comics, but it is in Massachusetts. I chose the name for Memphis, because Memphis was named after a city in Egypt (home of an ancient empire), and it was also the home of Elvis Presley (the “King of Rock and Roll”).

[67] From an obscure city in Timely Comics, the predecessor of Marvel.

[68] Home of the Trigger Twins (Walt and Wayne), an Old West duo from DC Comics.

[69] An obscure city name from DC Comics, home to the Golden Age hero Little Boy Blue. It does not appear that Little Boy Blue was from Texas, but it seemed like an appropriate name for the capital of the state where everything is bigger than life.

[70] The Southfork Ranch on the television show Dallas was located in the fictional Braddock County, Texas.

[71] In honor of Marty Robbins, who wrote and originally recorded the classic country and western ballad “El Paso.”

[72] The home of Tom Strong from America’s Best Comics. This is kind of a futuristic sounding name, which evokes Houston’s actual nickname, Space City.

[73] The home of El Diablo from DC Comics. In Spanish, “Dos Rios” means “Two Rivers.” San Antonio is really only famous for one river, so who knows what the FBI was thinking?

[74] An obscure city from Timely Comics, the predecessor to Marvel.

[75] As in “tabletop,” a reference to “mesa.” There is a “Mesa City” in DC Comics, but I didn’t use it because there’s an actual Mesa, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix.

[76] From an obscure 1948 story published by Timely Comics, the predecessor of Marvel.

[77] From a variety of different sources, starting with the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers.

[78] The home of the Red Bee from DC Comics.

[79] The home of Barb Wire from Dark Horse Comics.

[80] The home of Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) from DC Comics. Coincidentally, Coast City also exists in the Marvel Comics universe.

[81] The name of the Los Angeles analog from the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

[82] The home of Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) from DC Comics. There is also a Star City mentioned in the Marvel Comics universe.

[83] From DC Comics.

[84] Traditionally one of the boroughs of Metropolis.

[85] Traditionally one of the boroughs of Metropolis in DC Comics, and the home of Jimmy Olsen.

[86] From Dark Horse Comics. In the comics, that city is in far northern California, but the name works really well for Orange County. Although there are several cities here, the name is used for the entire county.

[87] An obscure city from a Captain America story published by Timely Comics, the predecessor of Marvel, in 1942. The city that this codename was originally used for was entirely destroyed in that incident, but the FBI codename has now been extended to the entire “Inland Empire” area, the densely populated regions of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

[88] The central city of Frank Miller’s Sin City comic book series.

[89] A city in California that serves as the base of operations for the Teen Titans in the Teen Titans Go! comic book series. (Not part of the normal DC Comics universe.) Also a reference to the city’s real-life nickname “City in Motion.”

[90] The home of Superman in DC Comics. Although usually thought of as an analog of New York City, I made a strong argument that it should be San Francisco. (By the way, in the comics, Metropolis has the nickname “The Big Apricot,” so I worked that into the narrative above. Pretty clever, don’t you think?)

[91] Traditionally the central borough of Metropolis.

[92] The DC Comics analog of Silicon Valley.

[93] From Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

[94] Traditionally one of the boroughs of Metropolis.

[95] An analog of Santa Barbara from the mystery novel The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald; also used subsequently in several mysteries by Sue Grafton.

[96] Traditionally a section of Coast City in DC Comics. Before it was incorporated as a city, most of the communities in the Santa Clarita Valley began as part of the historic Rancho San Francisco. The valley is between Los Angeles (a.k.a. “Coast City”) and Edwards Air Force Base and would be a logical home base for Hal Jordan, the most well-known Green Lantern.

[97] This was the original home of the Fantastic Four in Marvel Comics. It was known as Central City, California in those days, but we already have a Central City in Missouri. “Excelsior!” is the catch phrase of Fantastic Four co-creator Stan Lee, and the term was later introduced as a project name in a re-telling of their origin story.

[98] From the Colorado Springs analog in DC Comics, where it is just named “Cosmos.”

[99] The DC Comics analog of Denver, and the original home of Martian Manhunter. (There was also a Middletown in Timely Comics in the 1940s, which could almost be the same thing. Maybe.)

[100] Originally used by DC Comics for a city in Oregon, but I used it here to honor Pearl Harbor.

[101] A literal English translation of “Montecito,” the name of a fictional casino that appeared in two NBC television series: Heroes and Las Vegas.

[102] Mercer is the name of a fictional western U.S. state in the cult movie Motorama.

[103] From DC Comics.

[104] The DC Comics analog for Portland, Oregon and the home of Dr. Mid-Nite.

[105] This was originally used for an Old West town in Arizona in Marvel Comics, but it works just as well for Utah.

[106] The home of Aztec from DC Comics. It is usually placed in the state of Oregon, but I think it is a better fit for Seattle.

[107] From the television series Twin Peaks.

[108] In DC Comics, this area was the home of Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) for a while. At one point, the entire “bedroom community” town of Cheney, Washington, a few miles away, was temporarily relocated to the planet Oa. It has since been returned.

[109] From Salem’s Lot and other works by Stephen King.

[110] From The Dead Zone, Cujo and other works by Stephen King.

[111] From the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.

[112] From the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.

[113] From the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.

[114] The analog for Salem in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. (The name also made its way into DC Comics by way of the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.)

Finally, note that Salem Center, home of the X-Men in Marvel Comics, is not a fictional town, although it is often mistaken for one. It is in fact a hamlet within the real-life town of North Salem, New York.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Where is Superman's Metropolis?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not satisfied with Batman and Superman operating in fictional cities. They have to live in the real world or the stakes just aren't there for me. I already went to great lengths to try to convince you that Batman lives in Boston. In this post, I'll tell you where Superman lives.

When Superman was first created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933, they were high school students living in Cleveland, Ohio, and that's where they intended Superman to live. One early comic strip even said so, which was the earliest reference to Superman's location, but this was soon changed to "Metropolis," and it has been so ever since. Metropolis was modeled on Shuster's hometown of Toronto, but was never intended to be Toronto. Instead, it has more or less been an obvious stand-in for New York City. (In one of the 1940s cartoons made by Fleischer Studios, it was even referred to specifically as New York.)

The location of Metropolis has varied over the years. It has usually been located on the East Coast. New York State has been a popular choice, although DC Comics have tried to make it clear that it was definitely separate from New York City. Delaware has also been frequently rumored.

On television, the location of Metropolis has been even more slippery. The original 1950s television show used Los Angeles as a stand-in. In the 1990s, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman appeared to place it in northern Indiana and/or Chicago, Illinois. And the recent Smallville series clearly stated that Metropolis was within 100 miles of Smallville, Kansas.

Here's the deal with Metropolis, though: it's not as important to Superman as Gotham City is to Batman. In Batman's mythos, Gotham is a character unto itself. For Superman, though, Metropolis is just a destination; it's just his home. It could be anywhere as long as it serves his story. What you have to keep in mind is this: what is his story? What city best serves that story?

New York would work, sure, but only to a point. At this point, it's a little too obvious, and New York has a little too much personality for Superman, in my opinion. It's too big for just one hero, even if it's the biggest hero of them all. After all, that's where Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and all the Marvel Comics characters live, and there has to be some reason why Superman isn't always bumping into them, so he can't live there. Instead, this is where he lives:

San Francisco, California

Don't believe me? Then I'll convince you.

First of all, Clark Kent was raised just outside of Hutchinson, Kansas during the Great Depression. I'm not going to waste time explaining that one - it's been pretty obvious for a long time that Smallville is Hutchinson or something very close to it. And you are never going to convince me that Superman was born in the '70s or in 2011 or whatever the flavor-of-the-week may be sometime in the future. Superman debuted in 1938: thus it has always been and shall ever be. That means that as he came of age he got to see the Dust Bowl storms come through and wreck havoc on his community. His area of Kansas was right on the edge of the Dust Bowl, but it was still grim. Further west and south, all was ruin.


And what did people do in the face of such despair? They went to California, the only place there was any hope of making a living at that time. Not that there was much hope, but there was some. Remember the iconic picture of the "Migrant Mother" below? She took her family from farm to farm in California picking crops, living from hand to mouth, because her farm failed in Oklahoma. When Clark's surrogate father Jonathan Kent died, he left the farm in Kansas and went to California too. It was his best opportunity to make enough money to support his mother, since their farm wasn't able to support them any longer.


San Francisco was a land of opportunity, a great shining, sophisticated metropolis in 1938, and it beckoned to Clark. Even at that time, it was already one of the nation's largest cities and largest metropolitan areas. Just as New York had just finished constructing the Empire State Building, San Francisco had just finished its own impressive, iconic construction projects: the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, linking the peninsula with the surrounding counties. (Metropolis is usually depicted as a central island surrounded by several other boroughs - close enough.)

No offense to Los Angeles, but San Francisco is the closest rival to New York that the West Coast has. It has an impressive skyline, with a variety of architectural styles. Like New York and Los Angeles, it has an impressive number of Art Deco style buildings, but it also has some funky, modernistic stuff that the "City of Tomorrow" (as Metropolis is known) would have. It has a rich cultural tapestry, distinct neighborhoods, arts, technology, history, and plenty of "old money" to go around. And unlike L.A., it has a temperate climate, similar to the East or Midwest, except that - just like Metropolis in every comic book I've ever seen - it never snows there. In fact, it is nearly the same temperature year-round: always a slight chill in the air, just right for someone who wears long underwear under his suit to the office everyday.



San Francisco was the main staging area for the United States war effort in the Pacific in WWII, which according to the Fleischer Studios cartoons of the 1940s, Superman took an active role in. San Francisco also has a history of crime and natural disasters that dovetail nicely with Metropolis' own history. (The presence of Alcatraz prison is just a bonus: where else would the world's most powerful superhero want to be than babysitting the world's most dangerous, maximum security criminals?)

San Francisco's strong technology sector also lends itself well to Lex Luthor, Superman's mad genius arch nemesis, who, lest we forget, is also based in the area, along with Lexcorp, his legitimate business empire.


Another convincing clue is the nickname that DC Comics gave to Metropolis: "The Big Apricot." New York City is nicknamed "The Big Apple," because New York is the state that grows the most apples. So which state grows the most apricots? You guessed it: 95% of apricots in the U.S. are grown in California. Specifically, the prime growing region for apricots is the central to northern part of California. If you drew dot in the center of that area, it would be on San Francisco.


Finally, an obscure little slice of history helps cement the City by the Bay. There was a little newspaper in 1908 called the San Francisco Evening Globe. The paper folded the following year, but what if, instead of folding, the paper had been bought by Charles Foster Kane, who as we all know from Citizen Kane, was starting his newspaper empire around that time. Let's say Kane renamed the paper the San Francisco Inquirer, like all his papers. Of course, Kane would have lost the paper in the Great Depression, when he was forced to sell most of his holdings to Walter Thatcher. Because the San Francisco paper was struggling, Thatcher decided to rename it to disassociate it from Kane's legacy and try to revive sales. The new name he chose was the San Francisco Daily Planet, a variation of its original name before Kane bought it, and the rest is history.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Most anticipated splody movies of 2013

At the beginning of each year, I check to see what movies are coming out and try to informally rank which ones I think will be worth seeing. My formula for success is equal parts good character development and explosions. Here is what I think about the movies scheduled for 2013:

1. Pacific Rim
When: July 12. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because this is my ultimate ten-year-old wish fulfillment movie, a film about giant monsters fighting giant robots. At the end of the day, you can keep your Jedi superheroes and ninja wizards and time-traveling zombies: this is my first love. From Godzilla to Gamera, from Ultraman to Voltron, and from Mazinger Z to Johnny Sokko’s Flying Robot – supersize it, give it an attitude and make it destroy Tokyo, and you’ve won my heart. Also, director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) is a fanboy himself, and he is a mad genius a bringing creative visuals into a movie without over-relying on CGI. I’m also excited to see man-crush Idris Elba as one of the leads. After being squandered in last year’s Prometheus, he’s already delivered one of this year’s best lines in Pacific Rim’s first trailer: “Today, we are cancelling the Apocalypse!”

2. Star Trek Into Darkness
When: May 17. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the first installment of the new rebooted Star Trek was thrilling in ways that Trek has never been before. Some die-hard fans were turned off by J.J. Abrams’ re-imagining of the Trek universe, but it’s exactly what was needed to breathe new life into the franchise. As I said in my review: “We’re all Trekkies now.” The trailers for this second installment have looked equally dynamic, and the addition of the utterly amazing Bernard Cumberbatch as the villain is an inspired choice.

3. Iron Man 3
When: May 3. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the first two were dynamite. (Yes, the second wasn’t as good as the first, but it still had a lot going for it.) Following the huge success of The Avengers, the next Iron Man solo movie will take the hero in a new direction with a new director, Shane Black – who worked with Robert Downey, Jr. on the excellent, career-rejuvenating Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I love Iron Man and I love RDJ, so this is a no brainer.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
When: December 13. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because director Peter Jackson has proven that any chance to escape to his vision of Middle Earth is worth the price of admission. Yes, his Hobbit trilogy should have probably been two movies: they covered half of the book in the first film and I have no idea how they’ll stretch the rest into two more films, even with J.R.R. Tolkien’s later additions and side notes. But I’m thoroughly looking forward to finding out. Oh, also: Smaug is an incredibly badass dragon and he is being voiced by the incredibly badass Bernard Cumberbatch. (See Star Trek Into Darkness, above: this will be the Year of Cumberbatch.)

5. Man of Steel
When: June 14. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because Superman is the first superhero and deserves to have a kick-ass movie, and I hope this is it. The original Superman theatrical shorts in the 1940s were among the best cartoons ever made (and they’re in the public domain, so you can find them for free), but his live-action appearances have yet to do him justice. Christopher Reeves was a great Superman, but he was shackled with weak scripts and special effects that couldn’t live up to the spectacle. (The 1978 film started off well, but the ending ruined my appreciation of that incarnation: reversing the rotation of the Earth wouldn’t turn back time, it would kill us all!) This movie promises a lot more action than we’ve ever seen from the Man of Steel before, and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) had a hand in crafting the story, so I remain hopeful. However, director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) is hit-or-miss, so I’ll need to see it to believe it.

6. Thor: The Dark World
When: November 8. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because against all odds there is a Thor 2. When I heard they were making the first one, I at first thought it wouldn’t do well based on my vague recollection of the character. But Chris Hemsworth nailed the role, creating a character who was larger-than-life, but still relatable. Out of all of the main characters in The Avengers, Thor had the least character development, but his fight with the Hulk was one of the best action sequences. Look for more badassery in the sequel as the explore new “realms” and fight new fantastic foes – including Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston as the “dark elf” Malekith the Accursed and LOST's Mr. Eko, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as Kurse. New director Alan Taylor cut his teeth on the acclaimed HBO fantasy epic series Game of Thrones, so he should bring a lot to the table for this kind of tale.

7. The World’s End
When: October 25. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because this is the final film in the so-called “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” that also included Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). The three films are actually unconnected except for sharing the most tenuous thematic elements, but If you’ve seen the other two, you’ll know why I’m excited. (And if not, go see them!) Director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are just brilliant, and the films are both exciting and hilarious. The plot of this one: “Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival.”

8. The Wolverine
When: July 26. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because Wolverine is a badass character who deserves better than he got in his last two films – the empty but tolerable X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and the gawdawful X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). I am not a big fan of Hugh Jackman in the role, but I know he’s very popular, so I doubt they’ll replace him anytime soon. (For the record, though, Wolverine is much shorter, less charismatic and more savage. In short, he isn’t one to work on musicals between X-Men films.) What I am excited for, though, is the story that this movie is based on. I read the four-issue comic book miniseries in my younger days, and it was incredible – full of ninjas and samurai sword fights and unexpected surprises at every turn. My gut tells me they’ll mess it up, but I’m holding out at least a little hope that they’ll finally get it right.

9. Elysium
When: August 9. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because director Neill Blomkamp’s last film, District 9, was brilliant – a fresh twist on the alien invasion story that was really an examination of our own views of prejudice hat just happened to have an exciting action film thread through it. This is his much anticipated “hard sci-fi” big-budget follow-up, starring Matt Damon and Jodi Foster, and it’s getting good buzz.

10. Ender’s Game
When: November 1. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because it’s based on a popular sci-fi book and is getting a lot of buzz. While I don’t know much about it, what I have heard has my interest – especially the promise of epic zero-gravity space battles.

11. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
When: November 22. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because I was wrong about The Hunger Games last year, and I’m not too proud to admit it. I thought it was going to be a teenie-bopper Twilight-style chick flick, but it got such good reviews and friends I trust recommended it, so I checked it out – and found it deserving of the praise. Jennifer Lawrence was incredible as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman forced to compete in a to-the-death battle royale before a televised audience in a strange, retro-futuristic dystopia. But instead of focusing on the action or the science fiction trappings, the movie wisely kept those elements in the background and stayed focused on Katniss’ experience in the midst of the insanity, and that made it all that much more powerful. Now I can’t wait to see what happens next.

12. I, Frankenstein
When: September 13. Why I’m looking forward to it: Because the premise is both ridiculous and intriguing. Frankenstein’s monster (played by Aaron Eckhart) gets caught between two warring clans of immortals in an ancient city. I don’t have high hopes for this one, but if it works – even as a cult classic – I’ll be thrilled. I’m a huge fan of this monster.

Finally, some other splody-looking movies that just might prove worthwhile in 2013 include...
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (January 25)
  • A Good Day to Die Hard (February 14)
  • Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1)
  • Oz: The Great and Powerful (March 8)
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation (March 29)
  • Evil Dead (April 12)
  • Oblivion (April 19)
  • Fast and Furious 6 (May 24)
  • After Earth (June 7)
  • World War Z (June 21)
  • Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall (June 28)
  • Despicable Me 2 (July 3)
  • The Lone Ranger (July 3)
  • R.I.P.D. (July 19)
  • RED 2 (August 2)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (August 2)
  • Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (August 16)
  • Riddick (September 6)
  • Gravity (October 4)
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (October 4)
  • 47 Ronin (December 25)
  • Jack Ryan (December 25)