Archive for the ‘Thoughtabouts’ Category

If superheroes can be super-strong, why don’t people want them to be super-noble?

April 8, 2019

If superheroes can be super-strong, why don’t people want them to be super-noble?

When the great debate came between DC and Marvel in the Silver Age (roughly 1956 to 1970), I knew which side I was on.

I preferred DC.

That didn’t mean I didn’t read some Marvel comics, I did. However, the divide seemed pretty clear.

The DC heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman…) weren’t like most people you knew. They didn’t behave like them. They didn’t even live in the same cities. Superman didn’t live in New York, he lived in Metropolis. Batman lived in Gotham City, not…right, New York. ūüėČ Those are two fictionalized versions of the same city. Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and the Doom Patrol live in Midway City, not Chicago.

We didn’t hear about their dating problems, they generally don’t need the money they earned, and they don’t get parking tickets or acne.

Over at Marvel, though, they lived in the real world. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) lived in straight up New York. He had the same problems as you. The same went for the rest of the Marvel characters (for the most part).

The Marvel “true believers” (fans) liked that their characters were realistic.

I liked that mine weren’t.

So, some of you are probably thinking that the Marvel characters weren’t realistic at all: magic users, mutants…being bitten by a radioactive spider likely would just hurt for a bit and then the spider would die. You wouldn’t suddenly have some mythical spider-sense.

The way Marvel characters¬†reacted to these fantastic circumstances, though, seemed more “normal”. They got mad, they got frustrated, they were full of doubts, they acted out…they got it wrong a lot, just like your typical human.

Superman always tried to be good.

In the past decade or so, those “super-noble” heroes have pretty much disappeared from the screen.

All of our heroes seem to be, to a lesser or greater degree, “anti-heroes”. That appears to be what the vast majority of people want. DC has gotten especially dark…for me, DC and Marvel have swapped tones.

I get how it’s easier to relate to characters that are more like you.


People don’t mind that characters have super-strength or super-speed. It’s fun to imagine having those powers.

I don’t see a big difference between that and having fun imagining being super-noble. My fictional heroes (especially Doc Savage, Mr. Spock, and Kwai Chang Caine ((the last from Kung Fu))) all have very strong moral codes. They have elements of their personalities, ways that they behave, that I would like to emulate. Not everything about them, of course, but certain things.

I genuinely believe that I am a better person because I’ve striven to be more like Doc Savage.

I guess that’s why I liked Adam West’s Batman, but wasn’t a big fan of the comic book Batman. Comic book Batman was often driven by what felt like vengeance to me. “Bad people” deserved to be punished, personally, in a way different from the law.

I also wasn’t a big fan of Christian Bale’s Batman. I said I wouldn’t want a ten-year old kid to see The Dark Knight because I didn’t want them to be frightened of¬†Batman¬†for the rest of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine with the existence of torture, muddled morality, heroes. I’m a fan of Elric (who I think would make an excellent streaming TV series), and all of my heroes doubt themselves (they just don’t doubt what is right and wrong).

I simply think there is still room in our cultural landscape for heroes who are exemplars of compassion and self-less motivation.

Have a different opinion? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


Why the scariest show on Netflix is…Marie Kondo

February 23, 2019

Why the scariest show on Netflix is…Marie Kondo

There are a lot things that scare people on Netflix: Poltergeist, The Witch, The Haunting of Hill House, Jaws, American Horror Story…

I can watch (and enjoy) horror movies/TV shows, and have for a very long time.

There’s one show, though, that I can’t bring myself to watch…just thinking about it raises my heart rate and starts the fear sweat stirring.

What is it?

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

I suspect that a lot of other people feel the same way, even if it’s an immensely popular show.

Why this fear?

As a collector, as someone who champions what most people feel is unimportant, the idea of getting rid of things scares me.

I would guess it always has.

Now, I have to be clear…as stated, I haven’t seen the show, so I’m just going on what I know about it through summaries and such.

As I understand it, the basic idea (and I’m sure there are a lot of subtleties to it) is that you go through the items in your house. You pick up an item (say, a book or a piece of clothing), and commune with it in some manner, to see if it “sparks joy”. If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it for what it has contributed to your life, and then remove it from your life, preferably by donating it if it would have value to someone else.

What a bizarre idea! ūüėČ

Clearly, this resonates with people…thrift shops have indicated that they’ve gotten so many items donated by people inspired by the show, and I presume, to a lesser degree, by the book

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) | 4.4 stars out of 5 | 13, 889 reviews at time of writing

that they have had to turn donations away.

Now, on the surface, this makes some sense.

One of the things I do in my day job is help people with time management, and I’m very effective. I once sat with someone for an hour who was routinely leaving work two hours or so late. Within a few weeks, that person was leaving on time.

Part of that is cleaning things up.

Let’s take e-mails.

Suppose you get lots of e-mails, and you either take action on them or delete them…at least, that’s the theory.

However, there are many of them that you read….but then just don’t bother to delete.

You may think having those undeleted e-mails in your inbox doesn’t affect your efficiency, but it does.

You can think of it this way: you have two systems of mental processing.

One of them works very quickly, and you aren’t even aware of it most of the time. It’s constantly assessing everything around you…one of its main functions is to determine threats.

It’s very shallow and judgmental…it makes snap decisions.

If you are about to cross the street, your System One looks at traffic for you. It analyzes whether that traffic is dangerous to you. If it is, you might instinctively jump back on to the curb. You probably couldn’t articulate why, exactly, in many cases…what it was about a car or traffic flow that made you consider it dangerous.

Now, in some cases (relatively few), that system can’t make a decision…it then passes the problem to your “slow” system, which engages your intellect for a thoughtful decision.

Stick your hand in the fire, System One.

See a stranger on the other side of the street, creeping along like Bela Lugosi…System Two. There may be nothing wrong with that person, and it may be prejudice that tripped your initial concern, but you consider it.

When you leave those e-mails in the inbox, you likely don’t engage System Two at all. However, your System One still needs to assess them…every single time. If you have a thousand e-mails, your System One will make that super fast decision that they are unimportant…on all of them.

You aren’t aware of it, but that takes intellectual energy…which makes it harder to deal with the actual important (probably new) e-mails.

So, why wouldn’t the same thing apply to the clothes in your closet and the books on your shelves?

It does.

Absolutely, no question: if you have a bunch of clothes in your closet that have no sentimental value, and that you will never wear again, they are stressing your intellectual systems. It makes perfect sense to get rid of them.

I’m fine with that.

Donating is great: I’m fine with that, too.

What I don’t like is the “sparks joy” test, which could lead to a lot of false positives…identifying things as having no value when they do.

First, it suggests that you will always be exactly the same as you are now. If something doesn’t “spark joy” for you now, it never will. I don’t know about you, but there are things I didn’t need, but years later, they were exactly the solution I needed for something.

Second, it feels selfish…I have a lot of things that I have * don’t have just for me…I have them for the value they’ll have for someone else at some point…even for society at large.

The latter can be a big part of collecting, when you aren’t doing it for just economic reasons (hoping to make a profit).

There are items I’ve kept for decades…I may have some of the few copies of them that exist.

That doesn’t mean they have economic value…that used to be true for a lot of geeky stuff, like science fiction novels, although that has changed some.

I grew up with the belief that some comic books were valuable because people’s parents threw out the vast majority of them. It turned out later that wasn’t exactly the case…there was an intentional campaign against comic books which even led to public burnings, as explained in this excellent book:

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Still, a lot of what I have would be considered ephemera by mainstream society…something that doesn’t have any lasting value.

It’s possible, in some cases, that I have one of the only ones of these items in existence.

I’ll just make something up: let’s say it’s the schedule for a local science fiction convention (maybe 200 attendees) from the 1980s. Most people would just throw it away (or nowadays, recycle it), and that’s fine. Picking it up is not necessarily going to spark joy for me.

If I get rid of it, though, there may no longer be a copy of it in the world.

Your response may be, “So what?” ūüôā

Well, it was a part of our society…undoubtedly, a very small part. It may not have affected anything else in any meaningful way…pop culture doesn’t always follow “The Butterfly Effect” hypothesis, although I suppose it might. Maybe somebody who went to that con became more involved in geeky things, and eventually, contributed to a movie which changed the world.

Maybe not.

Even if it didn’t, objects like that didn’t just grow on a tree. People contributed to it…human-made objects are evidence of people, of their dreams and efforts.

If I just say that this item doesn’t mean anything to me now and therefore should be destroyed…well, as I said above, it feels very self-centered.

Sure, it’s easier to get rid of things, and I know why it feels good short-term. I’ve said in the past, though, that I’ve never regretted keeping something but I have regretted getting rid of something.

That doesn’t mean that I just keep everything! I’m not a hoarder…really, I’m not.

For example, I’ve recently started donating a very large percentage of my library. I started with something like ten thousand paperbooks in my home (I’m a former bookstore manager, for one thing). I recently had major surgery, and that made me rethink what might happen if I died (even though it was a very low risk surgery, it’s a good specific impetus). I got my will in order.

I also thought about all those books.

Why did I have them? I almost always read e-books now.

What I pictured was that, after my death, my offspring would donate the books.

That would be a considerable burden!

I know where I want the books to go. I want them to go to people who will preserve them and make them available, perhaps for sociological study.

It would be ridiculous for my now adult kid to need to deal with ten thousand books!

I’ve started donating them. I’ve been sending boxes to Loren Coleman’s

International Cryptozoology Museum

I trust Loren: I’ve been a reader of Coleman’s books from the beginning, we’ve had some correspondence, and while we don’t really know each, we did have lunch once.

The museum is a non-profit: I can write off the donations. It’s tough to assess the value, and they often won’t assess as being worth much…one good thing: I can write off the shipping costs, which are not insignificant.

If they are duplicates, ICM could sell them, of course, as a way to raise funds….I’m confident, though, that they would make sure some copy of it is preserved.

Couldn’t I sell these books myself?

Sure…we could do that through eBay or Amazon. That’s a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee that the person buying them would try to preserve them or make them legally publicly available. I’d rather donate them.

I’m certainly going to keep some books: my Doc Savage paperbacks, my original Oz books…those are more like family heirlooms. Somebody in the family might want to read them later. I’m toying with the idea of keeping all the floor to ceiling bookshelves, and “facing” the books…putting them with the front cover showing. That might be cool, like art, but I’m not sure yet.

Yes, I get rid of things. Yes, I donate things.

My criterion isn’t simply if they “spark joy” now. My “Kondophobia” has to do with the idea that people would just indiscriminately toss or even donate things. They’ll follow the old saying, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

One important strategy: do separate the “archives” from the current use. If you have a t-shirt from a concert you saw in college, don’t keep it with the t-shirts you wear every day. That’s going to stress your System One. You want to keep it as art? Frame it, hang it on the wall, just like you would a picture.¬† Just preserving it for your kids? Put it in a box or a special closet.

You want me to watch The Exorcist? I’m there. You want me to watch Tidying Up? You’re on your own… ūüėČ

What do you think? Do you think keeping things is ridiculous, a waste of space? Do you think I should sell my books, rather than donating them? Do you want to keep your “collectibles” as a legacy for your descendants? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. 

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