"Elias Nebula is practicing Japanese but no one knows."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jor-El: What's Wrong With a Prison?

It's very easy to become bored --- disheartened --- actually depressed -- when you are reading about the planet Krypton before it blew up. It's such dull stuff. And at the crux of this energetic maelstrom of dishwater, the eye of this vortex of dullness, is none other than Jor-El, the father of Superman.

Partially it is because we have read the origin story of Superman so many times that we would as lief eat a pincushion as read it once more. We wish these superficial marionettes conjured up before us like so much trivial vapour would vanish. And this is,  indeed, what generation after generation of writers has been striving -- and failing -- to accomplish, and will do so from now til time immemorial -- until, no doubt, the Earth itself blows up in a manner very like the planet Krypton.

Got to try to re-invest the Superman origin story with intrigue. Doomed to fail miserably.

That said, I was reading with, if not pleasure, then a sort of degree-zero lack of boredom, the DC limited series, World of Krypton (1979). This has some surprisingly nice art by Howard Chaykin -- nothing like his later, more characteristic style. It's unusual for an artist to wane as he develops, but that's what Howard Chaykin seems to have done. Mr. Damian Morgan of Brixton Town, England, tenderly loves Mr. Chaykin and has all his copies of American Flagg preserved in a shoebox decorated with ribbons and rosettes and Mr. Morgan will probably read these words with tears in his eyes. That is to be regretted.

In World of Krypton, anyway, all Jor-El's well-trod scientific endeavours and breakthroughs are explored in "loving detail" - the Phantom Zone, anti-gravity thrusters, etc.  One of his "brainwaves" however is in the field of shall we say criminal rehabilitation. It doesn't make sense to me.

Jor-El recommends that criminals should henceforth be placed in suspended animation and launched in bubbles into orbit in the planet Krypton's immediate atmosphere, where they can float above the planet until they have served out their time.

I fail to see the advantage in this. How exactly does it benefit the polis, sage Socrates? It seems downright eccentric to me -- perverse -- unwholesome. Need I point out what is obvious to the followers of one FRANK CASTLE's many adventures, that the essence of capital punishment is that it is punishing -- even if it is not always capital. If the malfeasant miscreants are in suspended animation (being brainwashed by rehabilitating subliminal mind-control tapes, incidentally -- but I shan't even pursue that rather tedious course of leftist media critique here) then they are not actually awake to appreciate the wrong that they have done. What's the point of time passing if you're asleep? It makes of the prisoners mere Rip Van Winkles. They're put in the bubbles and then they wake up and come out of the bubbles. It's like having your wisdom teeth extracted.

Also, floating about unconscious in solitary bubbles above Krypton's surface they are under no threat whatsoever from grisly prison rape, which is -- I naively thought -- a cornerstone of civilized society's deterrents against breaking the law. The threat of prison rape is, in fact, the single greatest deterrent against wrongdoing. Without it, the world will be in anarchy.

 The reason why Jor-El's crackpot scheme prevails is because of the alternative that is even more outre.  The solution offered by Jor-El's competitor, one "Tron-Et" (his real name, apparently), is the ingenious "Matter-Dissolver". This -- as you might imagine -- succinctly "eliminates the problem of the criminal." If Frank Castle was a denizen of Krypton ( -- idea for a Marvel/DC crossover event -- ) he would be a keen supporter of Tron-Et.

Or not: unfortunately this canny device is discredited in the end when it turns out that "Tron-Et" is a master criminal himself who wanted to kill all the criminal lackeys who worked for him, before they could be put in Jor-El's rehabilitator-capsules. He was frightened -- reasonably enough -- that they would emerge from Jor-El's bubbles older, wiser and rehabilitated, and that on emerging from the bubbles, and after only a rudimentary snack, they would go directly to the criminal courts and tell the judge that Tron-Et was a criminal kingpin.

Hence the "Matter-Dissolver."

Hence the success of Jor-El's prison-capsules.

I see that I have taken up quite enough of your time. And I can see from your faces, having read this far, that you agree with me entirely -- Krypton and Jor-El are very boring.



[This afterthought is really only for you comics twerps. It occurs to me now, as I write this, that the origin story of Superman has some resemblances to the origin story of Galactus. Superman is the last survivor of a dying planet -- for Galactus it is a dying multiverse -- but the "core myth" (pardon the dreadful pun) is the same. It'd be like that story where it was intimated that the Phantom Stranger is actually the son of Superman and Wonder Woman.

As I said, dull dry stuff really which I very much regret having to say, but sometimes -- as an academic -- or as a lapsed academic I should say --  I have to "publish" my findings, dry and loathsome as they are, to add them to that infinitely expanding, pulsing pool of knowledge we call HUMAN CIVILIZATION! This pool of knowledge is, as Jor-El would no doubt agree, our only hope for the endurance of a sensitive society.

That and the vile spectre of the ever-present threat of prison rape.]

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Storage Wars Redivivus."

I feel like Rip Van Winkle.
I got fed up setting the DVR to record every episode of Storage Wars and then having to wade neck-deep through re-runs.
By that I only mean that I grew weary of having to delete episodes from "My Playlist": the plight and plaint of the 21st-Century man.

Nevertheless I tuned in to a recent episode and Dave is gone and there's some plantpot named JEFF in his stead. I saw JEFF and I naturally thought, "What the funk---?"
Then I thought, "Have they made an unpopular transplant from Storage Wars Texas, that show that literally nobody watches? This guy has all the personality of a character off Storage Wars Texas -- or Duck Dynasty."

Dave is -- peculiarly -- reduced to "live tweeting" his infantile comments at the bottom of the screen (gems like "I would of bidded more for that locker. I would of. I would of won it.")

The camera seems to really love "Jeff." It's odd because he can't be accused of exuding charisma. In fact what he seems to exude is the power to make his audience want to die.

I looked online to try to dig up information on this strange situation, but of course if you want information the last place you should go to is that notorious, scurrilous House of Lies THE INTERNET. You should go to the library. Go to your local library and get out some dusty old bibliographies. Blow the dust off the old Dewey Index drawers and get elbow deep in it. Blow the dust in the librarian's face. Do the research damn you. Get out the microfiches for goodness' sake. Get the New York Times Index drat you or  Who's Who 2012 and look up "FAT JEFF from Storage Wars."

Is he in there.

No he's not in there.

Jeff's not even in the phone book.

Reason is he lives out of a car.

So maybe some information ("information about such people as JEFF") is post-library, or that should be sub-library.



I looked up the sitch online, anyway, and what I learnt is that the consensus among the Storage Wars fans it seems is that Jeff is a "lying and complaining fool."

"Jeff is ajerk." [sic]

"Jeff is a namy pamby waste of valuable human oxygen."[sic]

Meanwhile Dan Dotson and his wife Laura were really growling unpleasant things at each other in low voices in the drive to the storage facility. It's their new feature in the show, this cockpit-view of the drive to the auction, and it is unsettling. It's quite unusual to see. Quite unseemly. Like witnessing your parents fight -- but only if your father called your mother "a vulgar, brazen high-stepping slattern about town."

Mine never did.

It isn't like that sort of tipsy Housewives of Backwater, Wisconsin Andy Cohen-induced sort of "argufying," where they limply throw champagne flutes at each other -- underarm. It is pretty genuine and heartfelt name-calling and low-blowing and flesh-eating.

Dan Dotson don't say much on that show, when he does he's saying it too fast to be comprehended, and then when he slows down it's to call his wife an unchristian name. It's like he's simmering with rage and the only way he can burn off that rage is by speaking fast.

This season seems to be darker than the last. They've exhausted all their good will in this game and now they're just getting peevish. It's like the last episodes of the Monkees. Or, it's like the last few games of Words With Friends I played when everyone was obviously sick of playing but they were carrying on for reasons unclear to them.

In this episode Barry is reduced to prattle. It's like the light has gone out of his eyes. He turned up on the lot riding this big space-age 1950s bus and he stuck around a while, bid half-heartedly on a couple of lockers, and then he said -- audibly -- Fuck this and went home in his bus. He couldn't give a shit.

When Barry is not buying something asinine like a pair of goggles for chickens or jars for catching flies in then you know the lifeblood has gone out of the dray-horse.  Brandi too. She is glazed over. Are they feeding these people horse tranquilizers? Brandon and Darrel seem to be having a father-and-son primal scene in front of the cameras. Darrel berates Brandon mercilessly. It's like an Arthur Miller play with these two. And Dave, as I said, has disappeared after his peculiar confession on the last episode I saw where he said that he had "been in a bad place for a while now and needed to clear his soul of some bad chakras." He retired to a Zen Trappist community in Palo Alto run by Gary Snyder.

Anyway Jeff, it turns out, is not even "ajerk". He is a dreary boor and worse he's a philosopher to boot. You can imagine him droning on in the postgraduate bar about the nature of reality and truth and Derrida and Wittgenstein til the barstaff want to go home. He said: "Some things, you see them from ten feet away, and you see them from three feet away and it changes the entire complexion of 'em."

That is true.

Jeff also said, with a bowling ball in his hand, "Everyone thinks if it's heavy it's better, right?"


Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Schmendricks Anonymous"

Jeopardy Brought Up-To-Date.  Alex Trebek had a heart attack recently, which was sad news, and I am sorry about that, but the thing also threw up a puzzling remark from the news agencies. They said that the heart attack "came at the end of the current season of Jeopardy." I thought: Jeopardy is filmed in seasons? It's an unceasing, ineradicable ("inalienable") and eternal flow of intelligent ("meaningless") questions. Seasons are as nothing to this trans-temporal juggernaut.

You might as well say that life occurs in seasons.

If that's so, my life must really be close to cancellation by the Network!


It's hard to work out when exactly Alex's coronary occurs in the televisual continuity. Alex occasionally drops in hints and allusions for future scholars that place the particular episode you are watching in a specific locus on the time-space continuum ("Thanks, Johnny. Hope you had a good President's Day Weekend") but he has said nothing on air about his recent "episode".

Guy's that rare thing a professional. He never lets his personality overwhelm him or the audience - keeps it cryptic. I wish that more people on TV -- and in life -- were like Alex Trebek in this respect. Small, light allusions to their private sphere. I hope that you my reader might conceivably insert here the thought, "Well as it happens, M. Nebula, you yourself fit this description almost exactly."

As a consequence of Alex's willful obscurity, I wasn't sure if I was watching pre- or post-coronary Alex. His references to major United States holidays, as noted above, could after all be pre-recorded. We do not expect veracity from our televisual entertainers.

The contestants yesterday were full of classic stuff and nonsense. "Susan" said that she had twice withdrawn her application to appear on Jeopardy because she "didn't have an interesting anecdote to tell after the first commercial break."

Here, on cue, I had the crystal clear thought: "That has never stopped anybody before."

Alex, meanwhile, was even more caustic. He said, "What kind of a mean, uneventful, humdrum existence must you have had that you couldn't come up with some facile dross for this segment?"

The next contestant along was a fat man in a suit jacket called Henry. His story really proved conclusively that Jeopardy contestants have nothing to report of a well-lived, eventful existence.

He prfaced his "story" by rambling on about Andy Warhol's remark about fifteen minutes of fame. He then revealed that he had been sat in a group at a table at a public event when Andy Warhol came and sat at their table and took Polaroid pictures "with his Polaroid camera". This piece of name-dropping of itself wasn't really an anecdote, so Henry rounded it off with a short and expensive comment from the hip on the talent in the room. He said: "After fifteen minutes in Andy Warhol's presence I can report that the man had no personality."

Alex twinkled wordlessly for a moment and then, crushing his microphone under a curled fist, rumbled: "Then what kind of lower pond-specimen does that make you?I merely wonder aloud."


Oedipus Schmendrick Rex.

Across the channel wavelengths, on Hip-Hop Squares, the contestants were waxing even more asinine.

This "tic-tac-toe"-based show usually features a male and a female competing for surprisingly meagre cash prizes, and nearly every episode you have to side with the girls  because the so-called males are such "Summer Break" M.O.R. collegiate gang-rapist bottom-feeders that you have no alternative. Anything else would amount to an alliance with Evil.

I watch the show chiefly to see what Ghostface Killah will say, but when he appears he is invariably in the bottom middle square (where they also put Biz Markie) which for some reason nobody uses. So he spends the whole episode in stoned silence or hollering something inaudible off-mic. They oftentimes put J.B. Smoove in the middle square and by God he drones on.

The people in the bottom line always make the same joke, that they are in the "projects." There usually also follows from this a joke essentially about close apartment living when the person upstairs makes too much noise. Lil Duval remarked that he was going to "snitch to the landlord" about the celebrity above him.

All the collegiate scumbags seem to like DJ Khaled the most. Fat Joe shines as the resident wit more or less by default; as I said in a private letter to an interested party, "the Algonquin Roundtable it ain't."

This week's contestant, "Kevin," unwisely revealed to the assembled Hip-Hop celebrities and the "studio audience at home" that he had his mother's nickname tattooed on the inside of his bottom lip.

You could hear everybody in the studio recoil in revulsion. Not only did he say this but this was indeed reckoned by Kevin himself the sum of what was worth knowing about him.

He should have shown the modesty of Susan on Jeopardy. Instead he actually pulled down his lip and showed his tattoo off to the cameras.

Potential snappy comebacks abounded and I counted them off in my head:

1. "You must really get laid a lot after you pull out your bottom lip in clubs."
2. "You must be really well-liked by girls you meet. Do you show them the tattoo before or after you tell them you prefer chicks with dicks?"
3. "Are you by any chance related to that guy on Jeopardy who baked cookies for each first-night date he had?"
4. "In other words, you're gay."

Even Mariah Carey's househusband-cum-butler, the greazy Nick Cannon, made a crack at Kevin's expense ("You got your mother in your mouth"). Kevin lamely grinned and pointed at him. What the fuck else could he do in those circumstances I suppose.

The upshot of this moral fable is that Kevin lost and that was that and I suppose he went back to his college dorm and folded up his underwear and put it carefully in the socks drawer and then he quietly committed suicide.