Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maybe What Happened to me is this...

My main man Amrish reminded me, indirectly by texting me on the weekend while I was in the library, that I do need to socialize once in a while.
It is odd, after returning from travel, from months and months of agonising isolation that I would be socially sated so soon. In a matter of months I barely think of picking up my phone to call anybody. Perfectly capable of going weeks without any changes of faces beyond those that routine throws me in front of.
I will endeavor to socialise.
But I'm curious as to why I don't want to, I only want to because I know its healthy for my mental wellbeing and good for others if i drag myself away from 'work' for a bunch of minutes a week to actually put in some face time with someone else.
I don't want as in "desire" company. I would describe myself right now as alone, rather than lonely.
Maybe it stems from the way I'm living in a garage and my libido has dissappeared entirely. While I had a bedroom in my folks house I would toy with the idea of dating again though really I like to have my own place to take a girl back to and hate being a mouching permanent house guest particularly as I have a tendancy to end up with girls who burn oils and incense, but as soon as I lost a room any traces of desire to get in the dating scene dissappeared. I have through being denied proper accomodation by my own stubborn "mission" neutered myself. I am asexual.
Perhaps this has made me asocial aswell. Is it that I don't subconsciously feel equal to my friends? Even those that are crappy telemarketers or waiters? Am I embarassed?
Where'd all this fucking pride come from? I've always been the dirty bum around clean beautiful people so long as I have lived.
Curioser and curiouser.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

FOWP Update: Its all Uphill from here

Though if I take in the whole picture, progress is progress and overall I'm closer to the end than I ever was.
I am going to let it sit for a few days, maybe do a few more studies of characters before attempting to draw. I'm confident I can find heaps of reference, and possibly own a fair deal of reference too.
As for the rest, well that's why pencils have erasers I guess.
I'm finished with the "screenplay" if you will. And maybe interestingly, I should talk about the evolution of this process in my mind.

You see, I have another project going on, and that project is a TV show. whether that TV show ends up a reality, or a pie in the sky dream from just another person desperate to be validated somehow as an individual by having a heap of impersonal "fans" witness from a distance a creation of mine, actually I think depends somewhat on other people.
Which means waiting, until those people are generous enough to donate some of their spare time to helping me out.
Here people are different, some people are wired up to love helping people out. I love helping people, its just that there's very little of value I can actually do for people, particularly in these garage days. Some of my friends are like this, they get a kick out of it and it helps me tremendously. These are the 'what would the world be like without...' kind of people. Although I don't know why this thought exercise is so popular with these people. I guess its a kind of compliment, but contimplating a world without people who get a kick out of helping other people is horrible.
The other kind of person, is wired up to not get a particular kick out of helping people. These people don't really exist, I've never really met one. It is an artificial state that usually arises from their lacking the imagination, or my lacking the practical sense, to not see the point of what I'm trying to do. And thus the request for help becomes an annoyance or a delusion.
I would be willing to confront my own delusion, because I'm sure some part of it isn't. The testimony to this, well I live in a tent in a garage. I'm doing this to afford myself the time to do this thing I want to do.
And that's where it was, except having time is great unless you have to wait for other people to find time to help me. And I want their help, I don't want to be a one horse race, even if I do have insanely high standards.

So I wait, but in waiting, I'm choosing to do something that I can take myself, without having to wait on anybody. I also should point out I spend a lot of my time working on a research report for an NGO, so I'm not completely irresponsible... but that's neither here nor there.
You see my blog is something I can control, its a one man how and over the years, I've stopped checking but has been read by some 2000 people or something. Not in entirety obviously but people check it out.
So Fear of a White Planet came up as my one idea that was simple enough, about something meaningful that I could control myself.
Also I rated the idea as like a C- idea, so I didn't mind throwing it away just to have a crack at it. To be honest since its structure and inspiration comes from sci-fi movies, if I had my way I'd make it as a feature movie rather than comic strip. Suspense, sound effects, atmosphere and everything else would pay far more for a non intensive plot than a static visual medium.
Emphasis comes from the size of the panels, and timing as to what occurs at the turn of each page.
Having finished writing the layout though, I'm tentatively going to notch this up to a B- idea. In many ways its failed, in others though its unintentionally clever. It has surprised me. I hope somewhere out there, there is someone who actually wants to read it, that anticipates a finished product, because I think it deserves some minor attention.

As far as stuff I can tell you it is 96 pages long, so it'll be some months yet, at a page a day or more realistically 7 pages a week it'll take me 3 months or more to draw. In context that means that it took me two weeks to write all the scenes, the lines and describe whats going on, to myself. So this next stage is going to be extremely laborious, and I'm not even trying to put out a quality (visually product)
but even after it's drawn, I have to scan it, which means finding a photo-shop compatable computer that I can hook my scanner up to, the labor intensive touch ups, then adding all the speech bubbles which i don't know how to do.
Those last two computer based phases I am not excited about. The drawing I'm looking forward to. It's been so many years since I've held a pencil for any extensive period of time that I'll be curious as to how much I can actually handle in a sitting.

But we all have to have dreams, otherwise we are but consumers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

FOWP Up:Date - True work in progress

By the time I finish this post, I hope to have the written part of FOWP done. As I start writing this post, It isn't done. I'm trying to work out the sequencing of the closing section of the book. Tying the complexity back into simplicity.
But in the torrent of supposedly exciting and stimulating conclusions, the order is no longer apparant to me, so for the first time since I started writing the page layouts, I actually have to step backwards and rewrite them, when I realise that stuff would actually fit better, earlier, or later as it may be. This is annoying because you have to then respace the pages in the minds eye, move page numbers about and reset the visual rythym of the writing process.
Really its amazing I got to page 82 of the drafting process before coming on this problem. In my minds eye I was pretty smoothly filling in panel by panel.


I almost did it, just the 'Epilogue' section to go, which is more of a speech rather than anything creatively demanding.
I don't know though, I am not sure if in its current form the script succeeds emotionally. But hopefully I can finish it later tonight.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good Parenting

Janice pulled me up last weekend for a "conversation"

True to form, Janice was worried about me. She talked about my work situation and shit and I was holding my breath waiting for the finances talk.
But it didn't come instead she said something akin to...

tom* you've got this dream to be a consultant and whatever and I just worry that you're going to give up and go join the corporate world.
But when you give up it won't be because you've tried and failed but that you just never really bothered to try, and try everything

It then went on to cover goals, plans, writing them down and so fourth.
On that front I still haven't managed to do anything. Because I'm not sure what I'm doing.
I have realised though, as my bank account hits almost zero, that I can't afford to be thinking in terms of money, so much as thinking in terms of time.
So at this financial landmark I must admit that I've hit my 'halfway' point of time, and reflect on my time being well spent.
I think though I've probably spent too much of my time trying to make more money that won't buy back that time.
I need to chill out and move backwards.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

tohm's history of punk music

When I got my mohawk, people started commenting that I looked 'really punk' In hindsight I should have expected this as a uniform.
Except in hindsight I am far-sighted, I look further back in the mohawks history to mohicans, actual warriors. The mohawk is also very practical for a receding hairline as one's forehead hair tapers into a point over their late 20s.
Anyway, I resent being associated with punk, that my dress sense might evoke punk sensibilities and imply some membership is purely coincidental. The only crowd in my book less impressive than the punk crowd is the stoner crowd.
People associate punk with uncompromising rebelliousness, raw musical energy, lifting the middle finger to society in general.
Maybe that's true or it isn't it seems a pretty fair impression of what 'People' think punk is.
To me though, when you cut through all the bullshit, punk is about lifting the middle finger to actual musicians.
To me the defining aspect of punks popularity is that it really is a genre where becoming a member of it is as simple as buying the necessary instrument.
Refinements have occured over time, punks hard fast drumming has evolved into one of the harder forms. A punk practicioner of the modern era may even have to know upwards of three chords on their guitars. Occasioanally a punk bassist might have to use two fingers to play.
But in my mind, punk as its practiced today involves some rich kid deciding they want to e a rockstar like the people on TV. They then proceed to their local music store and buy a guitar.
Now in the 60's this may have occured when you watched people like Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton soloing in ear splitting concerts. Their wildly long hair, convoluted clothing and ear splitting mind bending solos setting your tastebuds on fire.
Imagine your dissapointment when it turns out to be pretty hard to extract such sounds from your newly purchased guitar.
Fear not! Punk is here. You can just pick up your instrument and thump out some repetative chord progression, and then whine about how dissapointed you are with society in general.
The Sex Pistols may have been legitimately socially dissaffected youth. But punk is populated by people who's musical development was arrested. And some how punk serves to allow these people a financially viable profession.
In that way, punk to me is the ULTIMATE form of consumerism, maybe Guitar Hero III is the penultimate, but seriously punk allows anyone to simply purchase the rock star lifestyle, and the commodification of said lifestyle means that the people who really do struggle to be the best at what they do, that lock themselves in attack space for a year trying to make their guitar sound like 'electric jelly bread' are forgotten for cheap disposable image.
Imagine the same being in effect for an event like the 100m sprint. Where youth were pandered to in the belief that golden track shoes would some how make you really really fast and not a certain genetic disposition, full time training and maybe designer steroids.
Then I imagine we'd be watching a bunch of white kids with spikey gelled up hair lumbering down the track with cigarrettes in their mouth completing times like 38.6 seconds and the gold going to the one who looked the most coolest or some shit.

I have a rule for sympathy, I can be sympathetic with a person who lacks ability right up to the point that they get paid, and take the fucking money.

As for those sonic engineer/wizards that have become increasingly irrelevant in todays industry, the true future of rock. I have a plan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I saw you, you were incredible

You'd think with the nature of ipods and mp3 players, it would be hard to sneak a song onto your ipod that you'd never heard.
Thus one doesn't generally discover killer songs on their ipod. That's for underground myspace pages and shit.
But touche! When in Tokyo neighbourhood of Akasaka I did more than just gain weight. I also raided brentons ipod for new music I could chuck onto my ipod to sustain me for the coming half year. Not having any new music is like a death sentence for me.
I don't know why, I have proved myself capable of listening to one De La Soul album for 3 months at a pinch before, and a single Faith No More album for 80% of my 'Recently Played' auto generated playlist.
Anyway, suffice to say I grabbed albums with both hands, like a priest grabbing altar boys.
And so I clickety clacked through my selection of albums today and came on 'The Presidents of the USA' and chuckethed them on. Of course like all I enjoyed such novelty rock as 'Kitty' 'Lump' and 'Peaches' and 3 enjoyable tunes on an album aint bad.
And then on came 'The Stranger' and let me say I love songs about strippers. They remind me of how my parents met, and the booth where I was concieved.
What an awesome song.
Anyway today was a good day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The World Will Witness

A year ago Lebron James launched his nike billboard campaign 'The World Will Witness' after the games, we can be left wondering what. Solid team play from team USA? Kobe Bryant doing impressive shit? Dwayne Wade making an incredible recovery from surgery to be the leading individual contributor?
The two superstars of last season Kobe and Chris Paul were rather reserved in their performances. I did see Kobe do an incredible Reverse Alley-Oop and not the kind where a guy at an offencive basket lobs the ball long to a person who dunks from half-court. That would be impossible. But merely that he recieved the ball with his back to the board and leaped behind the basket and still made the shot. Or something.
Anyway, Kobe has continued to impress all by not being a one man army. His new found dedication to being a team player has seen him get to the NBA finals for the first time post-shaq and now won him an Olympic gold medal.
Lebron James is wedged firmly between Kobe as the old guard and Chris Paul as the future of the game, not only winning rookie of the year two seasons ago but being runner up to Kobe Bryant in only his third season.
That means James is shaping up not to be a has been, but a 'Never-was' he will thus be nike's most heavily promoted 'Never-was' ever. Just behind him Carmello Anthony. And with teams in the west being crazy strong, consider the lineups of New Orleans Hornets, Pheonix Suns, LA Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, LA Lakers and the east playing host to the big 3 and defending champions Boston as well as The Derrick Rose lead 'Baby-bulls' and Miami Heats twin towers of power in Beasley and Marion and a resurgent Dwayde it doesn't look particularly good for LeBron. Also assuming that like AFL Heavier bodies slow down faster, LeBron is shaping up to go from a versatile Johnson style shooting guard to a plodding Tim Duncan like workhorse, it doesn't look like it will take long for Lebron to be a ringchasing trade junkie.
But I hate talking about Lebron, almost as much as I hate Nike trying to force him down my throat or the fact that he gets marketing slogans tattooed on his body and somehow has more money than me.
I want to talk about Kobe. Kobe represents my kind of player now, I watched him play Australia in the Quarterfinals. Australia stayed competitive for the first half, more or less while Kobe stayed quiet. Then in the third Period, Kobe came out and blew the game open in about 6 minutes to something like a 14 point advantage. Then he went quiet again, had a bit of back and fourth with Miller, gotta love Miller.
Then Kobe sat down.
Hopefully this precludes a long career for Kobe, where he can become this guy that gets up off the bench at 3-quarter time to blow a game wide open, then sit down again until he is about 54.
In my view, Kobe having a team that should have been capable of winning a Gold medal without him meant that they were only going to ever win a Gold Medal. Simply because any time any team ever got close or looked competive they could just unleash Kobe for A COUPLE OF MINUTES.
I know he was a starter and on court for a lot of time. But to me there were clearly times when he was just playing his part, and then there were times when he was an unstoppable force of nature. Then he'd just simmer right down again.
Aside from Usain Bolt, Kobe was the most exciting athlete at the games, and just like Usain Bolt, both gave me the impression that they won, and had plenty of space to hold back.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

FOWP: Update - tohm enjoys own work and smells own spunk

One thing great about writing a comic is that it takes almost no time at all. I have to say in hindsight I've been kind of stupid. I should have posted more of my artwork than talk about my premis, ideas and emotionality. Because my drawing is probably the hardest thing to replicate, my ideas on the other hand could be ripped off in an instant.
But I must say, I don't think I gave away toooooooooo much, apart from what its about which frankly has been done before.
Now though I'm glad that the writing/drawing/creating process sort of started from both ends and met in the middle.
There's a 'throw out the rules' sort of quality to it all that leaves me feeling kind of smug. Like when you leave your laces undone out of laziness and find it really rather comfortable.
Stuff I wanted to do ages ago, decisions made without thought end up being these obstacles that when I try and piece all the sequences and images together I find them working out well.
Maybe rather than shoelaces, its more like when you think of your ghost of yourself past as some kind of retard and then it blows you away with normal levels of intelligence.
But the fact of the matter is that you can have an idea that you don't know will work until its actually done. And thus just doing it brings pleasure.
Specifically, I won't go into specifics, but as an example I started writing a couple of days ago, worried that not having any particular shape to the structure and just a little plot, I'd put far more thought into the antagonist that doesn't speak and frankly is all style, no substance and had only given the other characters vague cursory thoughts.
I'd just literally envisioned a supermarket aisle labelled 'african civilizations' and reassured myself I could just grab a little of this, a little of that and put them together.
Unfortunately the antagonist again occupied most of my thoughts, the story really is for the audience the antogonist metaphorically represents. I really just wanted some sympathetic people to throw in front of it to kill.
So I really went in overprepared for the shallow mindless side and somewhat daunted about the depth of the piece. And don't get me wrong, this is a comic, there is not much room for depth, everything has to fit in speech bubbles so no 'emancipation proclomation' gets uttered. Fucken even words like 'inevitable' and 'hypothesis' are a stretch.
So I'm surprised that how little thought was provided to pull it all together.
Furthermore, subconciously I made stylistic decisions that would fucken clash and as much as I hate it, rationalization is working well in the creative process. That is I started with the decision and then discovered through writing the reasons why.

The moral of it all, is that I'm surprised by how with such a lack of structure it all works well. To talk of process, I started with a bunch of scenes. To try and get the jumble out of my head and into some kind of order I just wrote every general idea whether it be a single image I wanted or a whole sequence of events onto cards and ended up with 13. Then just shuffled them around.
I'm aiming to keep it under 100 pages, in order to give me some hope that I can finish this by the end of the year, and realised that some cards or chapters took twix as long as I had anticipated and some of the other ones I had thought more involved ended up taking only 1 or 2 pages.
But as I write its ended up this way for a reason. Because I'm drawn in. I don't find any scenes particularly labored, generally whn I've stopped feeling it, I stopped writing it and went back to see how far I could hit delete.
It's all messy, yet still progresses faster than I ever expected. I'm sure I'll have to go back when I start sketching out the actual page layouts, but I still think overall it shouldn't be too taxing on a reader.
So full steam ahead. The writing should be done by the end of the week. Then back to 'The Show' for a rewrite, and hopefully I can unimmerse myself long enough to try tracking down Bryce and make some forward progress there. Then onto drawing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Self Evident

The Australian ran a story today, that is also the 'Headline' running on the newsagents poster boards 'Business Joins Revolt' read the article for yourself.
My only comment is this, the problem with 'Climate change' is that it is 'Unsustainable' and thing about unsustainable is that the world can not actually support it.
So the Australian Business Council has looked at the books of the biggest polluters and then calculated the impact of an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as proposed by the Rudd government for implementation in 2010.
The fact that the Australian Business Council has concluded that some of the businesses would have to shut down, cut jobs or move overseas if an ETS is introduced suggests that they might be 'Unsustainable'
What I don't understand is that the Australian (that ran a campaign about being an "informed" Australian) seems to give off the vibe that this is somehow bad.
To me what this suggests is that 'If some businesses actually had to pay the cost of the damage they are doing they would become unfeasible' is the point of an ETS. I mean surely at some point tackling climate change means that we will have to stop doing some things we are currently doing right?
So what does this prove if not that the ETS is already working? That some industries are concluding that the cost of their business is too great? If they want to move to China then go right ahead. The resources will still be here, the pollution can be there for as long as they can sustain it.

Yes, these are the Garage Days

I decided it was time for a change, my travels are over and I have settled into a form of temporary impermanence in my life. That is to say, I now live in a garage. It is kind of depressing, it pretty much puts the kaibosh or however the fuck its spelt on a lovelife, and at the same time I'm pretty sure with most of my ex-girlfriends this lifestyle decision of mine would have led to pretty big arguments.
Fortuitously they aren't around anymore, and here frankly is the upside:

1. A new sense of focus

Living in the garage does not shout out 'winner' in my or anyone's minds, and I know that one of the chief drawbacks of living with one's parents is that it creates a security blanket that leads to procrastination. Hence a lot of people like my brother let years of their lives fly by without achieving anything because there's no rent to pay and no risk. I badly don't want this to happen to me, so being homeless puts things in sharp contrast.

2. jump rope

Overnight, my main source of entertainment went from the powerful computer/television combo and my budding insatiable appetite for more movies, more tv shows and more entertainment all round. And whilst most olympic events hardly qualify as entertainment, and the ones that do are either over so quickly (100m sprint) or so one sided (USA vs any other team in the basketball) that the olympics is infact becoming more and more like a highschool athletics meet. But exit television and computer (I have to go into RMIT to update this blog now) and enter jump rope. I wonder what happened to that jump rope for heart competition? at anyrate after a month of Garage Days my heart should be in fine condition. I make a game out of it, pick an album on my ipod and then try and see how long I can jump rope for.

3. No need for an alarm

Yes every morning I am generally woken up by the numerous noises around me. Some of these I know will fade over time like when the trams start running again in the morning. But others are probably not going to ever go away, like when my dad kickstarts his harley. This morning was amusing because he was considerate and rolled it out of the garage before starting it, but then I had to listen to him trying to start it for close to 15 minutes due to the uneven ground outside the garage port.

4. Solidarity

Being homeless, or maybe just psuedo yuppie homeless gives me a greater sense of connection with the socially dissaffected people of the world, or those living in abject poverty. Except I get a bathroom, and these people would probably resent me throwing away all the opportunities I had handed to me on a silver platter that were won for me by long dead ancestors who dispossessed indigenous people and used state sanctioned terror to secure more natural resources.
At any rate, I feel blacker.

5. Low carbon footprint

Combined with cycling, I now have no heating, airconditioning or electronic appliances, I may have half a chance at undoing all the damage my flying around the world wrought on the environment.

That said, it is not altogether pleasant living in a garage, I'd be a fool to recommend it. THAT said though, it makes it even easier to go 'full blown' homeless and write some 'Down and Out in Paris and London' George Orwell style, and if I end up half as famous as George Orwell, or contribute half as much to the advancement of mankind as a moral being then I'll be laughing.
Watch this space! Because I'm thinking this will be great for cliched biographies like JK Rowling, Oprah and all them rags to riches story. I'm sure they had legitimate excuses to be impoversished though, where as I just don't want to work a traditional job, nor waste my money on a stupid landlord desperately trying to turn their speculative blunder into an actual investment.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where's the Joke

I've mentioned before that there is nothing more white than analysis. But that doesn't make it wrong.
Anyway a joke:

Q:'why did the chicken cross the road?'
A:'to get to the other side'

To paraphrase Mark Twain I recently realised this joke is funnier than it sounds.
Because its a question of where rather than what.
It's cracking me up right now.
And it also perplexes me to the functioning of the human mind, how little we know.
Sure I could write opinion about fancy expensive advetising like Harvard*.
Instead though I'd like to look at this ancient badass meme of a joke because it is a badass that has managed to perpetute itself farther affield than many, what one could consider more worthy samples of humour.

So firstly just picture two people, two people who presumably have jobs, loved ones, burdens on there mind, places to be, things to do etc. Any two people for that matter and one of them asks 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'
You see in my mind, the joke has already happened.
Because the one that doesn't ask the joke is faced with this question, and faced with this question will make a number of assumptions... possibly including but not limited to...

1. There is a good reason for asking this question.
2. I presumably could deduce the answer.
3. Given 2, there must be a logical motivation for the chicken to cross the road.
4. If there isn't though there must be some ironic twist.
5. Assuming 1 and 4, this must somehow relate to our present situation.

And this may take a couple of seconds, or maybe even half a minute, before the askee asks the asker with optional confession:

'I don't know why?'

Really maybe though this is two confessions, the 'I don't know' is a confession to not having the mental capacity to explain why the chicken crossed the road.
The 'why?' confesses that you actually consider 'why did the chicken cross the road?' a relevant and logical question.
Then when the asker tells the askee 'To get to the other side.' it all unravels in the askee's mind.

1. Well that is plainly self evident.
2. The chicken is completely irrelevant, it could have been anything, why the fuck did he ask about a chicken, specifically?
3. If he knew the answer why did he ask the question?
4. That has nothing to do with our current circumstances.
5. What a complete waste of time.
6. I thought it would be something else, I thought there was a logical reason to ask that question, when in fact there was none.

And all of this, somehow mysteriously culminates into a reaction, which some may find amusing.
I was in Beijing with Parky and his lovely girlfriend whom I shall call Nadia because she was russian and I've forgotten her name.
And parky said to me 'How much farther do you want to stay here?' which was a stupider mangling of english than the ESL students and friends I'd spent the past 3 and a half months hanging around with.
And I found this amusing too. Because it was inane.
You see to me, the joke contained within the seemingly perplexing question 'why did the chicken cross the road?' is in the asking of a question at all, a question that tricks someone into expecting insight, or even humour but contains neither.
Similar to the 'Why did they bury the fireman on the hill?' joke works on the exact same principle 'because he was dead.' but the fireman question to me seems to have a certain blunt sophistication to it that the chicken joke lacks, and therefore is inferior because of its sophistication.
Taking the same principle and adding value are the very wrong series of baby jokes, probably the starting point** being 'what's blue and at the bottom of a pool?' like the chicken joke the askee is left with a question that they might assume has a logical answer they can deduce, but just as knowing the chicken's motivations are unknowable so too is the question so devoid of detail that one could never confidently arrive at an answer. The reveal of 'A dead baby.' is both humourous in its inanity but also because it is unexpectedly graphic and horrible, planting a really unpleasant image in the mind that leaves you with the question 'how is that a joke?' and precicely that thought is what makes it funny.

And in that I think is a positive message to carry with us for the rest of our lives. Much better than 'Buy land they aren't making any more of it.' was the a different insight by the same man 'mankind has only one really effective weapon against evil, laughter' by Marky Mark Twain. The quotes aren't exact because I can't be bothered looking them up.
But I'm thankful that in some darwinian sense somewhere humanity required a universal gene that allowed us to laugh in the face of our logic being confounded. That the unexpected bring us pleasure may be our single greatest offering to life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

FOWP Update: This is not my beautiful house

I'm reading Alan Moore's guide to comic book writing. I've been reading it along with other more practical guides, because it's something new for me, but not so different from writing plays or screenplays.
Of course I am stricktly amateur in all writing endeavors. But its been interesting having to write instructions for myself to interpret as an artist as well, all the time having neither confidence in my ability to draw or to write. Kind of a fucked from square one.
But Alan Moore's guide is practical in a non practical sense. It doesn't outline any techniques that are easy to grasp, but it is reassuring and an immensely positive affirmation that out there there are human beings that think about their job. That shouldn't be taken lightly, people who think are the best of us and move the world for the most-part forward.
But anyway I was thinking about what I've read today in chapter 2 about thinking about your audience. Alan Moore directs you towards the joke as an example of some point of basic humanity, some universal appeal. It reminds me of Rod (I think) saying that the best decisions are emotional ones.
The joke is an example of something that whilst it amuses us personally even as a creator of the joke it passes a test that if we as individuals find it amusing then chances are someone out there will too.
And so I thought I'd share with you the emotion I really want to tap into, that to me is both a sick joke and immensely distressing.
It happened in Rotterdam, as on a beautiful crystal clear Spring day I was walking along a street to see a man about fixing my bike wheel. (I just uploaded the incredibly poor photos of how many spokes I broke on my bike called Rosante) and I'd been listening to the John Butler Trio's album Grand National.
I had also just finished reading 'Deterring Democracy' by Noam Chomsky, suddenly on the track 'Good Excuse' the preamble to the chorus popped up and I heard 'You don't even know who's side your fighting for...' and suddenly, suddenly I was horrified, upset and alone.
And I wouldn't say I burst into tears, but I more glazed up like a child being told they were adopted. As everything I'd read about these democratic nations, basically bullying and reigning terror on small impoverished nations, subjecting their people to a choice between economic slavery and a life of constant abuse with no hope of respite, I felt complicit.
I felt complicit and betrayed.
Much like if you were to suddenly discover that the substance called meat comes from cute little animals. For me the substance called wealth came from using superior military might to deny other societies the basic humanity we supposedly stalwartly defend.
So this sick, upsetting feeling is what I hope to capture in Fear of a White Planet, and as such even though my friend Andy has already asked to be 'first reader' when its done, and I am going to try hard to deliver it. I am actually aiming for a book that people wont like, sure some smartarse knowalls like me may like it, they may get the joke. But hopefully for most it will be a sickening, disgisting, upsetting book that offends them highly, makes them think less of me and they throw down wishing they could unread it.
Fortunately its not a commercial venture. But hopefully I see it as positive, that someone who reads and understands it, will be empowered to not subscribe to nationalism, defending freedom and other rhetoric based ways we try to avoid dealing with our own humanity, and just confront humanity and seek real and positive change in the world.
Just like...

Oh come on. Price. There are a lot more important
problems than Sri Lanka to worry about. Sure our foreign
policy is important, but there are more pressing problems
at hand.

Like what?

Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow
down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world
hunger. But we can't ignore our social needs. either We
have to stop people from abusing the welfare system. We
have to provide food and shelter for the homeless and
oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights while
also promoting equal rights for women but change the
abortion laws to protect the right to life yet still
somehow maintain women's freedom of choice.

The table stares at Bateman uncomfortably.

We also have to control the influx of illegal
immigrants. We have to encourage a return to traditional
moral values and curb graphic sex and violence on TV, in
movies, in pop music, everywhere. Most importantly we have
to promote general social concern and less materialism in
young people.

Price chokes on his drink. Everyone is silent and

Patrick, how thought-provoking.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking the dog for a walk and others

It seems being positive for a week can sustain a couple of months worth of bitter, lonely, small cynicism.
And taking a dog for a walk is something inately positive that all can do. Someone wrote recently about their perplexedness that someone could actually like dogs at the expense of cats and vice versa. And I must admit it does seem like their could be room for both. Correlation vs causation maybe.
One thing I've never heard of anyone doing is taking a cat for a walk. Taking a dog for a walk though is something that whilst it seems like a pain in the arse sometimes, like when its raining is something you can get over.
Because dog's are animals, and they don't particularly give a shit about rain when they get to pretend to be hunting.
I've always had a weak sense of smell, a key difference betwixt me and my aspergher's "suffering" brother. So the idea that a dog gets more out of being walked than just plain exercise, but is actually looking for some stimulation for their keen nostril pallet I find really novel.
One day I would like to go walkabout with a dog as company, though I imagine this is severely environmentally degrading. But you know walking a dog is probably the nicest thing you can easily do for another living being. They love it more than taking your grandma out for tea and crumpets, and you can do the same shit every day. You'll never see such enthusiasm.

Another thing I realised from mr.john's comments is that cycling culture isn't universal. He is indeed right, as a cyclist one is foolish to trust humanity in Australia and I imagine much of southeast asia.
But not so in Netherlands, and probably Denmark when you go there. And I should say on the positive side that you may if you look carefully have noticed that the stretch of road between Melbourne University and RMIT Swanston st in Melbourne has been restructured to be 'Copenhagen' style or indeed 'Entire Netherlands' style bike roads. This consists of moving the parking spaces out from the curb and putting the bike lane inside (as opposed to on top of or outside of) the parking lane.
And while I don't think people are really clued into the purpose of this not insignificant development, I can tell you, even when pedestrians used to 'normal' roads step into my path without looking on this stretch of road, I as a cyclist don't consider this a failed council initiative at all.
Because plain and true I would rather slam into a pedestrian at 40km an hour on my bike than into a car door at 40km an hour on my bike.
That sounds negative, but coming back to John's comments, indeed when I got into a car last night to drive to the supermarket (to buy food for my poor neglected dog) I realised that I was driving the car like I was still on a bicycle.
This manifests in several ways, for one I think 40km an hour is plenty fast enough. I rarely jumped out of third gear. I probably stopped at many yellow lights that I should have run and gunned. Furthermore I was freaking out at having to constantly adjust my depth perception to approximate how close I was to hitting something with my bulky car exterior.
And I think this serves to highlight just how different the cyclist mind developes from the car driving mind.
I think I forget when I run a red light on my bicycle, or cruise down studdly park road, or ride along the tranquil yarra trail, or climb studley park road in my big gear that people aren't actually jealous of my lifestyle. I assume they are. I forget that many people haven't ridden a bike in years, or tens of years, and many that do have ridden a bike only in the context of 'spinning' and fail to realise, that riding a bike is really fun.
Yes, I do believe people should be jealous of my being able to ride a bike everywhere. But I forget that people are looking at me from car windows in the rain and thinking 'that must be really miserable' and on the upside maybe appreciate having a car a bit more. But they can't possibly realise that the only thing that makes rain unpleasant for a cyclist, is not riding. Or in other words, standing still at the lights. Apart from that you aren't particularly cold, because of the exercise and the streets actually look a lot better wet.
I mean maybe this isn't a positive message, but Melbourne Council plans to make the CBD cyclist and pedestrian exclusive, cycling is fun. It's much more fun being the engine than riding the engine. You shouldn't feel sorry for cyclists. Cyclings the fucking best, I am convinced that eventually in cities at least a critical mass will be reached in Australia that people start to view cycling as I do.
It's when I assume they do already, and aren't completely ignorant of how great cycling is, that I get pissed off at their stupidity. But really I don't think I can justifiably get angry when people haven't experienced themselves sitting in a car and longing to be free of the enormous ineffecient weight of chasis and combustion engine and get on a lightweight compact bicycle and ride free.
So do yourself a favor, yes you have to constantly be alert for every kind of conceivable way a pedestrian or driver might inadvertantly kill you, or at least make you do a face plant in the asphalt, but once you get that juggling act down, it really is just plain fun.
When's the last time you had fun driving to work?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oh Great Principle

You don't start with self-esteem in the tank, it has to be built, grown and invested in. It has to be maintained, it depreciates over time.
Lately, and I mean really recently I've been feeling a bit like this:

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping you and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.

Which is a bad sign in my book because Patrick Bateman is the main character of American Psycho, somewhat popular film and book I really want to read in the same way I want to finish Goedel, Escher, Bach an eternal golden braid. Because it seems so few people can. But whereas Goedel, Escher, Bach (GEB) is hard to finish because the mathematical demonstrations of the incompleteness model require greater and greater attention until my feeble unmathematical mind goes pop, American Psycho is the one book where people I respect as having strong stomachs say that 'they felt like vomiting' from reading it. This I can't comprehend, somebody must have read it, out there or at least been given the gist of it by the author. But frankly I'm just curious as to 'how bad can words on a page be*' I can understand not wanting to look at certain graphic pictures, but writing?

Anyway sidetracking aside, my sense of self seems literally diminished, and this caught me off guard as soon as I had figured out what it was that was bugging me. I am disconnected from the community, and not because I have indulged in rampant consumerism.
It seems ironic now, but if I was a consumer this would have forced me to get a steady job in a big office with co-workers and I would feel more connected than working at a small NGO on a temporary short term contract.
Ironically my need to pursue happiness through dead-possessions would put me into more contact with living people.
But what is surprising to me, but not so surprising in hindsight is that I thought I had figured out who I was and what I was good for a year or two ago. But to paraphrase the simpsons we aren't human "beings" but human "doings"
My sense of self needs reinforcing through recognition for what I produce. I need to produce something of value for society.
Where does this leave me? doing the exact same thing I have been doing. But now I am enlightened as to why I actually need to get something done.

*this seems somehow an ironic question to feature on my blog, fortunately the words here aren't printed on pages.

It's Hard to be nice, its hip to be sqaure

Mostly, I'm angry at myself. I wake up some mornings and feel comfortable. And this ironically bugs me all day. I'm comfortable.
I left Honda to pursue more risk, I said that in my exit interview. And yet while travelling the risks were aparant, but they were all downside if you no what I mean? They weren't productive risks, or maybe I was too stupid to see how they were productive. I wasn't sure what I was learning, so the risk was really just getting sick, being mugged, being cold, being miserable and I encountered these semi-regularly. It is true that if I hadn't taken the 'risk' of travel and had these things happen to me I wouldn't have enjoyed seeing the world.
I understand now that taking a small risk of spending money and enjoying travel seems to have been a lower risk than saving money and buying a house. Except that I understand now that in the past years that that would have been possible for me, the risk of me making any money out of property where very small and the risk of me losing everything I had earnt thus far and everything I had been given as well.
You see that's my job now, or a large part anyway. I have to look at this over and over again.
In 2006 there were 180,361 vacant Separate houses, semi-detached dwellings, and units or apartments in Melbourne. They have not disappeared if anything the number of empty houses built since then would have grown. And watching the media coverage of the housing affordability and rental crisis is like watching two blind men trying to draw something on an etch-a-sketch.
And climate change, the fact is that all any individual has to do about these things is something. Yet I see people mostly doing nothing. Even when the scientific community is rallied all around climate change, the government spends its energy trying to figure out how to make petrol cheaper by 5c per litre.
So its hard to be nice. When you are disappointed with yourself, and disappointed with humanity, and just feel unempowered.
This is what get's me yelling at the TV.
And of course now I live with my parents, and they give me a lecture about being negative all the time.
ABout how it leads to depression.
I see their point, I know it to be true.
But my problem isn't that I'm criticizing, its that I'm not doing anything about it. But I am doing many ineffective things about it. Like complaining to other unempowered people.
But you see this is the problem, a lot of my problems are perpetuated by individual acts, and a lot of my problems are your problems too.
I'm riding a bike, everywhere. That's something I'm doing right.
But from here and there where I want to be, there's a lot of stuff I need to do that needs to be figured out how to do it first.
I do know from observation though, that its easier for me to be nice when I am quite happy, and that things that make me happy are:

Having my own place. I guess maybe the fact that I have to move into a garage is bugging me more than I care to admit. I guess its fair though, I don't make any money (yet) and can't win the rental war. I kind of resent though that the onus of the shortage of rooms was placed on me, when my brother has been living rent free for a number of years and now just pays a token amount and could quite easily afford to move out, that ticks me off. But a masochistic part of me also says that living in a garage will be a poigniant reminder that I actually need to do stuff if I want my life to be viable.
Someone right now is paying for my accomodation, and it isn't me. 1 dollar 1 vote.

Having a girlfriend. Ironically I care about my own welfare a lot less when someone else is enjoying it. Right now, not many people are enjoying my state of wellbeing. But when I have a girl, there's a productive outlet for a lot of my energy, I spend more of my niceness, get more encouragement to be nice and find its easier to be nice to other people.

Basketball. Another weekend passes without me playing any basketball. I need to be playing basketball again. It really is true of my volunteering, I get a lot more out of it than the people I supposedly help.

On the upside, I really do live the 7 day weekend, and by that I mean, I find I am happier to work any day of the week, because under my current arrangement my personal life is respected, weekends are a lot less precious, so I can work when I am productive. I think my productivity is at the same level as when I was at Honda, except I work half the hours. When I see progress with my own output, I'll feel a lot better too.

FOWP and other projects continue. And my inspiration expands exponentially. I have enough projects to work on, that I'm sure if I didn't have another idea, I could still pursue what I have on my list now till my mid 30's and then retire. That would kill me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Whatever you do don't fucking wave at me

Riding into Melbourne at night is a rare pleasure. Particularly from where I'm coming from. It was 5 but the city had already started to light up last night as I coasted down Studley park road.
I then embarked on a stretch of more or less flat lands along Johnson st. Cruising along through one intersection, two intersections and then low and behold the third intersection has a green light.
There are no cars around. Ahead of me, one solitary sensible car trying to turn right (theirs) across my path.
I am visible, and I think I make eye contact with them as I coast into the intersection.
Then I clench my fists around my brakes and come to a sliding holt as my wheels lock up leaving me a meter shy of where the car has briefly paused.
They briefly paused because had I not braked so hard that was the spot where their car would have been parked on my mangled carcass.
I glare through my angry looking glasses at the driver, a young female in her late 20's or early 30's.
You know maybe she had seen me, maybe she hadn't. My bike is black after all and I hadn't put my lights on next. But it was afterall me that had saved my life, what she did next though was what I hope to promote through some kind of awareness week as the worst response a driver can possibly give to a cyclist they almost kill.
She smiled and waved at me, then drove on.

What the fuck is that?

This is not the first time it has happened. It is quite a regular response from people who try and fail to kill me, or even just slight my rite of way.
What are you trying to say? What are all these people trying to say?

Is it just some ploy to fool the bystanders into thinking we are friends, and that this 'almost killing me' is some kind of inside joke we have.

Is it their way of saying 'oh hello! I see you now'

Is it their way of telling me 'don't worry it's nothing' as they casually dismiss their attempt at superflous'h'acide.

Is it their way of saying 'Thanks for saving yourself and sparing me a lifetime plagued with your death on my conscious.'

It seems overly friendly.

This is how it comes across to me 'I don't want to admit I'm stupid' or 'I really did nothing wrong here, though your upset somewhat flustered and adrenalin shot expression suggests otherwise' and just a general lack of accountability.
This impression of mine, wrong or not is usually reinforced by the driver hastily speeding away without looking in their rear view mirror.
The last near collision I had with a car was coming down Kew junction, I was weaving my way towards the lights and my sleeve caught a yellow Honda's rear view mirror. It snapped it forward. Luckily the things are designed with this give. It wasn't like I was Batman on his increadibly mobile mp3 player knocking off mirrors like they were crime itself.
I looked back and made my most apologetic gestures, then tried to back my cycle up, uphill to fix it for him. The driver was asian, so luckily having been to Japan I know excuse me is usually accompanied by bowing and lifting ones open palm parrallal to the nose.
Something like this from a driver I would accept, but if you really want to get in the clear with a cyclist here is what you should do.

1. Stop your car and make eye contact with the cyclist.
2. Raise your arms up in a shrug with palms outward in the universal 'I dunno sign'
3. Adopt the facial expression that grovellingly says 'I'm so sorry'
4. From the safety of your chasis, you can say out loud, or mime if you are too cowardly these words 'I'm so sorry, I am such a fucking douchebag, I thought I was so important, and in such a rush that I needlessly tried to save a few seconds and almost killed you'
5. For extra points you can bash your head against the steering wheel, OR recite the road rule you know made it stupid.

In my case the lady could have indicated that she knew that A) I had right of way as oncoming traffic continuing in my path where she was turning across it. B) that there was no rush for her to turn as any car that enters an intersection is legally entitled to complete its crossing, and may I point out at its own leisure.

I ignore the most important point though, why should anyone care about cyclists? Why would anyone be interested in actually meaningfully apologizing to them? Surely the priority is to speed off and spare your own embarassment, maybe get far enough away to actually get angry at them, maybe she thought 'That idiot, can't he see I was complementing him? I turned thinking he would take way longer to get into the intersection, the fact that I almost killed him was testimony to his own incredible speed'

For this I don't have an answer. Because really, cyclists and drivers are the same people, somebody who is a stupid, irresponsible or just plain bad driver is probably going to be a stupid, irresponsible or just plain bad cyclist.
Even as people take to bicycles especially now fixed gears have made them fashionable, this means the war will shift from sensible drivers caught out by stupid cyclists and sensible cyclists caught out by stupid drivers, to sensible cyclists caught out by stupid pedestrians and sensible pedestrians caught out by stupid cyclists.
In other words, the war isn't about choice of transportation, but betwixt smart people and dumb people. It just happens that in the inner city, a bicycle is a really smart choice of transportation and a car a really dumb one, so that tends to misrepresent the sides as it were.
But really if you catch yourself being stupid behind a wheel, watch out because soon you'll have to get out of that car and be a pedestrian, and then momentum is on the cyclists side.
Also because a cyclist is actually faster and more mobile than cars in many sections of Melbourne, namely Sydney Rd, Victoria St, the entire CBD and well fuck enough of this emotive rant.

George Orwell said:

The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.

And these are very wise words for cyclists to remember also.
After the incident I actually thought that my shmancy new kevlar tires had just paid for themselves seeing that just two days earlier I had my worn slicks on that would have twice the braking distance, then contemplated my insurance status wondering if this was actually true.
Also I'm actually going to label this post 'crash' for the first time just so I can start keeping track of how often stupid people almost kill me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comics: I'm so fucken sick of comics

Which is probably why my blog will never be about anything. But I did enjoy my first theme week. I have in mind a topic for next week, that Harvard judging by his last post may enjoy.

But having just read fat-cyclists week worth of race reports on the Leadville 100 I thought I might talk about my race day with Shonesy up in Sydney on the weekend in similar style...

Sydney the prematch experience

Because of the City2Surf I end up in Sydney far more often than I'd like. But I noticed curiously enough that Sydney or at least the parts of it I see is much more iconic than Melbourne. As in Milk Bars still seem to exist, whereas Melbourne is all 7-Eleven now. Since I've become poor I appreciate 7-Eleven a whole lot less. Or maybe its just inflation, but when I was overseas, in every other country but Japan I missed 7-Eleven the most, even in the US. Japanese combini's deserve to rule the world. Put a Lawson's on every street corner and at least 3 times down each street I say!
Anyway, perhaps it was the luxury of having Suzanne the Van come and pick me up in the airport, having a cosy home with fluffy carpet to crash in, but Sydney didn't piss me off much this time, because I was looked after.
That said, on Friday night Shona was working so Greg and I stayed in and watched the opening ceremony, where we enjoyed not seeing's adds they had paid and booked with Channel 7, and Channel 7 the spineless coward mirror to the Australian publics spineless cowardly visage decided to just not run the ads and then lie like some chinese official about them.
But this I was blissfully unaware of. Still Shona and I have opposite lifestyles, she likes doing stuff, and I enjoy doing nothing. So sitting and watching TV suited me fine.
We then spent the Saturday in the car playing music, including Salt 'n' Pepa's "Shoop" and I can't remember what else until we were surrounded by the calm serenity of a national park who's name like most places I've been escapes me now.
And we wandered among the mangroves and some rocks, and once again I marvelled at the beauty of outdoors, quietly contemplating how wonderful and necessary National Parks are whilst vocalising only a desire to eat.
This amazingly took up most of the match day. I managed to quietly object to the notion of going out drinking and dancing before the race, which Shona saw the sense in, again that desire to do stuff, and not only do stuff but stuff with other people at odds with my desire to meditate on my race day strategy.

My race day strategy:

Was to stick with Shona, to ensure she didn't beat me to the Finish Line, she had afterall been training where I had only been steadily gaining weight over the last several months. I was trying to come up with good seeded excuses, like Cadel Evans going to the Olympics (and let me just say, for all the dedication, training and heartache Cadel goes through preparing for the tour de france, he doesn't deserve to win it until he cleans up his media presentability to be more of a hero like Lance Armstrong and less of a winging bitch kid).
Here again though Shona had me beat, she aparantly had some dodgy hip that had been playing up recently. I on the other hand had proved my fitness to myself on the preceding wednesday and then foolishly told people about it, creating the expectation that I would finish the race.
There was one area I had Shona trumped in, and this after she advised me 'I don't take advice on how to dress from you' which I seem to recall her telling me the year before.
But I had my giraffe stockings, and my loud-by-running-shoe-standards racing flats with the tartan print, combine this with my stupid haircut and Kareem Goggles and I would surely garner more attention than her throughout the race.
In the end my pre-match strategy came down to ditching the Kareem Goggles convinced they would fog up after 1km and piss me off for the rest of the race.

The day arrives

I woke up to my alarm, I had been enjoying sleeping even though I have pretty boring dreams, and not bland dreams quickly forgotten, but dreams about teaching elementary calculus, or commenting on the economy. That kind of boring.
Case in point last night I had a dream about a girl I had a crush on in highschool, she and I got trapped in an elevator and I spent the dream trying to have a conversation with the technician on the other end of the emergency intercom.
That has to win a trophy in boringness.
But I got up and had a breakfast of toast with Jam. I remembered hearing something about Jam samwiches being good for energy or something, then I remembered this was for diabetics.
Shona then went and injured herself again (I swear your honor) the details of which I won't go into, nevertheless it revealed my ineptitude in an emergency. Fortunately for her sake, though painful it wasn't an emergency. Could I have helped more than I did? Almost certainly. Have I learned anything from the incident? Ashamedly no.
This delayed us, so we bundled into the van.
Hitting the streets of Sydney before 9am revealed only one kind of person on the streets of Sydney, runners in the City 2 Surf. We had some Beyonce pump up music that was rudely interrupted by our arriving at the destination.
Then we discovered someone had written 'Prick' on the side of Greg's van. I like to think they were talking about me though.
Now onto the most important and memorable part of the race...

Standing around at the starting line

Not since pushing Miki single file through the New Years eve ost fireworks bridge to Flinders St Station have I had to tackle a crowd so big. Runners where spilling over into the park, waiting to literally jump into the race.
Shona and I took the stairs, and then again single file I cut like a knife through butter until we found some breathing space.
Then we stood around for 30 minutes+ chatting with the lady infront of us that was clearly planning to walk.
70,000 people occupying only 3 narrow streets is something to behold. And when the first group starts one can observe a torrent of people charge down a street. And like the dumb wilderbeasts human beings are I was left with a burning desire to also charge forth to wherever it fucking was they were going.
I had a blue bib number by the way, which meant I should have started in the second group, but in order to run with shona I started in the third group the green group. Maybe it was the other way around, anyway the original plan had been for Shona to start in my group but we were foiled by the introduction of technology.
I just point this out because I'm sure during the race a bunch of people noticed my different coloured bib number and drew the conclusion that they were doing really well. They weren't what they were witnessing was me beating them.
Anyway about 20 minutes after the race had officially started our group got to go.
200m back into the pack though, one embarrassingly gets overexcited and starts running when the gun goes. But because the person infront of you isn't moving very fast you compensate by putting all that running energy upwards. Then shortly after the starting gun fires you start walking again. So if asked 'did I run the whole way' technically speaking, no. Because I looked and felt stupid running at the start.
But 200m later we were off.

Passing People giving up fills me with pride

Well technically not everyone is giving up. There is a hilarious 'Back of the Pack' category where people put on crazy costumes, come with prams full of babies, or sport grey hair and bumbags, that is designated the last starting time by virtue of their tendancy to move slowly, like bad cholestorol in an artery.
Shona though was dismayed at the number of people walking from the get go that were in front of us. I naturally have contempt for anyone more organised than myself, and these people being infront of me meant they had managed to turn up earlier and wait around longer for the start of the race.
But I do question these people who are both organized enough to turn up early, yet not organized enough to either train to run the event or register for the group that is intended to walk the event.
Anyway the first 6 km of the event is all about dodging people. Not all of them walkers but there's a bunch of different paces people run at, and some people do stupid things like walk uphill and only run the flats and downhills. This is stupid because it actually hurts your knees more to run downhill than uphill.
Anyway trying to stick with Shona made this doubly interesting as we cut and weaved through the herd yet tried to stay together.
Many times I looked round in a panic. Sometimes I thought shona was running in her boring black outfit next to me, only to turn around and find it someone else entirely. But we stuck together just as good waffles do.

No-one is safe from perversion

Speaking strictly for myself, one great thing about a race with 70,000 participants are all the hot people running in it. So along with forgetting how far you've run because you've been trying to avid people and trying to find a place to actually run at your own pace, both constantly passing and constantly being passed as the race sorts itself out, the short term goal of trying to run up behind someone hot is a constant motivating factor.
I imagine this works better for girls than guys, or at least it would for me and my preference for short girls. Because just as a person is in reach for me, I find myself and my damned competitive nature having to pass them, and you just can't perve on someone while running backwards, its too obvious.
I cannot vouch for Shona having a dirty mind or a pure teflon surface, who knows how she is normally, but she did definitly pinch a guy's arse who was wearing shorts that said 'hot stuff' on them. That did happen.
She also pointed to me after the fact and the guy said 'I like it' or something.
She then also definitely said 'I want more arses to grab' or something to the exact same effect. But it seemed unfortunately that we had passed the hot stuff crowd for good.
Me I grabbed with my eyes not with my hands. Highlights include green shorts girl, white shirt and ipod girl, old shuffling guy, long braid girl and blonde in blue singlet girl.

Green shorts are rad, but competition is radder

At Heartbreak hill, I ran off on Shona after she threatened to punch me if I yelled at her. Not being able to fulfill my duty as personal trainer I endeavored to run far enough away as to cry.
Whilst my eyes may have seemed busy looking for talent. I had never forgotten that 'fun runs' are all about dominating the unwitting. I had also constantly been sizing up my competition. And whilst I wanted to run ahead and find green shorts girl, I also had noticed that we had been passed by and re-passed and re-passed by green shorts boy.
He was but a mere 30 meters infront of me on heartbreak hill. I caught that up but then lost him again when I stopped for a drink. I caught him again and then set about leaving him behind. Much to my content I passed the 5th member of City2Singapore, some singaporean team that had just like singaporeans gone out and bought matching consumerist shirts. They also started the race at the same time as Shonesy and I, and now I had clearly beaten them all, just like their parents beat them for losing tennis tournaments or piano competitions.
This left me in a quandrary though, luckily blue asian guy with maroon socks came to my rescue. We had virtually identical paces. I just pursued him for the next 4km or so, until...

I hit the wall

I don't know what the wall is like for other runners, but for me it is always related to the difference between my conceptual map and the actual terrain. Thus on a new course I never hit the wall. Anything I have run before though has a wall.
It is in brief, the part of the course that I plumb forgot about. On lake wendoree it was the bit around Grammer boat shed, a good 30 degrees of the circle or 800m of a 6km course. I just forget every time that I have to run it, usually because it is the boring part where my mind spaces out. But if you don't anticipate it, suddenly when you are on it your race just gets a whole lot longer.
In my minds eye you see I recall vaguely you get to the top of heartbreak hill, then begin your descent onto Bondi, but instead you actually run through 3 or 4 km more of bendy streets with no view of anything.
It was just at this point that I thought 'Okay priority is no longer beating blue asian with maroon socks, but just finishing' so I backed off on the pursuit and he got ahead of me.
The next corner I sighted the sea and new it was figuratively all downhill from there, so again I tried to track down blue asian. Alas I had lost him in the crowd.

The deceptively long finish line

You actually run past the finish line, when heading along the Bondi boulevard. And so the finish line is at least 1km long. This is painful. Particularly as visibility from the ground is painfully poor.
Thus when constantly trying to guess where I should break into a sprint for, a burst of energy would propel my head above the masses and I'd see that when I thought I only had 200m left there was at least 800m to go. And this happened 3 or 4 times.
It happened even after I turned the final corner, because I tucked in my chin turned out into the faster outer lane and started sprinting. When I thought 'I can't sprint much longer' and looked up I still had 200m to go. So I just undramatically 'ran' across the finish line.

Worried for Shona

After about 20 minutes I managed to work my way past the pavillions to where I could see the finish line. I stood there for another 20 minutes, and was furious to observe green shorts girl run past the finish line 30 minutes after me. This meant I had passed her again without noticing.
When Shona was a no show, I got worried. I headed for meeting point 'N' which I had chosen for 'Never give up' and stood there for what seemed like another 30 minutes.
I began to picture what may have happened, Shona never making it up heartbreak hill because I hadn't been there to yell at her.
Her collapsing, face planting onto the bitumen like she did in Ballarat that time (not my fault I swear). The ambulance crew asking her if she needed to call her friend. And then explaining that I hadn't packed my mobile phone.
When they ask if they can send someone to inform me, she would have to tell them through her bitter tears of self defeat 'We agreed to meet at 'N', (sob) for...Never give up (burst into tears)' then I spied Greg, and then Shona walking up casually towards me.
Turned out she ran the last part of the race easier than I did (mentally) and finished shortly after me.

Greg's GPS

Greg is really proud of his GPS, and he used it to find his car after the race.

Going home

Then I went home, and had to pay $14.40 for a train ride of only like 5 stops to get to the airport, and was reminded of why I hate Sydney.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Comics: Best of

A List post:

#1 Slam Dunk

For the record I am not a fan of Slam Dunk because I am a fan of basketball. I am a fan of basketball because of Slam Dunk. This was voted the best manga of all time by some people in Japan. As unbelievable as it is that any Japanese high school team produces dunkers in the general proliferation that Slam Dunk portrays, it is deeply deep portrayal of a basketball team. You can't flaw it on any grounds, the artwork is exceptional, the characters likeable, it is humourous and heartfelt. You could compare it to 'Life is Beautiful' in its ability to do so much, without relying on the Haulocuast. It is a masterpiece.

#2 Watchmen

Alan Moore's finest, a humane treatment of the superhero. Following an 'avengers' like squad known as the watchmen who are vigilanties years beyond their prime as the second generation. They all undergo personal crisis of one kind or another, whether they have sold out, gone soft, married for money, lost their humanity, can't let go or been thrown out of a window.
It treats costumed heroes as frail human beings, in all their dignity and western comics hasn't produced anything like it. It has other experimental chapters that defy my comprehension like 'Fearful Symmitry' a chapter where the frames are all symmetrical, the first frame is the same as the last frame, the middle a mirror image of the frame next to it. I can't figure out how tool did this with '40, 6 and 2' and I don't know what kind of mind is required to devise a chapter like that.

#3 Vagabond

I read vagabond before slam dunk, because vagabond is current. But I picked up Slam Dunk because of Vagabond, which introduced me to Miyamoto Musashi. Drawn in the sumi-e style of traditional ink painting, interspersed with water colours this series is one of the best drawn and best written pieces ever.
Never has philosophy been so beautiful to behold, and it reminds you how cool Japan was before the Meiji restoration. Not that I saw it. But I think its easy to say that this series has already produced more worthwhile pages than Batman has in all 90 years or so of its publication.

#4 Batman: No Man's Land

The best editorial spectacular ever. It was just a neat premis if unplausable. Basically Gotham City becomes a feudal state, defined by the archcriminals territories. And Batman over a year has to reconquer it. Put in power supplies and take down the villains one by one.
It contains some of the best work of the penguin, two-face, Bane, Lex Luthor, Poison Ivy, Ventriloquist & Scarface and so on. And unusually it is the work of a bunch of different artists and a bunch of different writers. It's the pinnacle in my view of what the western style of comic could ever possibly achieve.

#5 Art Spiegals Maus

Pretty much a holocaust story, but told through a quite literal metaphore where jews are mice and Nazi's are cats, it is an incredibly personal piece of work told through the graphic novel medium.

#6 Osamu Tezuka efforts

I went to an exhibition at NGV of Tezuka's works and was blown away by the volume. I haven't read them but someday I hope to. The guy had as many ideas as Stan lee but was far more sophisticated and imaginative. To this day i still refuse to believe it was possible for him to do so much. He probably should be further up the list, but alas I haven't actually read his works. I have observed them from a safe distance, it is probably safe to say that he will long be remembered as the greatest name in comics for many years to come.

#7 Kevin Smith efforts

Kevin Smith did Guardian Devil using his favorite villain Mysterio (whom he loves because he is so bad) in new and creative ways. He then got the job of reviving Green Arrow, and his works Quiver and the renewal series self titled 'Green Arrow' that's as much as I've seen, but Kevin Smith you can tell has both a genuine love of the convoluted comic world as well as an active imagination that leads him to experiment. He can do plots like most comic writers can't. Jeph Loeb seemed to be on par until his recent shitefest 'Red Hulk' and every day my doubts as to his true ability seem to grow.

#8 I'm bored of this...

But I'll finish with this, Manga is where it is at right now, because of quality control. There are problems with the lack of imagination in Manga in general, howevr this doesn't stop it from being more adventurous with its subject matter, consider manga has comics like Initial D - focussed on drifting, and Yakitaki - about the pursuit of a Japanese national bread.
It is also littered with otaku friendly crap like Yugi-Oh and Pokemon, designed specifically to promote convoluted collector merchandise and rules to feed hungry nerd brains.
But it is obviously free enough to let out the breakout works like Vagabond. In the West an Alan Moore run on batman like 'The Killing Joke' or even Frank Miller's arguably best work ever 'Batman: Year One' are unsustainable, and for all the progress towards elevating the arc through commissioning the .02% of writers that are good including Kevin Smith, Frank Miller (arguably), Alan Moore (who's never coming back to DC) and Jeph Loeb (who is suffering from 'enough rope') they are followed by hacks in most cases that immediately undo all the gains they make and take it back to somewhere worse. There is almost an economic 'Comic Bubble' effect.
Even then, it isn't just a matter of quality.
The Killing Joke was great because it revealed something about the joker, and permenantly changed the role of Barbara Gordon as batgirl. You just can't do that every week. It's untenable. That's why i think ultimately comics will move towards the manga model of closed narratives that have a beggining middle and end.
So generally that's what I'd point you towards if you were looking at reading some comics, the best works are closed. As in you know when they begin and when they end. Furthermore they are about something. Really they are books with a changed dynamic relationship between the visual and the narrative.

Comics: Movie Adaptations

As generally the best source of stories that provide an excuse to use the latest special effects techniques and deliver to an existing fan base its probably safe to say that Comic Adaptation movies are here to stay.
Am I a fan? On the whole, no.
Since the year when both the unfortunately named 'Batman Forever' and the movie of Judge Dredd I have learned to be generally wary of and not get excited about comic adaptation movies. I get kind of excited, some I want to see, but do I expect them to be great movies? no.

For me this stems from the question so fundamental to my general approach to everything: why? What do movies add to a comic.
Perhaps its better demonstrated with literature, and particularly with something that probably everyone has read - Harry Potter.
I don't think I've ever heard anybody say that a Harry Potter movie was better than the books. Maybe, just maybe, a blind person may say it, because a movie has audio, but I'm pretty sure Harry Potter would have been translated into brail, and audio books by now.
Furthermore, if directors or actors do a particularly good job of portraying a character, people don't talk about them as geniuses, or particularly creative. Credit goes where it is due, to JK Rowling.
Similarly, one could examine the same phenomena of adaptations of novels such as 'Captain Correlli's Mandolin' (I haven't seen it), 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (also haven't seen it), and Dan Brown's sensation 'The Da Vinci Code' (The closest I've come to either seeing it or reading it is the opening segment of Epic Movie).
With literary adaptations the movie's function is clear, to extract more money from an existing fanbase.
Noble comics though have at least 3 purposes when it comes to the movie adaptations:

1. To make money.
2. To introduce the comic to new fans through a new medium.
3. To do something new.

And I would put a priority on these in exactly the same order.
Now let me briefly explore the ramifications of these, and hopefully highlight some parralals with the above literary examples.

Money Makin' money money makin!

The Batman franchise demonstrates this principle best, the burton franchise perhaps. And of note is how little was learned from the Burton experience.
The first movie, Burton sat down, flipped through comics, applied his own style, secured Jack Nicholson, Jack Nicholson stole the film, won an oscar and so - a sequel was commissioned.
Tim Burton went through the same creative process, got Micheal Keaton back, expanded on all the brilliance he injected, bigger sets, better special effects, got Dani Devito as Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman who probably introduced most kids to their first erection, and... the film flopped.
No Joker, no Jack, no money.
So the studio fired Burton, brought in some guy who turned the franchise into a toy selling extravaganza. Batman now wore 10 different suits per film. Henchmen were more gimmicky and more colourful, more celebrities were brought in to play the roles. Scripts and Dialogue took a back seat to Big explosions and gimmicky crap. The Batmobile now needed to be redesigned every movie. Far more colour, far more stupidity.
And it made money, no doubt pissing off many fans of the comic franchise. But they didn't matter, it was all about luring them in to pay for a ticket.
The producers made all the important decisions, and the studio, they weren't fans of batman, they were fans of money. The second director gave advice to Chris Nolan 'to watch out for when you go to more toy launches than film premiers'. The studio went for the easy dollar. Got too busy, and blew it.
Flash forward a dozen years and witness Spiderman 3. Now it is worth noting that Spiderman is probably the second most valuable franchise after Batman. And furtermore the principle of sequels. You see when you watch a TV show each week, you arent subconsciously wanting to watch something new, you are wanting to watch last weeks episode as if for the first time. This fundamental psychology is what makes sequels such a money maker even though they have an appalling track record of ever being superior to the original.
Same goes with movies, what really draws the crowd in is the fact that they enjoyed the first one so much. No big surprise there, but what happens in the mind is that their is a desire to actually experience the last movie they enjoyed so much again, but they can't because they have already seen it. They want to see the exact same movie, but with the old experience of surprise.
So payload really comes from one film when the next film is released. This is especially true now, when studios aim to recoup their costs and turn a profit on opening weekend, something that has seen the death of the romantic film.
So Spiderman 3's record takings are really a testament to the fact that raimi didn't fuck up SPiderman 2. He created something growing and developing and people were hooked.
Enter motivation number 1 for movie adaptations, enter: priority one. Sam Raimi, wanting to continue a good thing was weighing up between having the Lizard as the bad guy, or Sandman. The studio however wanted Venom to make an appearance for a spin off franchise, in a sophisticated move. Also possibly on the toy sales front Ozbounre Jr, had to become Green Goblin again. Add Black Cat and the movie got too ridiculously busy to even follow what was going on. And Sam Raimi was the one that looked like he was going to get fired for it, when much like Poochy in the Simpsons it was really the marketing department that got greedy with product expansion and fucked it up.
Now one can witness the same principle in effect, Nolan with the solid offering of The Dark Knight killed Two Face in the concluding scene of the film.
I read it as not that ambiguous that Harvey Dent was dead and wasn't coming back as the intention of the sequence, yet the producer tells it "Producer Emma Thomas said that Dent's last scene was ambiguous enough to suggest that perhaps he was still alive." in other words, the producers don't wish to squander the two most marketable batman villains in one film, without having even used two face to promote the film.
It's this kind of thinking that makes franchises generally unsustainable. It also crops up often enough to make me not expect great things out of comic book movies, though in general I think the industry has learnt a degree of restraint after killing the first batman franchise, the fact that overcrowding films happened again in Spiderman 3 though means don't hold your breath.

Bringing it to the people:

Whilst I doubt as many people have watched all the Harry Potter films as have read the books, I know for certain more people have seen 'The Dark Knight' than probably ever will read 'The Long Halloween', the same is probably true of 'Batman Year One' by Frank Miller that inspired starting 'Batman Begins' from Batman's beginning.
Same same for all the Marvel franchise movies, Hulk has high brand awareness from the 4 seasons of television shows screened in the 80's than from people reading the comics, Alan Moore reveared within the industry has to endure director after director shitting on his masterpieces with cinematic offerings like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Contrast the Wild West of Comics with the mystical east of comics - Manga and its incestuous sibling anime and you see a very different scenario. If a manga is popular an anime series is practically a given. But you'd expect less people to watch the anime (even slightly) than have read the comic. Because manga is enjoyed by young and old, and widely read.
Amongst my friends in Oz who play basketball, roughly 1/3 has read one of Phil Jackson's books and his are probably the highest profile publications on basketball after 'The Jordan Rules', but almost every Japanese person I know and Chinese for that matter has read Slam Dunk.
Only in the east it seems are people logical enough to conclude that if they enjoy movies adapted from comics, then they will probably enjoy comics also.
Female fans of Peter Parker and Mary Jane (their relationship being the one true advantage Spiderman holds over Batman at the box office by sneaking a chick flick into a comic book film) would for the most part like at least 80% never stoop to read Spiderman comics.
Furthermore only in the west can a film like Sin City make money. Sin City was literally a take for take, frame for frame motion comic. Scenes, makeup and actors were shot to make it as close to the same physical appearance as possible as the original comics. The one legitimate offering of Sin City on my own cynical criteria is that it was a chance to experiment with the new special effects techniques.
But otherwise, I say, go read fucking comics.
I consider reason number 2 to be an illegitimate symptom of cultural prejudice, that slowly I hope is changing (but with the editorial management of DC and Marvel, has little justification to do so) that simply doesn't appreciate the merits of the genre.
This second reason for comic book movies gets up my nose the most, particularly because fans of the comics endorse it. There favorite comics are somehow validated by being made into a film, like that is the aspiration of all people who get into comics in the first place.
It may well be, but that just indicates that the quality of comics are going to drop, just like the glut of literature now written in the hope of being featured on Oprah's book club (although I seem to remember she threw the program in because she didn't have time to do it monthly anymore).
The great irony is that from a technological viewpoint, the cinema is cashing in on comics now because they are starting to catch up with the imagination of comic book artists.
For me, maybe I'm a psycho and have unrealistic psycho expectations, but Heath Ledger's joker just wasn't scary. I hypothesize that it was all actually filmed and cut from the movie for a non-R rating and thus the scariest thing about Joker was the implied violence. I hope this is the case, because when Batman Begins came out I went and bought for $9 both Batman (1989) and Batman Returns and watched them and discovered they actually weren't as great as I remembered, particularly on Micheal Keaton's part, the rubber suit making his job functionally ridiculous.
But along with the Superman franchise, these films did do the one legitimate form of bringing the comics to a new audience - kids.
Not people who are too lazy or too arrogant to deign to read comics, put up with the 95% shite to find the true masterpieces of the genre, but children a new generation to follow the adventures of characters that have been around almost as long as the Hardy Boys.
I was what 6 when Batman came out, and Joker terrified me, with his disfigured mindless girlfriend, his Joker Juice and his buzzer that burnt a man alive. But despite the darkness of batman, to 6 year old me it was explosive, the ridiculousness, and at 6 I wasn't reading batman year one by frank miller or Alan Moore's killing joke. But I was watching Adam West's batman.
So there's upside and downside, to motivation number two, but it isn't as compromising as number 1 - making money.
But on this criteria a movie like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Transformers is good at reintroducing something to a new generation, or the Brady Bunch so targeting children can't be that great and noble a thing to do.
You then have left the 'truthist' school of which tries its upmost to be true to the comic, Nolan and the newest incarnation of Batman could be accused of this but I think he does enough remixes to disqualify himself (not necessarily a bad thing). The real founders of this school are the makers of 'Sin City' and '300' that literally try to remake the comic as true to the drawing style as possible, or even I believe the upcoming adaptation of 'The Watchmen' Alan Moore's masterpiece.
These are the most acceptable to many comic fans, but to me truthist adaptations for one work best on short run self contained comics and are impossible for ongoing franchises, and two are at their best when they offer nothing new at all. That is they are so true to the comic, the only real creative work is the special effects, makeup, and audio/voice.
I didn't go see 300 but I did buy the comic and would never have thought there was enough to it to make a film. I saw Sin City and discovering them to be so true to the comic, I never had any desire to see it again, I just read the comics.
The truthist school as I dub it, opting for the best case scenario of virtually replicating the comic on film so as not to upset any fans, could more easily achieve this concession to the fan base by just not making the film.
I hold this truth to be self evident and stepping forward interpret it to mean, that in light of recent practice reason number 2 - bringing a comic to new audiences is really just reason number 1 in disguise.
In the one justifiable first case it is a device to sell shit to kids or a 'new generation' and in the other justifiable sense it aims to keep fans happy so it grab an extra $16 off them at the box office, whilst stimulating their minds with nothing new at all.
The biggest appreciators of 'Sin City' weren't saying 'isn't it great how every character sounds exactly the same' the were saying 'Wow! its amazing how much this looks like the comic' I mean if you read SIn City it's a real fanboy piece of crap written by a guy that can't get laid and possibly has a crush on some Japanese girl he knows.

Which just leaves the new...

This reason for making a comic book film, rarely sees the light of day. At best it is restricted to special effects. I think the only comic adaptation I can think of that did something close to something new was Tim Burton's Batman.
For the record I doubt I'll ever be inclined to go back and watch them, they just don't work like they used to. But what I do still respect about Tim Burton's films is that they managed to capture so much of what Batman is and has been over generations of editors, writers and owners, over multiple genres that it did become something new.
I mean, the sets were new, but the overall darkness was sort of the grit of Frank Miller, master of the cliche, the Joker was similarly Alan Moore's psycho-admirer of batman incarnation, and yet there were stupid scenes like when Batman selects a specific one of 6 bat suits on his rack. Or when Vicki Vale wakes in the middle of the night to see Bruce Wayne preffering to sleep hanging upside down like a bat. I've never seen another movie that simultaneously took itself really seriously and yet laughed at itself so much.
The reimaging of both the Penguin and Catwoman, and even choosing to do them in the first place put Tim Burton in with Sam Raimi as being a classics man.
But outside of the flop, Batman returns, movie adaptations of comics rarely offer anything new.
Enter the 'realist' school, Nolan and Favreu (director of Iron Man) probably exemplify this approach in recent years.
But first let me digress, I perused an Alan Moore article on 'How To Write Comics' where much to my appeal he mentioned that somebody should consider what a comic offers that other media don't. The example was that in a comic when you surprise someone with a twist, its actually easy for a person reading a comic to flick back and find all the clues you planted earlier in the comic, so the clues can be quite subtle and the reader can enjoy your treachery and subterfuge.
Not so with Movies, even on DVD it isn't easy to backtrack and look for clues, so they either have to be more obvious, or you suddenly witness a flashback scene when the detective realises what is going on or the big surprise is revealed. As such a movie becomes either predictable or contains a shitty flashback sequence.
I have paraphrased him the insight isn't my own.
Now whether you are talking about Harry Potter or comic adaptations, the principle in reverse is true, one advantage movies have as a medium over comics is that you have real people. It is easy to get the physics correct on a cape blowing in the wind, the actor stays in proportion and his nose is the same in every scene.
You get to see the characters 'brought to life' this was more or less the only appeal in Harry Potter movies, and this stopped being worth the money of admission halfway through the first one. Equally enjoyable would have been a concept art book.
Through this simple observation comes the evolution of the realist school. Nolan is great at this because he insists on real special effects, and is Computer Graphic averse. SO he actually goes and builds a working Batmobile, Batbike etc. He also then takes license in trying to portray how Batman would 'really' exist in real life, like his Kevlar-weave body armour, ordering 10,000 masks and 10,000 ear pieces and generally engages in acts of rationalization (that means to start with the solution or finished product and then figure out plausable reasons for why it is the case). This exercise is what brings things that are new. Similarly in his approach to Joker and Ra's AL Ghul. In my book Ra's Al Ghul is the shittest villain in Batman's rogues gallery, introduced as a 'Bond-type' villain in the 70's or 80's who uses lazerus pits to perpetuate his youth, Nolan rightly decided Ras Al Ghul was a pretty stupid character, then he stupidly put him in his first film. But instead he is rationalized or 'realized' as mathematicians refer to -i^2 by reworking the character not as an immortal, but as a terrorist who merely uses diversion and misdirection to perpetuate the myth that he is immortal, I suppose like EZLN leader Marcos wears a balaclava and claims 'we are all Marcos'.
Similarly, the Joker whilst differing from Ras by being actually a good character, has an unlikely combo of disfigurements that Tim Burton admirably tried to make plausable. In short Joker, fell in a vat of acid and not only permanently altered the pigment of his skin to deathly white and his hair colour to green, but his face was left in rigor mortis - conveniently making him look like a clown.
Presumably Nolan did what I did, and when reading the wikipedia article on Joker one day, noticed he was based on a character 'The Man Who Smiled' and followed the link where he discovered that the title character of the movie had something called a 'Glasgow Smile' now known as a 'Chelsea Smile' to most which is where you saw from the corner of a persons mouth into their cheeks.
Here Nolan cried 'Eureka' or something, and 'realized' the Joker into having a glasgow smile, and then some face paint and hair die. In that regard the 'new' Joker is kind of new.
Then look at Iron Man and Favreau - there is a scene where Tony Stark is testing all the 'control plates' on Iron Man's exterior and they are all these little folding flaps that adjust automatically to allow Iron Man to fly. Here Favreau wanted to lend plausibility that a suit could actually fly and be aerodynamic somehow, and he insisted that the mechanics be at least conceptually possible [citation needed]. In reality, Tony Stark would be incredibly selfish for keeping his tiny power generator all to himself when it could probably do more good for the entire world than Iron Man ever could achieve on his own, for one thing it would break the dependance on middle eastern oil.
But the realist school does something new, by trying to be realistic in portraying the 'how' of the comic world. Something that ironically makes fantasy more enjoyable. Because it is better if it seems possible to become Iron Man even on flimsy scientific concepts than it does to say be told you can't be superman unless you are an alien from outerspace, or be Jesus unless you are the son of Go, or be Legolas because you aren't an elf with pointy ears.
Batman and Iron Man though, all you have to do is be incredibly wealthy and resourced with state of the art technology, that you then self indulgently use as a vigilante rather than equipping a police force and respecting the rule of law.
But, again even reason number 3 whilst probably the only reason I would consider validates artistically making a film, isn't really done well. I mean rationalization only works when you are already utilising reason number 2, and you thus get to retell the origin stories of heroes and villains and make changes. But whilst it makes the characters potentially more plausible, it doesn't really do anything new.
New stuff is done in the comics, through a vast hit and miss exercise.
For example, Tony Starks explosive admission to the press conference that 'he is Iron Man' seems to break with tradition of the superhero alter ego. Except this was pioneered by Iron Man in the Iron Man comics. Iron Man infact has battled with alcoholism, been secretary of defence in the Bush Administration, and lead a super hero civil war on the side of the government licensing superheroes.
All bold moves done in comics.
I heard Frank Miller's script for what was to be 'Batman Begins' had recast Bruce Wayne not as the son of a doctor who was a billionaire, but as a homeless man that paired up with Alfred his mechanic. Naturally it never saw the light of day, and to me sounds like a shitty idea...but at least it was new. It wasn't something there was a better example of in a comic already.
In general, the tendancy is to be faithful to some previous incarnation or another, or otherwise go back to the origins and rationalize them by todays technological standards.
But not say portraying a character radically differently, like an emotional batman who puts ona tough guy facade to hide his own arrested development. Or a suicidal Tony Stark, willing to don the Iron Man armour as he attempts to hasten his own end to a largely meaningless and unchallenging life.
There was one startling and dazzling exception to all I have said, and that is Superman's son in Superman returns. That was completely new, and the film was regarded as disappointing by both fans and producers.
Furthermore the dynamic itself wasn't fully explored as the audience was much more aware of the revelation than Superman was for most of the film. But as far as I am aware, nobody has yet dealt with the possibility of Louis and Superman having a child, a hybrid kryptonian even though there has been a ready supply of superboys, supergirls and even Krypto superman's dog. And it was done in a film, so I applaud him.
The next closest contender for doing something new was Ang Lee's the hulk that used the Hulk franchise as a metaphor for the repressed anger between father son relationships and the emotional baggage caused by vicarious living. This too was considered a flop, and probably was too clever by half. Introducing emotion and relationships to a cowboy film though, got Ang Lee a reward.
The irony is that comic book adaptations are expected to make more money than the oscar winners for Best Picture.
So really whilst I think if you are going to make a movie, to take the money of an existing fan base, do something new. They may like it, they may hate it, but at least it wasn't something they could find a better example of, drawn more creatively than the films special effects techniques and usually longer and thus cleverer and more intricate in their duration (prime example is The Dark Knights basis in the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale batman comic run of 'The Long Halloween' where the Joker as a plot device was actually minor and most of his role in the events of the movie were actually caused by a character known as 'holiday').
Otherwise at best you do a decent abbreviation of something they have already seen, Nolan is actually good enough to change them up a bit, so the realization component dilutes the truthist aspect of using Year One and The Long Halloween as the overall plot basis.
But the precedents show that this 'doing something new' is financial suicide jeopardizing reason/priority number 1 - make money. Furthermore reason/priority number 2 - introduce to new audience, makes recycling something that has already been done, quite okay and creating something new for a new audience illogical. Becuase then you would be creating new fans that may not like what already exists. So reason/priority number 3 will never happen and if it does be quickly ended.


I just want to touch on the license, or mandate a director recieves, that follows on from number 3. Favreu decided not to use Iron Man's arch nemisis 'The Mandarin' in the first Iron Man film and apparantly is struggling to figure out a way to incorporate him in upcoming sequels.
This is/was a pretty sound decision, because I'm not sure if you can quite say obectively, but as close as you can get to being objective: Mandarin is a shitty bad guy, A) he is a metaphore for Communist China, as Iron Man was invented in the height of the cold war to battle communist enemies, and B) Where Iron Man wears a super sophisticated high tech armour equipped with weapons technology, the Mandarin has ten magical rings that give him all his power. It is hard to create a world where both are plausible, magic vs technology only George Lucas can pull that off.
But then you have the latest director of The Hulk, called The Incredible Hulk as a reboot to Ang Lee's flop. Here the director decided the the name of one of the Hulk's arch nemeses 'The Abomination' was stupid, and didn't want it used. Thus the character is only referred to as blonsky, all though the name 'The Abomination' did get an allusion 'You could become an abomination' this sort of license though I don't like because it smacks to me of a director putting their own personal preference above the fans.
Iron Man I don't have a problem with, and to be honest I'm not really a fan of either franchise, but there is a rational provided as to why the decision was made not to use Mandarin but the Blonsky vs Abomination the reason provided was 'the director thought that it was silly/stupid' and that just isn't good enough. It might have floated if he had just said 'look the dialogue would become labored and cliched to give him the name because he actually manifests so late in the film. Thus there really is no reason for anybody to refer to him at all nor for his title to become common usage as he is dead before any characters interract' that's fine, but the treatment is flippant.
Fans should not be scared of a director, the director should be scared of the fans.
Of course, most western comics are now so long running, so convuluted that to be true to them all is as fruitless as attempting to be 'American' its much easier to say what isn't true to the comics than it is to say what is.

I'm quite proud of that little tirade. If I was someone famous it could become a rant as influential as Micheal Moorcock's Epic Pooh