Sunday, November 29, 2009

Second Life Syndrome

The first thing on tonight bile-fuelled agenda are Americans. Americans have been lucky since Barry Obama was elected; they sort of went up in peoples' estimations on account that a majority of them showed a semblance of intelligence in voting for a black democrat with a largely peaceful and slightly reforming agenda. I still reckon someone will take a potshot at him at some point - he's far too good a man to survive two terms in office. However, as good as Barry is, he got involved in one of those great USA traditions and spared the life of a turkey on Thanksgiving...

Whoop-de-do.

Despite a lot of people outside of North America understanding the reasons behind Thanksgiving, it is one of those peculiarities of the United States - something they do that no one else does.

For the ignorant, Thanksgiving is the celebration of the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers to the North American shores and the first meal they shared with the native Americans (incidentally, corn and eels, not turkey). On the face of it, it is an honourable day to celebrate and one that you would imagine a God-fearing, ultra religious bunch of Yanks would embrace. And embrace it they do, so wholeheartedly that it now overshadows Christmas (and probably has done for many years). The Americans, because they have to be so bloody unique, have essentially made the arrival of a bunch of Brits from Plymouth to their shores as religiously more important than the supposed birth of Christ.

In the USA you get Thanksgiving weekend, which is essentially 4 days - Thursday, Friday and the weekend, where it is a national holiday and you are allowed to take time off without being made to feel guilty. Christmas, however, is a one day holiday and I'm pretty sure that if it falls on a weekend then only the most benevolent employers give time off in lieu.

Christmas is such commercial big business now that Thanksgiving has effectively usurped it as the premier family holiday. Yet part of me wants to believe that Thanksgiving has been made to be this big massive holiday purely and simply because it is unique to the USA. Christmas is shared by too many people. This is so typical of the bloody Yanks - they couldn't comprehend the basic rules of rugby, cricket or rounders so invented American Football and Baseball instead. A country that believed for 50 years that it was without equal the supplier of the world's greatest golfers, so they limited non-Americans on their tour even more stringently when the few non- Americans began to win all the time (this has stopped some what, but still happens) and because football (soccer) can end in a draw or be dull at times, they've decided it is essentially a sport for women, despite the rest of the world acknowledging it as the most important sport on the planet.

Quite a contrary bunch those Americans (yet they love to accuse us of being the contrary ones)...

Anyhow, this is a pointless ramble considering what I feel about most religious holidays and the rampant commercialism that has devalued these festivals. Yes, I know I'm an atheist, but I'm a relatively spiritual atheist and I feel that Christmas should be a time for reflection, a time of peace and goodwill and one where we should give thanks or lament the previous 12 months. It should not be what it has become.

*******

I've been wading through each season of Smallville for the last few weeks. Why? Well, once upon a time, I was something of a Superman fan. I hated the character as a kid, but as I got older and the story telling for the Man of Steel got more sophisticated, the more hooked I became. In fact, my Superman comic collection was pretty impressive when I sold them all off.

So watching Smallville, which I had avoided like the plague for 8 years, just seemed like the logical thing to do when I needed an uncomplicated superhero fix without the burden of comics. While watching one episode, the character of Aquaman was introduced to the cast and because I was bored and not ready for bed, I did a wiki on Aquaman to read about the aborted spin-off TV series and ended up reading about the most recent reincarnation of Aquaman in DC Comics. Which led me to references to Infinite Crisis, Countdown to Final Crisis, Final Crisis, Ultimate Final Infinite Crisis, Carry on Crisis, and various other derivatives of the original, groundbreaking and seemingly sequel-proof Crisis on Infinite Earths. This led me to asking some questions and I finally decided that comics have lost any soul it might once of had...

Spandex comics are essentially all about timeless adventure and every so often something would happen to shake the very foundations of a comic. Like in the best loved TV shows, the death of a central character was always something pretty major. There were also somethings that seemed fixed in the unseen calendar of comics continuity. Let me explain; the recent Dr Who special was about immutable time; something fixed in the calendar that can't be changed. In the mid-1980s, DC did something remarkable; they effectively killed every single universe that inhabited the company's comic book history. They commissioned a story that involved tying up all the convoluted continuity bollocks that had been pretty much responsible for DC's falling right behind Marvel as top dogs in comics.

Now, some of the most major events in recent US comics' history have been deaths. Yet, despite the ephemeral nature of comics and the rotating audience; new writers and editors seem to think that the best way of stimulating sales isn't to come up with new and developing stories and plots; but to dig up some old character, come up with some laudable reason why they're still alive and try to relive old glories, but instead just alienate the old timers and thoroughly confuse the possible newcomers. Nobody dies forever in comics.

So, when I saw all these references to follow up series for this incredibly important comics series DC launched in the 80s, all I could think was that if there isn't a new idea under the sun then its about time for looked somewhere else for ideas, because comics have finally sold out. This is worse than sequels in many respects, because while they can't even come up with something original, comics of this nature just feed off the narrow-minded 'expertise' of editors, who rather than push boundaries, just think that by retreading old ground again and again they're going to make themselves famous. I have no idea what these 'sequels' are like. I have no intention of buying them or even reading them. I would have thought, that as a huge fan of the original, I would have been one of the key stats in their demographics - one of the people most likely to buy it. If that's the case, they were wrong.

*******

Poland is back in my mind again - this time thanks to a prog rock band called Riverside. I downloaded them by accident and was remarkably impressed with what I heard. You'd hate them though.

*******

Busy weekend coming up. Peterborough on Friday to visit possibly the finest ale house in the region - The Brewery Tap. Saturday up to Leicester to see Pineapple Thief and Sunday way over to Wolverhampton to see Porcupine Tree (thanks to some whizzo ticket dealing by Roger). Monday sees Stoke on Trent coming onto my radar. All this excitement will help me take my mind off of things that I'm managing to keep a lid on, just.

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