There have been many great Superman stories in his seventy five plus year history. These stories have been encompassed by a number of media including comic books, cartoons, movies, books, and television. In this list, we are strictly focusing on self-contained stories which were first published in comic book or graphic novel formats. This does not included story arcs such as the introduction of Supergirl as well as the Death of Superman and the subsequent Reign of the Supermen. This list also does not includes mini-series such as Man of Steel, All-Star Superman, Kingdom Come, or Crisis on Infinite Earths. We just want to let you know the parameters of the list in order to spark an informed discussion. As always, if you feel that anything has been left out or needs to be added, please sound off in the comments section below.
10. “The New Team of Superman and Robin” (1955)
This story takes place in World’s Finest #75. Batman has awoken from a night of crime-fighting to discover that he has a broken leg. On the previous evening, the Caped Crusader and Robin had been tracking the Purple Mask Mob. The Purple Mask Mob were still causing havoc in Gotham City. Police Commissioner Gordon raises the Bat-Signal to be greeted by the team of Superman and Robin. The story explains that mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent was on loan to the Gotham Gazette from the Daily Planet. With the help of Batman’s detective skills, the team of Superman and Robin are able to bring in the Purple Mask Mob. Superman explains that Batman’s leg was never broken. Superman fitted Batman with a cast. Batman was poisoned by the Purple Mask Mob and over-exertion would have caused the poison to kill Batman.
There are a few story elements that make this particular comic book stand out. First of all, Superman actually outsmarts Batman with the “broken leg” ruse. Second, we discover that Batman actually has some insecurities about the presence of Superman. Batman is afraid that Robin may discover he likes working with Superman more than Batman. Robin assures Batman that this is not the case. However, the storyline reveals that Superman’s mere presence is cause for Batman to go into some form of self-doubt. This is a welcome change from the usual contrast in the Superman/Batman relationship.
9. “The Jungle Line” (1985)
DC Comics Presents #85 gives an Alan Moore penned story featuring an encounter between Superman and the Swamp Thing. A meteorite with a fungus of Kryptonian origin makes Superman go mad as well as threatening to kill him. Superman suffers from fevers, sweats, as well as dark hallucinations. In desperation, Clark Kent rents a car. He drives south towards Louisiana. The car crashes while Superman is having a hallucination. Superman is discovered by the Swamp Thing. Superman initially attacks the Swamp Thing. The Swamp Thing uses his power to communicate with the fungus and enters the hallucination. Swamp Thing is then able to calm Superman’s mind until the fever breaks.
Despite having very few attempts, Alan Moore was a definitive Superman writer. Moore expertly tackles the question of “What would happen if Superman went insane?”
The story also delivers trippy psychedelic imagery on par with early work for Dr. Strange as well as the 1960’s Spider-Man animated series. “The Jungle Line” also establishes the Swamp Thing as a greater elemental force in the DC Comics Universe. The great contribution of “The Jungle Line” is showing that Superman was a formidable character in mature storylines. If Superman is presented correctly, then a Superman story can have every bit as much weight and gravitas as the best of Batman fiction.
8. “The Lady and the Lion” (1958)
Action Comics #243 presents the story of “The Lady and the Lion.” The basic story is that Superman drinks an alien potion from a being calling herself Circe. Circe gives Superman the choice of marrying her or becoming a beast as a result of the potion. Superman refuses the marriage proposal and mutates into an anthropomorphic lion. Superman returns to Metropolis in his lion-like form. Superman is greeted with fear and hostility. Lois Lane even recoils in fear when approached by Lion Superman. Superman finds a cure during a trip back to the Fortress of Solitude. The potion was Kryptonian in nature allowing Superman to reverse its effects. In the end, Superman is normal again and is accepted back into Metropolis.
The issue stands out for the questions that the story subtly raises about the Superman mythos. What if Superman possessed all of his powers and had a ‘scary alien’ form? Would the world have been so ready to accept a flying lion-man as its protector? This story was written in the 1950’s. What would have happened in the 1950’s if Superman was African-American, Latino, or Asian in appearance? How would the people of Metropolis reacted to Superman in those instances? Perhaps unknowingly, the issue asks the question of whether Superman is love for his powers or whether Superman is loved because he looks like a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
“The Lady and the Lion” also shows Superman as being a capable scientist. The modern Superman has gotten away from Superman being portrayed as super-smart. It is nice to see a Superman capable of mentally as well as physically solving his problems.
7. “Of Thee I Sing” (1999)
Hitman #34 features the super powered hitman Tommy Monaghan meeting with Superman. Superman just wants someone to talk to and chooses Monaghan. Superman had attempted to talk to Batman about the problem. However, Batman did not provide the emotional support that Superman needed at the moment. Superman apologized for bothering Monaghan. Superman had just come back from a mission in space. Superman was able to save most of the astronauts on board, however one of the astronauts died in flames. Superman was distraught over the loss. Monaghan assured Superman that Superman was a worthy hero. Superman thanked Monaghan for listening and signed a magazine for him. As Superman flew away, Monaghan shot and killed a mobster.
The best stories often have no easy answers. Superman could not save the astronaut. Superman also did not save the mobster whom Monaghan was contracted to kill. Monaghan told Superman of his admiration for the good work which Superman did. As much as Monaghan admired Superman’s good work, Monaghan’s work was vastly different. Superman admired Monaghan’s understanding of people as well as Monaghan’s empathy. Neither man could or would ever be anything like each other. However, Monaghan was just the right person for Superman to talk to after a death. This is yet another example of how putting Superman in mature storylines with talented writers will create great literature.
6. “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed” (1938)
Action Comics #1 holds many distinctions in the world of comic books. Action Comics #1 is the first appearance of Superman. Action Comics #1 is the most valuable comic book in the world. Do you know what Action Comics #1 also has going for it? Action Comics #1 is a surprisingly good read. The entire genesis of the Superman mythology is summed up for you in a relatively few short pages. The backstory of the destruction of Krypton is reviewed and the reader is given the source of Superman’s powers. The reader is introduced to Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Perry White. The newspaper is initially the Daily Star. The newspaper would later be called the Daily Planet. Superman and Clark Kent are both put in multiple situations in which their powers as well as judgement are testes. Superman threatens the Governor of the State while supplying new evidence to help a death row inmate. Clark Kent takes Lois Lane on a date. Thugs attack Lois and Clark. Clark has to play a coward and lose the respect of Lois in order to protect the secret of Superman. The next day finds Clark Kent competing with himself for Lois’ affections. The story even ends on a cliffhanger about a Senator in a South American Republic.
The point is that “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed” would be a good Superman story in any era. It is simply more incredible that this is the first ever Superman story to appear in comic books. Jerry Siegel is often credited as being one half of the creative team that gave Superman to the world. Siegel is seemingly often not credited as being a brilliant comic book writer. This perception of Siegel and Shuster as merely being creators and not top talents needs to change. It may be heresy to say but much of Stan Lee’s writing in the 1960s would not hold up to comic book standards today. The same statement is true of a lot of a lot of hallowed creators if you go back and read the actual issues. “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed” does not fall into that category. “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed” has a rightful place as one of the greatest Superman stories of all time.
5. “What’s So Funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” (2001)
Action Comics #775 presents a battle between Superman and a team of “super-heroes” called the Elite. The Elite are actually a thinly disguised version of the comic book The Authority. The essential conflict of the comic is that the Elite almost always kill the perpetrators in the name of “justice.” Superman does everything that he can in order to preserve life. Superman’s desire to preserve life even extends to the life of the evil doer. It is not only the fight that Superman must win. Superman must win the argument as well. In the end, Superman does defeat the Elite in outer space. Superman also fakes that he has killed all the members of the Elite. This charade is done to convince people that they may not want to see super-heroes killing after all.
“What’s So Funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” presents us with a Superman who is full of self-doubt. Superman does not actually know if he can defeat the Elite. Superman is not entirely that the world has not moved on from him. The story itself plays out like a beautifully crafted old-fashioned western story. Superman takes the role of a lone Marshall standing up to a gang of evil rustlers. However, the best part of the story is the build up to the inevitable resolution. Superman consults his father as well as Lois Lane before going into battle. Superman questions not only whether he can beat the Elite, but also whether he even should beat the Elite. It touches on themes that were also so beautifully touched on in Kingdom Come. It is worth noting that this comic actually came out before the events of September 11th, 2001. A Superman comic delivered a wonderful treatise on the nature of judgment in America a few scant months before the entire world would be engaging in the same discussion.
4. “The Mighty One” (1975)
Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth was a comic book series by Jack Kirby which ran from 1972-1978. Kamandi lived in a post-apocalyptic world after a “Great Disaster” consumed and destroyed most of human life. The world was ruled by various clans of mutated animals. Issue #29 of Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth tells the story of Kamandi and his friend Ben Boxer running across a tribe of Super Apes. The Super Apes are dedicated to the legend and memory of “The Mighty One.” “The Mighty One” built a land bridge between North America and Europe during the last days of the “Great Disaster.” In honor of his memory, they perform feats associated with The Mighty One’s memory. The feats include being catapulted while yelling “Up, up, and away” as well as moving a giant boulder called “The Daily Planet.” Kamandi’s friend Ben Boxer attempts the feats. The prize for successfully completing the feats is the suit worn by “The Mighty One.” A Super Ape tries to claim the suit for himself. Boxer and Kamandi stop the Super Ape. The suit is the suit of Superman. Boxer and Kamandi leave the suit in the protection of the Super Ape for the day in which “The Mighty One” will come and reclaim it for himself.
While Superman does not actually appear in this story, it is one of the best examinations of the enduring influence that Superman has on society. The legend that Superman will one day return lives at the end of the story. The story also examines the Christ-like implications of Superman. The suit appears as a symbol much like the Shroud of Turin. Superman is seen as a savior who existed many centuries ago. The feats take on a religious significance in trying to walk in the way of the Mighty One. Many of these themes were also touched upon in Bryan Singer’s film Superman Returns. “The Mighty One” is not only a creative way to a Superman story but also a thoughtful examination of the messianic implications of a Superman.
3. “For The Man Who Has Everything” (1985)
Alan Moore returns to the list with “For the Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11. Its Superman’s birthday and Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman go to the Fortress of Solitude. They find Superman trapped by a strange alien plant life. There is also an intergalactic warlord named Mongul challenging the trio to a fight. The alien plant life is known as the “Black Mercy” and traps wearer in a dreamlike state of their fondest wish. Batman succeeds in pulling the plant off of Superman. Once free, Superman is able to fight Mongul. Eventually the Jason Todd Robin assists in getting the plant off of Batman. The plant is then placed onto Mongul. Mongul collapses in a dream state. Mongul’s dream involves killing all the heroes and establishing a war world on the planet Earth.
The real mastery here is that Alan Moore demonstrates how similar Superman and Batman really are. We tend to point out their differences as well as how they would do in battle against each other. However, when in a dreamlike state, all each man really wants is a normal life in which their parents are alive. Superman dreams of a life on Krypton with a wife, son, and daughter. It’s a rather profound statement that men like Superman and Batman really just long for a normal life. They long for the life that would have been had they not become superheroes. What does the man who already has everything want? They want the things that most people already have. That statement may be one of the most powerful commentaries on the life of superhero ever put to words.
2. “Steel” (1993)
Superman: The Man of Steel #22 tells the story of John Henry Irons titled “Steel.” Irons recounts how Superman once saved him while falling from a construction site. When Irons thanked Superman, Superman responded that Irons should “live a life worth saving.” After Superman’s battle with Doomsday, Irons laments that he was not able to assist Superman in the battle. This event inspires Irons to build a suit of armor to fight crime. The armor can fly as well as granting Irons super-strength while operating the suit. Towards the end of the issue, Irons sees that gangs are using a modified version of a gun called the “Toastmaster” which Irons designed. Irons sets out to discover why the guns are now being used by gangs on the streets.
“Steel” demonstrates the effect that Superman could have on a relatively normal person. Irons is a genius. Irons is also a master engineer. However, Irons feels that every day after the fall is a gift. Irons feels like he is required to give something back for that gift of life. Irons also feels a responsibility for the “Toastmaster” guns and takes responsibility for clearing them off of the streets. “Steel” shows that Superman’s works can give other lives purpose especially after Superman was gone. In turn, each of those lives could make a difference in other lives. Superman only appears in a flashback in this comic. However, the essence of what it means to be Superman is examined throughout the issue.
1. “The Death of Superman” (1961)
This is not the popular Death of Superman Saga from the early to mid-1990s. Superman #149 was actually classified as an “imaginary story” in the early 1960s. The story was later re-classified to have taken place in an alternate universe or elseworld. In this universe, Lex Luthor works on an ‘Element X’ from prison to develop a cure for cancer. With Superman’s help, cancer is eradicated and Lex Luthor is allowed out of prison on parole. Subsequently, Lex Luthor and Superman develop something of a friendship. The two men are even able to joke about old times. In order to protect Lex from death threats, Superman helps Lex establish a laboratory in outer space. While Superman is visiting his ‘friend’ in outer space, Luthor captures Superman and kills Superman with Kryptonite rays. It is up to Supergirl to take Superman’s place in the world after Superman’s death.
One of the main problems with the major storylines involving Superman and Batman in the 1990s is that the villains were created simply for the event. Bane and Doomsday were simply plot devices. Both of the villains were only fleshed out as actual characters at a later point. Neither Doomsday nor Bane were really intended for use beyond those specific plots. The Silver Age “Death of Superman” story allows the storyline to be the fruition of the long standing rivalry between a super hero and his greatest nemesis. “The Death of Superman” is also the essence of what a great comic book story is supposed to be about. The writers went out and told a great story about Superman. With the “imaginary” caveat, they were allowed to tell a great story about Superman the next month. The release from continuity or a long existing story arc allowed the best story to be told.
Nixon To Obama: A Comparison
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A lot of people will liken the rise of Barack Obama to liberal
predecessors such as John F. Kennedy. While this is interesting,
Obama and Kennedy have very little to do with each other. Obama does
have some early parallels to another American president though it is
not Kennedy and really not Lincoln either. If you want a glimpse,
take this quick comparison between Obama and one Richard Milhaus
1. Nixon appointed university professors and people who disagreed
with him to his cabinet ie George Schultz and Henry Kissinger.
Daniel Patrick Moynahan was a member of Nixon’s staff. Obama has
appointed two previous rivals (Clinton and Richardson) to his
Cabinet and two Republicans as well.
2. Nixon inherited an unpopular war from a different party in Vietnam
and spoke of a plan to end the war. Obama like wise inherits a
unpopular war in Iraq started by another party.
3. Nixon was elected in 1968 which was an Olympics year. Nixon also
supported a détente with China. China hosted the 2008 Olympics. Obama
has taken pains to say that he would sit down with out pre-conditions
with Iran and has even taken steps to create an office to do so and
make contact with Iran (again a traditional enemy). It would be
interesting to see if the 2048 Olympics consider Tehran.
4. Nixon had as a right hand man H.R. Haldeman. Haldeman himself said
that “every President has to have a son of a bitch and I guess I’m
Nixon’s.” Obama’s right hand man Rahm Emmanuel has been described as
a total bastard by members of his own party.
5. Nixon supported the Pakistani side of the Indo-Pakistan war.
Obama not only supports greater diplomacy with Pakistan but also
supports entering Pakistan to help stop Taliban insurgency and
6. Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency and the Drug
Enforcement Agency. Obama held a seat on the Environment and Public
Works State Committee and has made alternative fuels one of the
tenets of his campaign.
7. Nixon endorsed the Anti-Ballistic missile treaty which specifically
curtailed the development of missile defense systems in space. Obama
has promised to not “weaponize space” and has come out against the
Future Combat Systems or FCS.
8. Nixon was the architect of the “Philadelphia Plan” which started
Affirmative action in the United States. Obama was the first black
president of the Harvard Law Review. Nixon did more for ‘actual
integration’ than any of his predecessors.
9.Nixon was famously mistrustful of the media.Obama’s camp is getting
pretty famously slow with the release of information about Rod
Blagojevich contacts especially through Emmanuel.
10.Nixon played basketball at Whittier College. Obama, an avid
basketball player, has played not only with Members of the New York
Knicks but also lettered in basketball in high school.
11. Nixon was a lawyer graduating from the Duke University school of
law. Obama was a lawyer attending the Columbia School of Law.
12. Nixon had two daughters. (Tricia and Julia)Barack Obama has two
daughters. (Malia Ann and Sasha)
13. Nixon entered the United States House of Representatives in 1947
in his mid thirties. Barack Obama entered the Illinois House of
Representative in 1997 in his mid-thirties.
14. Nixon was an avid pipe smoker. Barack Obama has tried to quit
smoking on several unsuccessful occasions.
15. Nixon wrote a best seller called Six Crises. Barack Obama wrote a
best seller called the Audacity of Hope.
16. The presidential approval ratings between Lyndon Johnson and
George W. Bush (both Texans) leading up to the wins by Nixon and
Obama are eerily similar.
17. Both of their Vice-Presidential appointments come from
essentially the same area. Joseph Biden was from Scranton,
Pennsylvania. Spiro Agnew was from Baltimore, Maryland. The total
driving distance between the two cities is less than 200 miles.
18. Both did their undergraduate work in California (Whittier for
Nixon and Occidental for Obama) before moving east for law degrees
(Duke for Nixon and Columbia for Obama).
19. Nixon won his Senate seat in 1950 and was on the ticket as Vice
President in 1952 not actually finishing out his term in the Senate.
Barack Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004, started campaigning
in 2006 and became President in 2008 not actually finishing out his
20. Both men were unusually close to their mothers. Nixon described
Hannah Nixon as a “quaker saint” and Obama described Ann Dunham
as “the dominant figure in my early life.” Neither woman would
actually live to see their sons take the Oath of Office.
21. Barack Obama is 6 foot 1 and 180 pounds roughly. Nixon was 5 feet
11 and 175 pounds roughly.
22. Nixon’s landslide win over Helen Gahagan in 1950 and Obama’s win
over Alan Keyes in 2004 both represented historic margins of victory
for a Senate race at that time. Nixon’s in the state of California
and Obama’s in the state of Illinois.
23. Both had surprisingly midwestern roots, Nixon’s mother was born
in Jennings County Indiana. Obama’s mother was born in Ft.
Leavenworth Kansas. Both women also moved west (California and
Hawaii) in later years.
24. Nixon and Obama were both elected in the same election cycle
forty years apart.
25. Obama’s first term will end on January 19th, 2013. If Nixon were
alive, he would have turned 100 eleven days before that.
Every now and again, there is something the you read that becomes seemingly essential to your development as a human being. Literally, the moment that you put it down, you are a different person than when you pick it up. These types of things are different for everyone. It is like if someone has this great story about being on a river in Venice and that is the day that the proposed to their wife. They needle and needle you until you get on that same river and all you have is a bumpy ride. I had always heard about the emotion connected with the Vietnam Wall Memorial. Personally, I have been twice and I was just unable to connect with it. Its different for everyone. I don’t actually expect these to have potentially to much meaning for you, but for me they were extremely transformative.
God’s Adventurer was important to me for not only its message but also at the point and time in which I read it. I was in the seventh grade and had just transferred schools. I was pretty much in what could only be described as a post-traumatic shell after dealing with some really merciless bullying at my previous school. Literally, I could barely and would barely talk to people. It was shortly after that that my teacher Martha Walker assigned us a book to read. That book was God’s Adventurer by Phyllis Thompson. It told of the missionary Hudson Taylor. It told of how he decided to live by faith alone that God would in fact fulfill his promise and take care of him. Purposefully, Taylor did not remind his employer to pay him. Taylor followed that small inner voice through his whole life. He went to China. He survived disease. He survived poverty. All of it just seemed to end in one miracle after another. Quietly, the inner voice in my head started to go off. It started to say ‘You, you are going to have a life like that. You are going to be like Hudson Taylor.” Somehow, that made things start to get better. It also established a philosophy of faith (sometimes blind) that I have held to to this very day. It is like anything else. It is practiced. You have to learn to listed for that voice. It will not instantly start you out with big things. It starts out with ‘write an email.’ or ‘call someone, they need it.’ In my life, eventually it became “Work in the Philippines for a few months” and then it became “Quit your job and move to Maryland during the height of the greatest recession in 20 years.” Sometimes, you are like “really, God, did I just hear that right?” But if you are practiced in living by faith, faith will be its own reward.
I was at a pharmacy (much like Walgreen’s) looking in the toy aisle for G.I. Joe . I turned the card over for Zartan’s Brother and read the biography. I read it twice. I put the figure back. Keep in mind, I never actually owned the action figure. It was only two paragraphs. I walked away inspired. I wanted to literally be that guy. The next day at school, I purposefully sat in the back. I tried my best to not be noticed. I tried to walk behind people and not be noticed. I tried to figure out how to walk without being heard. I wanted to master … quiet. I paid attention to the character when the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero cartoon came on. I wanted to mimic the voice and how he talked without inflection. By college, I could literally walk into someone’s dorm-room and sit down and they would never even know I had entered the room. I could sneak up on people with Army training specifically to detect such things. I could sit in a hallway in broad daylight and no one would ever even know that I was there. No formal training, I just thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to one day have that written about me.
In the comic X-Universe 1-2, there is the character of Dr. Donald Blake who never became Thor. At one point, this lame doctor manages to kill one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. Before that happens though, he makes a speech. The speech starts ‘in my dreams.’ Blake states that in his dreams, he dines with gods and goddesses in Valhalla. In his dreams, he knows that the world in which he found himself in was never meant to be. Blake was cheated in that life and he knew it. He knew that there was another world in which he had not been conquered. He knew that there was a world in which things did not go wrong. There was a world in which he could command thunder with a hammer. He wasn’t in that world. That fact made Dr. Donald Blake angry. In that anger, he found his power. I often think of that speech when people tell me that everything in ok or act like I have accomplished all that I ever will. I think of that speech when people suggest that I have fulfilled whatever potential I was supposed to have. I feel like they do not know me. I feel even more like the character of Dr. Donald Blake does. In my dreams, everything started right. Things went right from there. In this world, I can only steer towards an end. But to make it such and end that I feel like I had the beginning all along.
I have seen my share of people die. Honestly, I have seen too many. I have been affected by death as long back as I could remember. The Death of Aunt May in Amazing Spiderman 400 was something so beautiful that I have quoted it at funerals afterwards. When I think of death, I often go back to that issue in my mind. Aunt May tells Peter that she always knew that he was Spider-Man. She wonders what it would have been like to soar across the city skyline. The secret that Peter had kept for so long, the person closest to him had known all along and approved of it. In a lot of ways, that just meant the world to me. It opened up a world of hope. When Peter tearfully tells May that the way to Neverland is just the Second Star to the right and straight on till morning, I have never honestly been able to hear that line again after that without choking up a little bit. It was like it was written for me, on behalf of all those people whom I saw pass and could never make sense of.
Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is quite simply one of the best books ever written in the English language. More than that though, the journey that it takes you on if you are around a passionate group of people will really affect you. The thing about The Quiet American is to be able to see things from every point of view. How do you get to the point where you could commit and inhuman act and be absolutely convinced that you are doing the right thing? That is not only a question that was essential in Greene’s day, it is a question that is even more essential now. When I walked away from this book, it was with a greater and deeper understanding of the human condition and it was a chilling experience. It takes a certain type of person to appreciate it, and if I ever recommend it to you personally, then I not only feel that the book will speak to you but I feel like it needs to speak to you.
The Fourth K by Mario Puzo is absolutely the most important book a person could read in our post 911 world to truly understand the political and cultural realities in which we find ourselves. The trick is that it was written about ten years before the events of September 11th ever took place. The Fourth K is so relevant that I think people are glad that it is largely forgotten. I don’t think I truly understood the political world before reading this book. I certainly have grown to understand it afterwards. It taught me how to look at things. It even taught me how to read news stories.
John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success really showed me that to be successful, one had to be patient as well as consistent. Part of it was sweeping out driveways (literally) when I was working for my dad. There was no real point in sweeping a driveway that cars were just going to drive over again. However, if you kept at the task at hand, then even the driveway could get swept. Many of the projects that I do today (and I by no means at all consider myself to be a success) is simply plotting the next careful move that can actually be accomplished within the next day. Every night, I tweet `140 characters of the Bible. It has taken three years to get to Genesis chapter 24. It will probably take till 2016 just to get to the end of Genesis. The point is that seemingly impossible things than be done with slow steady progress. That helps me to budget time and get through days even ones that I consider to be ‘wasted.’ Maybe some day, it will actually all help me to be considered a ‘success’ in my own eyes.
Different Seasons is honestly the best novel or novel series that Stephen King has ever done. At the very least, it was the most personally relevant one to me. Between stories like The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redmption. King manages to display a way to make sense out of the non sensical and find triumph in the cruel. Its not about doing anything with the body. Its about finding it. It is not about being in prison, it is about digging a tunnel out of it. It has nothing to do with who you were before but who you become after. Again, I am suspect of anyone who would tell me that I am fine just the way that I am. That does not mean that I am fine. That means that they personally are very comfortable with where I am and who I am in this life. I have found that comfort and misery will often go hand in hand. You accept a certain level of misery in order to maintain a certain level of comfort. The argument against the alleviation of misery is always the level of comfort that has always been achieved. Different Seasons dares to suggest that this is in essence a fallacy and that institutionalization can in fact be deadly. We are all in some sort of prison. Are we all digging out that wall each and every day?
I think that I first read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology when I was in about the third grade. It was about the same time that I read the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. My mother was an elementary school teacher. She taught sixth grade, so I read the books that she took home. Mythology contributed to giving me a life long love of epic stories. I would go on to actually getting a degree in Classical Civilizations from the University of Mississippi. Classics (especially if you get through Greek and Latin) is really nothing more than an advanced study in problem solving. Problem solving is literally a skill which I have to use nearly thirty or forty times a day. I would actually grow to love comics and superhero stories after I read Mythology. In a way, it actually grounded me in a way that I would be able to appreciate the comics in context of the older stories in which they reflected.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf is a compelling book on a lot of levels, not only on the changes that the character goes through in a nearly immortal life. but also the evolution of the characters around them. Getting a destiny right is often a terrible thing for everyone around that person. It discusses the inevitability of change as well as how eventually even a universe can get things right. When you start to learn more about Woolf’s life, then it becomes not only more painful but also more essential and relevant.
Its like the story of the boat ride in Venice. I cannot guarantee you that any of these works will shape you in any way or affect you. I can only say that that is what they did for me. They may mean nothing to you and that is quite honestly ok. As I try to put a Jerry Springer bow on it all, I am just giving you what affected me in order to have a deeper appreciation and understanding on me. Nothing more, Nothing less. If you want to go through and read all of them, then I would highly encourage it but I cannot guarantee that you would get anything out of it.
The Mountain Curse
The Morning General Hospital has been locked down in secrecy for the last two weeks. Workers at the hospital are not allowed access to the twelfth floor unless they have the highest clearance. The people who are handing out the ‘highest clearance’ have the run of the hospital, but they are not employees. They also do not seem to answer to anyone at the hospital.
Of those granting the ‘highest clearance,’ the one who seems to have seniority is Mister Steele. Mister Steele has a flat top haircut. His hair is a bright orange. Mister Steele smokes constantly (even in the hospital.) At the moment, Mister Steele is on his way to see Doctor Zenddacker. Doctor Zenddacker is one of the only doctors to have consistent ‘highest clearance’ to the twelfth floor.
Mister Steele is walking at a brisk pace to Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Mister Steele is being led to the office by Nurse Starr. Nurse Starr has dirty blonde hair and works out regularly. Nurse Starr mainly entered the medical profession to meet young doctors who might be looking for a wife. Of all the men Nurse Starr has met, Mister Steele makes her skin crawl the most. Mister Steele is even scarier than her father ever was. They way Mister Steele walks and moves makes Nurse Starr want to go back to school for a degree in elementary education. Now matter how fast she walks, Mister Steele always manages to keep pace. This is impressive considering Mister Steele is at least thirty years older than Nurse Starr.
Finally, the two reach Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Nurse Starr lets Mister Steele in. Mister Steele is wearing a black suit with a thin black tie. Steele also has thin sunglasses which he is wearing inside as well lips so thin that they almost look reptilian. With the government these days, they might very well be some sort of reptilian hybrid. That would be a lot easier to check out if there was any official record of ‘Mister Steele’ existing anywhere.
When you get to the point where you start to meet people that do not exist, then things have gone too horribly real. Doctor Zenddacker does not stand. Nurse Starr leaves without even asking if she could be of further assistance. Everyone in the room knows that she cannot.
Doctor Zenddacker is normally a very bright happy man. Zenddacker has bushy gray hair and wears horn-rimmed glasses. At the moment, the good doctor’s brow is rather unnaturally furrowed.
Doctor Zenddacker does not bother too look up. The Doctor knows who is in the room. The Doctor knows why they have come. The Doctor knows exactly what they want means.
Doctor Zenddacker looks up at Mister Steele and says barely above a whisper “I suppose if I asked you nicely to not smoke it my office, it would be considered merely a suggestion?”
The disgust was dripping from Zenddacker’s lips as he talked to this man. The fact that Zenddacker considered Steele to be the worst sort of human being was not inb question. For his part, as long as Zenddacker answered his questions, Steele could care less how far Zenddacker wanted to see him buried. Steele dismissed with the formalities assuming Steele even knew what such things were. Steele said coldly “I understand that the last of the campers is dead. Do I understand that to be correct?”
Zenddacker responded “Your concerned is touching. Yes, her name was Mary. She was the oldest of three daughters. I informed the family this morning. As with the others, I informed them that the cause was ‘unknown.’”
One of Steele’s pencil thin auburn eyelashes raised slightly. “And?”
Zenddacker continued after a short sigh “The mother threatened to sue the hospital and the government. The father tried to take a swing at me.”
Steele paused briefly. “Did he connect?”
Zenddacker paused and spoke again. “No, he had not even really made a fist.”
Steele looked genuinely displeased “Pity. We could have locked him up for a long time. I had hoped the girl would live.”
Zenddacker smirked. “Well Mister Steele, that is almost touching.”
Steele continued “At least a day. The culture on the biopsy would have been better if the body was still alive. Now, we will have to rush before things start to get cold.”
Zenddacker continued. “Well, I guess you read the report.”
Steele responded “Yes, that report has been marked as the highest level of national security. You would be advised to never discussed.”
Zenddacker chuckled slightly. “I just wrote that ‘national security document’ this morning.”
Steele grew grave. “You may be happy to know that our scientists concur with your findings right down to the use of that… ancient word.”
Zenddacker grew even more indignant. “That ancient word Mister Steele is cancer. It is not actually illegal to say.”
Steele turned towards the door. “Its not? I will have to make a few calls. I will have the bodies removed within the week. Then you can open up the floor and never mention any of this again.”
Zenddacker was now legitimately furious. “Or else? That is the implication, isn’t it? Tell me Mister Steele, will you delegate out the responsibility or would you kill me personally if I mention it again?”
Steele leaned into Zenddacker , quite uncomfortably so “Are you requesting that I do it personally Doctor Zenddacker?”
Doctor Zenndacker tried to pretend he was not afraid. It was not a very good job. The boldest thing that Zenndacker could say in response was “Mister Steele, there has not been a reported case of cancer in the last thousand years. This is a fact that I am sure you are well aware of. Now, how exactly did we have four hikers die of cancerous cells in under a week? How does that happen, Mister Steele?”
Steele was unusually cold in his response even for Steele “You part in this affair is over Doctor Zenddacker. I appreciate your work even if I am unable to personally acknowledge it. We will be out of your hospital within a week.”
With that, Steele turned to leave. Steel let the door shut behind him. Steele knew it would shut. Steele probably also knew that Zenddacker had collapsed into his chair. Zenddacker was scared and white as a sheet. Steele knew that too. Steele thought it would be of little comfort to Zenddacker that Zenddacker had actually acted about as bravely in front of him as anyone ever had. Deep down, Steele admired that Zenddacker had never once relinquished a sense of disgust or superiority when talking to him.
Steele talked with out breaking stride. “Open comm. Yes, I want Silver in office 1215 in four minutes. I will already be at the desk.”
Silver was a big burly man easily twice the size of Steele. Silver wore the same outfit. Silver knew Steele better than Zenddacker. This gave Silver reason to be twice as nervous when talking to Steele.
Steele felt the need to show even less tact with Silver. “All four of the hikers. Three males and one female are now deceased. They all died of the same thing. Now, as to that….thing. Where do we stand on information as well as containment?”
Silver almost stammered “Containment is almost complete. We will send the materials out on a ‘satellite launch’ in the next 48 hours….”
Steele interrupted as was his custom “24 hours. I want that rocket set up and launched before sunrise.”
Silver continued “Director Stevens approved a 48 hour time frame.”
Steele retorted “I am quite sure that the order stated 48 hours or earlier. If it launches two days from now, I will personally issue you a ticket on that rocket. Understood?”
Silver had no reason to believe that Silver was anything but serious. Silver nodded. “I apologize. The containment and launch will be scheduled for tomorrow morning. This Doctor Zenddacker?”
Steele was more curt in his response than normal. “I have decided against liquidating him.”
Silver continued “But standard procedure?”
Steele responded angrily “I am standard operating procedure. Back to the hikers. How exactly did they know to go to that tunnel?”
Silver reported. “There was a local legend. Apparently, there was some truth to it. They said that the mountain was cursed. They said that there was a tunnel in there from which the curse would kill you. People would come in but would not come out. That’s what made this hiking party special. They were strong enough at the end to leave the mountain.”
Steele looked down and then back up again. “So, are you saying that the tunnel in the mountain had more bodies.”
Silver straightened up against talking to his superior “there was an undetermined amount of casualties found near the barrels, yes. The remains were disposed of when the barrels were contained.”
For the first time since no one could remember, Steele was actually a bit reflective. “It is incredible isn’t it Silver? I mean in the 31st century that we would even find it or that it would still be lethal. Who would have known? And the markings on the barrels, can we confirm the suspected symbols?”
Silver continued. “Yes, they were faded but we are able to confirm the symbols. Apparently, it was once a common way to label the substance inside.”
Steele slid back in his chair. “Nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant. The greatest archaeological finding in centuries and now we get to blast it into space under a cloak of secrecy. Its absolutely amazing, Silver. Naturally, follow protocols.”
Silver tried his best to maintain an official air. “Yes, sir.”
Steele continued “Silver, you are dismissed.”
`Silver nodded calmly and walked out the door. Silently, he thought to himself that legends of deadly curses on ancient tombs would now go on forever.
I have reached the point yet again in my life where I find myself begging on some level. For those of you that may not know the history of this, or may not have been keeping up, here is what has been going on. In late October, I found myself in immense pain that I thought was testicular in nature. I applied for short term disability through work through Liberty Mutual. Initially, it was approved and it was determined to be epididymitis. I did what I was told, took the medicine and came back to work. I was then told that since I was out for less than five days, I would not qualify for any days with short term disability because it was less than five days.
After a week more, the pain became unbearable and I was referred to a urologist. The urologist actually did nothing more than say that the issue was not testicular in nature and that I would have to see a general surgeon. The earliest that the general surgeon would be able to see me was the beginning of January. At the beginning of January, the general surgeon determined that I was actually herniated in three places. That would require surgery. The surgery was scheduled for January 18th. In the interim, the insurance company Liberty Mutual denied my claim outright because it had been 45 days and all they had to go on was the urologist stating that the issue was not testicular in nature. Keep in mind, this denial came when I actually had surgery coming on the 18th proving that it was medical in nature. They further determine that even with as much pain I was in, that I could have been working all along. If I wanted to include the information about the surgery, that would all have to go into an appeal. What money I was bringing in during this time was brought in by either begging friends and family or writing online. Work never managed to pay a dime.
From January 18th on was the time of the surgery and the recovery. It was a terrible time and again, there was no real regular income. Most bills ended up being covered by a mixture of generosity, online writing, and the tax return coming in. Rent itself lagged about a month behind. When I finally did get back to work, Liberty Mutual said that I had exactly one appeal. I wrote out my appeal and kept calling them every day, the appeal was then denied based on their feeling that I should have been able to work and that they felt like the surgery was really after the fact. At the very least, I felt like there should have been payment for the time after the surgery through at least coming back to work. They managed to feel differently. Furthermore, work required an 8 page form filled out by my Doctor since the appeal was denied to even approve a leave of absence from work. In short, if the form was not filled out correctly, then I would still not be able to return to work.
Finally, I was allowed to return to work in the middle of February. After that, even with the tax return things struggled to get everything up to date as far as bills were concerned. I was informed by the apartment that I was about 1200 behind on rent. I figured that could make that up so I actually worked six days last week in order to get my check which deposits tomorrow up to 1200 at least. I figured beyond that I could again make it through by writing or whatever small things were needed to make it through for the next two weeks. There was an actual plan and everything seemed like it would go well. Most importantly, it did not look like I would have to beg.
Best laid plans of mice and men and all. I come home last night to a note on the door. The note says that I will be evicted on Tuesday if the amount is not paid of 1488 by Tuesday. This was actually nearly three hundred above what I had been initially told. Even with the overtime, the total amount needed to avoid eviction at this point now stands at around 342. The plan was always that if I could make it to May, then I would get paid three times because of the pay cycle on the two weeks in May. Furthermore, the beginning of May is the time in which my pay check is actually padded by a quarterly bonus and the last check is when the monthly take outs for car, home, and medical insurance do not come out. I had actually planned on mostly getting caught up on May 3rd. Then the paycheck on Mary 17th would break even and the paycheck on May 30th would actually get me ahead and all of the nightmare would finally be over. I don’t even want to discuss the medical bills. That is a special discussion in and of itself. 2013 was marked on the calendar for a long time as the time in which I was supposed to finally get out of a lot of bad stuff on my credit report. Basically from about 2003 to 2006, there was a series of defaults and damaging information. So, I have pretty much forgotten about credit after that. Starting in 2010, things started to drop off. The final negative mark was supposed to just go ahead and fall off in 2015 (which was a dispute with my apartment in Oklahoma, an entirely different discussion in and other itself). The place in Oklahoma was overtaken with bugs and they literally refused to take care off the air issue because they wanted to renovate.
So even though there was a plan and even though next month is going to be good, I have to get through this month first. All in all, the total amount is about 350 or so that I drop dead need. The problem is that I feel like I have been constantly and always begging for money, so it has been a rather serious blow to my level of human dignity and all. This is especially true because I had to make a similar plea at the beginning of January.
Honestly, I don’t actually know why. I have the most wonderful generous and consistently great friends in the world. I just don’t know how many times (even given the extreme circumstances) I am going to continue to have friends when it seems like all I ever feel like I do is in fact beg for money. I just have to believe that God has a plan for me and that God will provide for me and my family. I know that times are rough all around. I just don’t know if there is just about 350 out there to make it through this last hurdle before everything is good again.
I have no real right to ask, however I find myself in the position of asking and not having another way out of it even though I have tried so hard to avoid asking.
My pay pal is firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help out. If you are not able too, I understand completely. People have already given above and beyond so much to me that I could never even begin to repay any of them for the amount of human kindness, love, and everything else that I have received in life. If it doesn’t work out, then God simply has another path for me in life. I keep talking about how faith, family, friends, and love have saved me. I just hate that it keeps being a necessity. Thanks for taking the time.
Lets just generously say that there are things that I think about a bit too much. There are things that no one actually wants my opinion on and my opinion will never matter. That does not actually stop me from having a precise and well thought out answer should the question ever arise. I am not really alone in this. There is an entire army of men ready and waiting to explain exactly what the in field fly rule is in baseball knowing that one day it will actually come up and be kind of a thing. So, in that regard, I often think about what the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would look like today. Never mind the fact that I am not British and I don’t think Alan Moore has any of my contact information. I also tend to think long and hard on the question of “Hey, you random citizen, cast my superhero movie for me.” One just has to be prepared for these types of things. So, I was thinking about all the different people that would currently have a ‘franchise’ passed over to them and how that group might make an intriguing league.
Assuming that Baby Oscar was born in 1988, he would be around 25 now. Oscar would also have been raised his entire life around nuclear powered laser jet packs, ghost containment, the occult, and the prusuit of science. In short, Baby Oscar from Ghostbusters 2 would be a modern day Abraham Van Helsing in training. Also, unlike the pudgy middle aged men that we know as Ghostbusters, Oscar would have the benefit of being raised by Dana Barrett who seemed to put a premium on exercise. You have to imagine out a bit but there are few people that you would want more in your league today than Oscar Barrett.
By now, Williams (or rather Henry Jones III) would be an octogenarian. Ironically, that would put him in the same role as Sean Connery (who played his grandfather) in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) movie. Williams would be the elder statesman of the group to be sure. However, as a lifelong adventurer as well as presumably archaeologist, Williams experience by this time would be a welcome addition to any group. This is also not to mention that there is a good chance even in his advanced age that Williams would still have a level of physcial prowess.
Interestingly enough, Stephen King himself is going back to the adulthood of the boy who possessed “the Shining” in a new novel called Doctor Sleep. Given the proper inspiration, these days Torrance is a modern day Martian Manhunter as well as a potential Dr. Jeckyll / Mr. Hyde. In any mystery, having a man with mental abilities would be invaluable to help. This would be especially true if there were mental abilities which had not yet been discovered. Having a proper adventure may also prove to be curative for Doctor Sleep. Of course, it might also well be the trigger for violent madness.
If you are 7 years old and the terrorist orginzation COBRA drops a plane on your house, it might affect you. This would be especially true if your Dad was capable of putting together a campaign which ultimately led to him putting a gun directly in the face of a Cobra Commander would give you an interesting perspective on life. In short, Charlie Fairmont would probably have been raised nearly completely in what is referred to as the militia / survivalist movement. In addition, with his father’s beliefs as well as background as a Doctor, we are looking at an unexplored little gem who just might have grown up to be like Batman. Certainly, in a modern era of Joes, Fairmont might be the most natural of all of them.
McClane seems to have inherited a craziness as well as an invincibility from his father. This is truly remarkeable especially in a broken home that doesn’t ‘hug.’ McClane is another example of being born into relative badassery all your life. As such, McClane generally has more potential than even his father had who came by it relatively late in life (all things considered.) McClane brings a resourcefullness as well as a certain unconventionality to his role, all things considered. McClane also has the advantage of you in addition to being ahead of the supposed curve.
After a lifetime of being hellbent on vengeance upon watching the Bride kill her mother, Nikki has been the subject of rampant speculation for years. Certainly, Bell would have found sympathic elements willing to help her along a quest of vengeance and ninja level skill. Whether or not that ultimate goal had been acheived, such a living weapon would certainly be of interest to the government so that they might exploit for their own needs. By now, Nikki would be a teenager to her early twenties. She would be at the height of her physical skill if not the height of her experience. Nikki would be like a younger more dangerous Black Widow.
Whats the only thing more dangerous than a person raised for an apocalypse? A person raised and prepared for an apocalypse that never came. You had to spend your life taking on Terminators with conventional weapons as well as treating every day as one in which you were at war. Connor was also raised with leadership capabilities believing he would one day be a savior to all mankind. That day has still yet to come, however this does not mean that Connor would not be an asset in any type of fight. Connor would be a master of a wide variety of weapons as well as military tactics as well as a better than average break in artist and thief.
For the record, I really would like to request ideas that will not leave my head until they are written down in some form to keep better hours and let me sleep more on my off days. I am just throwing that out there kind of universally. Just a suggestion. Anyone who is listening that may have an impact on the situation, I would prefer more sleep before having to do these things.
All that being said, my wife has a friend who is a cigar smoker and is endlessly fascinated by the topic of cigar smoking. As a result, he also believes that everyone else would and should be endlessly fascinated by the subject of cigar smoking. Like a broken clock that is right two times a day, he sent her over email something that was actually…endlessly fascinating. It was a youtube video of a contributer to Cigar Afficianado magazine talking about the perfect way to light a cigar.
During his travels, he was in Mexico at the family of a local beauracrat who treated him to what he called a traditional Mexican dinner. He stated that as in all truly traditional Mexican dinners, it ended around 11:30 at night. After the dinner, the host asked him if he would like a cigar. The man said “Would I?” excitedly and the Mexican host pulled out some of his finest cigars and handed him one. No stranger to cigars, the man immeadiately pulled out his clip and clipped the cigar – lit t- and began to enjoy.
The Mexican host was nearly offended. He asked the man if he had any idea what the proper way to light a cigar was. The man thought “I just lit the thing, didn’t I?” The Mexican host shook his head and said “Wait, I will show you.” Carefully, slowly, and deliberately, the Mexican host removed the cigar from its wrapper. Carefully, slowly, and deliberately, he laid down three matches. Wooden matches long and tall. Then over a golden bowl, the Mexican host lit the first match on the table. He put the cigar over it and turned the cigar over the match on the end of the tip. He did not cut the tip off. The guest watched expectantly and asked why he had not cut off the tip.
The Mexican host said “Think of all that you lose when the match strikes the air. Think of all that is in the tip. Think of all the taste and Inatural aroma that is changed immediately…no this way is better.” The Mexican host engaged his guest in discourse. He was always looking down at the cigar, always talking but never taking his focus off and talking about whatever the guest wanted to speak of. The guest talked with his host, but he was still focused on when the tip was going to be cut off. He was also focused on when the cigar was going to be actually lit.
The first match got down to the point of nearly burning the Mexican hosts finger. He put out the match on the golden tray and quickly lit the second match. Again, the tip was not cut off. Again, he placed the fire next to the tip. Again, he turned it. Again, he started talking to the guest about other things. But even as he was engaged in discourse, again his concentration never left the cigar or the turning or hold the flame at the proper angle. Again the match went nearly down to the hosts’ finger and again he put the match out and moved to the third match.
Surely he was done and with the third match, the host would cut off the tip and simply light the cigar? No, the process did not change. The host took the third match and lit it. He slowly rolled the cigar over the match as he did the other two and continued talking to his guest. To the guest astonishment, the procedure had not changed and yet there was no fourth match. Slowly and deliberately the cigar was turned over the flame. Slowly and deliberately, the host never wavered in his concentration in rolling the cigar or left his duty as being a host engaging in discourse with his guest. Finally, tantilizingly, the match nearly again hit the Mexican hosts finger. And he put out the match.
With carefully timing and percision, the host then reached for his cigar clip and clipped off the enge of the cigar. He put the cigar in his mouth and took a drag long and comfortably. He then exhaled the drag. The cigar once the tip was cut off had already been lit by being put over the flame and was not released until it was time.
I saw that video and (not being a cigar smoker) a deeper meaning was imparted on me. As Christians, we should realize that God will never waiver from his duties or from his plan. Like the guest, we don’t see how the plan will ultimately unfold. Like the cigar, all we may feel is that we are being slowly turned over and open flame. But His concentration or His purpose in getting everything absolutely correct so that we are ready for His purpose never waivers. His eyes are always upon us and He is always working with us. Even though, we may feel like He is not paying attention or focusing on other things with the discourse of a guest.
All too often in society and even in our Christian walk, we are like the guest. Naturally, we know how things should be done. We have lit cigars hundreds and thousands of times. We know what we are doing. We take the way that is easy and immediate. We do not take the way that is correct and intended for the fullest extent. We also do not often understand what is going on or that we were in facr being prepared for a greater purpose the entire time.
There are many times in my life when I have looked back and seen the Majesty of the Plan after it was finished. I saw how things happened the way that they happened and could ot have happened any other way or more perfectly. Even though the action at the time seemingly had nothing to do with the goal. It is the actions taken by faith and not understanding that I have grown to cherish the most in life. I do not know why anything happens. I do not know particularly why I needed to write this at 8:18 eastern standard time on my day off. But God does. He has a plan. He knows who needs to read this right now and who cannot wait any longer even though I could have certainly gone back to sleep and not written it.
God bless. The path is dark and uncertain but the Guide is wise and knows where He is going. Its a slow burn but I guarantee the end result will be like magic.