F5: Look! Up in the sky!

February 22, 2013

I’ve always been a big fan of comic books, which is kind of paradoxical, because I read relatively few of them (maybe a couple of dozen, tops) as a child, and my knowledge of comic-book superheroes came more from Saturday-morning cartoons than the pages of Action Comics or The Amazing Spider-Man. On the other hand, I did read a fair number of the kinds of comics that were published as books rather than magazines—such as Tintin or Asterix&mdash (both of which I also read in the original French in high school, as a way to improve my French comprehension)—and I got interested in graphic novels while I was in university.

Comic books were marketed to people of my age back when I was 10 or 11, and they are still marketed to people of my age today—that is to people who grew up reading them when I was young. The maturity and complexity of the stories has also increased proportionately. No matter where you go, they’re still age-appropriate! (And even if they weren’t, I’ve never been ashamed of reading well-written juvenile fiction, anyway.)

So, to close off this year’s installment of F5, here are:

My Four Favourite . . . Comic Book Superheroes

  • Superman: The hands-down winner. But you’ve already probably figured that out from my regular Saturday posts. Superman is the prototypical superhero: the first, for example, to wear a fancy costume (modeled after a circus strongman’s outfit) instead of the trenchcoat and mask worn by the other mystery men of the day. In fact, I actually prefer the Golden Age Superman somewhat, when his abilities were nowhere near the godlike powers he needs today to save the world from cosmic foes. There was a time when he beat up hoods instead of Darkseid.
  • Firestorm: A nuclear accident fused teenage jock Ronnie Raymond and nuclear physicist Martin Stein into a single entity, who is capable of re-organizing matter at the atomic level. Because Professor Stein was unconscious during the accident, he can only provide advice while Ronnie controls Firestorm’s body. The high point of the series was the dialogue between them; humour was a major component of the comic despite its full title of The Fury of Firestorm. Different characters have joined or left the Firestorm persona as the comic series developed; I preferred the original lineup of Ronnie and Stein, though the current “New 52” team of Ronnie and Jason Rusch does have its moments. When I first read Firestorm back in the early 1980s, he didn’t have a monthly title of his own: he was, in fact, the B story in . . .
  • The Flash: As a kid, the Scarlet Speedster was always my favourite “guest” superhero on The Super Friends. The Barry Allen version of the Flash is arguably the first superhero of the Silver Age, coming on the scene in the late 1950s. As a general rule, my favourite incarnation of any given hero is the one from the Silver Age (Superman excepted), and that’s certainly true in this case, too. However, give Barry the costume of Jay Garrick’s Golden-Age Flash, and you’d really have something.
  • Iron Man: Yes, although clearly I prefer DC superheroes, there is one Marvel character on the list: Tony Stark, billionaire playboy and genius inventor, who fights crime in a high-tech armour suit. I was almost entirely unfamiliar with Iron Man prior to the 2008 movie, which has since become one of my favourite superhero films. I’m looking forward to this year’s Iron Man 3 if only because Shell-Head finally squares off against the most significant rogue in his gallery: the Mandarin.

And that is that for another February of Fridays. Until next year, we return to the blog’s usual fare of stupid criminals, drunk moose, and monkeys. Heh.

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Yay for scammers

February 20, 2013

Me:Hello?

Guy on phone with heavy Indian accent: Hello, this is Windows Operating System technical support. There is a problem with your computer.

Me: Oh, really.

Guy: [beat] Hello?

Me: Get lost. *click*

Let me note a few items of relevance to your friendly neighbourhood phishing scammer:

  1. There is no such thing as “Windows Operating System technical support.” The company is Microsoft.
  2. Microsoft has no mechanism for detecting “problems” with every Windows-running PC in the world.
  3. Microsoft does not make unsolicited technical support calls.
  4. Even if they did, they don’t have this number.
  5. The computer is a Macintosh.

If you get a phone call something like the above, don’t do what they tell you. This scam has been doing the rounds for a couple of years. From what I’ve googled so far, they will attempt to give you instructions that would grant them remote access to your computer.

Sorry, Apu. Not this time.


F5 #3: In which I get needlessly commercial

February 16, 2013

When I do this F5 series, they have a general tendency to follow a recurring pattern: movies, music, books food, though perhaps not in that order. I’m pretty sure I’ve never just listed a bunch of addresses of a café chain for kicks, so this is perhaps one of the quirkiest things I’ve ever posted to the blog. But it’s partly about food (and so it sticks to the pattern), and it’s also about me (and so it sticks to the purpose).

I began drinking coffee in my late teens—perhaps around 17. (I’d already been drinking tea for a few years). Living in a small town with limited opportunities, my options were whatever I could make myself (usually instant) or what I could buy in a spare period from the school cafeteria, which, suprisingly, wasn’t that bad. When I moved to the city for university, I was almost turned off coffee entirely, thanks to the horrible, tar-like substance dispensed by my residence’s dining room. As a classmate once remarked to me, the real advantage of residence coffee was that you could drink a cup in the morning, and if you felt drowsy during class, just lick some off the roof of your mouth later.

In fairly short order, two things redeemed coffee for me: I discovered Tim Hortons coffee (unavailable to me in my teens), and also how to make my own coffee properly, out of ground beans. I soon wanted to try something other than the usual medium roast found in donut shops, or canned grounds from the supermarket. Also, the coffee shops around campus sold flavoured coffee, something not widely available in bean form outside of specialty shops. (But try and find raspberry chocolate or orange brandy coffee today!) So it’s no surprise that I soon found myself shopping at Second Cup for my beans—and, when I wasn’t living around the corner from one at school, frequently sitting in one.

So, without further ado, I present . . .

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I got cat class and I got cat style

February 12, 2013

Toto’s "Africa" stayed at the top of the Billboard chart for all of one week, before being upstaged—again—with "Down Under" by Men at Work on February 12, 1983. So while we’re waiting for something new to come around. here’s another 1983 gem from somewhere in the Top 10 this week: the rockabilly stylings of “Stray Cat Strut,” by the Stray Cats.

Oh my . . . that hair . . .


Superman Saturday: Hero, lands the crippled airplane, solves great mysteries

February 9, 2013

When we last left our heroes, the program announcer was mispronouncing “Superman” as two words: “Super Man.” As a new Superman adventure begins, he’s still doing it. I think it’s going to be some time before they get a new announcer that knows the right way to say the name of the most famous comic-book character in history. Meanwhile, however, sit back and enjoy . . .

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F5 #2: Bond. James Bond.

February 9, 2013

I first discovered James Bond in grade 8, sometime in 1983–84. My first experience with Ian Fleming’s quintessential Britisy superspy was an airing of Moonraker on TV. (Throughout the 1980s, ABC seemed to have a monopoly on broadcasting Bond films in prime-time, and showed one every couple of months.) Not very long afterward, I hit up the public library for Ian Fleming’s novel. I was surprised—but not at all disappointed—to discover that Fleming’s 1955 novel was quite a different animal from its 1979 filmed counterpart, which resembled it in name only.

The result, however, was that I fell in love with both Fleming’s series of novels and the movies made from them. So, as my second instalment of this year’s F5 series, and in light of the 50th anniversary movie Skyfall‘s release on home video this week, I present:

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Some old forgotten words or ancient melodies

February 7, 2013

Whoops! Little bit late this week . . .

On February 5, 1983, Men at Work were knocked off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 after three weeks. The new #1 hit was the second single from Toto’s 1982 album, Toto IV. Ironically, although the band won a Grammy for their first single, “Rosanna,” it only reached #2; it was the follow-up single, “Africa, that became their first and only #1 song:

I’ve wondered for years what “Africa” was supposed to be about. Tonight I checked Wikipedia to see what it said. Basically, it’s about someone trying to write a song about Africa who has never been there. Figures, really.