(no subject)

The first, and by all accounts the worst, of the "freaks" was the Joker. Young, tall, and thin, journalists speculated he was or had been a hippie because of his outrageously-coloured clothes, seemingly designed to mock the sober-suited establishment.

Chemical thefts at the University of Gotham also supported the idea that he was a former college student. Not even the Batman could identify him by name, however; one of the first concrete facts established was that the Joker had burned off his natural fingerprints with lye.

At first, the Joker simply committed destructive pranks such as painting clown faces on billboards. Soon enough, he graduated to kidnapping, returning his abductees chemically scarred and half-insane from forcible doses of hallucinogens. All of Gotham is frightened of what he will do next. The one thing for which they can be thankful is that he strikes only rarely.

Probably the second most notorious "freak" is Two-Face, formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent. The acid attack that scarred Dent actually predated the emergence of the Joker by a month or so. Some have called Sal "Boss" Maroni's act the last defiant gasp of the old, gangster-run criminal order.

Dent spent months in a private hospital (his room and treatment paid for by his friend and supporter Bruce Wayne), but when the surgeons couldn't repair his damaged face, his therapists found themselves dealing with an ever more withdrawn patient. One day, he was simply gone, his room destroyed and his nurse beaten senseless.

Two-Face - the only name to which he now responds - started to move in on the underworld of Gotham a few weeks later, using everything Dent knew from the D.A.'s files to take control. If there's a boss of bosses in Gotham now, it's him - them?

If Two-Face has a rival, it's the wannabe social climber who calls himself Oswald Cobblepot. No-one believes that is his real name; the scandal sheets call him "the Penguin". He's a failed candidate for public office many times over, a poseur who wears a top hat and tuxedo in ignorance of the fact that a tuxedo is strictly evening wear and top hats are going out of style . . . he's basically a joke, especially to the rich and powerful set to which he wishes so desperately to belong.

But the Penguin has money. His beak-like nose smelled profits to be made during the war, and he's parlayed that fortune into dozens of third-tier clubs across the city. Nearly all of them have back rooms in which shady deals go down. The one advantage Cobblepot has over Two-Face is that he plays host to all the independent operators who work outside the organised gangs - and so his "boys" are less likely to be on anyone's radar.

Meanwhile, Cobblepot squawks to the press about the need for law and order, forever talking about another political run and decrying the hippies and the freaks - oblivious to the fact that the real players in Gotham consider him almost as freakish as the Joker.

(no subject)

At the end of World War II, Gotham City breathed a sigh of relief. She and her citizens had come through mostly unscathed, and could now look forward to the return of her servicemen.

Not everyone who sailed off to fight in Europe or the Pacific was a heroic young man with a patriotic heart. Some were simply glad of any opportunity for reliable money in their pockets and food in their bellies. Mustered out as the Army downsized, they had nowhere to go. The G.I. Bill helped, but too many men from Gotham couldn't make a go of things even with the government's help.

Joe Chill couldn't. He'd been an indifferent soldier, lucky to survive the war. Back once more in the Gotham slums where he grew up, he drifted back into the petty criminal life he had before the war. Now, though, he was no longer a boy, but a grown man with a grown man's habits - and a pistol he took from a dead Nazi.

In 1947, after Bruce Wayne's 10th birthday trip to see Tyrone Power in The Mask of Zorro at the Palace, Joe Chill pulled that pistol on Thomas and Martha Wayne. He wanted Martha's pearls and whatever Thomas had in his wallet. He got two murders and the grief-stricken face of a young boy on his conscience.

Bruce Wayne couldn't see the world the same way after that night. He obsessively followed crime reports in the Gotham Gazette. He neglected his schoolwork in favour of reading about famously uncaught criminals like Jack the Ripper, and notorious gangsters like Al Capone whose real crimes could never be proven in court.

Before Bruce turned 13, he had already decided that he had to use his parents' fortune to prepare himself for doing what the police and the courts could not. At 17, he spread the story that he would leave Gotham City and go to Europe to finish his education; in truth, he spent four years criss-crossing the globe, learning to identify, stalk, fight, and capture the criminal element.

In October of 1958, eleven years after the Waynes' murder in what the newspapers still called Crime Alley, the Batman made his first appearance on the nighttime streets of Gotham City.

Bruce had learned a great deal. He soon identified the dirty cops from the principled few. He made a dramatic appearance at a dinner attended by mob bosses, police brass, and city politicians - demolishing a wall with explosives, and appearing from the smoke and dust to warn them all that he was coming for them.

The mob - and their paid lawmen and lawmakers - fought back. The Batman was branded an outlaw, a criminal trying to intimidate honest businessmen and cops. Yellow papers made comparisons between the masked vigilante and the hooded KKK of the south and midwest. Even more respectable news outlets speculated that the Batman was a Soviet-backed dissident, especially after black and Hispanic leaders tied to Communist groups praised his colour-blind protection of all citizens of Gotham.

Public opinion began to change, a little at a time, as the Batman went from exposing corrupt police officers to uncovering crooked politicians to taking down gangsters cloaked in the guise of respectable businessmen. Everything changed, however, in 1962, when the first of the "freaks" made himself known . . .

The Election: It doesn't really matter.

Well. I mean, obviously, Tony Abbott getting into power would be terrible. The Coalition is clearly the worst choice to govern the nation.

But I don't believe that Labor will be all that much better when all's said and done. Gillard's still throwing public money at private schools. The federal government is still going to be putting public money into chaplaincy programs. Labor's still running a right-leaning line on the asylum-seeker non-issue, and bowing to fearmongering about the prospect of a "Big Australia" rather than addressing the infrastructure challenges of inevitable population growth.

Sure, Labor's plan for a National Broadband Network is much better than the Coalition's "we'll incentivise private industry to do our job!" idea. (I use "incentivise" not because I consider it superior to "give an incentive to" but because it's how the Coalition thinks: in bad business jargon.) But then it's Labor that's refusing to admit that their moronic filter idea is dead, or even that as proposed it would block access to content which is legal to view.

Whichever major party wins the election, Australia is not going to become a better place for me to live anytime in the next five years. It can literally only get worse, overall, if either major party follows its stated policies and objectives.

So sure, I'll vote for the Greens and see where that gets me, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. But there is, in my opinion, no reasonable view of the election result which is anything other than pessimistic about the immediate future of the country.

(no subject)

This month, seventy-one years ago, Detective Comics #27 was published - the first appearance of the Bat-Man.

In 2000, I met the woman who would become my wife in the alt.comics.batman USENET group. Seven years later we were married.

Bill Finger and Bob Kane created the Batman, and are therefore indirectly responsible for the happiness I feel every day when I wake up next to my beautiful wife, Lexa.

Also Chris Nolan's movies are really good. So that's a bonus.

Thank you again, Bruce Wayne.


Via autopope:

List the towns or cities where you spent at least a night away from home during 2009. Mark with a star if you had multiple non-consecutive stays:

Melbourne, Victoria*
Bowral, New South Wales*
Gilston, Queensland*

That's about it. We visited Melbourne for several family events (and we're going down again for Christmas on Thursday); we've stayed at my parents' house in Bowral a couple of times this year; and we spent Easter up at my parents' unit on the Grand Golf Course in Queensland, as well as taking Lexa's parents there during their visit.

If we hadn't been flying to and from Melbourne every time this year, I could probably add Albury and Holbrook, both in New South Wales, because we tend to stay there overnight when we're driving. Plus, of course, we didn't visit the United States this year, or else at least Mountain View, California would be on the list.

STAR TREK (2009)

Star Trek is a fantastic film. Exciting, intriguing, even moving at times - I really felt for the characters in an early scene, you'll know the one when you see it. I loved the references to the show we know - and they're many - but I'm excited to see how they'll take this version forward in its own direction.