All things Batman

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I’ve been listening to Glen Weldon for years on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and he’s so funny and so smart and so endearingly enthusiastic when it comes to all things Batman that in spite of not being a Batman fan myself I couldn’t resist reading this book.

Well. Whole lotta Batman going on, along with some truly insightful commentary on the sledgehammer impact Batman has had on American culture, Batman as primogenitor of the noli me tángere nerd culture, and Batman (with Superman and Weldon’s already written that book) as the beginning of what feels like an endless stream of the same damn superhero films every year (What, they’re going to trash New York again?).

Yes, he takes his subject very seriously. On nerd culture–

…nerdish passion is strong and unmindful; its very nature is to obliterate dispassion, nuance, ambiguity, and push human experience to either edge of a binary extreme: My thing is the best. Your thing is the worst…Moreover, if you do not love my thing in the same way, to the same degree, and for exactly the same reasons that I do, you are doing it wrong.

You know who you are. A footnote on a Broadway Batman musical that was to be directed by Tim Burton–

It seems somehow important to note here than the Joker’s big number contained the memorable lyric “Where does Abercrombie & Fitch get all those boys/And where does [Batman] get those wonderful toys?”

To truly savor that comment you need a working acquaintance of Frederic Wertham, the Joseph McCarthy of comics. I say no more, other than that Wertham had his shot at Wonder Woman, too [cough*asshole*cough].

A full-throated support of Batman as a character worthy of hero worship–

But though he lives in darkness, Batman is not of it. He was birthed in a senseless act of violence, but his mission, his life’s work, is to prevent such acts from happening to others. That selflessness is why he’s a hero, and it’s why he has always represented not hatred but hope.

Okay. But my absolute favorite line in the whole book is this–

…the performative online biliousness that has come to be known as trolling…

As the occasional bilious online commenter, I bow my head in acknowledgement, and in shame.

A fun read, recommended for the casual reader and absolutely essential for the Batman nerd. Even if they do immediately give it one star on their Amazon review because Weldon loved the Adam West TV series. SHOCK! SACRILEGE! HORROR!

I’ll make you love the scribe’s job more than you love your own mother.

I’ll make you love the scribe’s job more than you love your own mother. I’ll make its beauties obvious to you, for it is the greatest of all professions, and there is none like it in all the land…See, there is no worker without an ovrseer except for the scribe, who is always his own boss. Therefore, if you can learn to write, it will be far better for you than ll the other careers which I have listed before you, each one of which is more wretched than the last.

–Egyptian Middle Kingdom scribal propaganda, ca. 2000 B.C.

(from Joyce Tyldesley’s Daughters of Isis)

Yeah, I would have taken that job.

Tetisheri, Eye of Isis

“That you are only as interesting as you are useful to someone.”

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This is the story of Molly, a 17-year old orphan on her umpteenth foster family, and Vivian, a 92-year old survivor on one of the infamous Orphan Trains that transported orphaned, homeless and abandoned children from the East to the Midwest from 1854 to 1929. Vivian was only one of about 200,000 orphan train children. I had a hard time grappling with that number, and then I googled how many kids are in foster care in the US today and it’s more than twice the number of orphan train children, or about 415,000+. So basically we’ve been throwing kids away our entire national life.

A lot of recent YA novels are about throwaway children and many of those are about kids trying to survive in the broken US foster care system (Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series, Bill Cameron’s Property of the State, jumping genres and countries the movie Lion). They all share one trait: they are often agonizing reads. Jeebus, can these kids ever get a break?

This book isn’t like that. I like Molly and Vivian a lot, although I understood Molly better. They’re both strong individuals determined to make a life for themselves, and Vivian’s even strong enough to start over at 92. They have baggage, of course, who wouldn’t given their beginnings.

When Vivian describes how it felt to be at the mercy of strangers, Molly nods. She knows full well what it’s like to tamp down your natural inclinations, to force a smile when you feel numb. After a while you don’t know what your own needs are anymore. You’re grateful for the slightest hint of kindness, and then, as you get older, suspicious. Why would anyone do anything for you without expecting something in return? And anyway–most of the time they don’t. More often than not, you see the worst of people. You learn that most adults lie. That most people only look out for themselves. That you are only as interesting as you are useful to someone.

Ouch, but it’s earned life experience, and it’s theirs. Despite that they find ways to reach out to each other, and in the end, to save each other. Or maybe help each other save themselves. Recommended.

All my reviews on Goodreads.

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

A wake-up call for all readers who mistakenly think quality writing is found at the top of KU lists.

*Full disclosure: None of the books I publish myself are on KU. We tried it once and lost a bunch of money.

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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Every writer’s rabbit hole.

Research, ah, research. If historical personages had not lived such fascinating lives and if writers did not write so fascinatingly about them, I would be far more productive. To wit, an illustration from What Life Was Like on the Banks of the Nile (Time-Life Books, 1996).

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I don’t know that I would have fit right in but for sure as a woman I would have been a lot more comfortable in Egypt than I would have been in Rome, where women stayed home with the spinning, couldn’t pick their own husbands, couldn’t divorce, didn’t get the children if the husband up and left, didn’t receive alimony, and couldn’t own or operate their own businesses. In Egypt, a woman of that time could do all those things, and more.

My hero, Tetisheri? Well, let’s just say she does more.

 

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