Knowledge gaps: Superman and the Beatles

You think you know everything about one aspect of entertainment, and then something pops up that comes as a complete shock.

Like, I used to think that I’d seen every filmed live-action presentation of Superman, from the Kirk Alyn serials in the 1940s with the cartoon flying sequences, through the George Reeves television series, the Christopher Reeve movies (remember “The Quest for Peace”?), “Lois and Clark,” “Smallville,” the Brandon Routh revival of the Christopher Reeve persona and the most recent Henry Cavill city destruction. I’d even seen the “I Love Lucy” episode where Superman has to rescue Lucy from the ledge of a building, and I probably was one of the seven people who went to see the Ben Affleck biopic “Hollywoodland.”

But one day I bought a box set of the George Reeves series, and there was an episode I’d never seen where Lois (Noel Neill) is spraying a room with a machine gun, and I’m thinking, “Where the hell did this come from.” Not only that, there was a commercial I didn’t know existed:

But this isn’t about my Superman obsession. It’s about my Beatles obsession.

Last week, I saw this chart of the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney:


It shows who was the main contributor to their famous songs. Only, what’s this song “There’s a Place”?

Where the hell did this come from? I’ve never heard this. When this came out in 1963, we bought 45s, not albums. Apparently, this was the B side of “Please Please Me.” Did I never listen to the B side? I thought I knew all the Beatles songs. Obviously, I don’t. Now I have to go through life obsessing about what other things I’ve missed.

Hungry like ‘the Wolf’

I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoyed it:

It was truly a celebration of rich people behaving badly, and Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent in it.

Technically, it’s not supposed to be an inspirational movie. You know, bad people doing bad things and all that. Apparently, some stock brokers don’t see it that way (from the London Evening Standard):

Cinemas across London are preparing to welcome thousands of bankers, brokers and traders to bespoke private screenings, the Standard has learned, and a cinema booking company says there is more corporate demand for this film than any they can remember.

With one company planning to dress up Nineties Wall Street-style for the occasion, the City’s buzz about [Jordan] Belfort has the ring of an enthronement. It is tempting to think that DiCaprio’s character might be a new cult hero for a new generation of bankers, as Gordon Gekko (protagonist of 1987’s Wall Street) was to their bosses. You can imagine the Square Mile’s new generation quoting Belfort’s corny phrases about money, drugs and women like their pre-crash predecessors did Gekko’s.

A comedy email flying around between bankers in London and New York this week makes the link, plotting a market index since the Eighties with arrows showing major price falls on the release dates of Wall Street and its 2010 sequel Money Never Sleeps, and a Wolf of Wall Street arrow pointing at today’s high price. Will the Wolf consign so many bankers and traders to therapy and rehab that the markets will plummet on its release, the jokes goes. At least I think it’s a joke.

For those of you not familiar with international financial markets, “the City” referred to here isn’t London. The City is what the Brits call their version of Wall Street. They’re treating this movie like it’s a blueprint for success. Maybe they’re thinking all they have to avoid will be the drugs, the prostitutes and the money laundering. That way, they can steal people’s money legally, I guess.

Oh, by the way. The Wolf lives. Jordan Belfort is now a motivational speaker in California. Here’s an interview with him:

Got to admit. The guy is smooth.

Baby on board: Game of Thrones

So, according to the folks who give us the news, the greatest baby in the history of mankind … no … in the HISTORY OF THE GALAXY … no … IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE … (is there anything bigger than the universe?) … has been born in London.

Yeah, Will and Kate Mountbatten (also known a Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) have become full-time diaper changers. (yawn…)

Anyway what it means in the cosmic scheme of things is that a bunch of people who were in line for the British throne have been moved back a square. (Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.)

Here’s what matters (from the Washington Post):

baby in line

Baby just pissed off 12 other people.

Welcome to the world!

Oh, and remember, Professor Snape tweeted his reaction months ago. Click here to see it.

A look at the expanding Underground

Well, I am a sucker for maps of subway systems.

Here’s the London Underground (click to actually see the station names), which is expanding service by taking over the privatized Greater Anglia franchise out of Liverpool Street to north east London and Hertfordshire.



Right, means nothing to you.

Look, all you need to know is that the Red Line to Oxford Circus is for shopping, and the Cockfoster (Really? Isn’t that pornographic) train goes to Picadilly Circus and Leiscester Square (though I preferred getting off at Charing Cross station and walking the extra block or two).

And if you’re on a train south of River Thames, don’t bother getting off at London Bridge. The thing you think is London Bridge is really called Tower Bridge.

This is London Bridge:


I used to walk over it every day to get from the commuter train station to work on Fleet Street.

This is Tower Bridge:


That’s the tourist attraction.


If I could talk to the animals … part 2

So the Mountain Dew ad with the goat in a police lineup with black guys while a white woman tries to identify her attacker was taken down. And now if you look for it on YouTube, you see every television news story in the world on the ad.

Which means the ad is a success.

Mountain Dew gets world-wide attention and great television viewership without spending a cent for advertising. The ad has a wider audience than it did when it just ran on the Web.

This ABC news story says the ad got about 2 million hits. But let’s see what’s happening here. ABC is talking about the ad for almost two-and-a-half minutes. That’s at least double, maybe triple, the time it took for the original ad to run.

According to Media Bistro today, the daily rating for “Good Morning, America” is 5.7 million viewers. So on one network alone, Mountain Dew got almost triple the number of viewers it had in all the time the thing was on the Web. Triple the exposure, triple the viewers. And not one cent was paid for advertising.

I will be interested in seeing if Mountain Dew’s sales go up this month. If they do, this is the reason.

And since I’m thinking about ads that are in bad taste, the following fake Volkswagen Polo ad from about 10 years ago  is the all-time winner:

A Middle East looking suicide bomber. Kind of racist, right?

It was made for the U.K. market, and ran about seven years ago. The production quality is pretty good. Someone spent a bunch of money to put it together. I first saw it when I lived in Brussels. Volkswagen denied any responsibility for it. But this clip alone got more than 800,000 views.

A touch of class, and an anti-tribute to Thatcherism

Here’s how out of it I am. I didn’t know Glenda Jackson had quit acting! Well, I knew I hadn’t seen her in a movie in years, but just the thought that a two time Academy Award winner for Best Actress (“Women in Love,” 1971; “A Touch of Class,” 1973) is totally out of the business astounds me.

Even worse, I didn’t know she’s been a Minister of Parliament in the U.K. for 20 years!

And then I find out she went of the floor of Parliament and did a savage rhetorical autopsy on Margaret Thatcher when everyone else was eulogizing the former PM.

Here’s the speech:

Wow! Jackson left a lot of sputtering Conservatives in her wake!

When Maggie Thatcher dies

There was a lot of coverage last week for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Glowing tributes. Memories of the Iron Lady allied with Ronald Reagan and standing up to the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union.

It was a great day for global conservatives.

But the surprising thing is the overwhelming venom she inspired throughout the British empire. This song hit the top of the charts on the BBC after her death was announced:

YIKES! OK, maybe there was a coincidental rush of interest in “The Wizard of Oz” the week the baroness died. After all, the Brits don’t treat their royalty with such contempt…

What the hell is going on?

A pensioner called Phil Williams was holding a banner saying “Rest in Shame”.

“Sorry, but it needs saying, they’re burying an old woman,” said the 58-year-old former power station worker from Shotton in Flintshire.

“No one’s ever heard of Shotton apart from the fact that they lost 8,000 jobs when the steelworks closed in the early 80s”, he added.

“Look at what she did to the North, steel works, mining, the poll tax. She trialled all these things in the North and made criminals out of a million people. I have no regard for the woman.”

Protester Charmain Kenner, 58, had her back turned as Lady Thatcher’s coffin went past Trafalgar Square in the hearse.

“Thatcher’s policies were all about individualistic materialism. She created a much greater divide between rich and poor, she ruined many communities and many industries”, she said.

“Basically, she ruined this country and, to add insult to injury, we’re expected to pay for her funeral.”

Surely, there were politicians in America who were hated as much as Margaret Thatcher was in Britain (George Wallace, Richard Nixon and Strom Thurmond immediately come to mind), but I don’t remember anyone singing about having a party or celebrating their deaths like the Brits did this past week.

Death from the sky

One of the technologically fascinating but morally disturbing aspects of modern warfare is that the means of attack have taken on the character of a videogame.

Here’s a clip of an aerial attack on a group of hostile insurgents in a house during the Iraq War:

You see the precision of the attack and the calm manner in which it’s carried out. Air support is literally putting missiles in the windows it wants to put them in. Troop on the ground ask for help from the sky, and it’s there in a matter of minutes. From the air perspective, things blow up soundlessly. If the missile doesn’t go off? Fire another. Any motion detected among the insurgents? Then stick another missile in the front window.

But what is actually happening on the ground? Here’s a BBC clip showing what happens when there’s a case of mistaken identity. Ten years ago, the BBC crew was with a group of Kurdish allies in northern Iraq accompanied by Americans prepared to battle Saddam Hussein‘s army. Air support misidentified the allies as insurgents. (Warning: This is very graphic, so keep that in mind before you view the clip.)

Today, instead of troops on the ground and pilots in the air, an attack against enemies can be carried out with a drone aircraft guided by a soldier hundreds of miles away. War is done with pinpoint accuracy and is more efficient and more deadly. But it oddly has become more sterile when seen through the prism of a video screen.

And then a mistake is made. When that happens, we hear terms like “friendly fire” and “collateral damage.

Those words turn into Orwellian profanity, when you fully realize what has happened: People have been blown up, like in the “friendly fire” the BBC crew witnessed. And it isn’t a videogame, where you get a new life after you’re killed.

The worst thing you can do in war is to undermine the horror of what is really happening.