On the gay pardon thing

Oct. 22nd, 2016 06:58 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

What, exactly, is the offence that all are going to be pardoned of?

That gross indecency? Buggery?

The latter would be something of a problem perhaps. There was one year when England hanged more for buggery, or sodomy, than for murder so I’m told.

Well, no, not really

Oct. 22nd, 2016 06:33 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

In the years that followed 1967 the number of convictions for gross indecency, an offence that could only be committed by consenting gay men, doubled.

The actual offence was gross indecency between men. So, it seems reasonable enough that it only applied to men.

Whether there should have been such an offence is entirely another matter but that, as defined, it only applied to men seems just fine.

Err, yes, well,

Oct. 22nd, 2016 06:18 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

The New York Times has issued a correction after its television writer panned a show for being confusing when he watched the first two episodes in the wrong order.

I always get the feeling that they’ve done the same to their economics books myself.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Turmoil in bond markets and a spike in the number of investors wanting to withdraw money “raises questions” about the suitability of popular bond funds, leading analysts have suggested.

Bond funds – where savers’ cash is pooled and then invested in loans issued by governments and companies – are among the most popular holdings in savers’ Isas and pensions.

But analysts Manuel Arrive and Alastair Sewell of Fitch, the ratings agency, this week questioned whether these funds could withstand a rush to the exit by investors alarmed by a fall in bond prices.

They have suggested restricting withdrawals to weekly intervals and requiring more advanced notice as potential countermeasures.

They argue that while these funds allow withdrawals to be made on a daily basis, their managers may struggle to sell holdings quickly enough to be able to pay out. The technical term for this is a “liquidity mis-match”.

Mr Arrive said current markets raised doubts “about the suitability of open-end, daily traded funds for less liquid or illiquid assets”.

Well, err, quite. In fact, who thinks open ended funds in illiquid securities is a good idea in the first place?

Hop off Froggies!

Oct. 22nd, 2016 05:49 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Mrs May used her first appearance at the European Council to reject a demand by the EU to conduct Brexit talks in French.

Not that they thought it would actually happen. Just thought they’d try it on for a laugh I suppose.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by David Herdson

They’re another party that has returned to comfort-zone politics

They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. So Talleyrand said of the Bourbons and so much the same might be said of the Lib Dems today. If there’s one thing that we should take from the Witney by-election campaigns, it was the extent to which 2010-15 are now for the Lib Dems non-years.

With the disagreeable business of actually holding power and being able to do something with it now behind them, the Lib Dems are now clearly back to what they enjoy most: fighting by-elections. It’s something they believe they’re good at and going by local results this year, they have a point, with far more gains than anyone else and with Con and Lab both in reverse – though it should be noted that their results at the May elections were a good deal worse, recouping fewer than one in seven of the seats they lost in the same election round in 2012.

On the other hand, it’s now more than a decade since the Lib Dems last gained a seat at a Westminster by-election, and more than 16 years since they gained one from the Conservatives. Despite some overly optimistic assertions before the event, they never came close in Witney.

Nor was it ever likely they would. They’d have needed one of the biggest swings in history and to have come from fourth which would have been an almost unprecedented achievement. Perhaps, were the Conservatives unpopular, it might just have been on. Against a party polling in the mid-40s nationally, and with the Lib Dems starting fourth locally – more than 55% behind the Tories – it never was, no matter how intensively Farron’s followers campaigned and the apparently large number of bets staked to that end.

That shouldn’t diminish what was in many ways a good result. To climb back to second and to gain a near-20% swing were undoubtedly impressive achievements, if well short of those needed to win. Indeed, Labour ought to be asking themselves questions about how they let their challenger position slip, having finished second in Witney not only last time but in four of the last six general elections.

But in remembering all the techniques from the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s – the bar-charts, the two-horse races, the tactical ‘lent’ votes, and so on – they have failed to learn anything from their time in power about a wider truth: that elections are means to an end; to the exercise of power, not an end in themselves.

Perhaps this is one reason why the larger parties struggle to be as motivated as the Lib Dems for by-elections: by-elections simply provide neither the consequence nor the sport for them that they do for the Yellow Team.

Because while the tactical game is all very well in one-off elections, it’s only possible to maintain at general elections while two conditions are met: firstly, fights need to be kept local as much as possible, so that they can appeal to Tories in one place to keep Labour out, to Labour supporters elsewhere to keep the Tories out, and to both in others to keep the SNP out. And secondly, the party needs to be transfer-friendly at a national level. As soon as a party whose election machine is built on tactical voting comes into contact with the responsibility and accountability of power, both conditions break down and you end up going from holding fifty-odd seats to eight. So much there for tactical votes, personal votes or a superior ground game. And eventually, a centrist party with a reasonable number of seats will be faced with a situation where they cannot avoid choosing which of two larger parties will form a government (or whether to force fresh elections).

Yet Farron seems to have learned nothing from that devastating lesson. Perhaps the experience is still too raw or perhaps Farron, who never went near power himself during the Coalition, understands it only in the negative and isn’t yet willing to act on its implications. Once again, the short-term highs of by-election success (or, as in Witney, commendable advance), is allowed to trump longer-term positioning or the Lib Dems’ ability to influence policy.

Those who fail to learn from history will be condemned to repeat it. Talleyrand was on hand to see the natural consequences of his observation for the House of Bourbon as they were ejected from power a second time in 1830. Unless Farron can move his party on from trying to endlessly relive Newbury and Christchurch and instead build up a support base formed on positive support for the Lib Dems’ policies and values, they too will set themselves on the road of an inevitable future downfall.

David Herdson

Unnecessary wars

Oct. 22nd, 2016 03:33 am
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Posted by John Quiggin

I’ve written a lot here about the disaster of the Great War, and the moral culpability of all those who brought it about and continued it. It’s fair to say, I think, that the majority of commenters have disagreed with me and that many of those commenters have invoked some form of historical relativism, based on the idea that we shouldn’t judge the rulers (or for that matter the public) of 1914 on the same criteria we would apply to Bush, Blair and their supporters.

It’s fascinating therefore to read Henry Reynolds’ latest book, Unnecessary Wars about Australia’s participation in the Boer War, and realise that the arguments for and against going to war then were virtually the same as they are now. The same point is made by Douglas Newton in Hell-Bent: Australia’s leap into the Great War . He shows how, far from loyally following Britain into a regrettably necessary war, leading members of the Australian political and military class pushed hard for war. In Newtown’s telling, the eagerness of pro-war Dominion governments helped to tip the scales in the British public debate and in the divided Liberal candidate. I don’t have the expertise to assess this, but there’s no escaping the echoes of the push towards the Iraq war in 2002 and early 2003, when this blog was just starting out.

The case against war was fully developed and strongly argued in the years before 1914, just as the case against slavery was developed and argued in the US before 1861. Those who were on the wrong side can’t be excused on the grounds that they were people of their time.

The only defence that can be made is that those who were eager for war in 1914 had not experienced the disaster of the Great War and its consequences. The failure of today’s war advocates to learn from this disaster makes their position that much worse. But the same is true of anyone defending the warmakers of 1914 on any grounds other than that of their ignorance.

[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

Black and white photograph of 118th Soliders relaxing (1916-1918). Image citation: Kitchener Public Library. Image citation P009597. Kitchener Public Library Collection.

First, we take Ontario; then we take Canada
yhlee: hexarchate Andan blue rose (hxx Andan)

Inktober #20

Oct. 21st, 2016 08:06 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
Sketched this yesterday while writing in Joe's office at LIGO.

Pen: Nakaya Naka-ai Cigar, Soft Fine nib.
Ink: Platinum Blue-Black.

I am afraid that straight lines are not my forte.

Meanwhile, the dragon doesn't even know what a rotary phone looks like, and I can't remember the last time I saw one that wasn't on TV or something. :p I do have weirdly vivid memories of the ivory-colored one that my parents had in the living room when we lived in Ft. Leonard Wood, though.
[syndicated profile] robinince_feed

Posted by robinince

I love the chutzpah of any municipal gallery that confronts you with a statue of Lucifer as you walk in.
Birmingham is another of those under-praised midlands destinations with an oft-derided accent.
I have no idea why the Birmingham accent is so often ridiculed, I think it suggests a delightful innocent sarcasm, scepticism without guile, a knowingness that may be missed by the casual visitor keen to delude themselves into a position of superiority.
It seems fitting that curators chose Jacob Epstein’s disconcerting Lucifer, with its male body and female face, to lure us into their Pre-Raphaelite wonderland (with added penguin portraits).

I was particularly drawn to the feet, human but inhuman. Unlike Epstein’s Paul Robeson bust in York, there was no touching suggested, which might have been for the best, what if my palm sweat awoke the dark, sleeping spirit of the satanic, just in time for the Hallowe’en screenings of They Live.

Spending time in local art galleries, I have been impressed by just how prolific some British artists seem to be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a gallery without a few LS Lowry paintings or a Walter Sickert. I am also sure I have seen David Cox’s very similar capturing of the sands of Rhyl on at least four occasions. My hankering to go to Rhyl is no longer at a subconscious level, though I need to work out how to get to Rhyl in 1854, and though most privatised train providers are able to drag out time to a destination, they are sadly unable to do anything useful like shatter the laws of physics for the purposes of a Victorian holiday. Anyway, being a Philip Larkin fan, I should probably go to sunny Prestatyn, or to Barmouth for the giant crabs.

Looking at Alfred William Hunt’s Norwegian Midnight, I remember that for most of the gallery promenaders of the 19th century , this would be the nearest they would get to experiencing a Norwegian midnight. We have grown to blasé in our ability to travel the world, one more currency collapse and it may be better to get an art pass than a holiday abroad.

The Tate Britain exhibition of the epic biblical paintings of John Martin recreated the theatricality used to bring hell and damnation into the original exhibition, and looking at Samuel Coleman’s Delivery of Israel out of Egypt, I see it as the Charlton Heston movie of its time.

One room is dedicated to images of the personalities of Birmingham, including the Arthur Shorthouse’s portrait of the Official Ratcatcher of the City of Birmingham, Big Issue seller Vernon Burgess, and Emily Spark’s Ode to Christian Joy.


And then there was a container filled with copper coins and congealed milk. This was the work of Donald Rodney. At York Art Gallery there was a photograph of his father’s hand with a small, paper house resting on the palm, except it wasn’t made of paper. The house was made from a skin sample of his son, now looking dry and sharp. This is one of Donald Rodney’s art reactions to his own sickle cell anaemia, a genetically inherited disease. There, from his own skin, he had built his father’s house.

Inside this container of milk and coins, we can see the decline and corrosion of its contents. This is Land of Milk and Honey II. From other matter, he has constructed a representation of his declining health. Donald Rodney succumbed to sickle cell anaemia in 1998.

Barbara Hepworth’s garden is one of my favourite places to see the meeting of sculpture and spiders’ webs, in Birmingham Art Gallery you can see her H Graph works. They are unembellished by arachnids. Inspired by the surgeons who operated on her daughter to treat her bone disease, Hepworth became fascinated by “the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to saving a life”. It reminded me of the Ken Currie’s Three Oncologists, a painting that continues to obsess my partner in anger, Michael Legge. During the Edinburgh Fringe, he would go to the National Gallery almost every day just to look at that painting.

Waiting to see Arab Strap, he took a trip to see Ken Currie’s Jesus and is now similarly obsessed, he may now have to commute daily from Lewisham to Glasgow. This is the first time he has felt any need to make a pilgrimage for any Jesus.

(other works of excellence in Birmingham Gallery include
-Spencer Gore’s Wood in Richmond Park from his final series of works, painted shortly before he died from leukaemia.
-Edward Burne Jone’s Pygmalion series
-Germaine Richier’s emaciated, leaf patterned sculpture of depleted man)

Dead Funny Encore – a horror anthology with stories by Stewart Lee, Alice Lowe, Alan Moore and many more including me, is out Now.

supergee: (cheshire)

“I’m suffering from design.”

Oct. 21st, 2016 07:30 pm
[personal profile] supergee
Technical discussion of how the Web is becoming unreadable
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Please do me a favour

Oct. 21st, 2016 07:13 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Can someone edit the Tanith Lee entry at tv tropes?

Currently it says

Parental Abandonment: Dead parents appear rather often. James Nicoll had a project of reviewing one Lee a week for a year. His review of Black Unicorn includes a table of dead parents: after 29 books we have 27 missing or dead mothers and 21 missing or dead fathers.

That should read

Parental Abandonment: Dead parents appear rather often. James Nicoll is reviewing one Lee a week for a year. His reviews include a table of dead parents: after 50 books we have 37 missing or dead mothers and 32 missing or dead fathers.
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Look! Many fine new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What here tickles your fancy? Tell us all in the comments!

The Amazing Spider-Man #11

Oct. 22nd, 2016 01:28 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_rilstone_feed

Posted by Andrew Rilstone

Turning Point, Featuring the Return of Dr. Octopus!

Doctor Octopus

Supporting Cast:
Betty Brant, Bennet Brant, Blackie Gaxton, Aunt May,
+ a Prison Governor and a chorus of crooks and cops.

First appearance:
Spider-Man’s Spider-Tracers.


This is only the second issue which J. Jonah Jameson has not appeared in.

Most of the story, which is about Betty trying to help her brother, takes place in Philedelphia, “the city of brotherly love”.

Spins a web, any size: Web is used to block a doorway, blackout a searchlight, and as a bandage for a sprained ankle.

Marvel Time: Doctor Octopus has served 9 months in jail. His original sentence must have been around 310 days.

Failure to communicate: On page 6, Bennet visits his client “in jail”, and Blackie talks about being sprung “from jail”. But on page 9, Spider-Man soliloquizes that “Octopus is sure to try to spring Blackie while he’s still a prisoner in the courthouse. If he waits til they take him to the state pen, it will be a much tougher job.” In fact, the building is clearly shown as a castle-like prison with many barred windows. Lee spots that it Doc Ock gets Blackie out far too easily, but his retro-fit doesn’t match the illustrations.

Medieval moralists said that Fortune was like a huge wheel. As long as you were going up, you were fine: but once you reached the top, there was nowhere to go but down. Aristotle said that tragedy involved one particular moment when everything appeared to be going great for the hero and suddenly everything started to go wrong. This catastrophic change was known as a  perepiteia : a turning point.

Amazing Spider-Man #11 is not so much a turning point as a staying the same forever point.

As usual, The Writer and The Artist can’t quite agree on what the Selling Point of the issue should be. The cover shows us a rather stiff Dr Octopus fighting an equally un-dynamic Spider-Man, with the words "The Return of Doctor Octopus" in big white-on-red letters. But there’s a fifty word caption — I would guess the longest that has ever appeared on a cover — asking "What happens when Spider-Man decides to reveal his identity to someone else?" The interior splash page answers the question — rather daringly — by taking us right to the end of the story, and posing a new question: "How did it happen, and why?"

This is really not a bad compromise, and it is going to stay in place for most of the year. The covers  — the outward facing images — will show Spider-Man confronting a villain, with Stan Lee congratulating himself on dreaming up such a impressive adversary. ("We’ve created the greatest villain of all for ol’Spidey!" "Wow just wait til you see the Green Goblin!" "So you think there are no new types of villain for ol’Spidey to battle, eh?"). The internal splash page — directed at people who have, after all, already bought the comic — will promote the actual storyline, asking a question like "has Spider-Man really turned to crime?" (no) "has Spider-Man really gone mad?" (no) or  "has Spider-Man really lost his powers?" (no).

Or, this time: "Why has Betty decided that, like her boss, she hates Spider-Man. For ever and ever?"

It doesn’t seem likely that either Lee or Ditko ever planned out a plot arc in advance. Background characters are fleshed out and become major supporting players, changes of direction are back-filled by Stan Lee. When Lee introduced nasty Mr Jameson in issue #1, he didn’t know he was going to become more-or-less the co-star of the comic, and certainly didn’t know that Spider-Man was going to fall in love with his secretary. But it was a canny move. Peter might have carried on dreaming about Liz and having fights with Flash over her: but that would have been obvious and boring. The idea that he has a close romantic friendship with a slightly older career gal is much less predictable and far more interesting. 

In Amazing Spider-Man #2, J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary briefly appears, but we don’t find out her name. Issue #4 marks the first appearance of "Miss Brant". In issue #5, Miss Brant tactfully tells her boss that he is too obsessed with Spider-Man and at that precise moment Peter Parker notices how pretty she is. Stan back fills the story, giving the impression that Peter Parker and Betty Brant have know each other for some time ("I never realized how pretty Betty Brant was!" "I never realized how I felt about her!”) In fact, they have barely exchanged twenty words. In issue #6 Peter tries to ask her out but is interrupted by J.J.J. Finally, in issue # 7, the two of them end up flirting behind Jameson’s desk after Spider-Man and the Vulture have trashed the office.

Their relationship isn’t classic romance comic fodder. Betty really gets on with Peter and Peter really gets on with her. We never see them on a date; but we do see them sitting together in the dark while Aunt May is having major surgery. "Maybe I haven't got many friends!" says Peter "But one wonderful one like Betty makes up for all I haven't got!" It’s one of the most believable relationships in comic books.

People married young in those days — so aren’t we running headlong towards a obvious conclusion: fire burning in the hearth and spider-babies on the rug? When Stan Lee thought he was writing a realistic convention-breaking graphic novel, that might have happened. But that idea is long buried. Spider-Man is a super-hero with a secret identity and a utility belt and an arch enemy. His comic now has a clear formula — a brilliant formula, a formula that allows for endless elaborations, but a formula nonetheless. There will always be a new villain, Aunt May will always be at death's door. Peter will always be dropping into the Bugle and Betty will always be waiting for him there. If he unmasks, gets married, leaves home — even, god forbid, gets a proper job or gets drafted into the army — Amazing Spider-Man as we know it comes to an end.

So something has to happen to make it impossible for Spider-Man to unmask: to freeze  Peter and Betty in a permanent impasse. Turning Point is an obligatory piece of plot machinery. At some point in the future, Flash Thompson is going to have to find out who Spider-Man really is: but that moment can be infinitely delayed. But the longer Peter goes without telling Betty the truth, the worse a cad he appears to be. When he thinks (in issue #7) "Betty can’t care for me if she won’t confide in me!" he comes across as a shocking hypocrite.

In issue #9, Betty is upset because Peter goes to photograph the prison riot after she had asked him not to. She speaks calmly to Peter and tries to explain her feelings. "Peter, I never told you why I left high school last year and took a job! I never told you about someone I once knew —  who reminded me of you! But I don’t want to be hurt again!" Peter responds angrily "I get the message! I’m not Mr Perfect!" But a page later he is claiming that it was how Betty who "flared up" at him, and Betty is the one doing the apologizing.

In issue #10, Betty is bullied by the Enforcers. Although she tells Peter that it is a case of mistaken identity, she confides to the reader that she has "foolishly borrowed money to a loan shark!"  It can’t have been very much — she has paid off the principal on her secretarial wage — but the Big Man has doubled the interest. She decides to leave town, because she doesn’t want Peter to know how silly she has been and certainly doesn’t want him to risk his life protecting her from the Thieve's Guild.

Two different secrets have been foreshadowed. A mysterious person in Betty’s past, strongly implied to be dead, who is somewhat like Peter and who worked in some dangerous occupation; and a foolish attempt to borrow money at high interest rates. If Steve knows where he is going with this, he doesn’t tell Stan, who trails issue #11 as "Spider-Man discovers the strange secret of Betty Brant…!"

It's not particularly strange. It seems that Betty's brother, Bennet Brant, is a lawyer who is either working for the mob, or has run up a huge gambling debt, or both. A gangster named Blackie Glaxon has agreed to cancel the debt if he, Bennet, springs him, Blackie, from prison, which Bennet facilitates by, er, arranging for Betty to drive Doctor Octopus from New York to Philadelphia.

Up to now, it has always been fairly plausible chains of events which have caused the two halves of Peter’s world to come crashing together: a science demonstration going wrong at his school; a criminal robbing his place of work. Betty’s involvement with the Enforcers was already a step too far, but this crosses a line. I could suspend my disbelief in a schoolboy who clings to walls and fights giant talking lizards; but when Spider-Man spotted Betty driving Doctor Octopus’s car I found myself thinking "No, I just can’t accept that."

Why is Betty driving the car, anyway? Even granted that crazy scientists with metal arms are the only people who can break through prison bars (and I can't help thinking an acetylene torch would have done the job just as well); why do you need to incriminate your sister to get him there? Doc Ock is a free man. He could have caught the bus.

It is possible to square "I gave Bennet all the money I had so that he could pay his debts to Blackie" with "I borrowed money from a shark". It is quite hard to square "I ran away to Philadelphia because I didn't want Peter to get involved with the Enforcers" with "I ran away to Philadelphia because I didn't want Peter to know I have a dishonest brother". But it's much harder to square "I don’t want you to be a photographer because I once had a friend who enjoyed danger" with "I don’t want you to be a photographer because I am still at this moment trying to help my crooked brother.” And very hard indeed to think that a gal would ever refer to her brother as "someone I once knew".

Very conveniently, Betty drops a map of Philadelphia as she is getting into the car, so Spider-Man knows roughly where she is going. Even more conveniently, he has just invented a wonderful new plot device: a "detailed model of a live spider" which  "sends coded messages" which he can "pick up with a small portable receiver." This is, of course, the prototype spider-tracer. The next time it appears it will be an "electrically treated spider-pin". It’s actually fairly pointless. If Spider-Man had simply followed Betty to Philly, swung around the city for a few panels, and then spotted her, I don’t think anyone would have complained. It’s the sort of coincidence which happens a lot: Spider-Man always swings past the exact person he most needs to find. And the new electronic spider-plot device is still coincidence-powered. The second time Spider-Man needs to track down Betty he remarks "A good job they used the car which had my gizmo on it!" Yes. A good job indeed.

Doc Ock springs Blackie from jail, but Blackie breaks his promise to Bennet and ends up taking him and Betty hostages, and Spider-Man comes along and there’s a big gun fight, and…

Somewhere, buried deeply in Peter Parker — so deeply that he never mentions it or thinks about it — is an overwhelming guilt that he caused the death of his beloved Uncle because he did not act. But today, Betty Brant’s beloved brother dies because Spider-Man did act. (I have often wondered if Bennet's friends called him "Ben" as well.) He dies "like a man" trying to protect his sister, but if Spider-Man had not been there, he might very well have survived. Betty’s initial reaction mirrors Peter’s reaction in Amazing Fantasy #15: "(He) is dead..because of Spider-Man!” (Spider-Man tells Gaxon "There’s no place on earth you can hide from me!" which is exactly what he said to the uncle-slaying burglar.)

Stan Lee piles the irony on as only he can "I hate you Spider-Man .. If only Peter were here!" cries Betty. Oh what a tangled web we weave...! When Betty has calmed down, she modifies her accusation, instead damning Spider-Man with the most terrible kind of faint praise. "It wasn’t his fault! He was trying to help us!". And she replaces her hatred of Spider-Man with something worse: an irrational revulsion. The girl who didn’t want Peter Parker to take photos because it reminded her that her brother had a gambling debt (or something) announces "I still never want to see Spider-Man again! I couldn’t bear being reminded…of Bennet!" Her hatred of Spider-Man is irrational. Like J. Jonah Jameson, she is an arachnophobe.

Guilt is not a helpful emotion. If you act, sometimes, good people may die. If you do not act, sometimes, good people may also die. It’s an unjust world and virtue is victorious only in theatrical performances. But Peter Parker will increasingly come to feel that the deck is stacked and the universe hates him personally.

The final three panels are as good as anything Ditko ever drew and (once again) as good as anything Lee ever wrote. Note the big candle in the foreground: is the scene taking place in a funeral home, or at a wake? Peter can’t now tell Betty who he is, and he is trapped in another lie, albeit a very white one. “Of course I understand! And I’m sure Spider-Man would too, if he knew!”

If he knew. Peter Parker destroys his relationship with Betty Brant there and then and he must know that is what he is doing. Can you imagine, four or five years hence, Spider-Man unmasking to the girl he loves and her saying "You stood there — hours after my brother had been shot — literally over his dead body — and you lied to me?"

One month and three panels later, Betty will be back in New York; working for Mr. Jameson again. She has a new haircut — which covers up her ear-rings — a new style of clothes (rather stylish purple) and a new handbag. She’s lost her whacky eyebrows. But this is the end for Betty Brant as a character. The new Betty is little more than a girl-shaped golden snitch for Doctor Octopus to bait his spider-trap with.

The final frame of the comic has a tiny figure of Peter Parker walking away from us. It’s an image we’ve seen several times before. But instead of the the split face motif, a giant figure of Spider-Man is walking in front of Peter Parker. I am sure this panel must have suggested the iconic Spider-Man #50 cover to John Romita.
It makes me wonder. Did Steve Ditko originally envisage entirely different words in those speech bubbles? Was Peter Parker originally going to say, not "I understand why you hate Spider-Man" but "I understand why you are staying in Philadelphia". So the perepiteia would have been Betty leaving the story altogether, clearing the way for a relationship with Liz Allen (who becomes unexpectedly a Peter Parker fan in the very next episode.)  But Lee overruled him, leaving Betty as a lose cog in the story engine, a relic of a previous story-line, a dangling plot threat which can never be tied up.


Later continuity reveals that Bennet Brant did not die from the gunshot, but survived to become the Crime Master. Later continuity can fuck off.

If you have enjoyed this essay and want to support the Spider-Man project, please pledge $1 or more each month...

Remembering Aberfan

Oct. 21st, 2016 07:24 pm
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Paul Walter

We end the day as we began it by paying tribute to the people, past and present, of Aberfan. Here is a newsreel of the day from British Movietone:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. As part of the Liberal Democrat Voice team he helps with photos and moderation on the site, as well as occsionally contributing articles. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Cool Stuff Friday

Oct. 21st, 2016 01:19 pm
[personal profile] jimhines

Friday would like to remind you all to back up your important data!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Fifty Years Ago Today

Oct. 21st, 2016 12:21 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

The Aberfan disaster was the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, that killed 116 children and 28 adults on 21 October 1966. The collapse was caused by the build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale tip, which suddenly slid downhill in the form of slurry.[...]

More than 1.4 million cubic feet (40,000 cu metres) of debris covered a section of the village in minutes. The classrooms at Pantglas Junior School were immediately inundated; young children and teachers died from impact or suffocation. Many noted the poignancy of the situation: if the disaster had struck a few minutes earlier, the children would not have been in their classrooms, and if it had struck a few hours later, they would have left for the half-term holiday.
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, gestures whilst speaking during the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg)

The stirring achievements of Bolivarian socialism as practiced in Venezuela never cease to amaze. They’ve managed to create, at one time, an entire country running out of beer. The banknotes cost more to print than they are worth. A fertile tropical nation has widespread food shortages. They’ve even managed that the place sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves has to import oil from the U.S. To add to this list of blows struck against the imperialist Yankees we can now add the possible bankruptcy, or at least default on its debts, of the monopoly oil company sitting on top of that ocean of oil which is the world’s largest reserves.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has warned that it is in danger of defaulting on its debts after investors declined an offer to swap bonds.

Four times in the last month, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) has extended an offer to investors to swap their bonds which mature next year for notes due in 2020. The oil company is required to pay out $1.8 billion this month and $3 billion next month in debt interest and bond maturities.

This week, it warned investors in a statement that if they declined to swap their bonds, the company may end up defaulting.

Bankruptcy and default are not quite the same thing although one can lead to the other. Neither are evidence of great care or skill in managing this most important part of the Venezuelan economy.

The underlying reason here is in contention. Some lawmakers are shouting that it is corruption:

A report by a Venezuelan congressional commission accused Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) [PDVSA.UL] of corruption on Wednesday, saying about $11 billion in funds went missing from the state-run oil company while Rafael Ramirez was at the helm from 2004-14.

“It is more than the (annual) budget of five Central American countries,” said Freddy Guevara, comptroller commission president and a member of one of Venezuela’s hardline opposition parties, alleging widespread malfeasance at the state oil producer.

“We’re talking about $11 billion they cannot justify,” he added, as he presented a report by the legislative body that audits the state.

Default would make matters problematic to say the least:

It’s likely the company will retain control of its assets such as the refineries in Venezuela, said Mara Roberts, a New York-based analyst at BMI Research. The story is different when it comes to oil being exported, she said.
“Oil tankers could also potentially be at risk, with those carrying Venezuelan crude likely to face attachment claims upon arrival,” Roberts said by e-mail. “This could discourage take up of PDVSA’s shipments.”

My own explanation would be the more traditional one. The one common before these latest allegations of corruption. This is that Venezuela’s oil is very heavy and thus needs large capital investment for it to continue to be extracted. The basic operating method of the Chavez and then Maduro administrations has been to skimp on that capital spending and then spend the money saved on consumer imports into Venezuela. Largely as a means of buying political support despite their complete and total mismanagement of the domestic economy. There were also further borrowings using the oil company as the legal form doing the borrowing, again to fund such spending upon consumers.

But, obviously, borrowing spent on rice doesn’t increase the ability of the oil company to produce more oil to pay back the borrowings. Production, and thus income, has been falling, even without any influence of the falling oil price itself.

You can indeed buy bread and circuses with resource rents. But do too much of it and you’ll not have the capital to keep those resource rents coming. Which is what I would say has been another great success of boli socialism. And, obviously, one that we ourselves don’t want to repeat. Seriously, socialism, don’t do it.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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