October 25, 2004

HYPOTHESIS TESTING

You know those moments when you're so sure that you know what the problem is that you spend hours chasing the wrong hypothesis? That's what was going on with my computer. My computer was blocking me out of only certain websites: Amazon, Hotmail, Blogspot, AKO, and Yahoo. My computer-knowing friend and I spent hours searching for viruses and trying to get the computer to recognize the certificate. When we had tested everything we could think of, my friend came up with one last-ditch plan: unhook the router. Bingo. All this time, the problem was the router and not the computer. It was a forehead-slapping moment; we started with a hypothesis that was too narrow. We assumed that it was a certificate problem, but we had assumed wrong. It was shades of motorcycle maintenance.

It was progress, to figure out that the problem was the router and not the computer, but it was progress that came with the price of nearly five hours of faulty assumptions. But at least now we can start focusing on the right source of the problem. My computer tech knowledge has grown exponentially, which means I'm only half-a-moron now, and I've decided that having a computer is about as much work as having a pet.

But at least now I can check my email and read blogspot blogs again!

Posted by: Sarah at 12:08 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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October 22, 2004

SUPERMAN'S ORIGIN

The wealth of knowledge that's out there is one of the things I love about the blogosphere. Smash asks a question about Arabic, and a reader responds. I mention a fallen Soldier, and his friends and family all add their thoughts. And I ask for help on superheroes, and a faithful reader comes to my rescue:

Although Nietzsche invented the word "Übermensch," it's a word, not a character. Superman's creators Siegel and Shuster were not educated men, so it's unlikely that they knew much about Nietzsche.

OTOH, it is highly likely that Siegel and Shuster were heavily influenced by a 1930 Philip Wylie novel called GLADIATOR:

"The parallels are obvious: Both Hugo Danner and Clark Kent grow up in rural small-town America, possessing powers far beyond the common mortal; both are imbued, from an early age, with a profound sense of fairness and justice; and they hide their respective secrets from the world at large. The resemblance is even more obvious when you consider the original 1930s conception of Superman [which was far weaker than later incarnations of the character]. Their powers are the same: great strength, skin so tough that it can withstand just about anything short of an explosive artillery shell, and the ability to jump so high and so far that it almost gives the impression of flight. And both, despite their superhuman status, espouse a political philosophy that celebrates the common human being over capitalist elites."

[The early Superman has been described as a super-FDR - a costumed socialist activist. This political aspect was gone by the time the character attained iconic status in the 40s.]

Nonetheless, the superhero concept as we know it today was invented by Siegel and Shuster. The individual ingredients (superpowers, costume, secret identity) had all been done before, but it was S&S that combined them into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Some claim that gods and demigod heroes like Hercules were the first "superheroes," but they lack the total package embodied by Superman.

There's a new book that I'm going to try to buy ASAP, MEN OF TOMORROW, that goes into detail about the birth of the superhero genre. What excites me about the book is that it's the first history of comics to look into the Jewish roots of the majority of American superhero creators. The children of Yiddish-speaking immigrants created icons for all Americans - and the world. The Nazis hated the American Superman because he was the creation of Jews.

Posted by: Sarah at 02:22 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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October 20, 2004

SUPERHEROES

I finally got to see Spiderman 2 tonight. I loved it.
The scene in the subway train was one of the most moving things I've seen in a long time.

To me, there's nothing more American than a superhero, an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances who struggles to do what's right no matter what the cost. Superman is of course my favorite, but Spiderman is very dear to my heart as well. I'm ignorant as to the origins of the comic book superheroes; maybe some of my comic-knowing readers can help me: are superheroes American in origin?

I will be surprised if they aren't.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:50 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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