Not sure when I’ll have time to record next. It would be thematic to do a Martha episode for Mother’s Day but I’ve other commitments the next few weeks. I have a bunch of notes about Lara and Martha but not compiled enough for an episode yet.
Though Lara is only in the Krypton sequence, she’s given more to do with more significance than you might initially think. Even as she expresses doubt and fear, she’s ultimately the one who makes the active decision to launch Kal-El after bravely completing the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries. Lara is the one that faces her husband’s killer and his threats at sentencing and has to face the end of Krypton a widow and without her child. Some interesting stuff in that before and after when you unpack it. Martha, meanwhile, is a strong and nurturing mother who eventually needs an episode because there’s so much to say. For now, simply:
Happy Mother’s Day!
So until next time, an extra helping of RRSSS to help tide you over. (Also be sure to check out all the other great DC podcasts out there!)
Superman – Character Development, Approach, Psychology, etc.
- Overcoming Bad Inner Voices | School of Life
- The Case For Optimism | TED Radio Hour
- How to Get More Grit in Your Life | Freakonomics
- Early Christian Schisms – I: Before Imperium – Extra History | Extra Credits
- Proverbs | The Bible Project
- Who IS Sherlock Holmes? – Neil McCaw | TED Ed
- Captain America’s Biggest Flaw | Desmond Drake
- Captain America: The Secret DARK History Of The First Avenger | Screen Rant
Appreciating DC Films through Science, History, Philosophy, Film, etc.
- Myths and Truths About Tornadoes | Stuff You Should Know
- Should We Give Homeless People Homes | The Inquiry
- World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements | John Hunter
- How To Understand A Picasso | Evan Puschak
- Should you trust unanimous decisions? – Derek Abbott | TED-Ed
- .44 An Unusual Pattern | What’s The Point
- Do Invincible Creatures Exist? | Completely Optional Knowledge
- Episode 29: Traffic | Hidden Brain
- Episode 12: Omnibot | Flash Forward
- Does grammar matter? – Andreea S. Calude | TED-Ed
- Vigilantism and Lynching | Engaging Etymology
- Why is being scared so fun? – Margee Kerr | TED-Ed
- How To Fake Your Own Death – EPIC HOW TO | AWE Me
- Frozen Faith: Cryonics and The Quest to Cheat Death | Motherboard
- The Science of Rendering Photorealistic CGI | Filmmaker IQ
- Humans: New & Improved | Imaginary Worlds
- Speed of sound in movies | Lindybeige
- The Great War | The Great War
- BATLEXANDER MANILTON (Hamilton + Batman Parody) | Turtle Cameron
- HAMILTON Ham4Ham with J.J. Abrams 5/4/16 | Howard Sherman
- DC Legion of Collectors: DC TV Teaser | DC Entertainment
- Sneak Peek at DC Universe: The Exhibit | WB Studio Tour
- MasterChef Australia | Ten
- Triangle of Power | 3Blue1Brown
Overcoming Bad Inner Voices | School of Life
This 5-minute video talks about how we overcome criticism and unfair accusations by learning the wisdom of replacing them with more benevolent guides. We are assaulted by and internalize negative views and need the support of maternal voices who reaffirm our worth independently of our achievement and success. It concludes on the wisdom of culling the unhelpful voices and focusing on the ones we really need.
You can practically chart Clark’s character journey through this video point by point, again, showing the valuable applicability of his story.
Be sure to celebrate the mothers in your life this Sunday. Be sure to moderate the voices you listen to. There is cause to be hopeful and optimistic.
The Key to Success? Grit – Angela Duckworth | TED
Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, came out this month. She’s been on the press and podcast circuit promoting the premise that genius is more-often-than-not the product of grit (hard work, persistence, perseverance, passion, and a stick-to-it ethos) more so than just talent or being gifted. We raised this last RRSSS with the Hidden Brain episode, The Power And Problem Of Grit. She elaborates in a recent episode of Freakonomics, How to Get More Grit in Your Life.
Grit serves as an interesting lens with which to view Clark’s journey as Superman. In our last episode, I emphasized the point that the superhero doesn’t exist in this universe. Clark is creating the position without knowing exactly what it is. Where does Clark fall on the metrics as a “paragon of grit”? You can take the assessment in her book or in her published materials linked in the Freakonomics show notes and applied to Clark he definitely appears to be someone who is in the upper percentile- a true outlier- of someone who is persistent and perseveres.
The book lays out four stages, traits, or components to the development of true grit: Interest, Practice, Purpose, Hope.
This relates to a well-developed, cultivated desire, interest, and passion for something. It isn’t something that comes fully formed, but must be fostered and may require an early exploration to find. Once found, however, gritty people will stick to that interest by substituting nuance for novelty. Instead of bouncing from one interest to another, they seek depth and complexity inside their interest, rewarded by different facets rather than craving something else.
Applied to Clark, he was raised to help people, but that grew into an interest in rescuing them. Even after his father’s tragic sacrifice, he structured his new wandering life around being able to provide people with impossible supernatural rescue should it be required (even at the cost of permanence or prominence). When called upon, he willingly rescues despite the sacrifice, and when he starts his civilian life in Metropolis, he finds another facet on how he can help rescue with his writing. He stubbornly refuses to drop a story despite the admonitions of his editor because he’s interested in how stopping the Bat might help the people. For Clark, rescuing people has been a life-long pursuit and he’s stuck with the Superman role for about 2 years, whereas non-gritty interests typically fade in under a few months.
Then, even as his role expands beyond simply silent rescuer, instead of abandoning the role, he agrees to explore this next facet with the U.S. Senate Committee. He’s definitely interested.
Is the deliberate exercise of improving ones self in their interest. It is summed up by the 10,000-hour rule (or 10-year rule) somewhat unintentionally popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. The public perception is that is a threshold amount of practice to enter the realm of genius and that amount of practice makes you a genius. Gladwell has repeatedly refuted that causal link, stating that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition, and that the purpose of the 10,000-hour rule in his book was never to prescribe a formula for genius but to heavily emphasize the external support necessary to allow someone to reach their 10,000 hours. Gladwell repeated this in a recent Freakonomics episode, Being Malcolm Gladwell.
This is the area where Superman falls down some and much of my main apologetic for the discrepancy between expectations and execution. Clark is on his way, but he’s well short of 10-years of experience because he can’t deliberately exercise without either deliberate catastrophe or sophisticated simulation. We see Superman learning from the past and applying his experience. He just needs more of it. Incidentally, the time between the Man of Steel reboot and The Death of Superman? About seven years. The time between The Death of Superman and All-Star Superman which started to deified him as a paragon? About fourteen years. Does this doom Superman to never be the one we think we know? No, that’s why the Justice League serve such a vital function!
When the superhero concept exists, accepted, and formalized, it creates an avenue for Superman to gain his deliberate practice faster and more efficiently. It’s why the concept can’t take off alone but arises in other universes under the guise of other institutions. The X-Men follow a school model and have Xavier’s like Potter has Hogwarts. The Avengers are, for nearly all intents and purposes, government-sanctioned spec-op soldiers, who make superhero-ing daft outside their purview. Note, however, that the superhero concept is still contained in those universes whereas the one makes it a possibility for anyone in the public to embrace, albeit with the same costs and consequences as Superman, but better to weed out only those truly committed. If the concept is open and crowd sourced in such a way, we get a more plausible freedom for the heroes who spring up while also the benefit of their cooperative level-up.
The Justice League provide Superman the external support necessary such that he can achieve success, just like all outliers have uncommon support to allow their success to flourish.
Is the extension of the interest beyond one’s self, how it interacts with the world and other people. Essentially exactly what Batman v. Superman was about. Clark is entirely satisfied on his end to follow his passion and rescue people. It’s only in interacting with the world’s reaction or rejection of that (as prompted by Lex) where he starts to question his purpose and ultimately finds it because he has….
The quality that allows the gritty to overcome the detours, disappointments, delays, etc. which challenges everything else. Those with true grit believe that if they keep to everything above, that they’ll eventually overcome the issue and reap the reward. Although Clark goes through the struggles he overcomes them because he has hope.
Two cautionary footnotes: First, social science has to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, which even Duckworth acknowledges and refuses to allow her research be used as a metric of achievement in schools at this nascent stage. Second, not to forget that this isn’t to say success is deserved in the sense that those without it lack grit or hard work necessarily. It’s all too easy to reduce the premise of these books to sound bites, slogans, and unintended algorithms which the authors themselves end up railing against for years afterwards. Be careful about your conclusions!
Early Christian Schisms – I: Before Imperium – Extra History | Extra Credits
This video concisely describes two early Church controversies which ultimately presented the opportunity for Christianity to flourish and which, perhaps, parallels the present approach to Superman in some ways. The two controversies are: Circumcision and the Docetists.
With respect to Circumcision, the question was whether mosaic law had to be maintained and to what degree. Was Christianity all-inclusive of Judaism or something else? The founders fought it out and the controversy was resolved in favor of “circumcision of the heart”, something which made Christianity inclusive of gentiles (non-Jews), a broader “market” of prospective believers.
With the Docetists, they believed Christ was a pure spirit and never really a human man in our realm (in reverence of his purity and deity) irrespective of the historical account. The expulsion of the Docetists was an affirmation of Christ’s humanity “in the flesh” because of the sacrifice, suffering, pathos, and resurrection. This allowed early Christians to identify with his suffering especially during persecution, making martyrdom a powerful symbol ingrained into Christianity. God as relatable, human, and sympathetic set Christianity to grow.
In sum, one controversy was resolved to make the religion accessible to all, not just those already entrenched in highly technical and structured belief system with rigid requirements. The second controversy was resolved to avoid idealized imaginations of the central figure but rather reinforce real relatability, humanity, and sympathy even for a deity.
The doctrine debate seems applicable to the modern approach towards Superman. We start with a set of already devout fans completely versed-in comic book superhero culture, genre conventions, tropes, continuity, and expectations. Not unlike the rigid rules of Judaism (only for the sake of the narrative of this discussion, I know scholars debate just how flexible mosaic law really was and is, to this day), fans may establish internal rules like, “Heroes never kill”, “Continuity dictates this”, etc. However, it wasn’t even twenty years ago where society was skeptical of superheroes. The rules which suspended the reality of superheroes were arcane and inaccessible to outsiders unless prepared in more palatable preexisting packages (as action movies, which didn’t have “no kill” rules for cinematic Batman to follow, for example).
The aim of verisimilitude is the abandonment of the strict and expected genre conventions, in favor for more accessible reality which may nonetheless arrive at desired genre expectations. Honoring the principle of the thing rather than rigid adoption of the literal thing: “circumcision of the heart” versus mandating literal physical circumcision of the foreskin. This opens the superhero to people outside the genre and sets it up to grow.
In parallel with the second controversy, you have those who so idealized Superman, they’re divorced from historical reality and possibly undermine his broad appeal. In historical reality, Superman was rarely the perfect paragon of universal inspiration, hope, and power. He simply wasn’t that powerful or pure in the Golden Age. He wasn’t that serious or sincere in the Silver Age. And he always had a human psychology in the Bronze Age and beyond.
I’m not denying there are points where he’s elevated and held up as the example by other heroes, but those incidents are really the exception rather than the rule. Far more of the time, Superman is a character in the comics and across media, more than he’s an icon or an ideal.
Nonetheless, there are those who love Superman, but so heavily emphasize the latter they reject the bulk of history, the bulk of comics, the bulk of media, and are infuriated at any slight to their pure spirit of Superman. I’m not questioning their love any devotion (any more than the Docetists), but I do critique the reality of the view and the limited appeal of the view towards a comic book character, when those standards exceed those of an actual deity for a two-thousand year-old religion.
Instead, consistent throughout Superman’s history was his humanity. His weaker powers in the Golden Age meant he could proactively pursue human desires and fight injustices in a way which would be horrifying if he had Silver Age powers. His Silver Age persona was impish and petty and funny and fallible as a little kid with god-like powers would be in a fairy-tale reality without real continuity or consequences, identifying fully with our childlike wish-fulfillment. His cinematic debut was similar but with more romantic notions of humanity. His Modern Age renditions have more grounded reality and psychology while growing power and thus the responsibility which comes with that. Each time his humanity is being explored much more than his perfection or placement on a pedestal.
The current renditions are simply following the guidelines of good writing of any character, by relying on relatability, humanity, and sympathy instead of a perfect spirit. It’s a strange belief that Superman should somehow be immune to the requirements of a good character simply by virtue of being virtuous.
It’s easy to say, “Everyone loves superheroes right now!” and take it for granted that all are going to excuse those requirements by way of genre conventions, but even if that’s a circumstantial truth now, it’s not a timeless truth. Superman was insanely popular and universal in the Golden Age, that didn’t mean that’s all it takes for him to be popular for all time. Even if you can get away with genre conventions now because of the popularity of superhero media now, doesn’t mean it’s wrong to take a more timeless approach which might reach skeptics who don’t know or adopt those genre conventions at all.
Who IS Sherlock Holmes? – Neil McCaw | TED Ed
As a counter-point to the above, consider this video illustrating that most of the trappings that come to mind with respect to Sherlock Holmes do not actually come from original source material. When a character enters our collective consciousness, perhaps its less important what the source material actually says about the character versus what we all think it says?
Certainly, this tends to be the view of people who say, “Superman never kills!” and the like. Even if you can supply canonical counter examples or show how content across the great arc of history doesn’t support their view of Superman, they feel entitled to their interpretation of Superman and they are. However, then they aren’t entitled to tell you that your interpretation is wrong or a misunderstanding. You may feel that a character is more than just a feeling or sensation you get, but something grounded in more history, reality, and psychology. Reasonable minds will differ.
If anything, the video shows that the endurance comes from continual adaptation and evolution, not rigid adherence to any one portrayal as the one-and-only way in which the character may be depicted. As shown, the affectations come from a diversity of sources and times, which coalesce into a greater whole larger than any one execution. This means one shouldn’t stress out over any single interpretation or depiction and that generally only the most resonant aspects continue to get carried forwards into the future.
With respect to Superman, the larger-than-life icon is somewhat lacking in humanity, humility, and reality, so it’s reasonable for a modern mainstream adaptations to attempt course corrections which get layered with the icon, diversifying its facets and strength and endurance.
Myths and Truths About Tornadoes | Stuff You Should Know
I’ve talked enough about the tornado in Man of Steel, but here’s Stuff You Should Know on some prevalent myths about tornadoes. Stuff You Should Know is a pleasant low-key science and knowledge oriented podcast by laymen who have recently covered other topics with perhaps tangential ties to DC Films.
For example, Operation Plowshare, comments on the history behind America’s nuclear arsenal and capability (to understand their exclusion or use in DC Films). We’ve talked about altruism in the past and they talk about the Kin Selection theory. Additionally, they take on John Hodgman’s assertion that “nostalgia is the most toxic impulse” which we’ve discussed in the past before as well (they intend to debate the topic in an upcoming meet-up and I can’t wait if it is anything like Hodgman taking on Pashman on whether hotdogs are sandwiches).
The hosts are reasonable-minds that I differ-with a fair bit, but fun to listen to regardless with good attitudes. Basically, if I’ve warned you that someone specialized in a field and who has dedicated her life and reputation on something, in Duckworth, I extend that same disclaimer doubly to this podcast. They do their research but double-check before you rely upon it!
Last tangent on the topic of tornadoes, This American Life recently rebroadcast an episode about a prom in the aftermath of a tornado. It helps you appreciate the uncertainty of these situations.
Lightning round these links:
Should We Give Homeless People Homes | The Inquiry – Example of a “solved” policy problem (with examples) which still requires political will to execute and which took collective conversations to arrive at. This ties into two points from our last episode: 1) Conversation is necessary to bring about even ideal policy; 2) It takes time and cooperation to arrive at these solutions… it’s unrealistic to expect Clark to know how to address policy-level problems like this after less than two years on the job.
World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements | John Hunter – Similar to the above, how cooperative and iterative learning and experimentation with a game set kids up to problem-solve some of the world’s toughest problems.
How To Understand A Picasso | Evan Puschak
I’m always excited by the possibility of extending an elemental analysis to something and Puschak proposes an approach to understanding the easily misunderstood, extracting much more meaning than what is explicitly on or clearly depicted in the painting. That approach greatly extends one’s ability to appreciate a work and it is a pity that many are not willing to extend that opportunity more works.
Should you trust unanimous decisions? – Derek Abbott | TED-Ed – Not intended to relate to unanimity of critical response, but a check on whether or when we should be skeptical of it.
.44 An Unusual Pattern | What’s The Point – Presents a similar example of when our intuition may be led astray. When extremely unusual circumstances occur, we intuitively want to ascribe intention, not recognizing that from a statistical point of view, outliers are likely and expected to occur. The most elegant illustration is that it is unlikely that any one individual will win the lotto, however, it is extremely likely and expected that someone will. Somehow we see this with lotteries and understand that, but in many other arenas we fail to.
Do Invincible Creatures Exist? | Completely Optional Knowledge – Even without listening to the episode I knew this would end up being about tardigrades or water bears. The related line? Weaknesses: Cosmic radiation and tearing; essentially the main weaknesses of a Kryptonian on Earth!
Episode 29: Traffic | Hidden Brain – Cultural differences in expectations and unintended consequences. The first half is a modern real-world example of The Miller, His Son, and Their Donkey and the latter reemphasizes the point that Clark isn’t equipped to make state-level interventions when policy-makers who focus on this very thing fail.
Episode 12: Omnibot | Flash Forward – Universal translator.
Does grammar matter? – Andreea S. Calude | TED-Ed – Prescriptive vs. Descriptive philosophies… infinitely applicable… but just one for now: if we have this kind of fundamental divergence of views here, why would we expect everyone’s understanding of Superman to be uniform rather than debatable?
“You’re quoting Shakespeare” – Rob Brydon | Telegraph – I know it’s “sea change” (as first coined by Shakespeare) and not “seed change”… just a slip of the tongue.
Vigilantism and Lynching | Engaging Etymology – How the origins of the words come from the same point in history and confluence of events. The quasi-legitimate nature of vigilantism in American history.
Masked Vigilantes: Heroes or Hoaxsters? | ABC News – On the other hand, how the modern world views superhero-styled vigilantes with skepticism and the self-justification of those involved.
Why is being scared so fun? – Margee Kerr | TED-Ed – Fight or flight responses, how it compromises judgment (why we don’t operate like this all the time) making it unfair to judge people under stress from the comfort of a couch, and also how embracing overcoming builds you up.
How To Fake Your Own Death – EPIC HOW TO | AWE Me – I still need to do research, but I’m surprised at how many people are so sure Clark Kent can’t return because of how his death was handled in Batman v. Superman. While WitSec isn’t about to help you fake your own death, people have done it before and gotten away with it. It’s possible Clark Kent comes back because he was hot on the tail of Intergang and used the Doomsday incident to fake his own death (a surprising number of individuals use disaster to fake their deaths) and go into deep cover to finalize his story. As long as those attending the private ceremony are on-board with and know Clark’s secret, it isn’t too hard to bring Clark back. As he was obviously not actually working on the story, the research can come from Batman or Lois, who were already working on the matter, simply allowing him to take the byline to support his cover story. There are other ways to bring him back too….
Frozen Faith: Cryonics and The Quest to Cheat Death | Motherboard – Haven’t watched it yet, but may relate to stasis in MOS or Superman’s death in BvS or an out there way of returning Clark! 😉
The Science of Rendering Photorealistic CGI | Filmmaker IQ – What goes into movie CGI.
Humans: New & Improved | Imaginary Worlds – Trans-humanism, relate it to Cyborg, etc.
Speed of sound in movies | Lindybeige – Generally accurate observation which BvS fumbles a few times.
The Great War | The Great War – A channel following the history of World War I in parallel with today’s day and date; give yourself context for Wonder Woman.
BATLEXANDER MANILTON (Hamilton + Batman Parody) | Turtle Cameron – I’ve got Hamilton stuck in my head on repeat and it’s driving me crazy even if I love it. There was a fun May The Fourth tribute by LMM with J.J. Abrams and I found myself on a first draft of an Alexander Hamilton / Man of Steel parody.
DC Legion of Collectors: DC TV Teaser | DC Entertainment – Just have to say I’ve been extremely satisfied with the two boxes I’ve gotten so far and I’m pretty skeptical of these subscription services generally. I definitely feel like I’m getting valuable exclusives rather than just the scraps of overstock. It’s not for everyone, but if you like the kinds of trinkets, toys, and t-shirts included, you may want to check it out.
Sneak Peek at DC Universe: The Exhibit | WB Studio Tour – I’m going to be out in Burbank in August and excited I might get to do one of these tours.
MasterChef Australia | Ten – One of my family’s favorite Summer series is back. It is an example of grit and the transformation of amateur cooks into professional level chefs.
Triangle of Power | 3Blue1Brown – Just a neat notation.