Lending Club 2015 Data Viz (pt.1)

data is Bae

The fintech (Financial Technology) industry is in hyper-growth and there are many players entering the space. The biggest company in the industry right now is Lending Club, with over $13 Billion in loans issued as of 9/30/2015. Fortunately, Lending Club provides their data files to the public and after importing the 2015 loan data I was able to create a couple of data visualizations.

The following Tableau Public dashboards provides insight into the types of jobs Lending Club’s borrowers possess. I provided filters so you can look at the data based on different loan purposes, i.e. The loan will be used for a car, wedding or debt consolidation, just to name a few. (Note: I did not change any of the field names and used only the field names that Lending Club provides publicly). One insight that came from this data is that teachers are the highest rank for sum…

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Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Quality may have taken a hit. But that's not the problem.

It's your enthusiasm you have to worry about.

When you started, you were filled with the zeal of a new idea, a tale untold, trapped within you, ready finally to be freed with the thought of  National Novel Writing Month to buoy you though the trying times; the camaraderie, the gatherings, the laughter and tears of your mutual tribulations.

It sounded glorious!

If you were diligent, you gathered your research around you. If you were writing mysteries, you gathered data on pathology reports, investigative techniques, and ten of your favorite gumshoe novels for inspiration.

If you were planning for a space opera, you had already decided which laws of physics you were going to violate, whether your aliens spoke the same languages, how different aliens needed to be sure they wouldn't poison each other at the dinner table (or how they could…). You had already created the circumstance where these three aliens would come to blows and maybe intergalactic war!

Whatever tale you planned to tell, you had prepared your notes to help you remember how to pace your story. You had your timeline of character movements in the story, how they would cross your world and ultimately where they would meet their final fate, in the case of those unfortunate ones. You knew how the story started, where it turned, how it moved, where the bumps in the road and the major betrayals would take place. After all, that's what an outline is for.

Or you might be one of those rare creative types which eschews anything as formal as an outline (hurumph) no self-respecting panster would be caught dead with one on their person. Pantsters live by their ability to create tales of magic, mystery and wonder literally by willing it into existence while you wait.

They don't need structure, the tale will unfold itself, in its own pace, at its own time; the characters will reveal themselves to the author, unfolding like the single page of paper the pantster refuses to admit they used to flesh out their characters. A sentence, nothing more. The pantster is often as surprised as the reader when they read their work at the end of the day.

No matter your route to this point, the challenge of preparing yourself to write and the actual ACT of writing, has saddled you with the realization, that you knew in your heart, and only remember when you get about ten thousand words in.

Writing is hard work.

Your brain uses 30% of all the oxygen you breathe in on a given day. All the other parts of you, your face, arms, hands, digestive system, lungs, heart, liver, legs and feet, get the rest. The brain is like the government. The lungs bring in 100% of the oxygen but the Brain takes 30% right off the top. No questions asked.

The brain is using its 100 billion neurons to allow you to alter reality. To imagine a thing which does not exist. To create a realm of existence filled with whatever you can envision in your mind's eye and can convince your fingers to push past your fear, your trepidation of not being good enough, smart enough, capable enough to create something out of nothing more than a dream you shared in November.

At the 10,000 word point, you are looking around and saying: How did I get here?

You are wondering if you can move your hero past the beginning of the journey, where he must leave the safety of home and head out into the world. His perils must be enough to compel the reader to feel sympathy but not so dangerous, he would, if he had good sense, return home. Unless you were ruthless and burned his home, nay his entire village to the ground.

So you must go on. Can you make those journey's interesting? The energy of your early writings, the adherence to fanciful language has now fallen away to the drudgery of the task. To get your hero through the rising action of the story, the difficult part of making things happen, which reveal parts of the story, introduce the villains, throw out a few plots to resolve along the way until you can reach the awesome most terrifying, most intense part of any book for any writer.

The Climax. Ohhh. Sounds so dirty, doesn't it? The part of the story you KNOW you have been trying to get to since your character left home. You have this part in your head, or your heart. You know what you wanted to happen, you have been working toward it and thus the book feels lighter than the crushing ball of internal lead you have been carrying up to this point.

For the first time, you have crested the mountain and can see the other side. The End is in sight. It's probably November 25 at this point. You are weary. Creatively bone weary. Your hero's journey at least for this first book in your tetralogy is drawing to a close.

His denouement and yours are coinciding. You weary of his complaints. You sicken of you need to coddle him or torment him further, in preparation for his next book of adventures.

You walk him to the hospital, bleeding from untreated bullet wounds, trying to have him have clever one-liners as he's wheeled in. He makes eye contact with the nurse helping him and they share a mile as she jabs him with a number ten I.V. needle…

Your hero grabs his dying companion who pushes a small gem to him. The secret of the quest. You knew he had it and it was finally time for your hero to take up his destiny. As he touches it, the energy stored from his dying companion suffuses his body. The gem takes up its residence on the brow of your hero. He rises as he hears the enemy dragons in the distance…

You're thinking to yourself: Oh, God (Noodly-appendaged-One, Goddess, Horned Diety from a Dismal Dimension, other patron deity of writing as needed), its almost over…

It will take a lot of energy to get to this point. So you are to be forgiven if your lyrical prose in your early writing starts to get a bit saggy near the end. The effort of remaining wonderful, magnificently creative starts to wear on even the most fertile of minds, once they begin writing on a work.

This is perfectly normal and you can fight this feeling if you are writer by thinking about your writing during the course of your day instead of waiting until the moment you are about to start writing, to consider the work for the first time. Your brain is cold. The engine sputters, coughs, wheezes to life.

What kind of writing could you expect to get out of your work-weary, mass-transit traumatized, hellscape on wheels, hours-in-traffic-addled creativity well of a brain to be able to produce at the end of the day?

Not much.

Patterson, huh. We can do better.

How about you consider the next scene in your book when you get up in the morning while your brain is still fresh?

  • Play it over in your shower and then off to work. Mess with your dialogue and where you want the story to go while you are standing in line for lunch.
  • Get excited over what story that particular scene, chapter or event will have in the overall flow of your story.
  • Hold on to that enthusiasm while you are writing this thing you have played with all day, this idea you have looked at from all sides, protagonist wanting something, antagonists taking something.
  • Your enthusiasm for a crafting a well-viewed scene should be palpable.
  • And your story should feel more alive because you are writing it when your brain is more alive and playing with the story while your brain is more active, spreading creativity like fairy dust on all of your work, not just your writing but at your job.
  • People may notice this creative approach to your work and look forward to November when you begin creating something anew, with enthusiasm, zeal and vigor through out the month.

It should make torturing your hero, overheating your brain and starving your cat totally worth it.

You've got this. Write like a beast and remember: The dream is free. But the Hustle costs extra.

This is what you'll feel like when you're done. Stop pontificating and get back to work.

About the Author:

Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

Has any Green Lantern ever used his ring with notable efficiency?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Not until the Modern Era

But there are always exceptions in every era. A Green Lantern's weakness is not the ring (s)he's wielding but the writers who's telling the stories.

One of the more impressive feats of the Modern Age Green Lanterns was when John Stewart managed to have more willpower than the Power Ring could utilize in his attempt to restore the destroyed planet of Xanshi. A mark of shame for him as the world was destroyed due to a moment of overconfidence and stands, to him, as a testament of failure during his tenure as a Green Lantern.

In the Golden Age

Overall, Green Lanterns weren't incredibly impressive besides the fact there were, for the first time, more than one of them (unlike the Golden Age, when there was only Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern).

Early Alan Scott's Green Lantern used his ring in a number of relatively simple ways including:

  • the ability to instantly change into his costume,
  • the power of flight,
  • a bit of enhanced strength,
  • projection of the Green Power, usually as flames or later beams of force.

With a 1930-1950s audience, this was usually quite sufficient to satisfy the readers.

His power was later claimed to have been derived from the Starheart, an alien construct made by the Guardians of Oa after they gathered rogue magic from the Universe to establish a more scientifically structured reality. This retcon connected the Golden Age Green Lantern with his Silver Age counterpart.

In the Silver Age

Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan was never depicted using very complicated or interesting shapes, forms or constructs. I always imagined him as a guy who used the least amount of effort required to solve a problem.

​​​To be fair to the character, Hal's creativity was limited by the writer and a writer's willingness to think deeply on the Green Power and what might be able to be done to create more interesting feats with it.

The Silver Age is quite long and there are many times Green Lanterns in the hands of more creative writers might do more interesting things with the ring than just simple force projections.

For example: Hal protects himself and the rest of the Justice League from a SUPER NOVA, and then converts his friends to Negative Radiant energy to ride out the supernova and escape an energy being intent on eating them:

In a Silver Age Green Lantern story written by Larry Niven, Hal uses the power rings to go many times the speed of light and was able to go far enough, fast enough, for one of his energy beams to undergo a redshift and turn from green to yellow in a matter of seconds. For me, this was an outstanding and creative use of the ring. Probably one of the most interesting of the Silver Age.

Hal uses his ring to force realign the molecular structure of a cage designed to prevent the Flash from using his vibration powers to escape.

  • The cage changes every time the Flash tries to harmonize his vibrations with it. Since Hal is a non-scientist (his greatest weakness) he doesn't quite understand what the Flash wants to do.
  • But he uses the ring to create a super-microscope, able to see down to the molecular level and once he understands the problem, realigns and forces the molecules in the cage to stay in a single configuration.
  • Then its back to giant mallet time. Writers, you can't live with 'em, you can't shoot 'em. How do you go from using the ring so creatively back to swinging a giant green mallet…

The Modern Age

After the League was thrashed around in the Watchtower (and the Fortress of Solitude) by Fernus:

  • Green Lantern, John Stewart recreates a "fully functional and self-sustaining communications/scanning station" which even taps into the JLA teleporters, with his ring.
  • John essentially uses the ring's internal database to replicate the technology of the JLA satellite and recreate it and all of the services that technology provided.
  • Hal Jordan and Superman effectively tow the Earth against the pull of a powerful alien force, all 5.972 sextillion (1,000 trillion) metric tons of it. Knowing Green Lantern, he let Superman do all the heavy lifting. He just protected the entire planet from being torn apart and stuff like that.

Modern Era readers are blessed with a more diverse group of writers and a more extraordinary opportunity to see the power of the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum used in far more interesting ways than ever before. A cornucopia of different and novel uses are shown across the Blackest Night Saga.

While readers are always seeking new ways of seeing their characters perform, they tend to ignore previous generations of writers as limited, not understanding that in the era those stories were told, writers were, at the time considered just as cutting edge as our modern writers are today.

A generation from now, the uses of the Green Power (assuming there are still Green Lantern comics) will be as different, strange and anachronistic as the early depictions of Green Lantern appear to us today. During the Blackest Night saga, there was the first real depiction of Green Lanterns interacting with the Green Energy in different and very personal ways.

Our sector's five official Green Lantern Corps members are:

  • Hal Jordan: The first Green Lantern of Earth, test pilot, adventurer, superhero; longest history as a Green Lantern, known for his superior will power and mastery of his personal fear. While Hal gets a lot of flack from writers about his lack of imagination, the character is an everyman, a test pilot, not a scientist. He is a man whose flaws are exceeded only by his supreme willpower, arguably his will is equaled by only a few Green Lanterns anywhere among the Corps.
  • Guy Gardner: The second Green Lantern of Earth. He started as a backup Lantern and after saving the day a few times, got to stay active. An insufferable ass for many years, he suffered brain damage which altered his personality, some thought for the better. When he recovered his perspective had changed a bit but he was still loud, brash and barely restrained. His use of the Green Power is also considered similarly, barely contained, with power splashing out from it randomly.
  • John Stewart: A replacement for Guy Gardner; Stewart was an architect and former Marine, former Guardian (in a different continuity), and a total badass; blessed with an incredible willpower and a keen analytical mind, he creates the most realistic and effective constructs of all five. His architecture and military training would have him using the Green Power surgically and creatively as a weapon of war. He is also the only Green Lantern to ever wield the power as directly as an actual Guardian of Oa, brief though it was. See: Green Lantern: Mosaic.
  • Kyle Rayner: After the destruction of the Corps, the Last Guardian, Ganthet creates a new ring and gives it to Rayner. Rayner restarts the Corps and ushers in a new age of Green Lanterns. And a whole lot of other stuff. Kyle is the most imaginative of the five and uses his ring in ways none of the others ever did. His imaginative creations were so diverse, it was said he never created the same construct twice. He has effectively become the most powerful Lantern ever now that he is the wielder of the White Power, the most capable of all the Emotional Spectrum Powers.
  • Simon Baz: Newest Green Lantern of Sector 2814, assigned due to the difficulties the Corps was undergoing and the long periods where Hal, John, and Guy were off-world on Guardian business.

Other Legendary Green Lanterns:

  • Kilowog is not a member of the 2814 crew but he has been considered one of the most powerful Green Lanterns to have ever used a ring. He has been a trainer of Green Lanterns for many years and trained Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.
  • Sinestro was also considered one of the most powerful and most creative Green Lanterns to have ever been a member of the Corps. His willpower was unmatched and his constructs were considered the best ever seen. Sinestro has also been a user of various other Lightsmith Corps rings including the Yellow Ring of Fear.
  • Abin Sur was the Green Lantern who died on Earth recruiting Hal Jordan. His mastery of the ring was so great, Sinestro who learned from him considered him one of the greatest of all Green Lanterns.

Has any Green Lantern ever used his ring with notable efficiency?

Black Americans Wearing African Clothing Is NOT Cultural Appropriation

Our Legaci with J.A.M. Aiwuyor

Maya Angelou and Malcolm X Maya Angelou and Malcolm X in Ghana

The internet has unfortunately become a cesspool for the most simplistic arguments to be sensationalized. The latest finger pointing bandwagon phrase to hit the net is “cultural appropriation.” It’s being slaughtered, with a slew of would be  writers refusing to actually research the meaning of the term before tossing it around carelessly. So is the case with a recent article declaring, that Black Americans were culturally appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. It goes without saying, that this bold assertion is as deprived of history, logic and critical analysis as “reverse racism.”

Part I: Let’s begin with the definition of appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes, claims and establishes itself the creator of the cultural heritage and artifacts of a minority and or marginalized culture thereby erasing the history of the marginalized culture.

In Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies of a Social Logic…

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My son asked if The Flash moves so fast, how can he see things. How can I easily explain this?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Because Light is Faster than the Flash!

You can assure your son, Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive, is rarely in danger of running faster than he can see because light is almost always faster. In our universe, light is faster than everything!

The Speed Force

The standard answer to most things about the Flash is his relationship to the Speed Force, an enigmatic superset of cosmic energy in the DC Universe, which allows the Flash to perform abilities beyond the laws of physics.

  • The Speed Force is a concept presented in various comic books published by DC Comics, primarily in relation to the various speedsters in the DC Universe.
  • The Speed Force was the extra-dimensional energy that once powered all of the Flash's superhuman abilities. It is not like any other fundamental force.
  • Its origin is likely the same as most superhuman abilities found in the DC Universe, a byproduct of the mysterious omni-energy known as The Source and The Godwave.
  • The ability to access the Speed Force has been limited to only a few individuals in the DC Universe and when DC characters travel to the Marvel Universe, they are unable to access the Speed Force.

The faster the Flash moves the more likely the Speed Force is allowing him to manipulate the laws of physics such as inertia, momentum and force. However, if the Flash should start to approach the speed of light, he would have problems if he was not assisted by the Speed Force. The speed of light is the fastest speed in the Universe, that we know of at 186,282 miles per second or 300,000 kilometers per second.

  • When the Flash is patrolling Central City, he is rarely moving anywhere near his top speed. Most times, he is traveling well below the speed of light, probably no faster than a really nice race car, about two hundred miles an hour. This speed is fast enough he can get anywhere in just a few minutes. He doesn't have to stop for lights, or traffic because he is small enough to fit almost anywhere.
  • A quick way to think about how fast he is moving… 60 miles per hour means he is moving about a mile a minute. A trip to someplace 10 miles a way at a leisurely pace of 60 miles per hour means it takes about ten minutes.
  • If we think of the Flash moving about four times that speed, he could cover that same ten miles in a little over two minutes. More than fast enough to move around a fairly large city with no real traffic restrictions. This is also slow enough so he can get instructions from his friends at Star Labs over his radio. Even if something were twenty miles away, at a safe cruising speed of 240 mph, he is never more than five minutes from anything.
  • In an emergency, if the Flash really wanted to turn on the speed, he might increase his speed to just over the speed of sound at about 760 miles per hour (Mach 1). At this speed though, his ability to change direction is a bit harder so he uses speeds like this when he has lots of straight or gently curving road.
  • While this may seem very fast, race car drivers and pilots control their vehicles, at these speeds, with their well-trained human reflexes.

The Speed Force at work

The source of all human speedsters superhuman abilities is their connection to the Speed Force. Believed to be a subset of the Source, a cosmic repository of energies which power all superhuman ability, this power is uniquely reserved for and accessibly by Human speedsters and anyone utilizing technology which can also access this energy field.

And yes, there is a question of how people like Superman and Wonder Woman have super-speed but don't use the Speed Force. It appears they are able to, as a subset of their own abilities, use greater than human speeds but without the protection and limiters the Speed Force allows. This means when they use their powers, if they aren't careful, they can cause more harm than they might want.

When the Flash is running, the Speed Force surrounds and envelops him in a protective aura.

  • He can extend that aura to people he is carrying, so they are also safe from flying debris, wind burn, friction and other associated speed related issues. All of these energies are bled into the Speed Force and have no effect on the Flash or his surroundings, unless he wants them to. He can withdraw speed from other things or people and add that speed to his own.

Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, steals speed from Superman, slowing him down and boosting himself ahead of the Man of Steel.

  • Most importantly, the Speed Force is augmenting the Flash's brain and his perception, speeding up his thinking process, helping him to organize and coordinate his movements, extending his awareness of his body so he doesn't touch anyone at the speeds he is moving. It would be disastrous.
  • Once the Flash starts moving at speeds faster than sound, the Speed Force goes into overdrive. Once the Flash is opening up his speed, he is faster than a bullet. To outrun a bullet he needs to be able to reach speeds of up to 1,700 miles per hour!
  • His reflex time is so good and he is so fast, he can, using the Speed Force, remove the momentum and energy from a bullet and pluck it out of the air, like a raindrop. Only the Speed Force would allow him to steal the momentum and energy and add it to his own.

  • When the Flash has to kick it up a notch, he might need to move at 4,000 to 8,000 miles per hour, and he still won't have any trouble seeing things. He reserves speeds like these for long distance country running because it is harder to navigate tight streets, particularly at these speeds.
  • When he starts moving this fast, nothing around him will appear to be moving in relationship to him. He is so fast, the normal world may as well be standing still. At these speeds, he is moving as fast as one of our nation's fastest fighter jet (Mach 5 to Mach 10).
  • Walking people and moving cars will appear to be almost motionless to him. And he is moving so fast, he will be invisible to them.

Here's where the Speed Force's effects become clearly evident to the external viewer.

  • Once the Flash reaches the speed of sound (about 700 mph at sea level) he should be capable of generating a sonic boom and a pressure wake capable of knocking people off their feet as he passes. But he doesn't.
  • Bugs striking him at this speed should have the ability to feel like bullets and anything hitting him from the road like gravel would have the damage dealing capacity of small grenades. But they don't.
  • Gravity no longer pulls him down from the sides of buildings and he is able to skip across the surface of the bodies of water, treating it just like a normal surface for him to run on.
  • At these speeds, his reflexes are so fast that high speed projectiles such as bullets are moving slow enough for him to actually track their movement and avoid them completely. But he won't do that, for fear they might hit innocent bystanders. He just grabs them out of the air and drops them on the sidewalk.

The Speed Force channels all of the effects of his motion, save the ones he wants to manipulate into the energy which powers the Flash. He is able to channel the energy of his movement through though the air and thus causes no disturbance he doesn't want to.

 One of the benefits of his powers, however, will allow him to maintain the ability to think, move and react at those speeds. Even though he is as fast as a fighter jet in the middle of town, the Speed Force helps him compensate and think fast enough to maneuver.

So when is vision a problem for the Flash?

The Flash ran from Central City to Singapore and back in just over three seconds. This means he covered 9,300 miles there and back moving at an estimated 6,000 miles per second!

  • Remember when we said the speed of light was 186,282 miles per second, earlier, the Flash was barely moving in comparison. We measured in miles per hour. Now he is moving in miles per SECOND.
  • He could be said to be moving relativistically: moving fast enough to be measured as a percentage of the speed of light. This means when he ran to Singapore and back, he was traveling at 3/100ths of the speed of light.
  • At this speed, he may begin having difficulties seeing things that are not directly in front of him, because he is now moving fast enough he is distorting light as it approaches him. But this speed isn't really enough to worry about.
  • It's when he reaches extremely close to the speed of light, where he may only be able to see things directly in front of him because he is now faster than the light of things alongside of him.

This is the most extreme representation of the Speed Force, it gives a speedster who can sustain such speeds, the capacity to move, understand, think, act and react at those speeds. Such speeds are very difficult to control and it is unlikely most speedsters can maintain them for long.

Name a time the Flash's vision is affected by his speed?

In a battle against other speedsters, the Flash's powers are pushed, often to their limits.

  • A speedster calling himself ZüM, along with a group of other superheroes (the Hyperclan) wanted to replace the Justice League, and fought the league members. Secretly, they were White Martians, each with powers capable of making them nearly as strong as Superman. Each, however, seemed to specialize in their use of their powers and ZüM, specialized in Speed.
  • The speedster, ZüM and Wally West (the Flash of the era) had an epic battle which showed the Flash was capable of manipulating his own energy using the Speed Force and transferring that energy to an opponent.

  • The Flash mentions when he is traveling at relativistic speeds his vision is compressed so he can only see things directly in front of him. This also means only someone who can react to relativistic effects (like dodging a beam of light) can see or react to him. Zum learned this the hard way.
  • The technique he used to defeat ZüM was dubbed the "Infinite Mass Punch." The mass he channels from approaching the speed of light* would make his fist incredibly massive and capable of transferring enough energy to rival a small nuclear explosion, if the Flash wanted it to. All of this sidestepping of the laws of physics are courtesy of the Speed Force.
  • *Physics Fact: objects made of matter cannot reach the speed of light because the laws of relativity indicate, they would gain infinite mass and would require infinite energy to move them. Thus no object made of matter can reach the speed of light. (Which has weird implications for the Flash, but that's a Flash Fact for another day.)

In summary:

It's safe to say, when the Flash is doing his job from day to day, he doesn't have to worry about not being able to see things around him.

  • The Speed Force protects him from dangerous environmental conditions brought on from his use of super-speed.
  • It increases his awareness, reflexes and reaction time to compensate for his increased superhuman speed. His brain activity must be improved billions of times in order to keep up with his superhuman activities.
  • His awareness has some limitations, since the faster he moves, the less he is able to take in, particularly if he reaches speeds that are a percentage of the speed of light. The closer he gets to the speed of light, the less he should theoretically be able to see.
  • The Flash rarely gets to speeds where he worries about relativistic effects like compressed photons and the like, so there is nothing to worry about as the Flash fights the forces of evil.


The Flash does have feats where he is faster than light. In many cases, much faster than light.

Over the decades, the Flash has been shown to be faster than a beam of light which means he must somehow act as a form of energy capable of moving faster than light. (In comics, its possible, in reality, it isn't. At least not yet.)

  • In this interstellar race, Wally is running many times faster than light. He is moving so fast, he is able to see the boundary to the Speed Force (the pretty rainbow colored wall). This barrier is where all speedsters who can access the Speed Force can end up if they travel too fast…(whatever too fast means for a particular speedster, it varies for each one). Objects which travel into the Speed Force enter a kind of nirvana or heaven and are reluctant to return to the world.

A last minute save by Krackl keeps Wally West from falling into the Speed Force.

  • In those comics where the Flash moves faster than light, we are forced to accept that somehow, the Speed Force compensates the Flash for the information he should no longer be able to see visibly and allows him to continue operating at peak efficiency.
  • There are too many feats to mention where this happens, so we, as readers, are forced to accept that the Flash and his abilities are the stuff of comics and pseudo-science, powered strictly by imagination.

There's nothing wrong with using your imagination. The great scientist and thinker Albert Einstein once said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Just because the Flash is imaginary, doesn't mean you can't learn a Flash Fact or two related to speed, motion, momentum, relativity, gravity, mass and the other laws and effects of physics the Flash gets to thumb his nose at.

Lucky guy, eh? Now who's running to Italy to get me a pizza?

My son asked if The Flash moves so fast, how can he see things. How can I easily explain this?

To those who have been reading Marvel and DC comics for the past 30 years, how has the quality of the stories (plot and writing) changed?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Robert Frost's answer sums up a part of my personal perspective but I wanted to go just a bit further. I was hoping someone else would chime in because I feel so old talking about the reduction in overall quality of comics.

But the reduction in quality is not in their production values. Comics are more beautiful than they have ever been. Printed on better paper, colorful in a way the old comic creators would have given a limb to be able to create, they are a visual extravaganza, whose decades of technique can be (not always) shown by the proper artist/writing/editing team of creating works whose like has rarely been seen.

More modern works by George Perez, Geoff Johns, Mark Millar and many other legendary names have been responsible for some of the best and brightest events in recent comics. And yes, I know there are many others.


What had changed for me in the comic industry was the change in the perspective of the heroes and the story themes.

They have become dark anti-heroic versions of themselves. They lack hope, most no longer believe in a brighter future and if there were characters among them that did, (Charles Xavier, for example) they seem to meet an untimely end… (Yes, Xavier has died before…so he may not stay dead.)

The stories in modern comics are patently less cheerful, less hopeful and more about a creeping despair, not a climb toward the top of a mountain of challenges, but more of an inexorable movement toward an unchangeable world whose inertia has become unable to stop its slide toward defeat.

Extreme fans whose perspectives are being catered to have reduced the overall quality of the work for the rest of us. Such catering/pandering seem to effect even the slightest changes to long standing characters such as Wonder Woman who after forty years, still can't get a full pair of pants or a jacket, without incurring fanboy outrage.


The most pressing changes I notice in the comic industry include:

  • Superheroes don't fight villains exclusively. As a matter of fact it is increasingly difficult to determine where the line between hero and villain is drawn.
  • Is Doctor Doom a heroic villain? Is (was) Wolverine a murderous hero? How about the Punisher? He's killing mobsters who have no problem murdering the average citizen for wealth and power. Is the Punisher the solution or part of the problem. How about Spawn? He fights evil in some of its purest forms, using powers derived from Evil. He uses the same methods his foes use including torture and torment. Ghost Rider does as well. This widening of the grey moral boundary is one of the most exciting thing (to a lot of readers) to happen in comics. I still question if it is good, right or necessary.
  • When I grew up reading comics, it wasn't unusual for the occasional superheroic dust-up when two heroes who hadn't met before or when a costume change might cause a mistaken identity and the two would battle before realizing they were on the same side. Then they would bring the pain to the bad guys, who were clearly defined.

One of my favorite comics of the 80s. Marvel Two-in-One was always a bit of a clash of heroic styles and the occasional hero slugfest before getting down to the business of fighting villainy.

  • Now? Superheroes spend as much time fighting each other as they did villains. What happened to the brotherhood of earlier eras? What happened to the greater good? Why have all of the stories become about hero on hero conflict?
  • I blame Secret Wars, the Beyonder and all of their spinoffs for this trend. Today we have Civil War and a bunch of other superhero conflicts where the ability to tell whose side you should be one is met with a colossal "meh". It would appear the Secret Wars will be making a reappearance in the next couple of years as well. <Sigh.>
  • The superheroes don't break up secret cabals, they now become them. DC had an entire storyline where the Justice League mindwipes its members because of a disagreement about how to handle a rapist. Marvel has a group of supposed super-intelligent heroes who plot how to "protect" the world from threats only they can perceive. They even call themselves "The Illuminati."

Marvel's Illuminati – a secret cabal of good guys? When did good guys form cabals anyway?

  • There are times when superheroes of one universe might be considered supervillains in another. The Authority, an otherworld version of the Justice League, for a time were some of the most feared metahumans on their world and likely several nearby realities as well.

The Authority: as scary a version of the Justice League you ever want to see.

  • Supervillains have now become better heroes than the heroes themselves. Witness both the popularity and effectiveness of the Marvel series: Thunderbolts.

This transformation in the status quo has left me breathless and hopeless for writing where the characters return to their more heroic lifestyles.

But with all of that visual splendor I mentioned earlier, there are ugly politics of race and gender hiring. The Big Two of Marvel and DC have both come under fire in recent years for their lack of diversity in either of their bullpens as far as regular writers, artists or editors are concerned.

The last thirty years has shown how little diversity there is in the hiring of creative talent and how little the medium's color palette has changed over the decades. While our world has grown more complex and racially integrated such change has not managed to creep into the comics themselves. Marvel's recent efforts to bring in some diversity had resulted in the gender-bending of Thor and the recent forced retirement of Steve Rogers and replacement of Sam Wilson in the titular role of Captain America.

The new, more diverse Avengers…

Comic characters created long ago are generating top dollars at the box office. This has renewed creator's rights lawsuits against comics companies for a slice of the ever-growing pie created by movies and those characters. With money being potentially made not through the comic medium but through television, movies, merchandising and advertising, the comic has now become little more than a gateway industry whose primary mission is to set up other media engines for potential financial growth.

Comics, their characters, their themes, their once revolutionary perspectives have fallen by the wayside, secondary to the the overall need to make money for the corporate bottom line.

There are so many things that undermine what was once a simple pleasure created by individuals who wanted to tell heroic and mythic stories. Even the underlying spirit of the characters has been irrevocably changed:

Compare the perspective on my favorite hero, Superman:

  • Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!
  • Voices: "Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!"
  • Announcer: "Yes, it's Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands; and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way."

To his more modern counterpart in the Man of Steel:

  • Faster than a cruise missile, more powerful than an exploding nuclear weapon, able to span the globe in mere seconds!
  • Screams of terror from the ground: Look up in the sky! It's an alien death machine! It's destroying our city! Is he going to save us? It's Superman!
  • Announcer: Yes, it's Superman, refugee from another planet whose inhabitants were too arrogant or lazy, we are never sure which, to determine what was wrong with whatever mishap caused their planet to explode. (Planets don't explode unless you are really doing something terribly irresponsible.)
  • Building a rocket small enough for one, his parents sent a child whose superhuman potential could have rendered the Earth, desolate if he landed in the hands of the wrong people, Kal-El would grow up ostracized and alone before he decided he should help people.

Kal-El, hobo of Steel

  • Discovering renegade Kryptonians want to destroy the Earth, Kal-El chooses to protect Humanity, resulting in the deaths of only millions who will likely revile him and other aliens in general setting up a movie franchise where one of the world's most recognizable icons becomes a character no one wants to admit they actually know personally.
  • Superman, angst-filled hero from another planet who has yet to inspire this latest generation to anything other than wholesale destruction of entire cities, the defeat of another Kryptonian threat with the murder (okay, necessary execution /manslaughter) of an enemy more powerful than himself.
  • Yes, Superman, furthering the fear the common man has of an alien who looks like them, can fly faster than jets, can destroy entire cities in about twenty minutes and completely unable to be held accountable for his actions, by anyone."

​Yes, this pretty much undermines my viewpoint of these iconic characters for me and makes me long for those ridiculous stories like A Tale of Two Supermen.


My biggest feeling about the comic industry is that it reflects the darkness of the real world, reinforced with the horrors capable of being generated by virtue of being a world of imagination.

Where in the real world we contend with terrorists, environmental catastrophe, and the threat of social collapse as our economies become more intertwined.

In the Marvel Universe, we see this reflected in the collapse of the multiversal membranes and other Earths trying to occupy the space of our Earth, with our finest heroes having to defeat and potentially slay versions of themselves trying to protect THEIR Earth.

No matter how you slice this, someone has to lose and this undermines what comics have always meant to me. The underlying theme in comics, which I managed to bring into my own life was this:

Do your best to find a win-win for everyone. Real heroes don't accept the win-lose scenario. We fight for the best possible scenario for everyone involved. When you are forced to make that choice, the hero sacrifices himself before allowing those without the power, the capacity and the responsibility to make that choice in his place.

Today's comics promote the idea there can be no true winners. Only those who lose a little less than those who lose everything.

I thought the idea of promoting mythic heroes was to talk about how they overcame the odds already stacked against them by being clever, strong, wise, unorthodox or thorough just plain cussedness. Determined to find a solution, not only of convenience but one promoting a future worth having, not just the future we have to settle for.

Sadly, I don't see those heroes anymore. I guess they weren't lucrative enough for corporate America. Marvel has taken a page from the DC playbook and begun destroying pieces of its Multiverse, because nothing makes money like destroying the Universe.

For DC it was Crisis on Infinite Earths, for Marvel, the Incursions taking place in New Avengers. Whatever it is, the story will make money but won't demonstrate the heroism we have come to associate with these heroes when I was growing up.

I see this as the twilight of the comic hero, a being who promoted a perspective there isn't room in the future. One where you could resist the inexorable descent into mediocrity, strive for greatness and recognize it wasn't in the achieving of that greatness that mattered but in the striving.

To those who have been reading Marvel and DC comics for the past 30 years, how has the quality of the stories (plot and writing) changed?

Why did DC and Marvel change the ethnicity of its characters, Green Lantern and Johnny Storm?

To Reflect the Real World

Soho, New York City – 2015 – Just remember this picture, we’ll get back to it in a moment or two.

I normally stay out of this particular conversation because it makes people uncomfortable. Mostly me. But today I am going to go with the idea this is a troll seeking to provoke controversy and I am going to lay the smackdown on this idea once and for all, political correctness, be damned.

Once upon a time:

There was a nation known for its less than ideal treatment of what it deemed minority members of their population. These populations hadn’t done anything wrong other than exist. There were many social issues around these populations, particularly how they came to be in this nation.

There was much inherent and underlying cultural shame in their being brought to this nation, why they were brought here, the wars fought over their being here and ultimately their release from four hundred years of chattel slavery at the hands of one of American history’s bloodiest wars.

As much as we like to pretend this distasteful part of American history didn’t happen, and revisionists work daily to change its inherent meaning, causation and outcomes, the truth stands. The Civil War was fought over the maintenance of slaves and the Slave State.

What made it worse was once those minorities were released from bondage, they weren’t allowed to have a piece of the pie. They weren’t eagerly embraced by those who wronged them for centuries. They were falsely imprisoned, ostracized, marginalized, segregated and even attacked for decades after their so-called freedom had been obtained. This was not a good time for anyone who wasn’t deemed “White” in America.

What does this have to do with comics?

At the same time this was going on:

Birmingham, 1963: A 17 year old is attacked by police dogs during a Civil Rights peaceful protest.

This was going on:

The mighty Avengers were foiling the threat of Loki.

Now ask yourself: this new mythology of superheroes, heroic legends fighting newly created monsters of science and old mythology wasn’t spawned in a vacuum. These new heroes, related distantly to their 1940 predecessors, were created by White men who had the opportunity and lack of socialized constraints to write these creations who would become legendary in American culture.

These legends weren’t spawned in a place where people were not affected by the social and cultural mores of the world around them. In fact, they were a reflection of that world, as those writers and artists saw it and encouraged to make it so.

  • Thus, do you believe it could be possible that the world that would attack Black people on the street with dogs would empower the same marginalized people with worlds of fantasy and power when the culture they lived in wanted nothing to do with them?
  • That they would have been given an opportunity to show up empowered, able to challenge the status quo, alter the perspectives of White America and be seen as equal both in the real world and this mythic one?

Not a  a chance in hell.

Enter: The Blue Marvel

The very nature of the hypocrisy is such that a character created by Modern Marvel uses this very theme as part of his origin story!

In 1962, Adam Brashear received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy on the day the President asked him to retire, since it had been discovered by the public that he is an African-American. As the Blue Marvel, Brashear wore a full-face helmet, but when it was damaged in a battle, his identity was revealed. There was massive controversy as the era of 1962 was too racist to accept a black superhero. Although Kennedy personally approved of Brashear’s actions, the President reluctantly decided to ask Brashear to step down, and the Blue Marvel conceded.

So we are clear on the subject: This hero did not exist in 1962! He was NOT part of Marvel’s lineup of heroes and did not predate the first appearance of Marvel’s first African superhero, the Black Panther (appearing in Fantastic Four #52, July 1966), nor the first African American superhero, the high-flying Falcon (appearing in Captain America #117, Sept. 1969).

This retcon was created to explain why this particular powerful metahuman was not fighting crime at the same time the Fantastic Four was supposedly experiencing their origin story in midtown Manhattan.

Marvel used the specter of racism to explain retroactively why there weren’t more heroes of color in their lineup of mythological beings who could have been any color but were almost exclusively White.

This is not an apology, mind you. But it’s as close as Marvel will ever get.

Black superheroes in the Marvel Universe were already rare. Powerful ones, beings capable of competing with the likes of Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk, were non-existent until the creation of Storm, the mutant weather-manipulator who appeared in Giant X-men #1 in 1975. And she would not grow truly formidable for another fifteen years, give or take.

What does this have to do with race-bending and gender-bending in comics and media today?

What this has to do with and why so many fans rage against the change is simple and has to do with the very first picture in this article. The world we live in does not resemble the ideal world of White America, where everyone is White, minorities are not seen, and the hegemony of White power is omnipresent in this nation.

Instead it looks far more like Soho in that first picture.

Diverse, mixed, people of all sorts of colors, cultures, social groups and religions populate the nation’s largest cities. While the economic power of Whites has continued to grow, their numbers are slowly being eroded and this ultimately means their social cache, their influence, their dominance over all forms of media will also be reduced. But it may take some time.

As media continues to develop, however, the people who are paying to see movies being made already know what many media companies are unwilling to accept.

If all of your heroes stay White, you will lose your audience.
Maybe not today, but as you transition toward the future, this will become an unacceptable circumstance.

Here’s where the problem lies.

The fans will say:

  • But those heroes were always White.
  • Why is it a problem now?
  • We should stay true to the canon.
  • We should just make new heroes for those minorities to aspire to instead of changing the established ones.

My response is simple:

  • Get over yourself and check your privilege at the door.
  • We don’t live in the racially-segmented, culturally-insensitive, radically-offensive time of your fathers and grandfathers.
  • While it may have been considered acceptable to pretend Black people couldn’t be anything other than slaves, servants or entertainers in 1940s, 1950s or 1960s, it is now considered the very soul of racism to continue to promote those ideas today.
  • If these entertainments were created in 1960s I would expect to see an all-white superhero team because Blacks and other minorities were simply excluded from any form of media that didn’t portray them in a negative light.
  • This is the year of our Lord, 2015. We are supposed to be better than this. What we say we are supposed to want, equality and an egalitarian society should be reflected in our workplaces, our streets and in our media. It should be reflected in the hopes and aspirations of all of our citizens not just our White ones.
  • All of our children should have the opportunity to see themselves represented mythically, as idealized constructs, the same way White men have been allowed to do since such media came into existence.

And don’t get it twisted. I recognize the world we live in is still very racially divided. There is still murder and mayhem based on color, religion, culture all over the globe and it is unfortunately not likely to change to the more idealized perspective to which I am espousing. I get that.

But if you tell me it is okay to say, there should never be any representation of people of marginalized groups: women, LGBT, Black, Asian, just to start, and every movie, every television show, every newscast should feature exclusively White men in positions of power and authority…

You have a problem. And you should get some help. Look back at that picture of Soho.

This is the future. This is the world we will slowly come to have everywhere. Different regions will have different mixtures but we are mixing. We are recombining to form new relationships with each other.

And as such, we are asking…no we are demanding our media, our entertainment, to reflect a viewpoint that is not only White or male (of which comic companies are all to unwilling to change) but that it be about something other than White male stereotypes of superiority.

Two of Marvel’s hottest properties are the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan and Jane Foster as Thor.

The character Cyborg, has experienced a renaissance under the hands of a writer of color, David Walker.

On television, Iris West has become a woman of color.

In the movies, the Fantastic Four has been presented with Johnny Storm as a Black man.

Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost has been portrayed by the legendary Idris Elba.

These relatively minor roles have caused the comic and movie fanbase to boycott the publications, stay home from the movies, and rail online as if Ragnarök itself were around the corner. They scream as loud as their tortured voiceboxes will allow: How could this happen? Why would you do this?

The question should be: Why has it taken so long for anyone to notice the lack? It’s right in front of you.

It will be nearly twenty of Marvel’s newest movies before a woman or a Black lead character will be featured. Really?

Has it taken this long to recognize there is a problem? Or is it just White privilege which prevents anyone from seeing the problem. Because to them, there isn’t one.

This is how its always been.

That, my friends, IS the problem.

  • And if you are one of those people railing against change,
  • railing against a diverse representation of people of color appearing in roles they have previously not been seen in,
  • if you are indeed saying only Whites can be superheroic,
  • you are the problem with our world today.

Perhaps you should stop going outside. Stop going to the movies. Stop doing anything which puts you in contact with anyone else. Because the ideal world represented in the racially-insensitive, but oh so popular series, Mad Men, is gone.

This is the future. And the present. Let’s just go ahead and accept things the way they are.

Just like Black people and other minorities had to accept things the way they were.

As for Green Lantern being a White guy…

He started off a white guy named Hal Jordan, test pilot.

If you are young enough, you may have never heard about Hal until recently because this Black Green Lantern, John Stewart, was all the rage in the animated series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. For nearly a decade and ninety episodes, give or take, he was the only Green Lantern some had ever known.

In recent years, and in the terribly irresponsible Green Lantern (2011), Hal Jordan was returned to prominence, likely for the same reason most White heroes who get replaced for a time do, because the rabid, foaming at the mouth, comic-buying fan base said: We want him back.

Was this because John Stewart wasn’t good enough? Certainly didn’t seem to be a problem for nearly a decade or more. In fact, John Stewart as Green Lantern, was a necessary change for DC to have any diversity in their major lineup of heroes at all.

The same case could be made for the change in Johnny Storm, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in the recent Fantastic Four movie.

Storm being a step-brother to Susan Richards, doesn’t inherently change the quartet’s dynamic. A change that is not a change, isn’t a change. He’s still the same character, with the same powers, with a slightly altered origin story. Is this a reason to lose one’s mind?

Only if you think you are losing something else instead.

Perhaps the misguided belief that only Whites should have power. Because if you look at the history of metahumans in comics and note that no one has a problem with a White guy having incredible, unbelievable power. There doesn’t seem to be any lack of them.

But the history of comics shows that few, if any such characters of equal power or capacity were ever regularly depicted as heroes of color representing any social group outside of Whites. And when they do have power equal to Whites, it doesn’t last long.

Monica Rambeau was such a character. When she first hit the scene in the Avengers, she was the second person to ever carry the name Captain Marvel (1982).

  • When she first hit the scene, her powers were so great, she was considered to be one of the most powerful Avengers to EVER exist. But it didn’t take long for Marvel to change that.
  • Yes, I said Marvel. It was the decision of writers, editors and publishers who made the changes to the character. It was a conscious choice.
  • Not only was she stripped of the powers that made her the equal of ANY Avenger including Thor, but she was stripped of her codename as well and she became Photon.
  • Far less powerful and less interesting, she was eventually benched and disappeared from view until her recent reappearance in Mighty Avengers and returned to her previous power level by no less than the same Black hero who supposedly hid away for 53 years, Blue Marvel…

Now, she is as powerful as she was before. At least until those aforementioned ‘side effects’ kick in…

You have to remember, all of the decisions made about these characters depends on:

  • Whether they get good writers or not
  • Whether a writer who may be sensitive to the social lifestyle of the character (i.e. women writers, or writers of color) ever has a chance to write the book, and indeed this is invariably NOT the case.
  • Whether the effort to ensure the successful deployment of said characters is made

All of these things are decided by the producers and publishers of said characters. You can be assured every issue of Thor was not a good one. There are plenty of times his book did not sell well, for extended periods. And there are times when his book might even go off the shelves, briefly.

The difference is: Marvel didn’t give up on trying to find an audience for him. They were certain they could sell his book. So they kept trying.

This is why Thor is still on the shelves sixty years later and Luke Cage is not.

Is Thor inherently more interesting? No. But significantly more effort is made to keep him on the shelves.

By any means necessary. (I’m sorry, Malcolm X, but it’s appropriate in this instance.)

The reason we don’t see new heroes of color is because no one is making the effort to create them. No one has decided there needs to be one or two or eight. They currently don’t see any value in diversity.

Or maybe because the creators of comics enjoy the same level of privilege their comic counterparts get and just don’t want it to change.

What about a Latino Superhero?*

What about it? There haven’t been many of them. Goodness knows there should have been more by now. In old school comics, there may have been one or two, but I have to think hard to remember: Superfriends had one, but he appeared in less than ten episodes, and I was never truly clear about what his powers were. These characters got so little screen time between the four of them, any mainstream Superfriend could equal their total time in a single episode.

Apache Chief would later go on to an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law and get more screen time there than he did during his entire time with the Superfriends.

A few other Latinos of note among DC. Fire, appearing in Superfriends #25 and reappearing in the Global Guardians and Justice League. A second stringer for most of her career.

Then I remember Vibe (far right), a break-dancing member of Justice League Detroit during the comic’s less popular eras.

The legacy heroes replacing both the Question (Renee Montoya) and Wildcat (Yolanda Montez) of DC Comics. Both Latina women and both characters languished in obscurity for the most part.

Are there any famous Latino superheroes?

There may be others, but the most famous one I know is most likely NOT KNOWN as a Mexican-American. His name is Kyle Rayner. You may know him as the legacy hero, Green Lantern.

Kyle Rayner was a struggling-but-gifted freelance graphic artist who was raised in North Hollywood and currently lived and worked in Los Angeles. Kyle was raised by his mother as an only child; his father abandoned his mother when she was pregnant. It was later revealed that his father was a Mexican-American CIA agent named Gabriel Vasquez and that Aaron Rayner was merely an alias.

Kyle Rayner would become Green Lantern after Hal Jordan destroys the Green Lantern Corps during one of his many periods of remorse over one such thing or another. At this time, the Guardian, Ganthet, makes Kyle the custodian of the Last Green Lantern and Ring in the universe. Kyle eventually masters the ring and begins rebuilding the Corps.

Kyle Rayner would go on to be considered one of the most powerful Green Lanterns of Sector 2814, possibly one of the most powerful Green Lanterns ever. He would be instrumental in saving the Green Lantern Corps, he would master every color of the Emotional Spectrum, save the Guardians of Oa and nearly all of space-time itself. I am willing to bet, most people don’t know he is considered Mexican-American.

And here in lies the lesson:

  • A hero goes only as far as his writers and editors are willing to take him. The idea that heroes of color sell less well, are less viable, and inherently less interesting is BS.
  • Considering the War of Light series for Green Lantern is a high point in the series entire career, and it stars Kyle Rayner.
  • Before Kyle’s example, there were few minority characters given the opportunity to shine at the level he has. He has proven instrumental and as capable as any White hero before him.
  • Even heroes such as the Green Lantern, John Stewart, were depicted unevenly and were more often failures than successes. The destruction of the planet Xanshi is laid at John Stewart’s feet. Millions died due to his hubris. And he is never allowed to forget it:


The dominant subculture in control of the media knows one thing, if it isn’t aware of anything else:

  • Images are powerful.
  • Media is powerful.
  • It shapes minds.
  • It alters consciousness.
  • It inspires.
  • It changes the dreams of everyone who interacts with it.

If media and advertising didn’t work to do these things, would we spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year worldwide, to keep making it? Absolutely not.

In media, the rule is: Perception is Reality.

Think of comics and movie depictions of superheroes as advertising for the imagination.

When you hear the litany of society saying Blacks or minorities don’t aspire to anything, I have to wonder:

  • If they saw more of themselves reflected in their media,
  • If they saw themselves as able to transform the world,
  • If they saw themselves as instrumental in the shaping of today’s world,
  • If they saw themselves being portrayed in media in a positive light instead of always in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs,
  • if they saw themselves the same way White children get to see themselves portrayed in media, maybe it could make a difference for them.

Maybe it could teach them and inspire them the same way Action #1 inspired a generation or two including mine.

This clamor for representation is not about “political correctness”. It is about the understanding that media can shape consciousness. If you alter media to falsely represent society, then you are responsible for intentionally undermining any group you falsely represent there.

People are tired of that. Fanboys notwithstanding, People have had enough of misrepresentation. Do better or lose future audiences. People aren’t sitting on their hands anymore. Change is coming.

*That asterisk you saw earlier

I may have been remiss in not discussing the major cultural shift when the comic company Milestone Media hit the scene in 1993. It was one of the first major production companies featuring diverse lineups of multiple minorities as lead characters.

  • Milestone Media is a company best known for creating Milestone Comics and securing an unheard of publishing and distribution deal with DC Comics and the Static Shock cartoon series.
  • It was founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers (namely Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle) who believed that minorities were severely underrepresented in American comics. Milestone Media was their attempt to correct this imbalance.
  • Christopher Priest participated in the early planning stages of Milestone Media, and was originally slated to become the editor-in-chief of the new company, but bowed out for personal reasons before any of Milestone’s titles were published.
  • By early 1995, Davis had left Milestone as well, to become President of the new Motown Machine Works imprint, published by Image Comics. Cowan soon joined him to serve as Editor in Chief.
  • The shockwaves in the comic industry lead by these prominent African American writers has never been equaled and even when Milestone and its characters were absorbed by DC Comics, it was never forgotten.
  • New rumblings about the resurgence of Milestone Media appear to be in the works but it is an entirely different discussion worthy of time and attention outside the scope of this article. SDCC: Milestone Media Returns to DC Comics as “Earth-M” – Comic Book Resources

Kwezi – a comic from South African writer Loyiso Mkize.

Too late. Change is here.

Originally posted on Quora: Why did DC and Marvel change the ethnicity of its characters (Green Lantern and Johnny Storm)? 

Henry Highland Garnet: An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America

Photo: Henry Highland Garnet, circa 1881.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Henry Highland Garnet (b. December 23, 1815 – d. February 13, 1882) was often categorized as a radical abolitionist minister because he discussed civil disobedience, including armed resistance. Born into the United States’ slavery system in 1815 Maryland, at the estate of Colonel William Spencer, by age 9, Garnet would escape with his father, a captured Mandingo chief. His father led the family through the Underground Railroad system from Maryland to Delaware, Pennsylvania and, finally, New York. This would mark just the beginning of Garnet’s many challenges to live free among the racially volatile Europeans of the Americas who were bent on maintaining Africans as a slave class.


This Address, by Henry Highland Garnet, was made before the National Convention of Colored Citizens on August 16, 1843 in Buffalo, New York

Brethren and Fellow-Citizens: Your brethren of the North, East, and West have been accustomed to meet together in National Conventions, to sympathize with each other, and to weep over your unhappy condition. In these meetings we have addressed all classes of the free, but we have never, until this time, sent a word of consolation and advice to you. We have been contented in sitting still and mourning over your sorrows, earnestly hoping that before this day your sacred liberties would have been restored. But, we have hoped in vain. Years have rolled on, and tens of thousands have been borne on streams of blood and tears, to the shores of eternity. While you have been oppressed, we have also been partakers with you; nor can we be free while you are enslaved. We, therefore, write to you as being bound with you.

Many of you are bound to us, not only by the ties of a common humanity, but we are connected by the more tender relations of parents, wives, husbands, children, brothers, and sisters, and friends. As such we most affectionately address you.

Slavery has fixed a deep gulf between you and us, and while it shuts out from you the relief and consolation which your friends would willingly render, it afflicts and persecutes you with a fierce- ness which we might not expect to see in the fiends of hell. But still the Almighty Father of mercies has left to us a glimmering ray of hope, which shines out like a lone star in a cloudy sky. Mankind are becoming wiser, and better—the oppressor’s power is fading, and you, every day, are becoming better informed, and more numerous. Your grievances, brethren, are many. We shall not attempt, in this short address, to present to the world all the dark catalogue of this nation’s sins, which have been committed upon an innocent people. Nor is it indeed necessary, for you feel them from day to day, and all the civilized world look upon them with amazement.

Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, the first of our injured race were brought to the shores of America. They came not with glad spirits to select their homes in the New World. They came not with their own consent, to find an unmolested enjoyment of the blessings of this fruitful soil. The first dealings they had with men calling themselves Christians, exhibited to them the worst features of corrupt, and sordid hearts: and convinced them that no cruelty is too great, no villainy and no robbery too abhorrent for even enlightened men to perform, when influenced by avarice and lust. Neither did they come flying upon the wings of Liberty, to a land of freedom. But they came with broken hearts, from their beloved native land, and were doomed to unrequited toil and deep degradation. Nor did the evil of their bondage end at their emancipation by death. Succeeding generations inherited their chains, and millions have come from eternity into time, and have returned again to the world of spirits, cursed and ruined by American slavery.

The propagators of the system, or their immediate ancestors, very soon discovered its growing evil, and its tremendous wickedness, and secret promises were made to destroy it. The gross inconsistency of a people holding slaves, who had themselves “ferried o’er the wave” for freedom’s sake, was too apparent to be entirely over-looked. The voice of Freedom cried, “Emancipate your slaves.” Humanity supplicated with tears for the deliverance of the children of Africa. Wisdom urged her solemn plea. The bleeding captive pleaded his innocence, and pointed to Christianity who stood weeping at the cross. Jehovah frowned upon the nefarious institution, and thunderbolts, red with vengeance, struggled to leap forth to blast the guilty wretches who maintained it. But all was vain. Slavery had stretched its dark wings of death over the land, the Church stood silently by—the priests prophesied falsely, and the people loved to have it so. Its throne is established, and now it reigns triumphant.

Nearly three millions of your fellow-citizens are prohibited by law and public opinion (which in this country is stronger than law) from reading the Book of Life. Your intellect has been destroyed as much as possible, and every ray of light they have attempted to shut out from your minds. The oppressors themselves have become involved in the ruin. They have become weak, sensual, and rapacious—they have cursed you—they have cursed themselves—they have cursed the earth which they have trod.

The colonies threw the blame upon England. They said that the mother country entailed the evil upon them, and that they would rid themselves of it if they could. The world thought they were sincere, and the philanthropic pitied them. But time soon tested their sincerity. In a few years the colonists grew strong, and severed themselves from the British Government. Their independence was declared, and they took their station among the sovereign powers of the earth. The declaration was a glorious document. Sages admired it, and the patriotic of every nation reverenced the God-like sentiments which it contained. When the power of Government returned to their hands, did they emancipate the slaves? No; they rather added new links to our chains. Were they ignorant of the principles of Liberty? Certainly they were not. The sentiments of their revolutionary orators fell in burning eloquence upon their hearts, and with one voice they cried, Liberty or death. Oh what a sentence was that! It ran from soul to soul like electric fire, and nerved the arm of thousands to fight in the holy cause of Freedom. Among the diversity of opinions that are entertained in regard to physical resistance, there are but a few found to gainsay that stern declaration. We are among those who do not.

Slavery! How much misery is comprehended in that single word. What mind is there that does not shrink from its direful effects? Unless the image of God be obliterated from the soul, all men cherish the love of Liberty. The nice discerning political economist does not regard the sacred right more than the untutored African who roams in the wilds of Congo. Nor has the one more right to the full enjoyment of his freedom than the other. In every man’s mind the good seeds of liberty are planted, and he who brings his fellow down so low, as to make him contented with a condition of slavery, commits the highest crime against God and man. Brethren, your oppressors aim to do this. They endeavor to make you as much like brutes as possible. When they have blinded the eyes of your mind when they have embittered the sweet waters of life—when they have shut out the light which shines from the word of God—then, and not till then, has American slavery done its perfect work.

To such degradation it is sinful in the Extreme for you to make voluntary submission. The divine commandments you are in duty bound to reverence and obey. If you do not obey them, you will surely meet with the displeasure of the Almighty. He requires you to love him supremely, and your neighbor as yourself—to keep the Sabbath day holy—to search the Scriptures—and bring up your children with respect for his laws, and to worship no other God but him. But slavery sets all these at nought, and hurls defiance in the face of Jehovah. The forlorn condition in which you are placed, does not destroy your moral obligation to God. You are not certain of heaven, because you suffer yourselves to remain in a state of slavery, where you cannot obey the commandments of the Sovereign of the universe. If the ignorance of slavery is a passport to heaven, then it is a blessing, and no curse, and you should rather desire its perpetuity than its abolition. God will not receive slavery, nor ignorance, nor any other state of mind, for love and obedience to him. Your condition does not absolve you from your moral obligation. The diabolical injustice by which your liberties are cloven down,neither God; nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral; intellectual and physical that promises success. If a band of heathen men should attempt to enslave a race of Christians, and to place their children under the influence of some false religion, surely, Heaven would frown upon the men who would not resist such aggression, even to death. If, on the other hand, a band of Christians should attempt to enslave a race of heathen men, and to entail slavery upon them, and to keep them in heathenism in the midst of Christianity, the God of heaven would smile upon every effort which the injured might make to dis-enthrall themselves.

Brethren, it is as wrong for your lordly oppressors to keep you in slavery, as it was for the man thief to steal our ancestors from the coast of Africa. You should therefore now use the same manner of resistance, as would have been just in our ancestors, when the bloody footprints of the first remorseless soul-thief was placed upon the shores of our fatherland. The humblest peasant is as free in the sight of God as the proudest monarch that ever swayed a sceptre. Liberty is a spirit sent out from God, and like its great Author, is no respecter of persons.

Brethren, the time has come when you must act for yourselves. It is an old and true saying that, “if hereditary bondmen would be free, they must themselves strike the blow.” You can plead your own cause, and do the work of emancipation better than any others. The nations of the old world are moving in the great cause of universal freedom, and some of them at least will, ere long, do you justice. The combined powers of Europe have placed their broad seal of disapprobation upon the African slave-trade. But in the slave-holding parts of the United States, the trade is as brisk as ever. They buy and sell you as though you were brute beasts. The North has done much—her opinion of slavery in the abstract is known. But in regard to the South, we adopt the opinion of the New York Evangelist —“We have advanced so far, that the cause apparently waits for a more effectual door to be thrown open than has been yet.” We are about to point you to that more effectual door. Look around you, and behold the bosoms of your loving wives heaving with untold agonies! Hear the cries of your poor children! Remember the stripes your fathers bore. Think of the torture and disgrace of your noble mothers. Think of your wretched sisters, loving virtue and purity, as they are driven into concubinage and are exposed to the unbridled lusts of incarnate devils. Think of the undying glory that hangs around the ancient name of Africa—and forget not that you are native-born American citizens, and as such, you are justly entitled to all the rights that are granted to the freest. Think how many tears you have poured out. upon the soil which you have cultivated with unrequited toil and enriched with your blood; and then go to your lordly enslavers and tell them plainly, that you are determined to be free. Appeal to their sense of justice, and tell them that they have no more right to oppress you, than you have to enslave them. Entreat them to remove the grievous burdens which they have imposed upon you, and to remunerate you for your labor. Promise them renewed diligence in the cultivation of the soil, if they will render to you an equivalent for your services. Point them to the increase of happiness and prosperity in the British West Indies since the Act of Emancipation.

Tell them in language which they cannot misunderstand, of the exceeding sinfulness of slavery, and of a future judgment, and of the righteous retributions of an indignant God. Inform them that all you desire is freedom, and that nothing else will suffice. Do this, and for ever after cease to toil for the heartless tyrants, who give you no other reward but stripes and abuse. If they then commence the work of death, they, and not you, will be responsible for the consequences. You had far better all die—die immediately, than live slaves, and entail your wretchedness upon your posterity. If you would be free in this generation, here is your only hope. However much you and all of us may desire it, there is not much hope of redemption without the shedding of blood. If you must bleed, let it all come at once—ratherdie freemen, than live to be the slaves. It is impossible, like the children of Israel, to make a grand exodus from the land of bondage. The Pharaohs are on both sides of the blood-red waters! You cannot move en masse, to the dominions of the British Queen—nor can you pass through Florida and overrun Texas, and at last find peace in Mexico. The propagators of American slavery are spending their blood and treasure, that they may plant the black flag in the heart of Mexico and riot in the halls of the Montezumas. In the language of the Rev. Robert Hall, when addressing the volunteers of Bristol, who were rushing forth to repel the invasion of Napoleon, who threatened to lay waste the fair homes of England, “Religion is too much interested in your behalf, not to shed over you her most gracious influences.”

You will not be compelled to spend much time in order to become inured to hardships. From the first moment that you breathed the air of heaven, you have been accustomed to nothing else but hardships. The heroes of the American Revolution were never put upon harder fare than a peck of corn and a few herrings per week. You have not become enervated by the luxuries of life. Your sternest energies have been beaten out upon. the anvil of severe trial, Slavery has done this, to make you subservient to its own purposes; but it has done more than this, it has prepared you for any emergency. If you receive good treatment, it is what you could hardly expect; if you meet with pain, sorrow, and even death, these are the common lot of the slaves. Fellow-men! patient sufferers! behold your dearest rights crushed to the earth! See your sons murdered, and your wives, mothers and sisters doomed to prostitution. In the name of the merciful God, and by all that life is worth, let it no longer be a debatable question, whether it is better to choose Liberty or death. In 1822, Denmark Vesey, of South Carolina, formed a plan for the liberation of his fellow-men. In the whole history of human efforts to overthrow slavery, a more complicated and tremendous plan was never formed. He was betrayed by the treachery of his own people, and died a martyr to freedom. Many a brave hero fell, but history, faithful to her high trust, will transcribe his name on the same monument with Moses, Hampden, Tell, Bruce and Wallace, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Lafayette and Washington. That tremendous movement shook the whole empire of slavery. The guilty soul-thieves were overwhelmed with fear. It is a matter of fact, that at that time, and in consequence of the threatened revolution, the slave States talked strongly of emancipation. But they blew but one blast of the trumpet of freedom, and then laid it aside. As these men became quiet, the slaveholders ceased to talk about emancipation: and now behold your condition today! Angels sigh over it, and humanity has long since exhausted her tears in weeping on your account! The patriotic Nathaniel Turner followed Denmark Vesey. He was goaded to desperation by wrong and injustice. By despotism, his name has been recorded on the list of infamy; and future generations will remember him among the noble and brave. Next arose the immortal Joseph Cinque, the hero of the Amistad. He was a native African, and by the help of God he emancipated a whole ship-load of his fellow-men on the high seas. And he now sings of liberty on the sunny hills of Africa and beneath his native palm-trees, where he hears the lion roar and feels himself as free as that king of the forest.

Next arose Madison Washington, that bright star of freedom, and took his station in the constellation of true heroism. He was a slave on board the brig Creole, of Richmond, bound to New Orleans, that great slave mart, with a hundred and four others. Nineteen struck for liberty or death. But one life was taken, and the whole were emancipated, and the vessel was carried into Nassau, New Providence. Noble men! Those who have fallen in freedom’s conflict, their memories will be cherished by the true-hearted and the God-fearing in all future generations; those who are living, their names are surrounded by a halo of glory. Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and the hour. Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the days of slavery are numbered. You cannot be more oppressed than you have been—you cannot suffer greater cruelties than you have already. Rather die freemen than live to be slaves. Remember that you are four millions! It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slaveholders, that they will be glad to let you go free. If the scale was turned, and black men were the masters and white men the slaves, every destructive agent and element would be employed to lay the oppressor low. Danger and death would hang over their heads day and night. Yes, the tyrants would meet with plagues more terrible than those of Pharaoh. But you are a patient people. You act as though you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. In the name of God, we ask, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake, millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust. Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency. Brethren, adieu! Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are four millions.
Published in Henry Highland Garnet, Walker’s Appeal, with a Brief Sketch of His Life. See also Garnet’s Address to the Slaves of the United States of America. New-York, Printed by J. H. Tobitt, 1848, pages 89–97.

Do we underestimate the role of luck in our lives?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

No, I think we overestimate its value.

We attribute to luck, things for which luck has little or nothing to do with and ignore the things for which only luck can account. There are two things you have to consider:

One: You owe your existence to luck, to the randomness of the Universe. All that you are, hidden in your DNA is the random happenstance associated with luck.

  • You are the product of millions of years of evolution, the decisions of thousands of your ancestors have lead to you being where you are today.
  • Your very existence depended on one egg and one sperm out of millions coming together to create YOU.
  • Your existence is nothing more than random happenstance in a universe of randomness. This is the true nature of your existence.
  • The fact that you exist at all is just LUCK.

Two: Luck is poorly defined and we will get into that in a minute but suffice it to say, luck is exactly what we say it is, something that is outside of your ability to control.

  • Despite witticisms that say otherwise, you have no control of what random events take place in your life. They are random.
  • They are part of the natural entropy (and perhaps occasional smattering of randomly-occurring order) which takes place all around you.
  • You have no control over this. You only have control over how you deal with it and how you choose to respond to what has happened to you randomly.
  • The opportunities you have in life have far less to do with luck and far more to do with systemic and systematic processes and protocols which govern who is wealthy, educated, employed, given new opportunities and ultimately benefits from centuries of managed privilege.

So what does this mean?

  • Too many people want to attribute their success to their skill, their brainpower, their network of friends and teachers.
  • Yes, all of these things can contribute to opportunity but the numbers bear this out: Where you start in your life directly affects where you end up.
  • Statistically, most people do not experience much upward mobility in their lives. This is more true today than it has ever been in most of history.

According to Chetty, “Social mobility is low and has been for at least thirty or forty years.” This is most obvious when you look at the prospects of the poor. Seventy per cent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution never make it into the middle class, and fewer than ten per cent get into the top quintile. Forty per cent are still poor as adults. What the political scientist Michael Harrington wrote back in 1962 is still true: most people who are poor are poor because “they made the mistake of being born to the wrong parents.” The middle class isn’t all that mobile, either: only twenty per cent of people born into the middle quintile ever make it into the top one. And although we think of U.S. society as archetypally open, mobility here is lower than in most European countries. “The Mobility Myth.” The New Yorker. N.p. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazin…>

The part which confuses people is the constant harping on the idea of merit, the illusion of being self-made, the reinforced concept of defying the odds and somehow making a win out of poor circumstances.

  • These things can happen. But if we are willing to be honest, there are forces which aid or hinder the development of every human being who is hoping for a better life.
  • Such systemic and systematic forces can play havoc with opportunity even if a person is fit, capable, trained, educated, motivated, driven and in the right place at the right time.
  • We don’t talk about those forces because we prefer the illusion of merit. We prefer the illusion of privilege and boot-strap uplifting tales of conquest. The truth is a little more disturbing.

Our societies are most often built upon the bones of those we push down to rise up. We stand upon the dead and cry victory.

  • And the richest and most well to do among us are often the most ruthless and monstrous of us all. Does this mean only the ruthless become fantastically wealthy?
  • No. But their merit is often built around using the most people, paying them the least, exploiting those who are least capable of defending themselves and calling it their natural right to wealth through effective application of social forces (e.g. capitalism). And luck (they tell you).

The problem here is simple. We are calling it luck when things work out in our favor. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Just what IS luck?

Let’s talk a bit about how we use luck in our language:

  • With (any) luck, we’ll be home before dark. (British English)
  • With a bit of luck, we’ll finish on time.So far I have had no luck with finding a job.
  • I could hardly believe my luck when he said yes.
  • It was a stroke of luck that we found you.
  • By sheer luck nobody was hurt in the explosion.

Oxford’s English dictionary defines luck:

  1. good things that happen to you by chance, not because of your own efforts or abilities chance;
  2. the force that causes good or bad things to happen to people
  3. synonym: fortuneto have good/bad luck – I put the loss of the money down to pure bad luck.
  4. see also:beginner’s luck

This means luck is something that happens to us (good or bad) and it is out of our personal control or ability to affect the outcome.

Here is the disconnect for me: I read most of the answers hear and I find them filled with the standard viewpoints of luck and opportunity being made from a combination of hard work and preparation.

With no disrespect to Seneca, I am going to call a humbug on this statement at the fundamental level, because while this makes for good sound bites and fortune cookies, it fails to address just how random the universe is and how much of our luck comes from who we are, where we’re born and whom we are born from.

The journalist, Thom Hartmann calls it: The Lucky Sperm Club – those individuals who are born to wealth, affluence, influence and opportunity by virtue of being born to the right family at the right time. See: Paris Hilton

Before you get to talk about how much work you’ve done to get “lucky” you have to acknowledge your first break. Who your parents were…

  • Were you born White?
  • Were you born a male or a female?
  • Were you born to a family who wanted you?
  • Were you born to a family who could take care of you economically?
  • Are you heterosexual?
  • Were you born in a modern country with at least an industrial age economy?
  • Were you born in the United States or Europe?

If you can answer four out of six of these in the affirmative, then you were born fabulously lucky in our modern age, particularly in the United States.

Being a White, cisgendered male means you have, statistically speaking:

  • the best education money can buy, more often than not. And if you don’t, there are few systemic, systematic social forces keeping you from achieving your educational goals.
  • the lowest unemployment rate, and the highest standard of living. Most Americans don’t come close to your median standard of living.
  • You are the most economically advantaged member of most modern societies where being White and having access to (whether you use it or not, recognize it or not, accept it or not) White privilege gives you an advantage over anyone who is not.
  • The advantage of being born in the United States is not to be underestimated. Despite its recent governmental policy issues and failure to plan for the future, it is still better than being born in a repressive government like North Korea, any government in turmoil such as the Middle East, economically depressed nations such as Russia or some parts of Europe, nations struggling to pull their act together such as parts of continental Africa and South America.

Let’s break this out a little further. You will find you are not just lucky but fabulously lucky.

  • Did you wake up to a house?
  • Did you wake up to electricity?
  • Did you wake up to running water?
  • Did you wake up with a refrigerator stocked with food?
  • Does your house have food stored within, so you might not have to go to the store for a week?

Then you were fabulously lucky.

  • Half a million people in the United States alone are homeless or nearly so. This means they have no access to food except through limited charitable donations.

On a single night in January 2014, 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness—meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

  • From 2013 to 2014, a period of ongoing recovery from the Great Recession, overall homelessness decreased by 2.3 percent and homelessness decreased among every major subpopulation: unsheltered persons (10 percent), families (2.7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (2.5 percent), and veterans (10.5 percent).
  • Despite improvements in employment, the number of people in poverty (4.8 million) and the poverty rate (15.8 percent) remained relatively steady. 26 states saw an increase in the number of people in poverty; 25 saw a decrease. The State of Homelessness in America 2015
  • Electricity in the First World is almost a given, except for those places which have poor infrastructure development.
  • Electricity adds light to your day giving you better options for use of your time, better options for education, better options for entertainment, and opportunities for a richer family life.
  • Food insecurity is a major issue all around the world: The latest FAO estimates indicate that global hunger reduction continues: about 795 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14, down more than 100 million over the last decade, and 209 million lower than in 1990–92. While it is getting better slowly, there are still far too many people going without food for days at a time.
  • A billion people on Earth suffer from water insecurity: meaning they must travel 2 to 10 miles to get water each day, and/or their water is unsafe to drink, causing or spreading disease, or simply unavailable at all due to recent variations in climate.

10 Ways Clean Water can Change the World

Employment, educational access, and the technological sophistication of your nation may also play a great deal into the opportunities a person may have in their future. Work, the ability to get work, be educated for work, and having the opportunity to work and earn money for yourself is also another event which despite your efforts, you may have no control over how or if you can work.

  1. Nearly half the world’s population, 2.8 billion people, survive on less than $2 a day.
  2. About 20 percent of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people, live on less than $1 a day.
  • Since you asked this question you had access to a computer. Was it your own?
  • Do you own a car?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Do you, in this current work climate in the United States, have a job which affords you the capacity to live without a second job?
  • Having access to viable working technology is by no means a guarantee. Depending on where you live on Earth, you could have a powerful computer but no network to plug it into, the United States in the Mid-West is a perfect example.
  • Local governments are being forced to establish their own internet connections because large corporations can’t be bothered to wire towns or small cities there.

A Map of Who’s Got the Best (And Worst) Internet Connections in America

If you are located in Asia, you would be glad to know that’s where the fastest Internet speeds are. Based on Web services provider Akamai Technologies’ latest report, Hong Kong comes in first at an average peak Internet speed of 65.4Mbps, followed closely by South Korea at 63.6Mbps, Japan at 52Mbps, and Singapore at 50.1Mbps.

The top four countries have average peak speeds of at least three times the global average of 17.0Mbps. Other countries that made the top 10 list include Israel, Taiwan, and Belgium. The U.S. and Britain ranked 13th and 16th place, respectively, with average peak speeds at almost half that of Hong Kong. –Reference: xcluesiv.com

  • Other nations don’t have the infrastructure to establish useful internet connections at all, barely have modern computerize technology and depend entirely upon the mobile telephone network and infrastructure.
  • Many of the nations of Africa, as well as parts of India and China are still developing their localized technological infrastructure but they are still years behind more sophisticated nations such as Singapore or Japan.

No matter what your humble beginnings, you can depend on:

  • Persistence – nothing beats sheer determination for a driver of success. You don’t quit. You never quit. You get up earlier, you stay up later. Persistence is the engine of success. Without it, your first defeat is your last. Fall down, get up. Repeat as needed until successful.
  • Focus – The ability to concentrate. Our society’s recent infatuation with social media has had a major affect on our ability to focus, but you can train your ability to concentrate on a single task by working with a clock/timer and reducing distractions while you work. Refuse to multitask, it has been refuted as a means of improving focus. Getting done is the most effective focus booster of all.
  • Attention to Detail – Look around the room you’re in. Absorb as many details as you can. Without looking up again, write them down on a piece of paper as best you can remember. Include time on clocks, clothes of the people around you, eye color of the person you’re sitting with, absorb everything you can. Practice this ability until you can see and understand everything around you. This is a difficult ability to learn, but over time, it will stand you in good stead, as you become used to tracking information you’ll discover your mind’s ability to bring this attention to whatever you’re working on as well.
  • Plan and Measure – That which is measured, gets done. Track your work, track your successes and your failure. Keep a log of who you interact with, what your experimentations results were, how long you have been engaged in a project. Measurement of your results, good or bad, will help you understand what possible steps could be used to reach your goal. Planning is nothing without measurement of the results. Make a plan, measure what it took to be successful.
  • Mobility – If you live in a part of the country or the world that will not allow you to aspire to your dreams, MOVE; you are not a tree. If you want to be a great public speaker but your country does not allow women to engage in public speech, do what it takes to move somewhere you CAN. Life is too short to allow outdated norms to keep you from pursuing those things that mean something to you.
  • Critical Analysis – One of the hardest things you will ever do. Learning to critically think and address a subject, a concept, a discussion, is rarely taught in school these days. If you find someplace offering Critical Thinking or Rhetoric or even Debate, take it. This skill has no equal in cutting through a world filled with lies, deceits, misconceptions and fallacies. If you cannot learn to see past these obfuscations, nothing you do will amount to much. You’ll spend the bulk of your energies empowering someone else’s dreams.

The future of work is evolving with technology slowly displacing a greater number of people from the workforce every year. Between ever-increasing automation and the development of intelligent algorithms, being employed and having opportunities will continue to be a race to make the right choices based on the information you have at hand.

While we are quick to tell people: “You make your own luck” or “you need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” it is easy to forget with the sense of entitlement so common to people born in nations whose foresight afford their citizens greater opportunities just by the merit of being born there, and the capability of seeing what the future might look like.

Where we were born, who we were born to, what opportunities they may have had will directly affect the quality of our choices. Do we underestimate the role of luck in our lives? No. It is likely to be the number one determinate of just how far we can go and it is completely out of our control.

However, having a clear vision of where your opportunities can lie, understanding the landscape of your choices, however limited they may be, not accepting conditions within your control or being willing to make the change means you can utilize what you have to get what you need.

Depending on luck will not get you where you need to go. It is by definition, not dependable or reliable. You are better served by recognizing what my military experience dubbed: The Five P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. The goal of the Five P’s is to enhance your ability to succeed by removing a reliance on luck in any way.

Luck should be a seasoning, not the meal.

Do we underestimate the role of luck in our lives?

Marcus’s Rules Of Order For Himself (Which He Invites You To Follow)

Post by Marcus Geduld:

I, Marcus Geduld, swear to abide by the following rules to the best of my ability, because I believe they lead to civil, intelligent discussion in which the goal is to seek truth rather than to win points, mock, humiliate, or dominate—all of which I consider to be ignoble wastes of time. Please watch me for hypocrisy. If you catch me violating a rule, tell me. E.g. “You just violated rule number three!”

I will violate these rules at times—maybe often, maybe every day. They are ideals. I must read through them at least once a month, to make sure I keep them in mind.

1. I must never engage in ad hominem attacks.

Ad hominems attacks attack a person instead of his claims.

It’s pretty easy to understand that “You’re an asshole!” doesn’t add anything to an argument except bile, but most ad hominem attacks are subtler than that. They piggyback on legitimate points.


“Don’t be an idiot! In a democracy, everyone gets the right to vote!”

“What you obviously don’t understand is that History is not a science!”

“For the fifteenth time, not all forms of punishment are equally bad!” (It’s a little hard to spot the personal attack in this example. “For the fifteenth time” implies “You are too stupid to understand me, even though I’ve made my point repeatedly!”)

These combo statements are bad because they send a mixed message. By refuting logic alone, you are saying, “I want to have a rational discussion with you.” When you add some form of “You idiot” you’re saying, “I want to humiliate you.” Stealth (slipping the insult in with the valid point) strengthens your play for dominance. If your target only responds to the logic, he’s allowing you to insult him; if he only responds to the insult, he’s derailed from a rational discussion. If he responds to both at once, he muddies his reply.

Note that insulting someone’s content generally has the same effect as insulting him. “That’s a really stupid remark” may not literally mean “a remark made by a stupid person,” since smart people can say stupid things, but it’s generally received that way, so it risks drowning a serious conversation in a sea of defensiveness. The key to success (if your goals is to to rigorously critique ideas without making personal remarks) is to only point out flaw in logic, facts, and argumentation. “That’s stupid” isn’t a flaw; it’s a value judgement. It adds nothing except tone.

When I’ve discussed this topic with friends, they’ve often rejected my idea that “That’s a stupid idea” is an insult, but if I allow myself to make such remarks, I give myself an insult loophole. I can imply that anyone is any insulting thing by simply dissing his output rather than his person:

“You’re a racist.” –> “You just made a racist remark.” “You’re a dimwit.” –> “That was a dimwitted thing to day.” “You’re obviously a troll.” –> “You’re behaving like a troll.”

If, for instance, someone claims that black people are less intelligent than white people, I must respond by disagreeing with his claim and explaining why I disagree. I can cite evidence to the contrary, demand he prove his claim, and zero in on flaws in his argument. I can do all of that as rigorously as I want, without holding back. What I can’t do is say, “You’re a racist,” “That’s racist,” or “You’re behaving like a racist right now.”

2. I must never give as good as I get.

This is the hardest rule for most people to follow, and many disagree that it even should be a rule. But if I care about promoting real discussion and ridding the world (as much as possible) of chest-beating shouting matches, I’ll swallow my pride and take the high road. If someone calls me an asshole, he is violating rule 1. And if I call him an asshole back, I am violating it, too. As Mom said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

When insulted, I have two honorable options: (1) ignore the insult and just respond to the debate points—if there are any. Or (2) opt to leave the debate. When choosing the latter option, I’m allowed explain why without insulting the insulter. I can say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t participate in debates that include personal attacks.”

After I leave, the insulter will almost always claim victory. I need to live with that. To him, the whole point of debate is for one person to win and the other to lose. I must remember that my goals are to seek truth, to explain my position, and to learn. We’re not playing the same game. It’s okay for him win his game; it’s not my game.

Optional: I can issue a warning without leaving. It’s fine to leave after the first insult, but sometimes I find it worth haning in there a little longer, making it clear that I’ll leave if the insults continue. People are imperfect; they get defensive despite their best intentions to keep calm. (It happens to me!) Sometimes an insult will slip out. If I feel I am up to it, I can give the insulter a chance to apologize, and I can accept his apologies with grace. If, after that, he insult me a second time, I should opt out.

I’ve found that some people simply lock into a framework in which their default is to insult, especially on the web, where they’ve so often been insulted. Sometimes a gentle reminder shifts them out of that mode.

3. I must never dismiss a claim with “You can take anything to extremes…” and I must never refused to discuss hypothetical situations.

When someone says, “If we take your logic to extremes, we wind up with Nazi Germany,” there are three meaningful responses:

i. “You’re wrong. If you take my logic to extremes, you actually wind up with X,” X being something other than Nazi Germany. If I respond this way, I should follow up by explaining why we’d wind up with X instead of Nazi Germany.

ii. “You’re right. You’ve made me realize that I need to qualify my argument. I don’t dismiss it. It’s still a valid claim undermany circumstances, but I can see now that it’s problematic when…”

iii. “You’re right. I didn’t fully considered the ramifications of my argument.”

I will try my hardest to play along with proposed hypotheticals, rathern than simply dismissing them because they’re not real. If they seem flawed, I will try to help correct them.

Example of what not to do:

SOMEONE: What if you had to sacrifice one of your children? What then? ME: I don’t have any children, so it doesn’t apply.

Example of what to do:

SOMEONE: What if you had to sacrifice one of your children? What then?

ME: I don’t have any children, but if I did …

Another example of what to do:

SOMEONE: What if you had to sacrifice one of your children? What then.

ME: I don’t have any children, and I can’t imagine having them. But I have two dogs that I dearly love. I think we can explore your point by imagining I had to sacrifice one of them…

4. When conceding a point, I must always do so fully and openly.

I am forbidden from mixing concessions with changing the subject.

Example of the wrong way to do it:

ME: The problem with our educational system, is that it forces kids to do things they hate, and forcing people is wrong.

SOMEONE: So you think it’s wrong to stop kids from playing in traffic?

ME: Okay, not that, but my point is…

Whoa! “But the point is” is changing the subject. What I should have said is…

ME: You know, you’re right. I said you should never force kids to do anything, but now that you bring up the dangers of playing in traffic, I realize that I didn’t really think things through. You’re right about that. (Pause.) Okay, let me try to rephrase what I believe. You have a point, but I don’t think my argument is completely wrong. I just need to refine it. You see…

I am also forbidden to simply switch, without comment, to a second argumnet when my opponent has toppled the first.

What I can’t do:

ME (arguing that kids shouldn’t be given homework): No one ever learned anything from homework.

SOMEONE: That’s not true. I learned Algebra almost entirely from homework. I never paid attention in class, and no one helped me. But I worked through every assignment, and was able to pass the test.

ME: The thing is, schools hold kids captive all day. It’s unfair for them to also make demands on the nighttime.

Instead of just plowing on, I should have responded to SOMEONE’s objection. Before continuing, I should have either conceided his point or explained why it was wrong.

This boils done to not entering a discussion with the goal of winning no matter what. I must, at all times, be open to being wrong in part or whole. I should not simply keep vollying with arguments until one of them hits the target, ignoring all that fail.

5. I must either stay in a discussion or bow out gracefully.

It’s never someone else’s fault that I’m leaving. I will never leave by saying something like, “Since you can’t discuss this rationally, I’m done!” No parting digs.

It’s okay to say, “I have a policy against taking part in flame wars, but it’s also hard for me to resist insulting you the way you’re insulting me. So rather than violating my principles, I’m going to leave.” It’s also perfectly fine to say, “You know. I’m tired, and I just don’t feel like discussing this any more.”

I must separate my leave-taking remark from my argumentation. It’s never okay to use a good-bye to get in one last dig, e.g. “I don’t have all day to hang out here and argue with you.” (Which implies that you are petty, while I am a busy, important person with real responsibilities. It’s an underhanded way of saying, “Get a life!”)

6. I must never assume intent or mindset.

I may not say say, “You clearly think you’re always right” unless the person I’m talking to has said, “I am always right.”

I will never begins a sentence with “People like you always say…” It’s fine, acceptable, and good to ask questions about mindset. “You say you’re a Republican? The republicans I know want lower taxes. Do you want lower taxes?”

I will never use an indvidual person as a proxy for some group. I may not assume a self-proclaimed republican is anti gay marriage unless he has said he’s anti gay marraige. (Of course, I can ask him if he is!) There’s no such thing for me as “You people” or “people like you.”

Each time I’m tempted to say, “You think…,” “You’ve claimed…,” or “You clearly believe…,” I will pause, take a deep breath, and ask myself, “Did he actually make that claim or implication? When?” When in doubt, I’m best of asking a question: “Do you believe…?”

7. I must never use sarcasm as a weapon.

“You’re quite right. No one should ever have to go to school! If no one went to school, we’d be living in a paradise!”

If my (passive-aggressive) point is “you’re really stupid,” then I’m engaging in an ad hominem attack. (See Rule 1.) If my point is “School is a good thing,” then I need to make that claim and support it.

8. I must never resort to bad behavior when all else has failed.

“You know what? I tried reasoning with you. I explained myself to you really clearly. In fact, I explain myself four TIMES. You refuse to listen. You know what? At this point … fuck you!”

I must either stay in the discussion and keep explaining myself clearly or opt out gracefully. (See Rule 5.)

9. I must never say, “You’re missing my point…”

Or “You misunderstood me,” “You’re still not hearing me,” “You don’t get it,” or any variation of those phrases.

No matter how clear I think I’m being, if the other person isn’t responding as if he understands, there are two possibilities: either he’s not thinking clearly or I’m not speaking clearly. (It could also be a combination of the two.)

I am never the best judge of whether or not I’m speaking clearly. No one is objective enough to judge his own speech that way, which is why writers need editors.

“You’re missing the point” is gratuitous information. If I’m debating Creationism, I should debate that. I shouldn’t waste time discussing whether or not someone is missing my point. That’s off-topic from my subject.

If it seems as if the person I’m talking to is missing my point, I should explain it again, switch to a different point, ask questions to see if I can figure out the cause of the confusion, or opt out. (See Rule 5.)

I get bonus points if instead of saying “You’re missing my point,” I say, “Sorry. I was unclear. How about we look at it this way…?” A little humility goes a long way. And even if I’m wrong, and it’s the other guy’s “fault,” I stand to learn more by taking responsibility than by fobbing it off on him.

10. If I’m frustrated and need to vent, I must do so without accusations.

I can vent elsewhere, or I can stay and discuss my feelings without blaming anyone for them (even if it’s “his fault”). When I start placing blame, my goal has changed from truth-seeking to something else—maybe to “righting a wrong” or criticizing. Sometimes that’s inevitable. But then I should be fair and make my game-change clear: “You know, I need to stop for a minute. I can’t go on discussing the Middle East crisis right now, because I’m hurt by what you said…”

I’m allowed to say, “I’m really frustrated right now.” I’m not allowed to engage in any of the bad behavior (ad hominem attacks, sarcasm…) outlined in these rules.

11. I will never nitpick at someone’s minor points.

If someone says, “You think the Internet is perfect? That’s what people said in the 1920s about the Titanic,” it derails the discussion for me to respond, “The Titanic sank in 1912!” His point was about hubris, and the minor didn’t affect his argument. My goal is to understand his key claims—and maybe to agree or disagree with them—not to win gotcha points.

(Later, when it won’t derail the conversation, it’s okay for me to say, “Oh. Just a note. The Titanic sank in 1912.” Conversational ninjas can even say this immediately, as long as they phrase it like similarly to this, “Well, the Titanic sank in 1912, but I take your point that…” I’m just a mortal, so I should probably stick to “later.”)

12. When (not if) I violate any of these rules, I must apologize.

It’s hard to argue fairly. Even if I start with the honest goal of seeking truth, someone will inevitably push my buttons (or I’ll push my own buttons), and I’ll explode. Unwittingly, my goal will switch from truth-seeking to winning. This is natural. It happens to everyone. I must have the humility to accept the fact that it will happen to me. When it happens, I must apologize.

If apologizing is deeply painful or irritating—so much so that I can’t bring myself to do it—then I must at least admit that I’ve quit seeking the truth: that I’ve changed the game and am now playing by new rules. My points are now about my ego. That’s not a horrible sin. It means I’m human.

Sometimes humans have to withdraw and lick their wounds. It’s honorable to take a break—even a permanent one—if I must.

If I choose to continue, I must say “You know, I just realized I insulted you …” (or whatever I did.) ” … I’m sorry. That was wrong of me.” I must pause after doing that, making sure to never combine an apology with a change of subject, or it will sound like I’m fleeing from the apology. I should never say, “I’m sorry I attacked you, but my point is…” Instead, I should take a deep breath, find some humility, look the other person in the eye, and say, “I was wrong.” Full Stop. Then let him speak. After he’s had a turn to respond, I am free to continue making my argument.

13. When asked a question, I must respond in one of three ways.

i. If I don’t know the answer, I must say, “I don’t know.”

ii. If I know the answer, I must give it.

iii. Unless answering makes me uncomfortable or puts me in peril (e.g. I’d lose my job if I answered), in which case I may politely opt out by saying, “Sorry, but I’d prefer not to answer.”

Asking questions (seeking knowledge) and providing answers (teaching) are two of the noblest and most important human activities. Though there are cases where I can opt out of answering, in general I should respond to questions with the best answers I can give.

By choosing to participate in a conversation, I signal my willingness to answer. If I’m not willing to answer questions any more, I need to leave. Staying but refusing to answer is never an option.

14. I must never hedge my bets, predicting the listener won’t agree or pay attention to me.

“There’s probably no point in me saying this, but…”

If I know in advance that he’ll refuse to agree or listen, there’s no point in me joining the discussion, so I should simply refuse to participate. If I do so anyway, even though I’m sure he won’t take me seriously, my motives are suspect. Maybe I’m trying to humiliate him by showing bystanders that he’s stubborn. (And by stacking the deck with “I know you’re not going to agree with this, but…”) If my aim is to prove he’s is foolish, then I must make that goal clear.

An example of what I mustn’t do: “Here’s a link to a scientific paper about the subject, which I’m sure you won’t bother to read.”

That may be a passive-aggressive attempt to shame my target into reading the article. It is, at heart, an ad hominem remark. “You won’t read it” is about the person, not the subject we’re discussing. I’m not allowed to be passive-aggressive.

In the end, all I can honorably do is present evidence. Others have the right to ignore it, whether I like that or not. I can always leave the discussion.

15. If it’s the case, I must admit that my “evidence” is “just a hunch.”

If it’s “an educated guess,” “just the way it is,” or “come on! Everyone knows it’s true,” I will not pretend it’s an objective, provable fact.

I don’t have to prefix all my opinions with “This is just my opinion,” especially if that’s clear from context, but I should be overt about it when there’s a risk of confusion, and, if questioned, I should certainly admit that I have no evidence aside from “being sure.”

Everyone has values or axioms, and I am allowed to have mine. I just need to make them explicit and never pretend they are supported by facts.

I am never allowed to masquerade my values with phrases like, “Surely, all people are good,” or “As we all know, education is important.”

16. I must not annotate.

I must avoid replying to (generally) written arguments (e.g. web-forum posts) that are riddled with errors by creating an annotated response, in which I quote from the text, explain an error, quote some more, explain an error in that bit, quote some more, explain another error, and so on.

Here’s an example of what I shouldn’t do:

“Blah blah blah blah blah.”

— The problem with blah is that blah and blah, and so blah blah, and blah. And you’re also wrong when you say blah, because blah, blah and blah.

“Foo foo foo foo foo foo.”

— Here, I don’t know what you mean by foo, because you haven’t defined foo-foo, and so foo can’t mean what you think it means.

“Fah fah fah fah fah.”

— I can’t believe you’re even bringing up fah, especially since, above, you said, “blah blah blah blah blah…”

The problem with annotated responses is that they almost never work (to promote truth-seeking discussions). They contain too much information and probably come across as an avalanche of nit-picking. Their narrow focus tends to draw attention away from the target’s main points. Annotated Responses are usually a way of proving to onlookers that the target is stupid. “Look how many mistakes he’s made!” Even if that’s not the intent, the target will probably assume it is.

He may respond by annotating my annotations, and before long our exchange will become a tangled, threaded nightmare. Inevitably, this conversational structure gets too heavy and topples over, ending with someone saying, “I don’t have all day to argue with you.” Neither party is any wiser, and both are exhausted.

The trick is to stop trying to fight all battles at once. If the target has made 30 errors, I should either focus on one or two that interest me or try to uncover some common theme—some lower-level foundation or higher-level abstraction—that allows me to respond in a gestalt-ish way, rather than in a point-by-point exegesis.

17. I must never employ left-handed or manipulative compliments.

“Surely someone as smart as you…”

Here are some more versions of it:

“You are obviously very smart, so I’m sure you’ll agree that …” (The implication is that if you don’t agree, then you must not be so smart, after all.)

“Since you’re such a perceptive guy, I’m sure you already know that…”

“I’m positive you’re joking, because someone as clever as you couldn’t possibly believe…”

“With all your experience, I’m know you’ll agree with me that…”

18. I must never be a Sneaky Politician.

When discussing a topic, I must either feel secure that I have no agenda—that I am genuinely ready to be swayed by the other person’s logic—or, if I have a bias, I must admit that upfront (or as soon as I become aware of it). I must not hide my bias.

The Sneaky Politician (or evangelist) wants to promote some point of view. Which would be fine if he disclosed it. The truth is, there are a various levels of bias. Fred might be unsure about his feelings towards “Star Trek”; Mary might have a distaste for it, but feel open to being convinced it’s actually a good show; Bill might hate it and want to prove to everyone that it’s terrible. Those are all acceptable stances, as long as they’re made clear.

Conversational problems arise when Bill pretends to be open minded but isn’t: when he hides his politicking. Thankfully, there’s almost always a giveaway.

Bill: “Star Trek” had the most absurd plots of any show in the history of television!

Kelly: Really, you think it had sillier plots than “Lost in Space”?

Bill: They are both silly shows. Anyway, the acting on “Star Trek” was terrible!

When Kelly objects in a way that thwarts Bill, he doesn’t say, “That’s a good point. I’ll have to think about it.” Instead, he just pushes her point aside and gives another reason why “Star Trek” sucks.

This is a sign that he’s not interested in an exchange of ideas. He’s only interested in promoting his view. Which, again, is okay, as long as he’s upfront about it. Unfortunately, Bill is unwilling to say, “I have come here to convince people ‘Star Trek’ is a bad show. I have a bunch of evidence, and my goal here is to present it. I am not really interested in counter arguments, though I’ll be happy to topple any that I can. If I can’t topple one, I’ll ignore it.”

I must never act like Bill.

See Rule 4. If I concede a point, I must always fully and openly concede it. I am never allowed to mix conceding a point with changing the subject.

Miscellanious Notes and Tips

Sarcastic and Biting Phrases I’m Forbidden from Using:

“Ever wonder why …?” (As in “Ever wonder why every one of your posts ends in an argument?”)

“Hate to break it to you, but…”

“Had you given two seconds of thought to what you just wrote, you’d have realized…”

I wasn’t the one who brought up…”

“Sorry, guys, but I’m done with this one.”

“Oh, come on!”

“Um ….” (When used to imply that the target has just said something stupid or weird, as in “Um … cats are felines, not canines.”)

Unless the discussion is about definitions (and everyone agrees that’s what it’s about), it’s underhanded (or, at best, confused) to dwell on them.

Bill: I’m a Catholic, but I don’t accept the Pope’s as my spiritual leader.

Mike: Then you’re not Catholic.

Bill: I’m not a traditional Catholic, but I take most of Catholic doctrine seriously, and …

Mike: No, you’re not a Catholic.

Bill: Okay. You can call me whatever you want. My point is that I’m a person who goes to mass, confession, and …

Mike: That’s not enough. You’re not a Catholic unless …

See Disputing Definitions.