Today, I took down the Christmas tree and the rest of the holiday decorations. Epiphany Day, i.e. January 6th, is the traditional deadline for getting rid of holiday decorations in my area (though in some regions, e.g. in part of the Netherlands, Christmas decorations stay up until Candlemas, i.e. February 2nd), but I never leave the tree up that long. It’s a natural tree and it starts shedding after New Year.
And now for a couple of links and news:
The daily newspaper comic strip Brenda Starr ran out after 70 years today. The Chicago Tribune, where the strip originated, also has an explanation for Brenda’s demise by the current writer Mary Schmich. Brenda Starr was not only one of the comparatively daily comic strips with a female lead, but also the only one as far as I know that was entirely written and drawn by women.
Since comic books were taboo in my family, since my parents believed comics to ruin reading skills in children, newspaper strips were one of my gateway drugs into the world of comics. By the time I was old enough to read, newspaper strips had died out in Germany, though we did have them in the 1950s and 1960s according to my mother who was an avid reader of them (and obviously did not have her literacy skills ruined).
Hence, I discovered newspaper strips in the pages of the Singapore Straits Times at the age of ten. My parents didn’t want me reading comics, but they had absolutely no objection to my reading newspapers. The extensive strip page was the main attraction of the Straits Times, though I also took a peak at the culturally very different death announcements and read articles about spectacular murder trials and executions with a horrified shudder. This was before a particularly idiotic teacher drilled it into our heads that showing an interest in crimes was bad, because media interest in crimes somehow caused said crimes to be committed. No, I don’t understand it either – though it must be noted that said teacher made said stupid comment in the wake of the Gladbeck hostage drama* – and I know it was total bullshit. Nonetheless, I have had a strong aversion to crime reporting ever since.
The strip page of the Singapore Straits Times was a treasure trove of stories. I did not care much for the gag strips, for Cathy and Doonesbury and Hagar and Lil Abner, though I did like Blondie. But my favourites were the cliffhanger adventure strips and the Straits Times had plenty of those. The big attraction, of course, was the daily Star Wars comic, but they also introduced me to Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Modesty Blaise and the Cisco Kid. I don’t think they carried Brenda Starr, though they did have The Heart of Juliet Jones. And the cliffhangers, oh the cliffhangers. There is one involving Luke and Leia versus a tentacled monster I still remember to this day. Never figured out how they did manage to escape either.
The passing of Brenda Starr and Little Orphan Annie (which I associate more with the musical than with the underlying strip) is sad, not just because of those particular characters, but because they’re signs of another art and entertainment medium disappearing. First soap operas and now daily comic strips – why do Americans insist on dismantling the very art forms that made many of us fall in love with their culture?
Regarding another heroic journalist figure, The New Yorker has a lengthy article on the appeal of Stieg Larsson’s crime novels. Going by this and the recent Edward Docx controversy I strongly suspect that the issues many Anglo-American readers seem to have with the books are due to a poor translation or at least a poorly edited one (if a translator asks to have his name taken off a novel, things are serious), though cultural factors, e.g. the complaints about Larsson’s journalist hero Mikael Blomquist not being masculine enough for US readers, may play a role as well.
But my favourite bit of the article is the bit where Larsson allegedly claimed that he viewed his heroine Lisbet Salander as a sort of grown-up Pippi Longstocking, because it makes so much sense, if you think about it. Carrying the Astrid Lindgren parallels further, whenever I read the name Mikael Blomquist, I cannot help but think of Kalle Blomquist, teenaged master detective and another of Lindgren’s characters. And Kalle Blomquist’s best friend is a tomboy called Eva-Lotta Lisander. Hmmm…
There’s also another celebrity death to report. British actor Pete Postlethwaite died aged 64.
On the housekeeping front, I installed a plug-in which makes it easier to repost/tweet/recommend posts from this blog on social media platforms. For various reasons, I’m not active on social networking platforms, but I know that other people are. And unlike most plug-ins of that type, which are bloody annoying, I actually like the look of this one. I will probably play around with it a little, especially since the majority of social media sites offered are places I’ve never heard of. The print friendly button works like a charm, though.
*The Gladbeck hostage drama should actually be called the Bremen hostage drama, because the escalation of the situation – a pair of bank robbers taking an entire bus hostage – happened in Bremen. The bus was captured at a stop which all of us regularly passed (my friend and I were on a bus going past that very stop mere hours before the kidnapping), the two dead hostages were kids of our age, one of those two dead hostages came from our village and was friends with the sister of a classmate. So in short, we had every reason to be interested in the hostage drama, because it could have easily been any one of us on that bus.