03 June 2014

Google’s Scalawagons

Various forms of The Wizard of Oz are so famous that it’s common to see allusions to that story. But The Scalawagons of Oz, written and illustrated by John R. Neill in 1941, is another matter. It’s one of the rarest of the official Oz series and perhaps the worst.

Yet this article at Seeking Alpha not only alludes to Scalawagons but is built around that allusion. David Zanoni writes:
…Scalawagons were smart vehicles that would take passengers wherever they desired. Just sit down in the car, tell the Scalawagon where you want to go and the car transports you to your destination without the need for using pedals and steering wheels.

Google (GOOG) is essentially taking this concept and turning it into a reality with its self-driving car. Google's car actually resembles the shape and look of the Scalawagon.
As I wrote back here, one of the problems of Scalawagons in Oz is that they minimized the possibility of adventure. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of Google cars for us.

01 June 2014

A “Foolhardy Boy Companion” Named Robin

From Stuart Kelly’s review of Nick Harkaway’s “superhero novel” Tigerman in this weekend’s Guardian:
In the suspension of international law necessary to destroy [the island of] Mancreu, a ring of ships – "The Black Fleet" – has circled in the island's newly lawless waters. From extraordinary rendition to organised crime brothels, to surgery ships where, if they don't have a heart to transplant for you, one can be found (and the rest of the body kept for if you need it), it's a zone of licensed criminality. It's therefore no wonder when Shola, a local bar owner, is shot by three men, which accelerates the plot.

At the time, [protagonist] Lester is drinking tea with a strange boy he has befriended called Robin. Robin is saturated in pop culture from Green Lantern to Star Wars, but seems to have no family. It is Robin who, after Shola's funeral, when Lester has a drunken encounter with a tiger, suggests he become Tigerman, "unassuming sergeant for fallen empire by day ... Hero of Mancreu! Tigerman, full of win!" He also, in self-assumed role as "foolhardy boy companion", finds a clue: Shola worked for "Mancreu's resident fairy king", variously known as Bad Jack, Mauvais Jack, Jack Storm-Eye, Jack the Wrecker, Jack of the Nine.
Of course the foolhardy boy companion would be named Robin. But one question for me is whether he exists, or is simply the projection of Lester’s psyche.

Tigerman is scheduled for publication in the US this July.