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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Urban Legend" Research Blog, Part I: So You Want To Be A Hero...

So I've decided to write about a vigilante hero.

An idea popped into my head borne of my lifelong love of comic books.  You see, when I was sixteen, me and a group of like-minded friends formed Fallout Studios and Magic Pencil Comics.  If you've never heard of either of those, you're excused.  It was a year-long creative project that frequently devolved into marathon video game sessions (Damn you, Virtua Fighter!).  But there were good ideas in that collaboration, several good ideas in fact, and if our sixteen year-old selves lived in the digital age of now, I firmly believe our ideas and digital distribution would make us wealthy teenagers.  Oh well.

Back to the point.  I decided to research how you could practically be a superhero.  This is part one of those results, which is looking the part and being protected.  Seattle has Phoenix Jones, and if you look at his getup, well, Bruce Wayne he's not.  Shockingly, you can play dress-up as a hero for cheaper than you would expect, and the protective gear you would need is pretty common.  Several sports -- major ones at that -- have protective equipment that has evolved from the need to protect the wearer from the impact of abnormally large men moving nearly at freeway speeds, while still being able to maintain mobility and range of motion.  The drawback?  Play hero in the winter or you'll likely die of heat stroke.
First thing's first... the underlayer.

This Nike Padded shirt is obviously football gear.  Dense foam around the rib area helps cushion the compound impact of a 260+ pound man wearing pads and a steel helmet launching himself into your own pads.  The padding makes it less likely to break your ribs in that event.  It's probably a little less useful for stabbing and small arms fire, but there's a solution for that I'll be getting to.  Anyway, this shirt goes for about $80

The Combat Hyper String Girdle, also by Nike ($80), seamlessly adds padding to the all-important kidney area, and when combined with the shirt, extends protective padding through most of your important soft bits.  It also protects the thighs, home of wonderful things like your femoral artery.  While it may not be so good against knives and small arms fire, (a) it's better than nothing and (b) most people trying to kill you will be aiming for your exposed and unprotected chest.


Which brings us to the next logical thing: how to stop bullets.  The Executive Travel Vest ($899) is a Kevlar suit vest, designed for bodyguards and VIPs, designed to stop small arms fire.  Lightweight, breathable, flexible, it allows the wearer to walk around as if he's not wearing a bullet-resistant vest.  It doesn't offer much against knives or assault weapons, but how many criminals have access to AR-15's anyway.  Yes, that was sarcasm.
Football also provides us with Stainless Steel Shoulder Pads ($300), which in this combination, theoretically should take care of the stabbing, shooting problem.  On top of that, it adds an imposing, bad ass figure to said vigilante hero. They don't need to be spiked -- this isn't a Raiders game after all -- but if they can stop prevent a linebacker who runs a 4.6-40 from crushing you with an impact equivalent to being hit by an SUV, they can stop a bullet or a knife.  They naturally have a chest protection element, and allow athletes to move around, so this is of course a natural fit.


You're going to want to protect your joints and Reebok makes elbow and knee pads for hockey that fit the bill.  Lightweight and sturdy plastic protect your elbows and knees from bone jarring impact with the ground... or some punk's face.





Now the one element in a crime fighter's protective gear that is absolutely indispensable is that it has to look cool and menacing at the same time.  To round out the gear and add the cool, menacing factor, we turn to motorcycle equipment.  The Icon Chapter 1000 jacket ($699) is heavy duty leather designed to protect the upper body from road rash in the event of a crash.  Motorcycle jackets also have protective padding in the elbows for the same reason.   And that brings us to the final element in this experiment...






Now what better way to conceal your identity and protect your head than a motorcycle helmet?


There are drawbacks to this get up, of course.  I'll get into that next time, as well as how I'd modify the gear to help mitigate the drawbacks.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Rage Is Back

Take one part teen angst, one part drugged-out mysticism, and one part ode to old-school B-Boy culture, mix well, and you have "Rage Is Back," the latest from Adam Mansbach.  If the name sounds familiar, it's because he created a surge of controversy with a children's book for adults called "Go The Fuck To Sleep."

"Rage Is Back" follows 18 year-old Kilroy Dondi Vance, son of 80's graffiti icon Billy Rage.  Dondi is a relbellious, disillusioned smart-ass from the outset as he whines about the events that led him to couch-surf with several friends, and change is set in motion when a member of Billy Rage's old crew informs Dondi that his father has returned to New York.  It seems that on the night that Dondi was born, Billy witnessed a delusional police officer, which sends a grief-stricken Rage on a one-man graffiti campaign against the officer.  And when the city responds by threatening jail time and a $2 million fine, Billy skips town, heading to Mexico without his wife or his infant son.  Rage's return coincides  with the mayoral campaign of the same cop that murdered his friend, so Dondi, Rage, and every graffiti artist they can find devise a plan to bring this cop down.

I found the narrative a bit stunted, filtered mainly through Dondi's eyes, leaving a healthy dose of annoying teen smugness to much of the first act.  This is cleaned up by the middle of the book as Dondi deals with his daddy issues and starts to grow up, aided by a vision quest brought about by a mystical, South American hallucinogen.  This does make the early parts of the story drag as Dondi is the self-righteous snot we all want to slap across the face.  He's initially not a very likable narrator, and is self aware enough to mention as  much.

Thematically, Mansbach touches on quite a few things that we can all relate to, such as the realization that once upon a time, our parents were "cool," or that once we focus our -- well, rage -- we can accomplish great things.  He did his homework here as he frequently references mid-to-late 80's hip-hop culture as well as the graffiti phenomenon from the time.  I personally found the mystic, hippie-ish, drugged out portions to be a bit unnecessary, but overall the story works.

By no means is Rage Is Back perfect.  The lack of a likable narrator nearly torpedoes the story in the first 50 pages.  The story, if you stick with it, is thoroughly enjoyable, and easily recommended as a way to pass a summer day.

Rating: 6 of 10.