Saturday Morning Links

1. Ever heard of the city of Ulm? It’s in Germany and it’s the beginning of the journey from link #5.

Photo by Luis Fernando Felipe Alves on Unsplash

2. Via Wired, a guy read every Marvel comic and then wrote a book, All of the Marvels, which appeals to the comic fan in me.

Reading them all at once, though, allowed Wolk to see the entire landscape at a single view. He notes, for example, that decades-old characters written by dozens of different people end up having consistent themes, but they change to reflect their times. Stories about Iron Man are always about the military industrial complex, Wolk realizes. In the 1960s, they were pretty rah-rah about American power. That changed during the Vietnam War. Back then the stories were about lasers and nukes; these days they’re more likely to be about surveillance, data, and artificial intelligence. Or take Captain America, a character whose stories are always about how Americans perceive themselves—which made it interesting when the commie-smashing Cap of the 1950s comics was reimagined in the 1970s as a government-employed imposter who turned out to be a white nationalist. X-Men stories are famously about diversity and acceptance, though the team was created as a race parable. It evolved, if you will, into present-day stories about international relations and gender identity.

But if a story is so big that it contains, like, everything, is that still a point of view? Is that still art? Wolk’s answer is yes, but his main goal, he tells me, is still to find ways someone could start reading Marvel Comics now, today, and enjoy them without being crushed by history and time. “I’m somebody who’s leading you on a guided tour of this enormous territory that I’ve walked every mile of, and you don’t have to walk every mile,” he says. “I don’t want to show you what I think the highlights are. I want my readers to be able to find the parts that will matter to them.” He’s trying to pathfind a trail that maybe only a longtime comics reader can see. Every frame of every Marvel story might have been an infinitesimal, but like some grand mathematical model they all integrate together into the long, long arc of the Marvel universe.

3. Via Colossal, Anglea Hao digitally draws Japanese shops with incredible details and these are just neat to look at. That’s it.

4. Via Reddit, websites that people wish other people knew more about. This is actually pretty amazing and have found several websites that I had no idea existed. And you sort of get the idea that the internet is bad, but there’s lots of good out there as well.

5. Via Vanity Fair’s William Prochnau and Laura Parker, in 1932 Oskar Speck is bankrupt, the threat of Nazi Germany is looming, and begins a 7-year and 30,000 mile kayak trip.

In 1929, the Great Depression crushed a country already on its back. By 1932, more than 30 percent of German workers were unemployed. Speck ran a small electrical-contracting company. It went bankrupt, taking the boss and his 21 workers into the streets. For Speck it was the last straw. He was fed up with the limitations of his life and his country.

The same frustration drove many Germans to the guttural siren song of Adolf Hitler. It drove Speck over the horizon. In the strange bubble world he would live in for the next seven and a half years he would brush up against Germany’s new keepers briefly, fly a swastika, and at least once seek out the Nazis’ financial help. As with so many Germans of his era, the full story of his political leanings will probably never be known. But in 1932, Oskar Speck seemed without any politics at all. “All I wanted was to get out of Germany,” he said later.

On May 13, 1932, he packed up his five-year-old kayak, called Sunnschien, boarded a train to the Danube River city of Ulm, dropped the boat into the water, and, “without any fuss or farewell,” paddled east with the current.

It was an unlikely start by an unlikely adventurer. Speck stood five feet ten inches, and weighed a lean 140 pounds. He couldn’t swim—and even traveling halfway around the world by ocean he never bothered to learn. He pushed off with little money, little planning, and only a vague goal of reaching Cyprus to find work in the copper mines.

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