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SciFiDramaQueen

5 Real-Life Battles Superman Fought (And Won)

SciFiDramaQueen
SciFiDramaQueen

With the powers of flight, steel-crushing strength, heat vision, and the good judgment not to be a total jerk about it, Superman is among our culture’s most altruistic and noble fictional creations.

Too bad he’s just a blob of ink.

Until technology and science figure out how to mold a real Man of Steel—and before you watch Hollywood’s latest attempt to reinvigorate the icon in theaters this weekend—check out these five ways the Big Blue Boy Scout actually made a real-world difference outside of the comics pages.

1. Superman vs. Looming Foreclosure

In 2010, a family living in the South came under financial duress after their small business collapsed. Unable to cover the second mortgage they took out, the bank initiated foreclosure proceedings.

As they began to prepare for eviction and sort through their belongings in the basement, one of them came across a stack of comics. Among the pile was a copy of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. Published in 1938 and considered the Holy Grail of comic collecting, fewer than 100 are thought to have survived the decades.

After seeing what other copies had gone for online, they reached out to auction house ComicConnect to act as a broker. The book, which originally sold for 10 cents, went for an astounding $460,000, saving the family’s home with cash to spare.

2. Superman vs. the New York City Blackout

New Yorkers have often had to display superhuman levels of endurance. Among their most trying times: The 1977 citywide blackout that saw rampant looting, fires, and over a billion dollars in damages.

With information hard to come by, New Yorkers turned to the Daily News, which had somehow managed to keep its printing presses running without power. How? Because Warner Bros. was busy shooting scenes set in the Daily Planet at the paper’s building for Superman: The Movie and generously lent them the production’s generators: journalists toiled as powerful klieg lights lit up the newsroom. Superman may not have been able to save the city from a lot of grief, but his handlers kept its citizens from being left completely in the dark.

3. Superman vs. the Ku Klux Klan

Before George Reeves donned the cape for television, Superman fans across the country got their fix with the character’s popular radio drama. In addition to fighting the usual variety of villains, he came across one very real and very formidable threat: the racist diatribes of the Ku Klux Klan.

In a 1946 serial dubbed Clan of the Fiery Cross, Superman runs into a KKK stand-in and sniffs out their secret code words, handshakes, and ideologies. While the story was fictional, the details weren’t: Superman producers had been slipped facts about the clandestine organization by Stetson Kennedy, an activist who had infiltrated the group and was spreading information about their inner workings to a variety of news outlets.

While Kennedy later came under fire for allegedly exaggerating some of his efforts—even prompting the authors of Freakonomics, who had documented his undercover work, to issue a retraction—his dialogue with the Superman producers isn’t in dispute. In Superman, Kennedy had a resource to infantilize the Klan and mock their hate speech. Soon, its leaders saw kids play-acting with hooded robes and treating them with ridicule; Superman had broadcast a lecture on tolerance, and an entire generation of children was listening.

4. Superman vs. a Speeding Car

Costumes rarely instill the wearer with the attributes of the character. (And in some instances, actually deprive them of one important trait: dignity.) But for a Melbourne, Australia man, his choice of superhuman threads couldn’t have been more appropriate.

On his way back from his own bachelor party where he was dressed as Superman, Heng Khuen Cheok stumbled across a man who had just been hit by a car. Bleeding and dazed, the victim took one look at Cheok and likely thought he was hallucinating. His friends, fearing Cheok was a menace, tried pushing him away until he finally convinced them of his day job: an emergency room physician. Cheok tended to the man until an ambulance arrived.

5. Superman vs. Psychological Hurdles

For child psychologist Patty Scanlon, superheroes often act as a handy allegory for the dreams and aspirations of her patients. As recounted in the book Using Superheroes in Counseling and Play Therapy, Scanlon notes she’s helped several children with psychological issues by invoking the Man of Steel.

One composite patient, Jason, was having difficulty at school and was acting out aggressively toward peers. By exploring Superman’s earnest nature, Scanlon was able to impart lessons on human behavior and social functioning. Later, Jason’s parents reported he was doing better in school and making friends.

Once, Scanlon role-played as Superman and apparently got too edgy: “No, stop,” Jason retorted. “Superman wouldn’t do that. He’s nicer than that.” Seventy-five years after his debut, Superman is still saving the world, one juvenile delinquent at a time.

Hungry for more Superman knowledge? Jake Rossen has just the thing: Superman vs. Hollywood, his comprehensive account of the Man of Steel’s successes (and many, many stumbles) in Tinseltown.

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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