Saturday, 28 February 2015

On Our Way Home

Not had much chance to Blog since our trip to Pattaya but we're heading home later and will be back tomorrow for the start of the new month.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Flaky Connection

But had a sound evening and feeling the effects this morning.

We'll be back some time later today- or tomorrow if we have a rematch.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Praise the Lord

A new theory could answer the question of how life began – and throw out the need for God.

A writer on the website of Richard Dawkins’ foundation says that the theory has put God “on the ropes” and has “terrified” Christians.

It proposes that life did not emerge by accident or luck from a primordial soup and a bolt of lightning. Instead, life itself came about by necessity – it follows from the laws of nature and is as inevitable as rocks rolling downhill.

The problem for scientists attempting to understand how life began is understanding how living beings – which tend to be far better at taking energy from the environment and dissipating it as heat – could come about from non-living ones.

But a new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT and first reported in Quanta Magazine, proposes that when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy. The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

Paul Rosenberg, writing this week on Richard Dawkins’ site, said that the theory could make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”.

As Rosenberg notes, the idea that life could have evolved from non-living things is one that has been held for some time, and was described by the pre-Socratic philosophers. But England’s theory marks the first time that has been convincingly proposed since Darwin, and is backed by mathematical research and a proposal that can be put to the test.

Emergency Aid Abroad

TInd

Planning your summer holiday? You might want to take a look at the latest stats released by health organisation International SOS, which show which countries have the worst emergency healthcare.

According to the company’s annual International Health Risk Map - which ranks destinations as low risk, medium risk, high risk, and extreme risk - popular holiday destinations such as Mexico, Turkey, Morocco and Thailand have all been labelled medium risk, with their emergency medical facilities described as “average”.

The UK, the US, Greece, Iceland, Japan, and Australia are some of the best countries in which to receive medical treatment, while countries like North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were deemed to have the worst healthcare.

Countries are considered high risk if they have limited medical facilities combined with higher risks of serious infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid or dengue fever. Tourists have been warned that if they fall ill in high-risk countries, such as Tanzania, Egypt, Laos, and Cambodia, they may need to be evacuated to a different country to receive higher quality healthcare.

Emergency healthcare has, however, improved in parts of Africa. Countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Rwanda have been moved into a lower risk category, a marked improvement on previous years. It’s thought the progress comes as a result of foreign investment in private and state healthcare facilities.

DYK?

did-you-know-1304

MPs' Naughty Words

A scene from the fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary Inside the Commons was reportedly edited after picking up a heckle directed at Ed Miliband that sounded like “sanctimonious cunt”.
The Daily Mail reports that Anna Soubry, the defence minister, vehemently denied making the comment in parliament after a member of the show’s production staff claimed she was the culprit, and the show was later edited to remove the sound of the heckling.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Changes can and are often made to the final version broadcast, as is the case with this episode.”
In light of the row, we looked at words MPs are banned from using in parliament- a list which changes at the discretion of the speaker and which doesn’t explicitly include swear words. We’ve included some terms the speaker has deemed unparliamentary that do not make the Parliament UK’s official list, such as pipsqueak and hypocrite.

blackguard

coward

git

guttersnipe

hooligan

hypocrite

idiot

liar

pipsqueak

pecksniffian

rat

swine

stoolpigeon

traitor

i100

Brit Winners

BRITISH SOLO MALE
Ed Sheeran
BRITISH SOLO FEMALE
Paloma Faith
BRITISH GROUP
Royal Blood
BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH ACT
Sam Smith
BRITISH SINGLE
Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk”
MASTERCARD BRITISH ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Ed Sheeran – X
INTERNATIONAL SOLO MALE
Pharrell Williams
INTERNATIONAL SOLO FEMALE
Taylor Swift
INTERNATIONAL GROUP
Foo Fighters
Global Success award for International Sales
Sam Smith
BRITISH ARTIST VIDEO OF THE YEAR
One Direction - "You & I"
BRITISH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Paul Epworth

TInd

Smooth

But I'd love to see him do it again...

Look at my Balls

Tory MP David Tredinnick’s horoscope has today predicted a day of relentless abuse and piss-taking, just 24 hours after suggesting astrology could save the NHS.
The conservative MP for Bosworth said that astrology has a role to play in the National Health Service, whilst also strongly supporting other bullshit remedies such as homeopathy.
Those in the medical professions have said he is right about astrology having a role to play in the NHS, in that believing astrology has a place in the NHS should preclude you from having any influence in the NHS whatsoever.
GP Simon Williams told us, “Astrology is a load of old bollocks, yet here is his horoscope for today offering a completely plausible – and so far entirely accurate – prediction of what his day has in store.”
“Its reads; Capricorn: As Mars enters Uranus you will find those around you mock you for the bullshit things you believe in, particularly the stuff about astrology and homeopathy, for which no reliable evidence has ever been presented.”
“The afternoon will see calls for you to resign from any parliamentary committee even remotely related to healthcare, which you will completely ignore because you believe in magic pills and star fairies.”
“You will counter these accusations with ‘evidence’, but the ‘evidence’ you present will be widely discredited as nonsense, and your assertions will be publicly mocked by everyone with so much as a GCSE in science.”
“But, come May, you will be re-elected to your Bosworth constituency because it’s a safe Tory seat and unfortunately people will vote for any old moron with a blue rosette.”
NT

Written Foibles

Out

Cold call telemarketers are pretending not to be in when regulators ring them, according to reports this morning.
The Information Commissioner is responsible for regulating the activities of telemarketing companies, but is finding it impossible to speak to them as they always just hang up when called.
“It’s really frustrating”, said Brian Peters, head of the Commission.
“I always ring telemarketing companies when I know they’ll be in, like during morning tea break, and I just get fobbed off.”
“They say I’ve got the wrong number, or the person I want is dead, or they put on a foreign accent and pretend not to understand me.”
“I’m just trying to do my job and explain the benefits of adhering to their statutory obligations and not going to prison, but it’s like they just aren’t interested.”
“Really, I could save them £££££’s”, he added.

Telemarketers ‘pretending not to be in’

However, telemarketers remain resolutely uninterested in anything the regulator might have to offer.
“We had this bloke ring us the other day and start going on about how some government scheme could save us money and keep us out of prison”, said Mike Shayler, team leader at Insure4urinjurylawyersPPI.
“But he wouldn’t even tell me how he got my number.”
“Plus I didn’t have time for that crap.”
“I was too busy helping a 94-year-old with dementia make a PPI claim and telling her not to let her family know.”
NT

Must Watch This Again

Pack up the family truckster and head out for some family fun with the Griswolds! Here are a few facts we learned about their European Vacation.

1. IT’S SOLELY A GRISWOLD FAMILY AFFAIR

European Vacation is the only movie in the Vacation series that doesn’t feature Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie character and his family.

2. WALLEY WORLD MAKES AN APPEARANCE

The t-shirt and sweatshirt that Clark wears throughout the movie are from Walley World, the fictional, Disney-like amusement park the family drives to in the original Vacation movie.

3. RUSTY WAS ALMOST THE SAME ACTOR AS THE FIRST MOVIE

In the Vacation series, the Griswold children famously change actors with each movie—but Anthony Michael Hall, who played Rusty in the original Vacation, was set to reprise his role in European Vacation. Before shooting started, however, Hall dropped out to star in the movie Weird Science (he was replaced by Jason Lively). Weird Science happens to be written and directed by John Hughes, who wrote the original short story that inspired the series and the screenplays for Vacation, European Vacation, and Christmas Vacation.

4. A MEMBER OF MONTY PYTHON KEPT POPPING UP

The bike rider whom Clark hits with his car in London, and who pops up again in Rome, is none other than Eric Idle, a founding member of the great Monty Python comedy troupe. His line about his injuries only being a “flesh wound” is a nod to the famous Black Knight scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

5. ERIC IDLE AND CHEVY CHASE CAME UP WITH AN IDEA FOR THE THIRD VACATION MOVIE … AND THEN SCRAPPED IT

Following European Vacation, the two created initial drafts of a third Vacation movie calledAustralian Vacation, but the movie was scrapped as they moved on to other projects. Chase also allegedly wrote a script for a new movie called Swiss Family Griswold about the family going on a cruise.

6. GRISWOLD OR GRISWALD?

European Vacation is the movie in which Griswold is spelled “Griswald.”

7. WE FINALLY FIND OUT WHAT THE “W” IS IN CLARK W. GRISWOLD

A passport seen in the opening credits reveals the W stands for “Wilhelm.”

8. CHEVY CHASE BROUGHT A LOT OF HIS OWN STUFF WITH HIM

Chase provided most of his own wardrobe, including Clark’s camcorder.

9. CLARK’S HAT WAS INSPIRED BY A CLASSIC CHARACTER

Clark’s bucket hat was meant to resemble a similar hat worn by M. Hulot, the legendary comedic character played by actor/director Jacques Tati. Chase has said that the master of physical comedy was one of his influences for his performance as Clark Griswold.

10. MR. FROEGER IS A CULT ICON

The head of the brainy family that challenges the Griswolds on the Pig in a Poke game show is played by Paul Bartel, the writer, actor, and director behind such cult films as Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000. He also appeared in more than 90 films, including Tim Burton’s 1984 film Frankenweenie, the Ramones movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, John Carpenter’s Escape from LA, and Caddyshack II.
And you probably recognize Pig in a Poke’s touchy-feely host, too: Kent was played by John Astin, the original Gomez Addams in the Addams Family TV show.

11. THE HILLS WERE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF GRISWOLD

The dream sequence where Clark sings his spoof of The Sound of Music was shot at the same alpine locations where Julie Andrews sang in the 1959 musical.

12. STONEHENGE WAS FAKE

The production wasn’t allowed to shoot at the real Stonehenge, so they created a two-thirds scale model of the original nearby in order to shoot the scene where the Griswolds knock the stones over. Each slab was outfitted with a timed hydraulic mechanism to create the practical effect of them tipping over.

13. CHEVY CHASE IS SPARKY

Sparky, Ellen’s pet name for Clark, was Chase’s nickname in real life.

14. GERMANY WAS ACTUALLY ITALY

A German-speaking Italian town was used to shoot the Germany-set scenes.

15. RUSTY’S CALIFORNIA GIRL IS ROCK ROYALTY.

The American girl that Rusty meets in Rome is played by Moon Unit Zappa, daughter of legendary rock musician Frank Zappa. Aubrey’s boyfriend Jack, meanwhile, was played by William Zabka, better known as Johnny the antagonist at the Cobra Kai dojo in The Karate Kid.
MF

It's Simple, Walk Out

Even by Fifa's standards, it was a performance of breathtaking audacity.
A day after world football's governing body confirmed it had caused an unprecedented upheaval to the sporting calendar, many may have expected its secretary-general to be in a conciliatory mood.
Not a bit of it.
As Jerome Valcke addressed journalists at a news conference in Doha, he was as bold and brash as the opulent, gilded furnishings at the five-star Doha Ritz-Carlton Hotel where he spoke.
With the top brass of the newly constituted Local Organising Committee sitting alongside him, and Qatar 2022's squadron of British public relations operatives nervously watching on, the Frenchman came out swinging.
Refusing to apologise for the disruption a winter 2022 World Cup in Qatar would cause, and defiantly dismissing the demand by Europe's top clubs for financial compensation, Valcke bristled and baulked at the suggestion that blowing a seven-week hole in domestic league calendars warranted some major concessions.
The clubs - he said - would again receive money from the World Cup as they did in 2010 and 2014, depending on how many days their players were on international duty. And that was all they would get.
In an under-statement of epic proportions, Valcke conceded that the situation "isn't perfect", before saying critics like the Premier League should just "enjoy yourselves in a different environment without screaming and saying 'it's impossible'."
Qatar average temperatures
But as ever in the dubious and murky world of football politics, nothing is quite as it seems. Valcke was deliberately playing hardball, setting out Fifa's stall for the inevitable battles that lie ahead.
The European Club Association will be aiming for an especially generous agreement over the release of players for the next two World Cups, and the bargaining began in earnest today.
But what would Richard Scudamore have thought, back in London after his briefest of stop-overs in Doha for Tuesday's meeting of the Qatar 2022 Fifa taskforce?
The Premier League supremo must have wondered why he had bothered.
The meeting - for which football executives had flown in for from all around the world on first-class flights - took all of an hour. There was no proper debate by all accounts. The recommendation of a switch to November/December was presented as a done deal.
Scudamore, the representative of the richest clubs in the world, and fresh from negotiating the biggest TV deal in football history , is not a man used to being messed around or having his time wasted.
And now - with British football's cherished festive fixture programme in jeopardy because of Uefa's support for Fifa's idea of a World Cup Final on 23 December (which will also make it difficult for fans who attend to get home for Christmas of course), he must work out what to do.
Fifa handing out money to the big clubs for the release of players at the World Cup is all well and good. But what about the smaller clubs who do not provide many international players? What do they get in return for having their seasons fractured? For the sudden break in their cash flow?
How much less will the broadcasters pay the League, now they have to account for a two-month break in the season?
In a statement, Scudamore said he was considering what "action" to take. Litigation is a possibility. But if not, there will still be a knock-on effect for other parties caught up in this.
The Premier League is furious with Fifa and will now want to alleviate the pressure on their disrupted calendar in 2022, as well as the season before and after the World Cup year.
The clubs will now consider various options - the scrapping of FA Cup replays, along with two-legged League Cup semi-finals.
More international friendlies are almost certain to be sacrificed, and European football's governing body Uefa could be asked to look at the format of the Champions League and Europa League to reduce the number of fixtures clubs are asked to play.
Think clubs are reluctant to release players for friendlies and age-representative tournaments now? Imagine their mood going forward.
Solutions like these may suit the richest, top clubs, emboldened by bumper TV deals, but what about clubs lower down the ladder, who desperately depend on FA Cup replays for essential income?
What about the Football Association, whose finances depend on as many international friendlies and fixtures at debt-laden Wembley as possible?
Will it really want the FA Cup's format to be meddled with in the 2022-23 season, when the 100th anniversary of the first FA Cup Final at Wembley is due to be celebrated? The ramifications of all this reach far and wide.
In short, expect the rifts and divisions that already blight football to be widened like never before, perhaps beyond repair, as the fall-out from Fifa's scandal-ridden and bungled bidding process continues.
The Premier League - and other factions in the sport - can now exploit this dispute to get what they want elsewhere.
Many will find it hard to sympathise too much with the Premier League, awash with £5bn of TV revenue.
After all, with more and more foreign talent coming into the clubs, players disappearing in the middle of the season is hardly a new phenomenon; take the recent Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup for instance. Leagues elsewhere in Europe handle winter breaks just fine.
In fact, as former England international Phil Neville said on Tuesday, it may just be a blessing in disguise for the England team, who for once may not turn up for a major tournament on their last legs.
And some will accuse Scudamore of hypocrisy, complaining of a threat to the Premier League's "integrity" when a few years ago it was he who came up with the idea for a '39th game'.
Europe's top clubs of course seem more than happy to accept investment and sponsorship from the Middle East.
They are happy to go there on pre-season tours. So why then should they not be flexible in order to take the game's showpiece event to a new part of the world. A place where it can be a unifying force?
Certainly, when compared with the continuing poor treatment of many migrant workers on construction sites in Qatar, the clubs' dismay at the inconvenience of a mid-season break seems somewhat mis-placed.
For many critics, Fifa arrogance's appeared to reach new heights here in Doha.
The 'taskforce', conveniently portrayed as a democratic means of giving different parties in the game a voice, seemed like a stitch-up, with the November/December solution decided upon months ago.
They will point to Valcke's claim that "we did what we had to do" over the recent decision to suddenly award US TV giant Fox the rights to the 2026 World Cup (especially valuable as it will probably be staged in the United States), as a tacit admission that is was designed to placate the network.
Another example of an organisation making it up as it goes along. (Fox was known to be unhappy that its rights to what it thought was a summer World Cup had suddenly become a winter one.)
It does not seem to matter to Fifa that rival networks ESPN and NBC may have wanted to bid, or that more money could have been generated for the good of the sport had a proper auction been held. As ever, it seemed, Fifa was looking after itself.
The governing body has now completed football's ultimate U-turn and yet again shifted the goalposts to get itself out of a deep, dark hole.
Many would have welcomed Qatar's chance to host the World Cup - had it bid for a winter tournament.
But it did not. Many would have accepted Fifa voting for Qatar had it done so for honourable reasons rather than greed. But it did not.
And now, four years on from the decision that shocked the world, many elements in the sport will bear the brunt.

Possible 2022 timeline

Early November: Premier League pauses
26 November: World Cup starts
Early December: Group stages finish, half the players return to clubs
Through December: More players return home after knockout-stage exit
Friday, 23 December: World Cup final
Monday, 26 December: Premier League returns on Boxing Day?
BBC

Comical Review

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. SPIDER-GWEN #1

By Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi
Marvel Comics
Late last year, two comics released within weeks of each other seemed to satisfy an itch that Marvel and DC didn’t seem to realize fans had. One was Batgirl, which swept aside DC’s recent penchant for grisly violence to make way for a lighter tone that now seems to be permeating their upcoming wave of books. The other was the second issue of Edge of Spider-Verse, a mini-series that was merely meant as a prelude to an upcoming Spider-man storyline and one that introduced an alternate-universe version of Peter Parker’s long-deceased girlfriend Gwen Stacy, who was bitten by that same old radioactive spider. “Spider-Gwen,” as she was affectionately called by fans and the creative team, was a big hit online from the moment artist Robbi Rodriguez posted the first image of her costume. She was never meant to carry on beyond that Spider-Verse event, but with Edge of Spider-Verse#2 now in its fourth printing, Marvel quickly realized it had a hit on its hands and put the same creative team to work on an ongoing series.
Both Batgirl and Spider-Gwen seemed to hit a chord with the same group of comic readers that often feel ignored by Marvel and DC: 20-something female readers who want a hip, fun comic about a super heroine that isn’t overly sexualized for the sole benefit of her male audience. The designs for both characters also tapped into an energy around cosplaying and fan art that talented young artists post all over social media.
What really makes Spider-Gwen work is the enthusiastic, tight-knit creative team behind it that you can tell has really gone all-in on a concept that probably has no right to be this good. Jason Latour (a double-threat, writing comics like Wolverine & The X-men while at the same time drawing comics like Southern Bastards) along with artist Robbi Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi (both from Vertigo’s FBP) are working on this book at a point when their careers are about to take off in a big way (this could be what sets that off).
Their version of Gwen Stacy is an angsty teenager who plays drums in a rock band called The Mary Janes (which has already inspired a band called Married with Sea Monster to make a recording of their in-comic song “Face it, Tiger”). Her foil as Spider-Woman is the police captain who also happens to be her dad. Oh, and her boyfriend Peter Parker died after going crazy and turning himself into the Lizard and everyone blames Spider-Woman for his death. A big part of the fun is seeing how Latour and co. play with our expectations of certain classic characters in this parallel universe, but in the end it’s all about Gwen.

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2. WITCHY

By Ariel Ries
witchycomic.com
Ariel Ries is an animation student from Australia who has been working on her first webcomic, Witchy, since January 2014 and has been updating it on a weekly basis. Witchytakes place in a kingdom called Hyalin, which is protected by a military-style Witch Guard. The strength of one's witch-ness is determined by the length of their hair, and the strong are conscripted into the Guard. However, those with hair that is too long are hunted down and burned to death. The focus of the story is a teenage girl named Nyneve who goes to a witch school but hides her hair length which is long enough to mark her for death—exactly what happened to her father, years ago.
What makes Witchy interesting, besides being a fun comic with absolutely wonderful drawings, is that it bases its world and its magic on South Asian and Islamic influences rather than overused Western ones. This influence spreads to the ethnicities of its diverse cast: Nyneve is Afghan/Indian while other characters are mixtures of Mongolian, Chinese, Tibetan, and other Southeast Asian heritages. Most interesting though is a character named Prill, who is a trans gender teenage girl. She’s tough and sassy but with a lot of heart and is generally a great trans-positive character, which we don’t see a lot of in any media.
Ries updates Witchy weekly at witchycomic.com and is also running a Patreon campaignthat allows you to support the making of the comic with as little as $1.00 a month.

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3. SERAPHIM: 266613336 WINGS

By Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics is continuing to bring us never-before-translated editions of books by the late Satoshi Kon, the Japanese manga artist and anime director who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 47. Kon was a fantastic, detail-oriented artist who became primarily an anime director later in life, responsible for such films as Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. In Seraphim: 266613336 Wings (or just Seraphim if we want to be reasonable here), he was drawing a story written by another famous anime director, Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell). The story was originally serialized in the 1990s but, unfortunately, the two men had differences about the direction it was taking and never completed it.
Seraphim takes place in a future where an incurable virus that causes the afflicted to sprout angelic wings is ravaging the world. A military unit under orders from the World Health Organization accompanies a mysterious young girl named Sera and her basset hound companion (whose droopy presence makes this a true Oshii story) into the heart of the most devastated regions of Central Asia in order to determine the cause of the epidemic. It’s initially a slow burn drama that takes its time painting a picture of the political landscape of this apocalyptic setting before erupting into an action-packed race against time to save the world’s last hope.

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4. CRIMINAL SPECIAL EDITION ONE-SHOT

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Image Comics
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips recently established an exclusive deal with Image Comics that includes bringing Criminal in from its original home under Marvel’s creator-owned imprint ICON. Criminal is single-handedly responsible for rejuvenating the crime genre in comics and may even be the greatest crime comic ever made. Image has been slowly re-releasing the six volumes of previously published material, and Brubaker and Phillips launched their new Image deal with the 1950s Hollywood-noir series The Fade Out which sees its first collected volume hit stores this week.
After completing the first story arc of The Fade Out, the duo are finally returning to the world of Criminal after a number of years with a one-issue special edition that includes a variant printed in an oversize format to echo the great comics magazines of the 1970s like Savage Sword of Conan. Criminal and Conan may not seem to make sense together until you read this issue that takes place in a prison in 1976, but begins inside a sword-and-sorcery style comic that is being read by inmate and Criminal regular Teeg Lawless. The real star ofCriminal has always been Sean Phillips and his ability to portray the genre stylings of any era, and it is fun to see him stretch that ability jumping back and forth from gritty realism to comic-booky barbarians.
MF

Good Idea

The Koran will be read from cover to cover on Finnish public radio as part of a new series, it's been announced.
The country's public broadcaster, Yle, has divided the reading into 60 half-hour segments, including a discussion between two experts on the context and meaning of each part. Beginning on 7 March, the project is "intended to increase people's knowledge of the Koran and Muslim culture in Finland", Yle says on its website. A leader from Finland's Muslim community, Imam Anas Hajjar, will discuss each section with Professor Jaakko Hameen-Anttila, who translated the text into Finnish. "It is important that the Koran is read in its entirety, and not just select items that show that Islam is bad and violent or good and beautiful," says Mr Hameen-Anttila. "All of the text material is served up for the listener to assess."

Dirty Monopoly

IMAGE CREDIT: 
GETTY IMAGES
The true story of Monopoly is no secret to mental_floss readers: It was Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie who first drew the square board framed by properties, railroads, and utilities, and she called her creation The Landlord’s Game. “Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system,” she wrote in 1902, “and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.” She received a patent two years later (which you can read here), but it ultimately did her little good. In 1935, a fellow named Charles Darrow claimed her idea as his own and sold it to Parker Brothers, which in turn surrounded its newfound gold mine with an army of lawyers. In her excellent new book,The Monopolists, author Mary Pilon revisits the sordid story of Monopoly and recounts how those understandably touchy lawyers almost undid the board game giant.

ANTI-MONOPOLY

In 1974, attorneys for Parker Brothers sent a cease and desist letter to Ralph Anspach, an economics professor at San Francisco State. It had occurred to Anspach during a lecture on Adam Smith that Monopoly was problematic. For capitalism to succeed, he believed, it must be competitive. The board game’s ultimate lesson of success through corporate monopolization was thus flawed. Worse yet, because people associated family game nights from youth with a board labeled Monopoly across its center, they were more or less being conditioned to appreciate the idea of such monopolies. He resolved to create an anti-monopoly game, which he called Anti-Monopoly. The game attracted a small, enthusiastic audience with the potential for real growth. It also attracted the attention of Parker Brothers, which wanted it stopped.
Anspach hired a lawyer and began looking into whether Parker Brothers was, in a moment of supreme irony, committing an antitrust violation against Anti-Monopoly. They reasoned that a common trait of monopolies was to use legal threats to scare off competition. Depositions ensued, and though Anspach held his own against the Parker Brothers legal team, he was a teacher of modest means and they were a multimillion-dollar corporation with a lot to lose. The idea of going through with the lawsuit seemed crazy.
It was, therefore, a revelation when Anspach’s son happened upon a passage in a book noting that Charles Darrow hadn’t actually invented Monopoly. If a Monopoly board game preceded Charles Darrow’s 1935 patent, that patent might be overturned. Monopoly might, in fact, be built on a house of Chance cards. It might be in the public domain.
Anspach’s first big break in this line of attack came during a television appearance in Oregon, where he was promoting Anti-Monopoly. An elderly woman called in to the show, noting that she knew someone who played Monopoly long before the Great Depression (and thus before the Darrow patent). This inspired Anspach to track down the players of pre-Darrow Monopoly and assemble an accurate history of the game. Such a history would help prove that Darrow had essentially patented a game like chess or checkers—a long popular game to which he was a latecomer. Anspach took out an ad in Christian Science Monitorand waited, following leads where they came.

THE MISSPELLING ON EVERY MONOPOLY BOARD

Monopoly properties are named after real places in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey. Pull out your yellowed Rand McNally, though, and you’ll note that “Marvin Gardens” is nowhere to be seen. You will, however, find a place between Margate City and Ventnor City called Marven Gardens, spelled with an “e.” The yellow property, misspelled to this day, became a problem for Parker Brothers during the Anti-Monopoly legal process.
Through dogged detective work (and dumb luck), Anspach learned the names Charles and Olive Todd, and paid the couple a visit. He discovered that Charles Todd, along with his wife Olive, his childhood friend Esther, and Esther’s husband Charles Darrow, played a handmade board game together that concerned real estate. Darrow was immediately taken with the game and copied down the board and its rules. On Charles Todd’s original, hand-drawn board, itself a copy, he misspelled “Marven,” which Darrow duplicated in full. This, perhaps, established plagiarism.
Meanwhile, as a result of the Christian Science Monitor ad, word of mouth, and increasing interest in the Anti-Monopoly trial, other, older variants of the game came to light, with properties named after other locales. All of this was bad news for Parker Brothers, which, if it didn’t have a troubling legal situation on its hands, certainly now had a public relations problem. The story of Charles Darrow was central to the Monopoly story. They even printed it in the game’s instructions.
To make this headache go away, General Mills, parent company to Parker Brothers, made an offer to Anspach: In exchange for rights to Anti-Monopoly, they would give him $500,000 and an executive position at Parker Brothers. Anspach refused (which seemed crazier than filing the lawsuit in the first place). He feared that just as Parker Brothers eventually purchased rights to The Landlord’s Game for $500 before burying it forever, they might also kill Anti-Monopoly.
Anspach lost the case. To make an example of him, Parker Brothers, now in possession of 40,000 copies of Anti-Monopoly, really did bury the game—literally: They called journalists to witness the interment of the games in a landfill. The land was quickly sold, and in properMonopoly fashion, houses were built on top of it.
Meanwhile, a possible legal opening was discovered in the opinion against Anti-Monopoly. There was, perhaps, a misreading of trademark law in the decision. Anspach appealed, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a reexamination of the validity of the Monopolytrademark.
The second hearing began in 1980, and again, Anti-Monopoly lost. In 1982, however, the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision. When the Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal, it was official: “Monopoly” was no longer a valid trademark.
Today, of course, Parker Brothers still owns Monopoly. Following the lawsuit, major corporations began lobbying Congress to protect longstanding trademarks. The Trademark Act was soon amended and signed into law by President Reagan, and the Monopolytrademark was restored. The amendment did not apply to Anti-Monopoly, however, and it isstill available in stores today. Meanwhile, the whole story in glorious detail can be found inThe Monopolists.
MF