Pangea’s Mansion and the Way We Think

A few years ago I wrote a short (very short) story called Pangea’s Mansion. It was only a few lines, but it was meant to explore the idea that humans, as a species, are somewhat selfish; not only are they selfish, but they are quite willing to hurt themselves in pursuit of selfish ideals: cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, as it were.

People who read it seem to like it, though one or two shared the same reservation: would rich people really commit suicide because everyone else is suddenly as rich as they are?

I was exploring an idea concerning the nature of human greed, that greed is not so much about what you have, but what everyone else hasn’t got.

And today, I ran across this excellent article by Seth Godin that seems to back up what I was saying. If you’re a student of human nature it’s well worth a read:

After a company in Seattle famously raised its lowest wage tier to $70,000, two people (who got paid more than most of the other workers) quit, because they felt it wasn’t fair that people who weren’t as productive as they were were going to get a raise.

They quit a good job, a job they liked, because other people got a raise.

This is our culture of ‘getting ahead’ talking.

This is the thinking that, “First class isn’t better because of the seats, it’s better because it’s not coach.” (Several airlines have tried to launch all-first-class seating, and all of them have stumbled.)


And of course it works in the other direction too. Have you read Don Delilo’s White Noise?  An absolute classsic. There’s one particular scene that takes place aboard a plane that suffers a mid-air emergency. Thinking that the jet is about to crash, the first-class passengers attempt to surge towards the rear of the plane where they believe they’ll have a better chance of survival. What really had me in stitches was the reaction of the people in coach:

“No! You rich fuckers paid for first-class; you can stay in first-class!”

Sort of a reverse survivalist snobbery.

I always thought that writing good characters was about making them react in surprising and varying ways; but sometimes they react in ways that are totally expected; it’s just that the reaction is not something we like to see in ourselves.


Film review: Deadpool


Well… he’s finally made to the big screen – one of the most politically incorrect superheroes ever created. I don’t think there’s much point explaining Deadpool’s background: you either know him or you don’t.


What? Okay, here’s the short version: a former special forces operative suffering from terminal cancer agrees to undergo an experimental procedure to make it a bit less terminal. It works, after a fashion, granting him healing abilities hijacked from Wolverine and amped to a level where he can regenerate missing body parts.

Now, you’d think that being granted a second chance at life would make him a little more grateful. Unfortunately, the experiment leaves our anti-hero horribly disfigured, so no, there’s not a lot of gratitude, but an awful lot of sour grapes.

Deadpool is one of Marvel Comics’ surprise success stories. He has no moral compass, so it’s a happy accident that he seems to end up fighting on the right side.

And the film itself is brilliant; possibly my favourite comic flick of all time. It’s like National Lampoon decided to make a superhero movie. The plot is simple and workable, and along the way the movie pokes fun at itself and the whole genre with the occasional play to the camera (easy to overdo this sort of thing; Deadpool sails close, but just manages to keep it this side of tedious). The fight sequences are excellently staged and the action scenes are tightly directed and a little gory in places. But this is Deadpool; we weren’t expecting anything less from a man who’ll dismember himself while he’s drunk.

And woven through the mayhem, you’ll actually find a little bit of a love story; just enough to make you root for him anyway.

But best of all, it is very very funny; laugh-out-loud funny in fact. This film has been hyped for months and I’m glad that I wasn’t disappointed. I bought another ticket on my way out, so I’ve got no choice but to give it ten out of ten.