New York Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Breaking News of the Day: New York Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Execution of the 20th Century - Hanging an Elephant


WARNING: This story is horrible.

We apologize. Enjoy this puppy in a hat.

In 1916, Sparks World Famous Shows was struggling to compete against larger circuses, including Barnum & Bailey, and needed something to put them above the rest. While the other circuses had events everyone loved, such as the guy who gets launched out of the cannon and the freak show, Sparks could only compete with some painted dogs, a few terrifying clowns and a few other exhibits that kids yawned at. Oh, and elephants. Elephants are pretty important in this.


Out of all the elephants Sparks had, Mary was the biggest draw. They claimed she was the biggest elephant on Earth, and was worth over $20,000. On September 11, the circus was in Virginia, and Sparks decided to hire a new elephant trainer. After reviewing the only candidate who showed up, they hired Red Eldridge, a hobo whose last job was as a janitor. After a successful day of training, the circus moved on into Kingsport, Tenn. There, they set up for a circus. But there was one problem: Eldridge was annoyed at Mary and hooked her ear to get her to move. Mary killed the new "trainer" by throwing him against a drink stand and crushing his head, thus proving hooks are no match for a five-ton, slightly pissed off elephant.


That, of course, was not the publicity stunt. That was real.

As she had killed someone, the elephant was actually put on trial (that also was real -- remember, this is 1916 Tennessee). After being sentenced to death by what we imagine to be the most amusing jury deliberation ever, she was shot. Again. And again. After a dozen or so bullets, she didn't even appear to be hurt. So the town devised some new ways, but deemed electrocution and crushing her between two railroad cars to be too cruel (as compare to, say, repeatedly shooting her in the face).

Then they found an "uncruel" way: hanging her with a giant crane.

Above: A humane, dignified way to die.

Here's where the publicity stunt comes in.

Sparks was upset at losing his $20,000 elephant but decided to make the best of the situation by promoting the hanging and turning it into a one-time publicity stunt for the faltering circus. On her day of execution, over 2,500 people showed up in Erwin, Tenn. and watched an elephant get hanged. More than once. The chain broke a few times, causing the elephant -- still alive, mind you -- to fall and break her hip and toes before they found a chain to hold her weight. Hey, what a way to say the circus is in town!

Sweet dreams, kids!

The stunt worked, as right after the hanging, people went directly into the circus. Today, the city of Erwin is so ashamed of the stunt that they plaster the hanging scene on everything from T-shirts to murals on town buildings.

Blue Ridge County
You stay classy, Erwin, Tenn.

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The Legacy of Ultimate Spiderman

 We reflect on the accomplishments of Marvel's original Ultimate book.

Assuming you've read USA Today or been anywhere on the Internet this week, you've probably heard that Spider-Man is dead. Ultimate Spider-Man, that is. That should come as no great surprise, seeing as how the title of the story was "The Death of Spider-Man." But expected or not, it's still a significant development for the first and longest-running Ultimate book on the stands.

As we wait to see what will become of Peter Parker's surviving friends and family and who will don the costume in the next volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, we're also looking back on the legacy of this great franchise. In this feature, we examine what made Ultimate Spider-Man so special and what Marvel's Ultimate writers need to focus on as they chart the next chapter of Spider-Man's career.

Note - we've avoided spoiling the details of issue #160, but this article contains general spoilers for the "The Death of Spider-Man" event.

Revitalizing the Market

Ultimate Spider-Man was a book the comic industry desperately needed in 2000. Marvel was still regrouping from a brush with bankruptcy. Readers had fled in droves during the market crash of the '90s. Those who attempted to get back in the game found too many mainstream superhero books to be convoluted and inapproachable.

Ultimate Spider-Man was conceived as a way to counter the notion that comics couldn't appeal to new readers who weren't up to date on 40 years of continuity. The series offered a brand new version of the Marvel Universe – one that was streamlined and updated to reflect contemporary society. The Ultimate Universe was a slightly more grounded place, one step closer to reality and where the sillier aspects of the Marvel Universe were toned down. More importantly, it marked a fresh start for new and old readers alike.

The importance of having an accessible, continuity-light universe has lessened over the years as Marvel's writers have worked to make all books more approachable. Still, readers owe a debt of gratitude to USM as one of the primary books that started the trend.

A Younger Peter Parker

It's hard to point to any Ultimate characters as being superior to their classic counterparts. There are just too many decades of classic Marvel stories compared to the ten years the Ultimate Universe has been around. But the best Ultimate characters are the ones that offer a different reading experience, and Ultimate Peter Parker set the standard.

Peter Parker was brought back to his roots in USM. He was once again a high school student struggling to juggle the pressures of his academic, work, social, and superhero lives. Rather than being married to Mary Jane, he was left free to enjoy the trials and tribulations of teenage romance. This version of Spider-Man was prone to make mistakes, leading a more dangerous and unpredictable lifestyle that nearly resulted in his death several times before the series finale.

Even his villains and allies were streamlined and updated alongside Spider-Man. Men like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus became integral to Peter's origins. Aunt May was re-imagined from a frail and aging old woman into a hip, strong, confident mother figure. New additions rounded out Peter's supporting cast, including Kitty Pryde as a new love interest, Kong as a bully-turned-friend, and Iceman and Human Torch as new partners in crime-fighting.

It's interesting to note how the Brand New Day shift in the regular Spider-Man books attempted to introduce many of the qualities that were already standard in Ultimate Spider-Man. If not physically younger, regular Spidey once again lives a chaotic and freewheeling life. Clearly USM was on to something.

A Consistent Creative Team

It's always frustrating to see a particular book moving in a strong direction until a new creative team comes on board to shake things up again. Lengthy creative runs are all too rare these days. Ultimate Spider-Man is very much an exception to this rule. Writer Brian Michael Bendis introduced Ultimate Spider-Man #1 in 2000, and he wrapped up the series in 2011. Bendis has written every issue of the series and various spinoffs like Ultimate Six, Ultimate Doomsday, and Ultimate Origins.

There's something to be said for that level of consistency. Where other Ultimate books have varied in quality over the past decade, USM has remained dependable. Bendis is frequently able to seed plot points in his stories that don't fully pay off for years. Even after 160 issues, Bendis has barely scratched the surface of some characters.

USM has also been able to boast an unusual degree of visual consistency. Mark Bagley was the sole artist on the series for the first 110 issues, eventually allowing him and Bendis to break the record set by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four. Even after Bagley's departure, the series was host to a small group of artists including Stuart Immonen, David Lafuente, and Sara Pichelli. And even as Marvel prepares to launch a new volume of the series in September, Bendis and Pichelli remain on board to keep things consistent.

USM in Other Media

If Ultimate Spider-Man succeeded in drawing in new readers, the series has also managed to expand into other media and win over Spidey fans. Activision released a USM video game in 2005 that aimed to tell a new story within the confines of the Ultimate Universe. While the game is no longer considered canon, it was an impressive attempt to unite the two media. Activision later revisited Ultimate Spidey as one of the four main characters in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.

The series has also exerted a clear influence on Marvel's animated television projects. Spectacular Spider-Man adopted the book's approach of presenting a younger, streamlined Spider-Man universe while also drawing in some more traditional elements. Now Marvel is currently developing a new cartoon called Ultimate Spider-Man. Based on early promo art and the fact that Bendis is involved in development, it's safe to assume this new series will borrow even more from the comic.

Even the live-action films are looking to USM for inspiration. Next year's Amazing Spider-Man will reboot the franchise and feature a younger Peter Parker. USM was a young, unproven series when Sam Raimi was filming the first Spider-Man. 160 issues later, the book offers a wealth of source material for the new filmmakers to draw from.

Looking Forward

Ultimate Peter Parker is dead. If the title "Thee Death of Spider-Man" didn't make that obvious six months ago, issue #160 sealed the deal. Though Peter made his final great sacrifice, Spider-Man will live on as Marvel launches a new volume of the series this fall.

It's an interesting move to continue the story of Spider-Man without Peter Parker. But it also continues the tradition of shifting focus away from the most iconic Marvel heroes in the Ultimate Universe. In the mini-series Ultimatum, everyone from Wolverine to Daredevil to Magneto to Doctor Doom was killed. Now Spider-Man is just the latest casualty. The challenge has been and continues to be establishing the Ultimate line as something with enough originality and accessibility to stand apart from Marvel's regular universe.

There's no telling who will be wearing the costume this fall. Will it be an entirely new character? Is the preview cover a red herring and the new hero is actually Spider-Woman? Will Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane make use of their latent genetic upgrades? Is Peter Parker not quite as dead as he looks?

Whatever the case, Bendis and the other Ultimate writers will need to ensure that the new Spider-Man retains the same core appeal of the old. Spider-Man needs to be a noble hero, yet still as conflicted and prone to mistakes as any teenage hero would be. Spider-Man needs to be a character who relies on brains as well as brawn in every battle. And most importantly, Spider-Man needs to be a hero who understands that with great power must always come great responsibility. Some things should never change.

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5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better

In the last year you've probably heard "It gets better" used as a motto to encourage gay teens who've been the victims of bullying. This is not a rebuttal of that, because I am not an asshole. What I do want to do is expand that message to everyone that age, whether you have a bully problem or not.

I figure it's time, as I tend to write about dark and often brutally depressing subjects, like how I was a smoldering drunk for over half of my life and how much my parents sucked at being parents. But I do it for a reason. I figure there are a lot of people in the same situation who feel like they're alone. That's always the worst part about having a shitty life in your teens or 20s, feeling like everyone else in the world has it figured out but you.

So, as a man with a truly shitty past, let me say that it's not just a slogan. It does get better. Specifically ...
#5. The Money Situation Will Improve (Even if it Doesn't)

I'm not saying you'll be rich when you grow up. I'm saying it's really not about money. It's about freedom.
My girlfriend and I recently broke into the middle class after years of living one paycheck away from homelessness. And when I say "years" I mean all the years from age 15 to age 36. It was never easy, and often was the emotional equivalent of being on the receiving end of a never-ending gang fuck by a herd of Flavor Flavs.
Above, a stray one scouts the wild for its next victim.

But even at the lowest point of that bottomless pit of gold-plated testicles and giant clock necklaces, I wouldn't have traded it for a chance to be 15-years-old again. Why? Because at this stage of your life, you finally have some control over the situation. And when we talk about things getting better, this is at the heart of it.

As a kid, you just have to sit back and take it, not fully understanding why you're living the way you are. You're dependent on your parents' decisions and actions, whether they lead to bankruptcy or a new swimming pool. A lot of that pressure you're feeling in your teens and 20s is really just powerlessness. You feel like instead of driving the car, you're tied up in the trunk.

When you get out on your own, your financial future is yours, and you can steer that bastard where you want it to go. It's not easy, but even when it's hard there is something liberating about the fact that even if you crash our proverbial car through the front window of a liquor store, it was your decision.

And let's be honest, sometimes the liquor store deserves it.

And just to make sure you didn't skip over the "it's not easy" part: If you think "it gets better" means you can sit back and wait for a naked genie to fart cash into your living room, it will not. "It gets better" doesn't mean life lets up, it means you no longer have to submit to it. Not like when you're a kid, when your parents can divorce without your consent or make you change schools or make you get a stupid haircut. When you're an adult, you can get pissed and swing back.

Please, don't wait as long as I did to learn that lesson. My entire adolescent life was spent in poverty because my parents gave up and just accepted that life was a spiked enema, and they just had to bend over and take it. They made no effort to improve their situation, and so that's the lesson my siblings and I took with us when we got out on our own. "There is no escaping your financial fate."

I didn't push back until I was forced to. After 14 years of working an incredibly insufficient, shitty job, my back finally said, "Fuck this," and I was physically unable to do it anymore. I had nothing to go to. No backup plan. No savings. No family to turn to. And then I realized that I did in fact have skills that people would pay me to perform.


When I wasn't writing, I was putting in applications all over town. In the next town. In towns 30 minutes away. I applied to places online. When there was no gas in the truck, I walked to put in more applications. I swung harder. There are some days that I write for 16 straight hours, knowing that everything I just typed will be deleted and replaced with a completely different idea, or rejected outright. And that's OK because the success or failure is mine, not somebody else's. You can't put a price on that.

#4.You Will Find Someone

There's a human trait that can sometimes be incredibly beneficial to growth, while at the same time devastating to morale. And that's the desire to have something right fucking here, right goddamn now. If you point that urgency toward something like getting a better job or a promotion, it can be a powerful tool. That urgency is what made all human civilization possible.

It's not so hot when you're lonely and want a companion -- especially when you're young and watching all of your friends joining the boob buffet and you're still alone every weekend. I've seen over and over in my life, people (including myself) who sink into depression because they don't feel that they're ever going to find love. So they look, and look, and look. Depending on who you are, you'll try bars, grocery stores, libraries, online dating services, friends of your mother. Then you latch onto the very first person who pays you any attention, even if they're not right for you. Because, shit, what if nobody else ever comes along?
Sure, you'll do. Close enough.

Then months or years later, you find yourself lonely again, or worse: in a catastrophically bad relationship that you're afraid to leave. "It's better to be in this shitty hookup than to be alone," you'll tell yourself, knowing on some level that you're full of shit. Eventually you get to the point where you blame yourself. "I'm too fat. Nobody will ever love me." "I have this third arm growing out of my forehead. I have no chance." What is hard to realize from that state of mind is that it's the desperation itself that's screwing you. If you're trying too hard, people can smell that a mile away. That in itself is ass-repellant.

I'm not sure I've ever met someone who went their whole life without a "significant other." But I've met plenty of people whose dates took an abrupt halt when they let slip with, "God, before you came along, I was just close to putting a gun to my temple and- oh, the steak is finally here!"

You have to relax. It turns out some lessons taught by romantic comedies aren't full of shit: Concentrate on taking care of yourself first, because 90 percent of a relationship's success is a matter of maturing into the type of person other people want to be around.

Every rule, of course, has exceptions.

If you're young (in high school or college) you don't even know who you are yet. Those early, failed relationships, or lack of a relationship, do not doom your prospects for romance for the rest of your life. Hell, at this point it wouldn't even matter if you met the love of your life -- you haven't even fully become the person who will eventually have something to offer them. Getting down about success with romance at this point is like giving up on a team in the preseason. In your early 20s, your starting players haven't even come off the bench yet.

But this still applies later in life -- I got divorced after a 10 year marriage, and found myself right back in that same, desperate place, scared of being alone. I didn't find anyone until I decided to stop worrying about that and start worrying about making less of a mess of my life. It makes sense, looking back -- when you're in that desperation mode, you put up fronts, and try to be the person you think the guy or girl wants. And that may work for one night, but when you both settle down, that outer "first impression" shell disappears, and you turn into you. Suddenly, you're "not the person I knew when we first met." And they're right. Because the person they met wasn't you.

Wait, that British accent wasn't real?!

If you get more comfortable with yourself, you stop trying so hard, you get more relaxed and don't feel like you have to work so hard to hide your true self. You don't stop looking for someone, I don't mean that; you just stop hating yourself so hard for not finding them. I know it sounds like a Catch-22, but it's the lack of self-hatred that will make you attractive.

#3. High School is NOT the Best Years of Your Life

I'm not going to sugar coat this: Adults tell you that high school is the best time you'll ever have because they've forgotten what it was like. They just remember the part where they didn't have to worry about bills, and their hindsight becomes so focused and narrow that it couldn't see the period at the end of this sentence.

The truth is, for many if not most of us, high school is one of the most difficult times you'll ever live through. At that age, you're expected to act like an adult while gaining none of the benefits of adulthood. You are criticized for virtually everything you do by just about every adult in your social and family circle. You're expected to start holding up responsibilities, but under their rules.
"I see you've dressed stupid like I asked. Here's your dollar."

Everything I said above about how you need to be yourself and grow into a fully formed human being before your life can really start? Those teen years don't make it easy. If you look at porn, you have to hide it. If you hang out with friends that your parents don't approve of, you have to cover it up. When you go out, you have to be home by their set schedule. The house is decorated their way. You eat what they cook. You dress to their standards. You lose every argument because "You're only 16, you don't know what you're talking about yet."
"I don't care what they 'taught' you, the moon landing was faked."

And the entire time you're dealing with all of this stress, your body is fucking with you from the inside out, blasting you with hormones and chemicals that you've never experienced in your entire life until right now. You're sexually awkward because you don't have much, if any, experience. If you're not ready for sex, you're made to feel like an outcast, and you're instantly ostracized from certain social groups. It is terrifyingly hard. Some people don't make it through. You fucking will. Why?
Because fuck them, that's why.

In just a few years, you'll be on your own. Maybe you'll go to college or maybe you'll start work right away. Either way, you will, for the first time in your life, be the master of your own domain. You'll come home from a hard day's work and throw your pants on the floor because they're your pants. It's your floor. Your rules. And as you spend the rest of your pantsless day, relaxing on your self-made pantscarpet, there's not a goddamn thing anyone can do about it.

Why? Because...

#2. Until You're On Your Own, You Don't Know What Freedom Is

First of all, don't look at your parents boring lives and assume that being an adult means living according to their template. No, you don't have to ditch the video games and take up a "grown up" hobby like golf if you don't feel like it. See, once you're an adult, you get to decide.

Want to stay up until 4 a.m. on a Wednesday? Go for it. Want to eat straight whipped cream right out of the container? Have at it. Adulthood is being able to get into your car at 2 a.m. and just drive for no reason at all. It's growing past being dragged to Mom's church every Sunday and being able to decide for yourself what you want to believe. It's eating pie for supper. It's choosing your own friends and buying your own clothes. It's sitting three feet from the TV screen, just because you fucking can. It's watching a movie for no other reason than it has a lesbian sex scene with Natalie Portman.

The first month on my own looked exactly like this.

That's not to say that there are no repercussions for doing those things, but by God this is your life now, and you have the right to learn those lessons in any way you choose. You own those repercussions. They're yours, no one can take them from you.

For instance, almost everyone I've ever met -- and I've lived in six major cities in the United States -- complains that they "have to get out of this shitty town." I heard it in small-town Illinois, I heard it in Los Angeles, I heard it in Minneapolis. There are like two dozen hit rock songs from the 80s on that subject. Well, as an adult, you have every right and every opportunity to make that happen. You might fuck it up and wind up living in your car, but it was your doing. That freedom is the most powerful tool you'll ever own, and it's exactly what enables you to continue growing. And you will grow.

I reiterate, there are exceptions.

Yes, you'll have problems. But they'll be your problems. And besides, what would you do without them? The problems are what get you out of bed in the morning. They're what makes succeeding at things such a goddamned rush. You can't be a dragon slayer without dragons.

You can't be Stone Cold Steve Austin without a Vince McMahon to shave.

People talk about a "real world" after graduation, as if that's when the "real" stress starts. And in some ways, they're right. But nothing takes away from the feeling of being at the wheel, doing things on your own terms. Besides, there's something you should know about the "real world" ...

#1. The World isn't as Bad as You Think

When you're a kid, your parents shelter you from the worst of what's really going on in the world. As you get older, your worldview changes and expands. You start to think outside of your own town and social circle. You'll see a metric fuckload of bad news. Violence, government scandals, wars over seemingly petty bullshit. At some point (maybe later in high school but most seem to save it for the college years) you'll get cynical. "Why should I live in this world when it's so shitty?" Or later, "How can I bring a child into this living hell?"

We forget that what is happening now is the opposite of what your parents did. They sheltered you from bad news, but the news media shelters you from good news. They literally filter it out; among all of this horrible information coming out of the nightly news, there is so much good that goes unreported because it doesn't get the same ratings.

But as for the bad shit, there has to come a point where you realize the same thing I've touched on over and over again in this article: As an adult, you are now part of the world and you do have some power to change it. As a kid, you didn't have the power to change shit.

The reason you need to live in a world with all of this shitty news is because that world needs you to help fix it. The reason you can bring a child into this life is because when you pass on your morals and beliefs to them, that's one more soldier on the field to fight for the good side.

Plus, conceiving a child means that you get to do some dirty, filthy fucking.

Chances are you're not going to show up and disarm a bomb at the last second on a plane filled with a hundred innocent people. But you can absolutely donate some trivial amount of money to make sure some farmer in some oppressed country can get medicine to his family so that they can help him harvest the crops that will in turn feed entire villages.

Life gets better because you're going to make it better. Because you'll have the power and the freedom to make it better.

It's incredibly difficult for a teenager in the throes of angst or a college kid knee-deep in debt and stress to see any of that. Depression is like that. It shrinks your view of the world, it chokes off the horizon. You feel like you're being tea-bagged by life -- its hairy ass cheeks planted firmly over your eyes so you can't see anything else.

Just that.

Don't mistake those ass cheeks for the whole world. The world is actually out there, beyond that ass, and time and effort will make that clear. You have to survive it first though. I promise you, it gets better.


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