Just want to take this opportunity to say hi to all the students who now have access to this blog. This blog has been running a little while but don't worry, there is an archive of all past postings just on the right here. Please feel free to leave any thoughts or suggestions by clicking on the 'comments' link which you'll find below each posting, or email me direct if you prefer (there's more info about me at the bottom of this page). I look forward to hearing from you soon! Manjeet Dhillon

Make Mine Mumbai!

Some time ago, I mentioned that I had been graced by a colleague with some Indian comic books and promised a follow-up post. This, then, is that post, since I finally got around to looking at them at length.

These book are published by India Book House under the Amar Chitra Katha imprint, which is dedicated to depicting "the glorious heritage of India." From what I can gather from the books themselves and the company's website, they are the Indian equivalent of Classics Illustrated - and I don't mean that in a very good way.

The books tell stories from Indian legends, mythology, religion, and folklore. Genesha is the origin story of the elephant-headed god (quite literally, "who he is and how he came to be!"); Draupadi tells the complicated tale of a magical girl with five husbands who gets drawn into internecine rivalry/warfare between cousins; Prithviraj Chauhan is the martial tale of a legendary king and warrior (kind of Arthurian, but not really); and Raman of Tenali is a trickster figure from folk-lore who is based on a historical figure, a court jester.

Unfortunately, even given this exciting source material, the comics are pretty flat from both artistic and narrative perspectives.

One thing that was surprising about the art is that I could not discern a dominant house style: two of the books seem to be influenced by Hal Foster via Curt Swan, the Prithviraj tale is done in a very dark, sketchy style, and the Raman story is very cartoony and reminds me of European humor strips. Regardless of the style, none of the artwork is terribly dynamic.

It's not just the draftsmanship that is the issue: the storytelling is stilted and slow. Most of the panels are what Scott McCloud would call duo-specific; that is, the words and pictures send roughly the same message. One of the primary effects of this particular relationship between words and pictures in a comic is to add a sense of the old-fashioned to the storytelling, and that might have been the intent in these books; however, when over- or badly-used, it can lead to plain redundancy, and that seems to be more the case here.

This page from the Prithviraj story is a prime example of this. Instead of the captions and pictures working together to build a complete narrative and move it forward, there's a lot of repetition. Even this action sequence from Ganesha suffers from the same drawback:

Unfortunately, the strong instructional motivation of the books seems to overshadow the storytelling itself; it may be a case of the overwhelming respect for the material getting in the way of the narrative. Or, it may be that the the production system employed by ACK is just a little bit too constricting, as this panel from a behind-the-scenes feature on their website indicates:

(Click through for the full feature)

Or it may simply be that anything that's supposed to be good for us is never any fun, and these books are certainly supposed to be good for us, as this inside-back-cover ad tells us:

Still and all, I have to applaud the motivation behind the series; maintaining a cultural heritage and trying to make it accessible to new generations can only be considered a good thing. There were some nice moments in each of the books, and actually the Raman tale is pretty funny in parts. And while the books are very chaste (just like Bollywood movies), there are some scenes that would fit right in with the current level of violence in the spandex set:

Rolling Head of the Son of Parvarti, anyone? (with apologies to Scipio)

Friday night fights

To further honor Bully and his animal theme for this week's fights, here is the Phantom putting the hurt on some sharks - in Russian!

Late ta da posse

Congtraulations on your bi(son)ennial celebration!

Happy Bank Holiday...

Current Issues in Tourism - new issue

And another one before I finish for the Bank Holiday (I know how much you must like reading online articles on your days off (o:); here are the contents, it's a special edition on Pro-Poor Tourism:

JOHLSTE online - new issue

The latest edition of the Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education is now available for access online - all articles are free to download. Contents include:

Winners & Losers...

No, I’m not talking about the match last night… a cause of ruffled feathers in some and delight in others, the latest edition of Lonely Planet Great Britain, as always, does not shy away from controversy.

Amongst its claims are that the North-South divide is a myth; Britons are described as "uninhibited, tolerant, exhibitionist, passionate, aggressive, sentimental, hospitable and friendly"; and the UK is on a par with Italy for its "magnificent cities", the guide says; it says that dynamic development has transformed the north of England dispelling the "grim up north" myth. In fact, they go so far as to say that Britain is on a par with Italy for "magnificent cities", for example:

Edinburgh is praised as "one of the most loveable cities on the planet"
Leeds is described as the "Knightsbridge of the north"
Manchester is hailed as "one of Britain's most exciting and interesting cities".
Liverpool, it adds, has thrown off its reputation as a city "full of smart-arse scallies who would as soon nick your car as tell you a joke".

By contrast, Worcester is said to be "smothered by modern architectural blunders and possessed of a rather soulless centre".

‘But what does it say about old Brum?’, I hear you cry – “Once a drab, grimy urban basket case... has spectacularly reinvented itself as a vibrant, cultural hot spot.”

Winging its way to the Library as we speak…

TOURISMOS Journal - new issue

TOURISMOS is a peer-reviewed journal which aims to promote and enhance research within travel, tourism, leisure and hospitality. Includes articles, case studies, conference reports, research notes and book reviews. Current contents include:

* City competition and urban marketing: The case of tourism industry in Athens
* Sustainable tourism: The environmental impact of 'undetected'tourism
* Mission impossible? Motivating hospitality managers in Cyprus
* An econometric model of tourism demand in France

All articles are free to downloaded in fulltext online(download link at the top of the page); past issues included.

*** Champions League Final ***

The Apprentice will be repeated next Tuesday – this is the one to watch tonight…
AC Milan v Liverpool
AC Milan have played in 13 European finals, winning eight and losing five. In the Champions Cup/Champions League, they have played in 10 previous finals, winning six and losing four whereas Liverpool have played in 10 European finals, winning eight and losing two. In the Champions Cup/Champions League, the Merseysiders have only lost once in six finals.
AC Milan and Liverpool's only previous meeting in European competition was the epic Champions League final of 2005, which ended in a 3-3 draw. The English club had an amazing win, from a 3-0 half-time deficit, with an eventual 3-2 on penalties.

Best of luck to both teams!

Kick-off: 1945 BST
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Athens
Watch: ITV1 and Sky Sports One
Listen: BBC Radio Five Live

And Final-ly....

Budgets have been exceeded, deadlines have been missed, workers have gone on strike and the relationship between Multiplex and Wembley National Stadium Ltd, the FA subsidiary that owns the stadium, has been troubled (to put it mildly). The first professional football match since 2000 took place on Saturday at the new £757m Stadium but the controversy didn’t stop there; fans of both Chelsea and Manchester United were advised by their peers to boycott food, merchandise and programmes inside Wembley on Saturday – why? An official match programme was priced at £10, a burger £5 and a pint £4.50. Nevertheless, here are the facts…
• The new Wembley has a circumference of 1 km.
• At peak construction there were 2,000+ people working on site.
• The new pitch will be 4 metres lower than the previous pitch.
• Each of the 2 giant screens is the size of 600 domestic television sets.
• The 1,750 tonne Arch will be 133m at its highest point and 7 metres in diameter;look at it another way, the London Eye could be rolled underneath the Arch.
• The new roof is over 11 acres, 4 acres are moveable. The roof alone will weigh almost 7,000 tonnes.
• With 90,000 seats it is the largest football stadium in the world with every seat under cover. There will be no obstructed views.
• There is more leg room in every seat than there was in the Royal Box of the old.
• There will be 2,618 toilets - which WNSL estimate is more than any other stadium in the world.
For events at Wembley, click here...

Saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock...

A dip into the Last Shortbox this week for a look at an unusual hero, Retief of the CDT:

Keith Laumer's Retief, #1 - 3: Mad Dog Graphics,
April 1987 - August 1987
Adapted by Dennis Fujitake and Jan Strnad

When I was young, I devoured the Retief books and stories by Keith Laumer. For those not familiar with this source material, they chronicle the escapades of minor foreign officer in the futuristic Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne as he attempts to keep the peace despite the best efforts of his hidebound and petty fellow diplomats. Thoroughly suffused with early-sixties impatience with with The Organization, and informed by Laumer's own diplomatic experience, the stories showed how one man in a gray flannel spacesuit has to use his own initiative and bend - heck, break - the regulations to achieve his objectives.

I ate it up.

Don't get me wrong: the stories don't have any kind of counter-culture vibe to them; Retief is a loyal career diplomat. He just doesn't have any patience with form over substance or rules before results.

The comic books capture this sensibility just perfectly. Retief struggles not merely against the usually boneheaded, often selfish, and sometimes evil machinations of the various parties with whom he interacts, but also with his CDT superiors, whose by-the-book plans are at best useless and and worst counter-productive. In order to save lives, prevent war, and maintain peaceful interspecies relations, Retief must use wit, guile, and cunning, all of which he has in abundance.

Which is not to say that Retief isn't above the shrewd application of a little personal violence from time to time. Whether it be in ritual combat

or more in action hero style,

Retief can handle himself pretty well, thank you. But more often than not, he spends his time snooping around and asking questions,

figuring stuff out, outsmarting his opponents, and hoisting them by their own petards.

And in the end, Retief wins not just by beating someone up or stopping a plot, but by actually doing what foreign officers are supposed to do:

Each of the three issues I have is a done-in-one, but there's enough plot, action, and dialogue in thirty-one pages for them to be called graphic novels (well, at least novellas). This books are just dandy, every bit as good in their way as the original paperbacks I read, with the added benefit of Fujitake's exquisite linework. His draftsmanship is magnificent, and his retro-tomorrowland art design for the series is perfect.

If you ever have a chance to pick any of these up, do so.


According to the GCD, there were a total of six issues of the title put out by Mad Dog, plus another one-off called 'Retief of the CDT.' Amazon lists a 1990 paperback, but I haven't found exactly what is collected in it.

Doesn't that recording device Retief has up there look just like an iPod Nano?

And I so want a jacket like the one he's wearing in the two-panel clip.

(The title of this post is Will Rogers's definition of diplomacy.)

Eden Project has The Edge...

The Eden Project in Cornwall is planning a £67m climate change-based attraction.
The new building – The Edge – will look at how people have coped with social transformations in the past and how people and plants are living with climate change now, as Tim Smit, Eden Project CEO, sums up, “..what does living within limits mean; and what can we learn from looking at a past that has shaped us to become the most adaptive species.” It will exhibit possible solutions and look at what needs to be done in the future to respond to the challenge.

The plans will now be submitted for the Big Lottery’s £50 Living Landmarks award before going to a public vote if shortlisted – please keep an eye on the website or the press for details of how to support them.

Belgian treat

No, it's neither chocolate nor beer. A buddy of mine went over to Brussels for a week with his sweetie, and brought something back for me that I had never seen before:

Luhca Libre #1, Les Humanoides Associes SAS

Lucha Libre is a French-language comic set in East L.A. It stars (or at least this premiere issued starred) The Luchadores Five: El Gladiator (a self-proclaimed reincarnation of an Aztec mummy) Dr. Pantera (the short, fat one), Diablo Loco (a big, cigar-chomping guy), Red Demon (who wears a suit and chain-smokes cigarettes), and King Karateca (who appears to be a martial-arts type dude). For those not dialed in to the genre, lucha libre is Mexican freestyle wrestling, and luchadores are masked wrestlers whose personae in real life traditionally blur the lines between athletes, celebrities, actors, and superheroes. This quintet doesn't seem to command as much respect as El Santo or Mil Mascaras, however; they hang out in run-down apartments, drive beater cars, and seemed to be mocked by a lot of the background characters, such as winos. There adventures seem every bit as wacky, though.

It was hard for me to follow the details of the story, since I have little French, but the group appears to be on some trivial mission involving Dr. Pantera's car when they cross paths with a gang of motorcycle-riding werewolves. Negotiations break down and El Gladiator, who seems to be the leader, throws down with the lycanthropes:

Although the boys seem to be winning, the fight is cut off before a conclusive finish by a shotgun-wielding local in a John Deere cap, who essentially tells everyone to get off his lawn, and the combatants retire from the field of battle.

As the luchadores regroup, we join up with two aliens who are stuck in traffic on the I-5 at the Pasadena Freeway; they either release or merely observe - I couldn't tell for sure - a dinosaur, which we see walking in traffic.

The luchadores meet up with and - I think - join forces with Les Formidables, a group of French ninjas, on a mission related to the aliens, but not after the obligatory fight scene:

Meanwhile, the aliens have been abducted by tiki-warriors,

and the dinosaur is getting the worst of an encounter with some street kids:

The story seems to be continued; it ends with the reveal that the leader of the tiki-warriors is an Elvis impersonator.

Y'know, I said I had little French, but I'm not so sure how much sense this would all make if I was Charles De-fracking-Gaulle. It doesn't matter, though; the pictures are cool, the action is sweet, and there's a frenetic energy to the whole thing that is infectious and appealing.

The book rounds out with some text pieces (heh, big help) and a few shorts, including a couple with Profesor Furia (another, humorous (?) luchadore) and some meet-the-characters bits (El Gladiator and I are the same height: 1 m 68 et demi), as well as a tease for the next issues, promising Tequila, a hulking luchadore with a horned mask, and El Panda, who appears to be a Chinese Communist luchadore.

I had a devil of a time tracking down any English-language info about this series on the internets. Here's the page from the publishers site in French; and these guys apparently make figurines of the characters (in English).

My buddy's sweetie is still in Brussels for a while; maybe I can get her to bring back the next issues.

Want to know the latest?

Trendwatching.com is an independent company, with a network of 8,000+ trendspotters in more than 70 countries worldwide looking out for changing consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas.
Most of their findings are published in the free online Trend Briefing which you can have dished into your inbox, red-hot and sizzling every month. Here's a peek at the latest one...

Dates for your Diary...

ISPAL (merger of ILAM and NASD) holds various events and courses throughout the year, here are just a few:
15 May 2007
Inspecting Children's Playgrounds

15 May 2007
Event Risk Assessment

23 May 2007
Performance Management for Parks and Open Spaces

27 - 30 May 2007
VMA Congress & Showcase
Royal Pines Resort, Queensland, Australia

9 - 10 Jun 2007
Grass Roots Football Show 2007
Coventry, UK

19 - 20 June 2007
ISPAL National Sports Development Seminar
East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham

For a full list, click here

ABTA Magazine - May 2007

Amongst contents which take a look at France, Thailand, Queensland, Turkey, the Indian Ocean, Cape Verde and Copenhagen as well as news stories, market analysis and research, BCFTCS gets a special mention on page 17, as one of "five education and training partners" who "are the best in their varying fields" (but we knew that didn't we?) and "cover all aspects of the travel industry, ranging from customer service to selling skills, ticketing systems and even crisis management." Print copies of the mag are kept in the journals area in the library.

Trade winds

So, I was in the LCS a few days ago (not on Free Comic Book Day, darn it - I had commitments for all of Saturday!) and I picked up a couple of trade paperbacks. Overall, I wound up pleased; here's a response to just one of my purchases.

Shadowpact: The Pentacle Plot

Pal Bully would say "This comic is fun!" I had originally picked up Shadowpact #1 as a floppy; I thought it was okay, but didn't think I wanted to buy it every month. I happened to lay eyes on this trade; it was only fifteen bucks for seven issues collected (why is #4 missing?) with a cover gallery and no ads, so I took a flyer on it. And it was worth it.

S:TPP is no graphic novel. The narrative arc doesn't have the cohesion for this to be considered more than a collection of related stories; the last episode in particular strays far from the unifying theme and there is a teaser at the end of the penultimate chapter that never gets its proper reveal. These quibbles aside, there's some rollicking good adventure in here: Bill Willingham can put a story together competently, that's for sure. There's a lot of humor, and the gore-quotient was well within my range. Even though I don't know much about the current incarnations of these characters, I felt I had a good sense of their personalities, and the team feeling certainly came across well.

The art was a bit uneven; the art team did not repeat once across the seven stories. Luckily, most of the styles were pretty complementary, so as pencillers and inkers changed, the transitions weren't too jarring. The only exception was Tom Derenick, whose pencils were too super-heroey, bordering on Liefieldish, for my tastes. (In every other issue, Jim Rook looks like a regular guy; in Derenick's, he was all buff matinée idol.)

So, if nothing else, my "wait-for-the-trade" policy was affirmed: the TPB felt substantial, and the price/enjoyment ratio was dead on.


Well, I did fall of the wagon and get a floppy: 52 # 52. I had been reading about the return of the multiverse on the blogs, and I wanted to see it for myself. So, what did I see? A big ol' mutated Mr. Mind slurps up reality, creating parallel worlds. Hokay, whatever.

Earth-17: Atomic Knights, yay! Giant dalmatians replaced by big spotted scary pointy beasts, boo!

Earth-3: Gets a Martian Manhunter! And the fast guy gets a belly-shirt! Um, yeah.

Earth-10: Old school Freedom Fighters! And Phantom Girl's breasts look human!

Earth-50: Is this Wildstorm or something?

Earth-5: Cheese! (Big and red!)

Earth-22: Ooh, grim.

Earth-2: That doesn't look like the JSA I know. Am I missing something important, or is this going to be an alternate JSA, and the JSAers are going to stay in the "main" universe as well? (And is that an alternate-reality spelling of "innocence" or does the Gotham Gazette not have proofreaders?)

Earth-4: Old school Charlton! Cool!

So, maybe there's room for some fun in there. But I'll still be waiting for the trades, I think.

PS: I did think the scene with Ted Kord was pretty touching, and deftly handled.

Friday Night Fights

It's all this guy's fault.

Spa and Wellness Tourism - ATLAS Meeting

25 - 28 June 2007, Budapest, Hungary
The focus of this first Spa and Wellness Special Interest Group meeting will be to examine the changing nature of wellness tourism from its origins to contemporary developments. It will discuss the diverse range of definitions, products, services, destinations and tourist motivations as well as future directions for research. Interested in submitting an abstract? To be in by 17 May 2007, so be quick! More...

Reconciliation through Football - A Panel Discussion

Time: 5.30pm for a 6pm start, until 8pm
When: Tuesday 19th June 2007
Where: Main Lecture Theatre, Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, University of London
Panel members will include Brendon Batson, David Conn, David Davies, Jack Jacobs and Professor John Sugden
Drinks will be served afterwards. To reserve your place, please contact Dr Simon Chadwick, Birkbeck Sport Business Centre, email: s.chadwick@bbk.ac.uk

Bill Bryson - king of the countryside

Bestselling US author Bill Bryson has been appointed head of a leading rural campaigning group,the CPRE. The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it believes his presidency will raise the profile of the organisation's cause. He spoke of the increase in litter blighting beauty spots such as the New Forest, and electricity pylons on the Christchurch water meadows. "I'm trying to find like-minded people and raise publicity about it. There's so much indifference," he said.

Bryson became a household name with his book Notes from a Small Island, which highlighted his love of Britain.

More on Bill...

Tourism Academics & Industry : An Evening of Discussion

"There is concern within education as to whether, in the case of Travel & Tourism, it is discharging its responsibilities effectively. The need for dialogue between teachers and the industry has probably never been higher." Phil Keeley, New College Swindon.

Taking place: Thursday 24th May 2007, Mezzanine 7, 80 The Strand, London
Programme/Booking info here...