Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Factor the drawing board

X-Factor 1 - 3

To my surprise, I find I've been reading X-Factor.

Those who bought comics in the 1990s remember them as a long, shrill, anguished wail punctuated with staccato bursts of hysterical sobbing. At the beginning of the decade there was a huge boom in interest and comics prices, and there was an accompanying change in how Marvel viewed its product. Noticing that most comics readers were also comics collectors, it started putting out product solely with collection in mind. Crossovers! Events! Limited Edition Balsa Wood and Salami covers! You couldn't dam up the flood of this stuff.

Back then, as now, Marvel's premier product was the X-Men. It started as one comic, then New Mutants joined it. Then there was Wolverine. Excalibur. X-Force. X-Men. Generation X. X-Files (or was that something else? I think I need a fact checker). Marvel took the corporate decision to push out as much product as it could, without regard either to quality or its own long-term prospects.

Now we could argue about what the nadir of all this was - was it the splitting of the X-Men into their wretched gold and blue teams? The turgid Excalibur? The irritating, slurring, vapid Gambit? Or how about big-gunned, lumpen-headed Cable with his rough, tough, gruff, bluff attitude? Oh, it would be tempting to put Cable at the bottom of the bonfire.

Except that, for me, nothing summed up the futility of the times more than X-Factor. An initially poor concept (the original X-Men brought back together as pretend mutant hunters who are secretly helping their victims) degenerated into no concept at all. Staffed wholly by Z-List mutants desired by none of the main X-Men writers, it could have filled a niche, but no-one invented one. It just carried on, purposeless and flaccid, scripted (in the main) by people who would rather be elsewhere.

So why did I buy the damn thing? Because it took me a few years to realise I was being had. Because I was a collector as well as a reader. Because I loved all things mutant. Because I was an idiot.

Slowly but collectively, though, we did realise how bad comics had become, and we stopped buying. Comic sales collapsed, a lot of sharp marketing professionals lost their jobs, and Marvel eventually came round to realising that you can only piss in the well so many times before it becomes undrinkable. We like to whinge, but the quality of comics is now higher than it's ever been.

Now there are certain nineties revivals that you figure are never going to happen, like a Shed Seven comeback tour or putting John Major back in Downing Street, not because it's impossible to achieve, but because you can't see why anyone would want to bother. X-Factor is surely one of those. Normally, I would expect to skip past Marvel's new X-Factor without the vaguest desire even to browse it.

Except, and it's a big except, the new X-Factor is written by Peter David. David is in the position of being one of comics' best writers, but being perenially ignored by those in the editors chairs. His Captain Marvel was a work of pure genius, funny and sad and tragic and challenging and all those things you want from a comic book but rarely get. Obviously, it sold like a dog, but quality often doesn't sell. As far as I know, Peter David doesn't get work off DC at all. Last year Joe Quesada pointedly missed David off his list of Marvel's top writers. I don't understand why. Perhaps David has tourettes or bad breath or keeps called Quesada "fat boy"?

Anyway, I'll follow Peter David anywhere, even back to his revived X-Factor (he was one of the writers on the orignal series, though, typically, I managed to miss this, instead hunkering down for the Mackie years).

It's even got a concept this time - X-Factor is an investigations agency. If I find myself cringing at the absurd Strong Guy or that ridiculous Werewolf with the Brigadoon accent, there is still the magnificently stroppy Monet and the schizophrenic Jamie Maddox to enjoy. And behind it all, Peter David carries off his story with a firm touch, and drops in just enough foreshadowing to make me want to come back for more. It's too early to say if it's good, but it's definitely not bad.

I like X-Factor. Now there are words I thought I'd never write.

Monday, February 27, 2006

No Monday post this week

I'm currently having a close encounter with something an awful lot like the winter vomiting virus. Could someone send me a shiny plastic bowl, a half-gallon of kaolin and morphine and a new stomach?

And now back to bed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Good job my great-great-great grandfather was illegitimate

Now I can commit serious crimes, leave my DNA splashed all over the shop, and the fuzz'll be looking for someone with a totally different surname.

You'll never catch me, coppers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Three posts about Gumilyov part two

The tram that lost its way - Nikolay Gumilyov

There was a good post over at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages about two different types of poets: those who sing songs and those who like to experiment with language. It was great to hear someone say what I've been feeling for years: that he (and I may be paraphrasing slightly here) doesn't have a clue what the fuck the language experimenters are going on about. And they comprise the majority of modern poems.

In one of the comments, a reader (who I won't link to as it looks like I'm specifically getting at them, when I think this is actually a general problem) stresses the importance of metaphor while downplaying narrative: the poet deploys his equations, namely metaphors, to delineate a limited fictive apprehension of a metaphysical reality. Condensing, in my extremely humble opinion, why so many poems make no sense. Poets have gone off to a peculiar universe with a specialist vocabulary which does far more to alienate than enlighten the reader. It's not necessarily that they're wrong, just incomprehensible.

But to reject narrative? We've been telling stories since the days of eating stewed squirrel around campfires while picking lice out of each other's fur. I cannot accept it as old fashioned. You just have to use it in the right way.

The tram that lost its way is Gumilyov's best poem, one packed with metaphors and any amount of weirdness, yet bound within a narrative. Gumilyov is telling a story, and, no matter how strange things get, the reader knows where the narrator is in this strange road trip.

I was walking down an unfamiliar street
When suddenly I heard crows croaking
The sound of a lute, and distant thunder
In front of me a tram was flying

How I managed to jump on its footboard
Was a mystery to me
Even in broad daylight it left behind
A trail of fire in the air

It rushed on like a dark, winged storm
It lost its way in time's abyss
Stop, driver
Stop this tram right now

So Gumilyov has set up his premise: that he's flying off, Hogwarts style, in an enchanted tram. Those last two lines, by the way, sound much better in Russian, where they beg to be shouted.

Too late. We had already skirted a wall
We dashed through a palm-grove
Across the Neva, Nile and Seine
We clattered across three bridges

So far it's all been an enjoyable romp, but Gumilyov brings in some foreboding with his use of a living, yet dead man.

And, flashing past the window
An old beggar threw us a searching glance
It was, of course, the same one
Who died in Beirut last year

Since Gumilyov often travelled to Africa, was this beggar a real one? He now steps up the tension.

Where am I? Languid and troubled
My heart beats the reply:
Can you see that station where you can buy
A ticket to India of the Spirit?

And now we come to familiar territory: Gumilyov foreseeing his own death.

A sign...blood filled letters
Spelling "Greengrocer": here, I know
Instead of cabbages and swedes*
They sell corpses' heads

In a red shirt, with a face like an udder
The executioner chopped off my head too
It lay together with the others
Here in this slippery box, right at the bottom

Granted, he's not predicting death by bullet this time, but the red shirt and French Revolution-style mass beheading are clearly anticipating a death at the hands of revolutionaries.

And then we're back on the tram.

And in a side street, there's a wooden fence
A house with three windows and a grey lawn
Stop, driver
Stop this tram right now

We've now passed through nine of the fifteen verses, but it's only in the next verse that we get to understand what the poem is about.

Mashenka, it was here you lived and sang
And wove a carpet for me, your fiance
Where are your voice and your body now?
Could it be that you are dead?

That's the power of the narrative form. His lost love's appearance is a shock because we're not expecting it, and a vital part of storytelling is the element of surprise. The narrator now moves on to explain his loss, though we're left to ponder if Mashenka is actually dead.

How you moaned in your room
While I, my hair powdered
When to present myself to the Empress
And never saw you again

At this point, the narrator's world, with its empresses, powdered wigs and carpet-stitching fiancees, seems a long way from ours, and even a little comical. But Gumilyov was writing for his day, when these references would have seemed less strange.

Now the narrator steps out of the story to show what he has learned of the world.

Now I understand - our freedom
Is just a light that breaks through from another world
People and shadows stand by the entrance
To the planetary zoo

Gumilyov now takes the narrative back to its starting point in St Petersburg, with a horseman who could have come out of Lord of the Rings.

And suddenly a sweet, familiar wind blows
And beyond the bridge, flying towards me
Are a rider's hand in an iron glove
And two hooves of his horse

A faithful stronghold of Orthodoxy,
St Isaac's Dome is etched in the sky,
There I will hold a service for Mashenka's health
And a requiem for myself.

To finish it off, Gumilyov has four infinitely sad lines.

But still my heart is filled with gloom
It's difficult to breathe, and painful to live.
Mashenka, I never knew it was possible
To love and grieve so much

The last two lines show how deft Gumilyov could be. If the narrator was just telling us of his grief, it would fall into cliche. But he introduces a level of indirection, and instead talks of how he has learned about the terror of grief. It is a superb finish to a superb poem.

*Americans might want to read this as "rutabagas"

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Existentialist, apparently

You scored as Existentialist.

Existentialism emphasizes human capability. There is no greater power interfering with life and thus it is up to us to make things happen. Sometimes considered a negative and depressing world view, your optimism towards human accomplishment is immense. Mankind is condemned to be free and must accept the responsibility.

Cultural Creative

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

And I'd always thought of myself as a romantic idealist. Bugger.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Three posts about Gumilyov part one

The workman - Nikolay Gumilyov

Now if you want to make it big in the precognition game, the most impressive trick you can carry out is to correctly predict the manner of your own death. Even if you get it wrong, you have the consolation that no-one's going to be able to point it out to you, but get it right and you'll have created something a work which will have unease tap-tap-tapping down the spine of anyone who reads it.

Nikolay Gumilyov was part of the same generation of Russian poets as Esenin and Mayakovsky. A traveller and adventurer, his idiosyncratic and imaginative poetry, as it veers between the classical and the surreal, has one of the strengths I most admire in writers - the ability to switch moods. Nabokov, though, once said that Gumilyov was a poet for adolescents - and, let's face it, Nabokov was an expert on that subject.

The workman is a six verse poem which, though atmospheric and haunting, is mainly remarkable for its prescience.

He stands before the red-hot furnace
A small old man
The blinking of his reddish eyelids
Gives a submissive air to his calm eyes

Having briefly set the mood, Gumilyov snaps into first-person and gets straight to the point

All his comrades have gone to sleep
He alone is not sleeping
He is busy casting the bullet
Which will part me from the earth

While we're reeling from that, Gumilyov follows the workman a little longer.

He's finished, his eyes have brightened.
He's going home. The moon is shining.
At home, waiting in a large bed
Is his warm and sleepy wife

And for the rest of the poem, Gumilyov describes the consequences of the workman's actions

The bullet he has cast will whistle
Above the foamy white Dvina
The bullet he has cast will seek out my breast
It has come for me

I will fall in mortal agony
I shall see the past as it really was
And my blood will gush like a fountain
Onto the dry, dusty and trampled grass

And the Lord will requite me in full measure
For my brief and bitter life
This is what the small old man in the light grey shirt
Has done for me

In August 1921, the Petrograd Cheka (secret police) ordered the execution of 61 alleged monarchists, including Gumilyov, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Tsar and was a fervent anti-communist. The exact dates, means and locations of the executions are unknown, but I suppose it's a good guess that it would have been done by firing squad. I wonder if, in calling the workman's associates "comrades" (товарищи - tovarishchi), Gumilyov is also making a stab at the identity of his communist executors.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm a senseless filly

"That'll be Joyce," said my father, "to say that Albert's died." He was correct - it was his sister on the phone, and her husband had just died. That was the first time I ever paid much attention to my father's family's weird acquaintance with death. The earliest episode I know of was in the First World War, when my great uncle, back on leave from France, told my great-grandmother that she wouldn't see him again. And she didn't.

In 1998, my future wife and I drove around Greece looking at ancient sites, and we went up to Levadia to look at the springs of Trophonios, which I'd read about in Pausanius' Guide to Greece, an ancient travel guide. At Trophonios, visitors used to drink from the two springs Lethe and Mnemosyne (forgetfulness and memory), then get lowered into a hole where they would hallucinate furiously before being dragged out and made to write about their experiences on a wooden tablet.

The site, though set beautifully between mountains, is a concrete shambles, so you don't exactly get a feeling of reverence. Two thousand years of earthquakes have changed the landscape somewhat, but there are still springs there.

Now I'm a scientific rationalist, and while I'm fascinated by ancient Greece, I'm not about to start confusing their religious superstitions with fact, and what better way to prove this than to drink some of the spring water? I stuck my hand in, had a slurp, and thought nothing more about it. You can see where this is headed, right?

We were staying in a room right next to the Herkyna, the river which flows from the springs, and that night, freezing and deafened by the noise of the river, I experienced something somewhere between a dream and a hallucination. It was very clearly a premonition of the death of my father. I woke up devastated, and stayed upset for weeks.

Less than six months after we visited Trophonios my father was dead.

Now for me the only connection we can possibly make here is that I was worried about my father and had been reading too much Pausanius. They combined in an unpleasant dream and my father's death was just a coincidence. If those waters had anything in them then presumably the whole of Levadia would be having regular hallucinations and druggies would be heading there en masse in an attempt to get permanently tripping. The odd series of family events is just a statistical quirk. If you live long enough, you'll see some weirdness you don't understand just because so many things happen to us. Like I said, I'm a scientific rationalist.

And then recently I had a similarly nasty dream about the death of another family member, and I'm getting damned sick of my subconscious playing these tricks on me. So all in all, when dealing with people like me who think we're having premonitions, I think it's best to use Kevin O'Brien's unique combination of hostility and condescension:

Marianne Rodgers: fellow senseless filly

I'm a senseless filly, and that's the end of it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why I've never been cool

I genuinely liked all these songs. And probably still would I heard them again.

Hello this is Joanie (The Telephone Answering Machine Song) - Paul Evans

Difficult to believe nowadays, what with our sat-nav trainers, microweave i-pods and web-enabled ironing boards, but back in 1979 answering machines had a glamorous, hi-tech, American sheen about them. Only Jim Rockford had one. And then Paul Evans released this touching, tragic story with an answering machine message in every chorus. The narrator has an argument with his girlfriend, she stomps off and gets wiped out in a traffic accident. The only way to hear her voice one more time is...I can't bring myself to say it.

I never should have let her drive alone angry from my place
I'd never hold her again and kiss that funny face

Car 67 - Driver 67

Curiously, this was in the charts the same week as Hello this is Joanie. I suppose it was the detritus of earnest mid-seventies singer-songwriters being washed up on the shores of the music industry. This song featured a conversation between a taxi driver and his controller, a man who had the strongest Birmingham accent ever featured in a music recording (if we agree to forget the Electric Light Orchestra, which we probably should).

Anyway, Control wants the driver to pick up a young lady at 83 Royal Gardens, but the driver doesn't want to do it:

Control have mercy on me
I don't wanna do the pick-up, isn't anybody else free?
Stuck in a jam in a one-way street
Why don't you tell her she'd be quicker if she used her feet, yeah

Over several agonising verses, the truth is teased out.

The girl of my dreams left me all alone
And at number 83 is where she made her home

There's a solitary tear trickling down my nose as I write this.

You've got to be a hustler if you want to get on - Sue Wilkinson

This caused a minor public outcry - pretty much anything could cause a public outcry in 1980, mind - by informing young girls that they should have sex with all and sundry in an attempt to better themselves. Wiser heads might have counselled that Sue's simpering voice implied she wasn't being entirely serious, but no, the tabloids clambered on board.

Yes, you've got to be a hustler if you want to get on
Principles can only hold you back
The only women makin' it are women who are shakin' it
They're faking all their morals on the mat

These days, of course, we can see how dated this approach is. Now all you need to get your three and a half seconds of fame is behave like a likeable cretin on reality television for a few days and then sell your story to OK! magazine.

Blogshyness? Blogitation?

Is there a word to describe the phenomenon of repeatedly failing to post to your blog when you realise your entry was rubbish?

My problem is I'm just a shrinking bloglet.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Masterpieces with Crap Endings

If it's to be considered a classic, you might have thought that a book would need to have a quality ending. But it's not true. As long as you've still got the reader hooked two thirds of the way through, it doesn't matter if you haven't actually worked out how to tie the whole thing together.

Here are a few unquestioned masterpieces where the muse scarpered just as the author was starting to wrap things up.

William Shakespeare - Hamlet

I've never understood why there aren't fits of laughter during Act 5 Scene 2 of Hamlet. Shakespeare warms us up with what is surely drugs humour:

'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do.
Woot weep, woot fight, woot fast, woot tear thyself,
Woot drink up eisel, eat a crocodile?

Anyway, having brooded intensely for months, Hamlet is about to kick it off with evil King Claudius and his posse. The result is the expiration of most of the cast in a comedy Deathathon. Not only is there a poison dagger but also a poisoned cup being passed around between unwitting drinkers; a device rather cruelly lampooned by Danny Kaye as

The vessel with the pestle is the brew that is true
But the flagon with the dragon is the mug with the drug

Or something like that.

Inexplicably, King Claudius allows the wife that he loves to drink the poison.

QUEEN GERTRUDE: He's fat and scan of breath. Here, Hamlet, take my napkin. Rub thy brows. The Queen carouses to thy fortune.
HAMLET: Good madam.
KING CLAUDIUS: Gertrude, do not drink.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me
KING CLAUDIUS (aside): It is the poisoned cup; it is too late.

Now this sequence is obviously unlikely, so I propose a rewrite:

KING CLAUDIUS: Gertrude, do not drink.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: I will, my lord, I pray you...
KING CLAUDIUS: For fuck's sake, don't drink it. It's fucking poisoned.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Oh, all right then.

Homer - The Odyssey

After having wandered around the Mediterranean for ten years and inspiring every road movie ever made, Odysseus finds his palace overrun by suitors. They are then contemptuously dispatched by Odysseus and his son, Telemachus. You might have thought that was enough, and Homer could top it all off with a Tom Cruise style father-and-son bonding moment.

But no, the suitors had girlfriends who worked in the palace. Given Odysseus had been gone twenty years, most of these women would have been too young to even remember their old king, and so could be forgiven for consorting with his enemies. Perhaps a little lenience is in order?

Hell, no, let's massacre them. First, they are made to clear away their lovers' corpses - "groaning bitterly, weeping plentously". Then Telemachus suspends
a rope high enough so that no woman's feet could touch the ground. "So with their heads in a single line the women's necks were all caught and noosed, to make them die the most piteous death. For a little while their feet kept writhing, but not for long." Bloody charming, as my Dad used to say.

So it's "never let it be said that sluts like these had a clean death from me", is it, Homer? Shit-head.

TS Eliot - The Waste Land

Now regular readers will know that I adore this poem, but there's not much doubt that Stearnsy has run out of ideas by the time he gets to the end of the fifth section, when he starts breaking out into multiple languages, doubtlessly inspired by his pal Ezra Pound, the asking-for-a-smack proto-Fascist given to littering his poems with classical quotations rather as my dog Shep used to pepper Hethersett Recreation Ground.

By the final lines, Eliot is sounding like a gone-to-seed, Merlot-addled Cultural Studies lecturer recalling her days in Kathmandu with the Maharishi.

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih

If we're honest, this is just gibberish.

Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War

It may be a little cruel to blame Thucydides for the end of this book, as he appears to have keeled over while writing it.

Thucydides, an Athenian general, was blamed for letting Amphipolis fall to the Spartans, and spent the rest of his days in a villa in Thrace writing the first proper history book, and one which is still one of the greatest. His forensic account of the disastrous Sicilian campaign should be required reading for any democratic politician thinking of embarking on a morally-dubious foreign adventure.

By the time we get to the end of the History, a combination of Spartan arms, Persian gold and suicidal Athenian politics are bringing the war to its climax, but Thucydides is sadly not going to take us there. The final line is

He went first to Ephesus where he made a sacrifice to Artemis...

It seems that Thucydides died with pen in hand .

The good news is that there was a historian to follow Thucydides. The bad news is that it was Xenophon, a jumped-up Boys' Own Adventure writer who should have been slipped an injunction for writing the ridiculously biased and sloppy A History of my Times.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment

I'm not quite sure who to blame for the ending to this traumatic book. The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov wallops an asking-for-it pawnbroker and then spends hundreds of pages regretting it in the most unnerving fashion. It's enough to put you off over-running a parking meter, let alone murdering someone.

And right at the end, having been sent off to Siberian chokey, Raskolnikov gets unexpectedly redeemed by the love of a good woman. Aaaaaaaaarrrgggghh.

I wonder if maybe Dostoyevsky had to put in a happy ending in order to get such a blatantly unhappy book through the censor. If I'd have been the censor, though, I would have given him a slap and told him to come back with something suitably miserable.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Biting the hand

I want to bite the hand that feeds me
I want to bite that hand so badly

Elvis Costello - Radio Radio

In 1978, aged 12, I left my modern, enlightened Middle School and started at Secondary School, an austere 1930's throwback erected on the remains of a World War 2 USAF base. It emphasised traditional values, obedience and regimentation as vital milestones in the development of the child into a balanced, educated individual. For the independent-minded, this approach was as likely to nourish a love of learning as a half-ton of rock salt might enhance your Lobelia bed.

Stunned by this new regime, I plunged into misery and was soon playing traunt. At least I thought I was pretending to be sick, but in truth I was hovering on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and those days off were just about the only thing keeping me sane.

So there I was, physically healthy but stuck in bed and listening to Radio One all day. Radio One was and probably still is the home of the smuggest, thickest, most self-satisfied DJs in broadcasting, but they mercifully had little say in what records they played. And in the late seventies whoever planned the Radio One playlist had great taste.

Punk had just about breathed its last, but that was OK, because most of punk music was second-rate. Bands like Generation X or the Plasmatics or the Lurkers were migraine-inducing, chord-deficient mediocrities. But many of the bands which had sprung out of punk, like Blondie, the Police or the Jam, while universally acclaimed at the time as sell-outs, were vastly superior and entering their most productive phases.

Playing truant and spellbound by the hourly rotation of Elvis Costello's fantastic "Radio Radio", I was starting to notice things. I was fascinated by the line "I want to bite the hand that feeds me".

Obviously I was drawn to its surly rebellion, but I'd been hearing surly rebellion for the last two years without being particularly impressed. I'm not sure I understood why, but it was the clever construction that impressed me. My English teacher, who was one of the most humane teachers in my school (she's been to college with Jean Jacques Burnell of the Stranglers - how cool is that?), could have told me why it was clever. If I hadn't been actively avoid her lessons, that is.

What Costello was doing was inverting a cliche to make something new. When "bite the hand that feeds you" was coined it must have seemed new and exciting, but it had become hackneyed through overuse. By sticking that "I want to" on the front, Costello had made a phrase which I'd simply never heard before, turning a standard slur into a statement of discontent. And Costello's deliberate repetition of "I want to" in the next line emphasised the point, while the "so badly" widened it.

And then there was

Some of my friends sit around every evening
and they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
and the promise of an early bed

"Overwhelmed by indifference". How could that even be possible? And yet it worked, and condensed into three words a whole world of emotional conflict.

This was all novel and intelligent and entirely intoxicating. I wanted more, and I wanted to learn how it was done.

So in attempting to avoid an English lesson I had gingerly tiptoed through a backdoor into the delicious garden of poetry. Without wishing to denigrate Government attempts to eliminate childhood truancy, this was the most educational skive of my life.

Did this make me an lifelong Elvis Costello fan? Not really. He showed flashes of greatness but even then I realised Radio Radio had been written with airplay in mind. Obsessed with lyrics, I moved on to other bands before, almost inevitably, falling into the orbit of Bob Dylan.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I have a confession to make

I don't know how to drive.

There, I've said it. I can't drive.

What's worse, I can no longer rely on at-least-I'm-not-destroying-the-planet smugness to get me through any those tricky "what are you, some sort of freak?" social situations, as I've started taking lessons. Not only am I a bad driver, but now I'm a failed ecologist as well.

For the record, here is a complete list of the other things I probably should have tried but haven't.

1) Ice skating
2) Going to the opera
3) Smoking a cigarette
4) Taking illegal narcotics
5) Calling Tony Blair a lying arsewipe while fingering the "wanker" sign in his face

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Don't be evil

Just in case you thought Google's arselicking of the butchers of Tiananmen was as low as they could go, try googling "shoah film"*. The first of 654,000 results is a bilious piece of shit by a Holocaust denier (which I have no intention of linking to).

$1.26 billion = Google's revenue last year.
$50000 = Approximate cost of employing someone to check their search results aren't disgusting and offensive

*"Shoah", by the way, is a long and extremely distressing documentary about the Holocaust, directed by Claude Lanzmann.