Sunday, February 22, 2015

Holy Pondered Answer, Batman!

I was at a leadership meeting recently, and one of the warm up, getting to know you exercises was "Which superhero would you want to be?"  I was the first to answer this question and without hesitation I said "Batman".  Then I got the unexpected follow-up question:  Why?    I was thrown for a second then said that I liked the fact Batman used his mind versus some special power to defeat the bad guys.  That was partially true, but the question it else led me into taking a moment to consider if that was the real reason.  Was it the cape?  Was it the Batmobile? Was it the scowl? The Nelson Riddle theme song?

I grew up in what was consider the golden age of the TV superhero. Superheroes flooded the TV just as I got home from school and all morning every Saturday.  In addition to cartoons we had The Green Hornet with Bruce Lee as Kato; old Adventures of Superman reruns with George Reeves and of course the campy Batman with Adam West.   These shows were repetitive and did not delve into the back stories of the characters; and they were not serialized so each was a 20 minute episode was a stand-alone tale.  The other 10 minutes of the half hour was filled with commercials for cereal and things like Sixfinger -- " did you ever get by with just five?

The shows were very basic:  you had a superhero kicking villain’s butts, with known powers, and known personality traits.  The rest of the depth of the characters and story lay on the cutting room floor, to get the whole story you had to read the actual comic books.  

Batman was my favorite not due to the acting chops of Adam West or Burt Ward, but because of all of the Batgadgets.  I liked and wanted a Bat-a-rang, BatJetPack, Batcomputer, Batcycle, Bat and Batmobile.  The day after the show was on was spent reenacting the episode on the playground with imaginary words like Biff! and Zow! flying out of our choreographed light contact fights. I was young and no character build-up was necessary.  I liked it just the way it was and later when I started reaching "that age"  I was happy to watch Julie Newmar slink around as Catwoman, though I did like Eartha Kitt's purr better.  

Side note:  I do recall an epic battle that took place on the St Mary's School playground when two kids got into it over Thor being the son of God.  A Catholic school playground is not a good place to have comic book theological arguments.  In the end Father Schwartz intervened and settled it by explaining Norse Mythology and the comic book adaptation of Thor, Loki (who was never in the  cartoon) and Oden.  

As I grew I got a bit more sophisticated, I moved on to Secret Agent Man, I Spy,  and Mission: Impossible.  All those heroes had gadgets.  Really cool gadgets and in MI you even occasionally got to see a guy pull off his face during the final reveal.  I didn't stop liking Batman, I would love to have seen more Batman, but as it was I grew up and Batman didn't and he wasn't enough to hold my attention about then.  I could have moved to comic books for the narrative, but by the time I got access to money and a comic book store, I had moved on to Mad Magazine.

Along came the Michael Keaton - Batman, then the Val Kilmer - Batman, and finally the George Clooney - Batman.  Cool gadgets, cool villains, cool cars; but a little on the campy side.  None of them looked into the dark soul of Bruce Wayne that led to the creation of Batman; at that point in my life I needed the complexities of that story line to keep me a fan -- or at least a fan of the movies.   I read more in depth discussion of nipples on the suit than of the storyline.  Sad, but it did lead me to the Dark Knight.
I finally read the graphic novels (grown men don't read comic books) and I liked them.  Here were the gadgets plus a complex back story that led a smart guy down a dark path that continually left him standing on the razors edge between doing the right thing the right way and administering justice himself.  Which side should I root for?  The villains were likewise deeply bent and psychopathic.  They were capable of anything at any time.  Catwoman and other female villains were sexy but used that sensuality to achieve evil or just plain cause chaos.  Awesome.  Plus there were rules for continuity (or canon) attached to the characters and things they could and would do and things that did not match history so they could not.  Also awesome.   

I had matured and now I had a mature Batman to enjoy and admire.  He was a superhero with zero super powers.  He was smart and rich enough to use the intelligence to invent the means he needed to fight the badness.  He threw on a cape and went out to do battle -- and he didn't always win.  Totally cool.  Then came the Dark Knight movies with Christian Bale.  Mostly canon, darker and very good.  I enjoyed all of them.    

So why is Batman my favorite?  Maybe because I could be him.  No radioactive spiders, dying planet, Arc reactor powered suit, or gills required.

Ben Affleck?  Meh.  Not a fan.  In real life and on the screen he has always seemed arrogant, condescending, and plastic.  A poor choice, but let's see what happens when he puts on the suit.

For now, I will slip into my cape a few nights a week and keep the local streets safe.  Since I have been here, neither the Joker nor Riddler has ever shown up.  Catwoman?  One can only hope.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm Not Dead Yet...Or Am I?

As you go up in years, death becomes part of your life.  With each passing year, people you know, people you have heard of, and people you are related to start to pass on.  That is just the way life goes.  Of course, if you are the one who dies, you tend not to hear or worry about it anymore.  There have been a lot of articles and stories in the past few weeks about what happens to your on line presence when you die.  Some companies are considering letting you name a successor who can take over your accounts in the event of your death – the thought of that reminds me of something Teller (of Penn & Teller) once said:  “When I die, blow up my laptop”.  There is some wisdom in that, but what about all the stuff you have posted on line?  Do you want it destroyed or should it live on in a digital form of immortality?

When my Mom passed, my Dad left her voice on the answering machine for a long time.  At first it was a little unnerving to have her voice talking to me when I called, but then I got used to it.  Eventually, I found some comfort in hearing her voice now and then.  I am not sure why my Dad eventually changed it,  but when it did it felt a little like I had lost her again in some way.   I realize this is low tech compared to where we are now,  but why not let people go on living digitally?   Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reach out to a friend who has passed and see something they wrote or recorded from time to time?

I am not suggesting that this apply to all on line accounts.  It would be creepy and heartbreaking would it be to finally be matched with the perfect soul-mate on or, only to find out they have been dead for a few years.  But for things like My Space, Facebook and this blog – digital eternity has a certain utility and warm feeling about it.  For example, you may have read something on this blog today or yesterday that made you laugh or think, but while you were doing so  -- did it ever occur to you that I might no longer be around?  Does it matter?  Would you have enjoyed it less?  Even better, if something I wrote made you angry -- too bad – it is hard to argue with the dead.  Haters matter less to the dearly departed,  it is the ultimate “Nah! Nah! Your words don’t hurt me!” or even better "Dude.  Are you really arguing with a dead guy?"

I am not sure what all the online companies might do with all the content that exists once people pass on, but should it be any different than what book publishers have done for years?  Hard print publishers keep printing an author’s books as long as they sell.   But think about it this way, you no longer have to be a member of a select, judged and approved class to have your voice heard – maybe forever.  On any given day thousands of humans write down or record what they feel and turn it loose into the digital stream.  How wonderful is that?  In the past you might have only gotten the viewpoint of only one or two people about an event, now you get hundreds,  and not all of them agree – that to me is the best part.  Who knows,  it may have been some guy on the grassy knoll.

Maybe a litmus test for keeping things around could be once no one has accessed the site for 500 years, it dissolves (literally) into the ether.   Thinking about it under that set of rules might lead people to be more careful and the same time more thoroughly think about what they say.

There are many great things that John Lennon did during his life, among them was recording and filming a lot of the most common events in his life as they happened.  Now 50 years later we can still see those things and appreciate how the genius he was handled day to day living.  We can feel connected and appreciate the simple wisdom and beauty of his life as we do his music.  Because he was well known and famous these things he left behind will exist forever.  For me, I would love to have access to similar information and personal remembrances of my great grandfather. 
The problem is he lived most of his life before such capabilities existed.  But what would my great grand-daughter think?  She might want to read a blog entry I wrote way back on 15 February 2015.  I hope Blogger keeps it available for her.