The Kids Are Alright

Well, better than alright, really, but this way I get to invoke a catchy song title.

Scott just celebrated his 13th (!) birthday and he kept it a pretty low key affair, hanging around the house with Grandma (visiting from Ohio) and not asking for much in the way of presents.  This despite the fact that before the holidays it looked like he wanted an electric guitar, electric base, amplifier and a keyboard, all at once.  He ended up going for the keyboard for Christmas and has really been enjoying it, but he cooled on the other items, or maybe he’s just eyeing some particularly high-end versions he knows he’ll have to wait for.  Anyway he continues to dazzle us with his piano skills and amassed quite a pile of sheet music to master, from Chopin to Billy Joel to Scott Joplin to Queen.

Grace got to ride a horse recently at a birthday party and had a blast, even if it was only 25 degrees outside at the time.  I had to loan her my gloves because she forgot hers, which was fine until she fed a horse a carrot and got knuckle-deep in slobber.  She also has a decided flair for the dramatic, and a healthy imagination.  I heard her playing with her Barbie dolls when Barbie gave Ken a mighty slap, yelling, “Get out!  Just GET OUT! Nobody proposes to me when I’m already married!!!”  Recently I was driving somewhere or other and heard her making up a song in the back seat.  I don’t remember it all, but these lyrics were a highlight:

“I always knew I’d love you someday,

But not ’til I got to the bottom of my Boy List.

Jason’s impossibly tall now; taller than me, I think.  He’s been making money at his various chess jobs, teaching at local schools and doing some private tutoring on weekends.  It all goes back into chess again to cover tournament entry fees and hotel stays, but he seems to enjoy it.  He’s already making plans for what to do with his time after he completes his Eagle Project, but so far as I know he still hasn’t even picked a project to do.  Details, details.

While storing all the Christmas decorations in the garage, I kept finding a large, collapsed cardboard box in my way, as it has been for what feels like forever.  I finally decided that whatever I was keeping it for, I didn’t need it any longer, so it was time to chuck it.  Halfway through slicing it up with a box cutter, my sense of satisfaction melted to sadness and shame when I spotted a word scrawled in ballpoint pen by a much younger Jason:

 

transmogrifier

 

It’s hard to make out in the image, but that’s “Transmogrifier,” as in the magical device used in “Calvin and Hobbes” to change little boys and their tigers into all sorts of amazing things.

transmogrifier2

Now I feel like a heartless brute, but at least I held onto that one last piece.

It never gets dull with three young kids in the house; new adventures and challenges pop up with such speed and regularity that it’s easy to just concentrate on living in the moment.  Then comes the occasional sobering reminder of just how quickly time is slipping by, and how much things change.  The young Jason who climbed into his Transmogrifier seems as distant and ghostly now as the ancient Egyptians, and that messy inscription seems as precious as any archaeological find.  I’m imagining a third panel to the strip above, with an adult climbing out of the box.  Sometimes it feels that fast.

In the end, though, there’s nothing for it but to rededicate yourself to enjoying each moment while you have it.  The fun’s not over yet.

 

Inglourious Federation Basterds

As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I’ve enjoyed a long tradition and it’s time to revisit it today.  The tradition goes like this:  I look at the current state of Star Trek and say, “Paramount can’t possibly screw this up any worse than they have!”  And Paramount responds, “Wanna BET?”

Now they’ve outdone themselves, tapping Quentin Tarantino (!) to direct the next Trek movie and erase any lingering vestiges of what the property once represented.  But at least we get this awesome fan trailer, which is likely as close as I’ll get to seeing the film:

It’s Alive!

Okay, so (1) this page hasn’t been updated since last summer, (2) there were only seven entries for all of 2017 and (3) over half of those were related to obituaries.  I get it, I’m bad at blogging.

The irony is that I’m always miffed at the state of blogs in general, or at least the ones I used to enjoy visiting.  Basically, they’re either neglected, shut down or vanished.  For instance, I used to enjoy visiting Bat-Blog for a daily dose of all things Batman, but it was abandoned two years ago in favor of the author’s Facebook page.   I get that it’s easier to post to Facebook than a blog and you’ll reach many, many more readers that way, but I’ve been off Facebook since December 2013 and Batman news isn’t nearly enough to entice me back.

After my pals and I shut down the old “Mr KissKiss BangBang” James Bond fansite, I frequented our former rival, CommanderBond.net, where content slowed to a trickle, then stopped altogether, leaving only a message board.  I guess it doesn’t help that almost nothing’s happening in the world of Bond (how many different spins on “is Craig coming back” are even possible?), but still…

It’s anyone’s guess what happened to Silver Age Comics or Blog Into Mystery, neither of which has had content posted since May 2016 (the same month as Bat-Blog: maybe they all made a pact to move to Facebook together?)  Some blogmasters make a conscious decision to pack it in, posting a goodbye message as a coda to the enterprise, but other sites end unceremoniously and mysteriously in mid-mission, leaving us to wonder if the owners just lost interest, were hit by a truck, won the lottery, or what.  Hanging out on these sites can get spooky, like one of those movies where someone finds an abandoned ship drifting at sea, with food still out on the table, the crew’s clothes packed neatly away and no sign of a struggle.

Garfield Minus Garfield may have joined that cyber-Sargasso; at this writing, it’s four months dormant.  Letters of Note hasn’t posted anything in six months, though in this particular case I’m guessing the huge success of the spin-off books and celebrity live readings have made the blogmaster too busy or too rich to bother anymore, or maybe he just doesn’t see the sense of posting content for free when it could be worked into a format people will pay for.

There are a few bright spots, though.  MAD cartoonist Tom Richmond seems to post at least weekly with new art or anecdotes.  Several years into his Wild About Harry blog, John Cox keeps miraculously producing fascinating tidbits of Houdini history like a never ending chain of handkerchiefs from a magician’s pocket. And incredibly, Ross Pearsall’s “Super-Team Family” site has been churning out fun and wonderful faux comic book covers on a daily basis (even weekends!) for over 2,100 days and counting.

So who am I going to throw in with, these champions of consistent content or the quitters and Facebook defectors?  Well… I’m going to at least TRY to produce more content this year, not so much because I think the world is dying to read it, or I’ll ever have the following the other sites do, but if nothing else because generating some content makes it easier to complain about the folks who don’t.  And I love to complain.  Also, this site started as a way to document all the cool and funny and charming things my kids do, and though they’re no longer rugrats, they’re still as fascinating and fun (to me, anyway) as they ever were.  And if I don’t document their shenanigans somewhere, it’ll be lost for good.  Just a perusal of past posts proves that: there’s lots of stuff on this site I wouldn’t remember at all if it were left up to my tired brain.

So anyway, this site is back in business.  Wish me luck.

 

Bat-Signal Over LA

The city of Los Angeles arranged a nice tribute to Adam West yesterday, flashing the bat-signal on the side of City Hall.

west-signal1

 

The cool part is they got the symbol right: there have been several iterations over the years, but this one matches the one on West’s costume (on the show, the shape of the projected signal was different, but why quibble?).

What makes it doubly awesome, though, is that LA City Hall doubled for the Daily Planet starting with the second season the old “Adventures of Superman” TV show, making for a cool, if probably unintentional, cross-reference.  Wish I could’ve seen it in person.

west-signal600

Adam West RIP

batman-mobileThis is shaping up to be one lousy year. Mere weeks after the death of Roger Moore,  I’ve lost another childhood hero, Adam West.

As related in an earlier post, I first encountered Mr West’s Batman in a television airing of the 1966 feature film starring the cast of the TV show.  It’s fair to say it blew it my young mind, with its outlandish sets, gadgets, vehicles and costumes.  It was, in essence, a comic book brought to life.  A couple of years later, the show itself turned up in syndication and watching it became a highlight of my daily routine.

I would’ve been about 9 when I saw the movie, maybe 11 or 12 for the series, so I may or may not have caught on at first that it was all a gag.  Not that it would have necessarily mattered: I knew Get Smart was played for laughs but I still viewed Max as a hero, and when Uncle Arthur put on a Superman costume and flew around the neighborhood on Bewitched, I didn’t think “that’s hilarious” (as the laugh track seemed to encourage) but rather, “Wow, I wish my Superman suit made ME fly.”

Similarly, even if I realized that the central joke of Batman was what a square the caped crusader was — that he was a postmodern lampoon of straight-shooting, tea-totaling heroes like Clayton Moore’s Lone Ranger (with a similar delivery) — it wouldn’t have mattered to me.

There’s a really great post at NPR that sums up my own experience with the Adam West Batman; like that author I was a kid devoted to law and order and rule-following.  As a toddler I lectured strangers on the perils of smoking and chastised my grandfather for improperly disposing of litter.  Neighbors said I wouldn’t get out of my pedal car until I’d properly parallel parked it next it to the house.  Naturally I’d be a sucker for a hero who ordered orange juice in a nightclub and refused to start the Batmobile until Robin had fastened his safety bat-belt.

As has been noted endlessly everywhere, Adam West’s portrayal of Batman was aimed at two audiences;  kids who took him deadly serious and their parents who chuckled at his cornball earnestness.  The interesting thing, for me, is that even though in the short run the bread and butter of the show was in that older audience, who after all were the potential customers for the show’s sponsors, in the long run it’s the younger audience that’s defined the show’s legacy.  For years, I’ve frequented a message board devoted to ’66 Batman and its members aren’t the least bit self-conscious about declaring this Batman as their personal hero.  His straight-laced morality may have been the butt of the joke in ’66, but it’s made him a role model to generations.

adam-burt

I believe this is the genius of West’s approach; it would’ve been easy to aim for full-on comedy with the role and make Batman an utter doofus…and maybe that would’ve helped the actor keep the character enough at arm’s length to have shed the image when the show was canceled…but by adding that layer of earnest sincerity, he ensured the longevity of the show through the younger fans.  Because as sure as we may have been in ’66 — and are today — that we’re above corny ideals like “fair play” and “good citizenship” and the like, the truth is every generation is hungry for heroes who understand there are such things as “right” and “wrong” and are willing to step up and do what’s right.  The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy generation got that kind of hero straight up and without irony.  Kids of the 60s and 70s happily settled for a Batman who was cut from the same cloth even if Mom and Dad did laugh at him.

After the show was cancelled, Adam went through a long rough patch, career-wise, having been typecast as a caped crimefighter at a time when live-action superhero projects were rare as hen’s teeth.  People only wanted to see him as Batman, so with a family to feed he packed up the cape and cowl in a traveling case and made the rounds of car shows, county fairs and mall openings, playing the Caped Crusader well into middle-age.  In the time-honored tradition of kicking a guy while he’s down, he was mercilessly parodied for this and held up as a kind of cautionary tale for actors nervous about taking on similarly iconic roles.  But to his eternal credit, he never gave up and never lost his sense of humor, poking fun at himself and turning his public persona into sort of 24/7 in-character performance: “Adam West” the kooky eccentric.  It won him a new generation of fans and gave his career a second wind as a celebrity spokesperson, voice artist and frequent guest star “as himself” in the grand tradition of Hollywood legends who end up “famous for being famous” long after we forget what they were originally famous for.  If anyone ever had a reason to resent Batman and want to bury him, it was this guy, but he remained a fan and champion of the character until the end, which was awesome.

buffin

It’s hard watching these icons of my youth exit the stage one by one, and I know it’s not over yet.  But if there’s any comfort to be had, it’s from knowing that as long as there’s reruns and DVDs and Blu-Rays and Roku and Youtube and whatever comes next, they’ll live on, forever young and vital and handsome and courageous.  Somewhere out there right now on a screen somewhere in the world, the Caped Crusader is racing into action in the Batmobile, figuring his way out of a nefarious death trap, stopping for a lecture on traffic safety or good nutrition.  And that’s as it should be.

Still, it’s hard not to feel it’s a dark day in Gotham, with that red phone beeping away unanswered.

Rest in peace, old chum.

no_answer