9/23/2010

On having a beard, again

For some reason, I've grown a beard again. I've decided to sport the bald head and unkempt face look for a while. I'm a bit puzzled as to why I've done this, but here I am, wooly and furry again.

Of course, it's now at the point where my beard is exploding in a curly manner, a firework of follicles. Red, white, black and brown hairs all shooting out from my face, redefining how I look.

I seem to do this about once a year, change up how I look. I seem to need to transform myself every so often, just to try not to be the same person. I'm not sure why this is.

Meanwhile, little things continue to mark who I am. I never seem to be able to tie my right shoe. I get incredibly animated if I have a lot to do. Nothing in my brain or mind seems to have changed.

Oh, how it's itched to get to this point. I've scratched, and I've scratched and I've scratched. I've almost given up many times, like I did earlier this summer when I tried before to grow a beard.

Soon it will be cold, we hope. And when it is, I shall be prepared. I am hoping I will return to the days when I was disciplined, and I can begin running again in earnest. I seem to run three times a week, but not necessarily every week.

I am aware that I am becoming more boring again, drilling right into the core of what I need to do, which is to figure out how to make a good enough living to support my kids, my ambitions, and my debt.

I now look a little like I did two years ago, when life was incredibly different. I don't remember that time now. I likely won't remember today in two years if I don't write it down, if I don't make an attempt.

My dog is incredibly itchy due to this very dry house, this very dry summer that has given way to hotumn. He's panting despite the air conditioning, and I wonder if he's ever thought about shaving his entire body. I seem to be emulating him again, somewhat.

I look forward to the time when I can shave this beard off. I'm committed to it now, but I do look forward to being having a clean face.

I've had a beard most of my adult life. Shaving it off was an attempt to redefine myself. Now, it seems to have come back organically, like it was never gone. I look a little different this time around, several pounds lighter and with a shaved head. And, I've got glasses again, thanks to the magical work of the Spectacle Shop on the downtown mall, just a few steps down from my office.

It's the fall now, and despite the heat, you can tell the winter is trying to emerge from the summer, the battle set to occur this fall. One day, the trees will like sticks, and everyone will coats, jackets and silly hats. Maybe it will snow a lot this winter.

I still have two glasses of snow from the big snowfall from last December, the one that transformed our little corner of the world in such a dramatic way. That weekend was among the best I've had in my life, and I'm still living in a world created when Charlottesville got covered.

Now my face is covered again, and here I am, still wondering what form life will take in the next few weeks, months, and years. Change can happen in the blink of an "I want to do things differently."

Meanwhile, life ticks along much as it has, as I work hard at two jobs to make ends meet, my labor the engine that fuels my day-to-day existence. I'm fortunate to have two very interesting careers happening at the same time. On the one hand, I'm a journalist reporting about matters I find terribly important. On the other, I am trying to help rebuild a business that's somewhat out of step with these times in which we live.

What are these times in which we live? I'm aware that there is much anger all around me, but yet I seem to have chosen a path where I have decided I don't want to enter into it. I acknowledge the unhappiness and the misfortune, but I want to opt for something different.

So, wooly days are ahead, time for sweaters and crisp October nights.

9/12/2010

On Superman 3

Superman 3 is probably my favorite of all the Superman movies.

Why is this important?

I'm not sure. But, I've been thinking a lot about Superman lately. My kids love Superman. My youngest inherited my oldest's Superman action figure, the one that looks like Brandon Routh from Superman Returns. I recently watched that with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. But we'll get to that in another post, perhaps.

Superman was the first comic I ever really read. When I was 9 or so, my mother got this anthology out of the library for me. I learned all about Superman as a cultural entity by watching how the mythology evolved as writers looked to push their universe further and further.

My favorite era is the sixties, when things just got plain wacky. The style was incredibly light-hearted back then, and the plots usually dealt with Superman's power being mutated in crazy and crazier ways. Red kryptonite transformed him into strange creatures. The lost city of Kandor showed up. He had a Super Horse and a Super monkey.

Then, when I became an adult, he died. Some boring creature of brute force killed him, and I didn't really understand why. Because, of course he came back to life, but not without some weird mystery where four different people pretended they were his second coming.

Now my kids like Superman. The other week, I got a book out the library for them, a 2002 fact book all that captures the 21st century Superman, as depicted in the comics. Of course, there's also Smallville, but again, more on that later perhaps.

So, last week we read this book together and they were both captured by Superman and all the colors. I delighted in talking to them about this hero that's been with me my whole life, in one form or another.

Okay, I'll talk a minute about Superman Returns. When I first watched it, I was not that impressed. But, on my second viewing, the theme of a man watching his child being raised by another man hit home for me. Minute's up.

My friend and I enjoyed the film so much we decided to watch more. I picked Superman 3 to start off with, because I hadn't seen it since I first watched it back in the early eighties. I remembered not liking it, or at least hearing from the conventional wisdom that it wasn't very good.

Superman 3 opens with Richard Pryor standing in a welfare line. After being told he can't get any more checks because he can't hold a job, he asks a man for a light. After being handed a matchbook, he has a revelation that he can make money as a computer programmer! Triumphant music then gives way to a whimsical tune that plays while a very odd opening to a Superman movie takes place.

A series of unfortunate events befall the denizens of one street in Metropolis. The credits roll on the bottom half of the screen while the action unfolds above. There's no sight of anything Superman related at all, but the pratfalls are amusing.

Then Clark Kent shows up, and helps out once, but generally there's not much of a connection to Superman. But, somehow that's what makes this film so great.

I'm perfectly willing to accept this being a strange Richard Pryor and Superman hybrid because it's in the same era of the 1960's comics, when anything goes. Pryor advances so quickly so fast and suddenly has a check for $85,000 because he tricked the computer. Suddenly, he can do anything!

And he's put to evil uses by the CEO, and absolutely none of it makes sense. Because, things in Clark's world are moving so slowly. The two timelines are not compatible at all, but it doesn't matter because the whole thing is entertaining. I laughed at the whole thing.

I googled it when I was done, and realized that Richard Lester was the director. He also made the Beatles' Hard Days Night. That seemed to explain it all, and once I knew that, I was hooked.

Of course, Clark's story is also fascinating. He goes to his high school reunion in Smallville, and comes back into contact with Lana Lang. It's unclear if they dated in this version of the mythology, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is that Richard Pryor uses a TRS-80 to make a version of kryptonite that released Superman's selfishness.




We're all divided between our good and our bad. In Superman 3, a silly comedy dared to explore what happens when someone suddenly loses their way. Superman becomes a total jerk, but Lana's son tells him he's just in a slump. Seeing this magnificent icon acting like an ordinary human is fascinating to me. Christoper Reeve seems like a totally different person, and there we are watching what powerful people can do if they want to.

They're talking about making another Superman movie, and as I understand it, Christopher Nolan is now shepherding the process along. I hope that he can update the film version of Superman in some way that really takes the tale's basic elements and turns them on their end in some way. I'd hope this wouldn't be violent, but thoughtful.

In the meantime, we'll be watching the original Superman with Christopher Reeve next. And then, I've convinced my friend that next we'll watch the Richard Donner cut of Superman 2, which is supposed to be a very different film. I'm not entirely sure why I'm back in the Kryptonian fold but I shall embrace it.

One final thought. In the early mornings of September 12, 2001, I sat at a control booth at WVTF Public Radio monitoring things just in case anything else happened in the night. They didn't have a way at the time to automate their process, so I was asked to do an overnight. I felt so incredibly honored.

Of course, there wasn't really that much to do. I watched the footage over and over again and when I got bored I began to write. I wrote about how much I wished there really was a Superman to save us from such horrible things.

Somewhere in all of this is a lesson about why we need heroes, and how that need should perhaps create within us a sense that we should strive for our best to make a better world, even if we don't necessarily know how. We don't know how because we're all divided between what we have to do for ourselves and what we think we should do for society.

So, Superman 3 was a lot of fun and gave me a set of ideas to think about for a while. When our civilization is long gone, will future archaeologists think we worshipped Superman?

9/08/2010

On fear and anger

This is the 500th post I've written for this blog, which I started several years ago to have a public place to type a few words about the events of my life. Looking back, I can see I've written a lot about my children, my jobs, my interests, and my beloved Court Square Tavern.

What I don't believe I've written about are my fears about the world. I've also not used this platform to lash out at items I am angry about. Certainly someone could find a few passages that might say otherwise, but I'm comfortable in stating this is a place where I calmly describe how I see things on a given thing.

I also don't write about politics because as a journalist, I have taken a virtual oath to not have a public opinion. It's very important to me that people not have the idea that I am influencing what people take from a story.

I work hard to strip out what may or may not be my personal biases from what I turn in to my editors. This is what I was taught to do by my teachers and my mentors. Fred Echols of WVTF Public Radio once told me that I should be skeptical of everything, and especially of my own opinions.

My job is to see all sides of an issue and to report a combination of the facts and what I believe to be the arguments put forward by groups and individuals who want or don't want certain things.

What I do not want to do is report people's fear and people's anger. Of course, both emotions have flooded into our public discourse in such a profound way that I can't trace its geological history. I cannot put myself in the shoes of the people I interview, but I do try to write stories that advance their arguments, and not their emotions.

I'm an odd journalist in the sense that I don't want the sensational in my stories. I don't want to be first, I don't want to have a big scoop. I simply want to make sure I've got things as accurate as I can on any given day. I'm always puzzled and saddened somewhat when I hear other reporters saying they only look for the confrontational.

Every fiber of my being aspires to live in a world where we can agree to disagree, and where those who are on the losing side of arguments try again. I don't like to use military metaphors in my stories because to me, a battle is an event in which people get killed. Words matter to me.

So, am I this Pollyanna who simply wants to play kumbaya on my sitar?

I don't think so.

I'm a person who for so long was governed by his fears, and who acted out too frequently in angry moments. That was destructive and counter-productive. Both of my marriages collapsed in part because I'd lost my compass when it came to what actually matters in life. In the second, I was so frightened I was going to be bankrupted by taking on a mortgage that I never allowed myself a moment to take in the positive. Fear guided my life, and I lashed out so many times in response.

I've learned since to think about what my emotional state is before I take any action. This way is so much more conducive to being a member of a society. I've learned to breathe deeply when I'm confronted with fear or sadness. As such, I think I've improved a bit in the last couple of years.

Fear and anger and sadness are not easily brushed away. And, I can only speak to the way I interact with my demons. But, I thought I had to write this in my public space to mark 500.