July 2013




He was born on the planet Krypton. Moments before its destruction, his father Jor-El rocketed him to Earth where he was found in a Kansas cornfield, and adopted by a farmer and his wife. His name is Kal-El. Better known as Clark Kent when wearing glasses, or Superman, when wearing tights. So goes the mythology of this American cultural icon now in its 75th year, having first been introduced by way of Action Comics in June of 1938.


It is a story and a character of which I would have said, we never seem to tire. That is, until I saw the latest cinematic incarnation last month entitled, “Man of Steel.”


So convoluted is this new take, that you have to understand quantum physics to follow a premise that is key to the plot. And then there’s the special effects done to such prolonged excess, that makes one want to rail at the screen: “You have shown us digital devastation in at least a thousand movies before, now would you please stop it. I get it. I’m impressed. Wow.”


And finally, the story this time around, is not only dark in substance but in style. Even the Wonder Bread colors are gone from a costume, now looking as if knitted of steel wool, and with the “S” insignia standing for “Hope” in “Kryptonese?” No, this is not your father’s Superman. This is the Superman of a writer and director who have indeed grown tired of the old narrative and the old threads. Nevertheless, the results were, well, in comic book vernacular—



And “powness” in cinema for summer fare, is invariably about box office. Something bigger! Something more! Something broken!


Though in the interest of full disclosure, while it broke the record of Toy Story 3's $110 mil June bow in 2010, it was only the second best debut of 2013. It was beaten by Iron Man 3’s $175 mil in May; “Iron” besting “Steel” in this particular metallurgy smackdown.


In the context of this new far out story however, there clearly remains the “Christ-like parallels” that director Zach Snyder noted in an interview, as if he were tapping into something never before done on the screen. One might guess he hadn’t seen the 2006 release of Superman Returns. Or, conveniently had forgotten it.

The tableau of Superman descending through space in a crucifixion pose, for example, was a virtual replay from that ‘06 movie. And so obvious were other “Christ-like parallels” at that time, that a New York Times review headline read, Superman Returns to Save Mankind From Its Sins. For indeed was it not spelled out in the biblical intonations of a dead Marlon Brando, redubbed from Superman: The Movie (circa 1978)?

“They only lack the light to show the way.”


“I have sent them you, my only son.”

In a tongue-in-cheek piece back then, I pointed out the similarities between the lives of Superman and Christ, that had struck me since I was about… nine? (Superman: The Twenty-Second Coming; July, 2006 Muse-letter).


Director Snyder then goes on to say of the making of “Man of Steel” that…

”We barely believe in the gods that we have, and I just feel like Superman allows us to explain the modern world."

As if Superman has only now become especially relevant in 2013, even though he has been on screen across the past eight decades, in movie serials, full length movies, a Broadway play and multiple TV series’. As if there was no Kirk Alyn portrayal in that post war America of 1948, fighting for our way of life, and in a costume that looked like pajamas no less.



One thing in particular though that is clearly evocative of modern times this go round, is the physique of Henry Cavill— Kal-El VIII.


God, the time he must spend on state-of-the-art machines in the best health club facilities on Earth. Jesus, is this guy built! It remains to be seen if this will catapult this hunk of a Brit into movie stardom. But where were we?


Ultimately, it seems that the appeal of Superman, a “five-tool” player who can do it all— whether played by a pajama-ed Alyn or a chiseled Cavill—is that he taps into an “if-only” longing within.


If only… there was someone who could right all the wrongs. Immediately. Level the playing field. Even up the score. If only… there was someone who could step in and tend to our screw ups. If only… there were “do-overs.” In short, if only… we didn’t have to walk the wire without a net.


No one is sitting there thinking any of this while looking at Cavill’s pecs, of course. But oh what a visceral joy—spoiler alert—when he finally eliminates Michael Shannon’s eye-bulging insanity, from that 3D-IMAX screen. Who in his role of Zod, takes villainy to another level, or shall we say, planet.


I left the theater exhausted, harking back to what seems like ancient times considering that now rather quaint movie tagline: You’ll believe a man can fly. And I thought of the irony of Christopher Reeve.






Two Quotes/Same Waters




Malibu, CA; photo by Ron Vazzano©







Easy (Does It) Rider



Most times, a bike is just a bike. But when you step out the back door of your building one day, and from seemingly out of the blue, you see thirty-six bikes done up in cobalt blue, lined up in full array as if a piece of environmental art, suggestive of The Rockettes in their uniformity… it gives one pause. Yes, the day has come for the Citi Bank sponsored bike-sharing program.


“With more than 6,000 bikes and 330 stations scattered throughout Manhattan and into Brooklyn, New York‘s long-anticipated program joins the worldwide bike-sharing craze, modeling itself after other cities with similar self-service stations from Barcelona to Minneapolis.”




So no, it was not invented here. Nor is it even a concept embraced by all, despite the bottom line success the program has already shown.


For those who have been riding bikes in heavy traffic on a daily basis, all of this might be met with a shrug and a “welcome to the club” response. A “club” to which I once belonged for a window of time, before there were bike lanes, before bikes were an acceptable means of commuting (buses belched smoke in our faces… cab drivers cut us to the quick), before helmets and concern for one’s well being.

Yet none of that mattered. In our minds, we were invincible. But that was then and this is, a very much later, now.


So the first ride I take is one in memory.


When and where one learned to ride, is a rite (and right?) of passage most of us can vividly recall. Yet, do we really “learn” how to ride a bike? Can you really “teach” how to ride a bike? Isn’t it more about an innate sense of balance that needs to be discovered? Something that after some futile attempts, just seems to click? “Look ma, no hands.”


As I look at these bikes now, right in my face and beckoning me to get with the program, I feel challenged. When was the last time I rode? Does a surrey ride with the kids on a Santa Barbara promenade count? If not, the real distance from my street experience is probably measured in a few decades.


The next ride I take is for real.


They say you never forget how to ride a bike and that is true. But what I did forget, is how to ride with a sense of abandon. Yes, these Citi bikes do not handle well and are rather clunky. But then again, the same can be said of me. And while I did manage to avoid the backs of buses, being hemmed in behind a hansom cab on 57th street at one point, was a unique aromatic experience all its own. But I did survive the ride. And without a helmet.


A takeaway from this experience, might serve as a metaphor. And it is counterintuitive. While most would concur that youth tends to throw caution to the wind, while age tends to proceed with caution, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Given that youth has so much to lose, while age is far ahead of the game and soon enough, will be playing with the house’s money?


Meanwhile, over one million miles of rides have been recorded in the first month of the program alone. With and without helmets…with and without caution…with and without me. “And so it goes,” as Kurt Vonnegut might have said in a figurative sense. Though the literal one applies here as well.







A Movement in Dawn



Cars crawl up the avenue
headlights in REM stage
teetering on that wire
between the towers of night and day.


A trickle of pedestrians in similar vein
sleepwalk across the corners as if
in obedience to a body clock
that has not yet sounded
to jostle jaywalking
variations on a theme.
The orchestra is tuning up.


From an uppermost floor
one retired from the ensemble
looks down on this as if from a cloud;
as if an angel in some New Yorker cartoon.
Holding a hand harp at the pearly gates
he awaits the appropriate caption.


—Ron Vazzano

Illustration by Ron Vazzano©






Liberty to Reopen on the 4th



In the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, many people are still trying to get their lives in order, still trying to get their homes back up and running.


In the wake of any devastation, man-made or act-of-God, the focus is invariably on the stark reality before us. And so few will realize or care at such times, if a park or monument has been closed to the public “until further notice.” The art of leisure, the joy of escape, can wait for another day. In the case of the Statue of Liberty, that day will come, appropriately enough, on July 4th.


Beckoning its tired and its poor yearning to breathe free, or breathe at all—given the 354 winding steps leading up to the crown—a daily quota of only 240 people will once again be allowed to make that huddled climb. And I will be among them. What better place to be on such an auspicious occasion, in what arguably is one of the greatest monuments ever known to mankind.


It is hard to think of any other structure that in totality, embodies such a broad expanse of the human spirit. It is about art, engineering, poetry, an ideal tied to a universal impulse—freedom, a relevance that lives in perpetuity; it has utility, and it speaks of generosity and appreciation. A monument not built in self glory, but rather received as an unconditional gift from another nation. A gesture almost unfathomable, if you think about it.


And then to have it reconstructed here as if a puzzle, mounted on the strength of a grass roots effort, spearheaded by a name that most of us only associate with a prize.


“When the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran out of funds for the Statue's pedestal in 1884, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer came to the rescue. Through urging the American public to donate money towards the pedestal in his newspaper New York World, Pulitzer raised over $100,000 in six months— more than enough money to ensure the pedestal's completion.”


                                          National Park Service


In a post 9/11 world, the Statue of Liberty has become as much about resilience as about immigration. The stringent security measures that now accompany a trip to the island, especially one including a visit to the crown, makes one ever more aware of all that this statue stands for.


And so… a Happy Fourth of July.

Crown Cam:







Six on the Half Shell




  There are elves
within ourselves.



                                               Off the Bat of Berra


                                                      It ain’t overt
                                                       till it’s overt.
                                                   Then it’s over.




Uncanny the way
the sun has lit up his face
has singled him out
from among the thirteen posers.


Click! He disappears.



                                   Greener grass?

                                                          More rain.





Somewhere down the line
when we weren’t looking
they learned how to fly.


In their jumps we took no notice
of the moon they had cleared
while avoiding the cow in the paint.


                                                           Opuses Detract


                                                           To the crash of Queen she trims the tree.
                                                           In another room I write poetry


                                                           to Django Reinhardt
                                                           following Mozart.


                                                           The rhythms, the rooms, the asymmetry
                                                           grind into silence eventually.

                                                                          —Ron Vazzano






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