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
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
“They only lack the light to
show the way.”
“I have sent them you, my only
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,
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
CA; photo by Ron Vazzano©
Easy (Does It) Rider
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
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
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
headlights in REM stage
teetering on that wire
between the towers of night and day.
A trickle of pedestrians in similar
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.
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
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.”
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.
Six on the Half Shell
There are elves
the Bat of Berra
It ain’t overt
till it’s overt.
Uncanny the way
the sun has lit up his face
has singled him out
from among the thirteen posers.
Click! He disappears.
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.
the crash of Queen she trims the tree.
another room I write poetry
rhythms, the rooms, the asymmetry
into silence eventually.