Archive for April, 2013

In honor of my friend Greg McDonald, a very Greggy kind of post.   Here’s a video, and my thoughts about said video.

1. The video used to frighten me as a kid. 1979 — I was seven.

2. Does everyone know the urban legend about how Phil Collins invited a guy to a concert who had let a friend of Phil Collins drown on a boat and then shone a spotlight on him while playing this song about Phil Collins being mad at him for letting Phil Collins’ friend drown? Yeah, thought so.

3. Phil Collins used to be kind of scrawny, and he pushed up the sleeves of his Members Only.

4. The hallway appearing at 2:42 reminds me of working at IRS National Headquarters at 1111 Constitution Ave NW.

5. Phil Collins looks a little bit like the character Vila from Blake’s 7.

That is all.


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[When I was blogging more frequently, I kept a little scrap of paper in my backpack with a list of possible topics for an entry.  I usually wrote them down while standing on the train, and they could be a little . . . cryptic.   I ran across the paper recently, and the first item was the title of this post: Ultraman Wants Oreos! It took me a few seconds to remember what the heck my little note was supposed to help me remember. Here it is.]

In the middle of a period you might call Renaissance of the Superheroes, I’m bored with it all.  The recent Marvel films range from tedious (Thor) to very solid (Captain America) to excellent (Iron Man, Avengers), but they are mining characters and storylines that are old enough to have appeared on Mad Men.  The DC universe is even older.  I don’t read comics much, but what I see is, for the most part, really ugly.  (There are exceptions.)

I’d like to see something about the side-effects of having these godlike beings among us — what would it mean for the rest of us to have to rely on them for our safety?  Would they inspire us mere mortals to greater heights of gallanty and innovation, or would we lapse into passivity?  Would we turn inward, becoming even more obsessive out our Legos and model trains and . . . comics?

fruit pies

This particular story idea of the title has to do with  our reliance on the basic decency of our god-heroes — Superman, Captain America, Spider-man are all described as “boy scouts” and “do-gooders,” always trying to do the Right Thing, which is conveniently located in their field of vision.  (Even Batman is like this — he’s just a do-gooder who happens to have an extreme rubber fetish and a guilt complex.  Why else would a billionaire ever allow himself to get beat up?)

But what if one went bad? Not bad as in take-over-the-world mwahahaha villainous, but PTSD unstable? One too many blows to the head, one too many explosions, and our hero starts to lose his grip?

In this story, a woman knocks on the glass door of a supermarket just as the manager is locking up.  My boss wants Oreos, she says, worried. We’re closed, he says, good-natured. Tomorrow.  She gets frightened.  You don’t understand . . . you need to give me some Oreos before it’s too late. 

And of course it is too late. Her boss is Ultraman, the increasingly paranoid and unstable superhero.  He’s saved the world, maybe a dozen times.   Bullets can’t hurt him, and he’s able to bench press the Hoover Dam.   But right now, he’s sitting in the car, muttering to himself and becoming ever more agitated.  And he WANTS OREOS.  The woman is his personal assistant — when she comes back and says the store is closed, Ultraman loses it and levels the place.

That’s where it starts.  See where it goes!  File this one under Ideas for Free.

(And I do know about Ultraman the Japanese television series, for the record.)

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It’s worth breaking blog silence to note that famed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert has died.  I didn’t know the man, but I was familiar with his face from television, and there was one summer when I was very alone and homesick when I adopted one of his books to read over and over again.  (I still remember the entry for The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, although I still haven’t seen the film.)  I’d read articles about his health problems, having his jaw removed.  He lost his voice, then regained it, after a fashion, with the aid of a program that could pick out words from the vast catalog of his appearances on television and radio.

Most of us reach a place where we have already said everything we are going to say, and from that point on it’s just repetition.  For Roger Ebert, it was a literal fact.  But he still found new things to think about.

Here’s a sample:

I didn’t know the man, but he was important to me.  I watched Siskel and Ebert on television when I was young, and the two of them showed me that it was possible to have strong opinions about art and express them, in agreement and in opposition to others.  After Gene Siskel died, RogerEbert showed me what it was like to be sad and respectful about the passing of a friend and professional partner.  There was the aforementioned summer with one of his books.  Later, Roger Ebert showed me how a person can survive the disintegration of body without the same happening to the spirit.  He adapted, taking to social media and cultivating bright younger people to say things that he could not.  With all of his accomplishments, he took time out to  encourage young people who sought out his advice.  He encouraged me, if not directly.

I didn’t realize until now how much of a presence he has been for me — not a personal presence, but a constant, eloquent, professional one.

I heard criticism of Roger Ebert’s reviews later in his life, after his illness, that he loved every film he saw a bit too much, handing out stars too freely until they had little value.   But I think I understand, now that I’m a little older myself: it’s too hard to go through life disliking things, even if there is much to be disliked.  It will exhaust you. Better to seek out those things that are beautiful and praise them, all the more so if they are scarce.

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