Friday, April 9, 2010

Changes are coming...

I've been letting this blog lay fallow for quite sometime. Lately, I've been reconsidering what I want to accomplish with this blog. I still want it to be commentary on things both pop culture and everything else.

With a new future ahead as a reporter for the Palo Alto Daily Post, I will be back with the blog.

Changes are coming.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You were my Doctor

I'm not one for fan-created music videos, but I happened across this one on youtube, a tribute to the Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant, and thought it was pretty good. (Yeah, I'm a sentimental ol' git.)


Good-bye, Doctor. You were my Doctor.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Moon River and Me

For the past few inconsistent blog posts, I’ve prattled on about Clark Kent and his relationship to Superman, and Superman’s relationship to Clark Kent, but I want to detour. Inspired by my friend Andrew’s excellent blog, I’ve been pondering the relationship between music and...well, relationships. And, perhaps, because I've recently unearthed several past relationships--friendships, courtships, wanting-to-be-more-than-friendships.

The other night, my hippocampus ignited neurons of yesteryear upon hearing Morrissey croon “Moon River” accompanied by the tears of the late, great Audrey Hepburn. A river flood of sentiment devastated my amygdala.

Naturally, the song made me think of her. The last I saw of her--I’ll leave her name out of this for now--was on my birthday on what would also be my last trip to Los Angeles before moving to the Bay Area. Back then, we decided to continue the relationship despite the distance. We did so with one eye on the foreseeable future; the other covered with a palm.

Shortly after my relocation, we broke up. Or, rather, I broke up with her. Then, we got back together again. Or, rather, I got back together with her. A television test pattern that we’d repeated over and over again when the broadcast day had concluded. Usually, she ended it, as she had this final time, and was always the first to want to get back together. However, unlike those other break-ups, I refused a reunited-and-it-feels-so-good.

My huckleberry friend

Johnny Mercer on lyrics and Henry Mancini on music wrote “Moon River” for the 1961 movie adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella "Breakfast at Tiffany’s".

I’d never seen the entire movie until about a year-and-a-half ago.

On a lazy Saturday in the summer of 2008, we lounged around my Los Angeles apartment and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, her favorite movie. We sat side-by-side on the couch, watching the movie stream via youtube in ten-minute, ten-part chunks. The officialness of the relationship was still new. By this time, we’d only been knighted girlfriend and boyfriend for a few months. My feelings for her were clear to me--I was in love. Hers were still a struggle.

On the screen, Japanese-yellowfaced Mickey Rooney screamed in Engrish accent, “Ms. Go-RI-ghtly!” Hepburn’s character name was actually Holly Golightly, but a Caucasian-trying-to-be-Asian can’t pronounce L’s very well.

I’m Holly Golightly, my then-girlfriend commented.

Holly Golightly hardly had her life together, bouncing from place to place, living in a tiny New York brownstone and surviving on the donations of charitable men with deep trouser pockets. A free spirit, she called herself, and the life of the party. She collected acquaintances not friends. She couldn’t even bring herself to name her cat. No one could get close to Holly Golightly, not even potential love interest Paul Varjak, who she called Fred. To my 80s childhood delight, Varjak was played by pre-cigar chewing John “Hannibal” Smith--George Peppard.

You're "Fred", she added.

I'm not, I said. For one, I'm not being kept by Patricia Neal, nor would I want to be. I mean, look at her. She's a horse. She's only good for being the nurse in some John Wayne movie. And she has...twice.

He's trying to be a writer.

Yeah, but he's already written one book that's been published. I can't even get past the first few chapters of mine, I said, referring to my graduate thesis which has since been boxed and put in the closet. In fact, I was procrastinating on working on the thing that afternoon. I added: I'm not "Fred". Paul. Whatever. And you're not Holly Golightly.

She curled herself into an S on the edge of the couch, pillow snuggled against her chest. My head resting on her shoulder.

Are you running like her? I asked. Running away from a husband I don't know about?

No, but I don't want to be trapped in a cage, she said. Eyes transfixed on the screen, she connected with Holly through the flicker. Herself transposed into the Technicolored letterbox frame, feeling trapped and oppressed by our embryonic officialness.

I sat up, stroked my chin, and watched the remainder of the movie, trying hard not to look at her. She’d bounced around like Holly in her own sort of way. Had been bounced around earlier in life (you’ll forgive me if I keep those details to myself). For a moment, I considered what words should erupt from my mouth. I found none. So we sat in silence as the final scene played.

Immediately following the movie, we trekked to the nearby Barnes and Noble to purchase the original novella.

Oh, dreamweaver, you heartbreaker

She prefers the movie of course. I prefer the novella.

In the movie, “Fred” and Holly embrace in the promise of ever after. Fade out. Life is happy. The ending she wanted. In the novella, the relationship of “Fred” (who is actually an unnamed narrator) and Holly Golightly is ambigious. The ending unresolved.

Holly fades into the world but is never really gone. She dangles; a loose thread on a favorite sweater, occasionally noticed. A swaying string that isn’t yanked for fear of ruining the fabric. An annoying reminder of how you felt and how you still feel whenever it's spotted.

I have that same thread, and I don’t dare tug.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On the Importance of Clark Kent, Part Two

Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter

As I said before the prolonged break, Superman was raised as Clark Kent by a kindly human couple. Not as Kal-El. Not as Superman. But as Clark Kent.

Your perceptions of Clark Kent may depend on where you fall on the Crisis scale--Pre-Crisis or Post-Crisis. Before the entire DC universe underwent a complete and total reboot, revamp, rewhatever, Clark Kent was generally portrayed as a schmo to be picked on by the likes of Steve Lombard. This is the Kent that the masses are familiar with thanks to Christopher Reeve’s excellent performance in the Donnerverse films. This Silver Age thru Bronze Age interpretation, favored by the likes of Elliot S! Maggin and Mark Waid, has Clark Kent as nothing more than a mere disguise, a costume put on by Superman so that he can move around undetected.

In other words, Superman was the real person and Clark Kent the fiction.

After the fabric of the DC ‘verse reorientated itself, Clark Kent became the polar opposite of that nerdy, gawky version. Instead of being a disguise for Superboy, and later Superman, this Kent was a high school football star who dated the head cheerleader, Lana Lang.

For his revamp, John Byrne took his cue more from the George Reeves' Kent than from Chris Reeve's. Here Clark Kent was front stage in the Jungian psyche of the ubermensch.

Or, in other words, Clark Kent was the real person and Superman the fiction.

But wasn’t that the case all along.

Next: "Lois and Clark"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

On the Importance of Clark Kent, Part One

Nah, Bill. You may have been right about Beatrix Kiddo, but you were dead wrong about Clark Kent. He ain’t a mere mild-mannered disguise for the Last Son of Krypton. He ain’t a critique by Superman on the human race. He ain’t some mask that Superman puts on in the morning. Clark Kent is more than a pair of glasses, a blue suit and red tie, and a fedora. He’s not just some milquetoast behind the typewriter, pining for the affections of Lois Lane. No, Bill. You got it all wrong. If Superman has a psyche, then Clark Kent is the very thing that keeps it, and him, from exploding like Krypton into a billion planetary fragments.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A desperate scientist and his wife place their infant son into a rocket ship that is sent hurtling toward Earth just as Krypton goes ka-boom. The infant lands safely in the heartland of America, found by a kind couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who raise the child with a Midwestern sensibility. Named Clark Kent, he grows into maturity where he develops powers and abilities far above those of mortal men. And like many small town dwellers, Clark migrates to the big city of Metropolis—a New York stand-in—and soon begins his double life as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper and the defender of American values as Superman.

It’s an origin told a hundred times before, so much so that it is a vital cog in the American collective consciousness—a shared delusion and aspiration.

Superman debuted in Action Comics, No. 1 in June 1938 . He is the creation of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. The children of Jewish immigrants, the pair met in Cleveland during the Great Depression and bonded over their love of science fiction. Soon they collaborated on their own adventure tales inspired by the pulp and comic strip heroes of the time. Brave, omnipotent men who dared the impossible populated their stories. But Siegel and Shuster were nothing like the men they wrote and drew. They were more like the alter ego of their famous powerful protagonist—awkward, shy, and mild-mannered.

Perhaps that is why Clark Kent resonated for a great deal many boys, myself included. I have occasionally been insecure, weak, and cowardly but felt there was a strength and ability hidden underneath a seemingly fragile fa├žade, ready to take flight with the ripping of a shirt.

Yet Superman chooses to live on a daily basis in the persona of the meek, bespectacled human not to merely masquerade as one of us, but rather to become one of us. But, then again, he was raised as a human by human parents. Makes you wonder which is the person and which is the persona--Clark Kent or Superman?

Next, "On the Importance of Clark Kent," part two--Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter

Sunday, November 1, 2009

We Interrupt Your Blog...

There's been a delay in this week's blog due to unexpected circumstances. But in the meantime, a word from our sponsor--the Klingon Empire.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of Introductions and Ideas

Allow me to introduce myself. As it says on that nifty sidebar to the right of the screen, my name is Ryan Thomas Riddle. That's the short version. The long version--well, I'll save that for when we really get to know each other. I am a writer of sorts just like all the other bloggers, posters, and whatevernots out there furiously typing away on their keyboards in the dead of night when everyone else is asleep.

As the shingle says at the top, this is literary masturbation where I will be writing on things that I find interesting, bug the shit out of me, and just plain piss me off. Originally, I was going to title this blog "Verbal Masturbation," but my friend Maurice pointed out that this is a written blog not an oral one. And, as we all know, oral masturbation is autofellatio. Ah, Maurice--wise beyond his years.

This is my second attempt at writing a blog. Well, my third actually if you count the posts I used to make over on myspace--does anyone still use that, by the way? But I don't count that. So let's say this is my second attempt at writing a blog.

This blog won't be a public diary where'n I'll pour out the minutiae from the banality of my life. Not a word will be spent on what I consumed for breakfast or lunch or supper. Not a word on what I did at 1:45 in the afternoon, or what I did at 1:45 in the morning. Not a word on the color of my sneakers. Or the fit of my jeans. Or the brand of coffee I drink. Or the fact that I am down to the last roll of toilet paper.

I'll be taking my cue from some of my favorite writers like Harlan Ellison and Michael Chabon. Here I'll be posting essays, short and long, about books, movies, comic books, society, culture, and anything else I come across. That's a tall order, I know. There's a notion out there that blogs should be specific. If you like comics, blog about comics. If you like music, blog about music. If you like Tijuana Bibles, then blog about that. You get the idea. But I don't want to hamstring myself to one particular topic. I want to go 'round the world and back, and maybe to some far-off worlds that remain undiscover'd.

And off we go...

Next, "On the Importance of Clark Kent."