12 Albums

While sorting through digital detritus I came across this, which I must have posted to Facebook in response to someone having tagged me.  It’s something I am normally loath to do, and I certainly did not tag anyone else.  But this was fun to remember and write, and I want to save it.  Here is as good a place as any!


The rules: Copy this and post as your status, but delete my list. List 12 albums IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER that made a lasting impression on you, but only 1 per band/artist. Tag 12 friends to do the same, including me, so I can see what you listed.

———-

In no particular order:

1) The Roaring 20’s – Volume 4; Enoch Light and his Charleston City All-Stars

It’s a good thing my parents had two copies of this.  I’m pretty sure I wore one out!

2) Free To Be You And Me; Marlo Thomas & Friends

There’s a whole lot of Empathy and Golden Rule baked into this gem.  Lots of stories about how we’re all different and should realize and respect those differences.

3) Cocktails For Two; Spike Jones

My first experience with musical humor.

4) That Was The Year That Was; Tom Lehrer

The man is a genius and left the business when he was on top.  I know every song on this album by heart.

5) Pot Luck With Elvis; Elvis Presley

The rhythm of “Kiss Me Quick” was something I just couldn’t get enough of.

6) White Christmas; Bing Crosby

Christmas Morning would not be complete without it!

7) Xanadu Motion Picture Soundtrack; Olivia Newton-John and ELO

My favorite movie of all time, and my favorite soundtrack of all time!

8) Super Trouper; ABBA

I love everything they ever did, but to me this represents the zenith of their career.  If you can only own one ABBA album, own this one.

9) The Little Mermaid; Soundtrack

This movie heralded Disney’s much-overdue return to motion picture animation.  Menken and Ashman outdid themselves.

10) Uptown Girl; Billy Joel

Since I can only pick one per artist, this is the one I pick from Billy.

11) Delirious; Eddie Murphy

This album re-defined “raunch” for kids of a certain age.  Part of the fun and thrill was knowing we probably shouldn’t have been listening to it at our age…

And last, but certainly not least:

12) Allan Sherman’s Mother Presents: My Son The Folk Singer; Allan Sherman

One day while going through my parents’ record collection this cover caught my eye.  I don’t know if it was the pretty lady in the cocktail dress or the fact that she was holding a dead chicken; the fat, bald guy standing on the pedestal playing a guitar or the fact that he was barefoot; or the biggest (what looked like) sausage I had ever seen hanging from a tray being supported by a stone statue of a naked baby.  But I had to know what was on this record!

The album was 1962’s “Allan Sherman’s mother presents: My Son, The Folk Singer”.  The melodies of some of the songs were familiar.  I recognized “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” in “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” and “Greensleeves” in “Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal,” but the lyrics were different.  Many of them were outright funny to me in my pre-pubescent state.  “My Zelda found her big romance, when I broke the zipper in my pants,” sounded dirty (though I didn’t know why).  Regardless, it made me giggle.  Listening to Sherman say “Oh boy…” over and over in the midst of a comical string of pop culture references recorded almost 30 years before Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” had me in fits.  And listening to the back-and-forth between Sherman and Christine Nelson in “Sarah Jackman” (Frére Jaques) was voyeuristic, like picking up on the party line at our camp and putting your hand over the mouthpiece.  But most of the material was over my head and only “funny” because the audience on the album was laughing.

This was my first taste of Borscht Belt humor, though I obviously didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time.  Not being Jewish, I didn’t understand most of the cultural references; not that I would at that age anyhow.  I have spent my life subconsciously tracking them all down.  My research is not overt, but every so often I will hear one and my brain will say, “Ah!  So THAT’S what ‘B’nai B’rith’ means!” or “THAT’S who David Susskind was!”

Judging by the reaction of the audience on the album, if nothing else, Sherman is hilarious without working blue.  I spent many hours listening, re-listening, and singing along to that record.  There are some references to which I am still not hip.  In this day of Wikipedia it would be trivial for me to track down each and every one about which I have question.  But there’s no romance in that.  My subconscious research continues.  Though I do wish someone would explain why the line “Stein with an ‘e-i’ and Styne with a ‘y'” is funny…

On Journalistic Integrity

[SPOILER ALERT – Minor plot details from “Supergirl” season 2, episode 15]

In season 2, episode 15 of the CW’s “Supergirl” (the most recent, as of this writing), Kara Danvers (AKA Supergirl) is fired from her job as a reporter by her editor, Snapper Carr, for publishing a story on her personal blog that he wouldn’t let her publish in the paper because she didn’t follow basic journalistic principles and could not cite two independent and verifiable sources to back her claims.  Her information was correct, but that was not the point.  Here is what Snapper had to say on the matter:

Kara: “I thought what I was doing was right.”

Snapper: “You weren’t right, you were lucky. Next time, you might not be. One wrong statistic about the stock market, and suddenly we’re in a great depression. One mis-attributed quote from a candidate, and you put a fascist in the White House. The rules are there for a reason: to make sure you get the story right. That’s not luck–that’s being a good reporter.”

Coincidentally, last night I watched Rachel Maddow’s show on which she displayed two pages of a 2005 tax return allegedly representing Donald Trump’s filing for that year.  I say “allegedly” because the “source” for this information is a reporter who had those pages anonymously delivered to him. By his own admission, they could have come from anywhere.  Hell, they could be forgeries! He went on at some length about where they MIGHT have come from, but he has no idea.

Hours, even days will be spent on speculation about these two pages and what they “mean.”  And speculation is all it can be because there are no verifiable facts to back it up. (The White House did release a statement which would seem to corroborate this, but they would have run with the story absent that.) I’m am not a journalist, nor am I student of Journalism. But I question the journalistic integrity of someone who receives information anonymously and decides to publish it without verifying its authenticity. It’s sensationalism at best, reckless and potentially dangerous at worst.

Why Updates Are Important

Almost 30 years ago John, an acquaintance of mine, purchased a Macintosh SE computer and an ImageWriter II printer.  His need was simple: He wanted to type stuff and print it out.  That need has not changed, and his trusty Mac SE is still serving him well in that regard.

In the modern, Internet-connected world, your needs as a User of technology are constantly changing, though you probably don’t even realize it.  You might think to yourself, “my computer is the same as it was the day I bought it, and it was fine then; so why should I update or change anything?”  And you would be right–your computer hasn’t changed!  But the Internet has.  And if you are connected to the Internet, then your needs are changing whether you know it or not.

First, let’s talk about code.  Computer code is the language that describes and controls how computers work.  Code determines how this web page looks.  Code determines what happens when you click on something.  Code secures your online banking transactions.  We like to think of computers as “perfect,” but the reality is that computers can only do what they are told, and it’s computer code that tells computers what to do, and computer code is written by people.  And how many perfect people do you know?

Three principle factors drive updates to computer code.  The first is flaws.  A flaw in code could mean it doesn’t do what it was designed or specified to do.  That can mean any number of things–the code was designed for 10 different things and only 9 of them work (it wasn’t tested thoroughly).  Or maybe when the code runs for too long the computer runs out of memory.  Or maybe it crashes when it runs on February 29th.  It could be anything.  When a flaw in code is found, it has to be updated.  The second factor that drives updates to code is security.  Security can mean keeping your data safe as it is transmitted from computer to computer (this is called encryption).  But security also means protecting the computer on which the code is executed (or “run”).  If a malicious user (frequently, if inaccurately, referred to as a “hacker”) executes code in a manner the author of the code did not anticipate, it could result in the user gaining an unauthorized level of access to the computer on which the code is running and, likely, many/any other computers on the local network to which that computer is connected. These flaws, once discovered, are called “exploits,” and when they are found, code is updated. The third factor is features. People constantly want more and better things, and things produced by code are no exception.  Here’s what the SUNY Potsdam home page looked like in December of 1996, almost 20 years ago as this is written:

Compare that to what it looks like today and all the features it offers. It improved.  It evolved.  It got better.  It was updated!

“But that’s not on MY computer, Rom.  Why should I care if people have to update code on web servers and internet computers?” Well, you’re partly right.  Why should you care if your bank or Google or Amazon.com update their web sites? Frankly, you don’t have a choice. Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to care. Part of updating a web site might be requiring a minimum version of a web browser because previous versions are known to have exploits which could lead to or allow a breach of the web server.  Things are fine today, and then tomorrow when you go shopping on amazon.com, you get an error telling you you have to upgrade your browser. If you want to shop/bank/blog/whatever, you must have the software your bank/vendor/blog host/whatever requires you to have.  If you don’t believe me, find a copy of Firefox 1.0 and see if you can load any of the web sites you usually visit. (If you can even install it on your current operating system…it’s up to version 50 now.)

But it’s not just the Internet you need be concerned about.  The operating system (“OS”) that runs your computer or your phone or your tablet is also code! And developers are constantly making updates for the same reasons: features and security.  Again: because code is written by humans, it is inherently flawed and other humans are going to discover those flaws.  Once discovered, flaws must be fixed because it must be assumed that some person somewhere will take advantage of the flaw. And that fix results in, you guessed it, an update.

“But geez, Rom; updates are a hassle!  They always seem to pop up right when I have something important to do.  I don’t have time for this crap!” You are not alone.  In the last week or so, I have heard from three separate people complaining about their computer or devices functionality.  In each case, a reboot and/or software update resolved their problem.  Sitting through an unexpected software update might seem like a hassle, but they really are necessary and should be checked for and applied regularly in order to preserve the functionality and security/integrity of your device.  They will also SAVE you time in the long run, even if they are a hassle at the moment you encounter them.  If an update notification pops up and you don’t understand what it is or what it is for, ask!  Do some research.  Type it into Google and see what pops up.

Some general tips for end users:

  • Mind the source of the update.  Updates in your App Store are usually safe.  Windows Updates are usually safe.  A window that pops up out of nowhere while you are browsing the web should be scrutinized.
  • Inspect links! If you are asked to “click here,” hover your cursor over the “here” and read the link that pops up.  The part immediately after the “http://” is most important.  Something that says something like “updates.microsoft.com” is likely legitimate, but something that reads “microsoft.updates.thisisreal.co” probably isn’t.  It’s easy to be fooled because it says “microsoft” in it. (Or “apple” or “google” or “some word you trust”.)
  • When in doubt, ask someone who knows more about it.
  • It’s not just you: Adobe Flash and Java do, in fact, update with annoying frequency, and their “updaters” aren’t as automatic as they should be.
  • Simply downloading an update doesn’t mean you have installed it.  Read and follow instructions.  If you don’t understand them, ask someone who does what to do.

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard.

I’ve never been the best or smartest person when it comes to managing money.  But we have a household budget and we stick to it.  I don’t track every penny spent, but there are some things I do track so that we can plan accordingly, most notably groceries.

I have been a Key Bank customer for about 30 years.  Recent events have me evaluating that relationship.  Earlier this year, Key overhauled their online portal–the web site customers use to view their accounts, pay bills, transfer money, etc.  As part of that project, they deleted all of the budgeting and reporting tools that used to be a part of the portal.  I had spent hours defining budget categories and applying those categories to transactions so I could run reports, e.g., “How much did we spend on Groceries each month last year?”  All that hard work, gone.

I complain to @KeyBank_Help on Twitter and receive an “apology” and am urged to use another service called “Hello Wallet.”  So I go and sign up with them.  My Key accounts link up easily enough, but Hello Wallet can only show me the previous three months of transactions, which is useless if you’re in need of reviewing a year’s worth of personal finance data. (This was confirmed by their tech support.)

So I suck it up and decide to buy Quicken.  (The Windows version, as Intuit has done a pretty thorough job of screwing with Mac users on and off for decades.)  When I get to the Payment Information screen, I am informed: “The Quicken special discount offer you’re trying to access has already been redeemed or is experiencing an error. Please contact Quicken customer support specialist at 650-250-1900 Mon – Fri 5am to 5pm Pacific if you need more assistance.”  *sigh*  So I call that number.  It rings 3 times, and then punts me to some kind of error tone/beep I’ve never heard before.

The universe is conspiring against me.  I should just keep my money in a shoe box, I guess.  If I ever do manage to acquire Quicken, I should probably send the receipt to Key Bank and ask for reimbursement.

#KeyBank #Quicken #Intuit

Disney Vacation 2016 – Day 4

This was our short day.  We had a flight out at around 7, with the bus from the resort leaving at 4:20.  We packed up and checked out, stowing our luggage with the valet.  Breakfast was in the Kona Cafe at our hotel.  Then we headed straight to EPCOT hoping to get there as the park opened.  The Monorail was inexplicably NOT running, so we had to cram into a bus to get there.  We made it, but the reason we made it STILL had a long line.  The Norway ride was closed last year and was being re-tooled t be “Frozen” themed.  It was the most popular ride in all of Disney.  Despite being there early, we walked into a 45 minute wait.  Long, but the shortest we had seen it while we were there.  So we went!  

Disappointingly, the World Showcase portion of EPCOT didn’t open until 11am, so we waited about 20 minutes and took in the Cinema 360 “Reflections of China.”  After that there was no time to see “the rest of the world,” and so we left the park in time to make our lunch reservation.

Lunch was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort.  We to some great pics with some characters courtesy of our awesome waitress!  After lunch, we went back to take in the Jungle Cruise, which was now running.  After that we had just enough time to catch “It’s A Small World” a second time.  

Then it was back to our resort and on to the airport!  We arrived in Syracuse at midnight with no delays or complications.  We arrived home at 3am and fell quickly asleep.

Disney Vacation 2016 – Day 3

My leg only marginally improved overnight.  I upgraded my self-diagnosis from “dead” to “numb” and resigned myself to having a slower than usual day.  I could now “feel” it and had muscle control, but topical nerve endings didn’t respond or felt like tingles.  I made an appointment to see my chiropractor shortly after we returned home and we headed out for the day.

Breakfast was at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom.  Buffet style with Winnie the Pooh characters dropping by for photo ops.  Then it was off to Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean.  We had a fastpass, but we cancelled it when we saw there was no wait.  After Pirates we headed over to Splash Mountain where riders are admonished, “You May Get Wet.”  Right.  We took a sun-filled ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat to dry off.  Now very hot, we went through the Haunted Mansion again to enjoy the air conditioning.  

Lunch was at the Liberty Tree Tavern.  Traditional American fare, I had a really good cheeseburger.  After lunch we headed to Tomorrowland to ride on Space Mountain.  On our way there, we noticed that the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor had no waiting was was about to begin, so we went in.  We had never experienced this attraction before and didnt really know what we were in for.  It turned out to be an interactive stand-up comedy show in which I ended up playing a key role!  A hidden camera focused on members of the audience, but there was one recurring role: “That Guy”. I was That Guy–the camera kept coming back to me, at which point I would pose in comical fashion, pointing both my fingers at the camera.  I got a sticker at the end!  The whole thing was hilarious!

On to Space Mountain where Amanda got to be FIRST on the sled!  (Something she has wanted to do for a long time.). When we came out, it was pouring rain.  Being autumn, some of the trees in the park had lost a few of their leaves, which promptly covered over the storm drains resulting in 4-inch mini lakes on the terraces of Tomorrowland.  We slogged our way to the PeopleMover and went around twice (didn’t have to get off!).  By then the rain had subsided.  We headed back to Adventureland hoping to ride the Jungle Cruise, but it was closed because of the rain.  So we walked over to Pirates of the Caribbean which had no waiting, so we went through it again!  After that, my leg was VERY tired and so I suggested we walk over to Frontierland and take the train back to Main Street USA.  When we got there, it, too, was closed.  But Splash Mountain had no wait!  So we went on THAT again.  When we came out, there was a short line for the train, which started back up about 10 minutes later.  We rode the train back to Main Street and caught the boat back to our resort.

Dinner was at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian Resort.  An interesting concept: they ply you with appetizer fare, and eventually start delivering shishkebobs of shrimp, steak, and chicken.  You can eat as much as you want.  Next time I’ll know not to load up on the appetizers.  I was too full to have very much of the yummy steak!  After dinner we returned to our room and bed.

Disney Vacation 2016 – Day 2

On Monday we woke and took the bus from the Polynesian Resort to Animal Kingdom here we had breakfast at Rainforest Cafe.  We then took the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch where the petting area was open and we got to see and pet goats and sheep and a few other exotic, medium size animals.  After returning to the main area of the Animal Kingdom we happened by “Finding Nemo, the Musical” which had no wait, as it was just abut to begin.  We went in and were glad we did!  It was an incredible performance.

Next was lunch at Tiffin’s, a new “upscale” restaurant right there in the Animal Kingdom.  Our dining plan included three meals for each night we stayed.  Given that we were leaving on Wednesday afternoon before dinner, we needed a way to use up an extra meal.  Several of Disney’s dining venues are so “posh” that they take two meal credits when you eat there.  Tiffin’s is one such place.  The lobster/Thai curry bisque I had to an appetizer was worth the price of admission!  Yummy!

After lunch we took the Kilimanjaro Safari.  I applaud Disney’s conservation efforts, but I wish they weren’t so fake about it all.  Don’t point to a cast cement “wall” painted to look like clay and tell us elephants were gouging it with their tusks 5 minute before we drove up.  Even the mud ruts are cement!

Over to “Asia” for the Karl River Rapids.  We used a FastPass for this.  We got to the end of the line and got in our “tube”…and waited.  We could see the escalator/platform that lifted the tubes to the top of the rapids, but it wasn’t moving and neither were we.  We sat there for about 15 minutes.  I returned a phone call.  Our launch attendant hadn’t been informed abut what was going on.  Then we were moving!  The ride continued without interruption, and when we got back to the beginning we were told we could go around again!  Wahoo!

Now soaked, we wandered into “It’s Tough to be a Bug” (No waiting!). It was a fine source of schadenfreude when Hopper came out and several kiddos were frightened out of their wits and had to be removed by their parents.  I don’t like seeing kids cry, but parents should pay more heed to the content warnings!  Still soaked, we returned too our hotel to shower and change before dinner.

Dinner was at EPCOT’s Coral Reef restaurant with windowed views of the massive aquarium Disney has.  Sharks, rays, and sea turtles were among the undersea dwellers to be seen while we dined.  Early for our dinner reservation, we took in the Finding Nemo ride in the same pavilion.  (Also no waiting!). After dinner we went on “Soarin’,” which we were not able to catch last year because it was always a 3 hour wait with no fast passes. WOW!  Part ferris wheel, part IMAX, it really can’t be described.

EPCOT was closing, so we headed back to the Magic Kingdom by Monorail for one of the last performances of the Main Street Electrical Parade before it is packed up and shipped to Disneyland.  As we got to the park, fireworks following the 9:00 performance of the parade were just ending.  Tons of people exited the park.  Amanda and I planted ourselves on the “downstream” side of a trash can just north of the main street buildings on the east side of the street and waited.  About 20 minutes later, the crowd subsided and we waited some more.  In short order, Disney’s salute to animation was portrayed on the front of Cinderella’s Castle, which is “transformed” into a projection screen in a way that only Disney could pull off.  By now we are tired of standing, so we sit on the curb in preparation for the 11:00pm showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade.  (11pm and I couldn’t believe how many strollers were still there.). I live streamed the parade on Facebook, much to the delight of several friends.

Although I didnt feel it, something went wrong while I was sitting on the pavement for those 90 or so minutes.  When the parade was over and I attempted to stand, I had difficulty.  My entire right leg was dead!  I had lost all feeling in it.  It was there, but I only knew that because I could see it.  I figured it had just fallen asleep, so I turned down the offer of a wheelchair by a cast member.  Amanda and I stood there for about 10 minutes waiting for the feeling to come back, but it didnt. We returned to the boat launch, me using Amanda as a crutch the whole way.  I went to bed hoping it just needed a little time.

Disney Vacation 2016 – Day 1

Last Summer Amanda and I took Brady and Kyle (and ourselves) to Walt Disney World as sort of a last Family vacation.  Brady was about to go to grad school, and Kyle had one more year of High School left.  I didn’t expect to be back so soon!  But a few weeeks agao Amanda and I both came to the realization that we needed to get away from, well, everything.  Disney was the first thing that came to mind.  We are back staying on-Disney at the Polynesian Resort this time.  We have no plans part from our arrival and departure.  We are making everything in between up as we go along.

Today was Day 1.  We arrived dry late last night and went straight to bed.  This morning we woke and took the boat transportation from the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom where we had breakfast reservations at the Be Our Guest restaurant in FantasyLand.  After that we went to TomorrowLand and enjoyed the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress.  e then explored Liberty Square and went through the Haunted Mansion.  Then it was time for our scheduled FastPass appointment at It’s A Small World.  

We had lunch reservations at the Sci-Fi Drive In Diner at Hollywood Studios, so we made our way to the bus stands and caught one to Hollywood Studios.  We meandered our way to the diner.  A little early, we decided to just wait about 20 minutes.  After lunch we enjoyed Star Tours and The Great Movie Ride.  We walked down Sunset Boulevard, stopping in a few shops.  By then we were both a little tired.  So we took the boat from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT, walked through the park t the Monorail and caught that back to the Transportation Center, transferring to the Resort Mnorail and back the Polynesian Resort where we each took a shower/bath.

After that rest it was time for dinner.  We decided to g back to EPCOT since it was the park open the latest tonight.  We caught the Monorail from the Polynesian, rode it to the transportation center and caught the EPCOT Monorail.  As we entered the park we noticed almost no line for Spaceship Earth, so we went on that.  We then  headed straight for World Showcase, deciding to dine in the Mexican Pavilion–our favorite restaurant at all of Disney World.  We had about an hour to kill, so we checked out the Norway Pavilion.  The new Frozen ride, despite not having any discernible line extending outside the building, advertised a 2-hour wait!  This was confusing as it was 7:30 or so and the park closed at 9:00.  We left ant went to kill the hour we had in the Mexican Pavilion, taking The 3 Caballeros ride and browsing in the shops.  Dinner finished, we made our way back to the Monorail.  When we got to the Transportation Center there was some technical problem with the Resort Monorail, so on a whim we took the express over to the Magic Kingdom and then rode the boat launch back to the Polynesian Resort.  (Its actually a very short walk from the transportation center to the Polynesian, but we’re on vacation and had walked enough!)

I must say we led the charmed life as far as line lengths.  We waited no more than 10 minutes to get into anything we wanted to do (except Frozen).  Hopefully our luck will continue tomorrow!

Hitching The Hard Way

As I was pulling away from the last light-controlled intersection in Potsdam yesterday, bound for Camp, something jumped up in front of my car. It was smaller than a bird, and wasn’t anything kicked up by another vehicle. It seemed to land somewhere on the hood close to where it meet the windshield, but I couldn’t see what it was. 10 seconds later, it jumped up again, this time landing on the little ledge of my door, just behind the driver-side mirror. It was a tree frog!!

IMG_0131

At this point I am up to speed and doing 30 MPH.  The little guy is still hanging on.  I reach the village limits and speed up to 45, thinking he’d have enough of this and jump for it.  Nope!  He still hangs on.  With the 55 MPH sign in sight, I pull over.  The frog just sits there.  I start to lower my window and realize that’s going to squish its leg, so I open my door.  The frog jumps down.  I don’t get out of the car–I just close the door, roll up the window, and head on my way.

St. Regis Falls…Paul Smiths…Bloomingdale…Franklin Falls…Wilmington…Jay.  I stop to visit a friend.  And just as I roll to a stop and my shifter slides into Park, up from out of seemingly nowhere comes the frog!!

IMG_0132

Where the hell was he that whole time? If reptiles are capable of experiencing fear, I can only imagine this thing was terrified!  I got out of the car and took one more picture.  Then I poked him and he jumped away.  To the ground.  And away from the car this time.  (I checked.)  So if anyone is keeping track, as of yesterday Potsdam NY is minus one tree frog, now a resident of Jay.

IMG_0134

Batman vs. Superman

[SPOILERS—If you haven’t seen this movie and are bothered by knowing serious plot points in advance of doing so, then you probably shouldn’t read this.]

Before I get to the movie, I should first give a little background on my history with and love (and then hatred) of DC Comics. I’ve been a fan of Superman since I can remember. I grew up seeing re-runs of the George Reeves television series, and I loved the early movies (though they got progressively worse as time went on). I collected comic books as soon as I was old enough to earn my own disposable income. I’d make trips to the drug store every 2 weeks and buy up all my titles and spend the next few hours reading and re-reading them, falling deeper and deeper in love with all my favorite characters and teams. In no particular order, I remember fondly Batman and the Outsiders, Teen Titans, All-Star Squadron, Justice League of America, The Legion of Super Heroes, Superman, Superboy, DC Comics Presents, World’s Finest Comics, Green Lantern, The Flash, and probably a few others I’m not remembering as I write this. Marvel? Feh. Marvel was OK. I liked Fantastic Four and a couple of other titles. But in general, I was not fond of their wussy teens bitten by all manner of insects; and their whiny, angst-ridden “poor us” mutants. I liked my heroes to be fantastic. I wanted to have to suspend a hell of a lot of disbelief when reading about them. People from other planets with all manner of powers—THAT fires up the imagination! Random gene mutation? BORING. Can you tell that Batman was one of my least-favorite characters?

I read comics until DC’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths” series. I collected the entire series. I collected the “Who’s Who?” companion guide. I bought every crossover title I could find, even if I didn’t collect that series. And then they finished it. The tagline for “Crisis” was, “Worlds will live, worlds will die; and the DC Universe will never be the same!” Well, they were right. As far as I was concerned, they had killed everything I loved about the DC Universe, including Supergirl and the Flash. What they did was stupid and unnecessary, and I decided I was done. I stopped collecting and made room for other things in my life. A few years later while on a family trip I was in a New England drug store with a few minutes to kill, so I found the comic book section of their magazine rack. I grabbed the latest issue of “Superman” and took it out to the car. The art had certainly changed, as had the quality of the paper. I saw these as generally good things. Superman was fighting someone (as usual). The fight ended up in space. Where Superman HAD TO HOLD HIS BREATH. What?!? What the hell was this? I almost cried. I threw the comic on the car’s floor in disgust and have not purchased one since then (about 30 years). I was right—they had ruined everything.

Fast forward to the 21st century. A lot has changed in the media of TV and the movies. Marvel has spent the last decade packaging up their most popular characters (and a few more minor ones) for consumption both on the big screen as well as television, masterfully weaving and presenting the backstories for Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk in the movies; and bringing us ongoing shows like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Agent Carter”, “Jessica Jones”, and “Daredevil”. As I write this, there have been two “Avengers” movies and we are anxiously awaiting a third (“Civil War”). Where has DC been during all of this? Mostly silent. They gave us “Man Of Steel” in 2013, which I rather liked. And someone with a lot of love and a lot of respect for pre-Crisis lore has been pouring their heart into “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Supergirl” on television. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, they threw “Batman vs. Superman” our way.

I saw “Batman vs. Superman” last night. I will probably see it again, if for no other reason than I saw it with only one of my two sons, and I’m pretty sure the other one wants to see it too. I’ll start by saying that any movie that has me looking at my watch has not sufficiently grabbed my attention. There were several glances in the first 90 minutes. We apparently are in the universe established by the “Man Of Steel” movie. We have no real background on the Batman of this universe beyond the very basics: His parents were killed when he was a kid, he discovered a cave full of bats and made it his lair, and his family mansion is now a ruin. (I can’t remember if that last detail happened in one of the most recent Batman flicks—I was probably asleep. That franchise has been rebooted/revisited so many times I’ve lost track. (Batman was never my favorite, remember?)) I don’t remember the locations of Gotham City and Metropolis ever being specifically mentioned in the comics. It was always an “understood” elephant in the room that they were both analogs for New York City, which made it only slightly awkward when Batman would visit Superman or vice versa. We didn’t know exactly “where” Gotham and Metropolis were, but we knew they weren’t the same. Well, now we know they are “sister” cities, across the harbor from one another. Sure. Whatever.

I’ll start with Superman. I generally enjoy Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman. I think he has “the look,” and while I wish the colors were a tad brighter, I like what they have chosen to do with his costume. He spends the movie struggling with the age-old question: “Can I ever get close to anyone?”, realizing, apparently for the first time, that if you care about someone (or some thing), then people who don’t like you can use that person (or thing) as leverage against you. I was somewhat relieved when it was revealed that it was this moth-eaten plot device that was going to be the real reason for a fight between our two heroes. They spent a solid hour attempting—poorly— to provide adequate background and character development, leading us to believe that they were going to come to blows simply over philosophical differences (a la the aforementioned “Civil War”). But when it came down to it, Superman simply had no choice. I think he did a piss-poor job of trying to explain that to Batman, but if he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been much of a fight, and that’s why we all bought our tickets, right?

Batman. I said earlier I’ve never been a big fan of Batman. This movie didn’t make me any more of one. First of all, he kills. And shoots guns. When did that start? Is that a thing now? (Remember; I haven’t bought a comic in 30 years!) One of the things to LIKE about Batman, even if you didn’t like much else, was that he chose not to kill. He was all about justice. Catch the bad guys and deliver them to law enforcement and let the system do its job. No guns, unless they shot cables or mist or something else non-lethal. But in this movie there are several scenes in which he indiscriminately mows down bad guy after bad guy with spray from fully-automatic weapons, and when he’s out of bullets or there’s no gun handy, he doesn’t seem to pull any punches. Several others are quite obviously dead in the aftermath of the sheer brutality of his physical attacks. This is not the Batman I used to know. I will, however, give serious props to Ben Affleck as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Affleck’s one of those actors who for me is only as good as the material he’s performing. I’ve loved him in roles. I’ve hated him in roles. I loved him in this role! He was suave and handsome enough to be believable as the “billionaire playboy” Brice Wayne (though that aspect of the character is not at all played up in this flick) and brooding and angsty enough to pull off the “Dark Knight” shtick that has become popular with the character over the last 40 years.

Wonder Woman? *blink* What? Who invited her? Indeed, the movie asks this very question as the three heroes are set to face Doomsday (Its name is “Doomsday, right? It’s a post-Crisis character, so I’ve never seen it before, but I’ve gathered that’s its name.): Superman: “Is she with you?” Batman: “No, I thought she was with you!” Her presence is obviously a prelude to a sequel which will expand upon her backstory and her last hundred years, explaining what her contributions to World War I were and where she’s been since then. And we see evidence that The Flash, Aquaman (ugh) and Cyborg will be seen in some future movie(s). But she came out of nowhere and just decided to show up for the big fight at the end.

Superman’s (apparent) death. At the end of the film we are led to believe that Superman (and, ipso facto, Clark Kent) is dead. They handled this all wrong. Superman’s wake was closed (and empty) casket, while Clark’s was open-casket; and Smallville is where the body was buried. That makes it very hard to explain his eventual resurrection. Had they done it the other way around, with Superman’s body on display and Clark’s apparently “missing,” it would have been easy. Superman simply bursts forth, apparently finally healed from his wound; and Clark emerges from some as-yet-uncleared rubble that resulted from the big fight with Doomsday, barely alive, but able to come through his ordeal. I have no idea how they’re going to explain Clark coming back they way they’ve done things.

Broadly, I don’t know what Warner Brothers has been thinking for the past 10 years. Marvel has been trouncing them and it’s like they’ve been sitting around a board room table with blindfolds on and fingers in their ears. Now they’re “awake” and playing catch-up and doing so very poorly. Box office receipts notwithstanding, this new Universe could have been…and still could be…so much better! They need to slow down and take their time and explain exactly WHO all these “new” characters are and where they came from and why we should love them. Superman and Batman are easy. Unless you’ve lived in a cave all your life, you at least know who they are. You know Superman can fly and has heat vision and is invulnerable. You know Batman has a cave and a Batmobile and a utility belt. You almost can’t not know these things! Wonder Woman is on the fringe of this level of popularity. Amazon, bracelets, lariat…check. But Cyborg? Flash? Aquaman? Who?? DC has a LOT of work ahead of itself. In many ways, this film is a knock-off of Marvel’s recent work. Superman = Captain America. Batman = Iron Man. Wonder Woman = Thor. Doomsday = Hulk. *yawn* I’ve seen all of this already!

Give me something NEW and reasons to once again love the characters that consumed my imagination for most of my teen years. Please?