Category Archives: Just For Fun

An Updated, Non-Comprehensive List of Facebook “Don’ts”

Generally, I’m a fan of Facebook.

While the social media giant may not be perfect, Facebook is unquestionably a great way to stay connected with old friends and associates that are no longer in your “every day” circle. I’m glad to know that my cousins in Georgia, and their kids, are doing well. I’m happy to read witticisms posted by college classmates and be reminded that inside our current shells, aged 25 years plus, those younger dudes are still floating around. However, all good things aside, I have identified, over the course of my eight years with Facebook, several misuses of this powerful tool.

Ladies and gentlemen, there ARE things that should NOT be posted on Facebook.

So without further ado, and for the benefit of my 823 friends, many of whom I actually know, I have compiled a non-comprehensive list of important Facebook “Don’ts.”

First, do not post quoted country song lyrics that are unmistakably applicable to your own life.

Do not post a 20th pic of your baby wearing a cute hat, even if each shot shows the hat at a slightly different angle.

Do not post your “check-in” … anywhere.

Never post a 2nd profile-photo change in a single day or a 5th in any given week.

Never post political rants, unless you are an actual government official, in which case there is real entertainment value, and we thank you.

Never post retractions. You said it. Don’t back away. “I did not mean it like that” should be grounds for immediate Facebook expulsion.

Do not post any tale in which your male child cries. Do not do it. I can’t speak for girl children – I have none, and I was not one – but I can tell you unequivocally that your son does NOT want that on Facebook. He’ll be 25 one day and some geezer will tell him “Yeah, I remember that time you bawled like a baby when your dog ate the action figure off your birthday cake. Saw it on Facebook.” Ladies, I’m telling you, men never forget crying males. It’s primal.

Do not post more than 5 “shared” pictures consecutively. We, your Facebook friends, appreciate what you find poignant or witty. But in moderation … please.

There are a few posts that are not wholly detrimental but are nonetheless irritating. For instance, a picture of anyone’s feet, besides mine, at a beach.

Actually, NO gathering of older women at a beach on a girls’ trip should be posted. First, the use of the term “girls” is clearly misleading, a fact corroborated, with very few exceptions, by the subsequent photographic evidence.  And when these events do show up, I always catch at least a fleeting mental image of the poor “boys” back home, steadily running out of clean clothes.

Do not post pictures of your frozen margarita glasses lining a bar somewhere … AFTER having posted your “Bible Verse of the Day” earlier that SAME day.

Don’t post your Social Security Number.

Do not seek medical advice on Facebook by posting a picture of your injured, ailing or infected body part.

Don’t post that your size 2 shorts are just “falling off you,” unless you are INTENTIONALLY seeking to be defriended by all your fat friends.

Along that same line, don’t comment on your workout regimen while “checked-in” at a Krispy Kreme.

If you are actively crying or medicated, do not post anything.

Similarly, if it is later than 11 pm, DO NOT POST. Believe me. Nothing good can come of it.

However, if you are intoxicated, disregard the previous two rules and post away. No baby in a cute hat can entertain like a drunk waxing poetic. 68.6% of people on Facebook are only there to watch others go down in flames anyway. Give’em their money’s worth.

Certainly this is not a complete and final list of things that should be avoided on Facebook, but it’s a start. If you know of other good ones, send them to me at my Facebook account.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important rule.  Do NOT be caught promoting your stupid blog on Facebook. Nobody wants to read it. It’s just filling up people’s news feeds. Come on!

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2nd Saturday LIVE at The Claude Gentry Theatre

Something really neat is about to happen.

Last Monday night, a group of excellent singers and musicians gathered at The Claude Gentry Theatre in preparation for an upcoming production called “2nd Saturday LIVE.”  In total, there were eleven of us on hand.

And over the course of two and a half hours, those assembled hammered out faithful renditions of the classic songs of Pontotoc-native Jim Weatherly – a member of the Songwriter Hall of Fame – including Midnight Train To Georgia, Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye, and The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.

Why, one might ask.  I’m happy to answer.

Web_2NDSATLIVE-01“2nd Saturday Live” is a new live radio show which will broadcast once a month (every second Saturday night, hence the name) directly from the stage of The Claude Gentry Theatre.  The program will air, as it happens, on WFTA Power 101.9 in Tupelo, a musical sister station to the SuperTalk Mississippi radio group.  Each hour-long production will start at 6:00 pm, and local admission to the event will be free.

See, neat.

A wild idea formed, just a few months ago – an inevitable offspring of the growing body of theatrical, film, musical, and radio & television broadcast life experiences I’ve had, both as an observer and as a participant.  We could start a live radio show, one to showcase the talents and artistry of successful Mississippians … and we’d do it monthly … and we’d do it live.  We could have guests and a house band and a host … like The Tonight Show, except that we’d be in Mississippi … specifically, we’d be in Baldwyn … specifically, we’d be at The Claude Gentry Theatre at 110 West Main Street.

The light bulb brightened.

I placed a call to a local radio station manager named Steve Knight and made a proposal.  I talked fast to hide the holes.  I used my greatest power on him – the ability to sound like I knew what I was talking about whether I did or not – and he listened.  Then he came to Baldwyn and visited the theater, and we talked some more.  Then, after I sent him eighteen more emails and text messages, he said he liked the idea … he actually said he liked the idea “a lot.”  He was particularly keen on the fact that we would put on our big show from our little, rural Mississippi town, in our little theater that seats eighty-eight.  We could be the unexpected, he said, the thing that comes out of nowhere.  I took note that another good power, which Steve recognized in my proposal, was the ability to turn a weakness into a strength.  People always root for the underdog.  I didn’t realize I was the underdog, but I’ll take it.

Steve said go, and I started running.

And now with a little help from my friends, on August 11, at 6 pm, the first broadcast of 2nd Saturday Live at The Claude Gentry Theatre will occur.  Special guests appearing on our very first show will be star singer-songwriter Mr. Jim Weatherly himself along with the co-author of his new book “Midnight Train,” Ole Miss journalist and author Jeff Roberson.  Nashville recording artist and Tupelo-native John Milstead will also appear, as will Dick Guyton, the executive director of the Tupelo Elvis Museum.  And a house band, made up of local musicians Don Anderson (bass), Jeff Spencer (guitar), Dan Davis (keyboard, saxophone), Richie Lomenick (drums) and Terry Hayes (guitar), will back our special guests as needed, ably accompanied our own vocal group The Claude Gentry Singers – Toni Johnson, Clint Reid, Amye Gousset and Kiswana Green.

The whole shebang will be graciously sponsored by Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, Farmers and Merchants Bank, and Sherwin-Williams.  And a few others to be named later.

And I’ll get to talk a little bit on the radio.  It’s about to happen.

See, neat.  I told you.

Web_2NDSATLIVE-05

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The Gorilla Girl’s Relative Importance

“Come inside!  See her change before your very eyes!  The strange and beautiful girl becomes a terrifying ape!  Discovered in the wilds of darkest Africa, see her transform.  See the hair grow!  See the muscles swell, behind iron bars, placed there for your protection. Come!  See!  The Gorilla Girl!  If you dare.”

That’s what the carnival barker for the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show boomed, through his crackling microphone, just outside her tent.  A mystified kid of 14 and his friend stood slack-jawed on the east side of the midway.  An exchange of nervous glances and false bravado swirled in crescendo, culminating with the purchase of tickets to see this spectacle.  Our sweaty hands handed over our last crumpled dollars, and we huddled inside the square canvas enclosure with a dozen other lost souls.  How could such a shocking miracle of nature have come all the way to Tupelo, Mississippi, in September of 1978?

They are building an office building today near the spot where my friend and I stood spellbound by the Gorilla Girl forty years ago.  Four stories, they say.  The first of a matching pair planned for the ever-expanding Fairpark area of Tupelo, perfectly designed with its future mate to fit neatly into the aesthetically-pleasing architecture already in existence.  It’s a beautiful place.

At the south end of the fair’s midway, the “Himalaya,” twenty or so linked cars on a circular track, loudly blared rock music on a loop, coaxing passers-by into that high energy attraction.  Centrifugal force drove any passenger who sat to the inside of the ride outward into the passenger who sat at the edge.  It was crushing and irresistible and undoubtedly unsafe.  I remember how my arms felt straining to hold the lap bar in a futile effort not to drive the air from my friend who had mistakenly sat on the outside.  Once the ride started, it was too late.  And then it went backwards.

There’s now a statue of Elvis Presley, Tupelo’s most notable son, at the center of Fairpark.  Elvis was already a national phenomenon when he came to the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in 1956.  He was the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and his September trip to the fair that year was historic, an electric homecoming by a poor Tupelo boy who’d gone out into the world and made it big.  Those who were there on that day still remember it.  And they still talk about it.

Today, because of the perpetual love and adoration of Elvis, that one moment in September of ‘56 overwhelms all other moments in the history of the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.  That’s an injustice, I think, to all those other years, decade after decade, that impacted impressionable Mississippians like me.  In 1978, my friend and I had not one thought of Elvis in our heads when those drum beats started inside that dark tent and a scantily-clad, long-haired girl writhed inside a cage in apparent pain.  Our hearts did beat fast though, probably even faster than the girls who squealed at The King twenty-two years earlier.

My mother took me on the “Zipper” when I was about five.  It was always set up near the south end of the fair, too, just northwest of the Himalaya.   The Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler, the Octopus – they were all in that general area.  I assumed my mother was a mature adult when she put me on the Zipper, a vertical track of enclosed bench seats that went both up and down and rotated head over heels.  It’s hard to explain the motion.  It was like turning flips on a trampoline while on a Ferris wheel.  I was five.  She was twenty-five and today would be immediately arrested for child endangerment.  The thing had a “safety” restraint, which fit my mother nicely but allowed me considerable freedom of movement.  I’d say … sort of like a loose sock in a clothes dryer.  That’s about right.  She did try to catch me every cycle or so.  We never rode a Zipper again.

She changed.  The Gorilla Girl.  In dim lighting behind iron bars, a girl became an ape.  And we freaked out.  We didn’t talk tough.  We exhibited zero swagger.  When the gorilla grabbed the cage door and ripped it off its hinges, my friend I poured out of the tent back into the midway of the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show with the other dozen lost souls, like one homogeneous liquid, through every flap available, under tent walls.  We squirted out.  The drum beat had stopped, and the barker had screamed at the ape in a terrifying voice, “Get back! Get back! Get back!”  We heard it somewhere far, far behind us.

They are building a beautiful pair of office buildings in Fairpark today, near the statue of Elvis.  I’m sure they will be wonderful.  Almost as wonderful as the Zipper, almost as wonderful as the Himalaya, almost as wonderful as the Gorilla Girl.

Almost.

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Parents Should Eat Free

There is apparently no age limit when parents become unable to embarrass their children – no age limit for the child, and none for the parent.

I continue to find material for publication on this particular subject, appearing in both the role of child and parent.  This week, however, I’ve decided to give my usual target – my dear sweet mother – a break and instead focus on my ability to embarrass my own kids.  Any parent knows, it’s not really that hard to do.  Kids from 10 to 50 are precisely attuned to anything their parents might do or say that could bring even a speck of negative or questioning attention upon the child.

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Despite a few stray tales to the contrary, I consider myself a sane, mature and put-together guy.  I take pride in the fact that I’ve managed to navigate this earth, avoiding a decent percentage of disasters, to the age of 53.  My peer group, for the most part, seems to count on me as a person of some knowledge and discernment.  And then there’s my crowning achievement – four sons, mostly raised, who’ve all turned out pretty good.

Up until this past week, I had begun to think that I was over the “embarrassment” hump as a parent, and that I could now safely interact with the world around me while in the presence of any of my sons, aged 27 down to 15.  But then Maddux – the 15-year-old – and I decided to go to O’Charley’s for a steak, and I discovered that I was, indeed, still atop the hump.

We sat down on a Wednesday night and ordered our favorite O’Charley’s fare – two 7 oz., garlic butter filets.  Maddux tacked on an appetizer of chips and queso dip and expedited our waitress to deliver him some homemade rolls to the table … pronto!  He then rocked back in his booth seat, flipped out his phone and started explaining to me how much better LeBron James was than Larry Bird.  This generational assault by my progeny on one of my beloved sports heroes set me squirming in my seat, and that’s when I felt it.  Or the better description, I didn’t feel it.  My wallet.

“Maddux, we’ve got a little problem,” I said to the lad across from me, who was by now working on his second yeast roll.

“Yeah?”

And the server, hopping to please, spun our queso dip onto the table and asked if there’d be anything else.

“No thank you, not at this time,” I replied.  My voice might have cracked just a little.

As soon as she was out of earshot, I broke the news.  “I forgot my wallet.”

Before Maddux could verbalize a response from behind his now saucer-like eyes, I reached for a most improbable straw.

“How much money do you have?” I asked of my 15-year-old.

IMG_7375We both stared at each other for what seemed like a minute.  He knew the $20 or so he might scrape from behind his learner’s permit wasn’t going to cover two 7 oz., garlic-butter filets and a side of queso dip, and I knew it would take me about 45 minutes to drive home and back with funds enough to cover this now regrettable outing.

I crunched a chip from the queso basket.

“Well, don’t eat the chips!” Maddux screamed over at me.

“You don’t think they’re just gonna scoop these up and serve them to someone else, do you?!” was my flustered comeback.  Emotions were high.

I took a deep breath and said “I’ll fix it.”

I made my way from our table to the hostess stand and there explained my dilemma to two lovely young ladies who represented the face of O’Charley’s, assigned as they were to the greeting and seating of all customers.  Apparently however, they were mannequins, because upon hearing my tale of woe, they just stared at me, saying nothing at all.  Not a peep.

IMG_7970Fortunately, I was overheard by the bartender.  And thankfully, this cocktail-serving Yoda of Barnes Crossing gathered up a manager, and they together explained that I could re-order the food that we had just ordered at our table online, “to-go.”

Problem solved.  All was well!  Because of course, I had my phone, and I could accomplish this new strategy from the very booth in which we sat.  Birds chirped under a rainbow somewhere in the distance.

However, since I didn’t have my wallet, I also didn’t have a credit card.

So, Maddux had to call my mother, and after only 10 minutes of strolling room to room and rummaging through a half-dozen purses while chatting to us on various unrelated subjects, she ultimately produced a valid credit card that was indeed usuable by O’Charley’s Online.  And she saved our day, big time.

Maddux exhaled, finally.  So did I.  We would have hugged if there hadn’t been a table between us.

And thus, my heroic Mom finally gets a well-deserved break from the embarrassing tales of her exploits often spun by her sincerely grateful and loving son.  Thanks, Mom.

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12 Angry Men get Jury Duty while Wives Vacation at the Beach

My recent involvement with the community theater group Baldwyn Main Street Players may have unintentionally started a social experiment.

In December, I signed on to direct the classic play 12 Angry Men for BMSP.  This particular show has a 13-member cast, entirely male – twelve “angry” jurors and one jury room guard, who does NOT become noticeably angry during the production.  (So the count in the title comes out right, you see.)

This latest BMSP show opens in the Claude Gentry Theater on Thursday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, and will have a total of six performances.   We expect sell-outs.  It’s a good one.

12 Angry Men - Jak SmithAppropriately enough for this courtroom drama, Jak Smith, a practicing lawyer in Tupelo, has been cast in a featured role – Juror #4.  Expect Smith, a newcomer to our stage, to masterfully deliver the character originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall in the award-winning 1954 film.  He has been doing just that, night after night, for the last two weeks.

As for the demanding lead role of Juror #8, accomplished BMSP regular Bentley Burns more than ably meets the challenge.  Juror #3, a dangerous sadist and the story’s chief antagonist, will be handled, against type, by lovable local ham Anthony “Frog” Buse.  This deadly-serious role will be the first of its kind for the gifted Buse, who’s played the more light-hearted roles of Rodney Dangerfield, Thurston Howell, and Hee Haw’s Gordie Tapp in recent shows.

12 Angry MenBurns, Buse and Smith won’t be flying solo.  Talent abounds throughout the show’s cast.  Veterans Craig Gaines, Steve Collins, David Jenkins, Greg Lominick, and Jonathan Hancock return to action for BMSP in this one, and they’re joined by first-timers Gregg Tucker, Ricky Murphy, Ken Anderson, James Rinehart and Jamie Gray.

BMSP also tapped well-known Booneville native Marshall Dickerson for the role of Juror #10, a harsh and intense bigot, played by Ed Begley in the old movie.  Dickerson told me he expected as much from a “Baldwyn” community theater group.

“Sure, you HAD to put someone from Booneville in the villain role,” Marshall lamented.  “I’ll have to have a police escort to get out of town when this thing’s over!”

12 Angry Men - Stage RightI didn’t intend it that way … but it does seem sort of appropriate, don’t you think?

“So, what about that “social experiment” thing you referred to earlier,” one might ask.

Well, THAT allusion has to do with THIS fact:  I am also directing a “chick-flick” in May – called The Dixie Swim Club – which, ironically, has a cast made up entirely of WOMEN, five of ‘em.   (Auditions for DSC will be held February 9th, a Sunday afternoon, at 2 PM … for you ladies who might be interested.)

I suspect that I will find a significant amount of material for future columns as I compare the two experiences – directing an all-male cast on the one hand and an all-female cast on the other.

Dixie Swim ClubI can already say that directing the men through a holiday-compressed rehearsal process has had a “military” feel to it.  While scripts were passed out in December, rehearsals really didn’t start in earnest until after New Year’s Day – with a production opening night of January 23rd!  That’s tight.  But we all knew it going in, and the guys have worked hard to bring out every nuance of their characters.

In contrast, the ladies of Dixie Swim Club will have more than three months to perfect their show.  The men have brought this point up to me on more than one occasion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that discussions among the men have generally moved to a conclusion like this one:  “Well, of course, you know men can get done in two weeks what it will take those women three months to finish … because we don’t have to stop and talk about every little thing.”

I look forward to The Dixie Swim Club’s response to a comment like that.  I’ll keep you informed.

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A Good Life, A Great Uncle

Gabe & JackMy great uncle, Jack Hamblin, Jr., is a World War II veteran.  He saved a dozen or more men from drowning when his ship was sunk in the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.  Jack Jr. and my grandfather Mort Gardner were my employers from the time I was 10 until I graduated high school at their Sinclair, Arco and Phillips 66 service stations here in Baldwyn. 

Jack told me a funny story several weeks ago.

Jack Hamblin Jr. & Charles Sidney SpainWhen he was a boy in the early 1940’s, Jack worked at the Union Drug Store, for Len Rowan and Archie “Fat” Frost, on Main Street in Baldwyn.  One day a local man named Bishop came in and approached Frost at the counter.  Archie, who was nearing 40 and balding, had had a long day.  He was seated behind the counter with his arms propped up, leaning forward. 

Bishop thought there was a little fun to be had.

Walking over to Frost, he clapped his hand down on top of Archie’s head, and loudly proclaimed “Archie, that feels just like my wife’s butt.”  And he laughed it up.

Archie Frost made no immediate response except to reach up and pat the top of his own head a couple of times.  Finally, he brought his hand down, looked up at Bishop, and dead-panned, “Damned if it don’t.”

Jack said Bishop never came in the Union Drug Store again. 

Certainly, Jack thought that was a pretty funny story.  In fact, he thought it was funny enough to relay it to his nephew more than 70 years after it happened.

Jack Hamblin, Jr., & Clark RicheyAs I debated this past week whether or not to write up the tale Jack had told me – I’m not sure the Baldwyn News will even publish the word “butt,” which is not really the term he used anyway – I realized I’d forgotten something.  Jack had told me what the Bishop man’s name was.  It was Claude, or Clarence, or Carl – something that started with a “C.”  But as I prepared my column this week, I couldn’t think of it for the life of me.  I had jotted it down on a piece of paper at my office, but that was months ago.  That scribble’s long since been discarded.  But I know that Jack knows it.  And I can get it from him later. 

Jack Jr. will be 90 this spring, I think.

Before Christmas, I sat with Jack at my niece’s wedding, and we talked about how he and my grandfather had started their service station business.  It was after the war, and they bought someone out – I can’t remember who he said – but he said they only had one tire tool in the place.  He told me one of the guys who had the station would wash someone’s car and then take the money and go straight to the pool hall.  He gave me the person’s name.  I can’t remember it.

Jack told me that when he and my grandfather thought about going into the service station business, people around town told them they were crazy.  Their competition – Brownie Coggins and Harless Rutherford, who in typical small-town fashion were also their brothers-in-law – had the gas business “sewed up” at Blue Top and Standard Oil. 

“But we did it anyway,” Jack said.  “Mort said, ‘I think it’ll be all right.’”

Jack Hamblin Jr., Claire & Hallie Goodson, Reggie RicheyJack told me how they saw that no one in town offered credit to black families in those days … and how he and my grandfather decided that they would.  He said they went to several solid men in the black community and told them directly that they wanted their business and that their credit would be good with “Mort and Jack.”  He called the men’s full names.  One was a Stewart, and I just can’t remember who else he mentioned.  Jack said when he and my uncle Dan closed the station 50 years later they had more business than anyone in town and that it had been basically 50/50 black and white all the way from the start.  I had never heard any of that before.

I’ve talked a lot over the past couple years with Jack Jr. and other elder statesmen around Baldwyn – Annie Laurie Arnold, Jimmy Cunningham, Wallace Pannell, Taylor Lindley, many more.  These golden souls are the ones who put flesh and bones on historic local names like Archie Frost for me.  They called him “Fat,” Jack told me.  I try hard to remember the details, to capture it all.  I don’t think I can.

But I called Jack back on Sunday anyway.  It was “Roy Stewart.”  He was the man Jack went to in the black community, in the fall of 1946, to offer credit.  He worked for the railroad.  And “Clarence” Bishop was the man who thought it’d be funny to pat Archie Frost’s bald head.  That was in 1941 or ’42, Jack thought.

At my niece’s wedding a month ago, my great uncle Jack Hamblin, Jr., told me, “You know, I’ve lived a good life.” 

Damned if he hasn’t.

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Batman versus Superman: Geek Food for Thought

I have long been a comic book geek.

Finally, at 45-ish, I have reached the level of self-confidence sufficient to combat any ridicule I might receive from hunters, athletes, mechanics or other stereotypical roles of masculinity regarding my love for the superhero genre.  Therefore, I am at last comfortable revealing that I know the difference in “a cyborg,” a being who is part-man and part-machine, and “Cyborg,” a member of DC Comics’ Justice League who is … well, part-man and part-machine.

Batman and RobinI can tell you the secret identity of almost any costumed, comic book hero – a gripping game I like to play on long road trips.  Believe it or not, my family very seldom wants to join me.  My youngest child Maddux WILL occasionally indulge me in a “name ‘em” game where we spread out a drawing of multiple comic book characters and then try to call the correct names of each one, no matter how obscure.

Look, I already said I was a geek.

One must admit that Hollywood, over the past decade, has validated MY position – that comic book heroes are the modern-day analogies of ancient mythological characters like Hercules and Beowulf.  Inarguably, Tinseltown has discovered that my fictional, spandex-wearing, new titans are very, VERY marketable.

I was way ahead of the curve on that one.

From pre-school days, I’ve been a fan of Batman.  Like many from my generation, I became aware of the caped crusader by watching him on television in the BIFF-BAM-POW campy creation that ran on ABC back-to-back weeknights from 1966 to 1968.  Even today, the show’s star Adam West, in his gray and blue long underwear, defines the Batman character for millions.

I was in elementary school before I found out that Batman was not just a TV show.  There were these picture books called “comics” for sale at Hopkin’s Big Star or Cunningham’s Grocery that painted a much fuller picture of the Batman and his teenage sidekick Robin.

RobinBatman was more, I found out, than a melodramatic, goody-two-shoes who chit-chatted with celebrities as he climbed Gotham’s buildings via the bat-rope.  The Dark Knight was a brilliant detective and a vicious but virtuous vigilante who could find ways to succeed regardless of the odds stacked against him – not comically like on television, but semi-realistically.  The bottom line:  comic-book Batman was cool.

Apart from the dynamic duo, I also discovered “others” out there, a whole DC Comics’ “universe” of characters.  And in that universe was, of course, the ultimate superhero, Superman, the granddaddy of ‘em all.

The red-caped, Kryptonian Man of Steel had a TV show of his own, too, I later learned – The Adventures of Superman – but his series was gone from the airways, along with its star George Reeves, long before my time.  I did eventually pick it up later in childhood, syndicated on Saturdays, but the strange visitor from another planet never could penetrate my psyche like Batman.

Frankly, I think it all came down to the idea that a regular person – if he was driven enough, talented enough, crazy enough – could theoretically BECOME Batman, at least as much as he could become Tarzan, or James Bond, or the Lone Ranger.  Because Batman was a man.

On the contrary, no matter how much Popeye spinach I forced down, I would never be able to defy gravity and fly or shoot red laser beams out of my eyes.  To be Superman was simply unattainable.

In the comics, I discovered another difference between Batman and Superman, more subtle but just as profound.

Superman sees human beings as inherently good, while Batman views mankind as untrustworthy, at best, and psychotically depraved, at its worse.

BatmanThat’s geek-food for thought.

One would want to see it Superman’s way.  From his vantage point above squeaky-clean Metropolis, a pinnacle of human civilization in the DC Universe, Superman looks down on people as generally noble beings, who in their heart-of-hearts desire to do right by one another.  It’s only the few bad apples – Lex Luthor, Toyman, Parasite, etc. – who are out there actively trying to spoil the bunch in the Man of Steel’s worldview.

On the other hand, Batman, whose parents were gunned down in an alleyway in gritty, dirty Gotham City, views mankind quite differently.  People are selfish, belligerent and dishonest or far, far worse – take the homicidal lunatic the Joker, for instance.

In black and white pre-school terms, Batman and Superman are both certainly out there vanquishing evil.  But the difference is Superman believes that ultimately he can win, that he can expunge evil completely.  The Batman, for his part, understands his quest is a never-ending battle against depravity which can spontaneously recreate itself anywhere human beings exist.

Batman’s realism versus Superman’s idealism is just one of the heady philosophical considerations that keep my status as a comic book geek intact after four decades as a fan.

Of course, I also like to see Lex Luthor and the Joker just get punched in the face.  So there’s that, too.

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