Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Insecurity Bus Has Arrived

OK, let me preface this whine by saying that a week ago I changed blood pressure meds, and have been feeling pretty crappy ever since, so the worries I'm about to expound upon may be related to that. That being said, however, some of what is to come has been smoldering inside me for many years, and I finally have to get it out before they make me any crazier. I will try to keep this from seeming like I'm fishing for compliments, but I am fishing for feedback, and I'm not so sure the difference is all that vast. So if you wish to depart at this point I would neither blame you, nor hold it against you.

    In December of 2008 I became a podcaster, and despite a few brief hiatuses I have never stopped. Even when my show (the now in cryo-sleep Starbase 66) was on pause I was always thinking about what to do next, whom to try to interview, what topics needed attention, etc. Earlier this year we recorded our last regular episode of the Starbase, and then instead of just relaxing I started up two more shows, and also put in regular appearances on yet two other podcasts, as well as the occasional cameo on any show that will have me. I have greatly enjoyed doing these shows, for the most part, despite the occasional bouts of self-doubt that rear up from time to time. I seem to be in the grip of one of those bouts right now, but it has lasted far longer than usual, and I find myself hesitant to actually post shows I've recorded because the sound of my own voice makes me cringe. Of late the thought of retiring from podcasting continues to crop up, even as I plot out what could very well be the best show idea I've ever had...but would require the greatest commitment of time, and resolve I've ever faced as a show host. And that's where this post comes in. I honestly don't know what people think of me as a podcaster. I know what y'all think of my cohosts from the Starbase. I know what y'all think about my cohosts on The Seventh Chevron and Simply Syndicated Move News, and I know what y'all think about Rich on Ray Guns and GoGo Boots, and I know that I am generally liked as a guy in the Simply Syndicated community. (at least I hope that's the case) What is different now is that I'm no longer just facilitating bringing great personalities like Ro Karen and Kennedy to your mp3 players. I'm being me, and just me, and I don't know if that's what folks want.

     I know that some people put out podcasts for themselves, and don't really care if anyone listens, but I can't do that. I'm not looking for ego stroking, just honest feedback on whether or not what I'm doing is something anyone wants to hear. I will be taking some kind of break soon, but whether it's a permanent one or not remains to be seen. If you've gotten this far, and you have listened to any of my shows, please leave a comment either here or on Facebook, and let me know if, in your opinion, I should go on, or pack it in. (and if the latter, please be gentle) ;-)

Thanks, Folks.


Sunday, September 20, 2015


Wow, is it ever dusty in here. Well, I guess I'd better do some cleaning. More to come later, methinks.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land

There are two things that are relevant to this tale that I do not care for. One is crowds, and the other is comic books. I've never liked crowds, but the older and more reclusive I get, the less I like them. As for comic books, I don't have anything against them, I've just never gotten into them. So today seemed especially counter-intuitive as I accompanied my wife and toddler to the Tampa Bay Comic Con. Now let me preface this with saying that this was not my idea. My wife asked if I would like to go, and since she is big into comics, and doesn't get to do much of a social nature, I agreed. To be honest I'd been wanting to get to a convention for a while now, as I've only been to a handful in the past, and the last was somewhere in the vicinity of 1995ish, and given that the granddaddy of them all, the San Diego Comic Con has become far more than just a gathering for comic aficionados, I figured I'd enjoy this.

I've also been wanting to try my hand at cosplaying, and it seemed meet that we do something as a family. It was suggested that going as air benders, ala The Legend of Korra, might work:
Alas, with but a week and a half before the con, and many a moth in the bank account, this was not to be. (see the 'fast/good/cheap' triangle for further explanations) So, instead, we just went as a family of nerds.

The first hurdle that I feared was parking. Looking online you could book guaranteed parking, for $21! Given that this was a significant percentage of what it would cost just for tickets we decided to take our chances on public parking. As we approached the off-ramp it was remarkably free of the usual traffic jam, and I dared to hope. No only was there no traffic build-up, but we found a spot in the nearest parking garage that would cost us less than half of the above quote. So far so good.

We followed the flow of costumed younglings (and a few old farts like myself) to the convention center. We passed a man in a Jedi outfit with a rather beat up R2-D2, and Sharon asked to touch 'Deetoo'. He graciously accommodated her request, though she was too shy to touch the droid:
We then ran the gauntlet of radio station promotion tents and corner preachers to the con entrance. Again, much to my surprise, we stood in line for maybe five minutes and we had our tix, wristbands, and were in the con. Mrs. Marius wanted to attend some panels, but as the place was already pretty crowded at 10:40 she decided it wasn't going to happen, so we just wandered the floor. Here was my first indication that this might not be the best con for me. The Tampa Bay Comic Con is quite definitely a comic book convention. There were a few Star Wars themed booths

 but the overwhelming number of vendors were selling...wait for it...comics and comic related paraphernalia. So I resigned myself to just enjoying the cosplayers, and wrangling Sharon. And there were lots of interesting cosplayers:

Sharon was, for the most part, very well behaved. There were a few times when she wanted to interact with cosplayers, like when she wanted to 'touch Tinkerbell':

Or when she wanted to meet K9:
but for the most part it was a lot of, "Daddy, what's that?", with me trying as best I could to answer her. There was one almost awkward moment when a young man with, I'm guessing, severe cerebral palsy in a motorized wheelchair and dressed as Robin came near, and Sharon piped up from atop my shoulders, "A baby!" (she's never seen an adult in what looks to her like a stroller) I said, "No, honey, that's Robin." I couldn't tell if the young man heard her or not, so I don't know if any offense was taken. There were two pairs of cosplayers that stood out enough to me that I tracked them down to get pics. First there were a couple of Spaceballs:

And then there were these two princesses, who got cheers wherever they went:

I would like to suggest that there be a moratorium on Deadpool cosplay. There were at least 20 Deadpools there. There were also lots of Doctors Who, X-Men and Women, monsters, princesses, all kinds of Imperial troops, a few Jedi, Links, and Batman villains. I would have liked to take more pictures, but my diminutive charge made such things difficult, but there was a lot of hard work in most of the costumes. Oh, and if you are a guy, and you need someone of the female persuasion to paint your face for your cosplay, might I suggest that the entrance to an already crowded men's room isn't the best place to do so. Just sayin.
As the afternoon wore on the place got more and more packed. I ran into my friend Dave and his daughter for approximately two minutes, but things were too noisy and crowded for much more than a 'hi, how ya doin?' I tried to get into the flow of the place, but between the near absence of TV/Movie SciFi stuff (although there was a booth that had some stunningly gorgeous spaceship models) and the huge lines at both the food vendors and the bathrooms I was growing more tired and cranky than Sharon. So around 3:00 we decided to call it a day. This is when things went to shit. First we had trouble finding the parking garage, then it took us nearly an hour of sweating, searching, and finally getting the security guys to drive us around to find our car. (both the Mrs. and I were sure we were on the second level, or at the highest the third. Turned out it was the fifth) Then, all of us sweaty and needing to pee, and with an increasingly cranky toddler in the back seat, getting out of the garage was the opposite of getting in. But, to cut a long story short, we made it home safely and without further incident. All in all it was a good day. Mrs. Marius had a good time, and so did Sharon. I can't say I had a great time, but I wasn't miserable, and I'd very much like to get some serious cosplay going for next year( I'd really like to make Scotty's outfit from Star Trek IV)...and maybe try to find a more SciFi inclusive con as well.

I'll leave y'all with this pic. Sharon's face pretty much sums up her day:

Marius out! :-)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I Did, and Didn't Do

Hi, Folks,
 So it's a little dusty around the Corner, and there are sheets on all the furniture (I didn't put them there, but I think they spontaneously appear in any place that's abandoned for more than a few months) but the fridge still works, and the beer is cold and drinkable. So pull up a packing crate, or a bit of Voyager Commemorative Shuttle Debris™, have a seat, and let me unfold a tale of a journey, and a hard decision.

 I have a very dear friend with whom I worked back in the swamps of Louisiana that I shall call RL. RL is one of the most talented teachers/directors/actors I know, and when we parted company at the end of my time in the bayou (although, to be fair, there are no bayous in Central LA) it was a sad ending of a very rewarding three years. Fast forward to last year. RL is a tenured professor at a university in Alabama, and I'm the Technical Director at Eckerd College. Ironically I had just had a conversation with my wife about maybe considering leaving Florida eventually, but not so long as my dad was still alive since I want my baby to know her grandfather. Lo, not many nights after that talk RL informed me that they got the approval to add a Technical Director to the faculty. I told her that I wasn't really looking to go anywhere, but she slowly, gently began to work her magic on me. (she's very persuasive) It's a full faculty position (I'm 'only' staff here). The cost of living is much lower there. They're almost certainly/probably/hopefully going to be getting a new theatre sometime real soon. But, as I had just passed the five year mark at Eckerd, which a record for me, I gently refused.

 Then, in October, RL and I attended the nuptials of a former student of ours in Orlando. There was one question I purposely omitted, and at the reception I finally asked the salary. It's not a king's ransom, but it is considerably more than I'm making now. My resolve was melting faster than an ice chip in Satan's butt-cleavage. I asked the Mrs. and she agreed that I should at least apply. So after five years of being out of the job hunt I dug out the portfolio, updated the resume, and then hit emotional speed bump number 1...asked my colleagues for letters of recommendation. Now, I work with some amazing people, and of course they all said yes, but I was nervous enough to chew through neutronium before they all said yes, and how happy they were for me, and 'yes, you absolutely have to go for it.'

 Next came the online application. Work history, references, resume, evaluations, and any other documents. What on Earth could that mean. I asked and was told student testimonials. So I contacted some of my former students from as many different schools as I could find and asked them to write me up a letter of recommendation. And by the Flying Spaghetti Monster they came through in an embarrassingly effusive manner. It took a few hours over a couple of days to track down all the addresses and phone numbers that were pertinent to the past two decades of my life, but eventually all the data was input, and the waiting began. I began gathering photos for my portfolio which hadn't been touched in five years, save to move it from one bookshelf to another. Then came the phone interview. K was to call me and we'd chat for half an hour or so. I'd met K at the South Eastern Theatre Conference last year, so while it was a little bit awkward, it melted into a nice banter in no time. I got the impression that I did well on that part. After the phone interview came a lot of nothing. Then two weeks ago I get the call. The want to fly me up for some face time. So I book the flight, and begin to frantically get my shit together. One strange thing they asked for was a list of shows I've done. That was a tricky compilation, and it took emails to several old friends and students, but it ended up being about 111 shows, and I'm sure there are a few that slipped through the cracks of time. Seems like it should be more, but that's still a lot of theatre.

 So the time arrived, and on the 20th I departed Saint Petersburg. It would seem that the 7am flight to Birmingham isn't overly popular, and I had my whole row to myself. It was an uneventful flight until the landing, when the impatient hand of God swatted us out of the air and onto the tarmac. The landing gear did not, to my surprise, collapse and then all was well. K collected me and showed me around a bit of the lovely countryside. Then we arrived at my hotel room for as much time as it took to check in and drop off my bags. The next 36 hours or so went by in a heartbeat. Tours, meetings, lunches, more meetings, chats, talks, dinner, sleep, meetings, classes, and then almost before I knew it I was back at the airport, exhausted but confident that I had done my level best. I'll say this for the folks up there, I wouldn't want to play poker with them. I had no idea which way the wind was blowing in their minds since such a job interview is as much a sales pitch to the candidate as it is an appraisal of their value to the school. But inscrutability aside they are a lovely, warm, talented group of women and men, and anyone would be proud to work there.


  The one fly in the ointment came when I spoke with their HR people. The health insurance package is very similar to what I have now, with one very important exception. Prescription medicines must be paid for out-of-pocket, and then reimbursed later. As we have a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome we have a rather large number of copays each month, and a quick calculation meant that we'd be paying over $1600 a month, and getting back around 80% of it 'later'. This gave me great pause, but I put it on the back burner until I could speak to my wife.

 So I came home, and I thought...and I thought...and I thought. There were some nagging doubts, both about the gig, and about my own abilities. It's natural to doubt yourself in such a situation, and ultimately I know I could do the job, but I kept swinging from 'how could they not hire me?' to 'what on Earth would make them want me?' Other things preyed on my mind as well. This job would require much more of my time than my current gig, and with the baby, and our teen I'm not sure how well that would work out. Plus our teen is finally in a school where they understand her needs, and her grades are starting to reflect that for the first time ever. Not to mention how upset she got when we told her that we might be moving again. Also my wife, who handles our finances, confirmed that the prescription situation would be virtually impossible. So it was with a very heavy heart that I contacted RL and withdrew from consideration. It was a painful choice, made all the more so because she told me they were going to offer me the job, but I had to do what is best for all of us, and not just for me. And though it saddened me to have to say no, I don't feel it was wasted time, since it would have hung over me as a 'if only I had...' forever had I not given it a shot.

So RL, if you're reading this, I am truly sorry I couldn't take the job, and I am so humbled and honored that such an amazingly talented group of people feel that I am worthy of joining their ranks. Your students are top notch, and I wish all of you the very best in your future endeavors. And if any of my current students are reading this, I look forward to completing your get back to work!!! ;-)


Friday, August 09, 2013

The Kennedy Space Center Revisited

  I love the Kennedy Space Center. Pretty much everyone that knows me knows this. I've been there numerous times, and even got to go on some special behind-the-scenes tours thanks to the magnanimity of the mighty Unkk, but I haven't been back there since the baby was born due to, well, taking care of the baby. In the interim the shuttle program shut down, and Unkk was forced to seek employment elesewhere, and I feared that the KSC would be a pale shadow of its former self.

   I was wrong.

   Since last I was in Titusville the orbiter Atlantis was put on display there. My dear friend Ted went there recently and posted pictures of the shuttle that piqued my interest, and so I decided to take this last week before work begins anew and went to, as I thought it would be, pay my respects to the dearly departed...or in this case the dearly decommissioned.

   I left early Thursday morning and managed to avoid the worst of the morning rush hour, arriving at the KSC a little after 10am. As I was driving across the causeway toward the visitors center I could see the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in the distance, and I grew wistful. Unkk had given me the gift of a lifetime not too long ago and took me into that Mecca of technology back when very few members of the public were allowed within. Now that the shuttle program was scuttled I assumed the building was being turned into a vast museum. That didn't stop me from paying to go inside again, but it didn't have that same spice once it became something anyone with an extra $25 could do. But more on that later.

   As I entered the center I got my first unpleasant shock of the day. I had already paid double what tickets cost on my previous visits for admission, but parking had always been free...but no longer. $10 to park seemed a bit steep, but what are you going to do? I parked, slathered myself with sunscreen, and sallied forth.

The first different thing I saw, though I did see this from the road as well, was a shuttle external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters towering, sans orbiter, over the park. I correctly guessed this to be the entrance to the Atlantis display. Then I got to the actual entrance which has had a complete revamp, and a gorgeous one at that:

   The new entrance deposits you in the Rocket Garden,

and I wandered there a bit til it was time to catch the bus to the VAB. The guide was personable, and amusing, and rattled off stats that I almost knew by heart about the wildlife around the Space Center and various other bits of trivia. We drove along a road I'd never been on before, and saw some of the unmanned launchpads, including this:
   That, ladies and gentlemen, is Space X's facility. If you don't know, Space X is the leading civilian contractor involved in spaceflight. They've sent two successful unmanned cargo missions to the ISS, and hope to have man-rated ships before too much longer.

   We then drove to the VAB, passing the place where Unkk brought us in 2008 to see Discovery launch.

   Here is an aerial view of the VAB, since I didn't think to take any still shots of the exterior:
   It's the building where all the Apollo rockets were assembled, and all the shuttles were mated to their rockets and fuel tanks. I've seen the outside of it since I was 5, and going inside once was the dream of a lifetime. Going inside again was just unbelievable.

   I won't bore you with a bunch of stats, but if you remember how tall a Saturn V rocket is, the doors to this place are six feet taller. Anyway, as I was ignoring the tour guide in my orgy of photography, I took this picture:

   And as I did so I realized it reminded me of a similar shot I took in Westminster Abbey of a stained glass window, and then it hit me. The emotions I was feeling must be similar to what a devout person feels when visiting a grand cathedral or other such place of significance to them. Science, especially the Space Program, is sort of my religion. It fills me with awe, and wonder, and brings me joy when I can share it with others. Kinda cool, no?  I was also assured by several of the KSC people that the VAB was not being mothballed, and that as the new Space Launch System/Orion project ramped up the VAB would become off-limits to the public again, perhaps as soon as a few weeks from now! (though I don't really believe it's quite that imminent)

   Eventually we moved along. We drove past the remains of launch pad 39A, which has been relatively untouched since Atlantis blasted off from there for the last time in July of 2011:
   I couldn't help but remember the last time I was on that road, in Unkk's car, Atlantis was standing on that pad waiting to take her final journey into space. Now all is silence, and corroding metal. I asked why the pad was left more or less as it was right after the launch and the answer was no funding to tear it down. The tour guides are glad of that, but also said, with no small amount of disdain, that they're sure it will be leased to some company or other eventually, then the last of the shuttle launch equipment there will be swept away. It was a bittersweet part of the tour, and I was actually glad to get away from there.

   The tour debauched at the Saturn V display building, another area I've chronicled extensively here before, but I do want to share this
   So after lunching 'neath the 'most complex machine ever built' I took the bus back to the visitors center, and my main reason for the visit...Atlantis. As I approached the giant display of fuel tank and SRBs, I was gripped with both excitement and sadness. This was, after all, going to be like going to the grave of an old friend, right? I mean the tombstone imagery is kind of unavoidable:

   But into the building I went. You walk up and in circles til finally you reach a line. Seriously? We have to line up to go into the room with the shuttle? But I chilled, and waited, and looked out the window:
  Then, finally, we were ushered into a room where we watched a short film that, though very cheesily written, depicted the genesis of the shuttle program. The the doors beneath the screens opened, and we were funneled into a smaller, cone shaped room with a smaller, roundish projection screen directly ahead. It was pretty obvious that this screen was the entrance to the actual exhibit, but the launch videos were pretty amazing, and the music appropriately bombastic and inspiring. Then I saw an inner door behind the projection scrim rise up, though the projected star field kept what was beyond obscured. Then, with a final musical flourish, the scrim rose, and we beheld Atlantis!
   Now I will tell you straight up that these pictures do not do this display even the slightest amount of justice. Instead of a dour, dead, static display of a now-defunct spacecraft, this building, which explains the higher ticket and parking prices, spares no expense in celebrating the Atlantis, and the entire shuttle program. I was actually moved to tears at points, and I look forward to the day when I can bring my baby girl here and share this wonderful place with her. But enough blabber, let me post a few thousand words:

   In addition to the Atlantis herself there are numerous interactive displays, mock-ups that you can sit in, games, an "International Space Station" for kids to climb through (including the above-pictured part that's a clear plastic tube 30' off the deck for the truly brave kids to traverse), a giant slide that replicates the angle of the shuttle's landing glide path, and, of course, the Shuttle Launch Simulator, which is one of my all time favorite motion simulator rides. There is a beautiful memorial to the crews of Challenger and Columbia, and the ubiquitous gift shop.

   I find it hard to describe how moving this display is. I've seen spacecraft up close and personal before. Apollo stuff is all over the KSC, and it's never made me this emotional. I think it's because Apollo, and Skylab, while events I dimly remember watching, are artifacts of a time before mine. I watched as the shuttle program was born, I've seen launches with my own eyes. I've cried along with the country when the crews of Challenger and Columbia never came home. Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour, and Enterprise are not just names in a book to me, and to be almost close enough to touch one of them was a profoundly affecting moment. So rather than feeling like I was visiting the grave of a dead celebrity, I felt like I was finally meeting an old friend. If you ever get a chance to see one of the orbiters on display, I strongly urge you to do so. And if you find yourself heading for the Kennedy Space Center, give me a call. I'm always up for an excuse to go there.

To infinity, and beyond, y'all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Searched Soul

Recently there was a high-profile news story about the murder of a 17-year-old boy here in Florida. It seemed to me to be an open-and-shut case and when the trial began I didn't pay it much attention since I was putting up a show and didn't really have time to follow the news closely. When the not guilty verdict was announced I was outraged, and vented much anger on Facebook and twitter. I labeled it a miscarriage of justice, and defied anyone to disagree with me. As time went on, and people I respect told me things about the trial that I did not know, I began to see that while I still felt that the situation was the defendant's fault, the jury had no choice but to acquit him. This kind of short circuited my brain. I tried to equivocate a bit on Facebook, but that quickly brought hints of ire from those who championed the cause of equality and justice, as I had, and still do. This sent me further into a mental conflict between beliefs, guilt, and the desire to assess facts rather than opinions. Eventually I locked up, and withdrew. I couldn't continue on my course of decrying the verdict, but I couldn't announce that I had changed my mind without seeming to betray the cause I so deeply believe in. I groused about trivialities, bitched about royal babies, and generally became a curmudgeon for a couple of days. Then, yesterday, I took the day off.

  It may not seem like that radical a thing, but I don't get many actual days off. Sure, there are usually at least two days a week when I don't go to work, but since my wife's schedule is so weird (she works 4am-12:30pm) even on my days off I get the lion's share of the baby handling. And no, I'm not grumping about the baby, it's just that caring for a two-year-old is not the most relaxing thing. So yesterday, after dropping the baby off at day care, to took a true day off. I did a little bit of housework, mostly dishes and laundry that desperately needed doing, but I also watched grown-up shows on the TV (a delicious luxury) played on the PS2 (don't judge me and my ancient console ways) drank a couple of beers in the late morning (oh, such hedonism) and essentially did nothing I didn't want to until it was time to pick up the baby in the early evening. I didn't realize how much I needed such a day, or how energizing just chilling out can be. Today will be more of the same, with a bit more housework thrown in, before I must needs go back to work tomorrow to fix a few things and clean the shop in preparation for next week's strike.

So why am I telling y'all this? I'm glad you asked. One of the most important realizations I came to yesterday was that if I try to shape my opinions and beliefs based on the way people will react to them, I'm going to drive myself insane. I believe in equality for all, be they black, Asian, Hispanic, White, Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgendered, Intersexed, Nongendered, tetrapod, amputee, handicapped or handicapable, or whatever the pc term for whomever you are happens to be. I don't care what you do in your own home, so long as no one is hurt against their will. I don't care who you love, or if you love. I don't care who or what you worship, or don't, so long as you don't inflict your views on others who don't wish it. I don't care what your political affiliations are, until those affiliations negatively affect others. I will defend the weak, the impoverished, the marginalized, the trivialized, the abused, the ignored, the forgotten, and the damaged. I will rail against the powerful when they tread on the powerless, and I will accept your criticism when it is constructive, and valid. One thing I will not do anymore, however, is allow myself to become rigid in my beliefs and opinions out of fear of upsetting someone else. For example the fact that I've come to accept the Zimmerman verdict does not change my stance on racism or inequality in the slightest. Nor does it reflect approval of the verdict. It merely means that given our legal system as it is, the jury had no choice but to acquit. I still don't like it. I still think race played a major role in the events of that evening, and I will still do my best to stamp out racism whenever and wherever I can.

Here are a few other things I believe:
Government is necessary, but our government is very broken.

Government regulation of business is, to a certain extent, necessary to prevent the abuses of workers that were rampant in ages past. This system, too, is horribly broken.

Governments, both federal and state, have no business being involved in medical decisions, nor do they have any right to legislate morality. What goes on behind closed doors, so long as no one is being victimized, is not the business of anyone but the participants.

Our military, while necessary, is way too big, too expensive, and too bloated. We need to reduce our presence in the Middle East, and stop trying to inflict our ways and values on people who don't want them.

Politicians, aside from Elizabeth Warren, suck.

Most conspiracy theories presuppose a level of competence from the government that just isn't there.

9/11 was not an inside job.

While it is possible that there is a large, heretofore undocumented simian species inhabiting the deep woods of the United States, the continued lack of hard evidence leads me to believe that there is no Bigfoot.

Or Loch Ness Monster, for that matter.

And on the whole, the Western world has its priorities so screwed up that we care more about Twinkies going out of production than we do housing, feeding, and educating those who have nothing.

I could go on with more things, but I think I've made my point. Please feel free to agree or disagree with me. I may not always agree with what you say, but I will defend unto my last breath your right to say it, and I will always do my best to consider any informed opinion, especially when it differs from my own.

Hey, it's almost 10am. Beer time!!!! ;-)


Actually I just want more coffee.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel

It may seem odd to you, gentle reader, but I have never been a comic book fan. That being said, the only comics I ever owned were Superman comics. I've loved Superman as long as I can remember. I read the few comics I had over and over, watched George Reeves on TV, and spent most of my Saturday mornings glued to the TV. In fact if you ask me what the Superman theme music is, there's a 50/50 chance you'll hear me hum this tune:

What I loved about the old cartoons was there was none of this 'violence must never solve the problem' bullshit. If something, or someone was messing with Supes, they got a face full of invincible knuckles. Now that's not to say that I only dug that aspect of Superman. When Superman: The Movie came out in '78 I was so blown away by the charisma of Christopher Reeve, and the amazing (for the time) special effects that I did believe a man could fly, and there was relatively little in the way of fisticuffs by the Man of Steel in that film. I even enjoyed Reeve's second and third outings (yes, I enjoyed Superman 3, Richard Pryor and all). But then Superman 4 was a real let down and they stopped making Superman movies.

   When Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered in '93 I watched, and I enjoyed, but it wasn't really what I wanted in a Superman series. Why I never watched any of the 'new' animated series I'm not sure. Maybe I just didn't know they were there. Oh, and I almost forgot The Superfriends. Well, maybe that should remain forgotten.

   Anyway, moving right along, 2006 brought the promise of a renewal of the Superman movies, but all it delivered was a wiry, emo Superman in low-rise stripper panties and yet another ludicrous Lex Luthor real estate caper. I gave up on ever seeing a decent Superman movie.

   Then, a couple of years ago, the buzz began that Zack Snyder was teaming up with Christopher Nolan to bring Supes back to the big screen. I held my breath. The production stills looked good. Henry Cavil looked buff and had muscles on his muscles, and I dared to hope. Well, today I saw Man of Steel, and I was not disappointed.

     ::::There be spoilers from here on:::::

   I went into the cinema with very mixed emotions. I wanted this movie to not suck, but I fully expected it to, and I was very relieved that it didn't. It rewrites the destruction of Krypton just a bit, so that the Kryptonian people themselves are responsible for the disaster that dooms their planet, but the basics are there. Jor-El, played with understated sincerity by Russel Crowe, warns the elders that the planet is about to go boom, but before they can tell Jor-El that he's full of it, General Zod, played with manic energy by Michael Shannon, stages a coup that sends Jor-El to steal an important artifact, secret it aboard Kal-El's ship, and launch the infant toward Earth. Then he dies, they die, everybody dies...well, except Zod who along with his army is banished to the Phantom Zone.

   Once on Earth we have the obligatory difficult childhood/adolescence stuff, but similar to Tim Burton's Batman we see it in flashbacks while more exciting stuff happens. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner turn in wonderful performances as Ma and Pa Kent, as do the kids who play Clark at various ages. And Cavil acquits himself admirably as the alien amongst us suddenly faced with the decision of whether or not to reveal himself to the people of Earth, or continue hiding behind a mask of normalcy. Of course he has the computer generated ghost of Jor-El guiding him at certain points, but Snyder and Nolan wisely worked things so that deus-ex-machina probably won't be around in future films.

   The other players were fine, too. I've already mentioned Zod, and Laurence Fishburne was an excellent choice for Perry White. No Jimmy Olson in this one, which is another mark in its favor in my book. The only real disappointment, and I think it was more in the writing than the performance, was Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I just didn't feel any force of personality from her. Yes she has lines that clearly show how she goes where she wants regardless of whether she was given permission or not, but maybe I'm just spoiled by Margot Kidder. She may make Sean Young look positively centered, but there's no denying that she made Lois Lane into far more than just a handy hostage or damsel in distress. Adams isn't bad as Lane, she just doesn't stand out that much.

   As for the story, all you really need to know is that Zod eventually finds his way to Earth, and the ensuing smack-down leaves Metropolis in ruins. I will say that the final battle between Superman and Zod gets a bit tedious, and they could have very easily taken five or more minutes out of it, but the effects are top-notch and breath-taking. You will have no doubt what a bunch of supermen and women trying to kill the crap out of each other will do to a city, and the ending is surprising. I won't spoil that, but I will say I'm very impressed that they went there, and with appropriate repercussions.

   The movie does suffer from being an origin story, so it seems to drag a bit at times, but overall it is a fast-paced thrill ride of a film that had yours truly totally enthralled. One warning, it is loud. I mean really loud. If you plan to take little ones to this, and they are sensitive to loud noises, do yourselves a favor and bring some earplugs. It is also long, two and a half hours, but it fills those hours well. I will warn you if you are expecting a fluffy, Christopher Reeve smirking and Gene Hackman hamming it up kind of movie you might not like Man of Steel. But if a more believable depiction of what a being like Kal-El might face in our current world appeals to you, not to mention city destroying Kryptonian vs Kryptonian action is what you want, then this is the Superman movie for you. I can't wait for the next one.

Up! Up! And Awaaaaaay!!!
(yeah, I'm glad he doesn't say that anymore, either)