Friday, June 28, 2013


Crime author and friend Russel D. McLean weighs in on Man of Steel at Do Some Damage. I offered a spoilery comment.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Superman Saved Me

Like Kevin Costner, I never aspired to be Superman. My mother made me a cape and bought me a Superman knit cap, but I knew I couldn't fly. I knew I wasn't particularly strong or fast. Much later, though, in college, I did identify with Superman. I liked a girl who wasn't the same race or religion, who didn't grow up where I did. I liked her so strongly I believed none of our differences would matter—if she liked me as strongly.

Meeting her in second semester, junior year on the lit magazine staff, I immediately felt a time crunch to get to know her, to see if our friendship could overcome our differences before we graduated and went who-knows-where.

(At the same time, ABC was airing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with non-nerdy, part-Asian Dean Cain in the lead.)

I finally, stammeringly asked her to lunch, and she replied she considered me a good friend, but didn't like me "in the that way".

I tried to smooth things over, said I understood. Part of me wanted to quit the magazine so I wouldn't see so much of her, but that seemed selfish. I got along with the rest of the staff, and from my relatively low position, I was often a voice of reason, keeping us united in purpose. It would be hypocritical if my own hangups caused me to walk away.

Committing to the magazine didn't help bury my feelings. There were many times they flared to the surface that I regret. How much worse would it have been had I not tried to emulate Superman's restraint, his commitment to seeing the good in people who might hurt him in the moment? Thanks to that, we remain friends. She's happily married to a good guy. I have peace of mind and look forward to meeting someone I like, who likes me in that way.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


My friend and fellow Superman fan John Ricotta and I watched Man of Steel tonight in IMAX 3D. Arriving forty-five minutes before the show, we sketched out how we would show both Superman's origins and his current ordeal, and the movie unfolded just as we wanted.

This is the first live-action movie to focus on Clark Kent's search for identity. Meanwhile, Lois Lane is first on the trail of a mysterious savior. The heart of any Superman story for me is Clark's relationship with Lois, and Amy Adams' Lois gets to know Clark before anyone else, even before Clark discovers Jor-El and puts on the jammies.

Clark, Lois, Zod, and Jor-El are all well served. I do agree with the criticism that there is too much destruction. Superman's handling of Zod in the end keeps to the post-Superman Returns grittier mission statement, but the dialogue telegraphs it, so it seem drawn out. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. now has a Superman on whom to build a new franchise. Godspeed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

My father, a pediatric surgeon, was not very good at expressing himself to me. He could be very sociable when he wanted, but I don't know that that was the real him. We argued a lot, but mostly because, according to my mother, he enjoyed hearing me logically and passionately defend myself. I, on the other hand, didn't enjoy arguing for sport.

There were times I wished my father would tell me he was proud of me; he apparently told everyone but me. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1995 and underwent an operation that gave him almost six more years of life. In those years, I learned not to expect what I wanted from him, but to accept what he offered, to enjoy the times nothing was said but a lot was shared.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Joan Parker Dies

Spenser's Sneakers member Fred Gillis posted today that Joan Parker, widow of author Robert B. Parker, has died. She was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in August 2011, but did not slow her activities. Unmistakably her husband's inspiration, she reminds me to make the most of life.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


In the J.J. Abrams-directed sequel to 2009's Star Trek, the bombing of a London archive puts Starfleet on high alert. A strategy meeting ends with a second attack by the fugitive John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) that kills Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and several senior staff.

The top remaining commander orders Kirk, recently demoted to Pike's first officer, to pursue Harrison into Klingon space and kill him.

I had heard several negative reviews going in and thought the major plot twist had been leaked/publicized/spoiled years in advance. Added to my general pessimism for sequels, I was prepared to just tolerate this movie, but there was a lot more I didn't know, a lot of meat.

Into Darkness is most ingenuous in echoing the original Star Trek II but upending it. Some well-known lore was glossed over, making some twists feel abrupt, but nothing stopped me from enjoying. If another is made, I'm there.

The Continuing Mission

William Thomas, a member of Spenser's Sneakers, posted today that he had read Ace Atkins' first Spenser continuation novel, ROBERT B. PARKER'S LULLABY. Though he enjoyed it, he thought Atkins fell short of imbuing the characters with the particular attitude Parker seemed to bring to his fiction and his life. William called it "sincere nonchalance". Others might call it amused disinterest.

I replied:

I often wonder how much of his attitude was a face he showed the world. I've heard he was the same person privately and publicly. But his son David's eulogy mentioned that he was like three men: the caricaturish "Ace", Robert B. Parker the author, and Bob the family man.

One way or another, Atkins will fall short of Parker. The only one who wouldn't fall short is Parker himself. Each of us is inimitably different, making it so special to get to know and befriend anyone. When that person is gone, he's gone. But Atkins knows this and doesn't psych himself out trying too hard to imitate Parker.

He's doing what John Gardner did with Ian Fleming's James Bond, bringing Spenser and friends somewhat up to date, picturing how their lives might have continued, because readers want great characters to live on. When I read a Travis McGee book, for example, I imagine what Travis would think of 2013. Part of me wants to believe he's still out there.

Monday, June 10, 2013

At The 5-2: "Went Right" by Pete Simonelli

This week a poem of urban renewal by Brooklyn's Pete Simonelli.

Submissions are open for 5-2 guest editor Charles Rammelkamp through Saturday, June 15.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Steeling Myself

As I await the June 14 release of Man of Steel, Variety reports its budget was $175 million, with an additional $150 million spent on marketing. Warner Bros. motion pictures group president Jeff Robinov has predicted it will be the studio's best performer ever, but I worry that its high price tag will put a crimp in profits. 2006's Superman Returns grossed $391 million, but cost $363 million after marketing.

I could see Man of Steel as a world-beater if this were 1978, when Richard Donner's Superman attracted fans of heroes who weren't getting movies. In 2013, with each superhero movie expected to outdo the last, I doubt Superman surpasses Marvel's The Avengers or Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.

Monday, June 03, 2013


Read my poem "Sick" today at Martian Lit.

At The 5-2: "Flight" by Matt Forrest Esenwine

The 5-2 begins June with a poem by New Hampshire poet and voiceover artist Matt Forrest Esenwine.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattForrestVW.

Submissions are open for 5-2 guest editor Charles Rammelkamp through June 15.