Friday, May 27, 2011

What Do You Give the Superhero Who Has Everything?

In Brightest Day, In Darkest Night
Scarlett Johansson is my Ex-Delight.... 

What do you give the Superhero Who Has Everything?

 In the case of Green Lantern, it’s a big budget 3D mega-movie promising to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters and starring Scarlett Johansson’s ex-husband,  a man whose any one orgasm with his former wife would probably serve to satisfy the sexual needs of the entire male population of a pretty good sized Midwestern city.

Talk about having everything!

But you’d also have to give the guy in the form-fitting green stretch top and black leotards a Kryptonite-like vulnerability to go along with the awesome capabilities of the power ring he wields. Because Green Lantern is the one superhero actually more powerful than Superman because with his mighty power ring, he could make a Superman!

Superheroes are as omnipresent these days as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s progeny. The array of mythic men and women who’ve been portrayed on stage, screen, and all but enacted live in your living room include Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Green Hornet, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Watchmen, Catwoman --- draw deep breath! --- Supergirl, Captain America, the Phantom, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Spirit, the Crow, and Spin Cycle, whose superpower is the uncanny ability to locate missing socks from the dryer. (OK, so I made up Spin Cycle!)

What a far cry from the way it was when I was a super-starved superhero-loving small fry in the Fifties!

Back then superheroes were thought of as strictly kid’s stuff, something you’d magically grow out of as soon as you hit puberty and began to think of Lois Lane not as Superman’s wise-cracking girl friend but as the secluded narrow country road to which you fantasized you’d one day squire off Nicole Halaylos!

The only contact an adult was supposed to have with a superhero flick was the flickering cognizance that he was sitting through one when his 11 year old woke him up to go get the popcorn.

If a superhero movie or TV show got made at all back in that day, the best level star it could muster would be some blandly handsome actor whose greatest claim to fame was having been briefly elevated to the rank of playing Ronald Reagan’s rubbed-out-in-the-first-reel best buddy, the dialogue would have all the depth and conviction of a phone number written on the back of a match book cover, and it would have all been shot on a budget equal to or less than Beaver Cleaver’s annual allowance.

Mostly we kids had to content ourselves with the Adventures of Superman. But although the show did feature George Reeves, the best actor ever to play the Man of Steel, the Adventures of Superman in truth was about as exciting as a Vice-President Richard M. Nixon pin-up calendar.

Week after week, the most malevolent villain Adventures of Superman presented was a bald, weasily, Damon Runyoneque actor named Ben Weldon whose plans for world domination didn’t extend much beyond knocking over the corner Fanny Farmer outlet and making off with the nonpareils. Aside from its passable main effect of Superman flying, other special effects were largely limited to the Man of Steel showing off his super speed by standing in place and saying to the bad guys “want to see it again?”

And that’s why, Gen X and Y’ers, you never see a big budget A-movie superhero flick any earlier than the late 70’s. Why do you think Humphrey Bogart, the greatest tough guy of all time, never played Batman? “You know, Robin, this could be the shtart of a beautiful friendship” does have a certain ring to it, but not to mainstream movie audiences of the 1940’s and 50’s.

Jimmy Stewart would have made a wonderful “aw shucks, turning that lump ‘a coal into a diamond weren’t nuthin'” kind of Superman, but then every Christmas we’d have all been forced to endure:

“Clarence, I don’t know how you know these things.  But tell me, what became of Lois?”

“You're not going to like it, Clark!”

“It’s all right, Clarence.  Just as long as she isn’t an old maid who never married who’s about to close up the library.  Anything but that!”

“What the hell would be wrong with that, you 1940’s superhero chauvinist pig!  No, Clark, she’s Lex Luther’s mistress, she’s about to close up his zipper!”

Would Katherine Hepburn have made a great Wonder Woman? Actually it’s a better question if Wonder Woman, invisible plane and all, would have been up to playing Kate!

But all these attitudes, all these inhibitions, all these limitations --- everything --- changed when the kids of the fifties and sixties grew up and somehow didn’t grow out of superheroes. And now we once super-starved superhero-loving small fry are superhero-saturated!

Even so, I think I might yet check out the Superhero That Has Everything when he opens this summer. Even now, I get a small thrill every time I realize that what would have been so untenable and unthinkable to movie moguls and audiences not so long ago is daily happenstance today.

And as for Green Lantern’s vulnerability? For those of you amongst the great unwashed who know not, it’s the color “yellow.” That’s right; the greatest power in the universe can’t handle the color of bananas.

Hey, even I’m not afraid of bananas!

Scarlett, call me!!!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Next on Nova: Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs?

Is this what really happened to the dinosaurs?

Be More PBS!

Next on Nova .…

They rule our imagination – those thunderous beasts who ruled the earth over 65 million years ago. For years scientists have struggled to determine just what caused them to go extinct. It’s Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? On Nova….

Perhaps it was an early case of global warming. Or the impact of a gigantic meteor that careened out of control and crashed into the earth at a time when there were no strict rules against careening out of control and crashing into the earth. Or was it simply an appalling lack of concern for eating heart healthy?

What did in the dinosaurs? Today modern science is learning that all these various theories may amount to little more than paleontological poppycock, if we can use that expression on PBS without jeopardizing our federal funding. Today’s paleontologists --- and we mean the really smart ones that listen to NPR --- are coming to the startling conclusion that dinosaurs did not go extinct at all, but simply became passé!

This is Dr. Lance Lewitsky of the University of Havertown PA. He has been studying dinosaurs for over 25 years, ever since he learned that there was no math involved.

Dr. Lewitsky….

“Our fossil record is woefully and highly incomplete. In fact, I’ve given our fossil record an Incomplete with just one week to make up the credit or get an F! There is no proof whatsoever for the theory of dinosaur extinction other than our desire that it happen today to certain members of the Republican Party.

But we do now know one thing for certain: As the new species of clearly better looking mammals started populating the earth, the dinosaurs began to feel ugly, awkward, and socially unpopular. After millions of years as big man on campus, the dinosaurs found themselves morphing into a bunch of goofy losers!”

Eugene Potchka, Professor Emeritus of the University of Havertown PA, is the mentor of Dr. Lewitsky and often referred to as the “Father of the Goofy Losers Theory.”

Dr. Potchka….

“You have to remember, here’s this planet that’s only used to slimy disgusting things and all of a sudden there’s these adorable cute cuddly creatures bandying about everywhere that look something like Ewoks. And it seems to the dinosaurs like the very heavens and earth are going AWWWWWWW!!!!”

Although pterodactyls and a few other enterprising dinosaurs tried to compete by evolving feathers and chirping, most dinosaurs withdrew from primordial society and stayed home building model airplanes and baking fudge. It’s the movie Marty all over again but this time instead of Ernest Borgnine, picture Godzilla.”

High in the Peruvian mountains Professor Samantha Earthy, a more attractive than you’d expect colleague of Drs. Lewitsky and Potchka, is supervising the excavation of molars from the mouths of some indigenous cash-strapped locals. Dr. Earthy often accompanies Dr. Letwitsky on paleontological digs when he can secure sufficient funding for her participation and convince his wife she actually has a college degree.

Dr. Earthy….

“I’m standing on the outskirts of the remote village of Muchacho, Peru where the major native pastimes are dysentery and running in terror from rampaging lava spewing from neighboring Mount Eruptus, and in front of an enormous crater measuring over half the size of Donald Trump’s wig.”

Ever hear the expression ‘wish you could just dig yourself a hole and hide in it?’ 
Well, realizing their time was regularly being beaten by the much cuter mammals, that’s precisely what the highly embarrassed dinosaurs of 65 million years ago opted to do. 

Traditional paleontologists still think an enormous meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs caused this crater, but frankly, the traditional paleontologists who think this are even bigger douchebags than the dinosaurs themselves!”

But if the supposition of Professors Lewitsky, Potchka, and Earthy is accurate that dinosaurs yet survive today, where are they? Why don’t we see them? Why don’t they eat us, especially those of us who smell good?

One school of thought is that we actually do encounter dinosaurs all the time, but they are so lacking in cool that we look right through them!

Dr. Lewitsky….

“There are more than a few historical references which indicate that dinosaurs may be alive and among us. Thomas Jefferson himself noted in his personal journal that  ‘All men are created equal, but New England Episcopalians are distinctly favored for breakfast by T-Rex.’

And many today assert that Democratic political strategist James Carville is in fact a highly evolved velociraptor, an assertion which Republican political strategist Mary Matalin has never denied.

And so, the battle lines are drawn. On one side the traditionalist paleontologists who contend that dinosaurs are indeed extinct and if you were to encounter one today, you’d run like the dickens, if we can use that expression on PBS without jeopardizing our federal funding.

On the other side lie the cutting edge views of Professors Lewitsky, Earthy, and Potchka which hold that you may very well come face to face with a dinosaur one of these days, and if it should happen, you’d hardly run.

You’d give him his noogies.

The debate yet rages.

Next Time on Nova: New discoveries all but verify the legitimacy of String Theory and of a parallel world in which conservatives have control over the National Endowment of the Arts and NPR consists solely of 24/7 broadcasts of Car Talk.

This is PBS.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Chain of Fools

Chain, Chain, Chain ....

"In love all things are possible," heralded the e-mail, "this message has been sent to you for luck.  Just forward the e-mail to 20 of your most trusted friends, and the luck will be sent to you!"

A couple of months ago, somebody actually e-mailed me the electronic version of probably the most classic chain letter of all time. I was flabbergasted. How could anyone think that I, a sophisticated man of the world --- or at least, of Havertown PA --- would fall for such simple-minded superstitious claptrap?

"On the other hand," said a little voice inside me, "if there's a buck or two to be made, what's a little salt over the shoulder between friends?"

You've probably received this letter yourself a half dozen times in your life.  You remember:

"While in the Philippines, George Welch broke the chain.  51 days later, he lost his wife.  David Fairchild received the letter, and not believing, threw it away; nine days later he died. A young woman in California received the letter but put it aside.  She was plagued with various problems, including expensive car repairs."

I'd forgotten what an old pro the chain letter was at dishing out hard luck.  Its capacity for striking mortal blows was impressive, but I couldn't work myself into a lather over expensive car repairs.  Even if I were dating Mother Teresa, I'd expect expensive car repairs.

Then there were the chain's true believers: 

"Constantine Dias received the letter and asked his secretary to make 20 copies and sent them. A few days later, he won a lottery of two million dollars .... Carlos Deodity received the letter, forgot about it, and lost his job.  Later, he made 20 copies, and got a better job ..."

Even the hapless car repair lady got back into the act when:

" .... she retyped the letter, sent it on, and got a new car."

"Puerile gibberish,"  I scoffed. If the chain actually possessed the power to dispense automobiles, winning lottery tickets, and cushy sinecures, why couldn't it also learn to operate spell-check and correct its rife misspellings and third-grade grammar?

At that very moment, there welled up inside me an oddly familiar little voice. 

"What if it does work?" the voice scolded. "What's to lose?"

 "But how can it possibly work, oddly familiar little voice?"  I shot back.  And what did the chain mean "the luck has been sent to you?" 

It figures that the kind of luck I'd get would be coming third class mail through the U.S. Postal Service.  What if an unscrupulous postal worker intercepted my luck and made off with it? I could just imagine some jerk down in St. Tropez clutching onto my luck while performing prodigious sexual acts with an dizzying array of the world's top super models while I'm waiting like an idiot in Havertown PA for Tony, the mailman who picks his teeth with my K-Mart bill.

The chain was originally written, so the e-mail claimed, by:

 " ... Saul Anthony De Grou, a missionary from Venezuela," and "has been around the world 9 times." 

"If this thing actually works, I said aloud, "why isn't Father De Grou more well known?  By now he ought to at least be the Pope."

"Go ahead and let that stop you,"  chided the little voice. "Next thing you know you'll be reading that De Grou's the big winner on the premiere season of  'The Voice!'"

The chain's prayer to one St. Jude Thaddeus also bothered me. Though the prayer was marked 'Optional,' I had my doubts that St. Jude --- nice a fellow as I'm sure he is --- would come through for one of the Jewish persuasion. Constantine Dias and Carlos Diodity, the chain's most glowing success stories, didn't exactly sound like a couple of guys you'd meet over corned beef at Murray's.

But the voice was insistent.  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio," it counseled, "that are dreamed of in your philosophy." If there's anything I'm a sucker for it's a little voice from my duodenum that quotes Shakespeare, even though I've never been partial to being called 'Horatio.'

So it was that I found myself later that day sitting in front of my PC, resolved to forward the chain to 20 of my most gullible friends and acquaintances, then sit back to reap my great good fortune.  I queued up the chain letter and began to type the list of intended recipients when suddenly something happened!  

Microsoft Windows froze.

"AHHHH, it's a sign!" the voice shrieked.  "The chain's already broken and your transmission and pan gasket will blow tomorrow!  Not to mention you and I will be dropping dead soon!"

And with that, my pint-sized alter-ego was gone.

Maybe the voice was right.  Maybe it was a sign.  A sign from far above and up on high.  A sign from Father De Grou himself!  Or Bill Gates!

A sign that chain letters really are nothing but simple-minded superstitious claptrap!

Thank you, Good Father De Grou, for reminding me of that.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Like Sex for Chocolate

What’s the big deal about sex?

Why has it built and toppled empires, ruined the lives and careers of world figures from Eliot Spitzer to Adam and Eve, and dominated the thoughts and actions of people throughout all of recorded time?

After all, it’s nothing more than a transitory pleasurable experience in a relatively small part of the body.

Eating chocolate, on the other hand, produces a much more sustained period of pleasure which extends from your mouth and taste buds all the way down to your tummy!

Sometimes I wish rather than sex chocolate were our primary motivating drive.  

 “Hey, Brad,” I said to my buddy the other day. “How was your date last night? You eat chocolate with her?”

“What do you think, dude?  Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, you name it.  She even.…umm....truffled me!”

“Wow!” Not every woman will do that.

“Seems like you’re eating chocolate with a lot of different women these days,” I said. “What’s your secret?”

“Once you get ‘em into your apartment, you put on the soft music, pour on the charm, then bring out the Godiva! Before you know it you’re both headed up the Hershey Highway, and she's loving those nuts!’’

I had to admit I was jealous. 

I hadn’t eaten chocolate with a woman in years. Frankly, I’d been spending a lot of time at home on a website featuring this super hot redhead taking on an entire Whitman’s Sampler!  

Naturally the whole time I’m frantically pounding down M&Ms.

Come on, don’t act so shocked!  Like you haven't done that too!

Just about every guy on the planet wants to eat chocolate with as many attractive women as he can as often as he can. Kinsey and Masters & Johnson tell us that women love chocolate just as much as men do, but most women want to be in love with a guy before they’ll hop on his Mounds or eat his Almond Joy!

Oh, fudge it all!

Even in the chocolate world, men are from Mars and women are from Hershey's.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Aquaman: Pull Out The Plug

Broadway Beat
 by Nels Noodleman  

It’s been quite an amazing spring on Broadway, folks!

South Park iconoclasts Trey Parker and Matt Stone have scored the season’s biggest hit with a musical called The Book of Mormon, and the much bally-hooed Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark continues to languish with multiple creative changes, reviews worse than your Aunt Matilda's breath, and a price tag that refers to the National Debt as “Squirt.”

Famed Broadway impresario and notary public Perry Block leaned back in his chair and smiled. “When my new musical opens,” he told me on the QT, “we’ll run them all out of town …. or at least into the lobby where they can enjoy an orange drink and a 35 minute wait for the Ladies Room!" 

That new musical is Aquaman: Pull Out the Plug, based on the superhero comic book Mr. Block used to get beaten up regularly for reading in grade school.

“My musical will shatter the myth that Aquaman is the superhero so boring you’d rather spend an evening with Alan Greenspan,” Mr. Block told this reporter. “Let’s say the late Jacques Yves Cousteau had become deranged and sought to destroy the entire universe! Who else you gonna call in? True, we’ve slightly beefed up Aquaman's powers for his Broadway debut. In addition to talking to fish, he can now also talk to vegetables, such as some parsley!

I asked about the intriguing new villain the play refers to as "the brilliant but demonically fiendish" Dr. Moriarty.

“Yeah, we snaked him from the Sherlock Holmes books and movies,” readily offered the sly Mr. Block, "since the most exciting villain in the original Aquaman comic books was a mackerel.  Frankly we're also considering swapping out AquaLad for Dr. Watson since they're so busy retooling the franchise with Robert Downy Jr. they'd hardly notice that  Holmes’ sidekick suddenly spends the better part of his time gill breathing at the bottom of the Thames.

Mr. Block is no stranger to Broadway audiences. In recent years he has produced such classics as Jesus Christ Superstar performed entirely by Hassidic Jews; Enter Slapping, a musical based on the life of Three Stooges centerman Larry Fine; and last season’s musical comedy smash Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady starring Newt Gingrich.

“We have a wonderful musical score with music and lyrics written by the legendary Rogers and Hammerhead (Ouch, folks!)," Mr. Block beamed.  "Among the ‘sure to be a hit’ numbers are If I were a Fishman, the haunting ballad High Tide, Low Tide, and the rousing show-stopper Hello Dolphins!”

“What about safety problems such as those that have plagued the production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark?” I queried Mr. Block. “We have had very, very few such issues,” he informed me. “Two or three actors experienced cramps on one occasion they went into rehearsal less than 45 minutes after eating, and our lead actor briefly came down with a very mild case of wrinkly fingertips.”

“I’m thrilled to be able to present a dynamic hard-swimming, singing and tap-dancing Aquaman to a new generation of fans,” Mr. Block enthused as he graciously excused himself and headed out to a 6 or 7 martini lunch at Sardi’s.

Having been around the Great White Way ever since it was called the Pretty Good White Way, this Broadway vet thinks Aquaman: Pull Out the Plug will make one great big SPLASH at the Box Office!  

Break a Fin, Aquaman!

After all, folks, what other superhero can all at once command an army of sharks, swim faster than Michael Phelps, and taste absolutely scrumptious in a butter sauce?

From your very own Broadway Buddy,

Mr. Nels Noodleman


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One Last Bedtime Story

Last week, my son Brandon turned 16.

It’s an exciting time for him. Driving an automobile is just around the corner that he’ll soon be driving around himself, new friends and experiences beckon on the horizon, and a lifetime of promise and opportunity awaits.

Why the fuck can’t he still be 6?

To rekindle those golden days of  six-year-old yore 'ere they slip away to where I can’t chloroform them and drag them home kicking and screaming, I thought it’d be nice one last time to read Brandon a bed time story.

“Brandon," said I, "I've got an idea.  How about tonight I favor you with a bedtime story?”

“I’m good, Dad.” 

“No, Bran. You see, this is a life experience that shortly we’ll never be able to duplicate. Plus, not to  invoke guilt, I diapered you, took you to Disney World, and bought you an X-Box."  

"Okay. As long as it doesn’t take too long. Got a math test tomorrow.”

“I’ve selected a wonderful book: The Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.”

“Dad, I believe that’s Goodnight (pause) Moon. The way you read it with the word 'the' and no pause makes it sound like a fraternity prank from Animal House.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me something before we get started?”

"I’m good, Dad.” 

“No, you see, you’re supposed to ask May I have a drink of water, please?"

“I’m not thirsty.”

“No, you’re REQUIRED to ask it! It’s part of the gestalt.” 

“All right, all right! May I have a drink of water, please?”

“We have tap water, Deer Park, and Evian.”

“Dad, read the story.”

“Yeah, sure.  Here goes ... In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon ... Hey, Bran, I wonder why the characters are bunnies. Do you think Ms. Brown was trying to illustrate the oneness and commonality of all creatures great and small?”

“I think she thought bunnies were cute, Dad.”

And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush …  Say, Bran, did I ever make you my special lump-free Cream of Wheat?” 

“Yeah, Dad. Tasted like a bowl full of mush.”

And a quiet old lady whispering ‘hush’ ... Hey! Quiet old lady? I don’t like that reference! It ought to be a pensive but still lithe and attractive post-Boomer woman.”

“Dad, this isn’t a politically correct reading of Huck Finn. I think you ought to read it like it is.”

Now where was I?  Oh yeah ... Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon... You know, that would be quite a prodigious physical accomplishment for a cow! Do you think Cirque de Soleil could train one to …." 

“I think Cirque de Soleil is doing quite well without a cow , Dad.”

Goodnight stars ... Why, that sounds like the tag line at the end of the  Hollywood Squares.  Ha, that Charley Weaver!”

"Dad. Math test tomorrow.”

Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush … Now why would anybody say Goodnight nobody? Unless it's me at the end of an evening after getting my usual response on Twitter!” 

“Dad, please. Could we just move on?”

And Goodnight noises everywhere ... The End.

“Very nice, Dad. Goodnight.”

“Uh, Bran?”

“Yeah, Dad?”

“My knees are kind of a little stiff right now.”


“May I have a drink of water, please?”