Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bring Back Batman and Save the World!

Batman has been around in one form or another since 1939, making the character older than the combined ages of everyone in the first row at the average Justin Bieber concert. But for all of the various Batman incarnations in comic books, movies, television, video games, and the occasional puppet show, the one that will always be the real Batman to me is the one portrayed by Adam West in the 1960s TV series.

I understand that hardcore comic book fans are probably throwing rotten fruit at their computer screens right now. They may think that the campy portrayal of Batman in the TV series was an abomination. But that was my first exposure to Batman, and to me that is what Batman is meant to be.

Growing up in the 1970s I watched the show in syndication on a daily basis and I adored it. It was fun, it was funny, it was colorful, and it was surprisingly educational. (In addition to being acrobatic fighters and snazzy dressers, both Batman and Robin seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much everything. It was through that show that I learned the word “diphthong.” Look it up.)

Even after the mega popularity of the various Batman movies beginning in 1989, and the recent evolution of the character into the wildly popular Dark Knight persona, I still only think of Adam West when I think of Batman. His slow, deliberate line reads and ethics that would make an Eagle Scout feel like a criminal are forever etched into my memory.

Unfortunately, for now my memory is about all I can ever have of that show. Due to some sort of legal brouhaha between 20th Century Fox, which owns the rights to the television footage, and DC Comics, which owns the rights to the characters, none of the 120 episodes of the show have ever been put on DVD. Happily, Batman: The Movie, which included all of the same actors from the television show and was released in June 1966 between the show’s first and second seasons, is available on DVD (not clear why there was no brouhaha with that one) but that is merely a tease. It’s like being given one tiny forkful of tiramisu, when the entire cake is under glass and out of reach.

This inability to see the show depresses me for two reasons: 1) I want to hear Batman tell Robin once again that he could tell someone is from Philadelphia because he “dipped his diphthong,” and 2) I want to share this glorious bit of pop culture with my six and four-year-old sons. They’ve seen and loved Batman: The Movie (especially the opening scene when Batman is attacked by an obviously rubber shark and defeats it with the shark repellent spray that Robin hands him) but I want to show them more. The only villains in the movie are the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman. I don’t want my sons to be deprived of the wonders of Mr. Freeze, Egghead, Bookworm, King Tut, and the Mad Hatter.

Someone has to do something about this travesty! I searched online to see if there is any kind of movement of like-minded people who are trying to right this horrible wrong. I did manage to find a Facebook page called “Bring the 60’s Batman TV show to DVD/Blu-Ray” which is kind of a support group for others going through Adam West (and Burt Ward too, of course) withdrawal. I’ve joined the page, so at least I feel like I’m doing something, but I feel I need to do more.

Perhaps I’ll write to my local congressmen and senators. Lord knows they’re not accomplishing anything else in Washington these days; maybe this at least could garner bipartisan support. In fact, maybe if all the politicians rally around this cause it would give them some common ground to build upon. And maybe that would cause them to be congenial with each other and allow them to feel comfortable enough to finally engage in constructive conversations around the major issues of the day. And maybe things would finally start getting better in this country, and that would give confidence to other nations to work out their issues. And maybe this would lead to peace and prosperity on a global level!

Yup, Batman saves the world once again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beard-rise, Beard-set

The last time I had a full on beard was in May of 1998. It was a real doozy of a beard—black and bushy and wild—the kind of thing you could easily lose paperclips or dice in if you weren’t careful. I had begun growing it in November of 1997 and did not trim it once in the ensuing six months. My lack of attention to facial hair grooming was not due to a lost razor or minor psychosis, but was rather the byproduct of being in a local community theater production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which I played the rabbi’s son. The show’s run actually ended in April of that year, but I held on to my beard an extra month because I was cast as an old west mountain man in a recycling PSA. (Note: My understanding is that this commercial was only shown in Yuma, Arizona—likely at 3 A.M.—so the chances are overwhelming that you’re not one of the eight people who’ve seen it.)

As soon as I came home from the commercial shoot, the beard came off. Okay, okay—not as soon as I came home. The process, which involved a pair of scissors, a beard trimmer, a handheld razor, and enough shaving cream to bury a Honda Civic, took the better part of two hours. But once that thing came off my face I never grew a full beard again. (About three years later I briefly grew a goatee to prove to my wife—who did not know me during the aforementioned full beard period—that I was a real man since I was unable to prove it through car knowledge, athletic prowess, or the ability to grill a steak. P.S. - She was unimpressed with the goatee so I shaved it off and instead proved I was a real man by providing a doctor’s note.)

Cut to the present day. It has been well over a decade since the last time I dabbled in serious facial hair growth. My cheeks, chin, and the space between my upper lip and nose remain bald. On the weekends, however, I do often get lazy about shaving. I almost never shave on Saturday and sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly rebellious, I won’t shave on Sunday either. This past weekend was one such weekend. As I was putting my four-year-old down to bed on Sunday night he looked up at me, giggled, and said, “Dad, you have a beard.” I tried to explain the difference between stubble and a beard but this concept was a bit too nuanced for him, so I just gave him his stuffed bunny and tucked him in.

But after I left his room, his comment about my having a beard stuck with me, so I decided to take a closer look. In the back of my mind I thought that maybe I should grow a beard again just to shake things up a bit. I went to the bathroom and looked at my stubble closely in the mirror. Much more closely than I had looked at it in many years. And as I gazed upon the two day’s growth on my face, a startling realization suddenly came upon me. My glorious black beard of yesteryear was no more. If I were to grow a beard today it would be mostly white—I would guess on the order of 60%.

Why this should come as a shock to me I don’t know. My sideburns are completely white and they’re in pretty close proximity to my beard, so logic would dictate that the beard would follow suit. And yet I found this whole thing disturbing. It occurred to me that if I were to audition for “Fiddler on the Roof” today I would be much more likely to play the rabbi than his son.  And then I found myself becoming nostalgic about my own facial hair. I gazed into the mirror and began slowly singing:

Is this the little beard I blossomed?
Is this the little stache I grew?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did you?

Then I shaved…and will every day for the rest of my life.