Monday, January 31, 2005

Everything's Archie

Nostalgia Corner #1 (Or, How I Frittered Away My Childhood)

Boys find themselves fascinated with all kinds of wonderful and idiotic pastimes, from collecting baseball cards to working on cars. For me, there was no greater thrill than walking to the local 7-11 once a week to pick up the latest Archie comic books.

I am not saying that girls devoted themselves to more worthwhile pursuits. Who knows what they did? Learned how to cook? Played with dolls? Knitted and sewed? I have no idea. If you're a woman, please enlighten me. But I do know the kind of things that boys got up to, and I know I wasn't the only kid who spent a truly alarming chunk of his time lost in a cartoon universe that featured Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle, Jughead Jones and Betty Cooper. They were my friends, all of them born 20 years before me, in the pages of Pep Comics #22. My years of readership were most likely in the late 1960s to early 1970s, when the innumerable titles were still gaining in readership: Everything's Archie, Betty & Veronica, Laugh, Pep, Reggie & Me, Jughead, Archie's Pals & Gals, and so on. The comics were about a quarter apiece, and they were extremely addictive. I had a large chest in my room where I kept my comics, which are all back to being part of the soil by now.

But as I have already underscored in this blog, the Internet comes to the rescue once again as I attempt to glue the broken pieces of my adolescence back together again. In an eBay auction that ended on Jan. 17, I found myself the winner of more than 125 different Archie comics originally published in the early 1970s. Take a look:

They arrived via UPS on Friday, so I've had a couple of days to page through many of them and feel the nostalgic rush. There's nothing quite like reacquainting yourself with the lost innocence of childhood.

I'll admit it's odd that at this stage of my life, I would willingly devote hours to doing something I already did in my early teens. But I'll forgive myself, because with the passing of years, I have forgotten a lot of Archie's exploits with his "pals and gals," to say nothing of spinoff buddies like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie & the Pussycats. I will allow myself to enjoy my childhood again. Yes, there are books on my shelf that I want to read. Worthy books. Books I haven't already read. But you know what?

They're simply going to have to wait their turn.

Did you read comic books? What were your teenage pastimes?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I'm Just Pretending

Last night, I took my 3-year-old niece to see a movie called Racing Stripes, which is all about a girl's efforts to ride a zebra in a horse race. The film is shot in Babe style, with farm animals speaking English to each other, their mouths moving convincingly. (Special-effects wizardry has come a long way since the days when they'd feed Mr. Ed some peanut butter to simulate vocal prowess.)

During the movie, I wondered if kids all over the world watching these animals, including Jenna, would come to believe that some animals can actually talk—after all, this is live action, not a cartoon. Sometimes I find myself talking to my niece about what is "real" versus "pretend." For example, when travelling to Disneyland together, we often encounter people dressed in costumes: Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy Duck, et al. At her age, she doesn't quite understand that these "characters" are part of the pretend world. At least she doesn't admit it. Santa Claus is another one we can put into the "pretend" column. It's fun to pretend about things like this. But like her older sisters, it will inevitably dawn on Jenna that all of these creations are nothing more than make-believe, and belief in the magic will become a fading memory.

And suddenly, during the movie, it occured to me that adults love to pretend as well. You can't very well fool us into thinking that the fellow walking around in the Eeyore costume is, in reality, the character from the popular animated cartoons. No, we're pretty sharp about that. But even the simple act of watching Racing Stripes requires some amount of pretending, as our "suspension of disbelief" takes over and we become involved in the story of a young girl's love for her pet zebra. When we watch a TV show or read a novel, we're committing an act not unlike pretending. But we, as adults, are well versed in accepting as fact many things that are (at least from my perception) ideas borrowed from fantasy. And the best example of this is God.

Most adults believe in God, for the simple reason that their parents taught it to them. It's funny to me that the same kids who are taught that Santa Claus is real eventually come to the realization that he's a product of deception and misinformation. But most often, belief in God persists. What's the difference? They're both two guys who have got their eye on you, watching you in secret, taking notes on your good and bad behavior, with consequences on that behavior coming along somewhere down the pike.

My own religion, Atheism, dictates that most people continue to embrace their belief in God simply as a way of dealing with their own mortality. Nobody wants to think that after you die, you just cease to exist. That would be too horrible. And it is horrible. One way of escaping that inevitability is through pretending—to make believe in a "soul" inside you that magically remains alive after you die, and that your entire consciousness will live forever in perfect bliss for all time up in the pretend place called Heaven. Unless it's the other pretend place, where Michael Jackson is going.

How do you make pretending a part of your life?

Friday, January 28, 2005

What Did We Do Before the Internet?

I have always had a thirst for knowledge. Granted, it isn’t the kind of knowledge that can be transformed into practical use, such as accounting or automobile repair. No, I refer to finding answers to such trivial questions such as “Who sang that song?” and “Why do dogs walk around in a circle before lying down?” The beauty of the Internet is that I present such a query to a vast number of readers who can deliver the answer quickly and efficiently. I wish it had been around when I was a kid. But as an adult, I use the Internet continuously as a way to enjoy the instant satisfaction of finding out (a) What that movie was called, (b) Who that singer was in that one band who had the song about the Fox on the Run, (c) Where Oxnard is, (d) Why the moon goes through phases, etc.

For the last week or so, I have had a melody rattling around in my mind. I have known this song from infancy. Yet I realized I had no idea what it was called, and because I have only known it as an instrumental, I’ve had to hum it to all my friends. To my surprise, only a few people could even recognize the melody, and nobody knew what it was. So I got my Casio keyboard and recorded a very crude version of it:

Then I posted that link to a real “think tank” forum on Usenet, and in a few short hours, somebody came up with the title. It’s a Civil War-era tune known variously as “Kingdom Coming” or “Year of Jubilo,” written by Henry C. Work. The one remaining conundrum is: why do we all know it? Was it used in cartoons, or a TV show? Or were we just exposed to it in our elementary school music classes? There are some mysteries that even the Internet can’t shed light on.

Here is a much better clip of the song:

How has the Internet directly affected your life?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Pet Peeve #1

I don't want to turn this into a Complaining Forum, but it struck me that others might have some of the same pet peeves that I do. Thus, I submit to you the first of what is sure to become a laundry list of things that piss me off, starting with the worst one.

Selfish drivers suck. Those three words say it all, really. Every day, as I see people running red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and generally acting like inconsiderate buffoons, I'm reminded of how different things are today compared to 20 years ago. Is it my imagination, or have things disintegrated on the roads and highways of this country? Looking ahead into the next 200 years or so, I envision a time where people will get into their cars, type the address of their destination into a keyboard, and the car will drive them there safely and efficiently. We need to do something about the horrible state of traffic in the world...and removing the human factor should be priority numero uno. Put our cars on auto-pilot! There has to be a system where we can remove human flaws from the equation. I won't see it in my lifetime, but maybe my great-great-great-great nieces will. For the time being, I implore you: Be courteous on the road, willya? Thanks.

What are your pet peeves?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hidely-Ho, Neighborinos!

Welcome to my blog.

Finally, here is the culimation of everything I have learned in the past four decades.

That's an awful lot of information to share.

Maybe I shouldn't.

Or maybe you should beg me to educate you.

Oh, don't be silly.

Of course I'm going to enlighten you.

Strap yourselves in.

It's going to be an E-ticket ride.