Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Secret Identities

Just for the record, there's no way the Clark Kent-eyeglasses disguise could have worked in real life. Sure, I wrote dozens of stories about Clark and Superman, including a few that dealt with him keeping his secret identity a secret.

I've worn glasses for almost fifty years. Other than sleeping or swimming, there has not been a time when I didn't have them on, so only a very few people have ever seen me without them.

No one seems to have been fooled by the clever disguise.

So, when I showed up at CTY last week, sans glasses... well, if glasses were enough of a disguise, you would have expected that at least a few people would be puzzled as to who I was. None of them were. In fact, most of them, including people I have worked with for many summers, didn't seem to notice that I wasn't wearing glasses any more.

One fellow instructor did finally ask, "Hey, what happened to your glasses?" Another told me I'd had my hair cut shorter this year. Considering how little hair this is on my head, I don't think that was the change in my appearance.


Yesterday, Dr. Wolfgang made his appearance. Unlike "Mr. R," Wolfy now sports a pair of reading glasses (along with his very official-looking lab coat) and, while my own class is well aware that we are one and the same, the students in the Bay Ecology classes have only met Wolfgang. When they see me around campus, sans the glasses, will they believe that Mr. R just happens to resemble Dr. Wolfgang?

Or will they also see right through the glasses disguise?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I was a fan of Ray Bradbury's writing long before I learned about his connection to Julie Schwartz, the comics editor for whom I did much of my writing.

Before joining the comic book business in 1944, Julie had been an agent for such science fiction greats as Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Manly Wade Wellman, Alfred Bester, and Otto Binder. In 1939, Julie met a very young Ray Bradbury and agreed to take him on as a client. Bradbury's first sale, a short story titled "The Pendulum" appeared in Super Science Stories in 1941. I don't know how many more of Bradbury's stories Julie sold, but I do know that they became lifelong friends.

I suspect that my own first encounter with Bradbury's writing was Fahrenheit 451, which we read in a junior high English class. That led me to the library and collections of his short stories, including The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles and Golden Apples of the Sun. In a spinner rack of paperback books in the mom-and-pop candy store where I bought my comic books during my high school years, I found Tomorrow Midnight, which was a collection of Bradbury's tales that had been adapted to comic book form for the early-1950s EC comics. By the time I finished high school, I had tracked down and read every Bradbury book and story I could find. And I've continued to do so through the years, with his We'll Always Have Paris currently sitting on my to-be-read shelf.


I don't recall the specifics of the first time I met Bradbury, but it was while DC had its offices in 75 Rockefeller Plaza. He had come to town and was visiting with Julie. I'm sure I said the same things every other staff fanboy did, about being a great fan of his work and having read every one of his books. And I'm sure he nodded and smiled and thanked me. I wonder now what Julie must have been thinking at the time; here was a world-famous author he had discovered four decades earlier talking with an up-and-coming comic book writer whose first scripts Julie had bought in the past couple of years.

I can much better remember a later meeting with Bradbury, one that took place in the mid-1990s. Once again, he had come to town and was visiting Julie, though now we were in the DC offices at 1700 Broadway. I had started teaching the CTY Writing & Imagination course by then and one of the writing assignments I used was to have the students pick an event -- personal or historical -- that they would like to change and then write a story about what would happen. As a prompt, I would read them Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder," in which a time-traveling dinosaur-hunter accidentally steps on a butterfly and sends ripples down through history.

When I told him of my use of the story in my class, Bradbury said, "You don't make copies of it, do you?" I quickly assured him that I read the story aloud from a copy of the book that I had bought and that I was not in any way infringing on his copyrights. In retrospect, I think he was probably having a little fun with me. This was, after all, the man who, when he found out that Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein had "adapted" a couple of his stories without credit in an EC comic, decided not to threaten a lawsuit and instead wrote saying that the royalty payment for the adaptation had apparently been lost in the mail. (Gaines sent a check and struck a deal whereby EC adapted many more of Bradbury's stories, all credited and paid for.)


Bradbury told people that, from the moment he decided to be a writer, he wrote every single day. Like the pianist who constantly practices and the shortstop who fields endless ground balls, he became a master of his art. There is something lyrical about his style, the way the words just flow, that I and many other writers wish we could emulate. Just reading a couple of his stories is enough to make me want to sit down and write.

Though he has left us, his work remains for future generations to enjoy. In that way, to paraphrase the title of the book that awaits me, we'll always have Bradbury.

Out in the Blogosphere

A regular reader recently asked me who all those people are whose blogs are listed to the right under "You Might Also Enjoy..."

First, of course, there's the family: Laurie, Chuck and Sammi. Sammi is by far the most prolific, providing tales and pictures of her travels and adventures, as well as amusing anecdotes about her students. Laurie's writings, though infrequent, are most often slices of life. Chuck, despite the fact that the "updater" does not seem to recognize or record his new entries, actually writes regularly, mostly about gaming and books.

The "folks from the comics biz" group, recently expanded with the additions of Todd Klein and Paul Kupperberg, also includes Bob Greenberger, Tony Isabella, Adam Philips and Marty Pasko. Bob Buethe, though he never worked in the business, is a comics fan who I've known since he was a customer when I drove the DC Comicmobile way back in 1973! These gents focus on comics, though they do discuss other topics as well. Adam's blog, though, is devoted specifically to the work of Alfred Hitchcock.

Barbara Rogan, a longtime friend, is an author, editor, writing teacher, and former literary agent. Her blog, just recently started, should be of particular interest to anyone who wants to be a writer.

Scott Dodd and Lisa Hayes are educators I've worked with at CTY. Scott hails from North Carolina and Lisa is from Alabama. While neither blogs on any kind of a regular schedule, when they do commit pen to paper (or, more correctly, fingers to keyboard), what they have to say is interesting.

All of these blogs are just a click away. Give them a look.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On the Radio...

"If your car's MSRP was $20,000, we'll give you $20,000! If it was $30,000, we'll give you $30,000!" Such was an auto dealer's ad blaring out of my radio last night. Equally bombastic was the announcement that this great deal would be "for three days only," ignoring the fact that they ran the exact same promotion last week, also "for three days only."

Okay, so if I bring in my 2003 car, which cost $22,000, they're going to give me that amount off a new car? They certainly want me to think so! But you have to listen very carefully to hear them mention that they'll be deducting 40c per mile from that fabulous amount they're going to pay for my car.

If I do a little math, I discover that the 86,000 miles on my car equals a $34,400 deduction.  I guess that means they would charge me $12,400 to take the car off my hands?

Makes me wish I had my mother's old Chrysler New Yorker, though. She rarely drove it and, after a dozen years, it had less than 15,000 miles on it. With that deduction worth only $6,000, we could end up getting a new car for free.


What's the deal with "Laser Ray," who advertises that his laser treatment can make you stop smoking in just 30 minutes? I don't have any idea how it works, but the ads have me wondering if he's performing lobotomies.


While there are plenty of misleading ads, there are also ones that have me wondering if anyone does any fact-checking. Or even reviews what they are saying.

Case in point is a current Lowe's commercial that says that the New York Yankees have won more World Series games -- 27 -- than any other team in baseball. Well, no. They've won 27 World Series and, as even the most casual baseball fan knows, it takes four wins to take the Series.

In fact, the Yankees have won 134 World Series games (and lost 90) in the 40 World Series they have played.  Every one of those numbers is a record.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weather or Not: At the Pool and the Beach

We seem to be working our way through an entire year of weather in a week.

We started with April showers (in late May), followed by a steady warming trend to the point where it felt like mid-August on an afternoon or two.

In fact, a couple of nights last week were warm enough that I was able to take my first midnight swims of the year, something that usually doesn't happen until late June. Thanks to the warm, sunny days, the pool water was in the mid-80s.

The past weekend was typical of midsummer, warm and sunny and including the part where it clouds over and we get sudden downpours.

Last night, the temperature dropped into the low 50s. This morning was seasonable...for late September.


Speaking of the pool, we've added a new member to the Temperature Team of thermometers. Replacing the departed Tommy Turtle is Penguin Teller. Unlike Tommy, who was consistently 20 degrees lower than the rest, Pen is right there in the middle of the pack.


Beach volleyball has started again and our teams have been quite consistent in their inconsistency. One night in the first week, we won six games out of seven. The second week, we lost six out of seven.

On the four nights we've played so far, the weather has been different each time. We had one evening that was warm and pleasant, one that was hot and sticky, one that was incredibly windy, and one in which we watched a thunderhead form to the north of us, flashing lightning, but never quite making it near us.

It is amusing to see how different teams approach playing. We play for fun and the exercise (though it is nice to win or, at least, not lose by outrageous scores). We've encountered a few teams, however, who play like it is the Olympics. They act as if each point meant life-or-death, call every possible infraction, and argue if we disagree. We take particular glee in beating these teams because it makes them so crazy.


I'm hoping we've run the gamut with the weather and it will go back to being June. I'd hate to have to play volleyball in the snow or have to avoid icebergs floating in the pool.