Thursday, July 19, 2012

Santa Cruz Retreat and the Return of Mr. Spock

I just saw Anno sensei off at the San Francisco International Airport this morning. I remarked to Linda Holiday sensei back in the day it was the Shingu train station. One of us from California would be leaving and a group from the dojo would come to see us off. In 2006 when my group left Shingu none other than Anno sensei and Yanase sensei came to see us off.  So this capped off a memorable week of training. The retreat itself was held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Anno sensei taught some memorable classes as did Linda Holiday sensei and Mary Heiny sensei. And an aside but quite an important one is the our dojo's Mike Driscoll got married to the very lovely Rachel and the wedding was presided over by none other than me as a priest of the Takemusu Shinbuden...... So quite a week....And in between classes I got a chance to play some music. Mainly by myself. But I had some neat sessions with Dennis Kyne and pictured above with Jody Ho....

Some of you may remember at the old dojo in Japantown we had a clock with a picture of Star Trek's Mr. Spock. Of course he was my favorite on the show. I remember Mary Heiny sensei and I often discussing how we wished Hikitsuchi sensei were more like Mr. Spock and less like Captain Kirk. So this character meant a lot to me in some very formative years. I always found him by far the most meaningful of the original Star Trek crew. And I loved the way he was featured in the latest Star Trek movie and by Leonard Nimoy himself.

Anyway the clock was either a gift from a very dear friend or purchased when I was shopping with that very dear friend. We used to rent the dojo out to police tactics trainees a couple of times a year. Once when I was out I came back and was informed that the clock had been knocked off the wall and broken by one of the officers. That officer replaced the broken clock with another ordinary one. I must admit I always have harbored an anger towards whoever broke that clock for not realizing it meant something to me. I certainly would have liked an apology. If I broke something that appeared to have meaning for someone I certainly would apologize. Well, at the end of each retreat gifts are presented to each of the instructors. And what I got was a set of salt and pepper shakers with a Mr. Spock mug. And I realized I had been holding onto that anger and that the universe had provided and Mr Spock had returned to Aikido of San Jose, albeit in a different location(Martha St) and in a different century(the clock was broken in the nineties). So my thanks for this very important lesson............

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Amazing Steve Ditko

I just went to see the new Spider-man movie last night. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to all. It is a bit different than the Toby McGuire films. Andrew Garfield plays a slightly edgier quirkier Peter Parker. It is almost as if for old fans of the comics(not the films) the earlier three were based on the John Romita Spider-man. Romita took over art work when the original artist, Steve Ditko, left the title after I believe 38 issues. The current film has Spider-man and Peter Parker much more like the Ditko version. I read in Wikipedia that for Ditko Spider-man was autobiographical to some extent. So I included a picture of the artist from his high school year book. It is amazing how similar he looks to the teen age Peter Parker of his Spider-man comics.  I was 15 or so when I started to read comics again. On entering high school I had stopped reading DC. But I soon began to notice a quirkier brand of Superhero comic titles out. And I realized they were from the same company:Marvel. And for me as a teen ager, the title that immediately spoke to me was Spider-man. He was a teenager with problems, problems, problems.....And he had to deal with high school. I credit Marvel with getting me pretty much through high school...They allowed me to live in my own world. Which I still largely do.

Seeing these characters now in major blockbuster motion pictures with incredible cgi special effects, one cannot imagine in the early sixties getting perhaps even more from comic book pages written by Stan Lee and drawn by Ditko. I would stop by the local pharmacy on the way home from high school. It was usually under a graying sky with night approaching. Initially I would just read them at the news stand, and soon after began to buy them. Pictured above is Spider-man number 6, which introduced Dr. Curtis Connors/the Lizard. It was the first Spider-man I bought. I started reading them from about issue 3 which, I believe, was Dr. Octopus.......Issue number 4 was the Sandman. And issue 5 was a guest shot from Dr. Doom, who was by and large the heavyweight of the Marvel universe. And these comics would take me to another world which at the time was even more real than the world I was in. Thank you Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It is interesting that Jack Kirby, who was by far the main artist at Marvel then, absolutely could not draw Spider-man. Kirby's art was fantastic, broad lines, futuristic concepts, mythological with Thor. Ditko's art with Spider-man and Dr. Strange(another real favorite of mine) was very surreal by comparison, with finer edgier lines. I wondered if he would oftentimes go crazy having to put all those webs in every Spidey panel.

At the time these comics were definitely counter-culture. Spider-man was featured as one of the most influential people on college campuses. When I made a field trip to UC Berkeley the bookstore featured Marvel posters and had several of the characters on the cover of a campus magazine. In 1966 I actually got a letter published in Newsweek about Spider-man.

The new movie has Spider-man moving and fighting much more like he did in the early Ditko comics. So check it out. You can also go to comic book stores and get collections that have the original work by Ditko on Dr. Strange and Spider-man. They are worth the coin. And I haven't decided what I should do tonite. Go out to watch fireworks? Or see Spider-man again. This time in 3D or even Imax........