Zen and the Art of Napping on Motorcycles

In a recent discussion of Wonder Woman’s new less-attractive yet also less-patriotic looking 80’s Mall Rat crimefighting gear, more than one reader opined that he did not “get” the whole don-leotards-to-fight-crime shtick. Some wondered why super-vigilantes did not dress in riot police gear.

Allow me to explain. Let us suppose your great-great-grandfather swore an unbreakable oath that he and all his descendants, including you, had to fight the scourge of piracy. Let us suppose you also knew that criminals were a cowardly and superstitious lot, and that you live either in the arctic circle, in a fortress of solitude built from a mysterious crystal from a perished world, or in a secret base shaped like a skull. Let us further suppose you have a choice of possible weapons, including a magic lasso, a boomerang shaped like a bat, a magic ring that is afraid of the color yellow, a mace made from the mysterious Ninth Metal that allows you to fly, a gun that shoots green gas that never effects you or your deadly Oriental chauffeur, or the ancestral ring that, when you punch a crook, leaves a mark shaped like a skull burnt into his flesh.

Let us further suppose you had to face a foe, either the unstoppable War Wheel of Nazi Germany, or group of guys wearing masks and carrying shotguns who are menacing some pretty girl you have a crush on.What is the most reasonable way to handle this dire emergency?

By why ask this as a hypothetical? Let us take a look at real security camera footage of a real crime recently halted by a vigilante. Roll tape, please.

You see, the answer is, that instead of acting like a marine or a cop to stop crime, the waycool approach is to ride up, while napping, on a motorcycle that you drive with your feet, dismount by means of wheelie on the front tire, and shoot the bad guys with a machinegun hidden in your guitar. Then the stunningly attractive Bollywood actress will sing and dance with you.

So, no, this is not the way we conduct matters in the real world. This is, however, the way the human heart works.

Is it ridiculous?Yes, of course. This is not a bug, it is a feature. It takes a certain courage of the imagination, a certain headlong infatuation, to suspend one’s disbelief for the ridiculous. It is also good practice for that once or twice in your life when something that seems too good to be true turns out to be real, so that you will have the courage to face it. (Yes, it takes courage to face overwhelming joy: ask any nervous bride.)

So why dress in a red-white-and-blue bathing suit to fight evil? The answer is that superheroes dress in bat-costumes because if the underworld ever discovered their secret identities, their effectiveness as crimefighters would be compromised. Besides, criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot, and they are all afraid of being attacked by weightlifters in leotards.

Um. Okay, forget that last answer. The real answer is that we live in a day and age where people do not wear togas and capes any more, and what we have instead of knights in mail and royalty in pomp are soldiers in drab camo and politicians in drab three-piece suits. We live in a drab age. The real answer is the same reason why the sword is the favored weapon of the galactic empire, and why space princesses are more fun to rescue from ninja vampire space pirates than the daughter of a space senator.

We need (one hopes only in moderate amounts) a little color, gaiety, mystery and romance, to remind us of what we all secretly know.

We all secretly know that there is something cooler than the real world out there, somewhere. If the real world satisfied the human heart, we would all read newspapers and reports on potato crop production in the Ukraine, and these real things would never bore us.

If the human heart were satisfied with the world, then every day would be Monday, and all trains would be freight trains, and never the circus train.

19 Comments

  1. Comment by Robert:

    I could not stop watching the video. Truly, a thing of beauty. Anyone have a translation of the lyrics?

    Also, Stunning Bollywood Actress (who bears a striking resemblance to your wife’s gravitar, therefore leading me to believe that it actually was you, John, napping on the motorcycle) wore a red costume that reminded me somewhat of Wonder Woman’s get-up – with a flowy red skirt rather than black leggy-booties. Coincidence? I think not.

    Rather, my theory is that you, John C. Wright, have been hiding your secret identity as a crime-fighting Bollywood crooner beneath the mask of mild-mannered mid-list skiffy author. But now your secret is out, and I shall use all my nefarious skills to plot your demise from my dark tower. Muah-ha-ha!

  2. Comment by NorthoftheBorder:

    I like it when he boomerangs the gun :)

  3. Comment by Hux:

    Holy moley! Was that from a movie? Or a music video” Or an ad for some strange Indian soda? What was that? Who cares, reallly. There was so much more awesomeness in that little clip than there was was in the entirety of the last Superman movie. Why can’t we have awesome stuff like this in the U.S. What gives Hollywood? Huh, what gives?! (looks sneeringly and derisively at Hollywood)

    P.S. It’s just Nth metal that Hawkman uses. And no, I have no idea how you pronounce “Nth”

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “There was so much more awesomeness in that little clip than there was was in the entirety of the last Superman movie.”

      Amen to that. I loved the original Alexander Salkind Superman movie, and so was disappointed and annoyed with the sleaziness of Supes fathering a bastard out of wedlock in the remake/sequel.

      “P.S. It’s just Nth metal that Hawkman uses. And no, I have no idea how you pronounce “Nth””

      Yes and no. The Hawkman from outerspace, the Silver Age Hawkman does indeed use a mace and wings of ‘Nth Metal’ but the Golden Age Hawkman, who is a reincarnation of an Egyptian Prince, uses the Ninth Metal, which is a reference to the “Seven Metals of Antiquity” (Gold, Copper, Silver, Lead, Tin, Iron, Mercury).

      I am sure there is an ‘Eighth Metal’ in there somewhere: either it is antimony, or it is the metal that allows the atmosphere plant of Barsoom to replenish the oxygen, or something like that.

      • Comment by Hux:

        Damn, I jut got nerded by John C Wright. That was awesome.

        Yeah, the whole fathering a kid out of wedlock was a definite deal breaker. Unfortunately, even if they had taken it out the whole movie was so devoid of joy and happiness that it wouldn’t have rescued it. The first Iron Man really did superheroes best in my opinion (although the second Hellboy was really good, too). The guy’s got a suit of armor that flies and kills terrorists. Of course he’s going to have a little fun with it. Why can’t Superman have fun anymore? Even in the comics he’s always sitting around brooding. I’m sure Wonder Woman will always be sitting around brooding in her new origin (which, by my calculations will last just over 2 years, simply because DC won’t want to admit they made a horrible, horrible mistake so quickly)

        • Comment by PK:

          I was under the impression that the “new origin” involved somebody having (presumably maliciously) rewritten the timeline, which Wonder Woman had to figure out and (presumably) fix as the plot went on.

          Which I suppose could be taken as self-referential. And/or I could be completely confused.

          • Comment by Fabio P.Barbieri:

            And/Or some idea-less corporate drone might have ripped off Alan Moore’s Supreme, where the same stunt was done very clevely. Jesus H.Christ, people, if you have to steal, do you have to steal from stuff that everyone and his brother have read?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Counting it up, I think the number of good comic-book hero movies outweighs the bad ones. Even those I did not particularly like might have at least one scene almost worth the price of admission (as when a bullet bounces off Superman’s eye, or when The Shadow climbs into the invisible hotel occupied by Shiwan Khan).

          And one or two — I am thinking of DARK KNIGHT or Sam Rami’s SPIDERMAN — actually captured the look and feel of the comic as well as any comic I could name.

          However, as you can tell from my post, a special place in my heart is reserved for the Bruce Timm run of Batman, Superman, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. (I do not mean to knock the other members of the team that worked on those shows, it is just that his is the only name that sticks in my memory, and his were the memorable character designs.)

          The only comic book movie that really failed to please from start to finish was the FANTASTIC FOUR. I did not bother seeing the sequel. The 1968 cartoon was more faithful to the material, and had better looks, better acting, and better fight scenes!

          I have heard the LAST AIRBENDER is truly bad, and the critics say this is because it lacks the humor and energy of the original. The original is a quip-a-minute laugh-out-loud funny, but also action-filled, thoughtful, and even touching at times. I have not seen the movie, so I reserve judgment: but I suspect that M. Night does not know how to do humor.

          • Comment by MenTaLguY:

            Evidently he has also forgotten how to make movies, period. Check out one of the clips on YouTube, it literally looks like an amateur film (albeit one with a fairly respectable budget for costumes and props). Cinematography, special effects, blocking, performances, editing, all horribly wrong.

  4. Comment by Eumaios:

    Reminds me, oddly, of Chesterton’s description of a savage’s first reaction to a man mounted on a horse. And, of course, his essay on penny dreadfuls.

  5. Comment by bruce:

    “.. less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the smoothness of flesh” CS Lewis, ‘The Great Divorce’.

    And where on God’s Earth can I find more videos like that?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “And where on God’s Earth can I find more videos like that?”

      Do you mean ‘like that’ in terms of song and dance?

      Try renting the movie DEVDAS starring Aishwarya Rai. It is a tearjerker, but it has some Bollywood splendor equal to many a classic from Hollywood’s golden age of musicals.

      Do you mean ‘like that’ in terms of over the top action a la throwing a boomerang gun?

      Look for films like Krrish:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJdgj9PCInU

  6. Comment by Kirsten:

    If the real world satisfied the human heart, we would all read newspapers and reports on potato crop production in the Ukraine, and these real things would never bore us.</I<

    ..and our names would be Eustace Clarence and we'd nearly deserve them…

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “..and our names would be Eustace Clarence and we’d nearly deserve them…”

      I see you’ve not only read that same books I’ve read, but (in this case) can complete the unspoken thoughts I think. Yes, I had Eustace in mind when I penned that sentence.

  7. Comment by Wildrow:

    I was upset when DC showed off this latest indignity to Wonder Woman’s entire character.

    But then I realized something:

    -This is the same company that subjected me to JLA:Act of God. A long overwrought love letter to Batman at the expense of every other character.

    -This is the same DC that regularly butchers members of the Teen Titans (a superhero team that I’ve read since the days of Wolfman and Perez)for no good reason.

    -This is the same place from which came the abomination known as Countdown to Final Crisis. A nihilistic adventure in bad plotting.

    Given all that…I should have seen this coming.

    Oh well, at least their animated features department is still golden.

    PS: ..and before anyone asks, yes, I have huge issues with Marvel as well.

    • Comment by Hux:

      I know exactly how you feel Wildrow. I grew up reading DC in the 90’s. Grant Morrison’s JLA, Mark Waid on the Flash, Ron Marz on Green Lantern (that’s right, Kyle Rayner fan here. Get used to it!) and Tom Peyer on Hourman (really, check it out, it’s great superhero fun). Oddly enough, as I was enjoying all the new charcters, DC did a lit of affordble reprint of classic comic, which I started to enjoy just as much as the modern comics.

      But now DC has just spent the last decade trying to undo everything that’s happened since 1983. Every story is jnust trying to reset the clock and recreate the early 1980’s. Bringing back old characters, and old situations. But they’re badass and kewl! They rape, dismember, and torture. They’re always brooding about how hard it is to be superhero and no one actually likes having powers.

      Reading the old comics, yeah the heroes occasionally encountered problems, and sometimes pined for things that were lost (like Superman thinking fondly of Lyle Lerrol after her death), but they were never emo about it. It’s l,ike the classic characters are back, but they’ve all been taken off their mood stabilizers, which none of us knew they were taking in the first place. I honestly haven’t regularly read a DC comic in about 7 or 8 years, although I do pick up the occasional issue, always to massive disappointment.

      No, for DC heroes, stick with their animation, especially Batman the Brave and the Bold. One of the funnest, most inventive superhero series I’ve seen. And look at Crisis on Two Earths for a really good example of Nihilism in action.

  8. Comment by kokorognosis:

    Hmmm. *steeples fingers*

    I guess I’m a bit of a contradiction. On one hand, I prefer realism; on the other, I read science fiction and fantasy. I love giant robots; but I prefer the kind that have worries about fuel and ammo. (The “real robot” genre– and even then, the number of series that I love that feature “super robots” is greater than the “real robot” series count.) I don’t mind FTL and laser swords, but I’d prefer my heroes to not be wandering around worlds we know are deserts. I suppose it all comes down to taste, and a particular work’s approach to the subject, I suppose. Super hero comics have never really done it for me– even as a kid, I preferred GI Joe and Transformers comics– even though they might as well be superheroes, thematically. Maybe it’s because they weren’t painted as superheroes, I guess, or maybe it’s because I was a military brat and GI Joe resonated with that, and maybe liked the out and out scifi of Transformers. *shrug*

    I never have been one for bright colors, though. Notoriously so. I likes my earth tones. Maybe it all stems from that.

  9. Comment by John C Wright:

    AND NOW THE LYRICS!

    Disclaimer: this is something I found in the Web of Lies, otherwise known as the Internet (thanks, Al Gore!) I have no idea if this is really what the song says. However, the pure poetry of a woman likening herself to a hot bun and being willing to smear herself on a man has a sublime elegance to it that … or, this might be parody.

    Athiradikkaaran – Machan ! Machan ! Machandi !
    He’s a man of thunderous action!

    Avanukkelaamey – Ucham ! Ucham ! Uchamdi !
    And would overcome anyone

    Male :
    Rathi
    Thi ! Thi ! Jega Jothi ! Jothi ! Jothi !
    Oh pretty girl! Everyone roams around you!

    Thala Pa Thi ! Vedi Jaathi ! Jaathi ! Jaathi !
    This commander! Would blast all religious fanatics

    Adi Billa Ranga Baasha Thaan..
    Am a don of all dons

    Ivan Pistol Pesum Beshaa Thaan..
    My pistol talk would be effective

    Rathi ! Thi ! Sutta…
    Oh girl! If you fire everything would explode!

    Chorus :
    Dakkaal Dakkaal
    Dammaal Dummeel

    Paanja..Saanja..
    Kaanja..Menjaa..
    Thonjaa..Maanjaa..
    Ja Ja…Ja Ja…
    ( Rathi… )

    Male :
    Dil Dhik Dil
    Thendral Nenjil..
    Breezing heart skips a beat!

    Thithikkindra
    Anril Kunjil..
    A sweety tiny bird!

    Jil Jil Jil
    Ginger Pennil..
    You’re cold like ginger beer

    Jil Endroru
    Jin Thaan Kannil..
    Your eyes are like gin

    Chorus :
    Dada ! Thottu Konja Thodha –
    Ah don, at your touch

    Sittu Sikkuthey ! Sokkuthey !!
    the girl gets mesmerised

    Oru Shocku Yerum Padu Shokka !!
    An electric shock rises nicely

    Thotta – Onnu Rendu poata
    Ponnu Thulluthey ! Thalluthey !!
    If you fire two shots the girl gets anxious

    Vedi Vettu Poda Vilum Flatta !
    She topples at seeing an explosion

    Male :
    Gun ! Gun ! En Step Gun !
    With a gun, a stun gun!

    Roger Moore Poley – Dishum !!
    I resemble Roger Moore, fire!

    Munnaal Pennundu !
    Girls circle me

    Enthan Pinnaal Kannundu ! Paar !!
    I’ve eyes even at my back

    Female :
    Fun ! Fun ! Un Love Fun !
    Your fun, love fun

    Eddy Murphy Pol – Naughty !!
    resembles Eddie Murphy’s

    Male :
    Nee Enthan –
    Maan Thaan..
    Naan Thaan..
    Don Thaan !
    You’re my love dear
    And I am the don

    ( Athiradikkaaran… )

    Saranam 2 :

    Male :
    Man ! Man ! Man… Superman Thaan
    Mid Nightula – Spiderman Thaan !
    Am superman! And spiderman at night!

    Female :
    NRI Unthan Eye Thaan
    James Bond Pol Seiyum Spy Thaan !!
    Oh NRI! Your eyes spies like James Bond

    Cuba – Pola Oru Theeva
    Ponnu Nikkuthey ! Mukkuthey !!
    The girl stands like the island Cuba and hesitates

    Chorus :
    Enthan Tension Erum Romba Fasta !
    Mercury rises fast

    Caestro – Pola Intha Maestro
    This maestro yearns like castro to come close

    Sontham Kollavaa ? Killavaa ??
    will you allow me to pinch?

    Intha First Nightu Enna Waste-a ?
    This nuptial night shouldn’t be wasted

    Male :
    Bun ! Bun ! Nee Sweet Bun !
    you’re like a bun, a sweet bun!

    Butter Jam Poley – Naan Thaan !
    Am like the butter jam stuffing

    Unthan Meley Thaan – Naan Otti Kolla Thaan Vaa !!
    Allow me to smear myself on you

    Female :
    One Two Three
    Four Five –
    Mutham Thanthaaley Then Thaan !!
    Kiss me to make me honey

    Male :
    En – Anbey
    My Fair Lady – Nee Thaan !!
    My lady love, my fair lady!

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