Superman has Warts

A simple drawing turns into a complex molecular elaboration. (See Homo not-so-Sapiens is transforming itself into an other-than creature, with replaceable nano parts and organs from other species. Dictionaries are outmoded before they are digested as new language forms proliferate. What is happening here?

Transformation is what's happening, but with a twist. Clark Kent can become Superman, but he has to show his warts as well. The modern conundrum lies on a shifting reality base, with relativity for a substructure. Does this mean that there are no ethical standards? Of course not. But it does imply that there are multiple shades of grey between the blacks and whites of ideology. Life is fluctuation and malleability, the power to change, to bend with the river of current thought. Only death is frozen.

Ovid understood this. He called it Metamorphosis. He pointed out to us that transformation is inherent in life, although in his poems the transformation usually occurs by means of brutality. Ovid's humans become something else, as if the sufferings of being human were intolerable. Daphne turns into a laurel to escape the bite of Apollo. The poet even cast doubt onto the truth of his stories, as though truth itself, and the poet's words, are forever changing.

It is as if we were all chasing shadows, which is perhaps why the art of Ellis G. in Brooklyn is so powerful. Ellis G. traces shadows of substances on the sidewalks with chalk, knowing that they may well be gone the next day. He traces bicycles, street lamps, people, whatever constitutes the world around him. He traces obsessively, joyously, and bystanders are fascinated by his outpourings. Ellis calls it "art for people who never go to museums", but in fact he has tapped into the ephemeral nature of living cells.

For more on Ellis G., visit "Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn" at

Scientists have recently tried to capture that essence of life as it evolves by programming the e. coli bacterium to make pictures of itself. The field is known as "Synthetic Biology", with the goal of creating complex systems whose logical functioning can be explained and duplicated. There are those who fear that these new life forms could fall into the hands of terrorists. Others, however, feel that it may be possible to tame reproduction and turn it into factories that make medicines, food, and new energy sources.

Humanity's inventiveness seems to know no bounds, but sometimes it goes astray. Think of the proposed names of new automobile models that have never made it to the dealership floors: Toyota Toyopet, Volkswagen Thing, Honda That's. Or the even more colorful ones like Suzuki Joy Pop and Mazda Bongo Friendee.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of Clark Kent's warts is to be seen on television, where the one-dimensional hero like Perry Mason has evolved into a complex character with questionable attributes. "House" is a doctor popping vicodin pills and ignoring hospital protocol. David Kelley tests the limits, as always, by not only exposing but glorifying the foibles of the law in "Boston Legal". "Dangerous Housewives" explores the underbelly of suburban relationships. Tony Soprano is perhaps the icon of the genre. According to Gary A. Randall, one of the producers of "Melrose Place", "the proliferation of antisocial protagonists came from a concerted effort by networks to channel the frustrations of modern men". You might say that internal ambivalences externalized have become the mantra of drama. The antihero is alive and well on television, with the motto, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".

But sometimes what a man's gotta do is what a man shouldn't do. Amnesty International is running a powerful magazine advertisement that begins, "Torture has no place on American soil. That's why we have it done in Egypt." The ad talks about a process called "Extraordinary Rendition", in which people without being informed or put on trial are kidnapped and sent to other countries, where they are brutalized and tortured, often for years without outside contact. Ovid was not so far off the mark, was he? (For more information see

One underlying truth that appeals to me is that we can stand for something if we stand together. We can respect differences, warts and all, without needing to wipe others off the face of the planet. We don't have to be right. Neither does the other guy. What we need is to get along with each other. Remember Rodney King in Los Angeles, who said, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Why indeed?

c. Corinne Whitaker 2006