... with your powers, not so much.
I don't watch much network TV, especially during basketball season, when I like to keep tabs on both my beloved Clippers and hated Lakers. That's countless hours per week I spend absorbed in pointless activity on a television screen. Combine that with the countless hours per week I spend absorbed in pointless activity on a computer screen and it's a wonder I don't have the pasty white complexion of a porcelain toilet bowl.
That said, earlier this week (whilst waiting for the endless NBA season to get underway) I happened to tune into this new show on NBC called "Heroes". This appears to be an X-men ripoff where all of the characters have been assigned the bonus power of "rubbish acting." However, as I have had a lifelong obsession with bettering myself through divine inspiration (see previous post), I went ahead and watched the whole thing.
As with X-men, "Heroes" deals with the idea that mutation in humans can lead to unusual abilities. While that's perfectly plausible, some of the powers strike me as a wee bit over the top. For example, one guy on the show can stop time! What kind of mutation causes that? Another guy can paint the future. I wonder if he'll eventually make a painting that reveals that the show has been canceled, LOL.
I realize that the writers of these shows are going more for entertainment than realism, but it strikes me that a truly clever show could get you thinking that the notion of "superpowers" need not be sci-fi, so long as its toned down a bit. There are plenty of documented cases about people who have extraordinary memories, or computer-like calculating abilities, or musical gifts from the great unknown. Aren't these effectively superpowers? Who's to say there aren't more fantastical cases out there?
One thing about these people is clear: with their gifts comes some kind of deficiency, a twisted exchange in God's eyes. The great savant Kim Peek, a walking encyclopedia who was the inspiration for the movie "Rain Man", cannot even dress himself. Less extreme savants are often autistic; they just go on to become computer programmers.
So if we are to hunt for superheros, we might proceed by observing people who appear to lacking in certain skills we take for granted. This was on my mind when I had the following conversation with my roommate at the grocery store. I have long suspected he might be a borderline superhero (or, more likely, super-villain) since he already has a super-name: The Cog.
INT: Grocery checkout
A great looking guy with calves of steel-- an obviously well-trained cyclist-- and his homely sidekick are waiting in line. They observe some new technology in the aisle next over.
Me: It seems like all of these grocery stores are using self-checkouts now. We are quickly being replaced by machines. Hey, grab that box of ho-hos for me.
The Cog: I'm not going to bag my own groceries, I'll tell you that much.
Me: Wow, lazy!
The Cog: No, it's not that. It's... never mind.
Me: Now you have to tell me.
The Cog: Ok, but don't tell anyone...
Me: It's in the vault!
The Cog: Well, it's ... uh... I don't really know how to bag groceries.
Me: What does that even mean?
The Cog: It's hard for me to open those plastic bags... my fingers can't do it quickly enough, especially with people waiting. It's embarrassing!
Me: Cog... I think you might be a superhero! Get in the Cog-mobile and we'll get you back to the Cog-cave to run some tests!
INT: The Cog-cave
A top-secret lair in the heart of Orange, California (just 10 minutes to Disneyland!) High-tech accouterments line the walls, as do an assortment of junk-food wrappers.
Me: First question. Cog, is there anything you are good at?
The Cog: I have to say, that question is a little insulting.
Me: I mean, do you have an special abilities. For example, maybe you have perfect pitch?
The Cog: What is that?
Me: You know, the ability to recognize the pitch of any note you hear.
The Cog: Of course I can do that. Otherwise, how would I tune my trumpet?
Me: What I'm saying is, you can't tune your trumpet. Not without a tuning fork or something.
The Cog: I can totally tune my trumpet, dude. I've never owned a tuning fork in my life.
Me: Ok, let's test it it out, superboy. I'm going to tweak the 6th string on this guitar here I want you to put it back on "E". Set's it to B-flat You can't play any of the other strings or anything.
The Cog: Puleeze. This is a piece of cake. Fools around with tuning levers. Ok, done.
Me: Ready to mock The Cog. I am ready to mock you, Cog. Plays string and checks tuner. It reads just a few hertz flat of "E". WTF. Hmm, that's pretty good. I must be misunderstanding "perfect pitch."
The Cog: Sweet! I'm a superhero?
Me: Not quite. I mean, you were a little bit off. But I think it's safe to say that you have "pretty good pitch". I'm sure that would be useful in some sort of crime setting, Cog.
The Cog: Yippeee!
Me: Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
So of course I'm a little bitter (needless to say I tried testing myself for "pretty good pitch" and only managed to break a guitar string). While my roommate has mediocre superpowers, I have yet to uncover any of mine. And I have TONS of deficiencies (see, eg my nonexistent direction sense).
Oh yeah, I'm due for a big one, and I'm getting pretty grumpy waiting for it!
Nov 2 2006, 5:04 pm