Continuing in my quest to steal forms from other cultures and make them my own, I present this column to you, O Cornelius Nepos, may my arts and rhetoric skill last through the end of the Cumaean song down through the time of Pollio, again to my own generation!

Often this question has been considered. Many are the great and powerful men who have turned their pens to such a subject. Many of that now ignoble race of the Graeci, dared to ask such a question in the face of a meaningless and often perilous existence. Who can disregard the novel, yet now classic treatise of Plato, who thought that only a philosopher-king could write such a tale? Who can place aside that tattered and worn treatise of the Macedonian, who thinks himself to be superman? One may quail at his diction and his attempts at Atticism, but one is hard pressed to challenge his logic. Even our own, somewhat ignoble and coarser poets have turned their wax tablets to such a consideration, as they mock the concept, each sees in himself a certain worthiness that is categoric of being able to write this unending legend of our day. Often, I too have thought this over, weighing the merits of a Vergilian Superman, or perhaps a Livian. Indeed, for a great deal of time, I thought that only a Cornelius Gallus could do it justice. That is, until I learned Aramaic and grew acquainted with a small yet antique band from the hinterlands of the empire, the Iudaeoi. Who should write the next Superman? The stammaim of the Babylonian Talmud.

1) Anonymity- because no one can identify the stammaim, no one will be able to gain undue credit from the writing. Indeed, the problem with allowing someone to write Superman is that it creates an undue amount of prestige for the writer and expectation from the viewers (for an analogous situation see William Harris, War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, and his discussion concerning the annexation of Egypt).

2) The chain of tradition- Superman is indeed one of the enduring works of our century and composition of a work with such a long prehistory should not be given to one writer in one particular time and place. Rather, let it be written by a group of educated elitists, well versed in the myths from which Superman arose, who can refine, rework, and redact the story over countless generations to produce the next Superman.

3)  In some manner, this final particular trait of the stammaim defies an easy categorization. What the stammaim where able to accomplish in the Talmud was to redact old myths, ideas, and law into some of the most potent ideas which have moved Jewish thought ever since. What was done for Yavneh can be done for Superman. Furthermore, the stammaim will find a way to iron out all of the potential difficulties created by the extraordinary length of the comics publication and there will be countless mutations of the central tripartite cast. With the legend renewed in this manner, in a mere 2-3 centuries, it will easily support a further 5 or 6 centuries with various midrashim, commentaries, historical reconstructions, philosophical texts, and foolish scholarship. In this manner, Superman will enjoy an unending popularity and undergo all sorts of textual mutations, surviving far longer than the son of Octavia.

Despite many years of periodic, late-night dessert binges, I’ve yet to hit rock bottom. So from locations far and wide, from the Upper West Side, to the glamorous Gold Coast, and all the way to Shibuya, you can find me rushing about at odd hours, with little more than a pint of ice cream in hand, a spoon, and a plan.

Over the years, I’ve toned down just how much candy I can polish off in a midnight dash, but it requires constant, conscious effort to do so, and the gains remain limited. A few weeks back, as my girlfriend and I were watching the end of the “Darjeeling Limited,” I noticed that I had been quite temperate with the gummy bears that I had been snacking on throughout the film. In fact, I was so happy about it, that I was beginning to think about what other, more diabolical treats I could reward myself with after the film. As the credits started to roll, my girlfriend asked for some gummy bears, and I said, “sure, I’ve only had a handful.” When the lights went up, revealing an empty plastic box on the arm of my seat, she blurted out, “honey, those were our weekend gummy bears!” I had consumed a pound and a half of candy in one Wes Anderson film. Given that Noah Baumbach has some films pending, I was doubly scared.

However, finding myself at loose ends this evening, and coming off of a week of post-thanksgiving double-workouts, I geared up for a late-night run to the Division street Jewel. Rushing into the frozen foods aisle with manic intensity, I came to a sudden halt between two mutually appealing items. The situation should be familiar to any considerate glutton: not wanting to deal with buyer’s remorse on top of the inevitable post-binge guilt (I really couldn’t spare the calories, and why didn’t I at least waste them on the chocolate? Damn you, cognitive-dissonance reduction!), I had to make sure that I made the right choice between a pint of soy ice-cream and a small (very small) Sara Lee cheesecake. At least, that’s how we’re choosing to remember it.

In truth, the cheesecake was never really in the running. Although in comparison to other cheesecakes, it was fairly low in fat (of which saturates), and it was certainly tastier than the soy ice cream (an acquired taste, if ever there was one), by dint of genetics, it would have also necessitated a few handfuls of lactase pills. Yet the promise of cheesecake lived on, and I stood there, Narcissus-like, pondering the reflection of the cheesecake in the refrigerator window.

This continued until the crow flew by me. Apart from the occasional seeing-eye dog, Division street is particularly devoid of animal life, so the appearance of a peevish black bird swooping over my shoulder was a particularly disturbing surprise. I jumped out of the way, landing squarely on the floor as the crow swooped over a row of cinnamon-scented pine-cones. Everyone in the aisle turned, looked me over for a split-second, and went back to their shopping. Animals might be sparse on Division street, but crazies are a staple.

As I dusted myself off, I saw the offending corvid perched behind the pine-cones. It wasn’t smiling at me, at least, not with its intractably straight beak. But insofar as I was lifting myself off of the linoleum, it seemed content with the mischief it had caused. If that were the only reason that the bird seemed pleased, I could have chalked up the whole exchange to freak coincidence, and continued pondering the higher mysteries of the frozen foods aisle.

Yet, there was something more sinister in the way that bird looked at me, something inexorably wedged in the collective unconscious of evolving man. That little cinnamon-dusted memento mori perched above the pies knew exactly what I was afraid to admit. You’re going to die someday. And the minute you set hands on that cheesecake, you’ll make it come even sooner. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And I, or a crow just like me, will be there. Laughing.

I do not think that even the most excitable shopping-spree-contestant has moved with the speed that I had on my way out of the store. Home in an instant, I quickly tore off the soy ice cream’s plastic label, and I trembled to grasp a first spoonful. Thinking better of it, in seconds flat, I was shivering under the table. The spoon rested in the quickly melting ice cream, and I would eat it, nevermore.