I went to the theaters to see “Man of Steel” Thursday night (actually Friday early, early, early morning) and I had a few thoughts about it. Read more after you click.
Monotony. It’s monotonous.
I’m a little sick and tired of the same things, day-in and day-out. Routines have never really been my strong suit. I’ve never been a guy who can keep doing the same thing every day. That’s why I love being in journalism. I get something different every moment.
Except when I don’t.
I love what I do, but there’s something missing in the payoff suddenly. Of late, no matter what I write about, it seems canned. It seems like I’m writing from a formula and not from the experience. The world around me is passing me by again, I’ve suddenly gone back to simply being a passenger.
Take for instance the latest school board meeting I attended Monday night. It lasted an hour, short for how these things typically go. But that 60 minutes was packed with juicy information I used to write an equally juicy story. But an odd feeling came over me halfway through me asking a question of the district’s school board president. I even told her as much at the end.
I felt like I’d asked her the same question a couple thousand times. And the reality is, though the actual number is a lot lower, it’s still on repetitive track out of my mouth. Even rephrased, the question’s been asked before. And the answers are all the same. Always. The district’s poor, we don’t have money, we need to make cuts.
I even stopped writing the answer down from what she was telling me. I felt like holding my hand up in a true “Stop me if you’ve heard this before” routine. But I didn’t. I just let that thought percolate inside my cranium as I listened, as I took in what little nuance was left in her voice. She looked at me with the same look I probably flashed her: “What else can I say?”
What happened to my daily spice? I’ve been left wanting, devolving into a puddle of repetition, of journalist-flavored goop (which tastes like chicken, in case you were wondering), searching for some sort of creative spark.
I guess this means the ‘fire’ inside me is burning thin. Something will be giving way soon, I don’t know what it is. I just hope whatever it is, I survive it.
Good grief, how many cliches can I pack into this post?
2:22 a.m. It’s dark (outside). A train whistle blows in the distance as the eyes slowly begin to close. It’s a struggle, at first, with awake battling to the death the inevitable pull of sleep. There’s an open window, blowing hot, summer air into the bedroom and a scent of firewood burning in a nearby burn pile someone recently extinguished. The scent gets caught in the nose, causing a freakishly violent sneeze. It causes the eyes to shoot open, a sickening feeling. All the hard work of falling asleep, the stray thoughts and gaping yawns, for nothing. The mouth is dry, the teeth click closed and the ears register the clicks of the outdoor (hopefully) insects. The brain begins the process again.
2:30 a.m. It’s (still) dark outside. The eyes finally get around to closing. Only now there’s a cramp in the leg. And the water is dripping from a nearby faucet. Damn that constant plunk.
And I was both completely blown away and left underwhelmed at the same time.
Because it’s easiest, and because I want to go out on a good note, I’ll lead with the bad of the movie after the jump.
So my job makes it really difficult to maintain a regular blog. Writing for a newspaper every day IS my blog. It just happens to be on something called pap-uh. Or is it Papurn. No, I think it’s called paper. Yes, paper.
It’s such a novel idea, this newspaper thing. It is outdated, sure. Tools nowadays make it something only old geezers pick up to read at their early-morning breakfast. Everyone else wants to see news stories online immediately. Now, now, now!
Well, as many of you (my four subscribers) may know, I’m acting as a bit of a side project and I want let you all know that my story about this past Saturday’s experiment will, instead of making an appearance on this blog, be published in the Night & Day section of Thursday’s Niagara Gazette, Lockport Union
Scum & Urinal Sun & Journal and the Tonawanda Snooze News.
In other words, this one I got paid to write. Nothing more than my actual salary to write, but still paid.
In rupees, but still paid.
It’ll also be available online at the Gazette’s website in the Night & Day section.
Fare thee well until next we speak, kind reader.
So, I’m an actor. Or so I have to tell myself now. I’m not professional yet, I don’t get paid (I think back to an episode of The Big Bang Theory and remember the exchange between Leonard and Penny when her electricity is out: “Really, you’ve had an acting job where you got paid?” “THAT is not the definition of professional.”), but I do get to go and stand on a wood stump and tell a ghost story.
Yeah, a ghost story. I totally make this story up on the spot. I hope people understand that. This isn’t rehearsed, I don’t have a script. I have a little bit of research in my head about a ship from the 1600s which may be a ghost ship because no one’s found it (actually it has been found, I know one of the guys who did it) and it is intriguing.
But one thing they didn’t teach me in my improv acting class is make sure you look your part. In improv, everything is made up. But here, I actually have a costume.
I did well my first night. I got up on that stump, I told my completely unrehearsed ghost story, got a fell shivers from some of the young children near the front of the stage and had a blast in my first performance.
Everything was looking great. Until I realized afterward my fly was down the whole time. Yeah, it’s been that kind of night.
Next week should be better in the wardrobe department for sure.
So, my birthday is only days away. When I was a young child, it was the best day of the year. I think everyone can say they loved celebrating their birthday. It meant PRESENTS! And dinner at a restaurant of my choice, at least in my family.
But as I got older, I realized it’s just another day. And maybe it’s because my desires have switched from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures to functional clothing and bed sheets, but now the presents don’t even get me super excited.
The last few years have been a series of lackluster birthdays. Sure I’ve been with friends and family, but the excitement just hasn’t been the same. After all, I’m just turning another year older (insert sad clown music here).
So this year, I’m not lying down and taking it. Not anymore. This year, I’m turning 30, and I’m going to do it with a bang rather than a whimper. And you’re going to help me.
Yes, you. I’m pointing at you through my computer screen (it’s magic). I’m taking the thrill of turning another year older back and turning my birthday into something meaningful for someone else. The people of Rwanda, actually.
Hear me out.
Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization which builds clean drinking water wells in poverty-stricken African countries, has a campaign where people donate their birthdays, instead of collecting presents, to making a real difference.
The idea is to do something different with my birthday, to bring back its meaning in my life. The best way I know how to do that at this age is to make sure my day helps to keep someone less fortunate than me alive and in good health.
September 17 was a special day for me, now it can be again.
And what’s more, 100 percent of every donation each of you make goes directly to helping these people.
I’ve done the research on this charity, this is 100 percent legitimate. I’ve donated through them myself before. All I’m asking you to do right now is to take the time to figure out for yourself exactly what I’ve already figured out. Do a little reading, learn about the charity and its projects, watch the videos.
Then decide. Give a little, give a lot, it doesn’t matter. If you can’t afford to drop some coin, pass the link on to your friends. Have them read this blog. Point them towards a cause that’s worthy of attention.
Too many people say they want to do something but don’t know where to start. Well, here’s the starting point. And once you’ve donated, pledge your birthday as well. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Please click this link - it opens in a new window - and let the world know you are standing up with me to make a difference. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
OK, so before I go into my review of The Dark Knight Rises (a.k.a. The Best Movie Ever Made), I need to say a few words about what happened in Colorado overnight. At about 12:30 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, a gunman opened fire inside an Aurora movie theater showing the film.
The gunman, suspected to be 24-year-old James Holmes, was arrested shortly after the mass shooting, but not before killing more than a dozen people and injuring close to 50 more. UPDATE: The victim number appears to be around 71 total, including those who died.
This is a tragedy of monumental proportions. It’s a movie theater, filled with people who have nowhere to go. It’s hard enough getting out of the seat rows when you’re walking. Now do it in a hail of bullets and in a fear-induced panic, surrounded by a hundred other fearful panicking people. I honestly can’t imagine it. I really can’t.
My thoughts are with the victims, people like Jessica Ghawi who survived a mass shooting in the Eaton Centre in Toronto last month only to be killed watching a movie here. There are sure to be many more stories told following this in the coming hours and days as the victims come to public light. And as they do, we need to remember them, much like we did after Columbine, Virginia Tech and Chardon Township, Ohio just recently. They all deserve to be known if even for just a short time. They were citizens, waiting for a movie to start they’d waited years to see.
Cowardice took them away from us.
That movie, the one they never got to watch, seems distant now. It’s not important anymore and likely won’t be. Ever. It’s not funny in the least how tragedy seems to follow this film franchise around, with this shooting following the untimely death of Heath Ledger shortly after filming its predecessor, The Dark Knight. Oh, and a stuntman died while filming it as well. The movies aren’t just a dark re-imagining of the Dark Knight, they’re actually deadly.
But they’re also good. No, they’re great. And that’s what this should have been about. Not about shooting victims or deaths surrounding productions. This write-up should have been about the characters which shined, including Anne Hathaway’s Selina “Catwoman” Kyle. Especially Anne Hathaway.
I could go on and on about the performances. Tom Hardy’s Bane was perfect for
the film (though the voice was a lot worse than anything Christian Bale was accused of in the previous movie). Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine owned their roles and their screen time, just like always. And the aforementioned Bale, he was magnificent.
Like The Dark Knight, this film was long. It clocks in at almost three hours (and goes beyond it once you consider the immense amount of previews before it gets started). But unlike its predecessor, this film has almost no lagging moments or parts between action scenes where you wonder why the director thought pacing needed to slow to a snail’s pace.
There will be no spoilers in this review. There will only be praise. I’m no film critic, though I have had multiple reviews published in newspapers.
This movie is, to me, the best movie ever made. Because it goes beyond explosions and fights and astonishing cameos even the most up-to-date scooper can’t predict (OK, one spoiler: JONATHAN CRANE!). It is a story with characters that just happen to be from a comic book, not the other way around.
If you go see a movie (by this, I mean you aren’t scared away from the theater because of the actions of a homicidal dirtbag) and decide on this one, you won’t be disappointed. And you don’t need to be a big Batman fan. I’ve never once read a single comic about Batman. My experiences with the characters come from early 90s cartoon shows and the movies from the same time period. I’m a fan a good story telling, and this movie did the best I’ve ever seen. Ever.
Thank you for reading.
No, I can’t. Cause I don’t know how to.
Ni hao, Tumblr, I have missed you. OK, not really, but it has been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything. Primarily because I’ve been putting out a kiloton of stories over at the Niagara Gazette newspaper.
Some of my more recent favorites are: this story about a Chinese experience camp meeting in Lewiston-Porter, this story about a local school superintendent who was paid to leave his district and a personal look into why I like the Facebook timeline profile (though many will disagree with me).
I also did a story detailing local reaction to the school shooting in the Cleveland, Ohio area, an in-depth piece about what state testing is doing to districts in western Niagara County and even touched on the Buffalo Sabres in the sports section (sorry, they don’t put these on the Internet, so no links).
But the highlight so far was the amazing time I had covering everything Nik Wallenda has done in Niagara Falls, from N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing the bill to make the highwire walk possible and a year-end wrap up story for 2011 to the biggest story of my professional career previewing the historic walk the morning before it happened (link not available). I also got in on the post-walk fun talking to various city leaders about how Wallenda’s walk will impact the area short-term and long-term both.
From there, it was on to a personal favorite series of stories I wrote. Nearby Lewiston, N.Y. entered to contend for the USA Today/Rand McNally Best of the Road contest’s distinction of “Best For Food.” The tiny town entertained both Mike Shubic and Brian Cox last month for three days first welcoming them with open arms, feeding them an amazing assortment of dishes and then sending them on their way. When it came down to final judgment, Lewiston couldn’t beat Santa Fe, N.M. (which has almost four times the number of people) but held its head high in defeat.
In all, this year has been one chaotic mess. That’s a lot of reading I’m leaving you with, but the hope is you can have it all done by summer, just in time for the new school year to start. Until next time, Tumblr, shi shi. (This blog started out with ‘hello’ in Chinese and ended with ‘goodbye’ in the same language.)
So I promised a new post every day in February. Not that anyone is reading them. But the promise was made anyway.
I haven’t delivered. It was only the second day, but I missed it, posting late. I missed the third day again. Then, I went away from my computer for a couple days. That brings us to Tuesday. I really need to get a better handle on things.
So, I missed posting about the Super Bowl. It was a good game (not great), and the drama was exactly what I wanted. I wanted a last-play game, which is what I was rooting for. I got it.
As a Buffalonian, I had no interest in watching the Patriots win a game. I also had no interest in the Giants winning, because my family is decidedly anti-New York sports teams. So instead of a winner, I cheered for drama. And did I get it.
As Tom Brady dropped back for the final heave down the field, I enjoyed the thought that the play mattered.
As for the commercials - the real reason to watch any Super Bowl - they were funny. My top 3 were:
1) M&Ms party featuring Ms. Brown.
2) The Hyundai cheetah commercial
3) Clint Eastwood’s halftime call-to-arms
The other ones were OK. Matthew Broderick was all right in his. Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t as cool as I thought the bit would be. They were OK, but nothing spectacular.
That’s it. Bye for now.
Eventually, I’m gonna have to stop making my timing of the blog post the title, but I’m content with it this time.
Today’s post is rather brief. It comes from a text message a colleague, investigative journalist-extraordinaire Rick Pfeiffer, received at around 6 p.m. today. It seems the Amherst police were called to the north campus of Erie Community College today about a suspicious package received in the mail.
The box was taped shut. They had the New York State police bomb squad on the scene and they x-rayed the package to check for any explosives. But what they found wasn’t very explosive. It was actually quite furry.
A live cat was inside the package. It’s quite disturbing. I haven’t gotten any word about the cat’s condition, though it seemed to be fully functioning. But the best part about the story actually is the humor that can be taken from it once you separate yourself from the obvious animal cruelty involved.
There once was a man named Erwin Schrodinger who poisoned a cat. Well, no, that’s not actually how it happened, folks, if you’re familiar with the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment.
In 1935, the Austrian scientist devised an answer to a paradox in quantum mechanics where one could think of two possible outcomes of a question at the same time. He illustrated it by imagining a cat placed in a box with a poison set to release at an unknown, random time. The two were sealed in the box.
Now because the poison couldn’t be determined to have released or not, the entire time the cat is in the box, it could be thought of as both dead and alive. It isn’t until you open the box, Schrodinger said, that you figure it out and get a true answer.
But it’s maybe a little telling that my mind immediately went to Schrodinger’s Cat when I heard about the boxed-up kitty. I was hoping the physics department wasn’t the unhappy recipient of a horrible, horrible joke. Or the initiators of one.
Bottom line: Don’t put cats in boxes, seal them up and ship them to a local college. It’s really cruel, even if it’s for science.
Wow, it didn’t take me long to break that. Seriously, one day?
So we’ll count this as the Feb. 2 post, even though it’s being written and published on Feb. 3 because I haven’t been around my own computer since Feb. 1.
I’m going to take this opportunity to say just how much I’m enjoying this group of episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS. Tonight was the fourth consecutive home run, and might have been its best of the group, which includes the gut-busting “I need wood” scenes from the show’s 100th episode.
The laughs today were genuine and harkened back to what made the show one of the few I actually invest my time in and enjoy. For too long, they focused on trying to turn the characters into something they’re not. The core of the show is the conflicts between Leonard and Sheldon and how they work through them. It isn’t Howard’s relationship with Bernadette, or Raj’s inability to talk to (attractive) women.
Heck, it isn’t even Leonard’s quest to be with women.
(Spoiler alert: Watch the Feb. 2 episode of “The Big Bang Theory” before going on, or don’t)
But a little about that first, before I go on. It is really, really nice to see Leonard and Penny together in some capacity again. But the only way the show’s creative minds (see: writers) can keep something as intricate as a working relationship going between the two is to do what they did in tonight’s episode: keep it in the background. Penny asking to make out with Leonard by the light of the lightsaber was perfect, especially since the show didn’t try to force it down the audience’s throat. If something does really develop on that front, and I feel it should, it needs to be slow. It doesn’t need to be referred to as a beta test in every episode, but a little bit at a time is really what we need.
But I digress. The show really is about the conversations and arguments between Leonard and Sheldon. Their latest fight was fantastic, with great comedic value. I just wish it didn’t just end, which the show has an overwhelming tendency to do. Keeping with the idea of the core being Leonard and Sheldon, the other characters got the right amount of screen time. Penny was in it just enough (a little more Kaley Cuoco is good, too), while the supporting characters of Raj and Howard got their own story.
All in all, the episode turned out to be one of the show’s best.
Motivation is a tricky thing. So is rocking a rhyme (Like if you get that reference and didn’t need Google). But unlike Run DMC, I don’t have rap skills to fall back on when the creativity is hitting a log jam.
So, I’m going to try to spark some sort of creativity jambreaker (not a word, I know) by writing in this blog (well, posting - pictures and other things count too) at least once a day for the entire month of February. Why February, you ask? It has the fewest days, even when there’s an extra, random day like this year. It’s kind of cheating.
I try to write for pleasure, the stuff I really want to do, but a lot of it gets stymied by things I need to write for work. I have a hard time concentrating on my fun projects, like the spec script I’m working on, or my book I started in 2010 and hasn’t been touched since September 2011. It’s all because my brain gets caught in the journalist stage where a story is only 500-700 words and gets edited immediately before being shuffled off to whoever puts the thing on the page.
Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t sign up for journalism right out of college. I sort of took it on as a way to write, to get the creative juices flowing. Problem is, I only get creative when I’m not working. Otherwise, I’m the equivalent of a puddle of Jell-O left out overnight.
I need to find some honest-to-goodness motivation to do what I want to do, or I’m going to go mad fairly soon. Any writers out there have any good tips to get past this lack? Besides “Hey, just sit down and write.” I would if I had all the time in the world, or a job which didn’t constantly tax that part of me.
(Spolier Warning: Don’t read on if you haven’t watched the final episodes and want to. And if this relates to you, why haven’t you watched it yet?)
Whoever suggested the ending to “Chuck” be a fade out after one final request for a kiss really needs to have their head examined.
Because they’re a freaking genius.
The ending capped off one of the most emotionally upheaving finales I’ve ever watched. The sendoffs and curtain calls were genius. The minor characters got closure and the supporting ones got back to their lives.
It should have been the perfect ending. Except one thing: It was only the minor characters who got to go on living.
Anyone who’s watched the show for any length of time knows the character Chuck’s (Zachary Levi) reason for being, for existing, is Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). So when the camera pulled out from their final embrace, questions still lingering, in a way, the writers left a piece of the main character dead.
Yes, she requested the kiss. Yes, the new Sarah Walker was falling in love with our Nerd-Hearder all over again and Sleeping Beauty might have been stirred in the show’s mind’s eye. But then again, maybe not. And there-in lies the problem. There’s no next time, there’s nothing left to say.
Of course it’s designed to do just that. It’s not the first time a television show or movie ended this way, and it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t begrudge anyone. I loved the finale, I really did. I just felt cheated at the end.
Only it wasn’t the final scene, the best two words any guy will ever hear, that got me upset. The show’s ultimate let down happened a bit earlier.
As a fan, I invested the majority of my interest in the relationship between the title character and his partner/girlfriend/wife-turned-enemy-turned-something Sarah. I think it’s that investment which brings this begrudged feeling out of me, because I endured some not-so-great writers back in seasons three and four to remain loyal to the end.
There was a scene just before the beach scene where John Casey (Adam Baldwin) walked away from Chuck one final time, complete with a hug. Shortly thereafter, Chuck watched as his wife followed suit, minus the hug. He started to open his mouth, to say what needed to be said, to do what needed to be done. Then he stopped. And my heart hit the floor.
Here’s your title character, the leader of a team of spies, the boy-turned-man capable of successfully wooing a girl like Sarah and almost getting her to quit the only thing she ever knew, and he freezes up. It was painful, physically painful, watching this character lose in a single second everything that made him great to begin with. His passion for her, his confidence he’d spent five years developing to get to where he was, suddenly evaporated, even after a speech from his best friend told him a kiss, one last kiss, was all he needed. And he let her walk away untouched.
I was promised in an interview with Levi before the finale that Chuck was going to fight for Sarah. He was going to give every last bit he had. Except he didn’t even come close. There was no urgency.
Something changed in me as I watched it. I lost respect for Chuck Bartowski. I lost the ability, when it should have been there the most, to suspend my disbelief, to stop thinking of them as characters in a work of fiction and to start thinking of them as people who could be next door to me, or even actually me.
You can argue the payoff at the end, when they finally do come together, is much higher with that scene as is. But there are two arguments against it. First, if you consider it from a character’s perspective, Chuck’s inability to go after her could have cost him his wife forever. We know, as the audience, he’s going to find her and get her back (he does). That he’s going to get that final kiss in (he does), and we might find out if it works (we don’t). But he doesn’t know this, so his inaction, his lack of fight for her, is ultimately the most perplexing thing.
The other argument is also simple. If he tells her Morgan’s (Joshua Gomez) idea, the thought kicks around upstairs and while she can still walk away from him, the seed has been planted. That way, when he meets her on the beach, the absolute best place for the show’s final scene, she’s already thinking of it. It’s more realistic and fits closer to the characters they’ve created.
So for me, that scene’s why I have such a hard time enjoying the ending, despite the absolutely touching way it came together. The stakes were high. I built myself up into a frenzy over this final episode. And in the end, I couldn’t believe it.
So I walk away from “Chuck” one final time, both amazed at what the show was and lost behind how it could have, with a few subtle changes, been so much more rewarding. I won’t say better. I don’t want to think better. It ended as it should have, given the direction they took Sarah. But I question the Chuck character now, something I never did despite, as he told her, both of them seeing other people.
It tugged me too much, and I broke. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t for the life of me take back watching the episode, or watching the show at all. So what if he didn’t really fight for her until the last second. He got the girl. Chuck and Sarah went out together, into the sunset, one final ………..