Friday, September 13, 2013

Who's Batman?

So Ben Affleck has been named as the next Movie Batman in the 2015 Superman/Batman movie and the internet loses it's shit. Sigh. It's great that so many people care about a fictional character, but come on people let's give him the benefit of the doubt. So while I was reading all of the twitter hate, love, indifference, I began to think about all the other actors who played Batman. Each one had an upside and a downside. So I thought again. Hey maybe I should put my two cents in well because I can. Then my friend Gary suggested I also talk about the villains and secondary characters in the films as well. And I think I will but in a different Blog. For now I am going to put down my thoughts on all the Batman's in the Modern era, yes hearkening back to the TV show Batman. These are only the live action ones, since the animated one is the best representation of Batman, but it is animated and not live. So away we go. If you disagree, agree, or are indifferent let me kow in the comments section.

ADAM WEST: BATMAN 1960S TV SHOW: I grew up watching the reruns of Adam West as Batman, and as a kid I loved them. But now has a grownup and a bit more jaded it is exactly what it was trying to be. Campy fun for kids. This was not a serious take on Batman, it was a cleaned up family friendly version, which to be fair was what the comics were at the time. It was in the 70s when Batman started getting gritty. Adam West was fine as Batman. His upside is he loved playing the character, you could just tell. He is also an iconic figure for people my age and older. He was Batman, and it was fun. The villains were great, everyone appeared to be having fun, and that is where the downside is. This Batman was a goofball, someone who easily figured out things and took out the bad guys easily and escaped from the perilous deathtraps easily using his gadgets. He was not the dark knight. But again let me preface that was not Batman at the time. The thing that really bought out the camp was stuff like the Bat-Tusi, or walking up the side of the building and stopping to talk to people, and the old chums. But in the end he is a product of the times and Adam West adored playing Batman. And that is cool.

MICHAEL KEATON: BATMAN 1989, 1992 BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS: When they announced that Michael Keaton was going to play Batman, I flipped out, but that was before the internet so I could not vent my frustrations. He was a comedic actor, what did he know about comics and playing Batman, we were going to get the campy Batman back. But then I started thinking. He was good in Clean and Sober, he could do Drama. Let's see what happens. I loved Tim Burton, and they had cast Jack Nicholson as the Joker which was pretty cool (at the time) so let's see what happens. What we got was a great beginning to the modern era of Comic Films. The Superman series had fallen into parody, so this was almost a new beginning. And Keaton was good. The film was darker then the campy tv series, and got a lot of stuff right. The music by Danny Elfman was spot on, and it was cool to see a comic book film which became a huge hit. Keaton's upside was that he had a great Batman voice, he looked cool in the outfit, and you could almost believe he was crazy enough to be a guy who dresses like a bat. He was not as good looking as Bruce Wayne is usually envisioned but he was good. The downside, He was a little small to play the role, did not have the physical build to be Batman who in the comics had worked for 10 years to refine every aspect of his life to fight crime, I didn't get that from Keaton. His Bruce Wayne was a little too much like Chris Reeve's Clark Kent being a little spacy and absentminded, But I get why they did it. To blow the scent off of the fact that this guy could be Batman. I liked the fact that he had some time to show off his brooding self in the films and that helped the cause as well. in retrospect I liked Keaton as Batman, and am happy to see that he is embracing superheroes again. He is in a film out next year about an actor who played a Superhero in some successful films but is now down and out and they are rebooting the character and he wants back in. Looks good.

VAL KILMER: BATMAN 1995 : BATMAN FOREVER: Val Kilmer is an interesting actor, he has lost it recently, but in the early 80s he was having fun acting in films like Real Genius and Top Secret! and even Top Gun and Willow some what, but when the 90s hit he was in a broody attitude taking roles in dark and conplex films and not showcasing his fun side. He was becoming like the anti-actor and that is why he could have been a great Batman. He had the broody angry look down, was still handsome, but in Batman Forever he just did not look like he was having fun. It could be that Joel Schumaucher reverted the series back to the campy side which was a major blow for the film series and the character. Just think what Kilmer could have done has the more broody angry Batman. The upside was he was broody and angry, he was handsome, he gave off the vibe that he was also pretty smart, but he just seemed like he was angry at taking on the role and was not exploring the depths that Batman has. And that was kind of the downside. He was a downer all the time, yes Batman usually is, but he does have his moments of humor and hapiness and none of it showed here. Plus he was acting in a terrible film directed by someone who really didn't get what audiences wanted to see in a Batman film, and reverted it back to the cheesy campy film. Val could've been a great Batman, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

GEORGE CLOONEY: BATMAN 1997: BATMAN & ROBIN: UG. Is all I have to say. One of the absolute wort films of all time, however it was only partially Clooney's fault. He was miscast, but his upside is that he tried really hard to be a good Batman, he did a good job with what he had, but he just wasn't Batman. He was handsome like Bruce Wayne is supposed to be, he had a bit too much humor, there was no sign of any real intensity or complexities that Batman has. But the movie was just a total trainwreck from start to finish. He was miscast and to be honest I really did not see him as Batman at all so even if he had another director and script, I'm not sure he could've pulled it off. But at least he gave 110% and tried his best to live up to the character and to that I have to give him credit.

CHRISTIAN BALE: BATMAN 2005, 2008, 2012: BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: Bale was an excellent Batman. He had all the pieces, the intensity, the complexity, the slight humor, but it was in a very limited way. Nolan and Goyer had a specific story they wanted to tell. They had a beginning, a middle, and end. They were never going to deviate from this story and therein lies a bit of my problem with Bale. He only had eyes for this story. He did not want to anchor a bunch of one off films, he wanted to create a fully formed character and character arc, that in Dark Knight Rises comes to it's intended end. They did not want to dig any deeper, they had a story to tell and they told it. And that's fine but it's very limited. And that is my biggest issue with him. That and his Batman voice was terrible. I was not a big fan of the end of Batman's story and did not like the finality of it. But as it's own story it is pretty good. I would've liked to see Bale go up against some of Batman's other baddies, especially would've loved to see Nolan's Riddler, but alas that is that.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Dad

June 5th is my dad's 66th birthday and he has finally decided that after 44 years that he has decided to call it a career and has decided to retire from his job as a math department chairman. At the end of May my dad had a retirement dinner and I was so proud of him. Proud of the amount of love his staff had for him. He had been a Math Department Chairman at Hereford High School for 13 years and these were the people who were throwing him the dinner. Up to that point he had been a Middle School Math Department Chairman at about 3 to 4 other schools in his huge career. His staff had created a powerpoint of his 40 plus year career filled with music, pictures, and humor. Then his staff came up and everyone talked a little about what my dad meant to them. And this was interesting to me, because I never saw him as a school teacher. He never taught me, I never saw him interact with the kids in his class. But this outpouring of love was overwhelming and it was another side of my dad I have never seen. And then he did his speech. I never really expected him to be as eloquent a speech reader he was, but it should not have surprised me since he wrote a wonderful eulogy for his mother, my grandmother. But his speech was amazing. But after his dinner I was driving home and I started thinking about my dad. All the stuff he has gone through, all the stuff he has done for me and his family. He's made some mistakes, he's had some rough times and he had some good times. He's done some great travelling and has always stuck to a schedule. Goes to bed at 8pm. Gets up at 3am and runs for awhile, then goes into work, works all day, then gets home has dinner, does work, goes to bed. That seems to be his routine. The weekends he works, reads, runs, spends time with the family, or does whatever. And that is my dad in a nutshell. Very schedule oriented. Which is fine. I find myself sometimes dipping into that well and finding myself schedule oriented every once in awhile which I get from my dad. it's not often but sometimes it creeps out. Most of the time I am laid back as well.

So on this, his 66th birthday, and a few weeks before his retirement, I started to think up some of my memories of him and just wrote them down. I had so much written down that it surprised me how much I remembered when I have trouble remembering other bits of my life. Just goes to show you how important someone can be for you. So I thought I would just write a few rememberances for my dad. Not in any real order just off the cuff.

My Dad lost his father, my grandfather, at the age of 13. Being the oldest of 6 kids he had to take on the role of father figure for his siblings. It was rough but he was able to handle it while maintaining his schooling.

My Dad and Mom got seperated when I was about 14 or 15 and divorced after I turned 18, but it was an easy seperation on me and my sister. Meaning that my mother and father never fought in front of us, never moved us from one house to another, and were very cordial to each other in front of us. My Dad paid his alimony on time and never fought it. When my Mom's mother died, my Dad came down to the funeral and the wake and paid his respects to my grandfather, and when he passed my dad was down for that. It was both ways, my mom was there when my dad's mother died. They get along very well now and can be in the same place for family parties.  So if you ever need to get seperated the way my parents did it was perfect.

My Dad was the coach of my Little League baseball team for close to 5 years. That is not so unusual since lots of dads coach their children's teams, but since my dad is a math teacher and he loves his statistics. So he made statistics for us after every game and we loved it.

One year for my birthday, My Dad and I took a road trip to Chicago to go to Chicago Comic-Con. We got a room in the same hotel as the con, and while I was at the con my dad would lounge at the pool, or read, or whatever. Then in the evening we would explore Chicago. It was a long 12 hour drive to Chicago, and along 12 hour drive back, but at this age I could not drive so Dad took the wheel the whole time and we did not stop. While we were there we went to a Chicago White Sox baseball game, since the Cubs were away that week. We did not go into the Sears Tower, but did go into the John Hancock building which is just as tall. Ate some Chicago Style Pizza which is good. All in all a great time.

My Dad is a runner. He did races often and I would go to some of them. One father's day when I had grown up and was working for WLIF the radio station. We hosted a race and my dad ran it, so I got to see him and introduce him to the people I worked with and that was cool.

When I was younger during the last week of summer before school started for both Dad and I, I would go with my Dad a day or two to his work where he would be prepping for the school year. I would stamp school books, draw on his chalkboard, and generally just help my dad for a few hours. He would get me a soda which for me was huge.

My Dad loves Stevie Nicks, and when it came time that my sister and I thought we were ready for a real pet, we had to try and convince him to get a cat for us. We all wanted one, but he was kind of on the fence about it. But what is really great is that My sister and I came up with the perfect name. We told my Dad that we wanted to name our cat Gypsy, named after the song from Stevie Nicks. That convinced him and we got a cat. However, 5 years or so later my dad unfortunately was the one who found her lifeless body. She had been hit by a car, since she was an outdoor cat. Her lifeless body was right in front of my dad's car. And when he turned on his car and he turned on his headlights, he saw the body. And it crushed him.

My Dad always liked to travel and he has been all over. Europe multiple times, Canada multiple times, and has visited a lot of states in the United States as well. And when I was younger my family would go to Ocean City NJ where my mom's sister lived for our vacations. One year we all went to New York and Boston as well. After my parents seperated my dad more travelling and sometimes my sister and I would go along. We went to Boston again, flew to California and did LA, San Diego, and San Francisco. We flew to Seattle and did that and Vancouver, then back to San Francisco. And the last major trip I remember taking with my dad was flying to Denver, spending time there, driving to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, then driving back to Denver with a stopover in Boulder. All nice trips, all fun trips. My Dad takes my nephews on week's vacations as well nowadays. And he and my stepmom still do some travelling. In fact he will be going to Belgium this summer. So pretty cool.

Every year My Dad and I go to a Ravens football game together, with the exception of last year when he got me and my wife and sister and brother in law tickets to Ravens Vs. Redskins. But every year since the Ravens have been in existence we have gone to a game together. We went to the first ever Ravens Playoff game in their history on New Year's eve 2000. We also used to go to Orioles games together, but now not so much. In fact we went to the very last game at Memorial Stadium for the Orioles, before they moved to Camden Yards. We used to go see the Bullets/Wizards when they would sometimes play a game in Baltimore, which they haven't done in years. So it is always a lot of fun when my dad and I do these things together.

My Dad started my Comic Book collection and got me interested in comics. We've watched movies together just the two of us. We saw Midnight Run, Every Which Way but Loose, The Maltese Falcon, and probably more that I can't remember. He loves his grandkids and is looking forward to spending time with them now that he is retired.

I love my Dad. I am lucky that I feel that he loves me too. I am lucky for all the time I have spent with him and will spend with him for many years. We may not talk everyday, but I know my dad is concerned for me and my family and I am lucky that I have this relationship with my Dad. I hear horror stories about people having strained relations with their father, and am so happy that I do not have this problem. Dad I love you and I hope I did not embarass you too much. As proof of how great my dad is. I am posting the last three minutes of his Retirement Speech. in my opinion they were the best part of the speech.   Happy Birthday Dad! Happy Retirement! And I will definitly talk to you soon. Love Dylan.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What 20 Summer films I want to see this year, but probably will only see 3 of them

Ah, Summertime. The time when the movie theaters get busy, and the sequels, Superhero films, action films, animated films, go crazy and everyone excpects a 30 million dollar plus opening weekend. I love the summer film season because I love those kinds of films. If you look at my theater going behavior, Summer is when I see the most films. Because I enjoy big crazy spectacles. I eagerly await Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview, because I discover that there are a ton more movies that I did not know about that are coming out during that time. This is just a generic list with a few off kilter comments. You will not find a lot of information but just a quick blurb. I don't have all the info in fromt of me so I can't tell you for sure when some of these are coming out. Plus it may be different all over the country when things come out. so here are my top 20 films that I want to see this summer, but will probably only see 3 of them since I have kids and a job and not a lot of money.

20. 2 GUNS: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg playing enemies who have to work together? Action packed? Based on a comic book? I'm there. 2 Guns is based on the comic by Boom Studios, where one of my friends Filip Sablik is a higher up in the company. So see this picture for him. Comes out August.

19. WORLD WAR Z: Brad Pitt vs. Zombies in an adaptation of the book by Max Brooks. What I've seen of it has not really got my blood flowing, and zombies are starting to get a little overblown like vampires were not too long ago. However it is an excellent book, it is a scary action horror story set all over the world, so it may be pretty good. Comes out the day after my birthday. June 21st.

18. NOW YOU SEE ME: Magician thieves. Thieves who use magic tricks to rob others. Morgan Freeman leads a big cast including Jesse Eisenberg. And yet it's supposed to come out in May and I have not seen a lick of advertising for it anywhere. Never a good sign. But the premise alone intrigues me. Comes out in May.

17. THE GREAT GATSBY: A good novel. A visionary director: Baz Luhrmann (Moulan Rouge, Romeo and Juliet) two actors named Leonardo and Tobey, who also happen to be best friends in real life and you get what appears to be a unique movie. Then in 3D kills it for me. Gatsby is not a huge action pic, there is no real reason for 3D except just to see if you can make a drama in 3D. May 11th.

16. EPIC: From the director of the original Ice Age, you get this computer animated family fantasy film about a group of fairy type of beings who do battle against their enemies, and they are the size of insects. Saw the trailer, looked amazing and fun fantasy and may be a good pic for me to take my kids to. Though there are two better ones and another one Planes (based in the Cars world from Pixar)that did not make the list that the kids may want to see before this one. But who knows. Comes out late May I think.

15. ELYSIUM: From the director of District 9 Neil Blomkomp comes is second film that stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Hard to describe what is going on, but Damon puts on a suit of armor and battles people in a bleak future. Looks like amazing sci-fi for grownups. Coming out in August.

14. PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS: I was disappointed when Chris Columbus made the original Percy Jackson film, based on the YA novel series which I have read and love about a boy who discovers he is a demigod, his father is Poesidan the God of the Sea and he learns of a camp with other demigods. The film had potential to be the American Harry Potter, but if fell apart, changing aspects of the book and casting a too old actor Logan Lerman to play Percy. However it made enough money for the film companies to go, hmm let's see what happens. So here is the sequel. What I have heard is that it is closer to the book then the original Percy jackson, though Logan Lerman is still in the role. He is still to old, but it is enough to pique my interest. Coming in August.

13. RIPD: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, based on a comic book about Ghost police officers. Has the interesting premise of a Men in Black type of film, with two amazing actors who appear to be having a blast making the film. I think this is coming in July. Not sure. Maybe June.

12. AFTER EARTH: When I first saw this, it didn't overwhelm me to much. Then I saw some of the trailers and have started seeing tv commercials for it, and the more I look at it, the more amazing it looks. Will Smith re-teams with his real life son Jaden Smith, who play father and son space rangers who crash on a wild and wooly planet, called Earth where the animals have taken over and evolved. Jaden has to traverse the land to try and find help for his injured dad. This looks to be more of a Jaden film with Will in a support role which is fine. And hopefully M. Night Shaymalan who was great but has slowly fallen off is making a return and it looks good. May 31st. Moved up from June 7th.

11.THE WOLVERINE: I like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Wish he was a little shorter but I digress. However I never have seen his original solo film yet. I own it but have not watched it yet. I had heard it really wasn't all that great anyway. But We'll see. However from what I have been hearing, this one sounds awesome. One of the aspects of Wolverine I always liked was his belief in the Samurai code. And this movie set in Japan and may have connections to the classic Wolverine miniseries by Frank Miller has piqued my interest. July.

10. PACIFIC RIM: A lot of secreacy from Guillermo Del Toro on this one. What we know is a live action giant monster movie taking on Giant Robots controlled by human pilots. Idris Elba who is insanely cool stars. Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters sounds awesome. July I think.

9. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY: Pixar's summer film of choice. They do have Planes coming out also, but that was supposed to be a direct to dvd sequel to Cars but they thought they could make some money releasing it. However this one is the true Pixar summer film. A sequel to the excellent Monsters Inc. plays more like a prequel as we meet Sulley and Mike, who meet for the first time. It throws every college movie cliche in the book and you have monsters doing the acting. Pure comedy gold. John Goodman and Billy Crystal return as the voices.

8. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: What do you do after you just directed a true blockbuster superhero film in the Avengers? Well Joss Whedon films a black and white adaptation of a Shakespearean comedy in his house. Yes. HIS HOUSE. Pulls in some of his regulars like Nathan Fillion, Tom Lenk, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, and Clark Gregg and release it wide after a very successful run at film festivals. Looks like a great break from Summer Films, with some great acting and directing.

7. THIS IS THE END: This film was originally near the end of my list. I had no desire to see it. Then I remembered the original concept trailer that Seth Rogen and Jay Barachel did called Seth and Jay vs. the Apocalypse. ANd I remembered I laughed my ass off. Now they have finally made the film. And made it bigger. I watched both the redband trailer and regular one and laughed my ass off. Concept is awesome. A group of actors who portray crazy versions of themselves are having a party at James Franco's house when the end of the world occurs and this small group of guys are stuck in the house trying to survive. Seth Rogen, Jay Barachel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, David Krumholz, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and Emma Watson to name a few of the stars who portray the worst parts of themselves. Looks hilarious.

6. DESPICABLE ME 2: I never really thought about this film until I had kids. They aired the original on Disney junior I think edited of course and we only watched a little of it but the kids loved it, and I actually enjoyed it to. So I went out and bought it and showed the kids and it soon became one of their faves. And I really liked it as well. So when I learned this was coming out July 4th weekend this year, well I asked the kids if they wanted to see it in the theaters and they said yes. So we will be seeing this. Being released July 3rd.

5. MAN OF STEEL: You'd think I would be more excited to see this since it is a Superman movie. But for some reason I do not have the excitement for this movie. I still want to see it since it could very well be DC's Iron Man. I.E the first film to kick off a self contained DC comic hero movie world. I'm still hesitant because it appears they are going the Nolan Batman route (Nolan is a producer on it) and making it dark. Superman should not be a dark film. It should be fun. That is why I am having some issues with it. June 14th

4. IRON MAN 3: Again you'd think this would be higher, but from what I have seen and heard. This film is not exciting me all that much. I guess I expected something a little more Avengers esqe, but we get a different type of Iron Man film, which is fine. I just wish it had more of a connection with the Avengers, and also I have heard it does not tease any other up-coming Marvel Movies which is kind of a shame as well. I'll still see it because I like Iron Man. But it is not as anticipated as Iron man 2 was for me. In theaters now.

3. THE LONE RANGER: Believe it or not this looks like a perfect Summer film that I am actually looking forward to seeing. It appears to be in a similar vein as the Pirates films (same director, star) with humor and awesome action sequences. The trailers I have seen look amazing. Looks exciting and really want to see it. July 3rd.

2. BEFORE MIDNIGHT: Yep, my 2nd most anticipated film is a sequel, but to a romantic series of films that I adore and do not have any crazy summer movie style action, just talking and gorgeous locations. Plus two cast members in Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who are great together. Looking forward to what happens next to their characters. May 24th.

1. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Loved the reboot of the Star Trek film series with the great new actors. Found the story fun and exciting and now 4 years later get to see the same cast all together again and I am stoked. I really hope this is as good as the reboot was. The trailers and clips I have seen make this look operatic. I hope it works. May 16th. (just moved from the 17th)

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Since around the beginning of the 21st century, retailers have been trying to figure out a way to boost sales, and also to get more people into their stores. One retailer, I can't remember who, came up with the idea of giving away free comics. He had noticed that the resurgance of comic book movies, which had just started getting going with XMEN was drawing people into their shop, so why not connect it with a comic book movie. If a comic book movie is coming out, let's make it the date after. They worked on selling the idea to the comic companies, and Diamond worked out how it would work. It took off like a dream and is now a yearly event on the 1st Saturday of May every year, regardless if a comic book movie is out or not. It has surpassed being attached to a movie and has grown into an all ages fun time at your local comic stores.

It's also a way to get laxed readers,or people who are interested in Super heroes to come into the Local Comic Store. For years they have had to live with the stigma that most people thought comic stores were places were nerds would debate who was stronger Superman or the Hulk, who was faster, who was smarter. And that they were all dank, dark, dirty stores that no one would be caught dead in. However people would soon learn that these stores are big, airy, well lit, and may have those conversations, but sometimes it's just shooting the breeze about anything, sports, other movies, tv shows, music. The people who run them are not the nerdy comic book guys, they are normal men and women who are married, or have kids, or are single also. And yes more women are getting into comic book stores, so it is not all men.

But it is also an opportunity to get younger kids excited about comic books, because let's face it. Nowadays with your smartphones and computer games, kids are no longer really interested in comic books. And that could be bad because now the stores are surviving on grownups like myself who are lifelong fans, but soon we may have to stop buying, or are going to stop buying for whatever reason, and they need younger generations to get excited about comics. So the Free Comic Book books that are available cover all ages and alot of comic companies. All the big names do at least one, sometimes 2, and they also try to catch things that are popular now.

This year, we have a Superman book, a Star Wars book, A Grimm book, A Walking Dead book, TMNT, Disney Faries, Smurfs, Sesame Street, Strawberry Shortcake, Spongebob, Simpsons, Archie, Pippi Longstocking just to name a few. Some have reprints of stories, some are special stories you can only get in this book, some like the DC and Marvel books are prequels to their big company wide crossovers, they also have independent books that maybe some fans of other types of stories besides pop culture can get into also. They even have a website where you can see all the books they are offering and also a locator of which stores are involved in FCBD.

Stores go all out. They get popular writers and artists to come and sign books or do drawings, some have drawings for prizes, some have games, some have people dressed up as superheroes so you can get pictures with them. Some go all out and have crazy parties.

The way it's supposed to work varies with each store, but the one thing that covers all is that they cannot say you get this free comic book with purchase. NO. It is supposed to be away to get people enticed into the comic world. Each story varies, but they have to give them away for free, no exceptions. They can make a rule how they do it, can only pick one, or as many as you want. Each store will let you know their rules. My store says we can take as many as we want. They also offer previous FCBD books for free also, so if you missed FCBD last year or the year before, you can still get the books from that year. That is just my store. Cards, Comics, and Collectibles in Reisterstown, MD. So on Saturday, go out to your local comic store. Get a free comic, meet the people who work their, browse the store, who knows you may find something you would like to buy. Have fun! Let me know if any of you go and get good stuff and or service. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Greatish Performances: Bill Paxton in Weird Science

John Hughes was a master. In the mid 80s he really knew how to tap into the teenage zeitgeist and make it seem exactly like he knew what they were going through. He made some of the greatest comedies of our time, and a fantastic Comedy Drama in The Breakfast Club. 16 Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were two great comedies with heart, but one that gets overlooked is a straight up comedy called Weird Science.
The cast was filled with great young actors like Anthony Michael Hall who was in Hughes previous two films 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club, as well as co starring in National Lampoon's Vacation which Hughes wrote but did not direct. Kelly leBrock was an attractive, sexy model who was perfect in the role of Lisa. You also have some young kid by the name of Robert Downey Jr. who showed up as well as one of the "bad guys".  But the actor who stole the show was Bill Paxton who has become quite the character actor as well, by his role as Chet, the brother of Wyatt played by Ilan Mitchell-Smith.

A quick synopsis of the film, two nerds during a wild weekend create a woman with their computer who they hope will do whatever they tell her to do, but the tables are turned as she tries to help them become accepted in who they are. I told you it was a crazy film. Bill Paxton as Chet is the abusive older brother of Wyatt who extorts money from his brother, gives him wedgies, beats him up, almost as an extreme older brother. And Paxton plays the biggest jerk in the world.

Paxton's Chet has a close shave military esqe haircut, acts like he is in the military, likes guns and hunting, and is a creepy abusive bully. When he catches Wyatt doing things he is not supposed to Chet extorts money from him so as not to tell their parents what he did. This partricular weekend their parents are going away for a weekend and leave Chet in charge. He decides to spend all day on Saturday hunting leaving Wyatt and Gary(Hall's character) to have their big party, and their time with Lisa. So Chet may not be in the film all that much, but when he is, you are drawn to him and you laugh at how big of a dick he is. From hurling insults at his brother, to walking around in a towel, to freaking out when he sees what his brother did to their house, then his sleaziness really comes through when he is hitting on Lisa, In the end though he gets his comeuppence in a huge way, and in a way that is perfect for Chet.

Paxton is able to create such a sleezeball, that no matter how over the top he gets, you think to yourself, yeah I can see someone being just like him. Paxton appears to be having a blast playing this role, because he can go way overboard and everything he does makes us laugh and hate him, but you kind of can't hate him because he is just so crazy insane. And he makes everyone laugh.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


On April 18th, 1938 The very first issue of Action Comics came out. In it was a strange person in a red and blue uniform with a cape crashing a car. This strange beings name was Superman and no one had ever seen anything like it before. Created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel Superman began a new wave of superheroes and a new art form called comic books. Soon other characters started to appear like the mysterious Batman and the lovely Wonder Woman. Now 75 years later they are all still around and still very popular.

I know it says June on the cover but for some reasons comics to this day have a two month window but this comic did first come out on April 18th 1938.  To me Superman has never really been one of my favorite characters. It's not that I am against his Truth, Justice, and the American Way, I just never really found him interesting. Until 1986. Around that time I was starting to get into DC Comics. After years of being a Marvel Zombie, 1986 was when DC revamped their universe and I got my first real tastes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comics. I also started reading the Flash, and Justice League. And that in turn made me branch out into more DC books. In 1986 John Byrne was one of my most favorite writer Artists, and he was taking over Superman and revamping him and updating him to the future (1986). And it was amazing. After the initial Man of Steel mini-series. I started collecting Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics. Devoured them and loved them. Read them for a few years, then new creative teams came on and I was beginning to feel as if maybe I should stop, but their stories were just as good. Soon a fourth book Superman Man of Steel appeared and all four Superman comics, with different creative teams, soon started becoming one. After you read Superman you had to read Adventures of Superman because the story continued there, then you had to go to Man of Steel, then Action then back to Superman. It sounds annoying, but to have have four different creative teams so in-synch that you had to collect all 4 of them, more power to them. They were telling good stories and I was fine with buying them all. But soon I got to college and my money started drying up a little bit and I had to make cuts, so I soon stopped reading comics. I kept an eye on them, but I missed a lot of stories. Then when I got back into comics I started reading them again. But soon I started to drift away from Superman as I had to scale back, and for some reason I was not as excited about it as before.

I've always liked Superman in the movies. 2 really good movies in Superman and Superman 2, 1 ok film in Superman Returns, and 2 crappy films in Superman 3 and Superman 4. The cartoon was excellent. Done by the same creators as the successful Batman animated Series, they brought a great series in the Superman animated series. I also enjoyed Lois and Clark when it was on TV with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, though it was more romantic comedy then comic book show. Never got into Smallville though heard some good things about that. Something else I like is that Superman is one of the only heroes out there that has an iconic movie theme, created by the great John Williams.

The new 52 Superman though is really not doing it for me. I read the first issues and did not like where they were going. Making him more alien then human, and also kind of more like a douchebag. Dating Wonder Woman, his parents are dead. This is not my Superman, the one I read for so long. So I no longer have any interest in reading Superman. However being the comic guy I am, I did not want his 75th birthday to go by without my acknowledging it. He was really good to read for a long time. And the new Man of Steel movie may have some promise. For now I will wait and see. There is a new Superman title coming out in advance of the film called Superman Unchained and it has a great creative team in Scott Snyder who is tearing it up in Batman, and classic comic artist Jim Lee. So I may pick that one up just to see what Snyder will do with him. I also have a ton of Superman Action figures, but for some reason he really is not one of more favorite characters. But Superman is still an icon and I do have some good memories of reading some Superman stories, but there is just something about him...Oh well doesn't matter. Happy Birthday Superman! You started this all, and for that I salute you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Defiance: Sci-Fi Comfort Food

For about a year now the Syfy network has been pushing their new original Science Fiction show Defiance. It's a first for the network as they are also connected to a computer game as well. So you have both the Show and the game. So for almost a year we have been seeing ads for it, sneak peeks, going to conventions to push the show so that everyone is aware that the show is coming out. And it finally has this past Monday the 15th of April. And it was OK. Nothing stellar. To me it underperformed, but I know a lot of my fellow Snarkalecs disagree with me. They loved the show. Now for me it was just the first 2 hours and it underwhelmed me. But again that's just me.

What my issue is, is that they were pushing this show as being a game changer. And to me it was an amalgam of other sci-fi cliches and story ideas, I did not find it all that original. The characters are all ones you've seen before, the lovable rogue, the hooker with a heart of gold, the outsider, the Romeo and Juliet couple, the fresh faced mayor following a beloved mayor, a, at first glance, a kind person who turns out to be the main bad guy of the show, the rivals, the love triangle, a town filled with different species living together under one town happily,The outnumbered and outgunned people taking on an unstoppable army have been done before. The story was a set up for the series which is fine since it is a pilot, but to me it did not seem all that interesting. Calling me cynical but that is what the first 2 hours were. What I like to call Sci-Fi Comfort Food.

Did I like anything about it? Sure, the effects were good, the sets were good, the aliens were interesting looking and a lot appear to be aliens made up with make-up and not CGI. Plus it is just the first episode, I will keep watching, but even the previews for upcoming episodes seem to be following other storylines as well that we have seen before.

The acting was ok, though some of it was really wooden. The main hero Nolan played by Grant Bowler seemed very wooden as was Julie Benz as Amanda the new mayor. So that sort of took me out of the show. But we did have some good acting especially from the veterans such as Graham Greene as Rafe, and Fionnula Flannagan as former Mayor Nicky. Again not all actors can be great, but add that to the list of all the issues I have had with the show.

Again I will give it a few more episodes to try to get into it's groove but for me I was disappointed. I was expecting a new kind of sci-fi show that would bring about some new ideas that if mixed in with some of the stories that were in the show, I could overlook the cliches because I was seeing something new. I also know that there are only so many story ideas out there but the good writers can breath fresh air into a stale story idea and here is hoping that maybe Defiance can do it down the line. But for now it did what it was supposed to do, it got people to watch, it showed them stuff that they were familliar with and maybe they are hoping that the familiarity will keep the viewers around because this is a big deal for SYFY so they want to succeed. And they did, in creating Sci-Fi Comfort Food.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Feel a Case of Road Rage Coming

One of the very first Blogs I ever wrote was about my pet peeves about traffic. Nothing has really changed since then. It still pisses me off and I need to bitch again.

My job moved to a new warehouse almost a year and a half ago. The commute has gotten a lot worse since then. It is actually shorter then where we used to work, but it was easier to get to and quicker. This new commute puts me smack dab on 695 with every other car in the world heading to either downtown Batltimore, or Washington DC. So on a commute that during weekends takes about 30 minutes, the sheer amount of traffic on the highways has pushed my average drive time to about 44 minutes. OK, 14 minutes more is not too bad. However that is the average. Yes I did an experiment. For a year I kept track of how long it took me to get to work, every day I was at work. I did not count days I was sick, or vacation days, or holidays we were closed. I did include the few Saturday days I had to work. Then I averaged what it was for the whole month. Then at the end of the year I took the average of all those times per month to get my 44 minutes. During the summer my commute is not bad, mostly due to schools being closed or people on vacation, but then I would get the really bad days. Like the hour long commutes, or the 90 minute commutes. To put that into perspective. I could drive to visit my sister in Woodbridge, Virginia, in 90 minutes. I could drive to Virginia which is far away in the time it sometimes takes me to go 25 miles to work. Why? Accidents. Weather. Just lots of cars leaving at the same time. Your choice. And now for the past 4 months, at least one day a month I have a 90 minute commute. The majority of time it is in the 40-50 minute range. It should not be this long. But it is. People are to busy talking on their cell phones, or they do not know what Yield is, or they do not feel getting into the turn lane,or get out of the lane that we will be losing soon and expect everyone to let you over because you are superior. NO you are just trying to get ahead of everyone who is paying attention to driving, and if you get a little to ornery accidents occur. But mostly it is people not paying attention. In some cases yeah it could be weather, icy roads, fog, heavy rain or snow. But drive safer in those type of conditions. I can all ready predict tomorrow's commute will be at least an hour since it will be raining in the morning. But that is not all that I want to bitch about.

SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES. I would love to, and to be fair there are some really good motorcyclists out there. But the pure assholes on motorcycles outweigh the good ones. They have no respect for other drivers, so why should I share the road with them. Just because your vehicle is smaller then mine, does not allow you the right to break the laws of the road. Let's see, they speed, moreso then some of the asshats who go 20 + over the speed limit. Some of these motorcyclists go in the 80s-90s. They weave in between cars, hey asshole what if you misjudge and hit my car with my kids in it, you damage my car, we have an accident and you may die. Today, we were all stuck in traffic all the same. What did one motorcycle guy do? Drive 80 MPH on the shoulder, which is illegal. They sometimes drive on the lines between cars, they do tricks while driving. Really guys? You want me to share the road with people who break the law so obviously? No I don't think so. This is not an indictment about the many motorcyclists who obey the laws of the road, I have no problem sharing the road with them. But these little shits who think they are better than every once else, that they are above the law. Buddy, you are dangerous and I really don't want to be on the same road as you.

Enough bitching. Just wanted to get it off my chest. Back to work. Please pay attention to the road, to the laws of the road, drive carefully, because you are all causing me insane cases of Road Rage and one day You better watch out. I may not be so friendly.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Before Sunset: part 2 of a 2 part story of perfection

At the beginning of the century I was hearing rumors that there was going to be a follow up to Before Sunrise. A movie I adore, and just wrote about in my blog. I found the idea intriguing considering how the last one ended. Unfortunately in the below review I have to spoil the ending of Before Sunrise so consider yourself warned. I swore to myself if they did make a film I would see it in the theaters. They did, and I did not. Dont know the reason why not. It was 2004, I was working at Diamond, we had no kids and were househunting. So when it came out on DVD I bought it same day. And let it sit til a valentines day maybe 2005 or 2006 when I watched both back to back. I was in my thirties now and I had been watching Before Sunrise on a somewhat steady basis, at least once year around Valentines Day. But I found myself more intrigued with Before Sunset. Maybe because it was newer and I was excited to see these characters doing something different. Then it to became part of my usual rotation again around Valentines Day, and I sometimes found myself watching Before Sunset instead of Before Sunrise now more often. In fact it's been a while since I saw Before Sunrise. I watched Before Sunset last month. Just felt like it. I was sick at home and wanted something fast and easy to watch. Something familliar and warm that I enjoyed to make me feel better. Unlike Before Sunrise, where it took me a little while to see why I liked it so much, I knew right away why I liked Before Sunset, because this film was talking to 30 year old me, because Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) were now in their 30s talking about stuff that concerned us.

For those who did not see Before Sunrise or read my review. 1994 20ish American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets 20ish French Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train on his last night in Europe. They start chatting and soon get into full blown deep conversations. The train stops in Vienna and Jesse is flying out of there back to America the next morning early. Celine is heading back to France. Jesse convinces Celine to get off of the train with him and continue their conversation while walking around Vienna.  As they walk they begin to fall in love. Then they start to despair because day is coming quickly and they don't know what to do.


They made an adult decision to just make this night their only night together. They will not exchange numbers, they will just keep the dream of the encounter alive. But when the reality strikes that they will never see each other again, Love jumps in and convinces them that is a dumb idea and that they will meet back up in Vienna in 6 months to see where the relationship will go, they will not exchange numbers nor try to contact each other before that 6 months. They agree and part, end of film.

Flash Forward, 9 years. Jesse is in France now as a famous writer, who has written a best seller about his whirlwind romance in Vienna. He is finishing up a world tour and will be heading back to America in about 3 hours. While at a book signing meet and greet Jesse notices Celine. After the meet and greet they awkwardly say hello. Celine convinces him to go to coffee just to catch up before he has to leave for America. He tells his handlers what is going on and they give him a cell phone and a number to call when ready. From this point on the film runs real time which is an incredible thing, making the film different and more interesting then the previous one. The old friends go to coffee house and catch up and sure enough they hit it off again and they start talking again about everything. Since Jesse does not want this to end he convinces Celine to walk around France for a bit. Celine is a little worried that he will miss his plane but agrees since she misses him too. So again they walk around a beautiful European city in the Summer in a limited timeframe just chatting away.

Through the conversation we learn that one of them (I wont say who to not spoil this) did not show up in Vienna 6 months later so they had not seen each other til that moment in the bookstore in 9 years. We learn Jesse is married with a son, and Celine is working with a political group to help the environment and is dating a combat photographer who is away on a mission. Through the conversation also we see how the characters have changed in the past 9 years and they have. Jesse who was so confident and psuedo intellegent is now a broken down man who loves his son more than anything, but is still obsessed with the one night he had with Celine (not in a creepy way). He feels that his night with Celine was the pinnacle of love, that he experienced the absolute perfection of love and now is quickly falling. he's not confident, he's not happy, he's beat down, but still has a little spark, a spark that starts to glow again being around Celine. Meanwhile Celine has become totally crazed about life, again not exuding confidence, saying that love is not real it's just an emotion and that she does not need anyone or anything to make her happy, she is smoking, depressed, angry, passive agressive and again it goes back to that night where she felt whole, and when she lost it, she lost her way. Both of these two who were so vibrant and bright eyed in their 20s have been bitch-slapped in the face by reality and it has shattered them. But the more time they spend together you begin to see a healing process. It's even not a longshot to say that they may be soulmates and when they were tore asunder, not for any reason except that they wanted to be adult about it, their souls shattered and now being back together they are beginning to notice that hey, we compliment each other very well.

Again Richard Linklater directs and co-writes with Kim Krizan, but this time both Hawke and Delpy are classified as writers as well, because much like Before Sunrise they improved most of their conversations. The film has the same glow as the original, but Before Sunrise shows us more of Vienna and the exploratory part of their relationship. This one Linklater believes much as I do that the true story of the film is Jesse and Celine finding each other and this isn't a dream like the original, it's real life and he decides to focus more on his actors than the scenary, though there are some nice shots. It's a deep movie, it's not as fun as the original, but that's ok it's a different film from the original and that is what you want.  Hawke and Delpy again are amazing with special props to Hawke who drops the swagger he showed in the previous film and in Reality Bites and shows us a broken, vulnerable man who wants to do the right thing for everybody but himself. It is somewhat reminiscent of the role he played in Dead Poets Society.  Delpy meanwhile is allowed to open up her acting, something she did very little of in the original, and shows us what a young idealist strong woman goes through when her life becomes utter shit. Celine's rage at Jesse near the end of the film is a true highlight showing how damaged she has become by holding on to that night much as Jesse has and how such a beautiful wonderous night has turned both their lives upside down.

The ending is again ambiguous, and leaves you wanting more. I won't spoil it here, but the ending is a natural progression to all the anger they both have, and you can see that they have finally realized that they are healing each other being in each others prescence. It's a good ending, but again much like the first one an aggrivating ending because you want to know what happens next.

Rumors started swirling last year that they were filming or have filmed the third movie. I have not heard anything, but the timing is about right. We have a title called Before Midnight and I am dying to see it. I have my ideas what it is about, but wont say anything because I don't want to spoil it. So hopefully we will see a new film from them very soon. And this time. I will see it in the movie theater. MARK MY WORDS.

Before Sunrise: part one of a two part story of perfection

I'm a romantic at heart. I love watching films that have happy endings for couples who appear perfect for each other. I relish that. It proves that maybe even in the real world true happiness in love is attainable. This belief hit me hard after college where I was dumped by one of the few girls I truly loved. It took 5 long years to get that feeling again, and during that time I devoured Romantic comedies and films in general. Especially during Valentines Day when I had no one. Then in 2000 I met Dawn who is my greatest love, but the memories of that time before Dawn creep in every once in awhile usually manifesting in thoughts of what would have happened to me if Dawn and I did not get together? So the feelings of these Romantic Comedies, as unrealistic as some of them are still has a good spot in my heart and always give me a smile. However there was one film during this 5 year span which surprised me on how much I love it. It is to me one of my all time favorite films, along with it's follow up. But it was completely different then a typical romantic comedy. It seemed more real and at the same time more dreamlike and surreal. Which the actors mention numerous times in the film. That film is Before Sunrise.

Released in 1994, I saw it on DVD in 1995 during my downward spiral, and maybe that had something to do with it because it's about two people in their 20s who meet in Vienna, fall in love, but then have to seperate after spending one night together. He's from America, she's from France. Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) is an American who just got out of a long relationship and wanted to see Europe and find himself. So he spent a few weeks on the train through Europe. Vienna is his last stop before his flight home. On the train he meets Celine (played by Julie Delpy) who just spent time with her grandmother and is heading back to France. They happen to be on the same train home and happen to sit across from each other. Jesse sees her and is struck by her beauty. He then starts to talk to her. They decide to adjorn to the dining car which is a little more quiet and continue talking. They talk about everything, thoughts, feelings, dreams, ideas, memories, anything. They seem to have a good compatability. When the trains stops in Vienna, Jesse has to get off and Celine is going to stay on til she gets to France. Jesse convinces her to get off the train with him since his plane doesnt leave until early morning and he has no money to get a hotel so he was just going to wander around Vienna for the night and then leave in the morning. But he tells Celine it would be better if he could share it with someone, with the caveat if I turn out to be a sleezebag she can just jump on the next train. So they wander through Vienna talking, in June when it's warm, exploring the city, and just talking about everything under the sun. Through their conversations we start to get a picture of their characters.

Jesse first appears to be similar to the character Hawke played in Reality Bites, but slowly and surely we begin to see that he is not a jerk but is a guy who had his heart broken and he is trying to overcompensate for it. Celine is soon able to bring out the nicer guy within. Meanwhile Celine appears to be supremely confident, but we soon see an undercurrent of self-doubt and fear in the path her life may be taking her. These two fall in love while just talking in one night in a magical city knowing full well that sunrise is creeping closer where they will have to say good bye forever. It is a talky film and that is all that really happens in the film, but the conversations are so interesting that it keeps you interested and you start to feel what they are feeling. You are hoping that they can figure out a way to work it out and have a happy ending, but you still get that doubt that is just expounded by what happens at the end. Which I wont spoil.

Richard Linklater directed it and co wrote it with Kim Krizan. But a lot of the conversation is real thoughts and ideas that Hawke and Delpy have. A lot of Improv on that as well. Shot on location in Vienna you get a good sense of the city and the people as Linklater uses locals in all of his scenes. Some fantastic acting as well from the cast as the two leads do a grand job of playing two strangers who find each other interesting and you can see them slowly falling in love, from passing glances, to attempts to try to hold hands or just brush hair out of her eyes. Just simple gestures that overall you may not notice but are perfectly in step with what two people falling in love do.

It is a glorious movie, sweet, romantic, dramatic, and incredibly interesting. Adults will find it more interesting then kids, there is some language, and adult situations in the film so not for kids, grownups will love it, but it may affect people in their 20s more since these characters are in their 20s discussing things that kids in their 20s discuss about the future and growing up, and reality.  Highly Recommended. Especially around Valentines Day. It's sequel Before Sunset is just as good. I will be reviewing that next.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Singles: a perfect snapshot of a particular time

Valentine's day is fast approaching, and what always gets me prepped for Val day is watching romantic comedy movies. I know I'm a man what are you doing, but there are actually some really good movies out there that just happen to be about romance. I feel for the next few days I will write reviews of some of the films I always try to catch around this time of the year.

First we have SINGLES released in 1992 and written and directed by Cameron Crowe he of Say Anything and Jerry Maguire fame. Before he was a successful writer director, Crowe was a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. So he was able to write about all kinds of bands and write about one of his loves music. Crowe loves his music so much that everyone of his films has specific songs in it that he picked for being the perfect song for the scene, and he is usually spot on.

Singles is a series of stories following friends who all live in the same apartment building and who are all in the mid 20s, fresh out of college trying to find themselves in Seattle. It just so happens the film came out just as Grunge music was becoming huge with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, etc. all hitting it big. Pure luck for Crowe that the film hit when the popularity of Grunge was growing that this film made some good money. Especially the soundtrack which has songs from pretty much all the Grunge bigwigs except Nirvana.

The first story follows Linda Powell (Kyra Sedgewick) who does not live in the apartment complex but on her own in a small house. She starts dating Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) who lives in the apartment complex. Their romance goes up and down through typical romantic comedy set ups, but in the end it is the only truly adult relationship that gets covered in the film.

The Second story focuses on Janet Livermore (Bridget Fonda) whose boyfriend is Grunge band wannabe Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon who is brillant). He has three jobs, fronts a band called Citizen Dick that is trying to break in and get some of the Grunge glory, but the only problem is his band sucks. In a hilarious in-joke members of Pearl Jam including Eddie Veddar are his bandmates. Janet is totally in love with Cliff but he is more interested in his band and living the rock lifestyle so he treats her casually saying stuff like you know I see other people, and pays attention to the tv instead of her. But Janet doesnt want to feel unloved, so she doesnt break up with him, but she doesnt hang out with him as she tries to figure out what to do with her life.

The third story focuses on Debbie Hunt (Sheila Kelley) who is a loud brassy woman who works for the local new station who tries to find love anyway she can, including doing dating videos. In another hilarious cameo Tim Burton plays Brian the director of her dating video which is one of the most bizarre things you will ever see. And freaking hilarious!

All the characters interact throughtout their stories since they are friends and neighbors as we get an absolute brillant snapshot into what life was like for mid 20 year olds right out of school finding themselves alone and trying to grow up but still hold on to childhood. It is a perfect shot of what was going on in 1992 Seattle, and looking back on it 20 years later still seems timeless while keeping you ensconced in the 90s Seattle. It's hard to explain but it is something that you just need to see.

Singles is funny, heartbreaking, and real. And an absolute delight to watch around Valentines Day. The couples are real, the desperation for love is real, nothing seems to outlandish.  I liked most Grunge music so I still blast the soundtrack which is fantastic. The film is filled with cameos from such actors as Jeremy Piven, Victor Garber, Peter Horton, Eric Stoltz as the most annoying loudmouthed mime, Bill Pullman who gives us a perspective of a late 20 early 30 year old as compared to these kids, Tom Skeritt, Ally Walker, Various members of the local popular Grunge bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Cameron Crowe himself pops up in a cameo as what else a music reporter. And you will be surprised to see Paul Giamatti playing the kissing man. Great music, great atmosphere, great direction, great acting. One of my favorite movies of all time and I am dying to watch it again soon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Addiction Can Be a Killer

I never thought I would ever write about this secret part of my life, but I think enough time has passed that I can let it out. It's not a bad story, it is a true story, and there are much  MUCH worse cases of things happening to people. I am not expecting any lectures, or pity, or concern because all toll it only lasted about 2 and a half months, but in some cases that is a lifetime. In the end I know why I did it, that it is all on me and not on the person who caused me to do it. I am not writing this to blame anyone but myself because in alot of cases that is how addiction works. Someone may get you hooked on something, or you may be doing it to get over something bad that happened to you, but in the end it is your responsibility to take care of yourself and not let yourself get caught up in it. Again easier said then done. I am not here to lecture anyone. I am here to share a story because I feel the need to write, and nothing really interesting is going on that requires me to write a blog. Yeah the Ravens won the Superbowl, but my last two blogs were about the Ravens and I really do not have that much more to say on the subject. Yeah I am VERY HAPPY they won. Ecstatic that they won. But enough has been written. I have touched the Lombardi trophy, the last time they won it I was able to touch it. I have also worn a Baltimore Colts Super Bowl ring that Tom Matte let me put on. That's about all I have to say about that.

18 years ago I was addicted to sleeping pills. Well technically over the counter/on the shelf sleep aids that say non-habit forming. (Boy were they wrong). It was 1995, January. I was a Senior in College at school for our January mini-mester, then my final semester ever and graduation were staying at me in my face. I was dating a wonderful woman, who I will not name but those who were around me at the time know who it is.  And again I am not damning this wonderful woman who I feel nothing but happiness that she was in my life, and occassionally on Social Media she pops up and we chat. I don't hate her, I don't despise her, and I never ever blamed her for this. It was my own fault. She was my first real serious girlfriend and I had never ever broken up with someone nor been broken up to. She broke up with me near the end of the January mini-mester saying she changed her mind about me. For the longest time this was the thing that nagged at me, I thought we had something great and in the end it wansn't quite good enough for her. And the more I have reflected on it, the older I have gotten, the more experiences I have had, I got it. I realized what it was that screwed us up. And it WAS ME. I had never had any real experience on how to treat a girlfriend. I was good to her, got her stuff, was her sounding board, her companion, her friend. But I just did not enough for her. I really don't want to dredge up what it was that I didn't do, but the fact is I KNOW, and that is all that matters. It has helped me in the present because I am looking at my 10th wedding anniversary this year with a woman I love more than anything and two amazing children who I love just as much. We have been together for almost 13 years so I obviously have learned from my mistakes. But to get back on track so she broke up with me. I have never had that happen before, I was still madly in love with her, and now she could not stand being with me anymore. My heart sank, my brain fried and I tried to make sense of what was happening.

I was denying it, I was thinking I could do more for her now, so I bought her presents almost everyday and mailed them to her campus box along with letters declaring undying love and that I can change. And I was slowly becoming that horrible guy who instead of making her fall back in love with him, could very well be creeping her out more with all these gifts and letters. But I didn't care how I was coming off. I wanted her back. So with all that in my head I was finding it hard to sleep. So one day while grocery shopping I stumbled upon the sleep aid section. I was having trouble sleeping why not try these to give me a hand. We lived in the same dorm, our campus was very small, and I discovered that I unknowingly signed up for a class that I needed to graduate that had her and her friends in it. I was active in the theater company we had, as was she and our school was putting on a series of small plays directed by different people. I was cast in one of them, she was stage manager of another one, so again I was seeing her alot. So the constant barrage of seeing her caused me to keep buying more sleeping pills since they were working. So I kept buying them. And they were not cheap. Sometimes I would go to the grocery store just to buy them and nothing else.

I was not really paying attention in my classes and I was skipping the one she was in often. Call it apathy, because I had that to. This was my final semester, unless I really screwed up badly (which I still could at this time but that was not my mindset) I was graduating no matter what. I was passing my other classed though not in stellar fashion, but I was still passing. I was very quiet now, my friends had been living off campus all year and I was barely visiting them. I had my own room so I was not going out, I was staying in reading comics, watching movies, writing my newspaper column, doing school work and still trying to figure out ways to get her back. The pills were letting me sleep but I was becoming a hermit, on a college campus filled with other single beautiful women, or I could be hanging out with friends and having fun, acting goofy. No I was a hermit.

I'm still not sure what caused me to get out of the haze of the sleeping pills. Maybe I was running out of money since I did not get paid much by the cafeteria, and my mom and dad sent me money sometimes as well. So soon I was staring at the fact that I may not be able to buy the sleep aids anymore, that I needed to keep my money to buy things I really needed like food, or wanted like renting movies, or buying comics. Maybe I got a talking to by my teacher of the class I was skipping, or maybe a friend showed concern. I honestly do not remember. It may also be that the time came where I was facing no money and no pills and I was going to have to find a way to sleep on my own. So that was the night, whatever caused it, that made me say, you know what. You only have about a month and a half left before you are in the real world. This girl has given no response whatsoever to your odes of loving. She was avoiding you for good reason because you were verging on the edge of stalkerdom. She was two years younger then me and you were never going to see her in person again when you graduated and returned home to start your life. And maybe you have a problem and if you don't stop it now it could get worse and you could get into heavier things. So I stopped. I stopped cold turkey. That night was horrible, almost as bad as what I consider what withdrawal might feel like, but again not making light of people who are addicted to worse things, but that is what I imagine withdrawal feels like. Cold sweats, nervousness, shaking, trying to figure out what you can take that has the same qualities as the sleep aids. Pacing, bouncing around the room, turned on the tv to try to relax, reading a book that is boring like a school book to put you to sleep. Somehow I think I got some sleep. The next day things looked a little better. I got back into my schoolwork, slowly but I did. I started to move on from my someone I was now referring to as my Ex-Girlfriend. I was focusing on the roles I was playing in the play, and the cute girl who I had been hanging out with during rehersal and who was also in the show. I started feeling better. I started to be able to sleep on my own. I started reconnecting with friends in my Senior Class who I really had not hung out with in awhile, I was also reconnecting with my friends who lived off campus.

Soon it was Spring, I had weeks left in my college career. I had finally accepted the fact that I was now single, and took advantage of it with a nice couple of nights with the cute actress. Nothing serious, just fun. I finished my requirements for graduating, took my exams and then had a fun filled week of nothing but Senior activities. Trips to bars, restaurants, we did the annual 10th street crawl, I was hanging out with people in my class who were in the same boat I was. I was talking to former roomates and friends who had drifted out of my life. Fun stuff. The day before graduation my buddies and I went to see Die Hard with A Vengence in the movie theater. Then I graduated and I started my life.

Since that time I have not touched sleep aids, nor will I ever again. Nyquil is not so much a sleep aid for me since I literally cannot sleep after taking it. Maybe that was one of the side effects of the sleep aid addiction. Things that are supposed to help you sleep and fight disease do nothing for me. Though that is one sleep aid I can take. Well since it doesnt make me sleep!  Maybe things are opposite for me since Coffee makes me tired. For a few years I did take Ginseng supplements regularly, but that was actually to keep me awake because one of my jobs started at 330am. But I never got addicted to them. When I left that job I stopped taking them. No harm no foul, as non habit forming items are supposed to be.

Addiction is a serious business. It causes you to feel like you have lost control of your life. And it can screw up your life. I got lucky. It was a minor addiction to an item that really could not hurt you. It's not like the millions of people who are addicted to drugs, or alcohol. I do not claim that I know what that is like. Cause I don't. That addiction is serious business. But my main point is that all addictions can become serious. Even ones as small as sleep aid addiction. Addiction is you depending on something you really do not know, you have all the strength you need inside. You just need to be strong enough to find it. I was not strong enough, but I feel I have become strong enough now. It's a serious business, and it can kill you. You are strong, you just have to prove to yourself that you are strong enough. Easier said then done, but if Life were easy. You would never find that strength.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Team of Destiny? No. Magic Cat is the answer

On April 30th of last year, I had to put my cat Bonnie to sleep. She was old and in pain and was originally Dawn's cat, but when we moved in together I adpoted her and she me along with her brother Clyde. We had to put him to sleep 4-5 years ago. Dawn and I were going to wait a while before we considered getting another cat. But fate played a hand and Jinx came into our lives. 3 years old and she looks like our old cat Clyde except fuzzier. It took Jinx some time but she now appears to be very happy in our house and with us. Thank heavens we got her because she is magic also.

The legend that is Magic Cat started this past fall. The Baltimore Orioles were doing the impossible. Standing tough in the American League East against such teams as the Yankees, and Rays, both of which were playing close with them also for first place in the AL East. The Orioles had not been to the playoffs in 14 years and this team of no names and surprises was right there in the mix of things. Dawn and I would watch some of the games and cheer our teams on. Jinx would come and sit on Dawn's lap and the Orioles would all of sudden do something. A miraculous stop, a home run, a key base hit. We didn't think much of it til the Orioles made the playoffs. To get into the first round against the Yankees, the Orioles had to win a 1 game Play-off (Play-in whatever you want to call it) against the Texas Rangers. It was a tough game and we wanted the Orioles to win it badly. It was looking a little bad when Jinx walked in and sat in Dawn's lap and the Orioles got some key hits and won the game. They went to the playoffs. That was when we started calling her Magic cat. (actually Dawn came up with the name).

The Orioles were in a 5 game playoff with the Yankees and sure enough when Jinx would be in Dawn's lap the Orioles did good. But being a cat she got fickle and got down soon and then they started getting beat. Eventually the Yankees were too much for magic cat and the Orioles were knocked out of the playoffs. Then football season. Magic Cat was around for some of the games, mostly the night games when the crazy kids were asleep in bed. She helped when the Ravens pulled out the victory early in the season against the Patriots. But pretty much during the regular season she was not around so much since the Ravens only had 4 night games and during the day she stayed hidden.

Then the playoffs started and the legend grew with the Broncos game. The Broncos Ravens Playoff game was a back and forth all night. Magic Cat had stayed away most of the night. But sure enough when I was watching and the Ravens needed a big play she came strolling in and sat on my lap. When we picked off Peyton Manning, when Jacoby Jones caught the 70 yard pass to tie the game with 30 some seconds left Magic Cat was in my lap. When they went to double overtime and Justin Tucker kicked the game winning field goal. She was in my lap. She gets up sometimes in the middle of the game and I swear it seems like something bad happens when she is gone. Finally this past Sunday the Ravens played the Patriots again. The first half the Ravens offense looked horrible and the defense while giving up lots of yards was actually holding their own. The Patriots went in at halftime with a lead 13-7. Magic cat was nowhere to be seen at this time. The game was late so I missed a little of the third quarter when I had to help put my kids to bed.  So after that was done. I sat down and the Ravens had the ball. Lo and behold here comes magic cat. She sits in my lap and the Ravens have a killer drive which leads to a touchdown and the lead 14-13. And she stays on my lap as the Ravens stop Brady and the Patriots. Then score again 21-13. And still hold Brady and the Patriots to nothing. Eventually we got another touchdown and a pick of Brady and the game was over and the Ravens were going to the Playoffs. The whole time Magic cat is in my lap. So there is the legend of Magic Cat. The Super Bowl is coming but we will probably be more than likely at a Super Bowl party elsewhere. However I may find a way to smuggle Magic Cat to where ever we end up going. Go Ravens! Go Magic Cat! The real reason the Ravens are going to the Super Bowl. Not that they have been playing good. No MAGIC CAT is the key!! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ray Lewis' Last Ride

As many of you know I am a huge Baltimore Ravens fan. have been since they came to Baltimore in 1996. One guy who has been with them since the beginning is Ray Lewis. Probably the most famous Raven of them all, the team leader both physically and spiritually. He took no excuses made no excuses. pumped you up and made you play better while keeping your mind in the game. Keeping you aware that this was a team sport and you were part of a team. One person fails you all fail, even if that one person was not named Ray Lewis. If they lost a game because of one person, never called them out publically pushed that we failed as a team. He knew one play does not change everything. You should have converted on that third down in the first quarter, you should not have been called off-sides. You had to play perfect, one mistake did not take the game from them, all the missed opportunities and mistakes did that. Ray knew that and he preached that. He was your motivator, your enemy, your best friend, your teacher, your student. He learned and he processed the information to make him one of the most feared and one of the very best Linebackers of all time.

17 years is a long time and for the last 5 years or so he has not been the same Ray Lewis as he was earlier in his career, but that was on the field. His mind was still sharp, he was still your motivator and he was your General. The game is probably never going to see anything like it again. Early in his career he had his run-ins with the law and the situation in I believe Miami where he witnessed the murder of two guys committed by his so called friends put a big black mark on his record that do this day is still brought up in jokes and stories about Ray. But to me and probably most everyone else in Baltimore, that was a wake up call for Ray and from that point on he knew he had to change his ways, and he did. Even going so far to help counsel kids and give them a positive role model. He helped everybody and he was a better man for that.

He has the uncanny ability to motivate anyone. Going so far as to have colleges from all over the country, not just in Maryland ask him to come speak. And he brings his A game every time. If he wanted to he has a huge career ahead of him as a motivational speaker. Some of his speeches are really good and they are to kids who need a positive role model. I know I am repeating a lot but that is just who Ray is.

His will to play has ebbed, his body has failed him a number of times, and this last 9 weeks or so he has gotten a view of where his priorities should be, with his family who is growing up quickly and he is missing it, and he doesnt want that. Sure he's going to do some broadcasting, but it is nowhere near what it is like being a player. It's a hard life being a player, that's why the players are younger, they have the time to do their thing before they realize what is really important and that is family. Ray gets it. He may have left school early to go pro, but he is smart enough to realize someday he will not be able to play and he needs skills. Retiring at 37 is crazy since most people still have to work 30 years before they retire. Ray knows theres more out there. So he went back to school and got a degree. HE gets it. He's one of the smart ones and he is trying to spread his message to others.

Sunday's playoff game may very well be the last game he plays in Baltimore, though there is an outside chance we may host the Championship game if we win all our games and the Bengals win all of theirs. Realistically this is his last home game. Retiring while his team is on top is not a bad way to go. Godspeed Ray, you deserve your retiremement. Cant wait to see what you will do with the second part of your life.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My History With Comics Part 3: Diamond in the Rough

By now I had seemingly just gotten the job I was born to do. Working for a Comic Book Distribution Center as a Customer Service Rep. Surrounded by comics, talking comics with other fans, helping spread the word about comics. Well here I am in 2013 not even a part of the Diamond Family anymore. How Come? What could go wrong? Heh, read and find out...


It was 2002. March actually. My time at Rainforest Cafe was coming to close mainly due to the fact that my hours were getting cut since we were not making alot of money in the retail village. I had been in my apartment with my girlfriend (now wife) for about 7 months and it was getting hard to pay the rent due to my cut hours. I needed a more full time and dare I say grown up job. I had remembered that Diamond was in the area locally. I was living in Cockeysville at the time and about 5-10 minutes from my apartment was a giant Glass building facing 83, this was in Timonium and it was the home of Diamond. I had gone to their website and discovered a window for jobs. I clicked on it and read the description of the jobs they had available. Customer Service Rep seemed right up my alley since I had been spending most of my working life in retail environments, how different could it be? In fact it could be better since I was not seeing the customer face to face, we were talking over the phone. I sent a resume, especially high-lighting my work experience at Alternate Worlds and the Diamond Warehouse, because hey I had been a part of the family before. I got hired and gave my two weeks notice. My last day was exactly 3 years to the date that I was hired at Rainforest.

During my interview they let me know that the job I was applying for was on the West Coast team. That meant my hours had to reflect the best time for the customers out west since they were three hours different from us. So my shift was 11am-8pm.(8am-5pm West Coast time). This wasn't too bad since I did not have any kids at the time and Dawn was in the middle of getting her Masters so she would be doing lots of homework during the regular prime time hours we would be together. The pay was much better and I finally had regular hours, Monday-Friday with weekends off. (I still worked at the Radio station, but I gave that up about a year later). My customer base was going to be stores in LA, Sacramento, other smaller cities in California, some in Seattle, and the whole state of Alaska, which to me was just cool. I would be on the phone with people in Alaska!! Some perks were we got free comics that were comped to us from the Independent Publishers, we got a Marvel First Look pack which were Marvel books coming the next week, we had some DC comps, not a lot. We also had free swag giveaways of statues, magazines, action figures, books, cards, gaming pieces. It was heaven for a geek like me. We also could set up an account and order whatever we wanted from our catalog at a reduced employee pricing, so that was great as well. There was also the potential to go work Comic Conventions across the country which was great as well. And we got to chat with fellow comic geeks. It was bliss.

This is what I actually did as a Customer Service Rep. My customer base consisted of Comic book stores in the locations I gave above. My job was to take their calls and assist with missing items, damaged items, ordering items for them, suggesting items to them, helping locate boxes that were mis-shipped, changing orders before the Final Order Cutoff date, make sure they got their monthly orders in, stuff like that. Some of the people I talked to were very cool and very much like me. We would chat and joke about all kinds of things while on the phone. I also had customers who were straight to the point, did not want to chit chat just wanted to get their problems solved or stuff ordered. That was fine to. I had jerk accounts who complained about everything we did and about the job I would do for them. I had accounts that would absolutly freak out on me if I could not help or was not fast enough to help. I would also get new accounts all the time and had to help walk them through their first few months of business until they were set with what they were doing. I also took queue calls which basically were, if my accounts were not calling me and I did not need to call them, I was not allowed to just sit on my butt and do nothing, we had a queue of callers who either could not reach their rep, did not want to talk to their rep, or just wanted to get in and out quickly. So I took calls from other stores across the countries, sometimes even getting my accounts who either did not want to talk to me or could not get in touch with me. That was always fun and awkward. My day did not really get started until about 1pm or so since that was about the time the stores out west were just settling in.

As I started to make a name for myself, I started getting noticed by some of the higher ups. They liked my work ethic, my way with the customers, and my knowledge of the product. So after being there for about 6 months they wanted me to help train new customer service reps. Usually ones who were coming into my team. But occassionally I trained some other reps in other teams. And that made me feel good that I was noticed for that. I also helped Lou, a guy who had been their for a while hand out the comps and also assist in our product meetings we had every Tuesday. Basically we would have a two meetings where our the teams came up and looked at the product we were selling or was shipping that week so we could do a better job of trying to upsell our accounts on them, and also if the accounts did not remember a specific name but had a vague description we could help them find the right product. Eventually Lou left and I took over the product meetings and comps by myself. Which was great because it gave me a chance to get away from my cubicle and wander upstairs.

Customer Service was located in the basement of this big glass building. We had no windows and the floor was all cubicles and offices with flourescent lights. Diamond also controlled the 3rd and part of the 4th floor of this building as well. The 3rd floor was the meat of the operation, Steve Geppi the owner of Diamond had his office there. The Brand managers had there cubes and offices there. Most of the salesmen had their cubes and offices their. We also had the accountants, production crews were in there. The 4th floor was the Diamond Select Toys department, as well as some of the other Brand managers. It was also the floor that housed Steve Geppi's museum and collection. He has since moved that to a museum in DownTown Baltimore called the Gem museum. So to get the comps as well as the items for the product meeting I had to go upstairs and interact with the brand managers. I got to know most of them, some really well. So for awhile that was all I did at my job and it was fun. It was stressful, especially on Wednesday's which is when new comics come out and we have our biggest problems and our longest queues. Some customers would just unload on me for everything even though most of it was not my fault and it made for bad times. The stress seemed to start being more than the fun times. This store in most cases was the owners livelhood so I don't fault them for being overly crazy when bad things happened. But to blame me for all the problems was a problem I had to deal with, sometimes multiple times. So the stress was building.

But it wasn't all stressful. I was doing my thing. Chatting about things I truly loved and working with people who felt the same way. The freebies alone were great and I got a chance to geek out a number of times. Harlan Ellison a famous science-fiction writer had an account with us and I was his brand manager. So I chatted with him at least once a week. Kevin Smith the filmmaker owns 2 comic stores and he occassionally would get into the queue. I had the chance once to take an order direct from him for his store. I got to talk to Geoff Johns one of my favorite writers who frequented one of my better accounts. The owner whose name I forget put him on the phone with me one day that was cool. One day Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself came to our offices and we had a meeting with him. At one time the head honcho of Marvel whose name I cannnot remember (not Stan Lee) came and we had a meeting with him.  I got to go to the Long Beach California Comic-Con on the company dime and work for 4 days. I got to go to the Boston Comic Con on the company dime as well for 4 days. I started a tradition of giving birthday cards to the people in Customer service. We also has Christmas potluck meals with our team. Cliff one of my teammates who became the team leader and I use to order Chinese all the time for lunch. For me it was more of a snack, but still it was fun.  So those were fun times. But the stress started to build and get to me and before I knew it, it was overwhelming me and I needed a way out. That was when the job posting for Brand Manager came down and I decided to go for it.

Fostering my connections to members of the Brand Manager staff I was able to get an interview and was told that I was at the top of there list for the most part. So I was offered the position and I took it in an instant. But 9 months later I was in the same situation I had just escaped from. More to come...