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Showing posts from 2011

Tree of Life

Today is my mother's 65th birthday. I just got back from having breakfast with her at one of her favorite haunts, the Original Pancake House. We exchanged birthday gifts two days ago, when it was my birthday. All this talk of birthdays got me to thinking (often dangerous) about what such days are really about, or what their history is.

Pic of the Week

This week we turn our gaze toward Justin Gaston, the 23-year-old underwear model and former boyfriend of Miley Cyrus. Enjoy.


Christopher Hitchens died last night. Many of you likely know who he was. Some of you may only have heard of him. To say that he was a British journalist who rose to fame on the prowess of his writing on politics and atheism, while true, would only be the cold, stock description of a vast and complicated man. Ill with esophageal cancer over the last year-and-a-half, the news of Hitchens' death has nevertheless surprised me with the magnitude of melancholy it has created within my core.
A man of sharp tongue and intellect, who rarely tired of a robust debate, Hitchens drew inspiration from George Orwell, and many (myself included) in-turn drew inspiration from him. His written output was profuse, encompassing a plethora of essays and articles, many of them for Vanity Fair magazine. He also put out the odd book, many of which wouldn't fail at rousing the ire of many a die-hard believer, incensed at Hitchens' blasphemy of their particular religiosity. But it was hard to win a…

Top 10 Songs of 2011

Well, folks, it's been....  a year. Music-wise, I can't say that 2011 has been a sterling effort, but it's been ok (certainly no 1993 or 1997, the two best years for music during the past 20 years). While I'm still trying to determine whether there are even five consistently solid albums for my 'Top 5 Albums' list, I do have a fair amount of songs that were in the running for 'Top 10 Songs of the Year.' And here they are:

Building a Mystery

Ashley & I have recently re-started watching Twin Peaks, that quirky, venerable TV series that enjoyed a bright, brilliant life before burning out quickly after a season-and-a-half in the early 1990s. The up and down quality of the program is noticeable, especially during the second season (where we have picked it up at). While the death of Laura Palmer made for good water cooler talk, other mysteries, such as possible alien abductions, Agent Cooper being investigated by the FBI, David Duchovny as a cross-dresser, and a hostile business take-over, are not quite as enthralling. Audiences thought so, too, which is why the series was cancelled in 1991.

Together Forever

Thoughts of the passage of time have been on my mind. It's my birthday later this month, so this may be an artifact of that occasion. The years go by. We take it for granted that they always will, but then, somewhere in the recess of our mind that we dare not go to often, we know that at that some point this will not be so. It is, in fact, true that we live a transient life. This seems to run contrary to what we want, nevertheless it is so.

Pic of the Week

Today is the 22nd birthday of actor Nicholas Hoult. Although he's had a steady career in film and television, I remember Nicholas primarily from the 2002 Hugh Grant film About a Boy. As you can see, he's grown up just a tad since then....

Bully Pulpit

Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. That's a good thing. It needs a spotlight shown on it, so the bullies can (hopefully) scurry into the shadows like cockroaches with the light turned on them. And, maybe, they'll take some time to contemplate their actions and words, to reflect upon how what they do to others is awful and, sometimes, nearly unforgivable. I speak from experience. I was bullied nearly all through public school. And, in turn, I tried to bully once, to assert some sort of elusive power, and it hurt just as much as being bullied, myself. The cycle of discord among our young is nothing new, but that doesn't mean it should continue.

Comforting Persona

Next to PBS, my favorite television network is probably Turner Classic Movies. TCM has been a staple on most cable line-ups for nearly twenty years, and part of its allure (besides the excellent programming of classic film and the no-commercials policy) is the venerable long-time host, Robert Osborne. A film historian of great repute, Mr. Obsorne provides the introductions and exiting remarks to every movie aired on TCM during the evenings. He is returning to the network tomorrow night after an almost five-month hiatus due to health reasons. I, for one, am more than pleased.

Pic of the Week

Today is the 26th birthday of British actor Ryan Sampson. I've enjoyed him in the TV series After You've Gone, as well as his villainous turn in a Doctor Who two-parter during the David Tennant era. Happy Birthday, Ryan!

"At night, the dream returns...."

I'm not a superstitious person. I don't believe in ghosts, nor in the effects of black cats or broken mirrors. But I am afraid of the number 52. I dislike it immensely. It is, to me, unlucky. If I ever constructed a building, it very likely wouldn't have a 52nd floor. Why all the hate for this number? Simply put, my dad died at age 52, and it has since become my antagonist. I measure my life as a countdown to that age, to the time when, perhaps, this journey will be at an end.

Night of the Hunters

Yet another division has arisen between the Champaign Police Department and the citizenry of Champaign. Over the summer, a young man was stopped for jaywalking after leaving a bar. He was mouthy. For his sins, he was pepper-sprayed and, perhaps, choked. I say "perhaps" because, after viewing the video of the incident, it is unclear that he was in fact choked. Regardless, it was a rough time. It's doubtful either the police officer or the young man made a new friend that night.

The Languid Dead

Last night was episode 6 of Season 2 of AMC's hit series The Walking Dead. It's a show I came to late. Well, after a few episodes, anyway. The program premiered last year on Halloween, and I had little desire to watch yet another depiction of a zombie apocalypse (there's only been, what, 50 million such movies about the subject within the last decade or so?) At any rate, the first episode proved to be a monster success, and I kept hearing good things about the show, so I tuned-in around episode 4 of Season 1, got caught-up with everything during one of the many all-day marathons that AMC aired for it, and was suitably hooked. After 6 episodes, the show went on hiatus until this Autumn. So far, Season 2 has been a pale shadow of its predecessor, and last night's episode was part & parcel of why that is.

Pic of the Week

It's the 36th birthday of actor Jimmi Simpson (so, he's still quite young, really). I loved his performance in Date Night. Enjoy.

Hero Worship

There's been a column from the Washington Post making the social media rounds recently, as it relates to the Penn State scandal. It's written by Thomas Day, and he's a Penn State alum, former member of Sandusky's Second Mile Foundation, an Iraq war vet, and a Catholic. And he's lost his faith in coach Joe Paterno and the rest of Penn State hierarchy. He has also lost faith in his parents' generation.

Love, Sex and Intelligence

Let's talk about sex. You know.... physical attraction, not necessarily the act, itself. But we can talk about that as well. What -- if anything -- influences our levels of attraction toward certain people? What inhibits them? Is it nature vs. nurture? A bit of both? And is it good or bad to assign labels to people's sexuality? Let's explore, shall we.
There are a lot of factors that shape our perceptions of what sexuality is, and those include (but are not limited to): culture, religion, age, environment and life experience. I have my own views of human sexuality. Yours may differ. That's ok. I wouldn't expect us to agree on every single point. Yet I think it's an interesting subject to discuss. The 'life experience' factor is a biggie, probably as influential as religion or culture. 

Lyrical Idiocy

Today I'd like to chat with you about something we're all probably guilty of engaging in. That's right, folks, I'm talking about the misheard song lyric quandary. You know the drill: You buy a new CD (or download a song, if you're one of those young whippersnappers), turn up the volume, sit back and take-in the music. Eventually, you begin to sing along with the vocals, whether they affect you in a happy or melancholy way (depending on your mood), and you're one with the music experience.
The aforementioned ceremony is all well and good, until you happen, one day, to perhaps share the song with someone else. It could be on purpose --- "Hey, I loooove this new song, you've gotta' hear it!"  --- or on accident --- "You're in my car, and I'mma play this music, whether you like it or not" --- and you begin to sing along with it, swept-up in the glory of the moment. That's where the trouble begins. A brusk friend might interrup…

Smilla's Sense of Smell

I was on the bus to work this morning, and the fella next to me, African-American, smelled like cigarette smoke. A very familiar cigarette smoke. I'm not up on all the brands of death sticks. I lived with my father for twelve years while he smoked them like I drink soda pop, yet I couldn't -- if my life depended on it -- tell you want brand they were. Same with my uncles. Yet, this morning, the guy sitting next to me smelled just like them. The flood of memories that smell brought to mind was, to say the least, quite heady.

Pic of the Week

If you're not already familiar with British actor Ryan Cartwright, then you should be. The definition of 'dishy,' Ryan has featured in such quality TV shows as Hardware, Bones and, currently, Alphas. With a voice that could melt butter, and a face subtle in its beauty, Mr. Cartwright is our Pic of the Week.

The Best of Halloween (Favorite Horror Films)

It's Halloween, that sinister holiday that allows adults and children alike to dress-up in costume, cut loose, have some fun, and face our deepest fears with a twinkle in our eye. Part & parcel of the Halloween funfest is, of course, a bevy of scary movies. There have been many over the years. I thought I'd go over my Top 10 Favorite ones here.

Shades of Grey

There's been yet another clash of citizens vs. police in my fair city. This time, it's an allegation of police brutality. The citizen (and his family & friends) tells one story. The police tell quite another. But I don't want this to be about that situation in particular. Really, I don't. Instead, I want to discuss something perhaps even more important, and that is rhetoric, and it's power to shape and influence a community, however large or small.

Dial M-a-t-t for Depression

So, I've been feeling a bit down of late. This feeling of moroseness has been occurring on-and-off over the past few weeks, but really came on strong a couple of days ago. Sleep patterns probably had something to do with it. I was better the next day. But then I was worse again this morning. Perhaps it is seasonal? Who knows? All I do know is, I've been dealing with this crappy thing called depression for a long time, and wish I could break free.

Pic of the Week

Ryan Reyonds turns 35 today (quite a youthful age), and so he's our special pic of the week. Enjoy.

100 in the Light

Three years ago today, the world lost a woman who had been with it for over a century. She didn't live the easiest life, but it was a blessed one. Without her, scores of people who are near and dear to me wouldn't exist. And, selfishly, I must admit to being one of them. I am, of course, referring to Callie Mae Hubbard, also known as my paternal grandma.
Passing away just one week shy of her 101st birthday, Callie Mae was my longest-lived, and last remaining, grandparent. They are all gone now. Both grandfathers were unknown to me, and Gummy (my maternal grandmother) had died 10 years earlier. There was a lot I didn't know about Callie Mae, but what I did know, I liked. She was one-of-a-kind.

Pic of the Week

Yesterday was Zac Efron's 24th birthday. Let's just celebrate and gaze, shall we?

My Gummy

Today is the 83rd birthday anniversary of my maternal grandmother, affectionately known to me as "Gummy." This was due, I later found out, to a mis-reading of her handwriting. Originally, it had been her intention that I should know her as "Grammy." She wrote this down once, I looked at it, uttered "Gummy," and the name stuck. It wasn't until years later that I knew her real name was Emma Gene. Gummy suited her better. Grandkids know best about such things.

To Boldly Go

Actor Zachary Quinto has officially come out to the world today. I must admit to being a tad blind-sided by the news, as my Gaydar had not been tripped by him up until now. Of course, upon further reflection, it seems pretty obvious. Following is part of Quinto's heartfelt statement, from his web site:
when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself - i felt deeply troubled.  but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made anit gets bettervideo only months before taking his own life - i felt indescribable despair.  i also made anit gets bettervideo last year - in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time.  but in light of jamey's death - it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it - is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.  our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum tow…

Good Neighbors

I grew up during a simpler time. This isn't necessarily because times are more complicated today than they used to be (although we certainly have more technology at our disposal now), but it is because children often see (and remember) things in much more simpler terms than when their brains become better developed, and they have to directly contend with so much more of the world as adults. So, yes, things were pretty complicated -- and even dangerous -- when I was a kid, but they seemed simple more often than not.

To Infinity, and Beyond....

There's an episode of the old-time radio series Lights Out Everybody, from the pen of creative luminary Arch Oboler. The plot of The Immortal Gentleman rather startled me when, as a kid, I first listened to it, alone upstairs in my darkened bedroom.
It is the future. Or, at least, we think it is. A man from the present day falls asleep in an auditorium during a boring lecture, and "wakes up" to find himself in the remnants of the very same auditorium. He is soon tagging-along with a band of people who are on a mission. In the future --- in their time --- people live forever. And they're seeking to end that, by any means necessary.
The moral of Immortal Gentleman --- that humanity should live and then die, making way for newer, younger people --- has always stuck with me. When we're young, we rarely seem to think about death. If we do, it's typically something we don't look favorably upon. The idea of living forever is an inviting one. But at what cost? Is a…

Pic of the Week

Today is the 19th birthday of actor Josh Hutcherson (he of American Splendor and The Kids Are All Right fame). So, happy birthday to Josh, eh?

Memories of Mrs. Storch

There was an article recently in the local paper about a man who, ten years ago when he was a student at my old high school, was shown some kindness by one of the deans. She gave him a winter coat, which he desperately needed, and now that kindness is proving fruitful as the young man is helping with Unit 4's Warm-A-Kid drive. The effort is seeking to provide coats for kids who need them this winter. Check it out.
All of this reminded me of the kindness and attention visited upon me by another of Champaign Centennial High School's finest deans. I refer, of course, to Mrs. Nicole Storch. She was dean long before my time at the school, and retired while I was there, much to my dismay. It's true that I've had lots of teachers whose influence and teaching style made a difference, but only one dean truly made a difference during my time in public school. I probably owe my sanity and perseverance to the efforts of this woman.

Remember Me

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to read about how I misunderstood a friend's recent Tweet. They have to give a eulogy in a Public Speaking class, about a fictional person. At first, I thought it was a eulogy they had to write and read about themselves. Oy! Talk about morbid. At any rate, it got me to thinking about my own eulogy (which is hopefully far, far in the future, but you never know), and how I'd like to be remembered in it. Oh, come now, you know you've thought about this for yourself on occasion.

I Was So Much Gayer Then, But I'm Younger Than That Now

I don't know about you, but it seems like it's getting harder and harder to tell who's gay and who's not these days. And then there's the bisexuals. Oy. Don't even get me started. What's a label-defined, everything-in-its-place, definition-loving society to do? I suppose we could do away with labels all together, but then that would probably make things more confusing. Seriously, though: human sexuality is a curious thing, innit?

Pic of the Week

Over the weekend I was watching an episode of the British crime drama Dalziel & Pascoe, and couldn't help but notice one of the guest stars. He's dishy actor Neil Newbon, and he's our pic of the week.....

The Greatest American Rock & Roll Band?

After three decades of making music together, the rock band R.E.M. have announced that they are calling it quits (as a group, anyway). Unfortunately, R.E.M. reached their zenith a number of years ago, so they're going out with a whimper, and not a bang. Still, it's been a good run. Someone on an internet forum I frequent (because that's what I do in my spare time -- visit internet forums) posited the following:
I think you could make a strong case that they were the greatest American rock and roll band of the past thirty years.
Now, I got to thinking about this. My initial reaction was a knee-jerk nodding of the head, but then further contemplation brought forth some doubt. There are other rock & roll bands that could vie for the title of 'greatest' from past thirty years, surely? Perhaps R.E.M. comes to the fore because of its longevity? But does quantity stand tall over quality? Seems doubtful. Let's look at some other rock bands from the past three decades…

Pic of the Week

Actor Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series of films) turns 24 today (so, just a couple years younger than me). Here's a rather nice photo of him. Enjoy.

The Undiscovered Country

A recent excerpt from film critic Roger Ebert's new memoir, in regards to his views on death, got me to thinking about the subject. Not for the first time. Let's be real: Death is something that we think about from time to time. It is, in many ways, the basis for nearly all religions in the world - past and present. My own view on death may sound bleak, and it does scare me sometimes, but it is what is is.

A View of Art

I went to an art gallery recently that featured an exhibition of photography from around the world. I frequent this gallery fairly often, and my heart sank sightly when this month's featured artist turned out to be a photographer. Nothing against photography, mind you. I enjoy it quite a bit. And the exhibit has some nice pictures. But I have this notion on how art should be viewed. I prefer to look at photographs in book form, or at least in the comfort of my own home, and prefer to enjoy paintings at an art gallery.

Whither 3-D?

Film critic Roger Ebert, long a naysayer of the gimmick of 3-D usage in movies, is rubbing his hands together with glee at the Slatearticle by Daniel Engber that all but puts a stake in the heart of the 3-D film phenomenon. While a Mark Twain quote comes to mind at the moment, I can't necessarily dispute Mr. Engber's assertion that 3-D's popularity may have peaked. The following passage from the article caught my attention:
Yet by the end of August 2010, thefuture of cinemawas starting to look unsteady on its feet. Box-office returns fromthe next wave of 3-D films were disappointing. The revival needed reviving.
The thought occurred, when reading the above quote, that it might (just might) be possible that the entire scope of movie releases could have to undergo a massive overhaul in the coming years. What I'm talking about, in one sense, is the death of the multiplex. Indeed, all one has to do is look around to see the portents of this potential trend. We've witness…

Photography for the People

This is a post about my photography, but first, allow me to talk a moment about creativity and individualism, at least as they apply to me. Your indulgence is appreciated.

Day of the World

September 11th, 2001 was a terrible day. Ten years later, it is being remembered all across the country (and, one hopes, across much of the world). This is as it should be. We must never forget the human-on-human acts of violence that have littered our history. But we must also learn from them. Let's hope that today, while we bow our heads in memory of horrid events and of lives lost, we also remember the lessons from that dark day.

Suicide Box

We're in the middle of National Suicide Prevention Week. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It's a good cause, but a sad topic. Too many people exit their lives in this manner, and whatever we can do to prevent it is worthwhile. Many folks who commit suicide (or attempt to do so ) aren't really looking for the finality of death, but more so for help. A release from their pain is often what drives them, and that can be something we can try and help them with. We may not always be successful, but the least we can do is try.

You're Timeless To Me

The other day I was listening to the song Screaming by the Pet Shop Boys. It had featured on the soundtrack to Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Psycho. The remake taught me something, and that is that filmmaking styles can become dated, but the films, themselves, can sometimes still be timeless. This in-turn leads me to wonder: What makes a film timeless?

My TV Dad

Today is the birthday anniversary of Frederick Martin MacMurray, better know as Fred MacMurray, the Golden Age of Hollywood actor, with films such as The Caine Mutiny, Double IndemnityThe Apartment and The Egg and I lining his resume. MacMurray is, I think it's fair to say, a bit of an underrated actor. He starred mostly in comedies and, while certainly a leading man, his dramatic chops were rarely utilized outside of his collaborations with director Billy Wilder. For the most part, folks today who remember him do so mainly from his 12-year-stint as Steve Douglas on the venerable sitcom My Three Sons. That's how I was introduced to this great actor.

Pic of the Week

Today marks 23 years for actor Rupert Grint (better known as Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter film series). Here he is with... a tattoo... I guess.

Remembrance of Telethons Past

The Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual Labor Day Telethon is something forever embedded within my childhood memories. I can remember how it would run locally on WCIA (Channel 3 for you townies) all weekend long, often canceling-out some of my favorite weekend programs. My mom would solemnly explain to me that it was for a good cause, and then I'd actually sit and watch a few hours of the thing, and understand that she was right.
Aside from the focus stories on the children with Muscular Dystrophy, there would be that wacky comedian guy hosting the event, and the sidekick dude from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Yes, for those of us old enough to read and comprehend this writing, Jerry Lewis and Ed McMahon are indelibly linked to the MDA Telethon. And for those who grew-up watching it on WCIA, so is Judy Fraser, who was our local MC, a beloved local personality who navigated the phone banks and looked to the camera asking us to donate to help the cause.
I was reminded …

Pic of the Week

It's the 28th birthday of actor Andrew Garfield. Here he is, suited-up as the next Spider-Man....

Nothing Has Been Proved

There was a conversation once between my mother and I. The genesis of the discussion eludes me these days, but what sticks in my mind is a comparison mom made between her and my father and, subsequently, myself. We must have been talking about interpersonal relationships, because she remarked:
"You know, Matt, people have nothing to prove to me when I meet them. I trust them from the get go, and then, if they do something later to show that I shouldn't trust them, then they have something to prove. But I think you're like your dad. With him, people always had to prove themselves to him first, before he would trust them. I'm just not like that."

With the Help of Others

It occurred to me recently how much of what I have to be thankful for in life is through the thoughtfulness and actions of others. In other words: I owe a lot to a lot of people.
We tend to think of the accomplishments and milestones in our lives as things we, personally, have done. There is truth to this. But it very often isn't the whole truth. For many of us have lived lives of great fortune, receiving kindness from many that we have encountered. Sometimes these have been small acts, sometimes big ones, and sometimes they have been small acts with big impact. Following are just a few of the situations I have to be thankful for in my life.

How Do You Sleep?

Aside from being a rather bitter song by John Lennon, the title of this post is a sincere question. How do you sleep, dear reader? Mostly, I'm curious to hear about your bedtime routine (if you have one), and perhaps how soundly you sleep. But mostly the routine. Allow me to explain.