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Orby-D

Twenty-four-years ago today, we lost one of the greatest singers of the rock & roll era. While Roy Orbison will be forever known in the pantheon of rock/pop legends, for me he will always be the voice that I melded with during turbulent high school years, and that I love to this day.
Roy Orbison wrote and (more importantly) sang about love. Mostly, it was tragic love, not the happy-go-lucky love that so many of his contemporaries sang about. No one could do depressive songs better than Mr. Orbison. This is probably why I identified with his music so much. I mean, we all have had our down times but, during high school, I'd cornered the market.

Religion & Pi

I saw Ang Lee's new motion picture Life of Pi over the Thanksgiving weekend. The movie has generated some buzz, partly for its stunning visuals, but mostly because of its approach to religion & faith. It is the latter portion that I'd like to discuss. Just a friendly warning: If you haven't yet seen the film, and are thinking of going, then don't continue reading. Y'all know the drill.
Life of Pi is bookended by present day scenes featuring a struggling author at the home of an adult Piscine "Pi" Patel, who is telling him a story in hopes that it can give the author something good to write about. The story is of Pi's upbringing in a zoo run by his father, of his search for God by studying and experiencing various religions, and of his survival alone at sea for several months. That's the nuts & bolts of the film (adapted from the novel by Yann Martel), but it doesn't really tell you much about it.

Where Do You Go?

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S. and, while it definitely conjures-up cozy scenes of turkey dinner with family (and then perhaps some shopping and movie-gong later on), this particular holiday also reminds me of the death of Melanie Thornton, lead singer of the Euro-dance group La Bouche. Thornton died in a plane crash on Thanksgiving weekend of 2001. I remember seeing the news of the crash (and her death) on the TV while visiting family in Kansas.

Die Another Day...

WARNING: If you haven't yet seen Skyfall -- and plan on doing so -- then don't read any further. Otherwise, carry on.

Pic of the Week

Our latest Pic of the Week is none other than sexy & intelligent British actor Ben Whishaw. He's been acting for years, but has recently been featured in two prominent films: Cloud Atlas and Skyfall. Quite the talent. Enjoy.


The Dichotomy of Song Lyrics

I love music. Many different types: classical, operatic, film scores, rock & roll, R&B, pop, electronic, etc. etc. For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to focus on pop music. You know, music + lyrics. Songs. So many of them out there, so many of them satisfying, for so many reasons. Pop songs can take us into a plethora of emotionally-sensitive territories. Today, I want to discuss a favorite aspect of pop songs: the contradictory lyric.

Whose Tomes Are These?

I've been thinking recently about e-books. This is mostly because I've been wanting to get a mini-tablet, and have been considering the e-reader tablets (Amazon Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble Nook HD) along with the more traditional tablets (iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.). I'm a Barnes & Noble fan, so their newest 7" tablet has been appealing. Yet, I hesitate. And then a tweet this morning, from @IndyStories, really drove the point home. Here it is: Why are some people still opposed to ebooks? They’re the same people that wouldn’t let women vote, because it would “disturb” things.

31 Days of Horror Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

The 1980s were dominated (in the horror genre) by the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Halloween sequels were also present, albeit to a lesser extent. Of these, I was always partial to the Friday the 13th series. It featured the right balance of terror, seriousness and humor. Halloween was often too far on the serious side, and Elm Street was, well, pretty silly most of the time. My favorite of the Freddy Krueger series is today's featured film.

31 Days of Horror Movies: Dead Alive

I'm at a bit of a loss to adequately describe today's film, so I'll just dive right in and hope for the best.

31 Days of Horror Movies: The Woman In Black

Yesterday, we had a lady in white, and today we have....
The Woman In Black
Just as Nosferatu was our oldest horror film to be reviewed this month, The Woman In Black is our most recent. Released earlier this year, the film stars Daniel Radcliffe in a more adult role than previously seen in his Harry Potter career. He plays a young lawyer whose wife died in childbirth, so he has been raising their son (mostly) on his own. With money tight, and his job on the line, the young attorney takes an assignment in a remote village, much to his dismay.
The small, closed community Radcliffe's character finds himself in is apparently haunted by a woman dressed in all black. When she is seen, a child dies. She is seen quite a lot during the course of the film. The locals get edgy with the attorney, making him feel most unwelcome. And when he is doing his work, sorting through the papers of a deceased elderly woman, he discovers the secret of the woman in black. It doesn't stop there.
The Wo…

Death of the Middle Class?

We've been hearing the death knell for the middle class for some time now. Phrases such as "the middle class is under attack!" or "the middle class is being squeezed!" are not uncommon. And, to a certain extent, it's true. The cost of living increases, while worker compensation rises at a much slower rate. Those at the top can and do get greedy. Things are definitely not hunky dory. But the middle class, itself, needs to accept some of the blame.

31 Days of Horror Movies: The Lady In White

Ah, another childhood favorite. Today let's take a look at....
The Lady In White
Little Frankie (Lukas Haas) is locked in the (rather voluminous) closet of his school's classroom. As autumn day turns into night, he is disturbed by the image of a ghostly girl. He witnesses a re-enactment of her murder, and sees her lifeless body carried out of the closet by... someone. And then he, himself, is attacked.
The titular lady in white is an old woman who lives in a cottage by the cliffs. I won't reveal how she plays into the story, or who the murderer of the young girl turns out to be (although, even as a kid, I'd guessed it long before for the film's climax).
TheLady In White is a good, old-fashioned ghost story. I watched it years ago with my mom, and loved the cinematography. It worked well with the New England setting during Autumn as the changing leaves fell, and kids celebrated Halloween. In fact, now is the perfect time of year to watch this movie. So, go and rent (…

31 Days of Horror Movies: 8MM

Today's choice may take some by surprise. It can be argued that it isn't a horror film, by the classic definition. But I include it because I find its contents to be truly horrific. So let's delve into the sordid world of...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Nosferatu

Tonight, we travel back to the earliest film to make an entry in this month's horror movie extravaganza. Let's look at...
Nosferatu
The 1922 classic by F.W. Murnau is a gem of early cinema. Not without its faults (the pacing is a little wonky at times), Nosferatu is still a captivating tale, even today. It tells the story of a town and its people that are terrorized by Count Orlok (Nosferatu), a vampire who arrives via a boat from the river (and who leaves a slew of dead in his wake). Although tame by today's standards, it's still obvious to see how Nosferatu frightened the daylights out of audiences some 90 years ago.

31 Days of Horror Movies: Phantasm

Okay, so, I skipped-out on doing a movie yesterday. Hey, it's the weekend, and I was busy having fun. To make up for it, I've got two films for today. First up, we have....

Pic of the Week

Actor Zac Efron celebrated his 25th birthday earlier this week, so he's our Pic o' the Week!


As a bonus, here's his 2013 John John Denim commercial...


31 Days of Horror Movies: Psycho II

With today's film, we've got two days in a row of childhood favorites. Yesterday was Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, and today we have....

31 Days of Horror Movies: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

Today's film is a favorite from my childhood. That's right: I watched a slasher film as a kid. Don't judge (me, or my parents). You get scared. You laugh at some parts. It was fun. And this one didn't give me a single nightmare. Let's take a look at...

31 Days of Horror Movies: The Fog

Director John Carpenter has certainly left his mark in horror cinema. Halloween grabs all of the attention, but I'm rather partial to his follow-up...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Carnival of Souls

I had a conversation t'other night with a friend who seemed to make a distinction between horror movies and ghost stories. I tend to lump them together (although one could argue that 1981's classic Ghost Story isn't really a horror film). At any rate, today's pick could definitely fall into the ghost story realm for some, but I still consider it to be horror. With that said, let's take a look at....

31 Days of Horror Movies: The Hand

Tonight we have a film that really shouldn't be watched by kids, yet, I first saw it as a kid. Go figure.

The Energy People

Have you ever been struck by an energy vampire? You know the sort: The person whose life seems comprised of one issue after another? They either thrive on, or seem to attract, drama. They make bad choices. Sometimes, they're just damn unlucky. Regardless, they're someone that you know, someone that you care about, yet time spent with them is simply draining.
I've just described an energy vampire, and I've known a few. Conversely, you have energy givers. These are folks who, through their sheer presence of being are enough to re-invigorate you. Perhaps it's their demeanor, or their choice of words, or a cornucopia of interests and/or talents that they have, but being around one of these people is an energizing experience.
Then you've got your energy neutral people. Most of us probably fall into this category, neither draining or inspiring. We're just... us. Nothing wrong with that, per se. We tend to bring and take from the table in equal measure, making ou…

31 Days of Horror Movies: Don't Look Now

There can be some debate on what exactly constitutes "horror," and that's a fair argument to have. You've got your horror films, and then you've got your thrillers. Because you can have thrills in horror movies and horror in thrillers, I'd argue that there can be cross-overs between the two. That brings us to today's film....

31 Days of Horror Movies: House of Wax

Last week we experience terror at a wax museum, but have ever ventured to the...
House of Wax
This 1950s gem is a certifiable classic. You've got the 3-D gimmick, Vincent Price, Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams), and even Charles Bronson! Add to this some grisly murders, and then a horrible secret being kept by Dr. Jarrod (Price), and you've got the makings of one great horror picture.

Divorce, Generational Style

It is one of the cruel ironies of life that, sometimes, the same fate befalls us as has befallen generations before us. Each generation seeks to do better than the one that came before it. And, at times, it does. Other times, it simply succeeds at excelling in one area, while faltering in another. Such is life.
One area that I've always expected my generation to do better at is in relationships -- romantic ones, specifically. Don't ask me why. This wasn't even something I was aware of until fairly recently. As a child, we are often witness to the curious goings-on of the adults around us. Sometimes, but not often, this includes a glimpse into their relationships.

31 Days of Horror Movies: Thir13en Ghosts

While not a scholar or even a purist, I am somewhat of a film snob. Not a big fan of remakes, specifically when the originals don't need updating. It is therefore an unusual position I find myself in, preferring a remake to an original, and by leaps and bounds. Let's take a look at today's feature...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Event Horizon

On the eleventh day, Matt decided upon....

31 Days of Horror Movies: 1408

Today we've got another film adapted from a Stephen King story. So, let's dive right in.

31 Days of Horror Movies: The Shining

With the possible exception of Suspiria, all of the films I've written about this month have been personal favorites. It's my blog, so that makes sense. But if one is doing an overview of a particular subject, there are some entries that must be made which may be admired, rather then liked, by the person doing the write-up. And that brings us to today's horror film...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Eyes Without a Face

Week two of our foray into horror-dom finds us venturing into France, for a truly classic film that, while light on blood and gore, certainly qualifies as horrific. Let's take a look at...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Terror In the Wax Museum

Day 7 of our horror movie appreciation may seem like a bit of an obscure choice, but bear with me as I delve into....

Pic of the Week

It's been too long since we've had a pic of the week. Today, I present to you Rob Wilson, who has just been announced as the first male showcase model for the long-running Price Is Right game show. Who knows... this could get me to DVR the program from now on.


31 Days of Horror Movies: Suspiria

There's really no easily cogent way to prep you for our 6th horror film of the month, so we're just going to dive right in....

31 Days of Horror Movies: 28 Days Later

Yesterday we focused on the original Night of the Living Dead. It is my opinion that there hasn't been a better zombie movie since that 1968 classic. If any serious film has come close (there have been some humorous outings within the genre), it would have to British director Danny Boyle's 2002 horror gem...

31 Days of Horror Movies: Night of the Living Dead

We arrive at day 4 of our horror film fest with the original....

Oh My Love (or Sex)

T'other day at lunch, I was sitting there, eating my chicken strip basket from Dairy Queen and thinking about the first time I felt romantic love for someone, as you do.
His name was Kyle. I'm sure I've mentioned him here before. The feelings I developed for him prompted me to eventually face being gay, and to eventually come out of the closet. The lunchtime thoughts pertained mostly to what a significant effect Kyle had on my life, and if he ever thought about me, or if it's more like, 'Matt who?' for him. The realization then struck that the 20th anniversary of my coming out is in 6 months.

31 Days of Horror Movies: The House of the Devil

Day 3 of our horror movie fest finds us with a 2009 film set during the 1980s. Welcome to....

31 Days of Horror Movies: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Our month of horror film blogging continues today with a stone-cold classic from thirty years ago. Dark Night of the Scarecrow is the real deal. Don't be put off by the fact that it was a TV movie. This little gem knows how to affect creeping terror quite deftly. I just watched the restored blu-ray release last year, and the movie has aged well.

31 Days of Horror Movies: Mr. Sardonicus

I'm going to crib a bit from David Thiel's blog, and consume the month of October here with a '31-Days-Of' theme. That's right: each day, I'll write a sub-section of a particular topic. The topic/theme this month? Horror movies! Why not, right? It's Autumn, it's October, and Halloween (my favorite holiday) is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than to single-out some of the best horror films ever made? On that note, here we go....

Looped

Saw the movie Looper last night. The film has much critical acclaim and filmgoer kudos. I thought it was just okay. There are some issues with its pacing, and very much with its plot. If you haven't yet seen Looper, and plan to, then don't read any further. Otherwise, let's get down to business.

The Organizers

I've been shaking my head over The News-Gazette's editorial from last week regarding the Chicago teacher's strike. It's not that I disagree with their overall negative opinion of the strike (I mean, I do, but it's ok to disagree). No, what upsets me most is that the N-G engages in what has become a national pastime of late: union bashing. It's not that unions aren't without fault, just that their faults are common among other organizations, yet unions are often uniquely on the chopping block because of their issues.
Take, for example, the following passage from the aforementioned editorial:

Pic of the Week

It's been awhile since we've had a Pic of the Week. Here, then, is actor Kevin Zegers, as seen in the movie TransAmerica (2005). He turned 28 today. Happy Birthday, Kevin!


Post-Television

The first five episodes of Doctor Who's Series 7 are airing this month worldwide. In much of the press for the new season, the creative forces behind the program haven't been shy about wanting to tell us how "cinematic" and "epic" the new episodes are/will be. Anyone with half-a-mind not to trust everything that is told them tend to yawn in reaction to such hype, yet I find the whole 'it's like a movie!' trend in television to be a curious thing.

Pride

This weekend is the 3rd Annual Champaign-Urbana PrideFest. Once again held at Urbana's venerable Lincoln Square, this year's festival has been expanded, not only in the number of days it takes place on, but also the number of acts/performers and stage locations (with the 'main stage' moving outside). Tracy Nectoux over at Smile Politely has done a nice write-up about the festival.
To be honest, I'm a little underwhelmed about going to PrideFest this year. To be clear, this is not a comment on the festival, itself, or of the hard-working organizers, volunteers and businesses who devote their time and efforts to making it a special weekend event. No, I'm more reticent about attending because, frankly, I'm feeling a little tired of the need to be so 'out' with the subject of sexuality.

The Trouble With the '90s

There was a free sampling of Sirius/XM Radio over the Labor Day weekend, and so I was able to partake of its offerings for a few days. I had the satellite radio package for a free, three-month trial after purchasing a car last year, but while it contained a nice variety of music and information channels, it wasn't enough for me to sign-up and become a paying customer. And this weekend reminded me of a glaring issue with one of its stations -- 90s on 9 (or, music from the 1990s, on the 9th channel of Sirius/XM 1). The issue, dear reader, is that the 1990s presents too-diverse of a line-up to provide a coherent listening experience.
The aforementioned issue (opinion?) isn't a new one. I can remember sitting at my friend Terry's apartment, circa 1997, when he remarked upon the diversity of Top 40 radio for the decade. I consider Terry to be somewhat of an authority when it comes to the world of music, and so what he said carried some weight. I thought about it, and he was ri…

They Know Not What They Do

What is forgiveness, and how important is it really?
TheFreeDictionary.com defines forgiveness thusly:
forgive[fəˈgɪv] vb-gives, -giving, -gave, -given 1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something) 2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc.) 3.(tr) to free or pardon (someone) from penalty 4.(tr) to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc.) [Old English forgiefan; see for-, give] forgivableadj forgivablyadv forgivern
I seek not to understand forgiveness in any religious sense, for I am not religious, but in a common world view of things. Is it necessary? Is it important? Also, and perhaps most importantly, is forgiveness something that is done more for ourselves, or for the other person(s) involved? Does forgiveness need to be an internal, as well as external, act? Does someone have to ask for our forgiveness in order to provide it to them, or can it be unsolicited? And, finally, does everyone deserve forgiveness?

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

We hear a lot these days about the 1% vs. the 99%. Wall Street is demonized. Arguments of the populist movement are widespread. CEO and administrative pay scales are out of whack with those of their workers. Many hard-working folks are often forced to work more than one job in order to make ends meet. Unemployment is (as always) a problem. It's a presidential election year, so most of these things are mentioned even more frequently than they would be. You get the idea. Times are hard, and money is tight.
But why is this?

Pic of the Week

The 2012 Olympics are officially over. Tom Daley won a well-deserved Bronze medal, and Michael Phelps "retired" with even more gold medals to his name. Speaking of which.... Mr. Phelps is our Pic of the Week. Enjoy!


Pic of the Week

There couldn't be any other celebrity to celebrate this week but Tom Daley. The Olympic diver for Team Great Britain is an inspiration, and I wish him well in the semi-final and final dives tomorrow!

Matt's Island Discs

Some of you may be aware of the BBC Radio 4 series titled Desert Island Discs. Some of you may not (this included me, until last year when Ashley began listening to the show in earnest). The episodes are available for download on iTunes -- for free -- and often times make for great listening. The program began in 1942, and following is a description of its initial premise: It was introduced to the listening public as "a programme in which a well-known person is asked the question, if you were to be cast away alone on a desert island, which eight gramophone records would you choose to have with you, assuming of course, that you had a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles". While the "discs" referred to in the title are now more about compact discs rather those of the gramophone variety, the concept is still the same. It's actually quite fascinating to listen to the featured guest of each episode describe what pieces of music they enjoy, and why. It …