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Showing posts from 2015

A Cool Medium

The headlines have all been similar: Haskell Wexler, Cinematographer, Dies at 93. That much is pretty straightforward. He was 93 years of age, a Hollywood film cinematographer, and his name was Haskell. But I know him as a guest (in multiple years) of Ebertfest, and a man who radiated life and energy. I never spoke a word to him, but saw him around inside and out of the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, and now he's gone -- another member of the Ebertfest family no longer with us.


Perhaps it's because the end of the year is coming? Or maybe it's to do with the shorter days forcing one inside and leading to solitude and contemplation? Regardless of the precise reasons, I find myself reflecting on times past around Christmas. This year is no different. Thoughts drift back to holidays that have come before, of locations that used to be filled with loving friends and families, of those who are no longer with us.
Decades ago, my dad's side of the family would gather close to Christmas, first at my aunt Charlease's place, in later years at uncle Paul and aunt Vilda's abode. Charlease lived in a grey-walled residence at Country Fair apartments. It was small and humble, but it was also warm and cozy.  I quite enjoyed the Christmas gatherings there. Paul & Vilda's house on Kirby Ave. was a spacious ranch. It made for better breathing space for our large family.
There were lovely holiday gatherings on my mom's side. We would often go to a…

The Fan Awakens

In just a few days, the seventh Star Wars movie will premiere in theaters, and I will be there for its opening. I'm older now, so this won't be any late night craziness (there's a 1:00am IMAX screening for those die-hard fans brimming with energy). This will be a 7pm showing, followed by food & drinks afterward with friends, to dissect the goings-on. Sixteen years ago I stood in line at the Savoy 16 for the midnight premiere screening of The Phantom Menace. Dear reader, I can not express to you enough how I hope Thursday isn't a repeat of that experience.
The first new Star Wars film in a decade (and the first without George Lucas's involvement), The Force Awakens promises a lot. I really hope it delivers. J.J. Abrams is at the helm for this installment. He isn't known for his originality, so I expect to see a lot of echoes and throwbacks to the original trilogy (hopefully none to the prequels). At least we'll have Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark…

Pic of the Week

Happy Friday! Here's a pic of British diver Chris Mears. Enjoy!

The Story So Far

Before we head into December, and the prestige / Oscar-bait season, I thought I'd rank my top ten favorite movies of 2015 so far.

Here we go:

1. It Follows
2. Spectre
3. Brooklyn
4. The Martian
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Magic Mike XXL
7. Grandma
8. The Visit
9. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
10. Room

I'm curious about what I'll think of Star Wars - The Force Awakens next month. Fingers crossed.

Alone In the Universe

Only recently I had bemoaned the death of the album. No doubt, the album is still (in my opinion) a dying art form, but leave it to fate to see the release of the latest New Order and ELO albums during the interim to try and prove me wrong. Both of the aforementioned releases are simply wonderful. New Order has a return-to-form with its beat-stomping synths and clever lyrics, while ELO (aka Jeff Lynne) is full of soothing mellow rock tunes. The latter album, in fact, has been something of a revelation for me.
It can be difficult to described what compels us to gravitate toward certain music. Sure, we may enjoy some genres more than others, but why and how is it that certain songs can, for lack of a better term, touch our soul? The newest offering from ELO, Alone In the Universe, manages to be the musical equivalent of a soul mate. It's not necessarily easy to describe such a connection, but I will endeavor to do so here.

A War That Never Ends

It's been three days since the abhorrent attacks in Paris, France. It was a somewhat surreal experience, being continents away from the death and destruction, enjoying a celebratory occasion with friends at at a downtown bar. I was constantly refreshing the CNN app on my phone, attempting to get the latest information, sensations of sadness and disbelief permeating my being as I attempted to balance the joy of the immediate occasion with the despair felt at events unfolding across the Atlantic.
As with most things, once the immediacy of an event is over, the visceral turns to the contemplative. Just a few days after that horrific Friday the 13th, it is clearer to me that what France -- and all nations who value freedom -- must not do is conform to the world through the lens of the terrorists. Closing borders and asking for papers, please, is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex situation. They are understandable reactions, but should only be temporary.

Pic of the Week

It's been awhile, but the Pic of the Week is back with model Julian Schneyder. Enjoy!

A Life In Films

I see a lot of movies.
Well, maybe not as many compared to professional film critics, but probably more than the average movie-goer. So far, I've seen forty-three 2015 movies. And that's just the ones released this year. It doesn't count the older films I've watched. Some folks like to kid me about this love of movies, of how often I'm at the theater. But it's more than just some moving pictures on a screen. For me, they are -- or at least can be -- life markers.
Following are some films, and the memories I associate with them:

Not Like a Song, Not Like a Movie

Expectation vs. reality can be a harsh thing. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in our interpersonal relationships. So often we strive for a connection with someone, only to discover that they do not desire the same. We want an affirmation from others about who we are as human beings, yet do not receive such interaction when it is most wanted. And, of course, we want a storybook closure to our relationships with others, an ending that all too often is never written the way we'd like, or expect, it to be.
We'll see a movie where someone likes someone else and, in order to let them know, will write them a love song. Maybe there'll be a scene where, in a crowded night club, person A will get on stage, strum their guitar (it's always a guitar, isn't it?) and coo their homegrown lyrics to person B in the audience. Person B, the object of the affection, will tear-up, fall in love there on the spot and eventually the two will go off together in a blur of romance.

The Book of Paul

"I heard the Fire Chief say your name earlier, and Gladney isn't a common name. Are you by any chance related to the Gladneys who were in construction?"
The preceding quote is from a white-haired gentleman who introduced himself to me last week after an awards ceremony for Champaign firefighters. He'd worked alongside my dad and uncles doing construction work in the community and around Illinois, and asked after a few of them: Lewis, Joe and Paul. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that Joe and Lewis were both deceased, and that uncle Paul wasn't doing too well. He seemed genuinely sorry to hear that.
The aforementioned encounter is one I have more frequently than you might imagine. It occurred again just this past Sunday, at a dinner party. It was one of those occasions where everyone was wearing a name tag and, early on in the evening, an older man walked-up, read my name tag and asked if I happened to know a Gene Gladney (Gene is uncle Paul's actual first na…

Gone Too Soon

Waking up to an in memoriam piece on a friend's social media page always brings with it a tinge of sadness, if not for the life that was lost, at least for the grief that person's friends and family must be feeling. Discovering that the person who had died was someone you once knew, is quite a different sensation. It brings with it -- at least in this case -- a flurry of memories and emotions, angst, shock and despair. Finally, there is a certain numbness. There have been too many of these premature deaths over the years.
I knew Jared Hoke primarily during the mid-late 1990s. He was attending college here in C-U and, if the memory doesn't cheat, he was studying to be a pharmacist. He was smart, he had a good sense of humor and he was cute, in a nerdy sort of way. Not going to lie: I had an attraction toward Jared, though it wasn't mutual (at least, not in a romantic sense). We were friends, for a time, and he made a lasting impression. No doubt he did the same with ot…

Whither the Walking Dead

I have a little joke with myself that goes something like this:
Q: When are a TV show's ratings in trouble?
A: When the fan updating its Wikipedia page uses both live + time-shifted numbers for its viewership numbers.
That may be a somewhat obtuse private joke, so allow me to explain.
First, television ratings are handled by a company called Nielsen. Many of us have, at one time or another, been part of "Nielsen families," wherein our household television viewing habits were monitored for a period of time. Next, "live" ratings are those based upon who watched the program at the time that it originally aired. "Time shift" viewings are those officially counted on stuff like DVR and iTunes, within a reasonable period of time after the original airing. Finally, "rating" is a bit of a dinosaur term these days, as Nielsen pretty much reports a show's viewership these days, and not its actual rating, which is a different number.
Now that that&…

Into the Doctor

Earlier this year, Doctor Who Magazine had a ranking of all twelve Doctor Whos. Unsurprisingly, 6th Doctor Colin Baker came in last. I've met Colin Baker, some thirty years ago when he and then-producer John Nathan-Turner came to Champaign for a Doctor Who convention, and I can say that he's a very warm, pleasant man. His Doctor, however, sucks. Hammy, shouty, dressed like a clown, the character just doesn't work.
Alas, Colin Baker is only human, and felt wounded at his Doctor being ranked last, taking it somewhat personally. I feel for the man on a certain level, but can't say that I disagree with the rankings. In fact, seeing as how Doctor Who is my favorite television show of all-time (mostly due to the 1963-1989 run), I thought it only proper that I provide my own, definitive rankings. Fair warning: What you are about to read is truth.
Here we go:

Mirror, Mirror

Earlier this year, a full, complete picture of our Earth was taken and released by NASA. It is the second such photo in our history, the first having been taken some forty-three years ago in 1972. Both pictures have been dubbed "blue marble," a name affectionately given to our planet, and they are breathtaking.
While some have, understandably, paid close attention to the visual condition of our atmosphere, both photos have evoked within me another kind of comparison. I think of my own life, and that of my friends and family, of what has changed during the time between photographs. The thoughts are both sad and humbling.

Pic of the Week

Our newest pic of the week is model-turned-actor George Admiraal, who played the role of a waiter in an episode of Vicious. Here's hoping we see more of him in future!

A Question of Dignity

When Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion this summer for the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on what was essentially marriage equality, he centered his writing around the concept of "dignity." This raised eyebrows with some, as Justice Thomas espoused that the government was incapable of providing anyone with such a feeling, continuing on with a ramble about slavery. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has been in the news of late for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, would seem to agree with that line of thought.
Davis added that “I don’t think dignity is guaranteed in the Constitution. I think dignity is something that you find within yourself. I feel really sad that … someone could be so unhappy with themselves as a person that they did not feel dignified as a human being until they got a piece of paper. I mean, there’s just so much more to life than that.” This coming from a woman who got herself four pieces of that paper.
The issue isn…

Timeline of September 11

It is a morning not unlike many others.
Ashley, whom I have been living with now for eight months in Bloomington, has already gone to work when I rise. Shower, get dressed, have some breakfast, the usual. I go to the job, which is to be a sales associate at Circuit City. I've been with the company for four years, and the transfer from Champaign to Bloomington hasn't been as smooth as I'd hoped for. Not really connecting with the other employees. Getting tired of the grind.
These are the mundane thoughts of the morning. Tuesday morning. Another Tuesday morning like any other.
Arriving at work shortly before 8:00AM, nothing seems out of the ordinary. It's an electronics store, so sometimes the TVs are on before the store opens, quietly humming in the background as we get things ready for the day. Not this morning. They are, for the moment, turned off. Instead, there's the usual drudgery of setting-up displays, cleaning, perhaps one of the morning training sessions o…

Long Play

It is with some dismay that I've had to accept the notion that the album truly is dead (or dying). This doesn't come as a surprise, though the sadness isn't lessened any by it. For years I would be able to rattle-off my top ten favorite albums of a particular year. Then it became five. Then, finally, I stopped doing the list altogether, as there just wasn't much to choose from.
New music is constantly being made, of course. Just go to iTunes, Spotify, or your local record store (if one is to be found), and you'll see plenty of new albums available. But the experience just isn't there anymore. I used to purchase an album, put it in the cassette deck or CD tray, and just let it play. Not so anymore. They just don't have the cohesive quality I'm looking for.

Purely Craven

Horror movie icon Wes Craven passed earlier this week of brain cancer. The news was shocking (to those of us in the public), and it brought to an end the career of a man whose movies provided film lovers with so many hours of gloriously dark entertainment. In honor of the man, I've decided to revisit the movies he directed that were my personal favorites. Here we go.

Pic of the Week

It's been awhile, but our newest Pic o' the Week is Russian model Arthur Kulkov. Enjoy.

The Undiscovered Country

"Those who could tell me what it is to die, Death, the great arbiter, Sometime tomorrow midnight, I may know"
--  Gabriel Dauntsey, via P.D. James & Michael Chaplin

The commonality among all living things is life. This is an obvious, simple thought, an observation so unremarkable that it barely registers. Nevertheless, it fascinates me from time to time. Just as much as we look for things that unite us, we also look for things that differentiate us from one another. Death is one such ultimate divide.
I strive to find common ground with others, even (and sometimes especially) if we don't see eye-to-eye on many things. While serving in elected office a few years ago, there were some colleagues with whom I rarely agreed, politically. With one of them, we ended up forging a bond through our love of film. With another, his history of having worked in construction with my father and uncles was something we could share. These things were necessary for us to relate on a human l…

Old-Fashioned Taffie's

Living in the same community where you grew up comes with its own set of idiosyncrasies. An example of this is feeling pangs of sadness for the closing of a restaurant whose food, decor and service you weren't particularly fond of. Such is the effect that memory and place can have on us.
I remember going to Taffie's as a kid, sometime during the early-mid 1980s, mostly with my dad. Lewis seemed to know a lot of the clientele there, mostly blue collar types, and we'd often plunk down on some stools at the bar in the smoking section and he'd chat with them.
It was unusual to go on solo outings with my dad, so these trips to Taffie's are rather pronounced in memory. I can remember us going there one morning and learning that the Red Wheel restaurant had burned down. Other times, we'd see friendly Mr. Roberts there, father of a classmate of mine, and seemingly good acquaintance of my dad.

Say a Little Prayer

Corey Pope died last week.
On the one hand, the death of a fellow human being is a rather unremarkable event. People die all the time. But I happened to know Corey. I knew him during a time of life when we were both young(er), free spirits and when the world was new. At least, that's how I look back at the mid-to-late '90s through rose-colored tints. In truth, it was often a miserable, lonely time for me but, as with most things, distance has put a shine on the experience.
Corey and I weren't close. He was a regular at Chester Street Bar in midtown Champaign, He also, sometimes, worked there, as did I from 1998-99. I never knew quite what to make of Corey. It seemed that he almost always had an impish grin. It was both charming and unsettling. He liked to drink, and to serve drinks. He liked a lot of the dance music that was played at the club. He was formerly a medic. There was, as is the case with many people, more to him than met the eye.
Rakish, thin, with chocolate-c…

Pic of the Week

It's the 26th birthday of British actor Daniel Radcliffe, and he's our Pic of the Week. Enjoy!

I love the past, 'cause I hate suspense

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can devour you, if you're not careful. One can lose oneself in it. Nostalgia can be a useful tool for remembrance, but it can also be deceptive. We can learn to love a past that perhaps doesn't always deserve the affection. This is especially true if it's a past we didn't experience. But even our own past can play tricks on us. Best, then, to take only small dips in the nostalgia pool, eh?
The aforementioned thoughts regarding nostalgia are what developed from a simple airing of the 1985 classic movie Back to the Future on TV over the weekend. For the uninitiated, the film features teenager Marty McFly going back in time thirty years, to 1955, and trying to make sure his parents get together so that the family he knows and loves will be there when gets back to 1985. It's a great bit of cinema, and I clearly remember seeing it at the old Thunderbird Theater with my mom back when it came out.

She's Madonna

Today we're going to talk about something very important. We're going to talk about Madonna.
"Madge," as she's affectionately known around the gay scene, has been making music for over thirty years. I grew up with her songs, many of them pop classics. In recent years, it can be arguably said that her popularity has waned a bit. During the past decade, Madonna has put out seventeen singles. Of those, three have charted in the US Top 40. Ten Failed to chart at all on the Billboard Hot 100.
We now have at least one possibility offered as to why Madge's chart power is waning: Ageism. At least, that's what Diplo (just, Diplo), a producer of some of the tracks off her latest album, thinks. I know it's difficult to be objective about something you've worked on -- whether you were the producer or the artist -- but, as a listener/fan, I have to say that Madonna's most recent work has simply not been that good. Still, we'll hear what Diplo has to s…

Shiver Now, 'tis Nothing New

I've mentioned in passing on social media recently about how I've been fighting a depression. It's true, though hard to admit. It can be seen as a sign of weakness, and that's never something one likes to promote, especially if they're in a leadership position, with many eyes looking to them for stability and decisiveness. Still, I am who I am.
As a matter of fact, this morning, I didn't want to get out of bed. The weather wasn't bad (for once), I wasn't feeling ill or otherwise in poor health, I felt refreshed from a good night's sleep. There was, simply put, a dread about having to face another day. There wasn't a specific issue resonating in my brain that was pushing this feeling, yet, it was there.


We're just a little over halfway through 2015, and I've seen 27 of the year's movies (so far). I thought that now would be a good time to rank those movies! Of course, this is just my opinion, one of many. But if you haven't seen some of the films in, say, the top ten, then try and watch them if/when you can.
Ok, here we go….

Pic of the Week

It's been awhile, but we're back with a new Pic of the Week! This time it's model extraordinaire Sebastian Sauve. Enjoy!

Standing on Shoulders

Those commercials for finally got to me. At first there was annoyance. I'm sure the woman who currently features in the majority of their ads is a nice person, but something about her voice and her delivery grated on me. After awhile, it didn't offend as much, and I learned to simply gloss over the commercials whenever they came on. And then.... there came the curiosity.
They say the older you get, the more you begin to care about where you came from, so after months of being inundated with ads on TV, I signed-up for a two-week free trial period. The biggest surprise wasn't anything as grand as discovering blood relation to a monarch or former president, but that the web site wasn't all Big Brother-ish. I'd just assumed that it would take my particulars and plug-in everything. Not so. You have to provide it with the names of family members and then it searches for potential matches (which you have to confirm).
On my dad's side of the …

Dreams of Weldon

I had the dream again last night. It's been recurring at least on a monthly basis, taking place primarily in the small town of Weldon, IL, at the former home of my great-uncle and great-aunt Robert and Betty. The plot of the dreams are always loosely the same: I am there at the house. Robert and Betty are not. Sometimes, I have invited folks from Champaign to come visit the abode in Weldon (roughly 40 minutes away), and am hosting a party there.
The house is almost always bigger in the dreams than in reality. In the real world, it's a fairly standard structure. There's a living room, main bedroom on the ground floor, kitchen, bathrooms, front porch, upstairs area with more bedrooms, and then.... an addition was built on (with help from my dad), and it consisted of a huge family room and attached garage. A wooden porch runs along the back of the house. I remember it was home to a plethora of stray kitties, as Betty would always gladly put out food for them. Behind the hous…

Ever Decreasing Circles

Musical artist Taylor Swift has been in the news, along with Apple, for making waves in regards to the latter's forthcoming streaming music service. For its first three months, Apple Music is going to let folks try their service for free, and was planning to not pay artists any royalties during this free trial period. After said period, folks would have to pay $10 a month to keep the service and then artists would be paid some royalties. Swift complained and, well, Apple relented. Artists will now receive income during the three month free trial period.
I mention the Apple/Swift debacle because it brings to mind, yet again, an issue that remains all too prevalent in our society -- paying folks very little (or nothing) for their work. And I don't just mean musical artists. We see this everywhere, from fast food workers to folks in China making our phones, from kids in sweatshops making our clothes to people making the music we enjoy listening to. People seem to want something …

Sister, You've Been On My Mind

"Come with me, Matt. Your dad has something he wants to tell you."
Mom made the quiet statement when I was roughly twelve years old, coming to get me from another room in our brick house on John St. Several things went through my mind at the time: I hadn't done anything bad recently, so it couldn't be that, could it? The notion of divorce was one that always lurked in the back of my head, though it wouldn't become realized for another year. As mom led me into their bedroom (an odd choice of venue), I honestly couldn't think of what it was dad had to talk with me about.
Entering the room that he and my mother shared, I found Lewis sitting, looking more solemn than he typically did. Through lots of obvious angst, pauses and sighs, he told me that I had two older half-sisters, Valarie and Angie. They were from a previous marriage, his first. You can imagine how this news might shake someone who, for their initial twelve years of life, only knew of his father bei…

Divide and Conquer

The Internet is aflutter with news of how Rachel Dolezal, head of the NAACP chapter of Spokane, Washington, is not African-American. The uproar isn't -- we're told -- caused by Dolezal's race, more that she seems to have actively promoted herself as black, all the while being a person of Caucasian heritage. While the deception is noteworthy, I can't help but feel there's some genuine disdain for a woman who isn't of color heading a chapter of the NAACP. Perhaps I'm too cynical?
It is unclear what drives a person of one ethnicity to go to great lengths to pass as another but, more than anything, I feel sorry for anyone who does. It's obviously they're unhappy with themselves in some regard. Whatever caused Rachel Dolezal to pull an opposite of Soul Man, I hope she is able to find some sort of peace and self-worth that isn't derived from ethnic origins. Indeed, letting our ethnicity consume our identities would seem to be folly of the highest ord…

The Real World

Perhaps a year or so ago, I was standing in line at a local Subway restaurant, and the lady ahead of me was chatting with the guy behind the counter. It seemed to be one of those customer/server relationships that had developed over time -- not too close, yet friendly enough. The employee excitedly told the woman about a new job he was starting in the near future, to which the woman cheerily responded, "It'll be nice for you to have a real job!"
It's not an exaggeration to say that there was a palpable pause after the woman made her remark. The guy behind the counter blinked a couple times, his face went slack, and then he responded with a meek, "Yeah, it will." I, myself, had done a sharp intake of breath. The customer seemed oblivious to any of this, and went on about the business of completing her order, even going on to wish the employee "Good luck!" in his new venture.
The Subway Incident, as I've jokingly dubbed it, was notable for a co…

Deep Impact

The concept of home video entertainment is forever woven into a physical reference point for me. True, I've 'moved with the times' and listen to most music digitally these days, but somehow cannot find the ability to enter the 21st century and watch movies via streaming. I'll stick with DVDs and Blu-rays, thank you very much. This is why I always took such comfort in the existence -- despite the odds -- of That's Rentertainment DVD/Blu-ray rental store, nestled in a small(ish) space in the campus town of our fair twin cities. Alas, that is soon to be no more. After 30 years, the store will be closing later this summer.
It was three decades ago that my parents brought home our first taste of home video entertainment. They situated the VCR (VHS, not Betamax) next to the television set, and had rented a few videos to watch. For them, Alfred Hitchcock movies. For me, some episodes of the Transformers cartoon series. It boggled my mind that it was possible to watch Tra…

Alabama Shakes

The Alabama state senate recently passed SB377, by a 22-3 vote, which seeks to end the practice of state-licensed marriages. For everyone. Period. A blog known as the Tenth Amendment Centerreported favorably on the measure, and as this is an issue near and dear, I wanted to take a moment (or two) to go over their thoughts on the subject, and then offer mine in return. I don't normally like to do this here, but felt it was necessary in order to clarify a few things.
Here we go...

Pic of the Week

Yesterday was UK diver Tom Daley's 21st birthday, so he is our Pic of the Week. Enjoy!

Good Night, and Good Luck

"Nobody knows what the future holds
And it's bad enough just getting old
Live my life in self-defense
You know I love the past cuz I hate suspense" Diane Young by Vampire Weekend

Much has been written about the retirement of David Letterman from late-night television. I paused before adding to the pile of tributes/good riddance write-ups cluttering the Internet of late. In the end, this is more of a personal moment for me than initially anticipated, with a reach far beyond the talk show host, himself.
In 1992, Johnny Carson ended his 30-year-run as the king of late-night, departing The Tonight Show for the greener pastures of retirement. Jay Leno took over, and things were never the same. I enjoyed Johnny. He came across as warm, amiable, like a nice grandfather. Someone a couple of generations removed, yet still fun to watch.
I never warmed to Leno and his brand of humor. Letterman was always my cup of preferred tea. When he didn't get The Tonight Show gig in '9…

Ghost In the Machine

After watching the new movie Ex Machina, I've been contemplating the possibility of artificial intelligence in our world, though not in the impact it might have on our society, but how we should treat it once it arrives (and it will).
Some spoilers for the movie follow, so turn back now if you haven't seen it yet....

2015, Charing Cross Road

Do you remember having a pen pal? I do. It seemed like such a unique concept at the time. This was back in the 1980s, when I was in elementary school. Not exactly sure of what year it was, but we were each given another child to write to. I think mine was in France (though he obviously knew enough English to correspond). There were perhaps only two letters exchanged between us, but that was enough. It felt exciting to wrote back & forth with someone so far away.

I thought of that brief friend from France, whose face I never saw and whose name now escapes memory, as I wished a happy birthday to someone who lives in New York City a few days ago. You might think I met him on the occasion I traveled to NYC in 1995. You would be mistaken. We met (if you can call it that) online, via Facebook. In fact, I know several folks solely online. We've never met in-person, and some of us don't even live on the same continent.
What used to be a special circumstance is now, due to the won…

The Best Superhero Movies of All-Time

The latest installment of the MARVEL superhero movie universe opened last week, and I saw it on opening night.
Avengers: Age of Ultron hit all the perfunctory notes that a modern comics-to-screen film should, though I left the theater without feeling thrilled. That's ok. I'm not really the target audience for the genre anymore. As a teenager, I collected comic books for a few years, almost exclusively Marvel.   Among my favorite were: The Avengers, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor. After awhile, I stopped collecting, mostly because it became obvious the story lines would never end. It's one reason why I'm not a fan of soap operas.
In spite of having abandoned serious comic collecting in the early '90s, I still enjoy a good superhero film. There have been many and, at last count, I'd seen 29 movies of the genre (though how to categorize them is up for debate. I do not, for example, consider V for Vendetta to be a superhero movie. Great film? Yes. Superhero? N…

The Long, Inexorable Rise of Change

So much is happening in the United States at this moment. Strike that -- so much is always happening in our country but, this week, it feels like more than usual is taking place. Such is the power of the media, I suppose. Regardless, the riots in Baltimore have left me agonizing over the state of race and police relations, and the commencement of same-sex marriage arguments in front of the US Supreme Court has left me feeling anxious for the future of marriage equality in our country.
The fact that these events are occurring at all is both sad and remarkable. It's sad that, in 2015, we're still torn apart by racial conflict. It's unclear how many centuries need to pass before we learn to treat each other with respect, whether we're wearing a uniform or we're simply an average citizen. It's remarkable that the societal discussion of same-sex marriage has reach SCOTUS in such a relatively swift manner, given the fact that it was a very taboo subject (especially …

A Tree Grows In Champaign

Today is National Arbor Day, and folks are generally encouraged to go out and plant trees and some such. I'm all for it. While I enjoy living in a moderately urban environment, the fact that it is suffused with so many trees is something to treasure. To that end, I am today reminded of Mildred Sims, my teacher for both second and third grades, and the tree our class planted in Clark Park many moons ago.
From 1983 to 1985, Millie Sims was not only my teacher, but an adult whom I looked up to (both figuratively and literally). She was smart, fun, warm but knew how to keep her distance, and had a supremely endearing personality. She is to date the only person to have gotten me to eat celery (by smearing peanut butter in the hollow of the stick, placing raisins on it, and calling it 'Ants on a Log'). She brought local weather celebrity Judy Fraser to our class one day to discuss meteorology, which I thought was one of the coolest things ever.

Pic of the Week

Actor Robbie Amell (best known for the TV show The Flash and the movie The DUFF) turns 27 today, and he's our pic of the week!

Brushes With Fame

Meeting celebrities is an awkward business.
The above conclusion is one I've reached over years of going to the Roger Ebert Film Festival, and having visited Hollywood, California back in the 1990s. Perhaps it's just me, but there really doesn't seem to be any real connection that we, the public, have with those who produce and star in some of our most beloved pop culture touchstones.
Take, for example, Ebertfest of 2002. One of my favorite movies from that year's festival was Kwik Stop, starring and directed by Michael Gilio, who was in attendance. The film moved me and, after Gilio's Q&A on-stage, I decided to approach him and say what a marvelous movie it was that he'd made. Of course, once I was in his presence, it was more like gibberish that came out of my mouth, followed by a perfunctory request for an autograph, which he provided.
Then there were several years where actor Scott Wilson attended the festival. Known then for his role in the 1967 class…

Five Years

There are a lot of milestones in our lives: birthdays, wedding anniversaries, first date anniversaries, the day we began a new job, the day a loved one died, etc. Some are happy reminders, others not so much. Some have a bit of a mixed-bag impact on us. That's probably the best way to describe what happened five years ago today.
April 9th, 2010 was a Friday, much like any other. It was a couple of weeks before the annual Roger Ebert Film Festival, of which I am a regular attendee. Ebert was on my mind at the time, not necessarily because of the festival, but because he'd had thyroid cancer a few years earlier and, on that particular morning, I was rolling into Provena (now Presence) Hospital for a morning surgery to remove my own cancerous thyroid.
That morning was a particularly early one for Ashley & I. The surgery was scheduled for 7:30am and, like airports, hospitals want you to arrive at least an hour or two early. There was the check-in process, the interminable wai…

Time and Space

10 years ago today saw the revival of my favorite television show of all-time.
Doctor Who has been a part of my life since, well.... since I was in short pants. A staple of PBS viewing, I watched it seven times a week (Monday through Friday at 10pm, and on Saturdays at 6:00pm and 6:30pm). There was a Doctor Who convention here in Champaign, in February 1985, where Sixth Doctor Colin Baker came to town. Charming man.
After 26 years on the air, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 after waning quality and audience numbers. An American-made TV movie in 1996 did nothing to revive the program, and it looked like Doctor Who was gone for good, relegated to reruns, DVDs, books and the occasional radio show featuring the old actors trotted-out to re-create their roles.

Three Score and Ten

Today is a day like any other. It's the day after the first day of Spring. It's a Saturday. Some folks are working, some folks aren't. Some folks are drawing their last breaths, others are being born into this glorious world. Here in Champaign, Illinois the weather is fairly nice. Lower-50s currently and, coming off of winter, it feels great. So, much like it does, the world continues to turn.
Today is also the 70th anniversary of my father's birth. Regular readers of this blog know all about Lewis Ivy Gladney. I've certainly mentioned him enough times. He passed away in 1997 and, as the years have gone on, things like the anniversary of his birth and the anniversary of his death have loomed less and less and large in my life. Some years, I haven't remembered them until days later. My world has continued to turn.
This year is different.