Caution, Minor Spoilers.
I’m not really a comic book guy. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased one. I may have read 3 from cover to cover. I just don’t understand the obsession. I do, however, seemingly love comic book movies; particularly the latest batch that have been released with accessible stories, solid acting, big budgets and amazing effects.
When I was reading about The Avengers in preparation to see it, I noticed how so many people were looking forward to seeing their childhood fantasy questions answered on the big screen. Thing like “Who would win in a fight, Thor or Iron Man?” That’s all well and good, but for some reason, I like to think of people with extraordinary abilities doing mundane things. Particularly villains since we get more of a glimpse into the hero’s life and usually there is a secret identity which is filled with everyday activities. The villain, however, sometimes does not have a secret identity and can often times just be as evil as their day allows. What consumes the majority of Megatron’s time when he isn’t on screen? Do you think The Joker read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and wrote little notes in the margins about how it could be nefariously implemented?
This penchant for banality leads me to what I see as a major plot hole in one of the summer’s biggest movies. I went to see The Dark Knight Rises for the second time last weekend. There was quite a bit I didn’t catch the first time around because I was busy peeing myself with boyish excitement to see how the trilogy Christopher Nolan has magnificently pieced together would end. Regardless, I was driving home, practicing my Bane impression (the voice is really just a lazy and more fluctuating Sean Connery) and it came to me as I was working out a bit where Bane goes to a karaoke bar and sings Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT”. Some background: the respirator that Bane wears (as explained in the movie) is the only thing keeping him from suffering unimaginable pain due to a torturous injury incurred at the hands of a pit prison mob. The prison doctor mended Bane, but the daughter of Raz Al Gul has the respirator made.
Side note: The doctors in the prison have to be the most amazing physicians in the world. These guys heal Bruce Wayne after a broken back and get him back to fighting weight in under 3 months using only a rope, a well-placed back punch and the sage words of a morphine addict. These guys could cut recovery wards roughly by 2/3. I’m sure that prior to their arrival, everyone in the prison had heart cancer. Now, they’re all healthy as horses.
Back to it: Bane can’t remove the respirator or he get’s facial pain explosions. So, how does he eat? Wouldn’t each bite mean excruciating pain that would act as negative reinforcement to consuming a meal. And, let’s look at this guy. He doesn’t look like he’s missing any meals. The only option I can think of would be protein milkshakes through tiny straws that can fit through the holes in the metal at the front. I know that this is the meal of choice when someone breaks their jaw and has to have it wired shut. Any other ideas?
Side note #2: How dumb is Batman in his first fight with Bane? If a guy has a respirator and you’re wearing a Kevlar fist, try punching the respirator! You would think that this would be his weak point, particularly after every other one of your punches has been met with indifference and manly badassery.
The weather was perfect for open top driving. The sky was clear and didn’t play host to a single cloud. The temperature was hovering in the low 70’s and the humidity was tolerable. It was the sort of day that we’ve been having in the Midwest for the last few months and has made the transition from Los Angeles much easier.
Ms. Kitty rode alongside in the passenger’s seat, her elbow rested on the top of the door and the wisps of hair that had not been wrangled into the imprisonment of her pony tail holder bounced happily in the open air.
The Miata sat happily at a red light, waiting to cross the overpass across I-265 when a white, 2nd gen Prelude with HID headlights and a fart can muffler pulled up in the left lane. As the light went green, I accelerated as I normally do, but the Lude barked and sounded like it was drag racing. Perhaps it is the roll bar mounted on the back of my little roadster that brings this out in people. I don’t know.
My Miata easily kept up with the growling Prelude up to the next red light. I looked over at Ms. Kitty and I said, “Really?” She looked back, eye brows up and replied, “Really.”
Her “Really” was implying that it was ridiculous for grown men to drag race from stoplight to stoplight in broad daylight where police often pull onto and off of the highway. Endangering other people’s lives for absolutely no purpose is a foolish, irresponsible and reckless thing to do that people over the age of 30 should certainly know better than to do.
Then the light went green and I immediately learned that she and I had absolutely different interpretations of what “Really” meant in this context.
My “Really” had been in amazement that I hadn’t been blown off the line if he actually had anything under the hood and that only a fool would try to drag race with such a low weight-to-power ratio. (I know most people say it the other way around and they are wrong. Think about it.) The fact that I didn’t have to launch or take it to redline and still be ahead meant that I could surely destroy this Prelude if I tried.
I should have meant it the way she did because my victory (AND IT WAS A VICTORY) was short lived as I was quickly informed that I was incorrect in my definition. And I apologized.
Last night, around 9:15, our neighbors started plodding into the night from the relative safety of their homes. One jumped into his car and raced off. He was in pursuit of a large, white, American sedan of Malaise vintage that had, just moments before, slammed into the back of my wife’s silver Toyota Matrix parked on the street in front of our house. No glancing blow, the wagon had been shoved approximately a foot forward due to the large car’s impact into the rear driver’s side quarter panel which disfigured the sheet metal, pounded the plastics and tore the rear wheel from its suspension bits. The car then swerved around my little Miata and completely side swiped the Crown Vic parked at the head of our automotive conga line.
The police were called and arrived quickly. Having been involved with the Indiana Highway Patrol, State Troopers and the Long Beach Police Department, I didn’t expect much to come from the report. Usually, they take the information and say that the perpetrator is long-gone, but they’ll do what they can. This was exactly what a State Trooper told the driver of another hit-and-run I was involved in just a couple of months earlier. My hopes were low.
Based only on the description of “a white 80’s Caprice”, the officer asked a follow-up of, “Did it sound like it had a cowbell attached?”
I thought this was a curious question, but the officer went on to explain that there was a car in a nearby neighborhood that had a problem with the brakes that the owner never got around to fixing. This owner was also well-known in the badge-wearing community as a bit of an imbiber.
I would imagine that cops with a large jurisdiction don’t have this kind of granularity. The police picked up the guy and got a confession within two hours.
There are benefits of living in a small town.
I haven’t purchased a video game system newer than the Super Nintendo, so I’m not what you might call an avid gamer. Recently, on a trip to visit family in Texas, I ended up playing a good deal of Wii with my 8-year-old nephew. It took a little while to get used to the controls, but I think that I got a basic grasp of it by the last day that I was there. While I was l learning however, there was a lot of instruction from my nephew that included phrases like, “No! Do that thing again!” “What did you kill me for?!” and “Remember when we played this and you figured it out?”
The last one garnered the rather frustrated response of, “Keep in mind that I’ve never been to this town, I’ve never been in this house and I’ve never played this game before. So, no, I don’t remember.”
The game we were playing was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. The violence is toned down since when you kill someone, they explode into coins and Legos just like in Mexico. I guess this makes it better, but I would inevitably start fights in the portal cantina with everyone around and quickly learned that Darth Vader’s choking action makes quick work of just about anyone. Man, did I ever love killing Jar Jar Binks…
Toned down violence is probably one of the reasons that his parents got it for him. The other reasons are that he loves both Star Wars and Legos. He’s got several Lego kits in his room, so, with his birthday approaching, Ms. Kitty and I were going to go and buy him a big case of Legos. We quickly discovered that our idea of Legos differs greatly from Lego’s idea of Legos.
When I was a kid, my mom would buy me Legos at yard sales because Legos were expensive and we weren’t rich. I had a big bucket of all different colors and sizes with those nearly flat ones, the standard blocks, the long red ones, some wheel and axles and a couple of those big green boards where you could stage things. What I didn’t have was a bunch of specialty pieces that made specific things. Unfortunately, these kits that build specific things are all you can buy at most stores.
This is bullsh!t.
Lego is killing kids’ imaginations while pretending to enrich them. Sure, they sell space kits and ninja kits and pirate kits and cannibal kits, but none of them work together. Looking over the pieces, they all have to fit a certain way or else they simply don’t build anything. I don’t really care that the characters that come with the kits are specialized with tiny mustaches and little painted on chain mail, but when you’ve got an alien ship that only goes together one way, what’s the point? Now you’ve just got a toy that makes one thing and falls apart in a strong breeze. Know what would happen if the helicopter I built for my yellow-faced bank robbers fell apart? I could use those same blocks to build a getaway car, or a safe house, or a tank or whatever my mind conceived because those pieces all worked together. I was the limit of what they could do, not someone who designed decals to match whatever movie tie-in was hot that month.
I understand that Lego is in this to make money (at $9.99 for the most basic kit, they can’t be losing money) and toys that encourage the purchase of the same brand makes a lot of business sense. But wasn’t the point of Legos that you could build a variety of things with them? Isn’t that why they showcase professional builders? Isn’t using your imagination the 54cking point of Legos?
We couldn’t find a single package of Lego blocks that didn’t have a theme. Everything was Ninjago or Star Wars or Citizen Kane (not a great seller, by the way). Brand alliances and loyalty are awesome and all, but can’t they just sell regular f-ing Legos as well?! It seems like Lego is just another name for “toys that fall apart easier” rather than being a gateway drug to imagination and inquiry. I’ve heard a lot of architects and engineers talk about how they got interested in structures and building through Legos, but I doubt that they’d be quite so inspired if all they could build was a Millennium Falcon. Weeeeeee!!
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me that there are Lego video games since that is essentially all that is available from the company these days anyhow. You have one path to travel, little latitude to deviate from the prescribed options and it is all branded. Bring back the tub of generic pieces and allow the minds of tomorrow to stretch out and set their own limits rather than telling them exactly what to do. They have enough people to do that already.
The recent return of Mad Men from its 17-month hiatus has left many talking about the impact that the show has had. With regards to television programming that has tried to harness the nostalgia as well as the tumult and turmoil that this era encompassed, many have made note of other shows that have come and gone that focused on the same time period; particularly the recent failures of Pan Am and The Playboy Club.
These latter shows were more dramatic, flashier and really jumped at the opportunity to put the issues of the day right into your face and scream, “See! This is what women and minorities had to deal with!” Mad Men takes a far more nuanced approach, focusing instead on characters and how their lives roll through the landscape of one of the most important and chaotic decades in the nation’s history. The writers understand that a person’s life is not a series of adventures, but one continuous story that just keeps going. It isn’t always as exciting, but it can be far more relatable and involving for the viewer.
One of my favorite characters on the show is Joan Harris, played to perfection by this month’s celebrated ginger, Christina Hendricks. Joan is caught in a strange purgatory between the rise of young women in the workplace pushing boundaries and questioning their assigned roles as secretaries-until-they-find-a-husband and the older set that sees business as an old boy’s club where they neither belong nor desire to be. The older women accept that sometimes the boss will smack their ass and ask for a scotch while the younger group would not stand for it and demand to be treated as equals. Joan is caught in the middle having been trained that the men are in charge, but desiring to move up as indicated when she worked briefly in the Television department of Sterling Cooper, only to have her work be taken over by a man when budget freed up.
Unlike the women of Pan Am or The Playboy Club who brashly display their sexuality as a commodity with which to trade, the curvaceous Joan utilizes her sexuality to move men’s emotions enough to achieve her goals without flaunting herself. She is not ignorant of her actions and understands when she is being watched. She is an object of desire, not attainment and she is very clear about that with her soft, but teacher-like voice and quick wit which will immediately put her co-workers in their place which can be out the door if an undersecretary does not fall in line.
The introduction of her baby this season adds another layer to the cultural commentary as her husband is sure to be shipped off to Vietnam. Will she be the show’s face of single-motherhood that began to arise at the time? How will this affect the climate at SCDP when she returns to the office headed by those firmly ensconced in a post-war mentality?
Some of you might have done 10 minutes of research and found out that Ms. Hendricks dyes her hair red, that she is not a true red head. But I ask you, do we really want to start kicking players off our team that look like this? Don’t we have enough problems in the looks department without getting rid of beautiful people?
Congratulations, Christina Hendricks, you are our Mrs. Reynolds and our Ginger of the Month.
“How about you drive us the rest of the way home?” My dad asked as we pulled to the side of the road.
We were on our way home from church on a beautiful Sunday morning in the most pleasant stretch of an Indiana spring. Roughly a half mile from home, the remaining journey consisted of two long straights, four left turns, one right turn and one stop sign. Simple enough for a 15-year-old who’s only experience driving involved video games and rental go-karts.
I hopped out of the passenger’s seat of my dad’s 1989 crystal blue Ford Thunderbird LX and ran around the front end of that long hood. Getting behind the wheel, I felt the automatic seatbelt glide its way behind me and secured my lap belt. Very little in the way of instruction was given to me. I had the general knowledge about the car which consisted of the wheel steered the car, the right pedal sped up the car, my dad loves this car and it is illegal for me to drive this car. Let’s go.
The first long, smooth strip of black top was fine. I watched as the speedometer digitally indicated 40 miles per hour, just as its fixed cousin on the sign told me. “Now, this car has power brakes, so you don’t need to press very hard,” my dad told me from the passenger’s seat. I watched as the road was quickly coming to a T and I gently applied pressure to the brakes.
Perhaps too gently.
The next thing I knew was that I completely blew through the stop sign, swerved to avoid the cornfield straight ahead, overcorrected left and put the car directly into a telephone pole. Then, to add insult to injury, I misjudged which pedal I was pressing and, with the front wheels lifted off the ground but the driven wheels still on terra firma, continued to push the car into the tarred timber.
I was told to walk home while my dad would talk to the cops since we’d (well, I had, but we couldn’t really say that) destroyed municipal property.
Seventeen years later, on a slightly grayer late winter day, I brought my Miata up to show my parents. Being that it is a two-seater, I could really only take one of them for a ride at a time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but while my dad was in the passenger’s seat, I headed back to that same corner going the opposite way.
I like to think that my skill level has increased after gaining my license, racing competitively for 5 years and fending off hordes of LA traffic. That doesn’t mean that my dad trusts me to drive though.
There is no stop sign facing the turn on to that strip of road, but there is a whole lot of gravel. Maybe I should have eased into it, but I instead dropped a gear, took that corner at speed, mashed the gas and kicked the back end out. Now, I’m sure that this had nothing to do with the immediate statement that we needed to go back because he forgot to go to the bathroom, but he never did ask to go back out once he’d visited the facilities.