Thursday, March 21, 2019

Barad-Dûr Of Paper

This is my bag as it stands right now:


It's what I need to do in the immediate.As you can see it just about doubles the entire history of the first three Ages of Middle Earth. Unlike the last time I lamented about being behind, I'm not working on something-not really at least. And like Barad-dûr it looms over my shoulder with everything I do today.

I'm a piler. A colleague that I worked with in my classroom years ago noticed it and found it incredibly frustrating since she was so organized and a micromanager. We're talking planning a class almost down to the second. However by the end of her time working with me, she was using piles. I'm not saying it efficient and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but it mostly works for me. I think that it's purely psychological with me. A pile can be visibly measured. You can always see how much you have left and how much you've gotten done. It's a decent metric. I also know that piles are the domain of your average hoarder and that scares me. However, I am a notorious purger. I can't help but wonder how many smart ideas and notions I've thrown out in the midst of a purge.

To be fair, in that pile are three print outs of LABORS, PICTURE and what's done of the present project, which has stalled. I hate the title and that's honestly part of the problem. A project isn't real for me until it has a name that I like. It needs something else, though I'm not sure what exactly it needs. I need to give it a once through, just for continuity sake. LABORS had a rewrite request that I sort of put on the back burner because said agent was between agencies and that's not the case anymore. There's a blog post about my own self-destructive tendencies but this isn't it. I decided now is as good a time as any to dig in. Plus, getting some distance from the present project might be good for me. PICTURE needs attention to. I think PICTURE has loads of potential and is a good story, but I need to do some research first.

I frequently mention doing research and I'm not always talking about the way we think of research, even though there is some of that in what I am talking about. I generally don't read or write thrillers and I feel like I need to study up on the genre to grasp what I need to do for the story to really work. I also have a new. "younger"idea that's been niggling at the back of my brain that I want to get to. But right now the Barad-dûr stands in the way. It needs to come down before I can do anything else. My students need these papers back for their next project and I'm leaving to go out of town tomorrow night. The heat is on.

Maybe instead of writing this, I could've worked on the pile. Nah, this was a better use of my time. Tonight, like Sam and Frodo, I'll attempt to destroy this Barad-dûr. Instead of destroying a ring, I'm going to take it down brick by brick or paper by paper.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Reluctant Tradition

Today is St. Patrick's Day. It's kind of a big deal here in Syracuse. We have a long Irish tradition. I mean we have the only right side up traffic light in the world. (The green of the Irish above the English red.) It used to be a big deal to me, but not so much anymore. Things change as they do.



I have pretty decent memories from St. Patrick Days past. Good memories. Pints of green beer, shots of syrupy liquors and time spent with friends. Working maintenance at Wegmans, clocking out at 6 then sprinting home to meet my best friend to eat my mom's corned beef and cabbage then consuming copious amounts of green beer. Luckily, I've never had matching green vomit to match that consumption. The time we got kicked out of Club 37 in North Syracuse defending the honor of a girl and I was home by 11:30.  Look, it sounds corny but the dude grabbed the girl by her face. Honestly, thank goodness there were no cellphones or social networks back then. All we had were disposable cameras. But the constant was my mother's corned beef and cabbage.

Something you need to know about me. I don't like corned beef. I can't tell you why. It's never appealed to me. And I despise cooked cabbage. It makes me gag even writing about it. That being said, every year, on St. Patrick's Day, I try to make sure I eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. It's not out of some obligation to my Irish heritage but because of my mother.

Mom made a big deal of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. It has roots in her relationship with her mother. I'd always try to make sure that I was in her kitchen to sit at the table and have my corned beef. Always the same plate: the meat, some carrots, potatoes and a few pieces of heavily buttered rye bread. No cabbage because there are concessions I'm not even willing to make. For each bite of corned beef, I'd take a bite of the rye bread. Never putting the corned beef on the bread, it's two separate bites. If I wasn't able to be at her table, I'd make sure that I had corned beef and cabbage somehow. Then each year, when I finished, I push my plate away and I would literally say, "Alrighty then, I don't have to do that again for 365 days."

For the last few years, I've prepared St. Patrick's Day dinner. Not always on the actual holiday, but I'd make it. We're talking the whole nine yards. I prefer brisket to round (when I finally get my smoker, there will be a long post about my initial attempt at smoking a brisket), cabbage (despite my disgust), red potatoes, carrots and rye bread. The only thing missing would be an ice cold Killian's Red because my kids aren't fans of me consuming alcohol.

I do all of this for my mother. It's not out of any sense of obligation or pressure. It's not out of some commitment to my Irish heritage. Mom doesn't ask me to make it, I just do. I think it's just a connection I have with my mom and, by proxy, to my grandmother.

Continuing the motif of me gleefully playing host to family functions at my home, we had St. Patrick's Day dinner last weekend. Despite a malfunctioning CrockPot, it went off without a hitch, complete with my proclamation of being done with corned beef for the coming year. But it was not meant to be. I'm having it again tonight. At least I'm not preparing it. I'm sitting here typing this up and watching THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, so maybe that's going to be a new tradition. It could be worse. 

So, Erin go bragh, if you're going out tonight be smart and safe and may you get to Heaven a full half hour before the Devil finds out your dead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Few Thoughts On Captain Marvel (SPOILERS)

I went to see CAPTAIN MARVEL last night and really enjoyed it. Is it formulaic and kind of tropey? Absolutely. Is that a bad thing? Not even a little. Formulas and tropes are tools, if used correctly with the right twist, they are terrific. Twenty-one movies in, Marvel isn't going to fiddle too much with what works and does it very well with CAPTAIN MARVEL. While it's no WINTER SOLDIER or CIVIL WAR, it's a solid, middle of the pack entry. If you've seen my rating scale before (which I'm in the process of updating), that's not a bad thing.



At this point in the MCU, these movies are almost impossible to be considered stand alone, but it's done well enough so that you can watch it with little knowledge of the "world" at large. That being said, it does a lot of what it needed to do in the entire arc of the MCU, especially considering the events of INFINITY WAR. I wasn't a huge fan of INFINITY WAR. It was a terrific spectacle with some great moments that was intensely lazy at times when it shouldn't have been lazy. But that's for another time. CAPTAIN MARVEL was a rollicking good time with load of great action and comedy. As a guy that says all his genre work takes place in some version of the 90s, the 90s nostalgia was an added bonus.

CAPTAIN MARVEL is actually the first Marvel movie I watched in the theaters. I went out of my way to go because of the uproar around the movie, mostly because of the fanboys that had issues with it, from those claiming that a 120 pound woman couldn't do what she did to a 220 pound man (yet totally bought the 220 pound Steve Rogers stopping a helicopter from taking off) to those that railed against star Brie Larson's calls for more diversity in the media. It's so annoying. Shut up, go away, no one cares. We get it you incel freaks. You only want to see big, strong me doing big, strong things. Good for you. I want to see heroes being heroes...and Captain Marvel is fits the bill.

A few random thoughts:

  • The Stan Lee tribute was beautiful and the cameo was even better. It goes beyond meta and actually leaves some questions about the universe as a whole.
  • The first act is clunky but not so much that it makes it unwatchable and it's no less clunky than other Marvel films. 
  • Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have incredible chemistry. I want to see a buddy cop movie with them in it. 
  • Brie Larson is charisma defined. She oozes it and I loved it. 
  • The de-aging of Samuel L. really worked....Clark Gregg not so much. 
  • The 90s nostalgia is worth bringing up again. It's fun and really adds something to the film.
  • Ben Mendelsohn has become the go to villain these days, but he's terrific in this as Talos. It shows his range in the film, playing the character as this ruthless general at the beginning then transitioning to a man just trying to survive at the end. 
  • Let's talk briefly about the Skrulls. I don't like that they made them "good guys" in this. I get that they were supposed to be the bad guys in GOTG and they replaced them with the Kree because Marvel didn't "own" them for the films. The Skrulls are supposed to be villains and knowing the MCU pretty well at this point, you kind of knew the Kree were up to no good.
  • Jude Law always fascinates me as an actor. I loved his John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes films and he's perfectly duplicitous in this. You knew from the first time we see him that there is something off about him. 
  • The prestige that these films have gained is interesting to me. Think about it. Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas and John C. Reilly all took roles that could've been played by much lesser actors. Same for Annette Benning. Benning was one of the weaker parts of the film. She wasn't bad, but her presence didn't work the same way it did for the others. 
  • Another reviewer, and I'm too lazy to look, pointed out that they regretted wasting Glenn Close in GOTG because this was the role for her! It got me thinking about missed opportunity. You can't help but think that Marvel feels like they wasted Bradley Cooper on Rocket. That thought got me thinking about how we missed out on a John C. Reilly Rocket and that makes me sad. (I'm all in on starting a Denzel Washington as Reed Richards movement.)
  • Soundtrack was the most fun since GOTG. For movies about space people, the Cosmic Marvel movies have the best music. Think about the fun Star Lord and Captain Marvel are going to have exchanging mix-tapes. Plus, a fight scene to I'm Just A Girl. Outstanding.
  • Goose. That's all. (Though I honestly wasn't crazy about his role in Fury becoming Fury.)
  • I had to look back and figure out how they got the Tesseract. There's been that many movies. 
  • The first credit scene actually gave me the chills. Seriously. I said I wasn't high on INFINITY WAR, but I literally got the chills when Captain Marvel said, "Where's Fury?"
So, go see it. It's fun. Unless you don't like seeing a female superhero kick ass. Then go back in your basement and do whatever it is you do.