Sunday, May 19, 2013
When J.J. Abrams was offered the reigns to the Star Trek franchise I remember feeling a genuine sense of relief. After seeing that former frontrunner Rick Berman had pretty much run the franchise into the ground with its various incarnations on TV, Star Trek was dangerously wearing thin on its audience, despite their rabid devotion. The iconic American staple was on life support.
Toiling in mediocrity, Star Trek was resurrected by
Paramount in 2009,
effectively hiring J.J. Abrams as its savior. Finally, the studio was willing
to give it its just due. Gone would be the penny pinching days of the past as Paramount poured over $150
million into Abram’s project. Star Trek
was back, and bigger than Gene Rodenberry ever could’ve imagined.
I liked the premise Abrams offered in his Trek reboot. Introduce a force that changes the timeline which would alter the path that the iconic characters would eventually take, the path we’ve all come to know, resulting in a completely unknown outcome. All bets were off as Abrams and crew could take the franchise in any direction they wanted – without destroying the rich history that came before.
I know it’s a bit convoluted and you may need to dust off your understanding of how time travel and alternate universes are hypothetically supposed to work. Or you could just rent another of Abram’s work, the television show Fringe, and get your temporary doctorate in Quantum Mechanics.
Of course there were some die hard fans up in arms. How could Abrams change the sacred canon? But the 500 pound caveat in the room was that Abrams really wasn’t changing canon; this was an entirely new history being made here. I could live with the idea of multiple universes existing. It was dare I say, fascinating. Abrams spoke about how having an alternate timeline would open up new ideas and take the characters to places never before taken– something he’d be able to tackle after the initial reboot in 2009. So here we are, four years later, and J.J. Abrams has made good on that promise. Well...sort of.
I’m not going to try and keep this spoiler free so if you haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness then you better stop reading now. What we have here with this film is an Abrams-verse quasi mash-up of the original Star Trek episode Space Seed and Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan. Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch really is playing Khan Noonien Singh, the character made famous by Ricardo Montalban. The sad part is his character in Into Darkness is hardly the real focus at all.
After months of denying that this was the case it turns out that Abrams was just toying with the fans as he usually does in the spirit of secrecy. He played the same coy game while he was filming Cloverfield. At the time, everyone thought that Cloverfield was just the code name for the actual film Abrams was working on, Voltron. Yeah, not so much; and to many a fan’s dismay it was about an alien under
New York City
who began wreaking havoc. Kind of like a
really big version of Mike Bloomberg stuck in the subway searching for people
carrying Big Gulps.
Into Darkness begins with the crew of the
on a developing planet whose indigenous population is at its earliest stage of
evolution. The natives are in danger of
extinction, as a nearby volcano is about to erupt. Kirk orders Spock to enter the volcano and
use a cold fusion device to render it inert.
Meanwhile, the shuttle used to lower Spock into the volcano becomes
damaged and needs to return to the Enterprise,
leaving Spock moments from certain death.
Kirk, realizing his first office and friend is about to die, orders his crew to move the
water no less) into transporter range – which also reveals the Enterprise to the primitive natives –
breaking the major rule in Starfleet, the Prime Directive. Of course Spock reminds Kirk that “the needs
of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”, a clear homage to Wrath of Khan, one of many in this
film. He pleads with Kirk to let him die
rather than expose the ship to the inhabitants of the planet. Of course Kirk wouldn’t allow that.
The crew heads back to earth with Kirk having to face the wrath of his mentor as he’s scolded and once again demoted to first officer by Admiral Pike. Regardless of Kirk’s actions you would think by now, Pike and Starfleet would have a bit more faith in him. Instead we see a retread where he gets demoted, alliterating to the original films. After his demotion we’re introduced to the two main antagonists of the film, first the head of Starfleet, Admiral Alexander Marcus played by Peter Weller and later on we are introduced to John Harrison, a.k.a. Khan.
Because of what happened in the previous film – more importantly the destruction of Vulcan by Nero – Admiral Marcus in his desperation to protect the Federation, decides to thaw Khan and utilize his advanced intellect to build even more deadly weapons to keep Starfleet ahead of the curve, starting with the USS Vengeance; just think a REALLY big version of the Enterprise.
In exchange for his help Marcus offered Khan and his crew their freedom. The audience has no idea that any of this subterfuge is taking place. Khan attacks London and Starfleet headquarters, killing Kirk’s mentor Admiral Pike and begins Marcus’ plot to draw the Federation into an all-out war against the Klingons.
Marcus reinstates Kirk to captain of the
and sends him on a mission to kill Harrison. The film touches on a few relevant and
current issues (drone strikes anyone?) when Marcus gives Kirk new long range
photon torpedoes to kill Harrison who’s taken refuge on the Klingon home world.
Tensions rise on the Enterprise as no one is comfortable with the idea of executing Khan without bringing him to justice to answer for his crimes. Scotty issues his displeasure with the weaponry being considered and resigns his commission. Spock pleads with Kirk to reconsider assassinating Khan and in the moment where Kirk addresses the crew of the Enterprise we see Kirk’s true nature, as he states that they’re on a mission to capture Harrison. Among the crew we have a stowaway in Doctor Carol Marcus. Yes, that Carol Marcus. Those of you unaware she was Kirk’s love interest whom he fathered a child with who was killed by Klingons.
What ensues is a film filled with constant action beats; almost too many since I thought it sacrificed some character growth. The core of what made Star Trek so great was the interrelationships created by each of the characters and unfortunately, this crew just doesn’t have the luxury of having spent that much time together. And because Abrams decided to use moments from Wrath of Khan, many scenes that are meant to spur great emotion come off as forced. And yes…someone screams KHANNNNNN! And it isn’t who you’d think. Et tu Spock?
The more I think of this film the more I think of the criticism William Shatner made to Abrams regarding his films when he said they lacked “heart”. At first I just took it as sour grapes on Shatner’s part but I can see what he means by his criticism – even if it is slightly unfair. Like I said these particular actors haven’t spent decades in the consciousness of moviegoers therefore you can’t expect to feel exactly the same for them as you would the original cast – no matter how inventive the script is.
The reveal of Harrison as Khan came across to me as a bit of a letdown. First, Cumberbatch physically looks nothing like the history of the character which was essentially supposed to be of Indian heritage. Cumberbatch’s thick English accent even led many fans to believe him to be an alternate timeline version of Jean-Luc Picard. Ironically the role of Harrison/Khan was originally offered to Benecio del Toro. Then there was the months of denying from Abrams that Khan would even make it into the film at all.
Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t a bad movie, far from it. It had a very moralistic message that resonates with the world we live in today. Maybe it was a bit too naïve for my tastes. Do we go down the same road Marcus does, trading long held values for the comfort of being secure? It’s interesting that Abrams and his team used the idea of long range photon torpedoes for Kirk to just kill Harrison – no questions, no trial – just a push of a button. Was it a condemnation of what we’ve become as a nation post 9/11? During the credits you see that the film is dedicated to the post 9/11 veterans with an iconic scene showing a Starfleet Honor Guard folding the Federation flag towards the end of the film.
Abrams makes Kirk question his purpose and his values and the film does the same to the viewers as well. Like last week’s Iron Man 3, Into Darkness is far from a perfect film. I had issues with the rehash of Khan and the ending – which I was almost not going to talk about here but decided I had to. When the Enterprise is falling to earth powerless, it is Kirk who realizes his purpose, and saves the Enterprise and her crew.
It was the death scene in Wrath of Khan, only flipped and it was a powerful scene and would’ve remained a powerful scene if Kirk would have been allowed to pay that ultimate price. Unfortunately Abrams played it safe as Bones discovered that Khan’s blood had Lazarus like abilities. So after Kirk “dies”, and after Spock takes on the final (unecessary?) battle to capture Khan (didn't Khan's crew also have the same type of life giving blood?), bringing him and his blood back to Bones, Kirk is injected and yes…lives again. In my opinion the worst part of the film as it downplayed the emotional impact of Kirk’s sacrifice and the original scene from Wrath of Khan, where Spock does the very same.
All Abrams had to do was allow Kirk to die, at least in the interim. An ending scene showing a distraught Carol Marcus in front of a computer screen with tears in her eyes, as she works on her “Genesis formula” would’ve set up the next film perfectly and even though it would have taken it’s clues yet again from the canon, it wouldn’t have lessened Kirk’s sacrifice. Not to mention it would’ve done exactly what Abrams always said he wanted to do – which is to put these characters in NEW situations we haven’t seen before.
The Sector gives Star Trek Into Darkness 3 out of 4.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
~ WARNING THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS! IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED, STOP! ~
~ LAST WARNING! ~
~ REALLY THIS IS IT! ~
When I heard that Shane Black was hired to replace Jon Favreau as the director for Iron Man 3, I wasn’t too sure of what to make of it. Black’s directorial resume isn’t exactly robust. His first and only time taking the helm was in 2005 when Black directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a film which co-starred Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey Jr. Sure it was a pretty damn good flick but was it really all that wise to hand the reigns of a billion dollar franchise over to someone with such little directorial experience?
Well, when I dove further into Black’s career I discovered that he was part of the writing team that gave us the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Monster Squad, and The Last Boy Scout. Ok, so his writing history makes up for his lack of directorial experience, even if he was ultimately responsible for the screenplay to the grand disaster that was The Last Action Hero. Well what do ya want, nobody’s perfect.
I review films in two ways, the first being my initial gut reaction while I’m seeing the movie and the other is usually a day or two later, when I’m tearing the story a new a-hole. Knowing that Shane Black’s filmmaking background is more heavily weighted on the writing side makes me both intrigued but also very discerning of his work on Iron Man 3. And after I researched his film history, I could see how he uses certain themes throughout his writing career. I’ll get to that later on.
Iron Man 3 takes place not too far removed from the events of last summer’s, The Avengers, as we find Tony Stark suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from what he experienced in New York. He ends up suffering from insomnia and fills his time building a massive army of Iron Man suits for just about every possible threat – simultaneously alienating his love, Pepper Potts, again played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Tony begins to struggle with the question, “is he just a man in a tin suit” in a world with dangers far more deadly than he could ever imagine or handle?
Early on we’re introduced to main baddie in the film, The Mandarin, played by Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley. In Shane Black’s world he’s essentially an amalgam of every enemy the United States has ever faced – be it Al Qaeda or the North Koreans. It’s a total deviation from the canon of the comics which had him more as an Asian mystical sorcerer; not exactly something that can be easily translated onto the big screen at least not with today’s savvy audience. Therein lay one of the really outstanding issues I had with this film and that too I’ll explain later on.
The Mandarin is threatening the world with an undetectable type of IED essentially. The technology known as Extremis, earned rave reviews when it was first introduced in the iron Man comics back in 2005. It’s a bio-weapon of the super soldier variety that makes whoever is injected with it invulnerable and apparently a mini human microwave oven set to overload and explode if let uncontrolled. The plot device wouldn’t exist without the secondary(?) baddie in the film, Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce.
As the film starts it takes us back to 1999, and shows us that if anything, Tony Stark has consistently been a social SOB. In fact he runs into Killian at a Y2K New Years Eve party, who tries to sell Tony his idea of Extremis only to be dismissed by Tony as a kook. You begin to see the web that is being weaved here if you’re keen enough to notice that in one scene at the party is the man who was a prisoner with Tony in Afghanistan. If you remember from the first film, it was this man, Yinsen, who saved Tony’s life by constructing an electro-magnet keeping shrapnel from entering his heart. It seems Tony has been set up by the Mandarin all along.
Everyone, from Downey to Kingsley, Cheadle and even Paltrow all give excellent performances here. I single out Kingsley because Black took an absolutely HUGE chance with his character that has upset the die-hards to no end. I warned you there would be spoilers so; stop reading RIGHT NOW if you don’t want to know. Too late… the Mandarin in Shane Black’s world is a total manufactured fraud. He’s an actor hired by Killian to be used as a pawn fueling everyone’s fear but essentially he’s a straw man. I found it hilarious when and how it was revealed in the film. It was pretty damn witty. Kingsley is just such a great actor and I can see why they wanted him to play the Mandarin.
Now even though I found it a funny use of misdirection to have the Mandarin portrayed as a drunken English actor, I can totally relate to the hardcore fans of Iron Man who find this to be absolutely sacrilegious. To explain it better, how would fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy feel if he gave Heath Ledger’s treatment of the Joker the same (in)justice, and turned him into a useful fool? Initially I chuckled but later on I found it disrespectful of the canon. I hope Zach Snyder doesn’t have any smart ass ideas up his sleeve regarding Lex Luthor in Man of Steel. The Sector WILL have issues if he does.
What I liked about Iron Man 3 was how it dealt with Tony Stark’s past and how he’s basically been the same person even prior becoming Iron Man, basically a douche, but fortunately a likeable one at that. Shane Black shows how Tony Stark has always kept everyone at arms length. But the thing is he’s not aloof in fact he actually remembers everything and everyone; he uses his faux aloofness as a cover. It’s interesting because Shane Black uses many repeating themes throughout the films he’s been a part of. The alliterations to the Lethal Weapon series are incredibly obvious and while it made me roll my eyes when I dissected Iron Man 3, I admit while watching it, I was totally buying it.
The only other main issue I had with Iron Man 3 was literally the final few minutes of the film. After finally coming to grips with his humanity, Tony acknowledges both his limitations but that HE is Iron Man, not the tech, not the armor. Here’s where it went south for me. So with that realization Tony decides to have heart surgery to remove the shrapnel surrounding his heart. You know the shrapnel that could NOT be removed without causing him a cardiac arrest and that annoying thing known as DEATH. Really Shane? Really?
Tony had a key line from The Avengers, when he spoke of having this “terrible privilege” that his injury had given him. Literally in a matter of probably 3 screen minutes, by downplaying Tony’s need for the ARC reactor to keep him alive, Shane Black pretty much took a royal crap on the canon of Iron Man. And Marvel allowed it. There are a few other nit-picky things I could bring up such as when the Mandarin sent choppers to destroy Tony’s home and why THEN he didn’t unleash his army of armored suits to take them out. But I won’t. You have to come at these movies with an open mind and you have to be able to suspend disbelief to some degree, otherwise you’ll go crazy with the minutia.
I enjoyed Iron Man 3. It wasn’t perfect and like I said I think it had two really HUGE flaws but it’s impossible to say that the slate isn’t clean for just about any possibility now. I’m interested to see where Marvel takes this. The Sector gives Iron Man 3, three out of four.
Monday, April 29, 2013
|Cue the ending theme song from "The Incredible Hulk"|
So a little over a year ago, your humble blogger extraordinaire introduced the world to The Spector Sector and with that initial foray into the world of online opinion spewing came the story of the day, which was that the New York Jets traded their 4th round draft pick to the Denver Broncos for quarterback Tim Tebow. Fast forward to present day and we can see how the
mighty, err I mean how the weak have continued to dig
their shithole further into the ground as the New York Jets announced today
that they have released Tim Tebow.
This is a story that would even make Hunter S. Thompson do a double and perhaps a triple take but nevertheless it’s the truth. They say that truth is stranger than fiction and the very same could be said of this man made drama, and yes that’s pretty much what it was. What else could it have been? Tebow, cost the Jets a 4th round pick, $1.5 million clams, plus the $2.5 million clams they sent John Elway to just pry his death grip off Tebow’s contract. And what pray tell did the Jets get out of this deal you ask? Tebow took about 70 snaps on offense. He was 6 for 8 in passing for 39 yards. He ran the ball 32 times for 102 yards. No touchdowns. No bended knee glory shots post touchdowns. No glory whatsoever. All in all, just a shit bang of a deal. Thanks Tannenbaum.
I don’t blame Tebow, he is what he is. The thing is, I wish I friggin knew what he is or was. He could very well be just another really good college football quarterback that earned the spotlight during his collegiate years; he did win the Heisman. That’s no easy task but not one that always translates into NFL readiness. He was never really given a fair chance though whether the excuse was his inability or the fact that Mark Sanchez earns about 50 gillion a year and still finds it necessary to shove his head up his centers ass. We can’t have talent like that riding the pine can we?
|Sanchez: "I'm looking for my talent. |
Brandon Moore: "MY PANCREAS!"
So what was the point of bringing Tebow here in the first place? Was it to light a fire under Sanchez with the primal fear that he could lose his job to Tebow at any given moment? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Perhaps it was the conspiratorial idea that Tebow was here to give the team some buzz? Yeah because nothing spells great buzz like having a born-again, who lives a clean, religious and pious life. How the tabloids didn’t salivate at having that as their icon of attention I’ll never know. And by no means do I fault the man for his lifestyle, just the boobs who think he was here to sell something beyond playing the game.
The Jets released a statement today with a quote from head coach Rex “Tinactin Toes” Ryan saying:
“We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow,” Ryan said in the statement. “Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped. Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason. We wish him the best moving forward.”
Well there you have it, everything
explained in one
succinct statement from the guy who’s deep in the know. Don’t you feel so much more hopeful for the
future of the Jets now? I sure know I
Friday, April 5, 2013
Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.- Graham Greene
British author Graham Greene – who suffered from bi-polar disorder – spoke of the therapeutic need most writers have to utilize their own life experiences and incorporate it into their writing. I for one can’t imagine not having this as my own private pressure valve. I know for a fact that I would lose it. Some people turn to friends. Some turn to family. Some even turn to vices. Sometimes, I turn to all the above but always, without fail, I turn to writing. Having this blog - as open a place as I make it to the public - has afforded me the opportunities to do just that. And to you the reader, I want you to know that your interest in what interests me and everything I write about here, is humbling.
I recently had to make one of the toughest decisions anyone has to make in life - when is the right time to end the life of your pet? First off, I never thought of Pesci, our 10 year old Lhasa Aspo, as a “pet”. Most animal trainers are quick to point out that we shouldn’t bestow too much humanity onto our pets especially if they’re to be properly trained – because after all, they’re animals. Well, color me improper then. Pesci wasn’t just the family pet, he was family. Should I have treated him more like a pet, perhaps, but I was never interested in having a circus sideshow entertainer for a pet. Besides other than being spoiled (tell me a family dog that isn’t), Pesci was as good a companion as you could ever ask for.
The Lhasa Apso have quite a rich history dating back over 4000 years having originated in Tibet and carries the Tibetan name Apso Seng Kyi, which translates into “Bearded Lion Dog”. They are considered the 14th most ancient dog breed in the world and were bred as the interior sentinels guarding the Buddhist monasteries alerting the monks to any danger. If you ever get a chance, check out the film Seven Years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt. The Lhasa’s are prominent throughout the film and according to Buddhist’s the bodies of the Lhasa’s could be entered by the souls of the departed lamas while they await reincarnation into a new body. Keep that thought in mind – you’ll see what I mean later on.
Pesci filled a void in our lives when my grandmother passed away. He became very attached to my mother, who became his de-facto master. Lhasa’s have a reputation for being loyal to their owners and a bit temperamental to outsiders. Let’s just say Pesci lived up to his name quite well. At first he was a handful, as most puppies are. But we were patient and consistent with him and eventually he began to mellow – a bit.
He wasn’t destructive and he got along with other dogs quite well. Even strangers didn’t faze him very much as his breed is generally known to be wary of outsiders. But Pesci wasn’t a lap dog; unlike their close cousins, the Shih Tzu, which are. Pesci definitely had an independent streak. He was the active duty Marine to the Shih Zhu’s Reservist.
For some reason, Pesci had it in for my grandfather. It was absolutely comical. For whatever reason he just couldn’t seem to get along with him, to the point that just being in his presence set him off. The running joke in my family became that Pesci must have had my grandmother’s soul in him and this was simply 50 + years of marital payback. Ironically enough when my grandfather was in Hospice and in the final stages of his life, Pesci wouldn’t leave his side.
On the evening before he passed Pesci began acting erratic as did my grandfather who began hallucinating and pointing to a corner in the room where he said he saw his wife calling him. It was the very same spot that Pesci sat eerily still, staring at the very same wall, barking. I believe like children, animals can see things that the rest of us are unable to. Perhaps it’s their common innocence that allows it, but I believe it to be true. Either way, it seemed to us, that Pesci, ever the guardian, helped guide my grandfather into his final journey.
Time passed and like any of us as we age we start losing our edge and eventually begin to break down. For Lhasa’s, it’s generally their spines that becomes susceptible to early arthritis and eventual paralysis or their eyes, in which a genetic disorder called progressive retinal atrophy occurs, causing blindness. For Pesci, he fell into the latter. What was originally thought to be simple conjunctivitis was in actuality something that was neither preventable nor curable.
As his blindness progressed there were noticeable changes in his entire demeanor. Gone were the days of playing fetch or his 3 o’clock mad dash running circles around the coffee table until he puttered out. He definitely had his quirks; I’m not going to sugar coat it. He was loveable but at times he could be one ornery little fuzz ball. He became easily frightened, which only exacerbated the aggressiveness. The Pesci we all knew would never be the same. Then the day came when my 2 ½ year old daughter, while playing, accidentally stepped on his tail. Pesci snapped at her. Luckily since he couldn’t see, he snapped in the opposite direction she was standing. My heart went to my throat and I knew at that moment, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. Something had to be done.
My wife and I started reaching out to shelters to see if we could find one that would adopt Pesci. We began our search locally and eventually tried out of state shelters through the internet. Basically each shelter would be more than willing to take in any animal with just about any ailment; be it a dog with three legs, blind, deaf, and barking in Aramaic, but when we mentioned the aggression, it sparked the same result. No shelter would be willing to take in a blind dog that could potentially harm someone. It was a heartbreaking and utterly defeating moment for all of us because we knew what the only other option was. The last thing I would’ve wanted was for another family to be placed in a similar position as this but knowing that still didn’t make our decision any easier.
The drive to our veterinarian’s office was surreal and heartbreaking. Tears were running down our face. Pesci was never a huge fan of car rides as he’d always whimper as he lay in the backseat. This time he was silent. I’m not sure if that made it worse or better but it definitely made us unsure of what we were doing. Our Vet, a tall and slender gray haired man, had a pained look on his face as he was well aware of why we were here. He knew of these moments all too well. But here I was in all of my 38 years – in this position for the very first time.
Every day I wrestle with the decision we had to make. Was it the right thing to do? Could I have done more? Each time those thoughts enter my mind I see my daughter, and I’m thankful that her last memories of Pesci weren’t tragic. I know for a fact if they were, I wouldn’t have forgiven myself. Sometimes in life we’re faced with having to make absolutely impossible choices. This was definitely one of them. Our hearts are emptier today without Pesci and I know we’ll never forget the fun and unconditional love he gave to us for the time we were lucky enough to call him family.
Goodbye my little buddy.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
You know I’m beginning to think that maybe those Mayan’s were just really bad at record keeping. When actual news stories start to read as if they were hatched over at The Onion, you start to wonder if the Mayan they left in charge of their calendar had one too many the night before he sent it to print. My reasoning behind that: Take a look at the Mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg. It seems that the self-made billionaire financier, turned politician, turned defender of all New Yorker’s with elevated blood pressure, has been waging war on a massive scale for the last few years.
Waging war against what you ask? Could it be unemployment, which is at 8.8% in
New York City
and higher than the national average?
Not a chance slick don’t you know, we’re in a recovery. The media says so. Is it against Al-Qaeda? Don’t be silly, we have them on the run. The President says so. Hell we can even bring knives on airplanes
again. Besides, Al-Qaeda only cares
about overseas diplomatic posts now. Oh
wait, wasn’t it a silly YouTube video that caused that tragedy?
No my friends, you see the Honorable Hizzoner Euphegenia Doubtfire, finally found his political niche; he’s fighting the Jihad of all Jihads’: an intifada on soda, salt and just about any other vice that makes it into his crosshairs. He’s even taking on excess earbud volume (really I swear I’m not making this up) and–wait for it—the evil incarnate that is BABY FORMULA.
Now before you try to Google any of that, please, allow a few minutes for it to marinate in your brain if anything just to remind you of the fools we the people elect to public office. Even though there’s a strong likelihood that Andy Warhol will be reincarnated and ooze from your eardrum, take this moment to reflect. Ok you can breathe easy now; you’re not really crazy, just a bit misguided and occasionally fooled, kind of like a Taylor Swift ex.
Here we have the elected mayor of the largest city in America with over 8 million residents, with a legislative plate that should be quite full of real issues, working tirelessly to get his constituents to eat and drink and behave exactly how he would like them to. And to boot, he’s more than willing to use whatever executive powers he has as Mayor to force them to relent—no matter the ancillary effects. Effects like those silly separation of powers doctrines politicians are supposed to adhere to by you know that other silly thing called THE LAW.
But what’s having a little nuisance like the law that’s ever stopped this mayor? New York City had firm term limits in place until he convinced the City Council to allow him to run for a third term—how’s that working out for you New Yorker’s? He like so many politicians who prefer we do as they say --like good little lemmings--versus as they do themselves; but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of my indignation with this elected uber-nanny—and I’m not even a resident of New York.
He’s been fairly predictable Mayor Bloomberg. He started with a city wide initiative to reduce trans-fats in food served in city restaurants. After that his many targets became smoking in public –banning it in public parks and in city restaurants and bars. His assault continued when he focused his ire against salt-part of an overall initiative to combat high blood pressure in 2010- which took center stage at Gracie Mansion. So insane his rationale that he's instituted a ban on food that is donated to homeless shelters that cannot have their salt,fat and fiber content assessed. Of course we’re all aware of his desire to ban large sugary drinks, which was recently struck down in court as being an overreach of his executive powers.
|Somebody pass the salt, oh wait, damn.|
And just when you thought he’s had his fill of social tinkering, Major Bloombito (as his FAKE Twitter account parodying his less than eloquent use of the Spanish language would say) is becoming “loco en la cabeza”, deciding that excessive earbud noise is becoming a chronic danger to all human life within the 5 boroughs. I find myself constantly trying to remind you that I’m not making any of this up. With that said, I give you the piece de resistance – Mayor Mike has decided in his infinite wisdom—that he would like to STRESS to new mothers the benefits of breast feeding their children versus using baby formula. This man is a gift to comedians, political and social pundits alike. In fact he brings new meaning to the term “the gift that keeps on giving”.
The problem I have with this ninny nanny of a Mayor is how he’s using his position as an elected official, to micromanage people’s lives—all the while thumbing his nose at the legislative process and at the very same people he claims to be so concerned over. Somehow I find it hard to believe that when Jefferson and the boys sat down in Philly to hash out this whole concept of a free nation, that they envisioned anything remotely close to this.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m in favor of people binging on Big Gulp’s until they’re blood registers as a natural sweetener or seeing people gorge themselves on Big Mac’s until the secret sauce oozes out of their pores. Although I've heard Nancy Pelosi can't say enough about it's anti-oxidant benefits. I’m just, as most people are, sick of elected officials trying to control every aspect of our lives and force us to behave in ways they believe is acceptable. That is not what government—at least ours- was ever designed to do. If anything it was that type of encroachment into people lives (not to mention those pesky little things like taxation without representation) that formed this nation in the first place.
Imagine if Mayor McNumbnutt decided that he wanted to lower the rates of abortions in New York City and pushed some half-baked idea using the city’s Department of Health as his vehicle. Some of the very same people who’ve been silent on the mayor’s mini-rampages would suddenly find their collective voices to protest. And I’m quite sure the media would find a way to highlight their anger on a daily basis. What are you saying Spector, that the media picks and chooses who and what they prefer in the national debate, skewing it just enough to frame the issue? Of course that never happens.
|Let them eat cake, or pastrami on rye.|
Remember this, anytime a politician tries to micro-manage your life, a founding father loses his wings. Whether it’s the social engineering of the left or that of the right neither should be excused. Society isn’t some Petri dish used for a politician’s grand experiment nor is it government’s responsibility to tell us how to live. That’s where freedom and responsibility kick in. Remember the old saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. With so many greater issues that are at play you have to wonder if people like Michael Bloomberg are simply bored with their jobs.
I guess when you become a billionaire and want to kill a little time you either run for mayor and try to force people to do what you’d like them to do or you create a reality TV show pitting celebrities against one another for their favorite charity. Maybe Mayor Mike can hire Dennis Rodman as his public relations director when he gets back from negotiating peace with North Korea. I’ll take my liberty with a side order of stay the hell out of my life you nitwit politicians and a large Coke. Damn you Mayan record keepers. Damn you.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Every now and again something occurs in my life that makes me either shake my head or want to shake someone else’s head—often violently -- with the fleeting hope that doing so would magically scramble and reset their questionable thought process without causing any long term damage. Sometimes I even resort to utilizing Mr. Tyzik’s tactic, gleefully taking out my frustration on those “flatheads”. Using forced perspective to pinch the heads off of your adversaries may get you some odd looks my friends but don’t knock it ‘till you try it. Its inherent cathartic qualities can do wonders. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really ready for anger management classes, yet. I’m lucky enough to say that just being with my 2 ½ year old daughter has done more to put my life into perspective than anything The Kids in the Hall ever had to offer. She has the light switch to my heart this little kid.
Now that she’s getting older and more aware of the world around her, I’m able to share more of what I enjoy with her and see how she reacts to understanding it. This is her second season watching, rooting and generally hanging out with me as I go through the emotional roller coaster that is being a Met fan. Of course this is something I always imagined doing ever since I could remember watching the Mets with my father as a child. It’s more than just a rite of passage or bonding. To me, I’m imprinting memories of our time together that I hope she’ll keep with her for all the days of her life. I guess the older I become, the more cognizant I am that this gift that is life isn’t guaranteed by age. My father wasn’t even 50 when he passed. There’s just so much that I want to show her, teach her, and experience with my daughter that sometimes I have to be mindful not to overcompensate, she is just a 2 ½ year old and I do plan on sticking around for a while, God willing.
One of the characteristics she seems to share with me is a love of reading. Granted she goes from Elmo to Mickey to Dora the Explorer in a matter of minutes – her attention span is fickle-- then again so is mine and I’m old so who am I to complain. I’m trying to get into the habit of reading to her. In fact I’ve already lined up the books that I want to read to her as she gets older. Of course there will have to be the classics but I wouldn’t be a proper parent to a young and becoming Met fan if I didn’t find a way to sneak in Faith and Fear in Flushing or Total Mets in there, maybe even The Bad Guys Won just to keep it fresh and edgy. Don’t worry I’d censor anything that came out of Dykstra’s mouth—including the chaw. But there’s one genre of literature that I’m going to introduce to her not because it was one of my favorites. In fact it was my least favorite form of writing because I found it so difficult to interpret – the world of poetry was never kind to me. But there were always exceptions.
I was never really attracted to poetry growing up. It wasn’t until I was in college and was lucky enough to have a professor, Mr. Chauncey G. Parker, who taught English Literature. Mr. Parker was quite the interesting cat. For one, he worked in the Lyndon Johnson administration and if I recall, he did some work for the United Nations as well. We would get into some really interesting arguments regarding policy and politics in general. We really didn’t agree on a lot but he was an amazing professor; never trying to indoctrinate as so many do in academia these days. He was a bona fide Renaissance Man. He wrote a novel, The Visitor, a crazy psychological horror about a man who becomes obsessed with a rodent that has overrun his upscale New York brownstone. His novel was later turned into a film starring Peter Weller, Robocop himself. Hey don’t laugh; I’m pretty sure there aren’t many of us that can boast that on our resumes. But Mr. Parker in his best Northeastern, Hyannis Port, Bostonian voice, explained to me the amazing talent that was Robert Frost.
Robert Frost is one of America’s most popular and storied poets of the 20th century. His works have been studied over by students and scholars alike. Some of his classic works include The Pasture (1913), Mountain Interval (1916) and the beginnings of New Hampshire: A poem with Notes and Grace Notes (1923), which contained “Fire and Ice”, and my favorite, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, his masterwork. It was that poem which reminded me of why I’m a Met fan. I know what you’re thinking, how in God’s name does a Frost poem translate into something relatable to a Met fan? Well first off here’s the poem:
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Frost wrote this poem supposedly in an evening sitting and during a time of great personal frustration—something Met fans can easily sympathize with. Practically our entire history has been wrought with frustration on some level. Like all poetry, it’s subject to one’s own interpretation; Frost’s Snowy Evening is no exception. The woods, to some, describe the edge of civilization. To me the Met fan it describes the team. They are equally irrational and yet garner consistent support. It’s those qualities that attract us as fans and what attracts readers to the woods. They are restful, seductive, lovely and dark…like oblivion. Also like our team, at times. The woods can represent madness, the looming irrational and of course also beauty.
The owner of the woods (us and not Wilpon) –lives in this village – and travels there on the darkest day of the year. Perhaps this an alliteration of how we’ve stuck by this team even during their most dire and desperate times? It’s the basic conflict in the poem, which is resolved in the last stanza. What attracts us to the woods and what force (responsibility, frustration, and exacerbation?) pushes us away from the woods occasionally? This is the division between the village (the fans) and the woods (the Mets). It’s not as if the woods are particularly frightening or wicked, yet they still posses the seeds of the irrational, just waiting to prey on our emotions.
The woods, as much as it draws us in, consistently finds ways to repel us, drawing us away. “Society” in baseball terms could be translated into “the experts” –always pointing out the negative and condemning us from staying here in the dark, in the snow—why would we care for such a flawed team? With the last two lines, “And miles to go before I sleep” being repeated. Is it a forewarning? Are we masochists for this team of ours; do we have some sort of death wish? Or do we take it as Frost did that he had many good years of poetry still left in him and that we still have many more years of torture…I mean love for our team? Damn, poetry can be annoying.
Unlike the majority who see the darkness in this poem, I take the positive from it. I don’t try to dwell on the flaws this team of ours have. We know it as well as a geneticist knows what composes DNA. The Mets are in our DNA, it’s who we are, for better or worse and as long as there’s a hope for the future –and there almost always is even in our team’s darkest days—we stand true. We argue we root, we hem and haw. We sometimes take it too far and retract, remembering our roots. But we come. Every Spring, we come.
Somewhere, I hope Chauncey G. Parker III Is smiling. Smiling that I’m willingly passing down to a new generation – a new set of tortures—and enjoying every bit of it.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Last last year the National Geographic Channel aired a docu-drama based on the Navy Seal raid that killed the Al-Qaeda terrorist leader and mastermind of the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden. The film was told from the perspective of the soldiers who initiated the raid, Seal Team Six. It aired just two days before the Presidential election and was produced by Harvey Weinstein, a major supporter of the President’s. Naturally it created a furor as some assumed it would be a late-inning puff piece intended to influence undecided voters towards the President. Well, needless to say, it’s doubtful that the docu-drama did anything to sway voters in any direction, even though it did accentuate the President’s leadership.
Two months later, the big budget
version depicting the raid in Zero Dark
Thirty has hit theaters. Kathryn
Bigelow and Mark Boal, the director and writer of The Hurt Locker, take on bin Laden and the mythos encompassing the
CIA, two Presidencies and the military – and may have scored another critical
hit. The big difference between ZDT and its Nat Geo little brother is
that Bigelow focuses all her attention on the decade-plus long investigation
spearheaded at the CIA by Maya, (played by Jessica Chastain who has been
nominated for best actress) a young woman who was recruited right out of
college who’s only task has been to hunt down the world’s most wanted man.
The film is based on obvious true events and producers were given incredible access to certain information by the Obama administration, however Bigelow had the daunting task of keeping viewers riveted even though the outcome and ending was a given. By presenting the story to the audience through the eyes of Chastain, Bigelow was able to do what all great filmmakers are able to do—she created a film that made you emotionally invest in the main character. Early in the film we are shown a scene where Chastain and the CIA field agent Dan (played by Jason Clarke), are in the process of interrogating a man with information on a courier that worked for bin Laden. What ensues is probably the most controversial part of the film as it portrays “enhanced interrogation” including waterboarding scenes.
Personally I’ve always been on the fence regarding “enhanced interrogations” and much of what the post 9-11 world that President Bush both dealt with and helped to initiate under his watch. While some tactics are a necessary evil in the end, we do have to remain vigilant in not relishing them (see Abu Gharib). Regardless your opinion of the man, it’s hard to say that the tactics that he pushed through including the “enhanced interrogations” didn’t provide the intel our clandestine services needed to finally capture bin Laden. That’s not to say that “enhanced interrogations” alone were the reason he was finally captured – no endeavor of this magnitude can lend its success to one practice.
Is it morally ambiguous not to afford Geneva Convention rights to enemy combatants because they aren’t fighting for a particular sovereign nation? Perhaps it is. Then again is waterboarding torture? Is playing Gwar at 200 decibels around the clock? These are part of the psychological games the CIA used to weaken the resolve of some detainees. Some tactics may have played fast and loose constitutionally but one could argue if they weren’t done, would bin Laden have ever been caught? And to Bigelow’s credit, she didn’t try to paint President Obama as some Christ-like deity as compared to his predecessor’s Satan. The world is a far more complicated place than that and Bigelow is clearly aware of that throughout the film even if some of President Obama’s most strident supporters aren’t.
Bigelow takes a very straightforward systematic approach to the hunt for bin Laden in ZDT. At times it seemed a bit too procedural bordering on banal but given the length of the actual investigation and the stakes that were at risk, I’m sure those involved were anything but banal. Unfortunately that’s how it translated on film. Not to mention that much of Maya’s yeoman’s work is treated as commonplace as your typical office employee. That in itself lends to the view that much of the work done to capture bin Laden was tedious and often times unproductive—prompting her superiors to question her tactics--so Bigelow’s answer to that was to jump ahead a few years into the investigation.
To offset the rigidity of the pace of the film, Bigelow and Boal take advantage of the character of Maya to its fullest. Shining a light on her solitude as she’s so alone-- consumed by the hunt—Chastain owns this role without question. Even as she’s consistently beaten down by both her superiors lack of faith in her to struggles in the investigation, it’s her resolve that keeps the audience hooked and if you’ve ever seen the Showtime series Homeland, which is also led by a strong female protagonist, you’ll appreciate Chastain’s character even more as she actually represents someone who does exist—albeit without the neuroses of the character from Homeland.
The best example of her resolve comes when one of her colleagues was blown up by a suicide car bomber at the Camp Chapman base in Afghanistan in 2009, killing 7 CIA agents. Because Maya was spared, she believes it to be an omen that she’s meant to finish the job. She tells the Seals at the camp, wary of her and the CIA’s presence, “I’m gonna smoke everybody involved in this op,” speaking about the attack. “And then I’m gonna kill bin Laden”, prompting a few raised eyebrows from the Seal unit, not accustomed to such steeliness from a CIA field agent.
The supporting cast is stocked. You have the Deputy Director played by Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) shouting at his agents in a conference room, “I want targets! Bring me people to kill! Do your fucking jobs!” James Gandolfini plays Leon Panetta, the CIA Director (now the outgoing Secretary of Defense) and along with them were Kyle Chandler as Maya’s cautious station chief, Edgar Ramirez as a CIA operative who tracks bin Laden’s courier, and Jennifer Ehle as a fellow veteran CIA agent. Each one did an amazing job with what they were given.
We finally head into the last 45 minutes of the film, introducing Seal Team 6 and the raid itself. What was a methodical investigative quickly grabs it’s war footing and takes us into what it must have been like to finally achieve one of the greatest battlefield victories in modern history. The raid itself, while bereft with its own problems (the hard landing of the stealth Blackhawk which later had to be destroyed) changes the viewers point of view, taking on the perspective of the Seal team. I found it interesting that even though I knew the outcome, I was still riveted and at times unsure of what was to come. It was ironic because it was that feeling of helplessness that Maya conveyed for the first time in the film, when everything was out of her control.
Zero Dark Thirty will certainly cement itself in cinematic history if anything for its subject matter and what it means to each viewer on a personal level. Is it flawed? Yes. Bigelow actually received little help logistically if any as she had zero access to weaponry or aircraft. Did Kathryn Bigelow use whatever access she was given to fall in suit with 90% of Hollywood and use this film as a political statement, no. This was neither a film that carried a torch for the President nor one that drove a stake in the heart of his predecessor. She created a drama akin to an episode of Law and Order but one that transitioned, at the pivotal moment, into the most significant on-screen adaptation of the most important military action of recent time.
In the end, after the Seal team successfully completes the mission, we see an emotionally spent Maya, unsure of what to feel—completely lost in the moment. She’s given the task of confirming the identity of bin Laden’s corpse—confirming that it was him and confirming for the audience that the long struggle to bring the world’s most wanted man to justice was accomplished. And Kathryn Bigelow has accomplished an excellent look into history in the process.