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Showing posts from February, 2017

Taraji P. Henson is My New Favorite Human

I fell asleep well before the Academy Awards ended. And what an ending I missed, apparently. Sounds like a screw-up for the ages. Must've been interesting to see it happen live.

From the hour and a half that I did watch, my two favorite moments were Mahershala Ali's Best Supporting Actor win for Moonlight and then his touching and thoughtful acceptance speech. The man thanked his teachers! It's always heartwarming when actors use these speeches as a way to give thanks to people who helped set them on the path.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Suicide Squad is now The Academy Award Winning Suicide Squad. Yes, we live in a world where that is true. And I kind of love that.

But then today I saw this series of GIFs and realized that, hands down, Taraji P. Henson was the clear winner last night. In a room full of high-brow wannabes and pretentiously-serious thespians, Henson's hilarious reaction shots—like when she catches a bag of candy dropped from on high—reveal …

Songs in the Key of Life: Some Kinda Love / Sister Ray

Lou Reed's solo career was anything but predictable and while often brilliant, it could also be generously described as inconsistent. When he was inspired, he created some truly outstanding music during the decades after he quit the Velvet Underground. When that creativity faltered though, well, he made music like "My Red Joystick."

The early 1980s were a peak period for Reed. He was working with one of the all-time underappreciated guitarists, former law student and rabid Velvets fan Robert Quine. The Blue Mask (1982) is the essential studio document from this era, a revealingly personal album where Reed is brutally honest about his life, his past, his alcoholism, his fears and his anxieties. The album still hits hard all these years later. Like The Who's (and thus Pete Townshend's) nakedly honest The Who By Numbers, The Blue Mask is absolutely crucial for understanding where the artists were emotionally during those years.

Then in 1984 he released the live rec…

It Came From the '90s: Waking Up

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

These days it seems "woke" is everywhere, especially on social media. It's hashtag-shorthand for becoming aware, having your eyes opened to the stark and disturbing realities faced by millions of citizens in this country and around the globe every day. Understanding inequality, being cognizant of privilege and how it influences and shapes your thoughts and behavior. Trying to exhibit empathy for those who do not share in your birthright's privilege.

If people were uttering the phrase "get woke" back in the early 1990s, I certainly wasn't aware of it in my sleepy suburban town. Yet I most definitely had a woke moment in high school, fall of '92, when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It sounds like hyperbole, but that book changed my life. It made me cognizant of the fundamental and irrefutable fact of my white privilege while als…

Writing Roundup: Cult Classics Across Mediums

While I've been slow to update around here this month, I've at least had a few articles and reviews published elsewhere since the New Year. Here they are, for your reading pleasure. As always, links to each are included below.

In early January I looked at the totally underrated cult classic and longtime favorite of mine, Nighthawks. It stars Sly Stallone, Bill Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, and Lindsay Wagner. For those keeping score, that's Rocky/Rambo, Lando, Roy Batty, and the Bionic Freaking Woman. All in one film, at the height of their respective powers. Hauer steals the shows but Sly and Billy Dee bring it in this wildly entertaining 1981 action flick. It's also a time capsule for a version of NYC that doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Then I turned my eye towards the latest in The Purge series, The Purge: Election Year. In my review I talk about some of the film's similarities to our current, and insane, state of affairs in the United States. Spoilers: I lov…

Making an Impact

Sometimes someone helps to set you on a path. If you're lucky, you might even have a teacher who serves that role. We all need a push now and then, after all. I've been thinking about one such person recently.

I read an article about teachers who changed writers' lives. Immediately, Mrs. Vernon came to mind for me. Back in the early 1990s she was my English teacher. I'm fuzzy on the years but I think I had her for sophomore and senior English. I also took a film class that she taught my senior year.
Mrs. Vernon was not the first great teacher I'd had, but she was definitely one of the first to see things in me that others had not—dueling passions for things like reading, writing, film, and learning. She nurtured and encouraged these passions. I was a shy kid, introverted and often lost in my world. I was also a voracious reader, aspiring writer, and budding film junkie. Mrs. Vernon rather quickly recognized all of those interests and then set about inspiring me to…

Barely Making a Dent: February 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

My politics-induced malaise has not only made writing difficult lately, but it's also slowed my reading. I've been so worn out from reacting to the constant stream of insanity flowing out of the White House that I can't seem to muster the energy to read much in one sitting lately. This means I'm progressing at a snail's pace through the one novel that I'm reading now...

Currently reading

Moonglow, by Michael Chabon. I'm about a third of the way through Chabon's new novel. He's most likely my favorite novelist, so it disappoints to admit this, but so far Moonglow hasn't hooked me. That said, it's still filled with passages and even sentences that absolutely sing, in that way that Chabon has of making words strung together seem infinitely more meaningful and beautiful than you'd ever thought they could …