All posts by monotrememadness

Oh, hey, I didn't see you there. Hello! My name is Alex, and I am a twenty-something Midwesterner making comical observations of everyday life. Occasionally I can call upon my bachelor's degree in biology to help me sound like I know what I'm talking about, especially when discussing animals. I am a lover of nature, science, sports, movies, and the power of rock and roll, and I love to share my thoughts on these and other subjects with anyone who will listen.

Equalizer Rights

In soccer, or as the rest of the world outside of the United States calls it: football, an equalizer is a goal that evens up the score. Typically, this goal is scored by the team that’s trailing, but now we may be at the cusp of witnessing the far superior winners finally knock in their equalizer. Sounds paradoxical, right? To which I’ll reply, the world of women’s rights is a realm that’s mindbending to say the least. To illustrate this, let’s look at some numbers.

Allow me to channel my inner Robert Baratheon and ask, which is the higher number? It stands to reason that:

8 > 6

and

4 > 0

and most importantly of all

3 > 0

Actually, the most important numbers for us to look at here are these:

99,000 < 263,320

What exactly do all of these numbers mean? They relate to the United States National Soccer Teams. The numbers on the left represent the US Women’s team and the numbers on the right represent the US Men’s team. The top set is the number of CONCACAF Gold Cups won by the US; the next is the number of Olympic Gold Medals won; next is the number of World Cups won, and finally, and most egregiously, is the average dollars earned by players for each US team.

In summary, the US Women’s team – the massively more successful team – has won two more CONCACAF Gold Cups, and has actually won Olympic Gold with four, and World Cups with 3, yet they only make $99,000 on average. That’s $164,320 less pay on average for the ladies who have dominated the international soccer circuit in much less time than the men. The World Cup for the Men has existed since 1930, while the Women’s World Cup was first played just 28 years ago in 1991. Oh, and the champion of that first cup? You guessed it: the US Women.

For some more of the money specifics between the US Women and Men, check out this piece from the Wall Street Journal that details how the Women have not only outperformed the Men on the pitch.

Finally, let’s turn our attention to today, when the US Women are aiming for another World Cup win. As the defending champions, they already were major contenders, but after demolishing Thailand and dominating Chile in the group stage of the tournament, they look primed to once again make winning waves. No one else has anywhere near as many scored goals so far, but the next game, Thursday @ 3pm against Sweden, looks to be the biggest challenge so far.

I for one am stoked about the Women’s World Cup and am proudly cheering on Team USA. I root for the Men in their World Cup (when they make it), but I know it’s most likely going to follow the same formula where they put up a tough show against superior competition, then get knocked out, leaving me to cheer on Brazil with my friend David who originally hails from Rio de Janeiro. It’s a fine occasion for the Men, but for the Women, there is always a real chance at seeing amazing American athletes hoist the golden trophy. I promise I’m not a fair-weather fan, believe me, I’m anything but that. I’m just a realist. I know the Detroit Tigers are garbage this season, but I’m still pulling for them because their my MLB team and always have been. Yet even seeing Justin Verlander hurl fastballs in the World Series (the ones he played in as a Tiger, but still good for getting one with the Astros, JV!) does not offer me the same grandiose feeling of watching a national team like the US Soccer teams compete against international foes. No offense to the Blue Jays – or for that matter, the new NBA Finals Champion Raptors! – but having one team from Toronto, Canada in each league hardly makes it international and worthy of the title “World Champions” for the winners. With the World Cups, and to a degree, the Olympics, those squads more truly represent the best their countries can offer, and make it more meaningful win for the eventual winner. What I’m saying is, I;m not a fair-weather fan; I’m a patriot! Isn’t that right, Desi Lydic?!

Thanks for reading and watching! I hope you will enjoy the Women’s World Cup, and that you’ll return here next week for more fun!

Go Team USA!

Alex

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Water World

Early June is a big deal for our biggest bodies of water, so let’s dive into it!

June 5, 1899: Frederick Otis Barton Jr. was born. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Who the heck is he?” to which I’ll respond, “Why are you so hostile? Do you think I’d just name drop and not explain?”

Otis Barton was a Harvard educated New York native with a passion for the ocean. The only problem for any lover of the ocean though was getting into it deeper than 20 feet. A natural inventor, Barton saw an opportunity to fix this issue and in the late 1920s crafted the Bathysphere, a sphere-shaped submersible built to withstand the pressure of the deep to take a person into the undersea world to observe an ecosystem never before seen.

9ebfae0f9b6b58eb0b4293b968dc436a-bathysphere2

Otis Barton is the guy on the left.

June 8: World Oceans Day – This one is hopefully more apparent to you, partly because it happened this past Saturday, but mostly due to its emphasis on encouraging greater awareness and action to help protect our oceans and all life within them since the annual celebration’s start in 1992.

June 11, 1910: Jacques Yves Cousteau was born. The epitome of oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau is synonymous with the sea thanks to his lifetime and continued family legacy studying and sharing the wonders of the water throughout our world. Cousteau is a hero of mine and so many others, and I’ve written about him before, so if want to learn more about him check out my past post, as well as any of the numerous biographies focusing on him, and of course his own fantastic films!

June 11, 1930: Charles William Beebe is probably not on as many radars as Jacques Cousteau, but he had a nice achievement on the famed Frenchmen’s 20th birthday. Before we get into that though, let’s look at the man himself.

William Beebe was a naturilst who worked for the New York Zoological Society for many years. He was a big bird guy – not a Big Bird guy in the sense that he was seven feet tall, a yellow muppet, and lived on Sesame Street – and went on an expedition to catalog pheasants around the world for the Bronx Zoo. Beebe was a major influence on the next generations of naturalists in a number of educational pursuits, partly thanks to his own varied interests, including marine biology.

Beebe started to work with another man in New York who was interested in the ocean at the time – ready to come full circle? – Otis Barton! That’s right, that guy leaning on the Bathysphere in the picture next to Barton is William Beebe! He was here the whole time!

Anyway, the two ocean enthusiasts worked together to make deep dives in Barton’s device. On June 11, 1930, Beebe descended to the then-record depth of 1,426 feet in a bathysphere off the Bermuda coast. Over the next few years, the pair made more dives near Bermuda to explore the even deeper ocean depths, including a dive on August 15, 1934 that went deeper than 3000 feet!

Thanks for reading! I hope that you will always think about our oceans and waterways and act in the interests of saving them and all the species that depend upon them, especially considering that we are one of them!

Splish splash,

Alex

Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword

This Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landing Invasion of 1944, better known as D-Day. I’ve written before about Operation Neptune, the official name of the D-Day invasion, so today I want to take a better look at the invasion itself through the eyes of those who were there and the testaments to them that exist in the United States and France.

There is limited actual film of the landing invasion itself, but some of the best, as well as a good showing of the lead-up to June 6th, is featured in this piece from the Smithsonian’s archives. A little propaganda-y to be sure, but that closing shot of the swastika being blown off the roof was pretty amazing. Fuck Nazis.

Of course, the D-Day landing has been recreated multiple times in film and television, with the truest telling being found in the joint Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks productions of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.

However, as impressive as the wartime sequences in that film and series are, none can compare to the stories told by the people who lived through it. My grandfather saw nothing of the D-Day invasion, but he served in the Navy in World War II, and for as much as he and I disagree on topics of today and never really connected as much as some of our other relatives have, I am all ears when he speaks about his time in the war. I have many insights into the Vietnam War from what my father told me while he was alive, and I intend to listen to my grandfather’s tales from that era as much as he wishes to speak about it for as long as he’s around. Such is how we can remember our human history’s greatest conflicts to better understand what war is and the effects it has not just on the grand geopolitical scene that we’re taught in school, but on the people we are descended from who experienced it in one way or another.

If you do not have any surviving family or friends from this era, I encourage you to visit the memorials for World War II and prior wars and conflicts in Washington D.C., as well as the actual Smithsonian museums were American and some other World history are excellently presented. I will also recommend Arlington National Cemetery for every one to see in their life to see the respectful final resting places of so many Americans throughout the country’s history, especially from wartime.

Finally, if you are particularly interested in the D-Day invasion, then take a trip to France to see the locations themselves. There are monuments and cemeteries there that I’m sure will evoke the same powerful response to all visitors.

Thanks you for reading and watching. Remember to do what you can to carry on the memory of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and all wars and conflicts before and after by listening to the stories of the people who lived through those times and were impacted by them at home and abroad.

Always remember,

Alex

Remember and Respect

This Memorial Day I hope that you will enjoy warm weather and a day off with the company of friends and family, but as you chow down on burger, brats, and brews, be sure to remember the real reason we’ve got this Monday in May off every year.

Memorial Day is set aside as day of tribute to all members of the armed services who have given their lives in defense of freedom and to uphold American ideals. Have a good time with your pals, but take a moment together to silently honor those who have died for you all to enjoy this day and all others.

Never forget,

Alex

Guess I’m a Ladies Man

I too am a man, and a few things that Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Steve Winwood, and I all have in common is a certain anatomical design; a bizarre, general leg up in the world; and no right to determine what a woman does with her body. You see, all women have few things in common: a certain anatomical design; a bizarre, general disparity from men’s success in the world; and the right to determine what to do with their bodies. Nevertheless, groups overwhelming made of men are taking to legislatures throughout the United States to officially declare that women do not have the right to determine what to do with their bodies, and this is extremely troubling.

However the argument is presented, the effect is stripping women of essential rights and declaring them to be lesser humans, something that is absolutely false. Global society is patriarchal enough without imposing fiercely strict laws on matters of women’s health. Contraceptives, birth control, and safe abortions performed by medical professionals should be made more available to women the world over, not harder to obtain. Such materials and services are beneficial to women’s health, and they sure as hell should not be stripped away by a bunch of dickswingers who are uneducated on how they work and the state of women’s health. The only man who should be telling a woman what she should do for her health and well-being is her doctor (in the instance that her doctor is a man because women can be doctors too!), and anyone other than a medical professional who actually knows how processes like pregnancy work should keep their fucking mouths shut and focus their efforts on matters that will actually help women like eliminating the gender pay gap, cracking down on sexual assault, human trafficking, and domestic abuse, and increasing educational and professional opportunities for females across the USA. Tell ’em, Queen Latifah and Monie Love:

Thanks for reading, watching, and singing along. If you want to help join the fight to protect women’s rights in the United States, then check out the website for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and please consider donating. The ACLU is filing multiple suits across the country to challenge the recent anti-abortion legislation passed in numerous states, including my own home state of Ohio. It’s frustrating that even as a man concerned over an issue that doesn’t directly affect me, I’m not being properly represented by my own state’s government. Hopefully, your respective state is still being sensible, but too many are not, so help us join the fight against oppression and make this country and the world a better place for everybody.

Ladies first,

Alex

What a Wonder-ful World

Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born premature with a terrible condition called retinopathy of prematurity, which ceases eye development and prompts the retinas to detach. In short, little Stevie was blind. Born in Saginaw, Michigan on May 13, 1950 to Lula Hardaway, Stevie may not have had one of his senses or the best home situation after his parents divorced when he was a child, but he did have something in spades: music. Stevie was a natural talent, consummate in many instruments including piano and harmonica. He loved to sing in the church choir in Detroit, and at age 11 he so impressed The Miracles’ Ronnie White that he was taken to Motown and signed. Due to his status as a minor, Little Stevie – as he came to be known – could not collect much change at the time (most of his money had to go to a trust he could take out as an adult) so he got a few bucks a month.

My how things would change.

Today, Stevie Wonder is universally known and loved for an immense collection of hit songs and some marquee political movements like his campaign for making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. All fantastic, but today is his day, so in honor of Stevie Wonder’s 69th birthday, let’s sing along with the man who brought so much sunshine to so many lives without ever even needing to see it.

“Happy Birthday” may have been written by him for MLK, but he deserves a shout out too, so this for you Stevie!

And these are for the rest of you:

And my favorite:

Thanks for reading and listening! I hope you’ll enjoy jamming out with some other Wonder-ful songs I did not include, and I hope that you’ll be back again next week for more fun!

Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder!

Alex

Put On the Suit

I had just finished all of my exams and was a week away from officially graduating with an undergraduate degree in May of 2012. My roommate, Joe, was home from work already having gotten off a little early that Friday, and he started asking me if I had heard anything about the bad guy in the end credits scene in the Marvel movie that had just come out. Neither of us particularly big fans of comic book lore, and of the five existing Marvel Cinematic Universe films out at the time, we each had only seen the first two Iron Man movies, which we saw together with friends. We liked Iron Man (2008) a lot, but it didn’t inspire us to run out to the other films beyond its sequel which we were less thrilled with. We did stay until the very end of the credits though, at the request of our friend who was the closest thing to stereotypical computer and comics nerd you could imagine. I knew Samuel L. Jackson quite well, but our friend had to explain to us who Nick Fury is and what The Avengers are in Marvel comics. Our reaction was something along the lines of, “Huh. Cool.”

My, how times have changed. For me and Joe, our interest in Marvel’s heroes ramped up big time that Friday in May, for soon after he was reading some article that detailed this weird purple guy who wanted to get in on with Death, one of our other friends called me up and asked if I was down for dinner and a movie to celebrate his cousin visiting, his wonderful girlfriend, and my, I believe he said, “impending graduation”. I took the phone from my ear, turned around and smirked at Joe and asked, “Well, how’d you like to see The Avengers?”

It was just like that. Sort of.

So much had to go right for Marvel for them to be where they are now, and 2012’s The Avengers is the film that validated all of their efforts to build a massive, mulit-movie universe. Based on the reactions to their first five films: Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008, Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011); not many expected this franchise to be blasting through blockbuster records. Some superfans were supportive, but they cannot make a series successful alone; the MCU needed to find a broader audience quickly, or all their work would amount to a big swing and a miss.

I don’t really need to rehash this story as you already knows how it ends. There have been 22 Marvel movies released, with another set for this summer, and they’ve set numerous box office records as they’ve skyrocketed to success like Tony Stark ascending through the atmosphere. Superhero ensemble movies seem like a sure bet now thanks to The Avengers working so well, but why did it work so well? The answer is not because they found a way to throw a bunch of superheroes together, but because they help us realize that those superheroes are people. In all of their films to date, Marvel Studios have offered us some richly-developed characters in their superheroes – not always villains, but they’re getting better at that! The Avengers remains one of my favorite movies because it allows its characters (including the villain!) to show their stuff not only on the superhero side, but to really display their humanity – except for Hawkeye, but they’re getting better at that!

Last week, in my latest State of the Season, I added a link to the One Marvelous Scene playlist created by YouTuber Nando v Movies. This selection of video essays on the favorite MCU scene of a variety of YouTubers has some magnificent assessments of some spectacular scenes. I was happy to be shown new sides of some of my favorite moments in the MCU through this list, and it was a fun trip down MCU memory lane before seeing Avengers: Endgame (which, rest assured, I will not be spoiling any of in today’s post, but I do recommend it!). Inevitably, I started to consider what one scene I hold most dear above all others, and it’s difficult to decide. I was pleased to see a lot of my favorite scenes discussed on the list, and I was glad that so many highlighted my same sentiment for The Avengers, yet I was surprised that no one (at least at the time I last perused the list) had anything focused on what I felt was the key scene for that film and for the franchise moving forward. I guess I found my scene, so put on the suit and let’s go a few rounds.

In my scene of choice, the Avengers have mostly assembled, but not yet in the way we really want to see them. We will get that, but to ensure that it’s more than just quick action, explosions, and pretty colors with a few quips thrown in, we need to earn respect for these people as people. Nearing the end of the second act, this motley crew is starting to feel the tension, but less around the circumstances of Loki’s game, and more around why they are all standing in a room with one another. Their differences are on full display, set off by the wonder at just what Nick Fury has planned for the Tesseract when they retrieve it, and more personally, what he has planned for them.

This scene begins with Captain America and Iron Man each uncovering evidence that SHIELD is working on weapons powered by the Tesseract. What follows is a masterwork of a scene from writer-director Joss Whedon. I’ve been a fan of Whedon for a while, and have previously stated that at his best, he writes scenes better than anyone, and this scene showcases that so well. Take a look for yourself and marvel (hehe) at how much is packed in this scene to advance the story for this film and lay the groundwork for so many (at this point) yet to come:

Ooooooooohhhhh it’s sooooo good!

Each character needles the others so smoothly and shows off their own insecurities along with their philosophy. Most apparent is the dichotomy between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. It plants the seed for Captain America: Civil War (2016) while showing Steve and Tony’s distinctive personalities. Plus, I fucking love Tony’s response to Steve’s question of what he is without the Iron Man suit: “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Natasha’s reaction is golden.

Steve and Tony getting in each other’s faces is awesome, but we cannot forget the in depth look we get at Bruce as he explains how defeated he once felt in his internal battle with the Hulk. He “got low”, and tried to commit suicide only to find that his gamma green side wasn’t much a fan of it. Mark Ruffalo is great in this scene and showed that he belonged in this film universe, establishing his Bruce Banner as steady ground in one of the shakier off-camera stories of the early MCU. Not to mention, that we have not yet seen the Hulk set loose in this film, and we know it’s coming. This scene plays on everybody’s anticipation that Bruce could snap and Hulk out at any moment.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the scepter holds the Mind Stone and that it is messing with everybody to amp them up. Besides Bruce picking up the scepter in his mounting frustration and everybody being on edge about what will happen if he goes over the edge, Tony has the most noticeable physical reaction to the Stone with a head shake that conveys confusion and mild pain, almost like a headache. Even without the knowledge of Infinity Stones and their locations at this point, viewers clearly get the idea that the scepter is raising everyone’s anxiety when Whedon flips the camera upside down to focus on it.

Between the densely important and wickedly sharp exchanges, fantastic camerawork, and suspenseful score, this scene is wonderfully crafted. It starts with everyone coming into the same space together, then verbally pushing each other around, and culminates with two pairs in the group being separated into teams to more fully highlight their differences for good and bad. Steve and Tony quickly drop their rising menace to work together against a common threat, and Bruce and Natasha are dropped into dire straits as he is set in unwillingly transforming into the Hulk and potentially hurting someone he is starting to care about. Thor and Fury are knocked out of the action on their own, but Thor will show up again soon to help save Natasha from the Hulk, and maybe regret calling everyone “tiny” in this scene.

All in all, it’s an amazing scenes in an amazing movie in an amazing series that never ceases to amaze me time and again. Similar to when my friends assembled to watch this movie in 2012, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot of what this franchise has in store, but I sure am excited to see it.

Thanks for reading and watching! I hope that you’ll return here next week for more fun!

Your resident, non-genius, non-billionaire, non-playboy, small-time philanthropist,

Alex