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.

Eulogy for Ermey and Earle

Last week we lost two legends from different worlds, but each helped shape young men and provided the rest of us with entertainment. R. Lee Ermey was a Marine drill instructor turned actor who was most famous for playing drill instructors. Earle Bruce was college football coach who made his mark at his alma mater and was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame.

Ronald Lee Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas on March, 24, 1944.  A bit of a troublemaker as a child, Ermey was arrested at 17 and offered the choice to join the military or join the jail. He opted for the Marines and found his footing, eventually becoming a drill instructor. He served in Vietnam for 14 months before being medically discharged for injuries he received during that time.

Ermey began his movie career as an advisor on Apocalypse Now, but Coppola appreciated his expertise to be front of the camera too, and put him in a helicopter as a pilot (Ermey originally worked with aviation in the Marine Corps). His breakout role was as Gunnery Sargeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, still his most famous role, and one that established Ermey as the epitome of drill instructor in any media. This was not Ermey’s first time playing a DI, as his first significant role in The Boys in Company C.

Ermey would go on to play numerous military men in all facets of entertainment, including cartoons and games, but he occasionally stepped outside of his frequent typecasting, such as in one of my favorite roles of his as Coach Norton in Saving Silverman. His advice in that movie may not be the best to follow, but damn it, it’s funny.

Ermey also starred on television, with a pair of shows on the History Channel back when it was good, Mail Call and Lock n’ Load. Enjoy this compilation of some of his greatest (and goofiest) moments as well as his immortal role as essentially himself:


Earle Bruce was born in Cumberland, Maryland on March 8, 1931. He attended The Ohio State University and looked to play fullback for the Buckeyes. However, just as he was preparing to suit up in 1951, a torn meniscus brought an abrupt end to playing days. Instead of letting Bruce leave the game he loved, the Buckeyes’ first year head coach, a man named Wayne Woodrow Hayes, asked Bruce to stay on the team as a coaching assistant. Woody Hayes went on to become the most legendary coach in Ohio State history and one of the most legendary in football history. After his frustrated punch at an opposing player forced the school to terminate him in 1978. It was apparent that following Hayes would be an enormous task, but who better to rise to the occasion than then-Iowa State coach, Earle Bruce. Bruce was ready to helm the Buckeyes after success with the Cyclones, and the University of Tampa, as well as a magnificent stint at Massillon High School where Bruce remains the only undefeated head football coach – at the school Paul Brown made a power! Paul Brown!

As head coach of his former team, Bruce posted a terrific 81-26-1 record and won four Big Ten Championships. Most importantly, he was 5-4-1 against Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines, an even better record than his predecessor and mentor, Woody Hayes. Famously, or more accurately infamously, Bruce’s 1987 Buckeyes team faltered compared to his others which all won at fewest nine games. Nevertheless, in the 1987, the Buckeyes’ star receiver and future NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter was kicked off the team due to improperly signing with an agent . The loss of this all star was felt severely and Ohio State went into the final week of the season against rival Michigan with a measly 4-4-1 record. Out of character for a successful coach after one lackluster season, the board pressured Ohio State’s athletic director, Rick Bay, to fire Bruce. Bruce was never truly loved by some of the top dogs on campus, but in a place where Woody Hayes was God, no one, not even the university president, got to make a move on the football team with out Woody’s okay. Unfortunately for Bruce and Buckeye fans everywhere, Woody Hayes died in March of 1987. Without his great backer and protector, Bruce was again on the chopping block, and with the Carter scandal and a mediocre record, the people in power got there chance to push him out. Despite this, athletic director Bay resigned rather than fire Bruce, so the Buckeyes lost the biggest names in their sports programs in succession the week of the Ohio State-Michigan game.

Earle Bruce may have been down and almost out, but he had coached under Woody, and had made his own name as his successful successor, so he had one more game in him as the OSU coach. He was permitted to stay to finish the season, and finish he did, leading the Buckeyes into Ann Arbor to post a second half surge and beat Bo’s Wolverines one more time, 23-20. Each player on Ohio State’s sideline wore headbands that read “Earle” to honor their coach, whom they loved.

Bruce served as a mentor to many of the best players in his day, as well as to many of the top coaches of current football, including Nick Saban, Mark Dantonio, and Pete Carroll. Current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer first served as a graduate coach on Bruce’s Buckeye staff and cites him as the biggest influence in his life besides his own father. Meyer remained close to Bruce until his death from Alzheimer’s last Friday.

Earle Bruce was beloved by many, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, yet he received a greater honor in 2016 when he joined the elite short list of people who have been invited to dot the “I” in the Ohio State Marching Band’s famous Script Ohio.

Thanks for reading and watching! Feel free to send me any comments, queries, or suggestions at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to return here next week for the State of the Season.

Until next week,

Alex

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ROCK! and some roll too

This past Saturday saw the Class of 2018 be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in the Rock Hall’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Five big names and one who really should be bigger were welcomed into the big pyramid on the shore of Lake Erie from a few blocks away at Public Auditorium in a ceremony that was reported to have started strong before fizzling out with some strange and downright awkward moments in between.

But I don’t care about that! I’m pretty jazzed (and bluesed) about the new kids in town who are anything but. The Class of 2018 features many “it’s about time” canditates who have all earned their keep. Take a look at the list and then take a listen to some of their best songs.

Performer Category

Bon Jovi – The biggest name on this list was also the biggest showstopper of the night, helping to give the music fans in attendance something to thrust their lighters up into the air for.


The Cars – One of my favorite 1980s bands. Experts at blending electronic instrumentation into their mainstream music.


Dire Straits – One of the weirder inductions and an instance of a previous bad blood in band break carrying on to the Rock Hall show, but regardless of how they began their official time within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their trip to get to it is worth listening to.


The Moody Blues – A strange finish to the ceremony show when you’ve got God Damned Bon Jovi! but hey, again, not important what they did at the show in Cleveland when you consider what they’ve done to get to Cleveland. Definitely more toned down that most rock acts, but undeniably progressive and influential.


Nina Simone – We talked a bit about the High Priestess of Soul in last year’s more extensive look at Rock Hall should-be inductees. Take another listen to some of her heavy hits here.


Award for Early Influence

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – An incredible influence on American music who helped to bridge gospel with jazz, blues with soul, and inspire countless artists to take up instruments and make music. She gave a truly little Little Richard his first stage gig when he was 14, and her grand effect did not end there. Everyone from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins all got a feel for Rock and Roll from this remarkable woman. One of the earliest artists to make music that could be called rock and roll, Tharpe is known as the Godmother of Rock and Roll for good reason.

 

Thanks for reading and listening! There are strange things happening everyday, and I like to cover them, both new and old, so if you like a taste of the wild and wacky, and the rockin’ and rollin’, then come on back here every Monday.

Rock on!

Alex

 

Skywalkin’ Blues

This is not going to go the way you think.

I am a tremendous Star Wars fan. Frank(Oz)ly, it’s rare to meet someone who is a fan of the series who is not extremely passionate about it. For me, the Star Wars saga is the greatest story I have ever experienced. Yes, I know about the prequels, and honestly, while I don’t love them or blinded defend terrible facets of them, I certainly don’t hate them and even find much of what they serve to be quite entertaining. Even in the  original trilogy films, which for most Star Wars fans are almost critically untouchable, are scenes that are flawed or downright silly, but I love them even more for this. Okay, I cringe every time I watch Leia kiss Luke and see him revel in it in The Empire Strikes Back, but it hardly sinks the film for me. That is still my second all-time favorite movie behind only Jaws, another film that is hardly perfect, but is so to me.

Nevertheless, my opinion as a Star Wars nerd is not the highlight of today’s focus, but rather a justification of a certain expertise if you will. Time has passed, and criticism from myself and others has been digested, and now I have some things to say regarding the latest, and perhaps most immediately and globally controversial of all Star Wars films: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Specifically, I will be addressing my take on the most significant aspect of the movie: the characterization of Luke Skywalker.

Allow me to again call upon my experience as a Force fanatic to say that my personal favorite character in any story in any media, whether it be film, book, television, radio, etc., is Luke Skywalker. I attribute this to many of the same reasons I love the Star Wars saga. For one, I saw these movies at an early age and they made an indelible impression on me (the same is true of Jaws). Like so many others over the decades, first seeing Star Wars in theaters was life-changing. My dad took me to see the release of the Special Editions (versions of Star Wars films with plenty of justified criticism) back in 1997, and I was blown away. No other movie looked like Star Wars, and nothing has looked like it since. Not just from a technical standpoint, but from a story and character level. Thanks to a great cast of characters (played by a great cast of actors) thrust into the space-based adventures of good versus evil, we the world over have been treated to an amazing trio of films that redefined how films were made in almost every way. None of this should sound new as countless people have heard about and experienced Star Wars in a similar way, and I would wager that many have also latched onto Luke Skywalker in much the same way as I did. It makes sense to, as Luke is the modern epitome of the monomythic hero, or the guy who goes on the big adventure in the storytelling structure know as the hero’s journey. Popularized by mythologist Joseph Campbell, and altered and updated by many, including Dan Harmon with his Story Circle, the Hero’s Journey is a general outline of how a story’s protagonist gets his/her adventure rolling and changes as a result of it. Campbell explained this in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which after Star Wars was released had a newly designed cover with Luke Skywalker pictured among carvings and paintings of mythological heroes. It is based on classical storytelling from some of the earliest iterations of mythology and rolls the common themes in myths from across the world into one set called the monomyth. The original 1977 Star Wars followed this formula perhaps more apparently than any other film to date with fresh farmboy Luke Skywalker at its crux as – to borrow a term from Altered Carbon – the sleeve through which we, the audience observer, experience the story.

I believe that this is the primary reason why people, especially the most devoted Star Wars fans, had difficulty grappling with what was going on with Luke in The Last Jedi. Now, as should be obvious to anyone who has read this far, I will be getting into spoiler territory from here on out, so continuing to read assumes that you have already watched The Last Jedi. But, c’mon, who hasn’t by now?

Now that you have been warned, allow me to start off this dive into what’s going on with Luke by weighing some opposing views of his role in The Last Jedi. First, we have a well crafted video essay from one of my faves, Nerd Soup, the thesis of which may seem right on or harsh depending on your opinion.

As Beau Oliver likes to frequently reiterate on Nerd Soup’s many Star Wars related videos, nobody hates Star Wars like Star Wars fans. Now, of course he does not hate Star Wars, and certainly did not hate The Last Jedi, a point he makes quite clear in this video. In fact, I find his argument to be far and away the best of the bunch I offer up to you in this post, and I agree with what he says. However, I also agree with much of what the next two guys say as well.

Some good analysis that reminds us that Luke is a human who makes mistakes and has struggles, something that should be apparent in the best protagonists, be they good, bad, or ugly. In The Last  Jedi this is most obvious when a concerned uncle peers into his nephew’s darkening dreams (there’s no way that I’m going to make that sound not weird). Basically, Luke checks Ben’s text messages and freaks. He normally would not have done such a thing, but his sister’s son was acting really shady, and he decided he needed to take a quick peek to make sure it wasn’t drugs or something. When it becomes clear that the situation is out of hand more than he could have imagined, he makes a brief, but big bad call. For more on all this, let’s look to the video recommended in the last one.

Some fathier – er,  further good points for the film. For one that I particularly liked, Finn finds his groove as a Rebel. His storyline was the weakest part of the film and I’ll never be in love with it, but working with a great new character in Rose, and the always excellent Benecio del Toro plus BB-8 is going to win back some points. In all fairness, this storyline had the most cut from it before the final release, so there was a little more meat on those bones once. Regardless, the result is that Finn, who is still on the run from the fearsome First Order he knows the ruthlessness of better than anyone, finally makes the decision to fight for something more than his own skin and Rey’s.

Similarly, The Last Jedi shows us character growth in the other new crew members like Poe learning to be a leader and realizing sometimes you’ve got to lose the battle to win the war (Holdo totally should have told him and everyone else of her plan though). Rose goes from a mechanic working on the sidelines who gets starstruck by seeing Finn, to a badass on the frontlines working alongside him while also helping to teach him more about how the galaxy works and why the Resistance matters. Most prominently of all, Rey gets some schooling in what the Force truly is (I’ll talk more on this later), why it’s not entirely black and white, a crash course in trusting too much, and a harsh dose of reality regarding your heroes.

This final point is what makes and breaks The Last Jedi. As is the case with the entire film from start to finish, we have our expectations thrown back in our faces. Expecting a “can you hear me now?” schtick to open the movie? You sure weren’t. Did you call Leia and the other leaders getting blown into space in the first third of the film? Probably not. Did you think Luke was going to walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order? In all fairness, he pointed out how crazy it was to think this would ever occur when he asked it aloud. In all further fairness though, he later did this. But did you see him projecting his image from lightyears away to offer closure to his sister, escape to her comrades, and the ultimate “how you like me now?” to his nephew? Furthermore, did you expect him to die?

Expectations rarely come to fruition in our favorite films, especially Star Wars (watch  one of my absolute favorite YouTubers/film critics, Filmjoy – formerly Movies with Mikey – serve up some stellar stuff in his two-part series “How We See Star Wars” if you have not already for more on this). Look at how George Lucas expected so much more out of his initial movie in the series. He desired better effects, better acting, better support from the studio (yeah, all this), but the only thing that lived up to his lofty expectations, and actually far exceeded them was the incredible score from the amazing John Williams. This is the only constant that we can and should expect from movies in the Star Wars saga. The music will be excellent – the greatest ever among any film scores – as long as John Williams is composing it; all other bets are off. With that being said, allow me to get into the nitty gritty of my take on The Last Jedi‘s portrayal of Luke Skywalker, and remember what he told you in the film and I told you at the start.

This is not going to go the way you think.

Mark Hamill is a true professional. He was understandably not crazy about his character’s tonal shift and the finality of this role, but he set that aside and brought his A-game to every scene. Director Rian Johnson asked a lot of Hamill, and he got way more than he could have anticipated because Hamill recognized that his desires were not as important as making something great. Included in the bonus features of The Last Jedi is a documentary, The Director and the Jedi, that chronicles the making of the film with an emphasis on Johnson and Hamill’s relationship. We see Mark Hamill explain how he told Johnson that he disagreed totally with the direction of the character… but that he would do everything he could to give the best performance to bring Johnson’s vision of the character to life.

I would also recommend that you watch another bonus feature (I’m just generally assuming that everyone purchased the same steelbook that I did) called The Balance of the Force (which is shorter at around 10 minutes) where Rian Johnson explains that the Force is not a superpower, and he wanted to remind everyone of this fact while simultaneously presenting a new generation of fans with the realization of what the Force really is. To reiterate for the sake of not simply assuming all know, it is an energy that is created by and connects all living things. Channeling this energy is what allows Jedi and Sith and others to enhance their amazing abilities, but it does not magically bestow those abilities onto a select few. At least that is how it is supposed to work. As Mikey recently expressed in his two-part “How We See Star Wars”, there is a major canonical issue that spoils so much of the mystique of the Force: midichlorians. Check out his segment on The Phantom Menace here, and take a surprised trip down memory lane to realize how many people straight up loved this movie when it came out. (Props to the music intros to each film with a song that was prominent during the release of each.) As Mikey points out, the explanation that midichlorians make people sensitive to the Force – the all-living-things-are-connected energy that is felt by all and manufactured by all – is a problem. No longer, do we have the aspiration that we could be the next Luke Skywalker, for our fate with the Force is determined by bacteria in our blood or some such nonsense. Fortunately, this notion has generally been cast aside by one of the unexpected resolutions regarding Rey’s parentage being nothing special. If Rey is not from one of the dynastic Force-sensitive bloodlines we know of, and neither is that boy we meet on Canto Bight, then genetically-inherited midichlorians, like size, matter not where the Force is concerned.

Now that that is addressed, let’s consider a reason why Rian Johnson did not want Luke walking out in the flesh to face the First Order and Kylo Ren: it would open up a need for him to have a superpower. If Luke went to Crait (the salty sit-in for Hoth) why wouldn’t he just push aside the gorilla walkers with a wave of his hand? Sure, he probably is not the most agile swordsman anymore compared to Kylo Ren, but why duel him directly when you could fling him around the way Snoke was doing with Rey? The story could not have Luke confront Ren and his regime in person because he would be too much for them to handle and we would wonder why he could not simply handle them if he did not, but we would not be entertained if he did. It’s the Superman paradox of how do you make Superman interesting and relatable if he’s unbeatable both physically and emotionally. We need to see Luke’s humanity and his continued growth in order to care for him (and to have a ninth movie that isn’t just him mowing down the bad guys with ease).

Let’s look at Luke in each orig trig film according to Mikey from his great videos. He shows a snippet from each movie with a caption.

Star Wars: “Look at this precious boy”

The Empire Strikes Back:”Look at this struggling boy”

Return of the Jedi: “Owns entire Hot Topic catalog”

We need something different from older, weary Luke in The Last Jedi. But where to go from the Skywalker kid who grew up to save the galaxy? The classical hero has finished his quest; how does he grow up more? How does he even begin another quest without repeating his earlier adventure beat by beat? The solution is in updating his archetype.

In my post from last week, “Hit Me!”, I expanded upon similar scenes between Batman and the Joker in the 1989 Batman and 2008 The Dark Knight films after watching Just Write and his adorable Canadianly way of saying “out” in his videos “What Kind of a Hero is Batman?”. In the two-part series (which my YouTube faves are big on lately), he elaborates on how Batman has the unique distinction of having represented six of the main character archetypes over his many characterizations. Batman is a comic book character, so it is no surprise that he has seen a shift in style over the decades, but it is a testament to a character to be able to fit in more than one mold for the sake of his stories. Batman is my favorite comic book character thanks partly to this chameleonic ability, but mostly I am a fan of his time spent as a tragic hero, which Just Write goes into a good degree of detail of in his first video. He explains how the tragic hero must be relatable and not all powerful (using Superman as a foil example), but also has to be the reason for his own undoing. The moment at which Batman experiences his fall, his hamartia, in The Dark Knight is the scene I covered last week with the Joker staring down the barrel of a street with Batman rocketing toward him on his Batpod. Batman swerves, and sets in motion his fall from grace and more deaths, including the woman he loves, because he cannot bring himself to kill. Did Batman mean for this to happen? Certainly not. Should he be blamed for not killing the Joker? No. However, it cannot be ignored that his refusal to take down a man who has been a monster in his city perpetuates the events that unfold as a result of his inaction.

Similarly, Luke must have a hamartia in order for the Star Wars saga to grow beyond itself. This was set up in The Force Awakens as the instance where Ben Solo rebelled against his uncle, left him for dead, destroyed his temple and followers, and absconded with those loyal to him to don the moniker Kylo Ren. It comes as a shock to us to see a moment where an older Luke panics and contemplates, however briefly, murdering his nephew. Beau Oliver brought up the point that Luke has seemingly less of a connection to Ben Solo his nephew than to Darth Vader when he learns he is his father which makes their interaction and this moment come out of nowhere for us observers in the audience. I definitely don’t disagree with this, and I doubt that it will ever sit well with me as a huge fan of Luke from the orig trig, but it is worth noting that we do not see what leads up to this probably due to time and directorial desire to keep us in the dark. Rian Johson not only upended all of our predictions and expectations, but he crafted Luke as a tragic hero in a way that aided Rey’s arc as well. Rey, and the rest of us, discover that our hero is man after all. We’ve seen the great work that Luke has done, and we expect that ship to keep right on sailing without stopping, but that is not how life works, and Luke’s troubles with Ben create a new set of troubles to tackle, but he hung his helmet up a long time ago. We and Rey together realize how hard it is to see your heroes as anything but once they reach the level of legend.

Yet Luke’s story does not end entirely in tragedy. His shift into a tragic hero serves as a revival of his classical hero. Rey arrives with a call to action, but he refuses. Nevertless, with the help of an old mentor (in the greatest Yoda scene in the entire saga), Luke is provided with the push and guidance he needs to return to his sister and friends before confronting the new threat in a novel way, and receiving his reward of peace through that purpose to become one with the Force. His last act amplifies his status as a legend at a time when the galaxy needs it most, and provides the call to adventure that the heroes of tomorrow will answer.

The Last Jedi is not a perfect movie, and its characterization of Luke Skywalker is not perfect either, but it will endure for its effort to strike out in a new direction and burn the conventions of the past in order to reawaken the greatness we saw in the beginning of this magnificent series while continuing to make its own path throughout the galaxy far, far away.

Props again to Mark Hamill, the consummate professional and humorous presence who always excels at being honest and bringing joy to people. He may not be awash in film credits like his costar Harrison Ford, but his roles in his body of work is solid (something that honestly cannot always be said of Ford). Thanks to his talent, work ethic, and the happiness he brings, Mark Hamill is one of my favorite actors. He recently received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with some nice, heartfelt speeches of appreciation from Ford and George Lucas. Hamill himself thanked his fans for their support on a fantastic ride that has taken him “from Jedi to Joker and back again”. It is understandable why people love his characters so much when the man himself is so loveable. No matter what your feelings on The Last Jedi and the final hurrah of his most popular character, you’ve gotta love the man behind the lightsaber no matter who you are.

Thanks for reading and watching! Be sure to revenge- uh, sorry, return back here next week when I’ll take a closer look at the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees officially being christened in this Saturday April 14. As always, you can keep in touch with me at monotrememadness@gmail.com.

May the Force be with you,

Alex

Hit Me!

Earlier today, I was watching YouTuber Just Write’s excellent analysis on how Batman has fit into every traditional character archetype over his many iterations (I encourage you to watch Part 1 and Part 2), and it reminded me of a striking similarity between two of those.

Look familiar? You’re damn right it does…

Christopher Nolan offered this appropriate homage to his predecessor in Batman film lore, Tim Burton, while simultaneously emulating his and all other previous (and successive) versions of the Joker. Yet both versions are worth taking a closer look at as they provide us with a key look into the methods and motivations of each opposing character.

In the 1989 Batman, Jack Nicholson’s ever-smiling and often terrifying Joker stands unwavering in the bullseye of Batman’s crosshairs as the Batman unloads his arsenal. Everything misses, of course, and the Joker shoots Batman out of the sky with a comically oversized pistol. Here, the Joker stands firm at the foiling of his plan to gas Gotham’s residents at the Batwings of Batman. This Batman is down with killing the Joker as it is the only way to ensure his murderous spree against the innocents (and admittedly guilty too) will be stopped. This Joker is just too crazy to keep around. He’s certainly a man with a plan, but his actions are too wild to predict. Joker knows Batman is gunning him down, but his madness proves superior as he is miraculously to centralized for Batman’s big guns to hit. This proves better for us, the viewers, too, as it puts the Joker back in the position of power heading into the climactic final battle between our foes. I wonder who will win?

Flash forward 19 years, and we look at what many – including myself – consider to be the best Batman film, The Dark Knight. A major reason why so many share this opinion is thanks to Heath Ledger’s magnificent performance as the Joker, a performance so transcendent of its source material, that it’s easy to forget how well written this Joker is. Consider this scene: compared to the 1989 version, it bears the similarity of Batman accelerating toward the Joker with deadly potential (or rather kinetic energy, in this instance). However, Nolan’s Batman does not kill – it is his one rule to not take a life – so even with Gotham’s greatest adversary literally standing in the center of his path, daring Batman to hit him, Batman cannot bring himself to do it. In what should be a physical battle that ends in the Joker going kersplat! in big, bold, bright lettering (in both movies), Batman ends up crashing and provides the Joker with a prime opportunity to kick him when he’s down. Thankfully, in The Dark Knight he has help, but this scene takes place only halfway through the story, and only goes to show how dangerous this ever-terrifying and often smiling Joker really is. Here he stands firm, not due to madness, but because he is a man with a plan. In fact, he is a man with a plan for every occasion. He has plans ready for every contigency, but here it comes down to a dichotomy:

  1. If Batman hits him, then Batman kills him; Batman breaks his one rule and is corrupted as a murderous vigilante – Result: Joker wins
  2. If Batman misses him, then Batman proves he cannot bring himself to kill; the Joker can play this to Batman’s disadvantage and either uncover and expose his secret identity, or continue to shame Batman in the public eye by terrorizing Gotham and blaming Batman for his continued killings – Result: Joker wins

Of course, neither of these completely comes to fruition, but both kind of do. The Joker is willing to die at Batman’s hands to stain Batman’s heroic persona, but he is also happy to stay alive and tarnish it more cleverly through tarnishing others, especially Harvey Dent, who becomes a true agent of chaos, more akin to the comical, gruesomely giddy Joker in Batman. The true genius of Nolan’s Joker is that in the end he is physically defeated by Batman and detained by the police, but he still wins. Yeah, really! Remember how Batman hops on his bad motor scooter and rides away from the fuzz at the end? That’s because the Joker got what he wanted, and we get more than a glimpse of this form the action-packed street showdown that sends up its serious film origin.

Thanks for reading and watching! As always, feel free to send me feedback and well wishes and whatever else to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to batarang back here next week for more fun.

Same Bat time, same Bat channel,

Alex

View Unto Others

For most Christian denominations this coming Sunday is Easter, the most important holiday to Christianity even though Christmas is undeniably more fun. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ after a weekend of fixing the afterlife infrastructure that followed his crucifixion. Now, it has been a long while since I took any stock in stories from the Catholic teachings I was brought up on, and my connection to the faith of my family is currently only apparent in my allegiance to the Ramblers of Loyola Chicago University in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four as they are, like my high school and university, a Jesuit school (plus they’re playing Michigan and I hate Michigan).

Nevertheless, I am one of over seven and a half billion people in the world, and when you consider religious populations Christians are the biggest slice of that pie – according to an estimate made in 2012 – so losing me to the third place collective community of people who do not adhere to a religion (secular/nonreligious/agnostic/atheist) is hardly a problem for the remaining 2.3 billion Christians in the world. Among the reasons why I have drifted away from the Church and religion in general, is my concern that a strong devotion by on faith in place of facts is problematic, and truly fanatic. I am not trying to get you to cut loose from whichever practices of faith you partake in; so long as they are physically and emotionally safe for you and others, go for it, especially if you actively help people by supplying food, medicine, care, etc. I do have a concern though regarding advertising your creed aggressively, or worse yet, spreading your message with propaganda. You are not likely to convert nonbelievers to your cause, but you do certainly have the capability to rile up those who already align with your beliefs. Historically, rallying the masses to a like cause based on shared beliefs can turn sour, especially where religious-based agenda is concerned. More and more though, we see religious (and political) organizations take to technology to advance their cause. Really anybody who has a subjective stance to take and is trying to get others to take it too tries this using social media, or if they have big buckos, they put together a TV channel and/or movies.

One such newer practitioner is the Church of Scientology. It’s easy for us to look at Scientology and scoff. It’s a modern religion, legally-recognized by the United States government as such (the requirements are really not that difficult to meet), and their prophet is Tom Cruise – no, sorry that’s not exactly correct. However, Scientology was created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and numerous other high-profile celebrities join Cruise in praying to aliens or whatever it is that they do. Okay, that’s not quite what they have going on within the Church of Scientology, but do you feel bad for the institution in the wake of my poking fun at it? I imagine not, and that’s because Scientology just sounds silly. South Park skewered it, countless comedians jab at it in some way, shape, or form, and their most famous member isn’t doing them any favors with the non-believers either.

But what about Christianity? The world’s biggest religion doesn’t get all of its followers from whatever iteration of Jesus Christ Superstar is airing on Easter (it doesn’t hurt, either). As a matter of fact, Christian movies are becoming more popular for more studios to put out and for some bigger studios to get involved.

 

In 2016, the world went wacky over Deadpool, and for good reason as the self-aware superhero slayed in every way in his feature film. Deadpool quickly became not only the highest-grossing R-rated comic book movie, but the second highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. Despite this fantastic success, it still falls almost $8 million shy of the top grossing R-rated movie: The Passion of the Christ.

Thanks for reading and watching. Have yourself a merry little Easter and a fantastic Passover this weekend! Who knows? Perhaps in a couple months we’ll see Deadpool 2 atop this list.

Good humor is divine,

Alex

 

 

 

 

While There is Life, There is Hope

We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?

Science is the search for answers. Each field takes an in-depth look at what comprises it and how it all connects. Mathematics works with numbers and their relation to each other through patterns and structures. Chemistry observes the process by which compounds change at a chemical level and how these reactions occur. My studies focused on Biology, and brought me to a pursuit of understanding how living things are made, survive, and reproduce, and how they are all related to one another and can trace their origin back to a single point.

In Biology, this latter statement refers to all living things sharing a common ancestor and evolving into the diverse Tree of Life from it, but in Theoretical Physics it can apply to all of what we know and can observe in the universe (and beyond!) originating from one beginning from which everything was jam packed into a dense singularity and then exploded out into the expanding universe we live in. We know this now as the Big Bang, and a critical component of this theory – a mathematical equation that everything sprouted from a spacetime singularity – was proposed and put forth by one of the greatest minds to grace this Earth.

Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942. As a young student, he was recognized by his peers as highly intelligent and called “Einstein”, a fitting nickname for the man who would become renowned for being the first to craft a theory that would bring together Einstein’s famous general relativity with quantum mechanics (which old Albert despised). With Roger Penrose, a pioneer on black hole study, Hawking applied the same mechanics of the formation of black holes to the universe as a whole and the pair later worked (with others) to provide mathematical evidence of this. Hawking went on to contribute much to cosmology, the study of the universe, especially the beginning, growth, and end, an incredible achievement for anyone, but amazing considering his early diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hawking was quickly confined to a wheelchair, and eventually lost his ability to speak, but thanks to technological advancements, and the exceptional support of his family (big shout out to first wife, Jane) Hawking was able to continue to work and communicate his results with others. He became famous for his robotic-sounding speech generating device (SGD) that allowed him to speak without the use of his own voice. Indeed, as the world took notice of Hawking and his work, his SGD voice was his true voice to the world. While the vocal tone itself will still exist, it is a tremendous shame that we will not hear Dr. Hawking’s voice any longer.

Following the extraordinary man’s death at 76, Cambridge University, where he made career, first as a student, and later as a professor and researcher, made this memorial video for him:

Hawking was widely regarded as one of the most intellectual men of all time, and frequently was called the smartest man in the world, and for good reason. As a theoretical physicist, his study of black holes and cosmology (much of which was made freely available recently by the American Physical Society) was groundbreaking. However, it was his talent for simplifying complex theoretical physics, and helping those of us who don’t know a quasar from a quantum better understand black holes. His globally famous book, A Brief History of Time, was a landmark work of science writing and offered the greatest fellow minds of cosmology and laymen alike a look at the universe we all share. I highly recommend it, though I warn that while it does more easily explain black holes and how the universe works, it is still a lot to wrap your brain around. Good thing that Hawking is an excellent teacher.

The radiation emitted by black holes was proposed by Hawking and named “Hawking radiation” in honor of his discovery of it.

Hawking’s humor and wit made him relatable despite his insanely higher intelligence, and this helps in his writing in books like A Brief History of Time, as well as the numerous scientific shows he hosted. Not to mention, it also helped to put him on the pop culture map when he portrayed himself (or at least a hilarious version of himself) on shows like Star Trek: The Next GenerationThe Simpsons, and Futurama. He also was a great interview guest, with my favorite appearance on Last Week Tonight. And of course, Hawking’s life and romance with Jane was the subject of the terrific film The Theory of Everything, for which Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for playing the phenomenal physicist.

Hawking’s aptitude for presenting heavy information in a light manner inspired others to share his findings, including his daughter, Lucy.

Many scientists that followed him, have also made the most of his findings and skill for explaining  them to the everyman.

He lived quite a life, and will be sorely missed by many, but whenever life gets you down,… well, I’ll let the masters explain what to do:

Thanks for reading and watching. In the words of Stephen Hawking, “Remember to look up at the stars, and not down at your feet.”

Alex

 

 

This is Madness! This Is MARCH!!!

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, so they say (at least Stanley Kramer), and this is just the month for it because the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is just the occasion to manufacture such madness. As I’ve stated before, each year, my friends and I like to not only compete against each other in the most entertaining annual guessing game we all get tired of after the first week when our brackets are #rekt, but we also like to throw a wild card into the mix that might just cut the brakes and jump out the back of a moving van filled with gasoline: we make a mascot bracket!

The gist of a mascot bracket is simple. You take a look at the matchups on the bracket, but instead of weighing the merits of each team by whatever degree of whatever metrics you choose, you weigh how hilarious each team’s mascot looks and advance the funniest, goofiest, strangest, or most awesome anthropomorphic assemblage of fur, feathers, and funky clothing until you have crowned a champion. Today, I’ll be walking you all through this year’s bracket to see who is the best (in my eyes – don’t like it? Make your own blog!). Ready? No? Too bad! Here we go!

I will include links to my favorite picture of each mascot in their school’s name. Bear in mind that each mascot’s full history is in play. All right! Let’s start in the top-left corner on most brackets that is the South region.

Round of 64

South

Virginia Cavaliers vs. University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers – The Retrievers had a great American East tourney run to clinch a spot in the big dance, but none of that matters in the mascot bracket, where the muscular, mustached Zorro-like Cavalier of UVA gets the edge over the grimacing Labrador.

Cavaliers

Creighton Blue Jays vs. Kansas State Wildcats – There are a lot of Wildcats in college athletics, but none as scary as the KSU cat. As much as I like the more happy faced Jay, I cannot deny the incredible guitar playing by Willie the Wildcat in the GIF I found. I never said the pictures had to be static, after all.

Wildcats

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Davidson Wildcats – Proving my point immediately about the number of Wildcats in college sports, this catty matchup features more wild takes on the wildcat, but even with Kentucky making a more loveably dopey version to join their freakish historic hellcat, they have a looooong way to go to get on Davidson’s level of derp cat.

Davidson Wildcats

Arizona Wildcats vs. Buffalo Bulls – Jesus Christ that’s a lot of cats! The emphasis here though is on the competing couples, and as much as I love the horrible hair on the lady Bull, the floppy hat-adorned, angry hick looking tomcat practically wins this one on his own.

Wildcats

Miami Hurricanes vs. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers – Like other Loyola Universities, the Ramblers of Chicago have a wolf as their mascot thanks to the coat of arms of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Some may see my selecting them in this matchup as favoring Jesuit schools as I attended such educational institutions for half of my academic career, but I am more picking them because the angry ibis of Miami is scary.

Ramblers

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Wright State Raiders – Wright State is the first of many teams from my native Ohio in this year’s tournament, and I like what they bring to the table. I don’t know how good their basketball team it, but damn their mascot game is strong. Currently they are represented by a wolf, but in the past the Rowdy Raider, a wide-eyed Viking has led the charge into games. I LOVE the Rowdy Raider. In every picture I’ve seen him in, he always is looking away from the camera at a distant wall or ceiling as if he’s contemplating the serious shit he’s seen. Perhaps that’s why he was replaced by the more focused wolf. Either way, Rowdy’s the mascot I’m looking to here, and Tennessee’s Smokey is almost certainly the first of many to fall before this Viking’s vacant gaze.

Raiders

Nevada Wolfpack vs. Texas Longhorns – It’s a family affair for the Wolfpack against Bevo, and why wouldn’t it be? Like they always say, the family that mascots together, advances together. Okay, so nobody’s ever said that until now, but it applies here.

Wolfpack

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Georgia State Panthers – Panthers, so hot right now! Regardless, the GSU Panther is a little too Kansas State for my liking, and Cincinnati gets props for having the criminally lesser-represented binturong, more commonly called a bearcat, as their mascot, even if theirs has awful taste in shorts.

Bearcats


West

Xavier Musketeers vs. North Carolina Central Eagles/Texas Southern Tigers – Okay, for these games we need to first tackle the First Four teams’ mascots to get to the matchup in the Round of 64. In this case we have an Eagle who is experienced at taking on Tigers, but I give it to Texas Southern’s Tigers for actually having two tigers. Good on you Texans for actually having multiple tigers when the word is plural!

However, the victory is short lived when you take on the musketeers who have the special edition Blue Blob pop up against rival Cincinnati.

Musketeers

Missouri Tigers vs. Florida State Seminoles – Truman the Tiger might be the saddest mascot I’ve ever laid eyes upon, but that only works in his favor.

Tigers

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. South Dakota State Jackrabbits – A strong match in the opening round! I do my best to check my bias at the door, but there is an Ohio State rug outside of it. Regardless, that old, sad looking nut gets the advantage over the floppy-eared rabbit, who honestly, isn’t even the best mascot in his state. That honor goes to Charlie Coyote at South Dakota. Look at him show up Jack here.

Buckeyes

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans – There are about as many bulldogs in college sports as there are wildcats, but the especially wrinkly bulldog of Gonzaga stands out among them and bests the freaky-faced Spartan of UNCG.

Bulldogs

Houston Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs – The Cougar is not overly impressive to me, but human mascots like the SDSU Aztec don’t score as many points as cartoonish animals.

Cougars

Michigan Whimpering Weasels Wolverines vs. Montana Grizzlies – Michigan has had mascots in the past, including living Wolverines named Biff and Bennie loaned by the Detroit Zoo, but they currently have nothing. I look upon the complete history of all mascots in this comprehensive study of mascot analysis, but only if the team has one during this season. Is this a stupid technicality that I made up on the spot to disqualify Michigan because I hate them? Yes. Would I have pulled this on any other school? No. Your point being?

Regardless, the Grizzly from Montana looks ready to Chuck Norris some shit up.

Grizzlies

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Providence Friars – The A&M Aggie  live Collie is adorable, especially when gnawing on a Bevo chew toy, but this dog stands no chance against a previous Mascot Bracket Champion in the frightening Friar from Rhode Island. Anything that looks like screaming Donald Sutherland from the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is terrifyingly well positioned for advancement in this tourney.

Friars

North Carolina Tarheels vs. Lipscomb Bison – This is a fairly weak contest, but the Tarheel is good enough to move on.

Tarheels


East

Villanova Wildcats vs. Long Island Brooklyn Blackbirds/Radford Highlanders – More Wildcats, and more First Fours. Firstly, let’s post the Blackbirds up against the Highlanders. Here we find a surprising contender for the big prize in Radford’s history of mascots. Formerly, they had Rowdy Red who looks like Elmo’s grandpa who’s not a fan of the riff raff who have moved onto Sesame Street. Currently, they have a more of a traditional Highlander… if a Scottish Chuck Norris is your idea of traditional Highlander. Needless to say, they advance.

Against another vicious Wildcat in Villanova, I still like whomever Radford is going with.

Highlanders

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – More typically football powers, these schools have made basketball  waves this season. Their mascots have always gotten into the public eye, but of the two, it’s pretty easy to see the superior player.

Hokies

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Murray State Racers – Once again: cartoonish animal suit beats human in themed clothing.

Racers

Wichita State Shockers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd – Bonus points to Marshall for putting a literal twinkle in the eye of their mascot, but one does not simple surpass WuShock in all his wheaty glory.

Shockers

Florida Gators vs. St. Bonaventure Bonnies/UCLA Bruins – For the Bonnies vs. Bruins it seems to point towars the buffer version of the bear from Ted, but wait, what’s this I see in the past of St. Bonaventure? A tremendous historical mascot! Bonnies 4 sho.

Now can they beat out the Gators? Albert apparently invested in some Lasik and has more reptilian eyes, but that derpy basketball-snouted dog is just too much.

Bonnies

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks – Ripoff Yosemite Sam takes on John Cena with an ax. Again, the nod is given to the cartoony guy over the beefcake with the plaid shirt posing as a mascot.

Red Raiders

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Butler Bulldogs – Hogs or dogs? The pig is big.

Razorbacks

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Cal-State Fullerton Titans – Purdue Pete is a soulless monster with a sledgehammer but no emotions. The Titans have an irritated looking elephant. This is one of the few instances I lean toward the human with a helmet costume, if for no other reason than I fear for my life if I pick otherwise.

Boilermakers

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Penn Quakers – Oatmeal man is a challenger, but my perennial favorite Jayhawk is a thing of beauty.


Midwest

Jayhawk

Seton Hall Pirates vs. NC State Wolfpack – Oh this is a good one, but history proves to be on the side of Seton Hall.

Pirates

Clemson Tigers vs. New Mexico State Aggies – I love me a funny tiger over humans in minimal themed attire anyday.

Tigers

Auburn Tigers vs. Charleston Cougars – There are bunch of Tigers in this tournament too. I guess Wildcats must have already been overdone so these schools opted for an even bigger kitty. Regardless, of the size difference in these two cats, the Dale the chipmunk take on Charleston’s Cougar gives them the victory.

Cougars

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Arizona State Sun Devils/Syracuse Orange – ‘Cuse wisely switched from once being the Orangemen to simply the Orange, and they also wisely manufactured a magnificent mascot that I think outsears Sparky.

In fact, I think it even outperforms the Horned Frog.

Orange

Michigan State Spartans vs. Bucknell Bison – As much as the egregiously-muscled Sparty would enjoy this post’s title, he won’t enjoy my ruling here when he’s compared to that incredible Bison.

Bison

Rhode Island Rams vs. Oklahoma Sooners – Oklahoma’s mascot answers the question of what Ben Stiller would look like if he were a horse, but Rhody the Ram wins this round.

Rams

Duke Blue Devils vs. Iona Gaels – I prefer the Blue Devil that looks like it was stung by a swarm of bees, but even its bloated face cannot match the freaky Freddy Krueger grin and monstrous mutton chops of the Gael.

Gaels


Now it’s on! Onto the

Round of 32

South

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Kansas State Wildcats – Gotta still dig that guitar.

Wildcats

Davidson Wildcats vs. Arizona Wildcats – The second straight round of Wildcats on Wildcats for Davidson, and they’re on for a third.

Davidson Wildcats

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers vs. Wright State Raiders – Further searching did unearth an earlier Loyola-Chicago mascot called Bo Rambler, but when it comes to historical mascots, I still love that Viking on LSD.

Raiders

Nevada Wolfpack vs. Cincinnati Bearcats – If cartoons have taught me anything, it’s that dogs chase cats, but it never said anything about Bearcats.

Bearcats


West

Xavier Musketeers vs. Missouri Tigers – Blue Blob for the big win!

Musketeers

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs – Good ol’ goofy nut.

Buckeyes

Houston Cougars vs. Montana Grizzlies – Chuck Norris-y bear over over-mascaraed cat.

Grizzlies

Providence Friars vs. North Carolina Tarheels – Not contest here.

Friars


East

Radford Highlanders vs. Virginia Tech Hokies – I am so glad this pursuit led me to this fantastic Highlander.

Highlanders

Murray State Racers vs. Wichita State Shockers – WUSHOCK!

Shockers

St. Bonaventure Bonnies vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders – This was a tough one, but the ruby red mustache of that raider edged out the Bonnies.

Red Raiders

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Purdue Boilermakers – Is the hog still hot? Like it was at a luau.

Razorbacks


Midwest

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Seton Hall Pirates – Rock chalk, baby.

Jayhawks

Clemson Tigers vs. Charleston Cougars – The claws are coming out in this one which sees the Tigers having a sharper swipe.

Tigers

Syracuse Orange vs. Bucknell Bison – Happy fro Bison for the win!

Bison

Rhode Island Rams vs. Iona Gaels – I like these Rams; they’re gonna go places someday, but not against these Gaels.

Gaels


Sweet 16

South

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Davidson Wildcats – I’ll tell you one thing: a Wildcat is going to win. The charm of the K-State guitar jam has waned in the face of adversity… specifically this face.

Davidson Wildcats

Wright State Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bearcats – That Viking’s eyes are bigger than most mascots… which allows them to see the trophy awaiting the winner of this tourney.

Raiders


West

Xavier Musketeers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes – This battle for Ohio shall be won by the silly. It was a tough call between rolling blob and cross-eyed Brutus, but I laughed the most at the motion of the blob.

Musketeers

Montana Grizzlies vs. Providence Friars – The bear is good. However: No. Contest.

Friars


East

Radford Highlanders vs. Wichita State Shockers – It takes a hell of a mascot to knock out a power like WuShock, but damn it, Radford has a hell of a mascot.

Highlanders

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – I’m kind of boared with this bacon, but am loving that kooky cowboy.

Red Raiders


Midwest

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Clemson Tigers – Please.

Jayhawks

Bucknell Bison vs. Iona Gaels – Puh-leese!

Gaels


Elite 8

South

Davidson Wildcats vs. Wright State Raiders – With no more Wildcats to face off against, Davidson loses its mojo. Also, that Viking dude has me staring at the wall in wonder. Have you ever, like, looked at a wall?

Raiders


West

Xavier Musketeers vs. Providence Friars – It’s tough, but the blob is less freaky deeky.

Musketeers


East

Radford Highlanders vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders – The aren’t enough guns even in Texas to combat this Texas Ranger of a Highlander.

Highlanders


Midwest

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Iona Gaels – The cartoonish happiness of the Jayhawk prevails over the cartoonish demonic grin of the Gael.

Jayhawks


Final Four

Wright State Raiders vs. Xavier Musketeers –  These mascots have put a lot of time in to face off against an opponent they live about an hour away from. The complete assemblage of mascots has helped both of these, but I’m losing my shit over the previous Rowdy Raider Viking dude.

Raiders

Radford Highlanders vs. Kansas Jayhawks – I love these matchups! What a solid Final Four. Nevertheless, there can be only one, and we get closer to that with only two. Much as I love that Jayhawk, this is the year of the Raider and Highlander.

Highlanders


Championship

Wright State Raiders vs. Radford Highlanders – It’s tough, but it’s really not. It’s the MVP of this Mascot Bracket, the Rowdy Raider, who brings home the plunder for his team.

Champions

Wright State Raiders

Soak it up, boys; you’ve earned it.

Thanks for reading and rolling along with that ridiculous ride. I quite enjoyed it, and I hope you did too! Drop me a line with any questions, comments, or suggestions at monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to dribble back here next week for more fun.

Let the chaos begin!

Alex