Tag Archives: TV

Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!

Batman has always been and will probably always be my favorite comic book hero. There’s something about a man dressed as a bat who comes out at night to pow, wham, and biff criminals to serve up some hard justice that just appeals to little boys growing up in 1990s America, as well as so many others. Batman has consistently worked within the fringes of what is legal and moral in order to protect people from the (sometimes literal) monsters among them, all the while keeping to the shadows in a world as gray as his actions’ ethics. Except for the 1960s, when Gotham City was more colorfully kooky than Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. This strange departure from the normally dark and brooding detective and his grimy Gotham that is as filthy as the bad guys within it may be looked at it with some disdain or at least annoyance from some Batman purists. However, while I too am more on the side of the Dark Knight being, well, dark, I also believe that taking into account the full history of a thing is essential for recognizing its impact over time and its probably bearing on our future. For example, early zoos began as menageries to showcase exotic beasts from faraway lands and frequently housed the animals in poor conditions with little to no idea of what was best for them in the way of food and social development, however now zoos have evolved into conservation organizations that provide a safe haven for endangered and threatened species to educate and expose people to them and their plight, all the while working to establish or restore habitat spaces that will be viable homes for the progeny of the animals in their collection, and in some cases directly rehabilitate species of this generation. Modern zoos are often upfront with the fact that their beginnings were not always graceful and that they have learned much from the mistakes of the past. Now they work to preserve bats all around the world, helping to save the winged wonders that make up roughly 20% of all mammal species for the future.

The environment and entertainment industry are not regularly similar, but in this instance, the world of comic book characters was brought into the forefront of American culture by ABC’s popular series Batman which ran from 1966-1968 and featured Adam West as the Caped Crusader. The television show started in January and a full length film starring the same cast was released later that year in July marking the first time Batman had been brought to each respective screen, and one of the first times any comic character did so in such grandiose fashion. It’s easy to forget in today’s comic crazed cinema that superheroes were not always such popular fare. The 1960s Batman series helped to infatuate America with heroic figures dressing up in costumes to battle bad guys for their well-being. It was colorful, it was campy, but most of all it was centered by a man who knew he had to own it and play the part as straight as he could, all the while embracing the silliness off-screen, which he did for decades after until his death just a few days ago. Adam West passed away last Friday at the age of 88 and left behind a legacy dominated by his time in the bat cowl, but there was more to the man than paving the way for superhero stories and being a role model for children.

Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington (which sounds like a jump rope chant), West played many a cowboy and cop before he was Batman, among some comedic roles. During his stint as the world’s greatest detective, West was a righteous figure not just dishing out boofs and bams, but also encouragement to be a good citizen, especially to children whom he preached the merits of healthy eating and living and responsible work ethic to.

West beat out Lyle Waggoner for the title role, apparently chosen after being seen in a Nestle Quik commercial where he played a caricature of James Bond. Waggoner eventually got into the DC universe in the role of Steve Trevor in the 1970s Wonder Woman series starring Lynda Carter. As it happens, West almost got to be the actual James Bond too. Executive producer for the Bond series, Albert Broccoli (not pronounced like the vegetable like I always assumed in my youth) offered West the role of the suave super agent in the film Diamonds Are Forever which saw Sean Connery reprise the role once more officially after the one-and-done by his initial replacement, George Lazenby. Think about that for a moment, Adam West could have been both Batman and James Bond, two of the most iconic and coveted roles in pop culture history, but he turned down the role because he felt Bond should always be played by a British man.

West’s career post-Batman was hampered by him being typecast, but he grew to embrace it, as much for laughs as for capital gain. My favorite of these is when he and Burt Ward (who played alongside him as Robin for those Batman years) voiced the younger versions of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in a SpongeBob episode.

West did find other work outside of his bat-related fame, but most of it was in poorly-received films, some of which he acknowledged were not great, yet he always gave his best in his performance and addressed his true feelings toward the projects with humor. A great example is Zombie Nigthmare an 80s B-movie that is best known now for being the subject of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. West introduced this episode while hosting Comedy Central’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day on Thanksgiving in 1994 and made good-hearted jabs at himself and the character he played in the film.

Years later, West found a resurgence as he played a wacky version of himself who was certifiably crazy, but also the mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island, the town Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy is set in. MacFarlane helped West earn a new group of fans at Comic-Con and West helped a show that could easily fall (and has fallen) to be a derivative of the Simpson‘s to offer something more unique.

Whether you first saw him dressed as a bat dangling from a hot air balloon constantly asking your grandma how he and Robin were going to get out of this one while she smiled because she’d already seen them all, or if it was when he stabbed the ocean to avenge the sailors it had presumably swallowed up or when he rolled in toxic waste to gain superpowers to battle the gifted Griffins, chances are you felt a pang in your heart when you saw the news of Adam West’s passing. Cheers to you, Mr. West. Thanks for the funny and cartoonish moments always, both from your cartoon and live-action roles.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to send your questions, comments, and suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be extra sure to head back here next week.

Same Bat time, same Bat channel,

Alex

I Want That McNugget Sauce, Morty!

Bringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbring!

Guess who’s back? It’s the R&M. Some of that real Mr. Poopy Butthole, ooh wee!

The  newest class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have all waited at least 25 years to be inducted; they can wait another week for me to discuss their discography. Right now, we have much more pressing business to get to. Rick and Morty are back in the hizzouse!

I pray that you were able to partake in the inexplicable airing of the first episode of the latest season of Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s sci-fi/comedy cartoon Rick and Morty on Saturday. In case you missed it, follow this link to Adult Swim’s website where the entire series, including the season three opener, is airing right now. If you were able to catch the long-awaited episode we had all given up hope on any time soon, much like the next Song of Ice and Fire book (goddamnit, George!), well, you should probably go binge through the series and watch it all again anyway, but at least you got to take part in the greatest April Fool’s Day prank ever.

I’m not much of a fan of the dipshitted antics that are traditional of April 1st, in fact, on this blog I once included this webclip from Last Week Tonight that discourages carrying on the pranks usually pulled by people who enjoy having some social license to mess with others for one day a year. Furthermore, no information can be taken seriously without double-checking it to verify its authenticity. This is why it was so madcap brilliant for Roiland and Harmon and Adult Swim to suddenly air the third season opener of Rick and Morty on the one day when the unexpected announcement of the series’ long-awaited return would be brushed off by most as bullshit.

Only it wasn’t!

Rick and Morty really came back and gave us one of the best episodes in the series yet! Featuring a virtually omniscient and omnipotent Rick battling wits with an insect intelligence agent voiced by Captain Tightpants himself, Nathan Fillion! And yes, just as he declared, the powers that be delivered this episode roughly a year and a half after Mr. Poopy Butthole speculated how Rick would get out of his cliffhanger jam and proceeded to roll in pepperoni pizza spilled on the floor.

Now it is worth noting that we still will have to wait longer for the rest of season three, but it has been advertised as airing this summer, and while those promises of return in the past 1.5 years have been empty, this one seems to hold a bit more water given that we have now seen a fully-fledged premiere episode.

After constant questions regarding the return of the beloved series, the show’s creators and staff finally got nagging revenge on the rabid fans by sneaking episode 3.01 out when any of us least expected it. I can see them smiling smugly as their handiwork was broadcast over the internet on a loop for four hours and people scoffed at the idea that such a ridiculous occurrence would ever happen. I bet they laughed as jubilantly as Rick did when he manifested that butt in a coffee mug. The creator is always in control of his work of art, after all.

I for one am glad I took my friend’s excited text serious (thanks, Chris!), and I am excited for what the future holds for Rick, Morty, and the rest of the Smith family across the multiverse, although it’s nice to see that some things never change:

1.01

3.01

There is now a bizarrely adamant assembly of people demanding that McDonald’s bring back the Mulan-inspired McNugget dipping sauce that Rick claims to be his “one-armed man”, the driving motivation of his life’s every action. I don’t remember if I ever tasted the apparently delicious condiment during its brief tenure, but I do know that I can get on board with nine more seasons of the smartest, funniest show on television.

If summer is too long for you to wait for the continuing adventures of this daring duo, then you can get a sneak peak at some of this season’s offerings that Adult Swim has already released:

And who can forget this gem:

Thanks for reading, now get to watching some Rick and Morty! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them my way via monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to portal back here next week for the previously promised coverage of the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class. Stay beautiful in the meantime, and remember…

He who controls the pants controls the galaxy!

Alex

Consider Again That Dot

Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust. We are all part of the same pieces that exploded into existence as we know it with amazing energy 13.8 billion years ago. From that magnificent beginning of this universe, everything within it has grown and evolved. And that’s even before life on Earth formed. The ideas we study today regarding the Big Bang and what has occurred in the expansion of the cosmos since are relatively new, having come into scientific understanding during only the last century or so, however, the study of the stars and the infinity beyond has existed for millennia. Astronomers have long impacted our knowledge of our world and what exists beyond it, helping to pave the way for other subjects of study. We remember and revere the names and lives of many such people who helped teach us more about our place in the universe. Today, I am writing about a hero of mine and many others who did this in more ways than one, showing us just how small and special we are as a planet and a species.

Tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of one of the saddest days in science education history. On December 20, 1996, the world lost a man who saw its incredible beauty and recognized how infinitesimally small we are on it and in the grand scheme of the cosmos: Carl Sagan. Sagan was an inspirational figure whose efforts to educate are still felt strongly, especially in the medium of television that he utilized so perfectly. His studies and insights also continue to be prevalent in his many books, as well as the lessons reiterated by his students who teach us today as he did decades ago.

Carl Sagan was born on November 9, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York to a Russian immigrant father and a native New Yorker mother. He and his sister, Carol, were raised Jewish, but not with a great emphasis on religious practice and teaching placed upon them. His parents not only allowed him to question everything, but encouraged it, something that he stated aligned perfectly with the scientific method and his quest for knowledge.

Sagan was smart from the start, thanks in large part because of his many interests in many subjects, such as astronomy, biology, and chemistry to name a few awesome ones. He frequently read about the wonders of the natural sciences, and visited the world-class museums that New York had (and still has) to learn as much as he could. It paid off for him as he attended college early, studying at the University of Chicago when he was 16. There he encountered some of the preeminent scientists and teachers of the era, including geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller and chemist Harold Urey (remember the latter). Sagan’s dissertation was done under the tutelage of Gerard Kuiper, for whom the Kuiper Belt (where Pluto and two other dwarf planets live) is named. From Chicago, Sagan went on to the University of California at Berkeley in 1959.

Sagan became an assistant professor at Harvard University at 1963 after his peers in academic astronomy were impressed with his work, specifically his Science article regarding Venus’ atmosphere. However, even after years of teaching at the university and working at the nearby Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Sagan was not granted tenured status. In fact, numerous members in the academic community voiced their concerns with Sagan’s wide window of study as opposed to the traditional finer focus on a specific pursuit of study. The strongest voice against him, and the greatest dagger to his tenure hopes, came from a former advisor at the University of Chicago, that’s right, Harold Urey. Urey was a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and had worked on the Manhattan Project, so he had authority in the scientific community. He argued against Sagan becoming a full-time professor, and Harvard listened.

Sagan was understandably disappointed, but where one Ivy League door closes, another gets to say “Suck it, Harvard!” today as a reward for not being overly concerned with the comprehensive interests of its professors at the time. Sagan had actually had an offer from astronomer Thomas Gold and Cornell University to come to teach prior to this decision from Harvard. The outcome of that decision made it easy for him to take his talents to Ithaca. He became an associate professor in 1968, and just two years later a full professor. His educational efforts were not confined to the classroom though, as in addition to continued research in astronomy and other fields, Sagan worked with NASA to prepare the Apollo astronauts for their lunar missions and to develop robotics. Sagan is also the man responsible for the creation and inclusion of information regarding humans and the Earth placed on some deep space probes sent out in the 1970s and 1980s. The first of these is the Pioneer Plaque which was attached to Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 launched in 1972 and 1973 respectively. The plaque depicts a naked human man and woman and an illustration of our solar system and other items used to indicate the origin of the spacecrafts in the event that they are found by intelligent extraterrestrial life. An explanation of the illustrations can be found here.

carl-sagan

The two Voyager probes launched in 1977 contain an updated plaque, called the Voyager Golden Record. Like the Pioneer Plaque, the Golden Record was attached to the spacecraft with information pertaining to humans and the Earth.

Sagan was all about finding other forms of intelligent life and making contact with them. He encouraged search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, projects and co-founded the Planetary Society in 1980 with SETI initiatives in mind. In 1985 he published the novel Contact about making first contact with intelligent alien life. The book was made into a movie of the  same name that was released in 1997, a year after Sagan’s death. The story is representative of many of Sagan’s ideals, especially where the relationship and often duel between scientific fact and religious faith are concerned. Contact provides intelligent insight into the relationship of government and science as well. All of these are themes that exist in other popular science stories like Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life that was recently released as movie called Arrival, which has many similarities to ContactInterstellar does as well, including Kip Thorne’s input regarding wormholes and Matthew McConaughey being all right, all right, all right.

Sagan had other (non-fiction) books and many published papers and reports, but undeniably his greatest impact was through his television program Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. With Cosmos, Sagan took his grand encompassing interest in the big picture out of the classroom and into our homes. The show was superbly received and is one of the most watched series ever to air on PBS. Sagan was successful at inspiring everyday people into asking “Why?” and helped to make scientific ventures popular. Two of Sagan’s most notable students at Cornell would go on to have similar success with similar programming on TV. From 1993-1998, Bill Nye was the titular science guy in his show aimed at teaching children the basics of science. Nye was a senior at Cornell when he took Sagan’s underclassman course for easier credits, but he has stated that the class was a critical building point in his life that helped him to realize his potential and shape his life. Neil deGrasse Tyson did not attend Cornell and take Sagan’s class as Nye did, but he was a student of life of Carl Sagan’s and kept close ties to him from his teenage years. Tyson has hosted the StarTalk podcast (and later show) since 2009, and in 2014 he made another Cosmos series called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. In the opening episode, Tyson explains how he first came to know Carl Sagan. Tyson had sent an application to Cornell, and the admissions office had forwarded it to Sagan. Sagan then wrote a letter to Tyson inviting him for a visit. Tyson was impressed to say the least with Sagan’s knowledge, but mostly his character. Of his mentor and friend he said, “I already knew I wanted to become a scientist. But that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become.”

Cosmos was good for Sagan as well, as his co-writer, Ann Druyan, would within a year become his wife. Druyan was Sagan’s third wife, but she and he remained happily married until his death. Near the end of his life, Sagan suffered from a myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer in which the blood cells in bone marrow does not develop properly. It often leads to leukemia. He was able to keep it at bay with bone marrow transplants from his sister, however he developed pneumonia which took his life on December 20, 1996.

Carl Sagan was exceptional at presenting simple and complex information alike in an easy and enjoyable way to the public. Whether or not you are young or old, or as wild about science as Carl was when he was younger or not, then you can learn and love what Sagan has to share in his show and books. He had many famous musings in his beautifully poetic presentations, but the most renowned is his “Pale Blue Dot” speech given at Cornell, in which he ponders on the whole of human existence while observing a picture of Earth taken by Voyager I from about 6 billion kilometers away. This may be the most important speech I have ever heard or read. It summarizes the actions of our species so perfectly and presents us with a spectacularly humbling realization that we are so, so small in this enormous universe. However, this makes us and our planet so incredibly special and grants us the wonderfully privilege to make our world the best it can be. I hope that it moves and inspires you as it does me.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any questions, comments, or requests for future topics, then please email me at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Orbit back here next week for some more out of this world fun.

Science shed lights on the unknown,

Alex

Time and Change Will Surely Show How Firm Thy Friendship Ohio

I was not going to write about Ohio State again, but then that game happened and delivered on all the hype and hopefulness to be the game of the year.

What I never anticipated was writing about Ohio State outside of the context of football, a mostly clean, civil competition without any ill-intent beyond what you dish out to your opposition on the scoreboard. However, this Monday, November 28th morning, The Ohio State University became the latest in an all too long string of schools threatened by malicious individuals who seek to harm people. The latest news as I write is that eight people were hurt by an attacker who was eventually shot dead by Columbus police. The motive, if there is any beyond the crude actions, is unclear, and it probably will remain so for some time until the authorities complete their investigation. As for now, we wish those hurt a safe and speedy recovery; those frightened the comfort of safety provided by each other and law enforcement; and those police and other law enforcers gratitude for their swift actions that helped save lives.

And that’s all I’m going to say about it. I’m not a journalist, nor am I seeking a story; I’ve got one, and it’s about a football game, so I’m going to talk about that football game. I’m not going to pretend this attack didn’t happen, or that it’s not scary, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be caught up in a sensationalist fray trying to jump on something I’m not fully qualified to report on, and I’m sure as hell not going to inadvertently fulfill this attacker’s stupid agenda by talking about his/her atrocious actions. Fuck that person; let’s move back on to life.


If you are any sort of football fan, then you had at least one eye looking in the way of The Game between Ohio State and Michigan this past weekend. Both of mine, and many others were glued to the screen for the entire contest which scored the second-highest football rating for ABC behind only the 2006 #1 vs. #2 Game of the Century I wrote about last week.
Speaking of ABC/ESPN, their staff must have read my first post about this monumental rivalry and its historical roots given their heavy coverage of the Toledo War and the city’s divided fan support. I loved seeing my hometown – which is also the hometown for Ohio State and Michigan head coaches Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh respectively – highlighted, but the greatest sight was of Renee, the matriarch African elephant at the Toledo Zoo showing her Buckeye swag by waving an Ohio State flag and choosing an Ohio State emblazoned pumpkin for her preferred treat. Proof that those pachyderms are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

The 113th occurrence of the classic rivalry delivered one of its best games, the first to go into overtime. Double overtime in fact, but for most of the game, it did not appear that any extra time would be necessary. Ohio State underperformed on offense throughout three quarters, and they missed two critical kicks that would have given them much needed points. Fortunately, their defense kept Michigan’s offense from getting much out of their favorable field position. Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight, whose status was uncertain until shortly before kickoff, played a magnificent game through the first three quarters save for a few key mistakes that turned the ball over three times, two that led to Buckeye scores, including an immediate one on a pick-six for Buckeye safety Malik Hooker (his third of the season!). After hard-fought football, Buckeyes kicker Tyler Durbin finally got the field goal that kept escaping him when it mattered most and sent the game to overtime in the closing seconds. In a system that favors offensive teams, the Buckeyes ramped up their suddenly (and finally) awake offense and needed only two plays to score a touchdown. Michigan took a few more, but Speight again excelled on fourth-and-goal and threw the tying score to a diving Amara Darboh who, much to my chagrin, made a great catch to send the game to a second overtime. The Wolverines got to go first on offense this time and had to settle for a field goal after a stop that will have Wolverines fans screaming until next November. The Team Up North settled for a field goal, allowing the Buckeyes a shot to win with a touchdown. The Bucks had a harder time getting going than in the first overtime, and had a third-and-nine when the speedy, shifty Curtis Samuel made a move that Ted Ginn Jr. undoubtedly shed a tear of joy for.

That set up a fourth-and-one situation that Meyer and quarterback J.T. Barrett had no hesitation deciding what to do with. A shaky kicker aside, the Buckeyes intended to end the game in that second overtime, but first they needed a fresh set of downs. Barrett kept the ball and ran straight ahead, as anyone could have predicted, and he was stopped right at the line. The referees called it first down initially, but took another look just to be sure, and the video showed just what they had seen. With a first down at the 15 yard line and no more gameclock to worry about running out, the Buckeyes could have whittled their way toward the endzone with a few plays, but as he showed on the prior play, Curtis Samuel isn’t about chipping away short yardage runs.

The Game of the Year lived up to the hype, and while it probably will not overtake the 2006 contest for Game of the Century, it will not be far behind it in the remembered lore of this greatest of rivalries.

After the 2006 #1 vs. #2 game, the Ohio Lottery Pick 4 numbers were 4-2-3-9; the score from The Game. This Saturday saw another eerie occurrence, but on a smaller scale. Also at noon on Saturday, my alma mater, John Carroll University, played their second playoff game of this football season and defeated Wesley College from Delaware 20-17 in double overtime by scoring a touchdown after Wesley College scored a field goal. Sound familiar? Well, so should Wesley’s nickname; they’re the Wolverines. Both of my teams won on a touchdown in two overtimes against Wolverines. That’s more eerie than our Lake! Now my Blue Streaks get to take on the other perennial powerhouse program in Division III, Wisconsin-Whitewater, the team that routinely contends with Mount Union for the National Championship. Keep it going JCU!

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any comments or questions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Keep the victims of today’s senseless violence in your hearts, and let your loved ones know you love them. Now to them, and not the football team, I say stay strong and Go Buckeyes!

Love,

Alex

State of the Season 9: Strange Things a Happenin’ on Netflix through Strange Things a Happenin’ on the Diamond – Lot’s of Love and Some Loss

Happy Halloween! Here’s hoping your candy quest pans out all right tonight. Sometime in the coming days I am watching a curse end, but as for now we will be celebrating the day we adults are cursed with having to purchase our own source of sugar (unless you have kids; you’ve earned your cut of their candy). Today, on this spooky occasion, I am recapping the last three months on this site for the ninth time since its beginning. Before we get into it though, you may be wondering where Chris Pratt’s picture has gone. Normally my man-crush has the esteemed honor of headlining the header of each State of the Season post, but today that section is being utilized as a tribute to the late John Hicks, an Ohio State lineman from the early 1970s who passed away yesterday. I, along with my mother and friend, Brandon, were lucky enough to meet Mr. Hicks after the 2010 Rose Bowl game. After exiting the stadium, we just happened to run into the man who had been inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame earlier in the day, and he agreed to take a picture with us. In the excitement of the Buckeyes’ big win that had just occurred, it seemed surreal bumping into one of the stars of the stadium’s rich history. I confess, I didn’t know who he was before his introduction during the ceremony at the game, but after returning home I looked him up and discovered he is revered as one of the greatest players in Ohio State and college football history. So here’s to you, John Hicks. Thanks for smiling when my mom got into the picture.

Now, onto the season’s recap.

Strange Times at Hawkins High” is my expression of admiration for Netflix’s Stranger Things. I added my voice to the choir singing its praises for providing great storytelling through acting, directing, visuals, music, and a great story. I, along with so many others are stoked for season 2 which delivered an exciting trailer with nothing but names of the next round of episodes. Rewatching this series tonight is not a bad idea; fighting demogorgons is.


An Overly Momentous Occasion” took a look at the uh, I guess, expensive? Batman v. Superman movie with the help of a great explanation from the Nerdwriter1 of the difference between cool looking moments and substantial scenes in film. I compared the DC debacle with a single excellently crafted scene from Django Unchained. The featured picture of the Lego versions of the movie’s heroes seemed fitting to represent how through all the pomp and circumstance this movie was essential a guy smashing his toys together on screen.


Science for Your Senator” is a prompt I wrote in college for a class on global climate change. It can be used as a template for you to send to your respective representative in government, no matter where in this world you live. Considering that climate change affects us all, it helps to chime in with your own voice to your own senators, congressmen, mayors, mothers, fathers, farmers, friends, enemies, neutral parties, political parties, and anyone else that I didn’t name in that circle, because this sphere we’re on is extremely important to some of us.


Love and Science: A Match Made in the Creative Cosmos” is me raving more about Interstellar, but this time I had help from Mikey and the gang at Chainsawsuit Original. Oh shit! They just churned out a video on John Wick! Gotta see what they say about the gun-fu master!


An Appreciation for the Wilder Things” is my tribute to the great Gene Wilder. In it I applaud his character, and seven of his best characters on film.


Never Forget” is my remembering of my day on September 11th, 2001. It certainly is not as harrowing as the day remains for too many, but I hope that it can help you recall how the day affected you if you lived during it, and perhaps give a glimpse of how it impacted a person who did if you were born after.


Royal Rovers: The Marvelous Migration of Monarch Butterflies” is a look at the amazing migration that one of the most recognizable and beloved endangered species makes in North America. There is also a migration in New Zealand that is pretty cool.


Not Quite Animal House, But It Will Serve” is a compilation of experiences and moments my friends and I had during our junior year of college. Reading through these helped me compose my best man speech for my friend Joe. If you’re wondering how it went, I knocked it out of the park, of course.


I [heart emoji] U” is my analysis of what exactly constitutes as love inspired by emotions awakened by my friends’ wedding. Or perhaps hormones. Or both. Research is still ongoing.


Droop Snoot Riot” is the annual Mach 1 Week celebration that explores Concorde. My resident airplane and engineering expert/friend Dan got to see one of the few remaining Concordes with a random chance glance when he was in England a few months ago. I meet football players; he meets planes.


Earth Naturel” expresses my interest in encouraging care and conservation for natural spaces and the flora and fauna within them through education and inspiration. I was inspired to write this piece by the trailer of the upcoming Planet Earth II. You lucky Brits get the first glimpse, while us in the States have to wait until January 28th!


It’s About Damn Time!” is my revel in the current World Series matchup that features the two teams with the longest title drought. My apologies to teams that have never won the series, or even been there, but you still have some time to catch up on the drought the Indians, and especially the Cubs have endured. I would be satisfied with either team hoisting the trophy, but my heart is with Cleveland. Let’s go Tribe!

Oh, and bonus baseball tidbit: the Houston Astros were once called the Colt .45s.

Thanks for reading and re-reading. Keep coming back each week for more posts every Monday. The pieces I hinted at in the last State of the Season are still on their way, along with who knows what else?! If you ever have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

As a Halloween treat, I have included a few scenes that I found particularly scary in their respective movies the first time I saw them (and every subsequent viewing). I’m aware that WhatCulture has done a similar thing throughout this month, but they don’t have the monopoly on scary scenes this time of year. They are not ranked in any way, but each scene sends shivers down me timbers from the gushing blood of the Overlook Hotel’s elevators to the terrifying flash of a demon face in Father Karras’ dream to Ben Gardener’s head bobbing in his boat. Bear in mind there may some spoilers, but you’re safe if you’ve seen these movies:

  • The Shining
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • Zodiac
  • The Descent
  • Cat People (1942)
  • Alien

All of these are great watching if you’re looking for a good movie for tonight. If you need more to sustain your scares, might I suggest what I already have?

13 Frightening Film Favorites for Halloween

 

13 Spooky Songs to Pumpkin Spice Up Your Halloween

And the scariest:

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Alex

P.S. You can begin voting for your five favorite nominees to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this April, here.

Earth Naturel

What an incredible planet we live on. Time and again I am reminded of how magnificently beautiful our cosmically infinitesimal blue ball is. Often these reminders come when I venture out into a natural space like a park or wildlife refuge that has preserved or recreated some section of non-urban environment for a number of flora and fauna species. I am lucky enough to have a few critical marsh, swamp, and forest habitats around me, as well as unique oak savanna, and the riparian (river) and liminal (lake) habitats that occur in the Great Lakes region, and I enjoy these spaces to the fullest. Yesterday, I saw my first flock of American White Pelicans at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on the northern Ohio shore of Lake Erie. Yeah, there are pelicans in the Great Lakes! They, like many other bird species, frequently pass through the region when migrating. I am privileged to get to see a wide array of bird and other animal species, as well as plants and fungi, thanks to my proximity to the largest freshwater system in the world. Additionally, I live in an ecologically important area that is valued by its local citizens, which helps to protect these spaces. When people care about the natural spaces around them, they feel inclined to preserve them so that they remain for their enjoyment, and the enjoyment of others and future generations. I’m sure the wildlife also appreciate the safeguarding of such places as they serve as a necessary source of shelter, food, and water.

As great as preserves like Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and its fellow lakeside parks and protected spaces are, there are still so many habitats throughout the United States that are being devastated by human action. Whether it be habitat destruction for industry or residential expansion; accidental damage through chemical and oil spills; climate change; or invasive species introduction, Americans are still doing harm to the natural areas around them, thereby negatively affecting the wildlife that live there. In many other countries, especially poorer and lesser-developed nations, there is even more natural damage, and even desolation. However, here in the States there is a lot of effort -and also quite importantly federal and state money – being put toward habitat protection and restoration. This is good for the living things around us, but also for us too.  For example, wetlands like the marshes and swamps I mentioned earlier are pivotal in cleaning contaminants out of water that we often use for our daily needs, especially drinking. Furthermore, wetlands are helpful in managing excess water from storms to prevent flooding in the surrounding areas. This is but one example of beneficial natural habitat preservation.

Okay, so we’ve all heard that trees and flowers and baby deer are nice, and you probably enjoy seeing them, but why should you care so much about the preservation of natural habitats around you? Well, if you live in the US or other well developed nations with the care and capital to maintain and reclaim natural areas, then you are lucky enough to have some of these spaces already, and you may take them for granted like I used to. When I was a kid, I routinely went out to the parks around my house with my dad to look for birds and other wildlife. I marveled at how many places there were, and since the world always looks bigger through a child’s eyes, it seemed like they were especially huge. As I stated, I do live in an area with a lot of protected habitats, and in fact there is more of it than when I was a child. Nevertheless, I now realize that these spaces are relatively tiny compared to the urban and suburban developed areas where we all live. Around my home there is even more of this area too, and the human habitats have outgrown the wild ones. The extra natural areas that have been designated protected spaces have mainly been made such in reaction to the overreaching of human development, not purely out of the kindness of our hearts for our natural neighbors. I understand that we live in an ever-growing world, and that it is difficult to get everyone on board to setting aside land (and water) to be left for our feathered and furred friends. It can expensive, and that space could be utilized for something useful to humanity, like a library, fire station, or indoor trampoline park. Despite all this, I am convinced that we should, whenever and wherever possible, preserve and restore natural areas to ensure that there is still wilderness in the world.

My words may be a middling effort to persuade you to share my opinion, but I am not alone in my sentiment. A group of international individuals have united and utilized a much more effective tool for education and inspiration is to show and explain the natural wonders of the world. So if you roll your eyes at my pleas for conservation, glue them to the screen with the majesty of our home that is showcased beautifully by the BBC Natural History crew in their nature documentary series. The high-definition sequences of the filmmakers coupled with the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough make for the grandest of nature films which better than any others display the even grander goings-on of Earth in all its glory. The finest of these is the Planet Earth series that debuted ten years ago. Planet Earth was ground-breaking, presented the spectacle of not just big animals on the African savanna, but fauna (animals) and flora (plants) of all sizes from all over the world. Additionally, the series looked at other biota (living things) like fungi, and even non-living things like cave crystals and other geological structures. What sets Planet Earth apart from other still great nature documentaries is its comprehensive coverage of the life and environments of our world. BBC Natural History has produced some other fantastic documentaries before and since Planet Earth, such as The Blue PlanetLife, and Frozen Planet. You can watch the complete Planet Earth series on Netflix, and there are clips on BBC One’s website.

Earlier this year in February, BBC announced they would release another Planet Earth series, and they will sometime in November. We got our first looks at what the series holds last week with the release of a trailer on October 9th, followed by an extended trailer on Mach 1 Day.

As I stated before, when people care about the natural places and inhabitants around them they want to protect them. First they must learn about them, and documentaries like Planet Earth help to introduce people to such areas while educating about what depends on each space. I look forward to seeing the follow-up to the greatest nature documentary ever filmed and learning more about the awesome Earth we all share.

Thanks for reading. Check out Planet Earth if you have not already, and maybe rewatch it if you have. It and it’s fellow BBC Natural History documentaries are all worth another viewing. I hope you’ll also return here next week, and send me any questions or comments to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

The time is now,

Alex

Strange Times at Hawkins High

Can we talk about Stranger Things? If you haven’t at least heard of it by now, then welcome back to civilization Mr. Crusoe. If you haven’t yet seen it yet, then don’t worry too much; I won’t be dishing out any spoiler-ific details, but I would recommend that you view it before you continue simply because it is awesome! And it shows promise for the future, not just of its series and other Netflix originals, but for creative visual media in general.

First let me state that as much as I like it and despite it having inspired me to write this piece, Stranger Things is by no means the first show of its kind to exist and be impactful on the current state of film and television. By this I refer not to its specific aspects of horror, suspense, mystery, and 80s nostalgia, but to its presence on an instant streaming service as a piece of their creative programming. Netflix has been around for a while now, and has had great success with their original programming with titles like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black winning Emmys and contending for Golden Globes (the former has one a few). Comic book adaptations like Daredevil and Jessica Jones have also received acclaim thanks in part to the Marvel train running at full speed right now. There are no shortage of options to choose from on Netflix alone with over 50 original series. Of course, not all of them are truly original as some started elsewhere and were given new life on Netflix, like Arrested Development, but it goes to show that instant streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are on equal ground with – perhaps even with a leg up on – as television networks. Television shows have been getting better in the last 20 years thanks to a number of great writers, directors, actors, and producers all collaborating on what is best for the story. Some are better in a two-hour window, but some need more time to breathe and flesh out the characters and situations. The trend once was that when any of the aforementioned group made the switch from film to TV they’re credibility was shot and they were stuck with TV for the rest of their dwindling careers. Now, regardless of where you start, you can seamlessly transition between movie theater and living room TV and back again and everyone is happy… as long as the final work is good, that is.

Stranger Things is that good. It’s really good, both as an homage to an era of film and the era it grew from, and as its own take on classic ideas and situations. For me, it’s the first of Netflix’s original programming that is easily accessible for everyone. Okay, maybe everyone at least as old as the kids who drive much of the story as it is genuinely scary on a frequent basis. This is not to say that the other shows are not good – many clearly are award-worthy – but they are harder for anyone and everyone to turn their attention to. My cousin loves House of Cards, but he also used to work as a political campaign manager. Some of my friends simply adore the Marvel series, but they are extremely devoted to everything Marvel makes with a heightened opinion of it all. Many of the situations within series like Orange is the New BlackNarcos, and other crime-based dramas are too adult for even some adults, while the numerous kid shows are not adult enough. Stranger Things is not perfect for everyone, but it fits a wider range than most of Netflix’s programming, which has obviously done plenty fine transcending their respective niches.

Okay, now that we have some of why Stranger Things is so popular and why it is continuing the trend of top television, especially top television not being on television, let’s talk about the show itself. Not too much to spoil, mind you, but enough to say that it is clearly influenced by scores of films from the 1980s and some from the 70s like The ThingEvil Dead, and Jaws, and those are just some of the films that have posters featured in multiple shots throughout the series. Evidently, the Duffer brothers who created the series watched and paid attention to these films. You can feel the influence of filmmakers of that time, especially Spielberg in his youthful prime. The cold open of episode one culminates in a tense near reversal of the shed sequence in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Music is a huge factor too, with the lots of synthesizer-driven songs from pop rock to prog rock filling the moments we are not freaking out (and some that we are!), making it reminiscent of a John Carpenter film from the opening credits. Not to mention, The Clash play a pivotal role with their awesome anthem “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Great, now I get to shudder and look over my shoulder whenever I listen to my music. Thanks a lot Duffers!

As good as the direction and recognizable influence of 80s-era filmmakers is, the actors and touches of that era are what really raise the show up from a decent spooky series to a must-see program. Everyone is excellent, but certain shout outs have to made for the following:

  • Winona Ryder who is at the best she’s been since the actual 1980s.
  • David Harbour who was my personal favorite character as Hopper the police chief. If you choose to see David Harbour act opposite a Joker this summer, pass on his bit role in Suicide Squad and check out his interactions with Dr. Brenner, played by Matthew Modine, the guy who played Private J.T. “Joker” Davis in Full Metal Jacket.
  • All the young actors – It may be a cop-out, but every one of the young actors did a marvelous job of playing people who embody an era they weren’t even alive for. From the toddler to the teens, they were all great, especially the boys.

If you want a little more detail on the series, well first, you know, watch it, but after you have, check out these videos. The first discusses how the show is a better 80s film than films of that time, and the second is a terrific comedy rap video about the unsung hero of the series. Be forewarned though that you definitely should watch the series first as the title is an inherent spoiler.

Thanks for reading! Now get watching if you haven’t already! If you have, then start petitioning for season 2 and recommend what I should watch in the meantime. As always, I can be reached for questions, comments, and show recs at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Return to this upside-down place next week, and remember to always take your chances with Fireball except at a family wedding.

Stay spooky,

Alex