Tag Archives: TV

Excelsior!

Last Monday, we lost a pop culture legend who made some of the most memorable characters pop off the pages of Marvel comic books for decades, and was perhaps the most prominent figure in the silver age of comics: Stan Lee.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is unfamiliar with Stan Lee. Whether it be from reading the comics he wrote, or watching for his “Where’s Waldo”-like cameo appearances in the television and film adaptations of Marvel’s works, you’ve seen Stan Lee somewhere before. Chances are, you know quite a lot about his story already, which comes as no surprise given his notability and natural talent to entertain. I have seen a lot of tribute articles and videos explaining details of his life, yet I feel like this one from YouTuber Captain Midnight provides the most honest look at what made Stan Lee such a revered writer and creator, as well as how making the Marvel empire was not a one man job:

Lesser known, is Lee’s early life prior to being the big man at Marvel, but his ability to bring a smile to those invested in his media was ever-present. In 1939, Stanley Lieber began working at Timely Comics. He would, of course, later become Stan Lee, just as Timely Comics would later become Marvel. For the first couple of years he served as a glorified gofer, until Stan’s earliest work as a writer came in 1941 with “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge”, which happens to be the comic that first featured Captain America using his shield as a frisbee to beat the bad guys.

The next year, following the United States’ entrance into World War II, Lee joined the Army and served as a member of the Signal Corps, ensuring that communications devices worked properly. He eventually was moved the the Training Film Division, tasked with making training materials, as well as cartoons. Obviously, it was a good fit for him.

After the war, Lee worked as a writer for a hodgepodge of comic styles, but started to lose interest until that key “fuck it” moment where he teamed up with Jack Kirby and created the Fantastic Four. From there, he, Kirby, Steve Ditko, and many others went on to introduce the world to a cavalcade of characters with fantastic abilities, yet relatable human traits and flaws, and through numerous business ups and downs, those characters are enshrined in the global popular culture, and we just can’t get enough of them.

There will be more new faces in Marvel and other comic distributors (as there have been for a long time since Stan Lee downgraded his duties at Marvel in the 1990s), but we will always remember the first ones who shared our daily struggles despite their superpowers, and we’ll always remember the man who helped make them that way.

Thanks for watching and reading! Be sure to silver surf back her next week, and enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration(s) with friends and family! Maybe you all can watch a Marvel movie and look for the smiling man with glasses to say something funny.

Go Buckeyes!

Alex

P.S. My favorite of the many cameos just happens to be the most recent:

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It’s Hard Out Here for a Pubescent Teenager… Hahaha, “Hard”

I have been hampered by sickness as of late, although it has allowed me to catch up on some shows in my Netflix queue. One such I binged through with relish was the recently released second season of Big Mouth. A brilliant, absurd animation spectacle from the collective comedic genius of Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Andrew Goldberg, and Jennifer Flackett. If you have not watched it yet, I recommend it, for underneath the rich tapestry of colorful characters like the Hormone Monsters and Shame Wizard, as well as the hilarious quips about just about anything, is well detailed account of the troubles of teenagers and all that they deal with be it the sexual frustrations of an awkwardly growing and ever-horny body, the confusion of how to react to hormones and social pressures in a world filled technology able to document all that occurs, and the difficulty of dealing with the mistakes of one’s parents that are no fault of one’s own, but certainly feel that way. Big Mouth still has plenty of gross body humor with jabs at the frightening methods our bodies prepare for babymaking, but it’s how the show handles to pressure to keep your cool and love your friends through this all that makes it truly endearing to me, and for that, I thank the creators and writers for taking a look back at their own, undoubtedly embarrassing years, as turning them into one of the best shows to explore the hardships of children whose bodies are preparing for adulthood while their minds are drawn to the gutter.

But wait, there’s more! There is actually a show that I found to be even more introspective with its characters that features teenagers navigating a scary, tech-filled world that highlights their inadequacies, as well as the fallibility of the adults around them – and I found this show on the same streaming service! (I’m not paid for promoting Netflix here, but Netflix, if you wanna throw some dough my way, or take a bit off of my monthly subscription, that’d be tight!) American Vandal is grounded in more reality than Big Mouth, at least as far as it is live-action and there are no Hormone Monsters waddling around. It also serves as a great blend of comedy, mystery, and character study that ultimately takes a hard look at how we look at people. It serves as a lesson in passing judgement on someone until you really understand their situation, and encourages that deeper dive to discover how many layers there are to each person, no matter what you may originally assume.

I highly recommend you watch each of these magnificent shows and laugh and cry along with the excellent characters with each wild twist and turn. Need more convincing? How about a mashup trailer for both shows?

I also encourage you to return here next week for some more fun!

Toodles,

Alex

Smokey Sausage and the Bundit

Toledo, Ohio is a a mid-major Midwestern city in the northwest corner of the state, and is the fourth largest city in population behind Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. While not as well known worldwide as the three Cs, Toledo does have a few key claims to fame to boast. For one, the most famous minor league team, the Toledo Mud Hens, hail from there (I don’t care about who Kevin Costner played for in Bull Durham, and besides, I’m mad at them for knocking the Hens out of the International League playoffs on Saturday). Tying into what made the Mud Hens a more household name is Toledo’z most famous actor – no, not Katie Holmes, but Jamie Farr! Best known for playing Corporal Maxwell Klinger on M*A*S*H, Jamie Farr is a native Toledoan who made the most of his originally intended brief appearances to become a staple character on the show. It probably helped that he played a man so eager to get out of the Korean War that he resorted to wearing gaudy dresses to be labeled cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and be sent home. He worked his own hometown heritage into the role, and Klinger proudly touted Toledo standards like the Mud Hens; even occasionally trading a dress for a baseball jersey.

Farr’s Klinger was also integral in putting another piece of Toledo onto the national scene, and that is Tony Packo’s Cafe. Tony Packo opened his first restaurant in 1932 and sold sausage sandwiches. He purchased a larger establishment three years later, and upgraded the sandwiches too. Packo added chili to the sandwich, which in truth was more of a hot dog. In fact, the sausage was advertised as a “Hungarian hot dog” (it’s like the Hungarian version of a Polish kielbasa), and it is still served today at all Packo’s restaurants located only around Toledo. Mentions on M*A*S*H brought visitors from all around, and reciprocated love for Farr and the show are apparent in each eatery. Also abounding in every one of the hot dog havens is another decoration that is entirely unique to the local chain, but that was started by another celebrity….

In 1972, Tony Packo’s was doing all right. It may not have yet been noticed nationally, but that was not far off as Klinger and company were just hitting TV screens in M*A*S*H, but it was a local favorite in Toledo as it had been for decades. An actor was traveling through town along with a stage production of The Rainmaker -not the John Grisham crime story, but the N. Richard Nash play about a Depression-era ranchers. This actor had starred in a few television series, including Westerns and a police drama. He wasn’t a huge name, but he was known, and more importantly, he was known to Nancy Packo, Tony’s daughter. She wrote to the actor and encouraged him to come to her father’s cafe. Hey, an actor’s got to eat, the same as the rest of us, why not eat the best Toledo has to offer?

On night, after a performance of The Rainmaker, he came! He came, he ate, he conquered, and before he left he was asked by Nancy for an autograph. The actor grabbed a hot dog bun and signed his name right on it.

Image result for burt reynolds tony packo's hot dog bun

Burt Reynolds was the first person to sign a hot dog bun at Tony Packo’s Cafe, inadvertently kicking off a tradition that has seen over 1500 notable people from all walks of life signing one of the most uncommon autographs in their careers. Nowadays, the buns are not buns at all, but foam replicas that are airbrushed to look like buns and are easy to write on.

Of course, Burt Reynolds would go on to become even bigger, with a number of successful films, including his big break which came in that same year 1972, with the release of Deliverance. He also became known for turning down some roles that would go on to be successful; he actually was offered a lead role in the movie MASH that preceded the TV show. However, he still made a number of acclaimed films, many of which were big crowd pleasers and box office hits. Among his most memorable movies were The Longest Yard (1974), The Cannonball Run (1981), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Boogie Nights (1997) for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and his signature film Smokey and the Bandit (1977) where his onscreen chemistry with costar Sally Field carried over into a real-life relationship.

Burt Reynolds’ life in the spotlight had its ups and downs, but we can look back and smile at it and appreciate the fun he provided when he showed up onscreen. I can almost hear his infectious happy laugh now. Rest in peace, Burt.

Thanks for reading! If you ever find yourself in Toledo, then make a stop at Tony Packo’s for lunch or dinner and take a look at Burt’s bun and many of the others on the walls as you enjoy your Hungarian dog and spicy pickles. The white chicken chili and more traditional Hungarian items are pretty great too. If you want to learn more about the restaurant, check out their website and this brief segment that was featured on Dateline’s site:

As always, you can drop me a line at monotrememadness@gmail.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions. Be sure to hop in your Trans-Am and race back here next week for more fun.

Yahoo!

Alex

Anthony Bourdain was a wanderer who knew exactly where he was in the world. Not necessarily in a geographical sense – in fact, he often was quite lost in that way – but from the perspective of a man who exemplified a go-with-the-flow wisdom in numerous locations and situations that most of us would be freaking out if we found ourselves in, Bourdain saw the beauty in every back alley, every dish,  and every culture.

Looking at his beginnings in the New York City area, Anthony Bourdain was raised by a family environment conducive to cultural growth. His mother was an editor for the New York Times (the paper whose famous book bestseller list he would later find his own name on), and his father was a top man at Columbia Records. With print and music covered in the family, and younger brother Christopher going into money (no, really, he’s a currency analyst), it seemed only natural for Anthony to round out the family’s varied experience with his own mastery of cooking and sense of travel.

Bourdain is best known for his television shows, most notably, Anthony Bourdain: Ne Reservations on the Travel Channel, and then Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN. On those shows, he brought his personal expertise as a chef who honed his French style in New York’s famous Brasserie Les Halles, as well as his linguistic skills that were certainly on point in his unique culinary books like his first: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Bourdain always added his wit and charm to every situation, every travel by rickety rail or gondala.

Sadly, we lost Bourdain, last week when he took his own life. Whatever troubled him is still being uncovered, but I want to remember the man who recognized the humanity in all through his extensive travels and trials of different food from different places. Whether you remember the man who certainly lived a life worth living through his shows, his books, his food, or his humorous appearances in shows or films like Archer and The Big Short, remember to look at everyone around you as he did: as fellow people with something to share, to learn from, and to enjoy time with.

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

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

 

 

 

 

“We Don’t Actually Want Less Guns in Schools; We Want Fewer Guns in Schools”

After yet another school shooting, young and older citizens in the United States are hoping for an end to the senseless cycle of violence that is becoming more frequent. I have heard many articulate pleas for greater gun control from many people, chiefly the actual students who endured this most recent tragedy.  Their urge to those in political power to use their authority to instill real and productive change is inspiring.

One group who has been listening to these impassioned teenagers is the team at my favorite late night show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Over the past two weeks since the show returned from hiatus, Oliver and his crew have made a few observations on the response to the latest school shooting.

However, this topic and its obvious solution is nothing new to Oliver, who was at the center of one of the greatest recurring pieces The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ever put together when he was a correspondent on that show. Take a gander yourself to see how the same stupid argument to “protect gun rights” perpetuates the lack of protection for people:

If hearing a British man explain how Australia did it right and America is doing nothing despite that proof that things worked for Australia is exhausting, then take a quick listen to an Australian who recognizes the same flaws:

Thanks for reading and watching. Please come back next week when I can hopefully talk about Black Panther, or something.

Alex