Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A new Lost theory

I have not posted anything on here since the Lost finale about my favorite show of all time. Mostly because the conclusion (while quite good) was not what I was expecting and cannot properly formulate my opinion on the finale in words. Instead I just stumbled upon this Lost theory that I thought was pretty good and worth a read.


Take a look and enjoy. If nothing else, I love that Lost is still allowing us the opportunity to discuss, theorize and think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Magic of Going to the Movies

I just had lunch with my 17 month old neice and I asked my brother if he was going to take her to see the new Toy Story movie. He said she is too little and it would be annoying for him since she doesn't have the attention span to watch a 90+ minute movie. I then started to think about my life-long relationship with the theater and the simple magic of going to see a movie at a movie theater.
I love the way everyone comes in and picks their seat. The eventual hush that comes over the crowd as the lights fade. I used to stare at the light just above my seat and watch it dim until it was almost dark, but not quite. And my favorite part was that split second of complete silence in a room of 250 people (or so) before the opening music begins. This is especially the best during the Star Wars movies when the blue writing comes on the screen that says "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...". The silence there is golden before the fanfare of the John Williams score along with the Yellow Star Wars logo traveling deep into space.
My parents tell me the first movie I went to in the theater was Meatballs. A quick IMDB search tells me this movie was released in July of 1979, so that means I was about 22 months old. I take some pride in the fact that the first movie I saw was a starring vehicle for the awesome Bill Murray, and even cooler, was rated R. My parents were always very liberal about what I was allowed to see and what I wasn't and for this I am eternal grateful to them. They didn't treat me like a child, as long as I understood the difference between real life and make believe, and I did. I also knew if I ever acted out in any way they would make me leave the theater
I realize the problem with going to the movies today is A) It's very expensive and B) with how great some home theaters are (with surround sound, BluRay, and HDTVs) going to a movie seems like difficult especially with a screaming baby who may bother those around you. Although, I know what it's like to listen to screaming kids during movies and I HATE IT, but there is a time and a place to be in a movie theater with a bunch of screaming and crying kids too. I agree with my brother, and think 17 months is too young. I see how my niece is and she cannot sit still for 90 minutes, and I also remember the crying babies in the theater with me while I saw Grindhouse and 28 Days Later. But, at the same time, I have a slight recollection of seeing Fantasia and Pinocchio in the theater during a rerelease in the early 80s. Now that memory is slight, but I have a distinct memory of getting into a popcorn fight with whatever friend I was with during Pinocchio and my mother telling me to stop and there is something great about seeing a kids movie with a bunch of children while you are a child yourself.

This has caused me to to think about some of the great experiences I've had in the past of going to the theater. I've had many in my life, and felt this was a great way to try and chronicle them:
My first theater memory ever is driving away from a movie theater after seeing The Empire Strikes Back. I have no idea if I had seen the first Star Wars yet or not. But I have a distinct memory of driving away from the theater and my brother saying "I can't believe Darth Vader is Luke's father" as I stared out the back of my parents car and watched Movieland in Yonkers disappear out of the back windshield. I have no memory of seeing the movie, but I have a distinct memory of fondly looking back at the theater while he spoke. Empire came out exactly 30 years ago last month, so I must have been 2 and 3/4. I have a separete memory of finally seeing the original Star Wars in the theater when it was rereleased in 1982 with my brother as my mother allowed him to take me into one theater while she went to see An Officer and a Gentleman in the other.
In 1984 a new occurance happened while at the movies that I'll never forget. A movie scared me. The movie was Gremlins and immediately upon being introduced, I fell in love with Gizmo. The brown and white Mogwai sung songs and looked like the most cuddily pet you could possibly imagine. He sang songs, and could even speak a little. What 6 1/2 year old wouldn't want one of these for himself. Eventually he multiplied and a bunch of other Mogwais came along. They got hungry and tricked Billy into feeding them after midnight (even though that was against the rules). Billy got them some chicken and even offered some to Gizmo who sadly refused. Gizmo knew 6 1/2 year old Mitch was about to close his eyes in a movie for the first (and only time) in his life. The Mogwais went into cocoons and transformed into the devilish Gremlins and first attacked Billy's mother. She fought them off with basic household appliances, and this scene did two things. It scared me so much that I actually put my fingers in front of my eyes so I wouldn't see what happened next. The blender scene bothered me but I was able to watch it. But when she put that Gremlin in the microwave and turned it on, that was too much for me. I hid my eyes and asked my mom if I could leave. She looked down at me and asked if I was sure. With my eyes still hidden from the screen I shrugged. She said "why don't you just take a walk." She took me outside and in the lobby of the theater she said there was nothing to be afraid of since it was only a movie. She asked if I wanted to go back in and finish it. I asked her if it was OK if I closed my eyes again. She said of course. So bravely, I walked back into the theater and sat down. I finished the movie, and did not hide my eyes once. In fact, I loved it. I didn't even scream when Stripe melted at the end. I had conquered my fear of the movies, and made a vow to myself that I would never hide my eyes again. I think I've held up my end of the bargain to myself. There have been many times I've winced from something I've seen, but I've persavered and kept with it.
In 1987 right around my 10th birthday I had another milestone happen at the movies. I loved a movie so much that after the credits rolled, I didn't leave the theater and just sat there until the movie started again. The movie was The Princess Bride, and I had actually gotten to the theater late. I came into the theater about 10 minutes late, but it didn't matter. I was thrust upon an adventure filled with giants, sword-fighting, pirates and (yes, even) some kissing. I loved the movie immediately and still do. My mother was my date yet again, and she loved it too, but we didn't know how it ended. The movie ended and both of us were so excited, I asked her if we could see it again. She said, we could stay to see the beginning just so we knew how it began. I was so happy. She told me not to leave the theater or we might get caught and if I had to go to the bathroom, the deal was off and we'd have to go home. I did have to go to the bathroom, but that wasn't going to stop me from seeing this fantastic story again. We sat there alone as new people started to show up for the next showing. the lights dimmed, and i finally found out that the kid was home sick and his grandfather was reading him a story. My mother told me we were only going to stay the first 10-15 minutes, but for those reading this blog, I'm sure you can understand how it's nearly impossible to stop watching that movie. I begrudgedly allowed myself to leave after Westley gets caught on the other side of the Fire Swamp. To this day, I still think the movie is a little slower after that, but I may be jaded by my first viewing.
As I grew, I can't remember many magical experiences. I remember some great movies, and I remember some awful movies. For example, I remember seeing Leviathan with a bunch of friends and then we spent the hour after the movie scaring each other in the parking lot. I remember skipping school to go see Pulp Fiction alone because none of my friends had heard of it yet. I loved convincing my friend Chuck to come with me and see a small independent movie I heard was good on opening night called The Usual Suspects. I remember telling two old ladies sitting behind me to leave the theater if they hated it so much while they berated Eyes Wide Shut which I was completely captivated by.
Once I moved to Manhattan, I got into a craze of seeing older movies at places like The Film Forum, or Cinema Village. I stumbled upon Barry Lydon one afternoon and I had 2 hours to kill decided to see that. I didn't know it was over 3 hours long and was late for my plans that night, but it was worth it. I also decided to see True Romance in 2000 alone. I had seen the movie 100 times already but never in a theater. I remember a really pretty girl sitting in front of me alone and the entire time trying to psych myself up to ask her if she wanted to get a piece of pie once it ended and completely chickening out.
I started becoming addicted to the midnight screenings of "event movies" All the Star Wars prequels, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man (For the original Spider-Man, I took the day off work and went with a bunch of friends and my brother and I decided to stay through the credits and watch it again immediately like I did with our mother 15 years prior.) Also seeing Borat on opening night in Times Square in the front row and looking back at a sea of 300+ faces roaring with laughter during the infamous nude wrestling scene is unbeatable.
About 4 years ago, I joined Netflix and got content and lazy. Why spend all that money and go to all the trouble of seeing these movies in the theater when I can see them from the comfort of my home for a small monthly fee. This led to me not seeing any movies at all in the theater for a long time. Until New Years day 2008 my friend Jed called me and told me he was going to see Charlie Wilson's War. I had little desire to see that movie, but I wanted to see him and I like most of the actors in it. For whatever reason, I was brought back to my childhood. I stood at the light above me as it dimmed and watched it go dark. I felt that sense of excitement of jumping into an unknown story that I knew nothing about and got swept away for two hours. I left the theater and had another awakening of the great experience of seeing a movie on a large screen. Since then I have seen many movies in the theater and consciously recognized how great the act of going to the theater is.
But like everything, life happens. I don't know why but, it has now been at least six months since I've been to the theater. For whatever reason, nothing has appealed to me in the theater, but I'm starting to get that itch again. Toy Story 3 was just released and I know I have to see it. Part of me wishes I could bring my neice, but I know she's not ready yet. I hope I can be with her when she sees her first one, whenever she's ready.
I wish I knew what it was about the going to the movies that is so great. Is it being placed in a dark room where anything can happen? In a movie theater I have seen fantastic things like men being able to fly, and aliens visit Earth both friendly and not so friendly. I have seen the human spirit overcome impossible odds both in impossible ways like in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and in beautiful, simple ways like in The Straight Story. I have seen people fall in love and seen people fall out of love (sometimes in the same two hours). I've literally gone to the moon and beyond. But with all this fantastic things, you never know what story is going to strike the right chord with you. That's why I keep going. To giggle, be amazed, to have my mind opened to new possibilities, to simply be entertained by a shocking twist in the third act or be inspired.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stephen King on Religion?

So I just finished The Colorado Kid. I read it to knock out yet another Stephen King book, it's only 178 pages so it took only 2 train rides to finish it, and I happened to find it in the Library. So yay, another Stephen King book down with only me needing to read Cujo, Carrie, The Cycle of the Werewolf and a few stories in Four Past Midnight to have read his entire collection of published works.

That's just bragging though. The book is a short mystery of the Hard-Boiled crime ilk. I won't say anything about the book at all, the real reason I'm writing is to copy a paragraph that Stephen King wrote in the Afterword of the book. I thought it was a great way of looking at life and really the pre-life and after-life that may or may not exist. Here's what he wrote:

"...Consder the fact that we life life in a web of mystery and have simply gotten so used to the fact that we have crossed out the word and replaced it with one we like better, that one being reality. Where do we come from? Where were we before we were here? Don't know. Where are we going? Don't know. A lot of churches have what they assure us are the answers, but most of us have a sneaking suspicion all that might be a con-job laid down to fill the collection plates. In the meantime, we're in a kind of compulsory dodgeball game as we free-fall from WWherever to Ain't Got A Clue. Sometimes bombs go off and sometimes the planes land okay and sometimes the blood tests come back clean and sometimes the biopsies come back positive. Most times the bad telephone call doesn't come in the middle of the night but sometimes it does, and either way we know we're going to drive pedal-to-the-metal into the mystery eventually.

It's crazy to be able to live with that and stay sane, but it's also beautiful. I write to find out what I think, and what I found out writing The Colorado Kidwas that maybe- I just say maybe - it's the beauty of the mystery that allows us to live sane as we pilot our fragile bodies through this demolition-derby world. We always want to reach for the lights in the sky, and we always want to know the answers to our questions. Wanting might be better than knowing. I don't say that for sure; I only suggest it. "

I really like this passage and I find it can be applied to most anything. Once again, I say Thankee-sai to my Uncle Stevie.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I've become fascinated with the act of writing. I guess it's the same thing for artists or musicians, but to take nothing and create something seems almost magical. The problem for me is I don't think I'm a very good writer. Sure, I don't try much. Most of my writing is in the form of this blog, or in emails. Instead, I've become a voracious consumer of anything written. This includes books, comic books and in a way film and television since they must have started out as scripts before becoming filmed.

But my reading list continues to pile up. I even joined a book club about 6 months ago to read books I normally wouldn't read, or just to get into a fun discussion about a common theme/story we read. This book club has so far read the following books:
- What the Dog Saw - a collection of short stories by New Yorker columnest Malcolm Gladwell. All insightful essays that look at common occurances in a more scientific way.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain - A story of a family breaking up because of the sickness of the mother -- told from the point of view of the family dog. It's a sweet story, but in the end kind of forgetable.
- After Dark - Murakami. A surreal short tale of a night in the life of a single girl in Tokyo. Quite good and since it was open to interpretation it led to a lot of great discussion.
- City of Theives - David Benioff. A novel about two young men in Nazi-occupied St. Petersberg near the end of WWII. A structurally flawed book since the author toyed with fiction and reality in a way that was was only done for a cheap "pay-off" at the end.
- The Stranger - Albert Camus. The famous existential novel written in the 1950s telling the story of a man who goes through life with little regard for himself or other people
- The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo - Steig Larsson. The best-seller about a murder mystery that took place 40 years before the story began.

If it had been my choice, I probably would have read all of these books sometime in my life but probably not in this order. I'm enjoying the idea of someone making up my mind for me. Or more specifically, I'm enjoying the challenge or not curtailing my own reading for the book club's assigned readings. I like planning out my month and seeing how many other books I can fit into reading and still finish the assigned book in time.

This month the assigned book is The Alchemist. I have not obtained the book yet, but will sometime this week. I think we have a planned meeting for July 18th to read the book, and before blogging this I was trying to figure out my reading schedule for the next few weeks. I expect the schedule to look like this:
The Colorado Kid - Stephen King - Today - Wednesday (and then I am down to 4 SK books I ahve not read)
The Alchemist - the week of June 28th.
Mr. Shivers - A book I know nothing about and have no desire to research since it was given to me by a friend over the weekend whose opinion I respect. I expect this to be read the week after.

Is this too much reading? I don't think there is such a thing. I love the challenge of a difficult book like the David Mitchell book I read last week Number 9 Dream. I love the schmaltz of a Stephen King book, I love the predictability of any James Patterson Alex Cross novels.

And the book club has added some things I didn't realize. I love it when someone says something that you never thought of and it makes you see the entire book in a new way. I love trying to come up with insights like that for other people. I love it when you and someone completely agree about your outlook and opinion of a story, yet I also love it when you whole-heartedly disagree which strikes up heated discussions.

I'm also learning that the best books, do not often make the best book-club books. For example, although my group all really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we had very little to talk about since most of the questions brought up in the book were answered in classic mystery style. Page-turners, are often like that. They bring up a bunch of questions and you keep reading to find out what happens only to have it all kind of neatly tied up in a bow at the end.

Compare that to the Murakami book we read - After Dark. This told a simple story of a night from midnight until 6 AM of a single girl in Tokyo. Not much there, but the layers and the weird David Lynchian textures that were brought up and never discussed again made the discussion heated, engaging and fun. In my day to day reading, I prefer the former. Mysteries and fun. But I'm learning in discussion books, I prefer the open-endedness.

In the end, there are too many books, and time is too short. I look forward to my continued consumption of the written word. Even though this blog is the type of writing I personally hate: Writing with little to no substance.

I have heard the best thing to do when you have nothing to write about is to just write anyway. Practice makes perfect and the more you write, the better you become. The only issue is when this adage was created, there was no way to post it on the internet for the world to see which I'm about to do right n-

Monday, June 14, 2010

They found Extraterrestial life on Titan!

I cannot believe this is not being blown up all over the world. For the first time ever, scientists have found possible life on one of Saturn's moons, Titan. There are articles everywhere but I haven't seen it once on the news and most people aren't discussing it. Please read a little about it here since this is potentially one of the biggest news stories ever.

Now, for those that don't want to read too much, if this is actual life it is most likely primative, but it's still insane. Even more insane is people always assume if we find extraterrestial life it will be like us: carbon based life-forms that breathe oxygen. This is saying we have to completely rethink our idea of what constitutes life and in what type of conditions that life may live.

After Stephen Hawking's little story of the dangers of finding life on other planets, we should probably be cautious, but come on people: they may have found aliens! That's exciting!