Friday, May 22, 2015

Pic of the Week

Yesterday was UK diver Tom Daley's 21st birthday, so he is our Pic of the Week. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Good Night, and Good Luck

"Nobody knows what the future holds
And it's bad enough just getting old
Live my life in self-defense
You know I love the past cuz I hate suspense"
                                                      Diane Young by Vampire Weekend

Much has been written about the retirement of David Letterman from late-night television. I paused before adding to the pile of tributes/good riddance write-ups cluttering the Internet of late. In the end, this is more of a personal moment for me than initially anticipated, with a reach far beyond the talk show host, himself.

In 1992, Johnny Carson ended his 30-year-run as the king of late-night, departing The Tonight Show for the greener pastures of retirement. Jay Leno took over, and things were never the same. I enjoyed Johnny. He came across as warm, amiable, like a nice grandfather. Someone a couple of generations removed, yet still fun to watch.

I never warmed to Leno and his brand of humor. Letterman was always my cup of preferred tea. When he didn't get The Tonight Show gig in '92, and started his Late Show on CBS in 1993, I gladly watched him instead of Jay. The dovetailing of the CBS show airing earlier, plus Dave getting older, meant that it was a more subdued affair than his NBC Late Night show, but that was alright.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ghost In the Machine

After watching the new movie Ex Machina, I've been contemplating the possibility of artificial intelligence in our world, though not in the impact it might have on our society, but how we should treat it once it arrives (and it will).

Some spoilers for the movie follow, so turn back now if you haven't seen it yet....

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2015, Charing Cross Road

Do you remember having a pen pal? I do. It seemed like such a unique concept at the time. This was back in the 1980s, when I was in elementary school. Not exactly sure of what year it was, but we were each given another child to write to. I think mine was in France (though he obviously knew enough English to correspond). There were perhaps only two letters exchanged between us, but that was enough. It felt exciting to wrote back & forth with someone so far away.

I thought of that brief friend from France, whose face I never saw and whose name now escapes memory, as I wished a happy birthday to someone who lives in New York City a few days ago. You might think I met him on the occasion I traveled to NYC in 1995. You would be mistaken. We met (if you can call it that) online, via Facebook. In fact, I know several folks solely online. We've never met in-person, and some of us don't even live on the same continent.

What used to be a special circumstance is now, due to the wonder of the Internet, an everyday, commonplace occurrence. Indeed, it used to be so unique that books and movies were made about it. Of course, writing takes many different forms. The fact that, in the 1980s it took the form of letters and now, some thirty years later, takes the form of Facebook, online forums and e-mail, doesn't change what it is, and always has been: written communication.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Best Supehero Movies of All-Time

The latest installment of the MARVEL superhero movie universe opened last week, and I saw it on opening night.

Avengers: Age of Ultron hit all the perfunctory notes that a modern comics-to-screen film should, though I left the theater without feeling thrilled. That's ok. I'm not really the target audience for the genre anymore. As a teenager, I collected comic books for a few years, almost exclusively Marvel.   Among my favorite were: The Avengers, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor. After awhile, I stopped collecting, mostly because it became obvious the story lines would never end. It's one reason why I'm not a fan of soap operas.

In spite of having abandoned serious comic collecting in the early '90s, I still enjoy a good superhero film. There have been many and, at last count, I'd seen 29 movies of the genre (though how to categorize them is up for debate. I do not, for example, consider V for Vendetta to be a superhero movie. Great film? Yes. Superhero? No. Others think of it as such, so there you go). After sifting through the 29 that I'd seen, it wasn't too difficult to whittle them down to a Top 10 of what I consider to be the best of all-time.

Without further ado, here is another list of truth from the (cyber) pen of Matt. The greatest superhero movies of all-time....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Long, Inexorable Rise of Change

So much is happening in the United States at this moment. Strike that -- so much is always happening in our country but, this week, it feels like more than usual is taking place. Such is the power of the media, I suppose. Regardless, the riots in Baltimore have left me agonizing over the state of race and police relations, and the commencement of same-sex marriage arguments in front of the US Supreme Court has left me feeling anxious for the future of marriage equality in our country.

The fact that these events are occurring at all is both sad and remarkable. It's sad that, in 2015, we're still torn apart by racial conflict. It's unclear how many centuries need to pass before we learn to treat each other with respect, whether we're wearing a uniform or we're simply an average citizen. It's remarkable that the societal discussion of same-sex marriage has reach SCOTUS in such a relatively swift manner, given the fact that it was a very taboo subject (especially politically) just a decade or two ago.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Tree Grows In Champaign

Today is National Arbor Day, and folks are generally encouraged to go out and plant trees and some such. I'm all for it. While I enjoy living in a moderately urban environment, the fact that it is suffused with so many trees is something to treasure. To that end, I am today reminded of Mildred Sims, my teacher for both second and third grades, and the tree our class planted in Clark Park many moons ago.

From 1983 to 1985, Millie Sims was not only my teacher, but an adult whom I looked up to (both figuratively and literally). She was smart, fun, warm but knew how to keep her distance, and had a supremely endearing personality. She is to date the only person to have gotten me to eat celery (by smearing peanut butter in the hollow of the stick, placing raisins on it, and calling it 'Ants on a Log'). She brought local weather celebrity Judy Fraser to our class one day to discuss meteorology, which I thought was one of the coolest things ever.