Monday, November 30, 2015

The Story So Far

Before we head into December, and the prestige / Oscar-bait season, I thought I'd rank my top ten favorite movies of 2015 so far.

Here we go:

1. It Follows
2. Spectre
3. Brooklyn
4. The Martian
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Magic Mike XXL
7. Grandma
8. The Visit
9. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
10. Room

I'm curious about what I'll think of Star Wars - The Force Awakens next month. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Alone In the Universe

Only recently I had bemoaned the death of the album. No doubt, the album is still (in my opinion) a dying art form, but leave it to fate to see the release of the latest New Order and ELO albums during the interim to try and prove me wrong. Both of the aforementioned releases are simply wonderful. New Order has a return-to-form with its beat-stomping synths and clever lyrics, while ELO (aka Jeff Lynne) is full of soothing mellow rock tunes. The latter album, in fact, has been something of a revelation for me.

It can be difficult to described what compels us to gravitate toward certain music. Sure, we may enjoy some genres more than others, but why and how is it that certain songs can, for lack of a better term, touch our soul? The newest offering from ELO, Alone In the Universe, manages to be the musical equivalent of a soul mate. It's not necessarily easy to describe such a connection, but I will endeavor to do so here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A War That Never Ends

It's been three days since the abhorrent attacks in Paris, France. It was a somewhat surreal experience, being continents away from the death and destruction, enjoying a celebratory occasion with friends at at a downtown bar. I was constantly refreshing the CNN app on my phone, attempting to get the latest information, sensations of sadness and disbelief permeating my being as I attempted to balance the joy of the immediate occasion with the despair felt at events unfolding across the Atlantic.

As with most things, once the immediacy of an event is over, the visceral turns to the contemplative. Just a few days after that horrific Friday the 13th, it is clearer to me that what France -- and all nations who value freedom -- must not do is conform to the world through the lens of the terrorists. Closing borders and asking for papers, please, is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex situation. They are understandable reactions, but should only be temporary.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pic of the Week

It's been awhile, but the Pic of the Week is back with model Julian Schneyder. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Life In Films

I see a lot of movies.

Well, maybe not as many compared to professional film critics, but probably more than the average movie-goer. So far, I've seen forty-three 2015 movies. And that's just the ones released this year. It doesn't count the older films I've watched. Some folks like to kid me about this love of movies, of how often I'm at the theater. But it's more than just some moving pictures on a screen. For me, they are -- or at least can be -- life markers.

Following are some films, and the memories I associate with them:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Not Like a Song, Not Like a Movie

Expectation vs. reality can be a harsh thing. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in our interpersonal relationships. So often we strive for a connection with someone, only to discover that they do not desire the same. We want an affirmation from others about who we are as human beings, yet do not receive such interaction when it is most wanted. And, of course, we want a storybook closure to our relationships with others, an ending that all too often is never written the way we'd like, or expect, it to be.

We'll see a movie where someone likes someone else and, in order to let them know, will write them a love song. Maybe there'll be a scene where, in a crowded night club, person A will get on stage, strum their guitar (it's always a guitar, isn't it?) and coo their homegrown lyrics to person B in the audience. Person B, the object of the affection, will tear-up, fall in love there on the spot and eventually the two will go off together in a blur of romance.

Real life doesn't happen in such a fashion. Most often, person A would accomplish nothing more than creeping out person B, who likely would not reciprocate the amorous feelings. Such is life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Book of Paul

"I heard the Fire Chief say your name earlier, and Gladney isn't a common name. Are you by any chance related to the Gladneys who were in construction?"

The preceding quote is from a white-haired gentleman who introduced himself to me last week after an awards ceremony for Champaign firefighters. He'd worked alongside my dad and uncles doing construction work in the community and around Illinois, and asked after a few of them: Lewis, Joe and Paul. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that Joe and Lewis were both deceased, and that uncle Paul wasn't doing too well. He seemed genuinely sorry to hear that.

The aforementioned encounter is one I have more frequently than you might imagine. It occurred again just this past Sunday, at a dinner party. It was one of those occasions where everyone was wearing a name tag and, early on in the evening, an older man walked-up, read my name tag and asked if I happened to know a Gene Gladney (Gene is uncle Paul's actual first name). "Yes," I replied, "He's my uncle." The man smiled and said he knew him from way back when, and asked how he was doing. "Not well," I shrugged. "He's had cancer for awhile, and it's getting the better of him lately."

Early the next morning, my uncle Paul was dead.