Whenever I write characters I try to have as much backstory as possible. Most of the backstory never gets written in the story itself, but it's nice to have because it helps me get a true feel for the person. While writing out one particular character, one who shuns popular norms, dating, going to the movies, and listening to popular music, I decided that he needed to have a favorite album. After some careful research I found Donald Fagen's The Nightfly. The album is a strange fusion of pop rock and jazz. Heck, it's almost 90% jazz and 10% rock, and it works so well.
While I haven't heard any of Fagen's other work, besides Steely Dan, I did find it odd that he took an 11 year hiatus from recording solo albums. Researching the guy, I found that The Nightfly was sort of a cathartic experience for him, and it took so much out of him that he just had to disengage from everything after recording it. This is understandable, as some people feel they put all that they have into one thing, and it begins to take a toll on them. I felt this way about the mini movie that I directed and edited myself. The process was such that I decided I probably didn't want to do that again. However, there are times that I wish some people would just stop after making their own masterpiece. What if Kevin Smith had stopped after making Clerks? What if Star Wars had been a box office failure and George Lucas never made another?
Yesterday I went to this BBQ place in town and had lunch. I also had their famous pecan cobbler with ice cream. In the past this had been my go-to, but today, in 2017, I found the dessert so sweet that I just could not finish it. Is this a sign of becoming too old? 37 is just around the corner. Aye...
I recently discovered this video on YouTube. Someone took the time to splice clips of the movie Career Opportunities, and mixed it with Space Age Love Song by A Flock of Seagulls. I saw the movie years ago when I was a teenager. Back then I used to roam around the $1.00 section of the video store, and one day I came across this movie. The box art is what drew me in. It's Jennifer Connelly on Frank Whaley's shoulders, and he's staring up at her cleavage. How could a sexually frustrated 16 year old not love this?
While the movie is okay, it's this video that got me. Someone in the comments described it as "This is exactly what falling in love in the 80's looked like." Granted, the movie came out in 1991, but I agree with the sentiment. It almost makes me wish I had been a teenager in the 80's. I know I probably would have been the same frustrated teen back then, but still, one can dream.
I watched The Founder last night. I was originally drawn in by the fact that Michael Keaton was in it. He's always given great performances. I used to be miffed that I never got to see him in the role Steve Martin eventually took over in the film Leap of Faith. I got my wish, sorta, when Michael Keaton played a shady faith healer on the show Frasier. Him being great in that role just made me even sadder that he dropped out of Leap of Faith. Nevertheless, Michael Keaton shined in the film Birdman, a film where the main character laments having been known only for playing a superhero. The ironic twist in this being that Michael Keaton is most famous for playing Batman in the two Tim Burton movies. In another weird and ironic twist, after playing this part of Birdman in Birdman, Keaton comes back as another flying winged comic book character, Vulture, in this year's blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming.
In The Founder, Keaton isn't playing anyone from any comic book. He's playing real life fast food icon Ray Kroc. My first thought after watching this movie was, what exactly were they going for here? Ray Kroc was a huckster who conned the McDonald Brothers out of the business they started. Nowhere in this film is Kroc painted as a sympathetic character. Not only does he randomly leave his wife one day, he replaces her with another man's wife. On top of that, he makes it to where his ex-wife doesn't get any part of his business, pretty much leaving her destitute with a house and the cars. In the climax of the film, Kroc buys Mac and Dick McDonald's shares of the company, renegs on a handshake deal to give them royalties, and then, makes them change the name of their original McDonald's stand. To drive the point home and to be an even greater asshole, he opens a McDonald's across the street from the original store, now known as The Big M. In reality, he opened a McDonald's down the street a bit, but still, it was seen as a hostile move that eventually forced the McDonald Brothers out of business within two years.
Character aside, the performances from everyone in the film were top notch. Keaton's interpretation of Ray Kroc reminded me of his role in a not very well known '80's film, Gung-Ho. In that movie, Keaton is an auto plant manager trying to save the small town he lives in by convincing a Japanese company to reopen the plant, thus bringing jobs back to the town. Keaton's character's drive to success in that film reminded me of just how hard Ray Kroc in the movie was trying to move milkshake machines, and later McDonald's franchises.
Nick Offerman did an amazing job as Dick McDonald, as did John Carroll Lynch portraying Mac McDonald. I had just watched John Carroll Lynch's performance as Arthur Leigh Allen (one of the many men believed to be the Zodiac Killer) in Zodiac. While I had seen him in other things, including The Drew Carey Show, I didn't take him serious as an actor until Zodiac. Here he does a great job as the timid, weaker of the two McDonald Brothers. Nick on the other hand, plays the more alpha Dick McDonald. Mac was the strong-willed brother, but often he was outsmarted and out foxed by the slickster Ray Kroc. Laura Dern also did a greate job as Ray's first wife.
The movie was well done. Most documentaries of this kind, where the story is somewhat already known, we get just a smattering of scenes and some bad dialogue (I'm looking at you, Notorious). But this movie was actually paced really well, and the acting really drove home the parts that some of us already knew. The only cringey moment was when Ray met Fred Turner for the first time. "What's your name, son?" "Fred Turner!" *pause so the audience can gasp*
While I don't think the filmmakers went out of their way to paint Ray Kroc in a bad light, I think they were just trying to present the facts as best they could. I did some Googling after watching the film, and for the most part, everything happened the way it appeared in the movie. Ray Kroc was a dastardly asshole, and here is how he used his cunningness to yank away the dreams of two small-time hamburger makers from New Hampshire. The only negative is that I wanted a little more on the personal side of Ray Kroc.
I haven't been able to update because my boss went on vacation and the rest of us have had to fill in for him at work. I came home every day and was so mentally exhausted that I couldn't possibly even attempt putting words together on a computer screen. The last few days I've been eating items off Taco Bell's 99 cent menu and falling asleep on the couch while watching classic episodes of Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon Prime. I'm talking about the old school episodes with the creepy theme music and Robert Stack standing in front of bookshelves.
I was also able to see Dunkirk last weekend. It was a really good movie that I have no intention of watching again any time soon. This isn't because it wasn't good, it's because I've seen it already, and the suspense just won't be there upon a second viewing. Perhaps in the future I'll give it another watch, but for now I'll just stick with what I saw the first time. I can't say much about the movie that others haven't already said. Tom Hardy does such an amazing job in this film, and he barely says three things. Also, his face is obscured throughout 90% of his time on screen. He knocked this performance out of the park with just his eyes, it seems like.
The film is about one of England's biggest failures in World War II, that they were able to turn into a positive. After being run off by the German army, England and some other allied countries were waiting on the beach at Dunkirk for extraction. German gunners swooped in and started picking these soldiers off, and they also sank the British ships that were sent to rescue the men. The movie is slow in its pacing, and it comes off as a bit of a shock to modern audiences who are used to the high energy, high action films. As I was telling a friend, if you have ADHD, this is not the movie for you.
I had a rare Sunday off today. I was able to finally indulge in a thing I love, Sunday brunch at Bird Cafe, my favorite restaurant. I stuck with my usual default when I come to brunch, the Mother & Child Reunion. It's two eggs on top of a chicken breast with jalapeño gravy on top. It comes with grits, but I always substitute potatoes. It's a real treat, and I love it so much. It's the main reason I eat brunch there.
Game of Thrones, Insecure, and Ballers are back, and I have my Sunday night viewings already set. I usually like to live tweet the shows, but this season I've chosen to just watch on my own. It makes for better viewing, because I don't find myself taking my eyes off the TV so I can get off one or two really clever tweets. It's then that I look up and notice that something has happened while I was busy tweeting. Well, I won't be doing that this season.
I had an early shift at work yesterday, so I knew I needed an unhealthy amount of coffee to help me get through the day. There are some days that I can get through a morning caffeine free. There are other days where I turn into Lorelai Gilmore and I need several cups right after another. This was supposed to be one of those days. I started it off with a 6am wakeup, and made a caramel cappuccino with my Keurig (I like it because it's convenient). After that, I made my breakfast and my lunch and then got ready for the day. Before I left I made a giant cup that I poured into my M&M travel mug. As I got to work I realized I had left it on the porch. Bah humbug! It got up to 101 degrees outside today. There were no surprises when I made it home and grabbed my cup and it was just as hot as it was when I left eight hours earlier. Don't judge me, but I'm currently drinking the same giant cup as I type this up before bed. When I have coffee at night it has the adverse affect on me, it relaxes me and helps me sleep. My mother is the same way, oddly enough.
I made it into work an hour early so I could have some distraction free writing time with my laptop. I'm currently writing the paranormal story that I've had tucked away in my brain for the last few years. The problem here is that I'm really superstitious, and I believe that if you even dabble in the dark stuff you're opening yourself up to all sorts of bad karma. Also, I'm trying to just write it in the day time, since I've scared myself twice trying to write it at night.
Yesterday was my weekly "catch up on podcasts" day. I usually listen to one on the way to work, but lately, since my schedule has been all over the place, and I had a family emergency that took up an entire week to sort out, I put them aside for the most part. The podcast with my highest priority are as follows:
What podcasts are in your rotation? I might go into town and see a movie today. I'll give my critique on it tomorrow.
These days I don’t find too much on Netflix that I want to watch. Aside from the Marvel shows and some random documentaries, I don’t get much use out of the service. One of those documentaries was the PBS one about the Oklahoma City bombing. It was very detailed and told Timothy McVeigh’s story about how he got disillusioned with the United States government after his participation in the Gulf War. That, along with Ruby Ridge, and the Waco tragedy, really fueled his anti-government sentiments. It ultimately led to him parking a Ryder truck in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City and setting off his bomb.
The filmmakers pointed out how many white nationalist groups were out and about during that period. Oddly enough, growing up in Texas, I didn’t see any of those sorts of thing. This could have simply been childhood naiveté, as I was probably shielded from the horrors of such close-mindedness. I do remember going to the indoor flea market in town and looking at one man’s display of old-timey photographs. While some of these were simple ones, like old baseball players and old soldiers, a few of them were group photos of KKK members. Believe it or not, I saw more racism at the antique mall. Some of the items on display included ceramic mammys and seemingly innocent photos from blackface productions.
Be that as it may, racism was very much alive and well in the south during this era, and Timothy McVeigh and his actions are living proof. I was in junior high school when I first heard about the bombing. I think I was coming out of shop class when this really annoying kid named Mark declared to all of us as we exited the shop room, “There has been an explosion in Oklahoma City!” I didn’t think very much of it and went about my day. It wasn’t until a little while later that I saw the magnitude of what had happened. All of the news channels were featuring on-location reports of the incident, and it made front-page headlines in the newspaper the next morning. I guess it was a big deal.
Years later, in early 2003, I lived in a small town in Oklahoma, just north of OkC. At my job I heard a lot of stories from survivors and people who had family in the Murrah Building that day. For the first time I was finally able to put actual faces to the Oklahoma City bombing. Not that it wasn't real to me before then, but talking to the people made the tragedy more tangible to me, and less abstract.
The documentary gave a lot of insight into the ordeal, and even included small clips from some of the fanatic, fringe documentaries that came out a little bit after the Waco tragedy. I used to frequent a mom and pop video store in my neighborhood, and I remember soaking up all these crazy documentaries. While I was never sure what to believe, I do remember thinking that some of these crackpot ideas were way out of left field.
This PBS documentary was really good, and it shed a lot of light on a subject that some thought had happened so long in the past that we had either put it out of our minds, or no longer put the weight on it that it deserves. Oklahoma City deserves to be more than just a mere footnote in the history of our country. It is the ultimate act of domestic terrorism, and it shouldn’t be ignored just because it happened so long ago.
I've never really seen myself as much of a film buff. Sure, I studied film in college, and I've seen enough movies to in my lifetime, but I am no expert. I've seen most of Quinten Tarantino's movies. I won't say I'm as enamored with him as a lot of people are, but the man does good work. The first time I saw Reservoirs Dogs I was completely shocked at the over the top violence. I was also taken aback by the fact that these were awful people, and here I was rooting for them to escape. The same could be said for Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. While the title character of Tarantino's 1997 film was in a dire situation, she wasn't completely clean, or a damsel in distress. Jackie was a tough as nails lady who had fallen in with some bad people who were making her do bad things. While it took me a long time to see Kill Bill, I realized very quickly that the protagonist was a former member of an assassination team. My reservations about seeing that movie came from the trailer that I saw where Uma Thurman was wearing Bruce Lee's jumpsuit from Game of Death, an honor I didn't think she'd earned.
The point I'm trying to make is that Tarantino has done his part in pushing along the anti-hero trope. In some way, these once bad people had been wronged, and now they must make it right. This, however, is not the case when it comes to the heroes in Inglourious Basterds. Morality of war aside, these are people who are fighting for the side of good. The Basterds hunt nazis, and they're very good at it. Shosanna wants revenge for the death of her family at the hands of Hans Landa.
I really enjoyed the film. I don't know what took me so long to see it. Perhaps it was because I figured it would just be your standard Tarantino blood fest. When I saw Eli Roth's name attached to it, I was sure this was going to be a gory film. I always had chances to see it, but never did.
I'm glad to see that Quinten Tarantino's style has matured over the years. He still can't help himself when it comes to his usual Tarantino tropes. There is usually a long, drawn out opening scene. Heroes can and will die at a whim (Michael Fassbender). Lots of blood, lots of death. Plenty of oddly, overly emotional tense moments. My personal favorite, however, is the affable enemy. In previous films there was Bill, Jules Winfield, Mr. White, and Ordell Robbie. In Inglourious Basterds, we have Hans Landa.
While I won't spoil the ending, I will say that if you want some historical accuracy, this is not the film for you. You should go watch Band of Brothers or The Pacific, if you want a painstakingly detailed depiction of World War II. If you want an over the top and very, very, very loose portrayal of the war against nazi Germany, look no further.
At one point in my life I said I was done eating gimmick Twinkies. Those seem to be the norm now, especially after the delicious treats were brought back from near extinction in 2013. I get on the gimmick Twinkie (Which I will now call Gwinkies) train and almost immediately got off. The Gwinkie that did it? It was the abhorrent X-Men movie tie-in Twinkie with blue raspberry mutant creme filling. They were garbage, and I was forced to eat the entire box (not all at once), because I refuse to throw food away.
It happened while I was walking by the snack cake shelves in the grocery store. I picked up a box of the USA red, white and blue Gwinkies. Those are just twinkies with patriotic sprinkles in the creme filling. I figured I was safe there. I couldn't leave well enough alone, though, and this box of cotton candy Gwinkies beckoned me to pick them up as well. I thought about it, and thought about it, and eventually I put them in my cart as well.
"But, what if they suck?" That little voice told me.
"Hey, pipe down there!" I told the little voice.
"Remember the blue!" The voice whispered as it faded away.
I admit they were eye-catching. Pink filling inside a delicious snack cake that we all loved as children. Heck, the very mention of the word, "Twinkie" brings a flood of memories rushing back to us. Plus, what kind of monster doesn't like cotton candy? Cotton candy invokes memories of trips to the circus, the carnival, and maybe even the zoo. It's a slice of Americana!
Alas, these memories should have stayed there. Twinkies and cotton candy do not mix well at all to me. They are way too sweet, and I just don't need that type of flavor assault overloading my taste buds. I will say that the taste was very authentic to the cotton candy flavor, but I just didn't like it together with my Twinkies. Also, they have a very strange aftertaste that doesn't quite go away until about 30 minutes later. There is nothing really foul about them, they're just not for me.
So, great, now I have to finish this box. ugh.
What lesson did we learn here?
Will I learn, though? Probably not. Will I buy other gimmick Twinkies? Definitely.
I was wandering through the bookstore one afternoon when I came across a small stack of the same book on clearance. They were each $4.99. What intrigued me the most was the cover. It was a fat man in motion, holding a hot dog and looking over his shoulder. It was called A Confederacy of Dunces and by the looks of the cover, it was a comedy. With the current goings-on in Washington I assumed this was some odd political comedy novel about a fat guy having to slosh his way through the political arena. One peek inside and I realized just how wrong I was. This was a novel about a guy, who seemed like a bunch of guys I know, real intellectual fellows who have a knack for smarts, but clearly lack in every other department. Oh, how fun! I quickly paid for the book and rushed home to dive in.
Reading the first few pages, I immediately began to loathe the main character. Ignatius J. Reilly was the kind of guy you meet at parties and immediately want to get away from. In modern nomenclature, he would be classified as a neckbeard, a narcissistic oaf who is so socially inept that he can’t decode others strained tolerance of him, and he translates this as evidence of his own charm. The one big difference between Ignatius and the rest of his neckbeard brethren is that these guys usually try to seek out the admiration of the young ladies. They’re of the mind that women owe them something just because they’re “nice guys,” and “know how to treat a lady.” When these women shun their advances, these guys usually blow up in a rage, calling her a “slut,” and other hurtful words. Ignatius does none of this. Sex doesn’t even seem to cross his mind. The one woman who does have an interest in, he shuns her away and calls her a “minx.”
At no point early on did I ever imagine that I’d grow to like Ignatius. He is callous and rude to his mother. He finds that jobs are beneath him, and keep him from doing his ultimate work, which is writing some sort of weird manifesto. Ignatius is everything you would hate in another human being. If I ever ran into an exact duplicate of Ignatius, I would punch him. Mind you, I have known people with similar traits, but at least they had some redeeming qualities. Ignatius has none.
Ignatius aside, what I really liked about this book was the author, John Kennedy Toole’s ability to weave all the characters together into one single story. It takes place some time in the early to mid ‘60s, in New Orleans. What starts out as a trip to the department store, ends up with Ignatius almost getting arrested by Patrolman Mancuso. Then, Ignatius and his mother flee into the Night of Joy bar, where we are introduced to Darlene, a bar girl, and Dorian Greene. Both take more active roles later. Ignatius and his mother leave the bar, get into her car, and then, slipping on wet ground, his mother Irene slams into the side of a building. Having to eventually foot the bill for the building she damaged, Irene forces Ignatius to get a job to help her pay.
Another thing to mention about Ignatius is that he subscribes to the teaching of Boethius, who tells us that there is no point in striving to become more than you are. A sociology professor told us once that this is called “staying in your tree.” Ignatius realizes that he’s never going to be more, so he’s just accepted this aspect of his life as “fate,” and decided to just rest there on his laurels. He feels he lives in a corrupt and sickening world, surrounded by perverts, alcoholics and other degenerates. However, he spends most of his time being a glutton, and watching films at the local cinema.
Through Ignatius’ adventures, we are introduced to even more characters. Myrna Minkoff is a sort of ex-girlfriend of Ignatius. Even though he openly states how much he loathes her, he often goes out of his way to try and impress her, even though she’s miles and miles away in New York. She is an activist for civil and human rights, as well as an advocate for the free sex movement. Ignatius wants to show her that he too can be a friend to the common man, by trying to get the African-American employees of the pants factory, where he works as a file clerk, to rise up and strike against their oppressors. Things don’t go well for Ignatius, and his endeavors take another turn for the worse.
I won’t spoil the rest of the book for you, but we get to meet more characters after this, most who have some association to previous characters. Jones, who once saw Ignatius on the bus, and had heard stories from Darlene about the fat guy who was mean to his mother, has a catalytic encounter with Ignatius, which eventually spirals into the book’s ultimate climax. Jones had heard from the pant factory employees that Ignatius was trouble, so he keeps a weary eye on the guy. Minor characters also can turn major at any minute. A kid that gets into a tussle with Ignatius over a hot dog, comes back into the fold to be a necessary cog in the book’s grand finale. Dorian Greene even takes part in the domino effect that leads to the climax. The interconnection of all these odd characters is astounding to me. Toole must have been at this for months trying to make sure every person introduced comes back later to add to the cacophony of elements leading up to the last chapters. Such brilliant storytelling this was!
I never thought it would happen, but by the end I did feel a bit sorry for Ignatius. Even after the horrible things he did, he still came out this story as an anti-hero of sorts. You’re not supposed to like Ignatius, but you do end up rooting for him, especially after all the mess that happens that created the butterfly effect, which surprisingly closed off each character’s story, except for Ignatius. While I still loathe the character, I did finish the book with a sense of having a better understanding to why he is the way he is. I walked away from the book with hope that Ignatius J. Reilly will see brighter days.
PS: I also found out that the soft drink he loves is a real beverage. Here I thought Dr. Nut was a Dr. Pepper rip-off created for the book. Nope, it was a real drink. Check it out. It's been discontinued for years. When the book was published, Dr. Nut had already been gone for some time. Apparently, you can get a similar taste by mixing Dr. Pepper and Amaretto Almond Liqueur.