Upon Completion Of Reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Series

In early December, I decided to reread Neil Gaiman’s entire The Sandman series.  It marked the first time I reread the series since my initial read of the collected editions nearly ten years ago.

There isn’t much for me to say that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief.  The series, as a whole, is literature at its finest.  The problem with comic books, for the most part, is that they are serialized.  They expect to run perpetually, and they often change hands as new writers and artists come in.  Superman, for example, has been published monthly since 1938.  It is hard to do anything too substantial with a character expected to appear continuously.

The Sandman, however, does not suffer from such a dilemma, which is what makes the series so enjoyable.  Though it got off to a inconsistent start due to the fact that it tried to exist within the same universe as Superman, The Sandman soon broke away into a world largely its own (thanks to its own publishing imprint).  As a result, Gaiman was free to create worlds, mythologies, and, as a consequence, quality stories.  Best of all? Gaiman alone wrote the series, and Gaiman clearly worked to an endgame.

That’s right.  The Sandman has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and Gaiman executed each stage thoughtfully and with purpose.  Lord Dream, or Morpheus, is an eternal character that impossibly changes throughout the series, and, as a result, evolves into something completely unexpected.  The series is character driven—not plot driven.  Gaiman had something to say, to do, with his main character, and when it happened, the story ended.  Simple as that.

Literature.

The scope of this series will mesmerize you.  The characters will leap off the page and into your heart.  The intricate plots that seem unrelated only to finally connect near the end will captivate you.  The dialogue will give you chills.  Honestly, nothing quite compares to The Sandman, and nothing ever will.

Sometimes horrific, sometimes hilarious, always enlightening, The Sandman will always live on in your imagination once you’ve experienced it.  Whether you think you enjoy comic books or not, if you like a good story, I implore you to give this finite series a read.

A Brief Contemplation Concerning Michael Douglas As Hank Pym

I’m hardly an Ant-Man aficionado.  I enjoyed the first Ant-Man, Hank Pym, when he was with the West Coast Avengers and wore his red jumpsuit, and I appreciated what they did with him in The Ultimates, but other than that, I have no real regard for the character.

So when they announced that Michael Douglas would play Hank Pym in the new Ant-Man movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Paul Rudd, I definitely experienced surprise.  Surprise, but not dismay.

First of all, it’s Edgar Wright doing Ant-Man, so he can cast whomever he chooses as far as I’m concerned.  The fact we’re even getting an Ant-Man movie is reason enough to celebrate.

Secondly, I have total trust in the Marvel cinematic brain trust.  If they want Hank Pym to be depicted older on film than in comics, there must be a valid reason behind it.  And frankly, I agree with the decision.  I know nothing about Scott Lang, the character that Rudd will play, other than that he stole Pym’s technology to save his sick daughter and then used it for good afterwards with Pym’s blessing.  (I got that information from Newsarama at this address: http://www.newsarama.com/20026-ant-man-casts-michael-douglas-as-hank-pym.html).  What I know of Pym, however, is that his intellect is on par with Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Bruce Banner.  Now, Reed Richards is out of the cinematic conversation, but with the amazing chemistry of Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, do we really need or want Rudd in that scientist mix?  With Rudd as Lang, he can do his own thing, be his own character and shine in his own way when he finds his way into the next Avengers movie.  We don’t need or want another super-intelligent funny guy.  RDJ and Ruffalo fill that quota perfectly.

Douglas is far too old to do much in the way of super heroics, but he can still give Pym the depth and intellect the character deserves.  I thinks it’s both a pragmatic and wise decision on the creators’ parts.  Who knows?  With Pym’s Ultimates history, Douglas could even have a little more edge than we suspect.

I really don’t know of any die-hard Pym fans out there, so I’m surprised some seem really upset about casting Pym as an older man.  In my opinion, Edgar Wright always knows what he’s doing, and the Marvel movies haven’t gone wrong yet.  I think we’re going to get the best Ant-Man movie we ever expected.  (Of course, I never expected an Ant-Man movie, so …)

Why I Quit AMC’s The Walking Dead

I’ll be honest with you, when AMC’s The Walking Dead came out, I touted it as the next L O S T.  The acting wasn’t superb, but the production was magnificent, the effects breathtaking, and the storylines captivating.  It thrilled me on a weekly basis, made my palms sweat, and kept me coming back for more.  The dynamics between the characters intrigued me to no end, and I truly cared about them.  When they started dying off, it stunned me, but it didn’t anger me.  As a fan of Cormac McCarthy, I’m accustomed to major characters dying.  I actually relish it in books and movies, when done intelligently, because it heightens the suspense.

Seasons One and Two just blew me away.  And though some serious characters were killed off, characters who drove storylines and oozed charisma (Shane and Dale, in particular), they were replaced with worthy men and women such as Michonne and Hershel and allowed existing characters such as Daryl the chance to rise to the top.

Season Three tried my patience, but I stuck with it.  Lori’s death advanced the plot, but I knew the end was near for me with the birth of Judith.  I knew of her fate in the comic books, and I remember telling my friends that if they show that sort of thing on the TV show, I’m out.  Andrea’s death seemed completely pointless, as did much of the violence of the season.  With each character’s death, the dynamic got smaller and smaller, and so the characters were, as a whole, suddenly becoming less interesting to me.  Rick, honestly, has never been the hook in my eyes, and so now the show rested primarily on Hershel, Daryl, and, to a lesser extent, Michonne.  Woodbury proved an interesting premise, but it got stale in my eyes, and the prison took away one of the aspects that I found most entrancing – survivors constantly on the move.  Suddenly they were in the same setting all the time, and not a very interesting one at that.  The Merle plotline saved a largely tiresome season, but I think we can all agree it didn’t live up to Seasons One and Two.  But, I was still an avid fan.  I still had to watch it the night it aired, could not stand the idea of watching it on DVR after the fact.  Had to talk about it the next day.  There were some trends forming that I found disturbing, one that started with Sophia, but I could deal with it.

And then Season Four Point One arrived.  Okay, the prison is now a refugee camp, that’s a neat idea.  I can roll with that.  Oh, a deadly flu breaks out.  I like that.  That definitely raises the suspense – that can’t be fought using their conventional methods.  Children are being taught to kill … I don’t know if I like where this is going … Children are sick and orphaned.  Hmm.  The Governor is back, has adopted a family, has a little girl to be like a daughter to him, goes nuts again, wants the prison for his own camp, is willing to kill to make it happen.  I’m kind of tired of that – didn’t we do all that already?  We did that in Season Three.  I like the Governor’s character, and I love David Morrissey, but I really had no interest in his return.  And what’s going on with Rick’s baby?  Does the guy ever interact with her?  Frankly, when she first arrived, as already mentioned, I had a sneaking suspicion she was there for shock factor, that they had something dastardly planned for her …

Then the mid-season finale came.  The Walking Dead has always been a violent show, but it, for the most part, seemed to play a role in the actual storyline unfolding.  Yes, there were moments of ghastliness, but they were usually reserved for the dispatching of zombies.  The finale seemed to abandon all attempts at a meaningful story and just go for our throats.  The prison raid had been done before, the Governor had been done before, and while I like that the survivors are on the move again, I cannot abide the “shocking” scenes involving children shooting adults, Hershel’s graphic beheading, and the bloody baby carrier.

In fact, violence against children has turned into quite the trend with The Walking Dead.  There is much I can turn a blind eye to, but this is not among those things.  I knew the moment they introduced Judith that they planned to kill her, and while she may not actually be dead, as some have suggested, the bloody baby carrier was simply done in poor taste.  Seriously, during that attack, Rick’s only action should have been about guaranteeing both of his children’s safety.  Trusting his prison mates to keep his child safe is a character flaw I cannot overlook.  In fact, the idea that no one stopped to keep Judith safe, that not one adult took it upon themselves to save a baby, is something that has deterred any interest for me in following these characters.  But it doesn’t end there, yet another child died in the Governor’s foster daughter, which was, again, over the top.  Finally, the absolutely unnecessary dragging out of Hershel’s decapitation did not thrill me, it sickened me, it made me wonder what was wrong with the people producing the show, and it sealed the fact that this show had no intention of telling a story any longer.

The Walking Dead has sunk to a gratuitous low.  This show was once about human interaction amongst a horrible set of circumstances, but now it has simply become about killing off characters and abusing children for the sake of “shock value.”  I cannot continue watching it if this is the direction it’s taking, and, from all indications, it is.  You should know that I’ve thought about this since the night the finale aired.  I wanted to give myself time to really mull it over, to make sure I wasn’t having a kneejerk reaction.  And while I certainly do not bemoan any who continue watching the show, just know that it is no longer for me.

Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis, and My Proclamation

Several months ago I proclaimed that I would, from that moment forth, see all theatrical releases from a select group of directors.  The Wachowskis were included in that group.  So when I heard they had a new movie due in 2014, Jupiter Ascending, I naturally became very excited and started lining up babysitters.

And then the  trailer came out.

I’m not getting a strong sense that Jupiter Ascending is going to impress me the way The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, or Speed Racer did.  Now, it’s just a trailer – I could be totally wrong.  I’m going to stick to my original proclamation and see it in the theaters, because every time I skip out on their movies and wait for the DVD, I regret it.  Sure, I’m not a huge Channing Tatum guy.  Mila Kunis doesn’t really “wow” in the tease, and I’m not exactly sure who Sean Bean is.  But, that’s okay.  This is a test of loyalty.  I know it’s going to be amazing, because it’s the Wachowskis.  Right?  Right?  Right.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, give it a view at the link, then share your thoughts if you so desire:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoCyL_Pqzu8

Jupiter Ascending (2014) Poster

The Bat Tie Clip

I have many passions in life, but two of them are rather obvious to people at work: Batman and ties.  So when a college student intern gave me a gift in order to thank me for her time in my classroom, she decided to combine the two!  Thus, you see the amazing gift below …

batman tie clip

I flat out love this tie clip!  It’s made by a man named Kevin Coss.  You can see more of his work at the following website …

http://www.etsy.com/shop/KevinCossDesigns#

I’ve worn it twice so far and it seems to be a quality product.  I’ve had many compliments on it, and not just from students.  Many of my colleagues had nice things to say as well.

Fantastic gift.  Thanks, Ms. W.!

 

Check Out The Towers by Jordan Jeffers

A few years ago I had the honor of participating in a graduate level creative writing class with Jordan Jeffers.  Not only was Jordan an incredibly pleasant person, but he also regularly blew me away with his writing.  When I heard he had written a book, I knew I had to read it.  My copy just arrived yesterday, and I implore you to check this fantasy novel out.

Please Help Support My Donors Choose Project – “Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!”

Hi Friends,

As you may know, I’m a high school English teacher in Bloomington, IL, and I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I’ve created a classroom project request at DonorsChoose.org, an award-winning charity.

I’m asking for donations of any size to help my kids.  If you give by August 21, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

Here’s my classroom request.  Simply click on it:
Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!

To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the match code INSPIRE on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through August 21, 2013.

My students and I greatly appreciate your support.  A good book can change a student’s life forever.  Please help me put such a book in my students’ hands.

Sincerely,
Scott

DonorsChoose.org

A Recent Decision Concerning Movies

I’ve recently come to a decision concerning movies.  From this moment forth, I will see all theatrical releases by directors Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, the Wachowskis, and Guillermo del Toro.

With two small children, a full time teaching job, a serious writing interest, and graduate studies, my time is limited.  And though I often wanted to see movies by these directors in the past, I usually waited for the DVD.  However, I’ve recently watched Django Unchained, The Hobbit, and Cloud Atlas, and loved all three for very different reasons.  What they all convinced me of, however, is that these directors each speak to me in such a way that I know they will never disappoint.  I celebrate their craft, their vision, their sensibilities, and their decisions.

By missing out on the three aforementioned films, I refused to wait for del Toro’s Pacific Rim.  I think I may have been the last to see it, but I made it to the theater for that one, and I’m glad I did!

Do you have any “must see in the theater” directors?  Please do share!

 

About A Clockwork Orange and Its Ending

(Be warned, spoilers abound.  Proceed cautiously.)

As you know, A Clockwork Orange is divided into three parts with seven chapters each.  The film, of course, came out at a time when the American version of the novel left out the twenty-first chapter, so most who have only seen the film don’t realize that Alex eventually turned his back on a life of violence.  Kubrick himself did not realize Alex’s change of character because he’d only read the American version of the novel at the time he filmed, which would only stand to reason.

However, Anthony Burgess, the author, demanded in later American editions that the twenty-first chapter be included, and so now there’s a stark contrast between those who have read the book and those who have only seen the movie.  Some would argue that there are two Alex’s out there – one who revels in his return to violence and another who ultimately opts for a life of peace.

Most believe that Burgess is delivering a message that even the worst of us can reform by choice.  Most argue that the theme of the novel is that even the worst of deviants can achieve civility if given enough time.  They say this, of course, because Alex supposedly chooses to turn his back on his wayward activities as he ages and matures.

I, on the other hand, would like to introduce an alternate perspective.  I’m sure I’m not the first to make this argument, but I would dispute Alex’s reform.  It is widely believed that Alex grows out of his criminal mindset and consciously wants to be good.  But, the book actually suggests that he grew bored with his illegal activities, that they no longer thrill him.  Alex choosing to become a law-abiding citizen due to sheer boredom is not quite the same as choosing to be good because of a change in heart.

Understandably so, most would contend that he chose to be good, what matters the motivation?  I believe it to be an important distinction.  In my mind, motivation is everything.  Choosing to be good because one realizes the depravity of past iniquities and desiring redemption is one thing; choosing to be good simply because one’s previous lifestyle no longer entertains is quite another.

Alex will always be the criminal.  He may live a guiltless life for a few years, but if he could alter his lifestyle so nonchalantly on a whim, it would only stand to reason that a relapse could occur just as suddenly.  Remember, this was a boy who, at only fifteen, beat people, stole, raped, and even killed.  Unless the government didn’t truly reverse their tinkering with him and his reconditioning still persists somewhere within the recesses of his mind, I believe a return to crime is inevitable in Alex’s future.