Check Out Adam Icenogle’s Stickathon Project

I saw Adam Icenogle’s Stickathon projects and they blew my mind.  Once a day during the course of thirty days, he drew an inspirational woman … on a 3″ x 3″ Post-It Note.  I know what you’re thinking, “Big deal.”  Well, let me show you a sample …

Impressive, right?  Here’s another …

I’ve looked at them all, and I am astounded.  How a man did this on a daily basis for thirty days is beyond me.  The sheer talent involved … amazing.

Adam is from near my hometown, my dad is friends with is dad, and that’s how I heard about this whole thing.  I got Adam’s permission to spread the word, so I really hope you’ll drop by his Facebook page and check out the rest of his Stickathon work.  Here’s the address …

However, Adam’s wheelhouse may surprise you.  He primarily does car illustrations and designs theme park attractions.  You can learn more and check out his work at his website …

By the way, if any of the Post-It Note illustrations speak to you, he’s taking bids on them to donate to a charity.  Pay this fantastic artist a visit!

Sense8 – A Few Thoughts

A while back I vowed to watch everything the Wachowskis released.  While I love the Wachowskis’ vision and cinematography, their stories and dialogue are often challenged.  I hoped with a twelve episode series like Sense8, and with the help of writer J. Michael Straczynski, they would have enough time to really let their story unfold.

Sense8 is the epic adventure of eight people from around the globe who suddenly and unexpectedly become telepathically linked.  Sometimes they can purposefully link up with another, but more often than not it happens without warning or during moments of great duress.  The rules are a little fuzzy.  Sometimes they are simply there for only their fellow member to see, but other times they can actually take over the body of their partner.

Most of this first season delves into each characters’ personal story line and each one of the eight characters is very charismatic.  I never got bored with a single one of them.  They span the planet, and they are all dealing with complex story lines that are interesting to follow.  The series shines when it focuses on the personal stories, and it is very cool when they pop into another’s life in order to lend a hand.  Unfortunately, the overarching story, the plot somehow binding them all together, is less clear.  I assume that much will be revealed in subsequent seasons, but things felt a bit forced when the clandestine evil entity intent upon imprisoning them all came into play.

The Wachowskis excel at the visual.  They claim that each character’s story was shot in that character’s home environment, so we have beautiful locations such as Kenya, Iceland, India, Germany, South Korea, Mexico, Chicago, London, and San Francisco.  The scenery is breathtaking.  Frankly, this is a beautiful series to watch.

However, be aware that the Wachowskis strive to include characters that represent our real world.  Therefore we have heterosexual characters, homosexual characters, and transgender characters.  As a result, we have sometimes explicit sex scenes of all orientations.  You want to make sure the kids are in bed for this one.

And while each character’s plight is interesting, the old Wachowski issue of dialogue arises.  At times each character seems to have majored in philosophy.  Every single one of them delivers a lengthy speech at some point, and there were many, many moments when I expected each speech to end with “and that’s one to grow on.”

Sense8 is a beautiful, interesting first season with exquisite locations, likable characters, plenty of action, and a fascinating premise.  Though not perfect due to unnatural dialogue and far too many “deep” speeches, I am excited to see where the second season takes our cast of eight.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

My wife and I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, and they started talking up the prequel to Wet Hot American Summer some time ago.  As avid Netflix viewers, we figured, “Why not?”  Of course, because the show would be the first day of camp, we realized we should probably watch the original movie from 2001 that focused upon the last day of camp.

We just finished the Netflix series last night, and it is hilarious, unpredictable, and original – almost the opposite of the 2001 movie in every way.  Don’t get me wrong, 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer had it’s moments, but it felt more like  a series of poorly planned Saturday Night Live skits than a cohesive comedy film.  Of course, extremely talented people participated in the film from so many years ago, and several of them are now legitimate stars.  The Netflix series spotlights not only the raw talent they utilized in the past, but it also celebrates a mastery they’ve achieved.  I don’t know if Elizabeth Banks, Janeane Gorafalo, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Chistopher Meloni, or Molly Shannon have never been better!

Yes, the series is ridiculous and over the top, but it feels so much more purposeful and crafted now.  Jokes were planted in the first episode that finally came to fruition in the last.  Unlike the original movie, the series always made me feel like it was actually headed somewhere.

Do you need to watch the original movie to enjoy the series?  Yes, frankly, you do.  There is so much from the movie that the series hinges upon.  They took silly throw-away moments from the film and centered the series’ plot around them.  It really is not only funny, but also so very impressive.  The best part is that this is only the first day of camp.  They have the potential to keep coming back for the second, the third, and so on.  If they can manage to keep the core group intact while bringing in talent like John Hamm, Lake Bell, Jordan Peele, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, John Slattery, Chris Pine, and Michael Cera, you can certainly count us in.

My Opinion Regarding Go Set a Watchman (Having Not Yet Read It)

I’m excited there is so much conversation happening lately regarding literature.  When Go Set a Watchman finally released the other day, my social feed went nuts.  In fact, just in the last two days, I’ve had at least three separate conversations about the novel.  I love books and I love reading, so these are glorious moments for me.  I don’t remember this much anticipation and excitement about a book since the last Harry Potter installment.

I’ve also noticed some professional literary critics already claiming the book is not great, and there seems to be some disappointment among people about these negative reviews.

But honestly, did anyone expect the book to be great?  Now, please do keep in mind I haven’t yet read the book, but the book’s promotion clearly communicated that this novel is essentially comprised of those parts of To Kill a Mockingbird that didn’t make the final cut.

We probably shouldn’t expect too much from Go Set a Watchman due to this fact.  Instead, I think we should be celebrating the author herself.  I don’t believe any of us thought Harper Lee would ever release another book, so this moment is a grand one due to that fact alone.  Why is Lee now deciding to publish Go Set a Watchman when she hasn’t published anything (by name) in several decades?  Was it actually lost to time as they claim?  Honestly … who cares?  Harper Lee is aging, and I personally believe we should simply be happy to have one more work from this author – an author for whom virtually every American student is familiar.  We will have a blast comparing and contrasting her two novels, written together but published lifetimes apart.  How cool is that?  I’m so happy Lee decided to share one more work with us.

Will I read Go Set a Watchman?  Of course!  But not for a few months.  I want the hype to die down.  I want the critics to have their say and then move on to something else.  I want to pick up the book and read it for what it is – the work of a very young author released very late in life.

DC Movies, String Theory, Parallel Worlds, and You

Ezra Miller confirmed on MTV News that he will indeed play Barry Allen and The Flash in 2018’s film.  This troubles some because the CW already has a very successful, much loved television show of the same name starring the same character played by Grant Gustin.

Of course, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll realize that television already has versions Deadshot, Katana, Amanda Waller, Alfred, Bruce Wayne, and Jim Gordon (to name only a few), and all of these characters are due to appear in film within the next few years.  Furthermore, the upcoming Supergirl TV show is said to have a brief appearance by Superman himself!

But do not fret.  DC Comics publishes these characters – Superman since 1938 and Batman since 1939 – and parallel worlds featuring characters of the same name is all part of the lore.  In fact, at present, I believe there are 52 distinct worlds within the “DC Universe.”  Most of these worlds have some kind of a Superman, some kind of a Wonder Woman, and some kind of a Batman, but they may not necessarily be the mainstream characters for whom you are familiar.

Of course, as a kid in the early 1980s, this sort of thing sent my imagination into overdrive.  Seeing two men named Flash from different worlds teaming up … man, it influences me even to this day.  Little did I realize back then that the comic books were making use of String Theory and ideas concerning parallel dimensions.  As is so often the case, science fiction leads the way in those things that will one day be considered conventional.

I’m personally heartened to hear Ezra Miller say that they are not shying away from this bastion of the DCU – it even sounds as though they are embracing it.  To love DC is to love the fact that you are allowed to have Christian Bale, Adam West, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck all  inhabiting a world where they are the one, true Batman.  Christopher Reeve will always be Superman on his world, just as Henry Cavill can be Superman on his.  The TV show Gotham can exist in its own reality, just as CW’s The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow do, and it can be distinct from Batman v Superman’s Gotham City.

I believe the viewing audience is astute enough to accept these different planes of reality concerning these beloved characters.  Why should we hinder ourselves to only “one” version of a character when multiple actors and productions can do that character justice in different, distinct ways?

Batman v Superman – Actions Have Consequences

After the initial trailer released for Batman v Superman, I felt excited.  Very excited.  But that excitement cannot compare to the sheer exuberance I experienced while watching the latest trailer the other day.  Why so very enthusiastic?  It’s not merely the sight of Wonder Woman in all her Amazonian glory.  It’s not just watching Batman moving from building to building like Batman should.  It’s not only Batman and Superman squaring off, jaw to jaw, after Superman rips off the doors to the Batmobile.

Yes, all of that was … is … mesmerizing.

No, the best part proved to be the idea that actions have consequences and that they matter.  What bothered me most about Man of Steel was the fact that Superman seemed oblivious to the loss of human life occurring during his fight with Zod.  Buildings literally fell during this climatic battle, and Superman didn’t seem to care.

Batman v Superman addresses that concern.  Watching Superman stand before politicians touched upon the problem, but seeing Bruce Wayne running into the dust as others fled, watching Wayne glare into the skyline as Superman and Zod recklessly fought one another, that provided the emotional resonance I so desire.  That look on Wayne’s face laid the groundwork for why he and Superman have conflict.  That expression exceeded even my disdain for Supermans’ actions. I understood Batman’s anger – I even related to it.

We, of course, know that Batman and Superman will eventually resolve their conflict, but they’ve found the one thing that validates the entire premise of the film, and they’ve done a masterful job setting up the confrontation through the latest trailer.  Take a look below, and please do share your thoughts.

From the Beardstown High School Class of 1995

My hometown of Beardstown has a tradition of holding a class reunion each summer at the high school.  We operate on five year increments, so this year welcomed the class of 1985, 1990, 1995, etc.  The alumni association holds a wonderful banquet at the school, and each graduating class submits a few words to be collected in the the program.  This year is my 20th anniversary, and I’m honored to have been chosen to write our class’ response.  While it’s written for those who have graduated from Beardstown High School, I think it applies to any and all high school graduates, both old and new alike …

One wouldn’t think much could change in 20 years, yet the world is a vastly different place than in 1995.  In those days watching a movie at home meant popping in a VHS tape.  Listening to music required a CD or cassette.  And if you wanted to connect with someone, you called them on the telephone or visited them in person.

Now here we are in 2015, and some could argue we are connected more than ever.  After all, thanks to social media, we regularly learn of our friends’ new career paths, see pictures of each other’s children, and share in the knowledge of nightly dinner choices.

Yet, oddly enough, even with the hourly deluge of updates and news, many feel separated by an impersonal gulf, a digital barricade that reduces us to no more than a thumbnail-sized persona upon mobile devices.  We have “friends,” but do we have friends?

Technologically speaking, 2015 surpasses 1995 in every conceivable way—pagers, anyone?  However, there’s something we excelled at in 1995, something no amount of tinkering can improve upon.  We were together.  We cruised the strip for hours, loitering in parking lots, and when we were run off, we simply regrouped somewhere else.  We went to each other’s homes.  We walked together just for something to do.  We shook hands using elaborate methods that surely rivaled the complexity of contemporary DNA sequencing.  We hugged.  In other words, we spent time together.  Not through some digitized ether, but rather, side-by-side, arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand.

As we grow older, we realize that with age does indeed come wisdom.  (This may be the appropriate moment to pause and apologize to our parents and grandparents.)  Perhaps we are not any more academically intelligent than on Graduation Day, but all of us have endured 20 years’ of life, and with that has come victory and defeat, love and loss, life and death—all of which equates to experience, which, most would contend, is the bedrock of wisdom.  Humanity flourishes most when it bands together, when it decides a village can raise a child better than an individual, that honoring a neighbor also results in personal valor.  Unity propagates achievement.

This simple fact is why we must strive to reunite.  No matter the year of graduation, returning to our roots, coming back to each other, and reconnecting with those who grew up beside us—it revitalizes.  It keeps us humble.  It helps us remember not only where we’ve been, but also where we want to go.  It allows us the opportunity to reflect upon our own achievements, and also to celebrate our peers’ successes.

Adulthood has taught us that we are in this thing called “life” together.  We must remain connected.  And if we’ve disconnected, now is the time to reconnect.

To the class of 2015, we implore you to always stay in touch, to gain wisdom through living well, and to come back home.

Always come back home.