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.

Chewie … We’re All Home

If you somehow missed it last week …

In my mind, any concerns about Star Wars: The Force Awakens are now officially put to rest.  I shamelessly hereby abandon all cynicism and firmly place my fan boy hat atop my head.  The above trailer hit all the right chords with me.  This looks like Star Wars.  This sounds like Star Wars.  This is Star Wars.

Who can deny the Darth Vader helmet, the X-Wing and TIE Fighters, the fallen Star Destroyers, and the Stormtrooopers?  Who didn’t rejoice at the roar of the Millennium Falcon, the reverberation of the lightsaber, and the hiss of the TIE Fighters?

Who felt chills at the sound of Luke Skywalker’s voice?

Who flat out teared up at the sight of Han Solo with Chewbacca.

Thank you, J.J. Abrams.  Finally, we are all home.

My First Thoughts Concerning the Batman v. Superman Trailer

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen it …

This was a very good couple of days for me, and the premature arrival of this trailer played no small role in that fact!  I am very excited for this film and all it portends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t remain objective about it.  There are some things to gush over, there are some concerns.  Humor me as I expound …

1.  The Tone – I like the tone.  Batman appears menacing, society seems both enamored with and distrustful of Superman, and everything looks cinematic.  The music is brooding yet epic.  I’m sure the movie will be as well.  If nothing else, visually speaking, it’s beautiful.

2.  False God – As stated above, I very much think our present day society would have a field day with Superman if he truly existed. We love our larger-than-life figures, and you can’t get bigger than Superman.  I have no doubt our celebrity culture would deify him, and this looks to be the case according to the statue.  However, as is so often the case, we always tear down our celebrity heroes, it’s only a matter of time.  Again, the graffiti scrolled across the statue would suggest as such.  Superman appears to be no exception to our base behavior.

3.  Kneel Before Superman – But what if he’s more than just a celebrity?  I’ll be honest, Superman looks pretty malicious in this trailer, and when the soldiers dropped to a knee before him, I saw shades of the book and video game called Injustice.  Could this be a world where Superman has sworn something awful like Zod can never happen again?  Has he lost his sense of justice and become a world enforcer? I can’t imagine that’s the Superman they want to build a franchise around.  I’m still troubled by the role he played in the decimation of Metropolis a few years ago.  To be fair, though, it could make him psychologically more interesting …

4.  The Voice – I like the armored Batman voice.  It’s gravely, yet metallic.  It effectively hides Bruce Wayne’s real voice, as one would expect in the real world.  Is it the same voice even when Batman isn’t armored up?  Only time will tell.

5.  Dark Knight Returns Returns – The armored Batman calling out Superman on the street … straight out of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  This is a good thing.  I can’t imagine the movie will end as did the book, but the mere fact they are paying homage to such an iconic moment … it’s thrilling.

About Arrested Development Season 4

My wife and I loved Arrested Development when it aired on Fox.  Sure, it took some getting used to, but we came to adore its weird, quirky stories with such flawed, lovably dysfunctional characters.  From week to week, I’d have a new favorite Bluth, which says a lot about the show’s magic.

When we heard it was coming to Netflix to continue with a fourth season, we were elated.  Unfortunately, I’m enormously cheap and refused to open a Netflix account when we already paid for cable and Amazon Prime.  I guess my love for Arrested Development was a conditional one.

However, we recently picked it up on DVD, and though it took a few episodes to get back in the swing of things, it once again won us over and proved itself a worthy addition.

In fact, I would argue it’s the most ambitious season yet in terms of pure story execution.  If you haven’t seen it, the fourth season basically occurs over a few days.  However, each episode focuses upon one character and their perspective pertaining to the overall story.  At first it’s very confusing, to be sure, but as the episodes unfold, the audience begins to realize what’s happening.  I can’t imagine the editing process for this season, but I’m sure it was a herculean task!  Each character has a subplot, yet they all intertwine with one another.

I wouldn’t say it’s the funniest season, but it’s certainly funny and highly entertaining.  A lot of the jokes were standbys from previous seasons, but still executed creatively.  I especially enjoyed the “meta” commentary throughout.

The final episode took me aback though, because it felt a little anticlimactic and ended abruptly.  However, that could very well be by design.  After all, this news arrived just today.