Original Art for the Baby

Talented and award-winning artist Dixie Petticrew (and my aunt) created the below picture as a gift to our little girl.  Kristen and I absolutely adore it!  We have several pieces of art by Aunt Dixie throughout our house, but this one is by far our favorite for obvious reasons.

If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you’ll even see some little critters Dixie threw in for the baby to hunt out as she gets older.

Dixie Petticrew uses a painting style called Yupo.  You can see more of her work here and she regularly teaches classes and workshops.  I can easily put you in contact with her if you’d like to get in touch for a class or a gallery showing.

Feeling Satisfied After LOST

Last night the fourth season of LOST wrapped up and it left me feeling intensely satisfied. 

It is inarguably clear that the writers now have an end-goal in sight and are steadily working towards it.  I’ll admit, in earlier seasons, they played it pretty fast and loose with previous plot elements and characters.  That didn’t bother me, mind you, I enjoyed the ride no matter how bumpy, but I understood how it could be frustrating for some.  Those days are over, though.  Season four was tight from the get-go and only got better with each episode.

In fact, this fourth season was probably the most consistent, reliable, and well-written of any previous seasons.  And as all season finales must, it left us with plenty of questions.  Consequently, it also unquestionably answered some gargantuan mysteries posed throughout the season as well.  I’ll say it again because I think it bears repeating, I think this was probably its strongest season in terms of pure story-telling from the first episode to the last and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the pure craft and creativity involved in delivering such an intricate and well thought-out tale.

There’s such beauty in how the title has taken on a whole new meaning!  (Spoilers  ahead!)  How perfect that it is literally the island that is now lost.  I love the irony as well that Jack previously wanted nothing more than to get his friends off the island so they could be found, and now that he’s accomplished that task, he’s the one who must gather them together to take them back.  Of all people, how befitting that he’s the one most lost without the island!  It’s the classic case of not knowing what you truly want until you can’t have it any longer and then subsequently feeling empty.  Aren’t we all guilty of that in some aspect or another?

Oh, sure, there are still plenty of questions, but isn’t that entirely the fun of the show?  Those questions that leave us with such a plethora of possibilities, I can’t help but get excited to see what’s in store of us!  For instance, where (or when) is the island?  What has Sawyer and Juliet been up to for the last three years?  Was that really Locke in the coffin?  (Totally NOT who I thought it would be, by the way.  My money was on Michael, and I’m pretty sure they manipulated me into thinking so from the beginning.  I’m such a sucker.)  What is the significance of the name Jeremy Bentham?  Did Jin and Michael really die?  Is Hurley really nuts, and if not, why is he talking to dead people?  Best of all, has Sun turned evil because Jack let Jin perish?  (Oh, what a wonderful villainess she would make after being repressed for so long!  I’d love to see all her spite and anger unleashed!)  Furthermore, what’s in store for the fantastic additions to the cast in the fourth season-Miles, Charlotte, Frank, and the wonderfully quirky Daniel?  What’s Claire’s connection to Jacob and Christian?  Is that really Christian, or is that pesky smoke-monster doing impersonations again?

This season’s finale delivered the “wow-factor” in terms of surprise, action, drama, adventure, and pure excitement.  I know season five is a long ways off, but like so much in life, anticipation is sublime!  Thanks to all involved with LOST for giving us a season to be proud of!

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

As the title would suggest, this is a work of postmodernism at its purest.  However, that’s not necessarily always a good thing.  Dave Eggers presents a book that is a series of contradictions.  As the title sarcastically notifies, it is sometimes heartbreaking, and it is also sometimes the work of genius.  Consequently, the title also reeks of narcissism and “gimmick,” to which it is equally guilty.

To summarize, Eggers details the death of his parents and then his struggle to raise his much younger brother while attempting to start and maintain a magazine and land a role on The Real World.  But the book is so much more than that.  While labeled fiction, he makes no bones about the fact it is almost entirely autobiographical.

When Eggers is being authentic, the book is beautiful.  When he’s writing from the heart, blending his neurosis and experimental metacognition with events in an ingenuous manner, the book really is a joy to read.  There are sincere moments of hilarity, love, sadness, tension, and drama.  Eggers also readily exposes flaws in his character and without pause-flaws we all have but may not reveal so candidly to the world.  Unfortunately, my copy has 437 pages, and I’d say only about 230 of those are written in such sincere fashion.

The rest of the book is pure gimmick, and Eggers makes a point to admit this in a long-winded and agitating series of prefaces.  These sections of the book really irritated me due to their completely self-absorbed shtick and superfluous nature.  Eggers is pushing the envelope, and I can appreciate that, but in the instances it doesn’t work, it DOESN’T work.  We’re all familiar with the saying, “You’re trying too hard.”  Eggers falls victim to this temptation for much of the book.

There’s nothing wrong with presenting yourself egocentrically, for the majority of us are self-centered.  I admire Eggers for frankly and humorously divulging his many personality quirks.  I respect the blunt style chronicling his family’s struggles.  And when it worked, I learned a great deal about metacognition and how to execute it well.  Unfortunately, I also discovered the failings of “trying too hard” and giving into the lures of gimmick.

Iron Man – A Movie Review

You don’t need me to tell you this movie has been warmly received by the masses, and for good reason.

When I first saw the trailer many months ago, I knew this movie would be the Iron Man I wanted.  I wasn’t sure it’d be a hit with the general public, but I was fairly certain the comic book fans would leave the theatre drooling.  Happily for me, everyone seems more than satisfied.

Let me first say that the actors and their acting are first-rate.  Robert Downey, Jr. is, without a doubt, Tony Stark.  He inherently captures both the nobility and arrogance of Iron Man’s true identity.  With his charismatic delivery and snide jokes, Downey, Jr. was perfect casting.  Terrence Howard plays Stark’s best friend and was also very good, though he didn’t get to stretch his acting chops much.  Not to worry, if you know the Iron Man mythos at all, you know Jim Rhodes will have his chance to shine (no pun intended).  Gwyneth Paltrow was surprisingly likeable and appeared to have real chemistry with Downey, Jr.  And finally, thank God Jeff Bridges is on the silver screen again.  I love Bridges.  His role wasn’t quite as meaty as I would like, and he fell victim to the superhero formula, but it was fun to see that bald head and huge beard.

The special effects were phenomenal.  Iron Man is a movie that, even five years ago, never would have worked.  Trust me.  It works.  Big time.

The origin of Iron Man is one that works surprisingly well as time goes on.  War is a pretty constant in our society, and so with a few tweaks and twitters, Tony Stark can get his start wherever the war zones are.  Downey, Jr. captured the complexity of a man wanting to do the right thing after a lifetime of living selfishly, and while he delivers true emotion, the story never became heavy-handed.  The first three-fourths of the movie really is quite dramatic and timely, but then falls victim to superhero cliché during its climax.  By no means does it ruin the film or even weaken it, but they don’t really give us anything new in the grand finale, the “big fight.”

Also, I was disappointed by the fact that I’d seen every cool shot of Iron Man in the trailers and commercials.  Luckily, the acting and story were so strong that Iron Man could have been totally absent, but really, I wish they’d saved a few snippets of the suit to surprise us.

The director, Jon Favreau, obviously understands both Iron Man and Tony Stark, as well as everything that makes both of them captivating.  Iron Man is a wonderfully entertaining movie with true drama, tension, comedy, and charm. 

By the way, I absolutely loved the end of the movie, right before the credits.  So Tony Stark.

Oh, speaking of which-for all the comic book peeps, make sure you sit through the credits.  Seriously.  You’ll be furious with yourself if you don’t.      

“Finish Strong” – My May Short Story in Bloomington News and Views for the Young at Heart

With the nice weather finally here, people are itching to get out there and do some jogging.  My latest story in Bloomington News & Views for the Young at Heart follows one such person, though she’s a rather atypical athlete.  It’s called “Finish Strong,” and it’s all about the courage to not only start, but finish as well.

You can find Bloomington News & Views for the Young at Heart, a free periodical, at virtually any Bloomington-Normal medical facility.  You can also find it at the following locations:

Suds Subaru on the corner of Fort Jesse and Towanda
Busey Bank on Fort Jesse
Kroger on the corner of Landmark and Visa
Commerce Bank on the corner of Towanda and College
Tuffy Muffler on Vernon
Kmart behind Kep’s restaurant on 1AA Drive
Eastland Mall at the main door between JC Penny and Macy’s
Kroger on Oakland Avenue
Schnucks
Jewell-Osco on Veterans Parkway
Borders bookstore
Kroger on Main Street
Bloomington Public Library on Olive Street
Drop Off Laundry on Main Street, across from Kroger

If you’d like to share your thoughts on “Finish Strong,” feel free to contact me at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com.