Come Support Minivan Morrissey (Or: This Van Will Be A-Rockin’!)

I hope you’ll join me in coming out on Friday night, March 1st, in order to support Minivan Morrissey at Legends Sports Bar and Grill in Bloomington, Illinois.

Minivan Morrissey is a local band comprised of a few good friends of mine.  This trio has been playing together for quite a while under different names.  Their latest iteration–Minivan Morrissey–will rock you garage band style with songs spanning the last 50 years.

Are they any good?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I’ve never seen them play.  But, I know for sure that they’ve been invited to perform at local fairs and venues, and I can also personally attest to the fact that one of them plays the guitar very well because I’ve seen it my own eyes.

I really like these guys.  They are good dudes.  That’s all it really takes for me to come out and show them some love.  However, I also admire that they are chasing their passion for playing live.  Like me, they are family men working full time, so it’s not a simple thing to muster up the willpower to do anything extra. The effort it takes to practice, book locations, travel, all while being loving dads and top-notch professionals … it’s not easy, I’m sure.

So come out and support Minivan Morrissey on March 1st from 7:30 to 10:30!  I know they will give you a great time.

While you’re at it, head on over to their Facebook page and click “like”: Minivan Morrissey Facebook Page

You can find the Legends Sports Bar and Grill website here: LegendsBloomington.com

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

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You Should Enroll In The Umbrella Academy

If you’re looking for a new show to binge, I highly recommend Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy.  I just finished it last night and it’s one of the only series that I’ve ever watched that made me think to myself, “I can’t wait to watch this whole thing again.”

There’s something absolutely delightful about this show that makes it a blast to experience.  I’ll share with you just a few of the things that I appreciated most.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Umbrella Academy, I describe it as The X-Men meets Stranger Things.  An aristocratic stick-in-the-mud named Sir Reginald Hargreeves takes it upon himself to collect seven babies born under mysterious circumstances throughout the world.  He trains them from birth to fight evil and deter an impending apocalypse.  He counts on his android nanny and sentient, well-dressed primate to assist him.  His Umbrella Academy is cold, rigid, and unforgiving.

The show begins with the adult members of the Umbrella Academy returning home due to Hargreeves’ death.  It’s the first time they’ve been together in years.  It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that all of these former child super heroes are damaged goods.

However, this isn’t the melodrama of The X-Men.  This show is actually fun.  In fact, while it’s never laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is consistently amusing to the point you are on the verge of laughing.  The light touch even among serious happenings is why I compare it to Stranger Things.

Consequently, and perhaps surprisingly, The Umbrella Academy is just as much about its characters as it is about the unavoidable apocalypse.  Every single member of the Academy is given a backstory and a concrete personality that is easy to love.  The show randomly slips in and out of characters’ pasts, which makes it unpredictable and captivating.  Furthermore, every aside, every detour, contributes to the overall story line.  This is a tight plot with well-developed characters.

I adore the fact that they took the execution of this show so seriously because they easily could have shortchanged the plot and allowed the visuals to take center stage.  Because, wow, this show looks amazing.  The production quality is out of this world.  I felt like I’d actually entered another world.  For example, Pogo, the gentleman primate, seems to be just as solid as the actual human beings in the scenes with him.  Astounding.  The special effects are Netflix-money good.

Speaking of production quality, some Netflix shows have had a bit of trouble with pacing.  I’m specifically talking about the Marvel programs and even the recent seasons of Orange Is the New Black.  Granted, we’re only in The Umbrella Academy’s first season, but the pace never let up.  This show knows it’s competing with your cell phone, and it dares you to look away.

Even amidst the crazy action, the huge explosions, the wonky time travel, and the intense fight scenes, I liked this show best because I loved the characters.  In their own unique way, each and every one of them is charming with a great deal of charisma.  I challenge you to pick one overall favorite.  For me, it changed from episode to episode.

So what are you waiting for?  Get enrolled in The Umbrella Academy tonight!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

Weekends – My Favorite Oscar-Nominated Animated Short (Which Did Not Win)

A friend invited me to watch a complete showing of the 2019 Oscar-nominated animated short films last Friday night at the beautiful Normal Theater.  I didn’t know anything about the nominees, but I thought it sounded like a fun time so I went.

All of the nominees were very good in their own particular way, but only one of them won me over in all facets.

No, it wasn’t Bao.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Bao.  I’d actually seen it at Disney World last summer.  It’s got a heart-warming story and the animation is wonderful.  I think most people figured it would win the Oscar.  Heck, I figured it would win the Oscar.  It’s hard to compete with Pixar, after all.  Guess what?  It won the Oscar.

But, as much as I liked Bao, it wasn’t my favorite.

No, my top choice was actually an animated short film called Weekends.

Weekends did not have the cleanest animation, nor the finest detail, nor the most inspired texture, but it had heart.  And at its heart, the messy animation actually amplified a messy story.

Weekends is about a young boy being shuffled between his mom’s house and his dad’s house after a divorce.  The boy is loved by both parents, but he’s also–at times–something of a distraction through no fault of his own.  Therefore, the boy spends a lot of time alone while at both houses.

My parents are still married to this day, but Weekends struck me as a very real depiction of what childhood must be like for the children of divorcees.  The mother and the father of the boy are not evil, they are not bad in any way shape or form.  However, both of them are trying to build a new life, both of them are experiencing new lovers, and both of them are trying to figure out how to live without the other.  In the mix of all that, the child, at times, falls to the wayside.  His loneliness during these moments are heart-wrenching.

There’s no dialogue in this short film.  The animation sets the mood just fine on its own.  While Bao is a top-notch, beautiful, well-rendered film that makes us feel squeaky clean,  Weekends is scratchy, a little ugly, and makes us feel off-kilter.  But even though it doesn’t look pretty, Weekends‘ creators absolutely knew what they were doing.  It’s obvious they found a style that best fits the story and the boy’s journey.

In my opinion, Weekends story and design execution resonated most deeply with me on an emotional and technical level, which is what made it my all-around favorite of the nominees.

I’ve embedded it below if you’d like to give it a watch …

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

 

All Hail Jeff Passan! … Wait, Who’s Jeff Passan?

I’ve written before about my love of The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz.  They are a daily radio show on ESPN that take a slightly different approach to sports.  Often hilarious, they are also always entertaining.

A new guest debuted today–Jeff Passan.  Passan spent over a decade with Yahoo Sports and just joined ESPN in January of 2019.  Apparently, he will be their new baseball analyst and breaking news guy.  Dan kind of stumbled over his intro, so I get the feeling not too many people at ESPN have gotten a good feel him.

If we’re being honest, I could not care less about baseball.  Even with that being said, Passan may be my new all-time hero.

Dan and the guys were talking about bald men because that’s the kind of things they talk about, which somehow led to Sean Connery, which next led to bad Sean Connery impressions, which then prompted Dan to ask Passan if he did a bad Sean Connery impression as soon as Passan joined the show.  Passan, realizing that this was the first time we’ve heard him on the program, gamely played along and performed a poor Sean Connery impression.  Okay!  As far as we–the audience–were concerned, this guy was going to be all right.  He can have some fun.  He doesn’t seem to take himself or sports too seriously.  He can be fluid and flexible when he makes an appearance.

Passan could have left it at that and made a fine first impression.

Oh, but he decided to level up.

Passan, who had to know what would come next, willingly volunteered the fact that, while his Connery impression isn’t great, he has a few impressions that are masterful.

Well, come on.  Dan and crew aren’t going to let that slide by.  They asked him which one he thought was his best.

Passan answered Elmo.

Elmo.

Dan’s impending dementia flared up when he got Elmo and Grover confused, but that’s okay, we love him anyway, and then Passan added that he will only do Elmo if he can say something inappropriate.

I won’t tell you the line Dan threw out there because I’m a public school teacher and value my career, but Passan nailed it.

Nailed it.

At that point, Dan and the team insisted that Passan give them his analysis on recent baseball news only in an Elmo voice.  Passan, being probably the newest guy at ESPN and hoping to establish himself as a credible sports reporter to an unfamiliar audience had every right to laugh off the request right then and there.  He did Connery.  He did Elmo.  What more could we ask of the man?

He agreed to do it.

Listening to Passan offer baseball analysis in an Elmo voice … I had tears rolling down my face.

Passan made a point to joke about the whole thing being a bad idea with phrases similar to “career suicide” and “I’m going to regret this” … but he kept going!

Look, I don’t care about baseball at all, but I instantly followed Jeff Passan on Twitter.  This is my kind of guy.  I can’t wait for him to visit the show again … as long as he does his Elmo voice.

Go give Passan’s segment a listen and show this man a little love.  You can hear his appearance at this link: http://www.espn.com/espnradio/play?id=26038796

You can also follow Jeff Passan on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JeffPassan

Men with this kind of bravery … they deserve our adoration.  Move over Elmo, it’s–na na nana, na na nana–Passan’s world!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

I Once Made An Amazing Basketball Play … That My Coach Hated

Though I now love basketball as an adult, I wasn’t into it at all as a child.  In fact, I didn’t really start playing basketball until I entered seventh grade.  I’m guessing a four inch growth spurt (also, my last growth spurt) prompted this interest in the sport.

I liked it a lot, more than football, but had some catching up to do with the guys who played in the youth programs.  Luckily, I was from a small town, so if you tried out for the team … you were pretty much on the team.

Seventh and eighth grade basketball treated me well.  I wasn’t anything better than average, but I learned a lot about the sport and, even more importantly, had a great time.

By ninth grade, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I still wasn’t anywhere close to being the star of the team, but I regularly did particularly well on the “B” team, so I thought I still had plenty of room to improve, and I believed that I would improve.

With my confidence soaring, I once made a play that I thought was inspired, efficient, and full of style.  My coach completely disagreed.  Thankfully, this all happened at practice.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I somehow gained possession of a loose ball while playing defense.  I remember I had to chase it down and bend over to retrieve it.  I knew members of my team were already fast breaking to our basket.  Sure, I could pick the ball up, turn, and then thrown it down court to them, but that would waste precious seconds, seconds that would allow the defense time to catch up.

In perhaps one of the most ingenious moments in basketball history, I figured out how to bypass those three wasteful moves into one economical motion that would surely result in two points.

I bent over to grab the ball with both hands.  I spread my legs nice and wide.  And then, with the efficiency of an NFL center and with my butt facing the basket in which we wanted to score, I launched the ball with both hands right between my legs to the lead fast breaker.

I’ll never know if my teammate scored because I stopped watching him when I heard my coach scream, “AXLE!”

A quick side note: My coach called me “Axle” after the character “Axle Foley” from Beverly Hills Cop.  Remember, this was all happening in the early ’90s.  I kind of liked the nickname.  “Axle” always sounded pretty cool.  Of course, looking back, I’m pretty sure half the time he wasn’t actually saying “Axle.”  Apparently, my unorthodox methods often befuddled him.

Coach had a brief chat with me about my pass.  He said something along the lines of, “I never … ever … want to see that again.  … Ever.”

I’ve watched a lot of professional basketball since that moment.  I’ve loved the NBA, and, more specifically, the NBA playoffs, since ninth grade.  In all the games I’ve watched during the last thirty years, I can attest that Coach was right.  I’ve never seen that pass executed by, well, anyone.

To this day, though, I maintain that it was a brilliant pass.  I hit my breaker right on the money.  Sure, it looked silly, but it was so efficient.

Man, I loved basketball.

Maybe I should have played past ninth grade.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you why I didn’t.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

 

Acceptance (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer – A Book Review

I did it!  I finally finished this series!

Sorry.

That’s not very eloquent.

You’ll remember that I enjoyed the movie Annihilation, so I read the source material of the same name and found myself … less impressed.  I let a bit of time pass by and then gave the second book–Authority–a chance.  It also failed to win me over.

So you may be wondering why I bothered to read the third book called Acceptance.  I’d like to say I’m a completest, but, if I’m being honest, I just wanted some kind of answers regarding Area X and the Southern Reach.

I’ve got some good news–Acceptance proved more enjoyable than its predecessors.

Everything about Acceptance was superior to the first two installments.  I particularly found the narrative style effective.  VanderMeer elects to alternate chapters between Ghost Bird, the Director, the Lighthouse Keeper, and Control.  By doing this, we are given access to the thoughts of characters we, other than Control, haven’t really before experienced.  The fact that we were just as ignorant as the characters in the first two books regarding the events plaguing them frustrated me to no end.  With Acceptance, we finally experience revelation … sort of.  More on that in a moment.

Now, I’m the first to admit that the main reason I liked Acceptance is because it finally gave me some insight into Ghost Bird, Area X, Southern Reach, the Lighthouse Keeper, and the Director.  Trudging through the first two books should not be a prerequisite to liking the third, however, and I realize this position is a little contradictory.  By the way, the irony of the third book’s title did not escape me.

But, the truth is the truth.  If you read Annihilation and Authority, I guarantee you’ll find Acceptance worth your while.  Be prepared, though.  While it revealed enough to satisfy me, you won’t get much in the way of hard and fast answers.  VanderMeer sets the stage well enough to let your own imagination fill in the gaps, but there is no concrete conclusion to The Southern Reach Trilogy.

I fully accept that.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

The Favourite – A Movie Review

The Favourite has been slowly building acclaim for quite a while, but with it’s recent ten Oscar nominations, it shot up to my “must-view” list.

We were fortunate enough to have it play again at our local theater tonight, so my wife and I made it a date and checked it out.

I can honestly say that if you get a chance to see The Favourite … don’t.

I am clearly missing something with this film.

Look, the actresses were great–no doubt.  Olivia Coleman disappeared into Queen Anne and depicted one of the most wretched characters I’ve seen in quite some time.  Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are also absolutely going for it with this movie.  They were brilliant.

However, the story is just … not that compelling.

If you’re unfamiliar with the tale, it’s about Queen Anne in the early 1700s.  She suffers from gout, as well as a few other infirmities.  Her mental well-being seems questionable at best.  Rachel Weisz plays her cousin, Lady Sarah.  Lady Sarah is Anne’s best friend and pretty much calls England’s shots on Anne’s behalf.  Emma Stone plays Abigail, a former noblewoman who has been stripped of her rank.  Abigail comes to Anne’s palace as a servant, but quickly works her way into Anne’s confidence.  A power struggle ensues between Lady Sarah and Abigail, with Anne loving every minute of it.

However, there’s something about this movie that I did not realize …

SPOILER ALERT …

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2 …

1 …

Both Lady Sarah and Abigail curry favor with Anne through sexual acts.  Yes, you read that right.  There’s a lot of uncomfortable moments in this film.  A lot.  It’s not overtly graphic or shocking, but I had no idea this aspect of the movie even existed.

Furthermore, most of the movie takes place in Anne’s bedroom.  The costumes are exquisite … at first.  The settings are beautiful … at first.  But this all wears thin when the movie doesn’t go anywhere else.  There is an interesting subplot about a war taking place, but Anne really couldn’t care less about it so we see nothing of it.  We get just a touch of British politics, but not a whole lot on that front either.

It’s mostly Sarah and Abigail vying for position with Anne.  They sabotage each other at every opportunity.

If I’m failing to recognize something that makes this film a masterpiece, please, feel free to educate me.

As far as I’m concerned, The Favourite is the furthest thing from a “must-see” movie.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)