A Close Call

~The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.~

I had a close call this morning.  If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area, you’re probably familiar with Linden Street.  It isn’t especially busy, and it’s a straight shot for me to work.  I’ve taken it everyday for pretty much sixteen years.  Most of it is a basic two-lane road, but it widens out to four lanes in the Illinois State University area.

This morning, I’m driving along, listening to WGLT (89.1 FM) like I always do.  Some cars were heading towards me from the opposite direction, but this isn’t an unusual occurrence.  All of a sudden, I noticed one of the oncoming cars start to cross the center line.  Time slowed down as I watched it creep more and more over that line.  Before I knew it, it was three-fourths in my lane and showing no signs of correcting course.  The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.  I hit my horn, hard, and got over to the edge of my lane as far as I could while applying my brakes.  I continued pressing my horn.  For a moment, I considered jumping the curb.  At the last second, I saw the driver’s head whip up and then they veered back into their lane.  I continued pushing my horn long after they were past me.

I got lucky.

In that moment, I realized that my morning could have gone very differently.  While neither of us were going fast enough to likely cause any serious injury, you never know.  It absolutely would have been a practical head-on collision, though.  My car would have been seriously damaged.  I would have been very late for work.  I could have been hurt–maybe seriously.

My imagination works overtime, one of the perks of being a writer, so naturally my mind raced with all of the possibilities.  I soon felt the adrenaline flowing through my body.  I made myself calm down, told myself all’s well that ends well, but, even ten hours later, it still leaves me a little rattled.

It shook me up because there was literally nothing I could do but wait.  I honked.  I slowed way down, almost to a stop.  Beyond that … nothing.  Powerless.  Accidents can happen that randomly, that quickly, that drastically.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an accident.  The other driver was clearly looking down at their phone.  The collision would have been due to negligence, recklessness, and very likely a healthy amount of ignorance.

Oh, the other driver?  I’m sure you’re assuming a teenager drove the errant vehicle, but that would be incorrect.  I saw a head full of short, white hair.  I don’t know if it was a man or a woman, but it was certainly an older person.

Please, please, please, whether your are old or young, man or woman, please stay off of your phones while driving. car accident

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

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My Unpopular Concern Regarding Captain Marvel

There’s a lot riding on Marvel’s latest installment, Captain Marvel.  With this being the final chapter leading into what we can only believe to be the end of the current iteration of Marvel movies (a journey that’s lasted over ten years), Captain Marvel has to get it just right.  I have three concerns I’d like to discuss with you.  The first two probably won’t be a factor.  The third could very well be a reality.

First and foremost, Marvel needs to prove they can produce a film featuring a female lead.  Captain Marvel is a great character to achieve this goal, though many wonder why Black Widow hasn’t already gotten the call to action.  To me, it’s rather obvious.  Centering a movie around a former Russian assassin sounds like an engaging concept, but not when Disney is your corporate owner focused on creating family-friendly super hero films.  Captain Marvel has the potential to rival Wonder Woman in terms of charisma and broad appeal, but I think she’s fighting an uphill battle because the average person just doesn’t know her.  I personally don’t believe Marvel has a standout female hero at all that the general public is aware of, and this saddens me, but hopefully Captain Marvel will change that.

Secondly, Captain Marvel can’t–simply cannot–act as a deus ex machina that changes everything at the last minute leading into Avengers: Endgame.  I’m already suspicious of Nick Fury only now deciding to “beep” Captain Marvel after failing to do so for an alien invasion, a murderous robot, an angry Norse god, and a rampaging green Goliath, but that’s fine.  Story elements can’t be predicted, especially when creating a ten-year odyssey.  My hope is that they will explain Captain Marvel’s absence, and that they won’t have her execute her own version of the finger snap.  Infinity War needs to have real repercussions.  I’m not so naive as to believe Spider-Man or Black Panther will stay dead, but I feel that if Captain Marvel reverses time or undoes death than the last ten years will have been a sham.  For the record, I don’t believe they will do this in Captain Marvel, but the possibility does concern me.  I think the creators behind the Marvel movies know how to satisfy the audience without cheating their story.

Along those lines, the Skrulls better not pull the kind of shenanigans they do in the comics.  If you’re not familiar with this alien race, they are capable of shape-shifting.  They have literally posed as super heroes in the Marvel Comics Universe for years.  Just read Secret Invasion if you want an infuriating example of this.  This is the scenario that causes me the most apprehension because I think there is a good possibility that they will spring this one on us.  Imagine a story where the Skrulls were so deep undercover that they didn’t even know they weren’t human.  Envision a plot in which the undercover Skrull super hero dies due to Thanos’ snap, but then the real super hero is freed from Skrull detainment to rescue the universe.  It would be a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of situation.  Marvel has done this sort of thing in the comic books, and it made me feel very cheated.  If Captain Marvel is simply a vehicle to lead us into a Skrull invasion that will culminate in Endgame

As it happens, I’m seeing Captain Marvel soon.  You can expect my review immediately thereafter.  I’m excited to see it, but I’m also somewhat leery due to the Skrull element of the film.  We’ll know soon enough!

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

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)

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)

 

The Repercussions Of Student Fights

I typically don’t discuss anything negative about my career as a high school English teacher.  Funny stuff?  You bet.  Inspirational topics?  No problem.  But those things that could be viewed as “airing dirty laundry?”  Nope–won’t write about it.

Until now.

I suspect the topic I’m about to address, however, is not unique to my place of work.  I’m willing to bet a lot of schools suffer the issue I’m about to explore.

We had a fight at the school today.  I’m sorry to say this is not all that unusual lately.  Though I wasn’t involved with it in any way, the effects of the fight were felt throughout the building.  I heard students talking about the fight gleefully, as though they watched some kind of live entertainment.  I saw students in the hall reenacting the fight as they smiled and laughed.

This upset me.

Look, kids get into fights.  Kids like watching fights.  It breaks up the monotony of the day, because no matter how fun we try to make school–school is school.  Anything exciting and dramatic is always welcomed by the students as respite.  None of this is new in the history of public education.

But when I see students taking joy in each other’s discord, when I see them celebrating their peers’ violence, it makes my heart ache.

Our school tries to teach social skills.  Some of our staff go above and beyond in working tirelessly to help kids bond and form communities.  Our entire staff buys into building relationships with the students.  We’re trying.  We’re all trying.  I bet your school is trying, too.

But try as we might, this is an issue that’s difficult to overcome.  I wish we could get the kids who like to fight–as well as the kids who like to watch fights–I wish we could get them to see the value in supporting each other, to realize that building each other up is so much more productive than tearing each other down.  I wish they knew that, once they leave our school, no one out there is going to do them any favors.  They’ll have to rely on themselves.

I wish they felt like they could also rely on each other.

Look, this is hard to write about.  I hope it’s coming across as intended.  I’m not trying to criticize my school, and I’m certainly not trying to belittle our students.  And most of our students do support one another.  But those kids who take pleasure in fighting, starting fights, and watching fights … I worry about those kids and what kind of a future they have in store for them.  I want the best for all of our students.

As teachers, we have to keep pushing social skills.  We have to keep building kids up.  We have to keep creating communities within our school.  We have to keep helping kids find their niche.

All I ask is that the community outside our school walls do the same.  Help us reinforce the power of education.  Help us show kids that love and kindness is always the answer.  Help us teach kids that we are always stronger when we stand together, not apart.

A better tomorrow can only begin when we work for a better today.

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