Saturday, May 2, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

When I was a kid, comic books were magic.  They transported me into worlds in which ordinary people transformed into heroes--and still, thanks to the advent of the Marvel comics of Stan Lee and others, had to cope with ordinary problems.  No matter how powerful those silver-age Marvel heroes became, they still were clearly people.

Comics were my friends and my teachers.

Watching this second Avengers movie, I became for a time a kid again.  I marveled at all the power and the glory of the Avengers' heroics, and I felt for their humanity.  Despite the challenge of managing a huge cast and the need to deliver action on a regular basis, writer/director Joss Whedon never lost sight of how important the humanity of these heroes is.

For my taste, this is the best comic-book movie ever.  Period.

It's also just a darn good movie.

Yeah, it's sometimes silly, its jokes are often cheesy and in a few cases groan-worthy, and its plot follows a predictable arc, but none of that mattered, at least not to me.

As any great comic series does, this movie shows that even the greatest and most powerful of heroes have limits, that they do fail, and that what matters is what they do afterward, when they could choose to give up.

No doubt part of the sentimental side of me comes from my love of comics and all the hours I spent alone reading them, but I make no apologies for any of that.  Comics helped make me a better person.

Earlier tonight, the four-color dreams of my youth blasted onto the screen and let me be young again, and for that I am grateful.

He had many hits, but one stands out

Thursday, the wonderful musician Ben E. King died at the age of 76.  He created quite a few hit songs--check out this Rolling Stone article for many you may not realize he was singing--but one, "Stand By Me," was so magnificent that it towers above the others.

Many other great artists have so loved this song that they could not resist covering it.  My favorite of those covers is one I've posted here before, this version by John Lennon.

Rest in peace, Ben E. King.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Today we would have celebrated

not only May Day, but also and more importantly to me, my mother's birthday.  She died a bit over three years ago, but obviously I still think of her often and miss her.

As a small form of celebration, I thought I'd share, courtesy of Rana, two photos of my mother in my house.

The first is her many years ago.

Click an image to see a larger version.

This one shows her playing with a very young Scott.

Yes, this is the same Scott who grew up to become the Great Pirate Neckbeard.

I expect I'll continue to miss my mother until I die, but I'm okay with that; we should cherish the memories of those we love.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Burning Coal offers a lovely Sunday in the Park for a few more nights

I've been to the Art Institute of Chicago many times and viewed the famous Seurat painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - 1884, each time.  I'm with those who consider the painting a pointillist masterpiece, a painting that captivates you both with the techniques Seurat used to create it and, at times, in spite of them.  Until earlier tonight, however, I had never seen Sunday in the Park with George, the Sondheim and Lapine musical about the painting.

Having now enjoyed Burning Coal Theatre's production of this award-winning play, I encourage you to check to see if any tickets are available for the few remaining shows this weekend (it closes after Sunday's performance) and head to Burning Coal if there are.  The show is both fun and serious at various times, the cast members turn in generally good performances, and the several major themes are compelling.

I went to the play with no knowledge about it save for its tie to the painting, so on the chance that you might also not already know the play, I'm not going to give away any of its plot.  You certainly don't need to know the painting or anything about Seurat to have a good time at this show.

When a live theatrical performance goes well, it has a special kind of power that is like nothing else.  For twenty-five bucks you can catch an award-winning play, enjoy a strong cast of local actors giving it their all, and after over two hours of entertainment leave with much to consider.  That's a bargain.

Catch Sunday in the Park with George at the Burning Coal Theatre if you can.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Oh, yeah, I need to see this

Johnny Depp with thinning, slicked-back hair and light blue eyes is creepy as hell.  The story is interesting.  The rest of the cast looks great--and includes Benedict Cumberbatch, who barely appears in the trailer.

Yeah, I'll be there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Hillsborough BBQ Company

is for my money the new local barbecue champion.  This relatively new restaurant, nestled in a row of shops well off the main road in Hillsborough, features a real wood-fired pit and a team dedicated to creating great barbecue.  For the most part, they succeed.

Their chopped pork barbecue was so moist and delicious that I never even tried their sauces.  No other local barbecue place comes close to their chopped pork.  Their pork ribs were also the best I've had from a local barbecue joint.

The one meat on which they fell short was brisket.  Too dry by far, it just wasn't up to what even a low-end place in Austin would send out.  I am going to hope they keep trying to improve the brisket.

All the sides I sampled were very good, with the mac-and-cheese and baked beans particular favorites of mine.  Their hush puppies were also perfect.

You do have to allow time to wait.  The place was packed and apparently stays that way much of the time.

The only bad news is that I now will have more reasons to make the long drive to Hillsborough.

If you love pork barbecue, go eat at the Hillsborough BBQ Company.  The food is worth the drive.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Scott, the Great Pirate Neckbeard

Earlier tonight, Scott and other seniors put on a fascinating and fun show, Posters and Pies, about their senior projects.  After brief presentations on all the projects, we then got to see them up close--and eat pizza and pie.  I am very proud of Scott and his teammates and the very cool augmented reality project they did.

After the event finished, however, Scott decided he was done with most--but not all--of the beard he had been growing.  This decision led to a neckbeard...

Click an image to see a larger version.

...which in turn led to Scott's debut as The Great Pirate Neckbeard in the upcoming romance, Pirate.

The adoring fan in the background is his roommate, George.

Despite his cover model status on this soon-to-be-a-bestseller novel, Scott was not done.  Oh, no.

First, he posed in several different shots for neckbeard fans everywhere.

This one, the view from below, also known as "what the hell is on his neck?", is particularly striking.

"What," Scott says, "you don't like the neckbeard?"

"Are you sure?"

"Well, okay then, how do you feel about the reduced neckbeard?"

"Or perhaps you would prefer the checkerboard?"

Oh, yes, he is most definitely my son!

Well played, Scott.  Well played.

Yes, of course I asked Scott's permission before posting these photos.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ex Machina is a pleasure to watch

I'm a sucker for AI films, and I've been a student of the topic for most of my adult life.  I loved writer/director Alex Garland's 28 Days Later.  So, it's no surprise that, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was very interested in going to see Ex Machina.  I was not, however, at all sure how I'd react to it.

To my happy surprise, I loved it.  The film is a tight little package that tightens slowly as it progresses, until you can feel the almost crushing pressure from it.  The plot is reasonable, and the outcome inevitable but not overblown.

The three main actors--Domhnall Gleeson, Corey Johnson, and Alicia Vikander--are all marvelous in different ways.  Gleeson plays the visiting programmer with an innocence and awkwardness that fits his character.  Johnson's billionaire software developer and company owner shows perfectly the effects of living too long in his own money-protected bubble.  Vikander is the best of the three, her expressions small but perfect, each small change in her face hitting just the right note.

I could say more, but I really don't want to tread into spoilers.

Do not miss this one.


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