Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Time to Marvel

The world is on fire.  Evil is inflamed overseas, partisan discord and demagoguery divides on our own shores.  And yet I can't seem to shake a pesky and persistent feeling of hope.  As bad as things want to be - I've been around on this earth long enough to know that things have been a lot worse, both in my lifetime and well before and beyond it as well.

I have been somewhat neglectful of this blog - but I'm happy to say I'm not going anywhere and don't plan to stop writing any time soon, though it may be farther and fewer between as the years pass.  I have two other blogs, both related to poker, and lately I've been writing on them more frequently.  I'm less inspired to write here because this is where I typically air my grievances, especially the political ones.

Maybe it's part of getting older; I just don't feel as passionate about dissecting all the different ways to a similar end that most Americans want.  I'm not inclined to dissect and delineate the intellectual failings of infantile liberals. I've realized that ultimately it's not so much stupidity, but upbringing that has taken them down the easy path of child-like emotions and knee jerk instinct in dealing with weighty matters of the world.  I also recognize that it's a heavy burden to always be right and be one of the few who can separate facts from fantasy.  It's also tiresome to be so smart all of the time.

But on a serious note - I am and always will be a hopeless political junkie, and I'm thinking that the real reason for my reluctance to engage in a battle of wits with unarmed opponents is that more than ever I really feel like I have nothing to prove, and that trying to convince a died in the wool liberal, who thinks that poor people should be perpetually attached to the government tit, that maybe a life of dependence on a massive bureaucracy isn't the way to go - is ultimately futile.

So I feel good - good about my world view, borne of months at a time abroad in the third world, borne of building a home and family from the sweat of my brow and my brain.  And I feel optimistic, upbeat, hopeful.  Hopeful about my country, my family and friends, my career and this amazing information age.

Lately I've been thinking about miracles; not the big heavy duty biblical ones, not even the daily ones I read about in the news relating to matters of life and death - the little girl whose cancer disappears, the hopelessly lost hikers who miraculously turn up a week later dehydrated and exhausted but alive.  No, lately I've been thinking about the smaller miracles of the first world that are in my face, all of the time.  I guess miracle is the wrong word - but I can't help but be in awe of these little marvels.  They are silly, they are trivial I guess - but they provoke a strong response in me.

The produce section in Ralph's is a marvel.  All I get is blackberries and grapes for my little girl, apples and bananas for the wife and myself.  Sometimes a tray of veggies for poker.  I have a friend who has told me more than once that I really shouldn't bother with Ralph's for produce - "It's overpriced and the fruit is so much better in the farmer's market."  Um, okay.  Try the market in Nairobi or Cairo my friend.  For that matter, try getting fresh produce on the island of Key West where I grew up.  My dad, who lived on that island for most of his life would come visit me in Los Angeles and stand in awe of the fruit at Ralph's.  Ralph's is a marvel.


About six months ago I got my first smart phone.  I had resisted a long time.  In fact, I had resisted texting for a much longer time.  I broke down about 2 years ago, and just recently a doe eyed 20 something sales girl at the Verizon store got me to take the plunge.

My i-phone is a marvel.  It's no longer the latest and greatest, but it's incredible.  I don't have to text anymore, I can talk into the phone and it will write down what I'm saying.  I can find the quickest route through LA traffic to get where I'm going faster.  Recently I was in Las Vegas and needed a haircut.  I asked my phone, and these were my exact words - "Where can I get a haircut?"  Bam.  Instant directions in my car, she talked me straight to a Supercuts 5 minutes away.  What's the score of the A's game?  Bam.  Yep, they're losing again.  What did Allen say on Facebook 30 seconds ago?  Bam.  Yep, his grandpa is dong good.  When does the World Series of Poker start airing again?  Bam.  What song is that playing?  Shazam.  Bam.  I'm bored. Let's play Minion Rush.  Bam.  What did that dopey guy in the White House say today?  Bam.


Bam, bam.

The i-phone is a freaking marvel.


My television is a marvel.  It's huge.  Going by screen size it was way cheaper than the last standard def tv I bought.  It's GORGEOUS.  Over a year later I still can't get over how good Megan Kelly looks.  And I'm not just saying that because she's super smart and pretty - she just looks AMAZING. The lighting, the color, the contrast.  BAM.   Yeah right about now I'd like to watch Captain America: Winter Soldier with PERFECT sound and an INCREDIBLE picture.  BAM.


Speaking of Captain America -  comic book movies are right up my alley and are GD marvels. (And not just the ones by Marvel, but the DC ones too.)

I have more than a friend or two who are my age and are weary of comic books coming to life on a weekly basis in the multi-plex.  To that I say, are you KIDDING ME?  First of all, what kind of movies did you think people our age would be making?  Secondly - do you have any idea just how good the vast majority of them are?   And thirdly - do you seriously think this will last?

The first question I think should be answered with a time machine.  It is my fondest wish that every  geek over 40 who is whining about too many comic book movies could be visited by their 13 year old selves and be wheel-house bitch slapped for complaining.  This is a GD GOLDEN AGE PEOPLE!

Relating to this -the second question.  Even the "crap" super hero movies are pretty darn cool.  Sure, Green Lantern "sucks" - but only because it came out a couple of years ago.  If it had come out ten years ago - it would have been hailed up and down.  Well maybe not, but it wouldn't have bombed.  Structurally, it is indeed a mess of a film, but only because in Hollywood today (and thanks in no small part to PIXAR) story is KING.  I confess my wife and I have found ourselves stopping to watch it on television more than a few times.  It's Green Lantern for crying out loud!  I do the same thing with the two Fantastic Four movies as well - BECAUSE IT'S THE GD FANTASTIC FOUR!   Helloooo.... is this thing on?

The third question - it won't always be like this.  I am very grateful that the dreams of my childhood have come to life on the big screen; and more-so, that these dreams apparently were shared with millions of people because these movies are the biggest money makers ever.  But I understand that within a decade this fad will pass, and we will very likely see far fewer super heroes in action on the big screen.  So I'm going to enjoy this trend thoroughly while I can.

But back to the second point.  Okay, we all know the super hero movies that 'sucked'.  Green Lantern, The Fantastic Four, the new Spiderman movies (and the old third one).  That's what I can think of off the top of my head.  Let me attempt to list ones that I thought were top notch AWESOME and are must haves.  In no particular order...

Spider Man 2  The Sam Raimi version.
The Dark Knight
The Avengers
Iron Man
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America WS
XMen 2
The Incredibles

Now let me list those I thought were thoroughly enjoyable - and that I've purchased.

Iron Man 3
Thor 2
Captain America 1st Avenger
XMen 1st Class
Spiderman 1 Sam Raimi
Batman Begins
Superman MOS

That is 17 flicks off the top of my head that I absolutely love and will watch again and again over the years.  They are magnificent.  They are everything that I loved about comic books, come to life before my eyes - outrageous and righteous morality plays with bigger than life good guys and bad guys.  They are, all of them, FAR better than the paltry few superhero movies of my childhood.

And I loved the Chris Reeve Superman movies, and still do.  And I loved the first three Batman movies, and still do.

And again, there are plenty of less than great superhero movies that I dig.  I actually enjoyed the recent Spiderman 2 very much, it had some great gags and great emotion - and they absolutely nailed Peter Parker and the Spiderman character way better than Raimi did.  Now the story was bloated and problematic - it was  90 minute movie trapped in a 130 minute bloat of self indulgence.  Worse than that - we've seen this whole thing before and we've seen it done better.  Raimi is a true auteur and his first two Spiderman movies are superb.

Anyway - there are plenty of 'mediocre' superhero movies that I like just fine;

Thor 1 - Thor is a bit of a bore, but the movie works more than it doesn't.

Both Hulk movies.  Ang Lee's troubled film still has the second best Hulk sequence ever captured, after the Avengers, of hulk rampaging through the desert.  The other movie is much tighter enterprise - and has some great gags.

Every other XMen movie, including the 'awful' X3 and the first Wolverine.  All of them have great moments and ultimately work in their universe.  I especially dug the 2nd Wolverine movie; as ridiculous as it was at times.

Bryan Singer's Superman movie; yeah, it's boring a lot of the time; but there's some great moments - and the spirit of the original is captured beautifully.

The weakest of the modern Marvel movies - Iron Man 2, is still a blast.  Watched it recently and it held my interest; also love Scar Jo.

The one somewhat recent superhero movie that I can't really bear to watch again, because it breaks my heart because it is so bad - is Daredevil.  Man, yes, that movie is indeed crap.  It doesn't help either that DD was always my favorite comic book.  The good news is, Netflix is taking Daredevil and turning it into a tv series.  Sweet.  Can't wait to binge on that!

Anyways, I didn't mean to get so sidetracked on superhero movies.  I guess that's the main topic in this post.  I will also mention in passing that there are many other kinds of geek movies out these days that are also marvels.  Especially animated movies, as I've gone on and on about in this blog before; but also other great genre films like Avatar, the Hobbit movies, Pacific Rim - just to randomly name a few; that are absolutely incredible to watch, especially in light of how thin the field of sci-fi and fantasy used to be in movie theaters.  True, there were some awesome ones; Terminator 1 and 2, The Road Warrior, Alien and Aliens - and others, but the quantity and quality of the last decade, I'm sorry to say - simply blows away what we had when we were young.

I guess superhero films are on the surface, like all modern marvels that we live with here in the greatest country on God's green earth - are silly and superficial, but to me it is what they represent that wields the real power in my life.  We all know that yes, evil exists - and our faith tells us that there will always be a light to shine on the darkness; but nowhere in todays world is this more dramatically illustrated than in comic book movies.  These are our modern day fairy tales, bigger and better than ever - that serve to lift us up, to elevate our spirits above the chaos and fear.  To share with our loved ones, with our children; to enjoy and to be inspired by.

I guess all I've really done here, is do what I've done before.  Stated firmly and fairly that NOW is the time of greatness and great stuff.  We are in the midst of the age of Marvel and marvels.  And I absolutely love it and I'm so thankful I get to nourish my soul with what is on the surface fairly frivolous and somewhat mindless entertainment.  I wouldn't want to live in any other time and place than where I am.  I am utterly grateful for all the joy that little marvels bring into my life - they sustain me through the rough stuff - and they bolster my love, joy and hope for what really matters most - my family and my faith.