Friday, June 26, 2015

Crystal Baller

Probably my favorite song from Third Eye Blind. Really deep lyrics.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Movie Review: A Deadly Adoption, Lifetime movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig

On April 1, it was announced that comedy heavyweights Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig were going to star together in a Lifetime made-for-television movie. Most naturally assumed that it was an April Fool's joke. Lifetime TV movies are cliche-filled, stereotypical, full of cheesy plot lines and cringe-worthy dialogue.

And that is exactly what "A Deadly Adoption," starring Ferrell and Wiig, is. Produced by Ferrell and Adam McKay, the team behind "Funny Or Die" (the girl from the Landlord video is McKay's daughter), this is basically a spoof of a Lifetime movie. I am not sure how it came about, but I'm glad it did. It was a very "meta" move on Lifetime's part to make fun of themselves.

There is no comedy in "A Deadly Adoption." The comedy comes from watching two funny actors play it straight in a cliche-filled film. From the opening moments of Wiig falling off a dock into a lake and Ferrell trying in vain to revive her, to moments later seeing him weeping beside her hospital bed, to discovering they lost their unborn baby in the accident, you quickly realize that this isn't the typical role for either of them.

It's hard to watch this movie with a straight face, but the humor comes from them playing it with a straight face. Ferrell at one point comments to a friend that he is "six months clean and sober." He then dramatically pulls open a drawer on his desk and stares longingly at a bottle of whiskey.

Ferrell and Wiig are adopting a baby, five years after the accident. They meet an unwed pregnant woman named Bridgett living at a homeless shelter. There's no way they're allowing the mother of their new child to live like that, so they suggest she stay with them for the duration of her pregnancy. 

Ferrell's character is a famous author and the pregnant lady is familiar with his work. There is a lot of foreshadowing as to whether or not they will have an affair. Who has feelings for who? 

There is a major plot twist near the end. It devolves into a sordid mystery involving lies, stealing, murder, kidnapping, deception, and any other plot device you can think of.

Spoiler alert: There's a happy ending. It wouldn't be a cliche Lifetime movie without it. During one of the pivotal establishing moments early in the film, Wiig sadly mentions to a friend that Ferrell is just not himself anymore; he doesn't dance in the kitchen and have a good time like he used to. Again, the comedy comes from how straight they play their roles. The very last moment of "A Deadly Adoption" features Ferrell exclaiming "I love this song!" turning up the radio, and proceeding to happily dance around the kitchen like an idiot.

As a story, it's stupid. It's like most Lifetime movies. But as a 2-hour work of satire, it's amazing. If you are a fan of clever humor, of looking for the laughs that aren't there, then "A Deadly Adoption" is something you should check out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts from June 18

When I moved to Princeton in 2001, the first album that 14-year-old Chris Slater bought was Staind's "Break The Cycle." I listened to it a lot over the next year or so and then it became an album that I had and never really thought much of.

I was at the local record store earlier. Yes, those things still exist. And the guy working there asked me if I liked Staind. They had too many copies of "Break The Cycle" and he just gave it to me.

I popped it in and gave it a listen. The nostalgia was there, as I remembered all the songs and what order they went in. And then something different happened. 28-year-old Chris Slater listened to them. That 14-year-old kid didn't understand a song about a girl who doesn't love you anymore, or a song about drug addiction, or any other sorts of problems. 

But, today's version of me got it. And it gave a whole new meaning to everything. And I remember back to a time when I was going through some issues with a girl years ago. I was listening to my favorite album when I was 17. And a 17-year-old doesn't know shit about a failing relationship. But I did. And the words hit me and opened up all of these emotions.

The power of words. The power of music. The power of imagery. It's all amazing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Identity Crisis

Earlier this year, I was in a comic book shop in Beckley and was perusing the titles when a graphic novel cover popped out at me. All of these superheroes' costumes were hanging up, empty. It looked so sad and hollow. And then I noticed the name at the top: Brad Meltzer. My favorite wrestler, CM Punk, is a huge comic fan (and actually writes comics for Marvel now) and has tweeted about Meltzer several times.

From the cover alone I knew this was going to be good, and add in the fact that a person I have heard nothing but good things about wrote it. While checking out, the stereotypical portly and unkempt comic shop proprietor said "This is the only comic that has ever made me cry." So, it also had that added bonus. Although, I laughed about it for most of the day, imagining that guy crying over superheroes.

And then I started reading it. And I cried once. And came close a couple other times. "Identity Crisis" has some very emotionally jarring scenes. Brad Meltzer isn't your traditional comic book writer. He is a novelist, so he knows how to craft a story from beginning-to-end and make it interesting. And that's what he does here. This is not a traditional superhero comic book. This is a murder mystery featuring men and women who happen to be superheroes.

Told mostly through the eyes of Green Arrow, this story examines the fallout after the death of Sue Dibny, the wife of the Elongated Man. He can make his body stretch like rubber. The story starts out as a traditional superhero plot - somebody was killed and they need to go search for clues.

Except... There are a few of the heroes who think they know what happened. And it all involves a long-held, deep, dark secret that they had vowed to never bring up again.

What they - Green Arrow, Hawkman, Black Canary, the Atom, and Zatanna - did wasn't necessarily wrong. They really believed they were working in the best interest of Sue Dibny and Elongated Man.

The issue here is an ethical one. Should they have done what they did? The Flash finds out and is shocked. That's when things spin out of control as more dark secrets start coming out. Were they wrong? Green Arrow defends their actions, saying that they were for the good of the world. Flash asks if Batman and Superman know. Arrow counters saying that they would never stand for something like that, and were kept in the dark. But, it is strongly hinted that both know and are simply playing dumb. And Green Arrow knows that, telling Flash at one point that people believe and hear what they want.

While these secrets are coming out, there is still a murder mystery that needs to be solved. And more murders are happening. It appears as though somebody is targeting the members of the superheroes' families. Lois Lane - wife of Superman - is sent a threatening letter. The wife of The Atom is almost murdered, but saved in time. And Robin's father is another target.

Who is behind these attacks? The reveal is surprising. Early on, Batman is trying to solve the murders and rules people out based on the fact that it won't benefit them. He asks who has the most to gain. It all adds up in the end, in the most shocking of manners. 

After finishing "Identity Crisis," I began searching to see what other people thought about it. The general consensus among comic book fans is that they did not like it. It has strong reviews in the sense that it was a nicely written piece of work. But most did not like it for the main reason that I loved it: these superheroes were revealed to really be flawed people with problems.

Basically, they are the opposite of Superman, a point Green Arrow brings up a few times, even commenting at one point "Sometimes I really hate that guy."

The issue of ethics is something that comes up. Did they do what was right? As you read and discover what happened, you realize that yes, they had the best of intentions and they did what they thought was right. But, should they have done that? Did they use underhanded methods to do what they thought was right? Yes, they did. Otherwise, they wouldn't have sworn themselves to secrecy.

"Identity Crisis" is a fun thriller that really keeps you guessing until the reveal at the end. As a murder mystery, it's top notch. Add in the ethical dilemma of the unearthed secrets and how it tears everybody apart and you get an even better story.

If you like comic books, read it. If you like good stories, read it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blood on the Ground

"I bite my tongue every time you come around, because blood in my mouth beats blood on the ground."

Monday, June 8, 2015

7 Years Ago Today: CM Punk wins first World Championship

Seven years ago today - June 8, 2008 - CM Punk won his first World Heavyweight Championship in WWE, after defeating Edge via "Money in the Bank" cash in.

Not even counting the fact that this clip includes CM Punk, it was just brilliant storytelling and is honestly one of the greatest Monday Night Raw moments of the last 10 years in WWE. Some backstory:

WWE would hold yearly "talent draft" shows, where certain wrestlers would be moved between Raw and SmackDown. This was the first show after those draft picks were official. There were two top titles in the company: the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H was the WWE Champ and exclusive to SmackDown and Edge was the World Champ and exclusive to SmackDown.

Raw didn't have a champion. Batista - a Raw superstar - had a shot the night before, but Edge cheated and the title stayed on SmackDown. He came out to the ring to gloat about that fact, and that's where the video starts.

The Money in the Bank briefcase holds a contract for a world title shot any time the competitor wants it. Edge won the very first one in 2005. He realized a loophole and used it to win his first world title from John Cena after Cena had already wrestled a match. He swooped in on a defenseless wrestler and beat him. The next year, Rob Van Dam won the MITB contract and was honorable and cashed it in well in advance. In 2007, Edge once again had the briefcase and used it to win the World Championship from The Undertaker after he had already competed.

This day in 2008, it was then sweet irony that CM Punk cashed in on an unconscious Edge to take his title. It finally came around to bite Edge after he had used that loophole so many times himself.

And, of course, we all know my thoughts on CM Punk if anybody has ever read anything I've written about him. He was always the true "People's Champion" in professional wrestling. He wasn't part of the "corporate machine" that designed wrestling superstars. He clawed and fought his way to the top, the audience recognized his talent, and WWE was forced to make him a top star.

All of that culminated into an amazing 6-minute segment on Monday Night Raw that will always stand the test of time. It's just an awesome segment. A fan tweeted about the anniversary of that moment (although she accidentally said "6 years" instead of 7) and CM Punk re-tweeted her and replied. 

Looks like a little dig there at the system that he had to fight against for so many years. Since leaving WWE in January of 2014, Punk really hasn't commented that much on professional wrestling. He did the infamous podcast interview with Colt Cabana where he opened up about leaving, but that's really been it. He has been training for a UFC career and writing comic books for Marvel.

June 8 was a good day in wrestling history to commemorate. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

She's Electric

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Drunken Thoughts: Tiananmen Square and social media

If you were to ask me, "Chris, what are some of the downfalls of drinking to excess?" I could begin listing off a number of things. I've personally experienced several of them. On the flip side of that, if you were to ask what some of the positives of drinking can be, I would give you two answers:

1) I can occasionally appear charming to girls.

2) I get unexpected waves of creativity and I start writing stuff down.

Right now, we're going to talk about number two. And that is mostly because we actually have proof of that one. Number one is more along the lines of a theory in my head.

Today, I woke up and began checking Twitter. I found one post noting that June 4 was the 26th anniversary of what happened at Tiananmen Square, in China. If you don't know about it, just google it. If you haven't seen the iconic photograph of the kid and the tank, then you just don't realize it... because you have seen it.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square and that was a more "celebration-worthy" year, as there was a lot of media coverage and special events. So far, aside from the one twitter mention, I have yet to see anything more about today.

I watched a lot of this last year and it got me thinking. The image of that kid and the tank was in my head. I was having a few imbibing beverages and I started thinking about how quickly the news cycle is these days; how something big is over once the 24-hour news networks move onto something else. I started thinking about social media and how everybody can be an amateur journalist as long as they have their phone with them. And then I started writing. What came out was the picture at the top. 

My handwriting and my attitude have one thing in common when I begin drinking: they both get really sloppy. So, I've transcribed the picture for you below:
"Hypnotize," SOAD
Idea to use that song on a podcast to talk about how social media has ruined photography as an art. What do we remember about Tiananmen Square? Just the one iconic picture of the kid and the tanks. In today's world we'd have 100 Facebook & Twitter pictures of that moment from these different angles. Since we've just had that one iconic moments it has lasted longer in the worldwide lexicon. Is this a problem? Were Twitter & Facebook around in 1989, would it have taken 20+ years for that memory to be fully understood and appreciated? Or would it have led to bigger changes at the moment? What moments that have become "hashtag moments" in the last 6 years could have become iconic instead of being forgotten once they stopped trending?
And that is what my drunken mind came up with late one night in 2014. The System Of A Down song, "Hypnotize," mentions Tiananmen Square. I've shown a couple people these thoughts before and they have seemed to agree with me. I guess where I was going with that was to look at how iconic that one picture is and explore if iconic pictures can happen today with so much social media and smart phones around?

How different would we look at Tiananmen Square if we had 1000 pictures from different angles, a bunch of YouTube videos of the incident and people reacting to it, and everything else? 

I don't know. Just something I pondered late one night last year and was reminded of again today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tuesday. Nothing.

Tuesday. Nothing to report. I've just been in a weird mood lately. I've had a lot of stuff on my mind but I haven't really been able to articulate it properly.

I wrote a short story recently. I don't really write a lot of fiction. I don't like it. I let a couple people read it and got mixed reviews. I've noticed that everything I write that's fiction tends to involve death and have a vague, ambiguous ending. I don't really know why.

The next "Top 25" music list will feature The White Stripes. This and the last one in this series were both influenced by Celia. A while back I randomly texted her "Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam?" and her response led to me looking at my favorite Foo songs. This one is related to her and I in another way. Maybe I'll tell that story one day. Look for that to be up eventually.

And check out:

Top 25 Foo Fighters Songs

Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

Top 25 Led Zeppelin Songs (sort of)

Top 25 Beatles Songs

I have another list idea that likely won't be published for a while. I have the first nine seasons of "The Simpsons" on DVD and my idea is to rank all 206 of those episodes. I don't know exactly how I'm doing it. Right now, I'm going through and ranking the episodes of each individual season. I've done that with the first two right now. As I have more of a clear understanding of what I'm doing with that, I'll fill everybody in.

"What about the DUI Class articles?" I have notes from all six sessions of "DUI Class" that I took back in October and November. For those who don't know, those are workshops that you have to take before you can get your license back after having a DUI.

I took notes during all six classes. And the main reason I did that was because I quickly learned that the whole thing is a joke. No, driving under the influence of alcohol isn't a joke. But the classes you have to take after the fact certainly are. 

I have the notes for all six classes. And I've written the actual articles for classes 01-04. Click here to read a small preview of class 01. I haven't written anything for those in months. It's been very emotional to go back and look at that time of my life. It was a very sad, angry period for me. I'm trying to not be that person anymore, so it's been difficult to look at these notes I wrote from a down period in my life.

I don't know. Maybe some additional time passing will better allow me to go back and look at those from a less objective standpoint.

You know, if I actually wrote all of this stuff instead of just talking about it I would probably have a lot of it done by now.

On a final note, I had an article published on a pretty big professional wrestling site, Cageside Seats. It's under the "SB Nation" sports site umbrella. They have a lot of different subsections and wrestling is one of them. A wrestler who was released by WWE last year, JTG, wrote an ebook about his time in the company. He specifically focused on his "heat" aka the times he got in trouble politically. I read it, reviewed it, and got it published. Click here to check that out.

I'll check back with more later.