Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

As I've mentioned before, October 1st starts the unofficial Halloween season for me and to celebrate I read a scary book or two and watch some scary movies from my DVD/Blu Ray collection. Unfortunately, this year I was slacking. I didn't get to read a scary book this month, although I did read A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. No, it wasn't scary and I love A Song of Ice and Fire, but it is kinda scary how all the good guys are punks in the books and how misogynist the series is. And, no, it's not because of the time period.

Regardless, I did get to read two excellent YA creapfests not too long ago--THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and POSSESS--so that might make up for me missing the scary read this month. I did redeem myself, though, by seeing THE THING prequal in the movie theater and watching my DVD of the classic made-for-TV horror flick, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.

Yes, the 1973 original that I saw as a kid in syndication and it scared the bejeezus out of me. My son is big on Halloween (mainly because of the costumes and candy--like most kids), and wants to watch scary stuff, but it's scary cartoons and he still gets nightmares. The closest I got to being scared of a cartoon was the Grinch, and I was much younger than him. The benefit (or the curse?) of having much older siblings is that they exposed me to all the stuff they watched as teens, including the horror flicks. So when I was my son's age I was terrified by some scary stuff. Then there was the Son of Sam thing so I had TV and real life to traumatize me. But everything paled in comparison to 1979 when ALIEN came out.

I was 7 and although I was too young to see the movie, my brother did and told me all about it, which scared the heck out of me. A young masochist, I asked for the Alien 18" figure the following May as a Communion gift (ironic, no?) and after I got it I immediately regretted it. That thing stalked me throughout the house. My cruel brother used it against me, putting it in the doorway of my room at night which trapped me in my bed under the covers until someone came and got me in the morning. I eventually asked my pops to destroy it, which I thought he did. Instead, he put it in the shed and I stumbled upon it sometime later and never went neer the shed again. Those two years were essentially Halloween everyday.

So Happy Halloween everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Game 7

Few things in pro team sports is better than a World Series Game 7. Few? Probably the only thing better is a Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 in Overtime. That is incredibly nerve racking, even if you don't root for either team. But a World Series Game 7 is absolutely classic.

The hardluck Texas Rangers know first hand the baseball truism--you can't run out the clock. In the other pro team sports, when a team has a lead they play defense and try to run out the clock. Not in baseball, of course. You have to get those final 3 outs, be it on 3 pitches or dozens of pitches. That's the thing about baseball. It has spasmodic tension. You sit and wait for the pitch to be thrown and for that second you wait for it to reach the plate your heart is in your throat, then you react to what happens, and calmed down before the anxiety returns for the next pitch.

That is what it was like 100 fold last night for both Rangers and Cardinals fans and, baseball fans like me. Twice the Rangers were 1 strike away from being World Champions and twice the Cards were 1 strike away from their season ending. One strike, one second, and sports history changes.

The Cards had comebacks (yes, plural) for the ages. Never before had a team overcome two 2-run deficits in the 9th inning and later and the Cards did that. The media is talking about choking, about the misplay by Nelson Cruz (which it was that allowed the tying runs in the 9th) and Felize's Jose Mesa immitation, but it all comes down to the nature of baseball. The purity of the game.

George Will once said (I believe it was him), that football is the way were are, but baseball is the way we should be. Everyone gets a last chance. You're down and they still have to throw the ball to you. They can't run out the clock. You've got three outs to do the improbable, because with baseball, nothing is impossible.

It's been 9 years since the last World Series Game 7. Then it was the Angels vs. the Giants and the Giants had blown a 5-0 7th inning lead in Game 6. They lost Game 7. Baseball was cruel to them in 2002 and rewarded a franchise that had never won a title in its 40+ years of existence in the Angels. But baseball rewarded the Giants last year after having not won a championship in the 52 years it at been in San Francisco. This after the White Sox and Red Sox both had ended their nearly century long title draughts not long ago. That's baseball, where nothing is impossible.

Monday, October 24, 2011

THE THING Then and Now

Back-to-back weekends going to the movies, I'm getting summer flashbacks. This past summer it seemed like every week I was taking my wife and son to a big movie. This time I flew solo and saw the prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 classic, THE THING. Both movies share the same title and the creators of the new one did a great job making sure their film matched Carpenter's movie. As we all know, THE THING (both the 2011 and 1982 films) concern a group of researchers in Antarctica battling a shapeshifting alien than absorbs the creature it mimics. In the 1982 film it is a group of Americans who stumble upon the alien (in the form of a dog) after it escapes a Norwegian research camp it just destroyed. The 2011 film concerns the Norwegians (with a sprinkle of Americans in there).

The film makers of the 2011 movie had the right tone with the suspense, look of the film, and the actors did a credible job. I was also impressed that the little snippets we saw in the Carpenter film about what had happened in the Norwegian camp became plot points in the prequel. I rewatched the older movie yesterday and I was like, "ah, they included that as well."

Unfortunately, the new movie has not done well at the box office, only taking in $14 million thus far. The 1982 film only grossed $19 million, but the true classic scifi/horror pics are rarely box office successes early on. They usually gain a following much after. Consider that in 1982, both BLADE RUNNER and THE ROAD WARRIOR were released and made less than $30 million.

I don't know if the new THE THING will fall into that category, but it's a movie I definitely look forward to see again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

REAL STEEL and the Love of Boxing

Took my wife and son to see REAL STEEL this past Sunday and I'm happy to say we all really enjoyed it. Boxing and robots, a perfect combination. The thing is, when I was growing up my father's two favorite sports were boxing and baseball. Back then there was much more boxing on free TV so we got to see the big fights on regular broadcast. It might be a Puerto Rican thing, because my wife shares my same love of boxing. The sweet science is pretty much in disarray today for too many reasons to name and "big fights" are never worth the PPV fee, but there is something about it that still draws us.

My wife and I rarely watch TV together. It's usually for HBO series such as Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones. But early in our marriage we were hooked on The Contender, a reality TV competition for boxers created by Sly Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonhard. We absolutely loved it and my wife would go crazy during the fights (she still does when she watches them), boxing along with the fighters. We were so dissapointed when the show wasn't renewed by NBC. That was great television and great quality time spent together.

So we had a bit of that watching REAL STEEL, but this time we had our son with us. He, of course, likes to play fight. When I took him to see KUNG FU PANDA when he punched me in the eye when I wasn't looking. During REAL STEEL, my wife and son boxed along with the robots, reminding me how it used to be when my wife and I saw fights together. There's another PPV fight coming up in November that we're going to see at a friend's house. It will be another dissapointment, most likely. But at least we had REAL STEEL, same as we had with THE FIGHTER, which my wife loves. It brought us back and with our son, moved us forward.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


They say that pregnant women have a "nesting" instinct where, late in pregnancy, they get a burst of energy to get things ready for the arriving baby. We experienced that first hand back in 2005. My wife and I were shopping for a house every weekend and on the morning of Saturday, July 30 she said we should take a break. So we stood home and set up the basinet and other things in our apartment. She was still 2 weeks away so I didn't think much of it. Sure enough, she went into labor the next day.

This time around we're in forced nesting mode with my wife being 6 months pregnant and our house (yes, we did end up buying a house in 2005) needing to be rearranged to get things ready for our baby girl. For one thing, my 6 year old son is still in the "nursery" (the smallest room in the house) and we have to turn the guest room into his new bedroom. Complicating matters was that we needed to get our unfinished basement finished so we could move things down there (including my workout equipment which had been slumming in the guest room). Well, the contractors finally finished last weekend and we moved what we could down there.

This weekend we went about finishing setting up the basement, painting my son's new room, and buying him all new furtiture. My wife and I are exausted, but it was well worth it. We still have the nursery to set up but that will be a smaller project. Who could have ever thought nesting could be so draining?

Friday, October 7, 2011

And So It Ends for the Yankees...

As I wrote exactly a week ago, I didn't like the Yankees matchup with the Tigers because I thought the Tigers were the best team in the American League. And that proved last night as the Tigers won a decisive Game 5 in the Bronx last night. The Tigers had a better lineup, better pitching staff, and equal bullpen to the Yanks. Add to that the Yankee hitters being utterly clutchless in big spots and this was a recipe for a Yankee postseason heartbreak, which it was.

The sports media will harp on pitching, but the common thread for the Yankee postseason losses (5 division round losses over the last 10 years) is their utter lack of clutch hitting. Alex Rodriguez finally came alive in 2009, but after an injury riddled season and being 36 even if he could have mentally repeated his exploits of 2009 his body wouldn't allow it. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, on the other hand, two key middle of the order guys, have been their usual postseason useless self. Swisher, in fact, is 1-31 with men in scoring position in his postseason career. That's staggering.

So while this season started with muddled expectations because of the Yanks' failure to get ace extraordinaire Cliff Lee, and questions about their pitching staff, it has been their consistant Achilles' Heal that has done them in--lack of clutch hitting. That is much harder to solve because of the money involved in guys like ARod and Tex. You can sign a free agent and you won't know if he is clutch in pinstripes until the opportunity presents itself. Of course, as we have seen with the likes of Giambi, Sheffield, ARod, Tex, and Swisher, that will be too late.

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Early Fall

When I first took my writing seriously, I enrolled in Gotham Writers Workshop about 11 years ago. In one of my first fiction writing classes I wrote a short story called An Early Fall, about the twenty-something daughter of a mid-forties mother with a debilitating illness and the debate over whether to send her sent to a rehabilitation center/nursing home. It was an allusion to my life, or a portent, with my mother suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. My mother was in plateau at the time, her illness had progressed for the then last 7 years that she needed to retire and walk with a cane, but she could still take care of herself. Of course, my father was there to help her.

Over the last 5 years my mother's illness has progressed rapidly to the extent that she his paralyzed in the right arm, can't walk, and we had to have live in a rehab center/nursing home. This past Saturday, I went to see her on her 69th birthday. My mother also suffers from dementia, so this makes her condition particularly worse. Now, the big issue is that she has partially lost the use of her jaw. She going to see the specialist to determine the cause, but we already know that it's the MS.

I once thought 69 was old, but as I got older I've known very spry 69 and 70 yr olds. My father was at that age. He's 77 now. So that short story has proved true to a certain extent. For my mother, it has been an early fall.