Five Cool Things and Frederick Douglass

Sometimes, even during sickness, one can find cool things.
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For the last couple of months, my wife and I have been passing The Crud back and forth between each other.  She’ll get sick one week - coughing, sneezing, head full of mucus - then just as she gets better, I’ll get it.  We routinely either blame our daughter, who is very likely bringing new germs home from her classmates, or our house and its potential for mold and who knows else what.  It's been pretty miserable experience.

This week it was my turn.  I felt it coming on last Saturday and should have stayed in bed all day Sunday to stave it off.  Instead, I absolutely crammed my day full of activities so that when Monday came all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and moan.  That’s pretty much what i did both Monday and Tuesday.  I’m feeling a bit better now though I’ve blown enough mucus out of my nose to start selling it by the gallon.

The only nice thing about being sick is that it gives me plenty of time to lie around watching movies. Which is exactly what I did.  Not new movies, mind you, in fact I didn’t look at anything new this week at all, but I did find plenty of cool stuff to talk about so lets get to it.

Jaws - The USS Indianapolis Speech

Whenever I’m sick, there is a stash of movies I inevitably watch.  They are movies whose plots aren't overly complicated so that I can easily follow them with a head full of drugs.  They tend to be exciting popcorn flicks that are able to keep me interested as I drift in and out of sleep.  But they are also really well-crafted films that stand up to multiple viewings.

Jaws is one of them. Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film almost single-handedly created the summer blockbuster.  With a tight script, some great acting, and really solid craftsmanship, Spielberg took what should have been a forgettable beast-gone-wild thriller and turned it into one of the best films of the '70s.  Famously, they had so many problems with the mechanical shark that it's hardly seen until about two-thirds of the way through.  But Spielberg was able to turn that disaster into an asset turning the unseen beast into the stuff of nightmares.  Using John Williams minimalist score and plenty of point-of-view shots, we feel the presence of the shark and use our imagination to create absolute terror.

While Jaws is certainly a thrilling film, what makes it a timeless classic is the characters.  Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw bring incredible performances to the three leads, creating characters with real depth and intricacies that are rarely seen in summer blockbusters.

The heart of the film is the three of these men out on a boat waiting for the shark to appear.  Throughout the previous day they’ve not gotten along, but as the night grows long and the drinks get drank, they start to compare various scars and injuries.  This turns into a rousing version of the old folk song “Show Me the Way to Go Home” before Quint, the ragged sea captain, sobers them up with a stark tale about how he survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.  Its an incredible scene all around but Quint’s speech is one of the better monologues in all of film.

Don’t Breathe

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Three thieves decide to break into the home of a blind veteran’s old house in the middle of an abandoned neighborhood in Detroit.  Rumor has it the man is sitting on a substantial settlement won when his daughter was killed in an accident.  Thinking it will be easy pickings to steal from a blind man, the thieves break in with him still in the house.  But since this is a horror film things aren’t as simple as it seems and things get tense quick.

Director Fede Alvarez, who did the ultra-violent Evil Dead remake in 2013, has created a remarkable tour-de-force film packed with one intense moment after another. It's a terrific bit of filmmaking that will keep you on the edge of your seat and holding your breath.

Dirty Dancing

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I got to watch Dirty Dancing on the big screen this weekend (even though doing so mostly likely made me sicker than I would have been).  It was a blast.  I’m pretty sure I’d never seen it before.  At least not all the way through, though I know all the songs and could quote any number of lines due to its popularity.  My wife and I had tons of fun watching it with a big collection of fans and it made me very happy.  You can read my full review of the experience.

X-Men: From the Ashes

x-men from the ashes.jpgA few years ago I asked a friend of mine to recommend some X-Men comics to me.  I'd not read any before but was interested in getting into them. He went back to his bedroom and came out with about half a dozen or so books.  They ran the gamut from some of their earliest stories to modern times.  My favorite of them was The Dark Phoenix Sage in which Jean Grey is hit by a solar flair and becomes a galaxy-destroying monster.

This week I read what might be considered part two to that story, From the Ashes.  In it Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, meets Madeline Pryor who looks exactly like Jean Grey and just might be the Dark Phoenix reborn.  Chris Claremont, who was the head writer for the X-Men during the '80s and is generally considered the best writer those superheroes ever had, wrote the story and it's a good one.  It feels a bit wordy now, as modern comics tend to rely more on the art than the language, but Claremont weaves in numerous plot lines and makes it both epic and small at the same time.  I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Pinocchio

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On Friday nights, we often do “sleepovers” at my house. The three of us, my wife, daughter, and I, cuddle up on our bed, pop some popcorn, and watch a movie together.  Afterwards, we make a pallet on the floor and let the daughter sleep in our room.  It's always a lot of fun and a  nice way to end a long week.  This past Friday we put in the new Signature Collection edition of Pinocchio and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We’ve done a good job of watching most of the modern family films with my daughter, but we’re only slowly making our way through the classics.  It's amazing experiencing these films I loved as a kid with her and rekindling all that joy.

You can read my full review of Pinocchio.

Frederick Douglass

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Gordon S. Miller writes, Doing our part to assist with "getting recognized more and more," as President Trump recently said, this week's "Five Cool Things..." shines a spotlight on Frederick Douglass. He was born into slavery, and after multiple attempts, he finally escaped on September 3, 1838. He went on to become an abolitionist and an author.

While traveling in Scotland, he wrote to Horace Greeley, founder of the New-York Tribune, in a letter dated April 15, 1846, a sentiment applicable now as it was then and always will be: 

"I am one of those who think the best friend of a nation is he who most faithfully rebukes her for her sins—and he her worst enemy, who, under the specious and popular garb of patriotism, seeks to excuse, palliate, and defend them."

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