Thursday, May 29, 2014

x-men love

Oh, do I love the X-Men... I collected comic books as a kid, and I thank X-Men for that.  I walked down to the IGA Foodmart in Samson, Alabama, and would get a few issues every month, as my allowance would allow it... and when they released the X-Men vs The Avengers 4 issue limited series, which centered around the arrest and trial of Magneto, I was over the moon.  Still have all 4 issues in good condition buried in my comic boxes.  The reason they are only "good" and not "mint" or "near mint" is because I read them about 50 times each... loved that storyline, plus the pictures of The Avengers locked up with the X-Men in an actual physical brawl.

Through college, I couldn't buy many comics, and I kinda lost touch with the stories and the series, but in 2001, when I knew there was an actual "X-Men" movie coming out in May of that year, starring some dude named Hugh Jackman, plus Halle Berry and Captain Picard and, of course, the young and beautiful Anna Paquin... well, I just had to go get me some X-Men comics.  And I did, stopping by Captain Comics (was over on Lorna Road, though the shop has been closed for at least 10 years) and diving headfirst into several series, but my favorite were, of course, The X-Men, followed by The Fantastic Four (I had a comic thing for Sue Storm) and The Avengers.  Because I was working two jobs, I had some money to work with at the time... I likely dropped $50, sometimes $80 per month on comic books--I'd take them to my little cube at the radio station office I worked in, and in between projects, I'd read. 

But it was truly the X-Men movie that sparked my revival.  Now, I don't buy many comics (re: any) because they are just so doggone expensive... when I was buying them, and my monthly issue of Mad Magazine, back in the late 80s, the comics were about $1.00 each, maybe $1.25, and my Mad Magazine declared on the front cover "$1.99 CHEAP!"... when I had my comic buying renaissance in the early 2000s, they went from $1.99 to $2.50 to $2.99 each in the span of about 2 years.  Now?  $3.99 for a regular issue... the art work and graphics are awesome, but when it costs $40 for ten different issues?  Nope.

I guess for those not fully seeing the X-Men appeal, maybe you don't know what I'm talking about... here's a nerd explanation...

First, X-Men are a team of mutants--humans who were born with various "gifts", everything from shape shifting to extraordinary healing... back in the 60s, Stan Lee came up with the concept of "mutants" to explain how to give some of his characters powers without making them otherworldly.  They are mostly Earth-born, but different.  And the mutant struggle for acceptance has been many times connected with the struggle of the homosexual community in what they've gone through over the years for acceptance and such.  Not sure if that's where the artists were truly going with that over the years, but there you go.

Psychic and wheelchair bound (long story) Charles Xavier helps to round up some of these young mutants to train them to start a team, the X-Men, with the likes of Cyclops (fire shoots out of his eyes), Beast (scientist Hank McCoy turns blue and... beastly), Jean Grey (another psychic) and various others, usually doing battle with the evil mutant Magneto, who can control metal at will.

Of course, there is Wolverine, aka James Logan, a sometimes out of control rough n tumble mutant who's special power/gift is healing, but he also has bone claws that can come out of his hands--in a later storyline, those become "adamantium", an almost unbreakable metal. 

So then you've got the bad guys, like Magneto and Mystique and The Brotherhood of Mutants, who believe that normal people are inferior, and that mutants should rule, and will do whatever they need to do to rule such "ungifted people"... you get the drift.

All this leads to "X-Men: Days of Future Past", the movie we watched last night... based on one of the most popular storylines in the comic series history, it makes a few changes to the original story to tell a tale of time travel, dark pasts, darker futures and assassinations.

The movie opens years into the future from the present day, where giant robot Sentinels are wiping mutants off the face of the Earth.  Through some trickeration, Professor X and Magneto, along with young mutants Shadowcat (also known as Kitty Pryde), Pyro, Iceman, Bishop, Warpath, Colossus and a few others help to send Wolverine back in time.  The purpose is to stop the then-young mutant Mystique from assassinating scientist Boliver Trask (played to the hilt by Peter Dinklage).  The killing sparks a series of events to which the Sentinels are then created and sent out to murder the mutants (leading to the future we saw at the beginning of the movie)

However, when they stop Mystique, they discover things to be even worse.  Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, and by that I mean, he IS Wolverine.  All others in this franchise of films can be replaced--but he is an important to X-Men movies as Robert Downey Jr is to the Avengers series.  He's the focal point.

The stellar cast also includes the gorgeous-in-whatever-she-does Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, in full blue body paint... Sir Ian McKellen reprising his older Magneto role... Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde... James McAvoy as the young Charles Xavier... and Michael Fassbender, who owns the screen every time he's on it, as the younger Magneto.

The movie itself was spectacular.  The action was great, the story was great, the script was well done, and new mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) nearly stole the film out from under everyone... the "Time in a Bottle" sequence is one of the most well done X-Men sequences since the opening scene of X2: X-Men United with Night Crawler.

Sorry, did I lose you again?  Well, the opening scene of the 2nd X-Men movie, aptly titled X2: X-Men United, introduce the mutant Night Crawler, who can teleport, and its an amazing scene.  The Quicksilver scene here was nearly as good.

Finally, there is the matter of all those other X-Men films, and how does this connect?  The answer is simple.  It doesn't.  Except for when it does.  Except for those times it almost does, but doesn't, but then does.  "Days of Future Past" draws heavily from the previous film, "X-Men: First Class", and has several nods to the first two movies, X-Men and X2... it kinda ignores "X-Men: The Last Stand", the 3rd film, which is ok because several of us ignore that one too. And only sorta references the two stand-alone Wolverine films, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "The Wolverine"...

...but as you'll see at the end of this film, the writers were clever enough to set it up where all that doesn't matter, and from here, they can kinda do what they want. 

There you have it.  Go see "Days of Future Past", even if you aren't a comic fan, you'll catch on pretty fast.  Go read some graphic novel collections of the X-Men, including the original story, as told in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142.   Watch this movie, then read this hilarious spoiler filled explanation of everything you just saw.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is 3rd in my Happy Summer 100 list.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the notebook rules

For those of you who think I'm about to launch into a defense of the beloved Rachel Adams/Ryan Gosling movie from a few years back, I'm here to tell you that I don't think "The Notebook" actually rules... it's good, but not a "it rules" type of movie.
However, if you can handle a few sentences--rules--on actual notebooks, then please keep reading...

If you toured our house and looked in the corners, the drawers and behind stuff, there is one thing I can almost guarantee you'll find... no, not cobwebs, geez.  Don't let The Lovely Steph Leann hear you say that. 

You'd find Sharpies.  Lots of regular Sharpies, but also a lot of fine point Sharpies, which happen to be my favorite of the bunch.  I stopped using regular ink pens when I can avoid it, and instead write with a fine point Sharpie... if it bleeds through, then that's just the price of doing business with such an accomplish writer like myself.  Why are you laughing?  And why are you singing Carly Simon?

My other somewhat obsessive habitual collective goes with the Sharpie, and that is the notebook.  Not the Rachel McAdams/Ryan Gosling one... I mean, an actual notebook.  Or in my case, 8 of them sitting here to my right.  

I looooove a good notebook... here are my own rules for my perfect notebook...

1.  Hard Cover.  I can deal with a soft cover, but it runs the risk of getting bent, and I tend to be averse to preventable disasters.  Some people like their books to have that lived-in look... not me.  I want everything as pristine as the day it was purchased.

Top right, is Disney information. Top middle is empty,
waiting for use.  Same with top left. Taylor Swift and
"Awesome" books are at my desk at work, both with random
ideas that strike me randomly.  Green Tink book is blog
ideas and other random stuff, bottom middle has notes
from Disney training sessions I've done, and the Cars is used
for dinner reservation stuff.   I have more somewhere.
Thanks to my friend #freerfallin for getting me the Awesome
book.  No spiral, paper cover, and I love it just the same.
2. Interesting Cover... A plain leather notebook is fine.  A purple cover is okay.  Maybe a slight stripe on it for designer purposes.  I can take that.  Slap the Avengers on the front, or make it a Star Wars cover, or something nostalgic or fun like ALF or 90s pre-skank Mariah Carey, and it's all the better.

3. Spiral Bound... Opening a notebook is cool, and if you have a desk to lay it on, you can open it wide and lay it flat.  But sometimes I don't have that option, sometimes I have to hold it, or use my legs in a seated position as a desk.  That is when a spiral bound book comes in handy... you can just fold the cover behind the notebook and carry on. 

4. Wide Ruled... I need larger lines.  Not so large that it looks like an alphabet pad from 1st grade, with the big blue lines on top and bottom, with the blue dashes in the middle.  My sister-in-law Brynn has excellent, clear handwriting, so if she writes tiny, it's still very clear.  When you are writing with a Sharpie fine point, the ink blurs more and more.  Like the Dixie Chicks, I need "Wide open spaces... room to make mistakes..."

I have a few notebooks that don't meet these requirements... I have a brown covered one that says "Awesome Ideas Take Over the World", with a regular spine and paper cover... it was given to me by my friend Allison Freer (#freerfallin) and I love it just like I would any other book.

So there ya have it.  Another obsession revealed, and what truly makes me happy today. 

The Summer of Happy #2...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

steph and the 5k (summer of happy #1)

As I kick off The Summer of Happy -- 100 happy things in 100 days over 75+ posts and 75K words -- I thought what better way to start that with someone who makes you happier than I do... The Lovely Steph Leann guest posts on her 5K adventures. She wrote it in early April, but I held it until now, just for this purpose.

This past weekend, I participated in my first 5K. I use the word “participate” as I walked most of the course. One of my dearest friends (we’ve known each other since 9th grade), talked me into it, in only a way a best friend can do. She knew I needed to work out, and was hoping this would give us both the motivation to a weekly routine. We started out meeting at Valleydale Church for a weekly aerobics class. Little did we know it was like some fitness routine out of The Biggest Loser. I must admit, I cheated most times we did any running by cutting out a lap or two. Otherwise, I might still be trying to finish. But, all that’s beside the point. Back to my 5K experience.

DeLisa signed us up for the “Color Me Rad 5K.” I gotta be honest here, a color run isn’t something I was all anxious to do. Much better than the “Warrior Run” where you run through mud (umm, no thank you), this still required that I would be getting “dirty.” And, breathing in colored cornstarch. I can’t imagine that it’s GMO-free cornstarch, either. Lucky for me, we haven’t completed our conversion to GMO-free dieting yet, so my only obstacle is getting dirty. And the fact that DeLisa wanted me to run at least part of the course. I have a philosophy on running, and it’s pretty simple. I don’t. Run. Things don’t stay in the same place when I run, and it hurts. Not to mention the last time I tried to run for exercise I ended up with stone bruises that hurt for a week. Yeah, never tried that again.

But, DeLisa asked me to and I’m a sucker to do anything my friend asks me to do (at least, for the most part). You know, it’s pretty funny that we’re even friends, now that I think about it. She’s athletic and enjoys the outdoors. I’m about as girly, girly as you can get and the outdoors has things that live there and I don’t want to be exposed to them. But anyway, race day.

Fortunately for me, the race didn’t start until 10. So, I got to sleep in until about 7:30. I’ve read on some Disney Blogs about people having to get up at 3 a.m. (this hour exists?) on race day, and I’m thinking, not sure about that. I get up and shower, and yes, I showered before going to sweat for an hour with colored cornstarch all over me – if you had my really superfine hair, you’d shower, too. DeLisa and a couple of other ladies, Jane and Jillian, picked me up and off we went to the Hoover Met.

The excitement is building on the way as I eat my breakfast – apple slices and peanut butter. I remind all the ladies that it will most likely take me an hour to finish the race – I’m realistic that way. But, they’re all cool, no biggie, it’s going to take me about that long – yada, yada, yada. We get there and there are people of all ages and fitness levels. All in their white tees and some in white shorts/pants. I saw this one guy in some really tight white shorts. Burned into my memory, I tell you. Scarred for life. There was even a Yeti.

We all made use of the port-a-potties (I didn’t really have to go, but preventive measures and hope that I wouldn’t have to be bothered again the rest of the morning came to mind, so I took advantage of the opportunity) and then gathered and people-watched until the race started. We were casualties in other attendees’ color warfare, so we were already a little painted before we started. Then they called us to the start line.

We ended up being in the third wave, which was cool. The announcer guy yelled “go” or something like that and off we went through a thick cloud of colored dust. I tell you, I jogged all the way down the hill with my friends. Then I ran out of jog-steam, and yelled to them to have a good race, and I slowed my pace. There were some hills, and I wasn’t expecting that. But, I kept going. I didn’t cut one corner, though there was opportunity. I kept hearing DeLisa’s voice in my head telling me that she knew I’d walked at least 3 miles at the Disney theme parks, so she knew I could walk this, even if I didn’t run it. BUT, what she never knew was I doubt I’d ever walked 3 miles at one time in a Disney park. And most of those are pretty flat. I’ve been close, the Soarin’ debacle of 2007 comes to mind, but I doubt it’s been a whole 3 miles.

(d$ note--The Soarin' Debacle was in 2007, when The Lovely Steph Leann and I were around the American Pavilion in Epcot, when we realized our Fastpasses--the old paper tickets--for Soarin' ended in the next 15 minutes. Not knowing that we could show up past the "end time", we high tailed it across Epcot... and when I say "across Epcot", I mean across the ENTIRE PARK. American Pavilion was about as far from the front gate as you can possibly get, while Soarin' is in a building near the front... so it was a fast walk in 15 minutes, a walk that The Lovely Steph Leann paid for dearly with sore feet, heaving lungs and bruised calves. Not magical, I tell ya, not magical indeed)

I heard lots of great conversation. Moms/Dads and their kids, encouraging them to keep going. I tried to encourage this one young lady. After our 6th hill, we approached a pretty steep climb. I told her just to take it slow, it’d be ok. She made it up, but after that, she was pretty spent. I think she cut some of the course. And, you know, that was ok. But, for me, I had to complete the whole thing, no cuts. I’m not always good at finishing what I start. I’m a procrastinator. And, I’m lazy. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. My twin sister is Scarlett O’Hara, and never have I met a motto I like more than “Tomahrrah is anutha dayuh.” Thank you, Margaret Mitchell for giving the world a valid reason to procrastinate. So, I pressed on.

Up and down the last hill, through the last blasts of yellow, then pink, my shoes rubbing my pinky toe raw, and through that Finish line. I never saw a clock, so I have no idea how long it took me. I know I finished in under an hour, but only barely.

DeLisa on the far right, The Lovely Steph Leann looking colorful (and
lovely) in the middle, and their two 5k mates on the left.
What did I learn? It’s good to finish something. I hope I can pass that on to little Campbell instead of my legacy of procrastination and laziness. Will I do it again? Probably, though I don’t know that I’d actually run the course. Did I mention the hills on that thing? Maybe I can jog the flat parts. The girls are talking about doing the 5K in the fall, and David and I have briefly talked about the Disney races (though, those are timed, and I really have no desire to do actual marathons).

That means I need to get a little serious about training. Unfortunately for today, my inner Scarlett has won and I did not bring workout gear for the exercise room. I go to Atlanta tomorrow for work, returning Wednesday. So, I’ll bring the clothes Thursday. Maybe I can do the fall 5K in 45 minutes…

i ain't got time to bleed

So there's that scene in "Predator" where Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who is "Blain" in the movie, looks up at the area where the Predator must be hiding and says, "Sum-gun is dug in like an Alabama tick..." The guy next to him says, "You're hit! You're bleeding!"

Without dropping his gaze from the forward glance he keeps, he spits his tobacco and says, "I ain't got time to bleed."

Feel that way about blogging... "I ain't got time to blog."

By the way, I was at a cookout yesterday, and my friend Tuck, sitting to my right, asked my other friend Kady K, sitting to my left, "Have you ever read d#39;s blog? It's really good. I don't read it every day, but it's one of the few blogs I do read on a regular basis." Then he looked at me and said, "You're a really good writer. You are really animated when you tell stories, and very descriptive."

Pardon me if I repeat myself from previous blogs, perhaps recent ones, but life just takes off and never looks back, Mach 3 with your hair on fire... that's a Top Gun reference for ya, there. Actually talked to someone the other day who said they had never seen Top Gun. I said a prayer for their eternal soul at that exact second.

Yes, I am a Disney Vacation Planner... I use the name Disney on a Dollar, as part of Magical Vacations By Me Travel, and it has kept me up nights, gotten me up early, challenged by multi-tasking skills and organizational fortitude...

...but y'all, I love it. It fires me up. It makes me happy. To help people maximize their time and money spent at Walt Disney World, and even at Disneyland and on the cruise, I just enjoy the heck out of it... I only expect it to be busier.

And yet, I miss the crap out of what I'm doing right here. I'm a writer. THEN a travel planner. Obviously, my blog ain't paying the bills (right now, anyway), so I had to turn Disney travel from a "Hobby" into a "Hustle". And hustlin' I've been... and now that its flowing free, now that it's on a track, a routine, a method of madness, it's time to steer my gaze back to this here page...

Coming up 1000 posts in the very near future, and a summertime is always fun to do something... before, I've had various themes over the course of the Summer, all geared towards blogging, writing and posting much more--and this summer is no exception.

Well, like Paramour sang, "you are... the only exception..." and to that, it's my consistency. I can promise to you "oh yeah, I'll write every day, I'll blog every day, it's my challenge!!!" but guess what... it just ain't happening. I might want it to happen. Maybe I think it should. But it ain't happening every day.

This summer is my Summer of Happy. From now til Labor Day, things that make me happy. Tangible things. Intangibles. People. Places. Food. Food. More food. And whatever. I've got a list of some things I'll post about. There are many more things that I know will be discovered over the summer. Maybe I'll post a couple of times per week. Maybe not. Maybe it's now July, you are re-reading this and thinking, "Well... its only been 44 days since he posted... maybe something is coming soon."

Speaking of which, did you know that I have now hit 57 days without a single bit of carbonation? I gave up not just Cokes and Cherry Cokes, but anything carbonated, including Ginger Ale, which I dig, and Cheerwine, which is my favorite Soda of Ever. Is that a humblebrag. Absolutely.

Where was I? Oh yeah, rambling on and on about blogging and so forth and what not.

Anyhoo... crap, did I just say "anyhoo"? Well, at least you'll never hear me say "peeps" or "Totes adorbs" or worse yet, "Gorg" with any sort of seriousness in my voice. I mean, "Gorg", really? Does it take much more effort to say "gorgeous"? Or just kick that word out and say, "Beautiful". More meaning. 

Oh yeah, from now til Labor Day, I'm setting myself an unreachable goal of blogging 75 posts and writing 75,000 words. Like, there's no way I'll make that, or even come close. But I refuse to give this writing up... I refuse to stop... I refuse to cede.

I ain't got time to cede.

(elaborate set up for poorly executed last joke. boomsauce.)