Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Packing & Unpacking

I intentionally forget things. I pack bad memories and experiences up on a fairly regular basis and funnel them away to be dealt with at another time, on another day.  Maybe.  I can do this and, as it turns out, I can do it with relative ease.  Debilitating heartbreak? Pack it down.  The world has changed forever? Forget and move forward.  Unpack later – or don’t.  Substitute the space left with a distraction or with something happier.  Dwell there.  Rinse, repeat.  Perhaps this is what my Alzheimer’s journey will be like; where I’ll keep making substitutions for the holes and the missing pieces.  I’ll just keep smiling holding onto the shadow of pleasantries long past.  I don’t know.

Most of the time I’m good.  I look back on all of the good things and I smile, I have context on which to hang my memories and, no lie, I have every reason to be thankful.  Still, every once in a while something hits you, unexpectedly.  Case in point: a friend of mine on Facebook posted this, “Do you remember (especially the CCS class of '87) what we were all doing on a very warm day 31years ago today?”  As it just so happens, I do.  It was the day we graduated high school, 6/19/87 and the world was going to hell.  My dad was released from the hospital, University of Penn, that very day.  A tennis ball, sized tumor had been scooped out of his head and I was about to start taking him for his radiation treatments for the summer.  He couldn’t make my graduation but that was okay, he was home with us again.  That was 31 years ago, today.  He was diagnosed with the brain tumor while we, my class and I, were on our senior trip only a few weeks prior.  Due to the aggressive nature of his cancer and the location of the tumor, the doctors did not hold out too much hope but it was a chance and we took it.  The sores, the hair loss, the erosion of conciseness & self (the insidious, cruel nature of diseases of the mind), the loss of speech, mobility, and his body’s failure - each took their toll.  He was gone five months after being diagnosed.  I was 18.  It was 1987 and the world went to hell.       

Every now and again it is important to unpack.  I can say that you never get used to loss.  The world changes and it does not go back.  “Time heals all wounds” – this is a lie.  The world moves on with a hole in it.  This is how it is now.  Nothing can change it.  It doesn’t get replaced.  It is what it is.  So, I made remembering my mission because if I remember then he is still a presence – still an influence.  I am the only one who holds these memories and they will die with me but I have made a point to tell my girls about the man he was – the man he became.  I know it to be true that we do, in fact, stand on the shoulders of giants and that to know me is to know him.  Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band, he sings, “I am the living legacy to the leader of the band.”  I weep when that song sneaks its way onto the radio or over the sound system of the supermarket where I may be shopping.  It hit far too close to home.  To this day, I weep.

The world can change a lot in 31 years.  It kills me that he has not been here to see it.  Paul Leo Scully would have been amazed at how far sweeteners have come.  No saccharin these days.  I have seriously missed his counsel during the last 31 years.  I have often wondered, “What would dad think about this?”  He would have loved Linda, my wife.  He would have absolutely loved his grandchildren.  I would like to think that he would have come to some sort of resolution with Paul & Susan – my half-brother and half-sister, the children from his first marriage.  He owed it to them.  He owed it to himself.  But none of this happened.  None of it could.  For unfathomable reasons, God or fate or the universe had other plans.  If there ever was a plan then healing was, clearly, never on the table.  In the song, ‘American Pie’, Don McLean sings, “And the three men I admire most – the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died.”  I was at the train station when they left.  The unfillable hole remains, and it always will.  I think of my father every day.  I have done so for the last 31 years.  Usually I don’t unpack so many things but today was special – it’s the 31st anniversary of my high school graduation. 

My father’s life shaped me, and his death did as well.  I knew what mortality was early on.  I could see the precious, gossamer threads that hold together this thing we call life.  I knew from the age of 18 the importance of appreciating what we have, what we have earned, and what we’ve been given.  It gave me a different perspective than most of my peers and it still does.  I am beyond the unanswerable questions.  We are here and then we are not.  Make the most of that time.  It is precious.  Be kind along the way.  Be someone worth remembering.

Paul Scully II was one of the good guys.

He was my dad.

He came home from the hospital 31 years ago today.

It’s time to pack things up again.  I’ve said far too much or perhaps I’ve said far too little.  It’s hard to tell.  It’s time to concentrate on happier things.  Pack it in.  Unpack it later - or don't. 

Congratulations to Cumberland Christian School’s Class of 1987, wherever you are.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 4 Our Lives

As a member of Gen X - product of the Baby Boomers who themselves were products of the Greatest Generation I would like to apologize to each and every Millennial who are now left to cleaning up our ignorance, shortsightedness, and complacency.  Good on you, my fellow Americans.  You are an answer to thoughts and prayers.

Your voting base is LARGE - please USE it come November.

The future is yours.

Take it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The 90th Academy Awards - Part II

The 90th Academy Awards are now a part of history.  the lights are now dark at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California and Jimmy Kimmel (who did a spectacular job as the master of ceremonies) has left the building.  All the nominee’s seats are now deserted and a percentage of them took home Oscar gold.  As movie fans the Academy Awards are as big as it gets.  Say what you will about elitism in Hollywood and excess – the fact remains that the Academy Awards is the big show when it comes to the film industry and people get passionate about their favorites.  Las Vegas odds makers even get involved and, of course, people who love movies. 

So, now that the dust has settled, we can sit back and compare our picks against those who actually won – to compare the before and the after, so to speak.  I prepared such a list in the blog post just before this one (see: Picks for the 90th Academy Awards).  There are 24 different paths to striking Oscar gold during the broadcast.  In my meager list of picks I only chose 11 – some of the most popular categories, by my humble reckoning.  Emphasis on the “humble”.  The difference between my list and other film fans’ is that I have not seen ANY of the big nominated films.  I choose my picks by checking out reviews (this time on The American Film Buff: American Film Buff, 2018 Oscar Reviews) and by trying to think the way the Academy voters do.  So, how did I do?  Well, let’s find out together.  I’ll put the category, the winner, and my pick in column form – maybe jot down a note or two along the way…

Best Picture – The Shape of Water / Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor – Gary Oldman / Gary Oldman

Best Actress – Francis McDormand / Francis McDormand

Best Supporting Actor – Sam Rockwell / Sam Rockwell

Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer / Allison Janney

Best Writing Adapted Screenplay – The Disaster Artist / Call Me by Your Name (NOTE: There was a last-minute change to my pick for this category. Someone reminded me of what happened with James Franco and the #MeToo movement and (on Facebook) I changed my pick to “Call Me by Your Name”.  “LOGAN” was great; however. Exceptionally great.

Best Director – Christopher Nolan / Guillermo del Toro.  I grinned from ear to ear when del Toro won the Oscar.  He is a magical storyteller with a unique eye and a passion for monsters.  His monsters are chock full of symbolism and he wields them like the true master he is.   

Best Original Music Score – Alexandre Desplat for “The Shape of Water” / Hans Zimmer for “Dunkirk”. I didn’t see this one coming. I assumed that it would have been Zimmer or Williams.  ...Man, I should probably watch these movies.

Best Original Screenplay – Jordan Peele for “Get Out” / Jordan Peele for “Get Out”. 

Best Cinemaphotography – Roger Deakins for “Blade Runner 2049” / Hoyt van Hoytema for “Dunkirk”.  I was very pleased hear Deakins’ name read for this one.  Blade Runner 2049 is a beautifully framed film with a unique vision.  As I said in the blog below, “I would LOVE to see Roger Deakins get the nod for “Blade Runner 2049.”  What do you know, he did!

Best Visual Effects – Blade Runner 2049 / Blade Runner 2049.  Out of all of the films nominated this year – THIS is the only one that I went to a theater to see.  (Note to self: you need to get out more.)

So, with help from The American Film Buff and thinking the way the Academy thinks I was able to beat Oscar 6 to 5.  Even without the benefit of seeing any of the films one could tell it was a very close field this year and that is a good thing.  It means that the film industry is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing – pushing the narrative; the story, further.  Who wins the Oscar?  We do, film fans.  We do.

I’m looking forward to seeing Mr. Kimmel host the 91st Academy Awards ceremonies.  He is a touchstone to what is real in the land of make believe.  The Academy needs to keep him – even Matt Damon would agree.  As a movie fan, I am also looking forward to all the films between now and then.  …Perhaps, I’ll see one or two of them this go ‘round. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The 90th Academy Awards

Okay, it’s Oscar time again.  Let it be known that I have seen NONE of the films that are nominated this year.  BUT, I have seen American Film Buff’s reviews of each of the Best Picture nominations (look the works and tremble! American Film Buff's 2018 Academy Noms) and I have stayed once at a Holiday Inn Express.  So how does one pick Academy Award winning films by watching reviews only?  Well, it’s more than that. To do this effectively, one must think like an Academy voting member thinks.  One must get into character, stick one’s finger in the air to test which way the zeitgeist is blowing, use the Force, and choose wisely.  That said, here are my picks for who’s going to be walking away with an Oscar tonight…

Best Picture – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.  “Why?” lobbyists.  “The Shape of Water”, “Get Out”, and “Lady Bird” are probably better films but they don’t have a chance due to one being science fiction, one being horror, and one with far fewer lobbyists.  Of course, there is always the possibility that “Dunkirk” will slap the Oscar out of Three Billboards’ hands.  I’d be okay with that. 

Best Actor – Gary Oldman.  “Why?” He’s due.

Best Actress – Francis McDormand.  “Why her?”  Well, from what I understand it’s a good performance in a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be.  She is talented, but I believe her name has been whispered by several lobbying firms in a full court press.  She’d be a fine choice among an excellent group of actors this year.  I understand that Margo Robbie and Saoirse Ronan delivered great performances too.  McDormand, FTW.

Best Supporting Actor – Sam Rockwell.  Not to take anything away from his performance, but Three Billboards has a powerful lobby.  I’d like to see Christopher Plumber take it for the pick-up shots alone, but smart money’s on Mr. Rockwell.

Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer.  This is Ms. Spencer’s third nomination. She won for “The Help” and, although it’s a close field this year, she’s my pick for “The Shape of Water”.  “Why?” The Academy likes will run with a familiar winner. They’ve seen her work – they’ve recognized her, and they’re about to do so again.

Best Writing Adapted Screenplay – “The Disaster Artist”.  I have neither read the book nor seen the film – THAT said, this is going to win.  Special shout out to “LOGAN”, which is, for my money, in the top 10 ‘Superhero’ films ever made.

Best Director – Christopher Nolan.  “Why?” Spectacle.  The Academy enjoys a sweeping spectacle.  Nolan knows how to tell a story and “Dunkirk” was made for the big screen (especially IMAX).  This is a tight field this year.  As much as I’d love to hear the words, “And the winner goes to Guillermo del Toro!” I will not.  From what I understand, Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig are no slouches either.  That said, tonight it’s all Nolan.

Best Original Music Score – Hans Zimmer for “Dunkirk”.  This will be a close one between Zimmer and John Williams for “Star Wars – The Last Jedi”.  Justifiably so.  Zimmer, by a nose.

Best Original Screenplay – “Get Out” by Jordan Peele.  “Why?” because this is how the Academy works – let the first-time nominee get the writing credit and two films from now, once he/she has paid their dues, THEN give them the Oscar for Best Picture or Best Director.  Mr. Peele will walk away the winner; although, I would not be opposed to hear Guillermo del Toro’s name either.

Best Cinemaphotography – Hoyt van Hoytema for “Dunkirk”.  I would LOVE to see Roger Deakins get the nod for “Blade Runner 2049”, (oddly one of the only films that I have seen this past year), but, “Dunkirk”, will ring in the Academy viewer’s/voter’s memory.

Best Visual Effects – “Blade Runner 2049”.  This is, again, a tight field this year.  Although there are some truly wonderful contenders this year, I have to give the edge to “Blade Runner 2049”. Like it’s predecessor it envisioned the future and made it real.  Dare I say, it is a beautiful offering.  “War for the Planet of the Apes” is probably a close second.

SO, there are my picks.  How about YOURS, fellow film fan?  Who’s walking away with the Oscar tonight?  

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Brave, New World

Fresh after the events of Charlottesville, VA I shared a video from Arnold Schwarzenegger on Facebook with an anti-hate message.  You can see that right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN_YIBr0ELM.  I thought that Arnold’s message was pretty on point and important enough to share in my feed.  I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this one’s a no brainer, who could possibly be upset at this idea?’  A Nazi just killed a woman and injured dozens of others by driving his car through a group of protestors on American soil.  I found this to be pretty self-evident – the concept that the Nazis and the KKK were on the wrong side of history.  Facebook, however, had other plans…

One person said, “He’s telling Trump how to write a speech, I didn’t hear him include Black Lives Matter, Antifa, or any other ‘left’ hate group. Shut-up Arnold, go lift some weights.” Another said something about, “The liberal agenda knows to destroy America…” A third defended the torch bearers by saying, “So you are saying that all of the people protesting the removal of the statue are white supremacists and Nazis?  His [Trump’s] point was that not all of the protesters that didn’t want the statue removed are bad, not that the white supremacists are not bad.”  Other points were made but I believe that, you – most Gentle Reader, get the gist.    

I responded...

No. I’m a realist, not an extremist.  I’m a big fan of the Rule of Law. I’m not a fan of the Nazi agenda, the white supremacy Alt-Right agenda, or any other agenda that sacrifices reason at the expense of the American people.  But, getting back to statues, I am a big believer in thinking about what we choose to worship.  Pedestals are dangerous things.  We should be mindful of what we put on them.  Frankly, Indiana Jones was right, some things “Belong in a museum”. 

I too am a big fan of the democratic process.  I am not a fan of Nazis driving cars into protestors.  Bottom line.  Such terror smacks everything that we stand for – or at least it did at one time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_IIHere’s to hoping that this is still the case.  That we, as Americans, can pull together and work together in realization & recognition of the scars of our past and step boldly into the future; where we should find our hope.

Contrary to most empirical information I can collect these days, I still believe that America’s best days are ahead.  …I hope I’m not alone.

They heard an entirely different message from Arnold than I did.  I must believe that they are apologists for Mr. Trump and not Nazi sympathizers, KKK members, or some other cancerous Alt-Right hate mongers.  I don’t believe that – but, before you scream “There are good people on both sides of this issue,” I gotta tell ya, historically, the Nazis and the KKK are on the wrong side of history.  Consistently.  That’s the “Say what you will about Hitler but at least the trains ran on time,” argument and it does not hold up.  “Heritage not hate!” I hear, as well; this is usually accompanied by, “Lefties want to erase history!”

Erase history? No, on the contrary, History is vital.  We must learn from the past but it is imperative that we learn the right lessons from it.  Lessons that appeal to, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the better angels of our nature”.  One cannot erase history by destroying a statue just like one can’t kill an idea by burning a book.  But if hate is put on a pedestal then we have the moral obligation to explain to the generations that follow us why it is wrong.  The lessons that the modern Nazis and KKK learned from the history and the lessons that others have drawn from it are vastly different in scope, and moral credibility. 

 Do you want Nazis?  Because that’s how you get Nazis.

Senator John McCain recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on.  He opens the article by saying, “Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.”  (see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/john-mccain-its-time-congress-returns-to-regular-order/2017/08/31/f62a3e0c-8cfb-11e7-8df5-c2e5cf46c1e2_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.c08f54c61629). Yes, he’s right. I am thankful that there are still leaders who will say it. 

It is an odd time in our country right now.  We forget to talk to each other.  We must remember as citizens not only speak but also to listen.  Of course, we are not always going to agree but we must think for ourselves – make our points, compromise, and move forward.  Bipartisanship is not the evil it has been made out to be.  We must acknowledge and learn from the past so that we can step together into the future – a future where there is no room for hate.  As Americans, we owe this not only to our posterity but to the world.

Thank you, Mr. Schwarzenegger, for this reminder that should not be so complicated of hard to see.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington frontman for Linkin Park has passed. Possibly by his own hand. He was 41 years old. New York Times write up about Mr. Bennington.  

I have seen depression. I have been right next to it, up close & personal. It was thick – like a third presence or person in the room. You could feel it. It blanketed any possible light. It was not redirectable. It didn’t care if you reminded it of all the good things in front of it; of the good things it had. It simply wanted out.

And it got out.

But it missed so much in the process ~ children growing older, being there as a force in their lives as they have grown, being a partner to a widow/widower, it missed friendships, it missed the possibility of joy, and it missed the simple fact that the world is now a dimmer place for their light no longer being a part of it.

We all have storms. We all have seasons. It does not matter who you are.  If you are feeling that the storm is too much, that the season is too long, please, talk to someone about it. You do not have to carry all that weight upon your shoulders. Find someone and talk. There is another side to this. If you don’t know who to talk to please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Call. The world needs your light and seasons do change.