Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hope for the Abysmal Summer of 2010

It has been an abysmal summer when you think about it. I’m not talking about the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico (Thanks BP!), the heat or about the wars and rumors of wars that we find ourselves in these days; no. I’m talking about the mediocrity of what has been released to the multiplexes from sea to shining see during the summer of 2010.


For my dollar there have been two films that have actually made me want to get off the back of my front and head to the theater; “Iron Man 2” and “Toy Story 3”. Both of these films are worth the price of admission and, I have a sneaky sensation that both of them will worm their way into my Blu-ray collection. “Iron Man 2” was a fun time at the movies and “Toy Story 3” is about the best film I’ve seen all year. I have not been able to truly be excited about any of the other summer cinema fare – “The Last Airbender” will be a rental for me, “Twilight – Eclipse” will be a free rental… perhaps even a wait for cable. No, probably a wait for cable. It’s been abysmal with little to look forward to in the field of storytelling through cinema.

With little to look forward to what’s a geek to do? Look for the sleepers that’s what! That being said, “Cyrus” and “Inception” look to be films that may actually be worth the time and drive to the theater.

Here is the plot synopsis for “Cyrus” from my favorite second brain, Wikipedia, “John is seven years divorced from his wife and is having trouble adjusting to his new life. After meeting Molly at a party, he thinks that maybe he has found the perfect person again. There's just one problem: Cyrus, Molly's grown son. John must find a way to make his romance with Molly work despite intentional and unintentional interference by Cyrus.” John C. Reilly is John, Marisa Tomei is Molly and Jonah Hill is Cyrus. That happens to be an amazing cast. Spin is really good. I just might have to sneak out to see this one.

Then there is “Inception”. Once more as described through my favorite second brain, “Inception was first developed by Christopher Nolan, based on the notion of "exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space - entering a dream space and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind. What would that be used and abused for?” Furthermore, he thought "being able to extract information from somebody’s brain would be the obvious use of that because obviously any other system where it’s computers or physical media, whatever – things that exist outside the mind – they can all be stolen ... up until this point, or up until this movie I should say, the idea that you could actually steal something from somebody’s head was impossible. So that, to me, seemed a fascinating abuse or misuse of that kind of technology.”

Sign me up. That’s just a great concept for a story. Christopher Nolan, by my humble opinion, is one of the premiere storytellers that we have making movies these days. “Memento”, “The Prestige”, “Batman Begins” and a little film called, “The Dark Knight” cemented his ability. This concept is aching to be mined too. The last time that I recall a good dream movie was a film in the eighties called, “Dreamscape”. It would be cheesy by today’s standards by I dug it (I’ll have to put it in my Blockbuster cue).

But I digress. Let’s get back to the last hopes of the summer of 2010 and what may be worth a look-see on the horizon. I’m pulling for “Cyrus” and “Inception” for the remainder of the summer. Thanksgiving will bring “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I” and Christmas will bring, “TRON Legacy”.

Now I’m getting my GEEK up again!

See you at the multiplex.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today (7/13/10) was a great day for birthdays. Julius Caesar, Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, Cheech Marin and Tom Kenny – all on the same day; so Happy Birthday to Caesar, Professor X, Han Solo, Cheech and Sponge Bob!

That would be an interesting party…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dad, You Were Right

I just finished a book that my father absolutely loved. He passed it along to my mother who, I was told, during her pregnancy with yours truly, read the entire series. That book is “Tarzan – Lord of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I remember reading ERB’s “John Carter of Mars” series and a few others here and there such as “Beyond the Farthest Star” or “At The Earth’s Core” but I had never read Tarzan. It was one of the books my dad read that has always been on my list. I was always more a Conan fan… until recently, Robert E. Howard’s highlander barbarian was my favorite pulp icon to read about. Mine to root for.

Dad, you were right.

Tarzan kicks all kinds of but and, literarily speaking, the character is one of the most recognized even to this day. Mr. Burroughs may have invented Barsoom and all its wonders on Mars (a world I still like to visit via my e-reader) but he will eternally be remembered for giving the world John Clayton, Lord Greystoke better known as Tarzan, Lord of the Apes; after reading the first volume, justifiably so.

I wish that I could have this discussion with my Dad but that is not possible. It is merely the latest discussion that I wish I could have with him. This one, however, was one that I wanted to share with you, Gentle Reader. There is no one else who would understand; no one else who may grasp the joy of these works of fiction. Yes, I know I’m beginning to ramble but if you have read the two authors who do you prefer? Which do you like better – Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs? Conan or Tarzan?

After reading ERB’s first volume I’m beginning to convert. Conan is great but Tarzan runs in the family. I just wish; even after these 23 odd years, that I could let my Dad know about it too.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Upper New York State of Mind

From 7/2/10 – 7/5/10, we, the EC-5 were officially on Holiday. I am a firm believer that the absolute best things to collect are memories. Material possessions you can’t take with you but reminiscences and time spent together are things that last a lifetime. This is something that I hope we have passed onto our children. I am also a man who feels the pressing weight of days... let's just say, I like to escape. And so, ‘getting away from it all’ with the family is something that I/we take pretty serious. In that vein I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of our adventures.

7/2/10 – We climbed into our Ford Explorer, said a prayer and took off leaving New Jersey behind for higher latitudes. “Judy”, our Garmin Nuvi (yes, Judy Garmin) is better than Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer when it comes to navigation. I remember a time when I was nervous about finding the right exit or off ramp on whatever 3 – 7 lane highway we found ourselves on. Those days are over. I am a transportation machine with the assistance of Judy.

Our first real stop was Fillmore Glenn State Park. We went there to swim and take in some of the local sites. The Three Chicks and I hit the ice-cold spring fed waters while Mother hen hit the trails for a series of bridges and waterfalls. After a freshwater leach attached itself to Chicken Little’s small toe we got out of the water. When we all met up again Mother Hen said that we should really check out Cow Shed Falls which was right around the corner from where we were splashing about before the leach attack. Cow Shed Falls gets its name from the rock out-cropping that hangs over the valley next to the waterfall that drops some 40 feet or so into the gorge that feeds the stream where we were swimming with the leaches. Years ago farmers would find their cows cooling themselves off under the rock shelf and drinking from the waters of the falls. Cow Shed stuck. What a beautiful park. If you are in the area you ought to stop by… just watch out for the leaches.

We piled back into the Explorer and hit the road once more. We made our way to our home away from home, a Days Inn in Syracuse. Mother Hen found a really great deal online which got us a room for three nights. We only slept in Syracuse. It was our flophouse. It did not need to be a 4 Star hotel or a 3 Star hotel; just the 2 Star hotel that it was. A place to lay one’s head; which after a day’s worth of driving and leach adventures, was a welcome sight. We grabbed dinner at Denny’s and retired to our room.

7/3/10 – Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. I long for the gypsy life style. Our next stop was Thousand Islands, New York where we boarded an Uncle Sam Boat Tour shuttle to Heart Island to tour Boldt Castle. Heart Island sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. George Boldt (of Waldorf Astoria Hotel fame) built this castle for his wife, Louise. He built it for her but when she died abruptly at the age of 45 all construction stopped. The island and castle were ornate and beautifully kept but the project remained unfinished and it is to this very day. There are paths, coves, towers, a power house, tunnels and spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. It is an amazing stone and mortar, six-story construction that begs to be explored. Here is what Wikipedia, my favorite second brain, has to say on the topic: We loved it and, if you are ever in the area, Gentle Reader, so would you.

After a tailgate lunch of tuna fish in the parking lot we hit the road once more. The Chicks fell right asleep which left Mother Hen (shot gun) and I (driving) to ourselves to behold the sight of three huge Crow standing what looked to be about 12 foot a piece.

“Did you see that?” we asked each other.

I had no time to reach for the camera and we were on a highway heading towards our next destination. It is only now that I can find out the details on this gigantic murder of crows. Here is what Roadside America has to say on the subject: Keep your eyes open out there… you never know what might present itself when you keep your eyes open.

Our next destination was Fort Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego New York. We just missed being able to get into the fort but we enjoyed dipping our toes into one of the Great Lakes and finding out some of the local history. The view of the lighthouse from the park is reportedly a wonderful place to catch a sunset. We weighed our options for our next adventure, I was either going to walk out to the Oswego Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse for a Virtual Geocache or we were going to slide over to Wal-Mart to replenish some supplies for the cooler. Wal-Mart won but not before we paid a visit to the H. Lee White Marine Museum. The museum was closed but we were able to see the Army tug boat, “Nash” that took part in the D-Day invasion and a formally sunken dredging canal barge that has been restored. I met the curator of the museum, a nice lady who encouraged me to tell my friends about their non-profit museum. That being said, Gentle Readers consider yourselves encouraged:

We asked some locals where would be a good place to eat and they suggested an Italian place called, Canale’s. Oh, they were sooo right. Listen to the locals. They know where the good spots are as well as the ones that should be avoided. Canale's ( is one of the good ones. If you are in the neighborhood of Oswego you CAN NOT go wrong eating here. I had Eggplant Parmesan that was unbelievable. Mother Hen pointed out that they have marinara for sale in the restaurant and on their website. I’m looking forward to receiving our order.

After dinner we trekked back to Syracuse and our room at the Days Inn.

7/4/10 - Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. Our next stop was Niagara Falls. On the way into the city of Niagara Falls, New York the Niagara River is to your left. One can see motion and currents at work within the water and it is possible to catch a glimpse of mist from the Falls that drifts into the city. Prior to getting into the city itself one can see the rapids and the waters churn and boil around rock formations on their way towards the Falls and the Niagara Gorge. This is just on the way into the city.

The city of Niagara Falls was hopping. The streets were teaming with people from nations all over the world celebrating the Fourth of July. A sightseeing helicopter was buzzing around shuttling tourists from the helipad to the falls and back again from the time that we got there until just after 9:00 PM, an hour before the fireworks display. Once we found a place to park we hit the ground running. I had water and granola bars in my backpack and I was not afraid to use ‘em. In said hustle and bustle was the EC-5.

You hear the falls before you see them. When you see them you are struck with the power and timeless force at play before your eyes. The roar of the water… the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on its way to the 167 foot drop to the bottom of the Niagara Gorge. To paraphrase it is simply ‘poetry in motion’. There are two sides for viewing the Falls, the Canadian and the American. In honor of the birth of our nation (and the fact that we do not have passports) we saw the falls from the American side. Some say that the view is not as good as the Canadian. The view from where I stood was mind-altering and humbling. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the topic: Who knew it but it appears we visited 134 years to the day that Maria Spelterini crossed the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope.

You go girl.

On the American side one can also find the Observation Platform, which looks much like an uncompleted bridge. It is through here that thousands of people pour into to see the Falls from a higher elevation and to purchase tickets for the Maid of the Mist, the boat tour of Niagara Falls that has been in operation since 1854. The Observation Platform houses the elevator that takes you from the view from above the Falls down into the Niagara Gorge, where the Falls surge into. It is here that you board the Maid of the Mist.

“Oh right, now I have to buy a ticket and wait in a line?”

Yes; and why are you so snappy all of the sudden? Suck it up (consider decaf). Look, I do not care how long the line is (we went on the Fourth of July) or how much the ticket price may be (currently $13.50 for an adult and $7.85 per child) it is worth the wait and double the price. A trip on the Maid of the Mist is something that you will never forget. You owe it to yourself, your significant others and/or your families to take the trip if you are there. It is called the Maid of the Mist for a reason. You will get wet even through the blue poncho that you will be wearing. You will see the American Falls, the ant like people as they clamor up the Gorge side and the “Cave of the Winds” side next to Bridal Falls and the boat will take you into the horseshoe of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. After our boat ride we climbed the steps up the Gorge to be hit with the gale force energy of the surging spray of the Falls themselves. Do this as well when you go; it is part of the entire experience. The power, the sound, the fury and the striking beauty of Niagara Falls are surreal and simply unforgettable. I could continue to throw adjectives around like peanut shells at a steakhouse but the fact remains that Niagara Falls is something best experienced for oneself than it is described by another. You should make the trip.

We found a patch of grass in the park and sat down for the fireworks display above the Niagara Gorge. It was a wonderful Fourth of July; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.

7/5/10 – And now, after 1,205.4 miles, we have returned. Unlike the Hobbits of Tolkien lore who wish to go there and back again I find that the going back again part is less and less appealing.

I just want to go.

I am Evil Chicken and I am actively planning our next escape.