Movies: The Dark Knight Rises

…based on Bob Kane’s Batman, written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David Goyer, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy.

The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment of the Nolan brothers’ take on the Batman Mythos, has been criticized and praised alike with heavy-handed gusto by media and culture critics.  You’ll hear how it’s violent, bleak, self-indulgent.  It’s epic, intricate, spectacularly visual.  Dark Knight Rises is guilty of all.  The film also carries considerable baggage: the crazy expectations that seem to accompany any Chris Nolan project, the legacy of the last film, the Dark Knight, which receives too much credit for a number of reasons, not to mention carrying the standard for the entire DC Comics/Warner Brothers line.  A crushing weight, Man-of-Steel worthy.

And Batman and the Nolans are up for it.  This is an awesome film.  Awesome in its most literal sense.  DKR pushes the boundaries of super-hero/anti-hero narrative.  It engages in multi-layered, multi-generational story telling.  It takes this version of Batman – a contemporary characterization that still retains the essential elements – breaks him down, examines his ethos, and brings him back from the brink.  Visuals, performances, character arcs – its’ all there.  The movie is a cut or two above…

And DKR does not achieve this in a vacuum.  Nolan and company employ a secret weapon (that’s not so secret to comic book fans):  years and years of great Batman stories from DC Comics, including Knightfall, which introduced the Bane character, but most importantly the great Frank Miller treatise, The Dark Knight Returns.

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On Penn State

The whole situation is grotesque.  The sports and moral conversations, the reaction in some quarters, the fines, the implications…

I debated those implications with friends and co-workers yesterday and today:  what this means for college sports, football, the Big 10, even my own Fighting Illini.  But I kept thinking about what this means to the whole institution of college sports.  Kept thinking about people at high levels in positions of trust, who didn’t have the fortitude to act on behalf of society’s most vulnerable.  Several commentators pointed to similar scandals faced by the Catholic Church – an apt and damning comparison.

Because football was like religion at State College, PA.  Joe Paterno was the Arch Bishop.  Paterno – the guy so many held up as an example of college athletics, done the right way, and it turns out he was no better than the rest.  Worse, maybe, because his hubris and vaunted position not only afforded him the leeway to do nothing, it also obliged others to cover up on his behalf. Continue reading

Drought in the Debtor State

We recently headed east to Ohio for a family reunion and water-sports showdown.  Because I’m only a generation removed from farming, I couldn’t help but notice the dire state of the corn and soybeans across Illinois, Indiana, and into central Ohio.  Drought emergencies have been declared in multiple states.  You don’t have to look for the official declaration, however, just look at the worry lines and frowns in the small towns throughout the Midwest.  People know that a certain percentage of peers will face bankruptcy as a result, and no amount of federal emergency funding will change that.

What does it mean for you?  Expect an increase to your grocery bill in the next few months – 25% or higher, depending on your diet and where you live.  Grain and soy prices affect such a large portion of the food supply…

Gov. Quinn holds up metaphor for IL tax base

…And while you’re at it, go ahead an budget for the continuing increase to your taxes – especially you fellow resident of Illinois.  The debtor state’s comptroller just announced an estimated $7.5-8 billion figure for monies owed to entities such as vendors, schools, and municipalities.  This backlog of bills is, of course, only a small portion of an astronomical $43 billion deficit, if one considers the cost of pension benefits owed to state workers.  This despite the tax increase Governor Pat Quinn campaigned on.

Our trip to Ohio brought us into states that actually have budget surpluses.  Yes, a foreign concept around here, but there they were on the Columbus local news, discussing the best way to obligate funds for a budget surplus.  I’m thinking, what kind of magicians, what superhuman policymakers could achieve such fiscal responsibility?   Continue reading

Summer Illini Post

With oppressive heat comes the doldrums of the MLS season, with teams slogging through the humid air and attempting to stay playoff eligible.  Baseball is just not on the Beemsville menu, but the Illini are always on our minds.  After a crazy-active off-season in which the three major sports all replaced their head coaches, it’s mostly quiet on the orange & blue front.  But, hey, look!  A blue helmet!

Block I on Blue

Yes, Coach Beckman has been implementing his changes, including COMPETING! for everything and anything.  And, hey, if teams like Oregon and Boise State and Oklahoma State can have multiple uniform-helmet combos and score lots and lots of points, why not Illinois?

This design will look good with the orange or white shirts.  It’s pretty basic, pretty similar to the Bears helmet, and also signals a logo/branding shift Illini fans are just going to have to accept.  Athletic Director Mike Thomas has spoken about the importance of marketing/branding in college sports, how it builds familiarity, opens doors, sells shirts, etc.  And since the Chief was taken from us (and even before that as they moved away from that symbol), the Block I has pretty much become the symbol and logo.  Thomas has stated he wants to reinvigorate from a marketing/branding standpoint, so we should expect some kind of new variation on the Block I as an official logo.  How much can you really do with a Block I?  You don’t want it in italics.  You can’t add a bunch of bling.  They’re probably afraid to add any flourishes like feathers that might offend sensitivities of the anti-Illini crowd.  At least we’re pretty much the only ‘I’ team in orange and blue.

Football has been picking up steam in recruiting, no doubt about it.  Coach Beckman went out to COMPETE! and landed Bolingbrook Quarterback, Aaron Bailey, who will be great in the spread and is considered one of the nation’s top dual-threat QBs.  The Illini have also added a number of defensive lineman and defensive backs, some O-lineman, and running backs.  It’s a nice turn-around from the flailing about that marked then end of the Zook tenure, and people who know recruiting seem encouraged. Continue reading

Gotta work that 1st Person

I recently picked up a novel based on the premise and back matter alone – always a questionable choice – only to return home and find it was written in the 1st person narrator format.  For the non-writerly and readerly types,  this means the storytelling comes from one point of view, the narrator, using “I” (as opposed to third person).  This novel (which I’m not going to name because it’s not cool to run someone down) juxtaposed an ancient Celtic druid in a contemporary setting, which seems like an interesting take.  But I couldn’t get through one chapter.  Too much explaining, not character revealing, awkward, and I immediately knew there was no way I was going 300-plus pages with this narrator.  Back to the bookstore to trade in for something I will read.

The Beemsville take on 1st person goes something like this: works great great for short stories, Frank Miller graphic novels, and Magnum P.I.  For everything else – you better bring it.   Continue reading