Carpool Karaoke

One of my favorite things to do in this world is to get in the car and drive while cranking up the radio/iPod/CD player and singing to the tops of my lungs. Mostly, that’s because singing is one of my favorite things to do in this world. The driving, I could take it or leave it.

Generally, when it’s just me in the car, I could leave the driving. Not that I hate the driving part or anything. I just get the road rage.

Language - Road RageBut as much as I love singing in the car when I’m by myself, I love it even more when there are others riding with me. Now, you can’t always convince your passengers to join in on a good sing-along. But when you can, it’s a guaranteed good time. Especially when the appointed DJ is able to find some entertaining songs to sing along with.

Recently I got a chance to spend some time in the car with a trio of ladies who were not only willing to play along but were almost overjoyed at the suggestion of Carpool Karaoke. Kids, it was glorious.

It actually started as an outdoor movie night at Mountain Lake with a group of friends from church. Mountain Lake, you’ll recall from 20th-century history, was the location where they filmed the 80s classic, Dirty Dancing. But that’s not important to the story. Really, the movie part isn’t important to the story, either. But I mention it because Mountain Lake is a bit of a drive from Blacksburg, where we all live. Not horrible, but it’s the kind of location where people would want to carpool.

The ride down was filled with conversation with light song stylings playing in the background. No singing, whatsoever. The ride back, however, was a different story. As we made our way down the winding road, I made the suggestion of Carpool Karaoke. Like I mentioned above, my passengers were kind of excited to play along.

Being in the front passenger’s seat, I assigned Rebecca with DJing duties. And she delivered. She provided the car with hits from Shania Twain, High School Musical, and Grease. And I will forevermore associate Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” with that car ride back into town. The only disappointment that these ladies may have had came when Rebecca could not find anything by One Direction on my iPod. I think I have “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” on my computer, but it’s not one I carry out to the car with me. Because I probably rank that particular boy band up there with Justin Bieber.

I watch as James Corden performs the Carpool Karaoke with various celebrity guests and, I’ve gotta say, I get a little jealous. It must be incredibly fun to sing with artists as they sing along with the songs they made famous. It’s probably more fun to sing with them as they sing along with the songs that they didn’t make famous. Unless it’s Bieber. I’m not jealous of that episode.Carpool Karaoke - Adele

AFI #60 – Duck Soup

Duck Soup - PosterDuck Soup

1933

Directed by Leo McCarey

Netflix says… Thanks to the patronage of well-heeled widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) becomes dictator of the tiny country Freedonia. But when the ambassador of the bordering nation of Sylvania declares his love for Mrs. Teasdale, Firefly declares war. The Marx Brothers are at their sidesplitting best in this raucous political satire, in which Chico, Harpo and Zeppo co-star as spies and counterspies.

Another Marx Brothers movie. And, again, I kind of don’t get it. When I watched A Night at the Opera I blamed my inability to “get” this humor on the fact that humor is different now than it was in the 1930s. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case though. Maybe it’s just that I don’t seem to be able to appreciate the humor of the Marx Brothers. Pretty sure this is the last one of their films on the list. And I won’t be disappointed by that fact.

Question of the Week #77

If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living?

Wow. This question seems eerily similar to Question of the Week #75. Except that was about thinking you were going to die and then finding out a few days later you actually weren’t. But, still… Come on Gregory Stock, Ph.D. I think we can do better. But since we’re here and we’re still using a Book of Questions that I bought about 20 years ago when I was still a kid in high school, I’ll play your game.

Ferris Bueller - Cameron - I'm Dying.gifI’m sure there are some things that I would change about how I was living. For one, I’m sure I would hold back less when talking to people. I would let my loved ones know more often that I truly loved them. Not sure what’s stopping me from doing that now, anyway. I mean, who says I won’t die suddenly in a year? Who says I won’t die suddenly tomorrow? Or this afternoon on the way home from the office? No one is promised any given number of years in this world. What stops us from doing and saying the things that we wouldn’t necessarily do or say unless we know our own expiration dates?

I’m not saying that I’m suddenly gonna go out there and start living like I’m dying. Just food for thought, I suppose.

*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Illuminate

IlluminateHis power seemed harmless enough at first. No one knew his real name. Even he didn’t know his real name. The accident that caused his amazing transformation also caused him to forget whatever life he had known before. The media came to know him as Illuminate.

It has been rumored that the man who became Illuminate was working in a nuclear power plant and was exposed to some strange form of radiation. It’s also been rumored that he was a test subject in a secret government laboratory somewhere. The stories all vary, but the fact remains, he was an ordinary man who suddenly had extraordinary abilities.

The most obvious of these abilities was his ability to glow. Wherever he was present, darkness could not exist. And it wasn’t a power that he could turn off. His skin always shone brightly. When he first appeared in public, there was speculation that he could be emitting some kind of radiation himself. But that fear was dispelled by the guys in the hazmat suits with Geiger counters.

Whatever powers his luminescent skin also gives him the ability to fly. It wasn’t long before the public discovered that Illuminate had other powers. These powers made him a little more dangerous in the people’s eyes.

Illuminate reportedly stopped a mugger who had been attacking a young woman in Philadelphia. In his anger, Illuminate’s skin grew so bright that it temporarily blinded both the attacker and his victim. The super powered man grabbed the mugger by the arms to pull him away from the woman. Doctors later reported that the criminal suffered from second-degree burns on his arms which looked remarkably like hand prints.

Some people were grateful that the world now had a real superhero. Others were afraid. Those who feared Illuminate included some of the country’s top government officials. While it was easy to agree that Illuminate was only trying to help, many people wondered what would happen if his powers continued to increase in intensity. Many asked what would happen if he was no longer able to control himself or his abilities.

Illuminate knew of the people’s fears. He may not have known anything about his life before gaining his powers, but he had to believe he was a good man. He only wanted to help those who were unable to help themselves. But not at the cost of their comfort or safety. So he made a decision.

After only a few months in the public eye, Illuminate handed himself over to authorities. He asked them to keep him in a safe place. Not for his own safety, but for the safety of the world at large. He knew he was somehow able to manifest a seemingly endless supply of energy. Thus, he voluntarily became a human power plant, providing free energy to most of the eastern seaboard.

No one in the media has had access to the mysterious Illuminate. It can only be speculated that he is being treated well in a secret facility as he continues to give of himself to keep the lights on.

The Single Guy and the Release

I’ve mentioned before that there was a time in my life, several years in fact, when I had walked away from the church. I told myself that it wasn’t the church or God that I was walking away from. It was the people. But since people make up the church, well, that’s a conversation for another time.

After a while, I began toying with the idea of getting back into church. Well, it didn’t take me long to find one that I was comfortable with. In fact, my first Sunday back in the swing of things, I found a place that I felt sure I would be able to call home. At least, for as long as I’m in the New River Valley, anyway.

Part of getting involved with a church is finding a group of people that I could get involved with. That meant I had to sign up for and join a small group Bible study. Over the years, I had come to enjoy these small groups much more than I ever liked attending a Sunday School class before Big Church every week. Small groups meet in people’s homes. They’re warmer, more inviting, cozier.

One fateful Thursday evening, I found myself in one of those warm, inviting, and cozy homes. I had decided to participate in a group that would be reading through the entire Bible in a year. Of course, this was something that I had attempted in the past. For some reason, I had never been able to get much farther than Exodus. Which meant I’d probably read through Genesis a couple dozen times. This time, my hope was that things would be different. By joining up with a group that was doing the same thing, my hope was that they would encourage me to keep up the pace.

The first group meeting consisted of passing along information from the leaders to the group members. I sat quietly, as I usually do in situations involving new people. Suddenly, it hit me. I had to get to the bathroom.

But this was a new place. I had never been there before, much less used the bathroom. And this wasn’t exactly a good time for me to raise my hand and ask for directions to the bathroom. The group leader was talking. She was sure to be sharing some important information about how things would be run in the group over the course of the following months. There was probably something mentioned about not interrupting, but I couldn’t have possibly known that. I was absolutely not paying attention.

Instead, I was focused on keeping myself together. Folks, it wasn’t that I had to do anything as simple as get to the restroom to pee. No, I could hold that for a while if necessary. And it was necessary. The probably at the moment was one of a more intestinal matter. Without trying to sound completely indelicate, I really needed to fart.

By this point in the evening, I was using every ounce of my strength to clench. Here I was in a room full of people I had just met and I was praying for the strength not to break wind, which I knew would alienate them immediately. I was afraid to move, even slightly. My face had to have been turning blood red as I held back a perfectly natural bodily function.

The Office - This Is the WorstI was in pain. Aside from that, I was torn. Three options lay before me.

One, I could interrupt the leader and ask for the bathroom. In my mind, this was a non-option. I would stand up and say, “I’m sorry, but where’s your bathroom?” The leader, of course, would then politely point the way or explain how to get there. In a two-bedroom duplex, it couldn’t have been far away. But then comes the thought that everyone out in the living room obviously knows what I was doing in there. I shook that idea out of my head.

Two, I could keep trying with all my might to hold the gas in. Again, I was in a great deal of pain. Most people have probably experienced this pain. Gas that gets pent up inside our bodies tends to be painful, especially when it cannot be released. But I wasn’t really thinking about the pain. If I could manage to get past the pain and fight back the urge to let go, things might shift around on the inside. And then my gut would have made a horrendous noise. It would be that loud noise that everyone would hear, and they would know, he’s gotta fart. The quiet laughter would begin. The snickers under people’s breath would grow louder and I would be forced to leave the house, running off into the night. I could play the noise off as a stomach growl, as if I was hungry. But there’s a difference in the noise of hunger and the sound of shifting gas. Anyone in that room with half a brain would know I was lying. “He can’t be hungry,” they would say, “I saw him eat no less than three cookies just minutes ago!”

Three, I could just let it go. As much as I hated the first two options, this third one was even less appealing. I was sitting on a hard folding chair. This meant that, at best, any fart would be a loud fart. But even if I could disguise the noise, what would I be able to do about the smell? Everyone would know the general area from which the odor had come. They would look upon me with disgust. I would be excommunicated from the group. It would be just another church with whom my bridges had been burned.

The pain was growing more intense by the second. And it seemed the information being given to the group members would never end. At that moment, I did the only thing I knew I could safely do. I prayed silently. And when the urge became too great, I dared to risk the release of gas. There was no sound. There was no noticeable odor. I received no looks from the people next to me. No one had noticed. In my mind, I rejoiced. I had just been a part of a spectacular miracle.

The rest of the evening went on without a hitch. I felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The pain was gone. I could move around again without fear of something improper slipping out.

I learned a valuable lesson that night. Never eat or drink anything for two hours before meeting new people. The food may be delicious, but is it really worth the risk?

Let’s Go, Sugarbeet

Yesterday, my friend Caitlyn offered to provide a writing prompt to some folks on Twitter. I accepted the challenge. She gave me the first sentence. The rest was up to me…

“Let’s go, sugarbeet,” he said and snapped on the light. He was holding two duffle bags, one very light, the other very heavy. It was her car, and she had slept with the keys.

“Ugh… what time is it?” she asked groggily. She was disoriented by her surroundings. Even this voice, the one calling her “sugarbeet” was unfamiliar to her. The first thing she noticed when her senses began to fully awaken was the smell. It was a disgusting mixture of beer and body odor.

“It don’t matter what time it is! Get up! We gotta go!” He raised his voice, clearly becoming more agitated with each second that ticked by. “Get out of there, I need to throw these in.”

She finally opened her eyes and realized she was in the back seat of her car. “Why can’t you put them in the trunk?” she asked as she slowly moved to exit the vehicle.

“Trunk’s full of your crap!” he yelled, adding frustration to his limited range of emotion. “You think I like having this stuff exposed like this?”

Alice stood beside the car and watched as Joe tossed the duffle bags into the back seat. Standing this close to him, she could tell he was the source of the body odor and beer smells that she had detected when she first woke. Watching him move, she found herself wishing that she had never met him. But you don’t get to pick your family.

“Drive,” Joe commanded, grabbing Alice by the arm and pulling her toward the front of the car.

“Not until you tell me where we’re going and what’s in those bags!” Now it was Alice’s turn to raise her voice.

She wasn’t worried about making a scene. Hers was the only car in a darkened hotel parking lot. The only other person in a 10-mile radius was probably the desk clerk who was likely sleeping on a cot in the hotel’s back office.

Alice almost regretted showing a backbone and refusing to give in to Joe’s demands. For a moment, she thought sure that her brother was going to hit her. It wouldn’t be the first time. She wasn’t about to let it slide if it happened again, though.

“Where do you get off questioning me?” he asked, his face now turning red. “I tell you what to do and you do it!”

“Fine!” Alice shouted as she slid into the driver’s seat. Joe walked around and got in on the other side.

“Just head toward Abilene. I’m going to sleep.”

“Good,” said Alice, under her breath.

“What was that?” asked Joe, reigniting his anger.

“Nothing.”

“That’s what I thought,” he said as he looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. “You’re lucky I don’t smack that smart mouth of yours.”

Yeah, lucky me, she thought, keeping it to herself this time.

Alice buckled her seat belt, started up the car and pulled out of the parking lot, prepared for a hundred-plus mile drive in the wee hours of the morning. According to the clock on the dash, dawn was still a couple hours away.

Her anger built as she drove down the road. She couldn’t understand how she had gotten to this point in such a short span of time. Things were going great for Alice for the first time since she was a kid. She was finally sober and had been so for six months. And then her big brother came back into her life a week ago, whispering all those negative things in her ear as he’d done during her high school years.

“I just need your help with one little thing, sugarbeet,” Joe had said only two days before. “You just need to drive me up to Round Rock. You can drop me off there at my buddy’s place and, if you want, you’ll never have to hear from me again.”

If only, she had thought. “All right. But just to Round Rock. And if your friend isn’t there, I’m leaving you anyway. Got it?”

“Got it,” Joe said, acting completely innocent. But Alice knew there was something more sinister beneath his simple request for a ride to a friend’s house. Joe had never had a real friend in his entire life. Only people he used or used up until they were no good to him anymore. In that sense, to him, family had been no different. Alice knew she was being used.

When they had arrived in Round Rock, she stopped at the curb in front of Joe’s buddy’s place. She thought about just slowing down and telling him to tuck and roll. “Wait here for a sec,” he said as he got out of the car.

“No! The deal was I drop you off no matter what. See ya, big brother!”

“Please! Come on!”

Alice rolled her eyes. “Fine. You have two minutes!”

Joe grinned, “I only need one.”

Joe disappeared into the house. Seconds later, Alice heard gunshots. She should have put her foot down on the gas pedal without looking back. But, in her panic, she froze. Her eyes went wide as she stared at the front door. Joe burst through the door, leapt down the porch steps, and ran to the car carrying what looked like a manila envelope. Climbing back in the car he screamed, “GO!”

Alice couldn’t find her voice. Joe was breathing heavily and, she could have sworn, was laughing as he quickly looked back toward the house from which they were now speeding away.

“What just happened?!” she finally asked.

“Oh, calm down, sugarbeet! They were just warning shots,” he said as he laughed again.

Joe opened the envelope and read the slip of paper inside. “Take me to the bus depot on Bowman,” he said as he tipped the envelope over, letting a small key slide into his hand.

Thus began a whirlwind road trip that had not stopped since it began. Not exactly a dream vacation, thought Alice.

After driving for 15 minutes, Alice could tell that her brother was asleep. He would be dead to the world until they got to Abilene. Adjusting her rearview mirror, she looked back at the duffle bags in the back seat. She had to know what was inside them. What was it that caused her to get caught up in her brother’s, she assumed, illegal activities?

Carefully, she reached behind her and found the zipper to the heavier of the two bags. Giving herself just enough room to reach a hand inside, she felt around. Alice did not have a lot of experience with firearms, but she knew a shotgun when she felt it. And it wasn’t alone. The bag was full of guns. “What in the–?”

She zipped up the first bag and reached for the second. Inside this, she found what felt like small plastic bottles… pill bottles. “Drugs?” she said quietly. She knew Joe was a heavy sleeper, but she didn’t want to take any chances. “What have you gotten me into?” she whispered, shooting her sleeping brother a look that could kill.

Alice had no love for her brother. She would have given anything to see him locked away in a place where he could never touch her or their mother again. But he had smashed her phone before they left the bus station in Round Rock when she threatened to call mom. Now that she knew she was an apparent accomplice in the trafficking of drugs and firearms, she wanted to call the police to turn him in.

The wheels in her head turned feverishly. What can I do? She noticed a sign for a gas station that was five miles up ahead. It was the only sign of civilization that they had come across since leaving the hotel. He wouldn’t even let me get a good night’s sleep there! No! Sleep in the car! Alice thought as her rage continued to build.

She looked back to her brother. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Idiot. And then she had an epiphany. If I aim just right, she thought as she checked her own seatbelt. She had an airbag. The passenger’s side did not. In just a few miles, she would be able to get away. Alice would get away and find help. She was willing to face the consequences of her actions, just as long as Joe was forced to face the consequences of his.

In less than a minute, the gas station was in sight. It was dark, closed. Good, she thought. Alice adjusted the steering wheel ever so slightly and floored it.

Suicide Squad

Spoiler alert… If you haven’t seen Suicide Squad, you may want to take a look at something else. I won’t blatantly spoil the plot of the movie, but I might spill some of the minor beans. You’ve been warned…

Suicide Squad - HarleyI look back at Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and I get the negative reviews. I happen to have loved the movie, but I understand where the critics who didn’t like it were coming from. In the week leading up to the release of Suicide Squad, I began seeing more negative reviews. This, after incredible trailers and reshoots that seemed to indicate the studio would be doing a little course-correcting after Batman v. Superman. I have to say, I was a little discouraged by the reviews.

Usually, that kind of thing doesn’t bother me when it comes to movies or properties that I’m already a fan of. But this time, some of the negative reviews were coming from critics that I respect and often agree with. That’s where the discouragement came from. So I wasn’t in a hurry to see Suicide Squad. For me to wait more than a week to see a DC Comics related movie is nigh unheard of.

But I finally saw it. And I thought it was awesome.

This time around, I don’t really get what the critics were so upset about. What are critics looking for when they go to see a comic book movie? Not every superhero flick can be The Dark Knight. You can’t expect to show up at the theater and see an Oscar-worthy performance from the actors each and every time. And if that’s what critics are looking for, they may be setting the bar too high.

Suicide Squad won’t be winning any Oscars come awards season. But I don’t think they’ll be getting any Razzies, either. Not that I really know that, I don’t know what criteria the Razzie people really look at. Though, they are generally right about which movies are the worst of the year. Anyway, my point is that Suicide Squad was just a fun, popcorn kind of movie.

There was a lot to love about this movie. I thought that Viola Davis’ portrayal of Amanda Waller was spot on. If you have any experience reading her character in the comics, you will know what I mean. I’m sure there are those who may disagree with me, but I thought she was great. Will Smith was great as Deadshot. He’s a bad guy. He’s a mercenary. But he’s not cruel or heartless or flat-out evil.

For me, though, Harley Quinn was the highlight. I was worried about this one because Harley is such a great character. I was afraid that they wouldn’t be able to do her justice on the big screen. Margot Robbie proved me wrong. The way she played her was fantastic and I hope the rumors that she will be getting her own solo film are true. I would love to see how they can further explore her story.

Related to Harley, I do have an issue, however. That issue comes with the Joker. Now, I’m okay with the way he was played in the movie. I can get behind Jared Leto’s portrayal and the look he had this time around. What I can’t get behind is his attitude toward Harley. Maybe this is just how I’ve always pictured it in my headcanon, but the Joker doesn’t give a crap about Harley or her well-being. To him, she’s a means to an end. Yes, the movie got it right in explaining her origin as a psychiatrist who is manipulated by the Joker. Yes, they got it right as Harley falls in love with Mr. J and is hopelessly devoted to him in every way. I don’t think they got it right when they portrayed the Joker as having a mutual feeling toward Harley. Throughout the movie, we see the Joker as willing to crush, kill, and destroy anything and everything that gets between him and his girl. That’s not the Joker I know.

Suicide Squad - Harley and JokerOther than that, I really thought it was a fun movie to watch. Going into it, I was led to believe that the only action sequences were shown in the trailers. I was led to believe all the funny lines were shown in the trailers. I’ve really gotta stop listening to the critics. There was more action than I expected. There was more humor than I expected. Kids, I paid my money and I was entertained. I can’t ask for anything more than that.