Godspeed, Kal-El

It’s been a long road…

Yes, that’s the opening to the theme from “Star Trek: Enterprise,” which, thanks to working on a few episodes of it, I’ve only recently come to realize was actually a pretty decent show that I wish I’d watched as regularly as I did “The Next Generation” or “Deep Space Nine,” as it may have survived another season or two.

But “Smallville” certainly did okay for itself. After all, it ran for ten years. Not all of them were great, not all of them managed to capture my rapt attention, but still, it was some of the best television of the last decade.

Much like other times, I was going to write a full review of the episode, but those are everywhere. Instead, I’ll just tell you what I loved (and didn’t love). As I said in a previous post, I thought they’d send it off with a bang. And they did. And, yes, there are spoilers ahead.

“Smallville” has always been about Clark Kent’s journey to becoming Superman. Yes, they took the previously established Superman mythos and had their way with them, bringing in enemies and situations Clark was never supposed to face until well after he donned that red-and-blue suit. But I never really followed the canon anyway. I’ve never been a comic-book reader, and my exposure to the bulk of Superman mythos was the Saturday-morning cartoon of the late ‘80s and “Lois and Clark,” which I loved. And, of course, I’d seen the movies. So their alterations meant precisely zilch to me.

I had hoped Chloe Sullivan would die. There, I said it. I loved her, I loves me some Allison Mack, but her character was a “Smallville” original, and characters from the future had never heard of her, so I’d assumed that she would be gone, since she’s not a known part of Superman’s history. But they left her alive, presumably living a quiet life with Oliver, raising their son. And more power to her. The girl deserved some peace and quiet. Some happiness.

Tess’s death, on the other hand, surprised me. She, too, was a “Smallville” creation, a seemingly-evil-eventually-turned-good replacement for Lex Luthor, who, in the end, was responsible for her death. I was thrilled to hear of Michael Rosenbaum’s return (wearing a believable bald cap rather than actually shaving his head for his few minute of screen time). That said, what the heck was that? Yes, I get that Lex Luthor isn’t allowed to know Superman’s identity. That would kinda ruin everything. But a neurotoxin to erase basically all his memories, yet still leave him the evil mastermind he clearly is? Yeah, I didn’t buy that. But I was still satistifed.

Lois and Clark didn’t get married. Disappointing? Slightly, but the reason for it was kinda awesome, so I’ll forgive it. An evil Oliver and a huge flying planet kinda trump the marriage. (Don’t worry — Clark fixed Oliver.)

But let’s get to the important stuff. Clark finally became Superman. It doesn’t get much better than that. He got his final lesson from his two dads, he put on the supersuit, and he freakin’ flew in to save the day. In fact, we got a lot more of the famous suit than I ever expected to see. “No flights, no tights” was the rule for the writing staff. Honestly, I never thought we’d see him in that suit at all. Granted, most of it was CGI, but it was well-done (especially compared to the trailers for “Green Lantern,” which just looks terrible to me).

Lois’s first glimpse of him as Superman gave me chills. As did the flash forward, in which we see Lois running around the Daily Planet, the real Jimmy Olsen (since the previous main cast member was actually his older brother, which they’d semi-established in an earlier season), Perry White yelling “Great Caesar’s ghost!” behind his office door, and Clark in all his faux clumsiness. We see him hear of an emergency, run up to the roof, and open his shirt in that very-clearly-Superman move, revealing the “S” as we cut to the producers’ credit.

Was it a perfect episode? No. Was it an incredibly fantastic sendoff? In my opinion, ohh yes. But, in all, I am quite pleased. And now I’m left a little sad, much like when “Buffy” or “Angel” ended, to a lesser extent. The number of shows I watch has decreased significantly in recent years. Few new shows manage to grab my attention for longer than a handful of episodes. To lose one of the good ones is rough. Especially one that, honestly, I think could go so much further now. Clark Kent’s journey had definitely reached its apex, but television could definitely use a weekly dose of “Superman.” Fans are referring to the potential series as “Metropolis.” And I, for one, would absolutely love to see that happen, even though, as far as I know, there’s not even the slightest chance of it, nor has the idea even been pitched.

I’ve always believed that Clark Kent isn’t Superman, but Superman is Clark Kent (give the song “Superman” by Five for Fighting a listen, and you’ll see what I mean). From what I can tell, though, most fans seem to believe that Clark Kent is just a cover for his real identity: the Man of Steel. While I still think that, ultimately, Clark Kent is supposed to be a normal guy who just happens to have these powers and a responsibility he can’t ignore, “Smallville” embraced the more established path. And they did it well. Without it, weekly TV is a little emptier.

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27…And Beyond

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln.

“It takes a long time to grow young.” — Pablo Picasso

At 9:44 this morning, I officially turned 27. It’s funny how I can feel both way older and way younger than that. I’m still not entirely sure how I’m a day over 18, and yet the headache I woke up with makes me feel like I’m 60.

I had a fantastic birthday weekend. I saw “Scream 4” on Saturday. I’d been waiting for it since I’d heard they were making it, and it didn’t disappoint. I’m not in the mood to write a whole review of it. I’m sure you could find one quite quickly and easily. I’ll say that the “Scream” series is really very different from most other horror series. It lets the cast age instead of replacing them with new, younger people. It hasn’t been “rebooted” yet, and hopefully they won’t reboot it at all. “Scream” with an entirely new cast just wouldn’t be “Scream.” I’ll say this, though – the theater had someone come in dressed entirely as Ghostface and carrying what I assume was a plastic knife. He sat down for a few moments, tapping the knife against his lap, then stood up, looked around, and walked back out. I’m not a fan of interactive scares, and I found myself focusing on him for the entire several minutes he was there so that I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something to startle us. Not funny.

Saturday evening, I played games with my parents and aunt and uncle. Aunt April happens to share my birthday, so we had cake for her. I won a game of Phase 10 Twist (if you haven’t heard of it, or Phase 10 in general, seriously, check it out. Fun game).

Sunday, Aunt April and I headed out to do some shopping and spend the day together. It’s become a bit of a tradition that we hang out on or near our birthday. Ate some Olive Garden chicken parm (never disappoints). Had my own cake that night and played some more games (we’re a game family).

It was a good weekend.

And if you had told me a year ago that I’d be able to enjoy my 27th birthday, I’d have laughed in your face. So I’m grateful for that. Not necessarily hopeful for my 28th, but provided today goes well (and this headache goes away), my 27th isn’t going to suck.

That’s not the only thing that I would’ve laughed at had you told me a year ago. I never dreamed, for example, that I’d be driving to places besides work and home, and certainly not to the extent I’ve taken it. So, the past year has been surprisingly good to me. I’m extremely fortunate to have the friends that I have in my life – one in particular, who has gone above and beyond what most friends would or should. I’m grateful for my excellent family, for a job that I (usually) love, and for the opportunity to do things I haven’t done before.

Every year around this time, I look ahead and think about things that I want to do, particularly over the summer. I call it my REALLY WANNA DO list. It’s kinda like a bucket list, but far less morbid. I’m starting to compile this year’s list now. Mostly it consists of things I probably won’t accomplish, which I’m fine with, because when I do get to do one of them, it feels that much better to cross it off the list.

This year’s list, so far, consists of things like, “See ‘Wicked’ when it comes back to Pittsburgh” (probably accomplishable), “Skydive” (far less likely to happen), and “Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” (we’ll see), among others.

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for this site. Last year, when I wrote this post, I surged into a brief popularity in which I was receiving over 80 hits every time I posted something new. That felt good. That’s why I blog. Since then, however, it’s tapered off, and I’m lucky if I get five views. That’s quite a difference. Which is a shame, because I’ve written a few other posts I’m really proud of – like this, this, this, and this – and they, sadly, did not receive the attention I would’ve hoped.

But I don’t think I’m totally done blogging yet. I have one post in my head that I’ve been waiting a couple weeks to write. And I’ll probably blog about Easter sometime this week. It’s all about motivation. And enthusiasm. And boredom. And overcoming laziness. But it helps when I know people are reading – especially if you also like what you read. So let me know.

And to those of you who do continue to read my stuff, I thank you. I hope that I don’t disappoint. Or, at least, that I don’t totally suck.

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Words with Friends

A week ago, my cousin introduced me to Words with Friends. She had been playing on her iPhone and, it turns out, an Android version had recently become available.

I was hooked in about 10 minutes.

Within a week, I discovered this new Android version is little more than a beta release. It force-closes constantly. And, during active play, within a minute, my first-generation Droid is hot and it eats my battery life worse than any other app I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been known to spend a considerable amount of time every day talking, tweeting, Google Talking, Facebooking, and texting, and still have used only, at most, 50% of the battery by the end of the day – which, generally, is around 16 to 17 hours for me. In fact, usually, I only use about 30% of my battery in the course of a day.

So, this poses the question – do I continue to use the app? I’m addicted to the game at this point, but do I really want to risk complete battery drainage when I drive home from work at 11:00 at night? Or do I wait to see if they have a more stable release?

Decisions, decisions.

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The DOs and DON’Ts of I LOVE YOU

Look, if nothing else, it’s always great when someone tells you they love you.
–Ross, Friends, “The One with All the Kissing”

I’m not particularly fond of Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had anyone to enjoy it with. Maybe I just think it’s a commercial holiday that says, “This is when you should love each other the most.” I dunno.

Maybe it’s because I think it emphasizes romance a bit too much. There are all kinds of love. There’s the love that parents (should) feel for their children, that siblings share, that friends share. And I don’t think people express it enough.

My whole life, one thing my parents have always said to me is “I love you.” Multiple times per day.         My dad is a very masculine guy – he’s a carpenter, bricklayer, concrete finisher, and he served in Vietnam. But he tells me he loves me every day, unless it’s a day that we don’t see or talk to each other. I get the feeling it’s not something he heard from my grandfather very often, and he wants to make sure it’s abundantly clear to me. It seems like fathers often don’t say that to their sons, especially as they get older. Sons seem to not want to hear it. Which is sad.

And you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say it to your friends, either. I have no problem telling my friends that I love them, though I just realized I rarely hear it back. But it doesn’t matter. I know they do, too. Or I assume they do. 🙂

Conversely, some people use it entirely too much. Teenagers say it, often before they realize what it means. Some people say it to get others into bed. Some people say it because they want it so badly that they think, by saying it, they can will it to be true, or just to get someone to say it back because they want to hear it so desperately.

And that’s really just as bad as not saying it at all. When you actually love someone, you can’t overuse “I love you,” but when you don’t and say it anyway, it loses all meaning.

So here are my rules.

  • DO say “I love you” to your children. And mean it. Seriously. Let your kids know all the time that they’re loved and accepted.
  • DON’T say “I love you” to someone you’ve been dating for a week, especially when you’re a teenager and everyone else is pairing off and you just feel left behind.
  • DO say “I love you” to your partner, as long as you really do love them.
  • DON’T say “I love you” to your partner out of some sense of obligation. That degrades it.
  • DO tell your friends (and cousins and siblings, etc.) you love them. Even if they don’t say it back, they’ll like knowing how you feel. Sometimes, they may need to hear it, even if they don’t realize it.
  • DON’T tell someone “I love you” out of pity or guilt or just to reciprocate. Just because they say it doesn’t mean you have to say it back. And it doesn’t mean they necessarily want to hear it. If you feel like you have to say it, you probably shouldn’t be saying it.

Life screwed me up a lot as a child, and I’m still working on unscrewing it. It’s not anyone’s fault, really, but a combination of a variety of factors that I just wasn’t wired to deal with. But one thing I’ve never felt is unloved. I’ve felt unliked, unappreciated, unrespected, unencouraged. But I’ve never felt unloved. And I owe that to my family. No one has ever told me that they loved me without meaning it. I’m grateful for that.

“I love you” isn’t masculine or feminine. It’s a unisex term. It transcends culture and ethnicity and religion and sexual orientation. And when used correctly, it’s the most powerful phrase human beings are capable of uttering.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you should let everyone you love know it, instead of just reserving it for your partner. Make your kids heart-shaped pancakes. Send your friends an e-card. Whatever. Let’s make Valentine’s Day about all kinds of love, not just one specific type.

And let me know your “I Love You” rules, too. If I like them, I’ll add them in.

And if you like this post, you might also like my earlier post, What is Love (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me).

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Twitter Celebrities

I wanted to take a moment to list my favorite Twitterlebrities. Their tweets often make my day. So here they are, in no particular order.

Angie Harmon (@Angie_Harmon) – Former “Law & Order” star and currently starring in “Rizzoli & Isles” on TNT, I’ve also recently learned that she is one of Hollywood’s rare conservative voices. As I recently tweeted, I have a huge crush on her and am pretty sure we’re a couple in a parallel universe.

Paige Davis (@Mirandalina) – Host of “Trading Spaces” (which failed miserably after they decided to go to a hostless format, and, sadly, didn’t recover even after her return) and theater star (a friend at work had the pleasure of seeing her perform). She can be seen on OWN’s “Best of Trading Spaces.” I’m fairly sure she was the best part of “Trading Spaces.”

Caroline Sheen (@CarolineSheen) and Nicolas Dromard (@nicolasdromard) – They were Mary and Bert in the touring production of “Mary Poppins” that I saw recently, and I mentioned them then. Both of their tweets are highly entertaining, and Ms. Sheen’s are particularly great as she has often tweeted about her experiences in America. And both have taken time to tweet me, which I love, of course.

Devon Sawa (@DevonESawa) – Star of “Final Destination” and “Idle Hands” among others, he currently has a recurring role on The CW’s fantastic “Nikita” which I hope to see expanded. His tweets are so ridiculously random in such a great way.

Jason Ritter (@JasonRitter) – This one’s a given. I’ve already said how much I love this guy’s work, his tweets (often puns) are so corny, which I love. And he’s my Twitter BFF. Just ask him.

Sofia Vergara (@SofiaVergara) – Star of “Modern Family.” Va-va-voom. ‘Nuff said.

Stephen Collins (@_StephenCollins) – His Twitter description says it all: “Actor-writer, the Dad on 7th Heaven, briefly Captain of the Enterprise, and now Dr. King on No Ordinary Family.” He interacts often with his fans, and his daily Grammar Patrol posts are fun.

Annette O’Toole (@JimmyJindo) – Loved her on “Nash Bridges,” and she’s fantastic on “Smallville.” Also, she’s married to Lenny (of Lenny and Squiggy).

Tom Felton (@TomFelton), James Phelps (@James_Phelps), Oliver Phelps (@OliverPhelps), Emma Watson (@EmWatson), and Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) – Various cast members of the “Harry Potter” films.

Jeri Ryan (@JeriLRyan) – She was 7 of 9, she guest-starred on several episodes of “Leverage” (and I hope she’s not done), and she’s currently filming an ABC mid-season replacement called “Body of Proof.” She loves food (a woman after my own heart), and she’s a geek (in a great way).

Billy Gilman (@bg524) – Starting when he was like 10 or 11, Billy is a country singer and one of the hosts of Jerry Lewis’s MDA Telethon. He’s the only artist whose albums I always buy in their entirety.

Honorable mentions include Stephen Lunsford (@Lunsfuhd), Melissa Joan Hart (@MellyJHart), and Frankie Muniz (@frankiemuniz).

I’ve probably forgotten somebody, but this is a pretty complete list of my favorites. 🙂

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TV Today

When did the world decide that a cheap Walmart camcorder can take the place of real television or movie cameras? This is reaching nigh epidemic levels.

I submit to you “Ghost Hunters” and its many incarnations (and other similarly styled shows). Don’t even get me started on how horrible these shows are, how stupid, how poorly executed. The entire concept of the show is a bunch of people going around in nightvision, asking, “Did you hear that?” when there was absolutely no sound, and telling the client that “We can’t confirm paranormal activity, but we certainly can’t rule it out, either.” I mean, seriously. And the quality of filming is subpar by even the lowest standards.

And it’s not limited to television, either. Nowadays, anyone with a Flip or some similar camera thinks they can make a documentary. If you want to see good-quality documentaries, watch something on the Discovery Channel or, even better, Science Channel, featuring talking-head style interviews. They actually use good HD cameras and have these things called microphones, so you can even hear the people. Crazy, right?

I have a Flip. I’m not making broadcast movies or TV shows with it.

I’m not saying that all well-filmed shows are good. Far from it. In fact, I think the aforementioned Discovery Channel (and its many subsidiaries, especially TLC) are really scraping bottom on their concepts. We don’t need a show following every single job in existence, let alone multiple shows about the same subject. How many people really care about loggers or a trillion auction and pawnshop shows and a trillion hoarding shows and exterminators and nature-survival shows and four or five versions of Police Women and a hundred shows following little people? The problem is that there are too many channels now and not enough material to fill them.

There are libraries of quality old programs that could fill these networks. Seasons and seasons of shows that are so good but no one has them on the air right now. If all we’re going to do is create imitations of imitations, why not bring these old shows out of retirement? That would be even cheaper, I’d assume, than even the next reality show would be. Because if we keep this up, soon, we’ll be seeing shows about pool-maintenance companies or people who make screwdrivers or basket weavers for the stars or jewelry makers for the stars’ dogs. Assuming these shows don’t already exist.

And, dear God, I hope that doesn’t give people any ideas.

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In July of 2009, I traveled (by limo – go, me!) to Cleveland to see “Mary Poppins,” the musical. I’d seen quite a few musicals by this time, including ”Wicked” several times. Until then, “Wicked” had been my favorite.

“Mary Poppins” definitely gave it a run for its money.

This afternoon, I traveled (by a very good friend’s car – but still go, me!) to the city nearest me – Pittsburgh – to see “Mary Poppins” again.

Once again, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it may have been even better the second time around.

It was the first time I’d ever sat in balcony seats. I always managed to get orchestra tickets in the past, but this time I wasn’t really willing to spend that much money, especially when I wasn’t entirely sure who would be my “date.” I also was aware of how the show ended, and I knew I wanted to be up high the second time around. And I was pleasantly surprised with the seats. Though cramped, the view was spectacular, and I highly doubt I’ll ever get orchestra seats again (though I may get slightly closer balcony seats).

Caroline Sheen absolutely shines as the title character, and well she should, having first played the role in the UK tour.

Equally talented is Nicolas Dromard, who has also played Fiyero in “Wicked,” so I obviously wasn’t surprised to see him excel here, as well.

The rest of the cast also delivers in every way, but I’d like to take a moment to mention the children in the production. I’m not entirely certain which cast members played the roles today (two boys and two girls alternate playing Michael and Jane Banks). Whichever young actors were featured this afternoon – and perhaps someone from the show will read this and fill me in – they were outstanding. I often wish I had gotten involved, in some capacity, with my school’s theatrical productions, not that they did many back then, and I think it’s excellent to see these children reaching for their dreams and having the talent to back their dreams up. I recall thinking something similar a couple of years ago, watching the young cast of “Peter Pan.”

This show takes me back to my childhood – which tends to be a theme among my favorite musicals, and, for me, outdoes the film, as live theater often does. It often takes every ounce of willpower I have not to start belting out the songs with them, which I’m certain the rest of the audience would not appreciate. I’d be hard-pressed to note my favorites, from the poignant “Feed the Birds” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” to the lively “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time.” Each has an uncanny ability to make me laugh or tap my toes or even move me to tears. (Side note: Microsoft Word’s dictionary apparently includes “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” because spell check doesn’t flag it.)

The end of the show left me with some of those tears, as it did the first time, but, fortunately, the curtain call just brings you right back to excitement.

And I couldn’t help but smile as the young girl behind me cried out, “I love you!” as Caroline Sheen took her bow. I love you, too, Ms. Sheen, for taking me back to an easier time, for owning such an iconic role, and for making me believe in magic.

I love you, too.

Update: The spectacular and beautiful Caroline Sheen and the fantastic Nicolas Dromard have informed me via Twitter that the two young stars were Talon Ackerman and Camille Mancuso. You can, if you like, follow Ms. Sheen, Mr. Dromard, and the show’s official Twitter.

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