Archive for Jack Nicholson

One-Upped!

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2009 by erikball123

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My wife and I celebrated my birthday Saturday. I got my Grandma’s card in the mail today…and there’s just something about an envelope-sealing kitten sticker that brings a smile to your face.

I can’t say I eagerly anticipate birthdays. I’m not much of a cake guy, really. I’ve always been a pie man…cherry or pecan. You can’t beat a sliver of pumpkin with a cuppa Joe either. But, this year wasn’t any big hoopla. My beloved surprised me with gifts (even though I told her not to) and we went out and feasted upon crab and over-steamed potatoes and enjoyed some music from my friend’s band RAVEN HILL. (They rocked.)

But as far as birthdays go, in general…I’ve never been a very sentimental guy. I suppose the tradition of a formal get-together including the gift unwrapping ceremony was never really my bag. I don’t like death…I like my life…and birthdays always “instill the fear of the shroud in me.” (To quote Jack Nicholson.)

I wonder if sometimes we do things backwards. I mean, if you think about it…nobody gets gifts at funerals. People send flowers…that in return wilt and die within three days. What a thoughtful reminder. At funeral receptions, people usually bring three-bean salads wrapped in their see-through condolences or a card with some perfunctory message about “a new life” or something. I suppose that’s nice in the big picture, but wouldn’t a funeral be the perfect time for an iTunes gift card or new clothing or a dinner out for a grieving parent, spouse or loved one? Perhaps I’m dwelling on the fact that I’ve always found the functionality of a birthday party a bit contrived, and funerals are too solemn. A celebration of life should be had at a funeral, and a birthday should be more of a toll-booth on the highway to heaven. A brief stop to take a look at yourself for a moment. It shouldn’t have to be a formal affair. I certainly wouldn’t feature three-bean salad. Not if it were the last food on earth.

I went and saw the Pixar movie “UP” the other day with a friend and have to say that it was the best movie I’ve seen in a while. (Which isn’t saying much since I’ve embraced my nonexistent movie-going social life.) But, still, Pixar tends to crank out highly enjoyable, crazy expensive flicks that are very, very marketable. Surprisingly, this one wasn’t necessarily like that. It was highly enjoyable with phenomenal animation…but it wasn’t a one-trick pony. There were no farting ogres or forlorn cowboy dolls, it was a simple story about a simple man. I can’t see them pushing old man dolls at Epcot after this one. Granted, like all good stories, it waved it’s magic wand to bring out the fantasty…but throughout the mayhem, the simple duel relationship between an old man and his love, and the old man and his goal to have an adventure…was perfect. I was hooked.  It was character-based rather than concept-based. I found myself engrossed in the old man’s adventure and I HIGHLY recommend the film to young and old.

I sometimes scratch my head and get angry at the wispy-ness of my once thick head of hair. I grow concerned with how tired I get after midnight. I can’t sleep in anymore. My internal clock buzzes around 9am. I luckily don’t have any gray hair yet…and the one I saw in my patchy goatee I plucked and burned with a match. (I think I heard a tiny scream.)  I’m taking a multi-vitamin now…which is recommended by my multi-opinioned doctor, and is nothing more than a white flag in my eyes. *Sigh* Yup…let’s face it kids, the big boy needs his power nap.

I didn’t take my thirtieth birthday hard. I was cool with it actually. I looked at it as a milestone. I was a force to be recognized with and I could properly use the term whipper-snapper without feeling out of my league at that point. But this year’s birthday…(and I’m not telling you how many I’ve had since, to my students, I’m eternally 28 years old.)…was different. It was solitary…and unnerving. Kinda like passing gas in church. Everyone around you knows it’s there. Nobody really acknowledges it…but afterward on the car ride home, everyone talks about it.

But, why should I be so concerned? Huh? I mean, who knows what’s in store for me tomorrow. My friend Chris has a saying that she spouts usually when she’s stressed:  “Maybe Jesus will come tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about a thing.” Who knows! Right? My brain could explode. A bulldozer could fall on me. I could get electrocuted by my $50, buzzing toothbrush. The neighbor’s dog could eat my neck. I could turn to stone! Anything can happen…and it won’t matter if it’s my birthday or not. It would be my time to go, and I will never see it coming.

I guess my unpleasant thoughts come from a “what if” perspective. I think about my life now and how blessed I am, and all the things I have done. Then I immediately think about all the things I’d like to do shortly after…and I sometimes feel that time is running out! But, perhaps that is a wildly “glass is half-empty” way of thinking. What is our life’s big adventure anyway?

With all the goals in the world (and I’m just thinking about mine…imagine the complex web of oft-dismissed goals of the world’s population) what will it all mean in the end? You can’t take anything with you…so why worry about it so much now.

So, why throw birthday parties? Are we saying “yea! No bulldozers fell on you this year!” Or is it truly a celebration of the day you were born? I think it should be a celebration of what you’ve done with your life. Good, bad, ugly….where ever you are, and whatever situation you are in…that one day a year you can say “dude…but look at all that you’ve done!”  And if you’re sittin’ in jail, or in the basement playing guitar hero with your only friend Buddy the hampster…then it’s a chance to say…”look at what I’ve done, and look at what I could do.”

Who care about the Costco cake with pasty frosting. Forget the rolls of streamers and the butterfly pinatas. (Is my family the only ones that do that?) Forget the gifts. They should really go to your mom anyway. After all she has to live with those purple veins in her legs.

But just like the old man in the “UP” movie, our big adventures is the every day. Everyday the Lord puts new things in our path so that we may endure and live and learn.Who knows what tomorrow brings. Crab legs? Rockin’ the night away to the tunes of a friend’s band? Three-bean salad? Who knows.

My birthday this year was a reminder that things are looking up.

“wHy so sERIous?”

Posted in LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2008 by erikball123

I was inspired by my MS Clowning & Puppetry Class to talk about the world’s coolest villain: the Joker. Yeah, I’m a die-hard Batman fan. Forget web-slinging fools or Superdorks in spandex, the Bat is the man. In class my students are working on building their own clown characters based on classic clown types, which can be very hard to do. Clown characters are supposed to be extensions of yourself…to a degree. They are exaggerated, overly physical, comedic beings that are supposed to be offered as a “caricatured you.” Everyone, of course, wants their clown to look like Heath Ledger portrayal of the The Joker…and at that age, everyone seems to associated clowns with psychopaths. (Not a class period goes by when I ask for examples of Whiteface Clowns that a student doesn’t shout out “IT!”….from the Stephen King movie/novel. Like, I’ve seen it, or something! Heh!) But, truth be told, clowns (whether good, bad or ugly) remain a highly respected and under-appreciated form of performance art to this day.

But, back to Batman. First and foremost, I must give kudos where they are deserved. I’m not one to throw award predictions around or make idle comments on the scope of an actor’s worth based on a single performance…but if Ledger gets an Oscar nod, or an actual posthumous award, I wouldn’t be surprised. His portrayal of the deformed, destructive, smiling lunatic in THE DARK KNIGHT, is simply amazing. What a multi-layered performance! I truly enjoyed the movie.

But, I grew up with Batman. Reruns from the 60s series ran at 6:30am before I went away to school everyday. (And, no I did not grow up in the 60s.) I used to LOVE the Penguin…he was my favorite villain for a while on that show…but after catching Grumpy Old Men (that cinematic masterpiece), turns out I only really like Burgess Meredith. But, the campy series was like eating a handful of marshmallows. Not much substance, very sweet, easy to swallow…and leaves a weird taste in your mouth afterward. It was just a smidge….eh…..weird. I categorize it under the same file as old-school Star Trek. While a fan…there’s just something about those types of shows that seemed almost “underground” and unpolished. It was like I was watching a late night, cable-access, University television show produced by obnoxious frat boys and brilliant chess club geeks collectively, complete with choppy editing and lame plot structures. But it was fun.

However…I need to talk about the Joker on that series. (Played by a forever mustached Cesar Romero.) First of all, shave your stinkin’ mustache if you’re playing the Joker, dude! I don’t care how in-style they were. Some say it was Romero’s monniker. (Much like Marilyn Monroe’s beauty spot.) Whatever. Under all that make-up Romero just looked….well, skraggly! Second…the dude never smiled. He always looked like he was in pain, and being shocked by a Tazer gun at the same time. He bounced around, and while the contrived laugh he cranked out every now and then seemed out of place at times…it was kinda creepy. The lavender suit, phoney laugh and cheesy plots all kinda ran together for me. Sometimes “Joker episodes” would leave me very unhappy.

I’ve never caught the Batman animated series, but…check it out…Luke Skywalker does the voice of the Joker. What the stink!? Joker Skywalker! Eh. Doesn’t seem like a good fit for me. But then again, who else with ANY star power are they going to find to voice the guy. Hayden Christinsen? Nah. Harrison Ford is still frozen in carbonite and is a bit unavailable.

Then there was Jack Nicholson. There is nothing bad anyone can say about this guy. I think he’s borderline brilliant…and the fact that he’s a grade-A arrogant slob in real life, doesn’t really bother me much. There is something about the way he carries himself in every picture that just “sells!” If you look back at that first Batman movie….completely out of context in comparison to the later Batman films…you HAVE to agree that this film was HUGE back when it was released. Just HUGE. It was the rebirth of Batman….they had huge star power behind the film…and it was a lot of crazy movie magic. Win, win, win. Granted…Nicholson’s Joker wasn’t nearly as tragic as Ledger’s…but the fun house approach to the character was so cool. Everyone wanted to be the Joker after the movie came out. (Just like my students now!) And I think there are moments in that film that are just plain freaky. When the surgeon, in the abandoned hospital carefully unwinds his bloodied bandages….and then the impatient Joker pushes him aside and rips of the rest, grabs the mirror…and slowly laughs as he stumbles away…..so cool.

So that leaves us with Ledger, who I would argue, presented the Joker character in the flesh for the first time. (Which is something that I think is hard to do with comic book characters. I rarely see it. Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy and Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luther are only a few I can think of. I hear Iron Man is good.) Ledger’s Joker was fun to watch and we wanted to know more about the character so badly that we almost ended up rooting for the guy in the end. The only criticism I had about the movie, and it may be simply because of Ledger’s sudden and tragic death, was the fact that the Joker overshadowed the other characters. Put Ledger the actor aside for a moment…take a look at that storyline and the those performances. It’s actually a brilliant film. Dang…Two-Face is cool, huh? Loved that subplot. But, the film itself won’t get the recognition it deserves because of Ledger’s passing and the fact that for his final performance…he delivered.

I’m not a horror movie fan. My wife is…and if you know her, her soft-spoken, caring and intelligent approach doesn’t seem like the slasher type, but she really loves ’em. I don’t see too many, quite frankly because I like to sleep at night. But there are some movies that skate the fine line between horror and action or fantasy. I can handle those. The Dark Knight was one of those films that really got me pumped up for the closing sequences.

So, my vote goes for Ledger, followed by Nicholson in a close second….followed by anyone without a moustache. Sheesh.

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